Kings fighting for playoff spot as they host Oilers

After a sizzling start to the season, the Los Angeles Kings find themselves on the outside of the playoffs looking in if the season ended this weekend.

Fortunately, the Kings have 21 games remaining to climb into the top eight and qualify for the postseason. They’ll try to make up ground Saturday night against the visiting Edmonton Oilers at Staples Center.

Los Angeles (33-23-5) is one point behind the St. Louis Blues for the second wild card from the Western Conference, and two points behind the Anaheim Ducks for third place in the Pacific Division.

The Kings started a franchise-best 9-1-1, but couldn’t maintain that pace after losing last season’s leading point scorer to injury.

Jonathan Quick made 32 saves in a 5-0 victory in Edmonton on Jan. 2, and Darcy Kuemper was the winning goalie with 25 saves in a 5-2 win in Los Angeles on Feb. 7.

Edmonton (25-31-4) has seen its playoffs hopes fade as losses such as those have mounted. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl continue to be the bright spots for the Oilers, however.

McDavid has 27 goals and 44 assists, leaving him well within reach of last season’s career-high 30-goal total.

Draisaitl has 18 goals and 36 assists, notching one of each in a 3-2 overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.

Draisaitl has played well against the Kings in his career, totaling two goals and eight assists in 13 games, but his minus-7 rating equals the lowest against any team in the NHL.

A 4-12 season followed, and Reid was ousted after 14 seasons as head coach. Philadelphia needed a change, and it certainly got one with a swing-for-the-fences hiring of former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. Kelly, who was later given general manager duties as well, made his share of changes — trading LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles and signing DeMarco Murray to a big contract — but ultimately lacked the kind of control he had held over players who weren’t yet of drinking age in the NCAA. Despite starting his career with back-to-back 10-win seasons, he didn’t see his way to the end of a third.

What does this mean for Revis? It could mean the end of the road for one of the best cornerbacks of his era. Over an eight-year span in the last decade, Revis made the Pro Bowl seven times, but he has struggled to find work recently and things won’t get any easier.

Revis likely will keep his eye out for another opportunity, though.

Latest Super Bowl 2018 odds: Patriots steady favorites against Eagles for Sunday

For virtually the first time all season, the New England Patriots are projecting to be fully healthy when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 52. Players like Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower, who were lost to season-ending injuries are still out but the rest of the team is good to go per the Patriots’ latest injury report.

Like the Patriots, Philadelphia put out a clean injury report as well, expecting all of their active roster players to play on Sunday. It is rare to see two teams this healthy heading into the final game of a grueling NFL season, with the obvious exception of course being Carson Wentz’s absence under center.

News of Gronkowski’s return may have contributed to a slight uptick in the total, which moved from 48 to 48.5. Four of the last five Super Bowls have had at least 52 total points and seven of the last nine have had at least 48 scored.

Brady had some competition for MVP earlier in the season, when Carson Wentz and the Eagles rolled out to a 10-1 start on the season. That came to a screeching halt after he tore his ACL against the Rams. Antonio Brown was also considered to be a contender for the award, but he missed the final two games of the regular season with a partially torn calf he suffered against the Patriots.

The prewritten speech before Brady was even named the winner of the award is just another example of his extreme preparation.

Or at least, somebody will draw that ridiculous conclusion.

Holtby dropped his fifth straight start and is 2-4-2 in February. His goals-against average has risen to 2.95, more than half a goal above his career percentage.

Washington (34-20-7) has lost two straight since winning at Buffalo on Monday. The Capitals are just 6-6-4 in their last 16 games and have more losses overall than in each of the past two seasons.

He returned to form by the postseason and hit five homers and drove in 14 runs in the playoffs to help the Astros to their first World Series title.

It was scary. I don’t think nobody can have fun having those kind of problems, but it’s all in the past, Martinez said. I think my family helped me a lot. Surgery I think helped me a lot too.

Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire says the team will look out for Martinez’s health.

NBA players are confident. They bet on themselves constantly (figuratively — we’re not attempting to start a gambling scandal here) in games and when signing contracts. There are major concerns that a shooter will be losing his legs or be right up against the clock, causing him to shoot less efficiently, when reaching the final round. But NBA players all imagine themselves as the best. Of course, they’ll put the moneyball rack last and assume their rhythm will trump any other downsides.

That’s the strategy for the NBA’s new and improved Three-Point Contest. You’ll have to ask the contestants exactly why they chose to put their moneyball rack where they did, but you can imagine it’s probably similar to the reasons above.

Seattle traded for Phelps to bolster its bullpen and entering the 2018 season he’s slotted to set up for closer Edwin Diaz. But he has started 64 games in six seasons. Phelps laughed when asked if he ever thinks about going back to starting.

I think about pitching, he said. I stopped worrying about that a couple years ago. I’m just trying to be the best version of myself and everything else will take care of itself.

Position players reported to camp on Monday and received physicals. Seattle’s first full-squad workout will be Tuesday. . On Sunday, Servais said pitcher Erasmo Ramirez has been shut down for two weeks because of minor lat strain.

The 2018 NBA Slam Dunk Contest was filled with throwbacks. Donovan Mitchell gave us a moment to remember Dr. Dunkenstein and put on a Toronto Vince Carter jersey to do a famous Toronto Vince Carter dunk. Larry Nance Jr. wore his dad’s old uniform to do his dad’s old dunk.

How you can utilize Shohei Ohtani in ESPN Fantasy Baseball leagues

One of the most exciting prospects in some time has arrived in Major League Baseball. When the player in question comes touted as Japan’s Babe Ruth, he can’t help but consume the fantasy baseball headlines, if not because of his potentially lofty impact, then certainly because of the unusualness of his anticipated role.

Shohei Ohtani, the 2016 Japanese Pacific League MVP who signed with the Los Angeles Angels in December, is a rare two-way player, bringing potentially high-quality hitting talent to go along with excellence as a pitcher. He’s the first such player of his type — one we genuinely want to use as both hitter and pitcher — in the Rotisserie era.

Even now after all that missed time, Crawford remains seventh in the NHL in Goals Saved Above Average at plus-17.58, per Corsica. That’s how good he was in those 28 games (.929 save percentage) before leaving with a mysterious head injury, and the team’s other goalies haven’t come close to duplicating it (.903) since he went down.

Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith used to form a core that was the envy of the rest of the NHL. But it’s no longer 2013, and the Blackhawks still want to lean on those four in the same way they always have. The problem is, outside of Kane, it seems apparent at this point that aging is catching up to them.

In other words, if Ohtani hit only one home run, he wouldn’t be penalized, resulting in a negative score in the category, but rather would earn an amount equivalent to the difference between players who were one home run apart. His batting average would be the only potential negative category, if he hits so poorly that he’s a detriment to your team.

One final note: Ohtani will not be available as part of the player pool in batters-only leagues, due to his primary position being starting pitcher.

Happy drafting, and let the Ohtani strategizing in fantasy baseball leagues begin!

That’s not where the team intended to be this season, though, despite an active summer that saw veterans like Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brian Campbell, Artemi Panarin, and Scott Darling depart. Those were moves designed to keep the team competitive on the fly.royals_005

Super Bowl Sunday is on the horizon, and that means there will be plenty of discussion not only on this year’s big game but also past moments.

Here’s your chance to test all of your Super Bowl knowledge. This quiz challenges you to list every Super Bowl winning team in order of when they last won the Lombardi trophy. Can you name them all?

Conspiracy theorists point to a pass interference call on Jacksonville’s A.J. Bouye. But there’s no follow-up about the Jaguars leaving two timeouts on the board with the ball and 55 seconds left before halftime. There’s no mention of a third-and-18 pass from Brady to Danny Amendola that kept a touchdown drive alive in the fourth quarter. That was the biggest play of the game, and it happened without a penalty.

Right behind Moss for touchdowns (153) and just ahead of him in yards (15,934) is Owens, whose 1,078 receptions rank eighth all-time. Owens was passed over the previous two years, but finally got in this time. While his numbers are undeniable, Owens was perceived as a bad teammate — something that had kept him out of Canton.

Urlacher spent his entire 13-year career with the Bears and was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2000. He was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 when he had 121 tackles with six sacks, five pass breakups and a forced fumble to help the Bears win the NFC North. Urlacher was an eight-time Pro Bowler with 1,229 tackles, 41 1/2 sacks, 78 pass breakups, 22 interceptions and 12 forced fumbles over his career.

“My message has been clear all year. I’m about creating positive change in the communities that I come from, whether it be Philadelphia, New Jersey, Ohio, Louisiana, or this entire country,” Jenkins said. “I want to see changes in our criminal justice system. I want to see us push for economic and educational advancement in communities of color and low-income communities.”

Defensive end Chris Long, who skipped the White House visit last year as a member of the Patriots, had already said he would not go this year, either.

“No, I’m not going to the White House. Are you kidding me?” Long said last week on the Pardon My Take podcast.

Running back LeGarrette Blount, who like Long moved from the Patriots to the Eagles this season, skipped last year’s White House ceremony. He said at the time, “I just don’t feel welcome into that house.”bills_042

As football continues to be explained as baseball, we continue to be pail-fed misinformation we’re supposed to swallow as knowledge.

MSG analyst Joe Micheletti over a replay: “I mentioned that he’d been out there for an extended shift. He’s 74; he can hardly skate.” Yikes!

Oh, Carolina’s Jaccob Slavin. He wears No. 74. And he’s only 22.

Stanley Wilson was a muscular, 5-foot-10 running back from Los Angeles, recruited to Oklahoma, where he scored seven TDs his senior season. He was a straight-ahead banger and dipper — he now would be classified “a downhill runner” — who could plow for first downs and touchdowns, catch passes in the flats and throw powerful blocks.

He played for the Bengals in his rookie and second seasons, 1983 and 1984, but then lost the entire 1985 season to a cocaine suspension. Returned in 1986, he lost his entire 1987 season, again, to cocaine.

The Titans snatched Western Kentucky wideout Taywan Taylor with their third-round pick in the 2017 draft, and it has become clear throughout the preseason they have plans for him with their first-team offense.

As my father often said about successful child-raising: “There’s a lot to be said for neglect.” As for the NFL, neglect is still causing serious growing pains in a child now 31 years old.

Last Sunday the totally unintended use/misuse of replay rules — its overwhelming use from its start has been totally unintended — made an NFL-asked-for-it mess of the Patriots-Jets game, determining its outcome after a long delay led to startling word that the Jets not only hadn’t scored a TD, the ball belonged to the Pats via a touchback.

That was a big story through Monday, as it should have been. Then, all gone!

9. Roger Goodell, commissioner, NFL (2): This is the 10th anniversary of his reign, but Goodell has kept a conspicuously low profile this offseason — no doubt because of the lingering fallout from the Deflategate saga. The league has been on a winning streak in court recently, but Goodell isn’t taking any victory laps.bills_014

Bradford is a Plan B worth exploring if the Bills are determined to go the veteran route and someone else makes a better offer to get Smith.

“It’s been an awesome season,” Bortles said after his solid 23-of-36, 293-yard outing against the Patriots. “I think it’s been a lot of fun despite what happened today. It’s been a special ride to do this on an organization that hasn’t done this in a really long time with a special group of guys.

“It’s tough to try to enjoy it right now, but I’m sure that at some point we’ll be able to reflect and think about all the good things that happened. Find a way to fix it to make sure that we don’t feel like this at this point again.”

At 25, Bridgewater would come with a high upside but the unknowns around his health will keep his price low. Bradford has proved he can still deliver strong play when healthy, but he’s 30 and carries a different level of risk vs. reward coming off his latest knee injury.

Then again, it wouldn’t be bad to bring in Bridgewater to compete with Peterman and a rookie.

One wait-and-see scenario would be sticking with Bortles for one more year but targeting a quarterback in the early rounds to groom as a potential heir apparent.

In a quarterback-starved league, the Jags would be playing with fire if they rescinded the fifth-year option on Bortles’ rookie contract and let him test free agency with the option of re-signing what would presumably be a lesser deal should he find no other offers to his liking. If the Jags are all-in on Bortles, a multiyear contract could be in the offing.

Before the 2017 season started, we used the preseason point spreads and Pro Football Reference’s Simple Rating System, to extrapolate how the NFL’s teams were expected to perform. At that time, the Giants were expected to finish the season with a 10-6 record, making them contenders in the NFC East. Now they are on pace for a three-win season, making them the biggest underachievers of the year. But they’re not alone. Here’s a look at the most disappointing and most pleasantly surprising teams of the NFL season.cowboys_095

The Patriots entered their divisional playoff game against the Titans as 20-point favorites.

With the Jaguars leading 14-0 and the first-quarter clock winding down, the Steelers had a chance to shift momentum with a score, as they had driven deep into Jacksonville territory. But on a fourth-and-1 from the 21-yard, an ambitious pitch to Bell was stuffed.

Eleven plays later, the Jaguars were in the end zone again. 21-0.

In the video game world, that means “pass the sticks.” In the NFL playoffs, it was a wake-up call not only to the Jaguars’ opponent Sunday, but also to the team it will face in seven days.

They also were dealing with the cloud that was a damning ESPN report regarding friction between Brady, head coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft.

Landry missed four games during the 2017 season due to injury and failed to come close to matching the awesome production from his All-American junior campaign (16.5 sacks among 22 tackles for loss). Scouts would love to see him healthy during Senior Bowl week, facing top-notch competition and displaying the burst and relentless nature they saw in 2016. In addition to wreaking havoc in the backfield, Landry might be asked to play as an outside linebacker to see how he handles movement in space. Showing explosiveness and scheme-versatility could put him back into the discussion for the top 10 picks.

In this week’s bracket it was still possible to prevent any SEC teams from meeting before the regional finals, but that might not continue to be the case if the six maintain their spots.

Carr: Whether Coughlin’s a head coach or the executive vice president of football operations, he has his hand in everything. Most coaches or executives just expect their players to professionally do their jobs. Yet, during his coaching days, Coughlin — who always let his coordinators and assistants game plan and coach up players, regardless of their coaching title — often times went around to talk with individual players, showing them weaknesses in their game and demanding the most out of them. He, like Belichick, doesn’t care if you’re an Eli Manning or a Tom Brady.

From what I’ve seen, a lot of coaches aren’t willing to do a lot of things Coughlin and Belichick carry out at the NFL level. Many are afraid of coaching players hard. I know Belichick isn’t afraid to push the best quarterback in NFL history, and that’s exactly how Coughlin is.cowboys_073

Whitehead switched from middle linebacker to weakside linebacker this offseason and the results have been night and day.

“We condemn racism in all forms and any and all hate groups that support it,” Papa John’s public relations executive Peter Collins said in a statement to the Huffington Post. “We do not want these individuals or groups to buy our pizza.”

The chief marketing officer for Papa John’s, Brandon Rhoten, told Ad Age last week that his company was “talking about what next steps look like.” Despite the NFL’s ratings decline, Rhoten described the league as “still a gargantuan source of reach and benefit for brands” and said, “I can’t imagine we would walk away from the NFL, ever.”

Last week, I called Lawrence a prime candidate for the franchise tag. His insane jump in grade is the reason. Olivier Vernon’s recent career year and subsequent cooling off will give teams pause before doling out big money to players such as Lawrence. He’s had five games with at least six pressures this season after having only one such game the first three years of his career. It’s clear that he’s improved his overall game, but the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle.

That sort of minor position change might not sound like much, but a weakside linebacker often has to deal with fewer blocks in the run game and will have different coverage responsibilities versus the pass. Last year, he was victimized in coverage, allowing the most catches (72) and yards (656) of any linebacker. Now he’s on pace to allow just over half of those totals, and his work in the run game is back to where it was before 2016. His 8.7 run-stop percentage is a big jump up from 7.1 a season ago, and he looks far more comfortable back on the weak side.

This may end up being the Gronk game we remember most. It was his Bo-Jackson-in-Tecmo-Bowl moment, a 3.5-hour saga of domination where the only way to stop him was to tackle him before the ball got there (and sometimes that didn’t even work). Of course, the Steelers would have benefitted from a better game plan against the best tight end ever (seriously, single coverage with the game on the line in the fourth quarter?), but it’s doubtful it would have mattered.

Aaron Rodgers wasn’t able to save the day for the Packers (boo), but Green Bay can take solace in winning our weekly Celebration of the Week Award for Week 16. I enjoy when a touchdown celebration delves into the surreal, and watching a bunch of football players speed-walking like grannies at the mall at 7 a.m. on a Tuesday is just sublime.cowboys_044

Kirk Cousins’s gamble on himself is about to pay off.

Willing to ride out the franchise tag as the starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins, Cousins is set to hit free agency behind a three-year body of work that should make him one of the highest-paid players in the NFL.

The high-level performance for Cousins isn’t the result of conservative passes, either. His 42.5 percent completion rate on deep throws, those traveling 20 or more yards in the air, ranks fifth among 27 quarterbacks attempting at least 100 deep throws over the past three years. His passer rating (109.0) on these attempts is second only to Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions. And this proficiency down the field isn’t merely the result of having DeSean Jackson on the roster during his first two seasons under center for Washington: Cousins’s completion percentage (40.5 percent) and passer rating (109.7) rank eighth and seventh, respectively, in 2017 with Josh Doctson as his primary deep threat.

One negative on Mayfield is he will sometimes try to do too much, forcing throws that lead to turnovers. He improved drastically in that area in 2017 despite losing Biletnikoff Award winner Dede Westbrook, but will also bail from clean pockets if he takes hits throughout the game. He compares in body type and play style to Russell Wilson, and is best suited for a vertical-oriented offense in which he can lean on his intermediate and deep accuracy.

He wasn’t being shy about that controversial call, and in fact, Cousins went into incredible depth describing the play. He acknowledged that his goal on that pass was to throw quickly and incomplete toward the sideline, but he seemed not to think that his actions met the definition of grounding.

“It was essentially like clocking it,” he told the station. “I mean, I wanted to just spike it. I wanted to throw it at Jamison [Crowder’s] shins, which would have been better. Maybe if I throw it right at Jamison’s cleats — like you do with a screen that’s dead, you just throw it at their cleats — then [officials] would have said ‘Oh, there’s a receiver in the area.’