Category: Houston Astros

Both teams were on byes last week, and both know what their tasks are.

If the Steelers are in the proper frame of mind (everybody is happy with each other and their roles), they should run this Colts team out of their own building. Reports are that Martavis Bryant is working with the starters again, which means onewonder how potent the offense could be with Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster. It’s hard to find three worse teams, ever, for the Colts to get their three wins against: Browns, 49ers and Tom Savage-led Texans.

Not to equate the serious charge of domestic violence with player injuries, but the Elliott situation week to week for the Cowboys seems similar to that of a team for which a top player is questionable due to injury but shows up to play Sunday. Except, in this case, Elliott is able to practice while he awaits word on his appeals.

The injury analogy illustrates our situation when I was with the Titans and our star quarterback, Steve McNair, battled back, sternum and leg injuries from 2000 to ’03. He often would be unable to practice during the week but would wind up playing Sunday. The coaching staff, led by Jeff Fisher, came to expect this as the norm, and backup Neil O’Donnell would prepare all week only to see McNair ultimately start.

The Panthers are chasing one of the NFL’s hottest teams in the Saints, in their division. The Jets are somehow on the fringe of the playoff hunt but have a brutal finish to their schedule (Chiefs, Saints, Patriots in final five weeks). The Panthers’ defense is going to pin its ears back on Josh McCown; the Jets will do the same to Cam Newton, but to much lesser effect.

That unit wasn’t the problem as the Saints finished with 7-9 records each of the past three years. The defense was among the NFL’s worst in yards and points allowed.

It looked like the same discrepancy might continue in 2017 until the Saints stunned the Panthers with a Week 3 road victory followed by a 20-0 blanking of the Dolphins in London.
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Matthew Berry likes the matchups for Demaryius Thomas and Alshon Jeffery this week. (2:57)

Fantasy football rankings from Matthew Berry, Field Yates, Mike Clay, Eric Karabell and Tristan Cockcroft for Week 8 of the NFL season.

Anyway, here are some more of the unedited questions I got back and my responses.

Eric Karabell (ESPN Senior Writer, Fantasy Hall of Famer): If your child said he or she wanted to follow your footsteps into the fantasy life as writer and personality, what would you say?

Sunday’s game at Raymond James Stadium has developed into the Desperation Bowl with each team urgently searching for positive momentum in the NFC South Division race.

The Panthers (4-3) have dropped two straight games, including Sunday’s punchless 17-3 defeat against the Chicago Bears, to go along with an earlier loss against the first-place New Orleans Saints.

Another Saints’ rookie besides Kamara who has made waves is cornerback Marshon Lattimore, the No. 11 overall draft pick, who has covered well and last week cut down a Green Bay screen before it got started.

“I think he’s a tackler, he competes,” Payton said. “I like his length. I think he can run and mirror.”

The Saints held three players out of practice on Wednesday: receiver Michael Thomas (knee), tackle Terron Armstead (shoulder) and guard Larry Warford (abdomen). Warford is expected to miss Sunday’s game.

We’ll be celebrating the celebrations this season by keeping a running list of rankings. At the end of the year we’ll crown a winner.

The way Elliott dismantled the 49ers defense on the ground kept them honest. They had to adjust to try to limit the damage Elliott was doing in the run game. That opened things up for other players, and it helped Dallas control the clock and wear down the 49ers. The Cowboys had the ball for 32:50 of the game.
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Saints’ trade for Jon Dorenbos likely saved his life after heart condition discovery

New Orleans Saints long snapper Jon Dorenbos will have surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm and go on the team’s non-football injury list before he ever played a game with the team.

Dorenbos, 37, began his career with two seasons with the Buffalo Bills before joining the Eagles during the 2006 season. He spent 11 seasons in Philadelphia before he was traded to the Saints in August for a seventh-round pick in 2019.

Watt, 28, is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, but played just three games in 2016 before he was shut down for the year due to back surgery. Prior to leaving against the Jaguars, he had one tackle in the first half against a Jaguars offense that leaned heavily on Leonard Fournette en route to a 19-0 lead at halftime.

What would losing Watt mean to the Texans defense? Without Watt for the majority of 2016, the Texans’ defense was still great. It finished No. 1 in the league in yards allowed and carried a poor offense to a 9-7 record and a trip to the postseason.

But that doesn’t mean the Texans are better without Watt. If he returns to the form of 2015 and prior, he’s one of the best and most dominant defensive linemen in the NFL. Fortunately for the Texans, a finger injury — no matter how severe — isn’t likely to slow down Watt much.
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When the music stops on the 2017 season on Oct. 1, Davis will likely be the slugger caught without a seat.

Chris Smith’s quest for his first Major League win as a starter is over, at least for the 2017 season, barring an unforeseen injury.

Mengden, who went 0-2 with a 10.13 ERA in a pair of starts earlier this season, will take Smith’s spot in the A’s rotation, tossing the second game of the team’s doubleheader with the Houston Astros at the Coliseum Saturday.

“We’re going to start Mengden in the doubleheader in Chris Smith’s place and get a look at him in the starting rotation again, and then (Smith) will go into the bullpen,” Melvin said.

UCF also announced Tuesday that its home football game against Memphis, originally scheduled for Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET, has been rescheduled to Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Both the University of Florida and University of Miami said in statements that they are monitoring the storm in regards to athletic events both schools have scheduled.

The Chargers have also posted their home jersey schedule for 2017. In a development that will have NFL fans giving serious thanks as they reach for the gravy, the schedule calls for the Bolts to wear their powder blue alternates — considered by many the best look in league — on Thanksgiving Day against the Cowboys.raptors_005

These sports photos look like they belong in the renaissance era

Reddit, the ubiquitous web content rating and discussion website (at least that’s how Wikipedia refers to it), is almost impossible to avoid. It can be problematic, sure, but its user base is so large that it’s futile to attempt to define the whole monolith with a single stroke. The subreddits, as the individual forums are called, often exist in a total bubble. Here’s one that might be the best: r/AccidentalRenaissance.

Its premise is simple: collecting modern photographs that are composed in such a way that it reminds you of classic renaissance paintings, like you might see in textbooks or art museums. Here’s the highest voted image on the entire subreddit.

Forever the punchline of the NFL, the Browns may seem like a logical choice after a 1-15 season in 2016. Replacing Robert Griffin III on the roster with Brock Osweiler isn’t particularly inspiring either, but the Browns are a young team that’s acquiring promising pieces in a hurry.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason, but added Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, David Njoku, Kevin Zeitler and J.C. Tretter, among others. They’re not a Super Bowl contender yet, by any means, but the Browns should be better and that’ll likely be enough to get them out of the cellar.

This defense is littered with great playmakers, and with most of them under contract and still in their primes, the Giants are in good shape on that side of the field. They didn’t even do much to address the defense in the offseason — re-signing linebacker Keenan Robinson and drafting tackle Dalvin Tomlinson in the second round ended up being their biggest moves.
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Pelicans’ Jarrett Jack out for 4-6 weeks with torn meniscus

Jarrett Jack managed just two games with the Pelicans.

The veteran point guard was signed by New Orleans after the team traded away a majority of its backcourt to land DeMarcus Cousins before the trade deadline.

New Orleans announced Friday that Jack would be out 4-6 weeks with a torn meniscus, effectively ending his season. Jack was coming back from a torn ACL suffered last year.

Ball makes a move up the board here this time around due to his ability to make the players around him better. Efficiency is the name of the game here. He leads the country averaging 7.7 assists per game and shoots 41 percent from 3-point range and nearly 72 percent from 2-point range.

He’s the driving force behind one of the top offenses in the country, telling me earlier this year that “it’s nothing to pass up a good shot for a great one.” Beyond that, he has a nose for the basketball, as his six rebounds and two steals per game show. There are concerns here defensively and in terms of pure explosive athleticism, but Ball has been one of the best players in all of college basketball as a freshman and projects well to the next level.

The only players who aren’t averaging one 3-point attempt per game for the Celtics this season are Tyler Zeller (0.0), Jordan Mickey (0.1), Demetrius Jackson (0.3) and Amir Johnson (0.8). Furthermore, of the players who are taking at least one 3-pointer per game, all but three are shooting greater than 35 percent from the perimeter: Smart (30.8 percent), Rozier (32.4 percent) and rookie Jaylen Brown (30.4 percent). Even if they aren’t the most accurate of shooters, though, defenses still have to be aware of where they are because they won’t shy away from letting it fly when left open.saints_013-223x223

This is why the team was built this way

iller holds high expectations for Jokic. He knows just how good he can be, because he has played with two brothers who are just like him.

“He has a lot of Marc [Gasol] in him,” Miller said, “because he can go a whole game and dominate it with eight points and 14 rebounds and 12 assists. He can go like Pau [Gasol] and give you 30 and 20. Now that Marc is stretching the floor like that, [Jokic] is also stretching the floor like that. He’s just a special player.”

The Nuggets see in Jokic what Miller does, and they’ve cleared the way for him to grow. They dealt Jusuf Nurkic, who was competing for Jokic’s minutes, to the Trail Blazers in February.

In the past week, with the Celtics down 0-2 to the Bulls despite ranking as the East’s top seed, the spotlight has landed on Boston’s coach, Brad Stevens. His record now stands at a mere 2-10 in three playoff appearances. That has caused a backlash in some corners over his sterling reputation juxtaposed on his paltry postseason winning percentage, the worst among coaches in history with 12 playoff games to their credit.

But, as guys like Wilkens, Sloan and Ramsay can attest, early returns on coaches in relation to the playoffs can be deceiving. That’s happening to Stevens as his team bungles its way through its first-round debacle against Chicago. His playoff record is unsightly, but it is early in his career. He is a better coach than 2-10 would indicate.

“This is why the team was built this way. Our depth has been challenged this year because of injuries, we haven’t been able to get a full dosage of what we can become even with the guys on the floor,” James said.

“But our bench definitely got the game ball tonight. Channing, Shump, D-Will, Kyle, those guys came in and gave us huge minutes.”jets_033

Kings reportedly add George Hill, Zach Randolph

The Kings’ primary goal in free agency was adding some veteran leadership to an impressive young core. Sacramento accomplished that mission Tuesday, reportedly agreeing to deals with George Hill and Zach Randolph.

The Kings’ three-year, $57 million deal with Hill was first reported by The Vertical, and word followed from ESPN minutes later that Randolph had agreed to a two-year, $24 million contract.

Hill, 31, has missed the playoffs only once in his NBA career. He’ll be tasked with showing rookie De’Aaron Fox the ropes in the backcourt even as he comes off a career-best 16.9 points per game in 2016-17.

Randolph, 36, will join his fifth NBA team after spending the last eight seasons with the Grizzlies. He averaged 14.1 points in just 24.5 minutes per game last season.

The Kings had been in the mix for Wizards restricted free agent Otto Porter, but adding Randolph and Hill ends that pursuit.

Gallinari has said Denver is not his “first choice” in free agency, putting them on the same level as other teams. So it sure sounds like he’s available.

“The Rooster” is a terrific all-around offensive player as a shooter, slasher and shot creator. He also gets to the free-throw line (7.1 free-throw attempts per game the last two seasons) and can handle for his size.

However, there is an injury history and lack of athleticism that hurts Gallinari defensively. He would be great in a Rockets-style offense, but you know there are a few red flags when you make an offer to him. (Keep an eye on the Raptors and Clippers, as both teams monitored Gallinari’s availability at the trade deadline.)browns_020

let’s look at the numbers limited by the Super Bowl era.

Beasley also had three sacks of Rams rookie Jared Goff in Week 14. His third sack of the game resulted in a fumble, which Beasley then returned for a touchdown to give the Falcons a 42-0 third-quarter lead.

Beasley lined up wide to the right of the Rams line, then used his speed to get to the edge before powering his way through Rams right tackle Rob Havenstein

That one chance came after the 1998 season, when coach Dan Quinn led the Falcons to a franchise-best 14-2 regular-season record before they lost to the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII. But that team didn’t score 540 points in the regular-season, the seventh most in NFL history, like this team.

In Atlanta’s way has been a slew of successful Super Bowl history, starting with the Seattle Seahawks, who won Super Bowl 48 in 2014, in the NFC divisional round. Then came the Packers in the NFC championship game. Green Bay owns more NFL championships than any other team with 13, including those before the Super Bowl era.

But for the sake of the Falcons playing catch-up with those teams, let’s look at the numbers limited by the Super Bowl era.

“I’m just going to love on them, and that training is less intense. The goal is so lesser. It’s, ‘Hey, let’s make sure we’re drinking water, fluid, and all that stuff.’ Out there, when you’re training for ball, it’s a different animal. So I said, ‘No.'”

Smith, 37, spent his first 13 seasons in Carolina and his final three in Baltimore. He finished his career with 14,731 receiving yards (seventh all-time), 81 receiving touchdowns and 19,180 all-purpose yards (also seventh all-time).

Smith initially said before the 2015 season that it would be his last, but after an Achilles injury in Week 8 cut that season short, he announced in December of 2015 his eventual return for 2016.

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It was an encouraging offseason for the Jaguars.

Marrone isn’t the most exciting hire, but the best thing about him for the Jaguars is that he’s not Gus Bradley. He’s also paired with new executive vice president Tom Coughlin. The three-time Super Bowl winner was the first coach in Jaguars history, and he has returned to help push the team back on track from an executive role.

An offense that redefines itself with a downhill rushing attack could complement an already strong defense that looks primed to be even better in 2017. And not having Bradley on the sideline can only be an encouraging thing at this point.

It was an encouraging offseason for the Jaguars.

But so was last year. And with so much hype derailed in 2016, there aren’t nearly as many ready to jump on the Jacksonville bandwagon again in 2017.

There are so many reasons to believe in the Jaguars now, but I can’t actually buy it. Bortles is still the quarterback and they’re going to have to prove things on the field first before I can trust that anything is different.

I have been rocking back and forth in my chair breathing into a paper bag ever since I saw this music video with Gronk in it, and this is absolutely not a goof. It’s the greatest thing ever.

There is way too much packed into this 3:08 video. We need to slither through this whole dang thing. Hold onto your butts, because this is happening.

The music video opens with a shot of the Vegas skyline before we are shown the interior of a bar. A woman is sitting alone, before Gronk walks in — or walks isn’t the right word. He saunters up.yankees_1179_40942faa042d5251-180x180