Tom Brady falters in first half, helps put Patriots in huge hole

Limited Kids Johnny Hekker Jersey Tom Brady’s first half in Super Bowl 51 was a bust. As a result, he’ll need to lead a historic rally to win a fifth championship.

Brady’s first-half stats — 15 for 25 (60 percent), 179 yards — look decent on the surface, but he missed open receivers and, most importantly, threw a pick-six to Robert Alford that gave the Falcons a 21-0 lead. He also was sacked twice and was often jittery in the pocket.

The biggest question for the Steelers moving forward is what to do with Le’Veon Bell. When he’s healthy, Bell is the best running back in the NFL, and his impact on the Steelers is gigantic.

When Bell was injured early in the AFC championship game, the Steelers’ offense simply did not function the same. But Bell also has massive red flags surrounding him. He already has had two knee injuries in a four-year career. He is ridden into the ground by the coaching staff. He has been dinged for drug test failure. That combination generally is a disaster once a running back is signed to a long-term contract.

The Steelers will have two options. They can use the franchise tag on Bell and commit around $12.5 million on the cap to him for 2017 … or they can sign him to a long-term contract with a much lower cap charge.
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Because of the way the Steelers do contracts, which contain only signing bonuses as guarantees, their protection levels in the event of drug suspensions or even injury are much lower than other teams. That can make any contract risky. The NFL market for runners has shrunk in recent years, but Bell should command around $10 million a season and close to a $20 million signing bonus.

Chicago literally has more outside linebackers than it knows what to do with

Kaepernick started off his season playing behind Blaine Gabbert and wound up piloting a 2-14 team, but his performance — especially given his supporting cast — was significantly better than his numbers suggest. While he only completed 59 percent of his passes, he limited turnovers and avoided mistakes, cutting his interception rate to a career-low 1.2 percent in the process. His 16:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio was one of the league’s top 10 performances last fall.

Chicago literally has more outside linebackers than it knows what to do with, which leads some to believe Lamarr Houston, a former 4-3 defensive end, might not stick on the roster. With Pernell McPhee, Leonard Floyd, Willie Young, Sam Acho and Dan Skuta, the Bears may have the most talented collective group of 3-4 edge rushers in the league.

Game Kids Louis Lipps Jersey Big things are expected out of McPhee and Floyd, specifically. New outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley already has praised McPhee, and Fangio has set the bar high for a healthy Floyd in 2017.

Considering draft picks and guaranteed money, no team in the NFL has more invested at quarterback with less evidence to justify its spending. For both Glennon and Trubisky, upside is the word used to validate the employment.

While the veteran is viewed as and paid like a stopgap starter, the Bears would be fools not to at least give the rookie a chance in an open competition for the job this year. Trubisky was drafted so high because the Bears believe he can and will be their longtime starter — no need to delay the inevitable if he proves immediately capable.

The good news for whoever starts at quarterback: A strong running game should take away some of the production burden.
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U.S. Senator Dick Durbin has known Schakowsky for decades.

“The fact that this explosion came out of that, was one: not the outcome that Republicans wanted; and two: not even close to what Jan expected,” an aide to a Democratic lawmaker says.

Since the day she got the NFL to publicly acknowledge the connection between CTE and their sport, Schakowsky has spent the past year leading the legislative fight to protect player health. This despite the fact that she counts herself as nominal NFL fan, a U.S. Representative who had no real interest in the topic of CTE until being confronted with the facts that day last March.

“Time and again, Jan didn’t have to put her finger in the wind to understand what was right,” Jon Samuels, one of Schakowsky’s top staffers from 1999 to 2007, says. “She just knows and goes off running.”

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin has known Schakowsky for decades. They usually speak weekly. But the day Schakowsky confronted the NFL, Durbin was in the Senate and hadn’t heard from his longtime colleague. When he found out what she did, however, it made sense.

With the changes, players can now use the ball as a prop, celebrate on the ground, and have group demonstrations. Things like twerking and hip thrusting, however, are still outlawed.

Roger Goodell, who has been a stiff in his own ways, didn’t defend Lewis when asked about the comments on Tuesday afternoon.

“I think the players will prove him wrong on that,” the NFL commissioner said. “I think the players will do this in a way that will be responsible, show good sportsmanship, and do it in a way that, I think, is entertaining but also respectful.”

They can’t readily add reinforcements.

Dominic Smith, 1B. The Mets drafted the smooth-fielding Smith in the first round in 2013. Smith, 21, added power to his line-drive stroke last year, the last big piece in his development. His work around the bag figures to be even better now that he has lost weight. Lucas Duda can become a free agent in the offseason; New York has a ready-made replacement, one who’s slashing .319/.376/.476 at Triple-A.

Gavin Cecchini, INF. The Mets’ first pick in 2012 could become Rosario’s long-term keystone partner in New York. He needs to pick it up at the plate in Vegas (.238/.292/.331), but his minor league numbers the past two years, including a big 2016 season at Triple-A, indicate that will happen. Cecchini, 23, could then become the successor to second baseman Neil Walker, who can walk after the season.
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Brandon Nimmo, OF. The 2011 first-rounder is off to a slow start at Vegas after suffering a hamstring injury in the World Baseball Classic, and at 24 he’s more suspect than prospect. Still, he’s in line to replace Curtis Granderson or Jay Bruce in the Mets’ outfield. Both men are in the last year of their contracts.
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Likewise, Eppler can’t really beef up the pitching to compensate for the weakened offense. A Jose Quintana or an Alex Cobb doesn’t seem realistic, absent a highly creative swap that might need a third team.

The bottom line is the Angels are in a very bad spot beyond the obvious of Trout being possibly gone through the All-Star break. They can’t readily add reinforcements. They will have to rely on players who thus far haven’t been productive. A third consecutive season without the playoffs suddenly appears likely.