Larry Fitzgerald, Eli Manning, Greg Olsen finalists for NFL Man of the Year

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Panthers tight end Greg Olsen were selected as the three finalists for the 2016 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.

The winner will be announced Feb. 4 at the NFL Honors awards show the night before Super Bowl LI.

Larry, Eli and Greg are not only top-tier athletes, but also men of great character, integrity and generosity of spirit. Their passion for community and helping others is having a positive impact on countless individuals and communities, and it’s something we should all celebrate NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. We commend these impressive men for setting the standard for NFL players and athletes nationwide.

Maybe it’s a coincidence that ever since Munn publicly praised Rodgers and their traditions shortly before the start of Week 12, the Packers have been riding high on an eight-game win streak. Maybe the love and support Munn provides to Rodgers has partially led to his success.

We, of course, wont ever know. Because football media culture precludes us from eulogizing the woman behind the signal caller.

And instead, if the Packers do fall before securing another Lombardi Trophy in the next few weeks, you can be sure the internet trolls will berate Munn.

Overall, Green Bays defense performed better than in a 30-16 home loss to Dallas in Week 6 despite the Cowboys actually netting five more yards (429 to 424). Running back Ezekiel Elliott was held to a more modest 125 yards on 22 carries after gouging the Packers for 157 on 28 carries in mid-October. Prescotts numbers also dipped in yards per attempt (9.1 to 7.9) and completion percentage (66.7 to 63.2) from that first meeting.steelers_012

Ref denies crew’s admitting to missed facemask call on Seahawks’ Paul Richardson

Referee Brad Allen disputes that he or anyone on his crew admitted they missed a facemask penalty on Seahawks receiver Paul Richardson during his spectacular touchdown catch in Saturday nights wild-card game in Seattle.

NBCs Michele Tafoya reported during the broadcast that Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said a member of the officiating crew told him they got it wrongby not throwing a flag on Richardson for grabbing safety Tavon Wilsons facemask as he made the catch. Wilson drew a flag for defensive pass interference on the play.

You look out there, theres two uprights youre looking at, Gano said, via the Charlotte Observer. I know the league talked to them about it before when we played here a couple years ago. So its a bit bush-league.

But once again, its not a reason why I performed poorly. It just adds another element.

Although the NFL wouldn’t officially comment on the incident, there is a league policy regarding video during kicks.

Use of video boards to distract the visiting team’s kicker during field goal attempts or extra point attempts is prohibited. Distracting video includes, but is not limited to, extreme close-ups of the face of the visiting team’s kicker and fast zooming in and out.
In cases like this, the league will check the video feed of the team to determine if a violation occurred. If they determine a team violated the policy, they will contact the club and issue a warning. If there have been previous warnings, which Gano claims there have been, the league will fine the team.rams_089

MLB Draft 2017: Why the Twins should skip the two-way star at No. 1

While holding the first pick in the MLB Draft is a somewhat “dubious honor,” to quote Crash Davis from “Bull Durham,” it does provide a team — the Twins this year — the opportunity to help turn around their organization’s fortunes.

So far this spring, three names have been linked with the Twins’ top pick in the 2017 MLB Draft: Hunter Greene, Kyle Wright, and Brendan McKay. The first two would be solid choices; the third would not. More on that in a bit.

Merchant hit .265 and stole 33 bases in 50 games that first season. The next year, while playing for the Pirates’ Class A affiliate in Augusta, Ga., he separated his throwing shoulder while diving for a ball. His season ended after 60 games.

The Pirates traded Merchant the next season, including him in a five-player deal that ironically landed him in the Mariners organization. While playing for Class AA Jacksonville in 1991, Merchant broke his right ankle.

“I knew that night I was in trouble,” he said. “I never got my speed back again.”

Merchant went on to also play in the Reds, White Sox and Royals organizations. His career also included two stints with independent league teams and time in the Mexican League. His best year came in 1993 while playing for the Reds’ AA affiliate in Chattanooga, Tenn. There, he hit .301 with 17 home runs in 109 games, earning him his first promotion to Triple-A.nike_cardinals_1608

Ironic twist to Cam Newton’s Super Bowl 51 commercial for Buick

Mahomes, a gunslinger, reminds of a less refined version of Matthew Stafford. He has similar arm talent and reckless behaviors that will give his future offensive coordinator headaches early in his NFL career. But in a quarterback class that, as of now, doesn’t have a sure bet as a top prospect, I can live with taking the passer who has the most upside as a quarterback.

Mahomes is still skittish in the pocket (because of a lack of development, not out of fear of contact) and makes throws and decisions much harder than they should be. But once he can be reigned in as a progression passer, Mahomes could be similar, if not a better version of Matt Stafford or, at worst, Jay Cutler. He’s worth a top 20 pick and could emerge as a top 10 candidate by the time the process is through.

Cam Newton is set to star in a Super Bowl commercial for Buick, the same brand of car that crashed into his truck on December 9, 2014.

The Carolina Panthers quarterback suffered two back fractures when his Dodge truck collided with a Buick sedan and flipped multiple times.

Fast forward two years later — and the 27-year-old will promote the car brand on the sports world’s biggest marketing stage, alongside supermodel Miranda Kerr.
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Brock Osweiler says ‘film for the past 2 years’ proves he’s a starting QB and, uh, OK Brock

Brock Osweiler’s 2016 was so bad the Houston Texans gave up a second-round draft pick just to get out from under his contract. They were eager to jettison the young passer despite having only Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden at quarterback behind him.

Yet even with a dire history as an NFL passer, Osweiler still believes he’s in line to start for the Cleveland Browns this fall.

The Browns’ offseason salary dump acquisition told reporters he’s “absolutely” a starting-caliber quarterback Wednesday, just months after his 72.2 passer rating ranked him second-to-last among NFL QBs. When WKRK The Fan’s Daryl Ruiter pressed him on the issue, he pointed to his underwhelming resume as proof.

Ruiter: “Are you good enough to be a starting quarterback in this league?”

“Von be everywhere, man, but I’m going to try and get somewhere with him this summer, for sure,” said Beasley. “I’ll probably go to him, to be honest.

“Oh, it will help me out a lot. The attention that Von gets year in and year out is unbelievable. They respect him as a pass-rusher, and I’m headed in that direction. So I can learn a lot from him in that case.”

It’s not just a personality fit for Kaepernick in Bennett’s eyes. He also feels that the skills Kaepernick brings on the field are a good match for the Seahawks, who have an offense that favors the run.yankees_1179_40942faa042d5251-180x180

Did the Spurs let Harden or shooters beat them?

On the offensive end David Lee carved up Houston’s second unit. He plays the style of bully-ball that only Nene can really match up with. But with Gasol in the game as well, Nene was drawing that assignment, leaving Lee to bully Dekker, Anderson or even Ariza.

Also, Pau Gasol is suddenly a legitimate three point shooter so the Spurs don’t even mess with their spacing by playing him and Aldridge at the same time.

The challenge for Houston will be keeping two Spurs big men from controlling the game when James Harden is on the bench to torment then or when Nene is on the bench.

Did the Spurs let Harden or shooters beat them?

In games one, two and four the Spurs let Harden beat them, but not with a flurry of points. He was a better passer and assist man in several of these games and could have had 20 assists in game two if any Rockets shooters hit shots in the first half.

Harden’s three point shot wasn’t present for each of these games, but he played the role of puppet master so well. Driving to the basket and finding pocket passes, lobs and cross court flings.

Eric Gordon burned the Spurs in game two. He led the Rockets in scoring and shot 7 – 12 from three. He was the one Rocket finding and capitalizing off of open threes.

Ferguson committed to play for Sean Miller at Arizona before opting to turn pro in Australia. He put up an underwhelming statistical year in the NBL, but he has the tools to be drafted in the top 20. The 6’7 wing is an explosive athlete who can stroke three-pointers. His ultimate success in the league will be determined by his defense.

nike_chargers_507s — Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
The Bulls have a type in the draft. They prefer college veterans to one-and-dones. They value winning pedigrees. The same formula that led Chicago to Denzel Valentine last year could attract them to Justin Jackson, who broke out as a shooter and scorer in his junior year at UNC.

Who had the best suit of the 2017 NFL draft?

Fashion is important to the NFL draft. Ultimately, the team’s picks matter most, but clothing is like, the second biggest thing.

Here are the best suits of the night. And the worst. Honestly, in my eyes, these are all great.

For one thing, it’s a nice feather in Brady Hoke’s cap. Virtually all of these recruits, including the former five-star Peppers, were the former Michigan coach’s. Hoke was fired two years ago after a disappointing run, and nobody thinks it wasn’t a good idea to do that and replace him with Harbaugh. If you want to dock Hoke for last year’s two-draftee output, feel free, but you should also credit him for this year.

It’s also a good player development show for Harbaugh and his staff. His program hasn’t won the Big Ten yet, or even its East division. But these players were part of mediocre to bad teams under Hoke and two good ones in a row under Harbaugh. It’s not like his staff didn’t have anything to do with this. Even Pete Carroll agrees.

The Buckeyes are 2-0 on the field against Harbaugh, and Urban Meyer has signed slightly higher-rated recruiting classes than UM’s two years in a row.

Last year, when Michigan was getting all of two guys drafted, Ohio State was notching the best college draft class in history with 12 total picks. This year’s Buckeyes count was just seven to Michigan’s 11. The Wolverines might as well put it on the board.

Looking at college numbers before last year’s draft, Goff didn’t stand out from his peers in any major way.

Goff was able to get the ball downfield while taking few sacks. That’s good. The main red flag: shouldn’t the No. 1 pick check more boxes? He’s lanky, his Combine stats and completion rate were okay, he threw a few too many picks, and he offers nothing from a rushing standpoint. Is that a guy you want to trade away your draft for?
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He never even sees the help coming. When he does, it’s too late.

When Harden does indeed beat the defense, get to the rim, and meet a shot blocker, it’s his job to make the right decision. The Warriors’ swarming defense forces him into a tough spot.

Some of Harden’s turnovers have come from errant passes that he miscalculated. Others have just been poor decisions. We all celebrated the Cavaliers landing Kyle Korver, Deron Williams, and Andrew Bogut for scraps at midseason. Meanwhile …

Korver has shot the lights out, which is what he does, but is unviable as a starter next to Irving due to his defense. Korver can’t be asked to guard anyone with a modicum of scoring prowess. Williams is also a good shooter who doesn’t defend well anymore. Bogut lasted the amount of time it takes to heat up a frozen burrito before going down with an injury.

One of the gambles of the NFL draft is going for a sure thing or trying to strike it big by taking a risk. In the recent past, the New York Jets have taken a risk with high-round picks like Quinton Coples, Jace Amaro, Geno Smith that just haven’t paid off. They’ve scored on sure thing prospects like Leonard Williams and Sheldon Williams.

Over at Cat Scratch Reader, Edgar Salmingo Jr. wrote about the all-around game authored by Carolina:

The Panthers showed up to play under the Monday night lights, against a high-profile opponent in the New England Patriots. Cam Newton was a world of fire, with 3 TD passes, many long scrambles on 3rd down, and last, but not least, a clutch final drive with a TD to Ted Ginn, Jr., with the game on the line. The defense bent, but did not break, doing enough to keep the team in the game. Keeping the dangerous Tom Brady and Bill Belichick to only 20 points with 2 weeks to plan is an admirable performance by the defense.
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The odds are not in the Jaguars’ favor in Week 12 against the Texans.

The Houston Texans have lost eight straight games after starting the season 2-0, while the Jacksonville Jaguars are a lowly 1-9 on the year. Houston is coming off a loss to an Oakland Raiders team with an undrafted free agent at quarterback. Jacksonville also continued to play poorly, losing to the Arizona Cardinals at home in Week 11. Despite their similarly shoddy records, the folks in Vegas are favoring the Texans heavily at home.

Houston is a 10-point favorite against the Jaguars, according to OddsShark. The over/under is 43 for the Week 12 matchup. The Texans and the Jaguars are among the league’s bottom-dwellers, so an average of 21.5 points for each team might be a bit generous. Jacksonville has struggled to score points, while Houston’s had trouble staying consistent on both sides of the ball.

But with experience playing DB in college and so much time as a WR coach, Babers brings a WR’s sensibility to teaching the system he took from Baylor. Despite his background, he’ll tell you the QB is still the most important part.

When a quarterback throws a receiver a ball, a receiver should be able to throw that same ball back to that quarterback, Babers said. And that is what’s been missing. What that means is that you and I have played catch so much that you’re the pitcher and I’m the catcher. You throw me a ball, I throw you a ball, you throw me a ball, I throw you a ball. We take our mitts off, and you’d have to say, ‘Which one’s the catcher, and which one’s the pitcher?’ because we’ve exercised that skill so many times.

He calls plays without a sheet, takes calculated risks on fourth downs, and recalls the little things, like the fact that his quarterback got hurt on play No. 14 of the Clemson game. I checked, and he’s right, if you don’t count punts as offensive plays, which many coaches don’t.
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4-star LB Eli’Jah Winston’s brother is at Oregon, but don’t overlook LSU and UCLA

Four-star Portland linebacker Eli’Jah Winston’s older brother, La’Mar, was the top-ranked player in Oregon in the class of 2016. LaMar committed to the in-state Ducks, where he played sparingly as a true freshman last season.

Eli’Jah’s considering following his brother’s footsteps, but he doesn’t sound close to a college decision yet. He doesn’t have a top-five list, but he said if he did, Oregon, LSU, and UCLA would be included. A firm leader, though? Not so much, at this point.

Here is an extremely average t-shirt you can get for $60. Urban Outfitters gets away with a $38 t-shirt. This is just absurd.

Yet, the pricing actually makes no sense because a hooded Big Baller Brand sweatshirt is also $60. You’ve added more material, including sleeves and a hood yet the price is the same. There are a actually a few $70 sweatshirts though if that is more your style.

Here is where it gets fun. We’ve got $100 hats, y’all! Cork and mesh.

LaVar Ball is pretty adamant about his brand too. He spoke with Keyshawn Johnson and basically compared BBB to Jordan Brand.

“They’re kicking in the door, but they’re shocked at what I’m telling them. I said, ‘I’m not looking for no endorsement deal. I’m looking for a marketing and distribution deal.’ Branding. The only person doing that is (Michael) Jordan with Nike. That’s what we’re for. If Lonzo doesn’t sign with Adidas, Nike or Under Armour, guess what — I’ll sign the Big Baller Brand. We already got our own brand. Triple B’s. Lonzo is going to be the first one drafted with his own brand. That don’t happen.”
What’s even better is that LaVar likes his own brand so much that he gave the clothing to his kids for Christmas last year. They honestly look less than thrilled, but this entire video is fantastic.18