Los Angeles keeps lighting up teams with Jared Goff going off in the passing game, no matter who’s out there with him.

The 49ers enjoyed their best time-of-possession edge, controlling the clock for 38:47. They converted on 10 of 18 third downs. And the two sacks allowed matched San Francisco’s second-lowest total of 2017.

Jared Goff blew an opportunity to close out the Eagles, and it will cost the Rams in losing control of the NFC West a week later. The Seahawks will come out flying at home to make up for their latest slow start in Jacksonville. They’ll swarm to contain Todd Gurley so they can tee off on Goff. Meanwhile, Russell Wilson, with his mobility, his big arm and Jimmy Graham, will have his way with a hurting Rams defense.

The last time these NFC East rivals played, in October, Ezekiel Elliott ran through and over Washington, and the Cowboys won 33-19. The Cowboys, of course, are 0-3 without their star running back. The loser of this game will not be out of the playoff hunt, but their seats would move closer to the exit. Kirk Cousins is putting up strong numbers (3,038 yards, second in the NFL), yet is wildly inconsistent from series to series. Dak Prescott would envy that right now.

In a weird way, Eli Manning to Jacksonville in 2018 sounds a lot more like Peyton Manning to Denver in 2012 than Option 2 above does. If the Giants are ready to move on, it’s safe to think Manning would want to reunite with Coughlin in a quest for one last ring before he hangs it up — with the pair having the last laugh.

Sean McVay keeps pushing the right buttons and can always lean on a big-play running game, too, with Todd Gurley. Even without top wide receiver Robert Woods for a few games, the Rams are loaded with versatile playmakers and still have two dangerous game-breakers in Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp.chargers_016-180x180

Is Blake Bortles a good enough quarterback to guide the Jaguars to playoff success?

Although the Jaguars enter the Seahawks game leading the NFL in total defense (282.5 yards allowed per game) and sacks (45), one major question that has lingered since the preseason remains unanswered: Is Blake Bortles a good enough quarterback to guide the Jaguars to playoff success?

There is no debate that Bortles has enjoyed his best year to date after a disastrous preseason in which he was briefly benched in favor of backup Chad Henne (who wasn’t any better). Bortles also isn’t expected to carry the offense so much as avoid turnovers and effectively serve a game-manager role with the Jaguars leaning heavily on their rushing attack.

That will be extremely hard for Carolina with No. 1 Minnesota coming to town and maybe Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay in Week 15, well before the showdown in Atlanta in Week 17. Between that is their favorable game vs. Tampa Bay.
Prior to Stanton, the last reigning MVP to be traded was former Yankee Alex Rodriguez, whom Cashman acquired at a discounted price from the Texas Rangers in 2003.

The easiest way to look at the Steelers’ win Sunday night over the Ravens to keep them in the AFC home-field playoff hunt, is: Antonio Brown, serious MVP candidate.

The next easiest way to look at it is to see the score — 39-38 over a Ravens team that, two weeks earlier, had the second-worst offense in the NFL — and say: The Steelers can’t stop anybody, and their defense will be their doom before they get to a Super Bowl, never mind win one.

But the smartest way to look at it all is to understand what the NFL is, including the elite class of teams, and ask: Who’s going to stop Brown, Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and the rest of that offense?

Alex Smith and Derek Carr are headed to another shootout.

Oakland arguably has the toughest schedule of the three teams, still having to play at Kansas City and Los Angeles with a trip to NFC juggernaut Philadelphia in between. But the Raiders’ makeup last season was coming through consistently in the fourth quarter with Carr and being fearless on the road, no matter the distance, no matter the opponent.

The trick is carrying over the fire and intensity, which shouldn’t be a problem now with sudden life in the quest for a second consecutive playoff berth. It probably won’t take more than nine wins to capture a division that was expected to be the best in the NFL. Consider the Broncos were in third place at 9-7 last season, while both the Raiders and Chiefs were 12-4.

Give the slight edge to Kansas City because of desperation at Arrowhead.

What transpired Tuesday was even more embarrassing than New York’s 2-9 record for a team considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender entering the season. The Giants railroaded Manning into ceding his starting job when telling him backup Geno Smith would play in the second half of Sunday’s game at Oakland no matter how things unfolded in the first two quarters. New York knew someone as prideful as Manning wouldn’t accept such a cockamamie plan just to keep alive his string of 222 consecutive starts (including the postseason).

Manning bowed out as gracefully as he could under the circumstances and shifted to a second-string role.

Don’t be fooled by McAdoo’s gaga about this move being made because the Giants want “a complete evaluation of the roster top to bottom, especially at the quarterback position, moving on to next season.” This was all about putting New York in better position to lose its final five games with Smith and rookie Davis Webb under center and thus secure the highest draft pick possible to select a quarterback.lakers_004

He could go very high in the draft this year if he decides to come out.

The Cavs had been especially strong in the fourth quarter during the streak, particularly Kyle Korver — whom the team started calling Mr. Fourth Korver for his late-game heroics — but they fell flat over the final 12 minutes in Indy.

The Cavs did their job defensively in the last frame, holding the Pacers to 17 points on 5-for-23 shooting, but they were an equally anemic 6-for-19 from the field and scored just 16 points, not regaining the lead despite cutting it to a one-possession margin several times.

New York got an inspired, gritty victory against Kansas City, and the Giants will come hard at its NFC East rival with a short-week short trip. The Redskins have had a rough schedule, being swept by the Eagles and losing to both the Vikings and Saints in consecutive weeks. They finally get a break here for Kirk Cousins’ play to pay off as he out-duels Eli Manning with a better array of mixed-bag targets.

If you were the commissioner of Major League Baseball, what would you say the league’s most valuable asset is? Maybe its billion-dollar broadcast contracts, guaranteeing huge revenues even in recessions? Or its 30 stadiums, creating a virtual impenetrable barrier against an upstart baseball league challenging its monopoly? Its anti-trust exemption, or the pages of free marketing it gets in every day’s sports section?

Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia — If there was a play where Smith’s name was not called in Georgia’s SEC Championship victory over Auburn it was few and far between. The junior linebacker had 13 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and two fumble recoveries to lead a superb defensive effort by the Bulldogs. Smith has a non-stop motor and shows great leadership skills on the field for one of the best defenses in the country. panthers_125

That could depend on who’s coaching the Giants next season.

“We have a scoring anomaly over here and just a teacher over there,” said Ariza, who along with Tucker keyed the Rockets’ switch-everything defensive strategy down the stretch. “Watching them two play with everything we were doing defensively was just amazing.”

“We went small and they had to adjust to us . once they did that, we had shooters on the court and the lane was wide open. So it was layup, layup, layup, 3-ball,” Harden said.

With Lillard’s foot on ice, Houston launched a rally, pulling to 103-98 when Lillard returned with 7 minutes remaining. But the Rockets had momentum, and took a 110-109 lead on Ariza’s 3-pointer.

“It’s doable to move,” Favre said, “and it’s doable to play at a high level. I found it reinvigorating, honestly. For Eli, maybe it’s gotten a little stale in New York — I don’t know. I do know, or at least I think, that he will want to play for the Giants again. And he seems like he’s really healthy, and he’s in a place he can play a few more years. Wherever it is, I can tell him he can be great somewhere else too. You can love another team too. I did.”

Favre, after starring in 16 seasons with the Packers, ended his career with a year with the Jets and two with the Vikings, the latter of whom he led to a 12-4 mark in 2009 while extending his career consecutive starts record for a QB to 331 (including the playoffs).

Neither the Giants nor Manning, whose consecutive starts streak ended at 222 on Sunday, has closed the door on him staying put.

However, a glaring lack of energy, especially early, cost the Suns in that one.royals_005

Three of Kansas City’s final five games are against division opponents.

Kansas City still leads the AFC West, but could just be a game up in the division after Week 12.

Taylor is the right player to lead the Bills — Taylor is careful with the ball and can extend plays with his legs. Benching him in favor of a rookie selected in the fifth round was rightfully questioned and that decision backfired on coach Sean McDermott. The first-year head coach was trying to create a spark with his team and he may have actually gotten it because the Bills have responded since Taylor took over the offense in the second half of last week’s game.

“So little in return? You mean, in terms of quantity?” Jeter said. “We have people in place whose job is to know about talent, and I think they would disagree with you. We think we got some good prospects in return, and now it is up to us as an organization to help develop them. You are right, it is the National League Most Valuable Player, I don’t care what prospects you get back, they won’t be household names for our fan base.”

This strategy has seen Manning drop from 14th in passer rating against the blitz in 2014 to 33rd in 2015, 27th in 2016 and 27th again in 2017. His 50.6 completion percentage against the blitz this season ranks 30th, and he was on pace for 38 sacks, which would be one short of a career high.

Montrezl Harrell scored 17 points and the Clippers rallied over the final 3:21 to beat Toronto 96-91 on Monday night, snapping the Raptors’ six-game winning streak.

“We scrapped, we played hard, we got the loose balls, we got the 50-50 game, we took charges, we created turnovers, got baskets,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “That’s who we have to be right now, and our guys have bought into it.”panthers_011

Newton drives the Panthers into Miami territory.

Splitting his energy between the fourth line and a top-six scoring unit in his first game back on Monday, Coyle logged a healthy 17:25 of ice time. It shouldn’t be long before the versatile winger is again permanently filling a prominent scoring role.

But George isn’t feeling any stress trying to live up to that standard.

“I didn’t feel any pressure,” George said, “of coming in and trying to be the replacement, or the second [guy] to Russell. I didn’t get that feel at all.”

Sixteen games into the season, Westbrook and George don’t share that on-court relationship just yet, with both players still in search for the right kind of balance early in this experiment.

On first down he’s forced out of the pocket and throws a pass in the direction of Russell Shepard. T.J. McDonald steps in front of Shepard and appears to picks off the ball, but after review the call is overturned and Carolina maintains possession.

Carolina sacks Jay Cutler on second down and Damien Williams follows with a run well short of the marker. Miami punts and Carolina will take over on its 35 following a holding penalty on the return.

Christian McCaffrey hauls in a pass from Newton and turns it into a 19-yard gain. The drive eventually stalls when Russell Shepard fails to pull in a Newton throw on third down and Carolina is forced to punt.

Given the viewing public’s reaction, Sporting News wondered whether NBC would consider using SkyCam as the primary angle for future games, even those not affected by weather conditions.nike_bills-115

St. Louis scored two goals in each of the first two periods before adding four in a wide-open third.

The Rams have shown big-play potential through the air and running back Todd Gurley provides a potent punch on the ground. Coupled with a defense that hasn’t allowed more than 17 points since Oct. 1, the Rams have earned a spot in the discussion of this year’s championship contenders.

Outside of the six-win Steelers, Patriots and Chiefs, the AFC is pretty thin. The Bills, Jaguars and Titans are all 5-3, but the Dolphins (4-4) are the only other team not below .500.

Tarasenko got his 11th goal 3:16 into the first period on two deflections. Shooting from the slot, he scored when his shot hit Connor McDavid’s stick and then Adam Larsson’s stick for a 1-0 lead.

What this indicates is Peterson should now be considered a back whose value stems from quantity rather than quality and thus most of his upside will be driven by matchups. That may turn out to be a plus over the next couple of weeks against Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Rams, as both of those clubs have struggled at stopping the rush at times this season, so keep Peterson in the flex start conversation for those contests.

The Greek Freak is one of my favorite players in the league and is currently atop my rest-of-season points-based fantasy rankings. But with that said, he is the highest-priced player in both FanDuel and DraftKings.

The Broncos are no longer prime-time players on offense, and the struggles have seeped into the defense. Now both reeling units have to face the unpredictability and might of Bill Belichick’s team after a bye. This isn’t Brock Osweiler playing well enough against the Patriots a few seasons ago. This is Tom Brady having his way with distraught Denver, a team he has faced 16 times in his career.

Ben Roethlisberger proves big-game Big Ben can still carry Steelers

The reports of Ben Roethlisberger’s demise as an elite quarterback have been greatly exaggerated. With one much-needed big night — in Thursday’s 40-17 Steelers rout of the Titans — Big Ben silenced those who were doubting what he had left at age 35 — including himself.

Shockingly, the offensive outburst against Tennessee was the first time Pittsburgh had scored 30 or more points in a game this season and the first time Roethlisberger had thrown more than two TD passes in a game.

Sure, Roethlisberger was throwing against a bad Titans pass defense, but similar matchups didn’t produce close to the same results against Cleveland, Kansas City and, just last week, Indianapolis. In fact, Roethlisberger was so bad for much of the game against the Colts that he almost cost the Steelers a victory.

Meanwhile, the Patriots (8-2) and Steelers (8-2) appear to be pulling away in the AFC, with a Dec. 17 meeting between the two looming large for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The NFC starts to look like a three-team race after the Vikings (8-2) dispatched the Rams (7-3) with a convincing 24-7 victory. The Eagles (9-1) have the NFL’s best record, but the Vikings and Saints, also 8-2, are just a game back for the NFC’s top seed.

When Thompson was consistently hitting on core personnel, the Packers not changing their acquisition and retention policy was fine. McCarthy is not known for making great mid-game or midseason adjustments, but that was fine when Rodgers was there to steer things in the right direction.nike_bills-138

Sunday’s 12-9 overtime loss to the lowly Giants defies logic.

At one point, it looked as if the Chiefs were going to roll through the AFC West. While they still have a two-game lead in the division, they’re 6-4 and have lost four of five since a 5-0 start. Kansas City’s first two wins of the year were over the Patriots and Eagles, who might be the two best teams in the NFL. Sunday’s 12-9 overtime loss to the lowly Giants defies logic.

You learn more about an organization when it goes through a down time, and even though the Packers (5-5) are still .500, they haven’t experienced something as hopeless as this season in a while. Getting shut out at Lambeau Field and being bested by a limited Baltimore offense is on everybody.

His performance was very efficient given his volume: 30-of-45 passing, 299 yards, four TDs, no INTs and a 115.0 passer rating. Facing a good Titans run defense that was capable of containing Le’Veon Bell (12 carries, 46 yards), the Steelers didn’t shy away from putting a game on Roethlisberger’s right arm, and he responded.

It doesn’t hurt to have the NFL’s best wide receiver, but even Antonio Brown was having an “off” season based on his sterling standard before he busted out Thursday for 10 catches, 114 yards and three TDs — doubling his scoring output for the season. Much of that early “slump” was tied to missed connections and inconsistent targeting from Roethlisberger.

In recent years, a matchup like this, outdoors for Drew Brees, would spell doom for the Saints, but not with New Orleans in constant ball control and dictating game flow. Tyrod Taylor trying to play catch-up against this pass defense won’t work.

Jackson is not just a great athlete, but has shown great touch on his passes and an ability to play quarterback at the next level. Last year’s Heisman winner is the first quarterback in NCAA history with at least 3,000 passing and 1,000 rushing yards in consecutive seasons.bulls-074