The changing of the guard in the AFC East was officially completed with the Buffalo Bills’ blowout win in Foxboro.
The holiday may be a time for forgiveness and unity…but the Buffalo Bills weren’t interested in bestowing such virtues against one of their greatest tormenters.
Buffalo (12-3) put up 476 yards of offense and watched Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs make team history in their seasonal wrap-up with the New England Patriots. The ensuing 38-9 victory allowed the Bills to clinch their first season sweep of the six-time champions since 1999. They also earned the most one-sided victory for an opponent at Gillette Stadium since its opening in 2002, breaking a record set my the San Francisco 49ers earlier this season.
The Bills are no longer able to catch the Kansas City Chiefs for the top seed in the AFC playoffs but are now guaranteed to place no worse than third in the opening bracket. Buffalo currently holds the second seed thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker with Pittsburgh. Such a seeding will also allow the Bills to avoid the defending champion Chiefs until the potential conference title game.
ESM has game balls to hand out from a downright historic evening on the road…
Smith is one of two leftovers from the Bills’ postseason drought, currently in the midst of his second stint and sixth season with a charging buffalo on his helmet. Used primarily as a blocker, Smith almost got into the scorebook last week but his touchdown in Denver was erased by a penalty. The Buffalo offense had him covered this time around, though, as he would score a four-yard touchdown in the latter stages of the first half to put Buffalo up 17-9. Smith would later earn a 27-yard reception in the fourth quarter to set up Allen and Diggs’ third and final scoring hookup on the evening. His 31-yard output was his highest since November 2018, when he was a member of the Raiders.
Another week, another breakthrough performance for Allen, who is eliminating any remaining doubters he had left. More Buffalo history awaited him on Monday, as Allen’s fourth and final score of the evening, his 34th of the season, broke Jim Kelly’s single-season record for touchdown passes. That mark had stood since 1991. Relieved for Matt Barkley in the fourth quarter, Allen is 40 yards away from breaking Drew Bledsoe’s record tally for single-campaign yardage.
Finally armed with a team capable of conquering the AFC East, the Bills were more than happy to flex their muscles in front of a New England team that has bullied them since the turn of the century. Diggs, engaged in a war of words with J.C. Jackson all night, and his incredible run-after-the-catch prowess were some of their most prominent displays of supremacy, His 50-yard score just before halftime more or less snapped the Patriots’ will. That score allowed Diggs to make Buffalo history in style, as he surpassed a pair of historic years from Eric Moulds to become the Bills’ single-season leader in receiving yardage. Diggs is also on pace to finish the year as the NFL’s leader in both receptions and yardage, which would be a first for a Bill in both categories.
The New York Giants fell to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday to further muddy their playoff hopes, but one receiver had a standout game individually. Sterling Shepard has been rated the best Giants player from week 16 by Pro Football Focus, thanks to his nine catch performance which saw him pick up 77 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Sterling Shepard -> highest graded player for the Giants yesterday.
Shepard came through at the same time that fellow wide receiver Darius Slayton only pulled in a couple of receptions for 26 yards. Not the kind of performance that the Giants are expecting of him following his big first year. With Slayton struggling, much of the load has fallen on Shepard this season.
But despite that, Shepard is still on par to have a subpar season compared to his first three. He should avoid a career low in season yardage if he can grab a few catches in the season finale, but the numbers still aren’t looking great.
Some of that has come down to the Giants not having other receivers that can get open and take away attention. Another problem is the offensive line, and earlier in the season, there were more problems with Daniel Jones failing to find his target. All of this has combined to make it a hard year to be a Giants receiver.
Shepard looks like the number one receiver coming into the 2021 season thanks to Slayton slowing down and Golden Tate most likely being off the team. If the Giants don’t decide to cash in while his value is still high and make an offseason trade, that is.
The future remains unclear. But Shepard’s skill has remained consistent even with a poor offensive coordinator and multiple cases of playing under a backup QB this year.
Despite losing to the Baltimore Ravens yesterday, the New York Giants are still very much alive in the playoff hunt. The lowly NFC East has kept the Giants in the playoff hunt despite their 5-10 record. But the Giants do not have complete control over their playoff destiny heading into Week 17. They will need some help to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Inversely, the Giants have the unique opportunity to be awarded a top-three draft pick in 2021 if they miss the playoffs by only one game.
How the Giants could make the playoffs
The Giants will need some help to get into the playoffs next week. First and foremost, the Giants need to beat the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17. The 6-9 Cowboys are on a three-game winning streak entering the final week of the season. Over these last three games, Dallas is averaging 36 points per game. New York’s defense will need to slow down Andy Dalton and the Dallas offense to keep the playoff hopes alive.
The Giants will play the Cowboys at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Then, they will have to wait until the primetime, Sunday night matchup to see if they are making the playoffs. The Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles had their Week 17 matchup flexed to the primetime slot. The Giants need some help from the Eagles in order to make the playoffs.
If the Giants beat the Cowboys next week, they will improve to a 6-10 record, which would be the same as the Cowboys. However, the Giants have the tie-breaker over Dallas because they have the better divisional record. So, then it would come down to the Giants and the Football Team. The Giants also have the tie-breaker over the Washington Football Team.
If Washington loses in Week 17, their record would fall to 6-10 as well. If the Giants win in Week 17, they will have the same record as the Football Team if Washington is unable to win and get in. It might pain many Giants fans to do this, but this week, they will be rooting hard for the rival Philadelphia Eagles to beat the Washington Football Team and help New York make the playoffs.
How the Giants could get the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft
If an NFL team does not make the playoffs, their fans immediately turn their attention to the offseason. More specifically, once a team is eliminated from playoff contention, most fans believe that it would behoove their team to lose as many games as possible. The team with the worst record in the NFL will be awarded the first overall pick in the NFL Draft.
The first two picks of the 2021 NFL Draft have already been clinched. But every single other pick after that is up for grabs. And somehow, the Giants not only have a chance of making the playoffs, but they also have a chance of securing the third overall draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
In order for this to happen, the Giants need a lot of help. Firstly, the Giants need to lose to Dallas. This scenario only exists if the Giants are unfortunately eliminated from playoff contention. But it is an exciting fallback plan.
Secondly, the Giants need Philadelphia to beat Washington. New York needs this to make the playoffs, anyway, so Giants fans are rooting for Philly regardless on Sunday night. On top of that, the Giants are going to need some bottom-barrel NFL teams to pull off some upsets.
The Houston Texans need to beat the Tennessee Titans in order for the Giants to get the third overall pick. The Giants also need the Atlanta Falcons to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Titans are very unlikely to lose to a poor Houston Texans team, but it is a divisional matchup, so you never know what could happen. That goes for the Falcons as well who will be playing the Buccaneers. Luckily, the Bucs have already clinched a playoff spot, so they could be resting their stars. This could give the Falcons, who just went down to the wire with the Kansas City Chiefs, a chance to win in Week 17.
Lastly, the Giants need two more upsets to get the third pick. New York needs the Bengals to upset the Ravens and the Lions to upset the Vikings. While the Lions winning is somewhat plausible, it would still be an upset. The Vikings have a better record and Detroit is coming off of a putrid Week 16 performance. The Bengals beating the Ravens, however, is a huge longshot. Baltimore is rolling and fighting for a playoff spot. It is unlikely they let the Bengals take that playoff opportunity away from them.
So, while it is a longshot, it is a possibility for the Giants to receive the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Most Giants fans will likely be rooting for a playoff birth instead, but it might be reassuring to know that, if the Giants miss the playoffs, they will have the opportunity to draft near the top of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The New York Jets have decisions to make at quarterback. A stopgap can provide welcome stability if they move on from Sam Darnold.
Well-meaning parents who purchased their children New York Jets jerseys bearing Trevor Lawrence’s name for the December holidays have some explaining to do.
The Jets’ endeavor for Trevor is more than likely over after Sunday, as a combination of a New York win and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 14th consecutive defeat sent the top overall pick in this spring’s draft to Duval County. Considering the Jaguars (1-14) opted to play Mike Glennon in place of Gardner Minshew for their 41-17 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Bears, it’s more or less assured that they’re planning to select the Clemson thrower set to partake in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl on Friday night (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Even if the Jets (2-13) landed the top overall choice…a scenario rendered impossible by their pair of December wins and the strength of schedule tiebreaker…there was going to be debate over whether they should use it on Lawrence or entrust another year to incumbent starter Sam Darnold. With nearly three stanzas completed, the narrative of Darnold’s New York saga is a complicated one. It has been defined by the occasional flash of brilliance too often countered with head-scratching decisions on the field. The story has also been interrupted by calamities that are either an unfortunate part of the game (injuries) or something most go quarterbacks go through their whole career without seeing (mononucleosis). Missing four games with a shoulder ailment hasn’t helped, but Darnold is on pace to set new career lows in most major passing categories, including yards (currently at 1,942) and touchdown passes (8).
Countless amounts of turnover have like played a role in Darnold’s lack of progress. His crucial developmental years have been staged in not only the Todd Bowles-to-Adam Gase staff transition, but the general manager swap from Mike Maccagnan to Joe Douglas. Nothing drives the point of unstable turnover than the fact that no receiver (with the exception of tight end Chris Herndon) from Darnold’s rookie campaign (2018) remains on the current Jets’ roster. The Jets may be ready to make yet another coaching change with Gase’s win percentage (.290) besting only Rich Kotite amongst green head coaches with at least one full year at the helm.
Tempting as it may be to see what Darnold could do with a new coaching staff (provided Gase is indeed dealt his walking papers), a legal separation, one perhaps involving a trade for draft picks, may be the best for all parties involved. The Jets don’t have time to help pen anyone else’s redemption story…they’ve spent a decade trying to write their own…and Darnold deserves a place that isn’t relying on him to be a one-size-fits-all solution.
If 2020 has proven anything, it’s that the Jets are far removed from being “a quarterback away’ from mere relevancy, much less the Super Bowl. This is a team with many needs, and it’s not fair to Darnold, Lawrence, or an unknown, young third party to expect them to be the savior sought since Joe Namath hung up his green and white paraphernalia for the last time. Even if the Jets are poised to miss out on Lawrence, the 2021 draft has provided solid consolation prizes in the form of Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, and Kyle Trask.
But what if the Jets took a year off from the franchise quarterback process?
Such a concept has been on the rise in recent years, the phenomenon informally labeled as using a “stopgap” quarterback. Through this endeavor, a talented quarterback helps the team in question keep rolling while other needs are addressed and developed.
The stopgap, as his name implies, is not meant to be the starter for any extended period of time. Rather, they arise out of necessity or in case of emergency. Oftentimes, the stopgap is called upon to clean up the mess or void a retired or departing franchise quarterback left behind. Modern examples on the 2020 circuit include Phillip Rivers in Indianapolis and Cam Newton in New England. Sometines, the stopgap manages to extend his stay. Modern Tom Brady could arguably be seen as a stopgap in Tampa Bay, as the Buccaneers sought his services to capitalize on a strong team around him in plans to make the most of a window of contentions. The Tennessee Titans perhaps envisioned Ryan Tannehill, fresh off a polarizing stint as Miami’s franchise man, as a temporary solution when they pulled the plug on the Marcus Mariota experiment. Tannehill helped guide the Titans to a pair of surprise playoffs wins and was rewarded with the Comeback Player of the Year Award and a four-extension.
A similar plan could work out for the Jets, a team working on a playoff game drought that’s older than all but two movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The most important thing the Jets need right now is stability. They’re a team venturing off the football rails, where even a mere winning record has proven elusive. This is a squad that needs to get back to a place where a win isn’t the worst thing that can happen to the franchise, as many have declared after the Jets stole wins from playoff contenders in Los Angeles and Cleveland. This isn’t a scenario like the Indianapolis Colts had in 2012, when Andrew Luck turned a two-win squad into a playoff team. The Jets don’t have a plethora of reliable veterans to help the kid, unlike Indianapolis’ haul of Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and Adam Vinatieri, among others.
There’s a light at the end of the green tunnel in the form of 2021 cap space. The Jets’ offseason bank currently stands at just over $81 million, once again trailing only Jacksonville. This season, particularly a strong December, has yielded some potential building blocks (Mekhi Becton, Denzel Mims, Quinnen Williams, Marcus Maye among them), but the Jets are far from a completed project. They still need blocking and weaponry on offense while the defense needs help in the secondary. The pass rush also needs to be bolstered with matchups against Josh Allen on the horizon for the next decade, and their kicking situation needs clarity. It’s not fair to waste further development on Darnold on a situation like this, nor is this any condition in which to subject a top overall pick. As the Jets try to find their footing, a stopgap man could work wonders. A short-term deal is feasible in this cap space surplus, filling one need while diverting attention to more long-term goals. Draft picks obtained from a potential trade of Darnold can be used to net weaponry that can be overseen by a proven throwing option.
Whereas the draft class may loaded with franchise potential, 2021’s free agency class is laden with stopgap potential. Jacoby Brissett had a strong showing in filling the gap between Luck and Rivers last season and would potentially seek a new chance to return to starting duties. Andy Dalton has kept the Dallas Cowboys in contention for the NFC East title since taking over for the injured Dak Prescott. The Jets may even have a stopgap option on their roster in the form of Joe Flacco. Super Bowl XLVII’s MVP may be facing the twilight of his career, but showed that he did have some gas left in the tank while filling in for an injured Darnold earlier this season.
The Jets’ most recent glory days…or the closest thing resembling them in this dreary decade…have come with stopgap guys under center. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 2015 season appears at or near the top of nearly every single-season passing record in the Jets’ record book. Fitzpatrick (as well as fellow free-agent-to-be Tyrod Taylor, who helped end the Buffalo Bills’ eternal playoff drought before Josh Allen arrived) has nearly made a career out of the concept and currently serves in such a capacity in Miami on a part-time basis as they bide their time with Tua Tagovailoa.
Two years later, Josh McCown kept the Jets competitive in a year some expected them to go winless. The final ledger read 5-11, but McCown’s brief restablization kept them in ball games.
Of course, the Jets have plenty of time to rectify their current surroundings to make them more desireable to an incoming franchise quarterback. If offseason funds are spent wisely (i.e. adding a strong receiving talent like Allen Robinson or JuJu Smith-Schuster), the idea of a stopgap man could seem almost laughable. For all we know, Darnold could emerge to pilot his fourth straight kickoff weekend for the Jets, hopefully one packed to the brim with fans this time around. But the stopgap conversation is one the Jets shouldn’t ignore this offseason.
Whatever the Jets have been trying in the franchise quarterback department, it’s clearly not working. Maybe some change would do them some good…if only temporarily.
Nothing has changed since our last update on Luis Medina’s winter campaign. More of the same, actually: he keeps making hitters in the Puerto Rican winter league look like rookies, which is quite the accomplishment for a guy who is just 21 and has spent the better part of the last few years trying to throw strikes. The New York Yankees, of course, are rejoicing.
The young Yankees’ fireballer had a phenomenal week in Puerto Rico. On Tuesday, he struck out 10 hitters in 4 2/3 innings for Indios de Mayaguez. Additionally, he had another superb outing on Sunday, reaching five innings for the first time on the season and allowing just on run, his first of the winter campaign. He punched out seven Criollos de Caguas hitters in the masterpiece.
Overall on the week, the Yankees’ farmhand whiffed 17 batters in 9 2/3 frames across the two outings, conceding just four hits and walks apiece.
The right-hander is now the LBPRC leader in strikeouts with 32, but the most amazing part is that he has earned them in just 16 2/3 frames. That’s an amazing ratio. For the Yankees, though, the most satisfying part of it all is that he is still throwing consistent strikes.
The Yankees have to be pleased with his performance
All in all, Medina has a microscopic 0.54 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP in four starts and 16 2/3 innings. He has been, without a doubt, the best pitcher of the Puerto Rican circuit.
𝙾𝚃𝚁𝙰 𝚂𝙰𝙻𝙸𝙳𝙰 𝙸𝙽𝙲𝚁𝙴Í𝙱𝙻𝙴 🥵
El prospecto de los @yankees, Luis Medina volvió a lucir espectacular, por cinco entradas, cargando con la victoria.
The Yankees have to be pleased, as Medina used to run BB/9 marks over five in most of his minor league seasons until something clicked late in the 2019 season. He seemed to find consistency with his release point and finished last year with a 1.77 ERA, 63 strikeouts and 15 walks over his final 45 2/3 innings between Class A Charleston and Class A Advanced Tampa.
If he has a positive spring training, he could start the season in Class-A and could conceivably reach the high minors in 2021. Or he could be trade bait for the Yankees right now (there are several starters available) or in the summer.
Last season the New York Yankees signed Rosell Herrera before the start of spring training. In the first 2020 spring training, he did nothing but impress, becoming the spring training star. The infielder-outfielder has signed with the Wei Chuan Dragons of the four-team Chinese Professional Baseball League, CPBL Stats announced on Twitter.
Herrera became an immediate star when he began opening eyes on March 1 while going 3-for-3 with a double facing the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. In his next game, he did so again, a 2-for-4 showing on March 5, also in Lakeland versus Detroit. He ended spring training hitting .400. Every time he was allowed to come to bat, he would bat for contact and power.
However, his fantastic start with the New York Yankees came to a halt when he developed foot issues. With no minor league season, Herrera had no place to play when he had healed. It is unclear what happened between then and now, as he was not listed on any of the Minor League rosters. But whatever the case, the Yankees appear to have lost a future star.
During the first spring training, Yankees manager Aaron Boone had this to say about the young man:
“He hits it off the barrel every time. A lot of really good at-bats every day. He’s certainly got our attention and that’s a really good thing. The quality of his at-bats have been from jump street.
“He has a great attitude. He plays the game with a joy. And he’s been really good moving around for us in different spots. He continues to impress us.”
After all that praise, it’s a wonder that he was never called up during summer camp in a season with so many Yankee injuries. Now he is off to Taiwan.
Nurmagomedov told Match TV, “My belt will be taken by the winner of Dustin and Conor.” Khabib also said that he does not like the prospect of returning to the octagon insinuating that he’s happy with retiring as is.
Dana White has said that he plans on meeting with the lightweight champion when they are in Abu Dhabi. There have been whispers surrounding the McGregor – Poirier fight and the potential vacant UFC lightweight championship.
The lightweight division in the UFC is in an interesting position. The promotion doesn’t to take away the title from Nurmagomedov after all he’s done for the promotion. Not too mention that he just fought and Dana White is hoping he will fight again.
However, it’s clear that Nurmagomedov is not going to be fighting lightweight contenders anytime soon. The only fight that would make sense for Nurmagomedov at this stage is a fight with UFC legend, Georges St. Pierre.
However, that fight doesn’t appear likely. In terms of the active lightweight division, UFC 257 would make for the perfect event to crown a new champion. The UFC wanted McGregor to fight for the title after he knocked out Donald Cerrone in January.
That is one of the reasons the promotion held him out. Dustin Poirier holds a knockout win over Justin Gaethje and he’s coming off of a win over Dan Hooker. McGregor and Poirier make for the perfect pairing to crown a new UFC lightweight champion.
This has been a possibility ever since this fight was made. Again, nothing has been confirmed by officials so I would take this news with a grain of salt. Still, it appears even more likely that UFC 257 will crown a new lightweight champion.
Last week, it was reported that the New York Mets were interested in Korean star Ha-Seong Kim, a 25-year old infielder capable of hitting for average, power, stealing some bases, taking some walks, and play good defense at a premium position: shortstop.
Robinson Cano was supposed to be the New York Mets’ second baseman in the 2021 season after a big 2020. However, he was caught using performance-enhancing substances and was suspended for the next campaign.
The Mets, therefore, are looking for some star-power to their infield, but they do have some options. They can slide Jeff McNeil or Andres Gimenez to play at the keystone, as Amed Rosario could play shortstop or third base and JD Davis can also handle the hot corner if needed.
The Mets were after Kim’s services
But the Mets wanted Kim. According to Bae Ji-Heon of South Korea’s Naver News, they were one of six clubs in the hunt for the Korean infielder. The other teams were the Toronto Blue Jays, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Boston Red Sox, the Texas Rangers, and the San Diego Padres, where he will apparently land in the end.
Kim had multiple offers in the five-plus year range. He was posted by the Kiwoom Heroes and has until January 1st to sign.
In 2020, the Mets’ target slashed .310/.402/.530 with 28 home runs and 109 RBIs, adding 21 steals. He also won the Gold Glove at shortstop in 2018 and 2019.
The jump in talent level from the KBO to the MLB is usually quite high, but it sounds like the Mets lost a good one to the Padres.
The time to identify bold breakout candidates for the 2021 season is probably now, before spring training begins. News sites and blogs make this exercise every year, including the league’s official site, MLB.com. In its latest article, the circuit’s writers broke down a player in each team poised to have an incredible 2021 season. For the New York Yankees, Bryan Hoch listed a surprising candidate.
To this day, Michael King’s upside was thought to be fairly low. However, Hoch seems to think that he is a candidate to break out next season. In 2020, he didn’t have a very good campaign, pitching 26.2 innings of a 7.76 ERA (5.14 FIP) with a 21.5 K% and a 9.1 BB%.
The 25-year-old right-handed pitcher may have the opportunity of his life with the Yankees in 2021. The team doesn’t have too many options after Gerrit Cole, Domingo German, Deivi García, and Jordan Montgomery, and if spring training goes well and the Bombers don’t bring any reinforcements, he could even make the rotation in an unlikely, but possible scenario.
The Yankees worked with King to refine the axis of his changeup
Hoch wrote that King “benefited from his time at the Yankees’ alternate training site this past summer, where he huddled with pitching coordinator Sam Briend to refine the axis of his changeup, giving it a different profile than his fastball. The right-hander saw results in the AL Division Series, retiring all six Rays he faced in a Game 3 relief appearance.”
If he can somehow maintain the gains he made in the Yankees’ alternate training site, it’s fair to wonder if the Yankees managed to increase King’s upside and potential.
Per Hoch, “King has also changed his slider into a curveball, tinkering with improvements that he believes will help him secure a rotation spot in 2021.”
Could it be that the Yankees have unearthed a pitching gem from the internal options they had? The team needs quality innings badly, and by the look of things, they won’t be spending too much money in payroll for 2021. The moment, for King, is now.
Combining that with the loss of Charlie Morton earlier in the offseason, and you can expect the Rays to take a big step back next year. While they won’t be a bad team, they won’t be the biggest threat to the Yankees.
Instead, you will have to look north of the border to find the Yankees biggest threat. The Toronto Blue Jays are going to be a major player in the AL East in 2021. There are some analysts already picking them to win the division.
However, the Rays taking a step back could create a different headache for the Yankees than some would expect. While the Rays getting worse is seen as a good thing, it also opens the window even more for the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays now can look at the Yankees as their soul competition in the AL East. What’s one way you can really hurt your only competition? Signing away their MVP candidate who has shined for them over the past two years.
The talks have halted over a potential fifth year. The Yankees do not want to give LeMahieu a guaranteed fifth year factoring in his age while DJLM’s camp is insisting on the bombers making the fifth year guaranteed.
Since the two sides are not blinking, other teams have been getting more serious about their pursuit of LeMahieu. Obviously one of those being the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays are very serious about signing LeMahieu.
They are also the kind of team that would more than likely give him the guaranteed fifth year to secure him. Everything we’ve heard up until this point suggests the Yankees and LeMahieu want a reunion. However, will one blink to make it happen?
If not, the Blue Jays could be staring at a golden opportunity in the East. The Rays have fallen back and the Yankees MVP candidate is there for the taking. This is definitely a situation to keep your eye on as we move forward.