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Super Bowl 52: Odds, picks for Eagles vs. Patriots

When the Eagles meet the Patriots in Super Bowl 52 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, it will mark the fourth time in five years that the top seeds in the NFC and AFC have battled for the NFL championship.

The Patriots have the better secondary to contain Foles’ targets, but the Eagles have the better front-four pass rush to throw at Brady. Look for both Doug Pederson and Josh McDaniels to be aggressive and call upon their QBs to go after big plays downfield.

Dion Lewis and Jay Ajayi both will flash in the running game, but it comes down to which gamebreaking wide receiver-tight end combination Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz vs. Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski can have more success stretching the field.

The Patriots are vulnerable in linebacker coverage but have the cornerbacks and safeties to contain big plays. The Eagles’ defensive weaknesses lie on the edges of their back seven.

Super Bowl 52 pick: Patriots win 30-27 but fail to cover the spread.

When all of them are playing well at the same time, the Rebels are pretty good.

Deandre Burnett scored 24 points, Terence Davis and Markel Crawford both scored 15 and Mississippi beat Alabama 78-66 on Tuesday night.

Give (Ole Miss) credit, they’ve been a hot team at home during SEC play, Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. You’ve got to play more than a 14- or 16-minute stretch to have success on the road in any building in the SEC.

It was a great learning lesson for our team.

Alabama’s star freshman Collin Sexton played 20 minutes after missing two straight games with an abdominal injury. He was mostly ineffective, shooting just 2 of 13 from the field.

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Sibande’s 22 helps Miami (Ohio) top Central Michigan 70-61

Nike Sibande scored a career-high 22 points and made all four of his 3-point shots as Miami (Ohio) defeated Central Michigan 70-61 Tuesday night.

Logan McLane added 13 points and eight rebounds for Miami (11-9, 4-3 Mid-American Conference), Isaiah Lands-Coleman added 12 points on four 3-pointers. Darrian Ringo, ranked seventh nationally in total assists, dished 10, the sixth time this season he’s reached double-digit assists.

They’ll let the numbers do the talking. This is the seventh straight AFC title game the Patriots have been to. They have nothing to prove and the Jaguars are going to learn that fast.

Speaking of stats and numbers though, no one accumulates what you need to know better than our friends over at Opta. To help you prepare for the AFC championship game this weekend, they have gathered all kinds of knowledge for you to sink your teeth into. We’re just putting those on a page for you.

The Patriots have a 10-1 record all time when facing the Jaguars (including playoffs). Their lone loss came in 1999 at Jacksonville in the wild-card round of the playoffs.

It was on me, for this game, Self said. If I had to do it all over again, knowing what I know now, I would’ve done it differently. … It was obviously the wrong thing to do to win this game.

In the final four minutes, the Sooners had reserve Matt Freeman deliberately foul Azubuike and put the 41 percent free throw shooter at the line.

On back-to-back possessions, Azubuike missed on the front end of a one-and-one. The next time Kansas had the ball, Azubuike was fouled again, leading to two more misses from the line.

Freeman finally fouled out with 1:56 remaining. But Azubuike misfired on two more free throws. Two possessions later, Oklahoma freshman Trae Young found Christian James in the corner for a go-ahead 3-pointer, giving the Sooners an 82-80 lead.

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Joe Thomas is glad Browns didn’t fire Hue Jackson

Joe Thomas is glad Hue Jackson will be returning to the Browns.

The star offensive tackle said firing Jackson, despite the team’s 1-31 record over the past two seasons, would not have been helpful to the organization.

Jackson also was instrumental in keeping the team together and fighting every game until the end. Thomas said very few coaches could do that.

According to Thomas, the future is only bright for the Browns. After two years of loss after loss, Thomas explained that the Browns now have two of the top 4 draft picks this spring and more than $100 million in cap space.

You throw an experienced quarterback in the mix and there’s nothing that says the Browns can’t make the playoffs next year, he said.

Former Pro Bowl WR Greg Jennings heard those comments. He also heard Cowboys CEO Stephen Jones’ comments on the star wide receiver about how his outbursts can be a distraction. Taking all of that into account, Jennings has some advice for Bryant which comes from his own personal experience.

Take the pay cut, Jennings said on Undisputed Tuesday. I understand as an athlete when you’ve been a star in the league, performer, it’s hard for you to see your abilities diminishing, it’s hard to come to grips with that, but if he is not willing to take a pay cut, he will not make even what the pay cut would be somewhere else.

Jennings went on to describe his final year with the Vikings when Minnesota asked him to take a pay cut for one season from $9 million to $6.5 million. He did not want to give up the money and the Vikings would go on to cut him.

He then signed with the Dolphins for two years, $8 million.

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Zabo’s hot hand in OT lifts Kent State over Ball State 88-80

Kevin Zabo scored seven of his 21 points in overtime and Danny Pippen finished with a double-double to power Kent State to an 88-80 victory over Ball State on Tuesday night.

Pippen scored 11 with 16 rebounds for the Golden Flashes (10-10, 4-3 Mid-American Conference), who beat the Cardinals for a 15th straight time. Adonis De La Rosa finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, Jaylin Walker scored 17 with seven boards and Jalen Avery and BJ Duling added 10 points each.

Pagano was put in a bleak position right away with star quarterback Andrew Luck shut down for the year following offseason shoulder surgery. Still, the Colts have more problems than their missing signal-caller and it’s reasonable to believe Ballard would desire a fresh start with a hand-picked coach of his own.

The ninth-ranked Bearcats are riding a 10-game winning streak into Wednesday night’s game against the Temple Owls at BB&T Arena, and are looking to extend the nation’s longest active home winning streak to 37 straight.

Cronin shouldn’t have to work too hard to get his team’s attention this week. The Owls have been a thorn in the Bearcats’ side at times. Temple is the last team to beat the Bearcats at home, winning 77-70 in the league opener on Dec. 29, 2015.

Cincinnati is playing its home games at Northern Kentucky University while on-campus Fifth Third Arena undergoes an $87 million renovation.

Bearcats forward Gary Clark didn’t have his best outing in the first meeting against Temple with 10 points and four rebounds and managed only four shot attempts. But, Clark is coming off a huge week with back-to-back double-doubles, averaging 15.5 points and 14.5 rebounds while shooting 48.3 percent to earn Co-American Athletic Conference player of the week honors.

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Reese helps Canisius get sweep of co-MAAC leader Iona, 84-82

Isaiah Reese scored 21 points but more importantly milked five critical seconds off the clock in the closing seconds and Canisius edged Iona 84-82 on Sunday in a showdown of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference co-leaders.

Iona pulled within one on a pair of free throws by Rickey McGill with 8.9 seconds left. After the inbounds, the Gaels forced a jump ball but the possession stayed with the Golden Griffins with 6.7 to go. On the next inbounds, Reese eluded two defenders and got 5.4 seconds off the clock before he was intentionally fouled with 1.3 remaining. He made 1 of 2 and received one last inbounds pass to run out the clock.

Keenum was forced into the lineup in Week 2 after Sam Bradford injured his knee. The 29-year-old held onto the job full time since Week 5 with stellar play-making ability and fearlessness throwing down the field. Foles took over after MVP candidate Carson Wentz tore his ACL in Week 14, doing enough to propel the NFC East winners into the championship game.

Scott was a native of the Friendswood, Texas, in greater Houston. She played at Baylor from 2002 to 2006, the era in which the Lady Bears first emerged as a national power in women’s basketball under coach Kim Mulkey.

Scott averaged 7.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game during Baylor’s 2004-05 championship season and averaged 8.8 and 6.4 the next year as a senior.

Her professional basketball career was cut short, though, by Crohn’s disease. Scott then worked for Chevron as a performance coach on a deep-sea oil rig. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 after a colonoscopy found a malignant blockage. Scott had recovered from that initial cancer discovery.

But Mulkey, speaking to the media on Jan. 12, said that cancer had returned aggressively to Scott, who was back in the hospital in Houston and receiving treatment. Scott told ESPN.com in 2016 that she approached her battle with cancer similarly to how she approached being a basketball player.

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Jeter’s first three months as an owner have been an awakening.

As an aside, I asked one veteran scout for his over/under on the combined home run total for Stanton and Judge this season. The scout predicted Stanton will hit 53, Judge 48, Gary Sanchez 35 and Greg Bird 33. That’s 171 total for four players — or three more than the entire Boston Red Sox team launched in 2017.

He has made several PR missteps and was recently besieged by Marlins Man and other angry season-ticket holders at a town hall. Jeter and his ownership partner, Bruce Sherman, can’t be blamed for shedding some of the massive contracts they inherited from the Jeffrey Loria regime. But when competing ownership groups say they didn’t plan to rip things down to this extent in Miami, it calls into question whether MLB sacrificed viability for a flashy name and a $1.2 billion payout.

Admittedly, the 21-year-old center has a maddening tendency to settle for turnaround jump shots when defended by smaller guards, but there’s no reason to expect that this wouldn’t have been an easy dunk.

At the very least, if Collison wasn’t going to throw the ball to his teammate, then the speedy guard should’ve tested the lateral quickness of Towns and attacked the rim.

But wow, was this fun. There was the lead-up to the game on HBO 24/7, which introduced us to the cosmic meanderings of Ilya Bryzgalov and the snarly puppy dog that was John Tortorella. There was the alumni game that saw Eric Lindros make an emotional return to the Flyers organization. There was controversy, as Bryzgalov sat for the Classic in favor of Sergei Bobrovsky in a surprise move. (I can still vividly recall Bryz talking to the media on one side of the locker room, playing coy about who was starting, while Bob was on the other side of the room revealing it was him.)

The game itself was one of the best-played in the Classic from the second period on, right down to the Daniel Briere penalty shot that was stopped by Henrik Lundqvist with 19.6 seconds remaining to preserve the win — a penalty Tortorella claimed was an NBC conspiracy to extend the game into overtime, an accusation that earned him a hefty fine.

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The 2011 Winter Classic will be remembered for two reasons.

The hype for this game was off the charts: Two blood rival teams, and the NHL’s two biggest stars in Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin. Plus, the Penguins and Capitals were featured on the first season of HBO’s 24/7 series dedicated to the Winter Classic, which remains the gold standard for the genre. (We’ll always remember you, sauce-faced, profanity-laced Bruce Boudreau.)

Alas, the hype was not met. First, for having an 8 p.m. start time thanks to concerns about rain. At first, under the lights seemed cool, until one realized it killed much of the charm of the event.

The Celtics were also able to throw multiple waves at defenders at James, beginning with Marcus Morris and on through Brown, Tatum, and rookie Semi Ojeleye, who is a reliable jump shot away from being a rotation fixture for years to come. Having forwards who can not only switch everything but stay in front of James is the key to their defensive structure.

You know, against LeBron , there’s nobody that can guard him the whole game, so you have to throw as many bodies at him as you can, Stevens said. And then pray.

What is interesting about this season is that the other contenders — Boston, Toronto, and Washington — have all made strides in their development. The Wizards have proven dangerous against good teams, albeit with a stubborn inconsistent streak against lesser opponents. The Celtics are 31-10, their best mark at the midway point of their season since 2010-11. Then there are the Raptors who have updated their style and are playing out of their minds.

Jared Cook appears to have an 11-yard touchdown catch for the Raiders with 14 seconds to play in the half, but he’s called for offensive pass interference, negating the score. Carr follows with an incomplete pass and Giorgio Tavecchio enters to attempt a 39-yard field goal. He misses wide left and the Raiders head into halftime trailing by 10.

Dak Prescott’s pass to Cole Beasley on third down falls incomplete and the Cowboys punt. Oakland will start its drive at its 31 with 3:08 to play in the half.

Oakland picks up one more first down but fails to move the chains again. It punts and the Cowboys will take over on their 10.

Carr escapes the pocket and scrambles for 7 yards to pick up the Raiders’ first first down of the game with 11:55 to play in the second quarter.

Touchdown, Cowboys. Dallas puts together an eight-play, 65-yard drive that ends with a 1-yard touchdown run by Rod Smith. Dallas has outgained Oakland 153-7 so far and leads 10-0.

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This really shouldn’t have been as incredible as it was.

There was no iconic venue, as the Philadelphia Phillies’ picturesque stadium was less than a decade old. The weather didn’t exactly put the Winter in the Classic: The game was delayed by sun glare and was eventually played in 45-degree weather with some spotty drizzle. While the Rangers were in their first outdoor game, the Flyers had played in one two years earlier.

I remember jumping in some leaves, getting so cold outside we got locked out of a car, Jordan said with a chuckle. But he also fondly remembers meeting a number of my dad’s co-workers, and they turned out to be legends. You talk about (defensive end) Chris Doleman, you talk about (safety) Joey Browner, (running back) Darrin Nelsons of the game. I won’t talk about Herschel Walker, because he ruined (that) franchise.

You grow up and you get drafted by the Saints, Jordan added. This is my team. This is my family.

Saints coach Sean Payton generally urges his players to refrain from providing opponents with bulletin-board material, but didn’t sound inclined to rein in Jordan.

It’s just Cam’s personality, Payton said. He’s humorous and I think he genuinely enjoys what he does and that’s just how it’s expressed. Outside of that, I’m glad he’s on our team.

Jeter grew accustomed to fawning news coverage during his playing career, and he’s learning (or at least, he should be learning) that the same rules don’t apply in the owners’ suite. He’s a target for criticism now, whether he’s sitting in a booth watching a Dolphins game during the winter meetings or enlisting someone else to do the dirty work and fire holdovers from the previous administration. Until the Marlins turn the corner, he better get used to it.

Stephenson hasn’t been the only guard guilty of probing for shots, however.

Check out this particularly egregious possession against Minnesota, wherein Collison ignores that Myles Turner has his man sealed under the basket in order to settle for having his own shot blocked by Karl Anthony-Towns, instead.

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Wilson has done his best to carry his entire team with no traditional running game and a depleted defense.

While the well-documented percentage of how much he was producing in relation to the rest of the team helped his cause, it ended up hurting it as the Seahawks struggled too much around him, putting their playoff hopes almost on ice. The games against the Jaguars and Rams back-to-back were make or break for his MVP campaign, and the losses shattered his chances.

As long as the Pacers continue to be the only team to rank among the bottom five in points allowed in the paint per 100 possessions as well as opponent three point attempts per 100 possessions, the speed of the offense both in terms of the number of possessions as well as the speed within those possessions has to be this team’s best defense.

Without Victor Oladipo’s clutch shooting to fall back on and Myles Turner and Bojan Bogdanovic both shooting less than 40 percent since the start of his absence, neglecting to do the little things is huge.

Wins over the lowly Bears and Texans didn’t move the needle much (other than strong defensive performances, plus the game-winning drive executed by Garoppolo to set up the field goal that beat the Bears in Soldier Field). But impressive victories the past two weeks have opened everyone’s eyes. Facing the playoff-contending Titans and Jaguars, Garoppolo was superb. Against Tennessee, he completed 72 percent of his passes for 381 yards and one touchdown, and he calmly directed the drive that set up the game-winning field goal as time expired.

Then last week against the league’s No. 1 defense in points allowed, Garoppolo put up 28 points in the second half of a 44-33 win. He threw two TDs, ran for one and made a Brett Favre-esque escape from pressure and perfect sidearm throw for a fourth-quarter touchdown pass.

When Patriots coach Bill Belichick finally agreed to trade Garoppolo, he figured the 49ers’ second-round pick would be the first or second selection in the round (which teams consider a late first). Now if the 49ers win their fifth straight against a Rams team that has already clinched the NFC West, that pick could fall to No. 10 in the round.

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We know how NHL commissioner Gary Bettman feels about passing on Pyeongchang in 2018.

Brees, who will lead the Saints (11-4) against the Buccaneers (4-11) on Sunday with a chance to clinch the NFC South, said his great-grandfather was a straw boss or basically like a sharecropper on a big property and his grandfather grew up in a house with basically a dirt floor, no running water, no electricity.

He took a train over to San Diego, went through Marines boot camp, shipped over to Guadalcanal for more training, and was there for the invasion of Okinawa, Japan on April 1, 1st Marine Division, 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment, Special Weapons Company, Brees continued. What he endured over there, I heard a lot about that over the years from him. He was very proud of being a Marine. That was something he took so much pride in and while it was hard to talk about the war for a long time, I think he reached a point where he felt like there were so many lessons from it and it was a way to honor the guys that he served with to. He had 153 men in his Special Weapons Company and was one of three to survive. That just tells you how brutal that fighting was over there.

Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah The younger brother of Panthers defensive lineman Star Lotulelei, Lowell had a huge day against the Mountaineers. The 6-2, 320-pound senior recorded four tackles, 2 1/2 for loss, and a 1 1/2 sacks. He has a quick burst off the snap and a powerful base to create penetration. The younger Lotulelei should be a second-round pick in April.

But what about other folks around the league? Here’s what some owners, GMs and players had to say about the gamesmanship heading into the Games.

Were this a sports comedy, then Chris Bourque would be the heart and soul of said movie. He’s the 31-year-old son of an NHL legend who has … well, not exactly had a legendary career while living in the shadow of Ray Bourque. The majority of the younger Bourque’s career has been spent in the American Hockey League, and the majority of those seasons (10) were spent with the Hershey Bears.

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