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Pittsburgh Steelers

Bears schedule 2018: Chicago gets chances to establish itself as contender

The Bears’ 2018 schedule presents plenty of opportunities for Chicago to prove itself as an up-and-coming contender in the NFC. The home schedule alone features games against the Patriots and Rams, plus the usual slate of NFC North rivals.

Bottom line: The Bears and new coach Matt Nagy have an opportunity to establish themselves as NFC contenders in 2018, and their schedule, even with a few tough games throughout, is manageable enough for them to pull it off. Second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s development will be tested by tough defenses at times, but overall, he and the offense should have opportunities to flourish. Record prediction: 9-7

Below is a breakdown of the Seahawks’ schedule in 2018.

Toughest tests: The Cowboys, armed again with running back Ezekiel Elliott for a full season and a further developed QB in Dak Prescott, present the Seahawks a tough intraconference matchup, even though Dallas will have to travel to Seattle. The Seahawks also have to travel all the way to London for their October matchup against the Raiders.

Biggest breaks: For the most part, Seattle draws its toughest opponents (on paper) at home. The Seahawks also have to make just one trip to the East Coast in 2018 — their trip to Carolina to play the Panthers. Of course, that does not include the trip to London.

The second-year back rushed for 127 yards in his NFL debut last season, breaking Adrian Peterson ‘s franchise record in the process. He was among the league leaders in rushing with 354 yards at 4.8 yards a pop through four games before injuring his left knee.

When Cook returns, he’ll be joined by Cousins, who Zimmer reiterated has made a good first impression and already grown into a team leader.

“I think it started when he had [Stefon] Diggs and [Adam] Thielen go down to Atlanta [in April] and throw the ball. He’s been very positive and upbeat the whole time we’ve been out here. Like a lot of times, leadership, if you do your job really good, you become a leader. And he’s done it very well this spring.”

Expectations are high for the Vikings after appearing in their first NFC title game in eight years. Zimmer made it a point to say reaching the conference championship last season, a 38-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, was a valuable experience for the simple fact that they hadn’t been there before.

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NFL Draft rumors: Josh Rosen could slide; Seahawks, Patriots looking at QBs

With the Browns and Giants spearheading a league-wide crackdown on leaks ahead of the 2018 NFL Draft, reporters have struggled to get a feel for how the top of the draft will play out.

Still, given the Bills’ hunger for a top quarterback, the coveted talent in the back half of the top 10 and other known nuggets of information, we have plenty to piece together in predicting the results of Round 1. All eyes of course will be on the quarterbacks early.

Schoenfield: I’ll go with 48.

Doolittle: Let’s go with 46. He’s been good for 44 homers per 162 games for his career, and we’ll bump him up a couple for Yankee Stadium. He’s no Teoscar Hernandez, but his exit velocity remains among the elite. With Stanton, the only questions have been about health. He seems healthy, which means lots and lots of dingers to come.

Shohei Ohtani has a 4.43 ERA and .997 OPS. How close to those two numbers will he finish the season?

The Dodgers, Nats and Cubs have all started slower than expected. Which team are you most concerned about?

Schoenfield: The Nationals have played some lackluster baseball to start the season, and the early return feels like they’re missing something. Maybe they miss Dusty Baker. Anyway, they’ve had injuries, but the bullpen has been terrible (1-6, 5.50 ERA), and they need somebody besides Bryce Harper to produce on offense. The biggest concern, however, is that the Mets, Phillies and Braves all look much better than in 2017.

Doolittle: I’m not really concerned about the Dodgers or Cubs, so it’s the Nationals by default. They are like Carl Lewis trying to stave off Michael Johnson and Mike Powell in about 1991 — still the best, but probably not for long. Washington can hope for better health, but their lackluster start has illustrated a general lack of organizational depth. With the Mets’ pitching and the rapid ascension of Philadelphia and Atlanta, the NL East is shaping up as a dogfight.

Jerry Kill to take over athletics department

Former Southern Illinois football coach Jerry Kill is taking over the athletics department, effective immediately.

SIU Carbondale chancellor Carlo Montemagno made the move Thursday after deciding not to renew athletic director Tommy Bell’s contract, which expires next month. Montemagno said it is time “to make a change in leadership that will help the program fulfill its potential.”

Kill’s oversight of the department will begin immediately. He is not the interim athletic director, the school said, but is adding oversight of athletics to his duties.

With the partnership, the Jazz are the 14th NBA franchise or franchise ownership group, to be involved in esports outside of the NBA 2K League. In a trend that began in early 2015, owners from the Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks and others have bought into the esports industry, which is expected to hit $1 billion in global revenue in the next three years, according to Newzoo, a market analysis firm focused on video games and esports.

“The NBA does a fantastic job at reaching out to communities and getting people interested early on in their game, their players and their brand,” Vander Linden said. “They do a really good job of that. They’re continuing to grow their interests worldwide. I think what you have is this natural tie between the traditional sport of basketball with gaming, especially with the players now who are coming into the league in the last three or four years. They travel with consoles and laptops, and they play different games, and they connect with some of their fans through those platforms.”

The NBA allows high school players to enter the G League without the wait. The Commission on College Basketball recommended Wednesday that the NBA and NBPA allow high school players to enter the draft, but college basketball has no ability to effect change on the issue. The NBA and NBPA must collectively bargain a change of the early entry rule.

The Commission on College Basketball made a recommendation to allow college players who declare for the NBA draft to retain their eligibility should they go unselected in the draft.

The NBA has a record 236 early-entry candidates for the 2018 NBA draft, which includes 181 NCAA and 81 international players. It is an increase of 30 percent over the 2017 draft. That rule change could benefit both the NBA and college basketball, because even the G League can’t absorb such an influx of marginal pro prospects.dolphins_080

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Shane Ray expects Broncos to exercise the 2019 option on his contract

Although Broncos General Manager John Elway said the team has not decided whether to exercise its 2019 option on Shane Ray‘s contract, Ray expects Denver to pick it up.

“I’m not concerned,” the linebacker said, via Vicki Jhabvala of The Athletic. “I love being a Bronco. John’s got a lot of things to deal with, and whether or not he picks up my option, it doesn’t say anything about what I’m going to be for this team, my role for this team. I’m just excited. I wouldn’t look into too much. I think that it’s going to get picked up. I think that I’m going to be here, and I’m just looking forward to this opportunity.”

“We are shooting ourselves in the foot coming out to slow starts and allowing guys to get open 3s and allowing guys to get those shots and layups,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal said. “They have a great team, have a lot of size, a lot of versatility. Defensively, they are switching, guys can guard pretty much every position, and they play well together. Got to respect what Coach Casey is doing. We’ve got to slow them down.”

DeRozan is likely to be the engine that determines whether the Raptors’ locomotive can be slowed. If the Game 2 model is truly Playoff DeRozan — if the Raptors’ 2-guard can now shoot from distance, read defenses instantly and attack with guile — then it might be time to retake the measurements on the Raptors’ ceiling.

Moreno was one of 14 running backs selected in the first round from 2008 to 2012. The Georgia product had just one 1,000-yard rushing season in five years in Denver before injuries led to his retirement. While not a bust, Moreno hardly provided first-round draft value. Nor did Felix Jones in Dallas (2008), Donald Brown in Indianapolis (2009), Jahvid Best in Detroit (2010), Trent Richardson in Cleveland (2012), and the list goes on. Those misses resonated, and NFL teams began shying away from taking backs early in the draft.

In both 2013 and 2014, no running backs went off the board until the second round or later.

Now, as Denver looks to replace C.J. Anderson in the backfield, attitudes have shifted. The recent success of players such as Todd Gurley (Rams) and Leonard Forunette (Jaguars), as well as a bevy of backs chosen in later rounds who have had huge impacts, such as Kareem Hunt of the Chiefs a year ago, makes it intriguing for Broncos fans in more than one way. One, Denver needs a top-flight back. Secondly, there is just such a back in this year’s draft, Penn State’s SaQuon Barkley, whom Denver might be able to get at No. 5.seahawks_054

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He may be a 6-foot-5 former defensive end, but Michael Strahan says that the first time he came to New York he was “scared to death.”

The Texas native says on the syndicated show “In Depth With Graham Bensinger,” which airs this weekend, “I remember being in the car — the taxis are driving crazy, the horns, there are people everywhere. And I thought Houston was fast.”

The “GMA” host, whose first NFL gig was with the Giants in the early ’90s, said that on his first visit, “I just went to my hotel room, stayed in my room until they sent someone to pick me up and take me where I needed to go.”

The Reds are 2-12 (or worse) for the first time since 1931. Their minus-49 run differential is the worst in the majors, and their minus-47 through their first 14 games is the worst in franchise history. At this pace, the Reds will pick in the top five of the MLB draft in four consecutive years (2016 to 2019). — Woolums

As terrible as the Marlins are, can they afford to give Lewis Brinson a full season’s worth of patience if he fails to make any progress? His .316 OPS through Sunday is worst in the NL, he has yet to register an extra-base hit, his well-hit average of .049 suggests he isn’t even making hard contact, and he’s whiffing more than 30 percent of the time. — Kahrl

Jefferson injured his shoulder during the Gators’ spring game on Saturday.

Jefferson arrived at Florida as a five-star prospect and the nation’s No. 2 defensive end in the 2015 class. He considered leaving early for the NFL after last season but opted to return to the Gators for his senior year.

In three seasons at Florida, Jefferson has registered 28.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. He led the Gators in both categories last year (13.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks).

With Florida utilizing a 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, Jefferson had lined up as the Gators’ edge rusher this spring.

If Jefferson’s injury sidelines him for the early part of the 2018 season, the Gators likely will turn to junior defensive linemen Jabari Zuniga and Jachai Polite, who have combined for 25.5 TFLs and 13 sacks over the past two seasons, to help out on the outside. Junior Antonneous Clayton and redshirt freshman Zachary Carter also could get reps at Jefferson’s position.

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Most 2014 first-rounders still waiting for long-term deals

Of those, the absence of a new contract for players like Clowney, Mack, Beckham, and Donald has become glaringly conspicuous. Donald skipped all of training camp last year to no avail; most recently, he has seen the team give $14 million to Ndamukong Suh for 2018. Beckham skipped the offseason program a year ago, suffered an ankle injury during the preseason, broke his leg in Week Five, and now finds himself the subject not of a long-term extension but trade rumors.

It’s the only NFL team Gay has ever known, playing his entire career in Pittsburgh after the Steelers made him a fifth-round pick in 2007. But he played only 27 percent of the defensive snaps last season.

Gay finished his Steelers career, playing 176 games with 102 starts. He made 13 interceptions and 89 pass breakups.

Babcock’s words seemed to echo those from around the league and all of sports Saturday.

“Our thoughts are with the players, families, coaches, team management and all those throughout the community who have been affected by the tragedy involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “The NHL mourns the passing of those who perished and offers strength and comfort to those injured while traveling to play and be part of a game they all love.”

Chris Simms and yours truly discussed the subject during Thursday’s PFT Live, with a three-round draft aimed at finding the right fit. The results show that I made the right choices, and that Simms, while making an admirable effort, was way, way off.

Check out the video, and drop your own thoughts in the comments.

“Everybody has the right to make their own decision, but my truth, I never quit on my team, I never abandoned anybody. I don’t know where they’re coming from with ‘he quit at USC.’ I don’t know where that came from, that was made up. That’s a narrative that’s wrong.”

Still, Cravens seems to be acutely aware of the risks of football. For now, he’s willing to continue to accept them.buccaneers_037

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Clive Walford reportedly released by Oakland Raiders

During the coaches’ breakfast at the Annual League Meeting on Tuesday morning, Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden glowed about how much he loves tight ends and plans to use multiple TE sets this season. After lunch, Gruden’s team cut a tight end.

The Raiders are releasing Clive Walford, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.

Cutting the 26-year-old tight end saves Oakland $1.9 million on the salary cap. With Jared Cook set to count for almost $5.7 against the cap, keeping both TEs became untenable.

Josh Reddick: I think our mindset was, ‘It’s another guy, and we’re going to go out and play our game.’ We knew we had a good lineup, and it didn’t matter who was on the mound. We showcased that in the playoffs, especially in Game 1. No task is easy like that when you go up against guys like Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw. Your task is never going to be easy.

Jim Crane: The first time I thought we had a chance of winning, I was sitting in Boston when Bregman hit the home run over the wall and got us back in the game. He came flying into the dugout and the whole place went crazy. I knew these guys were focused and they were working together. Just to see the excitement on the bench and in their faces, you knew they were not going to give up. And sure enough, they were able to pull the whole thing off.

Few receivers in the past 10 years—perhaps ever—have possessed Beckham’s raw abilities. The NFL’s best receivers today are Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and Beckham. His numbers speak for themselves:

Bregman made a gutsy and instinctive play when he threw home on a Todd Frazier chopper and beat Greg Bird by a hair to preserve a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning of the AL Championship Series clincher. The Astros went on to beat the Yankees 4-0 and advance to the World Series.

Jake Marisnick: Not a lot of people talk about it, but that’s one of the big plays that stood out for me. Just the way it happened. The throw. The play. It had to be perfect, and it was. It’s something that will stick with me forever.

A lot of us were yelling ‘One, one, one,’ [for first base], and he threw it home to get him. In our heads, we were thinking he didn’t have a chance. But in Alex’s head, there’s not a play he can’t make, and it paid off in the postseason. He has that confidence in himself to make any play on the field. If that play doesn’t happen, we might not get to the World Series.patriots_085

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Todd Davis staying in Denver on three-year deal

The Broncos won’t be parting ways with linebacker Todd Davis this offseason.

Davis was set for free agency, but, per multiple reports, the team has re-signed him to a three-year contract. Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post reports that the deal is worth up to $15 million with $6 million guaranteed.

McDonough said he prefers college football, and also prefers big games, which the NFL won’t offer to ESPN. He also said the broadcasts revolved around his partner, Jon Gruden.

“If you go back and look at the schedule, generally we got one of the worst NFL games each week. You’re trying to make something sound interesting and exciting that isn’t,” he said. “For me, part of it was just the way the booth was set up the last two years. It was really geared around Jon Gruden. That’s not unusual, TV really is an analyst-driven medium. Jon had a particular set of skills that he did really well, and foremost among them was analyzing the , breaking down the , ‘here’s why they ran that , here’s why it worked, here’s what this guy did or didn’t do.’ It was really football heavy, X and O heavy, and I think most -by- guys, all -by- guys, would’ve felt like a bit of a bystander.”

I agree with the board that we should get a player’s opinion and I would be guided by the player’s opinion.But he wants his teammate back just like the majority of us Mets fans do.’s real target is his fellow conservative intellectuals, who by opposing Trump are objectively pro-Hillary-a choice he warns lead to Caesarism, secession crack-up, collapse, or managerial Davoisie liberalism as far as the eye can see.Of course, had some big problems too.

No interference from Mother Nature for Josh Allen, but the Wyoming quarterback prospect was able to wow NFL decision-makers with an assortment of high-velocity passes and 70-plus yard tosses down the field at his pro day on Friday afternoon.

Inside Wyoming’s domed practice facility, Allen operated a scripted session of 60 throws, which featured a grand finale of jaw-dropping deep balls.

Despite its remote location, Allen certainly drew a crowd to Laramie, Wyoming … as in representation from the entire NFL.

Haslam being in attendance is notable not just because he was an owner watching a pro day, but because it was viewed as a tipping of the Browns hand when he was spotted as USC’s pro day earlier in the week to watch Sam Darnold to work out.49ers_123

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The Green Bay Packers essentially traded Jordy Nelson for Jimmy Graham, salary and all.

From here, it looks like an upgrade.

But it’s still hard not to think they would have been better off paying the extra few million dollars to sign Sammy Watkins or Allen Robinson at receiver, and bringing in a starting tight end cheaper than Graham.

But both offered youth – each turns 25 this summer – and big-play ability. Watkins has the speed to stretch defenses, a career average of 15.9 yards per catch and 25 touchdown receptions despite playing with mostly subpar quarterbacks. Robinson had 14 touchdowns and a 17.5-yard average two years ago.

Lining up one of those two across from Davante Adams had the potential to keep defensive coordinators in the league up late at night.

Or maybe Gutekunst chose Graham at the $10 million he saved by cutting Nelson because he needed cap space for the offer sheet he presented Friday to cornerback Kyle Fuller, who had the Bears’ transition tag. But if that’s the case, the GM was saving the money for a Hail Mary, considering the Bears had far more cap room than the Packers. It predictably failed.

The Bears quickly matched so the Packers’ work was for naught. All they did was negotiate the contract for Chicago, and really they’re lucky the Bears didn’t keep them in limbo for the allowed five days. The Packers still have a couple of big holes at their top three cornerback spots, and not much left in free agency to pick over.

Gutekunst’s first week of free agency ends with Graham signed and Nelson cut on offense, and Muhammad Wilkerson added to the Packers’ defense.

Wilkerson, 28, was a bargain at $5 million plus incentives. Though he flamed out after signing a big contract with the New York Jets two years ago, he was talented enough to get 10 sacks in 2013 and 12 sacks in ’15. If he rekindles his fire, he, Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark could give the Packers one of the best rotations of inside rushers in the NFL.

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Celtics legend Jo Jo White dead at 71

Celtics legend and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Jo Jo White passed away at 71 after a battle with cancer, the Celtics announced Tuesday.

A seven-time All-Star and MVP of the 1976 NBA Finals, White had his No. 10 jersey retired by the Celtics in 1982.

Sheary began the game on the fourth line, but played alongside Crosby for parts of the night — and benefited greatly. Crosby assisted on both goals to help Sheary break out of a slump, as he entered without a goal in 15 straight contests.

“He goes to tough areas and plays bigger than he is,” Crosby said of the 5-foot-8 Sheary.

“Thrilled for Conor,” Sullivan said. “Essentially what I told him is, `Nothing lasts forever.”

Travis Konecny and Jakub Voracek had goals for the Flyers, who lost their fourth in a row.

“We didn’t play a complete game 5-on-5,” Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol said. “We made some mistakes.”

The teams combined for six goals in an electrifying second period.

“In addition to the lateness of the check, what elevates this hit to merit supplemental discipline is the significant head contact that occurs and the force with which it is delivered,” the league’s video explanation said.

The fact that Nielsen was injured was taken into account, as was Backes’ clean record.

The suspension without pay will cost Backes $96,774.

“I think we played that team like where they are in the standings (seventh in the Atlantic Division). I think we forgot that we’re still in the NHL and every team’s good with the parity in this league.”

Goals by Mike Hoffman on the power play in the second period and Matt Duchene in the third gave Ottawa a 2-1 lead before Seguin tied it with his 36th goal of the season.

Seguin first scored from the left of the net on a narrow angle. His shot went in off Ottawa defenseman Ben Harpur’s skate.

Play was stopped with 11:05 left in the first period after Bishop and Dallas defenseman Dan Hamhuis fell in a heap in front of the goal. A trainer attended to Bishop, who stayed in the game but didn’t return for the second period.

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