The Packers didn’t have Randall Cobb, Jared Cook or Ty Montgomery in their first meeting with the Falcons

The Packers won’t be able to stop Ryan. And why would they, with a defense that ranked 31st in the league in passing yards allowed per game? They certainly couldn’t stop Dak Prescott this past Sunday.

The Packers didn’t have Randall Cobb, Jared Cook or Ty Montgomery in their first meeting with the Falcons, and Green Bay almost pulled it out. Even if the Packers are short on receivers Sunday, it might not matter, given how hot Rodgers has been for the past two months. And if it comes down to a last-second field goal, who’s more clutch than Mason Crosby? He has made 23 straight postseason field goals, the longest streak in NFL history. This team looks like it’s headed back to the Super Bowl.

Rodgers’ leadership has been questioned in the past year. When things have gone wrong, there have been suggestions that Rodgers has disconnected himself from the team, sort of like Favre in his final years. Rodgers, the theory went, became so big, so much of an institution, that he couldn’t relate to his peers.

In November, the week of the Redskins game, Bleacher Report published a lengthy profile on the quarterback titled, “Can Aaron Rodgers Be the Type of Leader the Packers Need?” Ex-Packers tight end Jermichael Finley was quoted heavily in the story. He told the website, “I just don’t think he was a natural-born leader. He wasn’t put on Earth to lead.”

The story also said that Rodgers is estranged from his family, is aloof and is extremely rough on his receivers, frequently chewing them out. Finley said he wasn’t a hands-on leader and was more concerned about his stats.

In an interview last week, Rodgers called leadership “a challenge.”

Both players can argue they should be paid like the best receivers in the NFL

That may need to change based on the reaction to the news. Here is a sample of the love Stabler received Thursday night, and some of the greatest moments from his career.

Jatavis Brown Mens Jersey Stabler was once booted from the Alabama football team for “non-conformism.” Stabler’s father told the Henderson Times-News that his son made the mistake of not telling Bear Bryant he was leaving to campus to see his sick grandmother. Other authorities have it that he was cutting class and partying.

Jaron Brown Mens Jersey Stabler was the consummate comeback artist during his playing career. He led the NFL in game-winning drives three times during his career, and he led the Raiders from behind in three of his seven playoff wins. He did it all by the seat of his pants. Via the New York Times’ obituary:

Both players can argue they should be paid like the best receivers in the NFL. Thomas finished second in the NFL with 1,619 yards receiving last season, and Bryant led the league with 16 touchdown receptions to go with 1,320 yards. At 27 and 26 years old, respectively, both players should be remain very good for the foreseeable future.

That puts the Broncos and Cowboys in a precarious situation, because either player could redefine the salary ceiling for top wideouts, just as Calvin Johnson did in 2012. By colluding, the two teams could save each other a lot of money.

The deadline for both players to be signed to long-term extensions is Wednesday, July 15. At that point, both players will have to sign their franchise tenders if new deals aren’t in place, or risk losing money. Both players have reportedly threatened holdouts that could extend into the regular season if their situations aren’t settled by then.

Matt Beyer has a busy job

As the first and only licensed foreign sports agent in China, Matt Beyer has a busy job. The Beijing-based Wisconsin native oversees a portfolio of foreign clients — many of whom play professional basketball in the country — managing their contracts and assisting with other aspects of their lives on foreign soil.

Beyer witnessed ex-New York Knicks star Stephon Marbury’s successful transformation from NBA castoff to revered Chinese basketball heavyweight. Now representing eight foreign players including 2016 Celtics first-round pick Guerschon Yabusele, Beyer is determined to find the next “Lao Ma” — Marbury’s Chinese nickname.

“China has become a destination for players who are looking to make a salary while enjoying a shorter season,” Beyer told ESPN.com.

Game Youth Taylor Lewan Jersey Both Beyer and Shao agree that Fredette, who had a lackluster NBA career, is closer than anyone to becoming the next Marbury (now a three-time CBA champion and permanent resident of China).

“First off, [Fredette] can score a bunch without taking too many shots,” Shao said. “He is able to motivate and lead his teammates and they like him a lot.”

Location is the other key.

“Shanghai, like Beijing, is a global city,” Shao said. “Foreigners have no problems living here, and he is very comfortable with it.”

The waves Fredette has made in the past months — including snatching an All-Star 3-point shootout title — have put many Chinese fans on “Jimmer Watch.” He even earned a recent shoe deal and nickname: “The Lonely God.”
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However, it’s unclear if he will stay with Shanghai long-term. With one call from the NBA, he could be gone.

DeflateGate judge warns Brady, NFL time is running out to reach settlement

Federal judge Richard Berman didn’t stand up in court Wednesday afternoon and order the NFL to reduce Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for the DeflateGate scandal, but he certainly urged them to quickly come to an agreement. Berman sent the sides back to settlement talks with a new deadline of Aug. 31 and if no deal is reached by then, both Brady and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be back in court for another hearing that could lead to the judge to making a final decision.

Both sides have asked for a ruling by Sept. 4, six days before New England’s opener, but Berman would not commit to that date, calling it a “quick turnaround,” via ESPN.

The sides have been trying to reach a settlement for the last week without success, which brought them back to Berman’s courtroom on Wednesday. Neither Brady nor Goodell attended the hearing, leaving it to their attorneys.

Elite Womens Mariano Rivera Jersey Even with the main combatants missing, Judge Berman didn’t appear happy to see the lawyers.

“A settlement seems like a logical and rational option,” he said, echoing language that he used a week ago.

Elite Womens Marshawn Lynch Jersey The NFL has refused to come down from the original suspension, and according to NY Daily News reporter Stephen Brown, that might be what determined Berman’s focus on Wednesday. He strongly questioned the league’s decisions, especially their refusal to let the NFLPA question NFL attorney Jeff Pash at Brady’s appeal hearing:

Berman: “I don’t understand the thinking to not allow Mr. Pash as a witness. Who else but Pash had the opportunity to edit the Wells Report?”

Berman continued by pointing out that there is precedent for overturning arbitration awards when witnesses have been withheld — not something the league wanted to hear.

Jeffery will be Jay Cutler’s top target this season

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
I know, I’m on an island alone here. Peterson, who is the first overall selection of several analysts, is barely a top-10 running back for me. There are just too many issues. He’s 30 and coming off of a missed year. You say rest, I say rust. He has played 16 games once since 2009. His last full season was by most measures his worst as a pro. The Vikings have Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, who both performed well enough last year that they aren’t just going to disappear. If I can get Peterson in the second round or something? Sure, I’ll consider it. But at the top of the draft? Way too dicey.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
The saying always goes that you would rather bail a year early than a year late, and Lynch might be this year’s poster boy. He scares me this year, even if next year might really be the start of his decline. Still, he’s 29, even if he admittedly doesn’t have quite the tread on his tires of a normal about-to-be-30-something. And Max Unger’s departure from Seattle could have a big impact on Lynch; he averaged 5.0 yards a carry in Unger’s six games last year compared to 4.4 in the games Unger missed. No matter how you slice it, the Seahawks’ running game was far better with Unger on the field, and we could see that difference in Lynch’s production this year.

The Chicago Bears will lose rookie wide receiver Kevin White for a portion of the regular season due to a stress fracture in his shin, and starter Alshon Jeffery is dealing with a calf strain. Fortunately, it looks like Jeffery’s injury isn’t considered long-term and will only force him out of some training camp practices and the team’s upcoming preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, as noted by Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune. Jeffery will be Jay Cutler’s top target this season, and the team will likely be extra cautious with him moving forward.

Steelers vs. Patriots 2015 preview: Road to Super Bowl 50 begins in New England

The 2015 NFL season kicks off in style with a must-see primetime matchup on Thursday night between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers. After an offseason dominated by endless DeflateGate headlines and courtroom drama, the Patriots are ready to get back to the version of football played on the gridiron, where they’ll attempt to be the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champs in more than a decade.

Kiel was 18 for 22 for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Kiel’s best throw came on a 47-yard touchdown that he put right into his receiver’s hands for a touchdown. The junior is just as gifted physically as a player like Hackenberg, but doesn’t get nearly the amount of publicity. Maybe it’s time for that to change.

Authentic Kids Kyle Long Jersey Fighting Irish linebacker Jaylon Smith was as good as advertised with seven tackles and a sack. Smith’s play is similar to that of Bobby Wagner of the Seattle Seahawks.
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In the Temple-Penn State game, the best player on the field looked like Temple center Kyle Friend. He was pushing around acclaimed Penn State defensive tackles Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson with ease.

Braxton Miller’s conversion from starting quarterback to do-everything offensive weapon for Ohio State looks successful. On a loaded team, Miller looked like the best player on offense Monday night against Virginia Tech. Miller carried the ball six times for 62 yards, which included an incredible 53-yard run. Miller also caught two passes for 78 yards.

Odell Beckham is so happy the Giants didn¡¯t lose to the 49ers that he¡¯s crying

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After sitting for most of the second half due to a hamstring injury, Giants receiver Odell Beckham was frustrated. The cameras kept showing him on the bench while his Giants played from behind.

Luckily for him and the Giants, things got better thanks to a spectacular catch by Larry Donnell to win the game. As he Michelle Tafoya interviewed the receiver, who played during the last drive, the whirlwind of emotions seemed to catch up to Beckham. He began to understand the importance of the game.
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Rookie running back Ameer Abdullah was yanked after losing a fumble in Cardinals territory and nearly losing another on a kickoff return. Golden Tate lost another fumble late in the second quarter. Matthew Stafford began the day with an interception on the third play from scrimmage. He threw his third pick on the Lions’ first possession of the second half and was unceremoniously benched for Dan Orlovsky.

It’s hard to pick one moment as the nadir of the Lions’ loss, but this is might be as good as any:

The Lions were down 28-7 at that point. Things had gotten so bad that fans cheered a player who last appeared in a Lions jersey during the regular season in 2008, when they went 0-16. Orlovsky infamously ran out of the end zone to commit a safety against the Vikings that season. That’s the player that Lions were stoked to see after Stafford’s start.

Orlovsky outplayed Stafford, but only barely. He only threw one interception to Stafford’s three, and passed for 191 yards to Stafford’s 188, but at 5.0 yards per attempt compared to Stafford’s 5.8. Evaluating Orlovsky’s performance is largely academic, anyway. The Lions almost certainly will not have a good offense under his direction. It’s hard to imagine it will get any better.

The Giants didn’t take the field with their new additions and instantly transform into a dominant defense

A week ago, I wondered if the Raiders, without Derek Carr, had a better shot winning on the road at Houston on a short week as a wild card than beating the Steelers at home with a bye. After the showing Oakland had in Denver, in which the Raiders offense could not run the ball or pass it, nor could their defense stop the run or the pass, it’s hard to go with Oakland.

Especially with how the Raiders barely got by the Texans in Mexico City in November … and that was with Carr at quarterback. Still, it would not shock me to see the Raiders’ defense wake up and make life miserable for Brock Osweiler and the Houston offense.

Will rookie Connor Cook, who will be the first QB in the Super Bowl era to make his first NFL start in the postseason, do just enough for Oakland to get the victory? After all, the Texans’ offense looked just as bad the past few weeks as the Raiders looked as a team in Denver. That’s the gut talking.

A hurdle was cleared. Again, however, disappointment was around the corner. After only a couple of months, the Giants cut Wake. He waited for his next NFL contract. His phone never rang. ¡°Nobody would even give me an opportunity to try out,¡± Wake recalled. He was out of football. He needed a new plan.
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It took some time. The Giants didn’t take the field with their new additions and instantly transform into a dominant defense. They had their ups and downs throughout the season.
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They gave up over 400 yards three times in the first half of the season. It didn’t happen again in the final eight games, when the entire unit gelled and thrived.

“Yeah, there is probably some truth to that,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. “I don’t know if I thought that way, but there is probably some truth to that.”

The results speak for themselves. The Giants made the largest ever year-to-year jump in defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA), and allowed Reese & Co. the opportunity to clean up the mess they arguably made.

Alshon Jeffery guarantees he’ll win a Super Bowl next season, but doesn’t say for which team

The Chicago Bears season has ended, and it probably couldn¡¯t have come quick enough for a team that¡¯s had seemingly endless injuries and a poor 3-13 record.

Deone Bucannon Elite Jersey Alshon Jeffery was one of the handful of good things that happened to the Bears this season. He finished the season with 52 receptions, 821 receiving yards, and two touchdowns in 11 games. It wasn¡¯t the best season of his career by any means, but based on everything bad that went on around him, it¡¯s a decent year.

Donovan Smith Elite Jersey NBA players put themselves out there every night for scrutiny, and receive heaps of abuse in the process. Referees are paid handsomely to do the same. What the L2M reports have really done is emphasize how excellent the referees are (at least, in the final two minutes).

The refs¡¯ union itself touted the high success rate in a press release titled ¡°NBA Referees Near Officiating Perfection¡± a couple months after the reports debuted. They claimed the reports revealed a 97 percent success rate in analyzed calls. That¡¯s an excellent mark, something the refs should be proud of.

This is the true aim of the NBA, not to throw the refs under the bus or create a hostile environment for officials. It¡¯s to show how fairly its games are conducted. For a league that had a major ref scandal within the past decade, transparency is critical. You¡¯d think referees would understand that, even if it means a little more scrutiny over their performance.

Dalton is out at least next week in San Francisco. In steps backup quarterback A.J. McCarron

Dalton is out at least next week in San Francisco. In steps backup quarterback A.J. McCarron.

The Bengals are about to enter that zone where playoff contenders including Pittsburgh, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis and Philadelphia have toiled this season. Each of those teams lost their quarterback for stretches due to injury. Each tossed in a backup, some of them two. Each found a way to bob and weave, patch and glue, stay revived and alive in their playoff push.

Now it is the Bengals’ turn.

For certain, the later it happens in a season, the tougher the task.

The Bengals are 10-3 with only three regular-season games left: at San Francisco, at Denver and home against Baltimore. Further tests will reveal when and if Dalton returns. The Bengals are hoping for a return in two weeks. A more realistic hope might be for the playoffs.

“It’s unfortunate that it happened at this point in the season, but I’m going to do everything I can to get back as quickly as I can to help this team,” Dalton said. He added that he will be examined by a specialist on Monday.

McCoy initially didn’t want to go to the Bills. He found out about the trade from his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, by phone. McCoy was training in Miami at the time and after breaking down in tears, he resumed running a series of sprints, each one faster than the next.
Two months after the deal, McCoy told reporters he never got along with Kelly and insinuated the head coach is a racist in an interview with ESPN. To this day, McCoy hasn’t taken those words back.

“The relationship was never really great,” McCoy said. “I feel like I always respected him as a coach. I think that’s the way he runs his team. He wants the full control. You see how fast he got rid of all the good players. Especially all the good black players. He got rid of them the fastest. That’s the truth. There’s a reason. … It’s hard to explain with him. But there’s a reason he got rid of all the black players — the good ones — like that.”