Detroit Sports

‘LSU Offensive Line Vs. Auburn Defensive Line One Of Great Matchups In SEC’ Says Carter Blackburn

Baton Rouge, LA (CBS Local)- With the final weekend of October upon us, the true heavyweight matchups of the college football season are beginning to line up.

The first official set of rankings from the College Football Playoff committee arrives in just two weeks, and there are some marquee games with ranking implications that are scheduled to play out over these two weekends. This week, it’s a battle of Tigers on the Bayou in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as the #9 Auburn Tigers meet the #2 LSU Tigers in the SEC on CBS game of the week.

LSU has been one of the biggest surprises of the college football season, thanks to a revamped offense that appears to have them ready to take on the perennial favorite, Alabama for SEC West supremacy. Senior quarterback Joe Burrow is being mentioned in the Heisman conversation, and expectations on the Bayou are growing with each passing week. But Gus Malzahn’s group poses a threat to the Tigers’ SEC West hopes this weekend due to a defensive line that ranks as one of the country’s best.

“The defensive line for Auburn is elite. You get one of the great matchups in the SEC with a great offensive line against a great defensive line,” said CBS Sports college football announcer Carter Blackburn. “LSU’s offensive line is veteran, experienced and big. And they have been a big reason why the LSU Tigers have been so successful. But, Auburn’s front four is really, really good. You can take your eyes off of Joe Burrow the entire game and still watch a very entertaining matchup.”

That battle in the trenches, one that most fans gloss over during these types of matchups, is, as Blackburn notes, a key to watch come Saturday afternoon. Auburn ranks in the top 40 in the country in sack rate, according to Football Outsiders, generating a sack on 6.8 percent of all opponents non-garbage time pass attempts. The LSU offensive line ranks in the top 50 of that same metric, allowing sacks on just 5.1% of non-garbage time pass attempts. The individual battles along the line will be interesting, with Auburn defensive tackles Derrick Brown and Tyrone Truesdell matching up against LSU’s interior line of Adrian Magee, Damien Lewis and Lloyd Cushenberry III. On the outside, tackles Saadhiq Charles and Austin Deculus will have their hands full against Marlon Davidson, Nick Coe and Big Kat Bryant.

While watching that matchup will certainly entertain fans, one of the biggest questions in this game is how Auburn’s true freshman quarterback, Bo Nix, will handle this latest SEC test. As Blackburn notes, despite inconsistent moments one would expect from a freshman, Nix has led the Tigers to two big wins already over Oregon to open the season and on the road at Texas A&M. Those wins did show a level of calm from the freshman, but there was one big factor in those two games that will be missing here.

“The bigger concern for Auburn is without (JaTarvious) Whitlow at running back,” said Blackburn.

Whitlow, who is the team’s leading rusher this season, averaging 4.9 yards per carry, had surgery on his knee and is expected to be out for four to six weeks. While Blackburn acknowledges that Malzahn’s rushing attack is perhaps better designed than anyone to withstand the loss of a running back, Whitlow’s absence does take away a security blanket for a young quarterback.

“JaTarvious Whitlow is a big loss, because if you’re trying to take pressure off of Bo Nix, your true freshman quarterback, which is something Gus Malzahn has told us over and over again since the spring, ‘we have to take pressure off of Bo.’ You lose your star running back, [and] that is more of an issue,” said Blackburn.

Still, even with Whitlow out, the Auburn offense could find some success against LSU’s defense, which does not appear to be the same dominant unit of old. The Tigers rank 29th in defensive efficiency, according to ESPN’s Bill Connelly. While that number is far from bad, it’s a 24-spot drop from last year’s group that finished fifth.

Saturday’s matchup in Baton Rouge could either keep LSU on track to challenge Alabama for the SEC West title, or put Auburn right back in the thick of things in the division race. Either way, the matchup is an intriguing one, with a focus on a battle between two of the better position groups in the country.

Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson and Jamie Erdahl will have all the action for you on Saturday, October 26th with kickoff set for 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time on CBS. You can also stream the SEC Game of the Week on CBS via the CBS All Access app.


Wings Drop 5th Straight With Loss To Canucks 5-2

DETROIT (AP) — Bo Horvat had a lot of family and friends in the crowd Tuesday night and he gave them a lot to cheer about.

Horvat, a native of London, Ontario, which is within easy driving distance of Detroit, scored three of Vancouver’s five goals in the third period for his first career hat trick, and the Canucks rallied from two down for a 5-2 victory over the skidding Red Wings.

 

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 22: Jake Virtanen #18 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates his third period goal with Bo Horvat #53 while playing the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on October 22, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Vancouver won the game 5-2. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

 

“That was great, especially because I had so many friends and family in the crowd to see it,” Horvat said. “Obviously, it couldn’t have come in a bigger situation with us having to come back, so that was a lot of fun.”

Jake Virtanen got the game-winner and Tim Schaller also scored for Vancouver, which has won six of seven. Elias Pettersson, and defensemen Quinn Hughes and Jordie Benn had two assists apiece. Jacob Markstrom stopped 31 shots.

 

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 22: Jake Virtanen #18 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates his third period goal with Bo Horvat #53 while playing the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on October 22, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Vancouver won the game 5-2. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

 

“There was a lot said before the third period and we really came out and tried to come back,” Virtanen said. “We talked this morning about wanting to get this 3-1 trip and we still had a chance. We got the game tied and then we just kept rolling. We had a lot of confidence at that point.”

Anthony Mantha and defenseman Dennis Cholowski scored for Detroit, which lost its fifth in a row. Jimmy Howard made 36 saves.

 

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 22: Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings during player intros prior to playing the Vancouver Canucks at Little Caesars Arena on October 22, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

 

“We carried the play for two periods. We were the better team, certainly had more chances,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said.

With Detroit on a power play, Tyler Bertuzzi took a tripping penalty with a second remaining in the middle period.

Horvat, the Canucks’ captain, scored two power-play goals in a span of 1:31 early in the third to tie the game at 2. He put in a rebound at 1:42 to capitalize on Bertuzzi’s penalty and tipped in a shot from the point by Hughes at 3:13, with Cholowski in the penalty box for high sticking.

“We knew we had to get one on that first power play in the third and it was huge to get a second one right away,” Horvat said. “I thought we had some great looks in the first two periods, but nothing was going in.”

 

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 22: Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a save behind Bo Horvat #53 of the Vancouver Canucks during the third period at Little Caesars Arena on October 22, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Vancouver won the game 5-2. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

 

Virtanen got the winner when his attempted pass from the right circle deflected off the skate of Red Wings defenseman Filip Hronek and past Howard. It was Virtanen’s first goal.

Schaller added his first goal with 5:39 left and Horvat completed his hat trick on an empty-net goal with 1:12 remaining. Horvat has five goals this season.

Mantha’s 5-on-3 power-play goal gave Detroit a 1-0 lead with 3:52 left in the first period. He scored on a one-timer from the top of the right circle. It was Mantha’s seventh goal.

 

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 22: Anthony Mantha #39 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates his first period goal with teammates while playing the Vancouver Canucks at Little Caesars Arena on October 22, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

 

Cholowski made it 2-0 at 9:19 of the second with a 4-on-3 power-play goal. He beat Markstrom with a wrist shot from the right circle. It was Cholowski’s first goal of the season.

NOTES: Vancouver D Quinn Hughes played college hockey at Michigan. … Detroit recalled forward Evgeny Svechnikov from Grand Rapids of the AHL and sent D Alex Biega to the same team. The Red Wings acquired Biega in a trade with the Canucks on Oct. 6.

UP NEXT

Canucks: Host the Washington Capitals on Friday.

Red Wings: At the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.

 

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 


Griffin To Miss Start Of Season

The Detroit Pistons will begin the season without star forward Blake Griffin, whose injury issues have flared up again.

The Pistons said Tuesday that Griffin would not travel for Wednesday night’s game at Indiana and would continue a treatment and conditioning regimen for left hamstring and posterior knee soreness. He will be re-evaluated for a return the first week of November.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – MARCH 28: Blake Griffin #23 of the Detroit Pistons drives around Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic during the second half at Little Caesars Arena on March 28, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 115-98. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Griffin was mostly healthy last season until the very end, when he was limited in the playoffs. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in the offseason.

Griffin averaged 35.0 minutes per game last season, his most since 2014-15, and averaged a career-high 24.5 points. Coach Dwane Casey admitted at media day that the Pistons “rode him like a cheap horse” — and suggested that they might manage his minutes a bit more conservatively going forward.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 07: Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic tries to get a first half shot off past Blake Griffin #23 of the Detroit Pistons during a preseason game at Little Caesars Arena on October 07, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

First-round draft pick Sekou Doumbouya (concussion protocol) is not traveling to Indiana either, and Markieff Morris (low back tightness) is questionable. Point guard Reggie Jackson (low back tightness) is probable.

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Lions Trade Safety Quandre Diggs

The Seattle Seahawks addressed depth concerns in the defensive backfield by acquiring Quandre Diggs from the Detroit Lions on Tuesday in exchange for a 2020 fifth-round pick.

DETROIT, MI – DECEMBER 02: Robert Woods #17 of the Los Angeles Rams runs for yardage against Quandre Diggs #28 of the Detroit Lions during the first half at Ford Field on December 2, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Seattle has major depth worries at safety after Bradley McDougald and Lano Hill missed Sunday’s loss to Baltimore with injuries. Hill is expected to be out a few weeks with an elbow injury, while Seattle is hoping McDougald will return soon after being sidelined by back spasms.

Diggs will add some needed versatility. He can play free safety and nickel and could be an option after free safety Tedric Thompson has struggled in coverage at times this season. Seattle coach Pete Carroll has been critical of some big plays given up by Thompson, including a 50-yard pass in the loss to the Ravens.

CHICAGO, IL – NOVEMBER 11: Anthony Miller #17 of the Chicago Bears loses his helmet while being tackled by Quandre Diggs #28 and Christian Jones #52 of the Detroit Lions in the first quarter at Soldier Field on November 11, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

“Well, we made a big mistake early. Gave them a freebie down the field. That’s just distasteful,” Carroll said. “I hate that we gave them that because there’s no way that should’ve happened.”

Seattle also received a seventh-round pick in 2021 as part of the trade.

Diggs started 40 games in four-plus seasons with the Lions. He was a sixth-round pick by Detroit in 2015 and developed into a capable starter. He has started the past 26 games he played in for the Lions and had three interceptions in both 2017 and 2018.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – SEPTEMBER 15: Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers is knocked out of bounds by Quandre Diggs #28 of the Detroit Lions during a fourth quarter run at Ford Field on September 15, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 13-10. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Also Tuesday, the Lions announced they were putting second-year running back Kerryon Johnson on injured reserve. Johnson left Sunday’s loss to Minnesota with a knee injury.

Johnson was impressive as a rookie last year, bringing a much-needed boost to Detroit’s running game, but he went on injured reserve with knee problems then as well.

DETROIT, MI – SEPTEMBER 15: Kerryon Johnson #33 of the Detroit Lions scores on a 36-yard pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 (not in photo) during the first quarter of the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Ford Field on September 15, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Johnson had 308 yards rushing and two TDs in the first seven games of the season.

“You know how much we value Kerryon and what a great part of our offense and our team he is, and he is still here and he’s still part of all of that, certainly,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “On the field, we’ll push forward as normal and we think that we get good production with Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic, and we think those guys are ready to step into roles.”

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Week 8: Chase Edmonds A Must-Add

By Matt Citak

(CBS Boston/CBS Local)- Well folks, another week of the NFL season is in the books.

With Week 8 approaching, we are now just over a month away from the start of the fantasy postseason. Pretty crazy, right?

Before we start talking about the fantasy playoffs, why don’t we first do all that we can to make sure that all of you get into the postseason. That starts with this week’s top waiver wire.

Some of the names on this week’s list are repeats from last week, but with their ownership numbers still extremely low and their upcoming schedules very favorable, they had to be mentioned again.

Here are the top waiver wire adds as we enter Week 8.

QB Sam Darnold, New York Jets– Monday night’s performance wasn’t confidence inspiring but the Jets quarterback has some easier matchups coming. Starting in Week 9, Darnold and the Jets have a stretch of games against the Dolphins, Giants, Redskins, Raiders, Bengals and Dolphins. Five of those six games are against defenses currently in the top 10 in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Darnold is about to pop off, so grab him while you can.

QB Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans– I am just as shocked as you are to see Tannehill’s name on this list, but following his performance against the Chargers on Sunday, the veteran quarterback has earned it. Tannehill threw for 312 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in Week 7. But more importantly, he completed 79.3% of his passes. 79.3%! Tannehill now has a completion percentage of 80.0% on his first 45 pass attempts of 2019, and that is not a figure we can ignore. Tennessee’s priority will always be to run the ball first and foremost, but if Tannehill can provide the team with competent quarterback play (something Marcus Mariota could not do), then Mike Vrabel may start throwing the ball more. I wouldn’t want to throw him into my lineup quite yet, but if he can put together another strong outing against Tampa Bay this week, Tannehill will become a popular name on the waiver wire.

RB Ty Johnson, Detroit Lions– Johnson was far from excellent in Week 7. The rookie sixth-round pick came in after Kerryon Johnson injured his knee in the first quarter and proceeded to gain 57 yards on 14 total touches (including four receptions). But as we all know, fantasy football is all about volume, and if the starting running back has to miss any time with this knee injury, than the rookie will step into a great opportunity. Kerryon Johnson was spotted in a knee brace after the game, so it looks like he may be facing at least a one-week absence. The Lions welcome the struggling Giants to Ford Field in Week 8, and if Ty Johnson is the starting running back, then this is a mouth-watering matchup. Johnson should be the top add of the week for anyone in need of some help at running back.

RB Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals– I’ve been beating the Edmonds drum for weeks now. Those of you that took my advice and already added him to your roster saw the benefits in his breakout performance in Week 7. Edmonds carried the ball a whopping 27 times against the Giants, gaining 126 yards (4.7 yards per carry) while finding the end zone three times. All three scores came on runs of 20 or more yards, as New York’s defense did not seem to have an answer for the young back. David Johnson was active for Sunday’s game, but registered only one touch for two yards. Johnson is likely more banged up than the Cardinals had indicated, which makes Edmonds even more of a priority add. There is no more waiting on the 2018 fourth-round pick. Add him now.

Credit: Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

RB Mark Walton, Miami Dolphins– The Dolphins have not been hiding the fact that they are tanking this season. At 0-6, it is clear that Miami has thus far been successful in their plans for the 2019 season. Despite the awful roster, one of the very few bright spots among this Dolphins team has been the recent play of second-year running back Mark Walton. In his first extended action with the team in Week 7, Walton carried the ball 14 times for 66 yards (4.7 yards per carry). Not bad for a guy running behind a nonexistent offensive line. Kenyan Drake seems to have one foot out the door, and once he gets traded, the backfield will fully belong to Walton. The Dolphins will continue to be impossible to trust this season, but if you want to roll the dice on the waiver wire, Walton is certainly worthy of a waiver claim.

WR Kenny Stills, Houston Texans– The revolving door surrounding the Texans’ wide receivers (other than DeAndre Hopkins) continued to turn on Sunday as Will Fuller injured his hamstring early in Houston’s Week 7 loss and failed to return. While Fuller went down, Stills appeared in his first game since Week 4 and picked up right where his teammate left off. Stills caught four of six targets for 105 yards, with all four of his receptions resulting in first downs for the Texans. Two of his catches went for over 40 yards, as Stills filled in for Fuller as the team’s downfield threat. If Fuller is forced to miss any time with this hamstring injury, then Stills becomes the top wide receiver on the waiver wire.

Credit: Eric Espada/Getty Images

WR DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins– The 26-year-old receiver had 10 passes thrown his way Sunday, catching five of them for 55 yards and a score. Parker has now reached at least 55 receiving yards and/or a touchdown in four straight games, and with Miami playing from behind every week, that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. The Dolphins’ passing game may be hard to trust, but Parker has clearly emerged as the best option among the team’s pass-catchers. If you’re desperate for a receiver, you could do a lot worse than the former first-round pick.

WR Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans– Davis may not be available in your league, but if he is on the waiver wire due to his manager growing tired of waiting for a breakout, he is definitely worth an add. The third-year receiver caught six of the seven passes thrown in his direction, gaining 80 yards and finding the end zone for only the second time this season. Ryan Tannehill looked infinitely better than Marcus Mariota, and if he can keep this level of play up, then Tennessee’s passing game will gain new life. If this does occur, than Davis stands to be the biggest beneficiary as the team’s number one receiver. With a Week 8 matchup against the Buccaneers up next, Davis could be looking at consecutive strong performances in the Titans offense.

WR Alex Erickson, Cincinnati Bengals– One of the biggest surprises in fantasy in Week 7 was the play of Alex Erickson. The fourth-year receiver out of Wisconsin entered the game with a career-high of 63 receiving yards. Going up against Jacksonville’s solid pass defense, Erickson more than doubled that figure. The 26-year-old receiver caught eight passes on 14 targets for 137 yards, playing behind Tyler Boyd as Cincinnati’s number two receiver. It remains to be seen how long he stays in that role, as the play of Auden Tate has landed the second-year receiver on the fantasy radar while A.J. Green is expected to return sometime in the next few weeks. However, until we hear otherwise, Erickson could continue his role as one of Andy Dalton’s top pass-catchers, which could offer FLEX value moving forward.

TE Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings– As we all know, the tight end position has once again proven to be very shallow this year. There have been few, consistent options in 2019, but Smith is the next man up to potentially join the small group. Adam Thielen left Sunday’s game early with a hamstring injury, and while the receiver was confident the injury would not keep him out for long, it is hard to see him returning for Minnesota’s Thursday night game against the Redskins. In Thielen’s absence, Smith was targeted six times by Kirk Cousins, reeling in five of those passes for 60 yards. If Thielen is unable to suit up Thursday, Smith will become an appealing streaming option for those needy at tight end.

Matt Citak is a contributing writer for CBS Local. Follow him on Twitter here for all things fantasy football, New York Giants and more.


Detroit’s Top Sports Bars to Watch the Big Game

If you’re missing tickets to see the Red Wings or the Lions, these Detroit sports bars offer the full experience, but without the over-priced beer. That’s a win for you.

Using Yelp data and our own methodology, Hoodline crunched the numbers to find the best sports bars for watching the game.

(Credit: Farbled/Shutterstock.com)


1. Motor City Sports Bar

(Credit: Alyssa R.)

Topping the list is Motor City Sports Bar. Located at 9122 Joseph Campau St., it is the highest-rated sports bar in Detroit, boasting four stars out of 24 reviews on Yelp.


2. Detroit City Clubhouse

(Credit Martha R.)

Next up is Elmwood Park’s Detroit City Clubhouse, situated at 3401 E. Lafayette St. With 4.5 stars out of 10 reviews on Yelp, it has proven to be a local favorite.


3. Detroiter Bar

(Credit: Charlie P.)

The Detroiter Bar, located at 655 Beaubien St. in Bricktown, is another top choice, with Yelpers giving the sports bar four stars out of 95 reviews.


4. Cutter’s Bar & Grill

(Credit: Michael T.)

Cutter’s Bar & Grill is another go-to, with four stars out of 89 Yelp reviews. Head over to 2638 Orleans St. to see for yourself.


5. Firebird Tavern

(Credit: Firebird Tavern/Yelp)

Finally, over in Greektown, check out Firebird Tavern, which has earned four stars out of 183 reviews on Yelp. You can find the sports bar at 419 Monroe St.

This story was created automatically using local business data, then reviewed by an editor. Click here for more about what we’re doing. Got thoughts? Go here to share your feedback.


Baseball Report: Strong Pitching To Dominate Astros, Nationals World Series

(CBS DFW/CBS Local) — And just like that, the 162-game regular season, along with the Wild Card, Division and Championship rounds are history. And only a potentially historic World Series awaits. The Houston Astros will face the Washington Nationals, with Game 1 on Tuesday night in Houston.

The Houston Astros last won the World Series in 2017 and return this year with maybe their best roster ever. Led by dominant starting pitching, the Astros eliminated the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series in six games. Their bats came alive when they had to, but also remained uncharacteristically quiet for stretches at a time. Whispers of the word “dynasty” haven’t surfaced yet, but give it until the weekend.

They’ll face an inspired and well-rested Washington Nationals team that swept the St. Louis Cardinals out of the National League Championship Series in four games. The Nationals, in the franchise’s first World Series appearance, feature an equally dominant starting rotation. Their bats entered the playoffs on fire and have continued to produce, with key contributions from less likely sources. From the Wild Card to the World Series, the Nats look to continue their run.

This week’s Baseball Report looks back at the Championship Series and ahead to the World Series.

Astros Win ALCS

The Astros beat the Yankees Saturday night 6-4, to win the ALCS in six games. It was an exciting end to a series that saw two high-powered offenses struggle at times. In the top of the ninth inning of Game 6, with the Yankees facing elimination, DJ LeMahieu smacked a two-run home run just beyond the outstretched glove of Astros outfielder George Springer. The HR tied the game at four. The Astros’ Jose Altuve returned the favor in the bottom of the ninth, blasting a two-run HR off of Aroldis Chapman to win the game and pennant in walk-off fashion.

The Yankees also squandered opportunities throughout the series. And the first inning of Game 6, when the Yankees loaded the bases but failed to score, offered yet another example. Overall, the Yankees hit an atrocious .171 with runners in scoring position, stranding 42 base runners.

But the Astros’ strong pitching also deserves some credit. Outside of a Game 1 dud, in which the Yankees put up seven runs, Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander and Zack Grienke turned in solid performances against one of MLB’s leading offenses. And even in Game 1, it was the bullpen who let that game get out of hand; Greinke gave up three runs in six innings.

Verlander pitched at least into the sixth inning in both of his outings. Cole managed seven innings of shutout ball in Game 3, even if he did walk five.

The Astros bats put up enough runs against Yankees pitching. But their numbers weren’t great in the ALCS either. As a team, they hit just .179, with eight home runs and 36 hits over six games. The team’s regular-season batting average was almost 100 points higher, with the third-most long balls in the Majors.

Nationals Win NLCS

The Nationals turned in a stronger performance over a weaker team in their championship series. They dispensed with the St. Louis Cardinals last Tuesday, winning Game 4 of the NLCS, 7-4, to complete the sweep and advance.

Patrick Corbin gave up four runs in Game 4, in what was the Nationals’ worst pitching performance of the series. Annibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer took no-hit bids deep into Game 1 and 2. Stephen Strasburg struck out 12 batters in seven innings in Game 3.

In late September, the Nationals weak bullpen was seen as the team’s biggest obstacle to a playoff run. It hasn’t been, partly because their starters went deep into games and Cardinals’ hitting was erratic at best. And when called upon, Sean Doolittle, Daniel Hudson, Fernando Rodney and Tanner Rainey mostly held it down.

The Nats also received key contributions from various bats in their lineup at key moments. Howie Kendrick continued his torrid pace, with five hits in the NLCS, four of them for extra bases. Adam Eaton added three RBI, including a two-run double in Game 2 to extend a late lead.

World Series Matchup

The Astros are the better team, and will enjoy home-field advantage over the Nationals, when the World Series starts tonight. Their last (and only other) World Series title came in 2017, when they downed the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games. (That series win also followed a Championship win over the Yankees.) The Nationals head to the World Series for the franchise’s first time.

The Astros are also the favorites going in, sporting what could be the team’s best roster ever. While this Astros lineup didn’t produce in the ALCS, they did over the course of the regular season. Jose Altuve, the 2017 AL MVP, hit .298 on the season with 31 HRs. Alex Bregman, an AL MVP candidate this year, hit .296 with 41 HRs and 112 RBI. Michael Brantley hit .311 with 22 HRs. And that’s just a sampling.

The Astros rotation is the best in the AL behind Cole, Verlander and Greinke. Cole won 20 games in 2019, with a 2.50 ERA. Verlander, a surefire Hall of Famer one day, won 21 games with a 2.58 ERA. Both are AL Cy Young favorites this season. A mid-summer trade brought over Greinke from the Arizona Diamondbacks. His performance (8-1, 3.02 ERA with the Astros) has failed to meet expectations. But given the two starters ahead of him, perhaps those expectations were a little unrealistic.

The only other starting rotation that compares favorably to the Astros’ belongs to the Nationals, with Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin and (at times) Sanchez. Scherzer went 11-7 with a 2.92 ERA in an injury-shortened regular season. Strasburg, himself a Cy Young favorite in the NL, went 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA. Corbin notched a 14-7 record with a 3.32 ERA.

The players in this pitching matchup account for five Cy Young Awards and 29 All-Star Games combined so far.

The Nationals’ bats, like the Astros’ bats, will have their work cut out for them. The heart of the DC lineup is Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto, with Kendrick emerging in the playoffs. Rendon hit .319 with 34 HRs and 126 RBI in the regular season, sneaking into the NL MVP conversation. Soto, who is still only 20 years old (for a few more days), hit .282 with 34 HRs and 110 RBI in the regular season.

Gerrit Cole will face Max Scherzer in Game 1 of the World Series.


Two Conference Losses Squash Wolverines High Hopes

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — No. 19 Michigan seems to be relegated to playing just for pride this season.

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA – OCTOBER 19: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines discusses a previous play with a line judge during the fourth quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions on October 19, 2019 at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania. Penn State defeats Michigan 28-21. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

 

The Wolverines (5-2, 3-2 Big Ten) were handed a second loss at Penn State, leaving them on the brink of being eliminated from the Big Ten race just past the halfway mark of the regular season.

Michigan went into the season hoping to end its 15-year conference championship drought, the longest in school history, and to perhaps contend for a national championship.

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA – OCTOBER 19: (L-R) Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions shakes hands with head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines after the game on October 19, 2019 at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania. Penn State defeats Michigan 28-21. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

 

With five scheduled games left to play, those goals appear to be out of reach.

Captain Ben Bredeson, though, insisted there’s plenty to play for this season.

“You can’t let two losses tank your season,” the standout offensive guard said Monday.

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA – OCTOBER 19: Penn State Nittany Lions student section fans cheer as Shea Patterson #2 of the Michigan Wolverines attempts to start a play from under center during the second quarter on October 19, 2019 at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

 

The Wolverines will have a chance to earn a measure of respect, and perhaps improve their postseason positioning, if they can beat No. 8 Notre Dame (5-1) on Saturday night at the Big House.

“This isn’t our last game of the year,” defensive tackle Carlo Kemp said. “This isn’t, ‘All right. we’re done. Let’s start packing up and we’ll get ready for next season.’

“We have top 10 matchups coming up. And, the big thing is we have one this Saturday and we have another opportunity on the national stage.”

 

CHAMPAIGN, IL – OCTOBER 12: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines is seen during the second half against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on October 12, 2019 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

 

Michigan also has games remaining against Michigan State and No. 3 Ohio State next month at home.

“We’ve got three of the most important rivalries coming up,” Kemp said. “We got Notre Dame, Michigan State and the game at the end of the year. Those are the games you play for, those are the teams you want to play.”

 

EAST LANSING, MI – AUGUST 30: Michigan State Spartans cheerleaders take photos on the sideline prior to a game against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Spartan Stadium on August 30, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

 

Michigan was a play — and an extra point — away from pulling into a 28-all tie with the Nittany Lions on Saturday night late in the fourth quarter after falling behind by three touchdowns midway through the second quarter.

Shea Patterson found Ronnie Bell in the end zone on fourth down and the receiver, who has had a breakout season, and put a pass on his hands and he dropped the football.

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA – OCTOBER 19: Garrett Taylor #17, Lamont Wade #38 and Jaquan Brisker #7 of the Penn State Nittany Lions celebrate a fourth down stop in the final minutes of the game against the Michigan Wolverines on October 19, 2019 at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania. Penn State defeats Michigan 28-21. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

 

Bell was in tears on the field, but that didn’t get him sympathy from all fans.

A Michigan graduate, Connor Grady, sent Bell an email imploring him to quit the team and the sport.

Coach Jim Harbaugh defended Bell, saying he would take as many players like him as possible, and lashed out at the fan.

 

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN – SEPTEMBER 28: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines looks on in the second half while playing the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Michigan Stadium on September 28, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

 

“I’m sure Connor Grady got drunk as heck Saturday night,” Harbaugh said. “Probably talking to his friend, took to email and probably wrote a bunch of stuff that I’m sure the next day he was like, ‘Why the heck did I do that. I’m an idiot.’ I’m sure he felt pretty bad about it.”

Given a chance to respond on Monday, Grady lamented what he wrote to Bell.

“I would like to state for the record that I wish to apologize to Mr. Bell and any other members of the Michigan community who were rightly offended by my thoughtless message to Mr. Bell,” Grady wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “I have privately apologized to Mr. Bell, and I have also apologized publicly to the Bell family.

 

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 05: A member of the Michigan Wolverines dance team performs while playing the Iowa Hawkeyes at Michigan Stadium on October 05, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan won the game 10-3. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

 

“I am a proud Michigan alumnus and a passionate fan who has supported the team for years. However, my conduct was not acceptable under any circumstances, and I make no excuses for my behavior. I am deeply sorry to have brought shame and embarrassment to the Michigan community, and I hope that the community can forgive me for such unbecoming behavior.”

 

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Spartans Ranked #1 In Preseason Poll For First Time In School History

There isn’t much Michigan State has yet to accomplish under Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo, from Big Ten titles and Final Four trips to winning a national championship.

 

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 31: The Michigan State Spartans celebrate after defeating the Duke Blue Devils in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. The Michigan State Spartans defeated the Duke Blue Devils with a score of 68 to 67. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

 

The Spartans can now add another milestone to the list: They are No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 men’s college basketball preseason poll for the first time in program history.

The Spartans were the overwhelming choice with their veteran returnees led by star Cassius Winston. They topped 60 of 65 ballots in voting results released Monday, easily outdistancing No. 2 Kentucky and No. 3 Kansas as the only other teams to receive first-place votes.

 

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – APRIL 06: Cassius Winston #5 of the Michigan State Spartans looks on during the 2019 NCAA Final Four semifinal against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 6, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

 

Duke was fourth, followed by Louisville, Florida, Maryland, Gonzaga, North Carolina and Villanova to round out the top 10.

 

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 31: Tre Jones #3 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after his teams 68-67 loss to the Michigan State Spartans in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

 

Michigan State had been ranked No. 1 for 12 weeks in the AP poll before Monday. But none had come in the preseason poll, with the Spartans starting at No. 2 four times in the past decade.

“It’s almost bizarre to me because I would’ve thought Magic’s team was No. 1,” Izzo said in an interview with the AP.

 

DETROIT – APRIL 04: Former Michigan State player Earvin Magic Johnson (R) and his wife Cookie walk off the court after the Michigan State Spartans won 82-73 against the Connecticut Huskies during the National Semifinal game of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship at Ford Field on April 4, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

 

Nope, the Magic Johnson-led bunch that beat Larry Bird and Indiana State in the 1979 NCAA title game started at No. 7.

The Spartans won 32 games last year and reached Izzo’s eighth Final Four before falling to Texas Tech. They return Winston with fellow starters Xavier Tillman and Aaron Henry from that run, and they get back another starter in Joshua Langford after he missed much of last year with a foot injury.

 

EAST LANSING, MI – JANUARY 02: Joshua Langford #1 of the Michigan State Spartans in a walking boot prior to the game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Breslin Center on January 2, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

 

That nucleus is good enough that only one voter picked the Spartans as low as third, with four others picking them second and the rest at No. 1. They will be tested right away, too: the Spartans open the season against Kentucky in a 1-vs-2 matchup Nov. 5 in New York.

“This is a program deal and it’s the players in the program, and I’m really proud of them for that,” Izzo said. “Unfortunately, what you are at the beginning of the year doesn’t help you at the end of the year, but I think it does say something about the program and what we’ve done over these years.”

THE TOP TIER

Roughly half of the voters (33 of 65) chose Michigan State, Kentucky and Kansas in some order atop their ballot. Kentucky received two first-place votes, while Kansas received the other three.

 

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – MARCH 31: Head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts to a play against the Auburn Tigers during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 31, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

 

It marks the ninth straight year that John Calipari’s Wildcats have been a top-five preseason pick and seventh in a row for Bill Self’s Jayhawks, who open the season with the program facing NCAA charges tied to a federal corruption investigation into the sport.

Kansas and Duke open their seasons against each other on the same bill with Michigan State-Kentucky.

CHAMPS AT 11

Virginia has gone from facing questions about how it would respond to an unprecedented tournament loss against UMBC to how it will build on its run to its first NCAA title. Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers are 11th after losing De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Final Four most outstanding player Kyle Guy to the NBA draft. It is the lowest preseason ranking for a champion since Connecticut was 17th to start the 2014-15 season.

 

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – APRIL 08: Head coach Tony Bennett of the Virginia Cavaliers cuts down the net after his teams 85-77 win over the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the 2019 NCAA men’s Final Four National Championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 08, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

 

CONFERENCE WATCH

nd Southeastern conferences each had four ranked teams to lead all leagues.

The ACC ended last season with four top-10 teams, then picked back up with four teams all ranked in the top 11.

 

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – APRIL 06: Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans talks with Cassius Winston #5 in the second half against the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the 2019 NCAA Final Four semifinal at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 6, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

 

No. 18 Ohio State and No. 23 Purdue joined Michigan State and Maryland for the Big Ten’s quartet, while the SEC had No. 22 LSU and No. 24 Auburn — fresh off its Final Four run — joining Kentucky and Florida.

The Big 12 (three), Big East (three), Pac-12 (two) and West Coast Conference (two) also had multiple ranked teams.

THE WATCH LIST

The Pac-12 could quickly add to its total with Washington and Colorado as the top vote-getters among unranked teams. Washington twice appeared in last season’s poll at No. 25. But it’s been a much longer wait for the Buffaloes, who haven’t cracked the poll since January 2014 but have five starters back and are picked to finish second in the Pac-12 behind No. 15 Oregon.

 

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Detroit Pistons Waive Veteran Joe Johnson

The Detroit Pistons have waived veteran Joe Johnson.

The Pistons announced the move Monday, setting their 15-man roster for Wednesday night’s season opener at Indiana.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 07: Joe Johnson #24 of the Detroit Pistons plays against Orlando Magic during a pre season game at Little Caesars Arena on October 07, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Detroit signed Johnson last month, but the Pistons maintained that he would be competing for a roster spot, and there was no guarantee of that. The seven-time All-Star did not play in the NBA at all last season and came to Detroit after being named MVP of the BIG3 3-on-3 basketball league.

Johnson appeared in four preseason games, averaging 3.8 points.

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Brian France Was Right To Bring Playoffs To NASCAR

Spoilers, tension, a sense of urgency. Heroes, villains.

The NASCAR playoffs are playing out with all the drama Brian France envisioned for the elimination-style playoff system he helped launch in 2004.

RICHMOND, VA – APRIL 30: NASCAR Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Brian France speaks with the media during a press conference prior to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 30, 2017 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

After multiple tweaks and changes since then, the NASCAR postseason now has what France liked to call “Game 7 moments,” the kind of I-shouldn’t-miss-this attraction for fans that comes with, say, the Final Four, the NFL playoffs or October baseball. This year, this tension has been building since the playoffs began six weeks ago and the elimination race at Kansas Speedway over the weekend, with a wild finish that went into double overtime, did not disappoint.

Chase Elliott basically had to win Sunday to keep his title hopes alive; short of that, he needed a total collapse from someone ahead of him in the standings. Well, he nearly won the race but finished second to Denny Hamlin and still advanced because Brad Keselowski fell apart.

As Elliott was charging to the front of the field, Keselowski was literally falling backward in a fascinating split-screen showcase of the drivers’ push for the final spot in the round of eight.

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 20: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, leads Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Discount Tire Ford, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Neither driver was predicted to be in that position — both Keselowski and Elliott went into the playoffs as legitimate championship contenders — but Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney both grabbed slots in the next round with surprise victories. The win-and-advance model rolled out in 2014 has thrown Larson and Blaney into the mix and ended a potential title run for one of the strongest teams from the regular season.

This is everything France wanted when he first launched the Chase — what the system was called in 2004 — and he made major changes four different times trying to get it right even as some longtime fans stopped watching. Critics called it a gimmick and manufactured drama, and grumbled the old season-long title march was the preferred method to crown a champion.

It has taken all those tweaks and years to settle in to show that France’s vision was the right one for NASCAR, with its relentless, 10-month season and events that run three-plus hours, to remain relevant in the fast-changing sports and entertainment landscape.

HOMESTEAD, FL – NOVEMBER 19: CEO and Chairman of NASCAR Brian France attends a press conference prior to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19, 2017 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

France was correct, even if the system was contrived. The sport needed its version of walk-off home runs or last-second touchdown passes to spice up the action.

France is now far removed from this system and the sport itself, his departure from the family business becoming officially official Friday when NASCAR and sister company International Speedway Corp. merged into one organization with NASCAR chairman and CEO Jim France continuing in the same role. ISC chief executive Lesa France Kennedy was named executive chair and NASCAR president Steve Phelps tabbed president in charge of overseeing day-to-day operations of the merged companies.

HOMESTEAD, FL – NOVEMBER 18: NASCAR President Steve Phelps speaks to the media prior to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2018 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Brian France, who stepped away as CEO of NASCAR following his August 2018 drunken-driving arrest, is not named in the new leadership structure.

Jim France has said very little publicly since replacing his nephew nearly 15 months ago and he leaves it to Phelps to talk about the future of NASCAR. But it is no coincidence that business has been rolling since Brian France stepped down and his uncle steadied a seemingly sinking ship. Booming might be a stretch, but things are happening behind the scenes at a markedly improved pace that has benefited the product.

A new rules package was rolled out this year designed to make the racing better, and although it has received mixed reviews, the on-track action is better than it has been the past several seasons. Work continues to be done on the “Next Gen” car scheduled to be introduced in 2021; the car is intended to reduce costs, in large part via common parts from approved vendors, which will shrink the required workforce and tighten many loopholes for creativity and innovation.

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 20: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota, Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, and Erik Jones, driver of the #20 Reser’s Fine Foods Toyota, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The hard work is in keeping older fans, attracting new ones and marketing NASCAR, particularly its playoffs, as can’t-miss-viewing.

Those who have watched through the first two rounds have seen an intense and sometimes heated scramble for points and positions as no driver has emerged as the clear favorite. Joe Gibbs Racing, with three wins through six playoff races, has three drivers atop the standings but anything can happen starting Sunday at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. Reigning series champion Joey Logano is the defending race winner, and he staved off elimination himself at Kansas after a crash in the waning laps put him on the bubble against teammate Keselowski.

HOMESTEAD, FL – NOVEMBER 18: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates with NASCAR President Steve Phelps after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2018 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The title race has gone down to the finale in every year since Brian France created this system, and the champion has had to win at Homestead-Miami Speedway to cement the crown the last five years — every year of the elimination format — just as Brian France wanted. Fans of the way things used to be still turn their noses up at a system they find phony or engineered all for the sake of excitement.

But it is exciting, and Brian France’s system works. He’s just not around for the vindication.

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Detroit’s Defensive Front Was Supposed To Be A Strength

Detroit’s much-anticipated defensive front has looked flat so far this season.

This was supposed to be a strength for the Lions, who added defensive linemen Trey Flowers and Mike Daniels in the offseason and traded for Damon Harrison last year. The results have been decidedly mixed, and last weekend, Detroit struggled to stop the run and rush the passer in a 42-30 loss to Minnesota.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 20: Dalvin Cook #33 of the Minnesota Vikings looks for yards during a first half run in front of Jahlani Tavai #51 of the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 20, 2019, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Lions have played some tough opponents, and their defensive numbers aren’t good: They’ve allowed 429 yards per game, with opponents having success both on the ground and through the air.

“I thought that it was probably closer than where it was yesterday,” coach Matt Patricia said Monday. “I thought yesterday was not where it has been in the past. I think I definitely saw that on tape. That’s why I wanted to go back today and make sure that I was teaching it again, to make sure that I didn’t leave anything out from that aspect through the course of this week that caused us not to play up to some of the technique that we had been doing at this point.”

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 20: Head Coach Matt Patricia of the Detroit Lions reacts in the first half while playing the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on October 20, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Lions have faced a tough slate of quarterbacks so far. Their last five games have been against Phillip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins. Their losses to Kansas City and Green Bay were close, but there were few silver linings at home against the Vikings.

Even amid the excitement of a revamped defensive line, the Lions were dealing with injuries as early as training camp, when Flowers and Harrison missed time. That may have contributed to some of the team’s problems.

“That is one of the things I talk about all the time, how important training camp is — those reps in training camp. The cumulative amount of reps that we get in camp far outweigh the Wednesdays or every other Wednesday kind of repetition that we get,” Patricia said. “It makes it really difficult to catch up, and unfortunately, we have to do it every single way we can possible.”

DETROIT, MI – SEPTEMBER 29: Detroit Lions Head Football Coach Matt Patricia watches the action during the first quarter of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Ford Field on September 29, 2019, in Detroit, Michigan (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

WHAT’S WORKING

With the exception of a puzzling fourth-down play in the fourth quarter, the offense seemed sharp against the Vikings. Matthew Stafford threw for 364 yards and four touchdowns, and the team’s only turnover came late when the Lions were rushing to try to make up a 12-point deficit.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The defensive line has fallen short of expectations, but the whole defense has room for improvement. Minnesota punted only twice Sunday and had 32 first downs.

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 20: Dalvin Cook #33 of the Minnesota Vikings scores a late fourth-quarter touchdown during the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 20, 2019, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

STOCK UP

Marvin Jones had 10 catches for 93 yards and four touchdowns. Jones was an effective target in the red zone — all of his TDs were from 16 yards or fewer.

STOCK DOWN

Harrison spoke at length Monday and put some of the blame on himself for Detroit’s struggles up front. The Lions are allowing 139 yards per game on the ground, compared to 110 last season.

“It really starts with me up front,” Harrison said. “I have to do a better job in the middle, and getting some of those plays that I’m used to making, that I’m not making this year. It’s a lot of things that I can blame it on, but the only thing that I can do at the end of the day is just throw effort at it during the practice week and try to perform on Sunday.”

INJURED

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 20: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions hands the ball of to Kerryon Johnson #33 during the first quarter of the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on October 20, 2019, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Running back Kerryon Johnson (knee) and cornerback Darius Slay (hamstring) were injured during the game and did not return. Patricia addressed Johnson’s status Monday, but did not offer much in the way of new information.

“I know he met with the doctors this morning, we rolled into a team meeting, and then went into offensive and defensive meetings, so I’ll get together with them,” Patricia said. “I saw him, and he said he was fine, but it wasn’t really a deep conversation.”

KEY NUMBER

1 — The number of sacks for Flowers so far this season, and the numbers of tackles for Daniels, who has missed three games.

NEXT STEPS

The schedule appears to ease up a bit. Detroit hosts the New York Giants on Sunday before a road game against Oakland.

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Hamlin Wins, Keselowski Falls At Chaotic NASCAR Cut-Off Race At Kansas Speedway

Denny Hamlin was surrounded by Joe Gibbs Racing teammates at the front on the final restart, and that put Chase Elliott in the most difficult and precarious of situations.

Somehow, he figured, he needed to find a way to beat them all to advance in NASCAR’s playoffs.

It turned out second place was good enough.

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 20: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, takes the checkered flag ahead of Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Hamlin roared away with a push from behind from teammate Kyle Busch on the second shot at a green-white-checkered finish, and Elliott was unable to chase him down. But deep in the field, Brad Keselowski was going backward, and the spots he lost in the elimination race at Kansas Speedway were enough to send Elliott through in the final cut-off spot to the round of eight.

Hamlin won the race. Elliott felt almost as if he did.

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 20: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, stands on the grid following the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

“You have to stay fighting in these things, especially with the late-race restarts,” he said. “Just excited we get to fight another race. Back up against the wall, to come out here and battle for the win, that’s what you have to do when you’re in the position we were in.”

In a bit of irony, it was Keselowski who helped bring out the caution in the first overtime when he got into Daniel Suarez and triggered a wreck that collected teammate Joey Logano. The field was nearing the start-finish line but the caution light came on before the leader took the white flag.

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 20: Daniel Hemric, driver of the #8 Caterpillar Chevrolet, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Daniel Suarez, driver of the #41 ARRIS Ford, are involved in an on-track incident during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

If Hamlin had crossed a split-second quicker, the race would have been over and Keselowski safe.

“I pushed as hard as I knew how and didn’t quite do good enough on the last restart and that was it,” Keselowski said. “We clawed as hard as we could and there were times it looked like we were going to be fine and times it didn’t. In the end it didn’t work out.”

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 20: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Discount Tire Ford, walks on the grid following the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch ultimately finished third, followed by Kurt Busch and William Byron. But the key was Keselowski, who dropped from 13th to 19th on the final restart and out of the next round of the playoffs.

He ended up three points — equal to three positions on the track — below the cutoff line.

Byron was the next driver eliminated despite a strong run at Kansas, where he would have needed a win to advance. Alex Bowman and home-state hero Clint Bowyer also were eliminated.

“I did think we were OK,” Keselowski said, “but obviously we weren’t.”

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 20: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, poses with the trophy after wining the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

The win was the fifth this season for Hamlin, who already was in good shape to advance but picked up valuable playoff points with the win. He’d finished in the top five at Kansas twice in the past couple years, but the trip to victory lane was the first for his Joe Gibbs Racing team since 2012.

“This was a tough track for us. We didn’t run very good here in the spring,” said his crew chief, Chris Gabehart. “We got a few key adjustments that turned us into a dominant car.”

The frenzied push to the finish Sunday began when Blaney scraped the wall with 14 to go, causing his tire to go down and a caution flag to fly. Elliott was three points behind Keselowski at that point, but the savior of Hendrick Motorsports’ playoff hopes made a big move on the restart to climb to fourth place, and that put the pressure right back on Keselowski to make up ground.

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 20: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, leads Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Discount Tire Ford, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Elliott was still in good shape until another caution flew, jumbling the front of the pack and giving Keselowski a chance. He made a quick stop and picked up three spots on pit road, putting Elliott back in a situation where it appeared he would need a victory to advance.

“I was under the impression,” he said.

The entire field got through the first playoff restart cleanly, but Keselowski ran out of room deep in the pack and nudged Suarez, sending him into the wall. Logano also was heavily damaged in the wreck, throwing his own playoff hopes into question as another OT approached.

Hamlin got a good jump on the restart, and Elliott dived low and got in line. He immediately moved forward into second place while Keselowski began hemorrhaging positions, and the change that was made in the final two laps was enough to send Elliott into the next round.

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 20: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota, and William Byron, driver of the #24 UniFirst Chevrolet, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

“If you ever get to Homestead, you’re going to have to fight for a win,” he said. “Proud of the effort. Learned a lot. To be able to come out here and, like I said, in our minds have to win, come and fight for one, to finish second, I think is step in the right direction for us.”

OTHER PLAYOFF DRIVERS

Bowyer had a strong finish in eighth, but the playoff contender was a non-factor most of the day despite needing a win to advance. Kevin Harvick started 40th after inspection issues and never making it on the track to qualify, but he worked his way through the field to finish ninth.

“That was not a very good weekend from top to bottom,” Harvick said. “I just didn’t have a very good car and didn’t have a very good day on pit road. Nothing went right all weekend. It was definitely one of the worst weekends we have had in a while.”

ALL THE REST

Among non-playoff drivers, Erik Jones was among his three Gibbs playoff teammates in contention for the win before finishing seventh. Jimmie Johnson rallied from a slow start to finish 10th.

UP NEXT

Keselowski won the spring race at Martinsville, though that probably doesn’t make him feel much better returning now that he’s outside the playoffs. Logano edged Hamlin in the playoff race a year ago.

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Jones Gets First Career Win In Wild Kansas Race

Brandon Jones raced to his first career Xfinity Series victory Saturday at Kansas Speedway after a lapped car wrecked what was shaping up as an entertaining duel between playoff contenders Chase Briscoe and Christopher Bell.

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 19: Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem Toyota, crashes during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway on October 19, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

It wasn’t the end of the drama, either.

Fellow playoff contenders Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick got into a pit-road melee after getting out of their cars. Custer was upset at the way Reddick raced him in the closing laps of the first race in the round of eight in NASCAR’s version of the playoffs.

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 19: Tyler Reddick, driver of the #2 TAME the BEAST Chevrolet, is restrained on pit lane after fighting with Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Production Alliance Group Ford, after the NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway on October 19, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Reddick finished second and Briscoe rallied to third, while playoff drivers Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top five. Custer was 11th with Bell right behind him.

“I was just frustrated he can’t keep the car on the bottom, then runs us up into the wall,” said Custer, who was chasing his eighth win this season and remains second in the standings.

“It’s fine if he wants to wreck their cars and put their car in the wall from time to time, but when it’s me, I’m not going to be very happy,” Custer said. “I went over to say that.”

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 19: Tyler Reddick, driver of the #2 TAME the BEAST Chevrolet, is seen following an altercation with Cole Custer(not pictured), driver of the #00 Production Alliance Group Ford, on pit lane after the NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway on October 19, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Custer put his hand on Reddick’s shoulder, and the two immediately grabbed at each other’s throats as they tumbled to the pavement. Crew members from both their teams jumped in with NASCAR officials in trying to pull them apart, and Custer dropped an expletive that was caught on live TV.

“I understand Cole’s frustration 100 percent. We were trying to lock ourselves into Homestead” for the championship race,” said Reddick, who was left with a small cut over his eye. “If you put your hand on me, I’m going to put you on your back. That’s the way it’s going to be.”

Reddick remained third behind Bell and Custer in the playoff standings.

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 19: Cole Custer(center), driver of the #00 Production Alliance Group Ford, is seen on the bottom of an altercation with the team of Tyler Reddick(not pictured), driver of the #2 TAME the BEAST Chevrolet, following the NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway on October 19, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

“I think a lot of Cole and his driving ability. I think a lot of that team,” he said. “I obviously didn’t want to get into his quarter panel but I lift, I get passed. I hate that it happened to him.”

Briscoe and Bell had even more misfortune.

The duo battled for the lead throughout the closing laps, and they were running side-by-side — Briscoe riding the wall and Bell hugging the stripe at the bottom of the track — when the slower car of Garrett Smithley moved up the track and right into their path.

Briscoe checked up, Bell got into him and both of them came away with heavy damage. Briscoe had his entire rear end sheared off and was forced to the pits to have another riveted in place, while Bell used a series of pit stops to allow his team members to reconstruct his right front fender.

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 19: Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem Toyota, is involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway on October 19, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

“I take full responsibility,” Smithley said. “Feel awful.”

Custer had the lead on the restart until Reddick tagged him in the left rear, dropping him off the pace. And when another caution came out for Joey Gase, it was Brandon Jones suddenly in front.

He nursed the lead as a quartet of playoff contenders battled for position behind him. Allgaier moved past Reddick with five to go, and Briscoe got a big run to get around him one lap later, then set his sights on trying to chase down Jones in the closing laps.

Reddick eventually made a move for second place and that’s how they finished.

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 19: Brandon Jones, driver of the #19 Flow Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway on October 19, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

“This is incredible,” said Jones, a teammate of Bell with Joe Gibbs Racing who was knocked out of the playoffs in the last round. “I knew this was going to happen, that we were going to come here and have an amazing day. It’s been so tough to get to this point.”

Playoff contender Noah Gragson finished 13th after repeatedly tagging the wall with his right side, at one point cutting down his tire and forcing an off-schedule pit stop. Austin Cindric was 25th after an eventful day that put his hopes of advancing to Homestead in jeopardy.

Cindric got into the back of Harrison Burton during the second stage while aggressively trying to make a pass, damaging his front end. Cindric then flatted later in the stage, putting him several laps down, and the Team Penske driver wound up six laps behind the leaders.

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Piston Additions Rose & Johnson Have Lots To Prove

DETROIT (AP) — Blake Griffin was asked to recall the early stages of Derrick Rose’s career, when the dynamic point guard won an MVP for the Chicago Bulls at age 22.

“His run in Chicago was special,” Griffin said. “I don’t want to say it caught us off guard, because it was kind of a nice natural progression for him, but just everything he did was at a higher level than anybody else. He was great for the game of basketball — is great for the game of basketball.”

 

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – OCTOBER 16: Derrick Rose #25 of the Detroit Pistons watches on before their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center on October 16, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

 

The Detroit Pistons are hoping Griffin was right to use the present tense after signing Rose as a free agent this offseason. Now 31, Rose is far removed from his days as an MVP, but the Pistons saw enough upside to bring him in. Detroit also added 38-year-old Joe Johnson.

The Pistons now have the top picks from the 2008 and 2009 drafts in Rose and Griffin. Rose, Griffin and Johnson have combined for 16 All-Star selections, although the last time they made it at the same time was in 2012. How this trio will do in 2019 is anyone’s guess.

 

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – OCTOBER 16: Joe Johnson #24 of the Detroit Pistons shoots over Dwayne Bacon #7 of the Charlotte Hornets during their game at Spectrum Center on October 16, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

 

Detroit’s moves were certainly interesting, and there were seemingly inevitable questions about whether the Pistons should double down on big names in their 30s by adding Carmelo Anthony. That did not happen, but Detroit has shown a willingness to be creative when trying to add talent.

The Pistons haven’t won a playoff game since 2008, and they aren’t exactly a prime destination for the game’s top free agents. They also haven’t been bad enough lately to pick near the very top of the draft.

In 2018, they gave up a first-round pick in a huge deal for the often-injured Griffin. He was tremendous last season, joining LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo as the only players in the league averaging at least 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game. The Pistons made the playoffs but were swept in the first round.

 

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – FEBRUARY 28: Derrick Rose #25 of the Minnesota Timberwolves watches the action against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on February 28, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

 

Now Rose arrives, fresh off a season in which he averaged 18 points for Minnesota. He appeared in only 51 games because of a variety of injuries, but that was more than double what he played the previous season for the Timberwolves and Cleveland. Last season was his second-highest scoring mark since tearing his left ACL in 2012. He also shot a career-best 37% from 3-point range.

“I’m more poised, I’m shooting the 3, I’m more efficient,” Rose said. “It’s just that people love to see the reckless way that I played, and the reckless way that I played led me to my injuries.”

The Pistons would love for Rose to be healthy and resurgent, the way Griffin was for most of last season. Rose often played off the ball last season, so it’s possible he can succeed alongside Detroit point guard Reggie Jackson. He can also be an option at the point if Jackson struggles to produce consistently.

 

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 07: Joe Johnson #24 of the Detroit Pistons plays against Orlando Magic during a pre season game at Little Caesars Arena on October 07, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

 

While Rose is obviously an important part of the Pistons’ plans, Johnson’s future is murkier. He didn’t play in the NBA at all last season. He ended up in the BIG3 3-on-3 league — he said it was just something to do — where he was named MVP. Detroit acquired him last month.

“It wasn’t like, ‘I’m going to play in the BIG3, so these people can see me.’ That wasn’t my purpose,” Johnson said. “I did it just for the love of the game, just to go out and have fun.”

Pistons executive Ed Stefanski said Johnson would be competing for a roster spot, but the team was happy to bring in the veteran with over 20,000 career points. Johnson has averaged 14.8 minutes and 3.8 points in four preseason games.

 

AUBURN HILLS, MICHIGAN – SEPTEMBER 30: Joe Johnson #24 of the Detroit Pistons poses for a portrait during the Detroit Pistons Media Day at Pistons Practice Facility on September 30, 2019 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

 

“Joe has all the traits you need to be a professional. That doesn’t hurt our team to have a guy like that. It doesn’t hurt the younger players to see the work ethic that Joe can bring to the table,” Johnson said. “Joe still, we think, has something left to prove. That’s what he wants to do.”

So Griffin, Rose and Johnson — accomplished players all — enter the season amid varying expectations. Griffin is the team’s undisputed star, Rose the intriguing newcomer and Johnson the former standout trying to extend his career.

All three sense an opportunity.

“I think the sky is the limit. You’ve got pretty much everything on this team,” Johnson said. “Good point guards, great bigs, some wings. And then you’ve got a great mixture of younger guys and older guys.”

 

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Lions Fans Call Out Officiating Circus

It was a fitting form of protest, given the circus that NFL officiating has become, game after game, week after week: A trio of spectators wore clown makeup and black-and-white striped jerseys in the stands at the Detroit Lions’ home game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Other fans who wore officials’ shirts accessorized the ensemble with ski masks as if setting out to commit a robbery. Folks in the crowd booed during the pregame coin toss. And they booed some more when the first yellow flag flew, a week after the Lions were hurt by some questionable calls of illegal hands to the face.

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 20: A Detroit Lions football fan dressed up as an NFL ref prior to the strut of the game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 20, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

“You can ask the refs if it affects them. I don’t know,” Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford said about the jeering Sunday after his team was beaten by Minnesota 42-30. “But I think they’re pretty used to it, probably, too.”

Here is what players, coaches, and fans are getting used to Hard-to-understand rulings, followed by inscrutable explanations coming from the league office.

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 20: A Detroit Lions fan reacts to a call during a game against the at Ford Field on October 20, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Coaches are generally afraid to say what they really think about the matter, which is why Bill O’Brien said this — twice — after an in-the-grasp call he didn’t like in his Houston Texans’ 30-23 loss at the Indianapolis Colts: “I’m not going to answer any officiating questions.”

And players know what can happen if they dare utter what they believe.

St. Louis Rams linebacker Clay Matthews reportedly was fined after tweeting about what he considers the officials’ “inability to make the accurate and correct calls” and how the NFL’s head of officiating, Al Riveron, “continues to blindly side with his refs and the current status quo.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 29: Outside linebacker Clay Matthews #52 of the Los Angeles Rams looks on during the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)

Here are other top topics after the seventh Sunday of the NFL season:

GAME BALL

Not too often that a game ball recipient wasn’t even on hand for the game, but 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan chose to offer that ceremonial honor to his father, Mike after San Francisco beat the hapless Washington Redskins 9-0 on a rainy afternoon. Why? Well, the Shanahans were fired by the Redskins — Mike was head coach; Kyle ran his offense — in 2013, and it was a less-than-amicable parting. “It was a game we wanted to win for (Kyle), and Mike Shanahan,” Niners tight end George Kittle said, “and it was really fun that we could get that for him.”

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 22: Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers walks down the sidelines during the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Levi’s Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

LET’S MAKE A DEAL

With a little more than a week to go until the Oct. 29 NFL trade deadline, it’s time for a few teams whose seasons are lost causes to be smart about things and get what they can for whatever (little) of value they have on the roster. Let’s start with the most obvious candidates for sell-offs: The Miami Dolphins (0-6) and Cincinnati Bengals (0-7) are both winless under rookie head coaches and heading nowhere fast. There might not be a ton to work with, but they surely can find a buyer or two for some assets. Next up are two clubs that are 1-6 with nothing to play for: The Redskins already have fired coach Jay Gruden, and it seems to be only a matter of time until the Atlanta Falcons do the same with Dan Quinn, even if he did take them to the Super Bowl. It makes zero sense at all for Washington to hold onto left tackle Trent Williams, who is holding out; they need to start all over yet again. Other teams that should consider unloading a veteran or two in exchange for a draft pick or two include the New York Giants, who at least have Daniel Jones to rebuild around, and the Denver Broncos, who appear to be in real trouble.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 26: Trent Williams #71 of the Washington Redskins walks off the field at the end of the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles on December 26, 2015 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

TRADE-OFFS

If playoff contenders such as the New Orleans Saints, who are now 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater starting in place of an injured Drew Brees, or the Colts, who somehow have managed to go 4-2 after Andrew Luck retired in the preseason — and can we just agree right now that Sean Payton and Frank Reich deserve all of the Coach of the Year votes? — Want to see proof that making a swap can pay immediate dividends, they need look no further than the St. Louis Rams and Baltimore Ravens. The Rams picked up cornerback Jalen Ramsey from the Jacksonville Jaguars and, thanks in part to his miraculous recovery from a bad back (insert eye-roll emoji here), his debut featured a forced fumble, four tackles and some serious defense against premier receiver Julio Jones in a 37-10 victory over imploding Atlanta. The DB jettisoned by the Rams because they added Ramsey, Marcus Peters, also made quite an impression on his new team, the Ravens. He scored his fifth career pick-6, a 67-yard return after intercepting Russell Wilson in Baltimore’s 30-16 win at Seattle.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – OCTOBER 20: Jalen Ramsey #20 of the Los Angeles Rams defends against Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons in the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 20, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Lions Fans Vent, But Defense Can’t Stop Vikings

The fans in Detroit booed the officials during the opening coin toss, then again when the game’s first flag was thrown.

That turned out to be a penalty on Minnesota, but by the end of the fourth quarter, the crowd had plenty of other reasons to be annoyed.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 20: Dalvin Cook #33 of the Minnesota Vikings looks for yards during a first half run in front of Jahlani Tavai #51 of the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 20, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The officials weren’t the story of this game. The Lions lost because they couldn’t stop Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs, Kirk Cousins, and the rest of the Minnesota offense. The Vikings rolled up 503 yards in their 42-30 victory Sunday, handing Detroit its third straight loss.

The Lions were on the wrong end of some questionable calls late in their 23-22 loss at Green Bay on Monday night. Their fans came ready to vent their frustration against Minnesota, but quarterback Matthew Stafford said that reaction didn’t affect the players much.

oDETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 20: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions throws a pass in the third quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on October 20, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

“It doesn’t have any effect on me, I don’t think it does on the guys on our team,” Stafford said. “You can ask the refs if it affects them, I don’t know, but I think they’re pretty used to it, probably, too. We’ve just got to go play the game. I understand people are upset at certain times for whatever reason, but for us, what we can control is scoring, not letting them score — and we didn’t do a good enough job of that today.”

Stafford become the fastest quarterback to reach 40,000 yards passing, eclipsing the mark in his 147th game. He threw four touchdown passes, all to Marvin Jones, but the Lions allowed easily their highest point total of the season.

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 20: Marvin Jones #11 of the Detroit Lions celebratess a first quarter touchdown during the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on October 20, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Cook ran for 142 yards, and Cousins threw for 337 and four touchdowns. A 66-yard pass to Diggs set up a late insurance touchdown that helped seal the victory.

Detroit was unbeaten through three games before this current losing streak. The Lions lost a close game at home to Kansas City — no shame in that — and then fell on the road in controversial fashion to the Packers. In this game, they were simply outplayed.

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 20: Dalvin Cook #33 of the Minnesota Vikings scores a late fourth quarter touchdown during the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 20, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

The defense, in particular, had problems. Cousins wasn’t sacked a single time, and Cook was terrific.

Detroit defensive end Trey Flowers was asked if he thought the Lions would play angrier, given the nature of their loss to Green Bay.

“You don’t really stand on emotions. You stand on fundamentals and hard work,” he said. “So, whether emotions were high or low today, it all goes back to the fundamentals that you prepare with. It all goes back to the technique and things like that. It’s just one of those deals that whatever happened last week, you can’t let it carry over to today, whether that’s anger or sorrow.”

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 20: Stefon Diggs #14 of the Minnesota Vikings tries to escape the tackle of Jahlani Tavai #51 of the Detroit Lions after a second half catch at Ford Field on October 20, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Minnesota won the game 42-30. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Lions were feisty at the end, when there was some pushing and shoving as Minnesota tried to kneel out the clock, but by then it was much too late. If Detroit tried at all to use the loss to the Packers as fuel, it didn’t seem to matter much.

“I don’t think the frustration or really the emotion of playing the game is ever wiped out. I think the emotion gets carried through this game from year to year, play to play, week to week, decade to decade if you’re in it that long,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “But from a rally cry or anything like that, you just want to make sure that you’re not focusing on or paying too much attention to the wrong thing.”

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Fantasy Football Start And Sits Week 7: Start Jared Goff Against Falcons?

(CBSLA/CBS Local) — The Los Angeles Rams have struggled of late, losing their last three games. Jared Goff, however, aside from a stinker against a strong San Francisco 49ers defense, has been mostly okay. In fact, he’s been better than okay, throwing for 395 yards and a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks and 517 yards and two touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He could put up similar — or better — numbers this week with his receiving core healthy. The Rams head to Atlanta to face a woeful Falcons pass defense that gives up the sixth-most passing yards and second-most points per game. They also don’t put much pressure on the quarterback. Goff’s potential, given the matchup, has Dave Richard, Heath Cummings and Jamey Eisenberg from Fantasy Football Today listing him as one of their must-starts for Week 8.

A second must-start is Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown, who will face another horrendous defense. Their opponent, the Miami Dolphins, gives up 36 points per game, by far the most in the NFL. Brown is generally good for at least five catches against a solid defense. While he hasn’t found the end zone much this season yet, that should change against the Dolphins.

Stream your local NFL on CBS game live with CBS All Access.

Beyond Goff and Brown, the Fantasy Football Today guys look at four other guys to start or sit this week, based on matchups and other circumstances. Find out who they are below, and watch the video above to find out why. If you want more fantasy football advice check out Fantasy Football Today every day at 12 p.m. Eastern Time on CBS Sports HQ.

Dave Richard

Start

QB: Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams @ Atlanta Falcons

WR: John Brown, Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins

Sit

RB: Matt Breida, San Francisco 49ers @ Washington Redskins

Heath Cummings

Start

RB: Frank Gore, Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins

Sit

QB: Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers @ Tennessee Titans

WR: Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings


Stewart-Haas Racing Extends Clint Bowyer

Clint Bowyer has reached an agreement with Stewart-Haas Racing to return to the No. 14 Ford next season.

Bowyer has been with SHR for three of his 15 seasons in the Cup Series. His extension announced Thursday came as the Kansas native headed to his home track on the verge of elimination from the playoffs.

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – SEPTEMBER 27: Clint Bowyer, driver of the #14 Rush/Cummins Ford, looks on during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on September 27, 2019, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Bowyer, from Emporia, Kansas, is 11th in the 12-driver playoff field going into Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway. The bottom four drivers in the standings will be eliminated after Kansas.

“I’m proud to be back with Stewart-Haas Racing next year and very happy to announce it the week leading into my home race,” Bowyer said. “This is a team filled with racers who love to compete, and as a racecar driver, it’s exactly where you want to be. Great equipment, great teammates, and we’re all backed by great people.”

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA – OCTOBER 12: Clint Bowyer, driver of the #14 Rush/Mobil Delvac 1 Ford, stands on the grid during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 12, 2019, in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Bowyer was hired to replace team co-owner Tony Stewart following Stewart’s retirement after the 2016 season. He made his 500th career start last weekend, has twice qualified for the playoffs driving for SHR, but likely needs to win at Kansas to keep his championship chances rolling.

“Clint Bowyer is a racer to his core who brings passion and energy to our race team,” said Stewart. “He’s exactly who I wanted to drive my No. 14 car, and we’re very happy to have him continue with Stewart-Haas Racing.”

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Vikings-Lions Preview

MINNESOTA (4-2) at DETROIT (2-2-1)

Sunday, 1 p.m.

DETROIT, MI – DECEMBER 23: Kenny Golladay #19 of the Detroit Lions makes a catch in the second half against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on December 23, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

OPENING LINE — Pick ’em

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Vikings 4-2; Lions 4-1

SERIES RECORD — Vikings lead 74-39-2

LAST MEETING — Vikings beat Lions 27-9, Dec. 22, 2018

LAST WEEK — Vikings beat Eagles 38-10; Lions lost to Packers 23-22

AP PRO32 RANKING — Vikings No. 8, Lions No. 13

VIKINGS OFFENSE — OVERALL (11), RUSH (3), PASS (25).

VIKINGS DEFENSE — OVERALL (5), RUSH (9), PASS (7).

LIONS OFFENSE — OVERALL (13), RUSH (16), PASS (9).

LIONS DEFENSE — OVERALL (29), RUSH (27), PASS (28).

DETROIT, MI – DECEMBER 23: Trae Waynes #26 of the Minnesota Vikings brings down Kenny Golladay #19 of the Detroit Lions in the second half at Ford Field on December 23, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

STREAKS, STATS, AND NOTES — Vikings have won three consecutive against Lions, didn’t give up TD to them last season. … Minnesota has won two straight this year, averaging 33 points and giving up 10 points per game. … QB Kirk Cousins NFL-high 142.5 rating past two weeks with 639 yards passing, six TDs, one INT. … RB Dalvin Cook second in NFL with 796 yards from scrimmage, fourth with 583 yards rushing. … WR Stefon Diggs first Viking with two TDs of 50-plus yards in game since Randy Moss against Lions on Oct. 1, 2000. … DE Danielle Hunter NFL-high eight tackles for loss. … Vikings giving up 15.5 points per game, ranking sixth in league. … Lions lost two in row after 2-0-1 start. … QB Matthew Stafford 87 yards passing from 40,000-yard mark for career. Matt Ryan reached mark fastest in 151 games, five more than Stafford has played. … WR Kenny Golladay has scored in two straight home games, five-plus receptions in past three home games. … T.J. Hockenson only rookie TE with two receiving TDs. … DT Damon “Snacks” Harrison two sacks in past three games. … CB Justin Coleman career-high three passes defended last week and INT. Fantasy tip: Diggs had seven catches for 167 yards, career-high three TDs last week. He has nine TD receptions in previous nine division games.

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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