The Ravens and Bears are playing in the 2018 Hall of Fame game. Here’s what you need to know.

The Baltimore Ravens will be playing the Chicago Bears in the 2018 Hall of Fame game to open up the NFL season.

Staying aggressively hydrated has probably helped me fend off the flu, but it’s means you’ll be making plenty of trips to relieve yourself.

The bus ride from the hotel to U.S. Bank Stadium and waiting to get through to security took an hour and a half. Within 20 minutes of finally getting in, I had to go.

There were plenty of fans in the building. Still, I sailed right in, no wait. And props to the architects who designed U.S. Bank Stadium. There were four different banks of urinals. I had a row to myself.

The line stretches out into the concourse hallway, as if there weren’t already enough things slowing the flow of foot traffic. Once the queue gets into the bathroom proper, lines form behind the row of urinals (there’s only one row in this bathroom). I get behind someone in a bright green clown wig. There’s chanting. It’s hard to concentrate.

Also, Charlie Weis is technically available, but also hasn’t coached since 2014 and has spent just one year in the NFL since 2004. He’s an extreme long shot to return to Foxborough, but his name recognition and history with the team bears mentioning.

History suggests 2018 will be a season where the Patriots eschew a designated offensive coordinator. Their record in years without an official OC is 34-14. That’s great, but the franchise failed to advance to the AFC title game in any of those years. Maybe it’s time for a promotion on the New England sideline.

In those last two games, Michigan had to rely on backup QB John O’Korn, who threw 5.87 yards per pass with one TD pass and four interceptions. The running back tandem of Chris Evans and Karan Higdon ran for 4.65 per carry in those two games, but the Wolverines were stymied by their inability to pick up gains passing (against Ohio State) or avoid turnovers (three INTs vs Michigan State).jaguars_107-223x223

Hawks reserve guard Isaiah Taylor scored 17 points in just his second NBA game.

“A lot of credit to Indiana, the way they play is impressive,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I liked our team better in the second half, I thought we were more competitive, more together — but you can’t wait until halftime to get to that mindset.”

Ron Artest (2002-03) held the previous mark at 40. Oladipo averages 2.1 steals, which ranks third in the league. . PG Darren Collison missed his fifth consecutive game as he recovers from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

Pacers reserve G/F Glenn Robinson III was understandably amped up for his season debut after undergoing extensive rehabilitation from left ankle surgery. The fourth-year pro was so excited, he shot an airball on an initial 19-foot jumper.

About 90 seconds later, Robinson faked a defender out of position and swished a 21-foot pull-up shot. As he jogged down the court, Sabonis acknowledged the moment by tapping an appreciative Robinson on the back of the head. Robinson had four points and two rebounds in 19 minutes.

Allen’s career started off promising. He led the Chargers with 1,046 yards receiving and was the runner-up for the AP’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2013, losing out to Eddie Lacy. But after that hot start, injuries slowed him down.

He missed the final two games of the 2014 season with a broken collarbone, and missed eight games in 2015 and 15 games in 2016.

This season, Allen stayed healthy and finished with career highs in receptions (102) and yards (1,393). Those numbers put him in the top five in the NFL this season.

Rivers relied heavily on his now-healthy go-to target, especially in crucial situations. Allen led the league with 74 first-down receptions. And according to The Washington Post, Allen snagged a league-high 30 first-down receptions on third down.bears_087-223x223

He was viewed as the best person to help in the transition to new ownership when the team is sold by Richardson.

Richardson put the team up for sale after the season. He made the decision to sell in December after Sports Illustrated reported he paid off at least four former employees to keep quiet alleged sexual harassment and the use of a racial slur with a former team scout.

I have always felt a strong connection to this organization and viewed this job as one of the very best in the NFL because of the people here, Hurney said in a statement. Mr. Richardson and Tina have been open and honest with me from the beginning, and I am thankful for the trust they have placed in me.

Like UCLA, the road trip to the Rockies will provide a pair of opportunities to add to that total. However, unless the Bruins jump into the RPI top 30 in the next two weeks, the pair’s meeting at the Galen Center might be more meaningful to UCLA’s profile than USC’s.

Had Fran Dunphy’s outfit won at and, therefore, swept Wichita State last night, it would still be in my projected field. Sunday’s home game against Houston, which Temple lost to by three in Texas back on Dec. 30, offers another chance. While a pair of neutral-site victories over a No. 1 seed (Auburn) and a No. 3 (Clemson) highlight the Owls’ profile, inconsistency, in the form of four Group 3 losses and a late December/early January five-game skid, seriously damages their chances.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard called Vinatieri one of the best players in NFL history in the statement announcing his re-signing. Owner Jim Irsay also tweeted his excitement at getting Vinatieri re-signed.

Vinatieri will be the kicker for a 2018 Colts squad that will be led by new coach Frank Reich, who was still playing quarterback in the NFL when Vinatieri made his debut in 1996. Vinatieri said the hiring of Reich this month and Ballard in January 2017 played a part in wanting to re-sign with the Colts, who have missed the playoffs three straight years.

A line you often hear during the NBA Celebrity Game is that everyone wants to be a basketball player. This is an extension of the old rap cliche that every rapper wants to be a baller and every baller wants to be a rapper.bears_007

Devin McCourty says Malcolm Butler knew he wasn’t going to start Super Bowl LII

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick shocked many by not playing cornerback Malcolm Butler on defense in Super Bowl LII, but the limited role wasn’t a surprise to Butler’s teammates.

We all knew he wasn’t starting all week. That wasn’t a secret to the guys on the team, safety Devin McCourty told NJ Advance Media.

I get why people are fishing. The guy played 98 percent of the plays [in the regular season]. I just hate that for him character-wise going into free agency; it’s just not true. As far as I know, and I was there all week, not one time did anything come up, McCourty said on Saturday at a Rutgers-based fundraiser for his charity Tackle Sickle Cell.

But there are others. Romelu Lukaku, at his best when feasting on crosses or running at defenders, spending every game with his back to goal. Anthony Martial, and his dancing feet, phasing in and out of favour. Luke Shaw, a proper attacking left-back with the instincts of a proper attacking left-back, understudy to Ashley Young. It’s probably a little early to claim the same for Alexis Sanchez, but if Mourinho has a plan that makes the most of him, we haven’t seen any sign of it so far.

The club may be second in the Premier League table, for now, but there can’t be many fans of the sides below that would swap their manager for Mourinho. It’s hard to imagine, too, that those managers wouldn’t be doing something more interesting with United’s squad, beyond making an example of one of its most talented members. And that’s the real problem. This may all be just how Mourinho operates, but when his team looks tired, so does his nonsense. And right now, set against their peers and their competitors, United look absolutely knackered.

Since he joined the Titans as a free agent in 2014, Succop is 82-of-89 on field goal attempts under 50 yards. That 92 percent accuracy trails only Justin Tucker and Stephen Gostkowski among kickers with at least 50 games played in that span.

Succop, the final pick of the 2009 draft, set an NFL record with 56 consecutive made field goals from inside the 50-yard line. He also tied the team’s single-season scoring record with 136 points in 2017. He becomes the NFL’s fourth-highest-paid kicker in terms of average yearly salary.

Succop and the Titans had been negotiating for a long time before coming to an agreement this week. Both sides wanted to get a deal done to keep Succop in a Titans jersey.

Jordan Matthews, WR, Buffalo Bills
Matthews spent three seasons with the Eagles, even developing into the team’s top wideout, before being traded to Buffalo during the preseason in exchange for cornerback Ronald Darby. While Philadelphia’s fortunes soared, Matthews suffered through the worst season of his career, missing six games due to injury and having a limited impact in the 10 appearances he made with the Bills. royals_083

Apologies to the rest of the NFL, but Tom Brady won’t be satisfied with just one more Super Bowl this Sunday in Minneapolis.

In a screening of the newest episode (Episode 5) of “Tom vs. Time” set to be released Sunday on Facebook, Brady is shown telling his wife Gisele Bundchen he wants: “Two more Super Bowls.”

Brady, 40, said he wants to play until he’s 45 and considering he’s the frontrunner for this year’s MVP to be awarded Saturday, who is anyone to tell him he can’t?

If anyone can appreciate not losing an edge late into a career, it’s Brees. He knows that what Brady has done (and keeps doing) on the field pales in comparison his unprecedented story.

“Tom is extremely disciplined,” Brees said. “They see the end result on game day, but they don’t see all that he does in the offseason and during the season to maintain his health, his body and his mechanics — things that make him a great player. The overall preparation can be a grind throughout the season, yet each week he comes out and plays at very high level.”

Jordan walked away from the Bulls for the second time that counted at 35, before his cameo comeback with the Wizards. Montana and Gretzky were done with their playing days at 38.

As for the hours leading up to kickoff, if you’ve already soaked in more Super Bowl analysis than you can handle, you can watch the Puppy Bowl. Kickoff for the cutest game in the world is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET Sunday on Animal Planet.

If you need more of your football fix on Super Bowl Sunday before Eagles vs. Patriots, NFL Network will air more than 11 hours of live pregame and postgame coverage, starting at 9:00 a.m. ET with an 8 1/2-hour edition of “NFL GameDay Morning.” Before and after that show, NFL Network will present the Super Bowl’s greatest commercials of all time.

In addition, NBC will present about 11 hours of “Super Stream Sunday.” The special access event kicks off at noon ET with NBC’s Super Bowl pregame coverage and concludes with the TV drama “This is Us,” which follows post-game coverage at approximately 10 p.m. ET.

Super Bowl 52 between the Eagles and Patriots will air nationally on NBC. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will call the game from the booth, with Michele Tafoya reporting from the sidelines.
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The Patriots are significant favorites (by 5 1/2 points) to beat the Eagles in Super Bowl 52.

And Tom Brady is an even more overwhelming favorite to win his fifth Super Bowl MVP award.

Bovada has released its Super Bowl 52 MVP odds, and Brady is listed at 4/5. The next closest player is at 13/4, and the field is at 20/1.

Amendola has lived up to Gronkowski’s new nickname for him — “Danny Playoff.” All the guy does is make clutch catches in the middle of the field, all the way into the end zone.

Amendola is the reason why the Patriots aren’t missing Julian Edelman too much at this point of the season. He could match the MVP performance Branch had against the Eagles.

Foles is more meme than man at the moment, so you can bet if there’s some other Eagle offensively or defensively who comes up with comparable key play in an upset, the MVP voters will go in a different direction. Then again, the streaky QB could easily duplicate his jaw-dropping performance (352 yards, 3 TDs) against the Vikings in the NFC championship game to not be denied in a Philadelphia victory.

The insider said that more than anything, Jackson is disappointed. “[Timberlake] used to dig her but when it came to supporting her after what happened, he disappeared. That’s not too manly and she didn’t deserve that. Even if she’s chosen to forgive him, it doesn’t mean she’s gotten past how he didn’t man up.

“We believe [the Super Bowl is a chance for him to] show her . . . and the world that he was wrong. He should insist that she come out and do something even if it’s just him apologizing publicly in front of the whole stadium. It’s not too late.”

No disrespect to Von Miller, Khalil Mack, Chandler Jones or any other trendy sack artist, but there isn’t a more disruptive player on the planet than Donald. The four-time Pro Bowler leads all defensive tackles in sacks (39), quarterback hits (108), pressures (236), tackles for loss (72) and forced fumbles (9) since he entered the league in 2014.
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Early on, he seemed to mumble some calls, and shout others, depending on the noise level of the stadium.

Shepard, Apple out: Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard is inactive, a Saturday addition to the injury report because of a migraine.

Woodhead active: The Baltimore Ravens activated running back Danny Woodhead, who hasn’t played since suffering a hamstring injury in the first week of the season, ahead of the game in Green Bay.

Tony Romo took his first snaps of the regular season in the second quarter of the Dallas Cowboys’ game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and promptly threw his first touchdown. Romo capped a six-play, 81-yard drive with a 3-yard scoring pass to Terrance Williams. That one drive was the action Romo saw, replaced by Mark Sanchez on Dallas’s subsequent possession and finished out the Cowboys’ 27-13 loss that does not affect their standing as the NFC’s top seed.

Romo had been the face of the Cowboys for years, but lost his job after rookie Dak Prescott performed superbly after Romo broke his back during the preseason. With Romo sidelined for much of the regular season, Prescott seized upon the opportunity and has not relinquished his grip on the starting job.

Other players including Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant sharply criticized Trump. Saturday, Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to kneel during the national anthem.

The Oakland Raiders offensive linemen, the only entirely African American offensive line unit in the league, intend to kneel or sit during the anthem preceding the nationally televised “Sunday Night Football” game against the Washington Redskins on NBC.

In his eager beaver way, he sometimes stepped on Nantz’ actual play calls. Two weeks ago, he described the Jaguars’ godawful 10-3 wild card win over the Bills an “unbelievable” game, even though the pathetic performance by Bortles and Tyrod Taylor of the Bills set NFL passing games back a 100 years, tweeted ESPN’s Louis Riddick.
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The Falcons made it tougher than it needed to be Monday night in Tampa but managed to get the win they needed.

They’ve held things together in a reasonably good season on the heels of their brutal Super Bowl defeat. Even so, it’s difficult to imagine them being a major factor in the NFC playoffs.

The NFL’s system is protecting some players. Six years later, McCoy believes what happened to him wouldn’t happen again.

“The mentality was, just get back in there, you’re fine, don’t worry about it,” New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “There’s a system in place to make sure guys are doing the right thing for their health.”

But there are cracks in the system, too, and this week showed the NFL still has more work to do.

NFL owners have charged Cowboys owner Jerry Jones with conduct detrimental to the league, Mark Maske reports. From Maske’s story, an excerpt of a letter the NFL sent to David Boies, Jones’s lawyer:

The Bears and Steelers needed overtime with Chicago scoring two touchdowns before being handed the win. A video review overturned an electric, would-be game-ending 73-yard run by Tarik Cohen on the second play of the extra session. Instead the play was ruled out of bounds after a 36 yard gain. The Bears’ Jordan Howard scored later on that drive with a 19-yard touchdown run to give Chicago its first win of the season, while handing Pittsburgh its first loss.

RB Ezekiel Elliott is back from his six-game suspension, and the Cowboys still have some hope in the NFC playoff chase. Maybe Elliott should take the opposite approach of Aaron Rodgers and say that, yes, he is back to save the season.

The Lions are out of the division race and would need help to reach the playoffs as a wild card. But no one should be questioning the job security of Coach Jim Caldwell. He’s done a good job.

They’ve righted themselves with two straight wins and were clearly the better team in the “showdown” (by the modest standards of the AFC West) on Saturday night with the Chargers. But it’s difficult to simply forget that 1-6 stretch of miserable play.

The Bills visit New England this weekend with their playoff hopes still alive. They must focus on that rather than on seeking any type of revenge for Rob Gronkowski’s hit on Tre’Davious White.jaguars_071

In primordial days, the 49ers drafted Sapolu in the 11th round, at No. 289 overall.

Said Ma’a Tanuvasa, a retired defensive end who won two Super Bowls with Denver in the late 1990s: “I think it’s only going to get better for kids who are younger than these guys.”

An estimable San Francisco sportswriter, Ira Miller, evaluated the San Francisco picks in print and dismissed Sapolu as a kid from Hawaii getting one nice, free trip to California. For years thereafter, Sapolu and Miller joked about it.

“People thought we weren’t ready to come in there and compete on the big stage,” he said. “Even though there were people before me, it was still in its pioneering stages. . . . It’s the unknown. People still had this image of Hawaii back then as palm trees and kids liking to surf. They didn’t know the kids here were big and thick and naturally strong. Once we got trained a little bit . . .”

By contrast, Shurmur’s Vikings sputtered Sunday after a 75-yard touchdown drive to start the game against the Eagles. For the rest of the contest, Minnesota accumulated just 258 total net yards and zero points, with the rest of their drives ending in this sequence: interception returned for a touchdown, punt, punt, lost fumble, punt, turnover on downs, turnover on downs, interception.

One answer suggested has been for players to stay in the locker room for the anthem, as they did before 2009 (except before the Super Bowl and on 9/11). But that won’t solve the chasm over this issue. Nate Boyer, the former Green Beret who played briefly in the NFL, suggested in an open letter published by ESPN that Kaepernick and President Trump sit down in a summit meeting of sorts to discuss their beliefs. He followed up on a letter he wrote a year ago and wrote how “much more hurt” he feels now at the divisions in the country.

“Not by [Kaepernick], not by where we’re at now with the protests, but by us,” he wrote. “Simply put, it seems like we just hate each other; and that is far more painful to me than any protest, or demonstration, or rally, or tweet.”

Consistently stopping the run and getting to the other quarterback takes huge pressure off the offense to light up the scoreboard. What has made Minnesota and Philadelphia this good and go this far is what’s supporting their quarterbacks — both are deep at running back and versatile in the receiving corps with backs, wideouts and tight ends. When it comes to calling plays tailored to their passers’ strengths and weaknesses, Pat Shurmur and Doug Pederson have been on point.

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Allen acknowledged the roster imbalance, but questioned why the team had suffered through an inconsistent first half.

Historically, this gratitude was expressed to God, to the Creator, the Lord of the Harvest, the one in whom we live and move and have our being. Establishing our national observance, Abraham Lincoln commended the nation to “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

But in a secularized, naturalized world where we are at least officially agnostic about such a being, to whom shall we give thanks? Here’s where the liturgies of football on Thanksgiving provide an alternative.

The pomp and fandom in NFL stadiums across the country display their own rituals — and reveal how our gratitude has shifted. We give thanks to the military, tout our freedoms and celebrate the exceptional blessings of “this great country.” The military serves as the tangible, almost sacramental, embodiment of the nation’s mythology.

Lillard issued a heartfelt vote of confidence for head coach Terry Stotts, sources said.

They also discussed players to target. The New York Times’ Marc Stein recently reported the Trail Blazers are one of the teams trying to engage in trade talks with the LA Clippers for big man DeAndre Jordan, but the Clippers haven’t had any serious offers.

In addition, Lillard sought an explanation from Allen as to why Will Barton was traded to Denver in February of 2015, sources said. Lillard made it known he didn’t agree with the move. Barton is a penetrating, spot-up shooter — the type of player Portland could use on the wing.

At various points this season some players, including full teams, have remained off the field during the playing of the anthem. They have not been fined or otherwise disciplined by the NFL.

The league has been under intense pressure from President Trump and some fans to require players to stand during the anthem. In September, Trump said during a campaign speech in Alabama that owners should fire any player who protested during the anthem. His fiery speech included a reference to such a player being a “son of a bitch,” and it fueled an intense national controversy over the issue.

The pressure from the White House has not relented. After Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch refused to stand for the U.S. anthem before Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots in Mexico City, Trump offered critical comments Monday on Twitter.

“Marshawn Lynch of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders stands for the Mexican Anthem and sits down to boos for our national anthem,” Trump wrote. “Great disrespect! Next time NFL should suspend him for remainder of season. Attendance and ratings way down.”jaguars_010