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Saints, Drew Brees suffer Super disappointment in NFC title game

The top-seeded New Orleans Saints lost their first home playoff game in the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era on Sunday with a 26-23 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game, ending the coach and quarterback’s shot at a second Super Bowl together. Here’s a recap of the season and what’s next:

Season grade: Near perfection. The Saints came oh-so-close to their second Super Bowl trip in franchise history — a long nine years after Payton and Brees first hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy. But the Saints ultimately couldn’t hang on Sunday after jumping to a 13-0 lead — thanks in large part to a controversial no-call by the officials on New Orleans’ final drive of regulation. And it was a call Payton said he and the Saints will “probably never get over.”

The Saints made a great run at it, earning the NFC’s No. 1 seed with a 13-3 record, and the age-defying Brees posted the best passer rating of his career this season before turning 40 on Tuesday. But Brees’ interception on the opening drive of overtime set up the Rams’ game-winning field goal. Said Payton: “Man, I was proud of these guys. It’s been a great season, it’s a great group of guys that’s worked extremely hard. To come off a tough loss like we did last year and put ourselves in this position — right there in a position inside the 10-yard line to go to the Super Bowl — I’m proud of every one of ’em.“cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Season in review: The end was stunning after the Saints felt destined to reach the Super Bowl for most of the season — and for most of Sunday’s game. But now the 2018 season will always be remembered for the officials’ decision to not call pass interference on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman against Tommylee Lewis in the final minutes of regulation and for Brees’ throwing just his third interception in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome all season when he was hit as he threw on the opening drive of overtime.5

Brees acknowledged the loss was even harder to take, knowing he might not get many more chances like this. But he said, “I plan on being here next year and making another run it.”

Brees’ 18th season was one of his best, as he finished the regular season with an NFL-record completion percentage of 74.4 and career-high passer rating of 115.7. He threw for 249 yards with two TDs and the interception on Sunday. At his hottest point, in the middle of the season, he threw a total of 15 TD passes during a four-game stretch in which the Saints averaged 44 points per game. But it wasn’t just “all Brees, all the time” for one of Payton’s most balanced teams yet. The Saints had five players named either first- or second-team All-Pro for the first time in franchise history — including first-team wide receiver Michael Thomas, who set team records with 125 catches and 1,405 yards. And their run defense finished second in the NFL, led by defensive end Cameron Jordan, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins and linebacker new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap Demario Davis, among others. The Saints relied on their defense to win several games down the stretch as the offense struggled a bit because of depth issues at receiver and injury issues on the offensive line. The highlight of that defensive surge came when cornerback Marshon Lattimore intercepted two passes in the divisional-round playoff win against Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, that defense couldn’t quite hang on enough after an outstanding start to Sunday’s game. Former Saints receiver Brandin Cooks helped the Rams catch up with two big plays in the second and third quarters. Then, the Rams quickly marched downfield for a game-tying field goal attempt late in regulation and kicked the 57-yard winner in overtime.

Should Broncos’ veterans be worried?

“When you don’t go to the playoffs here, they’re not going to sit around and just stay the same,” is how cornerback Chris Harris Jr. put it at season’s end. “We haven’t been to the playoffs in three years, I think they might think they gave this group a chance. They’re going to go young, that’s what I think. They’re going to go young. … I’ve said it before, everybody who won the Super Bowl is on a non-guaranteed contract, we’ll probably have two or three vets on this team and that’s it.“nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

The 2018 Broncos were already a fairly fresh-faced bunch. With nine picks already in hand for the 2019 draft, they likely have their collective eye on another roster youth movement.

The Broncos had 12 rookies on their Week 17 roster, and 11 of those were in uniform for the regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Chargers. In all, 13 rookies played in a game for the Broncos this past season, and the aim is to build on that class with another solid group in 2019.6

It’s why many of the Broncos’ veterans adjourned with plenty of uncertainty tucked away in their luggage.

The season-ending roster, not including those players who had been moved to injured reserve at some point in 2018, included just 18 players with four or more years of experience. The injured players included Harris, who just finished his eighth season, and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who just finished his ninth.

Among the unrestricted free agents expected to move on are linebacker Shane Ray and cornerback Bradley Roby; both are former first-round picks by the Broncos. Ray said the fact he had been a game-day inactive over the season’s final three weeks made it clear to him he will play elsewhere in 2019.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Nose tackle Domata Peko, who just finished his 13th NFL season, is also among the Broncos’ impending free agents, as are tackle Jared Veldheer, cornerback Tramaine Brock, center Matt Paradis, guard Billy Turner, guard Max Garcia and defensive end Zach Kerr. Of that group, Paradis, who finished the season on injured reserve, and Garcia are former Broncos draft picks.

Sources: Jed Lowrie agrees to two-year, $20M deal with Mets

The New York Mets have reached a two-year, $20 million deal with free-agent infielder Jed Lowrie, league sources told ESPN on Thursday, adding a versatile veteran to an overhauled team that hopes to compete in the loaded National League East this season.

The 34-year-old Lowrie is coming off the best year of his career, setting highs with 23 home runs, 99 RBIs and 78 walks as the surprising Oakland A’s made the postseason.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

He’ll join an infield that already includes the newly acquired Robinson Cano at second base, Todd Frazier at third base and Jeff McNeil in a utility role — the same sort of move-around-the-diamond spot Lowrie will likewise fill, according to sources.

The deal reconnects Lowrie with Brodie Van Wagenen, his former agent who was hired this winter as Mets general manager and has made a number of splashes in hopes of reinvigorating the moribund Mets. The trade for Cano and closer Edwin Diaz, which cost the Mets prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn, was the biggest.5

New York also has signed reliever Jeurys Familia, catcher Wilson Ramos and traded for center fielder Keon Broxton and utilityman J.D. Davis.

Before he played 157 games last season, Lowrie reached 100-plus games just twice — in 2013 and 2014 with the A’s — in his 10-year career. In 2018, Lowrie, who has settled in as a second baseman the past three years, again went into spring training free of any injuries after coming off one of his best seasons in 2017, and he delivered in having a durable, consistent campaign.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

How the Mets fit in Lowrie and spread plate appearances with a crowded infield will be part of the challenge manager Mickey Callaway faces following a 77-85 season. Lowrie’s patient approach and ability to switch hit make him a likely part of the Mets’ everyday lineup.

Lowrie helped the A’s make the playoffs three times in his tenure, hitting .271/.341/.413 with 60 homers and 320 RBIs in 687 games. His career line is .262/.335/.414 with 104 homers and 509 RBIs in 1,109 games.

Sony Michel’s big day bodes well for Patriots against Chiefs

New England Patriots rookie running back Sony Michel had earned a reputation for performing on the biggest stage at the University of Georgia. And in the biggest moment of the Patriots’ season, he delivered a standout performance in a 41-28 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers in an AFC divisional-round playoff game.

Michel’s emergence couldn’t have come at a more important time, and the Patriots will need it again in next Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium (6:40 p.m. ET, CBS).cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Keeping the ball away from Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be critical, and Michel — who was supported by bone-crunching fullback James Develin, unsung blocking from tight end Rob Gronkowski and an offensive line determined to impose its will — showed he can be relied upon to be a go-to guy in a playoff game.6

“He had a great game, and he’s just had a great year. He’s just battled and fought hard,” said quarterback Tom Brady. “I really love Sony as a person and his commitment to the team. He’s just been a lot of fun to be out there with, made a lot of hard yards. It’s great to see.”

The 31st overall pick in the draft, Michel finished with 129 yards on 24 carries and three touchdowns. He became just the third player in the past 25 postseasons with three rushing touchdowns in the first half of a playoff game, joining Ricky Watters (1993) and LeGarrette Blount (2013).cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Michel also became the only player in the past 25 postseasons with 100 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns in the first half of a playoff game. In 2018, only one player had 100 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a single half — Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who was voted second-team All-Pro

Fans who followed Michel at Georgia won’t be surprised, as the humble, soft-spoken 23-year-old was the offensive star of the Bulldogs’ double-overtime win over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl last year. He had 11 carries for 181 yards with three touchdowns in that game, along with four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown.

Asian Cup: Qatar, Japan, Uzbekistan win opening games

Qatar and Japan won their opening games at the Asian Cup on Wednesday, but for both teams it’s all about 2022. Quite literally for Qatar, who are hosting the next World Cup that year and scored their first goal at 8:22 p.m. — or 2022 — Qatar time.

Japan’s quest for a record fifth title started with a 3-2 victory over Turkmenistan, while Qatar earned a 2-0 win over Lebanon amid political tension with the host nation.

After giving up an early goal, Japan — who have a young squad that’s been rebuilt with an eye on the next World Cup — scored three in quick succession to turn the game around.

Yuya Osako scored in the 56th and 60th minutes, the latter following a goalkeeping error, and Ritsu Doan made it 3-1 in the 71st.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Arslanmurat Amanov scored with a long-range shot to give Turkmenistan — the Asian Cup’s second-lowest-ranked team — the lead in the 26th minute. Ahmet Atayev converted a penalty toward the end after a foul by Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda.6

After losing to Belgium in the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup, Japan are trying to rebuild. Coach Hajime Moriyasu left some experienced players off the team for the Asian Cup, including midfielder Shinji Kagawa and forward Shinji Okazaki. He is instead giving more prominence to players like Gonda, whose last competitive international game was in 2013.

Japan are unbeaten in six games since the World Cup, five of those victories.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

In the other Group F match, Uzbekistan beat Oman 2-1. Eldor Shomurodov scored the winning goal in the 85th minute.

Uzbekistan finished the match with 10 men after defender Egor Krimets was sent off in stoppage time for fouling an opposing player who was through on goal.

Qatar dominated possession but lacked a cutting edge against Lebanon before Iraqi-born Bassam Al-Rawi curled in a free kick in the 65th. Almoez Ali made it 2-0 from a rebound 14 minutes later.

Earlier, Lebanon thought they had scored their first major-tournament goal since 2000 through Ali Hamam from a corner, but it was ruled out for a foul away from the ball.

Alternate broadcast of some Wizards games to focus on betting

The future of sports-betting-infused game broadcasts will be on display Friday, when the Washington Wizards host the Milwaukee Bucks.
Friday’s game will be the first of eight that are scheduled to have the gaming-focused broadcasts, which were first reported by SportsBusiness Daily.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

The predictive contest, “Predict the Game,” will ask approximately 30 questions throughout the game, such as: “Will Wizards forward Trevor Ariza score 10 or more points in the first half?”

In addition, odds, point spreads and over/unders will be shown on broadcast graphics.6

“Combining the excitement of live Wizards games with engaging predictive gaming and data feeds will deliver a very entertaining experience for viewers, from first-time gaming players to savvy sports bettors,” NBC Sports Washington senior vice president and general manager Damon Phillips said in a news release. “The level of interest from fans, partners and sponsors in this area continues to increase, so we are pleased to offer this compelling product this season.”

“It’s the 1.0 version of where we’re ultimately going,” Zach Leonsis, senior vice president of strategic initiatives at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Wizards, told SportsBusiness Daily. “This will get more advanced. … The challenge for operators will be to make sure that the game play is supportive and not interruptive of the broadcast itself.”china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Last May, the United States Supreme Court overturned a federal statute that had prohibited states outside of primarily Nevada from offering sports betting. Since the decision, legal sportsbooks have opened in Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

The District of Columbia has passed legislation to allow sports betting, including at sports venues like Capital One Arena, home to the Wizards and Washington Capitals, but the law is awaiting final approval.

In recent months, NBC Sports has registered sports-betting-related web domains, including NBCSportsbook.com and NBCSportsSportsbook.com.

Additional alternate broadcasts are scheduled for Wizards games on Jan. 27 at the San Antonio Spurs, Jan. 30 against the Indiana Pacers, Feb. 2 against the Bucks, Feb. 22 at the Charlotte Hornets, March 3 against the Minnesota Timberwolves, March 19 against the Utah Jazz and April 5 against the Spurs.

Eagles bring ‘different team’ into rematch with Saints

Shortly after flipping off his former coach, Sean Payton, for running up the score, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins got dressed and exited the visitors’ locker room at the Superdome without saying a word. Considering Jenkins usually stands at his locker until every last question has been exhausted, that was saying something.new nike nfl jerseys cheap

He spoke tersely to a couple of reporters who caught up with him in the corridor before he headed for the bus, clearly stinging from an embarrassing 48-7 loss to his former team.

“It was one of those things that I didn’t feel like as a team we had a lot of fight. I would rather get thrown out of a game than just lay down and take it,” Jenkins said later that week. “At this point in time, we need to figure some things out about ourselves.”6

Well, they have. The Eagles were 4-6 following that Week 11 loss. They have won six of seven since, including a 16-15 thriller against the Chicago Bears over the weekend to set up a rematch with the Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs on Sunday (4:40 p.m. ET).cheap nfl nike jerseys china

“I think we’re a different football team now than we were then,” said coach Doug Pederson, “and you know, we’ve just got to put a good plan together in all three phases and, you know, go back down there. We’re on the road. It’s going to be in a dome. It’s going to be loud again, all those things. It’s going to be a great atmosphere.”

The Eagles’ offense has been much better since that matchup as well. Philly averaged 20.5 points per game in its first 10 games compared with 27 points per game in its final six regular-season games. Nick Foles has a good bit to do with that. He led the NFL in completion percentage and yards over the final three regular-season games in place of the injured Carson Wentz — all wins.

“It wasn’t a good game for us but at the same time, the thing that impresses me about my team is even in those moments where it wasn’t a good game for us, we still stuck together,” Foles said. “So it’s going to be a tall task this week. New Orleans, they had a bye week and they are a tremendous team. They had an amazing season but you know, I love these guys that I get to go play with. I know we’re ready for this week. Just one day at a time. Now we get to go back home, get a little sleep, get our bodies ready to roll again.”

Raiders shut out of Pro Bowl for second time in franchise history

Sure, Robert Mueller is busy at the moment, but Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden might want to drop the special counsel a line.

“If he’s not a Pro Bowler,” Gruden said of Raiders tight end Jared Cook last week, “I hope there’s an investigation.”

Not only was Cook snubbed, but so too was center Rodney Hudson, who had gone to the NFL’s all-star game after each of the previous two seasons and is having the best season of his career.

In fact, for the first time since 2003 and for just the second time in franchise history, the Raiders had no players selected for the Pro Bowl. Cook, Hudson and left guard Kelechi Osemele were named as alternates for the AFC squad.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

Raiders offensive lineman Jon Feliciano let his feelings on the snubs known on Twitter.6

This is what happens to 3-11 teams. But this is not what is supposed to happen to teams coached by Gruden, right?

Hudson has not given up a sack and ranks first in pass-blocking efficiency and sixth in run-blocking, per Pro Football Focus. He was bypassed in favor of the Pouncey brothers, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Maurkice and the Los Angeles Chargers’ Mike.

Cook, meanwhile, has career highs in receptions (63), receiving yards (848) and touchdown catches (6) and was passed over in favor of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce (93-1,220-10) and the Indianapolis Colts’ Eric Ebron (59-662-12).

Keep this in mind, though, because while the Raiders are in last place in their division, the Steelers, Chargers, Chiefs and Colts are all in the playoff race.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

It was a similar situation for struggling Raiders teams in 1989, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2012, 2013 and 2014, when they had one player selected in defensive lineman Howie Long, punter Shane Lechler, defensive end Derrick Burgess, Lechler and fullback Marcell Reece (three straight years).

Two years ago on this date, the Raiders were 11-3 and led the NFL with seven Pro Bowl selections. No investigation is needed to figure out what has happened in Oakland since.

Orioles GM: New manager Brandon Hyde an ‘up-and-coming star’

Sitting side by side in the auxiliary clubhouse at Camden Yards, Orioles general manager Mike Elias and new manager Brandon Hyde spoke excitedly Monday about working together to mold the struggling franchise into a winner again.

Hired last month to oversee a massive rebuilding project, Elias immediately set out to find a manager who could develop young, inexperienced players into solid major leaguers.

Elias came to Baltimore from Houston, where he helped turn the Astros from a perennial loser into a World Series champion. Hyde, similarly, was an integral part of the process that bolstered the Cubs from a rebuilding club into a world champion. This will be his first job as major league manager.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

“We’ve come from two organizations that had some down years but all of a sudden got good real quick,” Hyde noted. “That’s going to be the process here, and we’re looking forward to getting that going.”6

Elias said: “What stood out throughout the entire process for me, for us, were Brandon’s unique qualifications and experiences for this job. Being such a huge part of building the Cubs organization into a world champion and a playoff-caliber team was very attractive to me throughout this entire process.”

Patience is going to be the key in Baltimore, where Elias and Hyde will be toiling in unison to turn around a team that finished 47-115 in 2018 — the most losses in franchise history.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

“I think the approach and the personal characteristics that he’s going to bring to this job are ideal,” Elias said. “He is someone with a reputation and experience for connecting with players, communicating with players, empathizing with players, which is very important in today’s game. But he also has the same view that I have — that this is a partnership between the front office and the coaching staff. We are going to be working toward the same goals.”

Although he has been entrenched in the National League for the past decade, Hyde knows all about the Orioles’ rich history. From the late 1960s through the team’s last World Series title, in 1983, Baltimore was recognized as one of the best teams in the majors.

Urban Meyer to retire after Rose Bowl, with Ryan Day taking over as Buckeyes head coach

Meyer, who has coached Ohio State for the past seven seasons, will formally announce he’s stepping down at a 2 p.m. news conference in Columbus alongside Day and athletic director Gene Smith. The 54-year-old has battled the effects of an arachnoid cyst on his brain, which causes severe headaches, especially when under stress. The cyst was diagnosed in 1998 but worsened the past few years, and Meyer dropped to his knees on the sideline during an October game against Indiana and often looked distressed during games, rubbing his head and wincing.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

Meyer repeatedly said he planned on coaching in 2019, but uncertainty remained, even after Meyer seemed to improve in recent weeks and Ohio State won the Big Ten championship in beating Northwestern on Saturday. Several Ohio State staff members told ESPN after the game that they noticed a positive change in Meyer the past two weeks. Smith denied a Football Scoop report last week that Meyer would not coach past the 2019 season and Day would take over as head coach. Meyer declined to comment when asked about the report.5

Meyer on Friday called Day “elite” and, when asked about Day’s future career opportunities, said, “Certainly now is not that time, this week is not the time. But there will be a time.”

Ohio State wanted to announce Meyer’s plans before the early signing period (Dec. 19-21) and with most of the coaching staff on the road recruiting. Naming Day as Meyer’s successor shows a commitment to continuity with the staff for 2019 and beyond.

Day, 39, is in his second season on the Buckeyes’ staff after previously working for Chip Kelly with the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles.cheap nfl jerseys china nike The New Hampshire native turned down college head-coaching opportunities and the Tennessee Titans’ offensive coordinator job after the 2017 season. He was mentioned as a candidate for college head-coaching jobs this year but never strongly pursued any. Day served as Ohio State’s co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2017 before being promoted to the primary coordinator and playcalling role this season.