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  • Blog post by Angel92

    Kenny Britt's first season hasn't gone as well as expected. Corey Coleman is again on the mend after suffering another broken hand. Neither helped their cases last weekend in Houston.
    Both Britt and Coleman were sent home Sunday after missing curfew the night before Cleveland's eventual loss to Houston, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Saturday on Good Morning Football Weekend. Neither Coleman or Britt were going to play in the game due to injuries.
    Even with both sidelined, coach Hue Jackson wasn't lowering his standard for two receivers who broke curfew. The two were sent home Sunday morning, missing the game, and have since had talks with Cleveland's coaching staff after the incident and apologized, Garafolo reported.
    The minor blemish is just the latest knock on Britt, who has fallen well below expectations after signing a four-year, $32.5 million deal with the Browns in March. The veteran has gone from touchdown-catching end zone tower as a member of the Los Angeles Rams to lackadaisical, pass-dropping veteran in Cleveland. Fresh off a career year of 68 catches, 1,002 yards and five touchdowns, Britt has just eight receptions for 121 yards and one touchdown in four games with Cleveland.
    With each and every Sunday struggle, Britt reminds the team's jaded fanbase more of a recent disappointment at the position. Dwayne Bowe signed a two-year deal with $9 million guaranteed in 2015 and caught just five passes in his time as a Brown before he was unceremoniously released in March of 2016.
    With Cleveland struggling offensively and Britt doing very little to alleviate the problems, Browns fans are already turning toward the familiar assertions of highway robbery that once hovered over Bowe like an ever-present neon sign and even followed Andre Rison -- whose 1995 free-agent additon and subsequent flame-out contributed to the original franchise's move to Baltimore and still burns fans along the shore of Lake Erie -- out of town.
    Coleman has a longer leash, despite being a former first-round pick who has shown flashes but also spent plenty of time in the trainer's room. The diminutive-but-explosive wideout remains the team's best hope at the position, which has seen its fair share of massive potential equal minimal or unreliable results (Josh Gordon, non-2007 Braylon Edwards, for example).
    Of Cleveland's three most notables receivers of late, only one -- Rashard Higgins -- was on the team entering training camp. The other two -- Kasen Williams and Bryce Treggs -- were with other teams and became in-season signings that have mildly paid off on a team otherwise devoid of talent at the position.
    Above all, the team's best prospect staying out past curfew with its supposed veteran leader is simply not a good look. It seems as though Jackson sensed this immediately and attempted to prevent it from happening again by being heavy-handed in sending them home. Whether any of it matters beyond 2017 is yet to be determined.

  • Blog post by Angel92

    Cowboys safety Jeff Heath, a former high school kicker, made two extra points Sunday. They were the longest successful kicks by a non-kicker in the NFL since 1979 when Packers linebacker John Anderson made a 39-yarder.
    Wide receiver Wes Welker made an extra point for the Patriots in 2010, but that was before PATs were moved back from the 2-yard line to the 15. They now are 33-yard kicks.
    Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh missed an extra point for the Lions in 2010.
    Welker was the last non-kicker to try a field goal, making a 29-yarder in 2004 for the Dolphins, and Doug Flutie converted a drop kick for the Patriots in 2005.
    Heath was forced into double duty when Dan Bailey, the NFL’s all-time most accurate kicker, injured his groin in the first half. Heath made two of three extra points.
    Linebacker Ted Thompson, now GM of the Packers, was the last non-kicker to make two extra points in a game. Thompson made his in 1980 for the Oilers.
    Heath, who grew up playing soccer, made a 49-yard field goal in high school to win a playoff game for Lake Orion (Mich.) High School. He also hit a game-winner from 30 yards as a junior.
    Last season against the 49ers, Heath nearly had to replace Bailey when the kicker’s back tightened up on him during pregame warmups. Heath warmed up but Bailey made it through the game.
    Heath did kick during practice the following week, the first time he had kicked with a snapper and a holder since high school.
    Heath’s side job, though, will come to an end. The Cowboys will work out kickers this week if Bailey can’t play against Washington next week.

  • Blog post by Angel92

    The Tampa Bay Lightning had a huge resurgence with it’s power play in 2016-17. Most of that was led by Nikita Kucherov, Jonathan Drouin, and Victor Hedman. Throughout the season, 13 different Lightning players scored a power play goal and 14 players recorded a power play point. However, late in the season, the power play was the first unit and only the first unit. From February 1st until the end of the season, only eight different players scored a power play point. Two of them missed the end of the season; Valtteri Filppula after being traded and Tyler Johnson to a lower body injury.
    That left Kucherov, Drouin, and Hedman joined by Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat to carry the load. A combination of Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde, Vladislav Namestnikov, Adam Erne, Anton Stralman, and Jake Dotchin made up the second unit for much of the last month and a half of the season. That unit was ineffective with only Alex Killorn scoring a power play goal after March 1st, and that came on a shift with the first unit.
    Injuries decimated the Lightning and it caused Jon Cooper and Todd Richards to use a cobbled together group of forwards on the second unit consisting of NHL regulars and AHL call-ups. This season though, they have a full compliment of players to draw on to put together two power play units that can threaten to score on any given chance.
    The first power play unit obviously has the big fire power. Gone is Drouin, but back in the mix is Steven Stamkos with Kucherov and Hedman. They’ve added Namestnikov who has shown a knack for being in the right place at the right time and Alex Killorn that has used his size to create space and passing lanes in the middle as well as supporting teammates that are being pressured along the boards. Through eight games, the players on the first unit have put up five power play goals and nine assists.
    While the big guns are on the first unit, the second unit this season isn’t anything to sneeze at either. The point position has rotated between Anton Stralman and Mikhail Sergachev. Stralman has yet to find the score sheet on the power play, but Sergachev has picked up two assists already. The forwards on the unit are Johnson, Point, Palat, and Gourde. That unit has combined for three power play goals and two assists on top of the two assists from Sergachev.
    The power play resurgence last season put the Lightning 6th overall in the NHL with a 22.8% success rate. So far through eight games, the Lightning sit at 10th overall with a 24.2% success rate. It’s still a small sample size and everything will even out a bit over the rest of the season. But so far the signs are promising that the Lightning can have more than just one good power play unit. Opposing teams won’t be able to focus their best penalty kill units on Stamkos, Kucherov, and Hedman. They’ll have the prowess of Johnson, Point, and Palat to contend with on the second unit too.
    2016-17’s 22.8% on the power play set a franchise record. Can this season’s team top that number? Time will tell, but with two good power play units, there’s a great chance that they can do it and have a top five power play unit in the NHL.

  • Blog post by Angel92

    ANN ARBOR -- The mental lapses of a year ago are no more. Lavert Hill can calmly and confidently walk out onto a college football field and excel.
    And everyone around him is taking notice.
    The sophomore cornerback continued his playmaking streak on Saturday, hauling in his second interception of the season in Michigan's 27-20 overtime win at Indiana. He would have had a third had it not been for a pass-interference penalty, one of the Michigan coaching staff disputes.
    "Lavert is starting to come out of his shell a little bit," Michigan cornerbacks Mike Zordich said on Wednesday. "You could see his fiery-ness, his competitiveness, come out more and more in practice as the year goes."
    Through six games this season, the 5-foot-11 Hill has 11 tackles (three for a loss), a position-best six pass breakups and two interceptions. He bulked up to 177 pounds for training camp, where he surpassed the competition to earn a starting spot right out of the gate.
    Really, though, there was never really any concern. Hill acted as Jourdan Lewis' understudy last season, watching how the two-time All-American and NFL draft pick handled his business. How he went about playing the game.
    Then -- last November, in a statement of confidence -- head coach Jim Harbaugh declared Hill a "Lewis type of player." Good speed. Good technique. Someone who picks up the scheme quickly.
    "I definitely see a little Jourdan Lewis in him," junior safety Tyree Kinnel said. "That's a great comparison, because Jourdan is a great corner and a great technique guy. He knows how to play the ball; he's a ball hog.
    "And I see the same things in Lavert Hill."
    Ask Hill about his progress and he'll refer you back to preparation and technique. Staying in shape. Using the proper footwork. Staying low on the breaks.
    "He's very natural," Zordich said. "Very instinctive. He's going to do whatever he can to get his hands on it. I think he's always looking for a pick, but when he knows he can't, he tries to slap it or backhand it away.
    "He's just instinctive that way."
    Zordich even went one step further, declaring Hill ahead of the curve when it came to the rest of the cornerback unit. David Long has traded reps with senior Brandon Watson on the other side, while true freshmen Ambry Thomas and Benjamin St-Juste have slowly worked their way into the rotation.
    The group continues to out-perform expectations, ranking third nationally in passing yards allowed (138.0 yards per game). Hill has been a big part of the reason for that.
    "Lavert's been a really good player for us," Harbaugh said after the Indiana win. "I'd say steady, but he's been better than steady. He's been playing at a really high level. Had some great defenses on the balls. Pass breakups. An interception in tight coverage. Really good. Really good.

  • Blog post by Angel92

    In a Dolphins season tarnished by a coaching scandal, a player going AWOL, a 3 ½ game stretch of offensive ineptitude and multiple significant injuries, here’s something the Dolphins should be very happy about:
    Most of the defensive newcomers have exceeded expectations. And that’s a big reason why the run defense is dramatically better.
    Lawrence Timmons and to a lesser extent, Rey Maualuga, have elevated the play of the linebackers alongside reliable Kiko Alonso. Rookie Charles Harris and more so, veteran William Hayes have made an impact at defensive end.
    Rookie fifth-rounders Davon Godchaux and to a lesser extent, sixth-rounder Vincent Taylor have been a godsend at defensive tackle.
    Rookie third-rounder Cordrea Tankersley won a starting cornerback job three weeks ago and has impressed everyone. And Nate Allen has been at least serviceable at safety opposite Reshad Jones.
    Cam Wake said all off the defensive newcomers have something in common. “They’re dogs,” Wake said.
    In other words… “In order to play in this defense the way [coordinator Matt Burke] has it set up, if you don’t have that anger and that aggression and that pride of self that, ‘I don’t care what’s going on. I’m going to get my job done,’ if that is stopping the run, if that’s getting to the quarterback, if that’s stopping such and such receiver, you have to have a sense of pride above all else, whatever it takes,” Wake said.
    “And the guys that you just named – the guys that they brought in here – I feel like they all have that mentality. In the locker room, we call it, ‘You have to have that dog in you,’ and that’s that pitbull mentality that, ‘I’m going to die, or I’m going to get my job done.’ One or the other. It’s not, ‘Oh, well. Darn. You got me.’
    “If you look across the board and go back and watch some of the film, all of those guys [have been] playing that way. That’s the only way we can be successful is everybody has that.”

  • Blog post by Angel92

    The San Francisco 49ers defense may not be the force it once was, but one area in which this young group is underrated is in stopping the run. San Francisco is giving up 112.8 rushing yards per game, good for No. 18 in the league, a substantial improvement from when they ranked last in the league in the same category in 2016.
    Football Outsiders ranks the 49ers at No. 13 in the NFL in run defense DVOA and a primary reason for their success in that regard has been because of the talent they possess on the defensive line. Having spent first-round picks on defensive linemen in three successive drafts, the Niners are seeing the dividends of those investments.
    The 49ers are allowing opposing running backs just 3.6 yards per carry. In addition, per Football Outsiders, they have allowed a power success rate of 58 percent, meaning 42 percent of third and fourth down runs with two yards or less to go that they have faced have not resulted in a first down. Only 10 teams in the league are better than San Francisco in that category.
    Football Outsiders also has the 49ers ranked at No. 8 in the NFL at stuffing running backs at or behind the line of scrimmage. Justis Mosqueda of the Setting The Edge podcast rates San Francisco’s tackle for loss value as 5.5 percent better than the NFL average.
    All these numbers make very pleasant reading for the 49ers and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, and are a direct result of the play produced by their three first-rounders, DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead. Buckner has caused havoc on the inside for opposing offensive lines and is graded by Pro Football Focus Edge as the second-best interior defensive lineman in the league, with only Aaron Donald ahead of him.
    He has four tackles for loss and this year’s third overall pick Thomas is level with him through six games, the former Stanford star logging nine run stops in the last five games, per PFF on Twitter, trailing only Joey Bosa, Emmanuel Ogbah and Calais Campbell in that period. That duo will have an extra burden on their shoulders now, with Armstead ruled out for four to six weeks following surgery on a broken hand.
    Armstead’s stats may not be as impressive as those of Buckner and Thomas, but his impact on the field is undoubted. He uses his frame to control the line of scrimmage consistently and has the athleticism to chase down ball-carriers and make plays in the open field, abilities that he put on show in the Week 6 loss to the Washington Redskins.
    The onus will now be firmly on Buckner and Thomas to continue their strong form, but they will still have plenty of assistance. Earl Mitchell brings experience as a run stuffer and D.J. Jones and Xavier Cooper have also flashed in the last few weeks. Reinforcements came with the signings Leger Douzable and Tony McDaniel and the latter in particular should aid San Francisco’s efforts against the run.
    McDaniel, as a former Seattle Seahawk, should be well versed in the defense Saleh employs and has a history of playing the run well. He ranked fourth among defensive tackles in run stop percentage in 2013 and ninth in 2016, according to PFF.

  • Blog post by Angel92

    As someone who was born in Ellensburg and lived here for the past 37 years, Justin Brown can still remember a time when the Fred Meyer on Water Street was little more than a dirt lot.
    In the time since, Brown has watched Ellensburg grow by thousands of people. But for low-income residents like himself, the rising cost of living has been difficult to deal with.
    “There are a few more jobs now, and some good people coming into the community, and not too many problems with crime,” Brown said. “But landlords are raising rent with all the college kids coming in and people can’t afford to rent here.”
    Brown earns minimum wage as a prep cook working at the local Papa Murphy's.
    Elmview, a nonprofit which finds job and housing opportunities for people with developmental disabilities, had worked with Brown for the past eight years helping him find better places to live.
    “Working with Elmview has been fantastic,” Brown said. “They’re wonderful people to be around.”
    Brown, who is disabled, lived in a two-story house before having to sell it to make alimony payments about three months ago.
    Currently, Brown lives in a studio apartment converted from a garage, which costs about $500 a month.
    “It took a long time to find that place,” Brown said. “But I’m always looking for bigger and better.”
    Washington is now the 10th most expensive state in the country for renters, according to a 2017 report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
    A Housing Needs Assessment was conducted by the city of Ellensburg by BERK last year found that more than half of Ellensburg households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. The assessment also found that there is a lack of multifamily dwellings in Ellensburg.
    Of renters in the community, 21 percent were “cost burdened” and 43 percent were severely “cost burdened,” the study found. The study also found rental costs are rising locally, though not as fast as Seattle. In Ellensburg, single family rents increased at a rate of 2.9 percent from 2011 to 2016. Multifamily rents rose by 1.8 percent.

  • Are the Browns getting worse?DateSat Oct 21, 2017 3:44 am
    Blog post by Angel92

    The Browns seemingly did everything right this offseason. After bottoming out with a 1-15 record in 2016, Cleveland’s de facto general manager Sashi Brown engineered a turnaround plan that jettisoned the veterans who had no place on a rebuilding team, and he invested fully in a youth movement. With a wellspring of emerging talent and an uneven AFC North, 2017 looked like a season where the Browns had nowhere to go but up.
    Instead, Cleveland may have found a way to drill into the bedrock and make a home in the abyss. A revamped offensive line has struggled, and even when everything clicks up front the Browns have no playmakers for whom to block. The franchise’s legendary quarterback struggles have continued behind the league’s least efficient offense. The efforts of an upward-trending defense are being wasted.
    So how did the Browns fall back into a world where 0-16 remains a possibility?
    Cleveland’s quarterback situation makes no sense, which makes perfect sense in Cleveland
    DeShone Kizer looked electric in spurts this preseason, but the rookie’s stunning ability to lead his team backward — in five games, he was sacked 12 times, fumbled three times, and threw nine interceptions. His poor performance gave way to 2016 practice squad staple Kevin Hogan, who has thrown interceptions on nearly 7 percent of his passes. Cody Kessler, the 2016 third-round pick who stood out as the team’s best passer as a rookie, has been inactive for all six of the team’s games this fall.
    Kizer was always going to be a project, but the start to his NFL career has painted him as a fundamentally broken passer who will need copious time to figure out league defenses. Any optimism Hogan raised in a 16-of-19 performance against the Jets last week was quickly wiped out by a three-interception performance in his first career start:
    Cleveland’s aerial performance has somehow gotten worse from 2016, when Kessler, Hogan, Josh McCown, Robert Griffin III, Charlie Whitehurst, and Terrelle Pryor all threw passes for the club. The Browns’ combined passer rating for 2017 is a gruesome 56.7; the terrible passer they’re paying $16 million to play backup for the Broncos this season, Brock Osweiler, had a 72.2 rating in his much-maligned ‘16 campaign.
    This is all extremely familiar for a franchise that’s started 28 quarterbacks since being revived in 1999. Cleveland’s passing game high point lies somewhere in the realm of Derek Anderson. That’s because ...
    The Browns have had premier draft picks but haven’t turned those players into stars
    Since 2010, the Browns have had 13 first-round draft picks. Only one of those players has ever seen a Pro Bowl: current Steeler Joe Haden. Aside from him, only one of those players has spent more than two seasons as a primary starter in Cleveland — Danny Shelton.
    After that, the names on the list of draftees gets grim. Brandon Weeden. Trent Richardson. Justin Gilbert. Barkevious Mingo. Johnny Manziel. 2012, 2013, and 2014 draftees are the backbones of franchises like the Raiders, Titans, and Steelers. For Cleveland, those drafts are just a toilet filled with wasted picks.
    More recent years hold some potential — though Corey Coleman’s inability to stay healthy threatens to derail his career. Shelton is a solid space-clogger up front. Myles Garrett has three sacks in two professional games. Jabrill Peppers is flawed, but athletic enough to develop into a plus starter in the Cleveland secondary.
    The biggest concern in 2017 is the team’s willingness to pass on Deshaun Watson. Cleveland held the 12th pick and had the opportunity to snatch up the College Football Playoff champion and crown him their cornerstone quarterback. Instead, they traded the selection to Houston for a pair of first-round picks and a third-rounder. That gives the team some valuable draft capital for 2018, but the Browns’ inability to convert potential into production means the move may never pay off.
    Meanwhile, Watson has been one of the league’s most exciting rookies since earning the Texans’ starting role. He leads the league with 15 touchdown passes. In his last three games alone, he’s accounted for 13 touchdowns. In their last three games, the Browns have scored four offensive touchdowns.
    What’s even tougher for the Browns is head coach Hue Jackson’s insistence he knew Watson was special all along.

  • Blog post by Angel92

    It was exactly one month ago that Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, leaving nearly total devastation in her wake. While the official death toll was raised to 49 on Friday morning, after a resident succumbed to a bacterial disease that is caught through an animal’s urine, research indicates that the real number of fatalities is probably closer to 450.
    Public Radio International recently interviewed Vox editor Eliza Barclay about the facts and fiction of what’s happening on the ground. When asked about the method officials are using to tally the number of fatalities, Barclay said that “we don’t have a super clear sense of exactly how they’ve been doing it. But one thing they’ve been doing is requiring that every single body be inspected by officials from the Institute for Forensic Science. And then they’re also saying that they need to do interviews with family members to confirm that a death definitely resulted from the hurricane. So it seems, at least, like a pretty strict set of requirements in order to attribute a death directly to the storm.”
    Still, with officials originally claiming that just 16 people had died as a result of Hurricane Maria — and Trump using that number as proof of “his” success in dealing with the catastrophe — the numbers just didn’t seem right to Barclay and her colleagues. So they decided to dig deeper.
    Barclay was clear that these are “squishy” numbers, not hard evidence that Vox was able to calculate the exact total of deaths. “But they indicate that there’s probably a lot of deaths out there that they’re not accounting for in San Juan.”
    16. 48. 49. 500. It’s all practically the same, right?
    El Vocero, a local newspaper, reported that there are 350 bodies awaiting autopsies, though it’s unclear how many — if any — were at the Institute of Forensic Sciences before the hurricane struck. Even so, that’s a big discrepancy.
    While Trump is proud of the way he’s done so little to help the millions of American citizens who call the island home, giving himself a perfect “10 out of 10″ score on his response to the situation, one only needs to look at a real-time photo of the U.S. territory to understand that the president is painting a sunny picture of a place where one million people are without running water and three million will likely be without power until Christmas.
    Still, President Racist is sticking to his story that he has bent over backwards to help the people of PR. Like that time he donned a rain slicker and a shiny new pair of work boots to hop on his private plane and attempt to decapitate a few dozen Puerto Ricans with “beautiful, soft” rolls of extra-ply Bounty.
    What more do these people want from him?

  • Interview with the Enemy: Green Bay PackersDateFri Oct 20, 2017 11:46 pm
    Blog post by Angel92

    It’s Week 7, and we’re back again with the Interview with the Enemy series. This week, Jason Hirschhorn of Acme Packing Company answers 5 quick questions about the upcoming matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers:
    I imagine there's a lot of gloom-and-doom in the Packers organization and fan base right now. We've seen what a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars (with an even 3-3 record and tied atop the division) can do with mediocre QB play. Granted, the Jaguars have a young and exciting defense and talented skills players on offense. Are the Packers a team built to carry a QB short of Rodgers's ability to the postseason?
    Back-up Brett Hundley will likely get the first team reps in practice for the first time this season. What are the odds that he's not the starting QB by midseason? I've heard whispers of Tony Romo and/or Colin Kaepernick's name getting thrown around as a potential replacement. Thoughts?
    The Saints have had success recently by taking advantage of poor play and injuries to opposing offensive lines. How has the Packers' O-Line fared thus far?
    Which player that Saints fans might not have heard of (not named Brett Hundley) do you expect to make a big impact on the game?

  • Trade merry-go-round ends with wins for allDateFri Oct 20, 2017 10:57 pm
    Blog post by Angel92

    It was like a revolving door in and out of Queensland.
    The final day of the AFL's trade period was feverish, the storm after the calm, with the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns in the thick of the action.
    lining was the case of 'In: Hodge. Out: Ablett' for Queensland footy, with one great, four-time Hawk premiership player Luke Hodge, officially joining the Lions, and another future legend, two-time Brownlow Medallist Gary Ablett, heading back to Geelong.
    Two young stars, however, also got their wishes, with Charlie Cameron to join Hodge at Brisbane, and Lachie Weller moving back to the Gold Coast.
    Both had to wait until the final hour for their futures to be determined.
    Cameron, born in Mt Isa, was desperate to return from Adelaide for family reasons.
    While initially steadfast against the move - the speedy midfielder having one year to run on his contract - the Crows buckled when pick 12 in next month's national draft was put on the table.
    "This is what is best for Charlie, on and off the field," Crows list manager Justin Reid conceded. "The Adelaide Football Club did the right thing by Charlie and pick 12 is a great result.
    "We had good dialogue with Brisbane the whole way through. Brisbane wanted to get Charlie back up there from a family point of view and it's a great result for both clubs."
    Lions football boss David Noble said pick 12 was a fair deal for the 23-year-old.
    "It was probably where we expected," a relieved Noble said. "We're rapt to have Charlie here ... he fits a real need for us."
    Cameron played 73 games for the Crows after being selected as a rookie from Perth, where he had spent two years, in 2012.
    "As we said all along, he's got a lot of family up there (in Queensland) and it's going to be really good for him to get back home and be a part of the club," said Cameron's manager Andrew McDougall.

  • Blog post by Angel92

    Last week James Harrison was the Steelers’ closer vs. the Chiefs on the road. He came in, beat the left tackle twice, sacked Alex Smith once, and helped seal the deal for the black-and-gold.
    It was a true pleasure to watch. A thing of beauty.
    So, should fans expect more of the same on Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals come to town? Well no one knows, because no one is talking about it.
    Time to check in on the news surrounding the black-and-gold outside the walls of BTSC...

  • Joe Starkey: The Steelers are getting carriedDateFri Oct 20, 2017 8:53 pm
    Blog post by Angel92

    I was talking with guard David DeCastro about this wildly talented, often-frustrating Steelers offense before the game in Kansas City, and I wondered if it’s the kind of offense that should be able to morph into any form it desires on a given Sunday.
    “We have the talent,” DeCastro said. “Whether that’s 80 passes with Ben dinking and dunking on ’em, whether it’s running the ball, play-action, it just doesn’t matter.”
    We could all agree with that in theory, I’m sure. But in practice, the Steelers have very much become Le’Veon Bell’s team.
    They have, in keeping with much of their history, become a team whose winning formula begins with a Bell-cow back. To an almost frightening extent in this case. Check it out:
    Steelers record when Bell carries the ball at least 20 times: 24-3.
    • Steelers record when Bell carries fewer than 20 times: 10-16.
    Which leads to the wonderful dilemma facing coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. A dilemma any team in the NFL would love to have.
    On one hand, the Steelers have the best running back — maybe the best player — in the league and a proven method for winning: GIVE THAT GUY THE BALL.
    They have never lost a game in which Bell carried at least 25 times (9-0).
    Everything the Steelers do, it seems, they do better when Bell is pounding away. Their offense settles down. Their passing game frees up, particularly the play-action part (note the 26-yard pass to Vance McDonald on first down from the 1-yard line in Kansas City). Their defense stays fresh.
    Troy Polamalu once told me how much his defenses appreciated that kind of formula. This one does, too.

  • Blog post by Angel92

    RADIO: WWL-AM, 870; WWL-FM, 105.3 in New Orleans; KMDL-FM, 97.3 in Lafayette; WDGL-FM, 98.1 in Baton Rouge; en español, WGSO-AM, 990, FM, 97.9
    RECORDS: New Orleans 3-2; Green Bay 4-2
    COACHES: Saints, Sean Payton, 11th season, 97-68; Packers, Mike McCarthy, 12th season, 118-63
    LAST WEEK: A season with Super Bowl hopes suffered a crushing blow when two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers was knocked out with a broken collarbone, an injury that could potentially cost Rodgers the rest of the season. Unable to solve Minnesota's defense without Rodgers, the Packers lost 23-10 to the Vikings in Minneapolis.
    OFFENSE: With Rodgers headed for surgery, the Packers will turn to backup Brett Hundley, a third-year quarterback who Green Bay has been grooming for three years. Hundley completed 18-of-33 passes for 157 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions against Minnesota's punishing defense, but the Packers are high on the UCLA product. Hundley, like Rodgers, has exceptional mobility and a strong arm. The problem for Hundley is that Rodgers is far from the only injury affecting Green Bay. Three of the Packers' starting five offensive linemen — LT David Bakhtiari (hamstring), RT Bryan Bulaga (concussion) and LG Lane Taylor (knee/ankle) — left the game against the Vikings with injury, leaving only C Corey Linsley and Saints legend Jahri Evans as sure bets to play in front of Hundley on Sunday. Battered by injury all season, the Packers have started a different offensive line combination in every single game so far and allowed 23 sacks, tied with Detroit for worst in the league. If the Packers' line or Hundley's legs can give him time, though, Green Bay has exceptional skill players. Wide receivers Davante Adams (28 catches, 339 yards), Randall Cobb (26 catches, 246 yards) and Jordy Nelson (25 catches, 290 yards) form a devastating trio, although Nelson has been banged up. Tight end Martellus Bennett is a load, and the running back combination of Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery has had its moments, but the injuries have been crippling.
    DEFENSE: The Packers secondary has been hit hard by injury. Green Bay opened Sunday's game without starting cornerbacks Kevin King (concussion), Davon House (quadriceps) and safety Morgan Burnett (hamstring), then lost cornerback Quinten Rollins to injured reserve with an Achilles injury. Cornerback Damarious Randall, who has two interceptions this season, and Pro Bowl safety HaHa Clinton-Dix are healthy, and the Packers might get some of those starters back this week, but the secondary was peppered with rookies and backups against Minnesota. Green Bay's defense ranks 14th overall and 18th in yards per play allowed, led mostly by the front seven. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry still form a formidable pair of pass rushers off the edges, and Matthews is devastating when he shifts to blitz from inside. Nose tackle Kenny Clark and interior rusher Mike Daniels are both talented, and second-year linebacker Blake Martinez has blossomed, leading Green Bay with 48 tackles and six tackles-for-loss. For all of that talent, though, the Packers have merely been middle-of-the-road on defense this season, ranking 19th in rushing yards allowed per play and 18th in passing yards per play.
    SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Mason Crosby has a consistent and powerful leg. Rookie punter Justin Vogel and the coverage unit is limiting opposing return men to just 3.5 yards per return. Green Bay's return game is nowhere near as dangerous as Detroit's; Trevor Davis has speed but lacks Jamal Agnew's track record.

  • Blog post by Angel92

    GREEN BAY, Wis. — In the visiting locker room after Green Bay lost to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Packers spoke of how they’d rally behind backup Brett Hundley in the absence of injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
    Not linebacker Clay Matthews. He called Rodgers’ broken collarbone — a potentially season-ending injury — “disheartening.” With injuries atop of injuries, Matthews said the “next-man up” mentality was “being thrown to the wolves.”
    On Thursday, Matthews struck a more optimistic tone as the Packers get ready for Sunday’s home game against the New Orleans Saints.
    “At first, you can’t help but have this kind of doomsday mentality,” Matthews said. “When your quarterback goes down, I don’t care if it’s Aaron or anyone else, that’s the thing that makes the team go.”
    Like Rodgers, Matthews is one of the veteran leaders on the Packers. He and Rodgers are friends as well as TV commercial co-stars.
    After a tough start to the week, Matthews likes the way the team has practiced.
    “If anything, I think it’s put a little bit more focus on every other position, every other guy in this locker room,” Matthews said. “We’re all behind Brett now, and we’ve all got to pick our game up. It’s going to be tough sledding, but we’re up for the challenge.”
    It will be a big challenge against the Saints, who have won three straight after dropping their first two games.
    Quarterback Drew Brees has given the Packers fits, with six 300-yard passing games in six starts. In their previous matchup, a 44-23 rout by the Saints in New Orleans in 2014, Brees threw for 311 yards and had almost as many touchdown passes (three) as incompletions (five).
    “They’ve really been picking up steam, and you don’t have to look any further than last week’s game against Detroit,” Matthews said of the Saints’ 52-38 victory. “They’re going to air it out. Drew’s kind of the thing that makes that whole offense tick.”
    Without Rodgers leading one of the NFL’s top offenses, the team’s key defenders know their unit must pick up some of the slack. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers was happy about the team’s two takeaways against Minnesota, and an injury-riddled secondary could get back starting cornerbacks Davon House and Kevin King.
    “I think … it will actually push guys to play a lot harder knowing that they have a different quarterback back there,” safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said. “I’m excited about it, man. The defensive guys are excited about it. We’re ready to roll.”
    NOTES: Besides Rodgers, G Lane Taylor (ankle) and S Morgan Burnett (hamstring) did not practice. LT David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and RT Bryan Bulaga were limited, with Bulaga still in the concussion protocol. … Matthews took exception to Minnesota LB Anthony Barr’s hit on Rodgers, which resulted in the broken collarbone: “I’m not going to go as far as to say hits are dirty, because I’m sure plenty of fans from all sorts of teams have said the same thing about me,” Matthews said. “It’s unfortunate it happened but surprised that there wasn’t a flag. Obviously, I’m going to say I would’ve pulled off on that but if that was their quarterback, I think it’s at the statute of limitations where you need to pull off.”

  • Blog post by Angel92

    A subdued start to this week’s podcast (Given the devastating loss of Aaron Rodgers) quickly gives way to spirited talk of Brett Hundley, Mike McCarthy, and Kyler Fackrell. As you sulk through the workweek wondering what’s next, let the APC Pod crew offer a pep talk and a shoulder to lean on. And remember — Everybody hurts. Sometimes.
    To stay up to date on the latest from us, follow the show on Twitter @theAPCpod. As always, remember to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, via RSS, or on our BlogTalkRadio page to get the show delivered straight to your ears.
    If you like what we're doing, please give us a rating on iTunes! It’s the best way to boost our profile and attract even more Packer fans to the conversation.

  • Blog post by Angel92

    SEATTLE — The Seahawks rose to prominence under coach Pete Carroll with NFL draft classes that quickly announced their presence, almost absurdly.
    In 2010 first-round picks Russell Okung (left tackle) and Earl Thomas (free safety) stepped into starting roles from day one. Receiver Golden Tate and strong safety Kam Chancellor gave early glimpses of what was to come.
    In 2011, mid-round picks K.J. Wright (linebacker) and Richard Sherman (cornerback) became starters in the first half of their rookie season, beginning to transform the defense into a juggernaut.
    In 2012, quarterback Russell Wilson and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner became immediate stars, lifting the Seahawks to Super Bowl contending status, seemingly overnight.
    It would be nice to get that kind of immediate help every year. But there is a reason those three drafts are considered among the top five or so in the franchise’s 42 years — that just doesn’t happen very often.
    Which brings us to the 2017 draft class, which got off to a rocky start in July when the Seahawks’ first pick, defensive lineman Malik McDowell, suffered a severe concussion in an ATV accident. He has yet to practice, and it’s uncertain if he will play this season. He was cleared two weeks ago to begin conditioning.
    And the draft class took another hit Oct. 1 when running back Chris Carson — who was emerging as the most pleasant surprise of the entire draft — suffered an ankle injury that required surgery. He is out at least two months.
    But as the season takes another turn — from the bye week to finishing with 11 games in 11 weeks — Seattle will hope for increasing impact from much of the rest of its draft class, beginning with Sunday when second-round pick Ethan Pocic is expected to make his debut filling in, along with veteran Mark Glowinski, at left guard for the injured Luke Joeckel.
    Here’s an update on the entire 11-man class:
    Round 2, Pick 35 — Malik McDowell, DE: As noted above, McDowell has begun conditioning with trainers, a significant step. Seattle has a six-week window from now through Week 11 when it can activate McDowell from the Non-Football Injury list and have him return to practice. He could then practice for up to three weeks before he needs to be placed on either the 53-man roster or Injured Reserve. The key will be to watch each week if McDowell returns to practice. If so, there’s a good chance he’ll play this season. But if he has not returned to practice by Week 11, his season would be over.
    Round 2, Pick 58 — Ethan Pocic, OL: Pocic has been active every game this season as the backup center and guard. He hasn’t been needed, though he has played 41 snaps on special teams. But that is expected to change Sunday with Seattle coaches saying Pocic likely will split time with Glowinski at left guard. Whoever plays better is likely to take over until Joeckel can return. It’s hard to know what to expect out of Pocic, and Seattle will give him time to develop.
    Round 3, Pick 90 — Shaquill Griffin, CB: Griffin, who many thought could make an immediate impact given the needs in the secondary, hasn’t disappointed — his 256 snaps are by far the most of anyone in the rookie class. He has been a regular in the nickel package and against the Rams moved into the starting lineup in the base defense with Jeremy Lane sidelined. He could fill that role again this week, or even keep the job even when Lane returns.
    Round 3, Pick 95 — Delano Hill, S: Hill has played just four snaps on defense as a backup strong safety but has played 45 snaps on special teams. The hope is that Seattle’s starting safeties stay healthy, making this a developmental year for Hill.
    Round 3, Pick 102 — Nazair Jones, DT: Jones has fulfilled the Seahawks’ hopes this season, serving as a regular in the rotation at tackle — he has 101 snaps, third-most of any rookie and sixth-most of any defensive lineman.

  • Eye On the Seahawks: Breaking down the matchupDateThu Oct 19, 2017 11:06 pm
    Blog post by Angel92

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants hope to extend one development while ending another when they host the Seattle Seahawks Sunday in MetLife Stadium. After earning their first victory of the season Sunday night in Denver, the Giants will try to take two consecutive victories into their bye week. To do so, they must end their three-game losing streak to the Seahawks, who defeated them in 2011, 2013 and 2014.
    The first two of those games were played here. The Giants lead the series that dates to 1976, 9-8. They last faced the Seahawks on Nov. 9, 2014, a 38-17 loss in Seattle. The teams last met in New Jersey on Dec. 15, 2013, when the Seahawks won, 23-0. Seattle won two games before its bye and arrives with a 3-2 record. The Giants are 1-5.
    What is the Seahawks’ biggest strength?
    A talented and cohesive defense. Eight of the 11 starters have played in the same system together for five years. The four-man secondary – cornerbacks Jeremy Lane (six years) and Richard Sherman (seven) and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor (eight apiece) -- is as cohesive a unit as there is in the NFL. The Seahawks have 2016 Pro Bowlers on every level of their defense: ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril (who is headed for injured reserve with a neck injury), middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, and Sherman. Lane was inactive vs. the Rams with a groin injury. Thomas and Chancellor form the best safety duo in football. Kris Richard is in his third season as the defensive coordinator, but his 11th on Seattle’s staff. This is a talented, aggressive, intelligent, experienced and determined group of defenders.
    Which player is key to the Seahawks’ offense?
    Russell Wilson makes the offense go. Few quarterbacks frustrate opponents as much, or are as good at making plays outside the pocket. Wilson forces defensive backs to cover a large area for an extended period of time, and he has great touch and is an accurate thrower on the move. Although he prefers to pass, Wilson is Seattle’s second-leading rusher with 154 yards, including 62 yards on nine third-down runs. Wilson’s 90.6 passer rating is 14th in the NFL, but his fourth-quarter rating of 128.5 is the league’s best by a wide margin. Wilson has thrown five touchdown passes and no interceptions in the fourth quarter. Seattle’s formula for success is to protect the football (five giveaways in five games), convert third downs (42.9%, ninth in the league), and let Wilson create big plays.
    What is the strength of the Seahawks’ offense?
    Their talent at the skill positions. Although it sometimes seems as if Wilson could win as a solo act, he has plenty of support. Leading rusher Chris Carson was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury, but Eddie Lacy is a veteran who has run for more than 3,500 career yards. Thomas Rawls is also in the mix. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin and tight end Jimmy Graham are Wilson’s go-to targets. Both of them move around the formation in an attempt to create mismatches, and they have combined for 48 catches and two touchdowns. Baldwin usually lines up in the slot and has been Wilson’s most-targeted receiver for four consecutive seasons. Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett have very good deep speed.
    Which player is key to the Seahawks’ defense?
    It’s possible to select any one of seven players, but we’ll go with Thomas, a ballhawking centerfielder with excellent instincts. He was selected the NFC Defensive Player of the Week after his performance in Seattle’s most recent game, a victory against the Rams in Los Angeles on Oct. 8, when he had seven tackles (six solo), an interception and a forced fumble.

  • Wisconsin roundup: Lincoln Hills teacher blamesDateThu Oct 19, 2017 10:25 pm
    Blog post by Angel92

    IRMA — A teacher at Lincoln Hills beaten by a teenage inmate says a court order to cut back on punishment has the teens "emboldened" and "basically running the show now."
    Pandora Lobacz is a longtime teacher at the state's juvenile school for male offenders at Irma — and she tells reporters in Milwaukee and Wausau she had a heart monitor installed after a larger inmate beat her in the face last week. Lobacz blames the July court order from federal Judge James Peterson which ordered reductions in the use of pepper spray, handcuffs, and solitary confinement.
    Lobacz also said it's "horrible" that Gov. Scott Walker has never visited Lincoln Hills to see the conditions for himself. The state corrections agency says officials have visited Lincoln Hills often, and major changes have been made as a federal probe treatment of inmates is about to end its third year.
    Dems make new pitch for medical marijuana
    MADISON — Two Madison area lawmakers are traveling across Wisconsin to try and get more people to support their bill to allow medical marijuana.
    For years, Democrats have brought people struggling with pain to the state Capitol for a news conference — and it has never helped, as majority Republicans have turned aside several efforts to allow pot for medicinal purposes. This time, Assembly Democrat Chris Taylor of Madison and Jon Erpenbach of Middleton are taking their case to the people.
    They were in La Crosse Tuesday, and they plan to be in Wausau and Green Bay Wednesday and Milwaukee Thursday. They introduced their latest bill in February, and the GOP has not held hearings on it.
    Forbes 400: Menard still state’s wealthiest
    NEW YORK — John Menard Jr. of Eau Claire is still the wealthiest person in Wisconsin.
    The annual Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans has Menard 47th, one spot lower than last year as the head of the Menards' home improvement chain has a net worth of $9.9 billion. Herb Kohler, who chairs the Kohler Co. of Sheboygan County, is 52nd, same as last year with a net worth of $8.5 billion.
    Diane Hendricks of ABC Supply in Beloit rose 28 places from last year to No. 122. James Cargill II of Birchwood, an heir to the Cargill food company, is 161st. Four members of the SC Johnson family of Racine are 186th — and Judy Faulkner of the Epic Systems medical record software firm in Verona, jumped more than 100 places to 219th.
    UW medical school dean opposes GOP abortion training limits
    MADISON — The dean of the UW-Madison medical school says a bill to limit abortion training would kill the university's program to train all pregnancy health professionals.
    Robert Golden made the remark Tuesday at a Senate hearing on a GOP bill to ban UW employees from using private clinics to train medical residents, and performing abortions at non-hospitals. The bill seeks to nullify an agreement between the UW medical school and Planned Parenthood that allows university faculty to train students at the group's clinics.
    Golden says it seeks to comply with the law that bans tax resources for abortions — while keeping the school's accreditation for its OB/GYN program. He said the bill would not prevent abortions, but it would weaken a program that addresses a shortage of OB/GYN across the state.

  • When fast-pitch was kingDateThu Oct 19, 2017 9:28 pm
    Blog post by Angel92

    In an era when live summertime entertainment in small Southern towns proved scarce, one of the hot tickets in Lebanon was admission to fast-pitch softball games at Shell Oiler Park where the Oilers and some of the finest teams in the mid-South battled it out beneath the lights on a dirt infield.
    Assembled by local businessman Danny Evins, who opened the first Cracker Barrel Restaurant in 1969, the Shell Oilers flourished from 1965 until 1972. The squad, which finished third in the state its first two seasons, was the first team in the Nashville area to qualify for the nationals after winning the South Atlantic Regionals in August 1971. In mid-September, they competed in the Fast Pitch Softball Championship in Springfield, Mo., where they wound up in 10th place.
    Evins, who was 29 when he started the ball club, was the heart and soul of the Shell Oilers as well as its benefactor, covering all the expenses of equipment, uniforms and traveling across the country. He even built one of the finest softball fields of the day, Oiler Park, which was dedicated May 27, 1966, on Coles Ferry Pike. More than 50 years later, the site, now blacktopped, has been transformed into the parking lot for the Jimmy Floyd Center.
    Season tickets for Shell Oiler home games cost $15 as the hometown boys played some 15 to 20 games in Lebanon. The facility included dressing rooms for the Oilers and their guests as well as a player lounge where athletes could slip 50 cents in a Coke machine and pull out a Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer in a long-neck bottle. For a time, the gung-ho Evins even had games broadcast live on WCOR Radio with Clyde Harville and Tilford Elkins behind the microphone.
    Wilson County natives, brothers Gordon and Bruce Skeen, along with Evins, were likely the only three players who stuck with the team through its eight-year span.
    Bruce Skeen, 72, one of Lebanon High School's all-time great athletes, shares a funny anecdote on the team leader, who was one of his best friends.
    "Danny Evins was batting once and struck out. If the catcher missed the pitch, and there was nobody on first base, you could run to first just like in baseball. The ball got past the catcher, and everybody hollered at Danny to go to first. Well, he had gotten mixed up after his swing, and he took off for third. This confused the catcher, who threw the ball to third, and Bobby Hill, our manager, told Danny to slide, which he did, and the ump down there called him safe," said Bruce, laughing as he talked.
    "Then they threw the ball to first base, and the home plate umpire called him out. Danny came into the dugout and said, 'If anybody laughs at me or says one word about that, you won't be on the team tomorrow.'"
    Evins' son, Meacham, 58, was bat boy for the Shell Oilers as a lad and later had a stellar pitching career at Friendship Christian School and Tennessee Technological University.
    Reflecting on childhood memories forged at Shell Oiler Park, he said, "That's where I learned to play ball, throwing softball underhanded with the players.
    "Dad always had to have a project and when he did it, he was in it to win it, period," he says of his father, a right-handed pitcher, who in his prime stood 5-foot-10 and weighed 165 pounds. There were better hurlers on the team, but the senior Evins had pretty good stuff. He won 14 games and lost eight during the 1967 season as the team won 36 games and lost 13. In 1968, he threw a no-hitter against a Tullahoma team, striking out 12 in seven innings.
    "He was a good pitcher. He wasn't overpowering. He was smart," said Meacham. "He had a wicked change-up. He was a deceptive pitcher and had a pretty strong arm. He was competitive, but he always was pretty humble. He knew the good pitchers and made sure they got to play. More than anything, I think he facilitated the Oilers."
    While his memories as a six-year-old bat boy have faded with the years, he remembers several big nights at the ballpark when his father brought in a four-man softball team, the King and His Court, led by super pitcher Eddie Feigner. Tickets for that May 18, 1968, game went for $1.50.

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