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N.F.L. Week 10 Predictions: Our Picks Against the Spread

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The N.F.L. is down to one unbeaten team (the San Francisco 49ers), and you will have to wait until Monday night to see it play. This week’s games do not offer a lot of must-see matchups, but viewers should be buoyed considerably by the expected return of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Here is a look at N.F.L. Week 10, with all picks made against the point spread.

Last week’s record: 6-7-1

Overall record: 72-61-2

Vikings at Cowboys, 8:20 p.m., NBC

Line: Cowboys -3 | Total: 47.5

As the Cowboys (5-3) went through a three-game losing streak, it was easy to wonder if their strong start to the season had been a mirage. Instead, it appears those three losses, in which Dallas dealt with injuries on its offensive line, were the anomaly. Back at something close to 100 percent, the Cowboys have rolled to consecutive wins with a combined score of 74-28.

Dallas’s hallmark this season has been the big play. Led by Amari Cooper, who is expected to play this week despite a bruised knee, the Cowboys’ wide receivers have produced 31 receptions of 20 or more yards through eight games, which is just eight short of the 39 they had in 2018. Cooper and Michael Gallup have done a great job of generating yardage after the catch, and quarterback Dak Prescott has thrived in Kellen Moore’s offense without taking away much productivity from Ezekiel Elliott and the running game.

The Vikings (6-3) are, in many ways, a similar team. Kirk Cousins has made good use of his star wide receivers while Dalvin Cook has churned out a league-leading 894 rushing yards. Both teams have above average defenses and, according to The Upshot, both face an extreme change in their postseason chances depending on the outcome. A win will give either team a 76 percent chance of a postseason berth, while a loss will drop Dallas to 53 percent and Minnesota to 49 percent.

With a close point spread and evenly matched teams, going with the home team seems right, especially with wide receiver Adam Thielen expected to miss the game for Minnesota. Pick: Cowboys -3

Panthers at Packers, 4:25 p.m., Fox

Line: Packers -5 | Total: 47

The Packers (7-2) started the year looking much improved on defense, but their enthusiasm has waned from week to week. They are still allowing fewer points per game (21) than they did last year (23.5), but their ranking in terms of total yardage allowed per game has declined from 18th in 2018 to 26th this year. Last week, those defensive shortcomings were evident as Green Bay was crushed after its offense pulled a disappearing act.

This week may not be any easier. Green Bay struggles to defend running backs, and the Panthers (5-3) have the most versatile and productive back in the N.F.L.: Christian McCaffrey, who is on a pace to make a serious challenge at Chris Johnson’s single-season record for yards from scrimmage (2,509, set in 2009).

It’s a mismatch made in fantasy football heaven, and even with the wild card of how Cincinnati’s offense will differ with Ryan Finley replacing Andy Dalton at quarterback, it still has the makings of a blowout. Pick: Ravens -10

Falcons at Saints, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Saints -13 | Total: 51.5

Teddy Bridgewater helped keep the Saints (7-1) in first place in the N.F.C. South while Drew Brees recovered from surgery on his thumb, but the team did not score at its normal rate — through eight games, it is 15th in the N.F.L. in points per game (24.4). That ranking could improve in a hurry. Over the next four weeks, the Saints face Atlanta (31.2 points allowed a game), Tampa Bay (31.5), Carolina (25.5) and then Atlanta again. Scoring 30 or more points in a win at home should be easy enough for New Orleans, but with Matt Ryan expected to be back for the Falcons (1-7), this game could be more of a shootout than a blowout. Pick: Falcons +13

Bills at Browns, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Browns -2.5 | Total: 40

The Bills (6-2) have been thoroughly outplayed only once this season (a Week 8 loss to Philadelphia). In the other games, Buffalo’s defense put on a show and its offense found a way to survive. The Browns (2-6), meanwhile, seem to find new dysfunction weekly. Their losing streak, which began in October, was understandable considering the opponents (San Francisco, Seattle, New England), but turned ugly when Brandon Allen and the lowly Broncos stretched it to four games. Cleveland has a ton of talent, but it does not appear that quarterback Baker Mayfield knows what to do with it. Pick: Bills +2.5

Cardinals at Buccaneers, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Buccaneers -4 | Total: 52

Over the last five weeks, the Cardinals (3-5-1) have established that they can beat bad teams (wins over Cincinnati, Atlanta and the Giants) and lose to good ones (New Orleans, San Francisco). The Buccaneers (2-6) are an interesting challenge as they are nowhere near as bad as the teams Arizona beat, but nowhere near as good as the teams that beat Arizona. Linebacker Shaquil Barrett and Tampa Bay’s defense can put a lot of pressure on Arizona’s Kyler Murray, but his Cardinals counterpoint, Chandler Jones, could play an even larger role, rattling Jameis Winston into the game-changing turnovers that the Buccaneers quarterback is famous for. Pick: Cardinals +4

Dolphins at Colts, 4:05 p.m., CBS

Line: Colts -10.5 | Total: 44

You might think Las Vegas would ease up on the Dolphins (1-7) after they secured their first win of the season, but oddsmakers have instead made them double-digit underdogs to the Colts (5-3), even though there is ambiguity as to whether Indianapolis will have its starting quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, or if Brian Hoyer will have to start in his place. The Colts are a much better team than Miami, and should absolutely be expected to win, but the uncertainty of their quarterback situation makes a close game more likely. Pick: Dolphins +10.5

Lions at Bears, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Bears -2.5 | Total: 42

The Bears (3-5) have been reeling during their four-game losing streak. Mitchell Trubisky even asked for the televisions in the team’s practice facility to be turned off so he didn’t have to hear the criticism. A home game against the Lions (3-4-1) could be a huge morale boost, as Detroit allows an average of 424.1 yards of offense a game, which is 31st of 32 teams. But should Chicago fail to make something work with Trubisky or David Montgomery against a defense that porous, then the TV criticism would appear to have a point. Pick: Lions +2.5



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5 Players to Watch – NBC Chicago

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With the Chicago Blackhawks still eight points out of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference with 22 games left to play, Monday’s trade deadline will likely see the team in sell-mode rather than trying to bring in players for the stretch run.

The Blackhawks, who are 2-6-2 in their last
10 games and have lost seven of their last eight contests, were hoping to get
back to the postseason after missing out on the playoffs the last two years,
but with their recent struggles, it would appear that the team’s window of
opportunity is closing for a third consecutive year.

With that reality coming into sharper
focus, Monday’s trade deadline could represent an opportunity for the
Blackhawks to acquire assets for the future, rather than trying to bring in
short-term rentals to help for the remainder of this season.

With that in mind, here are some of the players
that could be on the move before Monday’s deadline:

Corey Crawford

The long-time Blackhawks goaltender will be
a free agent at season’s end, so in spite of a $6 million cap hit, he could be
an intriguing rental option for a team looking for an upgrade at goaltender ahead
of the deadline.

In 30 games this season, Crawford has a
2.89 goals against average, with a 10-16-3 record. He has played much better in
recent weeks, so if the Blackhawks decide they aren’t interest in retaining his
services moving forward, he could be a name to watch ahead of the deadline.

Erik Gustafsson

Speaking of rental players, Gustafsson has
been on the trade radar throughout the season, as he’s in the final year of his
contract with the Blackhawks.

After a 2018-19 season that saw him rack up
60 points, Gustafsson has fallen off a bit, with six goals and 20 assists in 59
games so far this season. Even still, teams like the Vegas Golden Knights have
expressed interest in potentially acquiring him, and he could be on the move in
the days leading up to the deadline.

Robin Lehner

Another soon-to-be-free-agent, Lehner has
had a solid season for the Blackhawks, with a 16-10-5 record and a .918 save
percentage. His goals against average has ballooned up to 3.01 after a strong
start to the campaign, but with a reasonable cap hit and free agency looming
after the season, teams in need of goaltending help could look to the veteran
netminder for a boost between the pipes.

Brandon Saad

In terms of players who aren’t heading for
free agency, a player like Saad could intrigue teams who are looking for a two-way
player with upside on both offense and defense.

With a cap hit of $6 million for next
season, Saad is a player the Blackhawks could look to move in order to clear
some salary cap space. According to reports, Saad could be on the radar for a
few teams, including the Boston Bruins, and his recent run of quality play
could help boost his trade value with the deadline approaching.

Dylan Strome

Strome, acquired last season from the
Arizona Coyotes, is due a big pay raise going into next season, but unlike Alex
DeBrincat he has not agreed to a new deal prior to his restricted free agency.

Whatever factors are going into the
decision on Strome’s contract, the Blackhawks could conceivably try to move him.
The team likes what it has seen from Kirby Dach in his rookie season, and
although losing Strome would hurt the club in terms of its center depth, they
do still have Zack Smith, Ryan Carpenter, David Kampf and Matthew Highmore
moving forward, potentially cushioning the blow if Dach slides into a full-time
second line center role next season.





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New London and southeastern Connecticut News, Sports, Business, Entertainment and Video

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Mohegan — Courtney Williams opted for the old “disrespect” narrative — amusing, if not disingenuous — to portray her departure from the Connecticut Sun.

Williams took her musings to Instagram, that hallowed portal of principle, where her words were fully substantiated by her own opinions. And then supported by all her groupies.

Sayeth young Ms. Williams:

“This process was definitely not an easy one for me, and it truly showed me that it’s all about business, and that loyalty and emotion has no place in these type of negotiations. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt throughout this process. … Don’t get caught up in all the rumors that you may hear about why I left. I never intended nor wanted to leave CT and I hope the Connecticut fans and my teammates really understand that. The word loyalty is thrown around so loosely these days, and maybe I was raised differently, but genuine loyalty is shown through the good or the bad. At the bare minimum I could have gotten a ‘thank you’ like every other player that decided not to rejoin the team.”

On the next episode of Dr. Phil: The perils of youth mixed with entitlement, all on social media.

So here’s the deal: The Sun’s “thank you” came in the form of a max contract offer. No, it didn’t begin that way. But as negotiations progressed, the Sun offered Williams max money. This is called “salary negotiation.” You know. Real world stuff. It comes with being an adult.

Maximum money on a team that came within an eyelash of the championship — all while signing a jewel of a free agent in DeWanna Bonner, theoretically making the team even better.

Hmmm. Why would one want to leave such a situation?

I’ve spent the last day or two talking to people who know Williams. Their refrains have been mysteriously consistent about her departure: We’ve known about this for a while, they said, like before free agency negotiations even began. Hence, Williams’ Instagram bluster aside, she wanted out of here all along.

I asked Sun officials, given that Williams would be a commodity on the trade market, why it had to be Atlanta, not the most talented team in the league. Answer: Williams didn’t want to go anywhere else. It’s “home” for her. Which, again, underscores the idea that she had a specific target in mind for the summer of 2020. It wasn’t Connecticut.

The “disrespect” theme is about maintaining image. I doubt her groupies will change their minds. But I believe it’s important for the people who pay the money to watch the Sun play — honestly, the most loyal fans in the WNBA — to know the truth.

The franchise just dispelled the notion that free agents don’t want to come here. They got a two-time WNBA Champion, three-time all-star and three-time Sixth Woman of the Year in Bonner, illustrating that if you pay people and give them a chance to win, they’ll come here like everywhere else. Provided, that is, winning is important to them.

Courtney Williams’ actions show she’s more interested in Courtney Williams than anything else.

In many ways, Williams espouses the same ideals of many other young athletes now. It’s the James Harden-ization of sports: It’s all about you. Forty shots per game, 30 points per game, crowd adulation and no possibility of a championship because it’s all about one player. Doesn’t matter to them, though, because the checks don’t bounce and there’s always Instagram to craft your message.

It makes no sense to many of us older sports people, who honestly don’t care about salaries, playing time or number of shots. Just that our team has one more point at the end of the game.

The Sun’s addition of Bonner gave Courtney Williams a significantly better chance to win a championship than Atlanta. She could have max money, too. Ah, but would Bonner’s presence mean fewer shots? Fewer points per game? Can’t have that.

So Courtney Williams left.

Because she wanted to.

Know what? Free country. Enjoy Atlanta, kid. You were fun to watch here. But in the end, you weren’t about the Connecticut Sun, your teammates or your fans. You were about Courtney Williams.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro





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Creative Scoring, High Drama and Zion Williamson: All-Star Takeaways

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On a frigid Friday night in Chicago, before the annual Rising Stars Game, Pau Gasol joined the W.N.B.A. star Sue Bird at midcourt to pay homage to Kobe Bryant and the former N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern.

Gasol, one of Bryant’s favorite former teammates with the Los Angeles Lakers, told the story of how “my older brother Kobe used to say, ‘Do epic things always.’”

“So let’s have an epic weekend,” Gasol urged the United Center crowd.

Epic, in truth, was probably not a realistic target so soon after the deaths of Bryant and Stern, both last month. The leaguewide sense of loss is too great.

Yet the various All-Star events did manage to produce an array of memorable moments amid all the grieving. So as regular-season play resumes, here are my five biggest takeaways from what we saw (and didn’t see) in Chicago:

The Anthony Davis free throw that clinched the All-Star Game was not the biggest problem with the “Elam” scoring system.

The biggest names in the game, playing as hard as they did, is what basketball romantics like myself have always hoped the All-Star Game could be. But “Elam” scoring will become the scourge of the league as soon as such intense play leads to an injury. Sad but true.

Improbable as this sounds, we’re not talking enough about Zion Williamson.

So much happened in Chicago that the rim Williamson bent in Friday night’s Rising Stars Game featuring first- and second-year players was easily forgotten. We repeat: Zion bent the rim in an actual game.

Guard depth in the Western Conference is such that Memphis’s Ja Morant will have to be even better than he has been in a brilliant rookie season to become an All-Star in Year 2, like Doncic and Atlanta’s Trae Young. But I think we can safely say that Williamson, if healthy, is a lock to make it to the big game in Indianapolis next February.

Although his New Orleans Pelicans may run out of time to make up the 5 ½ games by which they trail Morant’s Grizzlies for the final playoff spot in the West, Williamson has been an absolute force in his first 10 regular-season games. In 27.4 minutes per game, Williamson is averaging 22.1 points (on 57.6 percent shooting) and 7.5 rebounds.

Get ready to enjoy him on the All-Star stage for years — health permitting.

I can’t wait for March 25.

The Milwaukee Bucks play host to the Houston Rockets that night. It will be their teams’ first meeting since Milwaukee won at Houston on Oct. 24 in the season opener for both.

It will also be the first time Giannis Antetokounmpo squares off against James Harden after a couple of recent shots from Antetokounmpo about The Beard.

To watch it, click here. To disagree with me, click elsewhere.

For the record: I also loved the modestly snowy Chicago weather for much of the weekend — once we got past a truly arctic Valentine’s Day on Friday — but don’t @ me about that, either.

Michael Jordan’s steadfast insistence on avoiding the spotlight, even for a few minutes, will never make sense to me.

The team Michael Jordan owns played host to the 2019 All-Star Game in Charlotte, N.C. The team Jordan led to six championships in the 1990s just played host to the 2020 All-Star Game in Chicago.

Jordan made the briefest of public appearances last year, when he was essentially considered the All-Star grand marshal, and then stayed completely out of public view this year.

Jordan defenders always tell me, when I bring this stuff up, that I cannot possibly understand how hard it is for His Airness to put himself out there. He’s a very private person, they always say, and makes it his mission to avoid the spotlight.

But Jordan had such direct ties to these last two All-Star Games. This has nothing to do with an ink-stained wretch from the news media like me wanting to interview him; this is about Hornets fans a year ago and Bulls fans worldwide this year who were desperate to see him.

The natural instinct Sunday night, when you saw Scottie Pippen being introduced to a roaring United Center audience, was obviously to ask: Where’s Michael?

One Jordan defender asked me why I haven’t made an issue of the fact that we never saw the Bulls’ team owner Jerry Reinsdorf over the past few days. Fair point. But who is really clamoring to see Reinsdorf except Bulls fans frustrated with the direction of their team?

Mortals like me will never be able to understand what it’s like for Jordan to put himself out there, true, but Barack Obama was an omnipresent figure throughout All-Star festivities. If arrangements can be made to allow the former president of the United States to comfortably serve as such an integral part of the weekend, surely there’s a way for Jordan to let himself be seen for the briefest of glimpses.

The only sure way to see Jordan at the first All-Star Game in Chicago since 1988 was to score an invitation to his exclusive annual party Friday night. Monday is when it really hit me how far behind the scenes he stayed all weekend, because the day after Sunday’s All-Star Game was Jordan’s 57th birthday.

Just as the whole party was leaving town, social media was awash with Jordan tributes and factoids. It’s hard not to be disappointed that Monday’s discourse was as close as the masses got to him.


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The roster still has holes — playmaking beyond James, shooting, wing depth — but Lakers management can certainly celebrate its decision to hire Frank Vogel as coach. Although the search was as messy as possible in the moment, Rob Pelinka’s decision to go with Vogel after talks with Tyronn Lue collapsed — with a strong nudge from the team adviser Kurt Rambis — has been a hit.

Worry all you want about the health of James and Davis, but I try not to spend too much time fretting about injuries that haven’t happened yet. What good does that do?

The Lakers are obviously relying heavily on their two studs, but it’s the way it has to be this season. The Clippers have many of the same worries, too, so it’s not exclusively a Lakers problem.

The Lakers appear to have much stronger team chemistry than outsiders imagined, too, which is also largely attributed to James’s influence. Factor in how James has missed only two of Los Angeles’s 53 games, and it must be said that his 17th N.B.A. season is shaping up to be one of his best.

Q: Who was it named for before? — @joesanders33 from Twitter

Stein: Joe is asking about the N.B.A.’s All-Star Most Valuable Player trophy, which has been named in Kobe Bryant’s honor in the wake of Bryant’s death.

Before the change, which the league made official Saturday, its All-Star M.V. P. trophy did not bear a former player’s name. The N.B.A. finals M.V.P. award was named after Bill Russell in 2009.

Q: How far did N.B.A. players run in each decade? As a 72-year-old lifelong fan of the game, I am frustrated hearing about “load management” and how much harder players worked “back in the day” without any data to back up these claims. Where is the data? — William Briggs (Nalcrest, Fla.)





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