NFL picks and predictions, Bears vs. Buccaneers 2015: Tampa Bay a popular pick to beat Chicago

The Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their playoff hopes extinguished last week, but it was still impressive that both teams were even in the mix this late into the year.

The 6-8 Bucs have already tripled their win total from last year and, if they win out, have a chance for their first non-losing season since 2010. Although they were never able to crack the .500 mark this year, they kept themselves within spitting distance of a playoff berth for far longer than anyone could have anticipated.

More importantly, they seem to have found their franchise quarterback and have a solid young core to build around. Jameis Winston is a leading candidate for the Rookie of the Year award and has already etched his name in the record books, with more accolades likely to come. At age 21, he’s the youngest player in NFL history to produce a 3,000-yard passing season.

The four leading vote recipients — two offensive and two defensive — will serve as the players captains in the 2016 Pro Bowl, and will help with the live draft on Jan. 27. Each team will eventually include 44 players — 21 on offense, 18 on defense and five on special teams.

Limited Mens Stephen Curry Jersey This year, the Panthers led all teams with 10 Pro Bowl selections. Behind them, the Cardinals, Patriots and Seahawks each had seven selections.

As usual, players drafted from teams advancing through the postseason, and possibly playing in the Super Bowl, will miss out on the annual event. Others may miss the game due to injuries, or the fear of sustaining one, and will be replaced by Pro Bowl alternates.
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The Pro Bowl will take place on Jan. 31 in Honolulu, Hawaii, at Aloha Stadium — with some of the League’s best players lining up in what the NFL is trying to keep a competitive game.

Greg Olsen just made another Pro Bowl, but unfortunately that¡¯s for Carolina

Greg Olsen just made another Pro Bowl, but unfortunately that¡¯s for Carolina. Chris Williams. Gone. Gabe Carimi. Gone. Shea McClellin. Gone. Kevin White. Hurt again.

Fuller is close to joining that group. And that¡¯s a shame, because Fuller has some ability. You don¡¯t win NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors by accident, as Fuller did in Week 2 of his rookie year at San Francisco.

Hue Jackson, coach of the winless Browns, has said that he believes in Pryor but that the wideout needs to channel his energy and emotions in a more positive way on the field.

Carroll indicated on Friday that he had considered disciplinary action before meeting with Sherman.
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“I was going to make my decision on how to move forward based on what happened and how we communicated,” Carroll said. “And I feel very good about it.”

NT Eddie Goldman missed practice again on Wednesday because of an ankle injury. Considering the Bears play on Saturday, it’s a stretch to think Goldman will be available for the Washington game.

The Bears are much better defending the run with Goldman in the middle, and they suffered greatly last week against Green Bay without him. A 2015 second-round pick, Goldman has already sat out eight games this year.

And I definitely want to be better as a man, not just as a football player. So I started thinking about things like that, and it just has me thinking.”

Jarius Wright Mens Jersey It’s all about recommitting myself, and I don’t know. I’m never going to step on the football field half-heartedly.

Bengals eliminated from contention after blowing lead against Steelers

The Cincinnati Bengals just couldn’t help themselves.
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After leading by 14 points in the second quarter, it looked like the Bengals (5-8-1) were going to scare away the Pittsburgh Steelers-sized elephant in the room and keep their playoff hopes alive another week.

Limited Lac Edwards Jersey But once again, the Bengals became their own worst enemy and officially eliminated themselves from playoff contention in a mistake-filled 24-20 loss.

The Bengals’ losing streak to the Steelers now stretches to four games, and they’ll have to wait until next year to try to turn that around.

After playing solid defense for three quarters and holding the Steelers to six field goals, the defense melted down in the middle of the fourth quarter. The Bengals committed four straight defensive penalties, two each by Dre Kirkpatrick and Pat Sims, before Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger found Eli Rogers for the 24-yard go-ahead touchdown.

That drive was just one example of the Bengals’ many mental errors Sunday.

No, the Vikings haven’t technically been eliminated from the playoff race yet. But their postseason hopes can only be fulfilled on the most circuitous of paths after Sunday’s 34-6 pummeling at home that sent their season veering off course and raised the possibility that a campaign that began with five straight wins could end with two insignificant games.

Nothing leading into the game suggested the Vikings were headed for such a lopsided defeat.

The Vikings enter Week 15 two games behind the Detroit Lions in the NFC North

Kevin Shattenkirk Kids Jersey Who is Adam Matthew Vinatieri, kicker, husband and father of three? Farrand might be the coach with an answer that Belichick, Parcells, Dungy, Carroll and Chuck Pagano won’t find in their playbooks. She says children with learning disabilities often grow into achievers and conquerors.

“When people who have had everything come easy to them hit a roadblock,” Farrand says, “sometimes they don’t know how to deal with it. But when young kids struggle and overcome it, that builds natural confidence. Kids see that when they stuck with something they could figure it out and do it. Adam learned that early on. I think that served him well in everything he tackled.”

The Vikings enter Week 15 two games behind the Detroit Lions in the NFC North and one game back of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the second wild-card spot.

Mark Recchi Kids Jersey If the Vikings do activate Peterson, he will have to reacquaint himself with an offense that has changed since Pat Shurmur replaced Norv Turner as offensive coordinator in November.

“There certainly are some new things we’re doing that he’s not as familiar with,” Shurmur said. “He’s been in meetings. He’s been around. He’s somewhat familiar with what we’re doing. But knowing it and actually executing it are two different things.”

Said Peterson on the radio: “I’ve been having my head in the playbook this week, just anticipating going out there as well. I’ve got some things I need to clean up a little bit, but I’ll be out there on Sunday.”

According to a Billboard story from August 2014, Peterson was one of the founding investors in Dash Radio, a free streaming music service founded by DJ Skee, aka Scott Kearney, a Twin Cities native.

2016 NFL Draft order: Titans will have a top 2 pick regardless of Week 17 results

The Tennessee Titans will lock up the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft if the Indianapolis Colts deal them a 13th loss of the season, but even if the Titans win, they could Limited Mens Roberto Aguayo Jersey still end up picking first.

UPDATE: The Titans wound up with the first pick in the draft.

If both the Titans and Cleveland Browns win in Week 17, it will be Tennessee picking first. While a win for the Browns could mean falling as far as fourth in the draft order, a Limited Kids Noah Spence Jersey win for the Titans wouldn’t be enough to knock Tennessee out of the top two.

Nearly every team in the AFC playoff picture has had to overcome some sort of injury to a primary player. The Patriots have had to deal with injuries to every offensive position except quarterback. The Broncos are marching along with Brock Osweiler, a quarterback in his fourth year who essentially had the experience of a rookie. The Cincinnati Bengals lost Andy Dalton until at least the first round of the playoffs, while backup AJ McCarron is now banged up too. The Kansas City Chiefs are winning but no longer have Jamaal Charles lining up in the backfield, while the Houston Texans have nearly clinched the AFC South with Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer taking snaps.

And then there’s the healthy Jets, the only team in the conference that is approaching the playoffs with its starting quarterback and all his primary weapons still on the field. If the Jets beat the Bills this week and make the playoffs, Fitzpatrick might actually be the second-best quarterback among the six lining up under center for the AFC’s playoff teams.

Injury luck plays a role every season, and this year, the Jets are the ones benefiting from it. Being healthy doesn’t guarantee anything, but being the most well-rounded team of all the playoff contenders is a great place to start. That is, assuming they can take care of business in what promises to be a tough and emotional game against Ryan and the Bills.

Inside Bryce Harper’s ‘Wow…’ heard ’round the world

The Washington Nationals have officially joined the party at the winter meetings, but the cover charge was pretty steep. Just how steep?
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That was Bryce Harper’s reaction, just four minutes after the Nats announced the deal. Of course, you could take Harper¡¯s comment a couple of different ways.

On the one hand, maybe MLB¡¯s CFO (Chief Fun Officer) meant wow in a good way: ¡°Wow … I can¡¯t believe we just snagged Adam Eaton from the White Sox and get to plug him into center field next to me, which would be really great because he¡¯s crazy good in the field and saved more runs last season than anyone not named Mookie and led the majors in assists.

And at the plate, he¡¯s a gritty, gutty, on-base guy with wheels who will help make our offense go. And oh by the way, this means Trea Turner doesn¡¯t have to play center anymore and can go back to short, which means that Danny Espinosa — love him like a brother and all, but his leather is way better than his lumber — can go back to being a utility guy.
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It makes sense, even if the Cubs don¡¯t get a contribution from such a player until the second half. That¡¯s when Maddon is more likely to employ six starters because the addition of Ross, for example, would feel like the Cubs made a midseason trade. They¡¯ll explore, unless the bidding gets out of hand.

So far, the front office has taken one big step in its offseason plan: acquiring Davis on Wednesday. Now the Cubs will take the baby steps necessary to deliver a complete and deep team. Epstein said that winning or losing the last game of 2016 wasn¡¯t going to change the team’s goals for this winter: They¡¯re going for it while maintaining fiscal flexibility for the coming years.

¡°The Wade Davis move is an aggressive move,¡± Epstein said. ¡°I see that as an aggressive move, a move of an organization that¡¯s aggressive to win another World Series.¡±

The Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs are pretty safe bets to make the playoffs

Limited Youth Peter Holland Jersey With four weeks remaining in the regular season, the playoff races are as tight as ever with 18 different teams holding at least a 25 percent chance to make the postseason, according to ESPN¡¯s Football Power Index (FPI). Which team¡¯s playoff chances will be impacted most this week?

With the help of FPI¡¯s playoff leverage calculations, we will break down which teams have the most to gain and lose this week in terms of making the postseason. There may be bigger games in terms of seeding and division winners, but the teams and games highlighted below are the ones that have the biggest impact on each team¡¯s inclusion in the playoffs.

Do you expect Malcolm Butler to shadow Mike Wallace or Steve Smith Sr. this week?

The last time the Patriots used Butler to shadow an opposing receiver was Oct. 23 against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Antonio Brown. So while it’s in the team’s playbook, it doesn’t happen often, and thus the odds are longer that we’ll see that type of scenario on Monday night.

¡°We¡¯re just looking forward to getting back out there,¡¯¡¯ McCoy said. ¡°The kids haven¡¯t been out there in a long time. They¡¯re really looking forward to seeing some of the old neighbors and just go out there and see us play a game in Carolina. That¡¯s where our kids grew up so it¡¯s a special place. It means a lot to us.¡¯

Youth Jared Spurgeon Jersey To see a full table showing schedule-independent matchup ratings to help you make Week 14 lineup decisions at QB, RB, WR and TE, you must be an ESPN Insider.

Robert Griffin III took part in practice Wednesday. ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported through a source that, barring any setbacks, Griffin will start Sunday against Cincinnati. Coach Hue Jackson has not made that official, but Griffin should be on the field for the first time since the season opener in Philadelphia.

Marshawn Lynch is out, but Christine Michael is ready

Seattle joins three other teams leaning on their backup running backs for the Wild Card weekend. They’re still 4-point favorites over the Vikings on Sunday, but the news that Lynch won’t play this weekend changes things for the offense.

Seattle’s been dealing with injured running backs all season. Lynch missed time earlier in the season, and he hasn’t played since Week 10. After seeing Thomas Rawls emerge as a potential superstar in their system when Lynch went down, the Seahawks had to scramble to replace their rookie breakout player after he broke his ankle in Week 14.

Game Kids Travis Wood Jersey They went to a familiar name: Christine Michael, who, at that point, had been on the street as a free agent after bouncing around to Dallas and Washington. After appearing in three games, there’s some cautious optimism starting to emerge again that Michael will live up to his insane hype over the past few years.

If there is any team in the league that can slow down the Steelers’ potent passing attack and red-hot offense, it might be the Bengals. They gave up the second-fewest points in the league and have one of the best secondaries in the NFL. During the regular season, the Bengals ranked fourth in interception rate, sixth in passing yards per play allowed and fifth in opponent passer rating.

The Packers began the 2015 season with a 6-0 record, while Washington was just 2-4 after the first six weeks. In the latter half of the schedule, things swapped and it was Washington that finished the year with four straight wins, while Green Bay enters the playoffs after back-to-back losses.

Al Jefferson Authentic Jersey Still, the Packers have two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers under center and even in a down year by his standards, he still finished with 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions. But Washington has had some good quarterback play of their own, with Kirk Cousins finishing the year with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in the last three games. The No. 6 pass defense of the Packers faces the challenge of slowing Cousins down and keeping Washington’s offense in check.

Jackson has been tasked with developing quarterbacks for many teams

The Browns need plenty of work on the offensive side of the ball, finishing 25th in the league in yardage and 30th in points scored with just 17.4 points per game. But Authentic Womens Larry Andersen Jersey there’s a big question mark at the quarterback position after Cleveland started free agent pickup Josh McCown for much of this season.

When McCown wasn’t starting, it was Johnny Manziel picking up the slack and after repeated off-the-field incidents, it’s unclear if Manziel has any future with the Browns Elite Cassius Marsh Jersey organization. But both Ian Rapoport and Mike Garaofolo reported that Jackson wants to “move on” from Manziel.

Jackson has been tasked with developing quarterbacks for many teams, and did a great job with Andy Dalton. That’s one of the biggest reasons why Jackson was one of the hot coaches on the market this offseason.

The Falcons struggled in 2013 and 2014, winning just ten games over those two seasons, and the team fired Smith after a Week 17 loss to the Carolina Panthers cost Atlanta the opportunity to win the division and make a playoff appearance in 2014 despite what would have been a 7-9 record with a victory. The Falcons lost 34-3 and finished 6-10.

Koetter, Tampa Bay’s head coach, was the offensive coordinator under Smith from 2012 through 2014 with the Falcons.

Smith came into a challenging defensive situation in Atlanta, taking over the reins of a team that was 29th in the league in 2007, having allowed 355.5 yards per game. The Falcons improved in Smith’s first season as head coach, finishing the 2008 season ranked 24th. Atlanta continued to improve incrementally over Smith’s first four seasons, finishing 21st in offensive yards allowed in 2009, 16th in 2010 and 12th in 2011.

Fitzgerald also pounded the table for Russell Martin, and his pitch framing, in the 2012-13 winter

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Speaking of rating on a per-inning basis, there¡¯s another important thing to note: Mathis rates very well in pitch-framing in that context. That the Diamondbacks went for an elite pitch-framer to fill one of their two catching spots isn¡¯t surprising for two reasons. First off, six of the top eight teams in the stat that measures pitch-framing (which we’ll get too shortly) made the 2016 postseason, and success begets impersonation. Second, the announcement of Mathis¡¯ signing came not long after the announcement of the hiring of Pirates quantitative analyst Mike Fitzgerald as the team¡¯s director of research and development.

Fitzgerald also pounded the table for Russell Martin, and his pitch framing, in the 2012-13 winter. That signing was not popular…at first
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The Pirates’ success the last few seasons can partly be traced to their prioritizing those catchers who rated highly at pitch-framing: Russell Martin, Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart (as Sawchik documents).

It only took him this long to get elected because he had to wait until turning 70 to be eligible since he’s still active. Mark Armour and Dan Levitt wrote a terrific book, “In Pursuit of Pennants,” on the history of baseball front offices and ranked Schuerholz as the No. 6 GM of all time.

Only truly excellent hurlers — and hitters — tend to record better than league-average line-drive rates consistently. Average authority (or exit speed) allowed, both overall and by specific BIP type, correlates a bit from year to year, but not nearly to as significant an extent as frequency. ERA and even FIP (which doesn’t go much further than docking a pitcher for allowing homers) both miss pitchers’ relative contact management skill.

But in the age of StatCast, there really isn’t an excuse for that. The data is at our fingertips, so we might as well put it to use in the evaluation of pitchers. There are two major aspects to pitching: What happens when the hitter does not make contact — strikeouts and walks — and what happens when the hitter does. Pitchers should be evaluated based on both the frequency of each type of ball in play allowed, i.e., their BIP mix, and on the authority with which those batted balls were hit.