Jimmy Garoppolo gets his first big test against a good defense after going 3-0 in his first three starts with the 49ers.


Another team from LA, another matchup lopsided in favor of the visitors. Jared Goff and Todd Gurley will be in great positions to succeed against the Tennessee defense, while the Titans don’t have the same rushing efficiency and firepower to get the better of the Rams’ defense.

Derek Carr and Jack Del Rio aren’t the aggressive, finishing QB-coach combination they were a year ago. The Eagles with Nick Foles and Doug Peterson are pretty much the same team they were with Carson Wentz and Pederson. The Raiders’ defense will have no answers, and the offense will struggle once Marshawn Lynch is contained.

According to Gutekunst, one of the first pieces of advice that Thompson offered after getting the job on Sunday was to smile more at his first press conference.

John Gutekunst told his son to be humble, and to make sure that he takes care of his staff.

Now, you know, on Mondays after watching our game, the younger Gutekunst said, he’ll tell me some other things.

The run-blocking remained solid to prop up Elliott replacements Alfred Morris and Rod Smith, but Prescott faced more discomfort in key stretches of key games. The Cowboys were often rendered one-dimensional in the atypical way, as running from either their backs or Prescott sometimes was their only source of offense. In a complementary game, those issues were exacerbated by problems at another position.

Prescott still threw to Bryant often but the catches didn’t come close to matching the targets, and the big plays and red-zone scoring prowess were few and far between. As the Cowboys’ go-to wide receiver turned 29 in November, his decline continued through December. So much for being healthier and re-booted for Prescott in Year 2.

When the L.A. Clippers lost both of their top point guards and then lost Blake Griffin and went on a skid, we wrote them off. It turns out that was premature. L.A. has won six of seven and is just a game out of the playoffs in the West!

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There is never really a good time to suffer an injury.


Because the Bucs have Winston, they could have a bounceback season in 2018 provided they can stay relatively healthy. While Winston has certainly played poorly at times this season, he showed Monday why he was the top pick in the 2015 draft. He led the Bucs downfield in the final minute for a potential game-tying field goal, but Patrick Murray missed a 54-yard attempt as time expired.

JaMychal, after a very good 2016-2017 campaign that earned him quite the raise (but not as much as he hoped for) in his latest contract with the Grizzlies. He wasn’t paid to be a star, but he was paid to be a competent role player who competes at a high level. That hasn’t happened- among players who have played at least 600 minutes, he has the 4th worst net rating (-6, a problem in and of itself with four guys on the team worse than him). His defensive rating (110) is worse than that of Mario Chalmers, and his offensive rating (104) is five points worse than James Ennis III, who is not a starter on this team (but maybe should be). In addition to his various ratings all being career worsts, he is posting the worst PER of his career (12.7), as well as his lowest win shares per 48 minutes (.064).

Fans wanted to sit in the cold. They didn’t fear Pittsburgh or Houston. The Dawg Pound and The Jungle weren’t empty stadiums. Cincinnati and Cleveland didn’t want to be like each other. They couldn’t stand the sight of each other.

Tell ’em, Sam …

Now we live in a time in which Cincinnati wants to be like Cleveland, and vice versa, despite a combined 5-23 record.

But I also include this because Gay’s career strikes me as instructive. Gay was a central player on some bad Memphis Grizzlies teams during his first few seasons. They ultimately gave him a big contract because they had little else and little choice. The Grizzlies started to win, but they did so because they acquired better players than Rudy Gay. In the end they traded him in the midst of their best regular season, and proceeded to make the Western Conference Finals, and win 50+ games the following two seasons as well.

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As six teams compete for the final three playoff spots, the Browns will attempt to avoid infamous perfection.


The Browns have had numerous opportunities to win a game this season, most notably when they held a 21-7 second-half lead on the Packers only to lose in overtime. Their final opportunity to win will come Sunday in Pittsburgh.

It’s been a while since the Browns (0-15) won at Heinz Field, where Pittsburgh’s only setback this season was the controversial 27-24 loss to the Patriots on Dec. 17. Cleveland’s losing streak in Pittsburgh spans 13 games, but last season’s Week 17 contest went into overtime, and the Steelers (12-3) won by just a field goal in Cleveland in the 2017 season opener.

The Chiefs (9-6) are locked into the No. 4 seed in the AFC and will rest starting quarterback Alex Smith. Coach Andy Reid announced this week he will start rookie Patrick Mahomes against the Broncos (5-10) in Denver, where the 2017 first-round pick will have to keep his rocket arm in check in the thin air of the Mile High City to end Kansas City’s long QB drought.

It’s the professor against his prized pupil, and their history together will headline the chatter surrounding this game. From 2004 to 2015, Smart spent every season but one as a member of Saban’s coaching staff. Saban has been Smart’s mentor, as the 42-year-old worked for Saban at LSU, the Miami Dolphins and Alabama, where he was eventually promoted to defensive coordinator. He is in only his second season at Georgia, but in his nine seasons with Alabama, Smart helped the Tide win four national titles. To say Smart learned a thing or two is an understatement. The question is whether he learned enough to outsmart the man who taught him much of what he knows. Alabama has won each of its 11 games against teams coached by Saban’s former assistants — by an average of more than 28 points.

The Tide’s defense looked much stronger and healthier against Clemson than it did toward the end of the regular season, when it was ravaged by injuries, particularly at the linebacker position. Georgia finished with five rushing touchdowns against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, and Sony Michel and Nick Chubb combined for 326 yards — the most by a duo in a single game. Michel finished with an eye-popping 16.5 yards per carry (181 on 11 carries).

With such opportunistic defenses on both teams, neither offense can afford to give the ball away. Clemson gave up two interceptions against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, including one that was returned for a touchdown. The Alabama defense has forced at least one turnover in 41 of its past 43 games, dating to the start of the 2015 season.

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Sean Allen breaks down fantasy hockey matchup data heading into the week of Jan. 1-7 and reviews players who are impacted by new line combinations in 2018.


The Texans will not face disciplinary action from the NFL for the team’s handling of quarterback Tom Savage’s concussion sustained in Week 14 against the 49ers.

A joint statement released Friday by the NFL and NFL Players Association said further review of the play found that the medical staff followed the protocol but the outcome was unacceptable and therefore further improvements in the protocol are necessary.

I’ve been blessed to play with one of the best guys, football players, a friend for a long time. We played in a lot of games together, the biggest games. He made one of the biggest plays in Super Bowl history. It’s truly been an honor to call him a friend and a teammate. I’ll miss him. I only had to go against him a few times when he was in Cincinnati. It won’t be the same in here without him, especially since he was the oldest and now I’m the oldest. I count my blessings for all the time I got to share with him.

The Steelers and Patriots each secured a bye through to the divisional round, though New England can clinch homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win over the Jets in its regular season finale Sunday.

After posting a penalty-kill save percentage of .873 with the Calgary Flames last season and .906 with the St. Louis Blues the season prior, Elliott sits at .831 with the Flyers this season. While we could take a similar approach as we did with Talbot and guess that Elliott is due for an improvement, there’s an interesting underlying tidbit here. Among goaltenders with at least 30 starts during the past two seasons, Steve Mason’s .837 penalty-kill save percentage was the worst in the league. The players and coaching in front of Elliott remain very similar to those who were in front of Mason for both of those seasons. While luck plays a big role in how penalty-kill save percentage seems to work, it doesn’t account for all of the results. It certainly looks like the Flyers’ goaltender might be at a disadvantage when it comes to a bounce-back in the save percentage department.

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The question is whether he can keep that pace.


DRC came in yesterday, we had a conversation that was personal upstairs, McAdoo told reporters. He came in today, decided to leave. We will suspend him. McAdoo refused to answer any questions beyond that.

But on the Sunday Night Football broadcast, Al Michaels said that McAdoo told the NBC crew that four different incidents led to the suspension.

According to SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano, McAdoo told Rodgers-Cromartie? on Tuesday that he wouldn’t play Sunday night against the Denver Broncos. Rodgers-Cromartie left before team meetings on Wednesday, which led to the suspension.

So far, 2017’s stats are a stark outlier compared to the numbers of a quarterback once counted among the game’s most conservative. Smith is on track to post career highs in every major statistical category and that seems unsustainable.

One factor that could keep him rolling is the play of Hunt, a third-round pick who may wind up being 2017’s biggest draft steal. The rookie tailback is on pace for a 2,000-yard season and averaging 7.4 yards per carry. While his impact will decline as defenses find new ways to stop him, his breakaway speed and ability to find creases give the Chiefs a third home run playmaker alongside Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.

I’m talking feet off the ground, knocked three yards back blasted the fuck out of him. Pugh having been attracted by Bosa’s approach was still trying to block him as Bosa and Flowers went tumbling to the ground.

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49ers release NaVorro Bowman after brief hunt for a trade partner


NaVorro Bowman’s time with the San Francisco 49ers is over after he was released by the team on Friday, the team announced at a press conference.

NaVorro gave his heart and soul to this team for the last eight years, and for that we are all extremely grateful, 49ers general manager John Lynch said in a statement. During that time, NaVorro was a key component of one of the best teams in the league and his passion for the game allowed him to quickly become a favorite of our faithful fans.

In a sense, Next Man Up is an essential and ordinary part of the lexicon. In a sport with so many injuries, a coach has no choice but to rely on a cut-rate, impersonal slogan to motivate and distract. While he’s telling his players to step up, team personnel are scanning the waiver wire, pulling up reports on practice-squad players and making calls on trades. It’s impossible to ignore statistics like this one: In 2015, NFL players missed 1,639 games — almost 100 per week — because of injury. Those three words — Next Man Up — have become such a vital part of the culture that many players hear it with the same anesthetized indifference.

Even when we watch other games, it gets lost, Vikings safety Harrison Smith says. We react the same way. There’s a human part of it that gets lost.

But sometimes an event changes all that. Whether through proximity or sheer gruesomeness, the collective pain of a group of men rises up to relegate Next Man Up to a heartless clich.

It was very surreal, Boone says of Bridgewater’s injury. Sometimes you forget how brutal this game can be.

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When the guards are playing well and making shots, it makes it easy on me and DeMarcus down low.


Memphis, which trailed early, carried a 54-52 lead into halftime and extended the advantage to 79-70 entering the fourth. The Pelicans only got the deficit to single digits once in the fourth.

We got real stagnant, and we started forcing the issue, Cousins said. We didn’t make the defense work. We started to settle for the initial drive. They are very fixable issues.

The Pelicans relied on 33 points and 18 rebounds from Anthony Davis, while DeMarcus Cousins finished with 28 points and 10 boards. But the frontcourt pair got little help as the Pelicans shot 38 percent. Starting guards Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore were a combined 7 of 22 from the field, including missing all five of their shots outside the arc.

His replacement, third-year pro Brett Hundley, believes he can continue what the two-time NFL MVP started. His first start comes Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. The Packers enter that game in a first-place tie with the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North at 4-2, and Hundley intends to keep them there.

I’ve been doing this my whole life, Hundley said. Aaron’s a Hall of Famer, and I want to be a Hall of Famer one day. I will lead this team. We’re all going to have fun, we’re all going to go out there and play football. It’s still football at the end of the day, and our goals are still in front of us.

Hundley spoke in front of his locker — one stall down from where Rodgers usually holds court with the media on Wednesdays — and admitted it was a different feeling for him. Rodgers was nowhere to be seen by the media, but Hundley said his mentor has been helping him even while trying to figure out when he’ll undergo surgery to repair the broken right collarbone he suffered in Sunday’s loss at Minnesota.

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Could it be someone else under center for a stretch of these games besides Hundley?


While McCarthy suggested otherwise on Sunday, it’s possible. The UCLA product took a brutal hit on his final interception, and there’s always a concern inexperienced quarterbacks will struggle to deal with NFL pass pressure and take hits that knock them out of games solely from sheer inexperience. (See: Garoppolo, Jimmy.) Part of the concern in losing a starting quarterback isn’t just that you go from No. 1 on the depth chart to No. 2; it’s that you may quickly end up going from No. 1 to No. 3.

Get past the joke candidates. Brett Favre is 48 and wasn’t any good the last time he suited up seven seasons ago. Romo is 37 and hasn’t thrown a pass in nearly a year. The Packers reacquired Flynn and inserted him into the lineup as a stopgap measure in 2013, but he hasn’t taken an NFL snap since 2014 nor been on a roster since 2015. He’s the most plausible of the totally implausible candidates.

That play might have sparked something in his teammates. The next drive ended in the Texans’ first score of the night, a perfect ball to DeAndre Hopkins in the back of the end zone.

Even with the game out of reach, Watson still hit DeAndre Hopkins for a 34-yard score and another 1-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Watson threw five touchdowns when it was all said and done.

The Giants started 0-6 in 2013 before rallying to a 7-9 record. The Chargers haven’t had an 0-4 start since 2003, when another loss extended the record to 0-5. They finished with a 4-12 record.

For Rivers and Manning, the end looks near. There are a few older quarterbacks — Tom Brady, Carson Palmer and Drew Brees — but the time is ripe for both the Giants and Chargers to look for a replacement in 2018.

Ultimately, Sunday has little impact on the legacy of either player, but for Manning, a loss could leave a weird footnote on the trade that began his NFL career.

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he didn’t get to see the ceremony honoring Manning


All signs point to a high-scoring affair, which would spice up an unbalanced string of Thursday night games. Week 3’s back-and-forth fireworks between the Rams and 49ers stand as an unexpected high point in a lineup that’s also included Texans-Bengals and Packers-Bears snoozers. With two high-powered offenses set to face off, NFL fans will have to hope Week 5’s game can recapture the magic of San Cheap Donegal Gaa Jerseys Francisco-Los Angeles.

But he didn’t get to see the ceremony honoring Manning. He left just after the national anthem. And when he did, he sent a tweet saying that he would “not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem” after players from the Colts locked arms during the anthem and 23 players from the visiting 49ers took a knee. In the process, he ensured he would overshadow everything else that happened on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Pence’s decision to leave snagged the spotlight. He became a distraction, and it looks like he planned it ahead of time.

Whatever their political affiliation, whatever the occasion, it’s a big deal when the vice president makes a stop somewhere other than the usual spots inside the halls of power in D.C.

It takes days of preparation for a VIP visit like this. Local governments and the U.S. secret service spend lots of time and money so an event like this can host the vice president, and even more if it’s the president.

Game day security at NFL stadiums is already pretty tight. Fans go through a strict screening process that got tighter in 2013 when the league implemented a clear bag policy. Security was so Cheap Custom Jerseys tight at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday because of Pence’s visit that it caused additional delays.

Bears’ Trubisky will be in crosshairs of Panthers’ Peppers


Chicago Bears coach John Fox knows exactly how tough it is for offensive linemen to block Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers.

Apparently leading the NFL in yards per carry through a sizable sample of games is beginning to earn Collins more trust from the Baltimore staff. Early-season ball security issues slowed his ascent, but Collins led the team in rushes in Week 6 and has averaged 73.25 yards from scrimmage on just 11.25 touches per game in the past four outings. The Vikings claim an undeniably stout front seven, but given the landscape’s eroded and shallow running back market, Collins’ elite per-touch efficiency merits interest as a flex play with notable upside. — McCormick

The Chiefs remain undefeated. They’re the only team in the NFL that has yet to lose this season.

Here are the biggest winners and losers from the Chiefs’ big win over the Texans.

Bennett and several other Seattle defensive linemen sat before the team’s game in Week 4, then all the Seahawks stood the following week, which defensive end Frank Clark said was in honor of the victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting.

They’re trying to bring awareness to issues that people who look like me don’t understand. And I hope people will give the owners the benefit of the doubt that it takes time to get up to speed on these issues. We aren’t there yet, but we are getting there.

Are you ready for a fantastic Thursday Night Football matchup? I know I am, and we get a treat this week — the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles, 4-1, at the NFC South-leading Carolina Panthers, 4-1.

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