Dwayne Bowe released by Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs have released veteran wide receiver Dwayne Bowe after eight seasons, the team announced on Thursday. Bowe has spent his entire career in Kansas City after being selected Malcolm Smith Authentic Jersey in the first round of the 2007 draft. He signed a five-year, $56 million contract in 2013 that included a $15 million signing bonus.

The move will save the Chiefs $10.75 million in cap space, which will help the team in their contract with former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, whom they are expected to sign on Tuesday. Bowe struggled in 2014 with just 60 receptions for 754 yards and no touchdowns. He last made the Pro Bowl in 2010 when he found the end zone 15 times. Since then, he’s only scored 13 touchdowns over a five-season span.

“That’s Steeler defense,” said linebacker Lawrence Timmons of the goal-line stops. “That’s what we need.”

They need physicality, which they showcased in abundance Thursday night.

It takes resolve to let a team drive 19 plays, 89 yards and 11-plus minutes well into the early fourth quarter and still stop it inches from the end zone. From the 1, Scott Tolzien threw a pass that an outstretched Phillip Dorsett couldn’t handle with Timmons tight in coverage.

Colts running back Frank Gore is stuffed by Lawrence Timmons and the Steelers’ defense.

This was undoubtedly Mitchell’s best game of the year, and he sealed it with an interception on a deep ball that he returned 26 yards. For a defense that has struggled mightily at times this season — including run-stopping, which is Marcus Allen Authentic Jersey traditionally a strength — the goal-line stops were timely, even if the Colts committed several drops throughout the game.

The Steelers are starting to feel like themselves again on defense, recovering from what Timmons called “on-and-off performances” in the fall.

Mike McCarthy has taken plenty of criticism this year, but it’s a decimated defense that has really wrecked the Pack

The Titans could still run interference here, but the Colts have a win in hand, and if the Texans collapse over the second half — and teams who go 5-0 in one-score games through nine contests don’t exactly have a great track record in keeping that sort of stuff up — the Colts are well-positioned to take advantage and regain the AFC South.

Overall, Cousins finished 6-of-8 for 229 Keanu Neal Womens Jersey yards and three touchdowns on passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield Sunday, the first time in his career he has had three such touchdowns in a game. Cousins had the top raw QBR in Week 11, but once accounting for the fact that he was facing the Packers’ depleted defense, he falls into a three-way tie with Smith and Prescott for the week’s best performance.

It’s not hard to imagine the same sort of thing happening this year. There are six teams — the Rams, Jaguars, Jets, Bears, Browns and 49ers — with playoff odds below 1 percent.

Blake nearly gave the Colts an easy touchdown (had he failed to grasp the football) and promptly lashed out at skeptical fans for not understanding football afterward.

Mike McCarthy has taken plenty of criticism this year, but it’s a decimated defense that has really wrecked the Pack.

With Matthews absent, the pass rush has disappeared, which has been a disaster. When Dom Capers hasn’t blitzed, the Packers’ defense ranks 30th in QBR allowed at 77.0. (For reference, during his MVP campaign in 2014, Aaron Rodgers posted a QBR of 81.3.) Teams have used the extra time to destroy the Packers downfield. They’re allowing a 99.5 QBR on throws 16 or more yards downfield, worst in the league, while the 123.0 passer rating they’re giving up on those passes is fifth in the league. T

The Saints need a little help from the Panthers in Week 16 to prevent the Falcons from creating a tiebreaker Kemal Ishmael Womens Jersey firewall, but it’s hardly out of the question that the Saints could travel to Atlanta in Week 17 with a shot at winning the division. That hasn’t gone well for the Falcons in the past.

Stopping the run is not only a source of pride with the Ravens

“It’s going to be a great environment down there [against] the top team in football at this point in time,” coach John Harbaugh said. “You can’t ask for anything more as a football team, to get a chance to go down there and play a team like that.”

The Colts have been ranked 20th or lower on defense in four of coach Chuck Pagano’s five seasons, including this season, in which they’re currently ranked 30th. General manager Ryan Grigson said they’ve been slow to Shawn Matthias Authentic Jersey improve their defense because of Luck’s new contract, despite the fact that the quarterback was on his rookie deal his first four seasons.

The stadium was originally completed in 1967 for baseball, so seats are further away from the action and not as ideal as more modern stadiums for football viewing.

“I don’t like it,” Whitworth said. “I don’t like that that’s the portrayal of our team, but the reality is it’s a team game but it’s also an individual game. Each of us individually has to keep our guy away from the quarterback. And that will help us have the opportunity to have more success. We’ve also got to get ourselves out of third-and-longs. Backed up, third-and-longs, down a score — I feel like we’re Philip Rivers for some reason. That’s kind of been the M.O. of our season so far. We’ve had a lot of situations where we’re behind and trying to find a way to score.”

Still shots don’t always tell the whole story, but this one certainly painted an ugly picture for the offensive line, which has struggled all season. Dalton has been sacked 28 times (second-most in the league) and hit 50 times (seventh-most among all qualified quarterbacks).

Why is this happening? It’s difficult to pin down a particular reason. The offensive line will usually receive the brunt of the blame, but Dalton has admitted there are times he could have gotten rid of the ball faster. Sometimes a hit or sack falls on a tight end or running back lined up for additional protection. Other times Dalton simply can’t find an open receiver or is swallowed up by defenders when trying to extend plays with his feet.

Just two plays prior to the screen shot in question, tight end Tyler Eifert allowed Todd Bertuzzi Authentic Jersey Dalton to be hit just after he threw the ball away. Dalton got up slowly and limped back to the line of scrimmage.

Porcello also finally accepted who he is as a pitcher

According to FanGraphs, Porcello went to his curveball 13.7 percent of the time compared to 12.4 percent with the cutter and 12.1 percent with the changeup. It marked only the second time in his career that his usage of all three pitches reached at least 12 percent, and he deployed them in a fashion that allowed him to exploit the vulnerabilities of individual hitters.

“Myself, [pitching coach] Carl [Willis], [bullpen coach] Dana LeVangie, we had conversations about attacking guys and kind of blending my mix of pitches in and attacking their weaknesses,” Porcello said. “That sounds like something you should always do, but when you have limited weapons to go into an at-bat with, there’s not a whole lot of different things you can do.”

Porcello also finally accepted who he is as a pitcher. Despite being the 14th-highest paid pitcher in baseball this year based on average annual value, he will never be a flame-throwing strikeout machine, a la classic aces Verlander and Scherzer. Instead, he’s a sinkerballer who induces enough grounders to kill a small ant farm.

“At the time, we knew what it would take to sign him, and we weren’t in a position to be able to do that. That made the difference for us,” Dombrowski, who reunited with Porcello after taking over as the Red Sox president of baseball operations in August 2015, said late in the season. “However, we always liked him. When we drafted him, we thought he was going to be a No. 1 starter at the big league level.”

Yes, the Red Sox gave him crazy run support. But Rick Porcello’s remarkable consistency proved good fortune wasn’t the only reason he won 22 games.

Yet Porcello was just another member of the band, never a front man, in a star-studded Detroit rotation that featured co-aces Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Porcello never seemed to get any better, either, his ERA plateauing from 2010-13 after a promising rookie year in 2009.

Porcello’s career ERA entering this season: 4.39.

If anyone truly believed in Porcello, 27, it was former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, who not only traded for him but also signed Alex Carter Authentic Womens Jersey him to a four-year, $82.5 million extension before he threw a pitch for Boston. But if Dombrowski can honestly say he always thought Porcello had ace potential, maybe he can explain why anyone should believe the right-hander’s breakthrough 2016 season wasn’t merely an outlier in a career spent in the shadows of more accomplished pitchers.

“He’s really improved as an overall pitcher,” Dombrowski said. “Just the ability to change speeds, I mean, his changeup, his curveball, he cuts the ball. He’s really got a better pulse of changing the [hitter’s] eyesight on various pitches. You Ameer Abdullah Authentic Womens Jersey really see the growth. I think he’s taken another step further from what he was in Detroit.”

Indeed, Porcello evolved into an honest-to-goodness five-pitch pitcher this season. Whereas he previously relied on his curveball in some years and his cutter in others to offset his signature sinker and his four-seam fastball, he threw those secondary pitches and his changeup with almost equal frequency this year.

Tyrann Mathieu and Sean Payton speak out about New Orleans in the wake of Will Smith’s shooting

Emotions are running high for NFL players and coaches following the tragic shooting death of former Saints star Will Smith Saturday night in New Orleans. Louisiana native Tyrann Mathieu and Saints head coach Sean Payton spoke out about some of the issues surrounding Smith’s death.

Mathieu, the former embattled LSU star, opened up both Sunday and Monday about the limited opportunities that kids in New Orleans are given to succeed in things other than music or sports.

“And it’s time for me to speak up. It’s time for me to reach out and to let these kids know ‘Hey, you don’t have to be a football player. You don’t have to be a rapper to make it out of those situations.’ What you have to have is motivation and you have to have drive,” Mathieu said, on a local radio show.

The fifth-year option was implemented in the most recent version of the collective bargaining agreement established in 2011. The CBA dictates that rookies must sign four-year deals and provides the possibility for teams to pick up the option for a fifth season for first-round selections. The salary established for the fifth year is fully guaranteed in the event of injury.

Vaccaro had a strong rookie season in New Orleans, finishing 2013 with eight pass deflections, one interception, one sack and a forced fumble. He was benched briefly during a 2014 season in which the New Orleans defense struggled mightily across the board, finishing the season 31st in the league for total offensive yards allowed per game with 384. Vaccaro started all 16 games for the Saints last season, contributing three sacks, five pass deflections and a forced fumble.

Which team is expected to draft him?

Unsurprisingly, the New England Patriots are reportedly interested in snatching up Rob’s younger brother. The Pats met with him at the Senior Bowl in January and kept close eyes on him at the Combine. In addition to Rob, the Patriots also signed Dan in 2011, though he didn’t last a full season.

The Denver Broncos, who signed both Chris and Dan, may also be a fit for him. Last month, Gary Kubiak spoke about his desire to add a fullback.

“There will be some [fullbacks] on the roster,” Kubiak said, via Broncos.com. “Hopefully we have a couple going into camp and we can get back to some of those two-back things. Those guys are hard to come by. They really are. I think in the draft this year there are a few guys. I’m excited about that. We’d like to have one of those guys be a part of our roster.”

Given the war of words between the Broncos and Patriots in recent months — Rob said in January that Broncos players like to “give low blows” — it would take the term “sibling rivalry” to the next level if Glenn were to start his NFL career in Denver.

Jay Cutler: I’ve supported Donald Trump for a while

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler voiced his support on Thursday for President-elect Donald Trump.

“I’m happy with the [election] results,” Cutler said. “I’ve supported Trump for a while. I’m not going to dive into it. I know it’s a sensitive issue. I like where it’s going.”

Cutler was the first Bears player to publicly endorse Trump since he defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton on Tuesday.

Was he injured? He did have a thumb injury in June, leaving a game on June 22 in the sixth inning after it flared. At the time, he downplayed it and said, “It’s something I’ve been dealing with for a while,” although he had been using a thumb guard and icing “the heck out of it.”

He had his worst month of the season in June, hitting .202/.255/.322, but still failed to hit .300 in any other month. His average exit velocity essentially hovered just above league average throughout the season, with no obvious “he got injured here” data point.

Less murky is his play in center field, which deteriorated significantly in 2016. He was credited with minus-28 defensive runs saved, the worst total of any player at any position. Given that McCutchen’s defensive metrics have been below average for several seasons, it’s impossible to sugarcoat these numbers. He’s no longer a center fielder, and even if the Pirates keep him, he’s likely destined for left field with Starling Marte moving over to center.

With that in mind, any team looking to acquire McCutchen will certainly view him as a corner outfielder who can play center in a pinch. Here are the 10 teams with the worst wOBA production from their corner positions in 2016: Mets, Padres, Astros, A’s, Braves, Dodgers, Royals, Yankees, Angels and Phillies. That’s a starting point for potential trade partners. Here’s a list of teams that were the worst against left-handed pitching: Astros, Marlins, Yankees, Giants, Reds, A’s, Orioles, Braves, Phillies and Dodgers.

The Astros and Dodgers, however, are possible fits. The Astros did claim Norichika Aoki on waivers from the Mariners, so they might already have him penciled in for left field. Plus, while the Astros didn’t hit lefties that well, their lineup already leans right-handed.

The ties, like Newton’s hats that cost $800 and up, aren’t cheap. They cost anywhere from $165 to $295.

But Plotner believes Newton and his feather ties are a perfect fit.

“He’s unique and unconventional,’’ he said. “He’s not worried about what everybody else thinks. He wants to be himself. That’s what we admire about his sense of style, and that’s what we like to do with our product.’’

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Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians confirmed that J.J. Nelson was now a starter in the three-wide receiver set

You can question the move all you want, but if Bibbs is indeed going to approach or pass a 50 percent share of the touches in this backfield, he is squarely on our radars. The Broncos travel to the Superdome where not only do the Saints put up points in bunches, they bring their opponents out of their shell, as well. New Orleans gives up 95.3 rushing yards per game on the season, but have been especially roasted through the air of late. The Saints allowed a league-high 235 receiving yards to running backs over the last month. Don’t forget that it was a 69-yard can and run for a touchdown that got Bibbs into position to take this job in the first place.

Lance Kendricks, TE, Los Angeles Rams (4.3 percent owned)
The tight end position is a mess, and while using Lance Kendricks after a 12-target, 90-yard day may feel like chasing points, we don’t have much in the way of real alternatives. Kendricks’ playing time is at a pristine level, as he’s played 86 percent of the team snaps their last three games. He’s been out on the field plenty, and last week showed us he has the volume upside we look for. The Jets are weak in the secondary and rank an average-level 15th at defending the tight end positon in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metrics.

That’s why Atlanta gets the edge here. The Falcons might not have as good a record as Oakland (6-3 vs. 7-2), but quarterback Matt Ryan looks like the early favorite to win league MVP honors. Even with ample questions on defense — which won’t improve if a recent shoulder injury sidelines cornerback Desmond Trufant for any lengthy period of time — the Falcons also have more players who’ve been to the postseason on their roster. That means plenty when you’re trying to separate contenders from pretenders.

Which struggling NFC North team is worth believing in: Green Bay or Minnesota?

There was no gutsier team in football for the first five weeks of the season than the Minnesota Vikings. They lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater before the opener and rallied behind Sam Bradford after he arrived in a trade. They watched Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson go down with a knee injury in a Week 2 win over Green Bay and still managed to start the year with five straight victories. There have been other key injuries — and the stunning resignation of offensive coordinator Norv Turner — and still the Vikings keep talking like they will overcome.

But it’s time to face reality: It’s hard to see Minnesota keeping pace down the stretch.

The Packers have their own problems — including an injury-riddled backfield and the fact that they’re beginning a three-game road swing after dropping three of their last four contests — but they also have Aaron Rodgers. If he can continue to shake off the early-season struggles that plagued him, the Packers should be in good shape. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson is looking more comfortable in his return from a torn ACL sustained last season and Green Bay still has history on its side. After all, the Packers haven’t missed the playoffs since 2008 — tied for the longest current streak in football with New England.

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Ravens have Antonio Brown’s number, and amazingly, it’s 1 (TD)

The Baltimore Ravens have dominated their rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers in recent years because they’ve been able to do something that the rest of the NFL has struggled with — keep wide receiver Antonio Brown out of the end zone.

Between his junior and senior years, Johnson went to a football camp at Northern Iowa, where coach Mark Farley noticed Johnson’s “great” hands and “great” cuts. Johnson was seamlessly making sharp cuts out of routes. Most of his high school peers had to chop their feet before cutting or decelerating to make the move. Farley instantly started to daydream about using Johnson as a slot receiver. Farley knew Johnson hadn’t been used as a true running back or true receiver during his senior year. Camp utilized Johnson more as a wing back, making it tough for Farley to evaluate Johnson as either.

Johnson was rated as a two-star athlete coming out of high school, and UNI was one of a couple schools to seriously recruit him. Camp got calls from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas State and even Notre Dame, asking who was recruiting Johnson. It got to the point where Camp figured if one major program showed interest, the offers would start pouring in. It never happened.

Farley wanted Johnson as a receiver, and that’s what he got.

When Johnson signed with Northern Iowa, he was sent their route trees. He spent the summer before college catching passes on the JUGS machine, researching how to be a better receiver, working with receiving coaches and learning UNI’s passing game. He was all set to be a receiver in college.

For two weeks, at least.

Long before Cardinals coach Bruce Arians built an offense around Johnson, Camp and Farley did the same.

“I was split out in college, doing all the same stuff — choice routes, corners and stuff like that,” Johnson said. “They utilized me that way.”

Johnson is thankful Farley let him return to running back. He ran for a school-record 49 touchdowns and averaged 95.7 yards per game in 49 college games. His identity heading into the NFL was as a running back — but his receiving skills helped get him drafted in the third round.

Here’s how the Vikings’ offense can get back on track without Norv Turner

After the shocking announcement that Norv Turner had tendered his resignation from the offensive coordinator role with the Minnesota Vikings, the team confirmed that tight ends coach Pat Shurmur would step in as the interim coordinator. Shurmur has experience with Sam Bradford and sub-par offensive lines. His job now is to get Minnesota’s offense looking competitive again.

The Vikings’ offensive line has been abysmal, particularly over the past couple of weeks. An inability to adequately protect Bradford has been a contributing factor in two consecutive losses. Through seven games, the offensive line has allowed 19 sacks on Bradford.

“It’s something I’d like to see go down … I don’t think it’s a good thing,” Bradford said Wednesday about the number of hits he’s taking. “I think we have to figure out a way to bring the number down.”

Shurmur has plenty of experience working with bad offensive lines, which will come in handy as he works to overcome that weakness with the Vikings’ offense.

His first stint as an offensive coordinator in the NFL was with the St. Louis Rams in 2009-10. In 2009, the Rams were working with Marc Bulger, Keith Null, and Kyle Boller under center. St. Louis allowed 44 sacks on that combination of quarterbacks.

It’s not easy to shift offensive philosophies midseason, so don’t expect to see wholesale change from the Vikings.

“Halfway through the season, I’m not sure you can completely change the offense and the terminology for everyone,” Bradford said Monday.

But they can make it a simpler offense with subtle changes that can have a big impact.

Going up-tempo should help keep defenses at bay, too. An up-tempo offense makes it difficult for defenses to get set and anticipate what the offense is going to do, and it’s something Shurmur did last season in Philadelphia with a Chip Kelly offense that relied on quick pace. The offensive concepts were pretty simple, but when they’re executed rapidly, they’re much more challenging to defend.

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The Panthers gave their owner a statue that would make Vladimir Putin proud

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson turned 80 last Monday, forcing the team to confront the timeless question of what to get an old rich guy who already has everything (except a Super Bowl).

The answer: A 13-foot high statue of the man pointing a football ominously into the future and standing between two very muscular panthers.

According to the sculptor, the twin panthers represent both offense and defense as well as both North and South Carolina. They could also represent Richardson’s steadfast defense of NFL owners’ wallets during the 2011 lockout. There’s a lot of room for interpretation!

Looking at the statue it immediately conjures the socialist realism. Conceived under Stalin it rapidly became the preferred art movement of dictators everywhere. It’s a school of art aped by Vladimir Putin, flexing with tigers or riding horses without his shirt on. Its origins best identified with lifelike images of terrible men pointing at things.

Will Steph Curry and Kevin Durant cancel out each other’s MVP bids as so many pundits leaguewide presume?

Can any of the league’s best solo stars — Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Paul George, Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, etc. — win enough games with their respective teams to make a run at a trophy that hasn’t been awarded to a player from a sub-50-win-squad since Moses Malone in 1981-82?

Is Kawhi Leonard really just going to keep getting better and better?

Shouldn’t everybody in this conversation be concerned that LeBron James, who just happened to uncork the first triple-double on Opening Night since Jason Kidd in 2006, says reclaiming the Podoloff is a goal of his this season?

We just gave you a lot of reasons to stay tuned in between now and April 12.

Big men, for the first time in a long time, will be loved and appreciated again.

Karl-Anthony Towns. Andre Drummond. Steven Adams. Kristaps Porzingis. Rudy Gobert. Myles Turner. Jusuf Nurkic. Joel Embiid.

And those are just the young (or younger) ones.