In that 42-27 loss, the New England defense seemed to be exposed, and quarterback Tom Brady looked ordinary.

Predictably, the sky has been falling in New England since the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots were beaten rather soundly by the Chiefs in the Thursday night season opener.

Anyone writing off Brady and the Patriots, who play at 0-1 New Orleans on Sunday, should do so with caution. Based on the Saints defense allowing Minnesota’s Sam Bradford to complete 27 of 32 passes for 346 yards with three TDs last week, Brady could be in for a big day Sunday.

Girard, who had a wonderful sarcastic side — he once appeared in a promo late within a Yankees telecast deadpanning, “After the game, Yankee highlights, Met highlights and tomorrow’s racing results” — didn’t countenance stupidity.

Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA. The thing to know about the Seahawks’ first-round pick is that they currently don’t have any picks on Day 2, so it makes the most sense for them to look to trade down a bit and pick up a second- or third-round pick to help address potential needs on the offensive line, defensive line and secondary. If they do deal down, Davenport should be a prime target to address a need at defensive end if Michael Bennett isn’t brought back, which he seems to expect. That is, if someone earlier than here doesn’t fall in love with the big edge rusher first.

For a reported crowd of 700,000, perhaps that’s a relatively small number of transgressions.

Plus, maybe Philadelphians should be given high marks for their improved behavior. As the AP notes, “Thursday’s parade was tame in comparison to impromptu celebration that broke out Sunday after the Eagles’ defeated the New England Patriots 41-33. In the hours after the Super Bowl victory, fans overturned a car, shattered storefront windows, ate horse feces, collapsed a hotel’s awning and hit the police commissioner in the head with a bottle.”

Why was no team trying to sign or even work out Colin Kaepernick? He was too much of a distraction. Why were equally- or less-accomplished quarterbacks getting signed ahead of him? They weren’t distractions. Why did players need to stop protesting at games, why did teams need to get said players under control? Why did segments of the public want the entire issue to go away? Distractions. You can’t concentrate on the game, survive as a team and win with distractions like that.

Yet, the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl. And, arguably, no collection of players immersed themselves in the issues they were protesting, and the issue of protesting itself, more so than the

It’s the second weird rule that worked in the Titans’ favor in this game.

Mariota fumbled during a big sack in the first half, but it couldn’t be reviewed because the refs called forward progress.

The score cut the Chiefs’ lead to 21-10 and was the catalyst for another epic home team failure in Kansas City. A muffed Tennessee punt return gave Andy Reid’s team the chance to put another nail in the Titans’ coffin, but instead resulted in a missed field goal and nine net yards for the visitors.

What on Earth is going onCollege basketball, for one. This is a sport defined by its upsets and played by late teens and early 20-somethings who must do so while also ostensibly functioning as students. Volatility is built into the game. But it’s also becoming increasingly clear that this is one of those years devoid of dominant teams, and where even whichever ones end up looking great retroactively will not be anywhere close to invincible along the way. Villanova will reclaim the No. 1 spot a week after losing it, but the same defensive cracks that Butler busted open can come back at any time.

Buffalo went 3-1 SU and ATS down the stretch to finish the season with a 9-7 SU and 8-6-2 ATS record, good for the sixth seed in the AFC. The Bills enter the postseason with the lowest offensive output in 2017 among any of the teams to advance to the playoffs ranking 22nd in the league in scoring with 18.9 points per game and 29th in total offense with 302.6 yards per game.

Green Bay’s new gunslinger. The Packers’ new starter, Brett Hundley, didn’t necessarily fall in the 2015 draft. Yes, there was hype around the then-UCLA star during the 2014 college season, and talk of him being a high pick. But the truth was that was all it really was—talk.

“Yeah, the media hypes guys up, and then the scouts evaluate them,” said one AFC college scouting director. “His decision-making was an issue, as was his accuracy at times. He’s big, strong and athletic with arm strength, he’s just inconsistent in those two areas.” Another evaluator compared him in talent, and rawness coming out, to Browns rookie DeShone Kizer.wings_557

Stripped of his GM title, Roseman was demoted to cap and contract guy.

The Dolphins’ reeling defense gets a break against a Bucs offense that has little life with no Jameis Winston and zero running game. The Bucs’ defense overachieved against the Jets, but it will go back into the tank against Jay Cutler and Miami’s talented receivers in crunch time.

Chris Peters: For me, it’s the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’re exciting for some of the obvious reasons, like Auston Matthews and their high-scoring offense. They’re also exciting because they’re not necessarily the strongest defensive team, which has led to quite a few high-scoring games. Through 22 games, the Maple Leafs already have scored four or more goals nine times, and four when they’ve scored at least six. Meanwhile, Toronto has allowed four or more goals eight times and five goals six times.

The games are often wide open and fast paced, which brings plenty of twists and turns and high drama. There are also those nights, not unlike Monday night’s loss to the Arizona Coyotes, when they suddenly flip a switch and the entire game goes crazy.

Stripped of his GM title, Roseman was demoted to cap and contract guy.

A year later, Kelly was fired amidst a 7-9 season, and Roseman was back in the saddle as GM — from the penthouse to the outhouse and back. Only this time, Roseman found a coach in Doug Pederson who just wanted to coach and not play GM as Kelly did. But Lurie made it clear: Roseman had to produce a playoff team in short order, or he would follow Kelly out the door.

Andy Reid doesn’t lose after byes. Travis Kelce is one of the best scoring tight ends in the NFL. Tyreek Hill is a freaky big play waiting to happen on every touch. All that is a terrible combination for a free-falling Giants team, especially defensively, under Ben McAdoo and Steve Spagnuolo. Nothing has to give here. Reid will use Kelce and Hill to rip into the Giants’ biggest weakness before handing the ball to Kareem Hunt in the second half.redskins_049

6 sleeper teams to watch for first-round QB selection

Several NFL teams — before any trades or signings are made — desperately need to draft a quarterback early in the 2017 draft. The first wave is formed by the top three teams picking in the first round, the Browns, 49ers and Bears. Then come the AFC East rivals picking a little later, the Jets (No. 6) and the Bills (No. 10).

But there’s no guarantee any of them will actually select a quarterback, especially in a class where there is no consensus No. 1 or No. 2 prospect at the league’s most important position.

“It’s like they’re moving the needle now that it’s my turn to get inducted into the Hall of Fame.”

Owens insists he’s not bitter about being left out, but he has frequently sounded off on Twitter about not getting in. He has called the Hall of Fame a “total joke” and a “flawed process.”

“That’s what my grandmother always told me to do — defend myself. Don’t let anyone run over you,” Owens said of his Twitter rants. “If you allow people to do it, they’ll continue to do it. That’s how I was throughout my career. I’m not going to allow someone to run over me. I have a voice. I did that in the locker room, too.”

MORE: Dan Fouts proves he’s part of problem with Terrell Owens HOF snub

Owens said his name has been mentioned in the same breath as NFL players who’ve had drinking-and-driving offenses, domestic violence incidents and criminal indictments.

“Trust me, in terms of who I am, my character, trust me, I know my character’s intact, ” he said. “Just because I had some situations or disagreements with coaches or players, I’m not the first one that has ever done that. I’m not the first one that’s ever done that, and probably not the last.”texans_098

his size allows him to be a useful pass blocker in the pocket

He accelerates well once he finds a point of attack, and while he isn’t the most patient runner, his size and speed allow him to spin straw into gold. Defenders trying to go high to tackle him are just begging to be on the wrong side of a highlight reel. While he doesn’t have elite straight-line speed, he’s fast enough to create separation in the open field. It’s not an easy task to catch him from behind.

When opponents go low to tackle him, he has a strong enough base to plant and re-adjust his angle of attack. He’s also athletic enough to hurdle diving cornerbacks and keep his momentum moving upfield.

Furthermore, his size allows him to be a useful pass blocker in the pocket, when he wants to be. Fournette whiffed on his share of blocks at LSU, but has the potential to be an extra asset in protection.

Howard’s 33 receptions in 2015 were the most of any Alabama tight end during the Nick Saban era in Tuscaloosa. But Howard might have been the most-hyped tight end recruit ever, and it wasn’t until the final game of his junior year that he truly showed his gigantic talent. Without Howard, Alabama might not beat Clemson, so I’m sure Tide fans will certainly say, “Better late than never.”

“O.J., quite honestly, should have been more involved all year long,” Saban said. “Sometimes 2017 NFL draft nike_eagles_2399he was open and we didn’t get him the ball. But I think the last two games have been breakout games for him in terms of what he’s capable of and what he can do. I would say it’s bad coaching on my part that he didn’t have the opportunity to do that all year long.”

In 2016, Howard was able to get a couple touchdowns during the regular season. Just like in 2015, he had yet to have a 100-yard game, heading into the national title rematch against Clemson in January.

Soaring music plays, and “STAR WARS THE LAST JEDI” flashes across the screen.

Now we see big-ass drones flying across a desert. They’re shooting out red stuff, so they look like they’re bleeding. Now there’s a guy in a space suit. Now there’s another guy in a space suit, and he’s running through the halls of a space castle, I’m pretty sure. Now more hovercrafts are shooting stuff.

Darth Vader and some other Bad Dudes with lightsabers show up briefly to march across more darkness. R2D2 is also there. He’s standing in front of civilization, which appears to be burning, which feels less like a Sci Fi film and more like our current global reality.

Soaring music plays, and “STAR WARS THE LAST JEDI” flashes across the screen.

Having won a national championship, All-American recognition, and three pairs of Golden Pants [for beating Michigan], there really wasn’t anything more for McMillan to accomplish in Columbus. His name will almost assuredly be announced in the first two days of the NFL Draft this April. Regardless of how his career turns out at the next level, one things is clear: McMillan deserves to have his name mentioned aside the best Ohio State linebackers of all time.

The Hinesville, Ga. native was twice All-Big Ten, a 2015 finalist for the Butkus Award (which seeks the nation’s top linebacker), and had one of the NFL Combine’s best linebacker 40 times. He’s considered one of the 2017 draft’s top five or so linebackers:

If a team is looking for a rock solid, run-stopping linebacker, McMillan is that player. At just under 6’2 and 240 pounds, McMillan is a classic middle who can come up and stuff the run. When McMillan squares up his shoulders and drives through the ball carrier, he never misses. He plays with good instincts, and when he’s in zone coverage, he knows how to read the quarterback’s eyes to make a break on the play.nike_jaguars_580

Combine Lattimore with the additions of Ryan and Johnathan Cyprien in free agency

Morris: The Titans could go pretty much anywhere on the defensive side of the ball with this pick, but their biggest hole is cornerback, even after signing Logan Ryan in free agency. This is a very deep draft at corner, but Marshon Lattimore is clearly the cream of the crop. His tape shows the ability to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and stay with a top-flight receiver on a go route.

Combine Lattimore with the additions of Ryan and Johnathan Cyprien in free agency, and Jon Robinson has done a really nice job rebuilding the Titans secondary. This frees them up to focus on getting a playmaker for Marcus Mariota with their No. 18 pick.

Analysis: This pick is all about value consideration and risk. The value determination is whether or not you rank Lattimore higher than wide receivers Corey Davis and Mike Williams. The risk is that Davis and Williams might not be available by the time the No. 18 pick comes up. There will be a good cornerback there at No. 18. After all, it’s one of the strengths of the first two rounds of the draft. There may not be a good wide out.

In July of 2017, WWE looked at a roster that was steadily expanding in numbers and steadily increasing in quality, and decided to split their two brands again. Many were worried about how stars would be handled on the two different shows and what directions they would go it — as it turned out, that would be two very different directions.

RAW retained the glitz and glamour feel it’s held for a long time as the show’s top brand, but with longtime WWE anchor figures in John Cena and Randy Orton both heading to SmackDown in the draft, it created an opportunity for fresher faces to step up in their place and become leading stars in the company. Some guys have definitely done that, with Kevin Owens especially seeing his star rise significantly, earning a long run with the Universal Title that only just ended a few weeks ago at the Fastlane pay-per-view.


Seahawks fighting to hold onto conference lead

With the season just past the halfway point in 2017, the playoff picture in both conferences is starting to come into focus. Sunday features a number of big games with postseason implications; here is a closer look at the bigger matchups of the day.

“What happens if you go to your coach and say, ‘This guy’s bothering me.’ He’s going to look at you and go, ‘Are you crazy? You wuss. You’re not tough. Get out of my office.’ I’m not saying that’s what would happen with [Dolphins Coach Joe] Philbin, because I don’t know, but that’s what’s going to happen with 95 percent of coaches.”

Cleeland shared a locker room with Icognito as a member of the St. Louis Rams toward the end of his eight-year NFL career, and doesn’t have fond memories of the suspended Dolphins lineman.

“I’m not afraid to say that he was an immature, unrealistic scumbag,” Cleeland said. “When it came down to it, he had no personality, he was a locker-room cancer, and he just wanted to fight everybody all the time. It was bizarre beyond belief.”

It was a damaging loss for Washington, and their playoff hopes are now in tatters. Griffin’s quarterbacking style also changed during the season. Many of his struggles this season have correlated with unwillingness to stand in the pocket, take hits, and bounce back up after getting knocked down. It’s not abnormal for doubt to seep into a player’s mind following an injury, especially one as vicious as the ligament tear RG3 suffered. Against the Vikings, however, Griffin stood tall throughout the game, even though he was sacked four times on the evening.

Thursday night’s loss effectively ends the Redskins’ season, as the division-leading Dallas Cowboys are now too far out of reach. There’s a silver lining, and it’s Robert Griffin III who regained his confidence and poise in the team’s loss. It’s not much of a consolation prize this year, but it will benefit the team down the road.

NCAA women’s tournament 2017: Sunday start times, TV schedule, and online streaming

The NCAA women’s tournament carries on Sunday as two No. 1 seeds will be in action and looking to advance. Notre Dame and South Carolina both tip off in the second round against beatable opponents, and neither has been pushed too hard in the early going.

No. 1 seed Notre Dame will also be in action Sunday, with the Irish facing off against No. 9 Purdue. Notre Dame has lost just three games this year — to Tennessee, NC State, and UConn — and the Irish look primed to repeat last year’s Sweet 16 run. If they win, they’ll get the winner of Ohio State-Kentucky in the Round of 16.

Bennett does not like to go fast. That’s a hallmark of literally every team he’s ever coached. Bennett’s Washington State teams took among the fewest possessions in the country every year from 2007 to 2009. His UVA teams have been sloth-like, too. There has never been a Bennett team that’s been even a remote exception to this rule.

So UVA teams haven’t scored a lot of points, for the most part. That makes sense, because points are a counting stat. You can’t get them without fresh possessions. The last four UVA teams have all been in the top 40 nationally in adjusted efficiency rating, but they haven’t been near that in total points per game: 287th, 223rd, 232nd, 309th.

Virginia doesn’t need to score many points. The Hoos take an average of 21 seconds off the shot clock on every possession, making them the slowest team of the 351 in Division I. Bennett’s defenses are awesome, and when you combine their awesomeness with the offense’s pace, you get a defense that allowed (entering Saturday) 56 points per game. That’s the best mark in the country.

The last time Tony Romo played a full season without missing a game was in 2012

Top veteran quarterbacks don’t come available very often. The last one was in 2012, when Peyton Manning left the Indianapolis Colts for the Denver Broncos.

When one does hit the market, every team that even thinks it might have a need at quarterback has to at least investigate.

The last time Tony Romo played a full season without missing a game was in 2012.

That’s why this year, with the Dallas Cowboys dangling Tony Romo, the Kansas City Chiefs need to weigh the risks and rewards of making the move against those of keeping the status quo.

It won’t be an easy decision, mainly because Romo has much wear and tear on a body that turns 37 in April. He hasn’t played a full season since 2014, and anyone who says he can survive one in 2017 is just guessing.

“It’s hard to say,” Berdych said, “but definitely it was very impressive. I was not so surprised. He knows what he’s doing. If he wasn’t able to compete on the highest level, he wouldn’t be here.”

The entire match ran exactly 90 minutes — the fifth-shortest full-term match so far this fortnight. On Thursday, the now-departed Novak Djokovic and Denis Istomin played an 85-minute first set.

“I had no expectations, really,” Federer said. “Things were going well in practice, but I’ve never been the practice king. I was winning tons of sets, but I wasn’t sure that was a good thing or not.”

While Federer looked a tad sluggish in his first two matches, with a balky backhand and a tentative serve, he was unnaturally smooth against Berdych. There were classic half-volleys, a gorgeous drop shot and that classic backhand down the line. Oh, and he moved with that old cat-like quickness, too.