Last week was filled with major upsets in the NFL, as the Vikings, Jaguars and Patriots lost as big favorites. Week 4 will bring more surprises, as well as the first round of bye weeks.
The Redskins and Panthers get to enjoy an early break, which means there are only 15 games on the Week 4 schedule. The good news: That’s one fewer game to get wrong. The bad news: That’s one fewer game to get right in our weekly pigskin prognostications.
Here is your fearless forecast for Week 4 — for entertainment purposes only, as usual. (Game lines courtesy of Bovada.)
In exchange, Osuna agreed to a peace bond. He must comply with a series of conditions for one year or face criminal charges, which would carry a maximum sentence of up to four years’ imprisonment.
“I am pleased and relieved by today’s court decision,” Osuna said. “Now I can begin to put these allegations behind me and focus on baseball. I want to thank my family, teammates and fans for believing in me. I am grateful to the Astros for providing me with the opportunity to play baseball and compete for a World Series championship.
“I will make no further comments about this matter, as I plan on moving past this and look only to the future.”
The 23-year-old Osuna, then a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, was charged in May with assault in an alleged domestic incident.
The woman Osuna is alleged to have assaulted declined to testify. Major League Baseball suspended Osuna without pay for 75 games for violating its domestic violence policy.
The Blue Jays later traded him to Houston, and his suspension ended Aug. 5.
The Astros on Tuesday issued a statement saying they “look forward to Roberto continuing his commitment to be a productive and caring part of our community.
“The Astros remain committed to increase our support regarding the issues of domestic violence and abuse of any kind,” the statement continued. “We have engaged with a number of local, state and national organizations — and we look forward to working with them in the short term and over the long term.”
Osuna was greeted by boos Monday when he entered in the ninth inning in the Astros’ win over the Blue Jays, the first time he had returned to the Rogers Centre since being traded.
Osuna’s attorney said the player had planned to plead not guilty had the matter gone to trial.
The World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) final between ‘Saint’ George Groves and Callum ‘Mundo’ Smith takes place on Sept. 28 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and will be broadcasted live on DAZN.
And it has been a long time coming for Smith, with the final match being delayed due to a shoulder injury George Groves (28-3) sustained in the semifinal against Chris Eubank Jr. That said, the long wait has not dampened Callum’s determination to win the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy as well as the WBC Diamond and WBA Super Middleweight titles, which are all on the line.
“It took a little bit longer to get fully confirmed than usual. As long as it was George Groves in the opposite corner with his world title, the date was irrelevant to me,” Callum told Sporting News during an exclusive interview. “I was prepared to wait as long as it took to get that fight for the world title.”
Callum isn’t bothered about the fight taking place in Jeddah, either.
“It’s just another place to fight,” he said. “It’s disappointing for the British boxing fans, as it’s not ideal for a big domestic fight for a world title. But it’s a level playing field. Groves is in the exact same position as me. I feel for the fans as they won’t be able to go and watch it live in person, but the tournament has been great so far.”
Although Callum (24-0, 17 KOs) is well aware of Groves’s reported shoulder injury, he isn’t entering this matchup expecting it to give him an edge at all.
“I’m not going into this fight banking on his shoulder not being 100 percent. I’ve got to expect a fully fit George Groves. I’d be very foolish to underestimate him by not expecting the best version of him,” Smith said. “I just believe I’m the better man. I believe it’s my time to become a world champion. I was supposed to fight for a world title a couple of years ago, but it never happened.”
He added: “I’m a better fighter now. George has been there and done it and he’s failed a few times. His time as champion is about to an end and it’s my time to become number one in the division.”
If Callum is to win the WBSS final, he wants to unify the division sooner rather than later.
“This would be a huge win. There’s a lot of big fights out there for me in this division,” Smith said. “I would like to unify and test myself against other champions”.
But he is clearly not overlooking a dangerous and capable Groves, who he has well scouted.
“He’s got a very good jab and he’s very heavy-handed with his right hand,” Smith said. “He’s very experienced, he’s a tough fighter, better than anyone I’ve faced previously, but I feel I can rise to the occasion and I’ve got a good jab and boxing brain myself.”
Smith added that he’s expecting to deliver fireworks during this fight.
“I’ve had a lot of big performances early on in my career and provided a lot of excitement with early knockouts and I haven’t quite done that so far in this tournament,” he admitted. “But big fighters always perform on the big stage and this is the biggest stage of my career by far. I feel I’ll turn up and deliver and take George Groves title off of him.”
Callum, 28, isn’t the only fighter in his family. His three older brothers Paul, Stephen and Liam help make up an impressive boxing family known as The Smiths, who each earned their own nicknames — “Smigga,” “Swifty,” “Beefy” and “Mundo,” respectively.
When asked which brother is the best fighter, Callum took a minute to respond.
“It’s a tough one,” Smith said. “Paul was a big puncher and an exciting fighter, Steven has a very good boxing brain and can read the fight very well. Technically, Liam is very good at shot selection and fighting up-close. I believe Liam is the naturally gifted fighter out of all of us, but we are all good at different things.”
As for how he got the nickname, “Mundo?”
“When I was a kid, I was a big fan on the Teenage Mutant [Ninja] Turtles — you’ve got Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo and my dad used to call me ‘Callamundo’ the fifth turtle,” Smith said. “And as I got older, the Calla was dropped.”
All Smith brothers don the word “Autism” on the back of their shorts, as a gesture to honor their youngest sister, Holly, and to raise awareness and show support to other families dealing with autism.
They’ll be cheering Smith on Friday, as he looks to bring some hardware back to England.
“I want to bring a world title back to Liverpool,” he said, “and I would love to defend my world title in my own city.”
Tiger Mania — well, golf mania in general — shifts from the Tour Championship in the States to Ryder Cup in France. And our own Michael Collins is taking it all in. Ready to take a ride along with America’s Caddie? Let’s go!
Wearing the appropriate attire
France is the perfect place to spread the Philly fandom, right? Right?!
Driving in one of the world’s craziest intersections
“Nope, nothing to see here. … This is why you purchase the insurance on your rental car.”
Appreciating the art (kind of)
The fans, baby … the fans
MC ran into a few Team Europe fans during the practice rounds here at Le Golf National. Expect even more great fan wear throughout the week.
A handful of games remain in the 2018 season, and we’re all wondering how in the world the summer has already left us. October is almost here, somehow. Good times.
For this final regular-season power ranking, we’re looking at how teams stacked up in regular-season competition. Once the playoff field is set, we’ll rank teams by how likely they are to win the World Series. Don’t be surprised if that list has a much different order than this one. But for now, we’re looking at actual results, not projected finishes.
Previous ranking: 1 Why they’re here: The Red Sox have seven more wins than any other team in baseball. They have the MVP favorite (Mookie Betts) and another likely top-five finisher (J.D. Martinez). They have a Cy Young favorite (Chris Sale) and a closer (Craig Kimbrel) with three times as many strikeouts (93) as hits allowed (31) this year. They’ve played 19 other teams this season and they’re only under .500 against three of them (the White Sox, A’s and Astros). September has been their “worst” month and they’re still 12-8. These guys are good.
2. Houston Astros
Previous ranking: 2 Why they’re here: There wasn’t much of a year-after let-down for the World Series champions. A hiccup or two, sure, but this season Alex Bregman —with his 50 doubles, 30 homers and 6.8 bWAR — developed into a legitimate star/MVP candidate, and Gerrit Cole spent the season showing why the Houston front office was determined to make a deal with Pittsburgh, striking out a career-best 12.6 batters per nine innings. They’ll be tough to beat in October.
3. Oakland Athletics
Previous ranking: 3 Why they’re here: Lots of teams have hot streaks during a year. The starting pitchers get on a roll and the offense scores a few runs, and it’s relatively easy to run off a 12-3 stretch over the period of a couple weeks. What the A’s have done over the past 3 1/2 months can’t be written off as a “hot streak” or any type of fluke, though. They were two games under .500 after a loss on June 15. Since then, they’re 60-26, a record that’s 2 1/2 games better than the team that has 105 wins on the season (Boston). They’ve been so damn good for so damn long that it’s hard to pick out any small stretches that are especially impressive. Instead, think about this: For 3 1/2 months, the A’s have played at a 113-win pace (a .698 winning percentage). Yeah.
4. New York Yankees
Previous ranking: 4 Why they’re here: On one hand, expected lineup stalwarts Gary Sanchez (.182 average, .674 OPS) and Greg Bird (.195, .669) have struggled with injuries and inconsistency, superstar Aaron Judge spent eight weeks on the disabled list and ace Luis Severino has a 5.74 ERA in the second half of the season.
On the other hand, the Yankees have overcome those setbacks (and others) to threaten the 100-win mark for the first time since 2009. An incredible 12 players have hit at least 10 home runs on the season, including six with at least 23. The offensive depth is impressive. Plus, they have the unstoppable Luke Voit.
Previous ranking: 5 Why they’re here: The Cubs have the NL’s best record, but that might be more of an indictment on the NL than a statement of how good Joe Maddon’s club is in 2018. Javy Baez has made the jump to MVP candidate, but he’s one of a small number of Cubs who have been better in 2018 than they were in 2017. Inconsistencies and injuries have been common themes all summer. But here’s the thing: The Cubs keep winning baseball games, more than any other team in the NL, even without everyone healthy and producing at the same time. That, in its own right, is pretty impressive.
6. Milwaukee Brewers
Previous ranking: 6 Why they’re here: Milwaukee made two big outfield additions in the offseason, signing free agent Lorenzo Cain and trading for Christian Yelich. Those two are currently first and second, respectively, in position player bWAR at 6.8 and 6.4, respectively. The starters have been good enough and the bullpen has been very good and though the Brewers have staggered a couple times this season, they’ve played their best baseball when they needed it most. In their past 23 games, Milwaukee is 16-7, best record in the NL in that stretch.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers
Previous ranking: 11 Why they’re here: While we’re having fun with small sample sizes, if we back up to games that have happened since Aug. 22, when the Dodgers finished three consecutive home losses to the Cardinals, the Dodgers have the the NL’s best record at 20-8. In that stretch, they went from 4.5 games out of first place in the NL West to 1.5 games ahead of the Rockies. Not that Justin Turner is solely responsible for their good play, but the Dodgers are 20 games over .500 when he plays this year (58-38) and two games under (29-31) when he doesn’t. Turner’s healthy now and batting .374 with a 1.117 OPS since the start of August.
8. Cleveland Indians
Previous ranking: 7 Why they’re here: Cleveland has a couple position players — Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor — who could finish top-five in the AL MVP vote and four starting pitchers who have racked up at least 200 strikeouts on the season. On paper, this is a club that has the potential to win a World Series, right? And you’ll see people pick them to make that happen. But the reality is this: Cleveland hasn’t been very good against the very good teams this year. They’ll finish with (by far) the worst record of any AL playoff team despite playing in a pitiful division, mostly because they’re just 23-31 against teams with a record above .500. It’s hard to put this club any higher than eighth in a regular-season power ranking.
9. St. Louis Cardinals
Previous ranking: 10 Why they’re here: It’s been an odd season in St. Louis, but the Cardinals enter the final stretch in prime position to lock up a playoff spot for the first time since 2015. That might not seem like a long time, but they haven’t missed October three years in a row since 1997-99. They’re 40-23 since Mike Shildt took over for Mike Matheny as manager, a move that coincided with more opportunities for younger players to make an impact on a regular basis.
10. Atlanta Braves
Previous ranking: 9 Why they’re here: Braves fans have been optimistic about the future for a couple years now, but even for the most optimistic of fans, competing for the AL East crown in 2018 seemed like a bit of a long shot. But with Freddie Freeman doing Freddie Freeman things and youngsters like Ronald Acuna (20 years old) and Ozzie Albies (21) playing beyond their years, the Braves put themselves in contention and then ran away with the division with a solid September, while the Phillies faded away.
The Fantasy 32 analyzes the NFL from a fantasy perspective, with at least one mention of each of the league’s 32 teams. Though efficiency will be discussed plenty, the column will lean heavily on usage data, as volume is king (by far) in fantasy football. Use these tidbits to make the best waiver-wire, trade and lineup decisions for the upcoming week and beyond. Be sure to check back each week of the season for a new version of the Fantasy 32.
Note that data from Monday Night Football may not be reflected in charts in the article until Tuesday afternoon.
49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo: The Niners’ emerging superstar tore his ACL and is out for the season. This means the team will turn back to C.J. Beathard. The 49ers’ offense scored eight touchdowns during Beathard’s five starts last season. The 2017 third-round pick targeted a running back (including fullback Kyle Juszczyk) on an astounding 35 percent of his aimed throws, with another 18 percent distributed to tight ends. Carlos Hyde handled 48 targets (22 percent share) during that span and saw a drastic dip in the department when Garoppolo took over. This suggests Matt Breida, Alfred Morris and Juszczyk could benefit some in the target department from this move. Overall, the team’s skill position players need to be downgraded significantly. Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garcon are WR3/flex material, at best, George Kittle is a fringe TE1, and Breida and Morris are flex options.
Giants TE Evan Engram suffered a knee injury and reportedly could miss at least a month of action. Rhett Ellison was the next man up on Sunday, running 23 of a possible 33 routes and handling three targets. Ellison doesn’t have nearly the receiving ability of Engram and is no more than a shaky TE2. Sterling Shepard seemed to benefit most from Engram’s early injury, racking up six catches for 80 yards and a score on seven targets. Shepard has now seen seven or more targets in 18 of 30 career games, including four of his past five. He’s a viable WR3 in PPR, especially with Engram sidelined.
Rams CBs Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib: This may not seem to be a “fantasy” entry, but these injuries could have significant implications for opposing wide receivers, especially with the Vikings on tap this Thursday. Both players left Sunday’s game with ankle injuries. Sam Shields and Troy Hill are the next men up at the position, with Nickell Robey-Coleman hanging in the slot. Shields and Hill very well could prove solid (Shields was once the Packers’ No. 1 corner), but the duo is obviously a major downgrade from stars Peters and Talib. Monitor this throughout the week, but Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen stand to benefit on Thursday night.
Throughout this piece, I’ll be referencing “OFP” and “OTD.” OFP stands for opportunity-adjusted fantasy points. Imagine a league in which players are created equal. OFP is a statistic that weighs every pass/carry/target and converts the data into one number that indicates a player’s opportunity to score fantasy points, or his “expected” fantasy point total. For example, if a player has an OFP of 14.5, it means that a league-average player who saw the same workload in the same area of the field would have scored 14.5 fantasy points. OTD works the same way, except instead of fantasy points, it’s touchdowns.
That said, here is the Week 3 OFP leaderboard:
*Complete positional leaderboards will be posted at ESPN+ this week
Saints RB Alvin Kamarahas finished as a top-three fantasy back all three weeks and currently paces the position in fantasy points. Unlike last season, Kamara’s dominance is fueled by heavy volume — not earth-shattering efficiency. Kamara is averaging 3.8 yards per carry (down from 6.1 last season), 7.6 yards per target (down from 8.4) and one touchdown for every 22.3 touches (“down” from 15.5). On the other hand, Kamara tops the entire NFL in both OFP (99 expected points) and OTD (5.0 expected touchdowns). Considering he’s at 95 actual fantasy points and three scores, Kamara is actually underperforming his expected numbers. Kamara is a good bet to sustain enough volume to allow strong RB1 numbers, though Mark Ingram II figures to eat into it a bit when he returns from suspension in Week 5.
Bills QB Josh Allen ranked sixth at quarterback with a 21 OFP in Week 3. He easily exceeded that mark with a career-high 28 fantasy points and now has to be taken even more seriously as a potential fantasy option. Last week, in this column, I compared Allen’s game to DeShone Kizer circa 2017, and that continued into Week 3. He’s throwing deep and rushing with the ball a ton. The difference between the two young passers is that Allen has been more efficient with the high-value usage (at least after a strong Week 3). Allen is in the QB2 mix against Green Bay and should be rostered in 16-team and two-QB leagues.
With three weeks in the books, Texans QB Deshaun Watson leads all quarterbacks with an OFP of 72. Only Kamara has a higher OFP across all positions. Watson has underperformed expectations (59 points), but the opportunity suggests he’s headed for better days. Watson has finished each of the past two weeks as a top-10 fantasy quarterback. Incredibly, Houston is the only team yet to run a single offensive play with the lead this season.
Rams WR Robert Woods has picked up where he left off last season as Jared Goff‘s favorite target. Woods sports a massive 29 percent target share, and he sits seventh at wide receiver with a 57 OFP (55 actual points). Woods’ production is legit, and he’s a viable weekly WR2. Teammates Brandin Cooks (18th at WR in OFP) and Cooper Kupp (28th) should also be in lineups every week.
The Browns have made the obvious decision to promote Baker Mayfield into starting duties. Mayfield was terrific in his NFL debut in Week 3, completing 17 of 23 attempts for 202 yards, with only one throw registering as “off target”. Mayfield’s promotion is good news for the team’s offensive skill players, who were mostly held in check for two and a half games. Jarvis Landry was Mayfield’s target on nine (or 41 percent) of his 22 aimed throws and remains a strong WR2 play. Antonio Callaway is a must-add on waivers after running a route on all 41 of the team’s pass plays and handling 10 targets against the Jets. David Njoku and Duke Johnson Jr. have been busts thus far, but more production is likely with Mayfield under center. Both should, at least, remain on rosters. Mayfield, by the way, is best viewed as a QB2 with upside until we see him produce over a larger sample.
Dolphins WR/KR Jakeem Grant has registered only 10 offensive touches in three games but sits 36th at the position in fantasy points, thanks to three touchdowns (two catches, one return). Before you run to the waiver wire to scoop him up, consider that his production is extremely unsustainable. Grant played only seven offensive snaps in Week 3, which trailed or tied Kenny Stills (37), DeVante Parker (29), Danny Amendola (26) and Albert Wilson (seven). Unless Grant works his way into a larger role, he won’t be leading the team in targets (he has 15) for long.
The Cowboys’ season is off to a rough start, but it hasn’t stopped Ezekiel Elliott from leading the NFL in rushing through three weeks. In fact, Elliott is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and is on pace for 1,461 rushing yards, which would’ve led the league by 134 yards last season. Elliott’s receiving inefficiencies (11 catches for 37 yards on 17 targets) and a lack of goal-line work (two carries inside the opponent’s 10-yard line) have limited him to the eighth-most fantasy points at the position. This isn’t perfect circumstances, but Elliott’s heavy volume should continue to allow solid RB1 numbers, and there’s room for even more.
What’s in the box?
The number of in-box defenders has a gigantic influence on a running back’s ability to generate yardage.
Through Week 3, these are the backs who have seen the highest average of in-box defenders (min. 20 carries):
Especially with Broncos’ undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay stealing the show early on, Royce Freeman‘s rookie season is off to an uninspiring start. Stacked boxes are a big reason for that. Freeman’s “expected” yards per carry sits at 3.6, thanks to facing an average of 7.4 in-box defenders. Freeman has been 0.6 above that expected, which is the seventh-best mark at the position. The 49ers’ Breida leads the category at +4.4 (8.7 YPC, 4.2 expected YPC). Freeman is a fringe flex option during bye weeks, assuming Lindsay sustains a large role.
Speaking of rookies, Sony Michel‘s NFL career is off to a slow start, but it hasn’t helped that he’s seen eight-plus men in the box on 42 percent of his 24 carries (seven-plus on 71 percent). The Patriots are straight-up tipping plays when Michel is on the field, calling run 71 percent of the time. New England has been in shotgun on only 16 percent of runs by non-quarterbacks (sixth lowest). Michel’s role as lead back in this offense oozes with upside, but he may not bloom until the return of Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon helps open up the offense.
These are the backs who have seen the fewest in-box defenders:
Granted it’s only 20 carries, but Rashaad Penny‘s slow start is a concern. The 2017 FBS leading rusher has seen most of his carries come between the tackles (75 percent) on first down (70 percent) against light boxes, but he’s struggled to find yardage, including after contact. Penny was limited to 10 snaps (Chris Carson played 49) in Week 3, and the rookie has settled in as a backup for now. He’s only a handcuff and isn’t a must-hold.
Though Kerryon Johnson, Austin Ekeler and Christian McCaffrey have benefited from light boxes, the trio has also run the ball very well. Ekeler trails only the aforementioned Breida with a YPC 3.7 above his expected mark of 4.4. Johnson (+1.3) and McCaffrey (+1.6) have run the ball extremely well, and the former is on the verge of taking full control of the Lions’ backfield, while the latter is a weekly top-five fantasy back.
Bears WR Taylor Gabriel has been targeted 22 times in three games, but that’s allowed him only 15 catches for 89 yards and no touchdowns. The efficiency (26 fantasy points ranks 57th at the position) is atrocious, but the opportunity (41 OFP ranks 24th) is good. Rookie WR Anthony Miller is expected to miss significant time with a shoulder injury, which should help cement Gabriel’s large role. He’s an under-the-radar target who could provide flex numbers down the stretch.
Bengals WR Tyler Boyd was on the field for 38 of the Bengals’ 47 pass plays and handled seven more targets in Week 3. It’s safe to say the Bengals’ primary slot receiver is blooming in his third season and has earned his way into the weekly WR3 discussion. Granted, Boyd’s current level of production (52 fantasy points) is unsustainable (32 OFP), but said OFP still ranks 34th at the position. Boyd has two touchdowns, but they came on his only two targets while within 11 yards of the end zone. He’ll need more work near the goal line in order to manage top-20 production going forward.
The Jaguars’ offense struggled to six points and failed to score a touchdown during Week 3’s loss to Tennessee. On the bright side, Keelan Cole further cemented himself as the team’s top wide receiver by running 35 of 37 possible routes and hitting a season high with nine targets. Cole sits 42nd at wide receiver in OFP (29), but he’s the top target in an offense that — believe it or not — is the league’s game-script-adjusted pass-heaviest unit (13 percentage points above expected). Cole is a in the WR3/flex mix.
Raiders WR Jordy Nelson exploded for 173 yards and a score on six catches (eight targets) in Week 3. That’s after the ex-Packer totaled five catches, 53 yards and no touchdowns on eight targets during Weeks 1-2. Nelson now trails “No. 1” receiver Amari Cooper by two snaps, three pass routes and one target on the season. Nelson’s 15 percent target share isn’t going to cut it, but if his big Week 3 leads to a mark closer to 20 percent, he’ll certainly join the flex conversation. He’ll be hard to trust in the meantime, however, especially considering that his 26 OFP is well below his 40 fantasy points and ranks 49th at the position.
Packers RB Aaron Jones made his 2018 debut on Sunday. The second-year back was effective as usual (42 yards on six carries) but was limited to six carries and one target on 16 snaps. Jamaal Williams (28 snaps, five carries, two targets) and Ty Montgomery (19 snaps, four carries, seven targets) sustained significant roles. None of the three backs are reliable weekly starters and should be viewed as no more than bye-week flex dart-throws. Jones sports the most upside.
Should you be panicking if currently invested in Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt? A little bit. Hunt found pay dirt twice on Sunday, but sits 18th at the position in OFP (-2 FORP) and has only been targeted three times. Hunt is handling most of the Chiefs’ carries (68 percent), but an Andy Reid offense hasn’t ranked top-20 in running back looks (carries plus targets) since 2013. Hunt is a fringe RB1, at best, until his targets pick up.
Should Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald be on benches? I don’t think so, especially with the team expected to turn to rookie QB Josh Rosen. Fitzgerald is battling an injury, but he was still on the field for 27 of the team’s 30 pass plays in Week 3. Arizona is averaging an insanely low 47 offensive snaps per game, which is hard for even an incompetent offense to sustain. Fitzgerald remains a featured target in an offense that figures to get a boost at quarterback, so he’s still a viable WR3 against Seattle this week.
Should Falcons WR Calvin Ridley be locked into lineups after a three-touchdown explosion in Week 3? Not quite. Ridley had an A-plus matchup with P.J. Williams/Ken Crawley on Sunday and took advantage in a big way. The rookie was still third in line at the position in routes (26), however, trailing both Julio Jones (34) and Mohamed Sanu (32). Ridley is in the flex conversation in leagues that start three wide receivers (especially with two teams on a bye), but life will be a bit tougher against William Jackson III and the Bengals in Week 4.
Can Jets WR Robby Anderson be dropped? Yes. Anderson was outstanding in 2017 and, to be frank, it’s ridiculous that New York is not generating ways to get the ball in his hands, but the fact is that Anderson isn’t close to fantasy relevance right now. He actually ran fewer routes than Terrelle Pryor in Week 3 and has been targeted only 11 times on the season. It’s worth noting that Anderson didn’t really bloom until midseason in 2017, but he was much more involved than this early on. There are worse players to keep on the end of your bench, but Anderson is not a must-hold.
Can Redskins WR Josh Doctson be dropped? Yes. Doctson paces Washington’s offensive skill position players in snaps (175) and pass routes (95), but somehow ranks fifth in targets (11). QB Alex Smith has funneled throws to his running backs (28 targets) and tight ends (24), saving only 36 for the wide receiver trio of Doctson, Paul Richardson and Jamison Crowder. The trio ranks 81st, 70th and 60th, respectively, in OFP at wide receiver. None can be started in fantasy right now.
Is Buccaneers RB Peyton Barber a viable flex? Not quite. Barber racked up 35 carries during Weeks 1-2, but was held to 91 yards (2.6 YPC) and added only one reception. With Tampa Bay playing from behind on Monday Night Football, he was limited to eight carries for 33 yards and no catches. Barber is super-dependent on heavy carry volume and touchdowns (the latter of which has eluded him thus far) and is a zero in the passing game. He shouldn’t be in lineups but is worth a bench spot, considering he’s the lead back in a good offense.
One of golf’s most historic competitions, the biennial Ryder Cup, pits the best American golfers against the best from Europe.
The 2018 Ryder Cup will take place from Sept. 28-30 at Le Golf National course near Paris. The venue rotates every two years between U.S. and European courses. The United States came out victorious (17-11) at home in 2016, but Team USA is looking to snap a five-match losing streak in Europe that dates back to 1993.
Ryder Cup schedule, how to watch live
The Ryder Cup will be broadcast live very early in the morning in the U.S., with action starting at 2 a.m. ET on Friday and Saturday, and 5:30 a.m. on Sunday. Fortunately, there will be replays available online at RyderCup.com and via the Ryder Cup apps.
Each Ryder Cup team consists of 12 golfers with one team captain, who does not participate in the event.
The U.S. team was chosen based off of the top eight American players in the Ryder Cup points rankings, followed by four captain’s picks. Team Europe starts with the top four on the European Points List and the top 4 from the World Points List plus four captain’s picks.
Here’s a look at the United States and European Ryder Cup teams with captains’ picks noted with an asterisk.
Team USA opened as the favorite to win the 2018 Ryder Cup at -160, but the odds have shrunk to -140 as of Sept. 24, according to Vegas Insider. Team Europe is a +140 underdog despite playing on “home turf.”
The Ryder Cup features five match play sessions spanning three days.
The first two days of the tournament (Friday and Saturday) each include one four-match session of four-ball and one four-match session of foursomes. The final day (Sunday) has 12 singles matches, in which a member of the U.S. team faces a member of the European team.
Each match is worth one point, and matches that end in a draw count for a half-point. The way to win is to be the first team to reach 14.5 points; if the tournament ends in a 14-14 draw, the defending champion (the U.S. this year) will retain the trophy.
HOUSTON — The Rockets have yet to make a decision on whether Carmelo Anthony will start this season — and he said he has not “had that conversation with anybody yet” — but the 10-time All-Star did not shoot down the possibility of coming off the bench for the first time in his career.
That is a significant change from a year ago, when Anthony mockingly asked, “Who, me?” when asked about his willingness to come off the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“At the end of the day, we’re all going to camp to figure out what works in order for this team to try to win a championship,” Anthony said at media day Monday, a day before the Rockets open training camp in Lake Charles, Louisiana. “If that time comes, we’ll have that conversation. My goal is to go into training camp, be the best player I can be, be in the best shape I can be and do what I have to do to help this team get over the hump and win a championship. That’s all it is.
“All the questions of coming off the bench, I don’t want to answer those questions at the end of the day. Whatever I have to do to help this team win a championship, that’s what’s going to be done.”
The 34-year-old Anthony has started all 1,054 games of his career, the second-most consecutive starts to begin a career in NBA history behind Patrick Ewing (1,118). He signed for the veteran’s minimum with the Rockets in August after receiving a buyout from the Atlanta Hawks, who traded for Anthony when the Thunder decided to unload his contract after a disappointing season in Oklahoma City, with the 15-year veteran hitting career lows in scoring (16.2 points per game) and field goal percentage (.404).
Houston coach Mike D’Antoni, who clashed with Anthony during their brief time together with the New York Knicks, was noncommittal when asked if he planned to use the No. 19 scorer in NBA history as a reserve.
“We’ll see how it fits,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t know how they play together, they fit together. We have a great analytics team that will help [in addition to] gut feel. We do a lot of it scientifically, that this is the best way to go.”
D’Antoni said he sees Anthony as primarily a power forward, the position that PJ Tucker filled in the starting lineup after the All-Star break and throughout the playoffs last season.
The Rockets, who set a franchise record with 65 wins and advanced to the Western Conference finals last season, had great success with Tucker as a starter. Houston was 29-5 with Tucker, a tough, versatile defender, in the starting lineup during the regular season.
“You can’t discount that,” D’Antoni said. “Again, we’ll look at everything. To me, P.J. Tucker is one of the best players in the league. Here’s a guy that maybe plays the best defense in the league. That’s half the game right there. He might be the best, if not one of the top five. Now you’ve got a guy who as a starter shot [39.1] percent from 3, [46.7] percent in the playoffs. Really, there’s a lot of guys shooting better than that? And a guy that will get every loose ball, every chemistry play, every play he is playing all out. I don’t know how we judge people. That is a great player. He is a great player on our team.”
Despite not knowing whether he will start, Anthony stressed that he has a comfort level with the Rockets that he never attained last season with the Thunder. He said that he has a clarity about what Houston needs from him that he never had in Oklahoma City, which acquired him in a trade from the New York Knicks on Sept. 25.
“Just the fact that I was able to have my feet wet, get my feet settled, mentally be like, emotionally be kind of free and at peace with my decision and have the opportunity to have a proper plan about this situation,” said Anthony, who signed with the Rockets after extensive conversations with stars James Harden and Chris Paul, general manager Daryl Morey and D’Antoni. “Being able to kind of draw out and have those goals and see those pictures and vision what this could look like, what this could be.
“Whereas before, everything for me felt like it was rushed. It happened at the 25th hour. I didn’t have the opportunity to go into the situation and really have a great understanding of what was needed from me and what I needed to do. I was learning on the fly almost, whereas now I had an opportunity to go to the Bahamas and be with the team. Also for the team to have an opportunity to see where I’m at physically and mentally, play on the court with the guys, play pickup, work out and for everybody to see my mentality and like my focus level when it comes to playing basketball and working and trying to win a championship.”
Harden, the reigning MVP, expects it “to be a breeze” for Anthony to fit in with the Rockets. Harden anticipates that he and Paul will be able to consistently create open shots for Anthony, who has thrived as a spot-up shooter during his time with Team USA. Harden said he saw proof of that during pickup games on the recent team trip to the Bahamas.
“We ran our offense, ran our sets, and he was in positions where he was scoring and looked comfortable,” Harden said. “I know what he brings to the table. I’m not out here just running around for me and myself. I know how effective he can be, so I want to put him in positions where he can be effective, and Chris feels the same way. When you’ve got two guys like that that are consistent about putting each guy in their position, everybody’s going to eat.
“We’re all going to figure it out, and we’re all going to eat. We’re all going to look good and all going to be smiling. That’s what it is, and we’re going to rack up a lot of wins. Obviously, things aren’t going to be perfect throughout the course of the season, and that’s where you have communication.”
The Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals played a fascinating game Monday in St. Louis, complete with plot twists, a 31-minute rain delay in the seventh inning, some ugly mistakes and a surprise ending.
The Brewers won 6-4 and combined with the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ win over the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee ise once again 1½ games back in the NL Central. Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ lead over the Rockies for the second wild card shrunk to a half-game. The NL playoff picture just got a lot more cozy.
Anyway, notes from this game:
— The Brewers started reliever Dan Jennings, but Craig Counsell didn’t even deploy him in the way these “openers” typically have been used. Jennings just faced Matt Carpenter for a lefty-on-lefty matchup and got him to ground out. Freddy Peralta then came on and would pitch the next 3⅔ innings, allowing one run on Carpenter’s RBI double.
— In the bottom of the fifth, Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty singled with two outs off Taylor Williams. That didn’t make Counsell happy because, with the game tied 1-1, he had to bring in lefty Josh Hader to face Carpenter. Hader struck him out.
— In the top of the sixth, the Brewers scored two runs without a hit — three walks, a hit batter and a sacrifice fly.
— Hader returned to the mound in the bottom of the sixth. Obviously, he has used to pitching multiple innings, so he’s had many appearances in which he came in, sat as the Brewers batted, then returned to the mound. This time, Jose Martinez homered to center, Paul DeJong walked and Marcell Ozuna lined a rocket out to left-center for a 4-3 Cardinals lead. Both home runs came off 93-mph fastballs.
— The Brewers came right back and tied it up with the help of two walks by Jordan Hicks. Did I mention the Cardinals played a lousy game?
— Carpenter led off the bottom of the inning and Counsell turned to another lefty, Xavier Cedeno. (You have to love September rosters. Or hate them.) Carpenter flew out.
— In the eighth, the Brewers had three straight lefties due up. Mike Shildt went with Bud Norris, who has been mostly awful in the second half, including allowing six runs and seven walks in three innings in September. To be fair, Norris does have a big reverse platoon split this season. Still, it seemed like a questionable decision. With one out, Eric Thames hit a soft liner to right that Martinez, a bad right fielder, turned into a triple. Mike Moustakas then was intentionally walked. Norris decided to throw to first base — the slow-running Moustakas wasn’t going anywhere — and threw it away. Thames scored the go-ahead run. The Brewers tacked on another run.
— With Jeremy Jeffress unavailable due to neck spasms, Counsell turned to former closer Corey Knebel, his ninth pitcher of the night. September baseball, everyone! Knebel hit Carpenter but struck out the side. It was only a few weeks ago that Knebel was exiled to the minors to basically get a mental break after struggling. In September, he has pitched 12⅓ scoreless innings and struck out 24 batters. The slider is back and he’s dominating again like he did in 2017. The way he’s going, he might pitch every game this week.
So, big night. Got all that? Let’s do it again Tuesday.
Rockies club Phillies: The Colorado Rockies‘ 10-1 win behind Jon Gray kept the heat on the Los Angeles Dodgers, plus Trevor Story returned to the lineup and went 2-for-5 with two doubles. Story became just the fourth shortstop to reach 80 extra-base hits and 25 steals in a season, joining Hanley Ramirez (2007), Jimmy Rollins (2007) and Alex Rodriguez (1998).
The takeaway from this game: The Phillies look absolutely cooked and they’ve dropped to .500 after sitting 14 games over .500 on Aug. 17, when they were just a half-game out of first place. Obviously, they’d like to finish over .500, so I don’t think they’ve packed it in effort-wise, but they haven’t won a game this month against a winning team. It wouldn’t shock me if the Rockies sweep this four-game series at home.
You won’t believe this … The Arizona Diamondbacks‘ bullpen couldn’t hold a 3-2 lead against the Dodgers, as L.A. scored two runs in the seventh and three in the ninth to pull out a 7-4 win, rescue Clayton Kershaw and remain 1½ up on the Rockies.
Speaking of openers: I’m a little surprised teams haven’t tried that trick against the Dodgers to mess up Dave Roberts and his platoon-heavy lineup. The Diamondbacks could have started a right-hander — say Archie Bradley, who pitched the sixth inning — and then brought in Robbie Ray. Of course, a good manager would see around the strategy, and I guess you wouldn’t use it with Ray or Zack Greinke (who starts Wednesday), but it would make sense to do it with Tuesday starter Matt Koch and see what Roberts does.
Anyway, leaving out the Atlanta Braves, here’s how the NL playoff picture looks (five teams for four spots):
In the second half, the National League Cy Young race received a lot of attention and Blake Snell made a run in the AL. Kluber kept doing his Kluber things, however, and here he is, winning 20 games for the first time in his career after striking out 11 in seven scoreless innings in a 4-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
Kluber becomes the first Indians pitcher to win 20 since Cliff Lee in 2008 (and just the second since Gaylord Perry in 1974) as he adds to an amazing five-year run that began with his breakout Cy Young season in 2014.
Check out the best five-year stretches (by WAR) for some great Cleveland starters:
Bob Feller*, 1938-46: 42.5 (not including partial season in 1945) Stan Coveleski*, 1917-21: 40.2 Corey Kluber, 2014-18: 32.2 (entering Monday) Addie Joss*, 1905-09: 30.6 Sam McDowell, 1966-70: 26.7 Early Wynn*, 1952-56: 23.8 Mike Garcia, 1951-55: 21.0 Bob Lemon*, 1948-52: 20.7 (* denotes Hall of Famer)
The question heading into October: How much has Kluber benefited from a weak division? He’s 15-2 with a 2.25 ERA against sub-.500 teams (including 7-0 against the White Sox and Tigers) and 5-5 with a 3.81 ERA against winning teams.
Red Sox set franchise mark for wins: The Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-2 to win their 106th game and clinch the best record in the majors:
Mookie Betts went 2-for-5 with his 32nd home run to raise his slash line to .343/.434/.639. It feels like he’s pretty much wrapped up the AL MVP. Mike Trout is closest in WAR, but the Los Angeles Angels aren’t making the playoffs and that will hurt him (unfairly) in the voting. J.D. Martinez‘s case seemed to rest on his winning the Triple Crown and that’s not going to happen, plus Mookie has the higher OBP and slugging percentage. Really, Mookie’s season is one of the best in Red Sox history.
Via Baseball-Reference.com, the 10-WAR position players in Red Sox history:
Betts, of course, benefits from a great defensive rating, with plus-21 defensive runs saved. Remember, DRS is a reflection of skill and opportunity. Because he’s so good, Betts can go deep into right-center at Fenway and make plays that he may not available in other parks that don’t have the same space. It’s a park that allows guys who are already good to be rewarded, and that’s part of the reason DRS loves Betts so much.
Yelich, possibly the front runner to win National League MVP after a torrid last couple months, remained in the game Sunday night and even stole a base after the injury. But doubts were cast regarding his status Monday after he underwent tests.
In his first season with the Brewers, Yelich is batting .322 with 32 home runs, 96 RBIs, 108 runs scored and 21 stolen bases.
The Brewers enter Monday’s action just 2 1/2 games behind the Cubs for the NL Central lead.
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