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Chiefs end home playoff curse, advance to AFC title game

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If the Kansas City Chiefs could have designed the way they will enter the AFC Championship Game, they would have drawn up their 31-13 divisional-round win against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Chiefs didn’t merely beat the Colts on Saturday, they used them as a launching pad. Kansas City will have a full head of steam going into next week’s game against the winner of the Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots (1:05 p.m. ET, Sunday). The AFC title game will be in Kansas City for the first time.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said. “It’s something we feel as an organization we should have accomplished in recent history. Since Andy [Reid] came here, we’ve had a lot of shots. But finally we get a chance to win that AFC championship and to get to do it at home is so special for us.”nike nfl jerseys cheap china

The victory was a big confidence boost for the Chiefs, particularly on defense. They played their best defensive game of the season, forcing the Colts to go three plays and punt on each of their first four possessions.10

The defense pitched a shutout until the Colts scored an offensive touchdown with less than six minutes left. The Colts scored their first touchdown on a blocked punt in the second quarter.

The Chiefs, who entered the game allowing 18 points a game at home, didn’t allow a touchdown in their final regular-season game, a 35-3 win against the Oakland Raiders.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Kansas City made some recent defensive lineup changes that seem to be working. Third cornerback Charvarius Ward and safety Jordan Lucas, who is starting in place of the injured Eric Berry, have played well over the past couple of games.

The Chiefs had been plagued by defensive penalties most of the season but against the Colts they had just one — a pass interference call against Ward with 41 seconds remaining. They had no defensive penalties against the Raiders.

“You could feel the energy all week,” Reid said. “I think some of the young guys are maturing right in front of our eyes and playing well. We added a couple of guys in there. … Everybody’s taking up their game.”

With the emphatic victory, the Chiefs buried their many playoff demons. They won at Arrowhead Stadium in the playoffs for the first time since January 1994. The streak included losses of one, two, three and four points.

Manchester United target Herrera, Mata, Young extensions – sources

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They have been free to negotiate with clubs outside England from Jan. 1 but United are confident they will reach agreements as negotiations continue.

Mata, 30, is keen to stay at Old Trafford but has been the subject of interest from a number of clubs in the Premier League and across Europe.cheap nfl nike jersey

Herrera would also like to stay and is prepared to snub interest from former club Athletic Bilbao to extend his contract. Herrera, according to a source, is happy playing under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after starting three of the Norwegian’s five games in charge. He was rested for the FA Cup victory over Reading and is expected to start against Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday.11

Young, 33, is also open to staying but is keen to seek assurances about how many games he is likely to play. The full-back has options in Italy, Spain, the United States and China and has not ruled out playing abroad if it means getting regular first team football. After spending last season at left-back under former manager Jose Mourinho, Young has made himself the regular right-back with Luke Shaw taking over on the left.

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Joel Pereira has returned early from a season-long loan spell at Vitoria Setubal. The 21-year-old is likely to head back out on loan before the end of the January transfer window.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah is also free to return to Old Trafford from Fulham after being told he is not in manager Claudio Ranieri’s plans. The Dutchman, 21, was due to spend the season at Craven Cottage but could now find a new club ahead of the second half of the campaign.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Sources have told ESPN FC that United also expect a number of under-23 players to head out on loan with Ethan Hamilton, Regan Poole and Ro-Shaun Williams among those who could secure a temporary move for the rest of the season.

Solanke transfer, like Neymar deal before it, could permanently distort the transfer market

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This may be the only time you will see Neymar’s and Dominic Solanke’s names appear in the same sentence, but the two forwards actually have something in common: Both men may have distorted the transfer market with their fees.

At £198 million, Neymar’s world-record move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2017 was a moment of financial folly that sent shockwaves through the game. The transfer was over £100m more than the previous record of £89.3m — set by Paul Pogba’s 2016 switch from Juventus to Manchester United — and it triggered a domino effect of similarly inflated deals. PSG went on to negotiate a £166m deal for Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe, following an initial 12-month loan period. Barcelona dipped into their Neymar cash by spending a potential £135m on Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele and then, six months later, splashed out a further £142m on Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

In a game flush with money at the top end of the market, those transfer fees were perhaps an inevitable consequence of the riches flowing through Europe’s biggest clubs. In fairness to the players involved — even Dembele and Mbappe, teenagers at the time of their big moves — they had all shone in the Champions League before making their moves. Even Bayern’s repeated bids for Chelsea youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi, an 18-year-old with high potential, look reasonable given the Bundesliga giant’s need for young talent, as does Chelsea spending nearly £60m for Christian Pulisic, a player with a track record in Germany and a skill set that will help the Blues over the long term.8

Yet Bournemouth’s move for Solanke feels significant in a different sense. It’s not unusual to see teams completing surprisingly expensive deals, but the Cherries’ £19m move for a player with one Premier League goal and just five starts since his Chelsea debut in 2014 feels significant for all the wrong reasons.nfl nike jersey cheap

Solanke cost Bournemouth less than a tenth of Neymar’s world record fee but it’s still a major outlay for a club of their stature; it could yet rise to an eventual £25m if the former Chelsea youngster is able to trigger £6m worth of incentivised add-ons.

The deal means that Solanke becomes the third-most-expensive English striker of all time behind Andy Carroll and Wayne Rooney. Carroll ultimately flopped at Liverpool after his £35m move from Newcastle in January 2011, but he had at least proven himself in the Premier League at St James’ Park — Carroll had scored 33 goals in 90 league games for Newcastle — prior to his transfer. Rooney, who was just 18 when he completed a £30m move to United from Everton in August 2004, was a star for club and country before swapping Goodison Park for Old Trafford. He was also clearly a prodigious talent.

However, Solanke makes the top three on the list having scored just one Premier League goal during his time at Liverpool and Chelsea. The 21-year-old started five league games in a season-and-a-half under Jurgen Klopp at Anfield (also making 16 substitute appearances) and did not appear at all in the Champions League. At Chelsea, he never kicked a ball in the Premier League and became a symbol of the club’s failure to promote its highly rated youth-team prospects.

On fast track: Lamar Jackson set to become youngest QB to start in playoffs

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Now, Jackson not only is suiting up for a postseason game in his eighth career start, he’s making NFL history: He will become the youngest quarterback ever to start an NFL playoff game.

The fact he will be the first quarterback to start a playoff game before his 22nd birthday has seemed to impress everyone except Jackson himself.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“I’m here to play football. I was 21 all year,” Jackson said. “So, it’s another game for me.”

Jackson will start Sunday’s wild-card game between the Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers at 21 years, 364 days. He will surpass Bernie Kosar, who was 22 years, 40 days old when he started for the Cleveland Browns and threw his first touchdown pass in a 1985 postseason game to Ozzie Newsome (who drafted Jackson 33 years later).

Young quarterbacks have recorded mixed success in the postseason. Since 2001, only four quarterbacks 23 years old and under have won a playoff game (Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Flacco and Mark Sanchez). Over that span, quarterbacks 23 and younger have a 10-11 record (.476) in the postseason.9

Jackson shows his youthful exuberance on the field, from dancing in the huddle to somersaulting into the end zone. But the Ravens don’t think too much about Jackson’s age. Players and coaches have praised Jackson for his poise in going 6-1 as a starter this season.

“Lamar’s maturity has impressed me greatly,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Players see it when he walks around. He’s very comfortable with who he is. That’s a sign of maturity, for sure.”

In comparison, Jackson will be making his eighth career start, while Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will be starting in his 10th postseason game.

When Jackson and Rivers, 37, square off, it will be the third-largest age gap between starting quarterbacks for an NFL postseason game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Jackson was only 7 years old when Rivers threw his first NFL pass, against the Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 2, 2005.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

But Jackson appears unnerved by his whirlwind season. At this time last year, Jackson was playing in the TaxSlayer Bowl. He’s now three wins from reaching the Super Bowl.

“It’s just a name — ‘the playoffs,'” Jackson said. “You’re trying to get the championship now. It was for us to get in it, and we’re in it now, so we want the big thing. We want the big thing now.”

Sony Michel proves he’s the key to the Patriots’ offense

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The New England Patriots are widely viewed as a contender because of the presence of head coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski — three of the best ever at what they do.nfl cheap jerseys nike

But the key for the 2018 Patriots to achieve their championship hopes just might be rookie running back Sony Michel.

The first-round draft choice from Georgia, No. 31 overall, was the best player on the field in the Patriots’ 27-13 victory over the New York Jets. His 133 rushing yards were the most by a Patriots player since Jonas Gray totaled 201 in the 2014 season.

“Coach kind of gave us a challenge this week, on being able to run the football – consistently,” Michel said.

Belichick’s challenge reflected how when Michel gets going on the ground, it takes the burden off Brady, Gronkowski, receiver Julian Edelman and others in the passing game.8

Simply put, he settles things down.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Michel’s breakthrough was among the best news for the Patriots from Sunday’s win, which wasn’t as decisive of an overall performance as they hoped to deliver coming off their bye — red-zone struggles on offense, in particular, were notable.

But proving they can successfully turn to the running game — especially as the weather in the Northeast is getting colder and adverse weather conditions are a more likely possibility — is an important ingredient for most teams with championship hopes.

“Any time you can run the ball like we did, it helps a lot of things. You have to play the run, play-action [passes], and we had some chunks [of big plays],” Brady said.

“It always opens up everything else. It keeps you out of those long-yardage situations, which we have been in the last couple weeks,” echoed Belichick.

The Patriots topped 200 yards rushing as a team to improve to 8-3, keeping pace with the AFC’s top seed, the 9-2 Chiefs. The Steelers (7-3-1) and Texans (7-3) are also in the mix.

Pistons stun Raptors after Dwane Casey’s warm welcome back to Toronto

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A video tribute to fired coach Dwane Casey on his return to Toronto earned a standing ovation from Raptors fans Wednesday night — then Casey’s Detroit Pistons went on to come back and stun his former team with a buzzer-beater.

When Pistons swingman Reggie Bullock hit a floater as time ran out to secure a 106-104 win, Casey thrust his arms in the air and jumped onto the court. The coach was grabbed and hugged and slapped by his players.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

“They were pulling for me,” Casey said. “I appreciate that tremendously. It’s a players league. It’s about the players — it’s not about coaching. But again, it’s about human beings. And those human beings, they felt for me. Telling me — I was trying to deflect it as much as they could, but you know, Blake [Griffin] was the first one. He said, ‘This is a great win for you, Coach.’ And that means something, when your star player comes to you and tells you that, and other players join in.”9

The Pistons had come from 19 points down to win their third game in their past four outings.

“I felt good for the players because they kept scrapping, and that’s who we are,” Casey said.

Casey, 61, was fired by Toronto just days after the Raptors were ousted from the playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third consecutive season.nike jerseys nfl cheap

After leading Toronto to a team-record 59 wins and the top seed in the Eastern Conference last season, Casey also was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year — after his firing.

Casey said that while he did not see the video tribute — Griffin told him about it — he appreciated the gesture.

Manchester City have edge over Liverpool, Chelsea due to squad – Fernandinho

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Manchester City’s depth of talent could give them the edge in the Premier League title race, according to midfielder Fernandinho.

Last season, City finished as champions on 100 points — 19 clear of nearest challengers Manchester United. However, with just two points separating the top themselves, Liverpool and Chelsea after 10 matches, many are predicting a much tighter race this time around.

And Fernandinho said Monday’s 1-0 win at Tottenham demonstrated the depth of City’s squad, and the Brazilian believes it could prove crucial over the busy Christmas period.nfl cheap jerseys nike

“Chelsea and Liverpool are very good teams,” the 33-year-old told ESPN Brasil, when asked if he expected a stronger challenge this time around. “Without doubt they are candidates, who are fighting for the title.

“Our aim is to fight with them, if they are still at the top of the table in March or April. We know that the period we have coming up: November, December is really important for the squad.10

“Our squad could make the difference. Everybody knows the games over Christmas are difficult, with the rhythm dropping, players tiring, It is a time when a lot of teams drop points.

“We are very focused. We know how things work in the Premier League and today [against Tottenham] was a demonstration of that.”nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Despite being lauded for their attacking intent under Guardiola, City’s defence has been key to their unbeaten start to the campaign with the Wembley shutout their sixth consecutive Premier League clean sheet.

And Fernandinho said that, given the conditions of the pitch — which had been used for an NFL match between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jacksonville Jaguars just two days earlier — the way they played was far less important than leaving the stadium with three points.

“The result today was much more important that the team’s performance,” Fernandinho said. “We scored a really early goal after a good piece of individual skill by [Raheem] Sterling which was finished really well — and this made everything so much easier for us because, for both teams, it was very difficult to create any kind of opening.

“After the goal, we defended well, created lots of chances. I think this win was extremely important for us to stay at the top of the table.”

Mike Moustakas, Joakim Soria officially join free-agent class

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Brewers third baseman Mike Moustakas is becoming a free agent again, and so is reliever Joakim Soria.

In addition, the Brewers exercised a $3,175,000 option on All-Star right-hander Jeremy Jeffress, who would have been eligible for salary arbitration if it had been declined.

Moustakas declined a $15 million mutual option on Tuesday.cheap new nike nfl jerseys

He rejected a $17.4 million qualifying offer and left Kansas City after the 2017 season but was unable to find a long-term deal he liked. He returned to the Royals in mid-March for a one-year contract that included a guaranteed $6.5 million — a $5.5 million salary and $1 million option buyout. Moustakas earned an additional $2.2 million in performance bonuses based on plate appearances, raising his total earnings for 2018 to $8.7 million.10

A 30-year-old left-handed hitter, Moustakas had a .251 average with 28 homers and 95 RBIs. He hit .256 with eight homers and 33 RBIs in 54 games for the Brewers, who acquired him from the last-place Royals on July 27.

“I think he provided our team with what we were looking for when we acquired him: a powerful left-handed bat, he played a really quality third base and we had a guy who’d been there before contributing to our clubhouse culture,” Milwaukee general manager David Stearns said last week.cheap nfl jerseys nike china

Soria declined a $10 million mutual option and gets a $1 million buyout, completing a $25 million, three-year contract he agreed to with the Royals in December 2015. The right-hander was acquired from the Chicago White Sox on July 26 and was 3-1 with a 4.09 ERA in 26 games with the Brewers.

Soria had an 18.00 ERA without a decision in two innings over four appearances in the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was 1-0 and allowed just a hit and no runs in 2⅔ innings in the division series sweep over the Colorado Rockies, appearing in all three games.

Moustakas and Soria follow left-handed starters Gio Gonzalez and Wade Miley, along with veteran outfielder Curtis Granderson, in Brewers who elected free agency this week. Gonzalez and Granderson also had been acquired in separate deals to bolster the Brewers for the stretch run.

Rajon Rondo’s bid for a tie fails as Lakers fall to Spurs

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However, San Antonio’s defense didn’t bite, and LeBron James was unable to knock down a contested, overtime-forcing 3-pointer for the second time in a week against the Spurs. San Antonio won another nail-biter over the Lakers 110-106 on Saturday at AT&T Center.

After the Lakers (2-4) had their two-game win streak snapped, Rondo and the Lakers explained what happened when they were down three with a chance to cut the lead to one and foul or tie the game.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“We didn’t have any more timeouts,” Rondo said. “You know, I thought I could probably suck somebody in [on the Spurs’ defense off the Lakers’ 3-point shooters], but they did a great job of staying home. The layup would have gotten us one point closer. We’d still have to foul, but we didn’t have any timeouts, so maybe … I just made a split decision, and we didn’t get what we wanted.”

The Lakers thought they let one get away in San Antonio after leading by 11 with 2:32 remaining in the third quarter. They fell behind by eight with 1:34 left in the fourth but scored seven straight points.10

After DeMar DeRozan (30 points) scored to push the San Antonio lead to 108-105, James hit a wide-open cutting Rondo. Rondo, who had just returned from a three-game suspension for his role in a fight with Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets a week ago Saturday, then opted to turn down a layup. As he went to pull the basketball out of the paint, he nearly lost the ball before passing it to Josh Hart. Hart, covered by DeRozan, immediately fed James, who missed a contested 3.

Hart was able to draw a foul while crashing the glass, and he made the first free throw before saying he intentionally missed the second.

James took an inadvertent elbow from Pau Gasol to the neck as they went for the rebound. Gasol got the rebound and was fouled before making both free throws to seal the game.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

James, who poured in 35 points and 11 rebounds, saw what Rondo was trying to do.

“I was looking for a 3 and then ‘Do opened up wide-open, and I put the ball in his hands to make a play,” James said. “And sometimes when you drive it, you kind of mess with the defense, and they start to shrink in, and you’re able to get a 3, and that’s what ‘Do was thinking, trying to get Josh Hart one. But they stayed home and got it back to me, and I took one that missed.”

Justin Tucker’s unthinkable miss means no kickers are safe

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Justin Tucker missing an extra point is unthinkable and unimaginable.

What the football world learned Sunday is no kicker is immune in 2018 — not even the surest leg in NFL history.

Tucker’s point-after try that sailed wide right in the final seconds of the Baltimore Ravens’ 24-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints continued a nightmarish season for kickers.

There have been 94 missed kicks this season, which ties for the most through Week 7 over the last 25 years, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The only season that had this many misses was 2016.

“I felt like I hit it well,” Tucker said. “But, at the end of the day, the ball just didn’t go through, and that’s all it needs to do to keep the game going.”nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

How unlikely was Tucker’s miss? He had made all of his previous 222 point-after attempts, and he was the only kicker who hadn’t missed with at least 200 career extra points.9

On Sunday, a 14-mile per hour wind around the time of the kick and the even more unpredictable wind patterns created by the new video boards in the corners of M&T Bank Stadium played havoc with Tucker’s extra point, which would’ve tied the Saints at 24 with 24 seconds remaining in regulation.

In many ways, the end of Tucker’s perfect run makes perfect sense this year. Green Bay’s Mason Crosby, who holds the NFL postseason record for most consecutive field goals made with 23, missed five kicks (four field goals and one point-after) on Oct. 7. Carolina’s Graham Gano, who tied the NFL record with a 63-yard game-winning field goal on Oct. 7, has missed an extra point in each of his two games after that.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

“I’ll just say we’ve got all the confidence in the world in Justin,” guard Marshal Yanda. “We’re not even worried about it. It is what it is. It happened. I can tell you right now that I have 100 percent confidence in Justin. He’s our guy, and he’s made a ton of kicks for us, and I’m not worried [one] bit about [him].”

Tucker is the most accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history, converting 89.9 percent of his tries (215-of-239). He has the most field goals made as well as the most 40-plus and 50-plus yard kicks since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2012.