NFL Playoff Pick 'Em Contest, Super Bowl 0x31 Round: The final round of SportsFilter's annual NFL playoffs prediction contest is here. Pick the winner of the game, the spread and 10 bonus categories. Nerfballpro leads by two points and is making a bid to go wire to wire.
Josh Gordon: I Am Not an Addict: Josh Gordon has written an essay on Medium about his suspension. The gist is that he's made mistakes but he's not the substance abuse addict that sports pundits who don't know him have claimed. "I am not someone who deserves to be dissected and analyzed like some tragic example of everything that can possibly go wrong for a professional athlete," he writes. "I am not going to die on account of the troubled state you wrongly believe my life to be in. I am a human being, with feelings and emotions and scars and flaws, just like anyone else. I make mistakes -- I have made a lot of mistakes -- but I am a good person, and I will persevere."
College Football Playoff Pressured to Change Dates: The College Football Playoff is under pressure on two fronts to adjust dates for its semifinals and championship games. ESPN execs are lobbying CFP officials to move next season's semis off New Year's Eve where it competes with countdown shows. The NFL is considering expanded playoffs with one new game on Monday night competing with the CFP championship. CFP executive director Bill Hancock says the games won't move: “We picked Monday night because it was open and it was the best night for our game. We announced that in June 2012. We established that our game was going to be on Monday night for 12 years."
New MLB Commissioner: We May Ban Defensive Shifts: In an interview with ESPN's Karl Ravetch, new Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said he's open to the idea of eliminating the crazy defensive shifts that have been cutting into offensive production and making me cry when Prince Fielder comes up to bat. Asked by Ravetch what form a rule might take to accomplish that, Manfred said, "You divide the number of players who have to be each side of second base." (Transcript on ESPN Insider.)
Josh Gordon Fails Substance Test, Out for Another Year: The fantastically talented Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon has failed a substance test -- this time for alcohol -- and faces a one-year suspension. Gordon failed a marijuana test in college at Baylor, began his NFL career with a two-game substance abuse suspension and was suspended again after driving while impaired during the off season. He led the NFL in receiving yards his rookie season with 1,646, but this new incident puts his entire pro career in jeopardy. Another talented wideout with substance abuse problems, Justin Blackmon, has missed the last 24 games in Jacksonville due to suspension.
Stats Guru: Patriots Hold Onto Ball Far Better Than Any Other Team: Sports quantitative analyst Warren Sharp has found an interesting statistical anomaly involving the New England Patriots: The team has fumbled dramatically fewer times than any other NFL team the past five years, measured in term of fumbles lost per offensive play run: "There is no other team even close to being near to their rate of 187 offensive plays (passes+rushes+sacks) per fumble. The league average is 105 plays/fumble. Most teams are within 21 plays of that number." The Patriots five-year run of non-fumbling is the best five-year run of any NFL team in the last 25 years, raising the question of how the team is able to hold on to the ball so much better than anybody else.
11 of 12 Patriots' Balls Deflated, ESPN Reports: The NFL inspected the balls used by the New England Patriots during the AFC Championship Game and found that 11 out of 12 were inflated 2 pounds per square inch below NFL rules, NFL sources told ESPN. The balls had been inspected under three hours prior to game time by the referees and were properly inflated, the sources said. No word yet on any potential punishment. One source described the league as "disappointed ... angry ... distraught." Jackie McMullen of ESPN writes that if Belichick was involved, he should be suspended for the Super Bowl.
Seahawks Advance to Super Bowl 0x31 with 16-Point Comeback: Down 16-0 at the half and 19-7 with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth, the Seattle Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers 28-22 on the first overtime possession with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse. Wilson was terrible until he wasn't, throwing four interceptions before leading one of the greatest comebacks in an NFL playoff game. The Seahawks become the first Super Bowl champ to reach the game the next season since New England in 2005.
NFL Playoff Pick 'Em Contest, Conference Championship Round: Pick the winners and the spread of the NFC Championship and AFC Championship Sunday, along with the top passer, rusher and receiver. The first game is Green Bay at Seattle at 3:05 p.m. Eastern Sunday, followed by Indianapolis at New England at 6:40 p.m.
Free Climbers Finish 19-Day Scamper Up El Capitan: In a sporting achievement for the ages, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson finished their 19-day free climb of El Capitan's Dawn Wall yesterday. John Branch explains in the New York Times why this is a big honking deal: "They are the first to free climb every inch of the 3,000-foot Dawn Wall in a single expedition, long considered impossible, using only their hands and feet to pull themselves up. Ropes were merely safety devices to break the occasional fall. By virtue of its scale and difficulty, the climb was considered by some to be the most difficult ever accomplished."
Boy Asks All 32 NFL Teams: Why Should I Be Your Fan?: A 12-year-old boy in Yukon, Oklahoma, wrote to every NFL team in December, asking them a simple question: Why should I be a fan of your team? Cade Pope got one letter back, hand-written by Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, along with a replica helmet signed by the team's All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechley. "We would be honored if our Carolina Panthers became your team," Richardson replied. "We would make you proud by the classy way we would represent you."
Buckeyes Win College Football Playoff: The Ohio State Buckeyes won the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship, defeating Oregon 42-20 at AT&T Field in Arlington, Texas, Monday night.The Buckeyes overcame four turnovers thanks to Ezekiel Elliott (36 carries, 246 yards, four touchdowns), Cardale Jones (16-of-23 passing for 242 yards, a passing TD and a rushing TD) and a defense that swallowed the vaunted Ducks attack, forcing six punts.
Colts Silence Broncos Offense, Make Peyton Manning Look Old: Peyton Manning has his ninth one-and-done in his playoff career after Andrew Luck led the Indianapolis Colts to a 24-13 road victory over the Denver Broncos, putting Indy in its first AFC Championship Game since 2009. Manning went 21-for-40 with only 152 yards, leading to headlines talking about retirement.
Packers Rally Past Cowboys, Who No Longer Love the Refs: The zebras giveth, the zebras taketh away. Trailing 26-21 late in the fourth against the Green Bay Packers, the Dallas Cowboys thought they had a first-and-goal from the one yard line after Dez Bryant acrobatically caught a fourth-down pass from Tony Romo. But replay officials reversed the call because the ball touched the ground and Bryant briefly lost control of it afterwards. Green Bay didn't give the ball back and advanced to the NFC Championship Game despite quarterback Aaron Rodgers being limited to the pocket due to a calf injury. His bullet to tight end Richard Rodgers completed the team's comeback in the final quarter.
Seahawks Bottle Up Panthers, Look Like Favorites to 'Re-Pete': The Seattle Seahawks turned a 14-10 nailbiter at the half into a 31-17 no doubter, defeating the Carolina Panthers and advancing to the NFC Championship Game. Kam Chancellor sealed the win with a 90-yard pick-six touchdown that followed two incredible non-blocks of a field goal as the first half ended. After leaping the line once to disrupt a kick, Chancellor did it again, foiled only by a penalty for running into the kicker. Under coach Pete Carroll, Seattle is the first defending Super Bowl champion in a decade to win a playoff game the next season.
Patriots Edge Ravens as Belichick Displays Some Trick Mojo: The New England Patriots won a 35-31 AFC Divisional Round classic over the Baltimore Ravens, taking the lead with 5:13 left on a Tom Brady to Brandon LaFell touchdown. That score makes Brady the all-time leader in playoff passing TDs with 46, passing Joe Montana. Patriots coach Bill Belichick reached into his bag of tricks with the Patriots down by 14 in the third, lining up six receivers, having one tell the refs he's ineligible and snapping before the Ravens could figure out who to cover. "It was clearly deception," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who took a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty to call attention to it.
NFL Playoff Pick 'Em Contest, Divisional Round: Pick the winners of each playoff game and the spread, along with four bonus categories. This round begins at 4:35 p.m. Eastern today with Baltimore at New England, followed by Carolina at Seattle tonight, then Dallas at Green Bay and Indianapolis at Denver on Sunday.
South Korean PGA Golfer May Be Conscripted into Military: PGA golfer Sang-Moon Bae is facing military conscription for his country South Korea. The 28-year-old is the top-ranked Korean in golf at No. 84 after winning the Frys.Com Open last year, but his 2015 season is in peril. He asked for a visa extension and it was denied without explanation by his country's military. "I will take legal action. I couldn't understand why they denied it," he said.
Cowboys Defeat Lions After Controversial Penalty Non-Call: The Dallas Cowboys rallied to defeat the Detroit Lions 24-20 in the NFL playoffs, scoring a go-ahead touchdown with under three minutes remaining after a Lions drive ended on a pass interference call that was announced and then cancelled by referee Pete Morelli. He explained the reasoning to a reporter after the game, stating that head linesman Jerry Bergman had the best angle and thought it was face-guarding, not pass interference.
ESPN Anchor Stuart Scott Dies: Stuart Scott, an anchor at ESPN for 22 years, died Sunday morning after a long battle with cancer. He was 49. Scott, who joined the network for the launch of ESPN2 and became one of its best-known anchors, was known for catchphrases such as "boo-yah!" and "as cool as the other side of the pillow." At the ESPYS on July 16, shortly before his 49th birthday and following another round of cancer surgery, Scott accepted the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance with these words: "When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live."
From That Guy On Your Fantasy Football Team: Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas has written to all the fantasy owners who picked him: "If I don't have a huge fantasy production day, I'm not trying to personally sabotage your team. ... There is a small minority who always take it one step further if you let their fantasy team down, and they all seem to congregate in my Twitter mentions."
NFL Playoff Pick 'Em Contest, Wild Card Round: Pick the winners of each playoff game and the spread, along with some extra categories. This round begins at 4:20 p.m. Eastern today with Arizona at Carolina, followed by Baltimore at Pittsburgh, Detroit at Dallas and Cincinatti at Indianapolis.
Who Will Win the Max Scherzer Sweepstakes?: Buster Olney of ESPN is OCD enough to analyze the chances for all 30 teams to sign free agent pitcher Max Scherzer. Spoiler alert: It doesn't look good, Colorado Rockies fans.
New York Jets Fire Rex Ryan, GM John Idzik: The New York Jets have fired coach Rex Ryan after six seasons and GM John Idzik after two. The New York Times calls owner Woody Johnson's move "a tacit admission of a mistake Johnson made by insisting during the interview process 23 months ago that the new general manager retain Ryan as coach. Such a demand winnowed the pool of candidates, costing the Jets a chance to hire executives with stronger resumes." Dave Caldwell began his GM tenure in Jacksonville by firing one-year coach Mike Mularkey, so he could pick a new coach (Gus Bradley) and begin the rebuilding together. Is it ever a good idea to pair an existing coach who needs to win now with a new GM?
New Jersey Devils Will Have 3 Coaches: After firing coach Peter DeBoer, the New Jersey Devils have replaced him with co-coaches Adam Oates and Scott Stevens. General manager Lou Lamoriello also will do some coaching, at least for a while. Oates will be in charge of forwards and Stevens will handle the defense. It's a unique way of approaching things," Lamoriello said. The problems in New Jersey aren't with coaching but with talent, writes Adam Gretz of CBS Sports: "At one time a team known for its excellent drafting and player development system, the Devils have drafted just seven forwards since 1999 that have scored more than 10 goals for the team at the NHL level."