McCarthy’s team took an early lead before beginning to scuffle in the second half

“I just felt a rhythm that I didn’t have in the first nine games,” Rodgers said. “There’s a feeling that you get when you’re in rhythm and you’re making the throws on time and you’re seeing the field and things begin to slow down for you.

“Now obviously, as a veteran player, you’ve kind of gotten through the initial stages of the slowdown where your mind doesn’t race as much. … But even as a veteran player within a season, you can have moments where you really get into a groove and it slows down even more and your thoughts are very calm and your reactions are very swift, and that’s kind of the mindset that I was starting to feel I was getting into. And our offense was starting to get into it as well.”

Again, playing as an underdog on the road, McCarthy’s team took an early lead before beginning to scuffle in the second half. The Packers failed to score on two consecutive drives, which was enough to let Dallas back into the game for what turned into a 28-28 tie with 4:12 left. A pass-interference penalty set up the Packers on the Cowboys’ 35-yard line with 1:52 to go. The Cowboys had all three of their timeouts, but with Rodgers at the helm, the Packers could move further into field goal range, burn off significant clock or force Dallas to use their timeouts.

Somehow, they ended up with the worst of all three worlds. Instead of trusting their MVP-caliber quarterback to make plays and keep the ball in bounds, the Packers turned their offense over to Ty Montgomery, who ran the ball twice for a combined loss of 3 yards. Faced with third-and-long, Rodgers ended up throwing a deep incomplete pass on a play where there was no outlet for a short gain to make Mason Crosby’s field goal any easier, with three of the four receivers running 15-plus yards downfield.

Tom Brady will appeal to federal court if NFL doesn’t overturn DeflateGate suspension

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Tom Brady and the NFLPA are prepared to take his appeal to a federal court if his appeal to the NFL results in any suspension due to DeflateGate, according to Ryan Smith of ABC News.

The New England Patriots quarterback was given a four-game suspension in May after an independent investigation done by the NFL concluded that it was “more probable than not” that Brady was aware of a plan to slightly deflate game balls before the AFC Championship against the Indianapolis Colts. Brady previously spoke in an interviews about his preference of slightly deflated balls to throw.

Brady’s appeal to the NFL ended in June, but the league’s decision still hasn’t been announced. Overseeing as arbitrator, despite requests from the NFLPA of a recusal, was Roger Goodell, which wouldn’t appear to be a favorable situation for Brady at face value.
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Playing under the franchise tag would mean a one-year deal worth just over $12.8 million for Bryant, but he would forfeit $752,000 per regular season game missed. He can, however, miss all of training camp without being fined, which is his plan if a deal isn’t reached.

Last month, Bryant’s agent Tom Condon wouldn’t comment on a rumor that his client was considering sitting out the regular season opener against the New York Giants if a deal isn’t reached.

Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is in a similar situation after receiving the franchise tag earlier in the offseason. The NFLPA is currently investigating whether the Broncos and Cowboys contacted each other to discuss the comparable contract situations for the two receivers, which is prohibited as a form of collusion.

Bryant’s touchdown numbers have increased in each of his five seasons in the NFL and he led the league in the category in 2014 with 16 touchdown grabs. He has 273 receptions for 3,935 yards and 41 touchdowns in the last three seasons.

The Lakers can be called league leaders in at least one respect

As time goes on, it would appear to make more and more sense for Miami to keep Goran Dragic beyond the Feb. 23 trade deadline. For at least two reasons. (1) As expertly pointed out by our own Zach Lowe in his latest “Ten Things” dispatch, Miami is sinking into prime draft position just fine even with Dragic on the roster because so much else is missing. (2) Isn’t it smarter for the Heat to wait to see where they lands in the lottery in May — and what kind of shot they’ll have at selecting someone like Washington’s Markelle Furtz or UCLA’s Lonzo Ball — before surrendering The Dragon? As long as Pat Riley is headed for an upper-echelon lottery pick as it is, there’s little reason to rush into a deal. The wiser move might well be waiting to get a better handle on what sort of player Miami will be drafting.
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The Colts will not re-sign linebacker Erik Walden, who led the team in sacks with 11 this season. General manager Ryan Grigson proved with Jerrell Freeman last offseason that he’ll go only so far financially when it comes to re-signing free agents. Walden just happened to nearly double his career high in sacks during his contract year, w

Kyle Hendricks Limited Jersey The Jaguars will not bring tight end Julius Thomas back. He has been a disappointment since signing a five-year, $46 million ($24 million guaranteed) contract in March 2015 and has missed 11 games in two seasons due to various injuries. He does have nine touchdown catches, but the Jaguars have him catching short passes and trying to turn up field and break tackles when he’s more successful down the field and on seam routes. Jacksonville didn’t miss him when he was out of the lineup for the final four games. He also has the fourth-highest cap figure ($8.3 million) in 2017. — Mike DiRocco

The Titans will have two new starting cornerbacks. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau might not love relying on rookies at the spot, but Tennessee needs an influx of better players who can cover outside. Maybe 2016 fifth-rounder LeShaun Sims can earn a spot. But the Titans would be well-served to spend draft and free-agency resources to revamp the position to such a degree that the team has two newcomers in the lineup. — Paul Kuharsky

Now it gets real for the Patriots: Two more wins to title No. 5

The Gillette Stadium soundtrack during TV timeouts is ripped from a 1980s middle school dance, but somehow it fits. As The Outfield wails that they don’t wanna lose your love tonight, Rick Astley swears he’s never gonna give you up and The Knack thumps out an ode to their Sharona, it can feel as if the New England Patriots have been playing the same playoff game here for 30 or 40 years.
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The Patriots moved on to their sixth consecutive AFC title game on Saturday, but their performance against the Texans was a bit too uneven.

Three scores, three different ways. Patriots running back Dion Lewis became the first player in NFL history to score rushing, receiving and kickoff return touchdowns in a playoff game.
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Why the Falcons will win: Quarterback Matt Ryan, the league’s presumptive MVP, can match Rodgers throw for throw. In his past nine games, Ryan has thrown 22 touchdown passes and three interceptions.

The Falcons’ entire pass offense will be a matchup nightmare for the Packers, whose mediocre defensive secondary has been perpetually limited by injury. The Packers don’t have a lead cornerback to match up on receiver Julio Jones, let alone the other 12 players that caught touchdown passes from Ryan this season (an NFL single-season record). The Packers’ defensive options will be limited.

Their blitz was not effective Sunday against the Cowboys; Dak Prescott completed seven of eight passes against it for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Ryan was great against the Seahawks’ blitz on Saturday, completing 10 of 13 throws for 154 yards. He’ll get his on championship Sunday.

Fantasy football running back bust candidates in 2015

The old saying goes that you can’t win your league in the first round, but you can lose it. Here, we’re focusing on the second part of that saying. It means that your first-round pick has to at least provide a reasonable return. You don’t need to take the number one guy in fantasy to make a first-round pick worth it, but if you end up with 2013 Trent Richardson, well, see you next year.

There are two categories of busts. The first is an injury bust, a guy you draft early who is then lost for some or all of the year. Those hurt, but are fixable. Maybe you drafted the guy’s backup, or maybe you have a strong bench. Either way, you can bench and/or drop the hurt guy and get on with your life. It’s not ideal, but it’s fair game.

Below, we’ve got the full schedule and something to watch for during each game (all times ET, stations via 506sports):

As noted above, the 49ers had an absolutely wretched offseason. There’s a new coaching staff; they lost Patrick Willis, Anthony Davis, Justin Smith and Chris Borland to retirement (only one of them — Smith — was expected to retire anytime soon). They saw Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver leave in free agency. Aldon Smith got arrested again, prompting his release from the team.

He and Beckham figure to be the biggest boom-or-bust guys in this tier. Personally, I don’t see how you can let Demaryius, Dez or Julio fall out of the first round.

Let’s take a quick look at how our rankings compare beyond the top 10 to others out there. This is based on our rankings vs. the average ADPs of and Fantasy Football Calculator.

Tom Brady is “the most poised quarterback in the NFL,” Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said

“He’s a very intelligent guy,” O’Brien said. “He’s a guy that’s very well-prepared. He’s seen it all. I think it’s important for us to just make sure we know what we’re doing, execute our game plan and make sure we’re doing our job.”

Houston’s secondary is one of the best in the NFL; the Texans ranked second in the league by allowing just 202 passing yards per game during the regular season.

Tom Brady is “the most poised quarterback in the NFL,” Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said.

Authentic Kids LaDainian Tomlinson Jersey One way the Patriots could rattle Brady is by pressuring him in the pocket. New England’s offense, though, is known for quick throws. The Patriots’ offensive line is a stout unit as well, allowing 24 sacks in the regular season, fifth-fewest in the NFL. Houston’s defense notched 31 sacks during the regular season, tied for seventh-fewest in the league.
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Jim Caldwell: Keeping Caldwell made sense since he took the Lions to the postseason. But with four straight losses to end the season, there are still questions about his long-term viability as Detroit’s head coach. The longer Quinn keeps Caldwell, the more he becomes tied to the coach.

Contracts: He’s done well so far, extending Martin, Theo Riddick and Darius Slay — critical pieces for the future of the franchise. He also introduced more incentive-laden contracts, which should be better motivators. But he hasn’t had to handle a truly big contract yet, and those are coming with quarterback Matthew Stafford and defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. How those deals are handled could be a gauge for his progress as a GM.

Irving knows Avery Bradley is prepped to chase him over LeBron’s pick

Small decisions like these across the league are driving the unprecedented boom in 3-point shooting. If you can make shots that count for an extra point, the NBA will find a place for you. Just survive on defense, and you might steal minutes from a shakier shooter who outdoes you in every other facet of the game. The NBA, in doling out roster spots and playing time, is erring on the side of shooting more than ever before.

The 3-point explosion is not new, though it is accelerating. The NBA smashes the all-time record for 3-point attempts every season. A full 31 percent of shots have come from deep this season, up from 28.5 percent last season and a positively charming 24 percent in 2012-13. It is not stopping anytime soon.
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Irving knows Avery Bradley is prepped to chase him over LeBron’s pick, and that he might juke Bradley by stunting toward LeBron and then crossing back the other way. He knows exactly how that move, if successful, will scramble the Celtics: They’ll either double Irving, leaving LeBron rampaging to the rim, or switch themselves into an untenable mismatch. The Celtics choose the switch, and LeBron slices them apart.

Chemistry matters. You can’t replace the power of shared experience.

The Wiz are 10-6 in their past 16 games, and that counts as progress. They were on a nice roll before a dispiriting loss in Dallas on Tuesday on the second night of a back-to-back. They played the Rockets to a hilt the night before in Houston, and threw a bunch of different looks at James Harden.

Jack Roslovic Limited Jersey Wall, of course, is at the center of everything, and he has rediscovered his peak turbo explosiveness after surgeries on both knees. When Wall’s engine is revving, the Wiz will sometimes set screens for him almost at half-court, foisting an uncomfortable choice on the poor sap guarding Marcin Gortat: try to corral Wall 35 feet from the basket, or lay back and provide Wall a sprinter’s runway.

Detroit’s buzzer-beater goal sent the Centennial Classic into overtime

Outdoor games aren’t boring after all! The Red Wings climbed back from a three-goal deficit in the Centennial Classic on Anthony Mantha’s buzzer-beater goal with just 1.1 seconds remaining.

Yes, it was exactly as close Demar Dotson Authentic Jersey as it sounds. Detroit was a mere heartbeat from another loss, and instead they tied the game 4-4 to draw overtime against the Maple Leafs.

The goal was Mantha’s second of Womens Charles Sims Jersey the game, and it almost wasn’t. The referees looked at goaltender interference on Frederik Andersen, but none was found.

The game went off without a hitch and on schedule despite a light rain at the beginning of the game and a few wonderful hiccups before puck drop. As the rain went away, the pace of the game picked up significantly.

Chicago, playing in its fifth outdoor NHL game, got on the board first. Artemi Panarin tossed a puck off the boards to Michal Kempny at the blue line, and the rookie fired the puck past Allen for the 1-0 lead.

It took St. Louis until midway through the second period to even the score. Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester drove deep into the Blackhawks’ zone and passed back in front of the net, where Patrik Berglund netted the game-tying goal.

Perhaps the weather conditions affected special teams, considering both teams went a combined 0 for 5 through the first two periods on the power play. That included a missed opportunity for Chicago when Blues forward Robby Fabbri got penalized for boarding late in the second period.

The daggers didn’t come until the final 10 minutes of regulation when Tarasenko buried the game-winning goal. Or, rather, the Blackhawks buried it for him.

the Saints rested starters in Week 17 as well. I played against the Saints that season

Stafford will have to overcome a Packers offense once again led by an MVP candidate. Aaron Rodgers has been on fire lately, The Green Bay quarterback hasn’t thrown an interception since a blowout loss to the Titans in November, but he has thrown 14 touchdowns in the intervening weeks. The Packers, not coincidentally, are 5-1 over that stretch.

But our experts aren’t banking on another strong-armed miracle Sunday night.

Or the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons getting in, while the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks miss out?

They’re far from the likely scenarios. In fact, they’re about as unlikely as it gets, but the NFL has no shortage of wackiness and thinking of the most ridiculous possibilities sure is fun.

Two teams in the NFC East improved to 6-7 on Sunday and a third can do so on Monday Night Football when the New York Giants play the Miami Dolphins. With a Week 16 game between Washington and Philadelphia still on the schedule, the division winner will have to be a seven-win team, at least, barring a tie.

That means the only chance the Cowboys have at the postseason is to win out and hope for a tie at the top of the division. Luckily for Dallas, three of its four wins came against NFC East opponents and a fourth divisional win in Week 17 against Washington would give the Cowboys the tiebreaker over any other team in the division.

That season, the Saints rested starters in Week 17 as well. I played against the Saints that season, with Carolina. We were 7-8; they were 13-2. That game always stands out to me because it was a game like no other one I’ve played. The Saints were playing to not get hurt. They weren’t going hard, they weren’t trying to score. Just bleed out the clock.

I remember the end of the game, they were down and instead of driving to win the game, they just ran it a few times, punted, and the game was over. I had never seen that before. But it worked. They won the Super Bowl.