New York Jets: Blake Cashman cleared to practice

New York Jets

The New York Jets welcomed back the third-year linebacker to practice after he missed the last three games due to hamstring issues.

The New York Jets announced on Wednesday that linebacker Blake Cashman was made eligible to return to practice. Cashman, a third-year Jet, sustained a hamstring injury during New York’s kickoff weekend contest in Carolina and has missed each of the last three games.

Cashman joined the Jets as a fifth-round pick (157th overall) in the 2019 draft. He enjoyed a breakout campaign when C.J. Mosley went down in his rookie season, tallying 40 tackles (3 for a loss) over seven games before he himself was injured. Career momentum has been hard to generate, as ailments have limited Cashman to a mere five games over the last two seasons and 12 in total. He was limited to special teams snaps during the opening loss in Charlotte.

The Jets placed Cashman on injured reserve and he’s eligible to be activated after the three-game absence. He was one of two Jets linebackers missing significant time, as Jarrad Davis and Hamsah Nasirildeen are also on the IR. Mosley has enjoyed a return to form over the first four games, while rookie Jamien Sherwood and waiver wire pick-ups Del’Shawn Phillips and Quincy Williams have also picked up the slack.

Robert Saleh maintained his faith in Cashman despite the lack of game film over the past two seasons.

“It’s a matter of getting on the field and doing it on defense,” the head coach said in August, per Dennis Waszak Jr. of the Associated Press. “He’s done it before, he’s a phenomenal linebacker and we’re really excited to see him get to work.”

New York (1-3) heads overseas in an attempt to start a winning streak in London against the Atlanta Falcons (9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Mackenzie Dern on path to stardom ahead of first UFC main event

UFC strawweight Mackenzie Dern is unlike most other Americans in many ways (just listen to her speak), but the way she is perhaps most profoundly different is that she has found a way to flourish professionally during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dern has enjoyed a solid push from the UFC brass ever since she debuted as an undefeated fighter back in 2018, finding herself fighting on main cards in 6/7 of her bouts for the promotion so far.

Yet, only one of those took place on an actual PPV event, while this will also be her first time ever headlining a UFC show in any capacity.

Despite many labeling Saturday night’s upcoming UFC Vegas 39 event as a serious contender for weakest card of 2021, there is still always something to be said for anyone headlining any event for the leading MMA company on the planet.

Up until this point, it has been generally believed that Mackenzie Dern’s popularity – both within the UFC brass and amongst fans – has mostly been based around her looks and social media presence (she currently boasts almost 1M followers on Instagram).

While that may have some truth to it, anyone would be a fool not to recognize Dern as the elite prospect (now entering her prime) that she really is. The Brazilian National heads into this fight against a super game Marina Rodriguez (14-1-2) with a stellar 6-1 record in the UFC (11-1 overall).

The BJJ prodigy also has recorded four finishes (all coming in the first round and by submission) which is a very high finishing percentage, especially compared to other female fighters.

The women’s strawweight division is universally recognized as the toughest, deepest division in all of women’s MMA and the #4-ranked Dern has a chance to make another statement in the biggest spot of her career.

Will a win at UFC Vegas 39 lead Dern to a title shot?

With plenty of attention being focused on the upcoming 115-pound title rematch between Rose Namajunas and Weili Zhang taking place on November 6th at UFC 268, Mackenzie Dern could do well for herself to score an impressive finish this weekend.

Taking out the very formidable, and #6-ranked 115’er in a main event spot could potentially be enough for the BJJ Black Belt to earn herself a title shot sometime in 2022.

More than likely, though, it’ll take one more win after this one to sew that shot up.

Crazier things have surely already taken place in the UFC, and you can bet Dern believes she is just one more fantastic submission away from getting her first shot at UFC gold.

New York Giants: Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton limited on Wednesday

new york giants, sterling shepard

As the New York Giants head towards week 5, they’re still dealing with injury problems for some of their top offensive talents. The Giants were missing two notable receivers, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, against the New Orleans Saints. The hope is that the pair will make their return in week 5 when the Giants head to Dallas, but their status on the injury report shows they aren’t over their injuries just yet.

Neither Shepard nor Slayton participated in the team’s walkthrough and light practice on Wednesday.

With that being said, the situation isn’t all bad. While they didn’t participate with the rest of the team, they did work out separately and put in some work on a side field. Furthermore, Joe Judge was confident enough to publicly take an optimistic position on getting them back in time for the next game.

Shepard specifically is a major player on the offense whose presence or absence will likely have a large impact. As others struggled with injuries, Shepard came into the season as the top wide receiver and played in more than 90% of the Giants’ offensive snaps in their first two games.

The wide receiver duo aren’t the only ones on the injury list at the moment. Jabrill Peppers, Andrew Thomas, Leonard Williams and Kaden Smith also sat out practice on Wednesday.

The Cowboys are entering Sunday’s game as favorite by nearly a touchdown. It’s clear the Giants have a chance at beating them, after they showed a step up in their upset win over the Saints, but the health status of several players could make the task far tougher.

We saw John Ross step up in week 4 due to the injuries. It remains to be seen if a similar step up from a backup will be needed in week 5.

‘Most GMs never played basketball’ Kemba Walker, RJ Barrett react to NBA GM Poll’s Knicks snub

kemba walker, knicks

Three past and present NBA general managers have already given up on Kemba Walker. But on Tuesday night, in an emotional preseason debut with his hometown team New York Knicks, Walker began a new chapter on his career and proved he still has plenty to offer.

Playing with a chip on this shoulder, Walker looked healthy and shifty. He scored 12 points on 50 percent shooting and dished out three assists in 21 minutes to help the Knicks steamroll Indiana Pacers, 125-104, in the Garden.

Walker was in no mood to spoil the sweet homecoming win when asked about his reaction to the latest Knicks snub in the annual NBA GM survey released earlier in the day.

“I could care less. Most [of these] GMs never played basketball. Let’s be real,” Walker said. “Who cares what they think? I could care less. We believe in ourselves. We’re gonna play so hard every night. And that’s gonna give us a chance to win every night.”

Despite his addition to the team, alongside Evan Fournier, the consensus among GMs around the league is that the Knicks would regress this season. Not a single GM voted for the Knicks to finish among the top four teams in the East. Their preseason victim Pacers received fourth-place votes. At the same time, Miami, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Boston got third and fourth place votes behind the top favorites in the East, Brooklyn, and Milwaukee.

While most GMs voted for Tom Thibodeau as the head coach with the best defensive schemes in the league, the Knicks were left off in the list of their top defensive teams.

RJ Barrett was flabbergasted.

“I don’t know. I agree with you. It makes no sense,” Barrett told reporters when the topic was brought up. “First of all, a Thibs-coached team is automatically gonna be a good defensive team. You have Nerls (Nerlens Noel) and Mitch (Mitchell Robinson) on the team like we’re gonna be good defensively. I’m not worried about that.”

Even without Noel and Robinson, the Knicks stamped their signature Thibodeau defense in the preseason opener. The Pacers’ offensive futility Tuesday night was on par with the Knicks’ league-leading defensive stats last season:

  • Points Allowed: 104 (last season 104.7)
  • 3P% Allowed: 34.1% (last season 33.7%)
  • FG% Allowed: 41.3% (last season 44%)

There were concerns that their defense might drop when Walker and Fournier were brought in to replace Reggie Bullock and Elfrid Payton in the starting lineup. The win against the Pacers proved Walker and Fournier are competitors too on the defensive end.

Barrett was no longer surprised by the doubters and slanders that were coming their way.

“As you know, I’m used to it. It happens all the time. I mean I don’t really care. All I can do is just go out and improve. All we can do as a team is just play together and get wins. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what any other GM thinks, what anybody thinks. [What matters] is what we think, what work ethic that we have, and how that translates on the court.” Barrett said.

“Whether it’s me personally or us as a team, we just get disrespected all the time. As I said, it doesn’t matter. We just do, just like what we did last year — just go out and show we have improved.

The steadily improving Barrett dropped 17 points on an efficient 3-for-6 from the 3-point zone and 7-for-14 overall shooting Tuesday night. He flaunted his much-improved offensive arsenal — from catch and shoot to off the dribble and coming off screens — developed from his thrice-a-day summer training and extra shooting drills the night before games.

The 2019 third overall pick said the NBA All-Rookie Team snub had fueled him. This summer, the ESPN Top-100 snub added to the chip on his shoulder.

“First of all, I’m still motivated by that. That’s never gonna change. Every time I stepped on the court, I gotta prove, I gotta show everybody who I am, what I can do on the court, and why everyone was wrong about me,” Barrett said. “Being the underdog is fun. It makes winning better.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

 

New York Yankee Analysis: Big questions the Yankees must answer by March 31, 2022

The New York Yankee season is over, falling short of another World Series win. The “Boss” George Steinbrenner, if alive, would say it’s another failed season. If you consider not winning the World Series failing, then he is correct. But there is a lot to be said about getting to a wild card berth, win or not. Many other AL teams can’t say that. But the one with the biggest payroll; more is expected of them. The Yankees have not had a losing season since 1992. But the last World Series they won was in 2009.

Manager Joe Girardi won the 2009 World Series. But after not repeating for the next eight years and amongst complaints about being too strict, the Yankees moved on from Girardi and hired Aaron Boone.  Boone has been mostly successful in bringing the team to 100 wins, 103 wins, 33 wins in a short season, and 92 wins this year. But, regardless of that success, he has never gotten the team beyond late-season failures.

With each passing year, New York Yankee fans, even the most ardent fans, have become less patient waiting for the Yankees to win. Some fans have given up and moved on to other teams and even other sports. This isn’t good for business and baseball, although a game is a business. Principle owner Hal Steinbrenner and company have to figure out how to turn this team around. Yankee stadium never had a sell-out crowd this season. That is lost dollars, lots of them.

After a very inconsistent season that certainly cost them a trip to the World Series, the New York Yankees have many questions that must be answered before they try this all over again. And this year, there are more questions to be addressed than usual. So let’s have at it.

Renew Aaron Boone’s contract?

In 2018 Aaron Boone was hired as the new Yankee manager on a four-year contract that was over last night. So the Yankee organization has to decide whether to renew his contract or move on from the one-time manager.

When Boone was hired, many Yankee fans said, “Aaron who?”. Boone was never a great baseball player and had never managed even a minor league team. Others have learned to dislike him; still, others think he has done a good job. Most managers in baseball were catchers who seemed to have a better understanding of all baseball operations—Boone, who spent most of his career with the Cincinnati Reds primarily as a third baseman.

Boone will receive most of the blame for this poor season, although much of that blame can be placed on the hitters themselves, as Boone can’t hit for the hitters or pitch for the pitchers. Many fans question his decisions and his lack of holding bad players responsible for their play. Boone, with his style, constantly praises the team when they lose. An excellent example of that is his praise of Gerrit Cole after last night’s wild-card loss saying he threw some good pitches.

However, one must be cautious in blaming Boone. Many believe that Boone was hired to be a mouthpiece for Brian Cashman, the Yankee front office, making the significant decisions and Boone following them, only to be allowed to make minor decisions on the field during games. However, even those skeptical of that theory admit that the Yankee office and analytics department have too much influence over how the games are played.

Examine the organizational philosophy?

With so many questions unanswered about why this team can’t win big year after year, is it time to examine how the whole organization is run? Under the present philosophy, whether Boone is brought back or not, they would only hire another yes man that would be subject to the highly analytics-based front office.

All baseball teams receive the same analytics; it differs in how they are communicated and how they are executed. A manager who uses those stats exclusively and ignores what he sees on the field or who is hot and who is not will lose a lot of games. Analytics are a guide, not a user manual.

Should the Yankees hire a Bruce Bochi, Buck Showalter, or the like, it would require an entire shakeup of how the organization runs. Neither of these guys are yes men and would be challenging to work with under the present makeup. But it’s fair to mention that Bochi’s management style has brought the San Francisco Giants to win 107 games this season for the most in baseball and with less talent than the Yankees.

Brian Cashman will have much to do with if the Yankees are willing to examine themselves. Cashman is the driving force for how the Yankees perform. But many times in the past, Cashman has been slow to act. Lingering questions with Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez are examples of that. Last season he failed to act to improve the team. This year got two lefties to balance the lineup that fans have been screaming about for years.

Exceed the luxury tax threshold?

Do the Yankees need to exceed the luxury tax threshold to win finally. No!. Spending a lot of money has not helped them much. Better run and better-managed teams have gone further season after season. The Oakland Athletics and the Tampa Bay Rays have done it on about 30% of the Yankees payroll.

Extend Aaron Judge’s contract?

This may be the most challenging question to address in this off-season. If the Yankees offer Judge a contract, it will be huge. The question is do the Yankees want to spend that much, and if they do, how badly will it tie their hands on solving the other team’s needs.

Judge turns 30 next year, and based on his injury record, signing a long-term contract with him is risky at best. This season is the first season he has been healthy since 2017. Between 2018 and 2020, he played in only 243 games.  So the question remains how much and for how long. It is doubtful that the Yankees will go more than six years, even though Judge has said he wants to retire a Yankee, according to Bryan Hock.

Aaron Judge’s value is at its highest and could draw the most if the Yankees were willing to trade him. The Yankees could get a quality pitcher, a shortstop, and a few choice prospects for him. However, whether an extension could be agreed upon would most likely be a Derek Jeter-like situation, taking less than he is worth.

How to fix the Yankee outfield?

During this season, the Yankees have had either a drought or glut in the outfield. Aaron Judge is a solid right fielder, and Joey Gallo will be with the team in left field through 2022. However, the Yankees don’t have a true centerfielder with any kind of future. Brett Gardner has been adequate in the position, but it becomes more doubtful that the 38-year-old will return each year. In addition, Aaron Hicks (yes, remember him?) has yet to prove he can stay healthy.

If they fix that, they still have Tyler Wade and Giancarlo Stanton options to add to the mix and give days off.

Obtain a real shortstop?

There is still the ongoing question about Gleybe Torre’s worth to the team. Late this season, the Yankees finally realized they made a mistake trying to make Gleyber Torres a shortstop. Torres is no longer a 22-year-old with a bright future; he has become tarnished goods. He will turn 25 in December and is coming off of two back-to-back poor seasons on defense and offense. The Yankees, to a degree, have overlooked his poor defense because he led the team in 2019 with 38 home runs, but since then, he has only 12 long balls.  What the Yankees should be most concerned about is his lack of growth.

The Yankees have moved Torres to second, where he has played better but not by much. That pushed a Gold Glove second baseman DJ LeMahieu, into being a utility player. Unfortunately, LeMahieu’s performance has not been as good since the move.  While the Yankees have one of baseball’s top prospects, Anthony Volpe, he probably won’t be big team ready for another year or two. With Torre’s continued poor play, the Yankees should at least inquire about options in free agency this offseason.

What to do with the catcher situation?

Oh boy, this question yet again. Gary Sanchez has been one of the most controversial Yankee players since he became the Yankees lead catcher in 2017. That was a year that was pretty good for the young man. But since then, he has not duplicated that performance and has often been criticized for his performance behind at backstop. He continues to be a less-than-average defender and has had a poor batting average.

Last year, he had a disastrous season, hitting only .147 and losing his starting status in favor of backup catcher Kyle Higashioka, a better defender. Sanchez is still around because when he is hot, he can hit the long ball and has a rocket of an arm preventing many stolen bases. He has hit more this year with an average of .204 but still strikes out too much. With the other questions facing the Yankees, it is doubtful they will move Sanchez.

What to do with the loose ends?

The Yankees have two obvious loose ends. One is whether to renew a contract with first baseman Anthony Rizzo and, if they do, what they will do with Luke Voit. I wouldn’t be surprised if Luke Voit is not with the Yankees next season. He could be used in a trade. With the glut at DH, his use to the club is limited. He also has not been able to stay healthy while with the Yankees.  If the Yankees choose to replace Gleyber Torres at short, he too will become a trading piece.

How to reinforce the pitching staff?

The New York Yankees certainly need to beef up the pitching staff. Jameson Taillon is under contract through 2022 and is arbitration-eligible as of today. Also, as of today, Corey Kluber is a free agent.  That leaves Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery as the Yankees starting rotation. The organization will have to examine what place Luis Severino and Domingo German have going forward and if they need to replace Kluber if he doesn’t sign with the Yankees.

At the beginning of the season, the Yankees had one of the strongest bullpens in baseball. Unfortunately, as the season progressed, they lost much of their strength. Set up man Zack Britton underwent Tommy John surgery to keep him out until at least the end of the 2022 season. Justin Wilson and the Yankee’s best long reliever Luis Cessa went to the Reds in a salary dump. Darren O’Day, the sidearmer, had a shoulder injury followed by a hamstring strain that kept him away from the team for the rest of the season.

In a major disappointment this season for the bullpen, on July 31st Tommy Kahnle revealed that had a partially torn UCL and required Tommy John surgery. The Yankees outrighted him and he choose free agency. Just days afterward he signed a new contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Yankees picked up a few arms at the trade deadline, Andrew Heaney proved useless. These losses and moves left the bullpen short of components and overworked.

Not knowing if Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, or Clarke Schmidt will be ready for the big time in 2022, the Yankees may have to go shopping to bolster the starting rotation and the bullpen. Unfortunately, any moves they make may have to wait until the end of spring training, when they can further evaluate their options.

 

Who Ya Got Wednesday: New York Jets vs. Atlanta Falcons

zach wilson, jets

London’s calling the New York Jets. Can Gang Green start a winning streak overseas against the reeling Falcons?

  • What: New York Jets (1-3) vs. Atlanta Falcons (1-3)
  • Where: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
  • When: Sunday at 9:30 a.m ET
  • Watch: NFL Network

robert saleh, jets

Geoff Magliocchetti: Jets 23, Falcons 19

Ah, London. Fish, chips, cup o’ tea, New York Jets football…LONDON!

With apologies to the late, great Dennis Farina, the United Kingdom’s capital is a godsend to the New York Jets in the sense that it’s one of the few countries to host NFL football, that, to date, that has yet to host a Gang Green loss. The Jets won their first visit to the island nation in 2015, paced by a career day from Chris Ivory.

Six years later, the Jets are no closer to a Super Bowl but might be in the unusual position of being a one-win team faced with the closest thing it can possibly get to a trap game. The Jets are coming off an exciting victory against a recent AFC playoff staple from Tennessee (albeit one without the aerial services of A.J. Brown and Julio Jones), one that could be long remembered as the first win of the Robert Saleh/Zach Wilson era. They’re now granted a neutral site game against a Falcons that has failed to feast on a predominantly NFC East slate: they’ve already lost to Philadelphia and Washington and needed all 60 minutes to steal a win from the lowly Giants.

Armed with fresh momentum, particularly on offense, all signs point to the Jets starting a winning streak overseas. This being the Jets, of course, it’s never that easy. Atlanta has played better over the last two weeks after losing their first two contests by a combined 49 points. Cordarrelle Patterson is establishing himself as a legitimate offensive threat while the young talents of Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts can’t be denied. Matt Ryan isn’t what he used to be but has remained a serviceable option under center.

The Jets’ defense has tackled (pun intended) a lot of challenges and misconceptions over the past few weeks. Confidence has grown amongst the group, so they should be ready for what Atlanta is ready to throw at it. The big factor this week is how the offense builds on what they were able to do against the Titans. A prime opportunity lingers against a Falcons defense that has allowed 11 touchdown passes and has forced only two turnovers in its first four outings.

Jets-Falcons isn’t the most attractive matchup for the British…well, they did give the world the Cats musical, which in turn led to the garish film adaptation, so consider this revenge…but it should be an interesting case of two desperate teams fighting for 2021 relevancy. For the Jets, it’s a prime opportunity to build the promises of growth and development.

There have already been so many signs of such progress…again, the defense stitched together by draft weekend Saturday pick-ups has been extraordinary…but now there’s an opportunity to post them in the most important stockpile of all: the win column. Putting together consecutive wins is vital in this stage. The sooner Saleh and Wilson get a winning streak off their respective rookie to-do lists, the better.

Dylan Price: Jets 31, Falcons 20

They did it! The Jets finally won a game and now travel overseas for their London game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Atlanta has pieced together two strong performances in a row. They won against the Giants and put up 30 points against the Washington Football Team last week. Cordarelle Patterson has looked like a superstar and the Falcons’ offense seems to be picking up momentum.

Meanwhile, the Jets have found some momentum as well. The offense looks to finally have found a rhythm, and their defense looks really good, coming off a performance where they only allowed two scores. If the Jets’ pass rush can replicate their performance from Sunday, or even half of that, they will cause disruptions for Matt Ryan.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Falcons defense has allowed more than 32 points three times this season. This is an opportunity to continue their momentum as long as the Jets continue to open up the playbook. I’m taking the Jets to win and travel home from London happy.

Mags’ Best of the Rest

LA Rams (-1.5) @ Seattle (Thu.)

Divisional redemption awaits the Rams on Thursday night, as they should take advantage of a Seahawks defense still looking for stability.

Who Covers: Rams
Who Wins: Rams

Denver @ Pittsburgh (-1.5)

Denver’s (angry) defense, fresh off a respectable effort against Baltimore, facing off with a Ben Roethlisberger showing his age ultimately should trump the decision under center between Drew Lock and the injured Teddy Bridgewater.

Who Covers: Broncos
Who Wins: Broncos

Detroit @ Minnesota (-7.5)

Nothing’s come easy for the Vikings but they should be able to handle business against a reeling Lions squad.

Who Covers: Lions
Who Wins: Vikings

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay (-3) @ Cincinnati 

Joe Burrow and the Bengals are one of the more feel-good stories of the early stages of the season, but leave it to Aaron Rodgers to provide a healthy dose of reality.

Who Covers: Packers
Who Wins: Packers

Miami @ Tampa Bay (-10.5)

Though the spotlight is removed, Tom Brady should be able to reestablish another lost AFC East tradition: beating up on the hapless Dolphins.

Who Covers: Buccaneers
Who Wins: Buccaneers

New England (-9) @ Houston

The publicized fall to Brady’s new comrades at least proved the Patriots are trending in the right direction and the evidence should be visible on the scoreboard against the woebegone Texans.

Who Covers: Patriots
Who Wins: Patriots

New Orleans (-1.5) @ Washington

Coming off a shocking home loss to the Giants while Tampa Bay and Carolina start to inch away in the NFC South, New Orleans simply needs this game more than Washington’s division title defense does.

Who Covers: Saints
Who Wins: Saints

Philadelphia @ Carolina (-3.5)

The new-look Panthers’ first response to adversity comes against a reeling Eagles defense that let up 461 yards to Kansas City last week.

Who Covers: Panthers
Who Wins: Panthers

Tennessee (-4) @ Jacksonville 

Even if the Titans are forced to sit Brown and Jones again, they have much bigger issues if they can’t take down a Jacksonville dealing with Urban decay.

Who Covers: Titans
Who Wins: Titans

Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago @ Las Vegas (-5.5)

The promise of more Justin Fields will help the Bears in the long run, but growing pains lie on the immediate road ahead.

Who Covers: Raiders
Who Wins: Raiders

Cleveland @ LA Chargers (-1)

This battle of dowtrodden offenses on the rise should come down to the offensive faceoff, and it’s hard to deny that the Chargers have the edge there for the time being.

Who Covers: Chargers
Who Wins: Chargers

NY Giants @ Dallas (-7)

One thing’s for sure: a battle between the exhilarating Cowboys and the determined-to-prove something Giants provide fireworks that rivalry has been lacking in recent stagings, even if it’s a little much to ask New York to stop the rolling Dallas offense on the road.

Who Covers: Giants
Who Wins: Cowboys

San Francisco @ Arizona (-5.5)

The Cardinals aren’t going undefeated…no team in NFL history is ever doing that again…but their unbeaten streak should continue against a pleasantly surprising 49ers team that’s on the cusp of a quarterback controversy.

Who Covers: 49ers
Who Wins: Cardinals

Buffalo @ Kansas City (-3)

The Bills have feasted on subpar competition, but now face one of the scariest challenges in football that hasn’t been seen in years: a Kansas City Chiefs team with something prove in the regular season.

Who Covers: Chiefs
Who Wins: Chiefs

Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Indianapolis @ Baltimore (-7)

Fresh off a win in Miami, the Colts could sneak back into the division race with Houston, San Francisco, Tennessee, the Jets, and Jacksonville all looming ahead, but asking them to steal a primetime road tilt from Lamar Jackson and Co. is a little too much to ask for.

Who Covers: Colts
Who Wins: Ravens

Last Week: 9-7
Overall: 38-26

Dylan Price
LA Rams @ Seattle (Thu.) Rams
Denver @ Pittsburgh Broncos
Detroit @ Minnesota Vikings
Green Bay @ Cincinnati Packers
Miami @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New England @ Houston Patriots
New Orleans @ Washington Football Team
Philadelphia @ Carolina Panthers
Tennessee @ Jacksonville Titans
Chicago @ Las Vegas Raiders
Cleveland @ LA Chargers Chargers
NY Giants @ Dallas Cowboys
San Francisco @ Arizona Cardinals
Buffalo @ Kansas City Bills
Indianapolis @ Baltimore (Mon.) Ravens

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

UFC targeting Francis Ngannou – Ciryl Gane for January (Report)

Francis Ngannou

The UFC has kicked off the last couple of years with a bang having Conor McGregor in their featured PPV in January. Well, The Notorious one is on the shelf, but the UFC is planning on a massive PPV for their first event of 2022 without McGregor.

French news outlet La Sueur is reporting that the UFC is in advanced talks to book a heavyweight title fight for UFC 270 on January 22nd. The matchup would pair the heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou (16-3) against the interim champion Ciryl Gane (10-0).

It is also being reported that the rematch between Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker will take place in the co-main event. With a heavyweight unification bout in the main event and that rematch in the co-main, it’s clear that UFC 270 is going to be massive.

Ciryl Gane has taken the UFC by storm since he made his debut with the promotion back in 2019. He debuted and he was very green at 4-0. However, he’s continued to get better and better and he’s a perfect 6-0 inside the octagon.

In his last fight, he took on Derrick Lewis for the interim UFC heavyweight title. Gane completely outclassed Lewis on the feet and ended up stopping him in the third round.

UFC Heavyweight Unification

While Gane had a title wrapped around his waste at UFC 265, it was more of a guarantee than a title. That belt guarantees Gane a shot at the current heavyweight champion, Francis Ngannou.

Originally, the UFC wanted Ngannou and Lewis to face off back in August. However, when Ngannou said he wouldn’t be ready until September, the promotion scrapped the plans and gave Gane the shot while putting an interim title on the line.

Ngannou was incredibly frustrated by this decision justifiably so. The champion has won five consecutive fights with the longest one lasting 52 seconds into the second round.

The last time we saw Ngannou was at UFC 260 when he rematched with Stipe Miocic. Ngannou completely dominated the fight and knocked Stipe out cold to claim the heavyweight title. The Predator will look for his first successful title defense in January.

3 takeaways from Knicks’ first pre-season game Vs Indiana Pacers

kemba walker, knicks

The New York Knicks looked in midseason form in their preseason rout of the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. Scoring 125 points, the Knicks showcased their new offensive playmakers in Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker, both of whom provided ample production.

With Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock departing in free agency, the Knicks spent some money to add more talent to the roster. With Taj Gibson earning the start with Nerlens Noel and Mitchell Robinson both working their way back from injury, the veteran center performed well, playing in 21 minutes and scoring 14 points, including a three-point shot on two attempts.

Overall, it was an impressive opening performance for the Knicks, and they’re just starting to gel, indicating an upward trajectory. Having worked hard this off-season and preparing diligently, they seem to be on the right path to success, and dominating the Pacers’ starting team was an excellent first chapter to the story.

Three key takeaways for the Knicks in win over Indiana:

1.) Kemba Walker changes the dynamic of the team

It is pretty evident that new acquisition, Kemba Walker, will be a massive upgrade at point guard. Walker scored 12 points in the win, shooting 50% from the field and hitting two three-pointers on five attempts. He also picked up four assists, second on the team behind Immanuel Quickley, who recorded seven.

“The game tells you what to do and I think he reads the game extremely well,” Thibodeau said. “That veteran leadership, that shot-making ability, (he’s) very good in the pick and roll, it puts a lot of pressure on you. And he’s unselfish. He gets blitzes, he’s gonna get off the ball. I thought he made the pass out of the blitz pretty effectively.”

Walker’s unique athleticism and capabilities provide the Knicks’ offense with something special at a position that has been weak for years.

2.) Julius Randle is in for another big season

All-star power forward Julius Randle didn’t skip a beat in the team’s first preseason game of the season. Randle scored 20 points over 30 minutes, shooting 50% from the field and picking up nine rebounds. He didn’t turn the ball over once, showing more efficiency with the rock and his hands. With Fournier and Walker allocating so much attention from opposing defenses, Randle should have a far easier time spreading the ball around the court and finding open looks at the basket.

“I thought Julius (Randle) made a lot of good plays early on, he moved around, he got the ball hopping. … he drove it when he should have driven in, he shot it when (he should have shot it). He’s harder to guard like that and we can play off different guys. I’m very pleased with that.

Randle worked hard all off-season to improve his shot from beyond the arc and the elbow. If he can build upon last year, Randle is well on his way toward being one of the top players in the league.

3.) RJ Barrett is preparing to take a big Year 3 jump

The Knicks are hoping that third-year guard RJ Barrett will take a big step forward in year three. In the victory, Barrett scored 17 points, shooting 50% from the field and hitting three of six three-point attempts. He also picked up three rebounds and two assists, once again showing solid offensive abilities.

Barrett spent Monday night in the gym working on his shot before the first game, and he’s gearing up for what seems to be a big season ahead.

“It was great to see him in the gym last night; he’s back to his routine,” Thibodeau said. “Sometimes in training camp if we’re practicing twice he doesn’t have the time to do that, but his commitment is special, he’s a great kid, hard worker, disciplined, and he’ll keep getting better. He’s only 21, but he’s putting a lot of work into the game.”

Yankees have massive decision with Aaron Boone, but he’s not fretting it

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone

The New York Yankees were knocked out of the postseason in a disappointing performance against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday evening. Losing 6–2, starting pitcher and ace Gerrit Cole only lasted 2.0 innings, giving up four hits and three earned runs. At one point, Cole muttered the words “I’m out” as he proceeded to allow two men on base before Clay Holmes came in and finished off the 3rd inning.

Whether it be a byproduct of poor coaching or execution from the players, the Yankee should’ve never been in the situation, to begin with, as they lost strings of games that forced them to compete in the Wild Card. At the very least, they should’ve had home-field advantage instead of giving Boston an opportunity to win at home and tantalize a streaky Yankees team.

However, the Bombers have a few big decisions to make this off-season, and one boils down to skipper Aaron Boone, as his contract is up after the year concludes.

“I haven’t had any conversations about [my contract] with anyone, so we’ll see,” Boone said after the loss. “I love being here. I love going to work with this group of players.”

Of course, Boone would prefer to stay as the field manager for the Yanks, but given how poorly they performed at times this season and the amount of money they’re spending on some of their bigger players, they simply might want to go in a different option.

Boone mentioned after the game how the rest of the league has caught up to the Yankees, which is an interesting statement considering they haven’t won a World Series in over a decade and just missed the postseason.

“The league has closed the gap on us,” Boone said. “We’ve got to get better in every aspect. Because it’s not just the Red Sox and the Astros now in our league. Look at our division, the Rays are a beast, Toronto, there’s some teams in the Central that are better and better, teams in the West that are better and better, teams that have closed the gap on us.”

When you’re spending hundreds of millions on personnel, you must produce more than 92 wins in a season, and general manager Brian Cashman must understand that reality. If it were up to me, the Yankees would move on from Boone, but that’s a conversation the front office will have in the coming weeks.

Do you think the Yankees should get rid of Boone and bringing in a new manager? Comment here!

What does the future have in store for Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone? ‘Whatever happens, I’m at peace with’

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone

The New York Yankees’ rocky 2021 season, one filled with disappointment, crushing losses, COVID outbreaks, and other crucial injuries, ended on Tuesday night in a fitting way: with a 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Boston Red Sox, ace Gerrit Cole struggling, and the offense once again failing to come through.

“Guys are crushed,” Yankees manager Boone said, per ABC News. “Tonight was another tough one to take. We have been through a lot of wars with guys in that room, and we have a lot of scars. … When it ends so abruptly, the ending is really cruel.”

Boone said something that raised many eyebrows: “The league has closed the gap on us. We’ve got to get better in every aspect. Because it’s not just the Red Sox and the Astros now in our league. Look at our division, the Rays are a beast, Toronto, there’s some teams in the Central that are better and better, teams in the West that are better and better, teams that have closed the gap on us.”

It’s shocking because there needs to be a gap for other teams to “close”. That “gap” doesn’t exist because the Yankees haven’t looked like the undisputed team to beat in the American League come playoffs time for quite a while now.

The Yankees haven’t taken the next step

Last night represented Boone’s fourth straight playoff exit, and one has to wonder if the organization will bring him back or if both sides are going to part ways.

Boone’s deal expires in 2021, so if the Yankees want to bring him back, it will have to be under a new deal. If, on the other hand, they decide to look elsewhere to fill the manager position, they won’t have to fire him, since his contract is up.

“I haven’t had any conversations about [my contract] with anyone, so we’ll see,” Boone said after the loss. “I love being here. I love going to work with this group of players.”

He has a 328-218 record with the Yankees over four years, but he hasn’t been able to take the next step, and some of his in-game decisions, lineup building, and bullpen management are starting to annoy more than a few fans.

“Whatever does happen, I’m at peace with,” Boone said. “I know that I can hold my head high.”