Joe Thomas excels for the Cleveland Browns, but how long will he stick around to start winning?

Joe Thomas excels for the Cleveland Browns, but how long will he stick around to start winning? Senior writer Liz Merrill offers insight.

THERE IS SOMETHING romantic, or maybe maniacal, about a man who comes to work every day, pours his heart and soul into preparing for a game and does so well that he grades off the charts, but loses that game nearly every week and still comes back every Monday for more.

In Greek mythology, a guy named Sisyphus was punished by being forced to roll a gigantic boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back repeatedly, for eternity. That’s Joe Thomas, seemingly. But Thomas didn’t do anything wrong to warrant his boulder.
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“Get the f— out of here,” he told Painter.

He was asked how often he thinks about using early play-calls to set up later opportunities.
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“Always,” Bevell said. “I’m always trying to think ahead and always trying to set things up.”

During various film sessions this season, the Seahawks have noticed the effectiveness of the fly sweep. They saw the Atlanta Falcons have success with it and took note of the Kansas City Chiefs using it against the Bucs.

On three separate occasions in the first half, the Seahawks used 13 personnel (one RB, three TEs) and showed fly-sweep motion. But instead of giving Lockett the ball, he helped block the edge defender, and they handed off to the running back.

The play where they finally gave Lockett the ball featured a nearly identical look to the previous three — 13 personnel and Russell Wilson under center.

Bengals fans threw garbage at an injured Ben Roethlisberger as he was carted off the field

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It’s becoming a hostile environment in Cincinnati, with tempers flaring up on both sides. There have been some questionable incidents and neither side is thrilled with the other. It’s extended to the stands, where things got a bit ugly after Ben Roethlisberger got injured.

Aqib Talib Authentic Jersey There were cheers after Roethlisberger got injured and at least one fan threw something at the Pittsburgh quarterback as he was being carted back to the locker room.

That’s just one of several incidents. The Bengals were unhappy with a hit on Giovani Bernard while Pittsburgh coach Mike Munchak shoved a Bengals player on the sideline.

That was not the first play in which Watt simply went down without being completely forced down. He’s been sluggish and only had one tackle before exiting the game in the second half.

If Seattle is able to contain Peterson and force the Vikings to move the ball via Teddy Bridgewater’s arm, Minnesota could be staring at an early exit from the playoffs and Seattle could be one step closer to a third consecutive Super Bowl trip.

The battle for field position is often a pivotal and deciding factor in playoff games, where teams are typically more evenly matched on offense and defense. Both the Seahawks and Vikings feature strong special teams play, and whichever club can execute better in the third phase of the game could have a significant advantage.

They rank third and fourth, respectively, in Football Outsiders’ unit ratings, and each is led by a dynamic return specialist. The Vikings’ Cordarrelle Patterson led the NFL in kick return average (31.8), and was the only player in the league to bring back two kickoffs for touchdowns. The Seahawks’ Tyler Lockett, meanwhile, was third in both kickoff return yardage and punt return yardage, and has scored both as a punt returner and a kickoff returner.

Chiefs vs. Patriots 2016 preview, NFL playoffs: Defending champs get 1st test against surging Kansas City

The question of how much momentum really matters in the NFL playoffs will be put to the ultimate test when the Kansas City Chiefs travel to Foxborough for a Divisional round showdown with the New England Patriots.

The Chiefs enter as the undisputed hottest team in the league. They’ve won 11 straight games including a 30-0 dismantling of the Houston Texans in last weekend’s Wild Card game. With that win, Andy Reid’s team finally buried its playoff demons, snapping an eight-game playoff losing streak that was tied for the longest in NFL history. Kansas City did it in style, too, putting up the biggest shutout by a road team in the playoffs since the 1968, when the Colts beat the Browns 34-0.

Coming off such a dominant performance and riding an extended win streak, however, has little predictive power. In the past 25 years, seven other teams posted a shutout in the playoffs. The only one of those seven clubs to win its next game was the Carolina Panthers in 2005. The Chiefs are also the 10th team since the 1970 merger to enter the playoffs on a double-digit win streak. Of the previous nine teams, four didn’t make it past the Divisional round.
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Still, the Chiefs’ dominance over the past three months is especially notable in a wide-open AFC race where no contending team carries that overwhelming air of invincibility. In fact, since Kansas City last lost a game — in Week 6 at Minnesota — every other AFC team suffered at least four losses (including the playoffs).

However, after the team lost running back Jamaal Charles to an ACL injury, it was forced to recalibrate its offensive approach. That required Smith to play more aggressively, which in turn produced better results. Still, the running game remains an important part of the attack, with Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware sharing the load.

Authentic Austin Johnson Jersey Meanwhile in New England, the Patriots hope that the time off will allow Julian Edelman to fully recover from a foot injury and reintegrate himself into the offense. At the time of Edelman’s injury, he led the team in receptions (61) and receiving yards (692) while leading all New England wideouts with seven touchdowns. If he returns, Kansas City can’t devote as many resources to covering Rob Gronkowski, the league’s premier tight end and Tom Brady’s favorite target.

What’s next for Gronk?

The Raiders, who are battling with the Patriots for the AFC’s No. 1 seed, stand to be one of the main beneficiaries of Gronkowski’s injury. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Meanwhile, the Broncos play the Patriots in Denver in Week 15, and Gronkowski’s absence might be enough to turn coach Gary Kubiak’s team from slight underdogs in that game to slight favorites. The Broncos don’t need that victory to make the playoffs from where they are now at 7-4, but it’s also the toughest remaining game on their schedule. They have road trips to Jacksonville and Tennessee coming up; if they can win both of those games and then beat the Gronk-less Patriots in Week 15, the Broncos would be 10-4 and in great shape to make it back to the postseason.
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Mens Darren Helm Jersey It also benefits the two favorites in the NFC, Dallas and Seattle, who combine to have a 65.3 percent chance of making it to the Super Bowl from the other side of the bracket. Both would rather not see Gronk. Among the their pass defenses, tight end coverage has been both teams’ biggest issue. The Seahawks are 18th in defensive DVOA against tight ends, their worst mark against any position. It’s even more noticeable for the Cowboys, who were the third-worst team in the league against tight ends heading into Thursday night’s win over the Vikings. They will still have to deal with Bennett, but Gronkowski is unlikely to be marching on them in Houston.

The nightmare scenario just came true for the Patriots. Given how well Jimmy Garoppolo played during the first two games of the season, you might be able to make a case that Rob Gronkowski was New England’s most irreplaceable superstar. The Patriots will be forced to find out whether that’s true, as Gronkowski will undergo surgery for a ruptured disk in his back on Friday. The injury will likely end Gronk’s season after just eight games, 25 catches and three touchdowns, though the team and Gronkowski’s family said in a joint statement that they wanted to wait until after the surgery to make a “final determination.”

This has to be a shock to the Patriots, who used their lone injured reserve/designated to return slot on Jacoby Brissett earlier this week when they obviously would have spent it on Gronkowski if they thought he would require surgery or had a chance of coming back. There’s nothing the Patriots can do about the injury, and there’s no sense crying over spilled milk. What’s important now is figuring out what’s next — for the Patriots, Gronkowski and the rest of the NFL. Let’s start with New England, which suddenly has a crater-sized hole in their path to the Super Bowl …

What’s next for the Patriots?

This is not uncharted territory for the Patriots. Gronkowski already has missed three games this year and played a limited role in two others. He hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2011, though Gronkowski made it through 15 games in 2014 before sitting out a meaningless season-ender in Week 17. The idea of having to definitively plan for a short-term (and possibly a long-term) future without Gronk is unfamiliar, though; this is the first serious injury the likely future Hall of Famer has suffered since 2013, when he tore his ACL and MCL in a collision with then-Browns safety T.J. Ward.

Even on an off night, Russell Westbrook carries the Thunder

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It appeared that Russell Westbrook’s outrageous workland and nonsensical statistical madness in the first quarter of the season was catching up. As the Oklahoma City Thunder let a 16-point lead slip away, which turned into a seven-point deficit with four minutes remaining against the Washington Wizards, Westbrook was clanging his way to an eyebrow-raising shooting night. You could feel the Monday Morning Point Guards and hot-takers revving their engines.

5-of-24. 6-of-26. 7-of-28. Missed layups. Missed jumpers. Missed everything.

He already had his triple-double. It was the win that was in doubt, and Westbrook wasn’t going to let that go without resistance. So naturally, despite his shooting struggles, Westbrook splashed a 3 with 8.5 seconds remaining to force overtime. And from there, he outscored the Wizards himself, 14-10, as the Thunder won their fourth straight, 126-115.

“When he goes through difficulties, he focuses more,” coach Billy Donovan said, “and I think that’s really unique.”

Westbrook scored 17 points in the final 5:08, hitting five of his last eight shots. The final triple-double tally: 35 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. It was his fourth straight, the 46th of his career, and for the first time since Oscar Robertson, a player will be averaging a triple-double in the month of December.

The descriptors are becoming platitudes, as Westbrook has somehow normalized the triple-double. He has taken what is a career highlight for many and turned it into an expectation. Or better, an average. This is a run of four consecutive triple-doubles for Westbrook, which somehow only ties the longest such streak of his career. He’s one assist and two rebounds away from the streak being eight games. He’s halfway to the number he posted for last season — 18 — which was the most in a campaign since Magic Johnson in 1981-82.
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“Uhhh, yeah,” teammate Victor Oladipo said when asked if he’s ever amazed by Westbrook. “I’ll be out there and some of the things he does are unreal, bro.”

“For me, every play matters,” Westbrook said. “You have to see what’s going on in the game, and you can always impact the game in different ways. That’s the type of player I am, trying to find ways to impact the game, whatever is going on.”

Mel Kiper ‘had no clue’ what Johnny Manziel would be

The Cleveland Browns need a quarterback, and ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. believes the franchise could be looking to pick one in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Kiper acknowledged the struggles of DeAndre Yedlin Authentic Womens Jersey Johnny Manziel and his own failure to predict what would happen to the signal caller out of Texas A&M during a Thursday conference call.

“I had no idea what Johnny Manziel would be. He was one of those guys you roll the dice. I had no clue,” Kiper said about his Manziel prognostications at this time last year.

Manziel, taken with the 22nd-overall selection in last year’s draft, had a disappointing rookie campaign. In his first start, he was intercepted twice and shutout in a 30-0 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. During Week 17, Manziel threw a party which caused him to miss the team’s Saturday walk-through, and led many to question his commitment.

This is why Kiper believes the team might look for some insurance at the position.

San Francisco seemed to prepare for this possibility, drafting Brandon Thomas a season ago, and Joe Looney has also received considerable playing time of late. One of those guys should be able to fill Iupati’s place. Most have figured Iupati is definitely gone from San Francisco, and the most surprising aspect of Maiocco’s tweet may actually be that there is a chance he returns.

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne had triceps surgery and is now dealing with Fabian Johnson Authentic Womens Jersey the decision of whether to retire or return for another season, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. Wayne is currently rehabbing the injury but it’s unclear if that is a factor in his decision. Wayne has been in the league since 2001, when the Colts made him a first-round pick, and he’s amassed 1,070 receptions for 14,345 yards and 82 touchdowns in that time.

His production has been sporadic over the past couple seasons but he’s remained an effective receiver. He also has only ever played for the Colts organization, and has stated that he can’t imagine playing anywhere else. Wayne is set to be a free agent in March, which could have a lot to do with his decision. If the Colts want him back, it seems more likely that he’d return.

Stephen Curry scored 34 points on 13-of-19 shooting Saturday against the Timberwolves

And so Looney found himself guarding an inchoate superstar and did a solid job from the outset. The Warriors supplemented the effort by sending double-teams at Towns, bothering him until Looney sat. “Yeah, Looney was great,” Kerr said after the game. “He gave us the minutes we wanted, excellent defense. He’s just a guy who has a good feel for the game.” Kerr added, “He understands NBA defense. Stays high with his hands, and he doesn’t bite on pump fakes.”

On not falling for the array of Towns pump fakes, Looney said, “They Steven Nelson Authentic Womens Jersey gave me a good scouting report before the game. Karl’s really skilled, real crafty, and he’s strong. So, just tried to play solid and stay on the ground.”

“If I could go back and do it again, I would have probably tried to come in, in better shape, and that’s that. There’s nothing that I can do about it now but just try to make that same mistake in the future.”

Lee said he has kept in touch with many of his former Boston teammates and maybe tried to win back some of their fans after Friday’s game.

“Most importantly, [the Celtics] organization is in a great spot,” Lee said. “Great group of guys and obviously well-coached. I think that they are one of the best teams we’ve played this year and should do great things.”

The Celtics, healthier and playing better than at the start of this season, still lack a truly defining win. Victories on the road against potential East playoff foes like Charlotte and Detroit were nice, but Boston got blown out in the second half against Golden State and couldn’t hold its early lead against San Antonio.

“Miscommunication,” Thomas said when asked about the play. “I had thought Smart said switch, but Tamba Hali Authentic Womens Jersey those are little mistakes that we made that those type of guys in that organization are going to capitalize on.”

Durant, who also had to pitch in with defense on Towns for stretches, said of Green’s absence, “We missed Draymond. We were a little stagnant early because we’re so used to having him up top facilitating offense.”

Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter waiting in the bullpen to drop the hammer in the late innings

“Are bullpens going back to the future?” asked Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. “There was a time when star relievers routinely pitched two or three innings, imposing figures such as Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter waiting in the bullpen to drop the hammer in the late innings.”

David Schoenfield: I Charles Johnson Authentic Jersey definitely love it more than that canned cranberry sauce everyone serves on Thanksgiving, though maybe not quite as much leftover turkey sandwiches on Friday.

And that doesn’t even account for the growth in the value of franchises, which has exploded over the last generation of owners. Jerry Reinsdorf’s group paid $20 million for the White Sox in 1981 and the value of the team might be 50 times that now. Mid-rotation veterans are making staggering dollars. Andrew Cashner had an ERA close to 6.00 with his last team and just got a one-year, $10 million deal. Zack Greinke will make $34 million this year, or more than $1 million every time he starts.

DRA-based WARP accounts for every factor that can be measured, from the catcher’s framing, blocking and throwing ability to the size of each umpire’s typical strike zone to the baserunning skills of the pitcher’s opponents to the weather to each defender’s abilities.

However, there is a key caveat: The clubs will be able to have more players in a “pool,” maybe as much as the overall roster limit of 40, with only 28 or 30 active players for each game or each series.

Haniger hit .321/.419/.581 in the minors in 2016 (granted, 74 games at Triple-A Reno, where the ball flies), but he did struggle in 34 games with Arizona. He’ll have a shot at a corner position for Seattle and could see time in center as well.

He was a prospect but not a top prospect, ranking near the Chris Scott Authentic Jersey bottom of the Nationals’ top 10 prospects before 2012. Kevin Goldstein, then at Baseball Prospectus, wrote that he had “average velocity” and a “usable” breaking ball with a changeup that “flashes plus” and “loose, easy arm action that allows him to maintain his stuff deep into games.” His upside was limited by a fairly slight frame and by unreliable command and control. Goldstein’s “perfect-world” projection: a No. 3 starter.

Walker: We’ve been hearing about Walker forever, but he’s still just 24 years old, and while the Mariners control Segura for two more seasons, the D-backs will control Walker through 2020. He’s a big kid who throws hard and throws strikes, but his fastball is straight and he pitches up in the zone, leading to home run problems — 27 in 134.1 innings in 2016.

The Vikings can’t win when their offense has to provide all of the offense

In all seriousness, though, Winston had eight interceptions in his first four games this year but has only two (to go with 12 touchdown passes) in his past six. His passer rating over that time is 102.2 — eighth-best in the league. The Bucs are only a game out of first place, but even if they don’t have enough to make a serious run this year, there’s a lot to feel good about in Tampa. The only hitch is that the fans may have to get on a plane to see the team win.

The Vikings can’t win when their offense has to provide all of the Benardrick McKinney Authentic Womens Jersey offense.

Six of Minnesota’s 22 touchdowns this year have come on defense or special teams. The Vikings are 4-0 when they get a defensive or special-teams touchdown, and 2-4 when they don’t. They needed a 100-yard Xavier Rhodes interception return and a 104-yard Cordarrelle Patterson kick return to beat the Cardinals by six points at home on Sunday.

There’s no replacing quarterback Andrew Luck (concussion), who is not expected to play against the Steelers on Thursday night. That’s a given. But they also have concerns with cornerback Vontae Davis (ankle). He was seen wearing a boot on his foot earlier this week. Defending Steelers Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown would be challenging enough for Davis when completely healthy. He’ll really have his hands full trying to slow the speedy Brown down while bothered by his ankle injury.

Quarterback Blake Bortles is dealing with a sprained shoulder, and he’ll have some stiffness and pain this week. He is expected to play against Buffalo, however. Running back T.J. Yeldon’s sprained right ankle is a bigger issue, though, and he may not practice much, if Braxton Miller Authentic Womens Jersey at all, this week, and that makes him iffy for the Bills game. That would mean more work for Chris Ivory and Denard Robinson.

“It would have to be at the right place and the right time, which is what I’ve always said. I try to make good decisions, what’s best for my family and myself. Again, somebody would have to offer that opportunity because you’re lucky if you get that. That’s my mindset, and anything that was reported about my thinking or my plans or the things that I want to do — the other day I saw that; those things I would say are unfounded.

“That being said, that’s all I’ll say about it. I love being here, I’m excited to get to work on the Jets, and look forward to practicing with our guys.”

Potential solace: Buccaneers rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo, who only last week succeeded in officially having the word “beleaguered” removed from in front of his name on all documentation, was 4-for-4 on field goals and hit his only extra point attempt Sunday. So it can get better, kickers. It can get better.

Woman files appeal in Derrick Rose civil rape trial

The woman who lost a civil court case accusing New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose and two of his friends of gang rape has appealed the jury’s decision 24 hours before the end of the 30-day deadline to do so.

Rose’s ex-girlfriend, who was referred to in the lawsuit as “Jane Doe,” claimed that both evidence was excluded and jury instructions were tainted. The Associated Press was the first to report the appeal.

An eight-person jury deliberated for three hours on October 19 Scottie Pippen Authentic Womens Jersey before ruling the Knicks star and his friends were “not liable on all counts” of civil complaints that included sexual battery and conspiracy to trespass and commit rape/battery.

Harden, who leads the NBA in assists (12.6 per game), got off to a hot start after his patented Euro-step led to an open Trevor Ariza triple.

The Beard kept finding his teammates, this time hitting Ryan Anderson for a three-pointer near the hash mark. Anderson finished with 13 points on 3-of-5 shooting from downtown.

Harden applied pressure the second half, this time locating Ariza in the corner yet again. His wing man finished with 16 points on a red-hot 5-of-8 shooting from the field, including 4-of-6 shooting from three.

And then, like the gentleman he is, Harden rewarded Clint Capela for some good work on defense with a calm alley-oop on the other end.

The Rockets improved to 7-5 while Harden continued to shift gears in his race for MVP. He’s Taj Gibson Authentic Womens Jersey averaging 28.7 points, 12.6 assists, and 7.8 rebounds per game on a 47.8% clip from the field and 37.5% shooting from three.

And while it’s unclear if Houston can make a deep playoff run, one thing is certain: Watching The Toni Kukoc Authentic Womens Jersey Beard celebrate with his teammates and family is a reason to tune in.