New York Giants waive Devonta Freeman following season

New York Giants, Devonta Freeman

The New York Giants haven’t found a need for Devonta Freeman now that their season is over and main back Saquon Barkley will be back on the field next year. Freeman joined the Giants pretty early in the year following the injury to Barkley, but never reached the same heights he did with the Falcons.

While he showed some flashes of potential, he only ended up playing in five games this season thanks to injury. Freeman was on the injured reserve at the time the Giants came to the decision to part ways with the veteran. During those five games in which he appeared, he had 54 rushes for 172 yards and one touchdown.

The Giants ended up leaning on Wayne Gallman more this season, who proved why he belongs on the roster and secured his spot for next year thanks to his performance during Barkley’s absence.

Overall, when it comes to the top rushers on the Giants, Freeman was above Dion Lewis but behind Alfred Morris and Daniel Jones as well as Gallman, who finished the year as the leading rusher. All of those other players, however, had more chances to get on the field than Freeman did this season.

His 3.2 yards per attempt aren’t better than any of the other main backs, however, even including Lewis. All in all, it wasn’t a very good season for Freeman and the Giants likely see Morris and Gallman as the backups behind Barkley rather than him.

It remains to be seen if the franchise also plans on moving on from Dion Lewis, but that wouldn’t be surprising given his comparably low performance this season in Barkley’s absence.

New York Yankees ink veteran pitcher to minor-league deal

New York Yankees

According to multiple reports, the New York Yankees have signed veteran pitcher Jhoulys Chacin to a minor league deal. Chacin, 33, last pitched for the Atlanta Braves in 2020, appearing twice.

The nine-year veteran made his debut in 2009 with the Colorado Rockies, and spent through 2014 with the organization. From 2015 on, the right-hander spent time with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers, and the Boston Red Sox.

Chacin has a career 78-87 record with a 4.04 ERA and a 1.332 WHIP. His career FIP stands at 4.22 with a 108 ERA+. He’s pitched over 1300 major league innings and registered over 1000 strikeouts.

Chacin isn’t the pitching signing that Yankees fans would like, but he has the potential to be an asset for the team. Stats show that Chacin is an average pitcher, but a pitcher that can impact the Yankees. He can start games, as well as be a long-relief option.

It wouldn’t be a shock in the slightest to see Chacin on the Opening Day roster since the Yankees don’t have a ton of long-relievers. New York signed Adam Warren, a former starter, but he’s more effective in a traditional relief role.

The Yankees also have Jonathan Loaisiga, a young pitcher with a career 4.42 ERA. His inconsistency has killed the Yankees at times, leading to Chacin likely being a better option.

However, a spot on the Opening Day roster isn’t a given for Chacin. He’s going to have to show the Yankees why he deserves a spot in an already relatively crowded bullpen. The team is in pursuit of other relievers in free agency, and more signings will make it even harder for Chacin to get a spot.

But, if Chacin performs well this spring, he has the potential to make a difference for the Yankees.

New York Liberty: Paris Kea undergoes successful knee surgery

The New York Liberty’s in-season addition was injured while playing overseas in Israel, but she is expected to make a full recovery.

The New York Liberty announced on Thursday that guard Paris Kea has undergone successful anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction surgery on her left knee earlier this week.

Kea sustained the injury during her overseas endeavors with Maccabi Haifa, an Israeli club. At the time of her injury, she ranked second on the squad with 19.0 points and 2.5 steals per game. Her procedure was performed at the Hospital for Special Surgery under the watch of Dr. Riley Williams III. Rehabilitation begins next week and Kea is expected to make a full recovery.

A North Carolina alumna, Kea joined the Liberty in the middle stages of the WNBA’s bubble season in Bradenton. Entering the league as a third-round pick to Indiana in 2019, Kea averaged 6.9 points over 11 games (five starts), her best output being a 21-point tally against her former team in September. Kea is set to enter free agency, but the Liberty maintain her rights. During her time at Chapel Hill, Kea earned consecutive first-team All-ACC honors, honored alongside current New York teammate Asia Durr.

Elsewhere on Thursday, the Liberty also announced a collaboration with the National Women’s Hockey League, which is set to begin a bubbled season in Lake Placid, NY. In support of the Metropolitan Riveters, cardboard incarnations of Sabrina Ionescu, Layshia Clarendon, Jazmine Jones, Jocelyn Willoughby and Amanda Zahui B. will appear in the bubble at Herb Brooks Arena. The Liberty are one of two WNBA teams partaking in the NWHL union, joining the Connecticut Sun and their union with the Connecticut Whale. Normally playing their games at Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark, the Riveters won the league’s Isobel Cup in 2018. The New York Rangers will likewise be “sending” some representatives.

The Liberty will choose first in the 2021 WNBA Draft, set to be held later this spring.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

UFC rebooks Petr Yan – Aljamain Sterling

The UFC has finalized the much anticipated bantamweight title fight between Petr Yan (15-1) and Aljamain Sterling (19-3). MMA Junkie was the first outlet to report that the sides had finalized the new fight date.

The UFC bantamweight title fight will officially take place on March 6th at UFC 259. The PPV card is turning out to be quite the spectacle as the promotion has already booked Adesanya – Blachowicz and Nunes – Anderson for UFC 259.

Now, we get to add Yan and Sterling to the mix. Yan has looked untouchable since he made his octagon debut back in 2018. He’s gone on a seven fight run that has led him to the undisputed bantamweight title.

After Henry Cejudo (16-2) vacated the bantamweight title after UFC 249, the UFC decided to pair Yan up against the former featherweight champion, Jose Aldo (29-7). Yan was tested early on, but in the end, he dominated and finished Aldo in the fifth round.

It turned out to be a devastating performance as Yan captured the bantamweight championship. Yan looks like he’s going to be incredibly tough to beat, however, his opponent on March 6th seems very much up to the task.

Sterling’s UFC title shot

There is nobody in the UFC that is more deserving of a title shot than Aljamain Sterling. Sterling was arguably the top bantamweight contender alongside Yan prior to the Aldo fight.

However, prior to Cejudo fighting Dominick Cruz (22-3) at UFC 249, Cejudo was supposed to fight Aldo. Aldo couldn’t travel due to the pandemic so Cruz stepped in. Despite Sterling being ranked higher, Aldo got the title shot against Yan because he had been promised one previously.

Sterling had to wait and fight Cory Sandhagen (13-2). Sandhagen looked like he was going to be incredibly tough to beat, however, Sterling went right through him and choked him unconscious in less than 90 seconds.

For his win, Sterling was given a title shot against Yan in December. However, Yan had to pull out of the fight and the UFC has been working on a replacement date. They have found one on an incredibly stacked card on March 6th.

Mets’ president and GM delighted after trade: ‘Lindor is a player that makes one smile’

New York Yankees, Francisco Lindor

The New York Mets made the splash of 2021 by acquiring All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor and starter Carlos Carrasco from the Cleveland Indians. In return, they shipped a couple of (good) prospects, Amed Rosario, and Andres Gimenez, who will presumably be the double-play tandem for the tribe for a very long time.

It is the first truly “wow” move by new general manager Jared Porter, and the third (and fourth) major acquisition for president Sandy Alderson and owner Steve Cohen since they took over, as the Mets had already brought catcher James McCann and reliever Trevor May.

Alderson was delighted to welcome Lindor and Carrasco to Queens. He spoke in a virtual press conference on Thursday, just a couple of hours after swinging the deal.

He said the trade says was in the works for “a long time,” beginning early in the offseason. Back then, Cleveland had announced that they intended to trade their star shortstop before the season started.

“I think Lindor’s the kind of player that makes one smile,” the Mets’ president said. Indeed, the infielder is known for his contagious style of play, always enjoying himself and smiling to the cameras.

The Mets added “a superstar shortstop in his prime”

“It’s great,” Porter, the Mets’ GM, said. “Anytime you can add a player like Lindor, it’s one of the hardest things in baseball to get – a shortstop, superstar player in his prime. …Adding a guy like Carrasco in the same deal lengthens the rotation, really kinda gives a different look in our rotation from the other two guys that are at the top half.”

“We’re very excited about this and I think the two players coming from Cleveland are as well,” Alderson said. “They’ve spent a lot of time in Cleveland and so there were mixed emotions, but I think they’re excited about coming to New York.”

Meanwhile, Rosario left a very classy message for Mets’ fans in his Instagram account: “To the New York Mets Organization thank you for taking a chance with a 16 yr old kid from Santo Domingo and giving me the opportunity to do what I love. To all Mets fans, you will always have a place in my heart, New York is truly amazing.”

NASCAR: Kaulig Racing to ramp up Cup Series efforts in 2021

Known for their recent exploits on the NASCAR Xfinity Series level, Kaulig Racing will run select races at the premier Cup level in 2021.

Kaulig Racing’s efforts toward full-time status at the NASCAR Cup Series level took a big step forward on Thursday. The Xfinity Series squad announced that they will run select races on the 2021 Cup circuit, including the Daytona 500 on February 14. They will continue to compete for an Xfinity championship as well, with their season getting underway the day before.

“Kaulig Racing is always building toward the future and I believe this is the next step in that process,” said team owner, Matt Kaulig, in a statement. “We have the ultimate goal of becoming a powerhouse team in the Cup Series, and we are excited to continue our team’s growth.”

Drivers, sponsors, and other information for the Cup events will be revealed at a later date, but Kaulig’s statement indicated that “road course and superspeedway events” will be the likely destinations. The Cup Series is set to visit a record seven road courses in 2021, including Watkins Glen International in New York State.

Kaulig, the founder of gutter protection and cleaning system LeafFilter, opened his NASCAR team in 2016 with technical support from Richard Childress Racing. The team has been one of the most successful on the Xfinity level over the past two seasons, winning seven races over the past two seasons. Kaulig planned to run more Cup events last season, but was prevented from doing so by the ongoin health crisis.

“From where we started in a go-kart shop to a now championship-contending team, I have seen the growth of Kaulig Racing first-hand over the last 5 years,” said team president Chris Rice in the same statement. “It has been a privilege to be able to have Matt Kaulig’s trust in establishing ourselves as a competitive team in one of NASCAR’s top series, and I am confident we are ready to take that next step as an organization.”

Justin Haley won a team-record three events last season and was one of four drivers in contention for the series title at the finale at Phoenix, eventually coming home third. Haley is set to return for his third season in Kaulig’s No. 11 Chevrolet. The 21-year-old represented Kaulig in the team’s Cup debut at last season’s Daytona 500, finishing a respectable 13th in a car bearing No. 16. With his Xfinity win at Talladega in June, Haley became the 32nd driver in NASCAR history to win at least one race in all three of the circuit’s national touring series (Cup, Xfinity, Truck). He previously won in only his third Cup Series start at Daytona’s summer event in 2019 with low-budget Spire Motorsports by virtue of leading when inclement weather washed out the race with 30 laps to go.

It wouldn’t be a shock to see Haley take the superspeedway events at Daytona and Talladega, where he earned each of his 2020 wins. Kaulig’s garage also boasts the talents of former Cup starter and road course A.J. Allmendinger, whose lone win at the premier series came at the Watkins Glen event in 2014 with JTG Daugherty’s No. 47 team. Allmendinger ran 16 races on a part-time basis for Kaulig over the past two Xfinity seasons, winning three of them, including both visits to Charlotte’s road course. He will race for Kaulig on a full-time basis in 2021 on the Xfinity level, keeping his No. 16 branding.

Also joining the group this season is Jeb Burton, who takes over the No. 10 Chevrolet from Ross Chastain. Burton, the son of 2002 Daytona 500 champion Ward, has run sporadicly at each of NASCAR’s national levels, including a single full-time season in the Cup Series in 2015. He was a part-time driver with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team over the last two Xfinity seasons, taking home three top-five postings with JR Motorsports (including a runner-up finish at Richmond in September). Chastain was promoted to a full-time Cup ride in September, taking over for Matt Kenseth in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Chevrolet.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

UFC will allow a limited number of fans on upcoming trip to Fight Island

The UFC will have live fans in the stands for their first cards of 2021. After shutting out fans since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the promotion will open their doors to a limited number of fans on Fight Island.

The UFC has an upcoming three-card run on Fight Island which concludes with UFC 257 headlined by Conor McGregor (22-4). MMA Junkie was the first to report the news that fans are officially back for the promotion.

The UFC had been hosting their events at the Flash Forum on Fight Island. However, with the addition of fans, the promotion will be hosting their next three events at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.

At this point, there is no word on how many fans will be allowed in attendance. This news does break away from the initial statements from Dana White. White previously said he wouldn’t host events with partial crowds. 

White has been very firm that it would be all or nothing for the UFC. Either they would sell out an event or there would be no fans at all. However, he did say that he was hoping to have an International Fight Week with fans for the upcoming Fight Island Trip.

The UFC welcomes back fans

As of now, there is no information on if the promotion will try to host International Fight Week for the UFC’s first week back. It appears they are just opening up their doors to allow a limited number of fans to enjoy the live action.

I do find this all a little convenient when it comes to Conor McGregor. One of the biggest gripes with the promotion’s handling of Conor McGregor last year had to do with live gates.

The UFC held McGregor out waiting for fans to be able to return. However, McGregor just wanted to compete and his frustration led to his brief retirement. As the biggest star in the sport, McGregor pulls in a hefty live gate whenever he fights and the UFC didn’t want to lose that revenue.

Obviously this decision isn’t completely tied to McGregor seeing as they are not selling the arena out. I just find it a little convenient that he will headline the first PPV that will have fans in the stands. It’s very fitting for the promotion.

On a more important note, this is a great thing for the UFC. It’s a very positive step in the right direction to have at least some sort of fan interaction for fights. While the fighters have delivered over the last year, you do miss the energy that a live crowd brings.

While it’s on a very small scale, it will be nice to hear fans in the crowd again for this run on Fight Island. I wouldn’t be shocked if the UFC’s first full capacity event in 2021 also comes at Fight Island.

3 reasons why the Buffalo Bills are (and aren’t) the team to beat in the AFC

The Buffalo Bills are firing on all cylinders as the NFL playoffs get underway. But does the AFC still belong to the Chiefs? ESM investigates.

Are you ready to party like it’s 1994? For once, someone other than New York Rangers fans are willing to do so in the Empire State.

Five months before Mark Messier accepted the Stanley Cup at Madison Square Garden, the Buffalo Bills battled the Kansas City Chiefs for AFC supremacy in January’s conference title game at what-was-then-known-as Rich Stadium. Through a dominant effort from Thurman Thomas (186 rushing yards and three scores), Buffalo rolled to a 30-13 victory that clinched their fourth consecutive Super Bowl berth.

27 years later, the two teams appear to be on a collision course toward a rematch in the game’s 2021 edition. Kansas City (14-2) and Buffalo (13-3) are the top two seeds in the first edition of the revamped AFC playoffs. Fulfilling the star-crossed prophecies of Western New York sports, Buffalo secure the second overall seed…in the first year that the conference runner-up is not entitled to a bye week (or at least first since the adjusted 1982 playoffs due to a players’ strike). The lone automatic advancement goes to the defending champion Chiefs, while the Bills take on the first extra wild-card, the seventh-seeded Indianapolis Colts, in the official postseason opener on Saturday afternoon (1:05 p.m. ET, CBS). Buffalo missed out on a first-round bye, but, on the brighter side, the earliest they would face the Chiefs is the potential conference title game.

So should the Bills, slowly becoming America’s adoptive squad, be the favorite as the playoffs get underway? ESM investigates why…and why not:

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Why: They’re taking care of business

If not for Kyler Murray’s miracle in Glendale back in November, the Bills may have entered the playoffs on a 10-game winning streak…with their last loss coming to Kansas City. Since that heartbreaker in the desert and the ensuing week off, Buffalo has won six in a row, each victory coming by no less than 10 points. They and the Green Bay Packers enter the postseason with the longest active winning streak in the NFL (though Kansas City would probably have a streak of 11 in a row if they hadn’t rested their starters in a Sunday loss to Los Angeles).

The Bills are just winning games…they’re dominating them. Their point differential of 119 over the past six weeks is by far the best in football in that span (fellow AFC participant Baltimore is in second at 92) and the Bills’ offense is averaging just under 430 yards per game (also best in that timeframe). Team records are falling on both the individual (through Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs) and team level. For example, last week’s 56-26 victory a Miami Dolphins team that had much to play for allowed the Bills to set a personal-best for most points scored in a single season (501).

It’s not like the Bills are bullying AFC slouches, either. In addition to eliminating Miami, Buffalo’s winning streak featured a healthy Sunday night win over Pittsburgh. Save for the Arizona nightmare, they won every leg of their interconference slate, which included wins over the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks (who face off in the NFC wild-card match immediately after the Bills-Colts game). If this were the College Football Playoff, we’d likely see the Bills swiping one of the top four spots..probably to play Alabama.

Buffalo’s domination contrasts the relatively exciting football Kansas City has played. Most of the Chiefs’ contributors from their Super Bowl run are back, headlined by the lethal duo of Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce. But each of the team’s past seven victories has come by only a single possession. The last game featuring Kansas City starters was a sloppy 17-14 slugfest against the eliminated Atlanta Falcons, a game that avoided overtime because of a rare Younghoe Koo miss. Their top unit has another week to get things rolling as they simmer in a first-round bye.

Why Not: They have little playoff experience

The Bills have broken countless streaks of futility this season. One, however, looms large: a postseason win drought dating back to December 1995, when they topped Miami in the Wild Card round. The dry spell nearly ended in Houston last season, but victory slipped through their grasp in overtime. For most of the players on this team, their knowledge of January football stems from either the heartbreaking visit to Buffalo or the 10-3 Wild Card slugfest in Jacksonville back in 2018. The former loss still looms large on the Bills’ psyche as they prepare to attempt to finally get over the hump against the Colts.

“It still lingers a little bit, just knowing the situation of the game, knowing what I could’ve done differently, reads I could’ve changed. If I could change it, obviously would, but I can’t, and I’m glad for the lessons I learned throughout that game and throughout the three years I’ve been playing so far,” quarterback Josh Allen said to Mary Margaret Johnson of WIVB. “Without failure, you wouldn’t know success. We’ve got to find ways to put our best foot forward and try to get a victory.”

Kansas City, on the other hand, is the only team in the league that has won playoff games in consecutive seasons, reaching the AFC title game before their Super Bowl triumph over San Francisco last season. According to Mahomes, the former playoff trip played a vital role in his eventual Vince Lombardi Trophy hoist. In his first full year as a starter, the Chiefs topped Indianapolis in the Divisional round before bowing out in overtime to the eventual champions from New England in the AFC title game.

Mahomes mentioned just how important the prior experience was when gearing up for the run to Super Bowl LIV last season.

“For me, I think the only thing that is really different is having the experience,” Mahomes said prior to the AFC Divisional round against Houston, per Charles Goldman of Chiefs Wire. “Being able to play in games like this at Arrowhead and being able to win one and lose one. I understand that every single play counts, how much every single rep in practice counts, and how you have to take advantage of every single opportunity that you get.”

Mahomes’ quick adaptation from playoff heartbreak led to a Super Bowl title. Buffalo will have to channel similar energy if they’re hoping to end this season on the right note.

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Why: Their defense is finding a dominant stride

Any battle between the Bills and Chiefs would likely require a backup scoreboard on standby at Arrowhead Stadium. Buffalo (501) and Kansas City (473) are good for first and third respectively in the AFC in scoring, sandwiching Tennessee. The Chiefs top the NFL at just over 415 yards a game, with Buffalo the first team behind them at 396.

But that’s where the Bills’ defense can step in. The NFL may be a league that worships an offensive deity known as “fantasy football”, but several important games over the past few seasons (i.e. Super Bowl LIII) have proven that defense still has its place in modern professional football. Buffalo’s defense is getting hot at the perfect time. Not only did they hold three consecutive opponents under 300 yards in December…almost an impossibility in today’s offense-happy NFL..they’ve been forcing turnovers as well. The Bills have forced at least one turnover in all but one of their past 11 games, the rare exception being their most recent visit to New England, when they allowed only 201 yards of offense in a 38-9 win. In their elimination victory over the Dolphins, they earned four takeaways, headlined by Josh Norman’s interception return for a touchdown.

In a report from team writer Jordan LaBarber, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds described the Bills’ defensive endeavors as “fun” after they dismantled fellow division champion Pittsburgh on national television.

“The biggest thing is starting fast, playing physical, playing free, and guys just having fun. I think, if I had to say the number one thing, it’s having fun. If you have fun, a lot of those things kind of take care of itself,” Edmunds said. “I honestly take my hat off just to the whole, you know, the team, just the people I have around me. I can’t do it all by myself. I think just us as a team, we are having fun. And any time you have fun, I think those plays just kind of show up.”

Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Why Not: They’re hurting

For most of the season, the Bills dodged the 2020 demons brought on by COVID-19 and injuries. Reserve tight end and goal line target Tyler Kroft, for example, was placed on the reserve list twice but was activated each time without further incident. But the Bills have some major question marks when it comes to their receiving corps as they enter Saturday’s game in Indianapolis.

Diggs would be the scariest absence, as he has missed out on practice on Wednesday due to oblique issues. The NFL’s leading receiver (127 receptions, 1535 yards, both Bills records) has indicated that he’ll be ready to go for the Colts’ visit, but head coach Sean McDermott was more cautious. Diggs did partake in Thursday’s preparation at Bills Stadium, as did Cole Beasley, per photos from Matt Parrino of Syracuse.com. The slot receiver Beasley set new career-bests this season (82 receptions, 967 yards) but missed the Week 17 contest with a knee injury. Thursday’s proceedings were his first form of football action since the week prior in New England. Isaiah McKenzie, fresh off a career-game against the Dolphins (three touchdowns, including a punt return), has also been limited all week.

Though Bills fans may exhale about Diggs’ confidence to play this week, the receiver noted how well the Buffalo depth compliments each other. Fourth-round rookie Gabriel Davis has tallied seven scores this season while John Brown made his return in the regular season finale after missing the past five games with a knee and ankle issue.

“Having that depth, having guys, in this playoff run, you don’t what’s going to happen,” Diggs said in a report from Parrino. “Guys can get hurt, (with) COVID and all the stuff that’s going on. Having depth doesn’t hurt you. It kind of puts you in space where that next man up is really, really real. I say more so give all the credit being able to find the open man, deliver a strike and being able to have success offensively with the guys you haven’t typically had a lot of reps with.”

Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Why: They have Josh Allen

There’s little doubt about Allen’s ability at this point. He has silenced pretty much any doubters with an MVP-worth season that has yielded 46 touchdowns through the air (37), ground (8), a trick play from Brown (1). To put that number in perspective, punter Corey Bojorquez has been called upon only 37 times.

But the feel-good stories of the NFL, particularly those found under center, can quickly be neutralized by a lack of playoff success. For example, it took one botched field goal for Tony Romo to be eternally labeled as a fourth-quarter choker (though his stats often proved otherwise). Jared Goff’s reputation with the Rams hasn’t been the same since a brutal day in the aforementioned Super Bowl against the Patriots. Conquering the postseason is the last hurdle Allen has to clear before officially cementing his superstar status.

Allen escaped a good share of the blame for the heartbreak in Houston, even though he mustered only one receiving touchdown (another toss from Brown) and he had a fumble at the onset of the fourth quarter that led to a Texans field goal. But, with more postseason futility, the inevitable, if not unjust, question of “how many playoff wins does he have?” is inevitably going to come up.

But, going into the postseason, Allen isn’t worried about his personal case. His perspective is entirely team-focused.

“The only thing when I’m on the field is my fear of letting my teammates down,” Allen said to LaBarber. “As quarterback of the team, your job is to move the ball and to score points. So, when we’re not scoring points, that’s my biggest fear. It’s putting our defense in a bind if we’re not moving the chains on third down, again, that puts us behind the eight ball and we’ve got to punt the ball away. That’s what drives me. That’s what motivates me. I fear letting the guys who drafted me, this front office, and this organization, down.”

Why Not: They don’t have Patrick Mahomes…and Travis Kelce…and Andy Reid…and…

October gave us a potential preview of this matchup, with Kansas City prevailing in a somewhat sloppy 26-17 triumph. Each side’s discombobulation could potentially be attributed to the fact it was a Thursday nighter shifted to a Monday late afternoon due to COVID-19 issues with the Bills’ prior opponent in Nashville. But the Bills weren’t looking for excuses.

“We weren’t good enough. I was not good enough,” said Allen, held to a season-low 122 yards, to LaBarber and Dante Lasting. “I got to do a better job. It’s plain and simple. I didn’t play very good tonight. I know that, understand that. This team can’t afford to have me play poorly. Early on, just not being as accurate with the ball as I should have been, making the right reads, making the right throws.”

There is, technically, no shame in losing to Kansas City. Last season’s Super Bowl run was a firm statement that they didn’t save the AFC from New England monopoly…they simply declared the conference was under new management. The Chiefs were not only set up for short-term success but packed things up for the long-term, locking Mahomes to his infamous half-billion-dollar deal that somehow seems like too little. Super Bowl hero Damien Williams (understandably) opted out of the 2020 proceedings and the Chiefs didn’t lose a step, sustained by Mahomes’ passing antics to weapons like Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. So there’s little shame in colliding with a team of destiny and coming out on the wrong end.

But the Bills know that success in the NFL is far too fleeting to rely on the future. That Jacksonville team that beat them in 2018 went to the AFC title game and seem destined for a return trip. The Jaguars are now choosing first in the 2021 NFL Draft this spring.

It’s going to be hard to top Kansas City, but first thing’s first…beating the Colts on Saturday.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Knicks to sign veteran center Taj Gibson

The New York Knicks are gearing up to sign Veteran Center Taj Gibson, who was on their radar Thursday morning. Gibson played with the Knicks in 2019, averaging 6.1 points per game and 4.3 total rebounds over 16.5 minutes. He was also instrumental as a mentor for Mitchell Robinson during his rookie season, and the Knicks view him as a potential depth piece moving forward.

While New York rejected his team option deal for the 2021 season, there was mutual interest on a cheaper contract. It seemed as if they have found a compromise, and he will join a frontcourt littered with injuries. The Knicks desperately needed help, and Gibson offers a solid presence on the floor with his experience and chemistry with existing players.

The New York Knicks are trending up and making moves:

Gibson is joining a surging NY team that has won five of their last six games, recently overcoming a strong Utah Jazz squad. After being down by as much as 18 points on Wednesday evening against Utah, the Knicks bounced back, and it made a second-half comeback, stamped by impressive performances from Julius Randle and Austin Rivers.

With injuries to center Nerlens Noel and rookie power forward Obi Toppin, this is a good time for the team to bring in Gibson. To make room in their salary cap, the Knicks waived Omari Spellman.

 

The New York Mets now have a stacked rotation after adding Carlos Carrasco

Simeon Woods-Richardson

The New York Mets entered the winter with a bit of uncertainty regarding their starting rotation. Noah Syndergaard won’t pitch until June or July, and David Peterson is inexperienced, not to mention that the team lost Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello to free agency.

However, after the World Series began, they added Marcus Stroman (technically, he was a member of the Mets in 2020, but didn’t pitch due to COVID-19 concerns) after he accepted their qualifying offer, and now they swung a deal for a very good starter in Carlos Carrasco.

On Thursday, the New York Mets traded shortstops Amed Rosario and Andrés Giménez, and prospects Josh Wolf (pitcher) and Isaiah Greene (outfielder) to Cleveland to acquire shortstop Francisco Lindor and Carrasco.

Lindor is a massive upgrade over Rosario and Gimenez, both offensively and defensively. But Carrasco alone greatly improves the rotation and gives it more depth, allowing the Mets to return Seth Lugo to the bullpen, where he had a 2.70 ERA in 2019 and lots of good seasons before that.

The Mets’ rotation, man by man

Jacob deGrom, the two-time Cy Young award winner who had a 2.38 ERA and a 2.26 FIP in 2020, will once again lead the Mets’ rotation. After that, Carrasco and his 3.77 career ERA and 3.42 FIP will take the ball every fifth day. At 33, he is a bit on the older side, but he has a very affordable contract and remains an excellent starter.

After June, Noah Syndergaard will be in play. That would give the Mets an excellent third starter (or second, depending on how you view it,) and Stroman is perhaps one of the league’s best fourth starters.

Peterson and Steven Matz will likely battle for the fifth spot in the rotation, which is an ideal scenario. Those are sixth starters, and for depth, the Mets also signed Jerad Eickhoff.

The Mets keep making splashes both in free agency and in the trade market. And Thursday will go down as one of the best days for fans in recent memory. Now, they have a stacked rotation. If everything goes according to the plan, they could field a playoff rotation of deGrom, Syndergaard, Carrasco, and Stroman. Few groups can compete with that one.