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The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Eagles try to keep playoff hopes alive

The Philadelphia Eagles no longer control their own destiny and squandered those chances with back-to-back convincing defeats.

The Eagles will try to keep their fading playoff hopes alive when they visit the Washington Redskins Saturday at FedEx Field.

Philadelphia was in a euphoric state after dismantling rival Dallas on Thanksgiving, but came back down to Earth with a 24-14 loss to Seattle the next week. To make matters worse, the Cowboys entered south Philly Sunday night and left town with a 38-27 victory and sole possession of first place in the NFC East.

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant torched Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher for 114 yards and three touchdowns on six receptions.

“I had a terrible game. That’s what happened today,“ Fletcher said.

Eagles other defensive back Cary Williams was whistled for a few penalties in the loss, Philadelphia’s third in the last five games.

The start of the game set the tone for the Cowboys, who recovered the opening kickoff deep in Philadelphia territory after Josh Huff let the ball bounce, almost as if he was fielding a punt. DeMarco Murray later scored on a one-yard run to open the scoring and Dallas eventually led 21-0.

Philadelphia would scored the next 24 points for a three-point lead, but the Cowboys persevered with back-to-back scores from Murray and Bryant.

Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez completed 17-of-28 passes for 252 yards and two interceptions. Sanchez, who shouldered blame for the loss, has nine INTs this season to 10 touchdown passes and is looking forward.

“We’ve just got to bounce back,“ Sanchez said Sunday night. “Get this taste out of our mouth as soon as possible, as in tonight, and get in there, get in the film room, shake it off and move on. Because I know we have so much talent on this team, and it would be a real shame if we didn’t maximize it and get these next couple of wins. But it starts with next week.

“I need to clean up some mistakes and attack this thing like I do every week. That’s with a positive attitude, learning from the previous week, learning from this game and being ready to play.“

The Eagles will close the regular season on the road against the New York Giants on December 28 and can miss out on a chance to win the NFC East with a loss Saturday and a Dallas win Sunday versus Indianapolis.

Washington is last in the NFC East with a dismal 3-11 record and is mired in a six-game losing streak. In Sunday’s 24-13 road loss to the Giants, Robert Griffin III took over for Colt McCoy (neck) and completed 18-of-27 passes for 236 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

McCoy left early against the Giants after aggravating a neck injury and was placed on season-ending injured reserve.

Now the starting job is back in the hands of Griffin, who is supposedly the future and face of the franchise.

“We’ve got two games left and we’ve got to make sure that as a team we go out there ready to play,“ Griffin said. “These guys in there are the best in the world, so we have to go out there and show it. So I pray that the team is ready to go.“

Griffin said the Eagles have an aggressive defense, but is ready for the challenge. Griffin did not play in the first meeting with the Eagles, a 37-34 setback at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 3. Kirk Cousins, who is now the backup, threw for 427 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Pierre Garcon caught 11 passes for 138 yards and a score, while former Eagle DeSean Jackson recorded 117 yards and a score on five catches, including an 81-yard TD reception in the third quarter. Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin ended with 154 yards and a TD on eight catches. Maclin, who owns 10 TDs this season, has four 100-yard games in the last five against the ‘Skins.

The Redskins struggled against Giants rookie wideout Odell Beckham Jr. and could be in for another frustrating game versus Maclin.

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who is out with a broken clavicle, completed 27 of his 41 pass attempts for 325 yards and three scores with no INTs back in Week 3. Now it’s up to Sanchez to get Philly back on track. He won his only start against the Redskins back on December 4, 2011 with the New York Jets.

The Redskins lost both meetings with the Eagles last season, but lead the all- time series, 81-74-6. Washington has lost three in a row and six of the past eight meetings between the rivals.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Eagles have been able to slow down two of the top running backs in the league the last few weeks. Murray and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch had seen better days against the Eagles, who now have to worry about both Alfred Morris and Griffin.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly knows how good RG3 is.

“If you sleep on that guy, trust me, you’ll be sitting here after the game going, ‘Boy, he ran for 100 yards against you, how’d that happen?‘“ Kelly said Wednesday. “That kid’s athletic as heck, and he can run really, really well. We have to understand where he is on every single play.“

Philadelphia struggled against the elusive Russell Wilson in the loss to the Seahawks and could be in for a long afternoon if it misses assignments and tackles poorly.

“We’ve got to be really sharp on our contain when we rush the quarterback, because he’s a different element than we’ve seen except for Russell Wilson,“ Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said.

Jenkins also acknowledged Griffin’s arm strength and ability to set his feet and throw after moving out of harm’s way. Griffin has explosive receivers in Garcon, Jackson and tight end Jordan Reed. Morris can catch passes as well and needs 52 rushing yards for a third straight 1,000-yard season.

The Eagles won’t have Trent Cole Saturday and possibly for the remainder of the season because of a broken hand suffered Sunday night. Brandon Graham will make the start in Cole’s place at outside linebacker

“I’m just excited for any opportunity that I get,“ Graham said. “I’m definitely going to make the best of this opportunity, these last two games, and hopefully we can sneak into these playoffs.“

Rookie Marcus Smith could see extended playing time, too. He’s played in eight games and has just one tackle to show for it.

“I’m working hard and I have to be ready,“ Smith said. “The best way to learn is to get out on the field and do it.“

Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin leads the team and the NFC with 14 1/2 sacks and has recorded four in the past four games. Fellow linebacker Mychal Kendricks leads the team with 67 tackles (51 solo).

Washington has a talented pass rusher in Ryan Kerrigan, who has 12 1/2 sacks this season. Kerrigan has posted four sacks in the last five games against Philadelphia. Linebacker Keenan Robinson leads the ‘Skins with 99 tackles (64 solo).

The Redskins are one of three teams with only five interceptions this season. Kansas City is at the bottom with only four INTs. Robinson has one of those picks.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy didn’t have a healthy line to play behind in the first meeting with the Redskins and recorded 22 yards on 19 carries. He has just two 100-yard games in his last six and posted 64 yards on 16 carries Sunday night.

“The situation we’re in now, we need wins, and they’re a team trying to finish the season out. I’ve been there. I know that type of role,“ McCoy said. “You want to play hard, but you’ve probably got your flights already scheduled, where you’re going. We’re fighting for something.“

Tackle Jason Peters was ejected in the first game for defending Foles, who was blindsided by Redskins defensive lineman Chris Baker on a turnover.

“We’re going down there to win ... Point blank,“ Peters said. “Whatever we’ve got to do to win, that’s what we’re going down to do.“

Philadelphia will keep its playoff hopes alive and can only hope the Colts upend the Cowboys in Big D. It’s a lot to ask, but extremely possible.


►  Ravens try to take advantage of banged-up Texans

The Baltimore Ravens hope to clinch their sixth playoff berth in seven years on Sunday when they visit a Houston Texans club that is reaching deep into the quarterback well to keep its postseason chances alive.

The Ravens have won two straight and four of their past five to stay in the mix of an ultra-competitive AFC North. However, at 9-5 they have a chance to secure a playoff spot with a victory and losses by division rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, or a win and a loss by both Kansas City and San Diego.

Baltimore is tied with Pittsburgh for second in the division, just behind 9-4-1 Cincinnati.

The Ravens, who host the Cleveland Browns to close out the regular-season next Sunday, picked up their second win in a row with a less-than-impressive 20-12 decision over the Jacksonville Jaguars this past weekend.

Joe Flacco threw for just 221 yards, including a three-yard strike to tight end Owen Daniels, but defense and special teams also chipped in.

Baltimore recorded a season-high eight sacks—2 1/2 by linebacker Terrell Suggs and another two from rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan—while Darian Stewart blocked a punt that Kamar Aiken returned 11 yards for an early score.

“We didn’t play smart all the time. We had too many mistakes, too many errors that kept us off the field or put our defense back on the field, those kind of things,“ said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “But Jacksonville did a good job. That’s a good young football team, especially on defense. That defense is salty and they get after you.“

Houston’s defense can also get after teams as it proved in Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Texans held the Colts to season lows of 17 points and 278 yards, but still failed to win a third straight game while falling to 7-7 on the year.

Already without wide receiver Andre Johnson (concussion) and tight end Garrett Graham (ankle), Texans starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick left in the second quarter with a leg injury that forced rookie Tom Savage into duty.

“I felt for him because he knew right away that it was injured, his leg was injured, and I felt bad for him,“ said Texans coach Bill O’Brien of Fitzpatrick.

Savage completed 10-of-19 passes for 127 yards with two fumbles—one lost—and an interception in his NFL debut.

Fitzpatrick had season-ending surgery on his leg Monday, while Savage will also be out this weekend due to an undisclosed injury. With Ryan Mallett having been lost earlier to a season-ending pectoral injury, Houston will start a fourth different quarterback this season.

That will be either Thad Lewis or Case Keenum, who was signed off the St. Louis Rams practice squad this week. Keenum played with Houston last season and was with the club in training camp before getting released on August 31.

O’Brien, though, has yet to announce a starter, but whoever goes could also be under center for the Week 17 finale against visiting Jacksonville.

“I’m going to keep that one close to the vest,“ O’Brien said on Wednesday. “Both these guys, Case and Thad, are out there working hard. Right up until game time, that’s going to be the way it is.“

The Texans have beaten the Ravens only once in seven prior meetings, including a 2011 playoff victory for Baltimore.

This game will also mark a return to Houston for Baltimore offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and Owns, who played with the Texans from 2006-13.

Kubiak, meanwhile, was Houston’s head coach from 2006-13, helping the club win back-to-back AFC South crowns in 2011-12.

“I think it will mean everything,“ Owens said of Kubiak getting a win this Sunday. “That’s all we want. Obviously, for this team to go in there and take care of business—to keep our playoff hopes on track—that’s the biggest thing. And then it’s just a little icing on top for (Kubiak) probably to go back into a place (where he was the head coach).“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Both quarterbacks figure to be under heavy pressure this Sunday as some of the top pass rushers will be on the field.

For the Ravens, they rank third in the NFL with 45 sacks and no other duo in the league has more combined sacks than Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, who have 28 between the two of them. Suggs’ 11 give him his sixth-career double-digit sack season.

Dumervil, meanwhile, has joined Texans defensive end J.J. Watt in the Defensive Player of the Year discussions. His 17 sacks are tied with Kansas City’s Justin Houston for the most in the NFL and match is previous career high of 17 set in 2009.

The Ravens limited the Jaguars to 248 total yards, including just 68 in the second half, and Dumervil also picked up a sack.

“It’ll be a good challenge for both offensive lines,“ said Dumervil of this matchup. “We have guys who get after the quarterback, and (Watt) is a guy who can get after the quarterback. So, I’m sure whoever’s defense plays the best wins the game, for sure.“

Watt, who has multiple sacks in a career-high three straight games, with seven over that time, agreed that the Ravens have depth at pass rushing.

“(Dumervil’s) playing very well. He’s playing very good football right now, and their whole defensive line is playing good football,“ said Watt. “You have him, Suggs and (Pernell) McPhee and Jernigan—all those guys are playing some good football up there. So, as a defensive lineman, you enjoy watching good football being played, and they’re definitely doing a good job of it.“

Watt has done a great job of playing football himself. He has 16 1/2 sacks on the year, 10 passes defensed, a pick-six and three forced fumbles, one he returned for a score.

The playmaker also has caught three touchdown passes.

“Where do you start? He does everything well. He catches passes for touchdowns, so what doesn’t he do? He’s just a great player,“ noted Harbaugh of Watt.

Houston’s Watt-led defense will try to slow down Flacco, who has posted a 107.2 passer rating over the Ravens’ past four games. He also is three touchdown passes shy of passing the career-high 25 he threw in 2010, while Baltimore is 23 points short of setting a new single-season record for points score. The 2012 squad scored 398.

Helping Flacco is the fact that under Kubiak, the club has allowed only 16 sacks, second-fewest in the NFL.

Watt figures to challenge that, while Houston running back Arian Foster will attempt to snap Baltimore’s string of 24 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. Foster just missed the mark versus the Colts, rushing for 99 yards on 26 attempts, and is averaging 102.5 yards per game on the ground this season.

Foster has 11 touchdowns, eight of those rushing, over his last eight games.

Johnson also expects to return this weekend from his concussion and is four receptions shy of 1,000 for his career. Hitting the mark this weekend would make him the second-fastest player to do so, coming in Johnson’s 168th career game.

His return should help either Keenum or Lewis.

Keenum passed for 1,760 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions in eight games for the Texans last season, while Lewis has passed for 1,296 yards with five touchdowns and four picks in seven all-time appearances, including five starts.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

In trying to deal with Watt, Flacco should have some room for error as the Ravens defense is likely to make it a long day for either Keenum or Lewis. Not helping either quarterback is the fact that Houston may not be able to lean heavily on Foster given Baltimore’s success versus the run.

The Ravens rank third in that department, yielding a mere 84.3 yards per game, while the Texans are fourth in the NFL with 136.8 yards per game on the ground.

Getting Foster some room to run will be key, but also easier said than done and the Ravens catch a break with the Texans’ issues under center.


►  OBJ takes aim at Rams’ stingy defense

Where was the pass rush from Jason Pierre-Paul earlier this season? The New York Giants defensive end looks to wreak more havoc on the St. Louis Rams Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.

Pierre-Paul recorded only 1 1/5 sacks in his first six games and 3 1/2 over 11 games from September 8 - November 23. JPP posted 2 1/2 sacks in Sunday’s 24-13 win over the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium and has six in the past three games.

“I think we have some people that are playing very well,“ Giants coach Tom Coughlin said today. “JPP is playing very well. Technically, early on, he was doing some things that we could correct and help with and he has really adapted his game again to the way and manner in which we would like him to rush.“

Pierre-Paul is now the veteran of the bunch and arguably the most talented across the defensive line. He had 2 1/2 of New York’s seven sacks on the afternoon, while DT Johnathan Hankins posted 2 1/2 as well. JPP leads the team with 9 1/2 on the season and rookie linebacker Devon Kennard has 4 1/2 sacks over the previous three games.

The Giants have sacked opposing quarterbacks at least seven times in each of the last three games (22 total). They have 41 total this season.

New York has won two straight following a seven-game losing streak and are averaging 28 points per game in the last four. It is 3-7 against NFC foes this season and 2-5 as the visiting team.

St. Louis is coming off Thursday’s 12-6 setback versus the NFC West-rival Arizona Cardinals last Thursday, as the offense stalled with a pair of Greg Zuerlein field goals.

Rams quarterback Shaun Hill passed for 229 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, while running back Tre Mason added 33 yards on 13 carries. Wide receiver Stedman Bailey posted a team-best 74 yards on five receptions.

“It’s hard to win football games when you don’t score touchdowns,“ Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said. “The difference in this game was our inability to get the ball in the end zone.“

The Rams had won two straight and three of four games.

“We’ve got to keep battling in this game,“ Rams tight end Jared Cook said. “The season’s not over. We’ve still got two games left. You’ve got to keep scratching and clawing your way to the top.“

St. Louis leads the series with New York, 25-14, and the teams have split two playoff matchups. The Giants have won the last five meetings with the Rams and recorded a 28-16 triumph in the last matchup on September 19, 2011. Eli Manning threw for 223 yards with a pair of TD strikes and one interception.

Coughlin is 3-1 in his career against the Rams, with the lone loss coming in 1996 while the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has taken off the past few weeks, especially the previous two games. He had 11 receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown at Tennessee on December 7, then caught 12 passes for 143 yards and three scores on Sunday.

Beckham’s speed and excellent hand coordination has him as one of the favorites for Rookie of the Year.

“Nothing this guy does amazes me at this point,“ Giants safety Antrel Rolle said of Beckham. “He’s a phenomenal talent and more importantly, I think he has the attitude and passion that this game deserves and that this team needs. He tries to go out there and be the best of the best each and every time on the field.“

Beckham has six touchdown catches in his last four games and five 100-yard efforts in the past seven. Beckham has recorded no less than 90 yards receiving since early November and his 12 catches Sunday were a rookie record for the Giants.

Beckham’s 12 receptions tied the highest total by a wide receiver in franchise history and it was the sixth time a Giants player caught at least 12 passes in a game. Hakeem Nicks was the last to accomplish the feat, registering 12 receptions at Houston on October 10, 2010. His 972 yards this season are a new Giants rookie record. The old record of 894 was set by Jeremy Shockey in 2002.

The LSU product’s nine touchdowns this season are the highest total by a Giants rookie since Bill Swiacki set the record with 10 in 1948.

“The young man is having outstanding success. When we are getting the ball to him, he’s doing very well with it,“ Coughlin said. “He’s a very good football player. He has the ability to go the distance, I think, any time he gets it ... whether as a punt returner or as an offensive player. He can run the football; he can throw the football, so we’ve tried to create a lot of situations. He does have the talent to exploit the defense in a lot of different ways.“

The Rams are allowing 249.7 receiving yards a game this season.

St. Louis has five players with two or more interceptions and cornerback Trumaine Johnson leads the team with three in seven games. Alec Ogletree, E.J. Gaines, Rodney McLeod and Janoris Jenkins each have two INTs.

Manning is good for one or two interceptions a game, but protected the ball Sunday versus Washington. In his last six games, Manning has thrown eight picks to 10 TD strikes. He won his 90th regular-season game as New York’s starting QB, five behind Phil Simms (95).

Manning, who passed for 250 yards with three TDs and no INTs, recorded a rating of 118.5, the second-highest of the season.

“We are preparing ourselves today for a very good (St. Louis) Rams team that is very physical,“ Coughlin said. “They have done a lot of very good things. They have done good things at home and we are going there to play at their place.“

Manning is facing a Rams defense that has posted 36 sacks, including 10 1/2 by Robert Quinn. Quinn has 4 1/2 sacks in his last three games and has posted at least 10 in each of the previous three seasons.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Giants would enjoy nothing more than to end the season on a high note and perhaps save the job of Coughlin. After visiting the Rams, the Giants will close the season at home versus Philadelphia, which is still eyeing the postseason.

Before trying to spoil the Eagles’ season, New York has to get through a stingy St. Louis defense and Manning must keep the football out of harm’s way. The Rams scored only six points versus a tough Arizona squad and will at least triple that number Sunday.

It won’t be enough, however, to stop Beckham and his remarkable season.


►  Cardinals hope to hold off surging Seahawks

A 10-win season didn’t get Arizona into the playoffs in 2013, so the club made sure not to chance it this year by going 11-3 and securing a postseason spot with two weeks left to go.

A 12th win on Sunday would put the Cardinals in a much-desired position going into the playoffs, but it won’t come easy as they host the Seattle Seahawks.

The Cardinals had to wait a few days after beating the St. Louis Rams 12-6 last Thursday, but they officially locked up their first playoff spot since 2009 when Dallas beat Philadelphia this past Sunday night.

Arizona’s 11 wins this season match a franchise record set in 1925, 1948 and 1975, and another win in this game would give the Cardinals their third NFC West title in seven seasons as well as home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

However, a loss to the 10-4 Seahawks would give Seattle the inside lane at winning the division since they picked up a 19-3 win at home over the Cards back on November 23.

The defending Super Bowl champions themselves can secure a playoff spot with a victory and a loss by either the Eagles, Detroit Lions or Green Bay Packers. They also get in regardless of the outcome of this game if Philadelphia losses on Saturday to Washington and Dallas beats or ties Indianapolis on Sunday.

As if dealing with the red-hot Seahawks wasn’t enough, the Cardinals are down to their third quarterback as Drew Stanton left the win over the Rams with a right knee injury. Ryan Lindley replaced him for his first NFL action since 2012 and completed 4-of-10 pass attempts for 30 yards as Arizona won despite not scoring a touchdown.

The Cards have now won two straight since back-to-back road losses to Seattle and Atlanta, with the setback to the Seahawks halting a six-game winning streak.

Stanton was making his fifth start since Carson Palmer went down with a season-ending ACL tear in his left knee on November 9 versus the Rams.

“I’m glad we don’t have to play the Rams anymore,“ Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “Both times we played them they banged our quarterbacks up.“

At 31 years and 102 days old, Fitzgerald became the youngest player in NFL history to compile 900 career receptions after finishing with seven catches for 30 yards versus the Rams, while running backs Kerwynn Williams and Stepfan Taylor combined to rush for 136 yards on 29 carries.

Arizona is 7-0 at home this season and are looking to go undefeated in a season at home for the first time in club history, but they’ll have to solve the Seahawks first.

Seattle has won six of its past nine versus Arizona, including a 19-3 win on November 23. Stanton threw for 149 yards and was picked off in the loss, while Fitzgerald did not play because of a knee injury.

Russell Wilson threw for 211 yards with a touchdown and also ran for 73 yards on 10 carries for the Seahawks.

Wilson has won 34 games in his career, the most by any quarterback in NFL history over his first three seasons. The latest came this past Sunday, a 17-7 win over San Francisco that knocked the rival 49ers out of the playoff picture.

Wilson was 12-of-24 passing for 168 yards with a 10-yard touchdown throw to rookie Paul Richardson and an interception, while Jermaine Kearse caught five passes for 78 yards for Seattle.

The Seahawks have won four straight, a run that began with the win over the Cardinals, and seven of their last eight overall.

“We’re having a great time right now,“ Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said. “I think we did great overall the whole game.“

Marshawn Lynch ran for 91 yards and a touchdown as Seattle allowed 178 yards to San Francisco in the first half, but clamped down and limited the 49ers to a meager 67 over the final 30 minutes. The Seahawks finished with six sacks.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

While the Cardinals are hopeful Stanton will return at some point, the club can’t be glad to see the Seahawks are on deck for Lindley in his first NFL start since 2012.

As a rookie, Lindley made four starts and six appearances for the Cardinals that season under former head coach Ken Whisenhunt, throwing for 752 yards while getting picked off seven times without a TD pass.

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians kept Lindley as his third quarterback last season, but was released in August in favor of Logan Thomas. Lindley joined San Diego’s practice squad, but re-signed with the Cardinals when Palmer got hurt.

He’ll now move past Thomas and make the start, though Arizona is expected to have a package of plays ready for Thomas this weekend.

Lindley, meanwhile, isn’t trying to draw anything from his previous experience with the Cardinals.

“That’s night and day. At this point I don’t even think about (2012). Just the amount I’ve learned from both Drew and Carson and the staff, it’s a totally different ballgame right now,“ he said.

Lindley will be facing the league’s top-ranked defense, one that is allowing just 272.4 yards per game. Seattle has given up just 27 points and 752 yards over its last four games.

The return of linebacker Bobby Wagner has helped. He has 35 tackles in his last four games, including 10 stops and a sack last weekend, after missing five in a row due to a toe injury.

“We’ve rushed the passer a lot better and made it harder on the quarterbacks,“ noted Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. “The whole defense has played better. The pass rush has really been significant.“

And despite the switch at quarterback for Arizona, the Seahawks aren’t changing things up ahead of this meeting.

“They don’t look that different, in terms of the plays they’re running and how they’re using their personnel,“ cornerback Richard Sherman told Seattle’s website.

“So I think you have to be prepared for them the same way you’d prepare if Carson was playing or if Stanton was in there.“

Seattle is second in the NFL with 17.3 points allowed per game, just ahead of Arizona’s 17.4 given up per contest.

The Cardinals did sack Wilson seven times in the earlier loss, three by defensive end Calais Campbell, though the Seahawks quarterback threw three touchdown passes in a 34-22 win at Arizona last season.

Lynch, though, has been held to just 110 rushing yards in his past two games versus the Cardinals.

Also, Arizona expects to have talented young safety Tyrann Mathieu available this weekend after he missed the previous two games because of a fractured left thumb. He is likely to play with a large cast covering the ailment.

“I wasn’t going to miss this one,“ Mathieu said on Arizona’s website. “I didn’t want to miss the last two.“

Though yet to be officially ruled out, Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung may not play this weekend due to bruised lung suffered versus the 49ers.

Still, the offensive lineman figures to be a stretch to play and will likely be replaced by Alvin Bailey, who stepped in versus San Francisco.

“He made it through it,“ Carroll said of Bailey’s performance against the Niners. “He had some good plays and some bad plays. He did some good things. He struggled a little bit too. He wasn’t on his best game but he made it through it and managed to get through the game.“

Carroll added that extra preparation for Bailey this week would be a big help for the second-year player.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Many have expected the Cardinals to fade this season and those doubters will now have to wait until the postseason to see Arizona go away.

The Cards have so far survived the loss of Palmer, but losing Stanton ahead of such a big matchup is another mighty blow. Lindley must now step into the spotlight in primetime, where Arizona is 2-0 this season.

But Seattle is 3-0 this season in primetime football and now resembles the club that won the most recent Super Bowl.

This season’s NFL title game is set to take place in Arizona and this Sunday could be a mere warmup to the party again for the Seahawks.


►  Cowboys search for different kind of ‘Luck’ vs. Colts

The Dallas Cowboys control their own destiny for an NFC East title and will try to solve some home woes when they host the AFC South- champion Indianapolis Colts at AT&T Stadium.

The Cowboys are winless in their last three home games and have scored no more than 17 points in each of those contests. They were throttled, 33-10, by Philadelphia on Thanksgiving and rebounded with back-to-back road victories over Chicago and the division-rival Eagles.

Dallas is 7-0 on the road and handed Philadelphia a 38-27 loss Sunday night, as Dez Bryant torched the Eagles for 114 yards and three touchdowns on six receptions to help the Cowboys claim sole possession of first place in the NFC East with a 10-4 mark. Jason Witten was a thorn in the Eagles’ side with 69 yards on seven catches.

Witten talked about Dallas’ chances of grabbing a postseason spot and possibly a division crown for the first time since 2009.

“We can’t really worry about how it all plays out,“ Witten said. “We have to handle our business and control what we can. At this point in the season, you know what you are playing for and it’s just one game at a time.“

The Cowboys will close the regular season at Washington on December 28 and has a chance to lock up a postseason berth and the NFC East title with a win and a Philadelphia loss to the Redskins. The Eagles will visit Washington Saturday.

Dallas can also clinch a playoff spot with a win along with losses by Green Bay and Detroit.

“We’re trying to stay together, play together and understand from here on out that these are all big games,“ Bryant said.

Bryant leads the NFL with 13 receiving scores.

NFL leading rusher DeMarco Murray (1,687 yards, 11 TD) suffered a broken left hand against the Eagles and has been limited in practice. Murray’s status for Sunday is unknown and he underwent surgery Monday. Joseph Randle is second on the Cowboys with 237 rushing yards and Lance Dunbar has 91.

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said it all depends on Murray’s conditioning if he will play Sunday, and at this point of the season his running back should be alright to suit up. Most players in this league are battling through bumps and bruises, and Murray is a valuable to piece to the team.

Murray has rushed for 403 yards in three games against AFC foes this season and has recorded five touchdowns in the previous five games against the conference.

Meanwhile, the Colts captured their second straight AFC South title with Sunday’s 17-10 win over the Houston Texans.

Colts QB Andrew Luck threw for only 187 yards with a pair of touchdown passes and an interception, while running back Dan Herron posted 60 yards on 11 carries.

“It wasn’t pretty, but to be division champs is special, and we’re excited about that,“ said Luck.

Luck is looking forward to the challenge in Dallas.

“It’s fun to play teams that are fighting for something. There’s a lot of magnitude to this game,“ Luck said. “That’s a good football team.“

Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who leads the team with 1,345 yards, had 50 yards on four receptions and is dealing with a sore hamstring. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said Hilton is day-to-day for an Indianapolis team jockeying for playoff seeding in the AFC.

The Colts, whose streak of at least 20 points in 20 games came to an end, have won four in a row after losing, 42-20, to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on November 16. They will wrap up the regular season on the road against the Tennessee Titans December 28.

In milestone news for the Colts, veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne set the franchise record with 209 games played. Wayne was asked what the Colts are seeking to accomplish next.

“If you still have room to move up into the seeding chart, you want to definitely do that. And you still want to finish off the season strong,“ Wayne said. “We’ve been blessed to have conquered the division but we still have a couple of games left where you want to win those games. You want to win, so you have that feeling rolling into the playoffs.“

Indianapolis is 6-9 all-time against Dallas, including a win in Super Bowl V. The Cowboys have won the last two meetings, including a 38-35 victory in overtime on December 5, 2010. Peyton Manning was the quarterback for the Colts and threw for 365 yards with two TDs and four interceptions.

Jon Kitna was under center for the Cowboys.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Luck leads the NFL in passing yards (4,492), yards per game (320.9) touchdowns (38) and is tied for third with 14 interceptions. The Colts are averaging an NFL-best 310.9 passing yards per game and are third in total offense with 421.4 yards per game.

The Colts will try to keep Dallas’ home woes going, but it won’t be easy.

“We know what kind of team they have, and what kind of players they have. We’ve got to go on the road and play a darn good football team,“ Pagano said.

It will be tough for the Colts to win if Hilton is out. However, Luck has other targets in Dwayne Allen, who has a team-high eight receiving scores, and Coby Fleener. Fleener has hauled in six TD grabs this season.

Dallas is allowing 249.6 passing yards on defense and 359.9 total yards. It shouldn’t have a problem with Indy’s ground attack, which features Herron and a disappointing Trent Richardson.

If Murray does play, the Colts will have their hands full with him and that cohesive offensive line. The Colts allowed 99 yards to Houston running back Arian Foster last week.

“We’re going to face a great runner in DeMarco Murray,“ Pagano said. “I understand that he has a hand injury and possibly a broken bone; I don’t know. I fully expect him to be out there and that’s how we’ll prepare, but the run defense has been outstanding.“

Indianapolis and Dallas are both allowing 110.4 rushing yards per game.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

If Romo and the Cowboys have plans on making the postseason, they have to start playing better at home. It seems the pressure of winning in Jerry’s world has taken its toll.

Romo was asked about the struggles at home.

“We’ve played well on the road. We’ve played some games well at home, too,“ Romo said. “We just need to do better as a whole and execute better and I look forward to doing that this week.“

Romo has won his last four starts against AFC foes and owns 17 TD passes to just two interceptions in his past eight against the conference. He expects AT&T Stadium to be energetic and loud with the possibility of clinching the NFC East. That goal may have to wait a week, but the Cowboys will get a step closer with a win Sunday.

►  Titans send McCluster to IR

The Tennessee Titans placed running back Dexter McCluster on injured reserve prior to Thursday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

McCluster, Tennessee’s primary third-down back this season, injured his knee during Sunday’s 16-11 loss to the New York Jets.

Signed to a three-year contract by the Titans during the offseason, the former Kansas City Chief caught 26 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown in 14 games. McCluster added 131 rushing yards on 40 carries.

He is the third Titans’ player to be put on IR this week, joining deposed starting quarterback Jake Locker (shoulder) and tight end Brett Brackett (knee).

Wide receiver Rico Richardson was elevated from the practice squad to take McCluster’s place on the 53-man roster.


►  Newton ‘on target’ to start

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera told reporters Thursday that Cam Newton will “probably” start Sunday’s game against Cleveland as the quarterback continues to progress well after a recent car accident.

Newton took the majority of first-team reps during Thursday’s practice, his first full session since injuring his lower back in a two-car accident on December 9. He declared himself pain-free when speaking to the media afterward, though Rivera has yet to make it definitive that Newton would be back under center against the Browns.

“I don’t want to say yes and then suddenly we have a setback,“ Rivera said. “We want to go through the process and make sure we do things the right way. I would say he’s on target. He had a good day today. He looked good out there, took the reps he was supposed to.

“But we’re going through the process. He did a few more things, and we’ll evaluate the tape and take a real good look to make sure he’s fine. We did some more things with him that we didn’t do yesterday, and we’ll increase that again tomorrow to make sure he’s really where he needs to be. Then we’ll double-check him on Saturday morning.“

Derek Anderson filled in for Newton last week against Tampa Bay, throwing for 277 yards and a touchdown to help the Panthers to an important 19-17 win over the Buccaneers.

“I don’t think we’re worried about who is starting at quarterback. I think we’re both ready,“ Newton said.

At 5-8-1, the Panthers enter the season’s final two weeks just behind 6-8 New Orleans for first place in the NFC South.


►  Bears make change at QB

Chicago Bears head coach Mark Trestman has decided to start Jimmy Clausen over Jay Cutler at quarterback for this Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions.

Cutler started the first 14 games of his sixth season with the Bears, completing 66.1% of his passes for 3,640 yards, 28 touchdowns and an NFL-high 18 interceptions.

He has fumbled 12 times as well, losing six to lead the league in overall turnovers.

“This is performance-based only,“ said Trestman during a news conference on Thursday. “We’re not getting enough out of our quarterback.“

Trestman added that this decision is for this week only and he will re- evaluate heading into the final week of the season.

“We’re not playing well enough at the quarterback position on a consistent basis,“ added Trestman.

Cutler said Thursday that he wants to stay in Chicago and can see himself working with Trestman in the future.

“I would like to stay here,“ said Cutler. “I really like it here. I love the guys in the locker room. This is where I’d like to be.“

Clausen, who was signed to a one-year contract in June, hasn’t started a game since 2010 while with the Carolina Panthers. He has thrown nine passes in three games for Chicago (5-9) this season, completing three.

Before this season, the former Notre Dame star hadn’t appeared in an NFL game since playing 13 for the Panthers as a rookie after he was taken in the second round of the 2010 draft.

The Bears enter Sunday’s matchup having lost three straight and six of their last eight games.


►  From Manziel to Manning: Bengals try to solve Peyton

If Jim Ross was getting ready to broadcast the Cincinnati Bengals’ next game, the famed wrestling announcer might say: “Business is about to pick up.“

When the Bengals welcome Denver to Paul Brown Stadium for “Monday Night Football,“ it’s with the stark realization that Johnny Manziel will be turning into Peyton Manning over a one-week span. That’s the equivalent of a basic arithmetic test followed up by one on advanced calculus.

“It’s going to be a big shift, safe to say,“ Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis admitted. “It’s a challenge. (Manning) gets everyone’s attention in this building right away. The player he is, how he carries himself, how he runs things on the field—it’s going to be a great challenge for us.“

Challenge may be an under statement because the Bengals have never beaten Manning whether he was in Indianapolis or Denver, compiling an 0-8 mark when the five-time MVP is lined up opposite them.

Cincinnati inched closer to its fourth consecutive postseason berth in Week 15 when plenty of money signs were flashed but none coming from the player associated with the gesture, Manziel.

The Cleveland rookie quarterback’s first career NFL start was as dismal as it gets and the Browns were whitewashed, 30-0, by the AFC North-leading Bengals.

Jeremy Hill had 148 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries and Giovani Bernard amassed 79 yards on the ground for the Bengals (9-4-1), who produced points on each of their first four drives and remain a half-game ahead of Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the division standings entering Week 16.

Cincinnati can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Broncos and it can earn the AFC North crown with a win coupled with losses by the Steelers, who play Kansas City on Sunday, and the Ravens, who are at Houston.

“We’re still in control of everything,“ said quarterback Andy Dalton. “We know these next two games are going to be big. The way our division is going, everyone keeps winning. We know what we’re facing.“

Dalton completed 14-of-24 passes for 117 yards with one interception against the Browns as Cincinnati won its fourth straight road game to tie a club record.

Denver, meanwhile, already punched its ticket to the postseason dance by winning the AFC West for a fourth straight year after downing San Diego, 22-10, in Week 15.

Now the Broncos are focused on a first-round bye and the top spot in the AFC. Denver will clinch the mini-vacation with a win over the Bengals but needs to win out and hope New England loses one of its final two games to claim the top spot in the conference.

Hindered by a bout with the flu and temporarily sidelined by a thigh injury, Manning got plenty of support from his Broncos teammates against the Chargers.

Manning briefly exited the game late in the first half and produced a modest 233 yards with a touchdown, but five Connor Barth field goals and a strong defensive effort helped Denver sew up another division crown.

“It’s a tough division to win, so it feels good,“ said Manning. “All it does is guarantee you a spot in the playoffs, but at least you have a shot.“

The Broncos limited San Diego to 288 total yards, with the Chargers failing to mount a sustained rushing attack with top back Ryan Mathews out with an ankle injury.

Demaryius Thomas caught six passes for 123 yards and a touchdown, while C.J. Anderson added 85 rushing yards on a workmanlike 29 carries.

“All that really matters now is winning,“ said Thomas.

Manning completed 14-of-20 attempts one week after he threw for a season-low 173 yards and had a streak of 51 consecutive games with a touchdown pass halted against Buffalo. The Broncos won that game, too, though.

Manning was shaken up while blocking Chargers linebacker Donald Butler on Anderson’s third-and-goal run that was initially ruled a touchdown, then overturned on review. When the five-time league MVP hobbled, Broncos head coach John Fox opted for Barth’s 19-yard field goal.

Brock Osweiler directed Denver’s next series, which ended in a quick three- and-out, as Manning received treatment in the locker room.

The Broncos lead their all-time series with the Bengals by a significant 19-8 margin and have won four straight, the last of which was a 31-23 triumph in November of 2012 when Manning threw for 291 yards and three TDs.

Both teams have had their troubles on Monday nights with Denver compiling a 29-36-1 mark over the years and Cincinnati being even worse at 10-20.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Manning and the Broncos offense have taken a step back from their 2013 performance, perhaps the best statistical season in NFL history, when Denver became the first team to pass the 600-point barrier.

That said, when you look up, the numbers remain staggering as Manning is third in the AFC with 4,143 passing yards and even better with 37 TD passes (second in the NFL) and a 106.4 passer rating (tops in the conference). The veteran now has an NFL record 14 career 4,000-yard passing seasons and headlines an offense that is fifth in the NFL in both yards (400.7 yards per game) and points per game (29.1).

If anything the group has become more well-rounded in recent weeks because of the emergence of the ground game and Anderson, who is averaging 135.3 scrimmage yards per game (812 total) with six total TDs (four rushing, two receiving) over the past six games.

The receiving threats remain as good as any in football led by Thomas, who has 1,389 receiving yards and leads all AFC receivers with 41 TD catches since entering the league in 2010. His running mate, Emmanuel Sanders, has a career- high 1,261 yards and seven TD catches over his past nine games.

The Cincinnati defense looked like world-beaters against Manziel but has taken a significant step back overall without Mike Zimmer, now the head coach in Minnesota.

The Bengals D entered last week’s contest 25th in the league and are now 20th after dominating Manziel. The 25 number is probably more indicative of where they belong because facing a QB who isn’t ready to play in the NFL is an anomaly and certainly not what Cincy will be up against on Monday night.

Dalton has been inconsistent this season so the strength of the Bengals offense is the running game, which is clicking now that Bernard is healthy and the rookie Hill is getting more comfortable week by week. The Cincinnati running game has been averaging 145.3 yards per game over its past four games.

That shapes up as strength versus strength, though, because the Denver defense is second in the NFL. allowing only 71.6 yards per game on the ground. Overall, Jack Del Rio’s stop unit is one of the most improved in the league and is fourth overall, surrendering 309.4 yards per game.

The two stars of the unit, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, come off the edge and the Broncos are one of only two teams with two players that have recorded 10 or more sacks (Miller 13, Ware 10).

“We have to get through this game before we have any opportunities at January,“ Lewis said. “It’s been (a playoff mentality) for the last seven weeks. Preparation and how you go about it, and the confidence of knowing what to do and how to do it allows you to play fast. That’s the most important thing, for us: to play fast, to play physical, to play smart.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Bengals are 13-2-1 in their past 16 regular-season home games but one of those losses and the tie came in their past two as the host. With the air of invincibility at Paul Brown Stadium diminishing and Manning’s history of success against Cincinnati, it’s tough to pick the Bengals here.

“It’s our goal (to win the Super Bowl) every year,“ Fox said. “Everybody’s hope and dream before the season is you’ll be hoisting that championship trophy. We got close last year and came up short. Obviously, (the AFC West championship) is a great accomplishment, but we still have more season left.“


►  Extra Points: Bengals need to buck history

Peyton Manning and the dark of night?

That’s as scary as it gets for the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bengals inched closer to what would be an ongoing franchise-record fourth consecutive postseason berth in Week 15 when plenty of money signs were flashed but none coming from the player most associated with the overbearing gesture, Johnny Manziel.

The Cleveland rookie quarterback’s first career NFL start was as dismal as it gets and the Browns were whitewashed, 30-0, by the AFC North-leading Bengals.

But if Jim Ross was getting ready to broadcast the Bengals’ next game, the famed wrestling announcer might say: “Business is about to pick up.“

Cincinnati can clinch the playoff spot with a win over the AFC West champion Denver Broncos on Monday night, and it can earn the AFC North crown with a win coupled with losses by the Steelers, who play Kansas City on Sunday, and the Ravens, who are at Houston.

“We’re still in control of everything,“ said Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. “We know these next two games are going to be big. The way our division is going, everyone keeps winning. We know what we’re facing.“

What their facing is the Boogeyman on “Monday Night Football,“ along with the stark realization that Manziel will be turning into Manning over a one-week span.

That’s the equivalent of a basic arithmetic test followed up by one on advanced calculus.

“It’s going to be a big shift, safe to say,“ Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis admitted. “It’s a challenge. (Manning) gets everyone’s attention in this building right away. The player he is, how he carries himself, how he runs things on the field—it’s going to be a great challenge for us.“

Challenge may be an under statement because the Bengals have never beaten Manning whether he was in Indianapolis or Denver, compiling an 0-8 mark when the five-time MVP is lined up opposite them.

If that wasn’t daunting enough, the game is also going to be played after sundown and that’s never a good thing for Cincinnati.

The Bengals have played twice in primetime so far this season, getting blown out both times, a 43-17 setback at New England in a Sunday night game on October 5, and a 24-3 drubbing at the hands of the Browns while Brian Hoyer was still in charge on Thursday, November 6.

Since Dalton took over the Bengals in the 2011 season Cincinnati is playing .250 football (2-6) under the national spotlight, a sharp contrast from its 37-16-1 mark over that same span during day games.

“I have no idea,“ defensive end Wallace Gilberry said when asked about the team’s struggles at night. “I guess we’re afraid of the dark.“

Add in the three playoff losses since 2011 and the Bengals are a downright dismal 2-9 when the spotlight is focused squarely on them and Lewis’ team is tired of hearing about it.

“It is annoying and it’s our job to make it unannoying,“ safety George Iloka said. “If we lose this game, the talk will come back again. But that’s (the media’s) job to do. And if we want to silence the critics, we’ve got to put up or shut up. That’s how it goes. It might be annoying, but that’s on us.“

Silencing anyone on Monday is going to be a daunting task.

Manning and the Broncos’ offense have taken a step back from their historical 2013 performance, perhaps the best statistical season in NFL history.

That said, when you look up, the numbers remain staggering as Manning is third in the AFC with 4,143 passing yards and even better with 37 TD passes (second in the NFL) and a 106.4 passer rating (tops in the conference). The veteran now has an NFL record 14 career 4,000-yard passing seasons and headlines an offense that is fifth in the NFL in both yards (400.7 yards per game) and points per game (29.1).

If anything the group has become more well-rounded in recent weeks because of the emergence of the ground game and C.J. Anderson, who is averaging 135.3 scrimmage yards per game (812 total) with six total TDs (four rushing, two receiving) over the past six games.

The receiving threats, meanwhile, remain as good as any in football led by Demaryius Thomas, who has 1,389 receiving yards and leads all AFC receivers with 41 TD catches since entering the league in 2010. His running mate, Emmanuel Sanders, has a career-high 1,261 yards and seven TD catches over his past nine games.

The Cincinnati defense looked like world-beaters against Manziel but has taken a significant step back overall without Mike Zimmer, now the head coach in Minnesota.

The Bengals D entered last week’s contest 25th in the league and are now 20th after dominating Manziel.

The 25 number is probably more indicative of where Cincinnati belongs because facing a QB who isn’t ready to play in the NFL is an anomaly and certainly not what the Bengals will be up against on Monday night.

“We have to get through this game before we have any opportunities at January,“ Lewis said. “It’s been (a playoff mentality) for the last seven weeks. Preparation and how you go about it, and the confidence of knowing what to do and how to do it allows you to play fast. That’s the most important thing, for us: to play fast, to play physical, to play smart.“


►  Newton probable for Sunday

The Carolina Panthers have listed Cam Newton as probable for Sunday’s game against Cleveland, one day after head coach Ron Rivera said it was likely that his starting quarterback would return to action.

Newton sat out last week’s game against Tampa Bay while recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident on December 9. He took the majority of first- team reps during Thursday’s practice, however, after which Rivera told reporters that Newton was “on target” to start against the Browns.

Derek Anderson filled in for Newton last week, throwing for 277 yards and a touchdown to help the Panthers to an important 19-17 win over the Buccaneers. The result kept Carolina (5-8-1) right behind first-place New Orleans in the NFC South entering the season’s final two weeks.

Running back DeAngelo Williams’ status for Sunday’s matchup is less certain as he continues to mend from a broken hand that has kept him out of the team’s last two games.

Williams has practiced the entire week on a limited basis and was termed questionable on the final injury report, though Rivera indicated on Friday that he isn’t optimistic about the veteran back’s chances of suiting up this weekend.

Guard Amini Silatolu (knee) and linebacker A.J. Klein (ankle) also have been declared questionable.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Week 16 player fantasy rankings - quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers picked an awful time to have his first game with no touchdown passes of the 2014 season. Last week in Buffalo, he completed just 40% of his passes and threw two interceptions.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, however, do not quite have the Bills secondary. The way Rodgers responded from his below average play (for his standards) at the beginning of the season, owners can expect Rodgers to bounce back and remind everyone why he is the front-runner for the MVP award.

Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford all have very “friendly” matchups against division rivals this weekend. Brady faces the Jets, who rank fifth- most in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Brady threw for 261 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting versus the Jets.

Stafford arguably has the best matchup of the week against the leaky Chicago Bears. Stafford posted 390 yards and two touchdowns versus the Bears on Thanksgiving. Chicago allows the most fantasy points against quarterbacks.

Like Brady and Stafford, Brees ripped apart the team he is facing this week, the Falcons, in the first matchup. Brees was 29-of-42 with 333 yards, one touchdown and one interception versus Atlanta in Week 1.

Peyton Manning falls out of the top-five this week because of his below average play the last three weeks. Manning is averaging 195 yards in the last three games, which were against the Chiefs, Bills and Chargers. Over the same span, he had three touchdowns and three turnovers as well. Those three opponents are all tough on quarterbacks, but so are the Bengals, Manning’s Week 16 opponent. Denver might again feature a run-first attack.

Mark Sanchez is another struggling quarterback, having thrown just two touchdowns and three interceptions in the last two games. Sanchez should get on track versus Washington. Chicago is the only team that permits more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than Washington does.

Robert Griffin III has a chance for a big game as well since the Eagles are also friendly to quarterbacks. If owners need quarterback help, Griffin is an option.

Alex Smith is another option for owners hurting at the quarterback position. The Steelers allow the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.

Top-25 Quarterback Rankings

—————————————-

1) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

2) Tom Brady, New England

3) Drew Brees, New Orleans

4) Matthew Stafford, Detroit

5) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis

6) Peyton Manning, Denver

7) Matt Ryan, Atlanta

8) Tony Romo, Dallas

9) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh

10) Andy Dalton, Cincinnati

11) Mark Sanchez, Philadelphia

12) Joe Flacco, Baltimore

13) Russell Wilson, Seattle

14) Alex Smith, Kansas City

15) Philip Rivers, San Diego

16) Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco

17) Eli Manning, New York Giants

18) Robert Griffin III, Washington

19) Cam Newton, Carolina

20) Ryan Tannehill, Miami

21) Kyle Orton, Buffalo

22) Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota

23) Shaun Hill, St. Louis

24) Josh McCown, Tampa Bay

25) Jimmy Clausen, Chicago


►  Week 16 player fantasy rankings - running backs

With a championship on the line, fantasy owners need to stick with the basics. Barring injuries, start your stars, the guys who have put you in this position in the first place.

Of course, the one exception could be Dallas running back DeMarco Murray.

Murray has been fantastic this season, rushing for a league-leading 1,687 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s added 54 receptions for 395 yards and leads all running backs in fantasy points.

But Murray had left-hand surgery Monday and though he appears to be in line to return to the field this weekend, he is still a question mark at this point. It’s also likely that he’ll give up some of his carries to backup Joseph Randle as the Cowboys try to limit Murray’s exposure.

And if the game is out of reach, expect to see Murray sitting on the sideline. For those reasons, Murray is, at best, an RB2 this weekend versus the Indianapolis Colts and is ranked all the way down at No. 10, his lowest ranking since Week 2.

Our top selection is Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell. Even while his three-game streak of 200 yards from scrimmage was coming to an end in Atlanta last Sunday, Bell was still a big help to his fantasy owners. He scored twice while totaling “just” 119 yards from scrimmage.

Bell and the Steelers host the Kansas City Chiefs and the running back will once again be involved in both the running and passing games. His home splits are significantly different from his road splits in 2014. He’s hasn’t been as good a runner (72.7 ypg vs. 105.3), but he’s been a much better receiver at Heinz Field (79.2 ypg vs. 36.3).

Behind Bell is Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy. After a slow start, Lacy has been a touchdown machine scoring 12 times in the last 11 games. he should get plenty of chances against the Tampa Bay Bucs. He’s also become more involved in the passing game, having already caught more balls for more yards than all of last season.

Sliding in at No. 3 is Houston tailback Arian Foster. Given the team’s questionable options at quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallet and Tom Savage are all sidelined), Foster figures to see 30 touches against the Baltimore Ravens.

You will find Buffalo running back Fred Jackson a lot further up the list than normal. Jackson has attempted 20 or more rushes in two of the last three games and facing a very generous Oakland Raiders team he and the Bills should be “working on the clock” for most of the second half. Earning the 100-yard bonus for the first time this season is not out of the question.

Top-50 Running Back Rankings

——————————————

1) Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh

2) Eddie Lacy, Green Bay

3) Arian Foster, Houston

4) Jamaal Charles, Kansas City

5) C.J. Anderson, Denver

6) Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati

7) Marshawn Lynch, Seattle

8) Matt Forte, Chicago

9) LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia

10) DeMarco Murray, Dallas

11) Fred Jackson, Buffalo

12) Joique Bell, Detroit

13) Justin Forsett, Baltimore

14) Tre Mason, St. Louis

15) Lamar Miller, Miami

16) Latavius Murray, Oakland

17) Alfred Morris, Washington

18) Matt Asiata, Minnesota

19) Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland

20) Mark Ingram, New Orleans

21) LeGarrette Blount, New England

22) Jonathan Stewart, Carolina

23) Daniel Herron, Indianapolis

24) Steven Jackson, Atlanta

25) Joseph Randle, Dallas

26) Kerwynn Williams, Arizona

27) Andre Williams, New York Giants

28) Alfonso Smith, San Francisco

29) Terrance West, Cleveland

30) Doug Martin, Tampa Bay

31) Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati

32) Chris Johnson, New York Jets

33) Knile Davis, Kansas City

34) Chris Ivory, New York Jets

35) Darren Sproles, Philadelphia

36) Shane Vereen, New England

37) Pierre Thomas, New Orleans

38) Silas Redd, Washington

39) James Starks, Green Bay

40) Theo Riddick, Detroit

41) Reggie Bush, Detroit

42) Juwan Thompson, Denver

43) Trent Richardson, Indianapolis

44) Stepfan Taylor, Arizona

45) Bernard Pierce, Baltimore

46) Bishop Sankey, Tennessee

47) DeAngelo Williams, Carolina

48) Alfred Blue, Houston

49) Bennie Cunningham, St. Louis

50) Phillip Tanner, San Francisco


►  Week 16 player fantasy rankings - wide receivers

Wide receivers Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas have helped carry a lot of fantasy teams to championships in 2014, but unfortunately in championship week, none of them have outstanding matchups. As a result, all three of them land outside of the top five on this week’s rankings.

Each wideout faces a defense that does not allow many fantasy points to opposing wide receivers with Thomas drawing the worst matchup in Cincinnati. The Bengals yield the second-least fantasy points to the other team’s receivers.

Even still, now is not the time to get cute. These wideouts are obvious must- start players and all of them are just one big play away from a huge fantasy day.

Julio Jones is expected to be back on the field this Sunday after missing last week with a hip injury. Prior to the injury, Jones set receiving career-highs in back-to-back weeks. If he is on the field, he needs to be in fantasy lineups for what should be a high-scoring affair in the “Big Easy.“

Without Jones, Harry Douglas started against the Steelers and caught 10 passes for 131 yards last week. If Jones suffers a setback, Douglas turns into a strong WR2, but with Jones, Douglas should still receive some FLEX consideration because of the expected high score against the Saints.

If owners are looking for juicy matchups, DeAndre Hopkins faces the Ravens, who allow the most-points to fantasy wide receivers. Hopkins has emerged as a dynamic playmaker as Andre Johnson continues to decline. If this game was a week ago, Hopkins would be in line for a low-end WR1 status.

The problem, however, is it is unclear who will be throwing to Hopkins with Tom Savage, Ryan Mallett and Ryan Fitzpatrick all injured. Thad Lewis and Case Keenum, possible starters under center for Houston, will not exactly intimidate the Baltimore secondary. Hopkins should still be in lineups this weekend, but his upside is somewhat limited with unknown quarterback talent throwing him the ball.

Just taking a glance at T.Y. Hilton’s matchup, it would appear he has a great matchup as well with Indianapolis paying a visit to Dallas in Week 16. The Cowboys secondary is 23rd in the league with 249.6 passing yards allowed per game. Dallas, however, gives up the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, so Hilton comes in ranked as the 19th receiver for Week 16.

Mike Wallace, Larry Fitzgerald and Martavis Bryant should probably hit the bench this week. Wallace is coming off his best game of the season with five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown against Darrelle Revis and the Patriots. That’s a great sign, but the Vikings are a pretty tough matchup for wide receivers as well. Since it took Wallace 14 games to earn a 100-yard receiving day, it doesn’t seem like a good gamble to hope lightning strikes again.

Fitzgerald and Bryant have tough matchups against the Seahawks and Chiefs, respectively. Despite playing at home, both receivers run the risk of posting very low numbers, particularly Fitzgerald, who will have the Cardinals third- string quarterback throwing him passes.

If owners are looking for an emergency plug-in, Dwayne Bowe has a favorable matchup against the Steelers. Pittsburgh has allowed 28 passing touchdowns, the fifth-most in the league. Perhaps a Kansas City receiver will finally score a touchdown.

Top-50 Wide Receiver Rankings

——————————————-

1) Calvin Johnson, Detroit

2) Jordy Nelson, Green Bay

3) Julio Jones, Atlanta

4) Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

5) A.J. Green, Cincinnati

6) Dez Bryant, Dallas

7) Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh

8) Demaryius Thomas, Denver

9) Julian Edelman, New England

10) Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia

11) Randall Cobb, Green Bay

12) Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina

13) Golden Tate, Detroit

14) Mike Evans, Tampa Bay

15) Emmanuel Sanders, Denver

16) DeAndre Hopkins, Houston

17) Roddy White, Atlanta

18) Alshon Jeffery, Chicago

19) T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis

20) Brandon LaFell, New England

21) Josh Gordon, Cleveland

22) Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia

23) Marques Colston, New Orleans

24) Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore

25) Kenny Stills, New Orleans

26) Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay

27) Jarvis Landry, Miami

28) Andre Johnson, Houston

29) Sammy Watkins, Buffalo

29) Davante Adams, Green Bay

30) Torrey Smith, Baltimore

31) Harry Douglas, Atlanta

32) Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis

33) Malcom Floyd, San Diego

34) Anquan Boldin, San Francisco

35) Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati

36) Charles Johnson, Minnesota

37) Pierre Garcon, Washington

38) Mike Wallace, Miami

39) DeSean Jackson, Washington

40) Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona

41) Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City

42) Doug Baldwin, Seattle

43) Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh

44) Eric Decker, New York Jets

45) Kendall Wright, Tennessee

46) Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville

47) Marquess Wilson, Chicago

48) Michael Floyd, Arizona

49) Michael Crabtree, San Francisco

50) Stedman Bailey, St. Louis


►  Week 16 player fantasy rankings - tight ends

Another game, another opportunity for New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski to be ranked at the very top of the list.

Gronkowski has been a very consistent performer this season, scoring touchdowns in nine of 14 games this season. While not quite up to his record- breaking 2011 season, “Gronk” has 76 receptions for 1,093 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’ll face a New York Jets defense that has yielded the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.

Carolina’s Greg Olsen comes in at No. 2 off a 10-catch performance in Week 15. It was his second consecutive game with double-digit receptions and it shouldn’t matter whether Cam Newton is back in the lineup or Derek Anderson is under center. Olsen is a great fantasy option.

In his highest ranking of the season, Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce sits at No. 4. Off back-to-back double-digit fantasy games, Kelce faces a vulnerable Steelers defense. His five touchdown passes this season is tied for the team lead with running back Jamaal Charles. Of note, through 14 games the Chiefs still have zero touchdown passes to wide receivers and nine to their tight ends.

Martellus Bennett of Chicago has been a good option all season, but his No. 5 ranking could now be in question with an unknown quantity starting at quarterback for the Bears. In case you haven’t been near a computer or a television, Jay Cutler has been benched in favor of Jimmy Clausen.

The Cowboys have turned back to Jason Witten over the past seven games. After seeing more than six targets just once in the first seven games, Tony Romo has looked for his tight end in the second half of the season. Four times since Week 8 he’s seen at least seven targets including nine times last weekend against the Eagles. He figures to have a big game against Indianapolis, who has yielded the fifth-most points to opposing tight ends.

Top-25 Tight End Rankings

————————————-

1) Rob Gronkowski, New England

2) Greg Olsen, Carolina

3) Jimmy Graham, New Orleans

4) Travis Kelce, Kansas City

5) Martellus Bennett, Chicago

6) Jason Witten, Dallas

7) Delanie Walker, Tennessee

8) Larry Donnell, New York Giants

9) Antonio Gates, San Diego

10) Julius Thomas, Denver

11) Jordan Reed, Washington

12) Zach Ertz, Philadelphia

13) Jared Cook, St. Louis

14) Mychal Rivera, Oakland

19) Dwyane Allen, Indianapolis

15) Coby Fleener, Indianapolis

16) Jordan Cameron, Cleveland

17) Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota

18) Brent Celek, Philadelphia

20) Charles Clay, Miami

21) Owen Daniels, Baltimore

22) Health Miller, Pittsburgh

23) Ryan Hewitt, Cincinnati

24) Eric Ebron, Detroit

25) Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville


►  Week 16 player fantasy rankings - kickers

The difference between a kicker getting fantasy owners 12 points compared to five points has the potential to be a deciding factor, when it comes to competing in your fantasy football championship. On many occasions, choosing the right kicker is a crapshoot, yet there are definitely a few trends owners can use to help make the correct decisions.

Our top-ranked kicker has the second-most fantasy points (according to Yahoo) this season, with 146, and has accumulated the most points over the past four games (49). Philadelphia Eagles’ place-kicker Cody Parkey has jumped onto the scene as a rookie, and has made a major impact during the 2014 fantasy football season. With the Eagles scoring on just 48% of their red-zone possessions, Parkey should continue to have a good amount of field goal opportunities during Week 16.

New England Patriots’ kicker Stephen Gostkowski was projected as the top- ranked kicker heading into the season, and has simply lived up to that expectation. He has the most fantasy points among kickers (155) and continues to be a major weapon for fantasy owners. Gostkowski’s upcoming opponent, the New York Jets, are giving up the ninth-most points to opposing kickers (8.8 points per game), paving way for New England’s kicker to put together another solid outing.

The only guy who has played in every game this season and yet to miss a field goal attempt, is Indianapolis Colts’ kicker Adam Vinateri. Not only is he our third-ranked kicker for Week 16, but Vinateri also has the third-most fantasy points (146.0) among place-kickers. The future Hall-of-Famer continues to be as steady as a rock for both the Colts and more importantly, fantasy owners.

The Detroit Lions were in desperate need of somebody to solve their kicking woes. After going through both Nate Freese and Alex Henery, it seems Detroit finally found their man in Matt Prater. Over the past four games he has recorded 44 fantasy points, which is tied for third-most among kickers, and with a juicy matchup against the Chicago Bears who give up the most points to opposing place-kickers (11 ppg), Prater is in line to keep his hot streak going.

Another player who did not start the season with his current team is Denver Broncos’ kicker Connor Barth. Fantasy owners need to have confidence in starting him this week against the Cincinnati Bengals, who are giving up the 10th-most points to opposing kickers (8.6 ppg). On top of that, Barth has excelled during his time in Denver, and has put together a four-week span of producing the fifth-most fantasy points (43) at his position (tied with Matt Bryant). All good trends heading into the championship round.

Top-25 Kicker Rankings

———————————

1) Cody Parkey, Philadelphia

2) Stephen Gostkowski, New England

3) Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis

4) Justin Tucker, Baltimore

5) Steven Hauschka, Seattle

6) Matt Bryant, Atlanta

7) Matt Prater, Detroit

8) Dan Bailey, Dallas

9) Shaun Suisham, Pittsburgh

10) Connor Barth, Denver

11) Mike Nugent, Cincinnati

12) Mason Crosby, Green Bay

13) Dan Carpenter, Buffalo

14) Randy Bullock, Houston

15) Nick Novak, San Diego

16) Blair Walsh, Minnesota

17) Phil Dawson, San Francisco

18) Shayne Graham, New Orleans

19) Cairo Santos, Kansas City

20) Caleb Sturgis, Miami

21) Josh Brown, New York Giants

22) Chandler Catanzaro, Arizona

23) Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis

24) Graham Gano, Carolina

25) Billy Cundiff, Cleveland


►  Week 16 player fantasy rankings - defense

It is important to never overlook the defensive position in your fantasy football lineup. Making the wrong choice could easily determine whether you win, or lose, that coveted championship matchup.

After a somewhat lackluster start to the season, the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive unit has shined as of late. They have not allowed more than 14 points over the past four games, and in three of those contests Seattle has let up just seven points or fewer. This impressive streak makes it an easy choice for the Seahawks to be our top-ranked defense heading into Week 16.

With Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback Ryan Lindley making just his fifth career start in such a meaningful game, fantasy owners should expect Seattle’s defense to feast on the young signal-caller.

While Seattle’s defense has been dominant during the past month, the Buffalo Bills’ defense has been even better (according to Yahoo). Buffalo has accumulated 67 fantasy points over the past four games, which ranks second in fantasy football. They have the most sacks in the NFL (49), and with a matchup against the lowly Oakland Raiders, it is hard not to love the Bills’ chances to produce even more.

The team who has the third-most sacks (45) in the league in 2014 is also our third-ranked defense for Week 16. The Baltimore Ravens have played well lately, and as a result have the fifth-most fantasy points (49.0) over the past four games. Their opponent, the Houston Texans have actually played well against opposing defenses, allowing only 5.5 points per game, however with quarterbacks Thad Lewis or Case Keenum destined to make a start, Baltimore’s defense should continue to thrive.

A team that has taken a step back over the past couple of weeks is a team that owners should not shy away from on Saturday afternoon. The Philadelphia Eagles are still atop the defensive charts with 173 points, and will be facing off against the Washington Redskins, who are giving up the second-most fantasy points to opposing defenses (12.2 points per game). Fantasy owners need to start Philadelphia’s defensive unit with confidence.

The casual fan may not have a clue which team has recorded the most defensive fantasy points during the past four weeks. If you said the St. Louis Rams, you are correct; and the ranking is warranted as they have allowed only 12 total points over their last three games, including two shutouts. They will be facing off against Eli Manning and the New York Giants, and with Manning prone to turning the ball over combined with New York allowing the 10th-most fantasy points (8.7 ppg) to opposing defenses, St. Louis makes for an intriguing play once again.

Top-25 Defense/Special Teams Rankings

——————————————————-

1) Seattle Seahawks

2) Buffalo Bills

3) Baltimore Ravens

4) New England Patriots

5) Arizona Cardinals

6) Philadelphia Eagles

7) St. Louis Rams

8) Detroit Lions

9) New York Giants

10) Carolina Panthers

11) Miami Dolphins

12) Cleveland Browns

13) Minnesota Vikings

14) Kansas City Chiefs

15) Tennessee Titans

16) Pittsburgh Steelers

17) Green Bay Packers

18) San Francisco 49ers

19) Houston Texans

20) Denver Broncos

21) Indianapolis Colts

22) New Orleans Saints

23) Cincinnati Bengals

24) Atlanta Falcons

25) Dallas Cowboys



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(Friday, December 19)


Roane County 66     South Harrison 47

Wood County Christians 63     Elk Valley 24


►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(Friday, December 19)


#9 Gilmer County 72     Doddridge County 47

Notre Dame 47     Ritchie County 35

Roane County 59     South Harrison 20

#1 Fairmont Senior 86     Philip Barbour 36

Lewis County 41     Preston 39

East Fairmont 48     Robert C. Byrd 43

Bridgeport 77     Liberty 17

Wood County Christian 59     Elk Valley 44



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Friday, December 19)


Final Score: (3) Arizona 60, UTEP 55

Freshman phenom Stanley Johnson scored 17 points and No. 3 Arizona survived its first true road test of the season with a 60-55 win over UTEP. Gabe York added 13 points and T.J. McConnell tallied nine points, eight assists and six rebounds for the unbeaten Wildcats (12-0), who have now won 39 straight non-conference regular season games. Vince Hunter paced UTEP (6-4) with 18 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out midway through the second half.


Final Score: Eastern Kentucky 72, (18) Miami-Florida 44

Corey Walden scored 18 points and Eastern Kentucky’s tough defense stifled No. 18 Miami in a 72-44 upset of the Hurricanes at BankUnited Center. The Colonels (6-4) held Miami to 29.3 percent shooting from the field and scored 20 points off 14 Hurricanes turnovers. Timmy Knipp nailed five 3-pointers on his way to a 17-point game and Isaac McGlone shot 4-of-4 from long range for 12 points off the bench. Eastern Kentucky shot 53.8 percent from 3-point range. The Hurricanes (9-2) lost for the second time in their last three games after falling to Green Bay on Dec. 6 at home. They were outrebounded by a 37-26 margin. Sheldon McClellan paced Miami with 14 points as its only player to reach double-digit points. Angel Rodriguez went 0-for-6 in a one-point performance.


Final Score: (20) St. John’s 53, St. Mary’s-CA 47

D’Angelo Harrison posted 21 points to guide No. 20 St. John’s to a 53-47 victory over St. Mary’s on Friday. Sir’Dominic Pointer gave 11 points and 11 rebounds and Chris Obekpa added eight points and seven rebounds for the Red Storm (9-1), who have won their past five games. Brad Waldow gave 26 points and 11 rebounds for the Gaels (6-3), who have lost two of their last three games.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Friday, December 19)


Final Score: Utah 101, Orlando 94

Derrick Favors had 23 points and 10 rebounds as the Utah Jazz defeated the Orlando Magic 101-94 on Friday night. Gordon Hayward posted 20 points and six assists, while Enes Kanter added 11 points and seven rebounds for Utah, which has won two straight on the heels of a 1-12 stretch. Tobias Harris netted 24 points and Evan Fournier provided 21 for the Magic, who have dropped five of their last six games.


Final Score: Charlotte 109, Philadelphia 91

Kemba Walker scored 30 points and the Charlotte Hornets rolled to a 109-91 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday to snap a four-game losing streak. Al Jefferson added 20 points and 12 rebounds in the win as the Hornets led for the final 41 1/2 minutes of the game. The earned just their third win in the last 17 games, shaking off Wednesday’s loss to Phoenix, when they blew a 17-point lead. The loss dropped the Sixers to 0-14 at home this season. They are five losses from matching the 1993-94 Dallas Mavericks (0-19) for the worst home start in NBA history, but they won’t be getting closer to the mark any time soon.


Final Score: Boston 114, Minnesota 98

The Boston Celtics began life without Rajon Rondo on a high note. Kelly Olynyk scored 21 points off the bench to lead six Celtics in double figures in a 114-98 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night. Rondo was traded to Dallas along with Dwight Powell on Thursday night in exchange for guard Jameer Nelson, forwards Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright, two draft picks and cash considerations. Jeff Green supplied 18 points and seven rebounds, while Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller and Avery Bradley each scored 14 points in the Celtics’ third straight win. Sullinger pulled down 10 rebounds and Evan Turner contributed 10 points starting in place of Rondo, the All-Star point guard who ranks fourth on the Celtics’ all-time assists list. Shabazz Muhammad led all scorers with 26 points in the loss. The Timberwolves lost a fourth consecutive game overall and have now lost nine straight in Boston. Minnesota was also without one of its key players after Corey Brewer was traded to Houston in a three-team deal Friday.


Final Score: Cleveland 95, Brooklyn 91
Mike Miller scored a season-high 21 points in a rare start and the Cleveland Cavaliers bounced back from their worst loss of the season with a 95-91 win over the Brooklyn Nets. Miller hit 7-of-8 from behind the arc in his first start of the season and LeBron James scored 22 points with nine assists for Cleveland, which was coming off a 29-point home loss to Atlanta on Wednesday. Miller, who hadn’t played since Dec. 4, had just 19 points in 13 games all season before Friday. Kyrie Irving chipped in 16 while Kevin Love had his worst shooting performance in a Cavs uniform, going 1-for-10 for six points. Love, however, finished with a game-high 14 rebounds. Joe Johnson led five Nets players in double figures with 26 points.


Final Score: Toronto 110, Detroit 100

Toronto used a strong third quarter to overcome a slow start and beat Detroit, 110-100, Friday. Jonas Valanciunas led the Raptors with 17 points to go along with seven rebounds in their fifth straight win. Kyle Lowry and Lou Williams each netted 15 points, and James Johnson added 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench for Toronto, which did not lead at all in the first half. In their third straight loss, the Pistons were led by Brandon Jennings’ 22 points and eight assists. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope chipped in 18 points on 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range.


Final Score: Washington 105, Miami 103

John Wall and the Washington Wizards added to the Miami Heats’ early season misery at home. Wall had 20 points and 10 assists as the Wizards defeated the Heat 105-103 on Friday night. Dwyane Wade knocked down a straightaway 3-pointer off an inbounds pass with 16.7 seconds left to claw Miami within 101-100. Bradley Beal sunk a pair of free throws at the other end and then came up with the game-clinching steal. The Wizards double-teamed Wade right as he crossed the halfcourt line and Beal came up with the swipe before hitting two more free throws to seal the outcome with 3.8 ticks left. The Heat lost their fifth straight at home for the first time since March of 2008 and have dropped eight of their last nine in South Beach overall.


Final Score: Chicago 103, Memphis 97

Jimmy Butler’s first double-double of the season helped the Chicago Bulls to a 103-97 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night. A night after he went for a career-high 35 points in a win over the New York Knicks, Butler netted 31 points with 10 rebounds as the Bulls stopped Memphis’ six-game winning streak. The Grizzlies were coming off a tough, three-overtime victory over San Antonio their last time out. Nikola Mirotic proved to be a spark off the bench for Chicago, scoring a career- high 27 points on 6-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc. The Bulls, who have won two straight and five of their last six, were without Derrick Rose (illness) and Taj Gibson (ankle) for a second straight game. Mike Conley deposited 21 points on 7-of-18 shooting and Beno Udrih posted 15 points in the setback. Grizzlies forward Marc Gasol contributed 13 points with 10 rebounds, while his brother, Pau, was held to six points to go along with 11 rebounds for Chicago.


Final Score: Portland 129, San Antonio 119 (3-OT)

The Portland Trail Blazers became the second team this week to beat the San Antonio Spurs in triple-overtime. Damian Lillard had 43 points, LaMarcus Aldridge scored 32 and the Blazers pulled away in the third overtime to top the Spurs 129-119 on Friday night. Lillard hit game-tying 3-pointers in regulation and the first overtime and scored nine of Portland’s 17 points in the third overtime as the Blazers wrapped up their fourth consecutive win. Cory Joseph hit a tying shot in the second OT for San Antonio, which became the first NBA team in 63 years to play in consecutive three-overtime games. The Spurs fell to Memphis 117-116 in Wednesday’s thriller, two days after the Blazers beat them in Portland. So the reigning NBA champions have dropped three in a row, their longest losing streak since a three-game slide Jan. 26-29.


Final Score: Denver 109, LA Clippers 106

Nate Robinson had 20 points to lead seven Denver scorers in double figures and the Nuggets held on for a 109-106 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night. Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick both missed 3-pointers during a Clippers flurry in the final seconds after Blake Griffin missed a free throw on purpose with 12.6 ticks left. Wilson Chandler added 16 points and Kenneth Faried scored 14 for the Nuggets, who snapped a three-game losing streak and won for only the second time in their last nine. Griffin had 32 points and 12 rebounds to lead Los Angeles, Jamal Crawford scored 20 off the bench and Chris Paul added 17 points and 15 assists.


Final Score: Oklahoma City 104, LA Lakers 103

Russell Westbrook scored 31 points with 10 assists and five rebounds to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 104-103 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night. Reggie Jackson deposited 25 points, Serge Ibaka netted 16 points with seven rebounds and five blocks and Andre Roberson added 10 points for the Thunder, who played without Kevin Durant due to a sprained right ankle. Durant left Thursday’s loss to the Warriors after sustaining the sprain late in the first half. Oklahoma City has won eight of its last nine games. Ed Davis paced the Lakers with 18 points to go along with nine rebounds, while Ronnie Price and Carlos Boozer chipped in with 14 points apiece. Los Angeles has lost two straight on the heels of a three-game winning streak. Kobe Bryant finished with a season low-tying nine points on 3-for-15 shooting. He did add a team-high eight assists with eight rebounds.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Olympian Michael Phelps pleads guilty to DUI

Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps entered a guilty plea to a drunk driving charge on Friday in a Baltimore courtroom and received a one-year suspended sentence.

Phelps was arrested September 30.

After entering the guilty plea Friday, Phelps told the judge he made a “bad mistake” and was looking toward his future. He entered a treatment program after his arrest.

Phelps, who was suspended by USA Swimming for six months following his arrest, will remain on probation for 18 months.

According to the Maryland Transportation Authority, Phelps was charged with DUI, excessive speed and crossing double lane lines within the Fort McHenry Tunnel on I-95 in Baltimore.

The MDTA report said Phelps was driving a 2014 white Land Rover at a speed of 84 miles per hour in a 45-mph zone. An officer pulled the vehicle over beyond the tunnel’s toll plaza and Phelps failed to perform the standard field sobriety tests. He was cooperative throughout the process.

This was Phelps’ second arrest on DUI-related charges, with the first coming in 2004 for which he also received 18 months’ probation and a $250 fine.

Phelps has won a record 18 Olympic gold medals and 22 overall.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Dodgers complete trade for Rollins

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies have finalized their agreed-upon trade that sends former National League MVP Jimmy Rollins to the West Coast for a pair of minor league pitching prospects.

Rollins, the 2007 NL MVP and the Phillies’ all-time hits leader, heads to Los Angeles in exchange for right-hander Zach Eflin and lefty Tom Windle. Philadelphia is also sending the Dodgers an undisclosed amount of cash to help cover Rollins’ $11 million salary for this coming season.

The two teams have had the parameters of the deal in place since last week’s Winter Meetings, but it was held up because of a delay in the trade between the Dodgers and San Diego involving slugger Matt Kemp.

Eflin, a Padres farmhand, was part of the package Los Angeles received in the Kemp deal, which was finally completed Thursday after an issue regarding Kemp’s physical was resolved.

Rollins turned 36 years old last month but remains a capable all-around shortstop. The three-time All-Star hit 17 home runs and stole 28 bases in 138 games last season, finishing the year with a .243 average and 55 RBI.

The California native had spent his entire professional career in the Phillies organization. Rollins was selected by Philadelphia in the second round of the 1996 MLB Draft and made his big league debut in September of 2000. He proceeded to start the next 14 Opening Days for the franchise, developing into a cornerstone of a Phillies team that won five straight NL East titles from 2007-11 and captured the 2008 World Series.

Rollins amassed 2,306 hits and a franchise-record 479 doubles in a Phillies uniform, and also ranks second in team annals in games played (2,090), extra- base hits (806), stolen bases (453) and total bases (3,655). He also won four Gold Gloves for his work at shortstop, most recently in 2011.

“Jimmy is both an iconic player and person whom I have had the great joy of watching grow up in this game and this city,“ Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro stated. “His contributions to the franchise and to Philadelphia are unparalleled and I wish him the best in Los Angeles. This transaction is one that I believe benefits both Jimmy and the Phillies.“

The Dodgers were in the market for a shortstop after 2014 starter Hanley Ramirez signed with Boston as a free agent.

Eflin, 20, is coming off a solid season in the Class A California League, going 10-7 with a 3.80 ERA in 24 starts for Lake Elsinore. A supplemental first round selection of the Padres in 2012, he led the Midwest League with a 2.73 ERA in his first full pro season in 2013.

Windle, a second-round pick of the Dodgers in the 2013 draft, went 12-8 with a 4.26 ERA in 26 games (25 starts) for Rancho Cucamonga in the Cal League.


►  Braves send Justin Upton to San Diego

The San Diego Padres continued what has been a whirlwind week on Friday, as they have apparently acquired outfielder Justin Upton from the Atlanta Braves.

San Diego put the finishing touches on deals for both outfielder Matt Kemp and catcher Derek Norris on Thursday, and are also working toward finalizing a three-team trade that would net them 2013 American League Rookie of the Year Wil Myers.

Now, according to multiple reports, they have picked up Upton. Although the return is not yet known, minor league left-hander Max Fried is one name rumored to be headed to Atlanta.

Upton, 27, won a Silver Slugger Award last season for the Braves, as he hit .270 with a 29 home runs and improved upon his RBI total by 32, as he drove in a career-best 102 runs over 154 games.

The first overall pick in the 2005 draft, Upton spent the first six years of his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks before being dealt prior to the start of the 2013 to Atlanta, where he spent the last two seasons playing alongside his brother, B.J.

Upton is entering the final year of his contract and is expected to make $14.5 million in 2015 before becoming a free agent.

A two-time All-Star, Upton is a career .274 hitter with 164 home runs and 535 RBI in 1,034 games for the Diamondbacks and Braves.


►  Giants retain Peavy with 2-year deal

The San Francisco Giants have apparently re-signed right-hander Jake Peavy to a two-year contract.

Although the Giants have yet to confirm the deal, the pact is believed to be worth $24 million and contains a full no-trade clause.

Peavy started last season with Boston, but was dealt to San Francisco in late July after going 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA in 20 outings for the Red Sox. However, he flourished with the Giants, as he was 6-4 with a 2.17 ERA in 12 starts.

The 33-year-old hurler also made four starts for the Giants in the postseason and was 1-2 with a 6.19 ERA. He tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings in his NLDS start versus Washington, but his season ended on a sour note, as he lasted just 1 1/3 innings in a Game 6 World Series loss to the Kansas City Royals.

A National League Cy Young Award winner with the San Diego Padres in 2007 and a three-time All-Star, Peavy is 139-111 with a 3.53 ERA over 13 seasons with the Padres, Chicago White Sox, Red Sox and Giants.


►  Padres pick up Myers from Rays in 11-player deal with Nationals

The San Diego Padres continued to reshape their roster Friday, acquiring outfielder Wil Myers from the Tampa Bay Rays as part of an 11-player trade that also involved the Washington Nationals.

The Padres picked up Myers, the 2013 American League Rookie of the Year, along with catcher Ryan Hanigan and minor league pitchers Gerardo Reyes and Jose Castillo from the Rays.

Tampa Bay received catcher Rene Rivera, minor league first baseman Jake Bauers and pitcher Burch Smith from the Padres, as well as outfielder Steven Souza and pitcher Travis Ott from Washington. The Nationals will pick up pitcher Joe Ross and a player to be named later, said to be shortstop Trea Turner, from the Padres.

Myers, who just turned 24 years old, is the centerpiece of the trade.

The Rays acquired Myers from Kansas City prior to the 2013 season in the deal that sent pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals.

Myers, in 88 games as a rookie, batted .293 while hitting 13 homers and driving in 53 runs to help Tampa Bay to a wild card berth. A wrist injury slowed him down in 2014, when he played just 87 games and hit six homers with 35 RBI and batted only .222.

Hanigan hit just .218 in 84 games last season, his first in Tampa Bay after playing the first seven years of his career in Cincinnati. The 34-year-old veteran, who has played more than 100 games in a season just once, is a career. 256 hitter with 25 homers and 172 RBI in 558 games.

The Padres have been busy since the start of last week’s Winter Meetings, signing pitcher Brandon Morrow while adding outfielder Matt Kemp and catcher Derek Norris in trades with the Dodgers and Athletics, respectively. San Diego is also set to acquire outfielder Justin Upton from Atlanta in a trade that has yet to be announced officially.

Tampa Bay has also undergone a major shakeup since the departures of head of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon. Matt Silverman, Friedman’s replacement, had already traded pitchers Jeremy Hellickson and Joel Peralta, as well as outfielder Matt Joyce and infielder Sean Rodriguez, before this latest deal.

“This is a baseball trade, and one we believe will make our club more competitive both for 2015 and beyond,“ said Silverman in a statement Friday. “Trading Wil Myers was not an easy decision, but we are very excited about the talent coming back our way, and this deal has potential to improve our team on both sides of the ball.“

The Rays, who also released veteran catcher Jose Molina this offseason, will hope Rivera can help behind the plate. The 31-year-old native of Puerto Rico played in a career-high 103 games last season with the Padres and batted .252 with 11 homers and 44 RBI.

Burch appeared in 10 games in 2013, including seven starts, and was 1-3 with a 6.44 ERA. He missed most of last year with a forearm injury. Bauers played at Single-A in 2014. Ott was also a Class-A player last year in Washington’s organization, while Souza could be the key piece for the Rays.

Souza was the International League’s top player in 2014 for Washington’s Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse, batting .350 with 18 homers and 75 RBI in just 96 games. The 25-year-old played in 21 games for the Nationals last year and hit two homers in 23 at-bats, while also making a tremendous catch to preserve Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter on the final day of the season.

The Nationals will pick up a former first-round pick in Ross, a 21-year-old right-hander who has not pitched above Double-A since he was chosen 25th overall in 2011.

Turner can’t officially be traded until next June, as league rules mandate that a draft pick cannot be dealt until a full year after he was selected. The 13th overall pick last June, he could be Washington’s shortstop of the future with Ian Desmond set to be a free agent after next season.


►  Padres to deal Hanigan to BoSox for Middlebrooks

The San Diego Padres are apparently not done trading.

According to Yahoo! Sports, the Padres are nearing a deal that would send recently acquired catcher Ryan Hanigan to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for third baseman Will Middlebrooks.

The Padres picked up Hanigan from Tampa Bay as part of the 11-player deal officially announced Friday that also landed them outfielder Wil Myers. However, San Diego had already added another catcher in Derek Norris from Oakland on Thursday to make Hanigan trade bait.

Middlebrooks became expendable in Boston after the Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval as a free agent earlier this offseason. The Padres were reportedly also in the running for Sandoval.

Hanigan hit just .218 in 84 games last season, his first in Tampa Bay after playing the first seven years of his career in Cincinnati. The 34-year-old veteran, who has played more than 100 games in a season just once, is a career. 256 hitter with 25 homers and 172 RBI in 558 games.

Middlebrooks was projected to be Boston’s future third baseman after a 2012 season in which he batted .288 with 15 homers and 54 RBI in 75 games as a rookie. He struggled in 2013, hitting .227 with 17 homers in 94 games, and last year hit just .191 in 63 games as he split time between Triple-A Pawtucket and Boston.


►  Cubs add Motte to bullpen

The Chicago Cubs and pitcher Jason Motte agreed to terms on a one-year contract Friday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the Chicago Tribune reported it to be worth $4.5 million.

Motte was the closer for the St. Louis Cardinals before undergoing Tommy John surgery during the 2013 season. He returned last year and was 1-0 with a 4.68 earned run average in 29 games.

The 32-year-old right-hander owns a career record of 18-13 with 54 saves and a 3.03 ERA in 311 relief appearances—all with St. Louis—from 2008-14. He has 290 strikeouts in 285 innings pitched.

Motte helped the Cardinals to the 2011 World Series championship, closing out Game 7 against Texas to cap a postseason in which he produced five saves and a 2.19 ERA in 12 games.

In 2012, Motte tied for the National League lead with 42 saves and posted a record of 4-5 with a 2.75 ERA in 67 games. He developed an elbow injury in spring training the following year and eventually underwent surgery in May, forcing him to miss the entire 2013 season.

The Cubs will likely employ Motte as a setup man for Hector Rondon, who notched 29 saves last season.


►  Orioles add reliever Wright

The Baltimore Orioles have signed left- handed reliever Wesley Wright to a one-year contract, the team announced Friday.

A seven-year major league veteran, Wright spent last season with the Chicago Cubs and pitched in 58 games, going 0-3 with a 3.17 earned run average. The 29-year-old was granted free agency after the Cubs opted not to tender him a contract earlier this month.

Wright, who has made 360 appearances in the majors and held lefty hitters to a .238 average for his career, joins a Baltimore bullpen that lost fellow southpaw Andrew Miller to the rival Yankees in free agency.

Initially breaking into the majors with Houston in 2008, Wright pitched five- plus seasons with the Astros before being dealt to Tampa Bay in August of 2013. He owns a 10-18 lifetime record with a 4.17 ERA and has struck out 290 over 299 2/3 career innings.


►  Cash fills out Rays’ coaching staff

The Tampa Bay Rays finalized their coaching staff for the 2015 season on Friday, naming Tom Foley as bench coach for new manager Kevin Cash.

Foley had spent the past 13 seasons as the Rays’ third base coach. Charlie Montoyo will take over as third base coach and former Rays star Rocco Baldelli will be the club’s new first base coach.

George Hendrick, who had been the first base coach, has accepted a role as the special advisor to baseball operations.

The remainder of the coaching staff will remain intact, as Jim Hickey returns for a ninth season as pitching coach and Derek Shelton enters his sixth year as hitting coach. Stan Boroski will remain the bullpen coach and Jamie Nelson will stay on as major league coach.

“I feel very fortunate to have inherited a staff that is both respected throughout baseball and knowledgeable of our players and the culture,“ said Cash in a statement Friday. “I am thrilled to have Tom as our bench coach. I have great respect for the role he has played in the organization from its inception and will lean on him for his experience and judgment. In adding Charlie and Rocco, we have two men who combined have more than 30 years invested in this organization at many different levels and have great familiarity with our players. Both have meant a great deal to the Rays, and I am grateful they will be joining Jim, Derek, Jamie and Stan for what I feel is a great team.“

Cash was named the Rays’ new manager earlier this month, replacing Joe Maddon, who stepped down in October after baseball operations head Andrew Friedman also left. Friedman went to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Maddon quickly found a home as the skipper of the Chicago Cubs.


►  Rounding Third: Padres not messing around

So, what did you do this week?

I guarantee it wasn’t as much as what San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller did, as he completely transformed the identity, look, and overall perception of his team.

San Diego drastically upgraded its lineup, as it acquired outfielders, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton, along with catcher Derek Norris and third baseman Will Middlebrooks, while re-signing righty Josh Johnson and adding flamethrower Brandon Morrow.

Did you get all that?

You better believe San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean, new Dodgers’ baseball czar Andrew Friedman and a lot of other National League GMs did.

Have these moves made San Diego the team to beat now in the NL? Absolutely not. Truth be told they are still probably the third best team in the NL West. But they have closed the gap on both the Dodgers and Giants and at the very least they are a legitimate wild card contender.

And people are certainly now talking about the Padres. When was the last time you could have said that?

The additions will certainly improve a lineup that ranked at the bottom of the majors with a .226 average, .292 on-base percentage and 535 runs scored. Their 109 homers were also the second-fewest in the bigs.

San Diego’s offense was historically bad in the first half of last season, as it was hitting just .210 through 83 games, including an abysmal .171 for the entire month of June. Just how bad is that? Well, Baseball-reference tracks team splits back to 1914. No other team in that time frame had hit below .175 in a calendar month.

So, yes that lineup needed a complete facelift.

And they probably aren’t done. If the Upton, Myers and Kemp triumvirate is now your starting outfield, that leaves no place for players like Cameron Maybin, Seth Smith, Wil Venable or Carlos Quentin.

There are still some deals to be made. We will get to that in a bit.

San Diego’s strength last season was its starting pitching. Only the Washington Nationals had a better team ERA in the NL. And no team had a lower bullpen ERA in the NL than the Padres’ 2.59.

Righty Tyson Ross emerged as an All-Star, Ian Kennedy and Andrew Cashner are solid, while Cuban project Odrisamer Despaigne showed flashes of brilliance. Of course, highly-regarded 24-year-old Jessie Hahn was dealt to Oakland in the Norris deal, but Morrow figures to step in and who knows what the oft-injured Johnson will give them.

If the Padres go into the season with what they have, they are probably a wild card contender. Like 10 other teams in the league. But, why make all these moves if you, maybe, could contend. Yes it’s nice to create a little bit of buzz, but if you are going to go for it, go for it.

And that means San Diego native Cole Hamels.

It’s no secret the Philadelphia Phillies are looking to move him. And even with all these moves this past week, the Padres still have the pieces to go and get him.

San Diego can give the Phillies a major league ready outfielder. Plus they still have most of their top prospects in tact. Outfielder Hunter Renfroe, catcher Austin Hedges and righty Matt Wisler are all still in play.

The Padres have a rotation good enough to compete. But, just imagine how much better that group is with someone like Hamels at the top of it. Plus you keep him away from the Dodgers, another team rumored to be in the mix for him.

It makes too much sense now not to happen.

Like we said. If you are going to go for it. Go for it.  ~~  Chris Ruddick ~~


►  Selig named Commissioner Emeritus

Major League Baseball has given Bud Selig the title of Commissioner Emeritus.

Selig’s retirement will become official on January 25, the date Rob Manfred takes over as baseball’s new commissioner.

In his next role, Selig will advise Manfred and assist with special projects.

“I greatly appreciate the opportunity to stay connected to the game in this new capacity,“ said Selig in a statement. “I will be proud to stand behind Rob’s vision for the future and to assist in any ways that he asks. Baseball is the greatest game in the world, and I look forward to seeing our sport flourish under Rob’s leadership.“

Manfred was elected to the position by a unanimous vote among baseball owners in August and agreed to a five-year contract in November.

“Commissioner Selig has had an unparalleled career of decorated service to the national pastime, and this role will allow the game to benefit from his unmatched institutional knowledge, experience and relationships,“ said Manfred in a statement Friday. “I could not ask for a finer mentor during this transition process, and I am grateful that commissioner Selig will continue to be available to me as a resource.“

Selig will have spent 22 years as the sport’s commissioner. He assumed the leadership post in September 1992, initially on an acting basis following the resignation of Fay Vincent, and was given permanent duties in 1998.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Friday, December 19)


Final Score: New Jersey 3, Tampa Bay 2 (SO)
Patrik Elias registered the lone goal of the shootout as New Jersey claimed a 3-2 decision over Tampa Bay at Prudential Center. Elias and Adam Henrique picked up first-period tallies for the Devils, who finally put an end to a five-game losing streak. Keith Kinkaid finished with 26 saves in regulation and three more in the game’s final segment to earn his first NHL victory. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov supplied offense for the Lightning, who have dropped five of their last seven. Evgeni Nabokov made 16 stops but allowed his team to earn a point. Elias put his team ahead as the opening shooter in the third and final round, pulling Nabokov out of position before sliding a shot inside the right post. Kinkaid cemented the outcome and picked up his milestone by turning away a Jonathan Drouin chance.


Final Score: Ottawa 6, Anaheim 2

Mike Hoffman scored twice as the Ottawa Senators roughed up the Anaheim Ducks, 6-2, on Friday. Kyle Turris and Mika Zibanejad each posted a goal and an assist, while Milan Michalek and Mark Stone also scored for the Senators, who have won four of their last six. Craig Anderson allowed just two goals on 32 shots in the win. Ryan Getzlaf scored both goals while Ilya Bryzgalov gave up all six goals on 31 shots for the Ducks, who came into the game having won eight of their last nine.


Final Score: NY Islanders 2, Detroit 1

Jaroslav Halak stopped 17 shots while Anders Lee netted the winning score midway through the second period as the New York Islanders recorded a 2-1 win over Detroit at Joe Louis Arena. Brock Nelson picked up a goal and one assist for the Islanders, winners of three in a row who closed the gap over idle division-leading Pittsburgh to two points. Henrik Zetterberg’s first-period marker was all the offense for the Red Wings, whose season-high losing skid reached five games. Petr Mrazek took the loss, having given up the lead goal on 23 shots in relief of Jimmy Howard. Howard exited after the first period due to a lower-body injury having stopped eight shots.


Final Score: Winnipeg 2, Boston 1

Michael Hutchinson stopped 30 shots and the Winnipeg Jets held on for a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins on Friday. Evander Kane and Mathieu Perreault each posted a goal for the Jets, who have won their past two games. Torey Krug scored the only goal of the game for the Bruins, who have lost four of their last five. Tuukka Rask allowed both goals on 27 shots.


Final Score: Dallas 2, Calgary 1

Jamie Benn and Trevor Daley scored in the second period and the Dallas Stars held on to top the Calgary Flames, 2-1, at the Saddledome. Kari Lehtonen halted 21 pucks and Cody Eakin added a pair of assists for the Stars, winners in three straight and four of five. Mark Giordano lit the lamp for the Flames, who have lost seven straight games. Jonas Hiller played well in defeat, making 19 saves.

The Gilmer Free Press


References
ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
DSS - DIRECTV
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary


SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2014


National Football League
Philadelphia at Washington, 4:30 PM - NFL Network
San Diego at San Francisco, 8:25 PM - CBS


National Basketball Association
Phoenix at New York, 1:00 PM - FS-Arizona, MSG, DSS
Utah at Charlotte, 7:00 PM - ROOT-Northwest, SportSouth, DSS
Portland at New Orleans, 7:00 PM - CSN-Northwest, FS-New Orleans, DSS
Atlanta at Houston, 8:00 PM - SportSouth, ROOT-Southwest, DSS
San Antonio at Dallas, 8:30 PM - CW35, FS-Southwest, DSS
Indiana at Denver, 9:00 PM - FS-Indiana, Altitude, DSS
Milwaukee at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - FS-Wisconsin, Prime Ticket, DSS


National Hockey League
Arizona at Los Angeles, 4:00 PM - FS-Arizona, West, DSS
Chicago at Columbus, 7:00 PM - WGN, FS-Ohio, DSS
Colorado at Buffalo, 7:00 PM - Altitude2, MSG-Buffalo, DSS
NY Rangers at Carolina, 7:00 PM - MSG, FS-Carolina, DSS
Philadelphia at Toronto, 7:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, DSS
Washington at New Jersey, 7:00 PM - CSN-DC, MSG+, DSS
Tampa Bay at NY Islanders, 7:00 PM - SunSports, MSG+2, DSS
Ottawa at Montreal, 7:00 PM - TVA Sports, NHL Network, DSS
Florida at Pittsburgh, 7:00 PM - FS-Florida, ROOT-Pittsburgh, DSS
Nashville at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - FS-Tennessee, North, DSS
Calgary at Vancouver, 10:00 PM - CBC, DSS
St. Louis at San Jose, 10:30 PM - FS-Midwest, CSN-California, DSS


College Basketball
SMU at Michigan, 12:00 PM - ESPN 2
Charlotte at Georgetown, 12:00 PM - FS-South, FLA, OH, Wisconsin, MASN2, YES
Louisville at Western Ky, 12:00 PM - FS1
VA Commonwealth at Cincinnati, 12:00 PM - ESPN U
Citadel at Virginia Tech, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
South Alabama at IUPUI, 1:00 PM - HTSN, ESPN3.com, DSS
Syracuse at Villanova, 1:00 PM - FOX
Mount St. Mary’s at American, 1:00 PM - CSN-Baltimore
Ohio State vs. North Carolina, 1:00 PM - CBS
Massachusetts at Providence, 1:00 PM - CBSSN
SC State at Houston, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
South Florida vs. Florida State, 2:00 PM - MASN2, MSG+, FS-Southwest, SD, PT
Drexel vs. Penn State, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Vanderbilt at Georgia Tech, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Missouri vs. Illinois, 2:00 PM - ESPN 2
St Francis-PA at Rutgers, 2:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
Indiana vs. Butler, 2:30 PM - FS1
UMBC at Kennesaw St, 3:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Delaware State at Oregon, 3:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Lafayette at Kansas, 3:00 PM - Jayhawk TV, ESPN3.com
Western Mich at Northwestern, 3:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Oral Roberts at Memphis, 3:00 PM - CBSSN
UCLA vs. Kentucky, 3:30 PM - CBS
Detroit at Rhode Island, 4:00 PM - Ocean State Network
Southern U at Wyoming, 4:00 PM - ROOT-Rocky Mountain
Davidson at Coll of Charleston, 4:00 PM - Charleston Sports Net
Oakland at Pittsburgh, 4:00 PM - ROOT-Pitt, YES, ESPN3.com, NESN, STO, DSS
UC Davis at Air Force, 4:00 PM - Mountain West Network
Wake Forest vs. Florida, 5:00 PM - FS1
Texas Southern at Michigan State, 5:00 PM - ESPN U
Iowa State at Drake, 5:00 PM - MC22
Purdue vs. Notre Dame, 5:15 PM - Big Ten Network
Xavier at Auburn, 6:00 PM - SEC Network
Boston Univ at Dayton, 7:00 PM - Time Warner Sports Channel
Texas A&M at Kansas State, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
Iona at George Mason, 7:00 PM - NBCSN
Incarnate Word at UMKC, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com, DSS
Valparaiso at IUPU-Ft Wayne, 7:00 PM - PBS 39
Richmond vs. Pepperdine, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Iowa at Northern Iowa, 7:30 PM - Big Ten Network
Milwaukee at SIU Edwardsville, 7:30 PM - FS-Midwest, Wisconsin
Long Beach State at Texas, 8:00 PM - Longhorn Network
SE Missouri St at Arkansas, 8:30 PM - SEC Network
Lehigh at Arizona State, 9:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Oklahoma vs. Washington, 9:00 PM - ESPN U
Utah Valley U at Weber State, 9:00 PM - KJZZ TV
NC State vs. West Virginia, 9:30 PM - ESPN 2
Cal Poly vs. Gonzaga, 10:00 PM - ROOT-Northwest
Ball State at San Diego St, 10:00 PM - Mountain West Network
South Dakota St at Utah State, 10:05 PM - Mountain West Network
Stanford at BYU, 11:00 PM - ESPN U
Utah vs. UNLV, 11:30 PM - ESPN 2


Women’s College Basketball
Gardner-Webb at Kennesaw State, 12:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Western Michigan at Detroit, 12:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Auburn at St. John’s, 12:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Stanford at Tennessee, 1:00 PM - SEC Network
Alabama A&M at Ole Miss, 1:00 PM - SEC Network+
Texas State at Stetson, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Vermont at Green Bay, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Indiana at Oakland, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Grambling State at Kansas State, 2:00 PM - FCS
SMU vs. Indiana State, 2:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Furman at Georgia, 4:00 PM - SEC Network+
William Jewell at UMKC, 4:30 PM - ESPN3.com


College Football
Nevada vs. Louisiana (New Orleans Bowl), 11:00 AM - ESPN
Illinois State at New Hampshire (FCS Playoffs), 2:00 PM - ESPN U
Utah State vs. UTEP (New Mexico Bowl), 2:20 PM - ESPN
Utah vs. Colorado State (Las Vegas Bowl), 3:30 PM - ABC
Colorado St-Pueblo vs. Minnesota St-Mankato (Division II Champ), 4 PM - ESPN 2
Western Michigan vs. Air Force (Potato Bowl), 5:45 PM - ESPN
South Alabama vs. Bowling Green (Camellia Bowl), 9:15 PM - ESPN


International Soccer
Derby County FC vs. Norwich City FC, 7:10 AM - beIN Sport
Manchester City vs. Crystal Palace, 7:45 AM - NBCSN
FC Barcelona vs. Cordoba CF, 9:55 AM - beIN Sport
Aston Villa vs. Manchester United, 10:00 AM - NBCSN
AS Roma vs. AC Milan, 2:40 PM - beIN Sport

Summer Swim Safety

The Gilmer Free Press

Summer Swim Safety

The Gilmer Free Press

Wait Is Over! Gilmer County Recreation Center Pool is Opening Today

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer County Recreation Center pool will be opening TODAY, Wednesday July 16, 2014 at 11:00 AM.

Summer Swim Safety

The Gilmer Free Press

G-OB™: Gilmer County Recreation Center - Life Guards

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer County Recreation Center is taking application for lifeguards for the Gilmer County Recreation Center Pool.

Come by the Rec Center and see Darrel Ramsey director for an application.

G-OB™: Gilmer County Recreation Center - Life Guards

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer County Recreation Center is taking application for lifeguards for the Gilmer County Recreation Center Pool.

Come by the Rec Center and see Darrel Ramsey director for an application.

G-OB™: Gilmer County Recreation Center - Life Guards

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer County Recreation Center is taking application for lifeguards for the Gilmer County Recreation Center Pool.

Come by the Rec Center and see Darrel Ramsey director for an application.

Swimming Lessons Being Held at GSC - Last Day to Register

The Gilmer Free Press

Swimming lessons soon will be held at Glenville State College for local residents.

Sign-ups will take place Tuesday, June 17, Wednesday, June 18, and Thursday, June 19, 2014 from 4:00-6:00 PM at the GSC Pool, located in the basement of the Physical Education Building.

Student swimming abilities will be tested during sign-ups.

Lessons are geared toward anyone ages four to 12 years of age. However, teens and adults are welcome to sign up as well.

The weekly lessons will begin on Monday, June 23, 2014 and will take place Monday through Thursday, with Friday as a make-up day. Lessons last between 30 to 45 minutes each and will occur between 3:00 and 6:00 PM.

Group instruction is $40 per student, semi-private classes are $50 dollars per student, and private lessons are $100 dollars per student. Each consists of four lessons.

“We are happy to offer swimming lessons to area youth again and to provide this service to our local communities,“ said GSC Aquatics Manager Jennifer Wenner. “Students can also download the American Red Cross ‘Swim App’ – it’s a great companion to the Red Cross ‘Learn-to-Swim Program.‘ It also helps keep swimmers motivated and gives water safety information,“ she continued.

For more information on the swimming lessons, contact Wenner at or at 304.462.6436.

Swimming Lessons Being Held at GSC

The Gilmer Free Press

Swimming lessons soon will be held at Glenville State College for local residents.

Sign-ups will take place Tuesday, June 17, Wednesday, June 18, and Thursday, June 19, 2014 from 4:00-6:00 PM at the GSC Pool, located in the basement of the Physical Education Building.

Student swimming abilities will be tested during sign-ups.

Lessons are geared toward anyone ages four to 12 years of age. However, teens and adults are welcome to sign up as well.

The weekly lessons will begin on Monday, June 23, 2014 and will take place Monday through Thursday, with Friday as a make-up day. Lessons last between 30 to 45 minutes each and will occur between 3:00 and 6:00 PM.

Group instruction is $40 per student, semi-private classes are $50 dollars per student, and private lessons are $100 dollars per student. Each consists of four lessons.

“We are happy to offer swimming lessons to area youth again and to provide this service to our local communities,“ said GSC Aquatics Manager Jennifer Wenner. “Students can also download the American Red Cross ‘Swim App’ – it’s a great companion to the Red Cross ‘Learn-to-Swim Program.‘ It also helps keep swimmers motivated and gives water safety information,“ she continued.

For more information on the swimming lessons, contact Wenner at or at 304.462.6436.

GSC Swimming Lessons Rescheduled to 03.17.14 - Today

The Gilmer Free Press

Sign-ups for swimming lessons at Glenville State College that were cancelled on Monday, March 02, 2014 due to inclement weather have been rescheduled.

The registration is now scheduled for Monday, March 17, 2014 from 4:00 PM until 7:00 PM at the GSC Pool, which is located in the basement of the Physical Education Building.

GSC Aquatics Manager Jennifer Wenner says the lessons are open to anyone ages four to 14 years of age and will be held throughout the months of March and April. The times will be arranged with the instructor to best fit the participants’ schedules.

Group lessons will be offered for four to six students and cost 40 dollars per child for six lessons. Semi-private lessons will be offered for two students and cost 50 dollars per child for five lessons. Private lessons will be offered for one student and cost 100 dollars per child for five lessons.

For more information, contact Wenner at or at 304.462.6436.

Lifeguard Classes To Be Held at GSC - 03.15.14

The Gilmer Free Press

Lifeguard classes are scheduled to be held soon at Glenville State College.

Students can either sign up ahead of time or simply attend the first class.

“When I first moved to West Virginia, there was a lifeguard shortage. One pool had two guards. That was it for the entire summer. So the pool operated on limited hours because the law requires two guards. By offering classes every year, we can help provide trained lifeguards to pools throughout North Central West Virginia,“ said GSC Aquatics Manager Jennifer Wenner.

The lifeguard classes will be held on Saturdays and Sundays in March starting on the 15th at the GSC Pool, which is located in the basement of the Physical Education Building.  Classes begin at 9:00 a.m. and last until 4:00 PM. Students must be at least 15 years of age to enroll in the course.

Wenner says all participants must complete the pre-course test on March 15th to be able to register for and take the remainder of the course. The pre-course test consists of three parts. First, there is a non-stop, non-timed, 300 yard swim test of six laps using different techniques such as the breast stroke or freestyle swim. Students will then tread water for two minutes without the use of their hands. Finally, they will be required to swim 25 feet, surface dive to retrieve a brick, resurface, swim back to their start, and exit the pool without the use of a ladder.

All classes must be attended in order to pass the complete course, which includes 50 percent book work and 50 percent pool time to apply the lessons learned in the classroom. The cost is 150 dollars which includes all materials needed for the entire course.

For more information, contact Wenner at or at 304.462.6436.

Swimming Lessons To Be Held at GSC - March 03, 2014 - Today

The Gilmer Free Press

Swimming lessons will soon be held at Glenville State College for local residents.

Swimming sign-ups are Monday, March 03, 2014 from 4:00 PM until 6:00 PM at the GSC Pool, which is located in the basement of the Physical Education Building.

Lessons are open to anyone ages four to 14 years of age and will be throughout the months of March and April as arranged with the instructor to best fit the persons schedule.

Group lessons will be offered for four to six students and cost 40 dollars per child for six lessons. Semi-private lessons will be offered for two students and cost 50 dollars per child for five lessons. Private lessons will be offered for one student and cost 100 dollars per child for five lessons.

“We are happy to offer swimming lessons to area youth again and to provide this service to our local communities,“ said GSC Aquatics Manager Jennifer Wenner.

For more information on the swimming lessons, contact Wenner at or at 304.462.6436.

Swimming Lessons To Be Held at GSC - 03.03.14

The Gilmer Free Press

Swimming lessons will soon be held at Glenville State College for local residents.

Swimming sign-ups are Monday, March 03, 2014 from 4:00 PM until 6:00 PM at the GSC Pool, which is located in the basement of the Physical Education Building.

Lessons are open to anyone ages four to 14 years of age and will be throughout the months of March and April as arranged with the instructor to best fit the persons schedule.

Group lessons will be offered for four to six students and cost 40 dollars per child for six lessons. Semi-private lessons will be offered for two students and cost 50 dollars per child for five lessons. Private lessons will be offered for one student and cost 100 dollars per child for five lessons.

“We are happy to offer swimming lessons to area youth again and to provide this service to our local communities,“ said GSC Aquatics Manager Jennifer Wenner.

For more information on the swimming lessons, contact Wenner at or at 304.462.6436.

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