Sports News 141219
► Mountaineers add 6-foot-3 cornerback Rasul Douglas as early enrollee
Rasul Douglas, a rangy 6-foot-3 cornerback from Nassau (NY) Community College, committed and signed with West Virginia on Wednesday, representing a quality defensive pickup for the 2015 class.
A four-star prospect according to Scout.com and 247 Sports, and a three-star prospect on the Rivals board, Douglas should be on hand for spring practice, where he could begin battling Terrell Chestnut for the starting job opposite Daryl Worley.
Douglas, who retains two years of eligibility, held offers from Florida State, Georgia and Tennessee, though his finalists boiled down to Louisville and Rutgers.
“Douglas is an extremely physical cover corner,” said Keenan Cummings, Rivals senior writer for WVSports.com. “That physical play translates not only in his coverage skills but also with helping to drop down and stop the run. Douglas isn’t afraid to put his shoulder down and take on a running back in the hole or lay a big hit on smaller receivers on the outside. The bigger corner uses his size to man up wide receivers but also has the speed to keep up.”
Rivals currently ranks West Virginia’s class No. 21 for 2015.
Douglas became the second early enrollee from the juco ranks to sign a national letter of intent with WVU on Wednesday, following defensive end Larry Jefferson.
► Bears to start Clausen over Cutler
With two games left in a dreadful season, the Chicago Bears are reportedly benching their starting quarterback.
The Bears plan to start Jimmy Clausen over Jay Cutler in Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions, ESPN.com reported Wednesday.
Cutler has started all 14 games in his sixth season for the Bears, completing 66.1% of his passes for 3,640 yards, 28 touchdowns and an NFL-high 18 interceptions.
He has fumbled 12 times, losing six to lead the league in overall turnovers.
Clausen, who was signed to a one-year contract in June, hasn’t started a game since 2010 for the Carolina Panthers. He has thrown nine passes in three games for Chicago (5-9) this season, completing three.
Before this season, the former Notre Dame star hadn’t appeared in an NFL game since playing 13 for the Panthers as a rookie after he was taken in the second round of the 2010 draft.
► Chargers try to stay alive against Niners
For the first time in four seasons under coach Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers won’t be going to the postseason.
Owners of two straight losses, the San Diego Chargers are in danger of joining them.
The Chargers hope to stay alive in the playoff hunt this Saturday night when they visit the 49ers and Levi’s Stadium.
San Diego used a three-game winning streak to move into the postseason picture in the AFC, but a pair of losses to the best the conference has to offer as taken the club out of the driver’s seat.
The Chargers had their win streak halted with a 23-14 loss to the New England Patriots on December 7 and were then bested by the Denver Broncos 22-10 this past Sunday.
At 8-6, the Chargers are tied with Kansas City and Buffalo at one game back of Pittsburgh and Baltimore for the two wild card positions. That means San Diego will likely need to win this Saturday and in its regular-season finale at the Chiefs, plus get help, to reach the playoffs.
The Chargers, without running back Ryan Mathews due to an ankle injury, were held to 288 total yards of offense in the loss to the Broncos. Philip Rivers completed 24-of-41 pass attempts for 232 yards, completing a touchdown pass to tight end Antonio Gates while also throwing two interceptions.
Kicker Nick Novak also missed a pair of field goal attempts, further deflating an offense that had managed just 216 total yards a week earlier versus the Patriots.
“It was a tough two-game stretch against the best teams in the conference and we’re not in their company yet,“ said Rivers. “We’re just not. That doesn’t mean we can’t be or that I think we can’t beat them. I believe we can.“
The Chargers hope to get on track Saturday and deal the 49ers a fourth loss in a row. San Francisco has lost twice to division-rival Seattle twice over that span, including a 17-7 setback on the road this past Sunday that, along with Detroit’s win over Minnesota, knocked the 49ers out of the playoff picture.
San Francisco had reached the NFC Championship Game in each of its first three seasons under Harbaugh, including one Super Bowl appearance.
Now, there is continued speculation that Harbaugh won’t even return as the team’s coach next season.
“I’m aware of it and I understand what it means,“ 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said of his team missing the postseason. “We’ll never give in, keep fighting.“
San Francisco lost running backs Frank Gore (concussion) and Carlos Hyde (ankle) to injury during the game and also saw rookie linebacker Chris Borland depart with his own ankle injury.
Seattle allowed 178 yards to San Francisco in the first half, but clamped down and limited the 49ers to a meager 67 over the final 30 minutes.
The Seahawks outscored the 49ers 14-0 in the second half.
Colin Kaepernick completed 11-of-19 passes for 141 yards for the 49ers, while getting sacked six times.
Sunday was the seventh time in their last eight contests that the 49ers failed to score more than 17 points.
“It is difficult,“ Kaepernick told San Francisco’s website of missing the postseason. “That’s our expectation: that we’re going to get to the playoffs and we’re going to make a run. To not get that opportunity this year is not something that we’re used to.“
The all-time series between the Niners and Chargers is even at 6-6, though that does not include San Francisco’s victory over San Diego in Super Bowl XXIX.
The Chargers have won three straight over the Niners, including a 34-7 decision in the most recent meeting in 2010. Rivers posted a 150.5 passer rating in that game, throwing for 273 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
San Francisco’s offense was held to 192 total net yards.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Both teams come in hobbling, having lost several key players last Sunday.
San Diego, which has the 12th-ranked passing offense in the league, will be without wide receiver Keenan Allen, who has been ruled out due to a broken collarbone and ankle injury sustained in the third quarter against the Broncos. He leads the Chargers with 77 catches and 783 yards to go along with four touchdown receptions.
“There’s no doubt it hurts,“ Rivers said of losing Allen. “You know how I am with any injury we’ve had over the years and dealt with. I never want to slight the player that we’re losing, but at the same time, you don’t want to slight the guys who are going to be stepping up. So we’ll miss him.“
Those expected to step up include wideouts Eddie Royal, Malcom Floyd and Seyi Aijrotutu, while Gates is always a factor as well.
Gates needs just two more TD catches to tie Don Hutson (99) for ninth place in league history.
San Diego is averaging just 82.6 rushing yards per game, 31st in the league, and there is a good chance Mathews is out again this weekend, while Rivers did not practice on Tuesday and Wednesday because of injury.
Rivers, though, expects to play on Saturday and extend his streak of 142 straight starts. He is 2-0 as a starter versus the Niners with 607 passing yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 130.1 passer rating.
“I hate not practicing,“ Rivers told San Diego’s website. “But I think at some point you’ve got to do what’s best for me and the team. Practicing today wouldn’t have been beneficial moving toward Saturday ... Where we are in the season, and what I can get done in the walk through, it’s not a major concern.“
San Diego’s ninth-ranked defense wasn’t immune to injury either, with inside linebacker Donald Butler going on injured reserve because of a dislocated elbow sustained versus the Broncos. He was second on the club with 73 tackles and also had three fumble recoveries.
The Chargers will be going up against a Niners offense that may be without its top two running backs in Gore and Hyde. The latter already doesn’t expect to play, while Gore must pass concussion protocol.
With those two sidelined from practice this week, San Francisco signed Phillip Tanner, leaving him and Alfonso Smith as the only healthy running backs available.
San Francisco’s ranks 13th on the ground, with Gore posting 804 yards on 204 carries with three touchdowns. He also is scheduled to be a free agent as season’s end.
“Frank obviously has been a huge asset to this team,“ said Kaepernick. “He’s been a great player, a great leader on this team, and we want to win as many games as we can for him and everyone.“
Perhaps the bigger blow is the loss of Borland, the team’s leading tackler with 107. He helped fill the void left by injured linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVarro Bowman and Nick Moody is expected to start in his place on Saturday.
Moody, in his second season, stepped in for Borland versus the Seahawks and had five tackles. Saturday could mark his first NFL start.
“It felt real good,“ Moody said on the Niners’ website of getting into the game, “especially knowing that the guys had confidence in me.“
San Francisco did come up with five sacks versus the Seahawks and still rank third in total defense with 307.1 yards allowed per game. Defensive tackle Tank Carradine picked up the first two sacks of his career, while linebacker Ahmad Brooks notched his team-leading sixth sack.
Defensive tackle Ray McDonald also had a sack, but the Niners opted to release the troubled player on Wednesday after police announced he is the suspect in a sexual assault case.
The 49ers stuck with McDonald after he was arrested in August on charges of domestic violence, which were dropped on November 10 due to insufficient evidence, and he has not been arrested for the current charges as the investigation is ongoing, but San Francisco still decided to terminate his contract.
“Ray has demonstrated a pattern of poor decision-making that is no longer going to be tolerated,“ San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement.
The Niners are the definition of a lame duck right now and reports have already surfaced of Harbaugh being offered a massive deal to become head coach of the Michigan Wolverines.
Couple that distraction with continued struggles by Kaepernick, who has thrown for fewer than 200 yards in three straight and four of his last five, and this has all the makings of a blowout loss in front of a frustrated fanbase.
The Chargers still have a ton to play for and their goal will be to keep Rivers healthy and intact for hopefully a big Week 17 meeting at Kansas City. Though banged up, San Francisco can still bring heat on the quarterback and not having Mathews or Allen will impact the Chargers offense as well.
San Francisco should be loose, but that may not be a good thing given its inability to put up points right now.
► Teddy returns to South Beach as Vikings visit Dolphins
Mike Zimmer is approaching the waning days of what he hopes is the first of many years as the Minnesota Vikings head coach. Joe Philbin is likely in the death throes of his three-year stint in Miami.
Such is life in the NFL where 6-8 is considered progress in one city and being a tick better at 7-7 is a disappointment in another.
The Dolphins and their lame-duck head coach will try to halt a two-game losing streak on Sunday when they host a Vikings team excited about the development of rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, a Miami native.
Philbin’s ultimate fate was probably sealed last weekend when Miami faltered in the second half and was doused by AFC East-rival New England, 41-13, in Foxbrorough.
Tom Brady threw a pair of touchdown passes during a 24-point third quarter, as the Patriots clinched their sixth straight division title.
Ryan Tannehill completed 29-of-47 passes for 346 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for Miami, which had beaten New England in the season opener 33-20 but saw its already slim playoff hopes dashed further with the second straight loss.
The Dolphins outscored the Patriots 23-0 in the second half back in September but had the tables turned this time to the tune of 27-0 in the final 30 minutes of this one.
“We have to play 60 minutes of football,“ Philbin said. “You can’t make the mistakes that we made.“
Miami is technically still alive in the postseason race but must win its final two games—against Minnesota and the New York Jets—and receive plenty of help elsewhere to get in.
“I believe in the players,“ Philbin said. “I have confidence in the players. We have an outstanding locker room.“
The Vikings, meanwhile, had 10-4 Detroit on the ropes last weekend but faltered thanks in large part to a blocked, fourth-quarter field goal.
The Lions’ Matt Prater hit his late field goal to lift Detroit to a 16-14 victory over Minnesota in the NFC North matchup.
Bridgewater went 31-for-41 for 315 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for the Vikings, who had won their previous two coming into the game.
Leading by one Minnesota went on an impressive long drive that covered 75 yards over 18 plays and ate up 11 minutes, but the team came away empty as Blair Walsh’s 26-yard field goal was blocked by Jason Jones. Detroit then countered with the march that won the game, culminating with Prater’s 33-yard field goal for a 16-14 lead with 3:38 to play.
The Vikings had chances, getting the ball back near midfield thanks to a big return from Cordarrelle Patterson, but Patterson fell on a fourth down passing play to give the ball back to Detroit.
Minnesota forced a punt and got the ball back with 45 seconds, but they were only able to get to midfield and Walsh’s 68-yard field goal attempt fell well short to end the game.
“We led almost all the way, but we can’t turn the ball over twice and we can’t miss field goals,“ Bridgewater said. “We’re just going to continue to try to get better.“
The Dolphins lead their all-time series with Minnesota by a 6-4 margin, winning the last two. The teams haven’t played since September 19, 2010 when Miami edged the Vikings, 14-10, in Minneapolis. They haven’t tussled in South Florida since 2006.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Philbin has been the definition of mediocre as the Dolphins coach, compiling a 7-9 record in 2012 and upping that to 8-8 last season before settling in at 7-7 with two weeks left in the current campaign.
A 5-3 start and some improvement by Tannehill has many thinking Miami was ready to take the next step this season but that’s been tempered in the last two weeks as the Dolphins have been outscored by a 69-26 margin in losses to playoff- caliber teams, Baltimore and New England.
“Players were disappointed. Coaches are disappointed. Owners are disappointed. “I think that’s understandable,“ Philbin admitted.
The main issue has been the offense which can’t get the running game going and hasn’t topped 16 points in any game during the month of December. The Dolphins have mustered only 71 yards on the ground per game this month, making the team one-dimensional and easy to figure out especially when it falls behind.
With opposing defenses content to pin their ears back Tanneheill has been sacked 10 times during Miami’s two-game skid.
The Vikings’ strength, meanwhile, is its defense, not a surprise considering Zimmer’s reputation as a blitz doctor. Minnesota has improved from 31st in the NFL to 11th in defense in one-year under Zimmer, who is on the verge of turning young players like defensive end Everson Griffen, defensive tackle Shariff Floyd, linebacker Anthony Barr and cornerback Xavier Rhodes into stars. Safety Harrison Smith, meanwhile, is already entrenched as one of the NFL’s best.
The unit has continued to be stingy despite being without Floyd and Barr recently due to knee injuries, holding Detroit to a season-low 233 yards.
Offensively Minnesota isn’t very dynamic because of the year-long absence of Adrian Peterson due to off-the-field issues. Things are starting to click for Bridgewater, though, who will be aiming for a third straight game with a completion percentage over 70.0 and more than 300 yards passing.
“The good thing is Teddy is getting a lot of these experiences,“ Zimmer said. “The on-the-job training he’s getting I really believe will bode well for him in the future and for us as an organization and as a team.“
Bridgewater, meanwhile, is excited for his chance to play in South Florida.
“I’m pretty loved back home in Miami and a lot of people tell me that I’m a role model in my community,“ Bridgewater said Wednesday. “So it’ll be amazing to see how many turn out there and get to see me play in person for the first time for some people.“
The Vikings may have found something in first-year receiver Charles Johnson, a lengthy and speedy target who has an innate feel for running routes and creating separation. Johnson has quickly become Bridgewater’s favorite target, snaring 20 balls for 355 yards and two TDs over his last five games.
The Dolphins’ defense is talented but has stalled recently, forcing just five turnovers in the past six games as the pass rush has slowed. Miami has also struggled against the run in recent weeks because of injuries at the linebacker position.
“Part of my job is to get the team to play up to their potential each and every week,“ Philbin said. “To that degree, certainly I feel like we could do better.“
The Vikings are headed in the right direction but still haven’t figured out how to close in tight games. Figure on the growing pains to continue here on the road as Miami wins a field-gal game late.
“Right now what’s relevant is getting our team to play up to their potential for 60 minutes against the Minnesota Vikings,“ the embattled Philbin said. “That’s really all that is important to me right now.“
► Packers are back to torture Lovie
Midwesterners heading to Florida at this time of year aren’t unique.
What’s a trifle more rare, however, is a Sunshine State football team that’d rather be elsewhere.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter their Week 16 matchup with the visiting Green Bay Packers having lost seven consecutive games at Raymond James Stadium, including all six this season. The stretch of home futility is the franchise’s longest in exactly 37 years, when the expansion version lost its first 13 games on home turf before breaking through to beat the St. Louis Cardinals on December 18, 1977.
“We’ve come close quite a few times at home,“ Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. “Once we get it going, instead of talking about getting that first win we should be talking about, ‘Hey, we haven’t lost at home.‘ We realize we have a couple of more opportunities, but what better week than (against Green Bay)?“
Tampa Bay’s wins this season came at Pittsburgh and Washington in weeks 4 and 11, respectively, but the 27-7 defeat of the Redskins has since been followed by four straight losses in which it has scored 13 points twice and 17 points twice. The Bucs have gotten past 17 points just three times in the other 10 games and are third from last in the NFL in total offense, with an average of 305.9 yards per week.
It’s the opposite for the Packers, who have posted 31.1 points and 383.6 yards per week, while Tampa Bay has been gashed for weekly averages of 26.2 points and 366.6 yards - both 25th in the league.
Smith was zero for his last six against Green Bay while coaching the Chicago Bears, including a 21-14 loss in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field in January 2011. The Packers haven’t faced the Bucs since a 35-26 home win in Week 11 of the 2011 regular season.
He’ll have a slightly easier day this time around in the absence of Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who’s lost for the remainder of the season with a sprained right knee.
“Of course you want to finish the games with your guys, but you have to look at the bigger picture, and that’s my overall health,“ McCoy said. “I think we have a lot of great - not good, great - ahead of us for this team, this organization. A big part of that will be my health.“
Considering the Bucs’ inability to win at home, something will have to give when it comes to Green Bay, which has gone just 3-4 in seven 2014 road games compared to a pristine 7-0 slate at Lambeau Field.
The Packers dropped a surprising 21-13 verdict last week at Buffalo, a defeat that both ended a five-game win streak and dropped them into a tie with Detroit atop the NFC North. The Lions were 19-7 winners when the teams played at Ford Field in September and could clinch the division title this weekend with a win against Chicago coupled with a Green Bay loss to Tampa Bay.
If both Detroit and the Packers win this week, the crown will be worn by the winner of their Week 17 game in Green Bay. The Packers can stay in contention for the No. 1 overall seed in the conference if they beat the Bucs and Seattle wins at Arizona.
Green Bay at least secures a playoff berth - its sixth straight - with a win, and a loss by either Dallas or Philadelphia.
“Everything is right in front of us,“ quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “We win out, we still win the North.“
Rodgers completed just 17-of-42 passes - the 25 incompletions were a career- high - against the Bills, who picked him off twice while holding him to 185 yards. It was the first game this season in which he hadn’t thrown a touchdown pass, and put a dent in what had been a league-best 119.0 passer rating.
“It wasn’t my best day by any stretch of the imagination,“ he said. “I’ve got to play better for us to win, and I expect more of myself.“
All five of Rodgers’ interceptions have come in road games, and he’s failed to exceed 210 yards four times in those seven starts. He has 12 TD passes away from home, compared to 23 at Lambeau. The last four road games have resulted in losses to New Orleans and Buffalo and three-point victories over Miami and Minnesota.
“This is a road game we have to have,“ said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who can pass Vince Lombardi on the all-time Green Bay wins list (including postseason). “We clearly understand the importance of winning in December, and we need to take it up a notch as a football team.“
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Getting Rodgers Right
As mentioned, Green Bay’s MVP candidate heads into the weekend after the worst statistical game of his accomplishment-rich career, the loss to the Bills in which he finished with an anemic 34.3 passer rating. Though the Bucs don’t present much of a threat when it comes to wins and losses, it’s worth noticing that Rodgers has started twice in Tampa Bay (in 2008 and 2009) and lost both games.
Another week, another chance for Tampa Bay fans to look back when they think about running back Doug Martin. The now third-year man took the league by storm as a rookie and scored 12 times while amassing 1,454 yards. But he played just six games in 2013 and has 369 rush yards this year while still battling injuries. A good sign: He comes in this week off of 2014’s best game - 96 yards against Carolina.
Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, and the fact that Rodgers hasn’t ever won in Tampa Bay is worth mentioning. But that’s about all. Outside of those wins in the Jon Gruden and Raheem Morris eras, the Bucs have precious little to bank on this time around. Regardless of venue, the Packers have more on the line, more to look forward to and are just better by every pertinent measure.
► ‘Johnny Sequel’ Manziel tries again vs. Panthers
It can’t possibly go worse, can it?
The much-anticipated starting debut of Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel was a bigger bomb than “47 Ronin,“ the Keanu Reeves fantasy action film regarded by Hollywood as the biggest Box Office bust in history.
“Johnny Football” will get his second opportunity on Sunday against a 5-8-1 Carolina Panthers team still in the thick of the NFC South race.
The harshest of Manziel’s critics didn’t expect what happened last weekend when the lightning rod proved to be an abject mess in his first NFL start, completing 10-of-18 for 80 yards with two first-half interceptions as Cleveland’s playoff hopes nosedived in a similar trajectory to Manziel’s stock with a 30-0 setback to the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals.
“There were flashes but they were brief,“ Browns coach Mike Pettine said in a laughably kind review of Manziel’s performance.
Seemingly every Bengals defender got a chance to flash the former Heisman Trophy winner’s signature money-sign celebration to the FirstEnergy Stadium crowd, essentially mocking Manziel for his inability to get anything done offensively.
“Of course, he kind of brought that on himself,“ Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry quipped.
The Browns made the switch from the limited Brian Hoyer to Manziel to provide a spark in an effort to keep their fading playoff hopes alive. However, that spark was never fanned.
In his first 30 minutes, Manziel was 4-for-9 for 22 yards and a 12.0 passer rating and things never really turned around as Cleveland, which has lost three in a row, ran only 38 offensive plays (the fewest by any team in a game this season), totaled 107 yards of total offense and had six three-and-outs.
“I saw the field fine today, but when it came down to it, I just need to throw the ball and let it rip, and I didn’t do a very good job of that,“ Manziel understated.
About the only positive you could take from Manziel’s performance was the fact he didn’t make any excuses.
“Nobody wants to win (in the locker room) more than I do, and it’s tough to come out there and lay an egg like that,“ Manziel said. “I’m not using the rookie excuse. I needed to play better.“
The Panthers, meanwhile, kept hope alive in Week 15 by topping lowly Tampa Bay, 19-17, to win for the first time in seven games despite being without star quarterback Cam Newton, who was injured in a car accident earlier in the week.
Derek Anderson filled in for Newton and threw for 277 yards and a touchdown.
Newton suffered two transverse process fractures in his lower back in a two- car accident on December 9 near the team’s stadium. Anderson, who also started for Newton in the Panthers’ Week 1 win at Tampa Bay, completed 25-of-40 passes.
“Everything was not as clean as we would’ve liked it.“ Anderson said. “It wasn’t perfect by any means ... overall I’m very happy with the win.“
Greg Olsen matched a career-high with 10 receptions for 110 yards and Kelvin Benjamin added 104 yards on eight receptions for Carolina, which is percentage points behind the New Orleans Saints (6-8) for first place in the division with two games to play.
After Cleveland the Panthers will finish their schedule at Atlanta, which is 5-9 and also in the mix in the NFC South. The Saints and Falcons play each other in New Orleans on Sunday, and the Saints will close the regular season at Tampa Bay in Week 17.
The Panthers need to win their final two games and have the Saints lose once to repeat as division champions.
Carolina leads its all-time series with the Browns by a 3-1 margin but the two teams haven’t met since November 28, 2010 when Cleveland got its only win, a 24-23 triumph in the Buckeye State. The clubs haven’t met in the Queen City since 2006, a 20-12 Panthers win.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Panthers are playing a wait-and-see game with Newton but signs point to him giving it a go on Sunday. Newton was able to practice by Wednesday and reports said he was moving well and looking relatively pain free, just eight days since his accident.
“He looked like he threw the ball well, but again, a lot depends on how he feels tomorrow,“ Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “He went through all the team drills. He went through all the individual drills. He did all we had slated for him.This is a young man who is very strong-willed and very tough.“
The hope is that Newton continues to progress without any setbacks. Rivera hopes to make a final decision on his status by Friday.
“The biggest factor will be whether or not (team doctors) tell me he can protect himself,“ Rivera said. “I don’t want to put a guy out there if he can’t protect himself. By that I mean being able to run out of the way, scramble out of the way to stay alive, keep the play alive, by being able to get out of the way.“
Whether its Newton or Anderson under center, expect them to keep feeding Olsen, who has 20 catches in his last two games and is tied for the NFL lead among tight ends with 81 receptions and ranks second with 960 yards.
“If I see him one-on-one with a guy that I know can’t cover him, I have a lot of confidence in what (Olsen’s) going to do,“ Anderson said.
Making things tougher for the Cleveland defense are injuries to cornerbacks Joe Haden (shoulder) and Justin Gilbert (concussion), who are both iffy for this contest.
Manziel, meanwhile, called his first chance at solving an NFL defense “very humbling” and the Browns are hoping his struggles serve as a wake-up call when it comes to off-the-field preparation.
“I think it’s too small a sample size,“ Pettine said when asked to project Manziel’s future. “When you look at how we played around him, I think it’s very unfair to judge what somebody’s career is going to be like off of their first start. That type of game humbles all of us.“
Manziel, however, is trying to stay away from the negativity.
“I’m not really listening to any outside noise or what anybody else has to say,“ he said. “I know that I need to play better and if I don’t, people are going to continue to say things like that.“
The Panthers get a big break here in a must win game with Manziel starting, which strikes many as a general manager forcing a first-round pick on a first- year coach with little cachet. Pettine understands Manziel is simply not ready to play an NFL game yet so the Browns ate behind the 8-ball for the final weeks.
Whether Newton or Anderson starts, Carolina should do enough to stay in the NFC South race for at least one more week.
“It’s a race, but we play Cleveland next. That will be the focus,“ Rivera said. “We’ve got to get things going in the right direction.“
► Steelers seek to lock up playoff berth vs. Chiefs
With apologies to Paul Revere and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, winning is most certainly a “two if by land” proposition for the modern-day Kansas City Chiefs.
The 2014 Chiefs have lived and died based on the fortunes of running backs Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis, who’ve combined for 1,388 yards on the ground and scored 21 of the team’s 36 touchdowns.
It’ll be the same scenario for Week 16, when Kansas City visits Pittsburgh, whose run defense has allowed 183 yards and one score in its last two games. Davis had a pair of touchdowns in the Chiefs’ 31-13 defeat of Oakland last week, while Charles is listed probable to face the Steelers after dinging up an ankle and undergoing a concussion test after a hard hit.
“Every game from here forward is a playoff game. We’re taking that mindset into every game,“ Davis said. “For me, it’s just a dream to be in the NFL. To make the big plays and help this team win is just huge all around.“
Meanwhile, the drought continues for the Chiefs wide receivers, who’ve now gone 17 games across two seasons without a touchdown, matching Denver (1971-72) and Cleveland (2008-09) for the longest streaks since the AFL-NFL merger. Quarterback Alex Smith has 18 TD throws, including five each to Charles and tight end Travis Kelce and four to another tight end, Anthony Fasano.
The two Browns teams involved in Cleveland’s streak were a combined 9-23, while the two Broncos teams were 9-18-1.
“The fact that they’re still winning games and haven’t been able to have passing touchdowns like that, it shows that they’re a very resourceful team,“ Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats said.
Both Pittsburgh and Kansas City will need some success this week to stay playoff relevant.
The Steelers, at 9-5, are tied for second with Baltimore in a competitively muddled AFC North, each sitting a half-game behind Cincinnati. The Bengals play Monday night against Denver - which has already clinched the AFC West ahead of the Chiefs - while Baltimore heads to Houston.
Pittsburgh finishes the regular season with Cincinnati next weekend. The Steelers beat the Bengals, 42-21, in Week 14, then came back and won at Atlanta, 27-20, last Sunday.
A win against the Chiefs and Pittsburgh will clinch at least a wild-card berth.
“The last couple of games have been playoff games for us,“ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “We’ve had to take that approach and that mindset because of how important every game was where we were record wise, seed-wise whatever you want to call it. We’ve kind of had that mentality for the last couple of weeks that it’s time to get hot and play our best football. So we’re just going to continue to try to do that.“
Kansas City was in prime playoff position about a month ago, before a three- game losing skid that was only halted by the win against the Raiders. The Chiefs are now among a gaggle of AFC teams at 8-6 or better and will finish the season against another, San Diego, next weekend.
“Every game is playoff mode,“ Charles said. “Every game, you’ve got to come with it.“
Pittsburgh’s offense have been the league’s most prolific through 14 games, thanks to an eight-game stretch in which it’s averaged 424.9 yards and 33.1 points. The Steelers are 6-2 during that run.
“We’re trying to stack wins,“ cornerback William Gay said. “Playing against good opponents and just putting everything on the line.“
The driving force has been the trio of Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown. Roethlisberger has already exceeded 4,400 passing yards and he’s completed a career-best 67.2% of his passes. His 29 touchdowns are three shy of his high watermark, set in 2007.
Brown’s 115 catches are tops in the NFL and a franchise record for a single season. He’s two yards from surpassing the 1,499-yard franchise record he established last year, and one more TD catch will make him the fourth Pittsburgh receiver to haul in 12 in a season, joining Hines Ward (2002), Louis Lipps (1985) and Buddy Dial (1961).
Bell has 76 catches of his own, far exceeding the previous team best by a running back - 51 by John L. Williams in 1994. His 2,043 yards from scrimmage are also a franchise record.
Bettering the numbers won’t be a cake walk against the Chiefs, whose pass defense is No. 2 in the league with an average allowance of 199.2 pass yards per week.
“It’s a good defense. We have to look at a lot more film because they get after the passer (and are) good in the secondary,“ Roethlisberger said. “This is going to be one of our toughest tasks of the year.“
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
A Multi-Toned Bell
Pittsburgh’s Week 15 foe, Atlanta, came in with an all-in strategy to stop the run, and they were successful in limiting Bell to just 47 yards on 20 rushes. Problem is, the run is not the only thing with which Bell can hurt a defense. He caught five passes for 72 yards - including a 44-yard catch and run - and will be a vital element regardless on which way the Chiefs attack.
Disrupt “Big Ben’s” Timing
The Steelers have seen Roethlisberger sacked 32 times in 14 games, which doesn’t sound terrific, but is still on pace to be Ben’s lowest number for a season in which he started at least 14 games. Keeping that pace could be an issue, however, if the league’s co-leader in sacks, Justin Houston, gets clear to add to his 17. He and fellow outside linebacker Tamba Hali have 23 combined.
It’s probably not a preview of the AFC Championship Game. In fact, there’s a far better chance that the team that loses this game won’t even make the playoffs at all. What it is, though, is a meeting of two teams with significant talent on both sides of the ball. The difference, it seems, comes in the fact that the Steelers have more Plan Bs when the Plan As don’t work. That’s what’ll matter here.
► Saints plan to ground Falcons in NFC South race
The playoffs start early in The Big Easy on Sunday when the New Orleans Saints play host to the Atlanta Falcons in a game that will go a long way in determining who represents the downtrodden NFC South in the postseason.
The Saints lead the NFL’s worst division at 6-8 with two games to play but both Carolina (5-8-1) and Atlanta (5-9) remain in the mix with NOLA and the Falcons controlling their own destinies.
If either the Saints or the Falcons can win out, they will win the division and host a first-round playoff game. After this contest New Orleans will close the regular season at Tampa Bay in Week 17, while Atlanta will host the Panthers.
Carolina, meanwhile, entertains Johnny Manziel and Cleveland this week and needs to win their final two games and have the Saints lose once to repeat as division champions.
New Orleans can clinch the South for the first time since 2011 with a victory over the Falcons and a Carolina loss to the Browns.
“It sets us up for no bigger game than what’s coming up against Atlanta,“ Saints quarterback Drew Brees said.
“We all understand where we’re at,“ Atlanta coach Mike Smith countered. “We know we control our own destiny. It doesn’t matter what anyone else does. The first thing we have to do is go down and play very well and win the game in New Orleans.“
The Saints took over first place for now thanks to an impressive 31-15 win over the stumbling Bears in Chicago on Monday night.
Brees threw three touchdown passes in what was his 200th career game, completing 29-of-36 passes for 375 yards and setting an NFL record with his ninth straight season with at least 4,000 yards passing.
“I think there’s a sense of urgency that we need to create each week, and we need to be mindful of how important that edge is to play well,“ Saints coach Sean Payton said.
Josh Hill caught two scores, Marques Colston finished with five catches for 65 yards and a touchdown and Mark Ingram ran for a late score.
“We were pretty balanced and able to make some plays in the passing game,“ said Brees. “It was a great team effort.“
The Falcons, meanwhile, suffered their second straight tough loss against a prolific offense, losing to Pittsburgh 27-20 as Le’Veon Bell scored twice and set the Steelers franchise record for yards from scrimmage.
Bell did not find much running room against an uncharacteristically stingy Atlanta front, but he did reach the end zone twice among 20 carries for 47 yards. He also made five catches for 72 yards and broke Barry Foster’s single- season Steelers record for yards from scrimmage with 2,042.
Matt Ryan threw for 310 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for the Falcons, who were coming off a 43-37 shootout loss in Green Bay.
Harry Douglas filled in admirably for an injured Julio Jones, making 10 catches for 131 yards. Jones, who was coming off a career-high 259 yards against the Packers, was unable to play through a hip pointer injury he suffered late in a loss to the Packers.
“We felt we had lots of chances to have a different outcome,“ said Smith.
Atlanta leads the all-time series by a 47-43 margin, including a 37-34 overtime win back in September at the Georgia Dome when Ryan threw for a franchise-record 448 yards and three TDs, and Matt Bryant booted a game- winning 52-yard field goal in the extra frame.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Brees has been the Falcons biggest nemesis ever since he came to New Orleans from San Diego back in 2006. The veteran signal caller has amassed a 7-1 mark over Atlanta in the Superdome, compiling a stellar 103.8 passer rating in those contests.
Of course Atlanta is hardly the only team that has had a difficult time containing Brees, who leads NFL with 43,091 passing yards and 314 TD passes since he took over the Saints.
The veteran destroyed the Bears, who rank 31st in the NFL in passing defense, on Monday night and the Falcons have the only secondary giving up more yardage than Chicago, a league-worst 292.5 yards per game.
‘I think we’ve shown a couple times we can handle adversity, let’s make sure we can handle success, too,“ Brees said. “The tendency after success is to relax, and it’s not time to relax.“
Brees threw for 333 yards in the loss in Atlanta earlier this season but was outdone by Ryan’s Herculean performance, which may have to happen again here.
Ryan has been putting up big numbers recently, tossing for 1,046 yards and eight TDs over the last three weeks but has also been throwing the game- changing pick at inopportune times.
“We know what’s in front of us,“ Ryan said. “We know what we’ve got to do. It’s a playoff-type mentality. We’ve got to win next week. We’ve got to have the best week of practice that we’ve had this year and prepare as best we can.“
Getting Jones, perhaps the best receiver in all of football, back should help. The All-Pro is second in the NFL with 1,428 receiving yards despite missing last week’s game.
“It’s tough when (Jones is) not in,“ Ryan said. “He’s such a special player.“
New Orleans’ defense hasn’t been much better than the Falcons’ this season but did show a little life in Chicago, stopping a four-game string in which they had allowed at least 400 yards. The Saints’ stop unit limited Jay Cutler and Co. to 278 total yards while amassing seven sacks and three interceptions.
Facing a Payton-coached team in the Superdome used to foreshadow certain demise but the Saints’ 19-game run with the veteran coach on the sideline in NOLA ended against San Francisco on November 8. Since then the Saints have lost three more in what used to be their cozy confines. Conversely they have won their only two on the road over that span.
Translation: you never know what to expect with this New Orleans team. If anything, though, the Falcons are even less consistent and just don’t have the horses on defense to contend with Brees.
“You want to be playing for a lot at the end of the season and we are right now,“ Brees said. “No bigger game than the one coming up.“
► Clausen set to take over Bears against playoff-hungry Lions
The Detroit Lions are still in the mix to be the No. 1 seed in the NFC heading into the postseason. Then again, there’s also a slim chance they’ll be out of the playoff picture altogether.
Detroit takes another step toward a playoff berth and its first-ever NFC North crown, as it goes after a fourth straight win in a road test against the hapless Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
The Lions can clinch their second playoff spot in four years before they even take the field on Sunday if Philadelphia loses to Washington on Saturday.
A win over the Bears would net the same result for the Lions, who could also clinch their first division crown in 21 years with a win coupled with a Green Bay loss to Tampa Bay.
“It’s right there in front of us,“ defensive end Jason Jones said.
Everything broke right for the Lions in Week 15. First, the Buffalo Bills pulled off an upset of the Packers, then Matt Prater’s late field goal helped the Lions pull out a 16-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings to move them into a tie atop the division with the Packers.
Detroit actually holds the tiebreaker over Green Bay at the moment given its win over the Packers earlier in the year. The Lions will visit Lambeau Field in Week 17, likely with a chance at securing their first division title since winning the NFC Central in 1993.
“We’re not taking any game for granted, any play for granted,“ said Matt Stafford, who threw for a season-low 153 yards in the win over the Vikings. “It’s not going to be pristine every time, but we’re going to fight tooth and nail for wins and that showed up again today.“
It’s the first time the Lions reached 10 wins in the first 14 games of the season since the Lions started 10-4 in 1991.
Chicago, meanwhile, is no such playoff position after a lifeless, 31-15, shellacking at the hands of the New Orleans Saints on Monday.
And now the team is in complete disarray.
Shortly after the loss reports started to circulate that head coach Marc Trestman may be out of a job at the end of the season. Then, on Wednesday it leaked that the Bears would bench starting quarterback Jay Cutler in favor of Jimmy Clausen, who hasn’t started a game since 2010.
“The bottom line is that this is a business based on winning and losing,“ Trestman said. “We can’t sugarcoat it. We are disappointed that we’re not playing well enough to win.“
Cutler turned in another subpar performance against the Saints as he threw for just 194 yards on 17-of-31 passing with two touchdown passes and three interceptions for the Bears, who have dropped their last three games.
“Overall, I just feel that we need passion to come from certain places and I don’t think the passion is always there all the time,“ Bears tight end Martellus Bennett said.
The Lions have won three straight over the Bears including a Thanksgiving Day triumph when Stafford threw for 390 yards and two scores. They haven’t won consecutive contests in Chicago since a six-game run from 1968-73
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Detroit only managed 233 total yards versus the Vikings, but could be in store for a big bounce back this week considering the Bears have given up 35.3 points and 438.0 yards over their three-game slide.
Chicago’s defense has given up a league-high 409 points, 19 more than the Tennessee Titans, who have allowed 390. In fact, they’ve given up 251 points in the first half alone.
To put that into perspective, three teams haven’t surrendered that many in 14 full games, led by the Lions with 238 and followed by the Seahawks (242) and Cardinals (244).
Speaking of the Lions’ second-ranked defense, they haven’t allowed more than 17 points in three straight games and five of the last six.
That doesn’t figure to change against a Bears team that will go with Clausen, who has completed three of his nine pass attempts this season.
Before this season, the former Notre Dame star hadn’t appeared in an NFL game since playing 13 for the Carolina Panthers as a rookie after he was taken in the second round of the 2010 draft.
Cutler, meanwhile, has started all 14 games in his sixth season for the Bears, completing 66.1% of his passes for 3,640 yards, 28 touchdowns and an NFL-high 18 interceptions.
He has fumbled 12 times, losing six to lead the league in overall turnovers.
“Our whole football team isn’t where it needs to be,“ Trestman said. “Nobody’s happy about it. Jay’s not happy about it. We all can do better.“
Even without Cutler the Bears still have some offensive firepower with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, Bennett and running back Matt Forte.
“You look at a guy like Alshon Jeffery,“ safety Glover Quin said. “He can make tough catches. He can go deep on you. You look at Bennett. He can move the chains. You look at Forte. He’s a Pro Bowl player. He’s a big-time running back.
“You look at all those things. They can throw it. They can catch it. They can run it.“
It’s all there for the Lions taking. All they need to do is win and they are in the playoffs. With a regular season-ending game in Green Bay next week, the Lions know they’d be better off taking care of business this week.
As for the Bears, well, what can you say. They looked like a team that had packed it in last week. Now, they’ll have a quarterback who hasn’t started a game in four years. It’s getting ugly in Chicago and it figures to be worse after Sunday.
► Revis returns as Patriots search for first-round bye
If you focus on the math, it’s nearly a “why bother?“ proposition.
The New England Patriots have been held to fewer than 21 points exactly twice in 14 games this season.
Meanwhile, the New York Jets average just 16.4 points, and have been held to 20 or fewer to 10 times.
So when an 11-win New England team - fresh off clinching its 12th AFC East title in 14 seasons - heads to MetLife Stadium to meet a three-win New York team, it’s understandable that nearly everyone but Jets coach Rex Ryan considers a Patriots victory a done deal.
“It’s not hard for me to do,“ Ryan said. “I’m a confident person, and I think I’m a decent football coach and I think people who know the game realize that. So, I don’t worry about it.“
Ryan, by most accounts, is playing out the string of a six-year tenure that’s likely to end shortly after the Week 17 finale in Miami. But he has managed to keep his team relevant in some areas, particularly the run game, where New York trails only Seattle with a 166.6-yard weekly ground average.
The Jets gashed New England for 218 rush yards in a two-point loss in Foxborough in Week 7, and their per-carry average of 4.74 yards is third in the league behind the Seahawks and Green Bay.
And, then, well ... there’s Geno Smith.
The second-year quarterback could also be in the final days of an underwhelming run as starter. New York is second-to-last in the league with a weekly passing average of 168.9 yards, and Smith has thrown two touchdown passes and two interceptions in three games since regaining the starting role from Michael Vick, though his passer rating in those games is a pedestrian 78.2.
It won’t help Sunday that his new favorite target - in-season trade acquisition Percy Harvin - is still questionable with the sprained left ankle he suffered two weeks ago at Minnesota. He played in last week’s 16-11 win at Tennessee, but had no catches and managed a single run for 10 yards.
If he plays, he’s like to get a dose of New England cornerback Darrelle Revis, who returns to New York for the second time - and first with the Patriots - since he was traded prior to the 2013 season.
“I’ll probably just approach it like I did when I played with Tampa last year,“ Revis said. “Just treat it like another game.“
Revis and the Patriots defense have been on their best behavior, regardless of opponent, for the better part of 10 weeks since a 41-14 loss to Kansas City in late September. In fact, New England has held foes to an average of 19 points since that loss, going 9-1 while defeating high-end opposition like Indianapolis (42-20 win) and Denver (43-21 win), and losing close to Green Bay (26-21).
The Colts, Broncos and Packers are three of the top five scoring offenses in the NFL.
“We have to play our best football to win,“ defensive end Chandler Jones said. “I truly believe that.“
Two more victories - against the Jets, then at home with Buffalo in Week 17 - would give the Patriots home-field advantage for the length of their stay in the AFC playoffs. And if New England wins and Denver loses at Cincinnati on Monday night, the top seed will be clinched prior to next week.
Four of the last five games between the Patriots and Jets have been decided by three points or fewer, and New York won in overtime, 30-27, when New England traveled to New Jersey last season.
“I know the records are what they are, but we don’t look at it like that,“ quarterback Tom Brady said. “We lost going into the Meadowlands last year.“
Brady was held without a TD pass in that game - the only time that’s happened to him in his last 25 regular-season starts. And in the last three games with the Jets, the Patriots have been limited to averages of 283.3 yards and 22.3 points.
“They’ve got a real good defense,“ Brady said. “We’re anticipating their best game.“
Of course, New England faced the seventh-ranked defense in the league last week against Miami and scored 41 points. That rout continued a stretch of seven games - since the initial meeting with the Jets this season - in which the Patriots have been at or near the top of the league with 36.4 points (first) and 419.9 yards (third) per game.
The usual game-week angst between the teams was toned down Monday when Ryan suggested New England’s Bill Belichick was a “first-ballot Hall of Fame coach” when he retires, though Belichick ultimately responded in his typical low-key persona.
“It’s a very flattering comment, but it sounds like Rex is just buttering me up,“ he said. “I know they’re working hard, like they always do, to play us very competitively. We’ve really had a hard time with them, including the last time we played them. We’re going to have to do a good job getting ready to go here, stopping a team that runs the ball well, that stops the run well, that’s got a lot of explosive guys in the kicking game, that’s well-coached, that’s though (and) that beat us down there last year.
“We have our work cut out for us.“
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Grounded and Pounded
The fundamental task of establishing the edges and containing them will be front and center for the Patriots defense against the bruising Jets run game. The interior is manned by Vince Wilfork, Sealver Silga, Alan Branch and Dont’a Hightower, and if the outside holds up as well, it could force the game into the oft-scattershot hands of Smith at quarterback.
Move Those Chains
If they want to stay close with New England throughout 60 minutes, the Jets have to be successful in not only extending their own drives, but in getting the Patriots off the field on third downs. Shane Vereen was able to burn them too many times in the first game, while the defense was turning its attention to Rob Gronkowski. Jonas Gray and LeGarrette Blount also provide diverse options for Brady.
It’s the same old story for the Jets these days. If they come in prepared and revved-up, then play their best game with few or no mistakes, they’ll have a chance to hang with the Patriots and maybe win at the end. But with any deviation from that script - read: mistakes by Smith, misfires by the defense - it’s got the chance to get ugly in a big way. That’s more likely the script here, in Rex’s final Jersey appearance.
► Bills hunt for rare Oakland win
Just when you start to believe in the Oakland Raiders, they give reason not to.
Of course, the reality is that the Raiders’ 2014 season was a lost cause long before their visit to Kansas City last weekend. But when they got within just four points in the third quarter - after having won two of three games coming in - there was at least some reason for middling optimism.
Less than five minutes later, though, those positive thoughts were a distant memory.
Three Chiefs touchdowns in a stretch of 4 minutes, 42 seconds - including one after a fumbled snap by quarterback Derek Carr—started the death spiral toward an eventual 31-13 loss, which plunged the Raiders to 2-12 on the season as they head into a Week 16 home game with the Buffalo Bills.
Oakland had 10 penalties in the defeat, and its 103 infractions for the season are eighth in the league.
“You can’t do those kind of things in any football game,“ Raiders interim coach Tony Sparano said. “But you certainly can’t do those things when you’re on the road and in an environment like that, and kind of feed their ego with false starts and with penalties and then turn it into a game that you have to throw the football as much as we had to throw the ball with that kind of pass rush.“
Carr completed less than half of his 56 passes against Kansas City, while totaling 222 yards and connecting for a touchdown alongside four sacks. He’s been slightly better at home in his rookie season, including 10 TDs and just three interceptions in his last five games at the O.co Coliseum.
The Bills haven’t won a game in Oakland since 1966 and haven’t beaten the Raiders franchise on the road since a victory in Los Angeles in 1991. That theme continues for Buffalo overall, as it strives to end a postseason drought - the longest in the league—that stretches back 15 years to 1999.
A 21-13 win over visiting Green Bay last week ensured that the Bills would finish at .500 for the first time since they went 9-7 in 2004. Jumping from respectability to the playoffs, however, will take a little more.
Buffalo is last among the nine AFC teams who’ve registered eight or more wins - thanks to a 4-6 in-conference record and losses to fellow 8-6 teams Kansas City and San Diego. A berth would not only require a win in Oakland, but a follow-up victory at New England, where it is 0 for its last 13 efforts.
The defeat of the Packers saw Buffalo snuff the offensive of the most-prolific scoring team in the league and prompt a career-high 25 incompletions, a career-worst 34.3 passer rating and two interceptions from quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Bills haven’t allowed a passing TD in six of its last seven games and its pass defense - which yielded 210.1 yards per week - is No. 5 in the league.
The Green Bay win came a week after a loss to Denver in which Buffalo gave Peyton Manning a forgettable stat line that included 14 completions, two interceptions, 173 yards and no touchdowns.
“We have to obviously continue to play like that but once we do that, now the mark is set,“ cornerback Corey Graham said. “Now you got to expect that every week from everybody and that’s what we got to do. We’ve got to make sure we’re locked in and ready to go every week.“
The offense could certainly use the same swagger.
The Bills got four field goals, a safety and a punt return touchdown against the Packers, which didn’t help the 31st-best ratio of touchdowns (20) to red- zone possessions (49). Quarterback Kyle Orton completed 14-of-27 passes for 158 yards and an interception, alongside three sacks.
No wide receiver or tight end caught more than two passes.
“We’ve got to do a better job,“ Buffalo coach Doug Marrone said. “We’ve got to protect better, got to run routes better, we’ve got to get a better rhythm.“
A boost could arrive in the form of running back C.J. Spiller, who broke his collarbone in Week 7 and hasn’t played since. He’s second among all running backs since 2010 with a 5.0-yard average per carry, and is listed as probable against the Raiders.
“He’s a guy who’s made plays in the past,“ Marrone said. “Any time you can bring back someone who’s a potential playmaker obviously helps.“
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Crash the Carr
The Bills enter the game with 49 sacks and they’ll face an opponent in the Raiders who’s not exactly erected fortress-like walls around Carr all year, and allowed four sacks in last week’s loss to Kansas City.
Thus, it’ll be incumbent upon Oakland’s Latavius Murray, who had 59 yards against the Chiefs, to be effective enough to draw containment attention from Buffalo ends Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes.
Sling it to Sammy
A common denominator in Buffalo’s six losses this season has been the limited production of Sammy Watkins, who’s scored just one TD and exceeded 100 yards in one game as well. Raiders cornerback Tarell Brown has surrendered just one TD among the 42 passes completed in his direction in 2014, and help from veteran safety Charles Woodson should keep the game from becoming a Watkins showcase.
OK, Coach Marrone, it’s your move. The Bills have gone from long-term laughingstock to having the dreaded “trap game” label hung on them. Its incumbent on the second-year boss to make sure his team handles the cross- country trip to meet an inferior foe, on the Sunday prior to a visit to the perennial AFC East powerhouse that could be the final obstacle to a January return. Score one for preparation.
► Seahawks sign LB Wright to 4-year extension
The Seattle Seahawks signed linebacker K.J. Wright to a four-year extension, the team announced Thursday.
Wright has a team-leading 96 tackles this season with a career high-tying two sacks and three forced fumbles.
He has started 54 games since the Seahawks drafted him in the fourth round in 2011, compiling 339 tackles, 6.5 sacks and one interception.
“K.J. is the epitome of a team guy,“ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said in a statement. “We are excited to reward a player of his caliber for all the hard work he has put in over the years to become an important piece of our defense.“
Wright has appeared in four playoff games, starting three.
► NFL Game Results
(THURSDAY, DECEMBER 18)
Final Score: Jacksonville 21, Tennessee 13
Jordan Todman’s 62-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter highlighted the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 21-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night. Blake Bortles completed 13-of-26 passes for 115 yards and one touchdown for the Jaguars, who scored 21 straight points after falling behind 10-0. Todman carried the ball five times for 71 yards for Jacksonville (3-12), which avenged a 16-14 loss to these Titans on October 12. Toby Gerhart rushed for 53 yards and a score on 12 carries. Tennessee turned back to Charlie Whitehurst due to injuries and he connected on 24-of-35 passes for 287 yards and one touchdown. Leon Washington caught seven passes for 62 yards and a score. Bishop Sankey carried the ball 14 times for 44 yards for the Titans (2-13), who have lost nine in a row.
► The fantasy snoozer
As Terrell Owens would want, fantasy owners are getting the popcorn ready.
This week, there are seven different time slots spanning over four days, with a break Friday, fantasy owners can root for their stars.
On Saturday night alone, there are eight key fantasy players in action, with the potential for more, in deeper leagues. Studs such as LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates are all playing along with key fantasy role players like Mark Sanchez, Alfred Morris and DeSean Jackson. That’s not even counting defenses, kickers or injured players who might still make an impact like Frank Gore and Ryan Mathews.
To conclude fantasy championship week, owners will see if players like Peyton Manning, C.J. Anderson, Jeremy Hill, Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green, and Julius Thomas can take them to the fantasy promise land. The Monday night Denver at Cincinnati matchup has the potential to set up really fun scenarios.
Perhaps one owner will be rooting for Demaryius Thomas, but he is playing against Manning. That owner would be nervously excited on every Broncos drop back.
What about owners in multiple championships? An owner could have Anderson in one league and play against him in another.
Maybe an owner has Anderson and Sanders in one league and Demaryius Thomas in another while also playing against Manning.
You get the point. The possibilities are endless. Santa Claus isn’t the only reason why this is the most wonderful time of the year.
With all these scenarios, owners just want the week to start already! Thank goodness it finally begins on Thursday ... sort of.
Tennessee at Jacksonville is perhaps the worst prime time matchup in the history of the NFL. Neither team has a playmaker which makes both squads just flat out boring.
Titans and Jaguars fans, I look forward to your angry letters.
Blake Bortles and Charlie Whitehurst are QB2 ... at best. Listening to the Nutcracker on repeat sounds less torturous than watching those two quarterbacks “duke” it out.
Some called Bishop Sankey this year’s Eddie Lacy. He was more like this year’s Johnathan Franklin.
Jacksonville’s leading rusher in 2014 was a collegiate quarterback, and he is hurt; that’s about all owners need to know there.
Speaking of hurt, the Titans top two wide receivers, Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, will likely not be available for owners. Not that they were lining up to use them. The duo has combined for 1,131 receiving yards this season, or Antonio Brown’s total through 11 games.
In all likelihood, owners who advanced to the championship don’t have a player in Thursday night’s game. If you advanced to the final round with Bortles as one of your quarterbacks, you might be the next Joe Gibbs, Houdini or the luckiest man on the planet. Testing that luck in the lottery this weekend is probably a good idea.
Anyway, good luck to owners in Week 16.
Make sure the lineup is set for Thursday, I guess, but you can probably wait until Saturday. Thursday can be spent spinning the dreidel or lighting the Christmas tree without having to check your fantasy football app.
As for my rooting interest Thursday, Marqise Lee is 151 yards away from becoming the fourth Jacksonville wide receiver to reach the 500-yard mark. The Jaguars could become the only team in the NFL without a 800-yard receiver, but four 500-yard receivers.
Sorry, that’s all I’ve got. ~~ Dave Holcomb ~~
► Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results
(Thursday, December 18)
#10 Gilmer County 66 South Harrison 37
Calhoun County 65 Braxton County 51
Roane County 58 Doddridge County 44
Preston 80 Lewis County 55
#1 Robert C. Byrd 62 East Fairmont 43
#4 Bridgeport 94 Liberty 36
Buckhannon-Upshur 65 North Marion 57
Lincoln 58 Elkins 44
#6 Fairmont Senior 74 Philip Barbour 40
Clay County 70 Webster County 54
► Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results
(Thursday, December 18)
Final Score: (2) Duke 66, Connecticut 56
Tyus Jones scored 21 points and No. 2 Duke stayed unbeaten with a 66-56 win over Connecticut on Thursday. Jones made 9-of-10 from the free throw line and handed out a game-high three assists for the Blue Devils (10-0), who have won all 10 games this season by at least 10 points. All five Duke starters reached double figures, while the Blue Devils didn’t receive a single point from three bench players that logged minutes. Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor scored 12 points apiece and Amile Jefferson went for 11 points and 13 rebounds. Duke is 10-0 for the 19th time in school history. Ryan Boatright scored 22 for UConn (4-4), which hadn’t lost four non-conference regular season games since the 1986-87 season.
Final Score: (6) Virginia 70, Cleveland State 54
Justin Anderson and Malcolm Brogdon each netted 16 points as sixth-ranked Virginia remained unbeaten with a 70-54 win over Cleveland State. Anthony Gill added 13 points and eight rebounds for the Cavaliers (10-0), who overcame a slow start from a 12-day layoff to shoot 50 percent from the field and move to 10-0 for the first time since 2000-01. Trey Lewis was the lone Cleveland State (5-6) player to score in double figures, finishing with 18 points while hitting 4-of-9 attempts from 3-point range.
► NBA Game Resuts
(Thursday, December 18)
Final Score: Chicago 103, New York 97
Jimmy Butler scored a career-high 35 points and dished out seven assists to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 103-97 win over the New York Knicks on Thursday night. Pau Gasol contributed 20 points with seven rebounds and Aaron Brooks added 18 points off the bench for Chicago, which played its ninth game of the season without star point guard Derrick Rose. Rose missed the contest with an illness and his status for Friday’s game at Memphis is uncertain. The Bulls, who improved to 5-4 without Rose this season, have won four of their last five games overall. New York, meanwhile, was without leading scorer Carmelo Anthony, who missed the game to rest his sore left knee. Tim Hardaway Jr. picked up the slack to lead the Knicks with 23 points, while Amar’e Stoudemire chipped in with 16 points and six rebounds. New York has lost seven straight at the United Center and three straight overall, as well as 13 of its last 14 games.
Final Score: New Orleans 99, Houston 90
Anthony Davis tallied 30 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks, and the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Houston Rockets, 99-90, on Thursday. Jrue Holiday finished with 16 points and 10 assists and played his best basketball down the stretch to help the Pelicans win their second straight game. Holiday scored half of his points and dished out three assists in the final period. Ryan Anderson and Dante Cunningham contributed 16 and 15 points, respectively, off the bench, and Omer Asik grabbed 11 boards for New Orleans. James Harden paced Houston with 21 points and Dwight Howard posted his third double-double since returning to the court after missing 11 games with a knee injury.
Final Score: Milwaukee 108, Sacramento 107
Not even the return of DeMarcus Cousins could help the Sacramento Kings find the win column. Brandon Knight scored 20 points and O.J. Mayo and Jared Dudley each chipped in 19 to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a 108-107 win over the scuffling Kings on Thursday night. Milwaukee, which has won three of its last four, made 56.5 percent of its shots from beyond the arc. Cousins, who returned from a 10-game absence due to viral meningitis, had a chance to win it in the closing seconds, but his jumper was off the mark as the buzzer sounded. He finished with game highs of 27 points and 11 rebounds in just under 33 minutes in the Kings’ fifth straight loss. Sacramento went 2-8 in Cousins’ absence and fell to 0-2 under interim coach Tyrone Corbin, who relieved Michael Malone of the head coaching duties this week.
Final Score: Golden State 114, Oklahoma City 109
Steph Curry stuffed the stat sheet and six Warriors scored in double figures as Golden State got back in the win column with a 114-109 decision over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Curry posted a game- high 34 points with nine assists, seven rebounds and four steals for Golden State, which lost its franchise-high 16-game win streak in Memphis on Tuesday. Klay Thompson scored 19 points and Draymond Green flirted with a triple- double, tallying 16, nine assists and nine boards for the Warriors. Thunder star Kevin Durant scored 30 points in the first half but didn’t play in the second after suffering a sprained right ankle just before halftime. Russell Westbrook picked up some of the slack, netting 33 points with eight assists but shooting just 11-for-30 from the field. The Thunder were 7-1 over their last eight games with Durant in the lineup. The reigning MVP missed the first 17 games of the season following foot surgery.
► Volquez heading to Kansas City
The Kansas City Royals and pitcher Edinson Volquez have reportedly agreed to a two-year contract.
According to CBSSports.com and MLB.com, the deal is worth $20 million.
Volquez spent 2014 in Pittsburgh and had one of the best seasons of his 10- year career with a record of 13-7 and a 3.04 ERA in 32 games, all but one as a starter.
The 31-year-old right-hander was 9-12 with a 5.71 ERA for the Padres and Dodgers in 2013. He owns a career mark of 66-59 with a 4.44 ERA in 191 games, including 185 starts with Texas, Cincinnati, San Diego, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.
Volquez had his best season with the Reds in 2008, posting a mark of 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA.
The American League champion Royals have been in need of another starting pitcher with the loss of James Shields to free agency.
► Rays set to deal Myers to Padres in deal with Nationals
Wil Myers is reportedly heading from Tampa Bay to San Diego as part of an 11-player trade that also involves the Washington Nationals.
According to MLB.com, the Padres will acquire Myers, the 2013 American League Rookie of the Year, along with catcher Ryan Hanigan and minor league pitchers Gerardo Reyes and Jose Castillo from Tampa Bay. The Rays will receive catcher Rene Rivera, first baseman Jake Bauers and pitcher Burch Smith from the Padres, as well as outfielder Steven Souza and pitcher Travis Ott from Washington, while the Nationals will pick up pitcher Joe Ross and a player to be named later, said to be shortstop Trea Turner, from the Padres.
The deal is pending physicals.
Myers, who just turned 24 years old, is the centerpiece of the trade.
The Rays acquired Myers from Kansas City prior to the 2013 season in the deal that sent pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals.
Myers, in 88 games as a rookie, batted .293, hit 13 homers and drove in 53 runs to help Tampa Bay to a wild card berth. A wrist injury slowed him down in 2014 when he played just 87 games and hit six homers with 35 RBI and batted only .222.
Hanigan hit just .218 in 84 games last season, his first in Tampa Bay after playing the first seven years of his career in Cincinnati. The 34-year-old veteran, who has played more than 100 games in a season just once, is a career. 256 hitter with 25 homers and 172 RBI in 558 games.
The Padres have been somewhat busy since the start of Winter Meetings last week, signing pitcher Brandon Morrow while adding outfielder Matt Kemp in a trade from the Dodgers. The Kemp deal has yet to be officially announced.
Tampa Bay has also undergone a major shakeup since the departures of head of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon. Matt Silverman, Friedman’s replacement, has traded pitchers Jeremy Hellickson and Joel Peralta, as well as outfielder Matt Joyce and infielder Sean Rodriguez.
The Rays, who also released veteran catcher Jose Molina, will hope Rivera can help behind the plate. The 31-year-old native of Puerto Rico played in a career-high 103 games last season with the Padres and batted .252 with 11 homers and 44 RBI.
Burch appeared in 10 games in 2013, including seven starts, and was 1-3 with a 6.44 ERA, but missed most of last year with a forearm injury, while Bauers played at Single-A in 2014. Ott was also a Class-A player last year in Washington’s organization, while Souza could be the key piece for the Rays.
Souza was the International League’s top player in 2014 for Washington’s Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse, batting .350 with 18 homers and 75 RBI in just 96 games. The 25-year-old played in 21 games for the Nationals last year and hit two homers in 23 at-bats while also making a tremendous catch to preserve Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter on the final day of the season.
The Nationals will pick up a former first-round pick in Ross, a 21-year-old right-hander who has not pitched above Double-A since he was chosen 25th overall in 2011.
Turner can’t officially be traded until next June, as league rules mandate that a draft pick cannot be dealt until a full year after he was selected. He was the 13th overall pick last June and could be Washington’s shortstop of the future with Ian Desmond set to be a free agent after next season.
► A’s acquire De La Rosa from Arizona
The Oakland Athletics acquired pitcher Eury De La Rosa from the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash considerations on Thursday.
In 25 games with Arizona last season, De La Rosa went 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA. The 24-year-old left-hander allowed just two home runs in 36 2/3 innings and held right-handed hitters to a .233 batting average.
De La Rosa is 2-1 with a 4.21 ERA in 44 career appearances over two seasons with the Diamondbacks.
The Dominican native began the 2014 season at Triple-A Reno and compiled a 2.52 ERA and .224 opponents batting average in 36 relief appearances with the Aces before he was promoted to Arizona on July 5.
To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, the A’s designated pitcher Fernando Rodriguez for assignment and also released pitcher Jorge De Leon, who was designated for assignment December 09.
► Kemp trade on hold over medicals
The San Diego Padres are considering whether or not to finalize or void their agreed-upon trade for Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp due to results over the outfielder’s physical, according to a report from USA Today.
Sources told USA Today that Kemp’s physical revealed arthritis in both of his hips, with the Padres still trying to determine whether the condition will impact the remainder of the 30-year-old’s playing career.
The Padres and Dodgers had set a deadline for Thursday to complete the deal, in which Los Angeles would send Kemp and backup catcher Tim Federowicz to San Diego in exchange for catcher Yasmani Grandal, pitcher Joe Wieland and minor league hurler Zach Elfin.
Los Angeles is also believed to be sending the Padres $32 million towards the remaining $107 million Kemp is owed on his contract, which runs through 2019.
The snag also impacts the Dodgers’ pending trade with Philadelphia involving Jimmy Rollins, as Elfin was to be sent to the Phillies for the veteran shortstop.
Kemp has been hampered by hamstring issues in two of the last three seasons, missing 51 games in 2012 and 73 in 2013. The 2011 National League MVP runner- up did play in 150 games this past season, batting .287 with 25 home runs and 89 RBI.
Padres first-year general manager A.J. Preller has been aggressive this offseason in trying to improve an offense that was the worst in the majors in 2014. In addition to the potential Kemp trade, Preller reportedly has swung a deal to acquire 2013 American League Rookie of the Year Wil Myers from Tampa Bay as part of a three-team swap that also involves the Washington Nationals.
► Royals reach deal with P Medlen
The Kansas City Royals have signed pitcher Kris Medlen to a two-year contract with a mutual option for the 2017 season, with the hope that the Tommy John surgery recipient will be able to contribute during the second half of the upcoming year.
Medlen put together a strong 2013 campaign for the Atlanta Braves, winning a career-best 15 games with a 3.11 earned run average in 32 games (31 starts). The right-hander missed all of last season, however, after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow during a spring training outing.
The Braves declined to offer Medlen a contract earlier this month, in large part due to his injury history. The 29-year-old also underwent a Tommy John procedure that sidelined him for the majority of the 2011 season.
Medlen has been a quality pitcher when healthy. His .674 winning percentage (31-15) since 2010 ranks only behind a pair of Cy Young Award honorees, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer, over that stretch, and he sports a 2.95 ERA over 152 appearances (61 starts).
According to the Kansas City Star, Medlen will receive $8.5 million guaranteed over the life of the deal. He is slated to earn $2 million next season, but can earn an additional $4 million based on games started and innings pitched.
Medlen will make $10 million in 2017 if he and the Royals both exercise the option year. Kansas City will pay a $1 million buyout if either side declines.
The signing is the second by the reigning AL champion Royals involving a starting pitcher in as many days, with the club reportedly inking Edinson Volquez to a two-year, $20 million contract on Wednesday.
Kansas City is not expected to re-sign last year’s staff ace and current free agent James Shields.
Infielder Johnny Giavotella was designated for assignment to create room for Medlen on the 40-man roster.
Giavotella hit .238 with four homers and 45 RBI over 125 games with the Royals across the last four seasons, but appeared in just 26 games in the majors over the last two.
► NHL Game Results
(Thursday, December 18)
Final Score: Florida 2, Philadelphia 1 (SO)
Dave Bolland scored in the sixth round of the shootout to lift the Florida Panthers over the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 on Thursday night. The Panthers needed an NHL-record 20 rounds to pick up a shootout victory over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek kept the shootout going when he scored in the third round. Florida’s Brandon Pirri had scored in the first. Scottie Upshall lit the lamp in regulation for the Panthers, who got 25 saves from Roberto Luongo. Voracek also scored the only goal for the Flyers, who fell to 0-5 in shootouts this season. Steve Mason stopped 31-of-32 shots.
Final Score: Pittsburgh 1, Colorado 0 (OT)
Blake Comeau scored at 2:24 of overtime to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 1-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was back in the lineup after missing three games with the mumps. Teammate Marc-Andre Fleury, who tested negative for the virus, made 29 saves to earn his career-high and league- leading sixth shutout of the season and help Pittsburgh improve to 4-0-2 in its last six games. Rookie Calvin Pickard played superbly for the Avalanche, making 47 saves, including 19 in the third period to force extra time.
Final Score: Carolina 4, Toronto 1
The Carolina Hurricanes snapped a six-game losing streak, scoring two special-teams goals in a 4-1 win over the red-hot Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night. While Toronto eyed its longest winning streak in more than 11 years, Carolina jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Chris Terry and Justin Faulk, who scored while the Hurricanes were short-handed. Andrej Sekera’s power play tally in the third period restored the two-goal lead and Cam Ward finished with 25 saves as the Hurricanes ended the 0-6 skid. Dion Phaneuf scored for the Maple Leafs, who had a six-game winning streak snapped and lost for just the third time in their last 13 (10-2-1). They haven’t won seven in a row since an eight-game streak from Nov. 22-Dec. 6, 2003. Jonathan Bernier gave up three goals on 36 shots and had a personal four-game winning streak stopped.
Final Score: Washington 5, Columbus 4 (OT)
Eric Fehr’s goal 42 seconds into overtime lifted the Washington Capitals to a 5-4 come-from-behind victory over Columbus, halting the Blue Jackets’ seven-game win streak. Michael Chaput’s first career NHL goal had given Columbus a 4-3 lead with 4:25 remaining in regulation, but Troy Brouwer answered for the Capitals just 1:25 later to send the game into extra time. Fehr, Jason Chimera and Karl Alzner each recorded a goal and an assist for Washington, which earned a point for a seventh straight outing. The Caps are 5-0-2 over that stretch, which included an overtime loss to the Blue Jackets in Washington a week ago. Nick Foligno scored twice and assisted on another for Columbus, which received 31 saves from Sergei Bobrovsky in defeat.
Final Score: Anaheim 2, Montreal 1
Frederik Andersen made 23 saves and the Anaheim Ducks beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on Thursday night for their eighth win in nine games. Hampus Lindholm and Matt Beleskey scored for the Ducks, who were coming off a 6-2 loss to Toronto on Tuesday, which snapped their seven-game winning streak. Beleskey’s winner came 8:33 into the third period, his 15th goal of the season. David Desharnais scored for the Canadiens, who had a three-game winning streak snapped. Carey Price gave up two goals on 23 shots.
► Champions Tour announces 2015 schedule
The Champions Tour announced its 2015 schedule Wednesday and it will feature 26 tournaments.
Just like in 2014, the 2015 slate will begin in Hawaii on January 23 for the Mitsubishi Electric Championship and the schedule will run through the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Arizona, which will be held from November 5-8.
The schedule is up one event from 2014 with the addition of the Tucson Conquistadores Classic, which will be played from March 20-22. Also, the Pacific Links Hawaii Championship will be moved to Tianjin, China and will be called the Pacific Links China Championship. That event will be played September 18-20.
The Regions Tradition will once again serve as the first major championship of the season, running from May 14-17. The Senior PGA Championship will be played the week after in Indiana on the Pete Dye Course at French Lick.
Three weeks after the Senior PGA is the Constellation Senior Players Championship, the season’s third major, held at Belmont Country Club in Boston from June 11-14. Two weeks later is the U.S. Senior Open Championship from June 25-28 and will be contested at Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento, Calif.
About a month later, the Champions Tour will head overseas for the fifth and final major of the season, the Senior Open Championship. It will be played on the Old Course at Sunningdale Golf Club in Berkshire, England from July 23-26.
Ten events separate the Senior Open Championship from the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, which will be held on the Cochise Course at Desert Mountain Club for the second straight year.
► Inverness to host 2019 U.S. Junior Amateur
The United States Golf Association announced on Wednesday that Inverness Club was selected to host the 2019 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.
This is the first time Inverness Club, located in Toledo, Ohio, will play host to the U.S. Junior Amateur and it will be the eighth USGA event contested there. The championship will be held from July 15-20.
“Inverness Club has enjoyed a storied history, having hosted seven USGA championships over the past century,“ said Daniel B. Burton, USGA vice president and Championship Committee chairman. “By hosting this championship in 2019, the club will become the first to have a U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Junior Amateur.“
Inverness has also hosted four U.S. Opens, two U.S. Senior Opens in 2003 and 2011, and the 1973 U.S. Amateur. The most recent U.S. Open to be held at Inverness was in 1979, when Hale Irwin won by two shots over Gary Player and Jerry Pate.
|ABC - American Broadcasting Company|
|CBS - Columbia Broadcast System|
|FOX - Fox Entertainment Group|
|NBC - National Broadcasting Company|
|JIP - Joined in Progress|
|DSS - DIRECTV|
|TSN - Sports Network (Canada)|
|SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)|
|RDS - Reseau des sports|
|MSG - Madison Square Garden Network|
|TNT - Turner Network Television|
|TBS - Turner Broadcasting System|
|SNY - SportsNet New York|
|CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network|
|CSN - Comcast SportsNet|
|TCN - The Comcast Network|
|NBCSN - NBC Sports Network|
|NESN - New England Sports Network|
|MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network|
|ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)|
|CST - Cox Sports Television|
|FCS - FOX College Sports|
|FS - FOX Sports Regional|
|RSN - Regional Sports Networks|
|CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting|
|TVG - Horse Racing Channel|
|FS1 - FOX Sports 1|
|TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel|
|* - If Necessary|
|FRIDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2014|
|National Basketball Association|
|Utah at Orlando, 7:00 PM - ROOT-Northwest, FS-Florida, DSS|
|Charlotte at Philadelphia, 7:00 PM - SportSouth, CSN-Philadelphia, DSS|
|Minnesota at Boston, 7:30 PM - FS-North, CSN-New England, DSS|
|Toronto at Detroit, 7:30 PM - SNET One, FS-Detroit+, DSS|
|Brooklyn at Cleveland, 7:30 PM - YES, FS-Ohio, DSS|
|Washington at Miami, 7:30 PM - CSN-DC, SunSports, DSS|
|Portland at San Antonio, 8:00 PM - CSN-Northwest, FS-Southwest, ESPN|
|Chicago at Memphis, 8:00 PM - WPWR, SportSouth, DSS|
|LA Clippers at Denver, 9:00 PM - FS-Prime Ticket, Altitude, DSS|
|Oklahoma City at LA Lakers, 10:30 PM - FS-Oklahoma, Time Warner, ESPN|
|National Hockey League|
|Tampa Bay at New Jersey, 7:00 PM - TVA, SunSports, MSG, DSS|
|Anaheim at Ottawa, 7:30 PM - FS-West, RDS, TSN5, DSS|
|NY Islanders at Detroit, 7:30 PM - MSG+, FS-Detroit, DSS|
|Boston at Winnipeg, 8:00 PM - NESN, TSN3, DSS|
|Dallas at Calgary, 9:00 PM - FS-Southwest+, West, DSS|
|Wilberforce at Youngstown State, 1:30 PM - ESPN3.com|
|Jackson State at Tulane, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com|
|Siena at Radford, 6:00 PM - Big South Network|
|Case Western at Bucknell, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network|
|Eastern Kentucky at Miami-Florida, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com|
|Stillman at Alabama, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com|
|Bethune-Cookman at Mercer, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com|
|Niagara at Buffalo, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com|
|Clemson at South Carolina, 7:00 PM - SEC Network|
|St. Mary’s (CA) at St. John’s, 7:00 PM - FS1|
|Tennessee Tech at Tennessee, 7:00 PM - FSN|
|Furman at Florida Gulf Coast, 7:30 PM - ESPN3.com|
|Chattanooga at Middle Tennessee, 8:00 PM - American Sports Network, MASN|
|Seattle at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - Big Ten Network|
|Pan American at Creighton, 9:00 PM - FS2|
|Alabama A&M at Marquette, 9:00 PM - FS1|
|Ark-Pine Bluff at Texas Tech, 9:00 PM - FS-Southwest+, FCS-Central|
|Eastern Washington at California, 10:00 PM - Pac-12 Network|
|Idaho State at Utah State, 10:05 PM - Mountain West Network|
|Arizona at UTEP, 11:00 PM - FS1|
|Women’s College Basketball|
|Ohio Valley at Youngstown State, 11:00 AM - ESPN3.com|
|Campbell at Stetson, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com|
|Northern Colorado at Florida Gulf Coast, 4:30 PM - ESPN3.com|
|Belmont at Mercer, 5:00 PM - ESPN3.com|
|Savannah State at Florida State, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com|
|DePaul at Connecticut, 7:30 PM - SNY, ESPN3.com|
|NAIA Football Championship, 3:00 PM - ESPN U|
|Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, 7:00 PM - ESPN U|
|Sam Houston State at North Dakota State, 8:00 PM - ESPN 2|