For most of his life, George Fant wanted nothing to do with football

He grew up shuttling between his mother’s home in Cincinnati and his father’s 200-acre farm on the outskirts of Smiths Grove, Kentucky, where he planted tobacco and rose before dawn to feed the hogs and cows. He was one of the biggest kids around, so he was expected to strap on a helmet and play the game. But when junior high was over, he’d had enough.

At Western Kentucky, George Fant starred at power forward, winning the Most Outstanding Player award in the Sun Belt Conference tournament and leading his team to the NCAA tournament.

He didn’t follow football, college or pro. Football seemed more dangerous than it was worth.

None of this should surprise you. It’s Seattle, where Carroll and his fellow coaches do things differently. It’s in vogue for NFL teams these days to spend big on marquee, All-Pro offensive linemen — think Cowboys or Raiders. But the Seahawks have just posted another 10-win season with the league’s lowest-paid offensive line, a unit held together with chicken wire and hope.

Limited Youth Alonzo Gee Jersey If a football team is only as good as its weakest component, this does not augur well for the playoffs. All season, the offensive line has struggled to protect Wilson. He has been pressured on 37 percent of his dropbacks, worst in the league. He has been sacked on 6.6 percent of them, the fourth worst. The toll is clear. Since hurting his knee in Week 3, Wilson has lost some of the speed and poise that have made him elite.
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For the Seahawks, who play host to Detroit in a wild-card game Saturday night, to have a deep run in the playoffs, the offensive line must improve. A lot will depend on Fant, who will be trying to guard Wilson’s blind side.

The Cardinals should bet big on Carlos Martinez

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The Cardinals are a solid all-around team. So much so, that a common complaint is that the roster is hard to upgrade. In the 2013-2014 off-season, signing Jhonny Peralta was a huge upgrade over the nightmare that was Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso sharing starting duties. The trade for Jason Heyward was a huge upgrade at the time over a younger Randal Grichuk. This year, the signing of Dexter Fowler filled the only real hole in the lineup.

Game Youth Thomas Morstead Jersey Then the lockout happened, and the league felt the need to ¡°apologize¡± to the fans through throwing outdoor games at them. In just the 2013-2014 season, we saw the Maple Leafs play the Red Wings in front of over 105,000 people in Ann Arbor followed by the Ducks against the Kings at Dodger Stadium less than a month later. Then the Rangers hosted two outdoor games three days apart, one against the Flyers and one against their cross-town rivals, the New York Islanders. The Blackhawks hosted the Penguins at Soldier Field to conclude the Stadium Series, and the Canucks hosted the Senators at the Heritage Classic.

Despite the novelty of seeing two California teams play on shockingly good ice, the Stadium Series and complete slate of outdoor games weren¡¯t as successful outside of the local markets as the league would hope. The attendance at the games was outstanding, of course, and the league turned a profit, but people started grumbling. Why were the Blackhawks and Flyers and Rangers featured again? Did anyone really care about tuning in to the Stadium Series games? What impact would the inflated slate of games have on the league¡¯s marquee event?

The Indianapolis Colts could have grabbed the lead by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars

A key game in the AFC South also happened in the early slate of games. The Indianapolis Colts could have grabbed the lead by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the Jags crushed the Colts, snapping their 16-game divisional winning streak. With a tough game tonight for the Houston Texans against the New England Patriots, the win gives the Jaguars a chance to climb back into the race and make it a three-way run for the divisional crown.

Rounding out the notable things to watch in the early slate was the Cincinnati Bengals against the Pittsburgh Steelers. With Ben Roethlisberger back in action, the Steelers have one of the NFL’s most dangerous offenses, but so do the Bengals — with a healthy Andy Dalton. But Dalton was injured in the first quarter of the game, and the Steelers were in control from there on out, keeping Cincinnati from clinching the AFC North title. Pittsburgh needed the win to stay ahead in the AFC Wild Card race.

After the early group of 11 games kicking off at 1 p.m., there were just two more games before Sunday Night Football. In the first, the Denver Broncos tried to keep a stranglehold on the AFC West. But they fell to the Oakland Raiders and failed to clinch a spot in the postseason. The Raiders gave their wild card hopes a boost with their win.

No other team that hasn’t clinched a postseason spot can earn a spot in Week 14, although the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals had some rooting interest after locking down spots already. A win for the Panthers against the Atlanta Falcons secured a first-round bye for Carolina, while a loss for the Seattle Seahawks against the Baltimore Ravens would have guaranteed the Cardinals the NFC West crown.

In the AFC there’s little room for error in the wild card race, although unlike the NFC, there are three teams tied for two spots. The Steelers are currently the team on the outside looking in, even after an upset win over the Bengals.

Both the Texans and Buffalo Bills are ready to jump into the race if any team leaves the door ajar for them to do so, but with so many teams in contention, teams like the Raiders and Miami Dolphins would need some help to get back in the thick of the race.

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.