The best NHL player at every age

From 18-year-old Jack Hughes with the New Jersey Devils, to 42-year-old Zdeno Chara with the Boston Bruins, and every age in between, we take a look at the best current NHL players at every age. Some names you probably expect, while others may surprise you. See who  made the list. We have them all here! 1 of 24

Age 18: Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils

Hughes, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, is one of four 18-year-olds to play in the NHL this season. He had a slow start to his career, being held without a point in each of his first six games, but he has shown improvement as the season has gone on. The offensive numbers aren’t great (as should be expected for an 18-year-old) but he has posted strong possession numbers and is looking more and more confident with every game.  2 of 24

Age 19: Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes

Svechnikov is blossoming into a superstar for the Hurricanes. He leads the team in goals and total points, and after scoring 20 goals as an 18-year-old is on pace for 35 goals as a 19-year-old. If he is able to maintain that pace, he would be just the fifth different player since 2005-06 to score 35 goals before their age 20 seasons. That list includes only Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine.  3 of 24

Age 20: Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars

Heiskanen was snubbed in the Calder Trophy race a year ago by not even being voted as a finalist. But with the way his career is progressing into Year 2, he might have Norris Trophies waiting for him in his future. He and John Klingberg are going to run the Stars defense for the foreseeable future and be as good as almost any other one-two blue line duo in the league. 

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Age 21: Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks

This is the age where choosing the top player starts to get difficult. Cale Makar was an option here, as were Patrik Laine and Pierre-Luc Dubois. But Pettersson gets the call for the impact he has made in Vancouver. The 2018-19 Rookie of the Year, Pettersson has been a franchise-changing player for the Canucks and has helped speed up their rebuild by giving them a game-breaking talent up front. He has a chance to be an elite goal-scorer, is a tremendous playmaker and a one-man highlight reel every shift.  5 of 24

Age 22: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

McDavid does turn 23 in the middle of January, so he barely makes the cut for this age. McDavid is the single most dominant offensive player in the league and is going to be the odds on favorite to win the scoring title every season as long as he stays reasonably healthy. He and Leon Draisaitl are the two driving forces behind the Oilers offense, and they are the two players carrying the team. The Oilers’ improved record in the standings will help him win the MVP Award he should have won the past couple of years.  6 of 24

Age 23: David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins

He might finally be the player to take the goal-scoring crown away from Alex Ovechkin. After scoring 38 goals in only 66 games a year ago, Pastrnak has come back this season with 25 goals in his first 31 games and has become one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league. His contract ($6.6 million salary cap hit) is going to turn out to be one of the biggest steals in the NHL. 

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Age 24: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

The No. 1 overall pick in 2013, it took MacKinnon a few years to become a superstar but now that he has, he looks completely unstoppable. After scoring 97 and 99 points the past two years, respectively, MacKinnon is on track for even more production this season and drives the best line in the league (alongside Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog) for a young team that is on the verge of greatness.  8 of 24

Age 25: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

He has not played up to his normal standard in the first part of the 2019-20 season, but that does not take away from everything he has already accomplished in his career. He won the 2019 Vezina Trophy (league’s best goalie), was a finalist the year before and has been one of the league’s top goalies since he became the No. 1 starter in Tampa Bay.  9 of 24

Age 26: Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Over the past four years he has been the second-best offensive player in the league behind only Connor McDavid. His 128 points during the 2018-19 season (when he was league MVP and scoring champion) was the highest single season output in nearly two decades and helped the Lightning tie an NHL record with 62 regular-season wins. The only thing his career is missing at this point is a Stanley Cup. 

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Age 27: Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers

He literally just turned 27, and he gets the edge over players like Mark Stone, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Gabriel Landeskog. Couturier is one of the league’s best shutdown centers who also possesses the ability to score 35 goals and 70 points. Put those two things together, and you have one of the best all-around centers in the league at any age.  11 of 24

Age 28: Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers

From the moment Panarin arrived in the NHL, he has been one of the league’s best offensive players. The Rangers signed him as a free agent this past summer to a massive contract, and it might be one of the rare free agent contracts that actually works out as planned. He is good enough to help a rebuilding team stay in playoff contention this season and young enough to still be a part of a contending team in New York in the future.  12 of 24

Age 29: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

It seems crazy to say, but Stamkos might be one of the most underrated players of his era. His production stacks up with the elites (Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin), and he could have been even better at this point had he not missed so many games during his prime years to injury and a lockout. He is still one of the most dangerous goal scorers in the league. 

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Age 30: John Carlson, Washington Capitals

Carlson, who turns 30 in January, has finished in the top five in the Norris Trophy voting in each of the past two seasons, and this might be the year he actually wins it. Midway through December he is still on pace for more than 100 points, something no defenseman has done since the 1991-92 season. He is one of the driving forces behind the Capitals’ great start that has them on track for what could be their fourth Presidents’ Trophy in the past decade.  14 of 24

Age 31: Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins

You hate him when he does not play for your team, but you wish he did play for your team. Marchand is one of the league’s best all-around players, combining elite offensive production, great defensive play and a knack for being the most annoying player in the league to play against. He tends to take the latter part way too far, far too often, especially when you consider how good of a player he actually is. He should not need to resort to such sideshow acts to make an impact.  15 of 24

Age 32: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

His offensive numbers may not be what they were earlier in his career, but he is still an elite scorer and a fierce two-way player. He has already put together a top-10 career in the history of the league and by the time he finishes, he may be in the top five when you put together his individual accomplishments and team success. He might still have another Stanley Cup ahead of him in his career. 

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Age 33: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin had a down year during the 2018-19 season and was determined to come back this season and show that he is still one of the league’s elite players. He has done that and more, as he has helped the Penguins overcome some significant injury issues early in the 2019-20 season to play like a Stanley Cup contending team. His 1.37 points per game average through his first 20 games would be the third-highest mark of his career. He is also closing in on the 400-goal mark for his career.  17 of 24

Age 34: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

He simply does not slow down. Even at age 34 he is on track for yet another 50-goal season and is still within striking distance of Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record. When you consider the era he has played in, it is almost impossible to argue he is not the greatest goal scorer of all time. The only players to ever score 50 goals in a season age 33 or older are Ovechkin, Jaromir Jagr, Bobby Hull and John Bucyk. Buyck is at this point the only one to score 50 goals at age 34 or older. Ovechkin, on his current pace this season, will join him and probably over the next few seasons as well. 18 of 24

Age 35: Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

Fleury continues to climb the NHL’s all-time wins list and will have a chance to finish his career in the top three by the time he retires. He is still as durable and athletic as ever in the crease, but it still might be in the Golden Knights’ best interest to limit his workload a little bit, as they cannot keep relying on a 35-year-old goalie to play more than 60 games in a season and still be fresh for the playoffs. His best playoff performances during his career have come during seasons in which he has played fewer regular-season games. 

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Age 36: Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames

Giordano remains one of the NHL’s all-time greatest undrafted success stories, and his career hit iys peak a year ago with his first-ever Norris Trophy win. He has not been quite as dominant this season (he is 36; it should be expected that at some point he slows down), but he is still an outstanding No. 1 defenseman for the Flames.   20 of 24

Age 37: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

It is starting to look as if he will never get that Stanley Cup as a member of the New York Rangers, but he has still put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career and been the best, most consistent goalie of his era. He is also still playing at a level that might keep the rebuilding Rangers in contention for a playoff spot and maybe another run for him.  21 of 24

Age 38: Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators

Anderson has put together an outstanding career for himself, playing 17 years in the NHL and appearing in more than 630 games for four different teams (Ottawa Senators, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers). He has performed at a really high level throughout most of those seasons and at times been one of the most productive goalies in the league. He is one of the few bright spots on a rebuilding Senators team that does not give its goalies much help on a nightly basis. He is one of only two 38-year-olds in the NHL this season. The other is his teammate veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey. 

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Age 39: Ryan Miller, Anaheim Ducks

Miller is the only 39-year-old in the league this season, so he gets this one by default. But that should not take away from the reality that he is still a pretty good goalie and helps form one of the best goaltending duos in the league alongside John Gibson. They have to be nearly flawless in net for the Ducks to have a chance to win on most nights, but they do their best to keep the team competitive. It will be interesting to see if he gets moved to a contender in need of some goaltending help before the trade deadline later this season.  23 of 24

Age 40: Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks

Thornton and longtime teammate Patrick Marleau are the two 40-year-olds in the league this season, and they are on the same roster once again after the Sharks re-signed Marleau as a free agent earlier this season. Marleau has the higher goal total so far, but Thornton is the better all-around player and still has the vision and playmaking to make players around him better. He is one of the best passers who has ever stepped on an NHL ice surface.  24 of 24

Age 42: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

Chara is the oldest player in the NHL and is still finding ways to be productive for the Bruins. He is not the dominant player he was during his peak years in the league when he was a constant Norris Trophy contender, but he is still able to play 22 minutes per night for a Stanley Cup contender (a Stanley Cup Finalist a year ago and one of the league’s best teams this season) and make an impact. He already has five goals through his first 31 games and can still make noise defensively. 

By: Adam Gretz

https://www.yardbarker.com/nhl/articles/the_best_nhl_player_at_every_age/s1__30769559#slide_24

Duck’s season: 15 things to know about Steelers cult hero QB Devlin Hodges

The Steelers’ run to an 8-5 record and wild-card playoff contention without Ben Roethlisberger may be the most improbable story of the 2019 season. Even more improbable is who led them to their past three wins: Devlin “Duck” Hodges, who took over for an ineffective Mason Rudolph in Week 12 against Cincinnati.

Hodges is the first undrafted rookie QB to win his first three NFL starts in a non-strike season. The Duck was a four-year starter at Samford, but he was hardly anonymous there -– he won the Walter Payton Award in 2018 as the most outstanding offensive player at the FCS level -– and set the FCS record for career passing yards (14,584). Hodges has thrown for just a touch over 15,000 yards in his collegiate and professional careers, so with that in mind, here are 15 things to know about the Steelers’ cult hero.

What’s in a (nick)name

Hodges earned his “Duck” moniker while at Samford, owing to his skill as a duck caller. He has receipts to back up his reputation, too. Hodges won the 2009 Junior World Duck Calling Contest at age 13 as well as the 2018 Alabama State Duck Calling Championship. Steelers fans have taken to Hodges like a duck … oh, never mind. Yes, many of them have brought their own duck calls into Heinz Field.

He almost played for Brett Favre’s alma mater 

Hodges was not completely unknown when it came to his college recruitment. The self-described “gunslinger” nearly went to the same school, Southern Mississippi, as the NFL’s most famous gunslinger, before changing his commitment to Samford in Birmingham, Alabama. Believe it or not, Alabama, where five-star recruits roam, had off-and-on interest in Hodges.

He shredded the FCS with Samford

Hodges’ numbers in college were eye-popping: As a redshirt freshman, he threw for 2,230 yards and 12 touchdowns in nine games. Then the Duck took flight, throwing for 12,354 yards and 99 touchdowns in his next three seasons. Hodges was named the Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year three times.

His college offense? The Air Raid, of course

Gardner Minshew, now the Jaguars’ starting QB as a rookie, got all the Air Raid hype playing for Mike Leach at Washington State, but Hodges ran the same system at Samford. Hodges’ college coach, Chris Hatcher, was quarterbacks and wide receivers coach under Hal Mumme at Kentucky. Mumme, not Leach, is actually responsible for creating the Air Raid system.

He put up huge numbers on Florida State in 2018

Florida State isn’t what it used to be, but it’s still Florida State, and Samford is still Samford. That didn’t stop Hodges from going into Tallahassee and nearly springing a massive upset. He threw for 475 yards and two touchdowns against the Seminoles, including a 54-yard touchdown on Samford’s first play. His four interceptions were a major factor, though, in Florida State’s 36-26 win.

The NFL had virtually no use for him

Many late-round picks and undrafted free agents have gone on to have solid, and sometimes spectacular, careers (see Brady, Tom, sixth round 2000 NFL Draft). Hodges was so far off the NFL’s radar that the Steelers were the only team to show even marginal interest in him. Hodges impressed enough during rookie camp and training camp for the Steelers to keep him around. But he eventually was cut in favor of Josh Dobbs, Pittsburgh’s fourth-round pick in 2017.

The Jets nearly plucked him away from Pittsburgh

Hodges had a tryout scheduled with the Jets and was en route to the airport when he received a call that the Steelers had traded Dobbs to Jacksonville. They wanted Hodges to join their practice squad. It was fortuitous timing for the Steelers. Had Hodges made it to New York, perhaps the legend of Duck would never gotten off the ground.

He was a major bargain for the Steelers

How off the radar was Hodges? His signing bonus with Pittsburgh was $1,000. That’s about the price of 66 duck leg small plates at the Point Brugge Cafe in the Steel City. Hodges has since earned a contract that will pay him just over $1 million dollars for two seasons, but in a sport where signing bonuses are often eight figures, the Steelers are getting incredible bang for their buck(shot). Arrgh.

He has become fast friends with James Washington

Washington and Hodges have hooked up for several big plays so far this season, with their 79-yard scoring connection in Cincinnati possibly rescuing the Steelers’ season. They’re also hunting pals in their downtime, as Washington has accompanied Hodges on duck hunts. There is an awkward component to this friendship: Washington and Rudolph were college teammates at Oklahoma State but have displayed zero on-field chemistry in the NFL.

Dec 8, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges (6) against the Arizona Cardinals in the second half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

His legs are his secret weapon

Hodges isn’t particularly fast, a reason he probably was so far off the NFL’s radar. But he has proven to be a capable runner. Four of his 18 carries this season have gone for first downs, and he has two scrambles of over 20 yards.

Mike Tomlin wasn’t heaping praise on him … at first

When the Steelers’ head coach was asked about his expectations for Hodges heading into his second career start, against the Browns, he said, “I expect him to not kill us.” Whether Tomlin was really that leery about Hodges potential for disaster, or just playing possum, it was not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Duck’s abilities.

He has a very famous fan

It probably comes as no surprise that a champion duck caller turning the NFL on its ear has caught the attention of a “Duck Dynasty” star. Silas “Uncle Si” Robertson of the former A&E hit took time to give Hodges a shout-out recently. “Hey, I used to be a Saints fan, but look, I heard the good news. The Steelers have got a duck for a quarterback. Go get em’ Duck!” he posted on Tweeter, er, Twitter.

He won over his teammates by torching them in training camp

Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree, among other Black and Gold defenders, was effusive in his praise of Hodges before his most recent victories, telling stories of Hodges strafing the first-team defense in training camp, and chirping –- OK, maybe quacking –- at them. Steelers players, in fact, praised Hodges’ abilities before his first start, way back in Week 6 against the Chargers.

He almost knocked off the Ravens

Baltimore could easily be a game worse and the Steelers still angling for an AFC North title thanks to Duck’s work in relief of a concussed Rudolph in Week 5. Hodges led the Steelers to a touchdown on his first NFL drive, hitting two passes for 27 yards. In overtime, Hodges had the Steelers driving and perhaps 20 yards away from a winning field goal, but JuJu Smith-Schuster fumbled away their chance at victory. Overall, the Duck’s stats are impressive:  71.3 completion percentage, 682 yards passing and a 117.2 passer rating (league average is 91.2).

What he lacks in measurables, he makes up for in moxie

Here’s what Yardbarker’s Matt Williamson, a former NFL scout, told me about Hodges: “He’s not very gifted, especially as a thrower, but he is confident and believes in himself.” And how is he different from the man he replaced? “He’s making throws that Rudolph wasn’t pulling the trigger on against single coverage and hasn’t killed the team … yet.”

Perhaps Duck is not all he’s quacked up to be.

Stop! Make it stop!

By: Chris Mueller

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/ducks_season_15_things_to_know_about_steelers_cult_hero_qb_devlin_hodges/s1_13132_30776360

The biggest sports turkeys of 2019

Every Thanksgiving, most of us eat turkey. However, there’s another kind of turkey out there. In this, being a turkey is equivalent to being a goat. Not the “GOAT” but the opposite. These are the folks in the world of sports who were turkeys for one reason or another. Some of them had high points too. You can still be a turkey in a moment and then just hope to redeem yourself. 1 of 25

Antonio Brown

Brown is, without a doubt, the biggest turkey of the calendar year 2019. Frankly, if you consider the serious allegations levied against him, the word “turkey” isn’t strong enough. For starters, he got himself booted by the Raiders, who had traded for him this offseason, with various antics. This includes threatening to retire if he couldn’t keep using his old helmet. Then he signed with the Patriots and played one game. After the allegations came to light, Brown got cut by the Pats, and since then he’s alternately yelled at the NFL and threatened to retire or walk that back and say he still wants to play. We’re honestly sick of Brown at this point and would prefer if we have, in fact, seen the last of him. 2 of 25

The Houston Astros front office

The Astros were on their way to the World Series, and things should have been great for them. Then, Brandon Taubman opened his mouth. He found a group of female reporters and aggressively yelled in their direction  about how glad he was the Astros had acquired Roberto Osuna, a pitcher who has been suspended for domestic violence. When Stephanie Apstein reported on what she had seen happen, the Astros accused her of making up the story. Dozens of witnesses came out to support her, eventually requiring the Astros to fire Taubman and admit the heinousness of their actions. 3 of 25

Oakland A’s

The Athletics were taking a big risk when they drafted Kyler Murray ninth overall in the 2018 MLB Draft. Given his college football career, he was a raw baseball player, but they couldn’t have seen where things were going to end up. Murray excelled with the Oklahoma Sooners and won the Heisman. Suddenly the NFL was a real option, and Murray decided to eschew the A’s to enter the NFL Draft. It paid off for him, as he was drafted first overall. The Athletics? They lost a top-10 pick for nothing.

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Josh Rosen

Speaking of Murray, he played into Rosen’s year as a turkey. Stuck behind a terrible offensive line in Arizona in 2018, the first-round quarterback struggled mightily. Still, the Cardinals would give him time, right? Not so much. Arizona drafted Murray and then traded Rosen to the Dolphins…who are the worst team in the NFL. He struggled once again behind a terrible offensive line and found himself benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick. 5 of 25

Anthony Davis

Davis was clearly not happy in New Orleans, and he was looking for the quickest way out possible. He basically shut himself down to avoid getting injured playing for the Pelicans while waiting for a trade. Davis also memorably wore a shirt that said, “That’s all, folks!” to the arena and then claimed he hadn’t chosen the shirt and it wasn’t meant as a message to New Orleans. Now Davis is a Laker, so nobody really believes that. 6 of 25

Chris Davis

Davis once hit 50 homers in a season. It’s good to remember that at a time like this, as we watch his career spiral down the tubes. On the year, the former slugger hit .179, a woeful batting average. However, the nadir of his season came early when the Oriole had a 54-at-bat streak in which he didn’t get a single hit. That set a new MLB record.

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NFL referees

There are a lot of ways we could go with this. Let’s start with that Saints-Rams NFC championship game. You remember the inexplicable non-call for pass interference that may have helped the Rams go to the Super Bowl. This decision was so reviled that the NFL made pass interference a reviewable call this season. However, refs are EXTREMELY reluctant to change any of their calls on possible pass interference penalties. Challenging pass interference has basically become a desperate act thanks to the referees. 8 of 25

The Rams offense in the Super Bowl

Sean McVay turned the Rams into an offensive juggernaut in the 2018 season. He basically turned Jared Goff’s career around and got Los Angeles to the Super Bowl. There, McVay and company simply couldn’t solve the Patriots defense. Bill Belichick got the better of McVay, as the Rams managed only three points in the entire game and only 260 total yards of offense.  9 of 25

Jay Gruden

Gruden is a turkey, but he’s also a bit of a scapegoat. He was the first head coach fired during the 2019 NFL season, as he was unable to turn Washington around. However, that whole franchise is an annual turkey. From the insistence on keeping its problematic name to the Trent Williams fiasco, Daniel Snyder’s franchise will be a turkey as long as he’s owning it.

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Willie Taggart

Florida State has won titles in the past — not the distant past either, as Taggart’s predecessor in Tallahassee, Jimbo Fisher, won a title. When Fisher left for Texas A&M, Taggart left Oregon after one 7-5 season in Eugene. Taggart’s decision didn’t really work out. The Seminoles missed out on a bowl game in 2018, and this year Taggart was fired in the middle of his second season. 11 of 25

LeBron James

This isn’t about anything LeBron did on the court. Sure, the Lakers missed the playoffs last year, but he’s off to a great start this season. No, it’s about his comments related to Daryl Morey’s Hong Kong tweet that caused a huge controversy in China. James took Morey to task, seemingly mostly to protect his financial interests. It was a bad look for a guy who has positioned himself as a progressive voice of change. Also, he tried to trademark “Taco Tuesday,” which was ridiculous. 12 of 25

New York Knicks

There’s a lot of reason the Knicks team could be considered a turkey. New York was terrible last season and then didn’t win the Zion Williamson sweepstakes. Hey, at least the Knicks had a ton of money for free agency. Would they sign Kevin Durant? Kyrie Irving? Both. The answer was none. New York’s biggest free-agent get was Julius Randle, and the Knicks are still terrible.

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Baker Mayfield

He went from hero to turkey in one season. Mayfield was the first-overall pick last year and gave the Browns hope to finally make the playoffs this year. They added guys like Odell Beckham, and spirits were high in Cleveland. Then they came out of the gate struggling. Mayfield started out particularly poor, and now the Browns could miss the playoffs once again, although he does have them on a three-game win streak. Freddie Kitchens is also a bit of a turkey. 14 of 25

The AAF

Pour one out for another group of people who thought they could create a new football league. At least the AAF didn’t try to challenge the NFL, as it played during the NFL’s offseason. Well, it wanted to. The AAF ran out of money before it could even finish one season, ending the dream almost as quickly as it began. 15 of 25

Cody Parkey

Two words: Double doink. The Bears have a history of kicking issues. Parkey had the role last season, as the Bears headed into the playoffs as the third seed to take on the sixth-seeded Philadelphia Eagles. Chicago was down 16-15 when Parkey stepped up to try a 43-yard field goal as time expired. While the kick was ever-so-slightly blocked, at the moment all we saw was Parkey’s kick hitting the left upright and the crossbar and then bouncing out. The kick was no good, the Bears lost, and the term “double doink” entered our lexicon.

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Maximum Security

Maximum Security won the Kentucky Derby…until he didn’t. The horse finished in first place, but there was controversy. A complaint was lodged by two different jockeys. It was decided that Maximum Security had swerved in a way that kept other horses from running the race properly. Maximum Security was disqualified, and Country House was named the Kentucky Derby winner. 17 of 25

Mike Yeo

Yeo was brought in to be the coach in waiting for the Blues when Ken Hitchcock was head coach. When Hitch got fired, Yeo took over. After missing the playoffs in the 2017-18 season, Yeo got fired 19 games into the 2018-19 season by the Blues. Craig Berube took over as the head man for St. Louis, and all the team did was win its first Stanley Cup in franchise history. 18 of 25

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay had an all-time great regular season in the 2018-19 campaign. The Lightning won the Presidents’ Trophy with 62 wins, making them the third team to ever have that many wins in a season. Nikita Kucherov won the Hart as MVP, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy won the Vezina. Tampa entered the playoffs as the favorite to win it all. Instead, the Lightning flamed out in the first round, getting straight-up swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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Mike Leach

Leach likes to speak his mind. That’s how he earned the reputation as a delightful eccentric with an affinity for pirates. Sometimes, though, Leach should consider saying a bit less, like, say, after Washington State lost to Utah in September. In addition to calling the team “very soft,” he called his players “fat,” “dumb,” and “entitled.” Maybe the millionaire veteran head coach shouldn’t be telling the teenagers and 20-somethings playing for free that they are “entitled,” much less fat and dumb. 20 of 25

David Duval

Duval has had some great days on the PGA tour. He won the 2001 British Open, but the 2019 British Open went much worse for him. On the par-5 seventh hole he posted a 14. That’s right: Duval had a nonuple bogey. He finished that round shooting a 91. Shockingly, he did not end up winning the tournament. 21 of 25

U.S. men’s soccer

The U.S. failing to quality for the 2018 World Cup was a nadir, but the soccer program has not risen above turkey status in 2019. It may have been only a friendly, but the American’s 2-0 loss to Canada was still a shocking disappointment. This was the first time Canada has beaten the United States in men’s soccer in 34 years. These kinds of losses can’t be happening for a team looking to recapture its old glory.

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Deandre Ayton

Ayton didn’t win Rookie of the Year last season after being the first-overall pick by the Suns. He will always have to live down being taken before Luka Doncic. However, Ayton did show promise. Unfortunately, that promise hasn’t been on display in the 2019-20 NBA season. After the season opener,  Ayton was suspended 25 games for a PED violation. 23 of 25

Mark Emmert

As long as Emmert is the Ppesident of the NCAA, he’s going to be a big, giant turkey. He’s been fighting the fight to keep college athletes from getting paid for years. This came to a head in 2019 thanks to California’s new law that will allow athletes to profit off their images and names. Naturally Emmert is against it. He also went as far as to once again trot out the old line that because many college athletes get scholarships they aren’t necessarily “not paid” for the millions of dollars they bring in for revenue. 24 of 25

Trevor Bauer

Bauer has a history of creating controversy, mostly off the field. His political views are often an issue, and he’s not above attacking people, especially women, who criticize him online. However, let’s stick to one particularly goofy and dumb moment from the 2019 MLB season. When Bauer was about to be pulled from a game, he turned toward the outfield and whipped the ball over the fence instead of handing it to his manager, as is tradition. Shockingly, Cleveland had enough of him, and ended up dealing Bauer to Cincinnati.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas

Tennis seems to be the sport for meltdowns. Greek tennis player Tsitsipas had perhaps the meltdown of the year on the tennis court. The eighth seed had some issue with his first-round opponent at the U.S. Open, Andrey Rublev. Tsitsipas lost to his unranked opponent, which is bad enough as is. However, during the match he had plenty to say to chair umpire Damien Dumusois. In particular, he accused the umpire of having an agenda against him, going as far as to say, “You’re French, probably. You’re all weirdos.”

By: Chris Morgan

https://www.yardbarker.com/general_sports/articles/the_biggest_sports_turkeys_of_2019/s1__30637469#slide_1

Carmelo Anthony seemingly calls out Kevin Durant over spurning Knicks

Carmelo Anthony understands all too well the pressures of playing for the New York Knicks, something that became all the more arduous during his tenure as the organization fell into a state of utter and total dysfunction under the watch of owner James Dolan.

Anthony’s experiences of those very circumstances affords him a unique perspective when it comes to the Knicks’ continued downward spiral. This makes his recent comments about how Kevin Durant spurned the team that much more interesting.

Speaking recently to reporters, Anthony seems to suggest Durant does not have the right mentality to play for one of the most storied franchises in NBA history, albeit one that obviously has fallen on extremely hard times.

“I don’t think it surprised me,” Anthony said, per Marc Berman of the New York Post. “We all read Durant’s quotes. We know what he said. Whether you agreed with it or not, people have different perspectives about it. It’s not just ‘the Knicks and we’re going to get somebody,’ and it’s a guarantee. Nowadays players aren’t thinking about that. They want to go into a situation where they can enjoy and have fun and not have to deal with that. You have to deal with it in Brooklyn anyway, but it’s not the same. It’s not the same.”

Anthony’s comments refer to what Durant has had to say about the Knicks when explaining his decision to instead sign with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency.

What Anthony had to say further about the Durant-Knicks situation that is sure to raise eyebrows, though.

“Not everybody can deal with (playing for the Knicks),” Anthony added. “Not even a star, but role players. Not too many people can deal with what comes with that. I don’t want to say pressure, but everything that comes along with wearing the Knicks across the chest.”

Anthony arguably is intimating that Durant lacks the mental toughness to play in the pressure-packed environs of Madison Square Garden as the Knicks’ marquee player. Whether that’s indeed the case or not, it’s possible that Durant may elect to respond, given his history.

By: Jason Rowan

https://www.yardbarker.com/nba/articles/carmelo_anthony_seemingly_calls_out_kevin_durant_over_spurning_knicks/s1_8061_30767870

Troy Aikman doubles down on criticism of Jerry Jones

Dallas Cowboys legend Troy Aikman clearly is not allowing loyalties to the organization temper his comments about Jerry Jones of late, and the FOX broadcaster recently doubled down on previous criticism of the Cowboys owner.

Interestingly, Aikman’s most recent unflattering remarks were inspired by questions concerning whether or not he would ever entertain joining the Cowboys’ front office.

“I doubt it. I think that’s a real long shot,” Aikman said during an interview Tuesday on KCTK/1310 AM “The Ticket” about taking a job with the Cowboys, as transcribed by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I believe it’s unlikely that Jerry will ever bring anybody in that can help this football team in that regard just because he’s been real stubborn and steadfast in that he’s the one in charge. I think, in a lot of ways, until that changes this team is going to have some problems.”

Drama yet again abounds for the Cowboys. Mired in a three-game losing streak that has left the team at 6-7, Jones has been all over the place when it comes to the future of perpetually embattled head coach Jason Garrett.

From providing completely ambiguous comments about the situation to giving a lukewarm vote of confidence to Garrett, Jones appears to have no idea what he’s going to do with his longtime, much-maligned head coach.

Aikman believes Jones’ penchant for spotlight-seeking makes Garrett’s job that much tougher.

“There should be one voice and it should come from the head coach,” Aikman said. “The players should know that. The owner ultimately makes the decisions, we all know that. He’s the one who signs off. But I think there has to be one voice and one person the players answer to.”

Aikman arguably contends correctly that Jones, who of course also serves as Cowboys general manager, would never cede power to another person, which is certainly his prerogative.

That said, what ought to be most troubling to Jones at this point is that even Cowboys legends are starting to get fed up with the manner in which he runs the organization.

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/troy_aikman_doubles_down_on_criticism_of_jerry_jones/s1_8061_30766754

By: Jason Rowan

Every NHL team’s biggest question at the quarter mark

The first quarter of the 2019-20 NHL season is in the books, and we are starting to get an idea of where every team stands, what they need to improve on and what they might be capable of. Here we take a look at every NHL team’s biggest question through the first quarter of the season.  1 of 31

Anaheim Ducks: finding some offense

This is not a playoff team, and it was probably never supposed to be a playoff team this season. But the Ducks still have some major issues when it comes to scoring goals. They were 31st in the league in goals scored a year ago and are only marginally better this season. The core that once made them a contender is older or has moved on, and they need some young players and new faces to step forward.  2 of 31

Arizona Coyotes: Do they have enough scoring?

The Coyotes are off to a great start and have put themselves in a position to get back in the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season when they went on a surprise run to the Western Conference final. They have a solid defense and two outstanding goalies who are helping to drive them there. The big question is whether they can score enough to maintain it. They have a pretty balanced lineup with a lot of different people who can contribute, but they are still lacking a true impact, go-to player up front. Phil Kessel was supposed to be that player, but he has not yet produced at that level.  3 of 31

Boston Bruins: Will David Pastrnak win the goal scoring crown?

Honestly, this team is as solid as it can get, and there really is not a huge weakness to worry about. The top line is amazing, the depth is better than it was at the start of last season, the defense is great and the goaltending duo is as good as it gets in the NHL. Pastrnak is trying to put an end to Alex Ovechkin’s reign at the top of the goal scoring leaderboard and with 25 goals in his first 27 games, it looks like he has a great chance to do it. His current pace of more than 70 goals seems unsustainable, but 50 is absolutely within striking distance and maybe even 60 goals if everything goes right for him. 

4 of 31

Buffalo Sabres: Can they avoid another late season fall?

They have already cooled off after their hot start, and for the second year in a row the Sabres look to be in danger of crushing their fans by wasting an amazing start. Jack Eichel is a legitimate superstar, but the rest of the roster around him is filled with question marks. This team is hanging around but still needs a lot of improvement to end this playoff drought that is closing in on a decade.  5 of 31

Calgary Flames: Can they get Johnny Gaudreau going?

Gaudreau is the foundation of the organization and the most impactful player, but so far this season he has been relatively quiet. Some regression had to be expected for this team, and maybe even some of the individual players, but Gaudreau seemed to be a safe bet to maintain his scoring pace from a year ago. So far it has not happened, and if the Flames are going to make any noise this year he needs to return to that level.  6 of 31

Carolina Hurricanes: Nino Niederreiter

The presence of Niederreiter for a full season was supposed to be one of the big game-changers for the Hurricanes this season. The team itself is fine overall and right on track to be a contender in the Eastern Conference again, but Niederreiter has just three goals and 10 points in his first 28 games this season. If he gets going offensively the way he did at the end of last season, it would make a massive impact for the Hurricanes. 

7 of 31

Chicago Blackhawks: still the defense

The Blackhawks’ attempts to fix their blue line over the summer have failed, and they remain one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Add in the fact they have an aging roster, a coach who might not be the answer and a terrible salary cap situation, and this is one big mess for general manager Stan Bowman — assuming he is the one who gets to try and fix it.  8 of 31

Colorado Avalanche: Is Philipp Grubauer a Stanley Cup goalie?

There are not many questions on this team. When healthy, it might be one of the five best rosters in the NHL with an elite top-line, improved scoring depth and an outstanding young defense. The biggest question might be whether Grubauer is the goalie to take them to a championship. He has not been bad, but if you were looking for a weak link right now it might be here.  9 of 31

Columbus Blue Jackets: goaltending

The free agency exodus has definitely caught up to them, and while they miss the offense of Artemi Panarin, they still have no real long-term solution in goal. Both Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins seem like backup options instead of starters, and there does not seem to be much immediate help coming through the organizational pipeline. 

10 of 31

Dallas Stars: Will Jamie Benn get going?

The scoring depth is still a concern, but the thing that makes the Stars a contender is the play of their top players. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn may face criticism (often times internally), but they have been the best players on the team for years. So far this season their numbers are down a bit, and it is especially true for Benn. Is it just an early slump, or a sign that his career is finally starting to slow down? 11 of 31

Detroit Red Wings: When does Steve Yzerman start making changes?

He had to know this was going to be a huge job when he took it, but it might be even more daunting than Yzerman first realized. So far he has not made many roster moves as Red Wings general manager, but he has some big decisions to make, including the future of head coach Jeff Blashill. The record is not his fault, but at some point you might need a new voice. This team is on track to be historically bad this season.  12 of 31

Edmonton Oilers: Can they sustain this start?

If we are being honest, it still seems unlikely. The offense is completely dependent on Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, which is the same story as in the past three years. The only change so far this year is that the goaltending of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen has masked all of the other many flaws this team still has. 

13 of 31

Florida Panthers: Did they make a mistake signing Sergei Bobrovsky?

It was always going to be a long-term question, but the assumption was that they would at least get a few solid years and some playoff appearances out of Bobrovsky before his career declined. So far, the Panthers have not even been able to get one good year out of him. He has performed poorly, been benched and is owed $10 million per year over the next six seasons.  14 of 31

It was always going to be a long-term question, but the assumption was that they would at least get a few solid years and some playoff appearances out of Bobrovsky before his career declined. So far, the Panthers have not even been able to get one good year out of him. He has performed poorly, been benched and is owed $10 million per year over the next six seasons.  14 of 31

Los Angeles Kings: Do they start the rebuild?

What to do with Ilya Kovalchuk is a big question, but it seems his time with the team is already done. The concern is when the Kings actually start rebuilding this organization. Seriously, it is time. To be blunt, they are not good and even with a strong farm system, their short-term outlook looks rough. The team is going nowhere as currently constructed and is long overdue for a real rebuild that involves the team trading significant pieces to look toward the future. They have been dragging their feet on this for years, and the longer they wait the harder the rebuild will be once they actually start it.  15 of 31

Minnesota Wild: Bruce Boudreau’s status

At this point it seems to be a matter of when, and not if, a coaching change is made. The Wild are headed toward a second straight non-playoff season, they are one of the worst teams in the Western Conference, and first-year general manager Bill Guerin is almost certainly going to want his own coach. Boudreau would get another job quickly if the Wild decide to make a change, which seems inevitable at this point. 

https://www.yardbarker.com/nhl/articles/every_nhl_teams_biggest_question_at_the_quarter_mark/s1__30716708#slide_15

By: Adam Gretz

Four Goliaths in College Football Playoff? Yawn. Let’s expand field.

When the LSU Tigers — one of the four winningest programs in college football over the past two decades — are the closest thing to a Cinderella story in the College Football Playoff, you know something must change.

The change is simple: Give us an eight-team playoff, or even better, a 12-team gauntlet with byes, just like the NFL.

As it stands, after all the drama and suspense of college football’s 12-game regular season. we’re robbed of a truly exciting CFP. Instead, it’ll be like watching billionaires battle for who is richest.

When the matchups were unveiled on Sunday afternoon, it was No. 1 LSU (13-0) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1) and No. 2 Ohio State (13-0) vs. No. 3 Clemson (13-0) . Really it was Goliath vs. Goliath on one side, and Goliath vs. Goliath on the other.

There is not a David among the four, and as a result, little reason to care.

Power 5 commissioners don’t seem to notice. They’re fine making their millions. It’s the fans who lose in the current set-up.

“There’s a lot that’s right about the four-team playoff,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said before Saturday’s title game between Oklahoma and Baylor. “I think one of the things we’ve found is that it’s harder to be on the outside looking in when it was just two teams. We’re halfway through it, and it’s a good time to take a look at it. I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions on it. I think we’ll take a look at what’s right about it and take a look at ways it might be improved.”

Here’s one way to improve it: Expand it.

LSU and Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma have survived a gauntlet to get this far, but now four of the most storied programs of the last two decades once more will duke it out for supremacy without a sniff of surprise. It’s not as if Tigers (X2), Buckeyes and Sooners don’t deserve to be there – they are the best teams in the country, and they have proven so throughout the year. If anything, this is the clearest, cleanest top four in the six-year history of the CFP.

For the casual football fan, though, whose star among them is worth hitching to? Rooting for any of these four teams is like rooting for the bully. It’s madness.

And speaking of Madness, what makes March matter are Cinderellas dressed to their finest, 15s knocking off a 2s that could’ve been 1s. Teams with funky mascots from a state you’ve never heard of, finding the only combination it takes to topple a Tom Izzo or a Tony Bennett. Tiny guards getting hot at just the right time.

Where is Cinderella supposed to go in college football? The Alamo Bowl, where Utah will play? Guess it will find a glass slipper in San Antonio.

There is no upstart here, ready to knock off a favorite.

Is Oklahoma — with a Heisman candidate at quarterback — really an underdog? You feel sorry for Clemson, pitted against the Buckeyes? The No. 3 Tigers are favored over Ohio State!

LSU and Ed Orgeron make for a fun story, but the boys from the Bayou are 200-59 since 2000, with national championships in 2003 and 2007. They haven’t exactly been paupers. Yes, we were spared yet another Alabama-Clemson matchup, but there still has yet to be a true outsider break through the muck.

This is not to say that the also-rans who fell by the wayside got jilted in any way. There are four slots, and the four who made it deserved it.

We, the fans, got jilted.

We were robbed of a chance to see Utah, despite its malfunction in the Pac-12 title game and still one of the best squads in the land, given a shot at one of the big boys. Or what if a Baylor or an Oregon put a run together? Maybe Notre Dame or Alabama gets hot in late December, or could it be Georgia, Wisconsin, Florida or Penn State?

Now we’ll have to settle for four behemoths slugging it out. No suspense, no flair.

Cinderella, enjoy San Antonio.

By: Jon Gold

https://www.yardbarker.com/college_football/articles/four_goliaths_in_college_football_playoff_yawn_lets_expand_field/s1_13132_30750566

Odell Beckham Jr. reportedly wants out of Cleveland

Odell Beckham Jr. has been in the news a lot on Sunday morning. We heard earlier in the day that the Browns wideout has been battling a hernia injury all season and may be headed for offseason surgery, and Jay Glazer of FOX Sports (h/t Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk) later reported that OBJ wants out of Cleveland.

When he was asked about his future with the Browns several days ago, Beckham was non-committal. 

“I couldn’t sit here and tell you whether I’m going to be here, want to be here, don’t want to be here,” he said. “This is exactly where I’m at now and I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else. God has a plan. In the offseason, everything will figure itself out. I feel like I’ve been here before, answering questions about the next team when I’m on a team already. That’s just something I’m going to tune out for right now. Catch me in the offseason and we’ll see what happens.”

But Glazer says Beckham has approached opposing players and coaches before (and even during) games this season and has told them, “come get me.” And considering that Glazer was the one who said the Giants would trade Beckham when everyone within the New York organization was saying they wouldn’t, that carries some weight.

“I don’t see that relationship ending well for [the Browns] after this year,” Glazer said.

Of course, trading Beckham would be a tough pill to swallow for the Browns, who gave up first- and third-round picks in the 2019 draft along with Jabrill Peppers and Kevin Zeitler to acquire the star receiver and Olivier Vernon. The fact that Beckham has had a disappointing year (by his standards, at least) and would have basically forced his way out of two organizations would obviously hurt his trade value.

By: Rory Parks

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/odell_beckham_jr_reportedly_wants_out_of_cleveland/s1_14819_30749009

Report: Yankees have offered Gerrit Cole record $245 million deal

The New York Yankees are ready to go big in their pursuit of free-agent pitcher Gerrit Cole.

According to Bob Klapisch of the New York Times, the Yankees have made a seven-year, $245 million offer to Cole. That would break the record for the highest AAV on a pitcher’s contract, a mark that is currently held by Zack Greinke.

As impressive as the offer is, it’s not a done deal. The Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers are still involved, and could win Cole over with nine- or ten-year offers.

It is no secret that the Yankees have made Cole their primary target of the offseason, and they look like they’ll do anything to beat the competition and land their man. Whether that means adding a couple of extra years if someone else does remains to be seen, but the Yankees want Cole and appear determined to get him at any cost.

To be clear, it’s easy to understand why — Cole posted a 2.50 ERA with 326 strikeouts in 212.1 innings in 2019.

By: Grey papke

https://www.yardbarker.com/mlb/articles/report_yankees_have_offered_gerrit_cole_record_245_million_deal/s1_127_30749783

NFL Week 14 game-by-game analysis, grades

In New Orleans, the 49ers claimed the inside track to the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a wild win. At New England, the Chiefs snapped the Patriots’ 21-game home winning streak. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 14 whip-around: 1 of 17

Yardbarker’s NFL Week 14 game-by-game analysis, grades

In New Orleans, the 49ers claimed the inside track to the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a wild win. Also, the Chiefs snapped the Patriots’ 21-game home winning streak. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 14 whip-around: 2 of 17

SAN FRANCISCO 48, NEW ORLEANS 46

49ERS (11-2): If San Francisco won over most doubters with its performance in defeat against Baltimore in Week 13, it silenced all remaining ones with this win. Surprisingly, it was fueled by the offense and not the defense, which was strafed by Drew Brees. Jimmy Garoppolo threw for four touchdowns, and the 49ers ran for 162 yards on a Saints team that came into the game having allowed the third-fewest rushing yards in the league. Garoppolo’s performance was even more impressive because the Saints had allowed the fifth-fewest net yards per passing attempt in the league through Week 13. The 49ers control their own destiny; if they win out, the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will go through San Francisco. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Falcons (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


SAINTS (10-3): Despite the loss, New Orleans must be thrilled with how its passing attack clicked against the top-ranked DVOA pass defense. Drew Brees was masterful, completing 29 of 40 passes for 349 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions (138.4 passer rating). TE Jared Cook, who entered the game averaging 72.8 yards receiving over his past four games, posted 38- and 26-yard touchdowns on his only two targets. This was a San Francisco defense that owned league-best marks of 5.5 yards per pass attempt allowed and an 11.3% sack rate; the 49ers did not sack Brees and allowed him to average 8.7 yards per attempt. If these teams meet again in the playoffs … whew. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Colts (Mon., Dec. 16)

— Michael Nania 3 of 17

KANSAS CITY 23, NEW ENGLAND 16

CHIEFS (9-4): Kansas City led the NFL with 52 sacks last season, but in the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots, the Dee Ford-Justin Houston group did not sack Tom Brady and hit him just once. The Chiefs overhauled their D-line this offseason, and while Frank Clark and Alex Okafor are well off Ford and Houston’s statistical pace, they produced pressure in a big spot. Clark, Okafor and Chris Jones each dropped Brady, and the Chiefs hit him six times. Clark added a critical tackle for loss – one of the Chiefs’ eight Sunday – on a James White red-zone run, forcing a field goal. Kansas City’s final-play blitz led to Bashaud Breeland’s pass breakup. After midseason struggles induced panic among the Chiefs’ fan base, Kansas City’s defense has strung together back-to-back strong efforts. That’s a key development considering K.C.’s offensive capabilities. With the win, the Chiefs clinched the AFC West.
GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT: vs. Broncos (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


PATRIOTS (10-3): Seventy-two of New England’s 184 passing yards came on trick plays. Bill Belichick’s defensive wizardry has consistently given his offenses high margins for error, but this group fell through that safety net Sunday. Tom Brady’s pass-catching cast is obviously a cut below the norm, but the 42-year-old quarterback cannot be absolved after averaging fewer than five yards per attempt for the third time this season. He’s enjoyed historically great circumstances for most of the Pats’ dynasty – be it elite defenses, offensive lines or the most dominant tight end ever. Does the legend have enough left to produce when his weaponry isn’t optimal? Now 2-3 against winning teams, the Patriots have coasted on the easiest schedule they’ve played in a decade chock full of them. With Bengals and Dolphins games coming soon, they will still likely earn a playoff bye. But this loss provided a sign this operation will be more vulnerable in January than any Pats team since 2009. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: at Bengals (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson

4 of 17

LA RAMS 28, SEATTLE 12

SEAHAWKS (10-3): Until D.K. Metcalf’s 35-yard catch with less than 10 minutes left, the Seahawks didn’t have a play over 20 yards. After opening the game with a field goal, Seattle went scoreless on its next seven offensive possessions, before kicking another field goal midway through the fourth quarter. The Seahawks are only as good as Russell Wilson and the offense on a given day. That’s usually an acceptable recipe, because they entered Week 14 fifth in the league in points per game. RB Rashaad Penny’s knee injury throws some uncertainty into Seattle’s running attack, so Chris Carson might have to shoulder a heavier burden. What Seattle really needs is for Wilson to regain his MVP form. He has four straight games with a passer rating under 100, after opening the season topping that mark in eight of nine. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: at Panthers (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


RAMS (8-5): QB Jared Goff was mostly razor-sharp, and though he threw two interceptions early in the third quarter, it seemed that both were the fault of his wide receivers. Goff excelled when he wasn’t stationary; he was 7-of-7 for 134 yards and a touchdown when throwing from outside the pocket. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. In 2018, Goff earned the highest Pro Football Focus grade of any NFC West quarterback when it came to passing outside the pocket, easily besting Russell Wilson, who finished second. Head coach Sean McVay and Goff are figuring things out, but whether they did so in time remains to be seen. To catch Minnesota for the final wild-card spot, Los Angeles likely must win out. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Cowboys (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 5 of 17

TENNESSEE 42, OAKLAND 21

TITANS (8-5): Reports surfaced before Sunday’s game that Ryan Tannehill and the Titans were in discussions about a contract extension. It’s easy to understand why, as Tannehill has completely changed the trajectory of Tennessee’s season. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he is playing like the league MVP in his seven starts. Tannehill has the highest yards per attempt in the league, at 9.8, and his 118.9 passer rating in the eight games in which he has actually attempted a pass is also tops in the league. Tannehill’s career history suggests that eventually he will regress, but the eye test shows a quarterback who appears to have put it all together, whose success isn’t fluky or unsustainable. If Tannehill’s play continues at this level, Tennessee will have to pony up a huge amount of money on a long-term contract, but considering that the Titans’ current ceiling looks like that of a Super Bowl contender, they’ll be more than happy to do so.GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Texans (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


RAIDERS (6-7): After throwing the football-following world off the scent with a midseason win streak, Oakland’s three consecutive blowout losses restore the expected reality. The Raiders assembled some passable defensive outings and saw growth from select players (namely DE Maxx Crosby). But the franchise will fold up shop in Oakland after deploying below-average defenses in an astounding 17 straight seasons. Ryan Tannehill’s 391-yard showing during a game when the Titans finished 8-for-11 on third downs provided more evidence the Raiders need more help. Oakland’s secondary covered and tackled poorly, with Titans rookie wideout A.J. Brown joining RB Derrick Henry in shrugging off Raider defenders. The Khalil Mack trade gives the Raiders the Bears’ 2020 first- and third-round picks – although Chicago owns Oakland’s second-rounder from that deal. Beyond wide receiver, the Las Vegas-bound team needs reinforcements at cornerback, linebacker and on the defensive line. With his team projected to hold $73 million in 2020 cap space, expect Jon Gruden to land multiple veteran upgrades as well.  GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Jaguars (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 6 of 17

LA CHARGERS 45, JACKSONVILLE 10

CHARGERS (5-8): The Chargers showed a glimmer of what could have been Sunday in Jacksonville. One contributor continues to hover above the rest. Austin Ekeler’s performances will represent the best Bolts memories from this season. The Chargers should initiate extension talks with their explosive passing-down back, who is a restricted free agent-to-be. Ekeler totaled 213 scrimmage yards (17.7 per touch), delivering a career-best 101 on the ground. Eighty-four of Ekeler’s yards came on a tunnel-screen touchdown. He became the second Charger to eclipse 100 yards rushing and receiving in a game, joining not LaDainian Tomlinson but Lionel James. James is one of three backs to amass 1,000 receiving yards in a season. Ekeler leads 2019 backs with 830 and has a chance to reach 1,000. The Chargers can draft a between-the-tackles Melvin Gordon replacement, but the 24-year-old’s low mileage (404 touches in three seasons) makes him a good bet to maintain long-term value. GAME GRADE: A + | NEXT: vs. Vikings (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


JAGUARS (4-9): The Jaguars lost their fifth straight game by at least 17 points. Focusing on any individual player’s performance for Jacksonville is irrelevant. The real story is that Doug Marrone has very likely coached his final game for the Jaguars. The team certainly appears to have quit on him, and with another losing season guaranteed, owner Shad Khan needs to take a hard look at his franchise and decide what he wants it to be. A star-studded defense has imploded, battled with the front office and ultimately turned into a shell of its former self, and while rookie QB Gardner Minshew is a fun story, there are serious quarterback questions to answer. Firing Marrone is an obvious, easy move. Taking a long, honest look at what has ailed this franchise comes next, and that is the hard part. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: at Raiders (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller

7 of 17

BALTIMORE 24, BUFFALO 17

RAVENS (11-2): Baltimore clinched a playoff berth in a difficult environment in Buffalo. But it also potentially exposed an area of concern: TE Mark Andrews left early with a right knee injury for a Ravens team short on quality receivers. Hayden Hurst (3 catches for 73 yards) played well in Andrews’ absence, but Ravens wideouts had a rough time gaining separation against a quality secondary. No one besides Hurst had more than 29 yards receiving. QB Lamar Jackson (145 yards passing and 40 rushing) did just enough. Another positive: With New England’s loss, the Ravens tightened their grip on the No. 1 seed in the AFC. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: vs. Jets (Thurs.)

— Matt Williamson


BILLS (9-4): Buffalo allowed six sacks, managed 209 yards and converted 4 of 18 third- and fourth-down plays. But there was a silver lining: The Bills held the Ravens to a season-low 118 rushing yards. Considering the AFC favorites are on pace to (somehow in 2019) to break the NFL season rushing yardage record, this represents an achievement for any team – let alone a Bills defense that entered 22nd in run-defense DVOA. Lamar Jackson had a season-worst 185 yards, and Baltimore’s multifaceted ground attack averaged 3.6 yards per carry after coming into Sunday at 5.5. The Bills did not score a touchdown until seven minutes remained yet still had an opportunity at a tying score. This margin for error shows more development from Buffalo’s defense, strengthening the Bills’ chances for what would be their first playoff win in 24 years. GAME GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Steelers (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 8 of 17

DENVER 38, HOUSTON 24

BRONCOS (5-8): The bevy of non-Paxton Lynch Broncos quarterbacks between Peyton Manning and Drew Lock enjoyed moments, but Sunday’s game provides a stronger indicator about Denver’s future than productive games from Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, Case Keenum or Joe Flacco. Lock’s 22-for-27, 309-yard, three-touchdown pass showing in Houston gave Denver its best win this season. It marked a major improvement from Lock’s choppy debut in Week 13. Whereas Flacco and Brandon Allen squandered fourth-quarter leads, Lock’s effort built a big enough advantage that it would have taken an NFL-record collapse for the Broncos to lose it. The second-round rookie displayed his blend of arm strength – via the middle-of-the-field laser to TE Noah Fant for Denver’s first touchdown – mobility and patience on well-designed plays. The Broncos entered this game a candidate to use their 2020 first-round pick on a quarterback. Barring a significant Lock regression over the final three games, they can prepare to build around him next season. GAME GRADE: A + | NEXT: at Chiefs (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


TEXANS (8-5): No team had a more embarrassing Week 14 than the Texans, who put their status as AFC South favorites in question. Deshaun Watson threw two interceptions and couldn’t get anything going until the game was out of reach, but Houston’s defense was its real issue. The Texans entered the game 28th in the league in pass defense and played down to that ranking and then some against rookie Drew Lock, who was making just his second NFL start. Lock picked apart Houston’s secondary despite not having much of a running game (90 yards). The game illustrated Houston’s chief vulnerability on defense and was an object lesson in how quickly things can go bad for the Texans if Watson and DeAndre Hopkins don’t deliver spectacular individual performances. A road date with the Titans for control of the AFC South looms, and the Texans can’t be feeling good about themselves. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: at Titans (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 9 of 17

TAMPA BAY 38, INDIANAPOLIS 35

COLTS (6-7): Indianapolis’ playoff hopes are probably cooked because it was unable to dictate the terms of this game. Jameis Winston and the Bucs are accustomed to playing turnover- and point-filled track meets. Colts QB Jacoby Brissett did his best to keep up, and Indy’s defense scored points courtesy of a Darius Leonard interception return, but Indianapolis was gashed by Tampa Bay’s offense for 542 yards, the most it has allowed all season. The Colts couldn’t run the ball, lost badly in the time-of-possession battle and simply ran out of gas. Well, at least kicker Adam Vinatieri, who missed the game with a left knee injury, didn’t blow this one. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: at Saints (Mon., Dec. 16)

— Chris Mueller


BUCS (6-7): It’s not often we give a quarterback kudos when he throws three interceptions, but Jameis Winston was mostly stellar against the Colts’ 14th-ranked DVOA defense. He completed 33 of 45 passes for four touchdowns and 456 yards, 10.1 yards per attempt. Head coach Bruce Arians got everybody in on the party. No Buccaneer hit the 100-yard receiving mark, but nine different players collected at least 19 yards receiving and four different players hauled in touchdowns. Tampa Bay is red-hot, winning four of its past five games and averaging 29.6 points over that stretch. The Bucs’ playoff chances are minuscule, but they are building a foundation for 2020. GAME GRADE: B+  | NEXT: at Lions (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

10 of 17

PITTSBURGH 23, ARIZONA 17

STEELERS (8-5): In what was quasi-home game for the Steelers in Arizona, Devlin “Duck” Hodges threw for only 152 yards, but he was efficient. The star of this game, however, was rookie Diontae Johnson, a third-round pick out of Toledo. He scored Pittsburgh’s first touchdown on a dynamic, 85-yard punt return. In the third quarter, Johnson again showed off his vision and explosion with the ball in his hands on a screen play in which he reversed fields and made something out of nothing. A few plays later, Johnson scored his second touchdown with a crisp, two-yard out route for a TD. He has great body control and the ability to explode out of his sharp breaks. But Johnson’s sharp route running is where he really thrives. Wow, the Steelers can find receivers. GAME GRADE: B +  | NEXT: vs. Bills (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


CARDINALS (3-9-1): Kyler Murray saw an unfortunate but predictable trend continue against the Steelers: Against the league’s better defenses, he usually struggles. Murray has two strong games against San Francisco on his resume, but against Pittsburgh, Baltimore and the Saints, he has been unable to make big plays with regularity. Part of that is a reflection of the Cardinals’ overall lack of talent, but some of it is on Murray. Pittsburgh harassed him all game, sacking him five times and intercepting three passes. Murray has five interceptions in his past four games, after going five straight contests without a turnover. Taking more chances is good for Murray in the long run, but as the Cardinals proved yet again, their road back to contention will be long and arduous and will require a major roster overhaul. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: vs. Browns (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 11 of 17

ATLANTA 40, CAROLINA 20

PANTHERS (5-8): It’s like clockwork. Week after week, opponents shred the Panthers on the ground with ease. The Falcons, who entered Week 14 ranked 27th in rush offense DVOA, ran 32 times for 159 yards (5.0 per attempt) and two touchdowns on Carolina’s abysmal run defense. The Panthers have allowed league-worst marks of 5.3 yards per rush attempt and 24 rushing touchdowns. Significant resources must be invested in the defense in the offseason. With better run defense, the Panthers would have two or three more wins, despite their problems at quarterback. Carolina Kyle Allen again was poor (28-for-41, 293 yards, two interceptions). GAME GRADE: F |  NEXT: vs. Seahawks

— Michael Nania


FALCONS (4-9): The offense was strong, averaging 6.9 yards per play. Matt Ryan posted his second game with 300-plus yards on 9.0-plus yards per attempt against the Panthers in a four-week span. An unlikely hero helped break the game open for the Falcons: undrafted free agent Olamide Zaccheaus. He entered Week 14 having played just 32 offensive snaps; he did not have a target or a touch. Against the Panthers, Zaccheaus broke free for a 93-yard touchdown on the first grab of his NFL career and his only catch of the game. The Falcons wrapped up a five-game stretch against divisional opponents with a 3-2 record. Is that enough to save head coach Dan Quinn? GAME GRADE: A  | NEXT: at 49ers (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 12 of 17

NY JETS 22, MIAMI 21

DOLPHINS (3-10): With the Giants and Bengals still on the Dolphins’ schedule, a team with one of the worst rosters in modern NFL history could finish 5-11. Were it not for an overturned pass-interference call that allowed the Jets to kick a winning field goal, the Dolphins would have possessed a six-win ceiling. That is borderline unfathomable, based on Miami’s offseason actions and the talent trades and injuries removed from the roster in-season. Brian Flores appears to be the right coach for this rebuild. He has gotten more from this roster than almost anyone envisioned. First-time offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea has also overseen the long-awaited, oft-doubted breakout by WR DeVante Parker. This resembles a semi-competent offense despite a replacement-level offensive line. The Dolphins have less talent than the 0-16 Browns of  2017, yet Flores has lapped Hue Jackson’s work. Even without the No. 1 overall pick, the Flores-led Dolphins are on the right track. And his 2020 roster will be much better. GAME GRADE: C+ | NEXT: at Giants (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


JETS (5-8): A recent trade candidate, Robby Anderson may be positioning himself for a long-term Jets extension. Or he could be one of the prizes in a thin wide receiver free-agent class. Sam Darnold located his most talented receiver seven times for 116 yards against the Dolphins, and the fourth-year deep threat found space across the field against Miami’s undermanned secondary. Anderson’s extra-effort touchdown helped the Jets win a meaningless game, but this stretch is more about evaluation than final scores. Dating to last season, the 26-year-old wideout has shown chemistry with Darnold. However, Anderson’s career has included inconsistency and off-field issues. If the Cowboys extend Dak Prescott and use their franchise tag on Amari Cooper, Anderson would be the top 20-something wideout on the market. It will take eight figures per year for the Jets to retain him, but without any young outside threats on the roster, GM Joe Douglas must consider an Anderson re-up. GAME GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Ravens (Thurs.)

— Sam Robinson

13 of 17

MINNESOTA 20, DETROIT 7

LIONS (3-9-1): No one should expect David Blough to be Matthew Stafford. But this game was a massive step backward from his impressive showing in a loss to Chicago on Thanksgiving Day. He missed open throws and threw two interceptions, but what stood out most was how poorly he handled himself in the pocket. The Vikings have a very good pass-rush — DE Danielle Hunter in particular caused great problems for the Lions’ protection. But Blough is to blame more than Detroit’s pass blocking. He held the ball too long, didn’t feel the rush around him, and even when the Vikings were not bearing down on him, he perceived pressure that wasn’t there. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Bucs (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


VIKINGS (9-4): Minnesota’s cornerback situation (See Rhodes, Xavier) is problematic. But the Vikings, who won their fifth straight game, may have found something in one of their former first-round picks. Mike Hughes blanketed Marvin Jones (3 catches) much of the game, as the Vikings limited the Lions to only 161 yards passing. Coming into this game, the only advantage the Lions’ offense had on paper was the combination of WR Kenny Golladay, who is impressive, and Jones against Minnesota’s outside cornerbacks. Hughes may give head coach Mike Zimmer a possible answer to one of this team’s biggest questions as the Vikings head toward the playoffs. GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT: at LA Chargers (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 14 of 17

GREEN BAY 20, WASHINGTON 15

REDSKINS (3-10): Washington’s defense did an admirable job in Green Bay keeping a high-octane offense in check. The Packers, who came into the week ranked seventh in points per drive (2.24), scored just 20 points, their lowest mark of the season at Lambeau Field. The Redskins got after Aaron Rodgers, sacking him four times and registering seven quarterback hits. It was a team effort, as four different players picked up a sack and seven different players picked up a hit. Rodgers passed for 195 yards, his worst mark in a fully played home game since Week 4 of 2017. The Redskins are doing some nice things to set the tone for their future. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Eagles (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


PACKERS (10-3): The Redskins ‘ offense has some decent, young pieces, but no one is going to confuse it with the 2019 Saints’ attack. Green Bay took care of business, limiting rookie QB to Dwayne Haskins to 170 yards passing. But the Packers’ run defense may be a weak link. Packers tackling was shoddy at times, and they weren’t disciplined controlling gaps. It wasn’t a horrible showing against the run but something to be mindful of in the playoffs. That’s when the defense won’t be able to stack the box against much more formidable passing teams. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Bears (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 15 of 17

CLEVELAND 27, CINCINNATI 19

BENGALS (1-12): RB Joe Mixon was easily Cincinnati’s best player in this game. Although his stats early in the season were poor, it wasn’t his fault. The line rarely opened holes. Now with cracks to slip through, Mixon looks like one of the best running backs in the league. Against the Browns, he ran with passion, burst and power (146 yards) and showed terrific change-of-direction ability against a defense geared to stop him. The Bengals even split Mixon out wide and threw him deep routes against linebacker coverage. (He had 40 yards receiving.) The Bengals’ offense, with OT Jonah Williams returning next year, isn’t as far off as many might think. GAME GRADE: C + | NEXT: vs. Patriots (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


BROWNS (6-7): Cleveland was far too pass-heavy in the first half, especially considering the Bengals rush the passer well but are horrendous against the run. In the second half, Cleveland’s offense went through RBs Nick Chubb (106 yards) and Kareem Hunt. (26 yards rushing and 40 receiving) Smart, smart move: The Browns’ pass protection is a liability, and QB Baker Mayfield and WR Odell Beckham’s on-the-field relationship couldn’t be more disjointed. Perhaps the coaching staff will stick to the ground in the final three  games. (Psst: I don’t trust ’em.) Beckham (2 catches, 39 yards), reportedly dealing with a sports hernia injury, remains a disappointment. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: at Cardinals (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson

NY GIANTS AT PHILADELPHIA

GIANTS (2-10): Perhaps veteran QB Eli Manning  who hasn’t played since Week 2, can solve the Giants’ turnover woes. Rookie QB Daniel Jones, out with a high ankle sprain, has 21 turnovers this season. Manning is coming off of a 2018 season in which he posted a career-low interception rate of 1.9%, and he did a solid job at the beginning of 2019 with just two interceptions over 89 pass attempts (2.2%  rate, better than league average of 2.3%). Philadelphia has struggled a bit in taking the ball away as well as limiting the effectiveness of opposing quarterbacks, ranking 18th in takeaway rate (10.7%, below league average of 11.9%) and 19th in passer rating allowed (91.8). 

— Michael Nania


EAGLES (5-7): The defense must perform at a consistently dominant level, which it has the talent to do. The Eagles are 19th in points allowed per drive (1.99), after yielding a season-worst 37 points to the hapless Dolphins in Week 13. The Eagles, who stunningly could still win the terrible NFC East, are surprisingly mediocre against the pass. They are tied for 19th in net yards per pass attempt allowed (6.4 versus league average of 6.3) and are allowing the 10th-highest touchdown pass rate (5.2% versus league average of 4.5%). This unit has the talent to be substantially more reliable than that.  NEXT: at Redskins (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 17 of 17

CHICAGO 31, DALLAS 24

BEARS (7-6): Much maligned this season, QB Mitch Trubisky has played significantly better recently. Led by WR Allen Robinson (76 catches for 898 yards), he’s throwing to a better group of receivers than some may realize. The third-year QB’s passing prowess showed up again Thursday night (244 yards and three TDs). But in this game, we saw the running ability (10 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown) that was so crucial for him in 2018, when he scampered for 421 yards. The Cowboys did a really poor job of tackling, but Trubisky was smart when he chose to run, avoiding taking punishment. Trubisky looks much healthier and more confident now than he did in the first half of the season and is making a strong push to be Chicago’s starter in 2020. Using his legs as a weapon (143 rushing yards in 2019) sure helps. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Packers (Sun.)

 — Matt Williamson


COWBOYS (6-7): The Cowboys’ struggles against strong competition continued in Chicago, as they fell to 0-6 in games against teams with a winning record. Dallas, somehow still in first in the NFC East, has been close, as the loss to the Bears marked its ‘ fourth loss by seven points or fewer out of those six games. Chicago’s Mitch Trubisky carved up the struggling pass defense (which entered Week 14 ranked 23rd in DVOA), posting three touchdowns, a 115.5 passer rating and a season-best 80.6 QBR. Slot corner Jourdan Lewis was a primary culprit, yielding four catches on four targets for 64 yards and three first downs. One was an eight-yard touchdown to Allen Robinson. Lewis has given up 12 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns over the past two games. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: at LA Rams (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

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By: Yardbarker Staff