Happ pacing Badgers, impressing analysts

MADISON, Wis. — Every so often, Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ makes a move around the bucket that reminds some college basketball experts of an NBA Hall of Fame forward.

It’s more about how Happ freed himself to get to the hoop for the 25th-ranked Badgers than the shot itself.

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Check out the footwork. It reminded ESPN analyst and former Duke center Jay Bilas , among others recently on Twitter, of former Boston Celtics great Kevin McHale.

Assistant coach Howard Moore can’t help but agree. While Happ might have not have McHale’s shooting touch, Wisconsin’s 6-foot-10 senior is just about as good as anyone in the college game in the lane.

“But as far as the footwork and the knack of understanding angles and ways to get to the rim, without having … to just leap over everyone and finish, I think is pretty remarkable to see how comparable they

AFC Playoff Picture: Steelers stay put as the No. 2 seed heading into Week 12

It is time to start tracking where the Steelers stand in the AFC Playoff Picture, and it is so-far-so-good for the black-and-gold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a come from behind win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11, and with the rest of the AFC wrapping up their games this week, it is time to put things in perspective as it relates to the AFC Playoff Picture.

Sure, there is still a lot of football left to be played, but at the same time it doesn’t hurt to look ahead and see just where every resides, and who they have coming up, to get a grip on the Conference Playoff scenarios.

After Pittsburgh’s horrid start to the season, they have rebounded to the tune of 6 straight wins and, thanks to some losses to other AFC competitors, and have catapulted themselves up into the No. 2 spot in the AFC Playoff Picture.

So, before we go any further, time to update the Playoff Picture heading into Week 12.

AFC Playoff Picture Week 12

1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Raiders (2-8), vs. Ravens (5-5), vs. Chargers (7-3), at Seahawks (5-5), vs. Raiders (2-8)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2-1)REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Broncos (4-6), vs. Chargers (7-3), at Raiders (2-8), vs. Patriots (7-3), at Saints (9-1), vs. Bengals (5-5)
3. New England Patriots (7-3)REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Jets (3-7), vs. Vikings (5-4-1), at Dolphins (5-5), at Steelers (7-2-1), vs. Bills (3-7), vs. Jets (3-7)
4. Houston Texans (7-3)REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Titans (5-5), vs. Browns (3-6-1), vs. Colts (5-5), at Jets (3-7), at Eagles (4-6), vs. Jaguars (3-7)
5. Los Angeles Chargers (7-3)REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Cardinals (2-8), at Steelers (7-2-1), vs. Bengals (5-5), at Chiefs (9-1), vs. Ravens (5-5), at Broncos (4-6)
6. Baltimore Ravens (5-5)REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Raiders (2-8), at Falcons (4-6), at Chiefs (9-1), vs. Buccaneers (3-7), at Chargers (7-3), vs. Browns (3-6-1)
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In the hunt:

7. Cincinnati Bengals (5-5) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Browns (3-6-1), vs. Broncos (4-6), at Chargers (7-3), vs. Raiders (2-8), at Browns (3-6-1), at Steelers (7-2-1)
8. Miami Dolphins (5-5)REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Colts (5-5), vs. Bills (3-7), vs. Patriots (7-3), at Vikings (5-4-1), vs. Jaguars (3-7), at Bills (3-7)
9. Indianapolis Colts (5-5) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Dolphins (5-5), at Jaguars (3-7), at Texans (7-3), vs. Cowboys (5-5), vs. Giants (3-7), at Titans (5-5)
10. Tennessee Titans (5-5) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Texans (7-3), vs. Jets (3-7), vs. Jaguars (3-7), at Giants (3-7), vs. Redskins (6-4), vs. Colts (5-5)
11. Denver Broncos (4-6)REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Steelers (7-2-1), at Bengals (5-5), at 49ers (2-8), vs. Browns (3-6-1), at Raiders (2-8), vs. Chargers (7-3)

There has been no change between in the Top 5 teams in the AFC, with a big jumbled mess all vying for the 6th, and final, spot in the playoff picture.

As for Pittsburgh, their remaining schedule is riddled with teams who are at, or near, the top of the playoff race. The Chargers, Bengals and Patriots will all come to Heinz Field in the coming weeks as the regular season winds down.

The fun is just beginning…

Take a look at the above standings, who do you see failing down the stretch? And which team will be a surprise to climb the rankings? Let us know in the comment section below!

If the Steelers wanted revenge on the Jaguars, they got it in the best possible way

The Steelers got revenge on the Jaguars in the most improbable fashion.

I wrote over the weekend that the Steelers should have been concentrating on winning and not revenge as they prepared for a Week 11 match-up with the Jaguars and TIAA Bank Field.

It’s tough to say what the Steelers had on their minds for the majority of Sunday’s action under the Florida sun, but the one thing that seemed absolutely clear was the continued mastery Jacksonville had over Pittsburgh dating back to October 8 of last season.

Much like the two match-ups in 2017, the Jaguars ran all over Pittsburgh’s defense to the tune of 179 yards total.

As for the performance of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, it was so bad for most of the day—he was intercepted three times by the 8:02 mark of the third quarter—people were speculating on Twitter about whether or not he should have been pulled from the game.

Speaking of Pittsburgh’s offense, its first nine possessions ended in either a punt or those three aforementioned interceptions by Roethlisberger, with the third one occurring in the end zone, just when it looked like the Steelers would cut into Jacksonville’s 9-0 lead.

Instead, the Jaguars seemed to put the final nail in Pittsburgh’s five-game winning-streak with a 10-play, 80-yard drive that was capped off by a two-yard touchdown dive by, who else, Leonard Fournette, the second-year running back who tortured the Steelers’ defense in both losses a year ago.

The Jaguars were up 16-0, and even though a victory would only improve their record to 4-6, they surely had to be feeling good that one part of their program as a young and talented team—dominance over the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers—was still alive and well.

Unfortunately for the Jaguars, their dominance over Pittsburgh evidently has an expiration date, and the milk seemed to spoil very late in the third quarter.

From that moment on, the Steelers out-gained Jacksonville 249 to minus-three in yards and and out-scored them 20-0 in points.

The Steelers final yard was gained by Roethlisberger, who capped off the game-winning drive with a touchdown dive of his own with five seconds left.

Despite one of the most ineffective days of his career, Roethlisberger wound up with 314 yards through the air and two passing touchdowns to go along with the game-winner he scored with his legs.

Despite frustrating the holy heck out of Antonio Brown and terrorizing Roethlisberger with two of his three interceptions, Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey was torched when it mattered the most, on a 25-yard hookup from Roethlisberger to Brown down to the two-yard line in the final minute.

As for a Steelers defense that was effectively gashed by the Jaguars running game yet again, it may have bent a lot, but it only broke once. Meanwhile, Blake Bortles, the quarterback who managed to defeat Pittsburgh last October despite passing for less than 100 yards, couldn’t come through when his team needed him to, managing a measly 104 yards through the air, while getting sacked six times.

The Jaguars do seem to have a knack for making the Steelers look bad and unprepared. That was on display again for all to see on Sunday.

Yet, the Steelers not only walked away with a victory, they did so in improbable fashion, right when it looked like they would— at least temporarily—save Jacksonville’s season.

Turns out the Steelers really did exact their revenge on the Jaguars—and they stole their souls in the process.

T.J. Watt becomes first Steelers’ linebacker to record 10 sacks in a season since 2010

Pittsburgh had not seen an outside linebacker record double-digit sacks in 7 seasons until T.J. Watt passed that milestone on Sunday.

For a team that earned its Blitzburgh nickname on back of the pass-rushing talents of their outside linebackers, the team’s sack numbers have not always been deserving of that moniker as of late. The 2017 season may have seen a rebirth in production, breaking the Pittsburgh Steelers all-time record for sacks with 56, but it was the efforts of players like Cameron Heyward (12 sacks) and Vince Williams (8) that truly made the difference last year.

While some might fairly argue that the style of Keith Butler’s defense requires his edge-rushers to drop in to coverage more than ever before, it would seem that T.J. Watt is bringing the sacks back to the outside linebacker position in 2018. With two more sacks against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Watt has now recorded 10 quarterback takedowns on the season, the first time a Pittsburgh outside linebacker has managed that feat since James Harrison finished the year with 10.5 in 2010.

Currently in a fourth place tie for the league lead in sacks behind Aaron Donald (14.5), Danielle Hunter (11.5) and Chandler Jones (10.5), T.J. recorded both back-to-back sacks and back-to-back forced fumbles in a game for the first time in his career on Sunday. His 17 sacks in barely two seasons of football is now the most by any Steelers’ defender through their first two years in the league, surpassing a record of 15.5 set by LaMarr Woodley in 2007 and 2008.

Those hoping that T.J. might have some of the qualities of his older brother should be pleased to see how his production has mirror J.J.’s so far in 2018.

The 2010 season was also the last time Pittsburgh ended the year with two players showing double-digit sacks, but that milestone might be a step too far this season. Heyward currently sits second on the team with 5.5 sacks and Javon Hargrave is third with five. However, we would be remiss if we did not also point out that Hargrave deserves some credit for more than doubling his career totals with his first two sack game as a professional on Sunday.

Steelers open as 3.5-point favorites over Broncos in Week 12

Pittsburgh are just over a field goal favorites for a tough matchup with the Broncos in Denver next Sunday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are doing whatever it takes to win in 2018, be it blow out victories or last second comebacks and they will face another strong challenge in Week 12. At 4-6, the Denver Broncos might not be the toughest team the Steelers’ have left on their schedule, but they can be hard to beat at Mile High Stadium.

Coming off their own last minute win over an impressive Chargers team in Los Angeles on Sunday, the Broncos proved they are not a team to be taken lightly. They may only have won twice in their last eight outings, but it would appear the bookmakers are all too aware of the challenge the Broncos represent.

Pittsburgh has opened as 3.5-point favorites for the matchup in Denver, a venue they have not won at since 2009. Losers of their last three at Mile High, the Broncos currently enjoy a 19-11-1 record over the Steelers dating back to 1970. As of Tuesday this spread had fallen to 3-points with most online bookmakers, but was still at its opening position with most of the Las Vegas sportsbooks.

An early totals position of 47.5-points looks like a reasonable starting point for this contest, while an initial money line price of -192 has fallen somewhat since Sunday, with -170 now the more common offering from most online providers. Pittsburgh is 6-3-1 against the spread on the season and Denver is 4-5-1.

Curry, Kerr speak on Warriors' issues as Green sits again

Curry and Green went down with injuries during the recent dry spell, but the biggest setback was self-inflicted. Green and Durant had a blowup at the close of regulation in a 121-116 overtime loss to the LA Clippers last Monday. Green’s tirades on the bench and in the postgame locker room led the team to hand the seventh-year forward a one-game suspension.

The flare-up and the Warriors’ inability to move past it spiritually has confounded Kerr.

The Spurs sent the Warriors to their third straight loss on Sunday.

“Just play with joy. It’s always been about just our emotion,” Durant said, describing how Kerr has encouraged his club. “He’s always been big about that. He’s just trying to get that joy back.”

There wasn’t much joy to be found in San Antonio.

DeMar DeRozan had 20 points and nine assists and Rudy Gay added 19 points to help the Spurs

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Pelicans' Payton to have surgery on finger, out six weeks

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Pelicans say guard Elfrid Payton is scheduled for surgery to repair a fractured finger on his left hand and that his recovery is expected to take about six weeks.

Payton was injured during last Friday night’s victory over the New York Knicks, which was also his first game back in the lineup after sitting out nine contests with a sprained ankle.

Payton has played in just six of the Pelicans’ 16 games this season, averaging 9.7 points and 5.3 assists. He has played more than 15 minutes in only four games, scoring in double figures each time.

The update on Payton’s status came as the Pelicans prepared to host the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night.

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Miami Dolphins WR/KR Jakeem Grant to Have Lower Leg Surgery Which Will End Season

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Dolphins wide receiver/kick returner Jakeem Grant is undergoing “season-ending lower leg surgery” according to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald.

Grant reportedly avoided an Achilles’ rupture, but he still needs surgery to repair the issue.

Beasley reports Grant will be ready for the start of the 2019 season. Newly-signed Brice Butler will provide depth behind DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, and Danny Amendola with Grant sidelined. Losing Grant, originally a sixth-round pick out of Texas Tech in 2016, is definitely a blow for an offense that was already struggling to manufacture big plays.

Thus far in 2018, the 26-year-old had contributed two receiving touchdowns, a kick return for touchdown, and a punt return touchdown

Report: Baltimore Ravens OL Marshal Yanda Spat at Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict

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Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict has the reputation-and deservingly so-for being one of the NFL’s dirtiest players but he was the recipient of a dirty play by Ravens offensive lineman Marshal Yanda on Sunday according to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.com.

Yanda reportedly spat at Burfict as the linebacker was lying on the ground. Smith stated that the video of the incident is clear: There’s a pileup with some pushing and shoving on both sides, and Burfict is in the middle of it, as he so often is. But afterward, Yanda stood up and leaned over Burfict, and spit clearly came out of Yanda’s mouth and toward Burfict. It is unclear whether the spit actually landed on Burfict as the linebacker did not react but the intent was clear.

The NFL has disciplined players for spitting on opponents in the past and Yanda should expect a hefty chunk taken out of his paycheck later in the week.

Warriors trying to keep perspective after dramatic week

Nov 19, 2018

SAN ANTONIO — Kevin Durant and Draymond Green sat just a locker stall away from each other on the Golden State Warriors‘ Texas trip from hell. A few days after an emotional blowup in Los Angeles that caught the entire league’s attention and caused many to speculate about their futures, there the All-Star teammates were prior to Sunday night’s latest setback, doing exactly what the basketball world thought they would be doing.

Well, not exactly.

Instead of the iciness many predicted following the ugly episode on Monday, Durant and Green found themselves having the same conversation that many sports fans were having all across the country: They were discussing Alex Smith’s gruesome leg injury during Sunday’s game between the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans. Durant, an ardent Redskins fan who wears the team’s hat during many of his postgame news conferences, and Green were just