SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — What many expected to be a typical Thursday night snoozer between a couple of teams lacking star power turned into quite a thriller.
The Golden State Warriors were the last team standing when the NBA season closed in June. Thanks to a preseason trip to China, they are one of the first teams to get going this season as the league gets up and rolling again.
LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — The stands of War Memorial Stadium are mostly empty as Josh Allen makes his way toward midfield, ball in hand.
NEW YORK (AP) — While Sylvia Fowles was sitting out the 2015 season waiting for a trade to the Minnesota Lynx, the 2017 WNBA MVP spent a lot of time cycling. It was a chance for her to stay in shape and keep her mind focused on other things besides basketball.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Just because drought-ravaged California has spent years urging residents to conserve water doesn't mean it wants people to actually stop drinking the stuff.
SEATTLE (AP) — Cole Hamels has a long history of winning down the stretch, and he gave the Texas Rangers exactly what they needed Thursday night.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — San Francisco's previously dormant offense woke up with five touchdowns, 421 yards and more than enough big plays to win a game.
HOUSTON (AP) — Two weeks ago, Chris Volstad was hanging out at home. His Triple-A season was finished, and for the second straight year, the Chicago White Sox hadn't needed him at all in the major leagues.
NORFOLK — Columbus High swept both matches of a triangular Thursday in Norfolk, including avenging a loss to the Panthers five days earlier.
BOSTON (AP) — Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez had a severe case of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, researchers said on Thursday. His lawyer announced a lawsuit against the NFL and the team, accusing them of hiding the true dangers of the sport.
DETROIT (AP) — With a postseason berth tantalizingly close, the Minnesota Twins snapped out of their mini-slump in emphatic fashion.
CINCINNATI (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals rinsed the bad taste of being swept by the Chicago Cubs the best way they could — sweeping the Cincinnati Reds.
ATLANTA (AP) — R.A. Dickey isn't sure he'll be back with Atlanta in 2018, or even still pitching in the majors, so he took a minute to savor what he said could be the final home start of his career.
BALTIMORE (AP) — After the Baltimore Orioles quickly ended their scoreless streak at 26 innings, Gabriel Ynoa handled it from there.
NEW YORK (AP) — It might be the shot heard around the baseball world: the rocket-like foul ball that hit a young girl at a New York Yankees game.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears have a wide receiver problem, and the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t.
That is why Markus Wheaton — who will apparently make his Bears debut Sunday when the Steelers come to town — is a Bear and it is why Bears fans surveying the Steelers sideline on Sunday should be and probably will be green with envy.
Another new, and wounded, Bear who is also likely to debut in front of the home folks this week, cornerback Prince Amukamara, had this to say Thursday about Pittsburgh’s embarrassment of pass-catching riches.
“Those receivers, Martavis (Bryant) and Antonio (Brown), both amazing.
“I like to use the term that they’re both No. 1 guys on the outside.
“And JuJu (Smith Schuster) and No. 17 (Eli Rogers), they’re all good. No matter where a receiver lines up, it’s not going to be a down to take off.
“We’re always going to have to have our ‘A’ game.”
Amukamara may have given Bryant top billing, but Brown has had three straight All-Pro seasons and, along with Julio Jones, is one of the two best receivers in the game.
Bryant, on the other hand, is the main reason Wheaton is a Bear.
Although the Steelers had high hopes for Wheaton when they drafted him in the third round four seasons ago, at 6-4, 211 pounds, Bryant, originally a fourth-round pick, has 4.4 40 speed and the ability to compete with Brown and Jones for the title of the NFL’s best if he can overcome a list of off-the-field issues.
Wheaton can be very good but has not shown that high a ceiling, and injuries have derailed his career since the Steelers drafted him.
With Bryant returning from a yearlong suspension last season due to substance abuse problems, the Steelers were quite comfortable letting Wheaton try and get healthy elsewhere.
While it will be exciting to see what Wheaton can do Sunday and going forward, his story to date sadly seems to be the theme of a long running problem for the Bears at the position.
Dating back to the Bears' last Super Bowl appearance, following the 2006 season, the best they have have been able to do at the position has been Bernard Berrian, Earl Bennett, Johnny Knox, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and fliers on Roy Williams and ex-Steeler Santonio Holmes after their best football was behind them.
Only Marshall and Jeffery paid any significant dividends on the field, but Marshall hurt the team off the field as much as he helped on it, and Jeffery spent a portion of his time in Chicago figuring out how to leave.
During that same time period, in addition to their current group, the Steelers have had potential Hall Of Famer Hines Ward, Holmes when he was winning a Super Bowl for them, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace, Nate Washington and Jericho Cotchery.
For a decade, as good as the Steelers have been at wide receiver, the Bears have been that weak.
As outstanding as Ben Roethlisberger has been, his targets have been a huge part of it, and as disappointing as Jay Cutler was, his lack of weapons were always part of the problem.
To Bears fans upset and disappointed that Mike Glennon is struggling and Mitch Trubisky isn’t being given a chance yet, their paltry receiver group is a huge part of the problem.
When Big Ben has been banged up, Pittsburgh has won with guys like Charlie Batch and Landry Jones because of the strength of their receiving corps.
Le’Veon Bell is a great running back in part because the Steelers outstanding receiver group prohibits defenses from loading the box to stop him.
Jordan Howard can be a great running back, but he is struggling now because defenses can stack to stop him without worrying about where Bears receivers are.
All of that is why the Steelers are once again playing for bonus time in January, and the Bears are once again playing for their jobs.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots won't be the only winners on the field on Sunday when they play the Texans.
FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Dak Prescott didn't need long to answer whether Dallas' 42-17 loss to Denver was his most humbling day in the NFL.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — The New York Jets signed linebacker David Bass on Thursday, adding a veteran pass rusher to Todd Bowles' defense.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gatorade has agreed not to make disparaging comments about water as part of a $300,000 settlement reached Thursday with California over allegations it misleadingly portrayed water's benefits in a cellphone game where users refuel Olympic runner Usain Bolt.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies have signed Ivan Rabb, the 35th draft pick overall, to a contract days before opening training camp.
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — Former Los Angeles Dodgers star Raul Mondesi has been sentenced to eight years in prison after being convicted of embezzlement during his term as mayor of his hometown in the Dominican Republic.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — With Jamaal Charles barreling toward the end zone, Broncos left tackle Garett Bolles felt someone kick his left leg, sending a searing jolt through his body and a sense of foreboding into his heart.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tampa Bay can't be sure who's playing quarterback for Minnesota this week, so the Buccaneers are preparing for Sam Bradford and Case Keenum.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Taywan Taylor's handle on Twitter is simply @SilentGrind2, all part of the Tennessee rookie wide receiver's approach to letting his play do his talking.
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The banged-up Green Bay Packers have lost another key player to injury with outside linebacker Nick Perry scheduled to have hand surgery.
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Carolina's Christian McCaffrey and New Orleans' Alvin Kamara are in the infancy of NFL careers that are set to run along similar tracks in the same division for years to come.
It's Thursday, which means Arthur Arkush is cracking his first of two Week 3 six-packs. So grab a cold one and keep reading for items on the Bengals, Browns, new-wave bell-cow backs, Buccaneers, Titans and Broncos.
1. Tossing a coordinator or coach over board in-season, like the Bengals did with Ken Zampese last week, often quickly creates a desirable splash. After their move from Greg Roman to Anthony Lynn in Week 3 last season, the Bills’ best player, LeSean McCoy, amassed three of his four highest 2016 rushing yardage totals over the next month as they went on a four-game winning streak.
When Bengals interim coordinator Bill Lazor's old boss Joe Philbin was ousted in Miami in 2015, the Dolphins' most explosive playmaker, Lamar Miller's followed with his two best games of the season, catalyzing Miami's most lopsided wins.
Who's the Bengals' best player? Of course it's A.J. Green (WR3), whose criticism of Zampese after the Pro Bowl wideout was targeted just three times following Houston's top two corners leaving last Thursday night with injury, was as pointed as anyone's.
Green has attracted 28 percent of the Bengals' overall target share, yet he's secured just more than half of the looks from Andy Dalton. What does that tell us? The focus of Lazor will be lasered to getting Dalton and Green clicking with quicker throws — which obviously also helps mask the Bengals' O-line and Dalton's proclivity for crippling under pressure.
It's possible — likely, even — rookie Joe Mixon (RB33) is already the Bengals' second-best player on offense. Zampese was one of infamous rookie shade thrower Marvin Lewis' longtime lieutenants. Lazor came from Miami, where he leaned heavily on rookies, Jarvis Landry (112 targets in 2014) and, when healthy, DeVante Parker (six targets per start, more than 56 percent of his yardage total in those four outings).
Add it all up and we've found our buy-low candidates in Week 3. If you can secure them before a visit to Green Bay and its still-reeling secondary and run 'D,' even better.
2. The man whom Zampese replaced last season, now-Browns coach Hue Jackson, likely isn't considering any rash coaching changes or ceding his play-calling responsibilities after an 0-2 start. But unlike some players whose public griping over a lack of touches is brushed off as selfishness, Isaiah Crowell (RB14) can point to Jackson's own offseason promise to affirm his complaint.
Jackson, recall, "beat himself up" in 2016 for not feeding Crowell, whose 4.8-yard rush average — more than two full yards above his current clip of 2.6 — ranked third among NFL backs with less than 200 carries. Crowell has just 27-70-0 rushing after two games, compared to 30-195-2 after also entering Week 3 winless last season.
Crowell is running for a new contract — something he thinks about, "during the game, after the game, before the game, right now, all the time," as he told local media this week. Our guess is he gets his best opportunity Sunday, when the Browns head to Indianapolis as 1 1/2-point road favorites without their No. 1 receiver. That could mean Duke Johnson — who out-snapped Crowell 39-32 in Week 2 — is back in the slot, and Crowell gets his wish against an improving Colts 'D.'
3. Crowell surely would love nothing more than to join 2017's new wave of old-fashioned three-down backs. Most of us expected Jay Ajayi (94.1 percent of offensive snaps), Ezekiel Elliott (84.8) and Le'Veon Bell (82.8) to pace this list after two games. Very few, though, foresaw Ty Montgomery (88) and Carlos Hyde (80.2) also being in the top five. Mike McCarthy has historically preferred a tandem, and Kyle Shanahan's record-breaking Falcons introduced the NFL's best one-two punch last season in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
Unlike Hyde, with a dominant 7.0-yard rush average vs. stout Carolina and Seattle stop-units, Montgomery has thrived for owners namely on volume (39 touches on an NFL-high 139 snaps) and scores (3). And McCarthy suggested Wednesday he'll likely soon pull back Montgomery's reins, assuming Green Bay can find a better offensive rhythm than it has through two weeks. So Montgomery owners who insured their early investment with a late Jamaal Williams flier should enjoy their stud's success but don't cut bait on the rookie just yet.
With the help of football outsiders, here are Nos. 6-10 in playtime percentage among starting RBs: Melvin Gordon (79.5), Lamar Miller (77.9), LeSean McCoy (71.8), C.J. Anderson (71.2) and Dalvin Cook (67.2). The bookends of that list, Gordon and Cook, are the ones we'd expect could reside there by season's end. And Cook, particularly, has caught our eye through two games — one dominant outing vs. New Orleans and one underrated showing vs. Pittsburgh — en route to leading NFL backs with 30-plus carries with a 5.6-yard average.
4. Cook on Sunday should help us start to determine whether the Bucs' run 'D,' which rendered Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen completely ineffective (20 yards on 16 carries) in Week 2, is truly much improved. That's a huge key to Tampa's postseason aspirations, perhaps as big as any besides the Year 3 growth of Jameis Winston — which relates more directly to fantasy.
And another Viking, lockdown corner Xavier Rhodes, can help us gauge how much Winston has grown. Last week Rhodes took Antonio Brown out of the game in Pittsburgh's home debut, during which Ben Roethlisberger gladly shifted his attention to his other "No. 1," Martavis Bryant.
Can DeSean Jackson be to Winston what Bryant was to Big Ben? Evans attracted a game-high nine targets vs. the Bears, good for 7-93-1, whereas Jackson received seven chances against a defense missing its top corner. How Jackson fares against Trae Waynes/Terence Newman, and how much Winston looks in the direction of D-Jax and his tight ends will provide a solid early fantasy snapshot of the Bucs' new pecking order.
5. With DeMarco Murray (hamstring) on Thursday missing his second consecutive practice, Derrick Henry inched closer to his first-ever NFL start in which Murray isn't dressed. For owners with any stake in the Titans backfield, needless to say this is a huge deal. Mike Mularkey doesn't talk like a coach who'll let a Wally Pipp situation unfold in his backfield, but Henry has the talent to force his coach's hand, especially if he does it against the fearsome Seahawks.
Henry has turned 20 carries into 117 yards (5.8 a pop) and a touchdown. Murray has 69 rushing yards on 21 carries. Mularkey said Thursday he hopes to have Murray back at practice on Friday. We can't help but wonder whether the Seahawks are hoping for the same.
One more Titans note: their two unconventional garbage-time rushing touchdowns a week ago went to Delanie Walker and FB Jalston Fowler. Exotic, sure, but expected to be a regular occurrence? Of course not. If even one of those touchdowns went to Henry, like they did last season when he rounded into the team's formidable four-minute back, we're looking at a top-five RB1 last week. This is another definite buy-low candidate right now, boasting not just easily the highest ceiling of any club's backup but a higher one than many team's current starter.
6. In an offseason piece on the six most likely candidates to crash the QB1 party for the first time, we included Carson Wentz (No. 2), Alex Smith (No. 4) and Sam Bradford (No. 6). In Week 1 Smith was the QB1, Bradford was QB3 and Wentz was QB5. No, I'm not writing this to pat myself on the back; there's a long way to go, and when I toot my horn, it's way less subtle.
Rather, I'm calling myself out because No. 4 on the list was a Broncos quarterback — and not Trevor Siemian, who leads all NFL quarterbacks with seven total touchdowns and ranks second in fantasy behind only Smith.
Siemian heads Sunday to Buffalo, home of the ninth-stingiest defense vs. fantasy QBs and one yet to surrender a passing touchdown. Siemian isn't as athletic as Paxton Lynch, but he's more than halfway to his 2016 rushing total and already more than one-third of the way to his 2016 touchdown total.
He's playing good football. And despite our reluctance, still, in endorsing him as a QB1 this week, another eye-opening outing could earn just that with consecutive home games vs. the Raiders and Giants, respectively, in Weeks 4 and 5 before a trip to face the Chargers.