New York Giants: The top three most confusing Pro Bowl snubs

New York Giants, Blake Martinez

Right now, one of the major stories around the New York Giants is Evan Engram and James Bradberry making the Pro Bowl. It’s a good accomplishment as it marks the talent level on the roster going up compared to recent years where the Giants were less represented in the game. However, it’s safe to say the Giants should be sending more players than they actually are. Some players were confusingly left out, despite their high levels of performance all season.

Logan Ryan

One of the obvious ones is Giants defensive back Logan Ryan, who joined the team in the aftermath of Xavier McKinney’s training camp injury and immediately justified the Giants’ decision to sign him. He’s played in every game so far for the Giants and has 83 combined tackles so far.

He also has 9 passes defended, a single interception, and one fumble recovered. His play this season has largely made up for the Giants not having McKinney until late in the year.

Ryan was also the leader in fan voting for the NFC free safeties for a number of weeks. This ultimately, however, wasn’t enough to boost him into actually getting the spot. It won’t stop the large amount of offseason speculation about his contract situation that will come soon, however.

Blake Martinez

The Giants have really helped former Packers linebacker Blake Martinez turn it around after picking the free agent up to man the middle of the defense. Martinez has 128 combined tackles so far, and that ties him for the fourth spot in the overall standings.

Martinez had also led this list at one point and still has a chance to move further up it in the last two games of the season. On top of that, Martinez has assisted in multiple areas of the game with one interception, two forced fumbles, and two sacks.

Leonard Williams

Despite a dud of a first year with the Giants, Leonard Williams has turned it around under Patrick Graham to have the best pass rushing year of his career. 8.5 sacks is a career high for him and places him at the number eleven spot overall on the league charts for the statistic.

He’s also got 24 QB hits, which places him at sixth overall in the league right now. It really seems like Williams is having a Pro Bowl caliber season, especially with the inclusion of Evan Engram from the Giants, who hasn’t stepped up as much by comparison at his own position.

Anthony Pettis announces that he’s leaving the UFC

This past weekend at UFC Vegas 17, Anthony Pettis (24-10) took on Alex Morono (18-7, 1 NC). Pettis made the walk in what was the final fight on his current deal with the UFC. Pettis was betting on himself Saturday night.

The UFC had gone to Pettis with an offer to extend his contract prior to the Donald Cerrone fight early this year. However, Pettis decided to turn down the offer and wait things out. Entering the cage Saturday night, there was still no deal in place.

Pettis was able to pull out the unanimous decision victory at UFC Vegas 17. After the fight was over, Pettis said that he wanted to go back to lightweight and capture a world title. Pettis competed at welterweight on Saturday night.

In the days after UFC Vegas 17, there has been a lot of speculation on what Anthony Pettis would do moving forward. Would he resign with the UFC or would he perhaps move on to Bellator where his brother currently fights.

After days of contemplating, it seems that Showtime has made his decision. After 12 years of competing for the UFC and the WEC, Pettis is moving on. He announced the news on Twitter this evening.

Life after the UFC

Pettis will walk away from the Zuffa banner having held a world title in the WEC and the UFC. While his career has been very up and down since he lost his lightweight championship years ago, he’s still one of the most recognizable athletes in the sport.

For the first time since 2008, Pettis will be competing outside of the Zuffa promotions. So where does Pettis go now that he’s leaving the UFC? There are going to be several suitors for the former world champion.

Clearly the favorite should be Bellator. Bellator is where his brother is signed and they could use more star power in their lightweight division. If I was a betting man, that is where I’d place my money.

However, I wouldn’t put it past PFL or even ONE to make a run at the former UFC champion. I would expect that we will know where Pettis will be going in the next couple of weeks.

UFC booking Dan Hooker – Michael Chandler (Report)

There are reports out this evening that are saying the UFC has booked a lightweight contest between Michael Chandler (21-5) and Dan Hooker (20-9). The news was first reported by Stuff, a media outlet in New Zealand. The bout will take place at UFC 257.

Michael Chandler posted on social media a couple of weeks ago that he was entering camp for his UFC debut. However, he didn’t say who he’d be facing. The speculation was that he’d be facing Justin Gaethje in his debut.

Dana White even alluded to that potential matchup in the last couple of weeks. However, Dan Hooker also came out last week and said that he was in training camp for his next UFC fight.

The rumors started running on if Hooker would be facing off against Chandler. Assuming this report holds true, we now know that Dan Hooker will be the lightweight responsible for welcoming Michael Chandler to the UFC.

Hooker is coming off of a loss to Dustin Poirier back in June. That loss snapped a three-fight win streak for Hooker. He will enter the cage on January 23rd currently ranked as the sixth best lightweight in the world.

UFC debut for Michael Chandler

Michael Chandler will be making his anticipated UFC debut in January. As mentioned above, we knew that Chandler would be making his debut likely at UFC 257. However, we had been missing the opponent.

Dan Hooker is a very interesting matchup for Michael Chandler. Chandler will enter the octagon having gone 5-1 in his last six fights with the lone loss coming to Patricio Pitbull in May of last year.

UFC 257 is proving to be a pivotal night for the lightweight division. Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier are headlining the card and Chandler – Hooker is expected to be the co-main event of the evening.

There has been rumblings that the McGregor – Poirier fight could be for a title if Khabib Nurmagomedov sticks to his retirement. However, nothing is official as of yet. Dana White is expected to meet with the lightweight champion in a few weeks.

New York Giants lack of pass-rush doomed defense against Cleveland Browns in Week 15

The New York Giants lost a crucial Week 15 matchup with the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield put together a dominant performance that saw him complete 27 of his 32 passing attempts for 297 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 turnovers.

For the near entirety of the game, Mayfield stood upright in a clean pocket with all day to throw. The Giants just failed to generate pressure against the Cleveland Browns’ offensive line that was dealing with the absence of stud offensive guard Wyatt Teller. New York was doomed from the start due to their lack of a pass-rush in Week 15.

Baker rarely pressured in Week 15

Baker Mayfield was able to have an elite Week 15 performance against the New York Giants. Baker won Pro Football Focus’s Week 15 Offensive Player of the Week award after earning an overall grade of 92.2 against the Giants. This was his third 90+ overall PFF-graded performance of the season.

Baker was deadly off of play-action against the Giants, as he has been all season. The Browns have run play action on 34.1% of their passing plays this season (sixth-most in the NFL). On play-action passes, Baker has had a 121.3 passer rating (PFF).

The Giants pressured Baker Mayfield only three times on Sunday night, per Next Gen Stats. Baker was kept clean and able to complete 84% of his passes against the Giants.

The Browns were able to call plenty of deep passing plays for Baker in this game because he had so much time in the pocket. Mayfield took advantage of this opportunity. On throws that traveled 10+ yards in Week 15, Baker Mayfield had a perfect 158.3 passer rating. According to Pro Football Focus, Mayfield completed 12-of-14 10-plus-yard attempts for 189 yards and two scores, with four big-time throws and zero turnover-worthy plays.

The New York Giants have another tough AFC North matchup on the schedule this week. In Week 16, the Giants will travel to play the Baltimore Ravens. If New York wants to win this game, they will need to apply pressure to reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. The Giants cannot win games with no pass-rush.

New York Knicks: Thibodeau hints at 10-man rotation to start the season

New York Knicks, Obi Toppin

Throw away those 3-1 preseason record, epic come-from-behind win, and that blissful last five quarters of New York Knicks basketball.

The real games are about to begin.

And we’re about to find out whether the preseason hype is real or not for this new-look Knicks under a perennial playoff coach in Tom Thibodeau.

“My coach at Dayton used to put it in terms that preseason games are rubber bullets. And when you get to the real games that count, those are real bullets. We’re jumping on the fire,” said Knicks lottery pick Obi Toppin on a zoom call on the eve of his official NBA debut.

Toppin’s baptism of fire will have to go through All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis and tough big man Myles Turner as the Knicks open the season against the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night on the road.

With the Knicks’ frontline further decimated by Omari Spellman’s non-inclusion in the active roster list due to injury, Toppin is expected to play backup to starting power forward Julius Randle.

Randle and RJ Barrett, who was consistently good in the preseason, are the only two players locked for a starting role.

The three other positions are still up for grabs with a revolving door of players seeing action in the preseason.

10-man regular rotation

Thibodeau has yet to decide on a starting lineup but hinted that he would use a 10-man regular rotation to start the season.

“And we’re still meeting every day about rotation and it’s pretty tight. It will sort itself out as we go along but you have to base it on performance and merit and what the guys have done. We have a pretty idea of who the 10 are and then the question is who do we start,” Thibodeau said on his zoom call after Tuesday’s practice. “And there’s a couple of positions that are basically 50-50 positions. We’re still evaluating that.”

Based on the injury report and the preseason games, Austin Rivers (pulled groin) and the pair of Ignas Brazdeikis and Theo Pinson are the easy scratches from the regular rotation.

That leaves two more Knicks to sit at the end of the bench.

Judging by how Thibodeau shuffled his players during the preseason, it’s pretty clear that the tough decision will come on the backcourt.

Mitchell Robinson and Nerlens Noel are interchangeable at the center spot. Randle and Toppin are the only power forwards on the Knicks’ roster. Kevin Knox has spelled RJ Barrett off the bench. Elfrid Payton is the only pure point guard in the lineup. Quickley might have earned a spot after playing sensational in the Knicks’ last two preseason games.

Outside looking in

On the surface, Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr., who will become restricted free agents next summer, along with veterans Alec Burks and Reggie Bullock could be the players from the outside looking in. But when Thibodeau was asked about Randle’s preseason performance, he also credited the other veterans, including Burks and Bullock, for their leadership.

“I like the way Julius has been from the summer to all the practices. Not only him like we need a team of leaders. What Elfrid has done, Alec Burks or Reggie [Bullock]. They’re really positive veterans. Sometimes, that’s not always the case. But they come in every day. They practice hard. They play for the team. I think they’re really good for our young guys. You don’t want to lean on just one guy. You want a team of leaders and I think we’re starting to see that,” Thibodeau said.

When he touched on Ntilikina’s role after the French guard played more off the ball during the preseason, Thibodeau’s answer gave away more clues on what the Knicks rotation would look like.

“The thing I like about him [Ntilikina] is he can do both. The same thing with Quick. I think the versatility, what we’re seeing a lot of now is that you have a point guard, you have three wings and a big. So it’s not traditional like it has been in the past. And I like the fact that we have point guards that can do that, Quick did that in college, and similar to the way I used my guards in Chicago,” Thibodeau explained.

Crowded backcourt

Thibodeau used to roll out lineups with two guards, a wing, and two traditional big men in his previous stops. But during the preseason, Thibodeau has also experimented with smaller lineups. Most of the time, he only played one traditional center in either Robinson or Noel and even none for some stretches when he wanted to see Randle and Toppin together.

At the backcourt, he went to Payton and Burks at the start, with Smith Jr. and Ntilikina coming off the bench, but the emergence of Quickley has muddled the guard rotation.

When Ntilikina was out, Quickley played alongside Smith Jr before taking it over the point guard position in the Knicks’ last five quarters. 

“And I think it’s a great advantage to have because defensively, point guards are used to guarding guys off the dribble. And now you can put them on catch and shoot, getting around screens and that sort of thing,” Thibodeau said. 

“Sometimes you can get a sort of advantage that way. And then of course the rim reads are all the same for every player. So I think you could play guys [with the same position]. When you look at today’s NBA, oftentimes you see more than one point guard on the floor. You might see two combo guards on the floor together. That’s what I do like about our roster,” he added.

The glut in the backcourt is a welcome problem for Thibodeau. But someone has to give. Who could those be?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Islanders: Projecting the line for Opening Night

New York Islanders

The NHL has agreed to resume play on January 13th, that’s not too far from now. And the New York Islanders lineup still has a ton of questions left to be answered. Questions such as, who will be on the third line? What will the defensive lines look like without Devon Toews? Will Oliver Wahlstrom or Kieffer Bellows make the cut? These are the questions that go through the head of every Islanders fan daily. So, what will the lines look like when the Islanders take the ice next?

First Line

I don’t think this line will change that much. Jordan Eberle had a down year last year and looks out of place sometimes, but there’s no one to take him down a line. The first line is going to be Anders Lee, Mat Barzal, and Jordan Eberle for at least one more year. When all three of these forwards are on their game, it’s hard to slow them down. Yes, I believe Mat Barzal will be signed within the coming weeks. The contract negotiations just resumed between the two sides the other day. As for the defense, it’s going to be Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock. No shockers here.

Second Line

During the playoffs, the Islanders had the best second line in Hockey. The combination of Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson, and Anthony Beauvillier was dangerous. These 3 have some of the best chemistry I’ve ever seen in Hockey. There’s no way you can break this line up. It just wouldn’t make sense to do that. Now, for the defense, Nick Leddy and Scott Mayfield will man the second line. The only reason not putting Noah Dobson on this line for Leddy is not wanting two guys with the same shooting hand. I still think you can get around this, but no one really knows Dobson’s abilities.

Third Line

There’s only one guy on this line who I know will actually be here. J.G. Pageau will be the third line center, and he’s not a third-line guy. Pageau plays like a top 6 forward, and if the Islanders didn’t have Nelson or Barzal, he would be in the top 6. On the left-wing of Pageau, I have Leo Komarov. Leo Komarov is a grinder, and Barry Trotz loves his grinders. On the right-wing of Pageau, I have Kieffer Bellows. I understand Bellows shoots left-handed, but he’s waited a long time for this opportunity, I don’t think he can let this one slip away. Very easy to see Oliver Wahlstrom take this spot, though. The bottom pairing for the defense is none other than Noah Dobson and Andy Greene. Greene will most likely retire after this year, but not before transferring all his knowledge to Dobson.

Fourth Line

Albert Einstein was called one of the smartest men on Earth when he discovered the equation: E=mc^2. Barry Trotz is called one of the best coaches in Hockey for keeping Martin, Clutterbuck, and Cizikas together. These three play their best Hockey when they’re together. Though they may be older and slower than they once were, they still get the job done. I don’t see Ross Johnston taking anyone’s spot for a long time.

Goalies

I think it’s pretty obvious who will be in net this year. It’s going to be the duo of Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin, and I think every Islander fan already knew this.

New York Mets avoid arbitration with injured pitching star

New York Mets, Noah Syndergaard

The New York Mets are putting together a very competitive team for the 2021 season, which will be the first under new owner Steve Cohen. He and team president Sandy Alderson are working not only to bring new talent to the roster, but also to keep the existing players happy and engaged.

In their latest move with next season in mind, the New York Mets avoided the arbitration process with star pitcher Noah Syndergaard, as both parties agreed to a one-year, $9.7 million contract, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.

The $9.7 million salary is what he made through arbitration last winter, according to Rotoworld. The Mets’ starter, however, is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, a procedure that he underwent back in March.

By normal Tommy John estimates, Thor would be able to return around July or August. However, recent reports suggested that he was actually ahead of schedule, which Alderson confirmed. Now, there is hope that he could be back in the Mets’ rotation by June.

The Mets’ potentially dominant rotation

The 2021 campaign will be Syndergaard’s last in a Mets’ uniform unless the two sides can hammer out a contract extension or decide to keep their working relationship in next year’s free agency.

In 118 career starts and 716.0 innings, the 28-year-old has a 3.31 ERA and a 2.92 FIP, with 18.8 fWAR, a 26.4 K% and a 5.6 BB%. When healthy, he has been one of the National League’s best starters since 2015. However, he had to miss the whole 2020 campaign to have his elbow reconstructed.

Once the Mets get Syndergaard back, their rotation could be one of the NL’s best. They have ace Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, David Peterson, Syndergaard, and Steven Matz. However, Cohen, Alderson, and new general manager Jared Porter are fully expected to add another starter at some point, via free agency or trade market.

The New York Jets won a game…and that’s completely fine

The New York Jets committed a mortal football sin on Sunday: a win in Los Angeles. But Gang Green has nothing to apologize for.

Christmas morning came about five days early for New York Jets fans.

Week 15 action saw two of their wildest fantasies become a reality, a pair of gifts that would generate a reaction forever immortalized in home movies. The early window of Sunday action saw the New England Patriots’ postseason streak finally end in a loss in Miami. On the other side of the country, the Jets perhaps prompted toasts of Zima amongst members of the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns. Their 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams…a team in legitimate contention for an NFL postseason spot…ended a franchise-worst 13-game losing streak and helped the Jets avoid 16-game imperfection.

For Jets fans, topping a team that could well be playing into February after watching the Patriots get erased from the playoff picture could’ve created rare tidings of comfort and joy. It was a feeling of watching your worst enemy have his gift of a PlayStation 5 taken away, but not before you get to use it for a couple of hours.

But, this being the year 2020 A.D., the sweetest of Sunday feelings, denied to the green New York fandom until the penultimate week of this cursed 366-day process, was viewed as the worst thing that could happen to an already star-crossed franchise.

The Jets’ victory in Los Angeles proved to be, in the eyes of some fans, an early Festivus miracle, as their feat of strength set off an airing of grievances unlike any other. Their triumph came at a price, the charge being lost real estate on the draft board in Cleveland. New York’s name now appears in the second slot, behind only the Jacksonville Jaguars, their compatriot in the brotherhood of 1-13 ledgers. Creating the imperfect, unholy trinity with the Lions and Browns has been no concern to the Jaguars, who have lost 13 in a row after winning on opening day. Their latest defeat was a listless 40-14 showing in Baltimore and they certainly won’t be favored in their final contests against Chicago and Indianapolis, each of whom harbors playoff dreams (the latter game could help the Colts win the AFC South). Jacksonville holds the tiebreaker with a worse strength of schedule.

The fear amongst Jets fans is that Jacksonville now has the inside track for Trevor Lawrence, who perhaps broke the hearts of two green teams in the span of a weekend. Saturday saw the Clemson quarterback solidify his status as the consensus top pick, torching Notre Dame for 412 total yards and three scores in a 34-10 victory in the ACC title game. Jets fans were willing to accept inclusion on the list of winless teams in NFL history in exchange for the glory of Lawrence. Now, Lawrence appears bound for Jacksonville, a five hour drive from Miami, where many believe he and the Tigers will be on January 11 for college football’s national title game.

But…it’s shocking it needs to be said, but hey, it’s 2020…what’s done is done. There’s no use crying over spilled Gatorade. The Jets won a game…and that’s perfectly all right.

Tank the Tank

The notion of tanking is ludicrous in all walks of life, particularly in a profession where you can be one of the 32 best people at your job in the entire world, and observers and supervisors alike will call for your axing.

To their macabre credit, the Jets rarely seemed to buy into the concept. Sure, there have been incidents where they might’ve been better off staying home…the brutal visits to Indianapolis, Miami, and Seattle come to mind…but one can look at the Jets’ 2020 schedule and find instances where, on paper, they should’ve come out with a win. Nothing more needs to be said about the ill-advised final blitz against Las Vegas, but they had control for a majority of prime time contests against Denver and New England. Even their first visit to SoFi Stadium could’ve gone worse, as they played the Chargers to a 34-28 decision.

Members of the modern Jets have been clear where their priorities lie. Spoiler alert, they’re not on the draft board.

“I don’t put my body through this, I don’t think anybody on the Jets puts their body through it, to lose,” offensive lineman McGovern said prior to the departure to Los Angeles, per Greg Joyce of the New York Post. “It might be easy for somebody sitting on the couch, eating pizza, chips, and dip, to say they should keep losing, but if they’ve ever strapped the pads on, that sounds like an impossible thing for me to do. I’m going to do whatever I can to win.”

Mekhi Becton, a rare Jet who has a spot on this roster beyond 2020, advocated that those rooting for losses should turn in their New York fan credentials.

“You ain’t really a fan if you didn’t want us to win, honestly,” Becton told Jeane Coakley of SNY. “I mean that in the nicest way possible. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. But I mean, if you wanted us to lose, you’re not a real fan, honestly.”

Even before the losses began to pile up, the Jets were made up of players who needed to prove their worth to build a long-term NFL future. That was apparent in general manager Joe Douglas’ free agent haul this offseason, where all but one signee (McGovern) was granted a contract worth one year or contained an affordable exit after 2020. To ask these players to toss away their final chances to impress, not only for the Jets but for the 31 other NFL squads as well, for the sake of a “reward” they maybe not even be around to witness is out of touch. For these players, these final hours could be the difference between another NFL paycheck or waiting for the XFL to come back in 2022.

Some of those holdovers are carving spots for themselves on a future roster. Midseason acquisition Ty Johnson earned the first 100-yard rushing game from a Jets rusher against Las Vegas and scored a touchdown on the opening drive against the Rams. Neville Hewitt is working his way toward another New York contract with 122 tackles. One can even point at Sam Darnold’s case as to why the Jets shouldn’t be tanking. He has, from at least a team standpoint, consequence-free opportunities to convince the Jets that he deserves to maintain his hold on the position.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that people will go to great lengths to keep their livelihoods when they’re on the line. The Jets shouldn’t be faulted for doing so in a relatively harmless fashion.

Hold that Tiger

Lawrence mastery on Saturday might’ve been just enough for even the staunchest Jets supporter to consider wearing blue, cream, and yellow in support of the Rams the next day. There’s no doubt that whoever is getting Lawrence is getting an incredible talent on and off the field. His prowess on the gridiron speaks for itself and he became a strong voice of unity and leadership elsewhere. Along with Sugar Bowl opponent and likely fellow first-rounder Justin Fields of Ohio State, Lawrence was an advocate for both societal equality and safely finding a way to play the 2020 college football amidst the ongoing health crisis.

But for all his magic, for all his powers…even Lawrence is not a be-all, end-all, fix-all solution to the New York Jets franchise.

Sure, there’s plenty of time for the Jets to tidy up and make their organization attractive to a sought-after newcomer, be a rookie like Lawrence or a veteran free agent like Allen Robinson or JuJu Smith-Schuster. But it’s going to take a lot of work. The Le’Veon Bell case perhaps set the Jets’ transactional affairs back further than they could’ve imagined. What high-ticket free agent is going to look at the way the Bell situation played out, becoming a saga plagued by infighting amongst the team’s decisionmakers and leading to the post-draft firing of a general manager, and look to replicate that? The Jets certainly have a strong budget to work with (just below $73 million and potentially counting if they cut pricey veterans like Henry Anderson and George Fant), but they’ll need to do a better job building relationships.

At the very least, Douglas has made it clear that he has a plan, leaving traces of his blueprints across his transactions, even if they haven’t fully played out. When the quarterback needed blocking, Douglas traded for Alex Lewis and convinced Ryan Kalil to come out of retirement. With Darnold low on weapons, Douglas signed Breshad Perriman and found a day two gem in Denzel Mims in the draft. Noe everything has panned out on the field…Kalil failed to play up to his Pro Bowl form and Perriman has been inconsistent…but it at least showed that Douglas knew how to chase down a need position.

There’s definitely hope on the horizon. Mims has shown flashes of brilliance despite bouts with injury and Becton has been everything the Jets could’ve asked for. But this group, particularly the offensive line, is very much a work in progress. Putting Lawrence behind the current blocking unit would be only asking for trouble. There’s time to improve between now and the spring, but, if things stay the way they are, the Lawrence era probably wouldn’t be that much different from Darnold’s.

But, contrary to popular belief amongst the pro-tank crowd, the draft does not begin and end once Lawrence’s name is called. At least 224 men will be added to NFL rosters in Cleveland, and the Jets will be choosing quite often. Cincinnati’s shocking win on Monday night over Pittsburgh, perhaps another victory seen as ill-advised by those who wish to tank, ensured that the Jets would choose no later than second overall come April. There’s plenty of other needs that can be immediately satisfied with the No. 2 pick, even if Lawrence is donning a Jaguars cap and jersey. The non-Lawrence quarterback would be well protected with the combined efforts of Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater. He can throw to Ja’Marr Chase or Devonta Smith. The yearly couple against Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa would be easier to bear pass rushers Kwity Paye or Jayson Oweh if they trade down. Others from those positions (i.e. Azeez Ojulari, Wyatt Davis, or Terrace Marshall) could be available when the Jets choose later on day one with Seattle’s pick, obtained from the Jamal Adams trade.

It’s fair to mourn the loss of Lawrence in the early going…and even more so when rewatching the film from Charlotte on Saturday…but it’s a potential loss they can overcome with the right brand of drafting and scouting ingenuity.

New York Jets, Adam Gase
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Change is Still Coming

The Jets might’ve been on the right side of the scoreboard after Sunday’s affair, but there were still plenty of reminders as to why they’re long eliminated from the NFL playoff picture. Inspiring and fun as the win may be…former Super Bowl offensive coordinator and Jets head coach Adam Gase remarked per The Post that “I don’t think I’ve seen a group more excited after a game than what I saw (Sunday) when talking about the postgame reaction…it’d be silly to believe that it’ll serve as the deciding factor as to whether some veterans stay or go.

From a playcalling standpoint, for example, there’s no reason to waste consequence-free games on giving the ball to Frank Gore 23 times a game while Johnson carried it only thrice (returning rookie La’Mical Perine didn’t get any). There was a chance for the Jets to build on a 13-0 lead going into the halftime break, but opted for short runs that allowed Los Angeles to get the ball back and add a triple. The defense took a notable step backward when an injured Quinnen Williams was forced to leave the game, giving up three consecutive scoring drives in the second half.

Another asterisk came in the form of the opponent. Rams rusher Cam Akers, fresh off a career-best 171-yard performance against New England, was affected by an ankle injury they stripped him of his true impact (though two long Akers runs, including a touchdown, were called back due to penalties in the second half). Even if the Jets did buy into tanking, Los Angeles almost wouldn’t allow it. Five of the first six Rams possessions ended in a punt, one of which was blocked by J.T. Hassell. The outlier in that group resulted in a Bryce Hall interception.

So, unless Johnson or Gore helped you win your fantasy football semifinal, only true football die-hards are going to remember this win. Change is still coming with to the Jets. Previews of the purge have been plentiful…just ask Bell, Steve McLendon, Avery Williamson, Pierre Desir, or Gregg Williams…but it should begin in earnest this offseason. If the Jets are truly on the fence about Gase, a December win against an opponent that was clearly not operating at top speed shouldn’t be enough to sway the pendulum back in his favor.

Douglas has a plan, picks, and prosperity through cap space. One win, even at the cost of one potential quarterback, shouldn’t be the force of destruction that upends it all.

It’s rare enough that the Jets earn a thrilling December victory in this day and age. If you’re a fan, you should feel no reservation toward celebrating it.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

UFC books Michael Chiesa – Neil Magny

The UFC has been putting in the work on this holiday week. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto is reporting that the promotion is close to finalizing a really good matchup at welterweight that will take place on Fight Island.

Per Okamoto, Michael Chiesa (17-4) and Neil Magny (24-7) will go head-to-head on the UFC‘s January 20th Fight Night. That card is being headlined by the welterweight matchup between Khamzat Chimaev and Leon Edwards.

January 20th will mark the UFC return for Michael Chiesa after spending the majority of 2020 on the sidelines. Chiesa last fought in January, but he’s been on the sidelines with leg injuries this year.

He’s seen a career resurgence since moving from lightweight up to the UFC‘s welterweight division. He’s won three straight at 170 which has placed him eighth in the rankings. Just one spot ahead of his opponent on January 20th.

UFC Welterweight Matchup

Standing across from Chiesa will be Neil Magny. Like Chiesa. The Haitian Sensation has won three straight in the UFC‘s welterweight division. Magny made his return this year after serving a suspension that kept him out for a year and a half.

Magny has looked sensational this year. His return started in March when he defeated Li Jingliang. Then he took on Anthony Rocco Martin at UFC 250. Both of those decision victories led him to a fight with former UFC champion, Robbie Lawler.

Magny completely outworked and dominated the former champion over the course of fifteen minutes. The victory was the biggest win of his career. Both of these contenders are in a prime spot to make that next leap in the welterweight division.

Whoever wins this matchup will likely get someone in the UFC‘s top five the next time out. Okamoto did note that should the main event have a fighter fall out, either Magny or Chiesa could serve as the backup for the main event.

NASCAR planning to televise more iRacing in 2021

According to a report, NASCAR is planning to televise more iRacing in 2021. iRacing events will take weekend TV slots where real-life practice or qualifying would typically take place, since NASCAR is planning many one-day shows in 2021.

When COVID-19 shut the sport down in March, NASCAR turned to iRacing to fill TV slots with racing content. NASCAR and iRacing began the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, featuring some of the best stock drivers in the world. The series raced at the tracks that were scheduled in real life, with the finale taking place at the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway.

The seven events on the schedule featured three William Byron victories, two Denny Hamlin victories, and victories from both Alex Bowman and Timmy Hill.

FOX and FS1 televised the races with their normal crew of Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon, and Larry McReynolds, while Clint Bowyer provided in-race commentary.

In addition to the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, FOX and NBC networks aired additional iRacing events throughout the pandemic shut-down.

The iRacing events had the highest TV ratings in eSports history, and did a good job of keeping race fans engaged during a long and boring shut-down.

But now that real-life racing has returned, it’ll be interesting to see how much success iRacing has on linear television. Fans will still have all three major NASCAR series to watch during the weekend, so iRacing events will likely take a major hit in ratings. However, if it fills dead air and makes some type of money, NASCAR and TV networks will likely call that a win.