It seems inconceivable that any defense can stop Brady if he decides he’s not going to be stopped.

Just hours before Super Bowl 52, rumors started to swirl that both Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick could retire after Sunday’s game in a somewhat odd report form ESPN.

The speculation started during ESPN’s “NFL Countdown” and according to Dianna Russini, “many in the league have been hearing” the Super Bowl could be final games for the coach and quarterback duo. She added, “Both could be hanging it up. Post game could be incredible tonight if this becomes truth.”

David Steele: The Jaguars, ranked at or near the top of every regular-season defensive category, couldn’t keep it up when it counted in the AFC championship game; neither could the Falcons in last year’s Super Bowl.

Yet this Eagles defense, fresh off of a lockdown of the Vikings in the NFC title game, has what it takes to finish the job. More important, the Eagles offense, Nick Foles and all, can handle the hard work of keeping Brady off the field, exploiting the Patriots’ defense, holding and maintaining a lead, and keeping a foot on the Patriots’ throats. The Patriots are historically great, but they’re not infallible, and this will be proof. Eagles 26, Patriots 24.

But the Pats didn’t get to their third Super Bowl in four seasons by luck, and they’ll utilize their strengths: a defense that has 11 postseason sacks, four more than second-place Jacksonville, and Brady, who has an NFL-leading five touchdowns this postseason. The Eagles may jump out to a lead, but pressure from the Patriots and another terrific performance from Brady gives New England yet another Lombardi Trophy. Patriots 28, Eagles 24.

Bill Bender: If the Eagles can get off the field on third down, then they’ll have a chance. Philadelphia had the third best third-down defense in the NFL this season, and it allowed just 10 of 26 conversions in two playoff games. But this is Brady.

Look for the Patriots to come out aggressive this time and build a lead to put the pressure on Foles. It could be just as tight as the last time these teams met in the Super Bowl, but it will come with an almost identical result. Patriots 30, Eagles 24.bills_036

The season-opening loss by Bill Belichick’s Patriots leaves room to wonder which team is the NFL’s best

The defense was very good against the Bengals. It’s exactly what the Ravens envisioned when they spoke during the preseason about their infusion of young pass rushers and the depth and experience in their secondary. The running game was productive in Cincinnati but more will be needed at some point from QB Joe Flacco and the passing game.

So much so that Kizer should be the regular-season starter. Partly because he’s been the Browns’ best passer throughout the preseason, partly because the organization needs to know whether Kizer is the long-term solution at the position. And if he’s not, the team can turns its efforts to (again) finding its next franchise quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft, which could be one of the best classes to come along in a decade.

In simple terms: As long as a franchise is without its franchise quarterback, losing will become commonplace. Neither Osweiler nor Cody Kessler changes that in 2017, though Kizer might in the years to come.

Murray has already been ruled out, so Henry will get a chance to take it to the Patriots’ weak run defense. If the Titans have any hope of upsetting the Patriots, they need Henry to experience a productive outing so that they can use lengthy drives to keep Brady away from the football.

The Eagles are (historic) underdogs against the Falcons, even though they’re the top seed and they’re playing at home. They’re underdogs because Carson Wentz is out for the season with a torn ACL and as a result, their starting quarterback is Nick Foles. As a consequence of their quarterback change, Eagles WR1 Alshon Jeffery has disappeared.

In three games without Wentz, Jeffery caught five passes for 57 yards and one touchdown. Against the Falcons, the Eagles need to do a better job of getting their top receiver involved in the offense. Jeffery has always been the kind of receiver who doesn’t need to gain separation to be considered open. Foles just needs to give him a chance to come down with some contested catches, because it’s something Jeffery excels at.

A concussion prevented Freeman from practicing Thursday and he is reportedly not going to play in Week 11.

“It’s in Trae’s hands to make a read and decision and create,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “We did that all night, really. He made a good play to find Christian and Christian jumped in there and knocked it down. Brady did the same thing on the next possession. Two big shots.”

Matt Forte, RB, Jets: New York’s backfield situation has been frustrating for Forte owners as well as for those who own Bilal Powell. Each has had good performances and seemingly has grabbed the No. 1 role for the Jets, only to be hit with injuries in subsequent weeks. In Forte’s case, it appears his knee injury is serious. New York is on a bye this weekend, but once Week 12 rolls around, Powell likely takes on the bulk of the backfield duties.

Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots: Hogan continues to be sidelined by a shoulder injury and is looking like he will miss another week. While it’s bad news for Hogan owners, Danny Amendola and Rex Burkhead owners should rejoice as both players should see a good amount of targets.

So far, Mississippi State has been outstanding. Vivians led the way Sunday with 24 points and nine rebounds as No. 3 Mississippi State won 71-52 at No. 6 Tennessee.

The Bulldogs are 20-0 overall and 6-0 in the SEC. They are now just one of two remaining unbeaten teams nationally, along with No. 1 UConn, after No. 2 Louisville fell 50-49 to No. 12 Florida State on Sunday. The Bulldogs are sure to move another notch up the rankings when the Associated Press poll comes out Monday.

Mississippi State has never won an SEC regular-season or tournament title in women’s basketball, but this season the Bulldogs could win both. Of course, there are still several big games ahead, including with Mississippi State’s nemesis, South Carolina, which has beaten the Bulldogs 11 consecutive times, including in last season’s NCAA final and SEC tournament title game, plus the regular-season matchup.

The Chiefs should’ve let Derrick Henry score to have a chance at overtime

Titans running back Derrick Henry converted an enormous first down on third-and-10 as Tennessee was trying to run the clock out with a bit under two minutes left. The Chiefs tackled him. Huge mistake.

There are so many small things. The crucifix around Fitzpatrick’s neck is always centered. As he traveled the South to pick up individual honors this month—among others, he won the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the nation’s best defensive player—he had the Alabama staff call ahead to make sure the hotel spas could accommodate treatments for his sore left hamstring. When he took photos with each trophy, he adjusted his hands so as not to cover the plaque’s face. He corrects his mother when she mixes up there and their in texts. He follows his siblings and two-year-old nephew around his dorm when they visit, straightening up whatever they knock over.

Twice in the first half, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan lobbed a pass into coverage that could’ve been intercepted by the Eagles if not for Jones making a pass breakup.

“Be your own man,” Aron implored his son. “Never be a follower.” And Stefon would define himself by those words—even more than by his ability to change direction at top speed or execute ankle-breaking stutter-steps. At Good Counsel (Md.) High he ran a small business selling custom jeans, splattered with colorful paint and snipped up with scissors. Today he drives a silver Jeep with a football-sized Jurassic Park decal slapped across the driver’s side door, and throughout this season he wore cleats designed to honor Eminem, Kobe Bryant and SpongeBob SquarePants. In warmups he’s prone to skip around the sideline in skintight short-shorts, playing catch with children in the stands.

But this wasn’t any normal interception by Myles Jack. He looked like a wide receiver by looking the football in and making sure he got his feet in bounds:

The last time these two teams played, Roethlisberger threw five interceptions. On Pittsburgh’s second drive Sunday, he’s got one more.patriots_112_8a74ff4bcdd79766-180x180

The Falcons and Rams are slipping and sliding on the terrible field at The Coliseum

The Falcons and Rams are slipping all over the place in their Wild Card matchup in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The turf is in bad shape, and it’s looking worse minute by minute.

In the fourth quarter, Ryan was able to keep just enough footing to find Julio Jones for a touchdown to go up 26-13:

A new field was installed at the Coliseum after the college season wrapped up. Cris Collinsworth said on the broadcast that when a new field is put in, and with the humidity in the air, players’ cleats just can’t get any traction.

Demetrius Harris will be getting more time as Kelce is evaluated, and played in 16 games this season. He had 18 receptions for 224 yards and a touchdown on the season.

Fast forward to June, though, and Durant delivered proof that he and the Warriors could meet in the middle. Golden State torched through the playoffs with its beautiful ball movement, as Durant and Stephen Curry formed a devastating one-two punch that opponents never solved. Ironically, though, the most memorable play of a five-game Finals victory over Cleveland was all Durant. Down two with less than a minute to play in Game 3, the four-time scoring champ claimed a defensive rebound and pushed the ball up the court by himself, hunting for a shot. With LeBron James back on his heels inside the three-point line, Durant stepped into a pull-up three from the left wing. The cold-blooded shot swished through, silencing the crowd and sending Golden State to a commanding 3-0 series lead. In the immediate aftermath, no one questioned his shot selection, and surely Green was “thrilled” with the win.

Durant’s three-pointer delivered validation in many forms. It proved that he hadn’t messed up the Warriors’ mojo. It proved that the so-called “Mr. Unreliable” could come through in the clutch. It proved that his decision to leave Oklahoma City would end with his first title, an achievement most observers expected (or demanded). And it proved that he could triumph head-to-head over James, whom he had spent most of the last decade chasing. The shot also begged a question that will define the NBA in 2018 and beyond: When will Durant surpass James as the sport’s top talent?

One of the top high school prospects in the country, Rosen committed to UCLA and started right away as a true freshman. He mostly lived up to the hype in his first year, making the Freshman All-American team and leading the Bruins to an 8-5 record.patriots_013_88452582c1c23a0c-180x180

Bills send Bengals a special gift for helping them make the playoffs

They’re feeling pretty good in Buffalo right now after the Bills clinched their first playoff appearance since 1999.

But the Bills’ 22-16 win over the Dolphins in Miami wasn’t enough alone to break the drought. Buffalo also needed the Bengals to defeat the Ravens, and that situation appeared dire until Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd hauled in a 49-yard touchdown pass in the final minute to sink the Ravens, 31-27.

Arians was the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 2012 after he led the Colts to an 11-5 record and an AFC South title in Pagano’s absence. The Cardinals hired Arians a season later and he was again the league’s Coach of the Year in 2014 when he took the Cardinals to the playoffs. The Cardinals won the NFC West and advanced to the NFC championship game a season later, but have missed the postseason the last two years while plagued by injuries.

Arians developed a reputation as a quarterback guru, helping players like Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer post career highs. While Palmer was among Cardinals players injured the last two seasons, Arians has also battled health issues that led to Monday’s retirement.

The Trail Blazers are actually the fourth-most efficient defense in the league and the sixth-best transition defense, so even if we get a full effort from James, there’s no guarantee that he’ll pay off his hefty price tag. Yes, Portland is on the second night of a back-to-back, but I don’t think they will have a problem getting up for this game, especially considering that they don’t play again until Friday. Besides, I prefer to build a well-rounded lineup tonight, as opposed to a “stars and scrubs” approach.

The most painful is probably on the inner wrist when you block and expose your wrists.One connection that Shipley has to the Ravens is that the Ravens Run Game Coordinator Juan Castillo was the Eagles offensive line coach 2010 when Shipley was with them.I feel like if you’re not growing, what are you doing?They’re from Entertainment Tonight, and they’ve come to Alzado.Memorial visitation Saturday, 2 until 4 p.m.But he has it now, and he has to adjust and be courageous and make it happen.This Crabbe’s first D-League assignment of the .is alleged to have conspired with and even paid to recruit for Impact Sports and White.He has a career-high .571 effective field goal percentage and his 1 nERD ranks him 46th among all players.I don’t feel any different.astros_037

Payton noted his frustration with the officiating in the game, which the Falcons won 20-17.

When you see the Giants benching Eli Manning, how cutthroat and ruthless is the business side of the NFL?

But now it is done, easing the tension that was expected at this week’s meeting in Irving. Many ownership and league sources say they now suspect that Jones and other owners will push for significant staffing changes among the league’s executive vice presidents and for changes to how Goodell handles player disciplinary matters.

But with the contract done, the only question, as an owner told ESPN, is when Jones speaks during the one-per-club meeting on Wednesday, “Will he be entertaining, or will he fall flat?”

The Saints coach charged out on the field and angrily gestured and yelled at an official who had not seen him signaling for a timeout.

“I called a timeout, and then he asked me again, and I said I have already called a timeout,” Payton said after the game. “I probably said it with a little more vigor than I was supposed to but I had enough. I have to be smarter than that.”

The Saints were flagged 11 times for 87 yards, while the Falcons were penalized four times for 35 yards.

“It was just one of those games. I have never seen anything like it,” Payton said. “I have never been a part of a game like that and it is frustrating but our guys will bounce back.”royals_088

Fantasy intel for all 32 NFL teams ahead of Week 12

Below are notes covering each of the NFL’s 32 teams from a fantasy perspective. Use these tidbits to make the best waiver-wire, trade and lineup decisions for Week 12. Be sure to check back each week of the season for a new version of the Fantasy 32.

Glenn was the seventh overall pick in the 1996 draft by the Patriots after a stellar, yet improbable, career at Ohio State.

Glenn walked on to the team in 1993 and eventually became the nation’s best receiver in 1995 when he won the Fred Biletnikoff Award and was named a consensus first-team All-American.

Regardless of what may have been reported, the Committee is working within the financial parameters outlined to the ownership at the May meeting. The negotiations are progressing and we will keep ownership apprised of the negotiations as they move forward. We do not intend to publicly comment on our discussions.”

“I’m disappointed that things didn’t work out because this is a special organization and a great place to be,” McCoy said. “I want to thank Vance for the opportunity he gave me and the entire organization from Mr. B (majority owner Pat Bowlen) all the way on down.

Here’s what happened: the ball was snapped too high, allowing the defensive line to come crashing in, Cousins caught it, but not wanting to take the hit, he lateraled the ball to his running back who got hit by three players. Video of the play went viral as people kept making fun of Cousins for sacrificing Kelley.

Speaking Monday on a local radio show with Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier, Cousins explained what went into that play. According to the quarterback, Kelley is the one who said he’d be willing to take the hit.nike_bears-402

Saints extend win streak to 8, roar back, 34-31 in OT

The New Orleans Saints extended their winning streak to eight games with an unlikely comeback, erasing a 15-point deficit inside the final six minutes or regulation and kicking a short field goal in overtime to defeat the Washington Redskins 34-31 on Sunday.

The line went quiet. Seconds passed. Goodell’s decision was an unconscionable violation of trust, Jones later told associates, because he believed that the commissioner had assured him this past spring that there would be no suspension. Jones saw in Elliott a genuine opportunity, a player so good that he had made Jones believe that this year he just might win a Super Bowl for the first time since 1996. His anger was palpable. Finally, according to sources with direct knowledge of the call, Jones broke the silence. He aimed his words not only at Goodell’s decision but also at his role as judge, jury and executioner in the case.

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

With Leonard out, fourth-year veteran Kyle Anderson has moved into the starting lineup and is taking advantage of the extra minutes, scoring in double figures on eight occasions in addition to notching three double-doubles.

“We’re not surprised at all,” Popovich said of Anderson’s performance in Leonard’s absence. “He’s just had a hard time getting minutes with Kawhi at that spot. He’s always been a good basketball player. I just haven’t given him the minutes that he’s gotten this year. When Kawhi does come back, I’ve got some figuring out to do, because he should still be on the court somehow or other. He’s really taken advantage of the time, for sure.”

“That’s one of my close friends and teammate, and I got him hit,” Njoku said. “I don’t feel good about it.”