The [var SITENAME] [var SITEURL]/ [var SITENAME] en-us Copyright 2016 McClary Media, Inc. (Dave Warner) Luck helps Colts shred Jets, 41-10 By BARRY WILNER AP Pro Football Writer EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Andrew Luck was nearly perfect in his return from a concussion, throwing for four touchdowns, three to Dwayne Allen, in the Indianapolis Colts' 41-10 romp Monday night past the inept New York Jets. Not that Luck had to work very hard against the hosts, who were booed by a much-less-than-filled MetLife Stadium almost from the outset. Luck missed last week's loss to Pittsburgh, cleared the NFL's concussion protocol on the weekend, and came back in style with a prime-time performance. He lifted Indianapolis (6-6) into a tie for the lead in the AFC South with Tennessee and Houston. Allen and T.Y. Hilton were his main targets as he went 22 of 28 for 278 yards, and they received little opposition from the Jets (3-9). This one couldn't have come easier for Indianapolis. The Colts toyed with the lifeless Jets from the beginning, when New York's Jeremy Ross got to only his 11-yard line with the opening kickoff return. A three-and-out gave Luck the ball, and seven plays later, he hit a wide-open Allen for a 7-0 edge. Indy needed only four plays on its next series, with Allen even more open for a 21-yard reception to make it 14-0. At that juncture, the Colts had gained 120 yards, the Jets 6. Those figures wound up 421 to 250. Indy scored its most points since Week 13 of 2014; the Jets allowed their most since Week 8 of that season. The Jets (3-9) finally found some spark after Pat McAfee's punt was downed at their 3. Matt Forte turned a short pass into a 40-yard gain with a nasty move on Rashaan Melvin, but that drive stalled and Nick Folk made a 38-yard field goal. That temporarily quieted the boobirds in the stadium. But Luck hit Hilton for 23 yards on Indy's next play, Gore ran for 19 and Adam Vinatieri kicked a 53-yard field goal to make it 17-3. And when Allen set a career best with this third TD reception on a perfect 23-yard throw from Luck, the rout was on. Donte Moncrief added a 3-yard touchdown, the sixth straight game he has caught one. Hilton continually victimized cornerback Darrelle Revis and other Jets DBs, making nine catches for 146 yards. Hilton went over 1,000 yards for the fourth time in his five pro seasons. New York has lost four in a row and is 1-5 at home. Its performance Monday night can't be of any help to coach Todd Bowles, who led the Jets to a 10-6 mark a year ago in his first season in charge. MISSED OPPORTUNITY The Colts barely missed being up 31-3 at the half. Jack Doyle lost the ball while reaching for the pylon late in the second quarter, resulting in a touchback. WHO'S THE QB? Bowles replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick (5 for 12, 81 yards, one interception) with Bryce Petty to start the second half. Didn't matter at all. VP IN THE HOUSE Vice President-elect Mike Pence was a guest of Jets owner Woody Johnson. He didn't see much of a game. MOMENT OF SILENCE The Jets held a moment of silence before the game to honor former running back Joe McKnight, killed last Thursday in Louisiana. Authorities said McKnight, 28, was shot during a road rage incident. McKnight had a 107-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in 2011, and it stands as the longest play in Jets history. INJURIES Colts: LB D'Qwell Jackson left in the fourth quarter with a neck injury. RG Denzelle Good left in the first half with a concussion. Jets LB Julian Stanford hurt his ankle in the third quarter and S Antonio Allen sustained a head injury in the final period. C Nick Mangold returned from a four-game hiatus because of a sprained ankle. UP NEXT The Colts host Houston in a first-place division showdown. The Jets visit San Francisco, quite possibly with Petty as their starting quarterback. ------ For more NFL coverage: and Tuesday, December 06, 2016 Mets plan to use Jose Reyes in outfield during spring training OXON HILL, Md. (AP) -- Jose Reyes could be switching positions once again. A four-time All-Star shortstop, Reyes was moved to third base when he returned last summer to the New York Mets, who needed a fill-in for injured captain David Wright. Reyes figures to see action in the outfield during spring training next year. "We didn't want to do it last year because we didn't want to have him working in multiple new positions, and I think that was something that he appreciated," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Monday at the winter meetings. Reyes was released by Colorado in late June after serving a domestic violence suspension, and he signed a few days later with the Mets, his original big league team. The 33-year-old hit .267 with eight homers, 24 RBIs and nine stolen bases. With Wright due to return from neck surgery, the Mets want to increase Reyes' versatility. "I don't see any reason why we shouldn't try that," Alderson said. "And I think it's something, by the way, that we're going to try to do throughout the organization, is put guys in different roles so that once they get to the big league level they're at least familiar with if not proficient in playing more than one position." Recovering from surgery June 16 to repair a herniated disk in his neck, Wright is to resume baseball activities this month. He has been in California, working with a therapist associated with Dr. Robert Watkins, who operated. While Alderson expects Wright to be his starting third baseman, playing time will be monitored and the Mets have to be stocked with backups. Wright has appeared in just 75 regular-season games during the past two years because of spinal stenosis, neck surgery and a hamstring injury. "We have to be careful not to be too thin at that position going into the spring,' Alderson said. Tuesday, December 06, 2016 Carlos Beltran, Astros finalize $16 million, 1-year contract HOUSTON (AP) -- Carlos Beltran and the Houston Astros have finalized a $16 million, one-year contract. Beltran was to be introduced Monday at Minute Maid Park. The Astros have been busy boosting their lineup since missing the playoffs, trading for catcher Brian McCann and adding free-agent outfielder Josh Reddick. Beltran turns 40 in April. He hit a combined .295 with 29 home runs and 93 RBIs last season for the New York Yankees and Texas. The switch-hitter split his time as a designated hitter and right fielder, playing 151 games. Beltran is a nine-time All-Star and has hit .323 with 16 homers and 41 RBIs in 55 postseason games. He spent the last half of the 2004 season with the Astros and hit a postseason record-tying eight home runs. In 19 seasons, Beltran is a career .281 hitter with 421 home runs and 1,536 RBIs with the Royals, Astros, Mets, Giants, Cardinals, Yankees and Rangers. Tuesday, December 06, 2016 Patriots taking advantage of newfound depth at running back FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- While most of the preseason spotlight for the Patriots focused on who was missing at quarterback, there was just as much uncertainty surrounding the running back position. LeGarrette Blount was re-signed in the offseason after just missing his second career 1,000-yard season because of a late hip injury. In addition Dion Lewis, the team's primary receiving option out of the backfield, was working his way back from surgery for a torn ACL in his left knee. James White filled Lewis' absence admirably at the end of 2015, though he clearly was still learning in just his second year in the league. But as the Patriots (10-2) prepare to head into what should be their toughest four-game stretch of 2016, they suddenly find themselves with lots of options at a position once clouded with questions. They will be needed as New England closes the regular-season by facing three winning opponents over their final four games. All three running backs were showcased in New England's 26-10 over the Rams on Sunday. Blount had the best day, adding to his growing highlight reel with to a juke-filled 43-yard touchdown for the game's first score. It helped put the Rams in a hole they never really threatened to recover from. "We always preach that we have to start fast," Blount said. "If you can do that you know you can get everything else rolling, and you can open up the playbook and call the plays that we play." Blount has rushed for 957 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, which is already his most productive year in a Patriots uniform. He's just 43 yards shy of reaching 1,000, and 51 yards from surpassing the career-best 1,007 he had as a rookie in 2010 with Tampa Bay. If he reaches 15 touchdowns, it also would set a new single-season mark for a Patriots running back. Lewis made his second start Sunday since returning to the active list on Nov. 13. He continued to look comfortable on his surgically-repaired knee, moving well into cuts after receptions. White was also in the mix, posting his fourth straight game with at least four receptions. With the newfound depth, the Patriots coaching staff also has shown its willingness to try out some two-back sets featuring the smaller Lewis and White. It appears to be proof that New England feels it has the personnel to keep defenses guessing. "I think it's like anything else we do," Belichick said. "Whatever formations and groupings we run and plays we run, we try to gain an advantage and where we think we can gain advantage we try to take advantage of it." That could certainly change game to game, he said, based on the looks that defenses show them. Just having that flexibility, though, should help keep all three backs fresh as the playoffs approach. It will be even more important as the Patriots make adjustments in the passing game with tight end Rob Gronkowski now on injured reserve following season-ending back surgery. Receiver Danny Amendola became the latest injury victim Sunday when he left the game with an ankle issue. He was seen afterward walking with crutches. Whatever challenges lie ahead, Blount said he and his teammates would adjust as needed. "Football does start after Thanksgiving here," he said. "We have to kick it into gear and we have to do all the things that we need to do and take the necessary steps to make sure that we continue to play good football." ------ Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at ------ For more NFL coverage: and Tuesday, December 06, 2016 Red Sox exercise 2018 option on manager Farrell's contract OXON HILL, Md. (AP) -- The Boston Red Sox have exercised the 2018 option on manager John Farrell's contract. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski announced the decision Monday during Major League Baseball's winter meetings. Farrell won the World Series in his first season with the Red Sox in 2013 and led them back to the playoffs last season. He's 339-309 in four seasons in Boston. Dombrowski said Farrell has "done a real fine job" and that extending the manager's deal gives the Red Sox some stability on their staff going into spring training. He said there wasn't any special timing about announcing it now, noting it didn't have to be exercised until after the 2017 season. Farrell said he appreciated the confidence from Dombrowski, who inherited him as manager. Tuesday, December 06, 2016 Winter meetings heat up: Melancon to Giants, Hill to Dodgers OXON HILL, Md. (AP) -- Albeit too late to save them this year, the San Francisco Giants got their closer. All-Star righty Mark Melancon and the Giants reached agreement on a $62 million, four-year contract Monday. As baseball's winter meetings heated up, lefty Rich Hill re-signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for $48 million over three years. A couple smaller deals also developed as teams met inside a hotel on the banks of the Potomac River outside Washington. The Toronto Blue Jays signed versatile Steve Pearce and Philadelphia added reliever Joaquin Benoit. Nothing yet on the top trade targets -- White Sox ace Chris Sale, Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen and possibly two Detroit fixtures, slugger Miguel Cabrera and pitcher Justin Verlander. But the New York Yankees confirmed they're trying to boost their bullpen with major free-agent talent. "We have been pursuing Aroldis Chapman. We also have been talking to Kenley Jansen. We also had talked with Melancon," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. Jose Reyes, meanwhile, might be changing positions, rather than teams. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said the star infielder would get his first look at the outfield in spring training. And the Red Sox said they might fill their designated hitter spot -- left vacant by the retiring David Ortiz -- with a DH-by-committee. That would still leave room, of course, for them to sign slugger Edwin Encarnacion. Boston did make a move with manager John Farrell, picking up his contract option through the 2018 season. Melancon tweeted that he was excited to be joining the Giants. They certainly were thrilled to get him, pending a physical, giving the 31-year-old the richest deal ever for a reliever. Because he was traded during the season, from Pittsburgh to Washington, the Giants don't lose their first-round draft pick next June as compensation. The Giants' bullpen was a troublespot all year, blowing 32 saves. Their woes peaked in their final loss, to the Cubs in Game 4 of the NL playoffs, when Chicago scored four runs in the ninth inning against five relievers. Melancon posted a combined 47 saves and a 1.64 ERA last season, a year after leading the majors with 51 saves for the Pirates. The 36-year-old Hill found stability, and a lot more in Los Angeles. He was on the scrap heap in 2015, pitching in independent ball for the Long Island Ducks, before resurrecting his career. "I think it's something that has been an incredible journey to get to this point, but never did I ever think that I would pack it in," he said. Hill went a combined 12-5 with a 2.12 ERA in 20 starts for the Dodgers and Oakland last season. Not everyone was in the holiday shopping spirit. Instead of hoping for hitters, pitchers or fielders, manager Ned Yost was thinking about his field back home in Georgia. "I got to refill the feeders at the farm. Planted some grass, finally got some rain, so my wish is that it comes up," he said. Tuesday, December 06, 2016 With 4 games to go, Giants offense needs to wake up EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- If the New York Giants are going to end their four-year playoff drought, Eli Manning and the offense have to improve and quickly. The Giants (8-4) saw their six-game winning streak end Sunday with a 24-14 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh. The blame can be put squarely on the offense. It was held to 234 yards, needed help from the defense and special teams to produce two touchdowns, and allowed the Steelers to get on the board first when left tackle Ereck Flowers was called for holding in the end zone. It would be easy to say it was simply a bad game for the offense. It's been the norm lately. "When we see the film, we see there are opportunities there," Ben McAdoo said Monday when asked about the offensive problems. "Again, the unforced errors and the setbacks when you're playing inconsistent football on the offensive side, they're hard to overcome. That's where we are right now." Manning made the biggest mistake Sunday, trying to squeeze a pass to tight end Larry Donnell on second-and-4 from the Steelers 9-yard line with New York down 5-0. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons intercepted the pass and returned it 58 yards to set up another Pittsburgh touchdown. It was a big mistake and New York never recovered. The Giants' defense gave the offense chances, but it failed to capitalize. "Right now we believe we have the players and the scheme to make a run at this thing, McAdoo said. "We know we need to get back to work, we need to get some pads on this week if that's the smart thing and the right thing to do based on the injury report and player health, we'll do that. We need to play good football on Sunday." The Giants have a huge game this weekend with Dallas (11-1) coming to MetLife Stadium. If the Cowboys' win, they clinch the NFC East. New York still has the best record in the race for the wild-card spot, but Tampa Bay (7-5), Washington (6-5-1), Minnesota (6-6) and Green Bay (6-6) are close with four games left. In addition to Dallas, the Giants also have games with Detroit (8-4), Philadelphia (5-7) and Washington. It's not an easy schedule for a team struggling on offense. In the last six games, the Giants are averaging 290.6 yards and 21.5 points. During that span the team has scored 18 touchdowns. Two have been by the defense and five other TDs have come on drives of 35 yards or less set up by takeaways by Steve Spagnuolo's unit. A big kickoff return by Bobby Rainey on Sunday set up a meaningless 52-yard drive that Manning ended with a TD pass to Sterling Shepard. Offensive drives, though, have been few and far between. There have been eight touchdown drives of 67 yards or more in the last six games. There were two other drives between 50 and 60 yards. Against the Steelers, the Giants rushed for 56 yards, and their 178 net passing yards were a season low. Manning finished 24 of 39 for 195 yards, his second consecutive sub-200 yard game. While Odell Beckham Jr. had 10 receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown, Victor Cruz was not targeted once. The week before Shepard was ignored in the game against the Browns. "I think there's a heightened sense of awareness that we need to get better and we need to improve and we need to keep working at it," McAdoo said. NOTES: McAdoo had no update on the groin injury that knocked out DE Jason Pierre-Paul in the first half. ... DT Johnathan Hankins (quad) is sore, while WR/returner Dwayne Harris has an ankle injury. ... After the game Beckham said he didn't want to see referee Terry McAulay's crew working another one of his team's games this season. McAdoo would not comment on that. However, he said: "We have a process to gain clarification on calls that are made during the course of a game. We're going to get plenty of use out of that process this week." Tuesday, December 06, 2016 Bills QB Taylor not immune from blame after loss to Raiders ORCHARD PARK (AP) -- At a time when Tyrod Taylor's long-term future in Buffalo is in question, coach Rex Ryan put his quarterback on notice on Monday by saying he's not happy with the Bills' passing attack. In assessing what went wrong with Buffalo's defense during a second-half meltdown in a 38-24 loss at Oakland on Sunday, Ryan wrapped up his answer by placing some of the blame on his offense. "Obviously, we have to be able to throw the football if people are going to get it down there a little bit," Ryan said, in an apparent reference to Taylor missing throws to open receivers. "That's been inconsistent, and obviously that can help us, too." The Bills squandered a 24-9 lead over the final 20 minutes, during which the Raiders scored 29 consecutive points and Buffalo's offense combined for 68 net yards with Taylor turning the ball over twice. Ryan followed up by questioning whether he and his staff are asking too much of Taylor as a passer. "For some reason, (it's) not getting done to where we need it to," he said, noting the Bills rank 31st in the NFL in allowing a sack for every 11 pass attempts. "That's clearly not good enough. So we just have to take a hard look and we've got to improve in a hurry." Ryan's criticisms of Taylor are a departure for a coach who had previously been a staunch defender the team's second-year starter. And they come at a time when Buffalo (6-6) is falling out of the playoff picture and in jeopardy of extending the NFL's longest active postseason drought to 17 years. Buffalo has no margin for error in opening a three-game homestand against Pittsburgh (7-5) on Sunday. Taylor's future in Buffalo isn't secure beyond this season. Though the Bills signed Taylor to a five-year contract extension in August, the team retained the right to opt out of the deal -- and the $27.5 million he is owed in salary and bonuses-- before it kicks in this offseason. Ryan did defend Taylor by noting the Bills have spent much of the season playing with an injury-depleted group of receivers. Starter Sammy Watkins has played just three games because of an injury to his surgically repaired left foot, and Robert Woods has missed three games due to foot and knee injuries. "Regardless of whether it's Tom Brady or anybody else, I think that's going to affect you," Ryan said. Inconsistency, however, has been an ongoing concern, and became apparent against Oakland. Taylor was 12 of 18 for 132 yards passing and had a touchdown rushing when Mike Gillislee scored on a 2-yard run to put Buffalo ahead 24-9 six minutes into the third quarter. Taylor closed by completing six of his final 17 attempts for 59 yards. Buffalo leads the NFL with 1,943 yards rushing, but ranks last with 2,178 yards passing. There was plenty of blame to be spread in an outing during which Ryan acknowledged all three phases of his team "imploded." The defense allowed the Raiders to scored four touchdowns on five drives and failed to register a takeaway for the fifth time in six outings. Punter Colton Schmidt struggled by mis-hitting consecutive punts -- one for 35 yards and the other 39 -- to set up Raiders scoring drives. Linebacker Preston Brown pinned the blame on the defense. "It was like the longest third quarter ever. We came out and go up by 15, and everybody thought, 'Oh, we've got it,"' Brown said. "Then they just stormed back. It was our fault on defense. We've got to make plays. (The offense) gave us a good lead. We've got to find ways to hold it." NOTES: CB Ronald Darby (concussion protocol) has been cleared to practice after missing one game. ... LB Lerentee McCray has been placed in the concussion protocol after being hurt against Oakland. ... Without getting into specifics, Ryan said "communication could've been better" when it came to him learning TE Charles Clay planned to miss the game at Oakland to attend the birth of his first child. ------ For more NFL coverage: and Tuesday, December 06, 2016 Seattle loses safety Thomas for remainder of the season RENTON, Wash. (AP) -- It was one thing for the Seattle Seahawks to know they would be without safety Earl Thomas for one game, maybe two. Now that the former All-Pro safety is done for the rest of the 2016 season -- no matter how far Seattle may advance in the playoffs -- the Seahawks are facing a new reality for the rest of this year that doesn't include arguably their most important defensive player on the field. "I don't think you're going to replace Earl Thomas. He's a very unique player. But he's very quiet. He's not a guy who adds a whole lot on the vocal side. He does it with his play," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said on Monday. "Earl is Earl." The Seahawks now know the earliest they will see Thomas back on the field is the 2017 season after he suffered a broken lower left leg in Sunday's 40-7 win over Carolina. While there was an initial thought that Thomas could return if the Seahawks made a deep run in the playoffs, Carroll said further examination on Monday determined the recovery for the fractured tibia is too extensive for the star safety to make it back this season. It's a crushing injury to the player that makes Seattle's defense function perhaps more than any other. And while Steven Terrell is a solid replacement with experience in Seattle's system and one start already this season, he's not Thomas, as Carroll said. "You can't make up for it. You just try to find some others who can do half of what he does," Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett said Sunday night. "It's hard to replace that kind of player who's a Hall of Fame type of player. You can't really replace (them)." Thomas was injured in the second quarter of the blowout victory, colliding with teammate Kam Chancellor as each tried to intercept a pass from Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. It was a violent and high-speed collision that Carroll said Monday also left Chancellor a little banged up. It's the first major injury of Thomas' career and the emotional safety immediately became reflective, tweeting during the game that he was contemplating retirement. "I know it's really generated a lot of curiosity," Carroll said. "He's going through, at the time, the emotional part of dealing with an injury that's a serious setback. I don't know much more about it than that." Thomas has been a constant in Seattle's secondary since he arrived in 2010 as the second draft pick made by Carroll and general manager John Schneider. He started 106 consecutive games, a streak that was snapped last week when he sat out against Tampa Bay due to a hamstring injury. Thomas furiously rehabbed the injury in order to play against the Panthers. And he lasted barely one quarter before suffering an even more significant blow. Carroll said the freedom with how Thomas plays is the most difficult aspect to replace. "The experience that Earl has, has given him freedom to see things, make plays, feel confident making breaks on balls and taking shots on stuff. That comes from a lot of success, confidence building success," Carroll said. "You get bold. Earl has become that kind of player for us." Terrell has been with Seattle since 2014, signed in part because of the quickness he brought to the secondary. He's mostly been a special teams contributor, but played well a week ago against Tampa Bay with Thomas sidelined. "It's really important because we're playing a lot of three-deep and you've got to cover a lot of ground out there," Carroll said of Terrell. "We've had guys who don't have 4.3 (40-yard dash) speed that have played over the years but it sure helps." ------ For more NFL coverage: and Tuesday, December 06, 2016 Pastrnak's pretty goal gives Bruins 4-3 overtime win BOSTON (AP) -- David Pastrnak scored his second goal of the game 1:23 into overtime, and the Boston Bruins continued their recent success against the Florida Panthers with a 4-3 victory Monday night. Pastrnak got his team-leading 15th goal by cutting in from the left wing, shifting around goalie Roberto Luongo and tucking in the game-winner. David Backes and Tim Schaller also scored for the Bruins, who are 15-2-1 in their last 18 games against the Panthers. Tuukka Rask stopped 27 shots to raise his record to 14-4-1 this season and 17-3-1 in his career against Florida. Jaromir Jagr had a goal for the Panthers, the 754th of his career, and Luongo finished with 32 saves. Florida's Jason Demers slipped a shot under Rask, tying it with 1:29 to play, after the Bruins had moved ahead when Backes tipped in Ryan Spooner's shot for the go-ahead goal with 6:52 remaining. Aleksander Barkov also scored for the Panthers. David Pastrnak scored his second goal of the game 2:23 into overtime, and the Boston Bruins continued their recent success against the Florida Panthers with a 4-3 victory Monday night. Pastrnak got his team-leading 15th goal by cutting in from the left wing, shifting around goalie Roberto Luongo and tucking in the game-winner. Capitals 3, Sabres 2 (OT) WASHINGTON (AP) -- Marcus Johansson scored the tying goal late in the third period and got the winner midway through overtime to lift the Washington Capitals to a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night. The goals were Johansson's third and fourth in his last five games. He has 11 for the season. Jay Beagle added the Capitals' first even-strength goal in three games, as Washington snapped a three-game losing skid. Braden Holtby made 31 saves in the victory, the Capitals second over the Sabres in an 11-day stretch. Kyle Okposo scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season to give the Sabres the lead in the second period. Zemgus Girgensons also scored early for Buffalo, and Robin Lehner made 30 stops for the visitors. Johansson's winner came 2:38 into the extra period as he took a cross-ice pass from Dmitry Orlov and fired a one-time that beat Lehner over his left pad. Earlier, Johansson tied it at 2-2 with 6:18 left in the third period, and just 5 seconds into Washington's last power play, redirecting John Carlson's shot into traffic following a faceoff. Washington outshot Buffalo 16-9 in the third period after the Sabres had a 16-7 edge in the second. Buffalo also had a goal disallowed in the middle period for offside on a replay review. The Sabres finally regained the lead when Okposo put in Ryan O'Reilly's rebound to make it 2-1 with 4:37 left. Tuesday, December 06, 2016 Harden's 37 helps Rockets over Celtics 107-106 HOUSTON (AP) -- James Harden scored 37 points and Al Horford missed a shot just before the buzzer to allow the Houston Rockets to hold on for a 107-106 victory over the Boston Celtics on Monday night. The game was tied before Harden scored five straight points to make it 107-102 with less than a minute remaining. Avery Bradley made a jump shot and Harden received a flagrant 1 foul for elbowing Marcus Smart in the face. Smart made both free throws before Isaiah Thomas missed a layup. But Houston knocked the ball out of bounds with 5.2 seconds left, giving Boston one last chance. Horford drove into the lane, but his shot rolled off the rim and Harden grabbed it to secure the victory. Horford had 21 points and Thomas added 20 for the Celtics, who had won two straight. It was the ninth 30-point game this season for Harden, who also had eight assists and seven rebounds. An 8-2 run by Houston, powered by a pair of 3-pointers by Eric Gordon, cut Boston's lead to one with about 8 1/2 minutes left. Smart made a 3-pointer for the first of seven straight points for the Celtics that made it 96-88. Smart also had a big defensive play in that stretch when he blocked a one-handed dunk attempt by Montrezl Harrell. Houston scored eight straight points, topped off with a dunk from Harrell, to take a 102-100 lead with about 3 1/2 minutes left. The Celtics trailed by 12 early in the third quarter before using a 15-2 spurt to take a 68-67 lead with about 7 minutes left in the quarter. Boston made three 3-pointers in that span, capped by one from Horford. Houston missed five shots, including four 3s, and had two turnovers to help the Celtics close the gap. Boston led 83-77 entering the fourth. The Rockets were up by three points with 2 minutes left in the first half before Smart fouled Harden on a 3-point attempt and he made all three free throws. Houston had extended the lead to seven when Smart again fouled Harden on a 3-point try and his three free throws made it 58-48 at halftime. Houston held the Celtics to just 17 points in the first quarter after allowing at least 30 points in the first quarter of each of their last four games. It was the fewest points the Rockets had allowed in a first quarter this season and they led 26-17 entering the second. TIP-INS Celtics: James Young missed the game with an illness. ... Thomas received a technical for arguing a call at the end of the first half. ... Bradley finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds. ... Smart had 13 points. Rockets: Made 12 3-pointers to extend their NBA record of consecutive games with at least 10 3-pointers to 20. ... Trevor Ariza started despite dealing with back spasms and had 15 points and eight rebounds. ... Gordon finished with 19 points and made four 3-pointers to give him six straight games with at least four 3s. UP NEXT Celtics: Visit Orlando on Wednesday. Rockets: Hosts the Lakers on Wednesday. Tuesday, December 06, 2016 UConn nips Syracuse at MSG, 52-50 NEW YORK (AP) -- Christian Vital made two free throws with 2.2 seconds to play to give Connecticut a 52-50 victory over Syracuse on Monday night in the Tire Pro Classic at Madison Square Garden. Andrew White III hit a 3-pointer with 9.1 seconds left to bring Syracuse into a 50-50 tie. Rodney Purvis missed a 3-point attempt for the Huskies but Vital was fouled on the rebound. Syracuse's final chance was a long inbounds pass that was stolen by Connecticut. Purvis had 21 points and seven rebounds for the Huskies (4-4) while Jalen Adams had 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Kentan Facey had a career-high 13 rebounds. White finished with 14 points for the Orange (5-3), who have lost three of four. Dajuan Coleman had 10 points and a career-high 16 rebounds for Syracuse. Neither team shot well and that made a lot of rebounds available as both teams finished with 42. Connecticut finished 16 of 51 from the field (31.4 percent) while the Orange shot 25.9 percent (14 for 54). Syracuse was 6 of 26 from 3-point range and the Huskies were 7 of 25. Syracuse led 23-21 at halftime. The Orange used an 11-2 run to go up 37-26 with 13:11 to play. The Huskies finally started hitting some shots and they used a 19-7 run to take a 45-44 lead with 6:19 to play. Connecticut led the rest of the way except for the 50-50 tie. These teams had met at Madison Square Garden many times when they both were in the Big East. The greatest of all their matchups was the 2009 Big East Tournament quarterfinal that Syracuse won 127-117 in six overtimes. Syracuse leads the all-time series 55-38. BIG PICTURE Syracuse: The Orange are out of the Top 25 this week for the first time this season. They were 22nd last week and dropped out following a loss to Wisconsin in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. ... With no ranked teams on their schedule until mid-January it will be hard for the Orange to return to the rankings until then. ... Syracuse is playing in Madison Square Garden for the 35th consecutive season. It entered this game 94-76 all-time in MSG. Tuesday, December 06, 2016 Rivera not worried about losing team after benching Newton CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Panthers coach Ron Rivera is not worried about losing the faith of his players in the locker room after his decision to bench Cam Newton for the start of Sunday night's game against the Seattle Seahawks. Rivera said Monday in hindsight he's "very comfortable" with his decision to keep the reigning league MVP on the sideline after he failed to wear a tie on the team flight Saturday, as required by team rules. Derek Anderson replaced Newton in the starting lineup and threw an interception on Carolina's first play from scrimmage. Newton entered the game on the second series, but things continued to spiral downhill and the injury-riddled and struggling Panthers (4-8) lost 40-7. Rivera said there was no underlying message to Newton because he has enforced similar dress code violations in the past. "It's not the first time and it probably won't be the last time," Rivera said. "At the end of the day everybody gets treated the same." Rivera made the decision to bench Newton on Saturday night when he was unable to come up with a shirt and tie for the team flight to Seattle. The sixth-year coach was well aware his decision would get a lot of media attention -- and generate some criticism -- because of his quarterback's high profile, but felt like he had to enforce the team's long-standing rule. "I knew it was going to be a feeding frenzy -- that's just the way it is," Rivera said. "I've addressed it and (Cam) has addressed it. So I'm done with it." Carolina players were off on Monday following an early morning flight back from the West coast and were not available for interviews. Players for the most part steered clear of addressing Rivera's decision after the game. Newton took accountability for the mistake after the game, telling reporters, "Long story short, he has rules in place. In my opinion, it was a lack of communication on my part, especially as a team captain, a person that I feel has his ear. I should have just cleared it first." Rivera said the team has five core values set by owner Jerry Richardson -- hard work, harmony, teamwork, listen and respect. "You can be who you are and keep your personality, but you have to try to keep them within the parameters," Rivera said. Carolina, which hosts the Chargers on Sunday, can finish no better than 8-8 this season, meaning its streak of never having put back-to-back winning seasons together since entering the league in 1995 will continue. Tight end Greg Olsen said Sunday night that this season has been filled with "humbling experiences" after a year in which the Panthers bolted to a 14-0 start and reached the Super Bowl before losing to the Denver Broncos. "We just aren't very good right now, that's just the reality," Olsen said. "That's all anyone should care about. Just win one time, one game. Prepare that way, play that way, play smart, execute, and win one game." The Panthers have been ravaged by injuries. Against Seattle they played without middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, defensive end Mario Addison and safety Kurt Coleman on defense and center Ryan Kalil and left tackle Michael Oher on offense. Kalil and Oher are both on injured reserve and the Panthers are down to the fourth center. "We all had grand expectations," Rivera said of the season. "Shoot, I really wanted to get back to the Super Bowl and win it. I'm not going to back off that. We still had opportunities but we just didn't capitalize." Still, Rivera said the remaining games will be important in terms of evaluating for the future. "This is a good opportunity to see who we are, see what our character is and see what we can build on," Rivera said. ------ AP NFL website: and Tuesday, December 06, 2016 This time of year, it doesn't hurt to be physical in the NFL By BARRY WILNER AP Pro Football Writer It doesn't hurt to be physical in the NFL. Well, actually, it hurts quite a bit. Especially on the Lambeau Field tundra . Or when the Ravens are pounding you . Or the Steelers are treating you like a rag doll. When the schedule hits December, and the hitting gets more ferocious, physicality is an irreplaceable edge. We saw that specifically Sunday in Green Bay, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Oakland. "We knew we had a long game in front of us," said the Steelers' sensational running back Le'Veon Bell after a 24-14 whipping they put on the Giants. "But our guys up front, they prepared for the battle. They were out there talking trash and going back and forth. "You have to give credit to our line. They kept churning and wearing them out over the course of the game. I just wanted to make sure that I kept running hard. Then, in the fourth quarter, the holes got a little bigger. I started running through a couple of tackles and started breaking some runs." And breaking some spirits. All four losers in those rugged matchups entered with winning records. The Giants (8-4) had their six-game winning string snapped by Pittsburgh. Miami (7-5) also saw its six-game streak end at Baltimore. Buffalo (6-6) blew a big lead and got pushed around in the second half by Oakland. Houston (6-6) not only couldn't handle the Packers' intensity, it couldn't deal with the snow, wind and cold in Green Bay, where the Packers finally found that fierce edge to their game. New York figures to rebound from its beating -- it better, considering Dallas comes to the Meadowlands next Sunday night and can clinch the NFC East with a win. The other three, should they fall short of the postseason, likely can point to how much Week 13 took out of them. Although it's just as probable that Weeks 14-17 will be as physical and exhausting. "We need everyone in this locker room to get the job done," Packers safety Morgan Burnett said. "It's going to be tough and challenging. At this time of the year, no one is feeling great, but you have to go out there having grit and get the job done." This was the first week when weather was a factor, and it's not going to get any more temperate in outdoor stadiums in New England, New York, Green Bay, Kansas City or Denver. Don't think that those clubs aren't built at least in part toward dealing with Mother Nature. Perhaps with the exception of the Patriots, the rest of those teams, plus the Ravens and Steelers, will be turning to their defenses even more down the stretch. What bodes well for most of them is how they don't shy away from the physicality needed when they discover throwing the ball through 30 mph gusts is ludicrous. Or when opening up the offense in sleet or single-digit temperatures is unwise. Baltimore's defense has been coming on for weeks, and the Ravens have the winning experience to ride it in somewhat similar fashion to how Denver surged to the championship last season. Pittsburgh doesn't exactly have a Steel Curtain, but the Steelers also are playing their best D right now. They overwhelmed the Giants at times Sunday even without perhaps their most important defender, the injured Cam Heyward. Kansas City gives up points, but it also comes up with big plays. Bob Sutton's unit, as thorny as they come, often makes up for a pedestrian offense. New York's pass rush has progressed to the point it leaves many opposing quarterbacks unnerved, or at the least, reticent about taking the time required to let plays develop downfield. Denver is still Denver, packing a wallop on nearly every play. Many of those contenders are quite rugged with the ball. The Raiders have the second-best offensive line to Dallas, and are happy to show off its power. Bell will run through anybody if need be, as will the Patriots' LeGarrette Blount. December definitely is not a time for anyone who can be intimidated. Don't think for a second the intimidators won't turn ultra-physical over the next four weeks. ------ AP Sports Writers Genaro C. Armas in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this story. ------ For more NFL coverage: and Tuesday, December 06, 2016 Heisman finalists: Jackson, Watson, Peppers, 2 Sooners NEW YORK (AP) -- Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is a Heisman Trophy finalist for the second consecutive season, joining Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers and Oklahoma teammates Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook. The finalists were announced Monday on ESPN and the award will be presented Saturday in New York. Watson finished third in last year's voting, won by Alabama running back Derrick Henry. Just like last year, he heads to New York not as the favorite but as the contender coming on strong at the end. "You just don't have a lot of two-time Heisman finalists over the history of your program. He is our first, and he's very deserving," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement. "I've said it before; I believe he is the best player in the nation and has been a great representative of our University." Mayfield finished fourth last season, but did not get an invite to Heisman presentation in New York. Westbrook and Mayfield are the first teammates to be finalists since Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart from Southern California finished first and third, respectively in 2005. Peppers is the first defensive player to be a Heisman finalists since Notre Dame linebacker Manti Teo was a distant runner-up to Johnny Manziel in 2012. Finalists are determined by the margins between vote-getters. The ballots of more than 900 voters, which included former Heisman winners, were due Monday. Watson entered as the preseason favorite in what looked like a strong field of contenders, but Jackson quickly swept past them all to be front-runner. He was brilliant for the first two months of the season and Louisville was looking like a College Football Playoff contender. It seemed as if Jackson would be a runaway Heisman winner, but the 15th-ranked Cardinals lost their final two games of the season. He was sacked 11 times in a lopsided loss at Houston and he committed four turnovers in a last-second loss against Kentucky. Watson, meanwhile, has surged since Clemson's only loss to Pitt in mid-November. He also had the benefit of playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game last Saturday and took full advantage of the spotlight. Watson threw three touchdown passes and ran for two scores in a 42-35 victory against Virginia Tech to seal a spot in the College Football Playoff. The raw numbers still favor Jackson, who is second in the nation in total yards per game (410.7) and has accounted for 51 touchdowns (21 rushing TDs and 30 TD passes) with 13 turnovers (nine INTs and four lost fumbles) in 12 games. Watson averages 341.8 yards per game and has 43 touchdowns (six rushing and 37 passing) with 15 turnovers (all interceptions) in 13 games. When the two met on Oct. 1 at Clemson in what was one of the season's most entertaining games, Watson threw for 306 yards and five touchdowns, ran for 91 and was picked off three times. Jackson had 295 yards passing, 162 rushing and accounted for three touchdowns with one interception. Clemson won 42-36. "It will mean a lot," Jackson said about the possibility of winning. "Just being the first person to win it (at) the University of Louisville, so it'll be an honor." Mayfield and Westbrook have been a dynamic combination, and late in the season No. 7 Oklahoma started a dual campaign to promote both for the Heisman. Mayfield is on pace to break the NCAA record for passer efficiency rating in a season (197.75). Westbrook has 74 catches for 1,465 yards and 16 touchdowns and has more receptions covering at least 20 yards (26) than any receiver in the country. Peppers played defense, offense and special teams for Michigan, lining up all over the field. He had 60 tackles, three sacks and an interception on defense, scored three touchdowns on offense being used mostly as a wildcat quarterback and averaged 14.8 yards with a touchdown on punt returns. Still, he was a bit of a surprising finalist. Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, Florida State running back Dalvin Cook and Washington quarterback Jake Browning were among those who were considered potential finalists that did not draw enough support to get an invitation to New York. ------ Follow Ralph D. Russo at More college football Tuesday, December 06, 2016 Brady breaks QB wins mark, Patriots beat Rams 26-10 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- Tom Brady now stands alone when it comes to career wins by an NFL quarterback. Brady became the league's leader in victories among QBs, earning his 201st by throwing for 269 yards and a touchdown to lead the New England Patriots past the struggling Los Angeles Rams 26-10 on Sunday. Brady, who was 33 of 46, had tied Peyton Manning last week in a win over the New York Jets. "It's always been about winning, and I've been very fortunate to be on a lot of great teams," Brady said of reaching the milestone. "I'm just really grateful." His lone touchdown pass came on a 14-yard pass to Chris Hogan in the first quarter. LeGarrette Blount scored the game's first touchdown , rumbling for a 43-yard, ankle-breaking score in the first quarter while spinning around safety Maurice Alexander in the process. He finished with 88 yards on 18 carries. The Patriots (10-2) have won seven of their last eight as they prepare for a tough stretch against three teams with winning records over their final four regular-season games. On the same day that Los Angeles coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead were given contract extensions, the recently relocated Rams (4-8) proved they still have a long way to go after losing for the seventh time in eight outings. The Rams entered the game ranked 31st in total offense, averaging just 295 yards per game. Those struggles continued Sunday. They managed just 25 yards in the first half, the fewest by a team in a game this season. Los Angeles was outgained 402-162 for the game. In his third career start, rookie Jared Goff was picked off twice, completing 14 of 32 passes for 161 yards. QUOTABLE "That's a record that I don't think will ever be broken. He'll continue to build on it, I'm sure." -- Blount on Brady's wins mark. "I kind of made a point to watch his first drive." -- Goff on watching Brady, whom he congratulated postgame on setting the wins record. RAMS FUTILITY: How bad was the Rams' offense in the first half? The Patriots had more fourth-down conversions (two), than the Rams had total first downs (one). New England had 12 total first downs. Los Angeles also ran just 18 offensive plays, compared to 42 for the Patriots. FORCING TURNOVERS: After not forcing a turnover for 44 straight possessions, with interceptions by cornerback Malcolm Butler in the first quarter and linebacker Kyle Van Noy in the third marked four takeaways for the Patriots' defense over the past two games. BIG FOOT: Rams P Johnny Hekker had a 76-yard punt in the fourth quarter. It was his third punt this season of 75 or more yards. He had boots of 75 and 78 yards last month against the Panthers and Jets. INJURIES: Rams: CB E.J. Gaines sustained quad injury in the second quarter. Patriots: WR Danny Amendola left late in the third quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. He was later spotted walking on crutches in the tunnel underneath Gillette Stadium. CB Eric Rowe also did not return after leaving with a hamstring injury. UP NEXT Rams: Host the Falcons on Sunday. Patriots: Host the Ravens next Monday night. Monday, December 05, 2016 Colts try to keep pace in AFC South on MNF vs. woeful Jets EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The AFC South is up for grabs and the Indianapolis Colts are hanging in despite an up-and-down season. The playoff run begins now for Andrew Luck and Co., with a game tonight against the lowly New York Jets, who are simply playing out the string in a disappointing season. Not that the Colts (5-6) are taking the Jets (3-8) lightly. They can't afford to, not with Houston (6-5) and Tennessee (6-6) ahead of them in the standings entering this weekend. "This isn't a deal where you sit there and hope and pray that something else happens," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "You have to control what you can control and we can control how we handle ourselves. ... It's going to be a huge challenge: on the road, hostile environment, you have weather, crowd noise, you have elements, you have environment, you have all that stuff that you have to deal with. "Again, there is nothing better than being on that stage and we have to do our part in preparation to get ready to play a good football game." After a 28-7 loss to Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving, the Colts will have Luck back under center after he missed the game with a concussion and was replaced by Scott Tolzien . Luck returned to full practice activity earlier in the week and needed only to be cleared by an independent doctor to play tonight. "Sitting and watching is no fun," Luck said. "Playing is fun. Practicing is fun. Winning is fun." That's something the Jets haven't done much of this season, although coach Todd Bowles insists that remains the focus for his team. That's why he's starting Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback this week despite a growing sentiment that New York should see what it has in Bryce Petty, who was so-so in a spot start three weeks ago when the veteran sat out with a sprained knee. While the Jets are all but assured missing the playoffs for the sixth straight season, they are aiming for a strong finish. "We're all trying to win every game," Bowles said, "whether we're trying to get to 8-8 or whether we're trying to be 16-0." Here are some other things to know as the Colts and Jets prepare to face each other on Monday night: LIGHTS OUT: The Colts were once a good bet in prime-time games. Not anymore. Indy has lost five straight games and seven of the last eight it has played under the lights. The list includes a Thanksgiving night loss to Pittsburgh last week and a defeat in September 2015 to the Jets. And the Colts are just 3-9 in prime time since January 2011. MARSHALL PLAN: Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall caught a 1-yard TD pass against the Patriots last week , his first score since Oct. 9 at Pittsburgh -- a span of five games without reaching the end zone. He's having a down year statistically with 49 catches for 668 yards and three touchdowns, far off his pace from last season when he had a franchise-record 109 receptions for 1,502 yards and 14 TDs. Still, Marshall is moving up the career lists. He needs 59 yards receiving to become the 25th player in NFL history with 12,000. Marshall also has seven career 100-yard receiving performances on "Monday Night Football," one behind Tim Brown and Andre Reed for third place all-time. FANTASTIC FRANK: Colts running back Frank Gore has been passing familiar faces on the NFL's career rushing list all season. Tonight, he can do it again. Gore needs 30 yards rushing to move past Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett (12,739) for No. 8. He has already passed five Hall of Famers this year: Thurman Thomas, Franco Harris, Marcus Allen, Marshall Faulk and Jim Brown. He also passed old friend Edgerrin James, one of the three non-Hall of Famers to appear in the top 15. The others: LaDainian Tomlinson, who will be eligible for induction next year, and Gore. THE LINE: The Jets have three first-rounders on their defensive line in Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams, so the Colts' continually changing offensive line may face its most difficult task all season. The good news: center Ryan Kelly and right guard Denzelle Good have practiced this week, so the Colts may not need to piece together their seventh different starting line this season. The bad news: Indy has given up 38 sacks in 11 games, the second-highest total in the league. TIGHT ENDS BREAK OUT: Chan Gailey hasn't used tight ends much in the passing game in his two seasons as the Jets' offensive coordinator, with New York getting just eight receptions (Jeff Cumberland, five; Kellen Davis, three) last year. It was much of the same until last week, when Brandon Bostick had two and Austin Seferian-Jenkins one -- giving the Jets a whopping seven from the position this season. The three catches were the most New York has gotten from the position since Cumberland had three against New England on Dec. 21, 2014. Monday, December 05, 2016 Bills collapse dents playoff hopes in 38-24 loss to Raiders OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- For the first 36 minutes, the game went as scripted for the Buffalo Bills. Then, in a span of a little more than 15 minutes, the game, and most likely their playoff hopes, fell out of the Bills' grasp. Buffalo squandered a 15-point lead by allowing 29 straight points to the Raiders in a 38-24 loss Sunday that dealt a major blow to the playoff hopes for a franchise that hasn't made it to the postseason since 1999. "You feel that momentum shift and it just snowballed on us," coach Rex Ryan said. "Sometimes I think we lose confidence and you just can't let that happen to you." The Bills (6-6) had scored touchdowns on the first two drives of the second half to build a 24-9 lead before Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and the Raiders (10-2) took it over for Oakland's biggest comeback victory since 1999. Carr engineered four touchdown drives in a span of 15:27, while the Bills went three-and-out on three straight possessions and then threw an interception by Tyrod Taylor that just about sealed the game. Buffalo was outgained 212-8 during that stretch. "It was crazy," safety Corey Graham said. "It was one of those situations where everything they did went right and we just couldn't make a play. I've never really been in a situation like that where everything went wrong, just like you couldn't make a play, and then those guys went on a roll and it was like everything they did turned to gold." The Bills fell two games behind Denver in the race for the second wild-card spot in the AFC and now will need lots of help to end the NFL's longest active playoff drought now that they are in a three-way tie for eighth place in the conference. Buffalo appeared capable of putting together an impressive win against a top-notch opponent the way the offense opened the second half. LeSean McCoy ran 54 yards on the first play before Taylor scored on a 12-yard keeper after that to make it 17-9. After forcing a three-and-out and a short punt, Buffalo methodically drove down field and scored again on Mike Gillislee's second TD run to make it 24-9. "I just felt like this is a game that we had in our hands and we let slip away," said McCoy, who ran for 130 yards and added 61 more receiving. Carr began carving up the Bills defense after that, throwing TD passes to Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper in his sixth fourth-quarter comeback of the season. The Raiders also had success on the ground with Latavius Murray scoring on two TD runs and even capitalized on two rare turnovers by the Bills to put the game away. With Buffalo trailing by six points midway through the fourth, Mack got pressure and deflected a pass out of the end zone from Taylor that Nate Allen intercepted to set up Murray's second score that made it 38-24. The Bills then got the offense moving on the next drive only to lose the ball when Mack broke through for a strip sack and recovered the fumble. Buffalo had been on a record pace protecting the ball, committing just six turnovers coming into the game -- the fewest ever in the NFL after 11 games. "We just made it tougher on ourselves," Taylor said. "But we have the type of guys in our locker room who can bounce back. As far as moving forward, we just have to out there and win." Monday, December 05, 2016 Playoff matchups top the storylines for bowl season By RALPH D. RUSSO AP College Football Writer The Alabama invitational, um, College Football Playoff is set, along with 38 other bowl games big and small. From coaching intrigue to record-setting runs there should be plenty of story lines to follow. ------ THE PLAYOFF Top-ranked Alabama and Nick Saban are attempting to win an unprecedented fifth national title in eight seasons, including back-to-back for a second time, and add to what can already be considered the greatest run in the history of college football. The Peach Bowl semifinal between the Tide and No. 4 Washington it will also be the first meeting of Saban and Washington coach Chris Petersen, who has an .826 winning percentage since he first became a head coach with Boise State in 2006. Petersen's Boise teams were known for upsets. Alabama is a two-touchdown favorite. The Fiesta Bowl semifinal between No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State is a rematch of the 2014 Orange Bowl won by Clemson 40-35. That game completed a late-season meltdown of Ohio State's defense that led coach Urban Meyer to make staff and scheme changes that have helped the Buckeyes have one of the top defenses in the country three years running. RUSHING TOWARD A RECORD San Diego State's Donnel Pumphrey needs 108 yards in his final college game against Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 17 to break the FBS career record held by former Wisconsin star and Heisman winner Ron Dayne. The Cougars, led by star freshman defensive lineman Ed Oliver, have one of the best run defenses in the country, allowing 97 yards per game and 2.87 per carry. Pumphrey is the nation's second-leading rusher at 155 yards per game. COACHING CAROUSEL Houston will go into its bowl game with an interim coach after Tom Herman left for Texas and a few other schools could be in similar situations. -- No. 12 Western Michigan is on its way to the biggest bowl game in school history, a matchup with No. 8 Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl, but coach P.J. Fleck has been the subject of much speculation with regards to openings at Purdue and Oregon. -- Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm has been tied to Purdue and Baylor openings. The Hilltoppers, who have won two straight Conference USA titles, face Memphis on Dec. 20 in the Boca Raton Bowl. -- Boise State and Baylor meet Dec. 27 at Cactus Bowl in Phoenix. It will be the last game for Jim Grobe, Baylor's acting head coach who took over on short notice after Art Briles was fired in the summer. Broncos coach Bryan Harsin is being mentioned as candidate for Oregon. STYLE CLASH The best bowls are often the ones between teams that take very different approaches to offense. -- Navy will bring its triple-option (averaging 327 yards rushing per game) to the Armed Forces Bowl to face Louisiana Tech, which averages 360 yards passing per game behind quarterback Ryan Higgins. -- Minnesota faces Washington State in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27, but only the Cougars have the pedigree to live up to the bowl's high-scoring tradition. Minnesota has thrown eight touchdown passes, tied for 124th in the nation. The Cougars have 39 touchdown passes. -- North Carolina's up-tempo offense matches Stanford's plodding, traditional pro-style in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 30. IN NEED OF A STRONG FINISH The Music City Bowl in Nashville was definitely not what Tennessee (8-4) and coach Butch Jones had in mind this season after the Volunteers beat Florida in September. But here the Vols are facing No. 24 Nebraska (9-3). Not only did the Vols blow a chance to win the SEC East by losing to South Carolina, but they blew a chance to back into the Sugar Bowl by losing to Vanderbilt. On the other side, No. 24 Nebraska's second season under coach Mike Riley was a huge step forward from five wins to nine. But the Cornhuskers were a top-10 team in late October and their best victory of the season was against Minnesota. Getting to 10 wins against a big brand like Tennessee would make a huge difference to how this season is viewed. FINALES A great group of junior running backs could all be playing their final college games. -- Christian McCaffrey at Stanford should find some room to run against a North Carolina defense that had trouble stopping teams on the ground late in the season. -- No. 19 LSU's Leonard Fournette faces No. 15 Louisville in the Citrus Bowl on Dec. 31. Fournette has been hampered by an ankle injury but it would be nice to get one more look at him running for the Tigers. And, oh by the way, the Heisman Trophy winner might be on the other side of the field. Cardinal quarterback Lamar Jackson is still the front-runner and would be the first Heisman winner since Johnny Manziel in 2012 to not play in either the playoff or the BCS championship. -- No. 10 Florida State against No. 6 Michigan in the Orange Bowl is one of the best bowls outside the playoff and a big part of that is Seminoles star Dalvin Cook. -- Pitt's James Conner has been one of the best stories in college football, returning from cancer treatment to run for 1,060 yards and score 20 touchdowns. He and the 22nd-ranked Panthers face Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 28. ------ Follow Ralph D. Russo at ------ More AP college football: Monday, December 05, 2016 'Bama, OSU, Clemson and Washington in CFP semis By RALPH D. RUSSO AP College Football Writer Conference championships matter. Head-to-head matters. Strength of schedule matters. Every game counts, though some seem to count more than others and good luck figuring out which ones count most. This and more is what the College Football Playoff selection committee sorts through to pick the four best teams in the country. If consistency, certainty and clear-cut criteria are what you crave, this may not be the sport for you. Yes, the goal posts move from season to season. That may be the way it is for awhile -- at least until the playoff grows up. "Every year is going to be different," CFP executive director Bill Hancock said. "Football seasons are like snowflakes, they're all different. Next year we'll be standing here talking about some other way it fell out. And that's great." It worked out great Sunday for Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington. Not so great if you root for Penn State. No. 1 Alabama (13-0) will face No. 4 Washington (12-1) in one semifinal and second-seeded Clemson (12-1) meets third-seeded Ohio State (11-1) in the other on Dec. 31. The committee stayed with the same top four it picked going into championship weekend, leaving out No. 5 Penn State (11-2) even though the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten title game and beat Ohio State earlier in the season. The Buckeyes are the first team to reach the playoff in its three-year history without winning their conference. Many questioned why Ohio State deserved a spot, especially over Penn State. Selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt made it clear that the 12-person committee did not. Ohio State's three victories against top-10 teams (No. 7 Oklahoma, No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 6 Michigan) and only one loss, by three at Penn State, won the day over the Nittany Lions. Penn State lost to Pitt and Michigan (by 39) before closing the season with nine straight victories. Several times, Hocutt cited Penn State's noncompetitive loss and Ohio State's strong nonconference victory at Oklahoma. So the key is to play a difficult nonconference schedule? Well, maybe not. The final spot came down to Penn State (11-2) and Pac-12 champion Washington. The Huskies' only loss was to 10th-ranked Southern California and its nonconference schedule featured FCS Portland State, Rutgers and Idaho. Penn State played Pitt, Temple and Kent State out of conference. "I think because of Washington's strength of schedule, their margin for error was very slim," Hocutt said. "I think our discussions and our decision would have been much easier if Washington would have had a stronger strength of schedule this college football season." You could say Washington benefited because it did not play a difficult nonconference opponent. But you can also say that if Penn State beat Pitt it would have benefited from playing a difficult nonconference schedule. Hocutt said the committee dug deep into the Huskies and Nittany Lions. "As we looked at those key statistics from an offensive standpoint, from a defensive standpoint, from starting field position differential, the edge was to Washington," Hocutt said. "You look at turnover margin, Washington ranks first in the country in turnover margin compared to Penn State, ranking 50." If there is a pattern to be found in the committee's work over three years it may be this simple: For the most part, the teams are ranked by the number in the loss column. No two-loss team has made the playoff. Even a close head-to-head win over Ohio State and a conference title was not enough for Penn State to overcome two losses. Maybe next season will be different. In many ways the College Football Playoff is no different than the Bowl Championship Series, a highly subjective system that relied on poll voters to pick the top two teams. The one crucial difference, though, is enormous. Four instead of two makes the CFP better than the BCS. What could provide more consistency, more objectivity while removing much of the subjectivity, is bigger playoff. Eight teams, with five automatic qualifying Power Five conference champions, the best team from the Group of Five and two wild cards. Fewer debates, plus it could put some juice back into championship weekend, which has become a little anticlimactic. It would also bring Cinderella into college football's postseason, providing an opportunity for a non-Power Five team to win a meaningful postseason game and an underdog conference championship game winner to move on and play for the national title. Sounds interesting, but it is not happening anytime soon. Hancock said expansion of the playoff is not up for consideration by the conference commissioners. The CFP is in year three of a 12-year television deal with ESPN. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney cautioned that more postseason would lessen the value of the regular season and that adding another round would require eliminating other games. "I don't think you can go past 15 games in college football," said Swinney, whose did just that last season and lost to Alabama in the national championship game. "Something would have to give." Ohio State's Urban Meyer said he empathizes with Penn State and would not mind seeing a system that rewards all conference champions. "I'm not sure there's an easy answer," said Meyer, who has won two BCS championships and the first College Football Playoff. "I think we're heading in the right direction." Monday, December 05, 2016 Big names in play as MLB winter meetings open today By RONALD BLUM AP Baseball Writer OXON HILL, Md. -- Andrew McCutchen, Chris Sale, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander could be available for the right price. As baseball teams gathered for the start of the winter meetings today star players were dangled along with the usual crop of free agents. "When clubs take a dramatic change in direction or even a subtle one, that type of player can become available -- although often it's just talk," New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Sunday. "We'll see what happens." Having retained outfielder Yoenis Cespedes last week for the biggest deal thus far this offseason, $110 million over four years, Alderson is listening to offers for Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce. The other New York team made a splash with a free agent Sunday. The Yankees agreed to a $13 million, one-year contract with outfielder Matt Holliday, a person familiar with the negotiations said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been announced. On the eve of the meetings, former Commissioner Bud Selig was elected to the Hall of Fame along with John Schuerholz, architect of the Atlanta Braves teams that won a record 14 straight division titles. Only about one-sixth of major league free agents have agreed to contracts, and the unsigned group includes closers Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon; slugger Edwin Encarnacion, major league home run leader Mark Trumbo and outfielders Jose Bautista, Ian Desmond and Dexter Fowler. Negotiations usually gain pace during the winter meetings, when nearly all of baseball is gathered in one hotel. The offseason was framed last month when general managers met. Detroit made clear it had shifted into payroll-paring mode. "We chose to be transparent," Tigers GM Al Avila said then. "We chose to tell the players the possibility of things happening." McCutchen, who revived somewhat in the late stages of last season, could become a free agent a year from now. Rather than get only a draft pick in return then, the Pirates are likely to be proactive. Monday, December 05, 2016 Matsuyama holds on in Bahamas for 3rd straight win By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer NASSAU, Bahamas -- Hideki Matsuyama was only 5 when he first saw Tiger Woods, watching on videotape that 1997 Masters victory. Even sweeter was standing next to Woods in his Sunday red shirt to receive yet another trophy. Right now, the Japanese star can't seem to lose. The return of Tiger Woods ended with Matsuyama winning his third straight tournament, and fourth out of his last five, in the Hero World Challenge. "I can't say that I played well today, but I did win Tiger's tournament," Matsuyama said. "And what a great honor that is." Matsuyama had a few nervous moments on the back nine at Albany when his seven-shot lead at the start of the final round was reduced to two shots over British Open champion Henrik Stenson with two to play. Matsuyama closed with two pars for a 1-over 73 and a two-shot victory. Woods found plenty of positives from his first tournament in more than 15 months, though the final round featured three double bogeys and a 76 -- the highest score of the tournament -- that dropped him to 15th place out of 17 players. "It feels good to be back out here playing again, competing and trying to beat the best players in the world," Woods said. "I missed it. I love it." Matsuyama is moving up in class quickly. His big run started with a three-shot victory in the Japan Open. He was runner-up in Malaysia, then became the first Asian to win a World Golf Championships title with a seven-shot victory over Stenson and Daniel Berger in the HSBC Champions. Two weeks later, he won the Taiheiyo Masters on the Japan Golf Tour by seven. And except for a few mistakes on the back nine at Albany, this was another runaway. "It's going to give him a boat load of confidence going into next year, and he's going to be one of the top guys to beat for a very long time," Woods said. Matsuyama, who finished at 18-under 270, won $1 million and remained at No. 6 in the world. He ended his streak of 17 consecutive founds in the 60s, though all that mattered was the trophy presentation with Woods. "It's tough with a seven-stroke lead," he said. "But somehow I was able to pull it off. Hopefully, this experience will help me in the future." Stenson, playing with him in the final group, closed with a 68 and made Matsuyama work hard for this title. Matsuyama still had a six-shot lead going into the back nine when he went bunker-to-bunker around the 10th green and made double bogey. Then, he three-putted from about 18 feet on the 14th hole, where Stenson made birdie for a two-shot swing. Just like that, the lead was down to three with four holes remaining. And it looked like it would get even closer on the par-5 15th. Matsuyama was in a greenside bunker in two and didn't quite reach the green. Stenson had a 45-foot eagle putt. But the Swede left it about 10 feet short and three-putted for par, and Matsuyama matched him. Stenson also three-putted the 10th, costing him another chance to get closer. "Whatever he gave me on 14, I gave it straight back to him on 15," Stenson said. Stenson drilled a 4-iron into 4 feet on the 16th for another birdie, and Matsuyama's approach barely cleared the bunker, leading to par to stay two ahead. The tournament was still in doubt on the 18th hole. Matsuyama's shot from the rough bounded over the green, while Stenson had 12-feet for birdie. If the Swede made and Matsuyama failed to get up-and-down, it was headed for a playoff. The Japanese star steadied himself with a good pitch to tap-in range, and that wrapped it up. "He hit a very classy chip there," Stenson said. Matsuyama now heads home to Japan for a break, though he won't put the clubs away for long. He starts back in Hawaii the first week of the new year, and already he is thinking ahead to April and Augusta National. "Starting next week all my focus and preparation will be for the Masters," he said. "Hopefully, along the way I can play well on the PGA Tour. But the Masters is my next goal." DIVOTS: Matsuyama borrowed the caddie of good friend Hiroshi Iwata this week, Mei Inui. He said she helped keep him positive when his lead was shrinking. His regular caddie, known as Dice-K, returns to work in Hawaii. ... Rickie Fowler (69), Matt Kuchar (70) and Dustin Johnson (71) tied for third. Monday, December 05, 2016 Knicks hold off Kings 106-98 for eighth win in 11 games By BRIAN MAHONEY AP Basketball Writer NEW YORK -- They were bad enough to allow 18 straight points yet still good enough to win. That's all that matters to the New York Knicks, who ended up on the right side of the scoreboard and found beauty in an ugly game. "It's a line drive in the score book, right?" coach Jeff Hornacek said. Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony each scored 20 points and the Knicks held off the Sacramento Kings 106-98 on Sunday night for their eighth win in 11 games. The Knicks took a 21-point lead in the first half, surrendered an 18-0 run in the third quarter but outplayed the Kings down the stretch to win their third straight overall and improve to 9-3 at home. "The main objective and the goal is just to get wins. I don't think nobody cares about stats or anything like that," guard Brandon Jennings said. "As long as we win we're happy, but we've got to getter. I mean we haven't blew anybody out yet, so hopefully we can get a blowout game where other guys can play." Jennings added 19 points and Kristaps Porzingis finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds. DeMarcus Cousins had 36 points and 12 rebounds for the Kings, but shot just 9 for 30 and tired late while playing the entire second half. "Coach tried to take me out at the end of the third with like a minute left. I begged him could I stay in," Cousins said. "I thought he was going to take me out at the beginning of the fourth but he stayed with me. Just tried to stay aggressive and keep pushing. It was a tough one tonight, but I like our team's effort. I liked that we kept fighting." The Knicks used an 18-4 run to expand a seven-point lead to 48-27 midway through the second quarter and had a 19-point cushion in the third before suddenly sending the Kings to the foul line too much and not scoring at all, as Sacramento's 18-0 run cut it to 72-71 late in the period. Leading by two with just under five minutes left, the Knicks got a 3-pointer by Anthony to start a 7-2 spurt that finally put it away. Sacramento dropped its third straight on its road trip that was shortened to five games after a game in Philadelphia was postponed because of unsafe court conditions. TIP-INS Kings: The Kings intentionally fouled Joakim Noah away from the ball twice down the stretch and it worked -- defensively, at least -- as he missed all four free throws. But Sacramento couldn't follow up either time with a basket. ... Sacramento had its four-game winning streak against New York snapped. Knicks: Noah returned after missing two games with a sprained left ankle, but fellow starter Courtney Lee missed his second straight with the same injury. Hornacek said the guard was feeling pretty good but still having trouble moving side to side. ... Anthony left in the first quarter and went to the locker room area for treatment of a cut lower lip. ROUGH NIGHTS Among the struggling Kings were Kosta Koufos (1 for 7), Matt Barnes (1 for 11) and Arron Afflalo, who went 1 for 4 in his return to New York after playing for the Knicks last season. The Kings shot 32 percent. SEE YOU SOON When the Kings finally get home from their road trip, the first team to visit Friday is the Knicks, a team Sacramento coach Dave Joerger believes is on the rise. "I think it's an exciting time for them," he said. "I'm not really excited about playing them twice in eight days but I think they look good." UP NEXT Kings: Visit Dallas on Wednesday night to end their road trip. Knicks: Visit Miami on Tuesday night. The Knicks snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Heat with a 98-90 victory last Jan. 6 in their last trip to South Florida. Monday, December 05, 2016 Selig, Schuerholz elected to baseball Hall of Fame By BEN WALKER AP Baseball Writer OXON HILL, Md. -- Bud Selig oversaw baseball during a time of transformation and turmoil -- wild cards and a ballpark boom, the cancellation of a World Series and the Steroids Era. For much of his reign, though, there was one constant: those first-place Atlanta Braves, built by John Schuerholz. The former commissioner and the longtime general manager met up again Sunday, both elected by an overwhelming margin to the Hall of Fame. Even so, Selig didn't see it as a sure thing. "It reminded me of many a ninth inning when I used to pace around," the one-time owner of the Milwaukee Brewers said on a conference call. Schuerholz was picked by all 16 voters on a veterans committee at the winter meetings in suburban Washington. Selig was listed 15 times. "The ultimate of honors," Schuerholz said. It took 12 votes for election, and former player and manager Lou Piniella was third with seven. Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Mark McGwire and George Steinbrenner also were on the ballot considered by the Today's Game Era panel, and none of them got more than five votes. Selig became the fifth of 10 commissioners to reach the Hall. He will be enshrined July 30 in Cooperstown, New York -- on his 83rd birthday. His election was sure to draw fire from fans who link him to some of the game's darkest moments. He called off the 1994 World Series during a players' strike. He was in charge when illegal steroids left a cloud of performance-enhancing drugs that still lingers -- and that might prompt some to wonder whether power hitters and power pitchers who benefited from PEDs should now be welcomed to the Hall, too. "Sometimes in life you have to go through certain things to maybe solve the problem," Selig said. Under Selig, the playoffs expanded from four teams to eight to 10 and the leagues were split into three divisions. Video replay was added to review umpire calls, revenue sharing was put in place and 20 new stadiums opened across the majors. "We were a sport resistant to change," he said. "And, yes, I believe in those years as commissioner, that's the most change in baseball history." There was no variance, however, once Schuerholz took over as GM of the Braves in the winter of 1990. Atlanta had never won even a single playoff game in its 25-season existence before going from worst-to-first in its first year under Schuerholz, starting an unprecedented run of 14 straight division titles. The Braves were boosted in that time by their Big Three of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, and manager Bobby Cox, all of them already in the Hall. Star third baseman Chipper Jones is expected to join them soon enough. Schuerholz was the first GM to run clubs that took World Series crowns in both leagues, winning with Kansas City in 1985 and Atlanta in 1995. "I loved to build teams," he said. In 26 years as a GM, his teams won 16 division titles and six pennants. "I always had aspirations to be a successful general manager," Schuerholz said. The 76-year-old later became president of the Braves and is currently a vice chairman with the team, helping prepare for its move to SunTrust Park next season. His son was a minor league infielder with the Braves and works in their front office. Born in Baltimore, and the son of a former Philadelphia Athletics minor league second baseman, Schuerholz played the same position at Towson University in his hometown. He was teaching eighth-grade English and world geography in 1966 when, during a class break, he wrote a letter to the president of the Orioles, saying he really wanted to work in baseball and hoping for a chance. "It all started with that letter," he remembered. Monday, December 05, 2016 Steelers cool off Giants, 24-14 By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have dished the flash of September for a decidedly more pragmatic approach in December. Heavy doses of Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. A dash of tight end Ladarius Green. A defense that looks competent and maybe even a bit dangerous. The Steelers will gladly sacrifice the style points for the substance they showed in a 24-14 win over the New York Giants on Sunday. The result emphatically ended New York's six-game winning streak and sent a message that Pittsburgh's midseason funk appears to be firmly in the rearview mirror. "I just think we're finding our rhythm," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said after his team allowed just 234 yards and picked off Eli Manning twice. "I think we're gaining continuity with the mix of guys who are playing. The young guys are growing up." A pivotal development for the Steelers (7-5), who have won three straight, each one a step up in class. Two weeks ago it was a simple slump-buster in Cleveland. On Thanksgiving, it was a decisive victory on the road in Indianapolis, albeit against a backup quarterback. This time it was one of the league's hottest teams, though New York (8-4) hardly looked like it at times while spoiling first-year coach Ben McAdoo's homecoming. McAdoo grew up an hour east of Heinz Field in Homer City, Pennsylvania. The team he faced on Sunday looked a bit like the one he idolized as a kid. The Steelers dominated the line of scrimmage at times behind Bell's 182 yards of total offense and prevented Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from ever really getting comfortable. "We are who we are right now," McAdoo said. "We need to go back to work. You can't just flip a switch and have things change." The Steelers have reinvented themselves on the fly following a four-game slide that took all the shine off their high-flying 4-1 start. Rather than try to overwhelm opponents with firepower they have put the ball in Bell's hands and let him lead the way. Bell touched the ball 35 times -- 29 rushes and six receptions -- and went over 100 yards rushing for the third straight game by churning for 118. He did so against a defense that hadn't allowed an opponent to reach the century mark since Adrian Peterson in Week 16 of last season. "I just wanted to make sure that I kept running hard," Bell said. "Then, in the fourth quarter, holes got a little bigger." Ben Roethlisberger passed for 289 yards and two touchdowns for Pittsburgh and Brown caught six passes for 54 yards, including an acrobatic scoring grab in the back of the end zone that put the Steelers up 11-0. "It's that time of year that we have to be our best self, offense, defense, special teams," Roethlisberger said. "Everybody needs to just do their job, and I thought they did that tonight." GOING GREEN Pittsburgh splurged in free agency on Green, hoping the 6-foot-6 tight end could fill the void left by Heath Miller's retirement. After a shaky start in which Green spent the first two months of the season recovering from various health concerns, he's starting to look like money well earned. Green caught six passes for 110 yards and his first touchdown of the season . "I'm not close to where I thought I would be, but I'm getting closer," Green said. "I'm building a little more confidence every game." BUMMED BECKHAM Beckham won the statistical battle with his good buddy Brown, catching 10 passes for 100 yards. Yet Beckham was baffled by an exchange with an unspecified official after he drew an offensive pass interference flag in the first quarter, a call that eventually set up a Pittsburgh safety. Beckham said when he approached the official for clarity on why the call was made, he was told "get out of my face." "I don't really understand that," Beckham said. "That's not really how I was raised." INJURIES Giants: Played the second half without defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who left in the second quarter with a groin injury. Pierre-Paul said afterward he's not sure of the severity of the injury and will be examined on Monday. New York also lost cornerback Coty Sensabaugh to a rib injury. Steelers: Rookie nose tackle Javon Hargrave left in the first half because of a concussion. Safety Shamarko Thomas, recently recovered from a groin injury, sustained a concussion while covering a kickoff return in the first half. UP NEXT Giants: host NFC East-leading Dallas next Sunday night. New York beat the Cowboys 20-19 in Week 1. Dallas has not lost since. Steelers: head north to Buffalo next Sunday. Monday, December 05, 2016 Sub-.500 bowl teams now becoming routine By NOAH TRISTER AP Sports Writer The Heart of Dallas Bowl will be a rematch between two teams that played in October -- and one of them is heading into the game with a 5-7 record. Unusual? Yes. But scenarios like this simply come with the territory now. With 80 bowl spots to fill, some postseason games ended up with odd matchups this year. North Texas will play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl after going 5-7, and the game will be a rematch against an Army teams it met six weeks ago. Mississippi State is also going to a bowl at 5-7. The Bulldogs face Miami (Ohio) in the St. Petersburg Bowl. "We're fortunate to have the opportunity," North Texas coach Seth Littrell said. "At the end of the day, we didn't even feel like we could get in this way, but we did, and so we're going to take it." Hawaii is also heading to a bowl with a losing record. The Rainbow Warriors (6-7) will play in the Hawaii Bowl against Middle Tennessee. The reason some sub-.500 teams were given a reprieve is because there weren't enough eligible teams to fill all the spots. That shortage also allows Army (6-5) and South Alabama (6-6) to go to bowls even though both have multiple wins over FCS schools. Teams are only supposed to count one FCS win for bowl eligibility purposes, but since there were openings, the Black Knights and Jaguars are in. South Alabama faces Air Force in the Arizona Bowl. The Jaguars were supposed to play LSU in November, but that game was canceled when the Tigers needed to play a rescheduled game against Florida. South Alabama played Presbyterian instead and won, so that switch may have been the difference between reaching a bowl and missing the postseason. There were sub-.500 teams in bowls last season too, so this may be the new normal in college football. Last season, Nebraska, Minnesota and San Jose State were 5-7 going into their bowls, and all three of them won. North Texas and Mississippi State weren't exactly apologizing Sunday. The Bulldogs' Twitter account boasted that Mississippi State is one of only five Southeastern Conference schools to reach a bowl every season this decade. Since the Academic Progress Rate plays a role in which sub.-500 teams play on, coaches can take pride in that. "This is a great opportunity for one of the winningest senior classes in school history and for our program to build momentum for 2017," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said in a statement. "It also speaks volumes of our student-athletes for their commitment in the classroom to qualify for a bowl based on our successful APR." North Texas lost four of its last five games in the regular season, but reaching a bowl -- no matter how it happened -- is still a big step forward after the Mean Green went 1-11 in 2015. North Texas won 35-18 at Army on Oct. 22. Regular-season rematches are rare in bowls, but there are some positives for the Heart of Dallas Bowl in this matchup. The bowl was supposed to match Conference USA against the Big Ten, but with one Big Ten team in the playoff and three more in New Year's Six bowls, there weren't enough left for every bowl with ties to the league. "We know that Army is going to bring a large contingency because the Texas area is one of their hotbeds," said Brant Ringler, the bowl's executive director. North Texas in Denton, of course, isn't far from Dallas. Ringler said that was appealing as well. "In the past couple years, you probably have noticed, the Conference USA championship has occurred, we received usually the champion or the runner-up, and it was probably going to look to be that way possibly this year as well," Ringler said. "But when we had an opening in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl game that we also control, we did work out an agreement with Conference USA to have (runner-up Louisiana Tech) play in the Armed Forces Bowl. Therefore, it allowed us to be able to slide in the University of North Texas into the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which is a win-win for all of us all around." Monday, December 05, 2016 AP source: Holliday, Yankees agree to $13M, 1-year contract OXON HILL, Md. (AP) -- Free agent outfielder Matt Holliday and the Yankees have agreed to a $13 million, one-year contract, a person familiar with the negotiations said Sunday, giving New York a veteran designated hitter as the team pivots to youth. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not yet been announced. Holliday, who turns 37 next month, fits into the Yankees strategy of signing veterans to short-term deals while pivoting toward a youth movement. A seven-time All-Star with a .303 career average, Holliday was drafted by Colorado in 1998, traded to Oakland after the 2008 season and then dealt to St. Louis the following July. He hit .246 with 20 homers and 62 RBIs in 110 games this year, missing substantial time after his left thumb was broken when he was hit by a pitch on Aug. 11. Holliday became a free agent when St. Louis declined his $17 million option. He figures to be primarily a designated hitter in a lineup where the projected outfield has Jacoby Ellsbury in center, Brett Gardner in left and 24-year-old Aaron Judge in right. Aaron Hicks and Tyler Austin are the backups. Carlos Beltran, another possibility for the DH spot, agreed Saturday to a $16 million, one-year contract with Houston, a deal that has not yet been announced. Holliday spent 84 games in left field this year, 10 at first and eight at DH. Monday, December 05, 2016 Anthony scores 29, Knicks win NEW YORK (AP) -- Carmelo Anthony scored 29 points, Derick Rose had 24 and Kyle O'Quinn added 20 points and 13 rebounds as the New York Knicks defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 118-114 on Friday night. Zach LaVine scored 24 points and Karl-Anthony Towns had 20 for the Timberwolves. Despite trailing 98-88 after three quarters, the Timberwolves went on a 12-2 run to start the fourth, aided by five Knick turnovers in the first four minutes, and took their first lead of the game, 102-101, on LaVine's dunk with 6:33 remaining. O'Quinn got the Knicks' lead back with consecutive baskets, and after Minnesota got within one, Rose scored the next five points to give New York a 110-104 lead. Andrew Wiggins converted a layup with 2:11 left, but Anthony answered with a dunk off of a full court pass from O'Quinn to make the score 112-106. Rose made two free throws with 31 seconds left for a 114-106 lead and the Timberwolves got no closer than four the rest of the way. The Knicks jumped out to a 24-8 lead to start the game. The Timberwolves were able to pull within nine after the first quarter, 30-21, and got as close as four, 34-30, on Nemamja Bjelica's 3-pointer with 9:06 left in the second quarter. New York took a 62-52 lead at halftime and led by as many as 14, 80-66, before settling for the 10-point lead after three. Justin Holiday finished with 13 points for the Knicks and Kristaps Porzingis had 11. Wiggins scored 19 points, Bjelica finished with 17, Shabazz Muhammad had 14, and Cole Aldrich posted a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. TIP-INS: Timberwolves: Minnesota has faced the Knicks in each its last two games, the only time they will play the same team in consecutive games all season. They did play back-to-back against Los Angeles on November 12 and 13, but that was against the Clippers and Lakers, respectively. Knicks: New York is now one game over .500 for the second time this season. They have not been two games over .500 since Nov. 21 last season. SWEPT AWAY The Timberwolves have been swept by the Knicks in each of the past two seasons (4-0). Minnesota's last win in the series was a 95-92 overtime victory on March 19, 2015. LEFT OUT Courtney Lee and Joakim Noah were inactive for the Knicks due to injuries to their left ankles. Lee had started the Knicks' first 18 games, while Noah has now missed two games due to the ankle and four overall. However, Lance Thomas, who had missed the previous nine games due to a left ankle injury, returned to action for the first time since November 12. O'QUINN OKAY O'Quinn, who started in place of Noah, made all five of his field goal attempts in the first half, finished 9-of-11 overall, and posted season highs of 20 points and 13 rebounds. UP NEXT: Timberwolves: Visit Charlotte on Saturday, the final meeting of the season between the two teams. Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford and Minnesota head coach Tom Thibodeau were assistants together under Jeff Van Gundy with the Knicks (2001-03) and Rockets (2004-07). Knicks: Host Sacramento on Sunday. The teams will meet again five days later, December 9, in Sacramento. The Kings have beaten the Knicks four straight times. Sunday, December 04, 2016 Tiger avoids mistakes, fires 65 NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) -- Tiger Woods saved par from the dunes with a shot so good that two spectators ran over and scooped up sand for a souvenir. It also served as motivation Friday at the Hero World Challenge. The tee shot on the par-3 eighth that landed next to a bush was so bad that Woods said he told caddie Joe LaCava after his par putt, "I'm not dropping a shot." Woods capped off a bogey-free round with an even more unlikely par save, but what stood out at Albany was a seven-hole stretch in the middle of the round in which he never really missed a shot. It led to enough birdies for a 7-under 65, at least getting him back toward the middle of the pack against an 18-man field. His golf was as good as it was Thursday, his first competition in 15 months, only this time he eliminated the mistakes. "I wanted to keep that card clean," Woods said. "I don't know what it is about playing and competing, but keeping cards clean, there's something really special. And it feels pretty good about doing that." And he did it quickly, in just under three hours. Justin Rose, who opened with a 74, withdrew with back problems. That left Woods as a single, and when he realized there would not be much wind, he felt he could play just as well without a marker (typically the club pro) to get a feel for how various shots might be affected. He was on his own and moving in the right direction. The par save on No. 8 and a wedge to tap-in range on the No. 9 allowed him to make the turn in 33, just like Thursday. The difference was how he finished. After pounding a drive down with the wind at his back on the par-5 11th -- he had to carry a bunker 290 yards away -- he switch to a 5-iron to play away from a bunker to the right of the green, making sure he would have the right angle to the pin. It was right where he was aiming, a yard off the green, setting up an easy two-putt birdie. He followed that with a 6-iron to a foot for birdie on the 12th, a 10-foot birdie putt on the 14th and a two-putt birdie on the par-5 15th. He made seven birdies, but nothing brought out the emotion like a par. His tee shot on the 16th, where he made double bogey on Thursday, took a wild hop into a bush in the sandy area. Enough of the ball was showing that Woods tried to hit 6-iron to the front bunker, but it came out heavy into more of the waste area. The next shot was well beyond the hole. The par putt dropped on its final turn, and Woods thrust his fist toward the cup and slapped the face of his putter. Two more pars, and he was done and feeling much better about the next two days. "I really had it dialed in both ways," he said. "I was shaping it both ways and I really had nice control of my (trajectory). That was the key. I was able to keep the ball down when I needed to and send it at times." Woods stayed out of golf following two back surgeries over the last three months of 2015, and he had not competed since a tie for 10th at the Wyndham Championship on Aug. 23, 2015. There have been no issues with his back, and Woods said he has made a few changes with his swing and how much he works away from golf. If he looks slimmer, he says he picked up an illness from his children over Thanksgiving. More relevant is that he said he no longer lifts weights or trains like he once does. Woods said he used to run 30 miles a week in his early days on tour. "I've had four knee surgeries, three backs. My body's been through it," he said. As for the weights? "I don't load the spine like I used to," he said. "I'm trying to do other things to gain strength. I don't have any problem with suppleness and flexibility, but I also need to have stability." As for his swing, Woods said he has made subtle changes to alleviate the strain on his back. "I've tried to go back and look at and do some stuff that I used to do as a junior that I did naturally," he said. Another change is that he is at Albany without a swing coach. Woods began working with Chris Como in November 2014, but the work is done in what Woods described as "training camps." "We'll have little windows where we'll practice when I have time to do it," Woods said. "Then I'll shut it down, I'll work on my short game in the backyard, chip and putt, and then we'll have another training camp a week or two later." The real measure might not come until early next year, when he gets more tournaments and different -- and colder -- conditions. Friday was just another round, and a step forward. Saturday, December 03, 2016 Prosecutors: Dismissal deal done in Manziel's domestic case DALLAS (AP) -- Johnny Manziel has a dismissal agreement with prosecutors that will require the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback to meet conditions for a year before being cleared of a domestic violence charge against him. Dallas County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Brittany Dunn said Manziel wasn't present Friday when the agreement was filed. The former Cleveland player will be required to complete an anger management class, attend a domestic violence impact panel and participate in the NFL's substance-abuse program or something similar. Manziel, who turns 24 Tuesday, faced a misdemeanor charge that carried a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine after the former Cleveland player was accused of hitting and threatening former girlfriend Colleen Crowley during a night out in January. As with previous court orders, the former Texas A&M star will not be allowed to have contact with Crowley under the agreement. "If the undersigned defendant fails to meet one of the requirements of this agreement or is charged with a new offense, the defendant will be prosecuted for this offense," the agreement states. Prosecutors said the agreement with Manziel was far from the end of its process. "A conditional dismissal is only the beginning of the process of educating an individual on how to make better choices when facing conflict," prosecutors said. "It is an important first step for a defendant. Success or failure will depend upon one's commitment to the treatment programs included." Judge Roberto Canas said at a hearing last month that the sides had reached a tentative deal. Canas had required Manziel to attend a hearing to finalize the agreement, but it was postponed Thursday so court personnel could attend the funeral of a bailiff. "I'm thankful to both the court and prosecutor for their hard work and diligence in trying to come to a fair and just resolution for all parties involved," Manziel attorney Jim Darnell said. "My client is pleased to be able to put this part of the situation behind him and is eager to satisfy the terms of the agreement." Manziel, a free agent who hasn't signed with a team since the Browns released him in March, served a four-game suspension this season for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. He remains under review of the league's domestic policy, which could include a six-game suspension under guidelines that were toughened after the NFL was criticized for its handling of Ray Rice's domestic case. Manziel's agreement is similar to one that star Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant successfully completed following a domestic incident involving his mother in 2012. Cleveland took the dazzling dual-threat quarterback 22nd overall in the 2014 draft, and the Browns cut him after two tumultuous seasons marked by inconsistent play and off-the-field headlines about his partying and drinking, including one stint in rehab. Since the 2015 season ended, Manziel has been dumped by two agents after both demanded a second trip to rehab. The allegations stem from a night out on Jan. 30. Crowley said Manziel accosted her at a Dallas hotel, a confrontation that continued downstairs to the valet station. She said he forced her into a car and a valet disregarded her pleas for help. The two eventually drove to where her car was parked in front of a Dallas bar, she said in an affidavit. She said Manziel got into the driver's seat and began to drive. Crowley said Manziel stopped when she tried to jump out of the car, but then he dragged her back inside and hit her. ------ For more NFL coverage: and ------ Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at Saturday, December 03, 2016 Brady on Gronkowski: 'We've still got a lot of good football players FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- The New England Patriots went back to practice without Rob Gronkowski on Friday as the 2015 All-Pro tight end prepared for season-ending back surgery. It didn't look much different than a lot of their workouts this season. "We've had some experience I think this year being without him," quarterback Tom Brady said a day after the team announced that Gronkowski is expected to miss the rest of the season recovering from a herniated disk in his back. "It's not something that you want to deal with. But at some point in the year, based on how long the season is, you're always going to deal with something." One of the dominant tight ends in NFL history, Gronkowski's biggest struggle is often to stay on the field. He has had ankle and knee surgery once, three operations on his forearm, and two previous back operations. He was the 2014 Comeback Player of the Year, a year after he played in just seven games because of injuries to his back, forearm and knee. The 2010 second-round draft pick has already missed three weeks this season and had a limited role in three others -- the fifth year in a row that he hasn't been able to play in every game. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Friday he is disappointed for Gronkowski, praising his work and his contributions to the team. Brady made it clear that he still has plenty of targets for this weekend's game against the Los Angeles Rams, even without the three-time All-Pro. "We've still got a lot of good players," Brady said. "We'll keep battling without him. We've got a lot of tough guys in the locker room still, and we'll see what we can make of this season. We were off to a good start and we've got to keep it going." After spending the first half of the season on the injury report with a hamstring problem, Gronkowski was hurt again on Nov. 13. He took a shot in the chest from Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas that Gronkowski said was "probably one of the hardest I've got hit in my career." He missed the Nov. 20 game against San Francisco; when he returned last week against the New York Jets, he left late in the first quarter with a back injury. He did not practice this week. On Thursday, the team and Gronkowski's family issued a joint statement saying the hit in the Seattle game resulted in a pulmonary contusion to his lung, but doctors cleared him to return. Against the Jets, though, "Rob began to experience significant back and leg pain." "It has been determined that it is in Rob's best long-term interest to undergo surgery to address his lower back injury," the statement said. "We do not expect that he will be able to play for the remainder of the 2016 season, but will await the results of (Friday's) surgery before making a final determination." One Gronkowski returned to the Patriots when the team re-signed fullback Glenn, Rob's brother, to the practice squad. ------ For more NFL coverage: and Saturday, December 03, 2016 Skepticism abounds after McGregor obtains California boxing license By LANCE PUGMIRE Los Angeles Times Conor McGregor's ability to obtain a boxing license from the California State Athletic Commission this week may tweak his UFC bosses' noses and generate headlines. But it's not going to get Floyd Mayweather Jr. into the ring. At a Thursday boxing news conference in Los Angeles, two of the men who helped propel the unbeaten retired champion's career -- Showtime Executive Vice President Stephen Espinoza and newly created Ringstar Sports promoter Richard Schaefer -- agreed that Mayweather won't fight in California due to prohibitive income taxes that don't apply in Nevada. "He's either serious about boxing or he's thinking he can get some leverage on the UFC," Schaefer said. "I've seen him hitting the heavy bag, though, so I believe it's about leverage." But that doesn't mean there aren't interested opponents for McGregor. Unbeaten former two-division champion Mikey Garcia, who was at the news conference alongside his Jan. 28 opponent at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, lightweight world champion Dejan Zlaticanin, said he'd be happy to meet the colorful Irishman who last month became the first man in UFC history to simultaneously wear two championship belts (featherweight and lightweight). The UFC followed that on Saturday night by announcing that it was removing McGregor's featherweight belt since he hadn't fought in the division since December 2015, giving it back to Brazilian Jose Aldo, whose 10-year unbeaten run was snapped by a McGregor knockout punch in 13 seconds. According to an official close to the situation who was unauthorized to discuss the situation publicly, McGregor last year agreed to surrender the featherweight belt if he had defeated then-lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. When dos Anjos was injured, and McGregor found himself losing to and later defeating Nate Diaz at welterweight, he was given the Nov. 12 chance to win the second belt against Eddie Alvarez. In an impressive display of striking, McGregor knocked down Alvarez five times en route to a second-round knockout triumph before a record fighting crowd at Madison Square Garden. McGregor asked at his post-fight news conference for more pay, including a share of the UFC that celebrities such as Conan O'Brien and Tom Brady have, and he asked UFC leaders to meet with him to discuss such an option. As of this week, no such conference had happened, and then came word that the boxing license had been secured. "I think (McGregor) getting his boxing license was sticking the finger to the UFC for stripping him of the title," said Carl Frampton, the featherweight boxing champion from Northern Ireland who'll fight Los Angeles' Leo Santa Cruz in the Jan. 28 main event, a rematch of their fight-of-the-year contender from July. While McGregor is under contract with the UFC for more mixed martial arts bouts, it would be interesting to see what would happen if a legitimate boxing offer emerged. There are rules against restraint of trade, and so what would a court or arbiter decide if he requested a different type of fight with the kind of purse expected for a fighter who has generated four of the 10 bestselling UFC pay-per-views in history? Garcia, who resides in Riverside, Calif., remains skeptical of the McGregor boxing talk. "His abilities are not at the world championship levels in boxing," Garcia said. "He has good boxing skills for MMA ... he's a good striker ... but his boxing abilities would not allow him to compete against world champion boxers. His level of boxing -- I don't see it being that much better than an amateur fighter. "He makes a lot of mistakes he can get away with in MMA, but not boxing, and if he really wants to fight in California ... . Floyd won't fight him in California, but I'm from 'Cali,' so if he's serious about trying something, let's do it. I doubt that he's serious about doing it. "He might be doing it to stir up some things, get some media, but that's about it." Monday, December 05, 2016 Good friends Brown, Beckham look to one-up another Sunday PITTSBURGH (AP) -- They are millionaires, good friends, arguably the best in the world at their chosen profession and hardly apologetic for their "look at me" exuberance. Get your popcorn ready -- and while you're at it your excessive celebration flags, meme-generators and unmarried kicking nets, too -- for Antonio Brown versus Odell Beckham Jr. The two superstar wide receivers will be in the same stadium for the first time on Sunday when Beckham and the streaking New York Giants (8-3) visit Heinz Field to take on Brown and the resilient Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5). And yes, while the final score is important, the drive to put up the gaudier numbers is very real. "Ultimately I would like to do better than him," Beckham said. "But if he does better and we win, that's a battle that I may have lost one but I won the other." Of course, finding a way to win both would be preferable for two players whose competitiveness has driven them to the NFL's elite even if the paths they took to get there couldn't be more different. Brown is an overachiever, a former sixth-round pick whose relentless work ethic transformed him into one of the league's most productive players. The 28-year-old became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 600 career receptions when he crossed the plateau against Cleveland last month. He backed it up by scoring a career-high three touchdowns on Thanksgiving against Indianapolis and -- in typical fashion -- drew another in an increasingly long list of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for his choreographed dance with running back Le'Veon Bell. Beckham entered the league with higher expectations as the 12th overall selection in the 2014 draft and has somehow exceeded them. He's spent the last two-plus seasons generating GIF-able catch after GIF-able catch in New York, at least when he's not ripping off his helmet to show off his shock of blonde hair , tossing around whatever happens to be within arm's reach when he's frustrated or jousting with nemesis Josh Norman . Are they divas? Maybe. Do they care? Not really. "We don't listen to media people," Brown said. "We are solely consumed with being our best selves and representing ourselves at a high level and making plays and helping our team win in the way we desire to do it." The more spectacular, the better. They don't take much time to study most of their peers but keep close tabs on each other during the season, with Brown playing the role of mentor. "I talk to him, critique him," Brown said. And he may be one of the few who can get away with it. The normally brash Beckham turns reflective when talking about Brown. The two hooked up last spring while Brown was filming "Dancing With The Stars" and also spent time together in Brown's native Miami. "He kind of just showed me the ropes," Beckham said. "He was showing me pretty much everything of what he does. You take that and you put it into your own agenda and schedule. You kind of just go with it from there." Statistically at least, Brown has the upper hand at the moment. His 82 receptions lead the league and his 10 touchdowns are tied with Tampa Bay's Mike Evans for the NFL high. Beckham isn't far behind in catches (65) or touchdowns (eight) and the Giants are starting to find new ways to get him the ball. He returned four punts last week in Cleveland, though he's got some work to do to catch Brown's four career punt returns for scores. That's fine by Beckham. He figures he's borrowed so much from Brown as a receiver that mimicking him as a returner is just the next step. "I watch a lot of film on him and probably stole a lot of stuff from him to make it my own," Beckham said. The fact Brown allowed Beckham into his tightly guarded inner circle is a victory in and of itself. Brown is notoriously vague when pressed about his workout regimen, though Brown's ever active social media accounts drop hints at countless off-the-field training sessions and teammate Darrius Heyward-Bey relayed a story about walking out of dinner with Brown last year and Brown asking him if he wanted to go to the gym. It was well after 10 p.m. And maybe that's why Brown and Beckham remain so intent on squeezing as much joy out of their accomplishments. "I don't think people really take in what you sacrifice each and every day to go out there and play for just 60 minutes," Beckham said. "That's really all you get and you don't even get that. Like to enjoy it and have fun." What's on the line for Brown and Beckham Sunday besides the chance for their teams to continue to build some playoff momentum? Pride. Bragging rights, oh, and one more thing. "Probably some dance moves," Brown said. "That's about it." Because of course. NOTES: Heyward-Bey (foot) and RB DeAngelo Williams (knee) are out for the Steelers. ... S Nat Berhe (concussion), LB Mark Herzlich (concussion), DE Owa Odighizuwa (knee) and G Justin Pugh (knee) are out for New York. ------ For more NFL coverage: and Saturday, December 03, 2016 Clowney shows how it's all done, sort of By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Jadeveon Clowney attended the opening of a new Houston Texans teen club at a Houston Boys and Girls Club this week. During the visit he joined a room of teenage girls and a couple of Texans cheerleaders to do a few yoga poses. It was clear that the hulking defensive end should probably stick to his day job as Clowney struggled with balance on most of the poses he attempted, drawing giggles from everyone in the room. The top overall pick in the 2014 draft seemed proud of his effort, even though it was clearly subpar. "I do it in the offseason a little bit, so I had to go in there and show them what to do," he said. "I had to show them a little bit." The exercise room is part of a facility for teenagers that was built thanks to a $750,000 donation by the Texans. Clowney was happy to participate in the opening because working with inner-city youth is an important cause to him. "It's very good for the kids to have somewhere to go after school," he said. "When I was growing up ... and getting out of school my mom was going to work, so it was my grandparents that were taking care of me and they couldn't keep up with me. So you know how that ended -- getting into everything." Clowney will also show his support for Houston's Boys and Girls Clubs this weekend during the NFL's "My Cause My Cleats" campaign. His blue cleats feature a drawing of the Houston skyline with "Great futures start here" on one shoe and "Lend a helping hand" on the other. The shoes will be auctioned off and the proceeds will benefit the Boys and Girls Club. "Growing up back home we didn't have a lot of Boys and Girls Clubs and if we did we didn't know much about them," he said. "So now that they have them kids can ... see everything they've got going after school until their parents get off work. So it's very important to keep them out of the streets and keep them active in something positive." ------ JUST FOR KICKS: The Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens have surged into first place in their divisions at least in part because they have perhaps the NFL's most clutch and best kickers this season. NFC North leader Detroit's Matt Prater and Baltimore's Justin Tucker were selected NFC and AFC special teams players of the week after their latest performances. Prater made a 40-yard field goal as time expired in regulation, breaking a tie with Minnesota in their game on Thanksgiving to give the Lions their sixth win in seven games. Tucker became the ninth player in league history to make three field goals from 50-plus yards in one game, and connected on a fourth kick, in a 19-14 win over Cincinnati to keep the Ravens in a tie with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North with their third win in four games. Tucker has made all 27 of his field goal attempts this season, extending his run to 34 in a row since last year for the sixth-longest streak in league history. He has made all 15 extra point kicks, too. With a chance to tie a game or take a lead in the fourth quarter or overtime, Prater is 25 of 25 in his career. Prater, 21 of 24 on field goals in 2016, has helped the Lions come back from fourth-quarter deficits to win seven games this season. "It's been remarkable what he's been able to do, hopefully he can keep going," Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "Hopefully we don't have to put him in that situation too many more times, but that unit is doing a heck of a job." ------ NOT ENOUGH COOKS: Saints receiver Brandin Cooks didn't hide his annoyance this week after none of Drew Brees' 36 passes came his way during a 49-21 victory over Los Angeles last Sunday. "This is a very emotional game and every once in a while you've got to express that," the 2014 first-round draft choice said. "You have to express what you want. Closed mouths don't get fed." Earlier this week, Cooks wrote, "I guess I have to turn into a businessman," in a social media post, the implication being that he was displeased about his role in the offense. Brees wound up completing 28 passes for 310 yards and four TDs, including nine passes to rookie Michael Thomas for 108 yards and two TDs. Brees said Cooks, who had 51 catches for 736 yards and six TDs through the Saints' first 10 games, played a key role in New Orleans' big day against the Rams. Cooks was the primary receiver on several plays, but coverage rolled toward Cooks, opening up better throws elsewhere, Brees explained. Cooks said, "As a competitor, I was frustrated. ... I always want to help more than I feel like I necessarily did in that game." Cooks added that his teammates understood his agitation is "not coming from a selfish standpoint, so that's the beautiful part about it. ... They know that's coming from the want to be great, the want to be remembered." ------ PEYTON'S HONOR: Peyton Manning was honored this week by the March of Dimes as its Sportsman of the Year. The retired quarterback and five-time NFL Most Valuable Player was joined at the ceremony in New York by WNBA star Swin Cash, who was recognized as the Sportswoman of the Year by the organization. Pete Bevacqua, CEO of the PGA of America, and George Pyne, founder and CEO of Bruin Sports Capital, received awards, as well. Each year, March of Dimes honors the outstanding achievements of men and women in the sports industry. Past recipients include New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera; NBA Commissioner David Stern; former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue; baseball greats Mickey Mantle and Cal Ripken Jr.; tennis legends Andre Agassi and Venus Williams; basketball Hall of Famers Patrick Ewing and Lisa Leslie; and the U.S. Women's soccer team. ------ COLLEGIATE BOWL: The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will be televised by Fox Sports 1 on Jan. 21. The all-star game overseen by the NFL players' union will kick off at 4 p.m. EST and will be played at the StubHub Center on the campus of California State University Dominguez Hills. "The opportunity to partner with the NFLPA and present the Collegiate Bowl on FS1 was something we jumped at," said John Entz, Fox Sports president of production and executive producer. "The pre-draft evaluation process drives more and more interest among football fans every year, so we're looking forward to being a part of that and covering a competitive game." The fifth edition of the game will have former NFL coaches Mike Martz and Jim Zorn leading each team. ------ AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner and Sports Writers Kristie Rieken, Larry Lage and Brett Martel contributed. ------ For more NFL coverage: and Saturday, December 03, 2016 Draft classmates Manning & Roethlisberger meet again PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning are inextricably linked. Taken 11 picks apart in the 2004 NFL draft, the two quarterbacks have spent the last dozen years watching each other from afar, using the other's success as a measuring stick of their own accomplishments. The resumes are nearly identical. Two Super Bowl victories. Four Pro Bowls apiece. A steady ascension into the upper stratosphere of the NFL record books. Both are already in the top 10 in career touchdown passes, with Roethlisberger on the cusp of joining Manning in the top 10 in all-time yards passing. Just don't call it a rivalry. When they take the same field for just the fourth time as professionals on Sunday when Manning and the streaking New York Giants (8-3) visit Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5), the focus will be on keeping pace in a frenetic playoff race, not trying to match each other's stats. "I don't know if there is any extra motivation," Roethlisberger said. "Just trying to win a football game against one of the best teams in football should be motivation enough." In an alternate universe, Roethlisberger might have been the guy behind center wearing Big Blue. For a few minutes during draft day in 2004, he thought he was heading to New York with the fourth overall pick. Instead, the Giants took Philip Rivers, then shipped Rivers to San Diego as part of a megadeal that sent Manning -- the top overall pick -- to New York. Roethlisberger, wearing a black pinstriped suit with a gold tie, heard his name called a little over an hour later when Pittsburgh used a first-round pick on a quarterback for just the fifth time in franchise history. He doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about what might have been. Neither does Manning. That's for others. "You always want your quarterback draft class to be well thought of and respected down the road," Manning said. "You hear about the '83 draft class and other certain years. You want to be thrown in that mix someday." Just not yet. Both in their mid-30s and signed through the rest of the decade. Maybe they'll reunite at the Hall of Fame one day, though Roethlisberger stressed "hopefully that's a long way off." Some things to look for as the Giants seek their seventh straight win while Pittsburgh tries to begin another December run like the ones that propelled the Steelers to the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. JPP IS BACK: Jason Pierre-Paul has had 5 1/2 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble return for a touchdown in his last two games, along with 12 tackles. The end is the current NFC defensive player of the week for his career-high three sacks, forced fumble and 43-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Cleveland. The seven-year veteran is the first NFL player with at least three sacks and a fumble-return touchdown of at least 40 yards in the same game since 1982, the first year individual sacks became an official statistic. He is the first Giants player with at least three sacks and a touchdown in the same game since George Martin on Nov. 24, 1985. HOMECOMING: New York coach Ben McAdoo grew up in Homer City, Pennsylvania, about an hour east of Pittsburgh. This isn't the first time he's found himself going up against his childhood team. His family put together half-Steelers/half-Green Bay Packers jerseys for the 2011 Super Bowl when McAdoo was the tight ends coach for Green Bay. A win on Sunday would make him the first rookie head coach to win seven consecutive games since Jim Harbaugh did it with San Francisco in 2011. KICKING IT: Giants punter Brad Wing had his best game of the season against the Browns with a net average of 44.7 yards on nine punts, landing a career-high five inside the 20-yard line. Placekicker Robbie Gould isn't so hot. The veteran signed after the release of Josh Brown last month has missed three extra points in the past two games. He needs to start hitting them if he wants to keep his job. He has hit both of his field goal attempts in five games. AB vs. OBJ: The game will feature two of the NFL's most talented (and most flamboyant) wide receivers in Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. Brown's 10 touchdown receptions are tied for the NFL lead; Beckham is tied for fourth with eight. Both are also featured in the punt return game. Asked when Beckham is at his most dangerous, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin responded "whenever they snap the ball." Saturday, December 03, 2016 MLB union backed out of deal to add 26th player NEW YORK (AP) -- Baseball players and owners had a deal to expand active rosters from 25 to 26 players for most of the season, but the union backed away in the final stages of collective bargaining. As part of the deal, the limit from Sept. 1 on would have been lowered from 40 to 28. "We thought we were going to make an agreement, had a tentative agreement," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred told The Associated Press on Friday, "but nothing's done until it's done." Union head Tony Clark characterized the talks differently and said the parties may revisit the topic during the five-year contract they agreed to Wednesday. "I don't know that there was an agreement to do it and that it came apart. There was a lot of dialogue over the course of this round where we were moving in a direction that we inevitably weren't able to agree to," he said. "It simply got to the point with all of the moving pieces that were part of the conversation during the course of the year that we lived to talk about it another day." Rosters have long expanded for the season's final full month as minor league affiliates end their campaigns. The roster expansion gives managers the ability to make more frequent pitching changes in an attempt to gain favorable matchups. Some managers and general managers have complained it doesn't make sense to play most of the season under one set of rules and then switch as pennant races heat up. While some teams add many players and a few reach the 40-man limit, others make relatively few call-ups. "There were very mixed opinions on the club side, as well," Manfred said. "Maybe we were going too far, too fast." Many players make their big league debuts in September, and the union has long been concerned about the loss of service time if the limit were to be lowered from 40. "To reduce the roster to 28 people would jeopardize the ability for people to get their feet wet in the big leagues," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text. "September is a great time for teams to teach the young guys how to act and be in the big leagues and get their feet wet in a comfortable environment." Given the increasing importance of bullpens, some believe a 26th player likely would be an additional relief pitcher. "I know there have been a lot of concerns from the other side related to just how it would work and how it might affect the games or the length of games," Clark said. "Trying to appreciate that extra player and who it may be is hard to predict based on whatever the organization philosophy is of any one team." Management and the union released details of the deal Friday, an agreement that will extend the sport's labor peace to 26 years since the 1994-95 strike -- baseball's eighth work stoppage since 1972. "We kept the game on the field," Manfred said. "We made an agreement within our current structure which I think shows that we have a durable structure. We moved some things our direction, and we moved some other things their direction." The threshold for the luxury tax, known formally as the competitive balance tax, rises from $189 million this year to $195 million in 2017 to $210 million in the deal's final season. There are some rate increases and new surtaxes. "The premise of the CBT altogether was a drag at the top to keep teams from running away from the group," Clark said. Manfred added: "There's two dynamics around the threshold: stopping people from running away but also having them low enough that people can aspire to spend a little more to be a little more competitive." Among the new details that emerged: -- The penalty for a second stimulant violation goes up from 25 to 50 games and for a third rises from 80 to 100. The penalty for a first violation remains follow-up testing. -- Random urine tests will increase from 3,200 to 4,800 in season and from 350 to 1,550 in the offseason, ensuring at least one offseason test for all 40-man roster players. Random blood test rise from 260 to 500 in season and from 140 to 400 in the offseason. -- The new All-Star bonus pool for the winning team is $640,000, which calculates to $20,000 per player. -- After fan and player voting, the final roster selections in each league (seven in NL and five in AL) will be made by the commissioner's office rather than the All-Star managers. -- While a team with a payroll $40 million or more above the luxury tax threshold would have its highest draft pick dropped 10 places, the top six selections are protected and those teams, if penalized, would have their second pick dropped 10 slots. -- The commissioner may schedule regular-season games at ballparks other than the regular sites, and players would receive additional compensation. -- Players would receive $15,000 to $100,000 each for special events such as games in Mexico, Asia, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and London. -- Signing bonuses of $10,000 or less do not count against a team's international signing bonus pool. -- Teams will increase their annual pension and medical benefits contribution to about $200 million. ------ AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report. Saturday, December 03, 2016 Johnson, Stewart biggest headliners in 2016 By DAVID SCOTT The Charlotte Observer The 2016 NASCAR season was a memorable one, with the major news coming from Jimmie Johnson winning a record-tying seventh Cup title, Tony Stewart saying farewell and a pesky little piece of metal that keeps tires on axles. Before the 2017 season gets here -- the Daytona 500 is less than 100 days away -- let's look back at the season that was: Race of the year: The season's first race turned out to be the most compelling. Denny Hamlin swooped past Matt Kenseth on the final turn of the final lap of the Daytona 500, then held off Martin Truex Jr. by .01 second to win in the closest finish in the race's history. It was hard to top that for pure drama and competition and, as it turned out, it never was. Driver of the year: Johnson overcame a desultory summer to bounce back in the Chase. As he moved through the postseason, he never shied away from his desire to catch Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt on the sport's all-time championship list. When Johnson won No. 7 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, his glee was palpable. Wreck of the year: Carl Edwards seemed to be in prime position to claim the title, but when he tried to block Joey Logano with 10 laps to go at Homestead, it took both drivers out of the championship picture and opened the door for Johnson. Story of the year: Stewart didn't want to draw too much attention to himself during his farewell season, at least off the track. When he won on Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway's road course in June, though, it unleashed a torrent of affection from inside the garage and out for the three-time champion. It also earned Stewart a spot in the Chase. Team of the year: Although the season didn't yield another champion for Joe Gibbs Racing, the team was dominant and placed two drivers -- Kyle Busch and Edwards -- in the championship four. Busch (four), Hamlin (three), Edwards (three) and Kenseth (two) combined for 12 victories. Furniture Row Racing and Truex, with whom JGR has a technical alliance, won four more. That means those Toyotas won 44 percent of the season's 36 races. Rookie of the year: Nothing unexpected here. Chase Elliott made the Chase in his first season, running in Jeff Gordon's old No. 24 Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports. Although Elliott didn't win a race, he started the season with a splash by winning the pole at Daytona and finished second at both Michigan races. Injury of the year: Dale Earnhardt Jr. missed the final 18 races because of a concussion he sustained at Michigan in June. With Gordon and Alex Bowman filling in, the sport's most popular driver was consistently candid and transparent in talking about his injury and recovery. He said he expects to be back for Daytona. Part of the year: Talk about your unintended consequences. When NASCAR went to pit-road inspection technology this season and cut back on the use of actual, human officials to monitor infractions, some teams either didn't use all five lug nuts to secure their tires or didn't secure them tightly enough. That eventually led to safety concerns from drivers (Stewart was fined $35,000 for bringing the subject up). NASCAR finally did crack down on the lug-nut issue in post-race inspection, costing several crew chiefs unscheduled time away from the track in the form of suspensions, and money in the form of fines. Monday, December 05, 2016 Bolt won't run in 200 meters in final season MONACO (AP) -- The world's fastest man is slowing down. Usain Bolt again said he doesn't plan to run the 200 meters in his final season, realizing that his world record of 19.19 seconds is now likely beyond him. Speaking Friday in Monaco before picking up the IAAF's male athlete of the year award for a sixth time, the 30-year-old Bolt said he thought he could dip under the 19-second barrier at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. But coming off the bend in the final, he felt his legs didn't have a record-beating performance in them. "After last season, I kind of figured out that no matter how hard I work at this point, it probably is going to be hard to get the 200-meter world record," Bolt said. "And it's a lot more work and for me, coming to the end of my career, I'm not trying to do too much work." He also didn't sound optimistic about breaking his 100-meter record of 9.58, either. "If I can go through my season -- which I doubt -- without any injuries, then anything is possible," he said. Bolt ruled out a return for the 2020 Tokyo Games. The nine-time Olympic champion said his coach has told him, "'Do not retire and come back to the sport, don't ever do that.' ... So you have got to make sure you are sure." "Not to brag or anything, but a lot of people at 30 haven't accomplished what I've accomplished, so, for me, I think I've done all I wanted to," Bolt said. He made it clear that his last season would be more of a farewell tour than a final drive for more records. He's targeting a few races in his favorite places: he mentioned Ostrava, Lausanne and Paris. "This season is pretty much mainly for the fans," Bolt said. "A lot of people always wanted to see me compete and haven't had the chance." There are some things he is certain he won't be doing: -- He ruled out playing American football, saying he doesn't want to get hit. -- He also ruled out switching to bobsled, like American hurdler Lolo Jones, saying "anybody who knows me knows I don't do well with cold." -- And there is zero chance that he will challenge 800-meter Olympic champion David Rudisha to a race over 400 meters. "That won't happen," Bolt said. "Not even for charity." Bolt said his immediate plans in retirement are "pretty much to do nothing." "No more training. I don't have to go to the track unless I want to," he said. Bolt pinpointed the world championships in 2007 as a turning point in his career. After placing second behind Tyson Gay in the 200, Bolt's coach told him to get serious. "'You're slacking off in the gym. If you want to win you have to get stronger,"' Bolt said he was told. "From then on, I just took the step and worked." The next year, he won the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay at the Beijing Olympics. He repeated those feats in London and Rio. Bolt thinks he could have done even better had he knuckled down earlier. "I was asked the question earlier what would I have told my 14-year-old self, and I thought it would be definitely to get serious quicker," Bolt said. "I think when I was transitioning to being a professional I was relying more on my talent than actually on the work I was doing." Although he stressed that it wasn't a regret, Bolt said that breaking the 19-second barrier in the 200 was probably his only unrealized running ambition. "It was something that was possible, could be possible, and I missed out on," he said. Coming off the bend in the 200 in Rio, he realized it was beyond him. "In my mind I genuinely thought that I could have run under 19 seconds until I came off that corner, and my legs decided that we weren't going to do anything about this," he said. "It's just one of those things." Saturday, December 03, 2016 Jets' Revis on taking pay cut: 'We'll see' FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) -- Darrelle Revis has had a rough season, filled with questions about his desire, abilities and passion for the game. The New York Jets cornerback will likely also face some tough decisions in the offseason -- including whether he'll accept a possible pay cut. "We'll see," Revis said Thursday. "We'll see what happens next year. We'll see. Lot of things going on. We'll see. We'll figure it out." Revis is scheduled to make $15 million, including a $2 million roster bonus, next season -- but that's a lofty salary for an aging player who admittedly has had a subpar year. The roster bonus would kick in on the second day of the league year in March, but the Jets could choose to cut ties with the 31-year-old Revis if he doesn't want to renegotiate his deal. "For me, personally, it's a down year," Revis said. "It's a down year for the team. It's a down year for me, personally, but I've been in these situations before. It's not the year for us. "We've got these last couple of games this month of December to actually come out with some positives at the end of the season and then focus on the offseason. "For me, personally, my focus is on the future of this football club." Revis doesn't currently have an agent representing him after firing Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod earlier this year. The cornerback told The Associated Press that he has no plans to hire a new agent, but rather handle future contract issues himself with the assistance of lawyers. If the Jets cut Revis, the team would still owe him $6 million as part of the $39 million in guarantees in the five-year, $70 million deal he signed with New York in 2015. That would make Revis, who has struggled mightily this season, a free agent while also clearing about $9.3 million of his $15.3 million salary cap hit. A published report Thursday, citing an anonymous source, suggested that Revis might have lost his passion for football and perhaps doesn't want to play anymore. He told the AP last month that he has not at all thought about retiring, and dismissed the report. When asked if he intends to continue playing beyond this year, Revis simply said: "I'm under contract until 2018." "People say a lot of things," said Revis, who's actually signed through 2019. "I can't sit here and justify where reports come and where these things come from. I don't know the report. I don't know what source said this or whatnot. I'm here to play football. That's what I'm here to do." Revis has been one of the best players in franchise history, quickly establishing himself as a shutdown cornerback shortly after being drafted in the first round by the Jets in 2007. He has dealt with several contract squabbles throughout his career, and was traded by New York to Tampa Bay in 2013. After one season with the Buccaneers, Revis signed a one-year deal with New England and helped the Patriots win the Super Bowl during the 2014 season. He returned to the Jets the following offseason, bringing Revis Island back to New York. But he hasn't played at his usual All-Pro level this year, prompting many fans and media to question whether he might be facing the end of his career. Despite all that, Revis insisted he isn't letting the frustration get to him. "No, actually not," he said. "It's actually fine." ------ For more NFL coverage: and Friday, December 02, 2016 Bears' QB Cutler to have shoulder surgery By ANDREW SELIGMAN The Associated Press Jay Cutler's season is over and his time in Chicago might be, too. Coach John Fox announced Thursday that the veteran quarterback will have season-ending surgery on his right shoulder, the latest blow in a lost year for the Bears. The operation to repair the labrum will take place on Saturday. "I talked to him earlier today. He's in good spirits," Fox said. "It wasn't like it was never going to be an option. You try to avoid it, especially for a quarterback on your throwing shoulder. But he talked to many capable doctors, like he should. So that's been the determination at this point." Matt Barkley figures to start his second straight game when the Bears (2-9) host San Francisco (1-10) in a matchup between struggling teams on Sunday. Cutler injured his shoulder during a loss to the New York Giants on Nov. 20 but finished the game. Fox initially insisted the injury was not season-ending. But after working through treatment options, Cutler won't play again this season. If he has thrown his last pass for Chicago, Fox was not about to confirm it. "You know, offseason is the offseason," Fox said. "We're not there yet." Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains had strong praise for Cutler. "I just know my relationship with him and I know how the QB room feels about him and his teammates voted him a captain for a reason," he said. "I know how much Matt Barkley appreciates the input. I know how much Brian Hoyer appreciates his input as well. And I know how much I appreciate the things he's done to this point." Loggains mentioned Cutler's toughness and "how much the team means to him." "That's been incredible to watch," he said. "There's a perception and there's a reality of that. Just, it's been really fun the last two years getting to coach him and I've enjoyed every minute of it." Cutler no longer has a high salary-cap figure, so it becomes more likely he could be traded or cut in the offseason. The problem for the Bears is they have no obvious replacement on the roster. Chicago has not drafted a quarterback in Ryan Pace's two years as general manager. If they part with Cutler and don't trade for a quarterback, they could try to go with Hoyer as a stopgap or with Barkley. Hoyer made five starts while Cutler was sidelined by a sprained right thumb and threw for more than 300 yards in four straight games before breaking his left arm at Green Bay on Oct. 20. Cutler was cleared to return in the days after that game. Whether he would have regained the starting job had Hoyer stayed healthy is not certain. Cutler made five starts this season and completed 81 of 137 passes for 1,059 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions. He came to Chicago in a blockbuster trade with Denver before the 2009 season and holds just about every major all-time franchise passing record. He is the Bears' leader in attempts (3,271), completions (2,020), yards (23,443) and touchdowns (154). But the Bears are missing the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 years since the 2006 team reached the Super Bowl. The 2010 team beat Seattle in the playoffs before losing to Green Bay in the NFC title game, with Cutler sitting out most of the second half because of a knee injury. Cutler at times has clashed with coaches and teammates since his arrival. He has also been hampered by poor offensive lines and a lack of talent around him. Throw in a penchant for turnovers at inopportune moments as well as a series of injuries and it's added up to a rocky tenure in Chicago. "I know he's extremely competitive," Fox said. "I think he's been very tough-minded when he's had to deal with things, even in our tenure here, different surgeries, the hamstring, the thumb and now the shoulder. I think he's handled that as well as most guys I've ever been associated with." ------ For more NFL coverage: and Friday, December 02, 2016 Pats' Gronkowski to undergo back surgery FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- Rob Gronkowski's season is likely over. The New England Patriots tight end was scheduled to have surgery Friday for a herniated disk in his lower back, the team said in a statement Thursday night. The team said it doesn't expect Gronkowski to be able to return this season, but will await the results of the surgery before making a final determination. The Super Bowl is Feb. 5, should the Patriots get that far. Gronkowski sat out practice Wednesday with what listed as a back injury. He was absent from practice again Thursday. The Patriots said Gronkowski sustained a hit to the chest Nov. 13 against Seattle that resulted in a pulmonary contusion to his lung. He received medical clearance to return last week against the New York Jets and experienced significant back and leg pain. Gronkowski has missed three games this season. He has 25 catches for 540 yards and three touchdowns. He also dealt with a hamstring injury in 2016. The 2014 Comeback Player of the Year, Gronkowski's career has been plagued by injuries. A second-round draft pick in 2010, he has had ankle and knee surgery once, and three operations on his forearm. He has missed 20 games in his career and played many others while not 100 percent. Gronkowski is a three-time All-Pro. Friday, December 02, 2016 Cowboys hold on to beat Vikes MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Dez Bryant sashayed through the Dallas locker room with an unmistakable swagger and had nothing but good things to say about his adversary this time around. It was a stark change from a week ago, when he sparred with Washington cornerback Josh Norman on Thanksgiving. The trash talking Dez and the polite Dez share one thing in common: they both win. Bryant caught four passes for 84 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, helping the Cowboys win their 11th straight game with a 17-15 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night. In a hard-fought battle with cornerback Xavier Rhodes, Bryant's 56-yard catch set up Ezekiel Elliott's 1-yard TD in the first half. Bryant caught an 8-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter after a fumbled punt by Minnesota's Adam Thielen. "I knew coming into this game it was going to be a tough match and I had to be on my 'A' game," Bryant said. "Because if I wasn't, he can get the best of you. We had a good battle. We shared our thoughts throughout the game. It was good thoughts. It's nice playing games like that." Elliott rushed for 86 yards on 20 carries for the Cowboys (11-1). They have the longest single-season winning streak in franchise history. Sam Bradford threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jerick McKinnon with 25 seconds to play, but the 2-point conversion pass failed. Bradford argued for a penalty after he was hit in the face by a defender, but there was no call for the Vikings (6-6). Minnesota played without coach Mike Zimmer after he had emergency eye surgery Wednesday night. "I'm sick and tired of the reffing in this league right now," Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said. "I'm sick and tired of it. You've got holding calls all over the place that people don't want to call. Bradford gets hit in the face at the end of the game and you don't call it. I'm not laying this loss on reffing, but at some point it's got to get better." Bradford completed 32 of 45 passes for 247 yards, Danielle Hunter had two sacks and Kai Forbath kicked three field goals for Minnesota, which has last six of the last seven games after a 5-0 start. Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer was elevated to head coach for the game and it remains unclear how long Zimmer will be out. Minnesota's third-ranked defense did their fiery leader proud, holding the explosive Cowboys offense to season lows in points, yards (264) and first downs (13). "It's not the best game we played, but we showed up when we needed to and made the plays at the end," Elliott said. KEY PLAY With Dallas' offense doing nothing, Kyle Wilber made the play of the game when he punched the ball out of Thielen's hand, then pulled the ball away as the two rolled to the turf. Officials initially did not catch the fumble, but a heads-up challenge by Jason Garrett got the call overturned and Prescott found Bryant on the next play. CATCHLESS IN MINNEAPOLIS Cowboys tight end Jason Witten did not catch a pass, snapping a team-record streak of 130 straight games with a reception dating to 2008. A TD TO TIE TD Elliott's 1-yard plunge in the second quarter gave Dallas a 7-3 lead. It was his 12th touchdown rushing this season, tying him with Tony Dorsett for most by a rookie in Cowboys history. BRADFORD UNDER SEIGE Playing behind a patchwork offensive line that included center Nick Easton making his first career start in place of the injured Joe Berger (concussion), Bradford was under pressure all night long from a Cowboys defense that has often struggled in that area this season. Bradford was sacked three times and had to leave the game on the final drive of the second quarter after taking a helmet from Maliek Collins to his rib cage. After getting some medical attention during halftime, Bradford was able to remain in the game. "I had to take a deep breath," he said. "After that they were fine." The bad news on the injury front for the Vikings came for safety Harrison Smith, who left the locker room on crutches with a walking boot on his left foot. He has been fighting through an ankle injury over the last several weeks. ZIMMER TRIBUTE Before the game, the Vikings played a short video of Zimmer addressing the team during a practice. Zimmer's primary message: "Do your job." That has been a common theme during his three seasons in Minnesota, and the organization likely wanted the players to hear it one more time before taking the field. After the video, a picture of Zimmer was put on the big screen with a "Get Well Soon" message attached. "They fought to the bitter end, and I know coach Zimmer would've been very, very proud of them," Priefer said. UP NEXT Cowboys: Dallas heads to New York on Dec. 11 to face the Giants, the only team to have beaten the Cowboys this season. Vikings: Minnesota will travel to Jacksonville on Dec. 11 to face the Jaguars, hoping the extra time off will be enough for Zimmer to recover and return to the sideline. ------ For more NFL coverage: and Friday, December 02, 2016 Ex-Jets RB McKnight killed in apparent road rage incident By CHEVEL JOHNSON The Associated Press Former NFL player Joe McKnight was shot to death Thursday following an argument at an intersection with another motorist. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said the incident involving McKnight happened about 2:43 p.m. Thursday in Terrytown, a suburb of New Orleans. The 28-year-old running back was standing outside his car when he was shot by Ronald Gasser, 54, Normand said during a news conference at the scene of the shooting. "The only thing we know right now, everything else is conjecture, is that Mr. Gasser did in fact shoot Mr. McKnight," Normand said. McKnight is the second former NFL player this year to die in the New Orleans area as a result of a possible road-rage incident. Former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith was killed in April in a shooting that was sparked over a traffic altercation. Norman said investigators have Gasser in custody and he's being questioned, along with a number of witnesses. Col. John Fortunato, a sheriff's office spokesman, said they anticipate charging Gasser, but with what has not yet been determined. "We will release additional details when we get through with the interviews," Normand said. Normand said Gasser, whose hometown was not immediately released, stayed at the scene and relinquished his weapon to responding officers. The sheriff said he did not know where the incident started, but noted that McKnight was standing outside his vehicle when he was shot. He did not release any details on the number of times McKnight was shot, saying the coroner's office would do so. Normand said no gun was found outside either vehicle, but they had not searched the cars and won't do so until a search warrant has been obtained. McKnight played three seasons for the New York Jets and one with the Kansas City Chiefs. He spent this season in the Canadian Football League, playing two games for the Edmonton Eskimos and three for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He ran for 150 yards against Toronto on Oct. 15 in his Saskatchewan debut. "We send our deepest sympathies to Joe's family, friends, and all those impacted by this tragedy," Roughriders general manager and coach Chris Jones said in a statement. McKnight was considered the No. 1 running back recruit in the country when he came out of John Curtis Christian School in Louisiana in 2006 and signed with the University of Southern California, where he played under Pete Carroll. With his running and catching skills, McKnight was often compared to do-it-all running back Reggie Bush, a USC star who was the No. 2 overall pick by New Orleans in the 2006 draft. Bush took to Twitter to offer his condolences: "RIP my brother Joe McKnight," he posted, "this one hurts bad." "For a life to be lost so senselessly is just beyond description," said JT Curtis, McKnight's high school coach, who's been head coach there for nearly five decades. "Right now it's pretty devastating." "He was just a good kid," the coach added. After a sometimes-spectacular college career in which he ran for 2,213 yards and 13 touchdowns and caught 66 passes for 542 yards and two scores in three seasons, McKnight was drafted by the Jets in the fourth round in 2010. His NFL career got off to a shaky start, marked by his first rookie camp practice in which he dropped a few passes, had both calves cramp up and later vomited on the side of the field because of nerves and lack of conditioning. McKnight saw limited action as a rookie, but started the regular-season finale and rushed for 158 yards on 32 carries. McKnight assumed the role as the Jets' primary kick returner in 2011, and led the NFL with a 31.6 yard kickoff return average that season. That included a franchise-record 107-yarder in 2011 against Baltimore that also stands as the team's longest play. He was released by the Jets as part of their final cuts after training camp in 2013 and spent that season out of football. McKnight signed with Kansas City in January 2014 and had two touchdown catches in a game for the Chiefs early that season before tearing his Achilles tendon during a practice and missing the rest of the year. Several of McKnight's former teammates and friends took to social media to express shock and sadness at the news, and to offer condolences to his family. The Jets posted a photo of McKnight with the words "Joe McKnight 1988-2016" on it on their official Twitter account. "Rest in peace, Joe McKnight," the team said. "Our thoughts and condolences are with his loved ones." Former Jets teammate Antonio Cromartie wrote on Twitter: "Just got a message saying my former teammate Joe McKnight was killed today. This hurt to the heart. I can't stop crying." ------ Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana in New Orleans and sports writer Dennis Waszak in New York contributed to this report. Friday, December 02, 2016 Oakland Raiders GM McKenzie: 'We built this thing to last' ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) -- Reggie McKenzie took a methodical approach to rebuilding the Oakland Raiders when he was hired as general manager in 2012. He spent most of his first two seasons dismantling the roster to get the salary cap in order after years of mismanagement by late owner Al Davis before building the team back up again starting with the 2014 draft that netted franchise quarterback Derek Carr, elite pass rusher Khalil Mack and other key pieces. The process has paid off handsomely. McKenzie's Raiders are off to a 9-2 start this season and stand in first place in the AFC West and tied for the top record in the conference with New England. Oakland is assured of its first winning record since 2002 and is closing in on clinching a playoff berth for the first time since that season, when the team went to the Super Bowl. "We feel good about where we are," McKenzie said Thursday. "We think we built this thing to last." But the speed of the turnaround from an 0-10 start in 2014 to possible Super Bowl contender two years later is somewhat staggering and a credit to the job McKenzie did building a roster and hiring Jack Del Rio as coach in 2015. All but three of the team's starters were added since 2014 with McKenzie using successful high draft picks like Carr, Mack and Amari Cooper, key free agents like Michael Crabtree, Donald Penn, Rodney Hudson, Kelechi Osemele, Bruce Irvin and Sean Smith, and numerous finds late in the draft and off the street like David Amerson, Seth Roberts, Jalen Richard and Perry Riley Jr., to build a team able to compete with just about anybody. "We knew we had some pieces to develop and if we could just add on that, we felt like we'd win some ballgames," McKenzie said. "We had those guys in 2014, they were young, being 0-10 is no fun, but we were 3-3 at the end of that stretch and we were moving in the right direction." It has all paid off this season as a franchise that seemed to always find a way to lose is pulling out close games. Carr has led five fourth-quarter comebacks already this season as the players and management are confident each week that they will find a way to win. McKenzie said that started when Del Rio decided to go for a 2-point conversion and a win instead of playing for overtime in a season-opening 35-34 win at New Orleans. "As many heart attacks as I've had, absolutely," McKenzie said. "It goes without saying, the players, you can feel it. They have an air about them that they know they're going to win and it's good to be around." The next step for McKenzie will be figuring out a way to keep all his young stars. He has structured most of his free-agent contracts with a pay-as-you-go philosophy meaning that the salary cap shouldn't hinder the team's chances of retaining Carr, Mack and Cooper. Carr can negotiate an extension this offseason and become a free agent in 2018, while Mack won't hit free agency until the following year and Cooper in 2020. "The premiere players will get paid and we try to keep everything intact as much as we can," McKenzie said. "But that's what happens when you're talented players, play well and their contract comes up a certain time to where they can benefit from it, that's what free agency is all about." In other topics, McKenzie said defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. resumed workouts on the field Thursday for the first time since injuring his hip in the preseason opener on Aug. 12. Edwards was placed on injured reserve with hopes that he would be able to come back after about eight weeks but the injury has taken longer to heal than originally thought. The next step will be to see how Edwards responds to the workout before deciding whether to allow him back to practice. "It's a day to day thing for him now," McKenzie said. "See how he comes in in the morning after he did some work today. He's been working out. He's had a good week." McKenzie also had no update on the status of suspended pass rusher Aldon Smith, who is waiting to be reinstated by the league after serving a one-year suspension for violating the substance-abuse policy. "They'll let us know in due time," McKenzie said. "I'm sure they're in communication with each other with that. But they don't fill us in on anything in that process." McKenzie still believes Smith could contribute this season despite being out so long as long as he is in good shape physically and in a good state of mind. ------ For more NFL coverage: and Friday, December 02, 2016 Tiger returns with a mixed bag and a 73 NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) -- Not only did Tiger Woods return to golf Thursday, he returned to being Tiger. Just not for long. Hardly looking like a player who had not competed in 466 days, Woods ran off three straight birdies with a variety of shots and was tied for the lead in the Hero World Challenge as he approached the turn. Three shots in the bushes, one shot in the water and a few fits of anger sent him toward the bottom of the pack. A pair of double bogeys over the final three holes ruined an otherwise impressive return, and Woods shot 40 on the back nine at Albany Golf Club and had to settle for a 1-over 73. He was in 17th place in the 18-man field. Only Justin Rose had a higher score. Even so, Woods has reason to be encouraged. After taking off 15 months to recover from two back surgeries, he felt no pain or limitations. His misses were not big, just costly. And he was playing again. "It could have been something really good," Woods said. "I got off to a nice, solid start and made a few mistakes there. I didn't play the par 5s very well in the middle part of the round and consequently, got it going the wrong way. ... But all in all, I feel pretty good. I'm looking forward to another three more days." He was nine shots behind J.B. Holmes, who opened with an 8-under 64 and had a one-shot lead over Hideki Matsuyama, with U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson at 66. Curiosity was greater than expectations for Woods, who was coming off the longest hiatus of his golfing life. Plagued by back problems since 2013 when he was No. 1 in the world, he finally shut it down after tying for 10th in the Wyndham Championship on Aug. 23, 2015, and then going through two back surgeries. He was in so much pain last year there were times he wondered he had played his last tournament. With high anticipation, he tugged his opening tee shot into the rough on the left edge of a bunker and gouged that out to 15 feet for par. Just like that, it all started to feel as though he had never been away. "By the time I hit my tee shot on the second hole, I had already gotten into the flow of the round," Woods said. "That's something that for me, when I've taken layoffs and taken breaks, it's how quickly can I find the feel of the round? To not play in 15, 16 months and get it on the second hole is nice." He also knew that with only a stiff tropical wind behind him on three of the par 5s, scores would be low. For a short time, Woods seemed up to the task. He hit a 5-iron from 231 yards just over the green and passed his first test, a 30-yard pitch-and-run and that checked slightly and rolled out to a few feet from the hole for a birdie . He faced a more difficult pitch up the slope on the next hole and hit a chunk-and-run to 3 feet. His confidence kept building -- the flop shot from 40 yards to 5 feet for birdie on the par-5 sixth, the wedge to 5 feet for birdie on the seventh, and a 6-iron he struck so well on the par-3 eighth that he was asking for perfection. "One yard! One yard!" he said as the ball was in the air, and then settled 2 feet away. At that point he was tied with Holmes. But he flubbed a pitch on the par-5 ninth and made bogey. Two holes later, he flared an iron from the sandy waste area into a bush and had to take a penalty shot, making another bogey on a par 5. Woods was still hanging around in the middle of the pack when he hit 7-iron to 12 feet on the par-5 15th and two-putted for birdie. And then it all fell apart. From the middle of the 16th fairway, he pulled his approach and dropped the club as it sailed into a bush. He had to play that backward to the fairway, pitched a wedge some 30 feet by and made double bogey. And then on the 18th, he pulled his driver and immediately slammed the club into the turf as he watched for the splash. His pitch hit the pin -- it was too strong, anyway -- and he missed from 20 feet for another bogey. "Just made some really silly mistakes, mistakes I don't normally make," Woods said. "But I haven't played in a while. Unfortunately, I made those mistakes. I can clean that up. We've got three more days. Wind is supposed to pump on the weekend, and I'll be playing a little bit better." Friday, December 02, 2016 Barkov's breakaway gives Panthers 2-1 OT win DETROIT (AP) -- Aleksander Barkov scored on a breakaway 2:04 into overtime, lifting Florida to a 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night and giving interim coach Tom Rowe his first victory with the Panthers. Florida, playing its second game with Rowe, had lost its last two games. Detroit was 3-0-1 after losing four straight and nine of 11. BLUES 5, LIGHTNING 4 ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Vladimir Tarasenko scored three goals and Kevin Shattenkirk added two as St. Louis earned its third straight win. The Blues have won six straight at home. Jake Allen made 22 saves while improving to 12-3-3. PENGUINS 6, STARS 2 PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists, leading the Penguins to the win. Crosby scored his league-leading 16th goal in the second period and assisted on Conor Sheary's sixth as Pittsburgh scored three goals in the final 4 minutes. Eric Fehr's third of the season was the 100th of his career and Patric Hornqvist's seventh came on the power play. ISLANDERS 3, CAPITALS 0 WASHINGTON (AP) -- Shane Prince, Brock Nelson and Jason Chimera produced three goals in less than 4 1/2 minutes of the third period, leading the Islanders to their first three-game winning streak of the season. BRUINS 2, HURRICANES 1, SO BOSTON (AP) -- Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak scored in a shootout, lifting Boston to the win. Jeff Skinner's bid to extend the shootout fell short when he was stopped by Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin. Skinner also was turned away by Khudobin on a breakaway in the closing seconds of overtime. Khudobin pumped his fists after earning his first win of the season. Torey Krug scored in the third period for Boston, and Khudobin finished with 29 saves. Pastrnak made a pair of dekes and slipped the puck past Cam Ward for the winning goal. Jacob Slavin scored in the shootout for Carolina, which lost for the fourth time in five games. Ward made 34 saves. FLYERS 3, SENATORS 2, OT OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) -- Claude Giroux scored his second goal of the game 40 seconds into overtime, sending Philadelphia to the road win. Michael Del Zotto also scored, and Steve Mason made 19 saves. The Flyers have won three in a row to improve to 12-10-3. Mike Hoffman and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa, and Mike Condon made 29 saves. The Senators dropped to 14-8-2. Friday, December 02, 2016 Eichel's 2 goals lead Sabres past Rangers BUFFALO (AP) -- With Jack Eichel back on the ice, the Buffalo Sabres are no longer struggling to score. Eichel had two goals in the third period, and the Sabres beat the New York Rangers 4-3 on Thursday night for their second straight victory. Buffalo's star center has three goals and an assist in two games since returning from a high-ankle sprain. In 21 games without Eichel, the Sabres scored an NHL-low 39 goals and had four or more goals in a game just twice. Buffalo has tallied nine goals in its last two wins. Sabres coach Dan Bylsma was expecting his team to get a lift from Eichel's return, but he did not anticipate the 20-year-old forward would produce this much in his first two games back. "It just shows what kind of player he can be, what kind of player he is," Bylsma said. "He's a dynamic player and he brings so much to our team in speed and attack. Everyone feeds of it. It has carried over to other players." Johan Larsson and Brian Gionta also scored for Buffalo. Anders Nilsson made 22 saves while subbing for starting goaltender Robin Lehner, who is day to day with a hip injury. Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash and Marc Staal scored for the Rangers, and Henrik Lundqvist made 30 saves. The Metropolitan Division-leading Rangers lost for the first time in 14 games this season when leading after two periods. After winning 13 of its first 17 games, New York is 3-4-1 over the past two weeks. Eichel has a point in seven straight games dating to last season, and the Sabres are 10-3-1 when he has more than one point. Playing in his first home game of the season, Eichel electrified the crowd at KeyBank Center with two goals in 103 seconds late in the third. "It was great to be back here," Eichel said. "I was definitely looking forward to it. To be able to win and get a little come-from-behind victory in the third period and be able to contribute makes it feel a whole lot sweeter." Eichel tied the game on a power play with 7:15 remaining. After drawing a holding penalty on Adam Clendening, Eichel received a pass from Kyle Okposo in the right circle and beat Lundqvist with a wrist shot to the short side of the net. "He just froze me," Lundqvist said. "I was expecting a pass. I was already thinking about what's going to happen next and instead he goes for the shot. You know, that's what good players do. They read from what I'm doing there and obviously I need to challenge him more." On his next shift, Eichel took a cross-crease pass from Sam Reinhart and tried to feed the puck to a streaking Evander Kane, but it bounced off the left skate of New York's Mats Zuccarello and into the net. "When you look at the goals there, some fluky ones," Lundqvist said. "All of them, really, just some weird plays. But I guess that happens when they spend so much time in our own end." Buffalo took the lead 18 seconds into the game when Jake McCabe's pass from center ice deflected off Larsson's skate at the blue line and bounced over Lundqvist's shoulder. The Sabres controlled possession for much of the second period and tied it when Marcus Foligno's backhand from behind the net set up Gionta for a tap-in at the edge of the crease at 9:48. "I really thought our team played at another level in that second period," Bylsma said. The Rangers went up 3-2 midway through the second when Staal scored on a one-timer from the right circle off Jesper Fast's backhand feed from the end boards. New York converted on the power play for its first two goals. McDonagh tied it at 1 with 3:45 left in the first. Utilizing a Chris Kreider screen, McDonagh fired a wrist shot from the point beneath Nilsson's blocking pad for his first goal of the season. Nash gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead 8:15 into the second. Steve Vesey deflected Clendening's shot from the point and Nash tucked the rebound between Nilsson's pads. Nash has six points in his last six games and is second on the Rangers with 11 goals, one behind Michael Grabner. NOTES: Reinhart has six points in his last five games. ... Vesey heard boos from the crowd in his first game in Buffalo. The Sabres acquired Vesey's rights in a trade with Nashville in June but were unable to sign the Hobey Baker Award winner before he became eligible for free agency. He signed with New York two months later. ... With Lehner out, Buffalo recalled G Linus Ullmark from the minors to back up Nilsson. ... Clendening, a native of nearby Niagara Falls, replaced Kevin Klein on the Rangers' third defensive pairing after being a healthy scratch in 18 of the last 19 games. UP NEXT Rangers: Host Carolina on Saturday. Sabres: Host Boston on Saturday. Friday, December 02, 2016 Clippers roll to win over Cavs CLEVELAND (AP) -- J.J. Redick scored 23 points, Blake Griffin matched a career high with 11 assists and the Los Angeles Clippers bounced back from a brutal loss with a 113-94 victory on Thursday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have lost two straight for the first time as defending NBA champions. Chris Paul scored 16 and DeAndre Jordan had 15 rebounds for the Clippers, who blew an 18-point lead and fell in double overtime at Brooklyn on Tuesday. Los Angeles took control with a 13-2 run to open the third quarter. Kyrie Irving scored 28 and LeBron James 16 for the Cavs, who were outplayed for the second game in a row. Cleveland lost at Milwaukee on Tuesday, when coach Tyronn Lue pulled his starters in the second half and J.R. Smith wandered off the floor during play and gave up an easy basket. HORNETS 97, MAVERICKS 87 CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Kemba Walker scored 18 points and Charlotte beat Dallas for its third win in the last four games. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 14 points and Jeremy Lamb had 12 off the bench for the Hornets, who remained in first place in the Southeast Division. Harrison Barnes scored 17 points and Justin Anderson added 15 for the Mavericks, who have lost 10 of their last 11 games. The Hornets led by two when Walker drained a long 3-pointer to beat the shot clock with 3:51 to give his team the spark it needed. Lamb followed with a driving layup that resulted in a three-point play to push the lead to 86-78. GRIZZLIES 95, MAGIC 94 MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Marc Gasol scored 25 points, including a pair of free throws with 12.2 seconds remaining to give Memphis a victory over Orlando. Gasol's free throws completed a 14-point comeback in the fourth quarter as Memphis snapped a two-game losing streak. Troy Daniels finished with 19 points for the short-handed Grizzlies, who dressed nine players due to injuries. Andrew Harrison had 11 points and eight assists. Evan Fournier scored 28 points for the Magic, while Nikola Vucevic had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Jeff Green scored 12 of his 14 points early in the fourth as Orlando built a double-digit lead. BUCKS 111, NETS 93 NEW YORK (AP) -- Giannis Antetokounmpo had 23 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, Jabari Parker scored 22 points and Milwaukee beat Brooklyn. Malcolm Brogdon and Tony Snell each added 13 points for the Bucks, who followed their impressive victory over Cleveland with their third straight win. Brook Lopez scored 15 points, Sean Kilpatrick had 14 and Bojan Bogdanovic added 13 for the Nets, who outlasted the Los Angeles Clippers in overtime on Tuesday and were trying to win consecutive games for the first time this season. The Bucks continued their dominance of the Nets since Jason Kidd left Brooklyn for the Milwaukee coaching job. Milwaukee led by one in the third quarter when the Bucks went on a 14-2 run to go up 77-64. Milwaukee took a 90-78 lead into the fourth quarter, led by Antetokounmpo's 11 points in the third, and never looked back. Friday, December 02, 2016 Dodgers, Latin American players losing in MLB deal NEW YORK (AP) -- The Los Angeles Dodgers, Latin American teenagers and Cubans approaching their mid-20s were losers in baseball's new labor contract, which includes stiffer penalties for high-spending teams and a hard cap on signing bonuses for international amateurs. The Oakland Athletics also came up short, with the team's ability to receive revenue-sharing money to be trimmed in stages and eliminated in 2020. Mid-tier free agents were winners, with management agreeing teams will no longer forfeit first-round draft picks for signing players who turn down qualifying offers. But top-tier free agents could wind up as losers if potential bidders back off because of the steeper tax for exceeding the payroll threshold. Players and owners agreed to the five-year deal Wednesday, subject to ratification, and details were provided by several people familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because the sides had not yet released specifics. The luxury tax threshold, which was $178 million in 2011 and $189 million this year, will rise to $210 million by 2021. That represents an 18 percent rise over a decade, well below the rate of increase in baseball's revenue. And the highest tax bracket will rise, with two levels of new surtaxes. The Dodgers' luxury-tax payroll this year was about $256 million, down from a record $297 million last year, leaving them on track to owe a tax of approximately $34 million -- a 50 percent rate assesses on the amount over the threshold. If the new rules were fully implemented this year, they would pay $41,825,000: a base tax of $30.5 million (50 percent of the amount above $195 million), a surtax of $2.4 million (12 percent of the $20 million-$40 million amount over the threshold) and a second surtax of $8,925,000 (42.5 percent of the amount above $40 million). However, the new rules transition in next year and don't have a full impact until 2018. While management failed to gain the international draft it wanted, players did agree to a hard cap on international signings, which eliminates deals such as Yoan Moncada's $31.5 million signing bonus with Boston in 2015. The signing pool limit will be $4.75 million for the signing period that begins July 2. The pool rises to $5.25 million for teams with competitive balance round A draft picks and $5.75 million for clubs with round B selections. Eight teams have spent more than $4.75 million in the current signing season, led by San Diego at $34.6 million (plus a $31.3 million tax) and Atlanta at $15.6 million (plus an $11.1 million tax). Because of the new limits, teams that had tentative deals in place with 15-year-old Latin players that were set to be finalized next summer could be forced to back out. Players who left Cuba also are impacted by the changes. Under the old rules, Cubans didn't count against a team's signing bonus pool if they were at least 23 and played in a professional league for at least five seasons. Because of that, Lourdes Gourriel waited until after his 23rd birthday last month to finalize a $22 million, seven-year contract with Toronto. Under the new deal, the age is raised to 25 -- which would reduce the amount spent on Cubans who are younger. Oakland has been a special case when it comes to baseball's revenue-sharing plan. The old collective bargaining agreement disqualified teams in the 15 largest markets from receiving revenue sharing funds but also stated the A's will remain eligible as long as their ballpark situation was unresolved. The new deal cuts the team's revenue share receipts to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018 and 25 percent in 2019 before eliminating it entirely. Draft pick compensation is another change. Free agents such as Dexter Fowler and Daniel Murphy found their markets limited last offseason after turning down qualifying offers. Clubs did not want to lose their first-round draft pick and the union said remedying that situation was a high priority. Going forward, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career. Depending on whether it receives revenue sharing or pays luxury tax, a team would lose its third-highest pick, its second- and fifth-highest selections or its second-highest pick. Friday, December 02, 2016 Giants' Harrison is 'the glue' that holds defense together EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- There are a lot of reasons for the New York Giants' success on defense this season, and then there is Damon Harrison. Affectionately called 'Snacks' by his teammates, Harrison isn't what one would consider a glamour player on coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's unit. Other players are more noticeable. Second-year safety Landon Collins is having a career year with 87 tackles and five interceptions. Jason Pierre-Paul is playing like the old 'JPP' with seven sacks, including 5 1/2 in the past two games. Fellow defensive end Olivier Vernon has sacks in four straight and cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie are helping to limit opposing big-play receivers. Harrison's work is more covert. With his dreadlocks reaching underneath his helmet, the 6-foot-3, 343-pound Harrison is the force in the middle of a defense that has not allowed a player to rush for 100 yards this season. Only three teams have gained 100 yards in 11 games. "It seems like every week there is something he does that has me saying (Wow), how in the heck did you do that," linebacker Devon Kennard said of Harrison. "It's ridiculous. It might get overpassed by some of the other plays we are making all over the field, but I don't know if I have seen a defensive tackle dominate, the way he dominates." Kennard said there was a play against Cleveland this past weekend when the Giants won their sixth straight game on which Harrison split a double team and made the tackle. Harrison's play has helped the Giants (8-3) jump from the NFL's last-ranked defense in 2015 to No. 16 heading into Sunday's game at Pittsburgh against the Steelers (6-5). Giants guard Justin Pugh laughed when asked about playing against Harrison, who made the NFL as a free agent with the Jets. "Just look at him," Pugh said. "He's an unmovable person. He's a good player. He plays low and he has a chip on his shoulder." That chip helped Harrison get a five-year, $46.2 million deal from the Giants in the offseason. Spagnuolo said he didn't know what to expect from Harrison other than what he saw on videotape, a force in the middle of the defensive line who wasn't satisfied simply being a run stopper. Spagnuolo got that and more, even a couple of hits on the running backs coming through the line on pass plays. "He has been such a key component to the way this thing has kind of gelled together and I am not talking about when he is out on the field, as much as when he is off the field, when he is on the sideline, when he is in the locker room," Spagnuolo said. "I watch him all the time. He has been the glue. He has been the guy that can get the guys to refocus. You need somebody in the group that will do that and he has been that guy." Harrison said he spoke with Spagnuolo after signing and the defensive coordinator just told him to be himself. He has done that playing what is a thankless position. More often than not, he is getting double-teamed, although playing in a 4-3 formation with the Giants has helped him focus on one gap. He had to handle two gaps playing a 3-4 scheme with the Jets. "I'm getting old," Harrison said. "I used to like the double teams, but now I'm just trying to run away from them. Pass them on to (Johnathan) Hankins. A young guy. "If that'll help the team and make the team better, cause the linebackers to make more plays, then I'm all for it. I try to fight through the double team and still make the play. I'm not just sitting on the double team and holding it. I want to make plays. Double team and single team, I still think I have a chance to make a play." The statistics bear that out. Harrison is third on the team with 63 tackles. He also had 1 1/2 sacks, four tackles for losses, three quarterback hits, a pass defended and a forced fumble. NOTES: Safety Nat Berhe (concussion), LB Mark Herzlich (concussion) and DE Owa Odighizuwa (knee) did not practice for the second straight day. Pugh (knee) and fellow OL Marshall Newhouse (knee) and Brett Jones (calf) were limited. Returner Dwayne Harris (wrist) practiced fully. ... Collins was honored as the NFC defensive player of the month. The NFL said that Collins is the first safety with 30-plus tackles, three-plus interceptions, and more than one sack in a calendar month since Philadelphia's Brian Dawkins in 2006. ------ For more NFL coverage: and Friday, December 02, 2016 Packers' Matthews: 'Cheap shot' got him hurt against the Eagles GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Clay Matthews didn't mince words about the play that got him injured against the Eagles. "It was a cheap shot," Matthews said. Matthews sustained an injured left shoulder on a crunching first-quarter block from Philadelphia lineman Allen Barbre on Monday night Matthews missed three plays and returned, then missed the next series while receiving a pain-killing injection. He returned for the Eagles' third series and played most of the rest of the game. Matthews recorded a fourth-quarter sack, his first since the fourth game of the season. The injury is the latest to limit Matthews. He missed the Week 3 game against Detroit with a hamstring injury, played in the next three games, then missed the Atlanta, Indianapolis and Tennessee games - all losses - after injuring the hamstring again. He returned for last week's loss at Washington but didn't record a tackle. "I was feeling good on that first series" against the Eagles, Matthews said Wednesday. "I was playing a little faster with the position change and everything, feeling good about what I was able to do on those first couple of plays. I realize it was only a handful of plays. Yeah, it was frustrating. Part of the game, though. We'll battle through it and just deal with it, I guess." Quarterback Aaron Rodgers injured his left hamstring during the third quarter, but both he and Matthews are expected to play Sunday against Houston. The team didn't practice Wednesday, given them an extra day of rest following Monday night's win. Coach Mike McCarthy instead emphasized mental preparation as the Packers (5-6) try to stay in the NFC playoff race. "Stress, it adds up," McCarthy said. "Frankly, this plan was in place in the spring when the schedule came out. We knew this was going to be a difficult stretch for our football team. We moved everything back, gave those guys a chance to sleep in today." Even without three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, who's on injured reserve because of his back, the Texans (6-5) rank fifth in total defense and 12th in points allowed. A hobbled Rodgers would certainly help their cause as they cling to a half-game lead over Tennessee (6-6) and a one-game lead over Indianapolis (5-6) in the AFC South. "There's no question it will definitely help out if he can sit in the pocket and doesn't really feel like running, because there's nothing more defeating than on third down covering everybody and then the quarterback runs right by everyone for the first down," Texans linebacker Brian Cushing said. "If it limits him, obviously that'll be a big plus for us." Note: Including Rodgers and Matthews, 12 players were on the Packers injury report. Linebackers Jake Ryan (ankle) and Blake Martinez (knee) would have been limited participation and right guard T.J. Lang (ankle) would have not participated. Thursday, December 01, 2016 Surging Cowboys bring a line to make Vikings envious MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The fuel for this dazzling season for the Dallas Cowboys can be found up front, with an offensive line that's helped make this team a handful to try to stop. "They're really, really good. They're the best line I've seen in a long time in the NFL: physical, athletic, big," said the usually understated Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who could be forgiven if he sounded envious of the group on the other side. Just as the front five have made a significant impact on the success of the Cowboys (10-1), the ever-important position has played a major hand in the recent slide by the Vikings (6-5). With center Joe Berger ruled out of the game on Thursday night because of a concussion, the Vikings will use their seventh different starting lineup combination in 12 games this season; Nick Easton makes his first NFL start. That doesn't include others who've subbed in for injured teammates on the fly. "Once again we've got to rework the line," left guard Alex Boone said, "and figure out what we can do best." The Vikings have struggled for the last three seasons to establish a reliable, stable starting five. Injuries, particularly this year with three starting tackles on injured reserve, have ravaged the position. But they've only invested two picks in the first three rounds of the last 10 drafts in an offensive lineman, with right tackle Phil Loadholt (No. 54 overall) in 2009 and left tackle Matt Kalil (No. 4 overall) in 2012. Loadholt retired before training camp because of injuries. Kalil had season-ending hip surgery after playing in the first two games this season. The Cowboys, by stark contrast, have three first-round draft picks in their starting lineup: left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin. There's no mystery why the rookie tandem of running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott have been able to thrive so swiftly or why the Cowboys have won 10 straight games. "There's a selfless nature to them that I think is really good, and it's one of the best offensive lines I've ever been around," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "They really set the tone for our football team." Here are some key angles to know about the game: BACK AND FORTH WITH BRYANT: After backing away from harsh comments about Washington cornerback Josh Norman following the 31-26 Thanksgiving Day win, Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant struck a similar tone with a few more days to think about it. After the two nearly ended up in a post-game fight following several testy exchanges, Bryant yelled toward reporters on his way into the locker room that the Redskins should ask for their money back. Norman signed a five-year contract worth as much as $75 million after Carolina surprisingly rescinded the franchise tag and made him a free agent. Bryant kept pushing the criticism on Twitter before backing off. "I wish I'd never done it," Bryant said. "I have nothing against that guy. I'm pretty sure he's got nothing against me." KEEPING HIM QUIET: Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes will likely be tasked with following Bryant and unlikely to be drawn into any trash talking. Rhodes had one of his best performances against the New York Giants while helping limit loquacious wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to three catches for a career-low 23 yards at the peak of his early-season frustration. "Xavier stays focused on what it is he's got to get done," Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards said. FAMILIAR FACES: Cornerback Terence Newman played for Dallas from 2003-11. He won't be the only one on the Minnesota sideline who might see those Cowboys uniforms and, despite the intense desire to beat them, have some memories triggered. Zimmer still keeps a home in suburban Dallas, which is where his son and current Vikings linebackers coach Adam Zimmer lived during his middle school and high school years. His dad, while making sure to avoid sounding overly nostalgic, listed several people still working in the Cowboys organization he remembers well when asked this week to reflect. "Anytime you're somewhere 13 years," Zimmer said, "it kind of grooms you into who you are a little bit. We had some great teams there." DEFENSIVE SHUFFLE: Cowboys safety Barry Church will be back after missing four games with a broken right forearm, but his replacement, J.J. Wilcox, is likely out with a thigh injury. The Cowboys haven't created a turnover since the injury to Church, their interceptions leader with two. "Just another veteran player back there to recognize things and just experience," said Church, who will play with a small cast. "And we'll see what I can do." GROUNDED GAME: The Cowboys are the only team in the league that hasn't allowed a player to rush for 100 yards this year, a streak that doesn't look to be in danger this week. The Vikings have only topped 100 yards once as a team, on Oct. 3 against the Giants when Jerick McKinnon gained 84 yards on the ground for Minnesota's individual season high. ------ For more NFL coverage: and Thursday, December 01, 2016 If Giants need it, Beckham willing to be punt returner EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Odell Beckham Jr. wants the ball any way he can get it. If that means the big-play wide receiver adds the job of returning punts for the New York Giants, he's up for it. Beckham showed what he could do as a returner in the fourth quarter of the Giants' 27-13 win over Cleveland on Sunday, fielding Britton Colquitt's 54-yard punt, finding an opening in the converging Browns, and then cutting across the field for a 59-yard touchdown return . It was typical Beckham. He turned nothing into something and woke up the Giants. The touchdown was nullified by Mark Herzlich's holding penalty, but it again showed how much of a game breaker Beckham can be. Don't forget he also caught two touchdowns against Cleveland as the Giants (8-3) ran their winning streak to six games. "Hopefully we get another chance to run some back," Beckham said Wednesday, looking forward to Sunday's game in Pittsburgh. "It's something I've been doing pretty much all my life. I've done punt return and kick return. It's just what it is. It's just another opportunity. They punt it and that ball is going straight to you. Your teammates are out there making the blocks. You just have to make cuts off of them." Beckham said returning and getting the feel for the ball helps him get going on offense. "Hopefully you don't get hit but you get an opportunity to get tackled," said the 24-year-old, whose 65 catches are tied for seventh in the league. "It's a lot of fun. It's something that I do enjoy. Hopefully I can help this team out in that way or whatever way I can." Beckham has practiced fielding punts all season. Dwayne Harris has handled the job almost all season, but he has been bothered by a wrist injury and running back Bobby Rainey handled the job against the Browns. Rainey fumbled a punt in the second quarter and Beckham took over in the second half, averaging 11.7 yards on three returns. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin saw the videotape of Beckham returning punts and was impressed. "He needs no endorsement from me, he looks like a dangerous guy," Tomlin said. "Guys like him, they're capable of distinguishing themselves regardless of what you ask them to do. He's a competitor, a skilled athlete, a playmaker, and that's what they do." Harris isn't sure whether he will be able to return punts this week, but he added his wrist is feeling better. Coach Ben McAdoo said he will make a decision on a punt returner later in the week. Beckham injured a thumb against the Browns last week in the first half but he played through it. He is not worried about it, or even the prospect that he might be hurt returning punts. It's a job that rarely is done by a team's best skilled player. "You could do that playing football or crossing the street," Beckham said of the potential for injury. "It's part of life. I don't really worry about being hurt at all. It's in God's hands. "I put the best preparation in my body that I can and take care of it the best that I can in order to go out there and not get hurt. Me being back there on punt return, getting hurt or anything like that is not really something I'm worried about. It can happen on any play." NOTES: RB Shane Vereen has been designated for return from injured reserve and practiced for the first time since tearing a triceps against Washington (Sept. 25). The Giants have 21 days to activate him or he stays on IR the rest of the season. ... Gs Brett Jones (calf), Justin Pugh (knee) and Marshall Newhouse (knee) practiced on a limited basis. ... S Nat Berhe (concussion), LB Mark Herzlich (concussion) and DE Owa Odighizuwa (knee) did not practice. ... Safety Christian Bryant was signed to the practice squad. He has played in 11 NFL games, two this season for Arizona Cardinals and nine last season for the Rams. ------ For more NFL coverage: and -- Thursday, December 01, 2016 Lee scores with 27 seconds left, Isles win NEW YORK (AP) -- Anders Lee scored the tiebreaking goal with 27 seconds remaining to lift the New York Islanders to a 5-3 victory over the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night. Thomas Hickey fired a slap shot from the point that deflected off Lee's stick and past goalie Matt Murray to help the Islanders recover after giving up a three-goal lead in the third period. With Murray pulled on the ensuing faceoff, Nikolay Kulemin scored into the empty net 3 seconds later to give the Islanders consecutive victories for the second time this season. Johnny Boychuk, Jason Chimera and Casey Cizikas also scored for the Islanders, and Thomas Greiss made 31 saves. They led 3-0 after two periods. Conor Sheary, Justin Schultz and Evgeni Malkin scored in the first 13:08 of the third period for the Penguins. Murray finished with 25 saves. FLAMES 3, MAPLE LEAFS 0 CALGARY, Alberta (AP) -- Freddie Hamilton and Kris Versteeg scored in the first minute and Chad Johnson made 39 saves in Calgary's victory over Toronto. Hamilton one-timed a centering pass from Micheal Ferland past Jhonas Enroth high on the glove side for his first of the season 19 seconds in. Thirty seconds later, Versteeg buried his third of the season. Sean Monahan was initially stopped from the slot, but Enroth kicked the rebound to Versteeg. Matt Stajan also scored. Thursday, December 01, 2016 MLB players, owners reach tentative deal IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that will extend the sport's industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency. After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides. "It's great! Another five years of uninterrupted baseball," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text message. In announcing the agreement, Major League Baseball said it will make specific terms available when drafting is complete. "Happy it's done, and baseball is back on," Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said. As part of the deal, the luxury tax threshold rises from $189 million to $195 million next year, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed. Tax rates increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first offenders, remain at 30 percent for second offenders and rise from 40 percent to 50 percent for third offenders. There is a new surtax of 12 percent for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 42.5 percent for first offenders more than $40 million above the threshold and 45 percent for subsequent offenders more than $40 million above. A player can receive a free-agent qualifying offer only once in his career and will have 10 days to consider it instead of seven. A club signing a player who failed to accept a qualifying offer would lose its third-highest amateur draft pick if it is a revenue-sharing receiver, its second- and fifth-highest picks (plus a loss of $1 million in its international draft pool) if it pays luxury tax for the just-ended season, and its second-highest pick (plus $500,000 in the international draft pool) if it is any other team. A club losing a free agent who declined a qualifying offer would receive an extra selection after the first round of the next draft if the player signed a contract for $50 million or more and after the competitive balance B round if under $50 million. However, if that team pays luxury tax, the extra draft pick would drop to after the fourth round. Among other details: --For a team $40 million or more in excess of the luxury tax threshold, its highest selection in the next amateur draft will drop 10 places. --While management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team's annual bonus pool for those players starting at $4.75 million for the signing period that starts next July 2. --There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on. --Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all players who currently do not have at least one day of major league service. --The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days. There are additional limitations on the start time of night games on getaway days. --The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises. --The drop-off in slot values in the first round of the amateur draft will be lessened. --Oakland's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018, 25 percent in 2019 and then phases out. --As part of the drug agreement, there will be increased testing, players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year. Negotiators met through most of Tuesday night in an effort to increase momentum in the talks, which began during spring training. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agreement before expiration, but a deal was struck eight weeks in advance of expiration in 2006 and three weeks ahead of expiration in 2011. Talks took place at a hotel outside Dallas where the players' association held its annual executive board meeting. Tony Clark, the first former player to serve as executive director of the union, and others set up in a meeting room within earshot of a children's choir practicing Christmas carols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby. Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the last a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. The 2002 agreement was reached after players authorized a strike and about 3 1/2 hours before the first game that would have been impacted by a walkout. The peace in baseball is in contrast to the recent labor histories of other major sports. The NFL had a preseason lockout in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lockout that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lockout in 2012-13. ------ AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in Oakland, California, contributed to this report. Thursday, December 01, 2016 Westbrook has 35, triple-double as Thunder down Wizards in OT OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Russell Westbrook scored 14 of his 35 points in overtime and posted his fourth consecutive triple-double to help the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat the Washington Wizards 126-115 on Wednesday night. Westbrook added 14 rebounds and 11 assists for his ninth triple-double this season and the 46th of his career. The Thunder have won all four games during his triple-double streak, and he heads into December averaging a triple-double through 20 games this season. Former Thunder coach Scott Brooks returned as Washington's coach, and the Oklahoma City crowd greeted him warmly. Brooks coached the Thunder for seven years and led them to the Western Conference Finals three times and the NBA Finals once. LAKERS 96, BULLS 90 CHICAGO (AP) -- Julius Randle made a strong move against Nikola Mirotic for a tiebreaking layup with 45.1 seconds left, and Los Angeles held off Chicago for a gritty victory. Randle had 13 points and matched a career high with 20 rebounds as Los Angeles bounced back from an ugly 105-88 loss at New Orleans on Tuesday night. Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson scored 18 points apiece, and Larry Nance Jr. finished with 12 points and 11 boards. SPURS 94, MAVERICKS 87 DALLAS (AP) -- Patty Mills scored 15 of his team-high 23 points in the fourth quarter and Kawhi Leonard added 21 points, helping San Antonio rally over Dallas. San Antonio became just the third team to start the season 11-0 on the road, following last year's Warriors (14-0) and the 1969-70 Knicks (12-0). RAPTORS 120, GRIZZLIES 105 TORONTO (AP) -- Kyle Lowry had 29 points and eight assists, DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points and Toronto ended Memphis' six-game road winning streak. Cory Joseph added 16 points off the bench for the Raptors, who defeated Memphis for the third straight time and for the sixth time in their last seven meetings. It was the fourth straight victory overall for the Raptors, their longest winning streak of the season. PISTONS 121, CELTICS 114 BOSTON (AP) -- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 25 points and Tobias Harris had 21 to lead balanced scoring that carried Detroit over Boston. Andre Drummond added 20 points and 17 rebounds, one night after he was ejected in the second quarter of a victory at Charlotte for a flagrant-2 foul. Isaiah Thomas paced the Celtics with 27 points, and Kelly Olynyk scored a season-high 19. Boston had won five of seven. HEAT 106, NUGGETS 98 DENVER (AP) -- Hassan Whiteside had another big game with 25 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks to lift Miami over Denver. Wayne Ellington scored 22 points and Tyler Johnson had 18 points and seven assists for Miami in his return after missing one game. Goran Dragic had 16 points and seven assists for the Heat, who have more wins on the road (four) than at home (two). Nikola Jokic had 17 points and 14 rebounds off the bench for Denver, outscored 31-18 in the fourth quarter. Miami went on an 11-0 run early in the fourth to take the lead for good. Ellington hit four 3-pointers in the period and his last one put the Heat up 10 with 2:25 left. SUNS 109, HAWKS 107 PHOENIX (AP) -- Brandon Knight scored 23 points off the bench and Phoenix reserves combined for 54 as the Suns held off slumping Atlanta thanks to a key fourth-quarter run. Eric Bledsoe's bank shot with 28.4 seconds left gave the Suns a 104-99 lead and all but sealed Atlanta's fourth consecutive defeat. Jared Dudley and P.J. Tucker added 17 points apiece for the Suns, who had lost four of five. Leandro Barbosa made baskets on three straight possessions midway through the fourth quarter to give Phoenix an 89-84 advantage, part of an 11-0 run. The Hawks cut it to 96-95 with 2:50 to play on Thabo Sefolosha's 17-footer, but the Suns held on. Dennis Schroder scored 14 of his 31 points in the fourth. 76ERS, KINGS, PPD PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A scheduled game between Sacramento and Philadelphia was postponed by the NBA because of condensation on the court at the Wells Fargo Center. The game, which was slated to start at 7 p.m., was called off at 8:03 p.m. A makeup date was not immediately announced. The Philadelphia Flyers hosted an NHL game at the arena Tuesday night and the ice surface remained under the basketball court -- standard procedure at the Wells Fargo Center. However, Wednesday was an unseasonably warm, humid day for late November in Philadelphia, and it likely affected the surface. Thursday, December 01, 2016 Knicks defeat T'Wolves MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Kristaps Porzingis and Karl-Anthony Towns are building a tantalizing rivalry for the NBA's new age. Carmelo Anthony let the kids have their fun until it was time to go home. Porzingis had 29 points and eight rebounds and Towns had 47 points and 18 boards, but Anthony hit the winning jumper with 2.3 seconds left, lifting the New York Knicks to a 106-104 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night. "I mean the sky's the limit for those two guys in this league," said Antony, who had just 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting before splashing the winner over Andrew Wiggins' outstretched hand. "With Towns, the way he's playing, Kristaps getting better and better each day, they'll be around for a long time and, you know, they'll be the face of this league in a couple years." The 21-year-old Towns is the third-youngest player in the last three decades to have at least 45 points and 15 rebounds in a game. The Wolves used a 20-3 run to tie it at 102 with under a minute to play, but Porzingis threw Gorgui Dieng aside for a putback slam and Anthony tipped the inbounds pass on Minnesota's final possession to thwart the comeback. "I think it was a good show for everybody," Porzingis said. "But the most important is we got the win." Brandon Jennings scored 12 points off the bench and Porzingis had a big block against his friend and draft classmate Towns to help the Knicks weather the loss of Joakim Noah, who sat out with a sprained left ankle. New York made 13 3-pointers to Minnesota's four. After the Timberwolves lost to Utah on Monday, a despondent Towns vowed to do more to help his team win. He came out a man on fire, scoring 22 points on 8-for-8 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds in the first quarter. "I'm so proud of all of my teammates," said Towns, whose Wolves fell to 5-13. "The fight that we have every time we're down to comeback and find a way to put ourselves back in a game is the reason why I think so many find the potential in us to be great." TIP-INS Knicks: SG Courtney Lee only played eight minutes because of a sprained left ankle. ... Coach Jeff Hornacek said F Lance Thomas, who has not played yet because of a sore left ankle, had a good workout during shootaround and will practice on Friday in the hopes of playing in the next game or two. Timberwolves: Wiggins had 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists. ... Towns' 22 points in the first quarter were two off of Chauncey Billups' franchise record of 24. ... G/F Brandon Rush was inactive with a sore big toe that has bothered him for much of the season. SLAM SWATTED The two young stars rarely guarded each other, but Towns did go at Porzingis late in the second quarter, rising up to try to dunk on him only to have the Latvian emphatically stuff him for Towns' first missed shot in 11 attempts. "He tried," Porzingis said. "He was being super aggressive. He was driving to the basket, shooting from the outside, playing in the post. He was doing everything. He was playing an overall game, and it was really hard to stop him." FOND MEMORIES The Bulls made the playoffs all five seasons with coach Tom Thibodeau leading Derrick Rose and Noah. Rose and Noah were two players Thibodeau, now with Minnesota, deeply respected for their competitive drive and determination. "You don't realize what you have with him until he's not around," Noah said. "He used to tell me that when I played for him because we used to butt heads all the time. He's definitely one of the tops in the business." FAMILIAR FACES Two Knicks assistants have Minnesota ties, with Kurt Rambis a former head coach and Jerry Sichting spending a total of 13 years in two separate stints as an assistant. "It's still special," Sichting said. "I still know a lot of people in the organization and around town. I don't miss the winters around here, but I always enjoy coming back." UP NEXT The two teams meet again in two days, this time in Manhattan on Friday night for a game in which Thibodeau will return to the arena he called home for seven seasons as a Knicks assistant. Thursday, December 01, 2016 Tiger Woods' best putter back in the bag, away from his son By DOUG FERGUSON The Associated Press NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) -- Like any father, Tiger Woods has a list of what his two children can and cannot touch in the house, even when it comes to his golf clubs. Two of them, in particular. One of them is the black Scotty Cameron Teryllium Newport putter that he used in his record-setting victory at the 1997 Masters. Two years later, he began using a silver Scotty Cameron Newport 2 putter that he used in his other 13 majors before switching to a Nike putter. Now the Newport 2 is back in the bag for the Hero World Challenge. It had been residing in the putting studio at his Florida home, and the challenge has been keeping 7-year-old Charlie away from it. "Charlie knows there are two putters he can't touch," Woods said. "They sit next to each other. Touch any putter, do anything you want with any other putter. These putters are off limits. These two ... only Daddy." That doesn't keep the son from trying. "Of course. He's a kid," Woods said. "He wants to always mess with me in some way." ------ MASTERS WATCH: Marc Leishman faces a big week at the Australian PGA Championship if he wants to assure a return to the Masters next year. Golf is wrapping up another long year around the world, and the final world ranking looms. The top 50 in the final world ranking are invited to the Masters, and Leishman is sitting at No. 54. The Australian PGA is his last event of the year. Based on this week's ranking, 12 players from the top 50 are not exempt into Augusta National. Most of them are safe, starting with Alex Noren of Sweden (No. 9) and Tyrrell Hatton of England (No. 23), who will be playing the Masters for the first time. The final world ranking mostly helps international players who are not playing a full PGA Tour schedule. Louis Oosthuizen (No. 26) and Bill Haas (No. 40) are the only players on that list who played a full PGA Tour schedule this year. On the bubble at No. 50 is Thomas Pieters, who is done for the year. Behind him at No. 52 is Thongchai Jaidee, who is scheduled to play the Hong Kong Open next week. Scott Hend is No. 60 and playing the next two weeks. That won't be the end of their Masters' chances. Augusta National takes the top 50 from the ranking published a full week before the start of the Masters. And for those on the PGA Tour, all it takes is a victory at every event in early 2017 except the Puerto Rico Open. ------ NO REST FOR BIG EASY: Ernie Els finished his 30th event of the year at the RSM Classic, and the Big Easy is not done yet. He still has a Skins Game in Colombia with Camilo Villegas before heading home for the South African Open. "I'm trying to find something," Els said. For a 47-year-old with 57 victories worldwide, four majors and a spot in the Hall of Fame, there would seem to be no reason to grind. It's an example that even for a guy who has endured equal doses of aggravation and glory, sheer love of the game and competition keep pushing him. "I have enough of everything. I can go do some other stuff, but I still feel I can play decent golf. And I love it," Els said. Els said it was important to set small goals at this stage in his career, and his is simple. His 19th victory on the PGA Tour was the British Open in 2012 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He wants to get to 20. "And," he said with a smile, "maybe have another go at a major here and there." ------ BUBBA'S LESSON: Bubba Watson took a lot out of the Ryder Cup without even hitting a shot. Overlooked as a pick, he was an assistant captain at Hazeltine, and he said he learned how to become a better player. Watson has played on three Ryder Cup teams and two Presidents Cup teams. He has had only four partners -- Jeff Overton, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar and J.B. Holmes. For two straight years (2011 Presidents Cup and 2012 Ryder Cup) he played only with Simpson. What he learned at Hazeltine was that he should have spent more time leading up to the matches getting to learn other players, their games and their golf balls. Instead, he felt he was too one-dimensional for a captain. "When you give the captain one person, like Webb Simpson or J.B. Holmes, when you do things like that, it limits what you can do," he said. "Those are the things that I learned seeing it from the other side, and those are things that I didn't think about because all you're thinking about is yourself. We're so used to thinking about ourselves and not the other stuff. "So I learned a lot about me as a person and I learned about how I could do better," he said. "If I do make another team event or if I'm vice-captain again or if I was ever captain, I've learned a lot from seeing it from the other side." ------ TIGER'S FIELD: Tiger Woods is the host of the Hero World Challenge, and that include a little meet-and-greet. He doesn't know two players in the 18-man field, Russell Knox of Scotland and Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, both among the top 25 in the world. Knox actually made a passing comment to Woods when they bumped into each other in the restroom at the Quicken Loans National one year. Woods doesn't remember that. "My short career will never be over until I play with Tiger Woods," Knox said at the HSBC Champions last month. "That would be the cherry on top of the cake." Woods can't be faulted. Not only has he been out of golf for 15 months, new players are arriving faster than ever. "The turnover rate is so much now and so young that a third of the field, sometimes I've never heard of these guys before," Woods said. ------ DIVOTS: The final stage of LPGA Tour qualifying starts Wednesday in Daytona Beach, Florida. Among those in the field is Aditi Ashok of India, who has won her last two events on the Ladies European Tour. Her caddie this week is Terry McNamara, the longtime caddie for Annika Sorenstam. ... The Philippine Masters will join the European Tour and Asian Tour schedules in 2018 in a three-year deal. ... Bubba Watson has been testing equipment during the last month, which includes new Ping irons in the bag this week. He also has been testing a hybrid. ... Jeunghun Wang has won the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award on the European Tour. He is the second straight South Korean player to win the award. The previous two years, the award went to Americans (Brooks Koepka and Peter Uihlein). ------ STAT OF THE WEEK: In the 15 months since Tiger Woods last played, only two players older than him have won on the PGA Tour -- Greg Chalmers (43) and Rod Pampling (47). Woods turns 41 on Dec. 30. ------ FINAL WORD: "He's human. I wish people would seem a little bit that way." Jim Furyk on Tiger Woods. Wednesday, November 30, 2016 Tiger is back, and only he knows for how long NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) -- Returning to golf was always going to be an easier decision for Tiger Woods than knowing when to leave. One week in the Bahamas is not going to determine that. Woods turns 41 at the end of next month, and for the first time since he started this holiday tournament, he is the oldest player in the field. Age is not the issue, though. It never is in golf. One of the greatest aspects of this sport is that it can be played a few years short of forever. At the elite level, however, that's also its greatest burden. Golf rarely offers a graceful exit. While it didn't cross his mind Monday when Woods played nine holes with Derek Jeter in a breezy atmosphere punctuated by the occasional needle, it was a reminder of how difficult it will be for Woods to leave at the right time, on his own terms. Jeter knew when it was time to go, and his departure was right out of a movie script. He hit a game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth in his final game at Yankee Stadium, and then he hit another RBI single in the final at-bat of his career and received a standing ovation at Fenway Park. Ted Williams hit a home run in his final at-bat. Peyton Manning walked off the field for the last time as a Super Bowl champion. Kobe Bryant scored 60 points in his last game with the Los Angeles Lakers. What would be a comparable ending for Woods, or any golfer? "I don't know," Woods said with emphasis on the final word. He paused for a brief moment before adding, "You can't." Arnold Palmer had the tearful farewell from the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 1994, the grand crossing of the Swilcan Bridge at St. Andrews a year later, an entire week devoted to his departure at the Masters in 2004. His final time playing Bay Hill, he hit driver off the deck to the front of the 18th green and made par. But the King quit keeping score well before that. At the 2001 Pennsylvania Classic at Laurel Valley, the standard bearer removed his score from the sign and Palmer did not turn in a card (he would have shot 90). Gary Player played the Masters for the 52nd time at age 74. "You would think that win a major and you're done," Woods said of the ideal exit from golf. "But if you win a major, you're going to want to come back and play." Jack Nicklaus never won again after the 1986 Masters he won at age 46. He never missed a major as a pro until the 1998 British Open. Nicklaus played the Masters for the last time in 2005 without telling anyone -- he finished on the front nine because of rain delays. Still, he managed a memorable retirement that summer when he played a major for the last time at St. Andrews. While he missed the cut, Nicklaus birdied the final hole, raised his left arm in that pose made famous at the '86 Masters and said, "I knew that hole would move wherever I hit it." Woods isn't ready to think about retirement or he would have left when he had the chance. "If you love the game, you can keep coming back," Ernie Els said when assessing Woods' return to golf. "Otherwise, we can walk away. I have enough of everything. I can go do other stuff. But I still feel I can play decent golf, and I love it. If he has the desire -- and I think he does have the desire, otherwise I think he could have really walked away this time -- then you keep grinding and forget about how good you were. It's where you are now." Woods waited 15 months to heal. He has said his health is no longer an issue, and the final measure will be this week at the Hero World Challenge. His body has aged and his swing has changed. The golf landscape has become even more crowded with younger, disciplined players who grew up in awe of him. They work just as hard, hit the ball farther and make putts that Woods once did. Can he win again? Maybe not this week, but it would be foolish to count him out, majors included. All it takes is one week when everything goes right. That doesn't apply only to Woods; that has been proven with plenty of players over the years. "Our sport, you see guys like Jim Furyk just shooting 58, hitting it as far as he does. You can play different ways and still win golf tournaments," Woods said. "You can't do that in baseball, football, basketball, tennis. You have your window. And once you miss that window, you're done. You're starting to see the end of Fed (Roger Federer), and it's sad. We can see he's not quite the same. Same with Jetes (Jeter) after he broke his ankle. "In golf, you can still have one or two great weeks a year and still win golf tournaments. And if you win two golf tournaments, you've basically had a great year." It's enough to keep him going. For how long, not even he knows. Wednesday, November 30, 2016 Keeping Yoenis Cespedes is a big home run for Mets By BOB KLAPISCH The Record Let's give credit to all parties involved in Yoenis Cespedes' return to the Mets. Everyone made the right choice here, bringing the slugger back to where he was most comfortable, into the embrace of the team that needed him most. Cespedes gets his money (four years, $110 million) and the Mets get the power-merchant who they wouldn't have been able to replace. There are still roster issues that need to be addressed -- the bullpen, for one -- but having Cespedes saves the Mets from an over-reliance on the starting rotation. It's a win for both sides, even if it means living with Cespedes' baggage. He's a notoriously streaky hitter whose slumps send him into the universe's deepest, darkest regions. He's not a particular fan of batting practice, and loves his golf a bit too much. Nor is Cespedes a force in the clubhouse; he prefers to be invisible. And with a long-term commitment, it's fair to ask just how motivated he will be on a day-to-day basis. But there's no one in the lineup who intimidates opposing pitchers like the Cuban-born outfielder. When he's in synch, Cespedes can carry the Mets for weeks. In the year and a half Cespedes has been in New York, the Mets are 106-74 with him in the lineup and only 18-23 without him. For that, Cespedes will become the wealthiest outfielder in major league history. His $27.5 million salary is second only to Miguel Cabrera in annual average. Dangerous as he is, Cespedes might not be the most consistent run-producer in the game. Still, there aren't many better than him. Besides, think of the alternative. Not only would the lineup have been without a legitimate right-handed home run threat, but the Mets would've appeared to be regressing after an injury-riddled 2016 season. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise: last year was a disappointment, and the talent-gap with the Nationals is still daunting. The health of the starting rotation will be spring training's No. 1 concern. Terry Collins' reign may or may not be over after 2017, and it remains to be seen whether his lame-duck status affects his standing in the clubhouse. But to the haters who hold a lifetime grudge against the Wilpons, this much is fact: ownership found the necessary money to keep Cespedes. Good for them. So what's left? With Cespedes and Neil Walker, who accepted a $17.2 million qualifying offer, both returning, it's likely the Mets are done spending. The offense will be respectable. But the Mets still have to find an interim replacement for Jeurys Familia, who's almost certain to be suspended for his involvement in an alleged domestic violence incident last month. If Addison Reed becomes the closer, the Mets' need for a set-up man will be their next project. But it cannot be understated how important Cespedes' homecoming was to the franchise, both in its roster construction and overall morale. The speed in which this deal was agreed upon is somewhat surprising; it could've been impacted by the looming negotiations between the owners and players union. With the current Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire Dec. 1, Cespedes may have wanted to lock in his contract before any possible labor disruption. Chances are both sides will come to terms before a lockout. But whatever the motivation for the deal and why Cespedes chose not to keep testing the market, Mets fans have reason to smile. They got their man. Wednesday, November 30, 2016 Antetokounmpo ties career scoring high, Bucks roll MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Giannis Antetokounmpo tied a career high with 34 points and the Milwaukee Bucks stunned the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-101 on Tuesday night. Antetokounmpo added 12 rebounds and five assists while Milwaukee ended Cleveland's four-game winning streak. Jabari Parker had 18 points and Michael Beasley had 17 off the bench for the Bucks. LeBron James had 22 points for the Cavaliers, who fell to 13-3. Kyrie Irving added 20 points. Milwaukee led by 22 points in the fourth quarter and cruised past the defending champions, who benched their starters midway through the final period. The Bucks outscored Cleveland by 14 points in the third quarter. Cleveland rode hot early shooting to a 14-point first quarter lead, but Milwaukee closed on a 10-0 run and trailed by only two at the end of the period. The hot hands of Antetokounmpo and Beasley sparked Milwaukee in the second quarter as the Bucks built an advantage of eight points before leading 58-54 at the half. NETS 127, CLIPPERS 122, 2OT NEW YORK (AP) -- Sean Kilpatrick scored 31 of his career-high 38 points after the third quarter and Brooklyn stopped a seven-game losing streak with a double-overtime victory over Los Angeles. The Clippers started the game without Blake Griffin, ended it without the ejected coach Doc Rivers and dropped their third straight game by blowing an 18-point lead. Chris Paul had 26 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds for the Clippers, but the best guard on the floor in crunch time was Kilpatrick, who also had a career-best 14 rebounds. Brook Lopez added 27 points for the Nets. MAGIC 95, SPURS 83 SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Serge Ibaka had 18 points and Orlando took advantage of a sloppy night by San Antonio to snap the Spurs' nine-game winning streak. San Antonio committed a season-high 19 turnovers in its worst scoring performance of the season. The Spurs have four home losses in the first two months of this season after falling just once at AT&T Center in 2015-16. PELICANS 105, LAKERS 88 NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Anthony Davis had 41 points and 16 rebounds, helping New Orleans dominate short-handed Los Angeles. Jrue Holiday scored 22 points in his first start this season and Omer Asik had 10 points and 11 assists while New Orleans snapped a two-game skid. The Lakers expected to be healthier with forward Julius Randle returning to the lineup following a three-game absence because of a hip injury, but about two minutes into the game, starting shooting guard Nick Young was carried off with a strained right Achilles tendon. Lou Williams scored 16 points for the Lakers and Randle finished with 12, but Los Angeles was in a 20-point hole by the second quarter. JAZZ 120, ROCKETS 101 SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Gordon Hayward scored a season-high 31 points, helping Utah beat Houston for its season-best fourth straight win. Utah started strong en route to a season high for scoring. Rodney Hood had 10 points during a 20-5 first-quarter run after trailing 16-9, and Houston never led again. Hood finished with 19 points. Rudy Gobert recorded his 11th double-double of the season with 16 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. Hayward had seven assists and five rebounds. James Harden scored 26 points but was an inefficient 8 for 23 from the field. He also had seven assists and five rebounds, while Eric Gordon scored 24 points off the bench. PISTONS 112, HORNETS 89 CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Tobias Harris scored 24 points, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris each had 18 points and Detroit beat Charlotte for its third straight win. Ish Smith added 13 points whhile Detroit shot 49 percent from the field. Kemba Walker had 23 points for the Hornets, who were playing their fourth game in five nights. The Pistons hadn't played since Saturday and looked much fresher throughout the game in snapping Charlotte's two-game winning streak. Detroit took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter after Caldwell-Pope knocked down a pair of 3-pointers late in the third. Things got sloppy from there with the Hornets turning the ball over frequently on bad passes, and the game quickly turning into a blowout. Wednesday, November 30, 2016 Nash, Vessey rally Rangers to 3-2 win over Hurricanes NEW YORK (AP) -- Jimmy Vesey scored the tiebreaking power-play goal with 5:12 remaining to lift the New York Rangers to a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night. Rick Nash had a goal and an assist, Nick Holden also scored and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 19 shots to help the Rangers snap a four-game skid at home (0-3-1). Hurricanes defenseman Ron Hainsey received a double-minor for hooking and an unsportsmanlike misconduct with 6:47 to go and Vesey took advantage 95 seconds later for his eight goal of the season and first since Nov. 12. Viktor Stalberg scored twice in the first period in his return to New York for the first time since leaving the Rangers to sign with Carolina in the offseason. Cam Ward finished with 25 saves as the Hurricanes lost for the third time in four games. SABRES 5, SENATORS 4 OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) -- Jack Eichel had a goal and an assist in his season debut as Buffalo beat Ottawa. Ryan O'Reilly scored twice for the Sabres, while Kyle Okposo and Sam Reinhart also scored. Robin Lehner started and gave up one goal on six shots before leaving late in the first period. Anders Nilsson replaced him and stopped 26 shots. Mike Hoffman had three goals and an assist for the Senators, and Mark Stone also scored in his 200th NHL game. Craig Anderson, making his sixth straight start, made 23 saves. FLYERS 3, BRUINS 2, SO PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Shayne Gostisbehere scored in the ninth round of a shootout to lift Philadelphia past Boston. Steve Mason made 45 saves through overtime, and defenseman Michael Del Zotto and center Claude Giroux scored in regulation for the Flyers, who won their second straight. David Krejci and Brad Marchand had the goals for the Bruins, who lost for the fourth time in five games. Tuukka Rask turned aside 19 shots and seven of nine shooters in the tiebreaker. Both goalies were outstanding in overtime. Mason snatched a shot by Krejci with about 30 seconds remaining, and Rask slid to his right to stop Giroux's one-timer. JETS 3, DEVILS 2 WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) -- Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine each scored his 13th goal of the season to help Winnipeg beat New Jersey. Blake Wheeler had the other goal for the Jets, and Scheifele added an assist. Connor Hellebuyck made 23 saves in his fifth straight start for Winnipeg. Devils rookie Miles Wood, with his first NHL goal, and Nick Lappin scored for New Jersey. Cory Schneider stopped 26 shots for the Devils, who had earned at least a point in their previous three games (1-0-2). Winnipeg has won five straight at home. RED WINGS 3, STARS 1 DETROIT (AP) -- Anthony Mantha scored the go-ahead goal midway through the second period and Detroit beat Dallas. Petr Mrazek stopped 34 shots for the Red Wings, who are 3-0-1 in their last four games for their best stretch in more than a month. Kari Lehtonen made 17 saves for the Stars. He was pulled for an extra skater with more than 2 minutes left, and the Red Wings took advantage when Steve Ott scored an empty-net goal to make it 3-1 with 1:03 remaining. Dallas, playing the second of back-to-back games on the road, has dropped two straight and won just three of its last nine overall. BLUE JACKETS 5, LIGHTNING 1 COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Josh Anderson had a goal and two assists, Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 26 shots and Columbus cruised past Tampa Bay. Scott Hartnell had a goal and an assist, and William Karlsson, Alexander Wennberg and Sam Gagner also scored as the Blue Jackets beat the Lightning for the second time in five days. Columbus is 8-1-1 in its last 10 home games. Columbus played sharp defense, kept the puck in Tampa Bay's end and created plenty of good looks and quality shots. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 33 saves, and Valtteri Filppula scored for the Lightning with less than 3 minutes left to spoil the shutout. PREDATORS 5, AVALANCHE 3 DENVER (AP) -- Ryan Johansen and Austin Watson each had a goal and an assist to lead Nashville past Colorado. Viktor Arvidsson, Mike Fisher and Kevin Fiala also scored, and Roman Josi had two assists for the Predators. Pekka Rinne stopped 37 shots, improving to 17-7-2 in his career against the Avalanche. He also finished the month 9-1-2. Johansen and Watson scored in the first 2:42 of the third period to put Nashville up 5-2. The Predators have won eight of 11. Mikko Rantanen and Rene Bourque each had a goal and an assist, and Mikhail Grigorenko also scored for Colorado, which has started a five-game homestand 0-2-1. Wednesday, November 30, 2016 Buffalo Bills tackle Henderson suspended for 10 games by NFL ORCHARD PARK (AP) -- The NFL suspended Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson for 10 games for what the player's agent tells The Associated Press stems from his client using marijuana to relieve the effects of Crohn's disease. The Bills announced the league notified them on Tuesday of Henderson's suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. It's Henderson's second suspension this year after he served a four-game ban to start the season. Henderson's agent, Brian Fettner, called the league's decision "heartbreaking," and added he cannot appeal the suspension because the NFL doesn't allow an exemption for medical marijuana use. "His situation is unique, but the drug policy doesn't line up with the uniqueness. It's disappointing," Fettner said. "The reality is, the NFL's position has been if you need medical marijuana then you're too sick to play," he added. "But that's just not the case for Seantrel Henderson." Henderson will sit out the final five games of the season, and the suspension will carry on either into the playoffs or next season. Buffalo (6-5) plays at Oakland (9-2) on Sunday. The Bills also made several roster moves by placing defensive tackle Corbin Bryant and receiver Walt Powell on the season-ending injured reserve list. Bryant has missed three games with a shoulder injury, and Powell hurt his left ankle in a 28-21 win against Jacksonville on Sunday. Buffalo filled the two roster spots by promoting defensive tackle Deandre Coleman and receiver Dezmin Lewis from the practice squad. Henderson was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease a year ago and had two operations on his intestines last offseason. Doctors removed a section of diseased tissue in January, and Henderson then had his intestines reattached in April. Several studies have found marijuana can be an effective treatment for Crohn's. In New York, the state's medical marijuana program specifically lists patients diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease as being potentially eligible to obtain medical marijuana. Henderson previously acknowledged testing positive for the drug at the NFL combine in 2014 and said positive tests led to him being suspended several times in college. His only appearance this season came against Cincinnati on Nov. 20, and he was inactive against Jacksonville last weekend. Henderson was excused from practice last week to attend to the birth of son, Seantrel Jr. Buffalo selected Henderson in the seventh round of the 2014 draft out of the University of Miami. He earned the starting job at right tackle as a rookie and started 26 games before being diagnosed with the disease. Fettner called the NFL's reasoning to ban marijuana murky because it is legal in numerous states across America. He also questioned why the league doesn't consider marijuana to be an effective treatment in certain cases. "They'll give you painkillers by the bottle, which are far, far worse than cannabis," Fettner said. "For some reason, the NFL isn't there yet." He said Henderson hasn't given up on continuing his playing career, but acknowledged his client faces a weighty decision. "The reality of it is, it's a question of personal wealth and pain management," Fettner said. ------ For more NFL coverage: and Wednesday, November 30, 2016 Peyton Manning shows up at Giants to talk with Eli & Co. EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Peyton Manning finally found some time in retirement to get together with little brother Eli. Peyton showed up at the Giants' walk-through workout Tuesday and discussed football, sat through part of a quarterbacks' meeting and talked about playing against the Steelers, New York's opponent this weekend in Pittsburgh. Eli Manning was unaware his brother was going to show up at the team's facility, but he noted it was nice to see him. The Giants (8-3) have won six straight games -- their longest streak since 2008 -- and have a great chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011. "It was good to have him here," Eli Manning said. "I hadn't seen him in a while. He has something to do tomorrow, so he popped in and sat in on a few meetings with us today. Just good to catch up. I'll get some time with him later on." Peyton Manning, dressed in pajamas, did a commercial before the season for DirecTV in which he had a hard time seeing Eli because his younger brother was playing on the days he wanted to meet. Eli Manning said Peyton seems to be adjusting to life after football, adding that he is staying busy and enjoying his down time. However, the longtime Giants quarterback said it's obvious his brother enjoys being around football. "I think when he gets in this environment, he was kind of drilling the coaches on questions," Manning said. "I know he liked being in there and doing a little install on Pittsburgh. I'm sure he misses that environment, just the game plan, how you're going to do things, how you're going to deal with protections, how you're going to pick things up, just really getting back into that flow of things. I'm sure it is a little reminder of how special it is to be in this situation." Manning said his brother will watch his games and send him text messages afterward, telling him he made a good throw on some play or asking questions about certain plays or what the offense was running. "That's kind of always been the case," Manning said, adding the two have always tried to watch each other play. "It's good communication about what is going on." The Giants' offense can use some help. It has scored 231 points this season, which is 21st in the league. There has been no consistency. "We're just a few plays away," Manning said. "You score 21, it's not like we scored 10. We're just not getting down in the red zone enough. That's the deal." The Giants tried to switch things up last week and go with the deep ball. Manning threw six long passes against the Cleveland Browns in a 27-13 win, but he hit only one. Stepping up this week will be important when facing Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers (6-5), winners of two straight. "We have our expectations of what we want to do and how we want to score," Manning said. "We feel we can score. We've been good the last few weeks protecting the ball, that's number one. It's not about forcing things trying to score. We have to execute well, play smart and make the plays that are there." The Giants have made enough plays to get back in the playoff hunt this season with five games to go. In the last three seasons, New York has had little to play for down the home stretch. "You can get spoiled early in your career when four years in a row you make the playoffs," Manning said. "You assume that is kind of the norm. You play long enough you realize it isn't. It is special to be in contention to make the playoffs, and especially after the last couple being out early." Wednesday, November 30, 2016 Browns QB Griffin III medically cleared to play By NATE ULRICH Akron Beacon Journal BEREA, Ohio -- Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III has cleared the final medical hurdle on his comeback trail. Now coach Hue Jackson will decide whether to reinsert him into the starting lineup. All signs are pointing in that direction. "Beyond blessed to have an opportunity to get back on the field with my brothers," said Griffin, who didn't speak to reporters Tuesday but made the statement through a team spokesman. "I promise my teammates and coaches to give them everything I have as we work to finish the season strong." With the Browns 0-12 and Jackson hoping to avoid a winless season, it would presumably be a no-brainer for him to test whether Griffin can breathe life into an inept offense that's produced just 39 points in the past four games. "Going into the season, Robert obviously was the starting quarterback," nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said. "He won the job going into the season, and he didn't really get a whole heck of a lot of opportunities to prove what type of quarterback he can be in this system, so I think there's a lot of guys that are eager to see what he can do. "I think he can bring something different to the table, too. Obviously, he has a unique skill set with the way he can run and the type of athlete that he is, so it can make preparing for our offense more difficult when you have a quarterback that is a weapon to run the football." Jackson said Griffin had been cleared for contact late Monday night, meaning he passed a test that showed the coracoid bone in his left (non-throwing) shoulder has healed. Griffin suffered a fracture in the bone Sept. 11 during the regular-season opener and has missed the past 11 games. "Robert is cleared, and he is ready to go, and I will make a decision about which way we are going as we go through the week," Jackson said. "Just because he is cleared does not mean we are just going to walk back out there and play. There is still practice and there are still things we need to do and see before I decide to stick him back out there." The Browns have a bye Sunday, so they won't play again until they host the Cincinnati Bengals (3-7-1) on Dec. 11. In other words, the coaches have more time than usual to prepare Griffin. "It does work out in our favor in that situation," Jackson said. Rookie Cody Kessler and Josh McCown are the other viable options to start at quarterback. Kessler is 0-8 as a starter this season, and McCown is 0-3. Kessler practiced Monday and Tuesday after being cleared to return from his second concussion suffered in a span of 29 days. Yet Jackson has said he'll consult the team's medical staff about whether Kessler should play soon. Kessler said he feels good and wants to return, but he'll understand if Griffin gets a shot. "That's obviously coach's decision, but I know that I just went out there and did everything I could and played as hard as I could and put everything I had out on the field," Kessler said. "And as a competitor, you want to be out there every chance you get. But whatever coach decides, if it is that way, then I'm going to be a great teammate and stay locked in and stay prepared all week and continue to prepare as I have." McCown sat out practice Tuesday because he's sore, Jackson said. McCown started for Kessler in Sunday's 27-13 loss to the New York Giants and has committed 10 turnovers (six interceptions and four lost fumbles) in 15 quarters of action this season. Still, Jackson said he needs to see Griffin practice more before choosing a starting quarterback. "It is not a competition," Jackson said. "If we put him out there, it is because we want to. It is no different than any other player that we put out there. We want to see what they can do for our organization, for our football team, so we get an honest evaluation on a player." Asked if Griffin would be assessed with next season in mind if he were to return this year, Jackson said, "I am always looking to see who is going to be on the team as we move forward." Griffin returned to practice Nov. 23 after the Browns designated him to return from injured reserve. He spent last week doing non-contact drills but can now fully participate. The Browns will take a vacation during the bye and resume practice Monday. Jackson said Griffin's throwing hasn't been affected by the injury and there have been no issues with his velocity or accuracy. Now the Browns have an opportunity to see if he can provide them with a spark. "We all know it starts at quarterback," Jackson said. "You have to have a guy that is playing consistently week in and week out at a high level to give yourself a chance." ------ Wednesday, November 30, 2016 Brewers sign Thames to play 1B, designate Carter for assignment By TOM HAUDRICOURT Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Milwaukee Brewers general manager David Stearns and his staff are not averse to thinking out of the box during their ongoing rebuilding process. That became quite clear Tuesday morning when the Brewers announced a three-year deal with a club option for a fourth year with free agent Eric Thames, who played the last three seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization. The agreement guarantees Thames $16 million. The deal will pay Thames $4 million in 2017, $5 million in 2018 and $6 million in 2019, with a club option for 2020 at $7.5 million, with a $1 million buyout. The contract stipulates that Thames cannot be sent to the minors without his permission. The Brewers also agreed not to offer him salary arbitration after the contract expires, allowing Thames to become a free agent ahead of schedule. Thames, 30, began his career as an outfielder but will take over at first base as the Brewers move on from Chris Carter, who tied for the National League lead with 41 home runs in 2016 but was expected to receive a huge pay raise through arbitration. The Brewers designated Carter for assignment rather than offering him a 2017 contract by the Friday night deadline and are attempting to trade him. During three years playing for the NC Dinos of the hitter-friendly KBO, Thames put together fantasy league offensive numbers, batting .348 over 388 games with a .450 on-base percentage and .720 slugging percentage. Thames put together seasons of 37 home runs and 121 RBIs; 47 homers and 140 RBIs; and 40 homers and 118 RBIs, respectively. He was named most valuable player of the KBO in 2015 after belting 47 homers with 140 RBIs and 40 stolen bases while hitting .381 over 142 games. Originally an outfielder, Thames moved to first base while in Korea. The Brewers scouted him exclusively yet extensively via videos of games he played there. Thames' agent, Adam Karon, said as many as a dozen major league teams showed interest at various points but his client quickly decided the Brewers were for him. "He really wanted to come here," Karon said. "The Brewers were very aggressive and open with him." Despite Thames' overwhelming success in Korea, this deal represents a considerable risk for the Brewers. The pitching in the KBO is below major league quality, perhaps more comparable to the Class AAA level in the United States. In letting home-run champ Carter go and committing to an unproven player in the majors, the Brewers showed they are willing to push the envelope to further their rebuilding process. "It's fun to bring good players into the organization, regardless of whether it's mainstream or non-mainstream, domestic or international," Stearns said in introducing Thames to local media at Miller Park. "We like bringing good players into the organization, and we certainly think Eric adds to our group of very solid major league players. "We spent a good amount of time with Eric throughout this process. There is a lot of networking that goes on in this game whenever you're making any acquisition. Regardless of the size of the investment, big or small, you do a lot of work to make sure that you understand the person you're getting, along with the player. That was no different in this case. "We're building something here where we want to establish a core of players that is going to lead us to a competitive team and a team that reaches the playoffs. As we evaluated the market this year and the areas where we can add players to help us accomplish that, we noted that Eric could be one of those players." The Brewers have taken chances on players before that worked out, such as pitchers Junior Guerra and Zach Davies, infielders Jonathan Villar and Hernan Perez, and outfielder Keon Broxton. Each of those players had something to prove, and Thames said he fits that bill as well. "During my career, there have been coaches and GMs and organizations that have given me the cold shoulder, and stuff like that," he said. "That's life; that's baseball. That fuels me but I also have to focus on what my goals are. My goal is to play every day, stay healthy and help this team win. That's when fate gets involved. "Last year, two or three years ago, I had no idea what the future had in store for me. I'm very fortunate for the Brewers organization to look at me with hope, and believe in me and my talent set. I'm excited to be here. I'll take it one day at a time, work as hard as I can, play for the team and win a championship. Why not?" (EDITORS: STORY CAN END HERE) Manager Craig Counsell welcomed the left-handed presence of Thames, who should bat somewhere in the middle of an order that was very right-handed in 2016. He also commended the newest Brewer on being willing to re-establish himself abroad and pave the way for another chance in the big leagues. "His journey, thus far, is inspiring," Counsell said. "You always respect and admire someone who has gone through a journey like this and ended up in a place like this and a day like this. You also respect and understand that someone like him is going to feel like he has more to do, and that his journey is not finished. "That sets him up to have success here, and I'm excited he has chosen this as the place to continue his journey." Thames was Toronto's seventh-round draft pick in 2008 out of Pepperdine University and played in 95 games for the Blue Jays in 2011. Traded to Seattle midway through the 2012 season, Thames batted .250 in two years in the majors with 21 home runs, 62 RBIs and .727 OPS. Thames was traded to Baltimore in June 2013 but did not play in the majors that season. He was claimed in September by Houston but released in December, and embarked on his career in Korea. Carter, who turns 30 in a couple of weeks, signed a $2.5 million free-agent deal with the Brewers last winter and became a bargain at that price. He tied for the league lead with 160 games and 41 homers but also topped the NL with 206 strikeouts, a club record. Carter batted only .222 with a .321 OBP but led the Brewers with 94 RBI. The Brewers didn't emphasize the financial component of their decision but Carter was expected to get around $10 million in arbitration, which they considered high on a one-year deal for a rebuilding club. Combined with $19 million owed Ryan Braun in 2017 and Matt Garza's $12.5 million salary, that would be a substantial commitment to three players for a team still in the early stages of retooling. It's not easy to trade a player when teams know you will not tender him a contract but the Brewers hope to find a team specifically seeking a first base slugger before Carter becomes a free agent Friday. Wednesday, November 30, 2016 Penn St., Wisconsin benefiting from different offensive styles STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- When James Franklin looks at the numbers, he can't help but wonder how many times his offense will get the ball against Wisconsin. The No. 6 Badgers (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten, No. 6 CFP) have limited opponents all season by setting a methodical pace with a grinding, physical running game. Wisconsin leads the nation in time of possession. "It affects how offenses are because they're worried about how many possessions they're going to get, start to change how they call the game as well," Franklin said Tuesday. "That does have a big effect." The No. 8 Nittany Lions (10-2, 8-1, No. 7 CFP) take a different approach into Saturday's Big Ten championship game. Franklin knows his offense doesn't need much time to rack up points. Penn State's coach has learned to value explosive plays over all other aspects since offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead installed a new, no-huddle scheme. Just as Wisconsin's plodding, keep-away strategy has helped the Badgers post a national best 35:12 per game in possession time, Penn State's big-play offense has made defense after defense pay. The Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten and are tied for seventh in the country with 80 plays of 20 yards or more. The explosive plays, including 57 through the air, have helped Penn State score just over 36 points per game. Quarterback Trace McSorley, always willing to give his receivers a chance at a 50-50 ball, has been the trigger-man on many of them. "He makes a lot of plays," Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. "Certainly pushing the ball down he field, but it looks to me like he loves playing the game and he competes and has a great energy about him. I liked watching him until this week getting ready to play him, but looks like a heck of a quarterback." McSorley has often described Penn State's offense as up-tempo. That's accurate in the way the Nittany Lions attack. But their approach is actually much more methodical than possession numbers might indicate and McSorley's been at the forefront of a patient process. Not only is Penn State making second half adjustments that yield more big plays, McSorley has proved himself as a game-manager. Although the Nittany Lions don't huddle, they spend a lot of time at the line of scrimmage as McSorley surveys the defense, then looks to the sideline for Moorhead's signals after he's had a chance to do the same. The Nittany Lions are using an average of 30 seconds of play clock between each snap the last two games. "It's huge there because you have to be able to see the play call and the signals and then relay the information that's necessary to people that need to know, our offensive line and making sure everyone's on the same page," McSorley said. "I think it's definitely helped the quarterbacks and myself mature." With so much going on before each snap, the game has slowed down for McSorley. He's not making the mistakes or misreading coverages like he did at times earlier this season and was nearly perfect after taking time to survey Michigan State's defensive alignment last week. Then, he completed 12 of 15 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns against the blitz. His incompletions against extra-man pressures were throwaways to avoid sacks and a drop from one of his receivers. "I know huddles are a bad word around here now, but I think quarterbacks always have to be really engaged in running the show," Franklin said. "I think Trace has done a really, really good job of that." Wednesday, November 30, 2016 Florida coach McElwain makes history, fails to improve offense GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's Jim McElwain made Southeastern Conference history by becoming the first coach to reach the league's championship game in his first two seasons. He's 13-3 in SEC play, has swept rival Georgia and pushed the Gators to start making strides to improve their football facilities. It is hardly enough, at least not in Gainesville. As the 15th-ranked Gators (8-3) head to Atlanta to face top-ranked Alabama (12-0) for the second straight year, McElwain is getting more criticism than acclaim. Florida looked overmatched in a 31-13 loss at Florida State last Saturday, failing to score an offensive touchdown for the second time in as many years in the series. And McElwain, hired to fix Florida's floundering offense, has come up well short and offered nothing more than a glimpse of anything resembling Steve Spurrier's "Fun 'n' Gun" that dominated the league throughout most of the 1990s. The Gators currently rank 114th in the nation in total offense, down two spots from 2015 while averaging a meager 352.7 yards a game. And they easily could drop after facing the Tide's top-ranked defense Saturday. "I don't look at it as a mismatch at all," McElwain said Monday. "I look at it as a great opportunity, and you know that's part of the chess match. ... I know this: We're playing in this game and we're going to give ourselves every opportunity to be successful." Florida was somewhat competitive in last year's title game. The Gators returned a punt for a touchdown early and trailed 12-7 at halftime before Alabama pulled away and won 29-15 . Florida finished with 180 yards, the fewest of McElwain's tenure. Quarterback Treon Harris got the brunt of the blame for that stinker as well as Florida's late-season slide. There haven't been nearly as many excuses this year. McElwain started two transfer quarterbacks (Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby) over two freshmen he recruited (Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask). It seemed justifiable before the season, but looked highly questionable once it became clear Del Rio and Appleby have flaws. The Gators have thrown for fewer than 150 yards in four of their last seven games, and haven't topped 230 yards passing in more than two months. "I think we've done it throughout the season in glimpses and spurts," Appleby said. "The key for us is going to be to the consistency. We can't shoot ourselves in the foot. We can't have negative plays. We've got to stay on schedule and keep working. ... We know we can do it. "Now it's just about doing it time and time again, and that's that mental endurance thing. That's playing for each other, trusting in the plan, not making stuff up, and just executing the plan." Consistency hasn't been Florida's offensive forte under McElwain. Consider this: The Gators have been held below 275 yards of offense in 10 of their last 17 games. And it's not like they're playing some of the nation's top defense every week. In fact, eight of Florida's 11 opponents have defenses that rank 63rd or worse. So it would surprise no one to see McElwain make wholesale offensive changes after the bowl game, including firing coordinator Doug Nussmeier, line coach Mike Summers and maybe others. In the meantime, the Gators can celebrate another SEC East title, with no mention that it's widely considered the worst division in the Power Five conferences. The East is 11-33 against the West over the last three years. Florida has merely managed to be better than the rest in a watered-down division, good enough to put McElwain in the record books but not enough to silence detractors who question whether a guy who once said he could win with his dog at quarterback has made Florida any better offensively after 25 games. "It's obviously one of those things that you have to constantly evaluate and get better at," McElwain said. "I was also brought in here to get to Atlanta. How many years have I been here? OK." ------ More AP college football: and Wednesday, November 30, 2016 College playoffs have BCS feel again By TIM DAHLBERG The Associated Press Jim Harbaugh went on and on, as if his incessant whining would overturn the result of what was, in effect, a playoff game before the playoffs begin. Anyone who listened to Harbaugh in his last year in San Francisco would have easily recognized the tone. It's what he does when things go bad, and go bad they did Saturday in a thriller at Ohio State that took two overtimes to decide. The outburst cost Michigan $10,000 in the form of a fine Monday from the Big Ten, pocket change when the coach makes $7 million a year. What was far more costly to Michigan was blowing a 10-point fourth quarter lead in a game it dearly needed. Now Michigan waits on the outside, hoping against hope for a Hail Mary that will give the Wolverines one of the four prized spots in the College Football Playoff. The fact that it's not totally impossible shows how little things have changed since the five big conferences that rule college football scrapped the Bowl Championship Series three seasons ago. Yes, the players get paid a little more, so date night may now include a movie as well as a pizza. And four teams now have a chance to prove their case on the field instead of the two anointed each year by the BCS. But it's still subjective, with the final four teams and pairings decided behind closed doors in a conference room in Texas. The first two years of the new system were relatively easy, but that all figures to change this week in one of the oddest years in college football. The new rankings will be out Tuesday, and they will be read like tea leaves for an indication where the committee is going. But the real fun comes on Sunday, when the conference title games are over and the playoff teams are named. Former Secretary of State and committee member Condoleezza Rice may need all her diplomatic skills to pacify the schools left out. Right now, Michigan seems to be on the outside looking in, though that could change with losses by Washington and Clemson in their conference championship games. Actually, a lot of things could change if Washington or Clemson lose, though you have to figure Alabama is a playoff lock and Ohio State isn't far behind. What could keep committee members up all night Saturday, though, would be a win by Penn State over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. There would be a lot of unhappy people in Happy Valley if the Nittany Lions won the conference championship and were left out of the playoffs. They'd be even unhappier if Ohio State -- a team Penn State beat at home this year -- got in instead. That's despite the fact the committee has already indicated it thinks Ohio State has a better resume than the team it lost to. That aside, it's anyone's guess what kind of thinking is going on behind those closed doors in Texas. Depending on the outcomes of the conference title games, there are various scenarios that could see Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State or even Colorado find their way into the playoffs. It's entirely possible that winning a conference championship may not be enough, which should give pause to those who insist conference title games are more than just a chance to haul in millions more in television revenue. None of it is particularly clear. What is clear, though, is that the new way of crowning a national champion still falls short of a true playoff system. In too many ways it still feels like the BCS, where in some years it was difficult to figure out just what the criteria for getting in the title game was. That included the 2006-07 season, where Urban Meyer, then at Florida, famously lobbied to poll voters who helped jump the Gators over Michigan into the national championship contest. Meyer may want to do some more lobbying this week just to make sure his Buckeyes are in. Nothing is certain, though he and a lot of others can't fathom the committee leaving Ohio State out. "I think we're one of the top teams in the country," Meyer said after Ohio State escaped with an improbable win over Michigan. As for Harbaugh, he may be incapable of putting together a coherent case for his team. He spent almost all his post-game press conference complaining about the officiating , when he should have been talking about how a team that lost by a point at Iowa and in double overtime at Ohio State could still be one of the four best teams in the country. Not to worry, though. Leaving Michigan out of the playoff series will give him something to really whine about. -------- Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at) or Tuesday, November 29, 2016 Syracuse still upbeat after another losing year By JOHN KEKIS The Associated Press After Syracuse's record-setting loss to Pittsburgh that ended the Orange's first season under Dino Babers, the coach revealed his immediate plans. "I am going to be out Sunday recruiting," Babers said after Saturday's 76-61 loss at Heinz Field. Smart move. Babers was hired almost one year ago to replace Scott Shafer, whose final game at Syracuse was an emotional home win over Boston College that left the Orange with a 4-8 overall record and a 2-6 showing in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Babers ended his first year at Syracuse with the same record and the team on a four-game slide. There's room for more improvement on both sides of the ball. Five of Syracuse's losses came against teams ranked this week in the AP Top 25 -- Clemson, Louisville, Florida State, Pittsburgh and South Florida. Those five outscored the Orange 282-123, and only one of Syracuse's victories came against a team with a winning record. Syracuse embraced the new coaching regime and Babers' uptempo offensive blueprint, finishing the season ranked 11th in passing offense (321.3 yards per game). But too many injuries on both sides of the ball, reminiscent of what happened to Shafer, and an inability to score despite some gaudy passing numbers, relegated the Orange to another losing season. Helped by that final crazy game against the Panthers , Syracuse finished its season ranked 89th in scoring nationally, averaging just 25.7 points per game. Coupling with a defense that was ranked 121st and allowed nearly seven yards per play was not a winning formula, especially with a run game that averaged just 3.2 yards per carry and was ranked 119th. Still, the players like what they've seen, especially their upset win over then-No. 17 Virginia Tech, which will play Clemson for the ACC championship. "People have truly changed the way they act on and off the field," said quarterback Zack Mahoney, a capable fill-in for injured starter Eric Dungey . "People buy into coach Babers' methods. I just hope that in the future we continue to push ourselves." The biggest question heading into the offseason is the health of Dungey, the cornerstone of the offense who missed four games last year with at least one concussion and the final three games this season after incurring a hard hit to the shoulder-head area in the first quarter of a 54-0 loss at Clemson. Dungey, who will be a junior next year, was on the sidelines throwing before each of the final two home games but did not play and also didn't play Saturday. Whoever lines up over center won't have the most important cog of this year's offense -- wideout Amba Etta-Tawo. The Maryland transfer set school records in his final year of eligibility -- 94 catches for 1,482 yards (second nationally) and 14 TDs. Also departing is kick returner Brisly Estime, who led the nation with 17.7 yards per punt return. Defensively, the Orange allowed 501 yards per game, 35 TDs rushing, and 5.4 yards per rush, all school records. The good news is that the Orange's top three tacklers -- LBs Parris Bennett (110) and Zaire Franklin (101, 10 TFLs), and CB Daivon Ellison (90) -- return next season. "There was growth," Babers said. "Could we be better on defense? Yes, we could be better on defense. We can be better on offense. The one thing that happened this year that is a blessing is that a lot of guys got to play because of a lot of injuries. "Normally, it looks bad one year. But the negatives from one year can be the blessings the next year. We have to roll through and see how it goes." ------ More AP college football: and . ------ Follow Kekis on Twitter: Tuesday, November 29, 2016 Packers snap slide PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdown passes to Davante Adams and the Green Bay Packers beat the Philadelphia Eagles 27-13 Monday night to snap a four-game losing streak. Rodgers had 313 yards passing and Adams had 113 yards receiving to help send Philadelphia (5-6) to its first home loss this season. The Packers (5-6) kept their sinking playoff hopes alive but they're still two games behind the Lions (7-4) in the NFC North. Carson Wentz had 254 yards passing, ran for a score and threw an interception. The last-place Eagles are 2-6 since a 3-0 start. Rodgers came out firing and led the Packers on consecutive touchdown drives to start the game. Rodgers extended the opening drive by running twice for 25 yards and tossed a 12-yard TD pass to Adams for a 7-0 lead. After the Eagles answered on Wentz's 1-yard TD run , Rodgers led another 75-yard scoring drive. He threw a perfect 20-yard TD pass to Adams to give the Packers a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. Nolan Carroll had excellent coverage on the play, but Rodgers put the ball in a tight spot and hit Adams in stride in the back of the end zone. Aaron Ripkowski's 1-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter extended Green Bay's lead to 24-13. The Eagles had allowed only three touchdowns at home while outscoring opponents 108-38 in their first four games at Lincoln Financial Field. Green Bay gave up at least 30 points in each of its previous four games, including 89 in the last two. But the defense harassed Wentz and shut down the Eagles' inconsistent offense. Philadelphia's Caleb Sturgis kicked field goals of 48 and 50 yards while Green Bay's Mason Crosby connected from 33 and 32 yards. KEY STATS: The Packers were 10 for 14 on third down and 1 for 1 on fourth. The Eagles had no sacks and no takeaways. NOT AGAIN: Eagles DT Fletcher Cox, an All-Pro last year, committed his third roughing-the-passer penalty to extend an opponent's drive this season. The first two led to TDs in losses at Detroit (24-23) and at Washington (27-20). His late hit on Rodgers in the third quarter allowed Green Bay to keep the ball and Ripkowski scored several plays later. HIGHLIGHT PLAY: Rodgers and Adams connected for another eye-popping play in the third quarter. Adams was covered well on a deep pass, but Rodgers threw it in the right spot and Adams made an outstanding over-the-shoulder catch for a 50-yard gain. BAD THROW: The Eagles drove to Green Bay's 45 on the first possession of the second half before Wentz badly overthrew Zach Ertz and was intercepted by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix . The turnover led to a field goal for the Packers. CHALLENGING: Eagles coach Doug Pederson challenged a 2-yard catch in the third quarter -- and won -- so the Packers had a second-and-10 instead of second-and-8. But the untimely challenge meant Pederson couldn't toss the red flag the rest of the game. INJURIES: Eagles WR Jordan Matthews injured his right ankle making a twisting catch in the second quarter. He briefly returned to start the third quarter before leaving the game for good. DE Marcus Smith left with a shoulder injury. RG Brandon Brooks was hospitalized with an illness and Isaac Seumalo made his first career start in his place. ... Packers LB Clay Matthews left the game with a shoulder injury on Philadelphia's first drive, but came back. HONORED: Merrill Reese, the Eagles' play-by-play radio announcer for the last 40 seasons, and four-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter were inducted into the team's Hall of Fame at halftime. UP NEXT: The Packers host the Texans (6-5) while the Eagles visit the Bengals (3-7-1). ------ For more NFL coverage: and ------ Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: Tuesday, November 29, 2016 Kentucky dominates Arizona St. PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) -- Freshman De'Aaron Fox posted the second triple-double in school history with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists to lead a dominating effort by No. 1 Kentucky in Monday night's 115-69 victory over Arizona State. Fellow rookie Malik Monk scored 23 points for the Wildcats (7-0), who dominated an undersized team and quickly turned the game into a romping display of their athleticism and ability to run in transition. Kentucky led by double figures roughly 6 minutes in, led 58-30 by halftime then scored the first 12 points after the break to go up 40 with 15 minutes left. Sam Cunliffe scored 14 points for the Sun Devils (4-3), who shot just 34 percent while the Wildcats scored 21 points off turnovers. The game, billed as the Atlantis Showcase, was played at the same ballroom-turned-arena that hosted last week's Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. ------ No. 18 BUTLER 68, UTAH 59 SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Kelan Martin scored 18 points as Butler, which moved into Top 25 earlier Monday, remained undefeated by handing Utah its first loss of the season. Butler controlled the game from the opening tip and trailed just once at 20-19. The Bulldogs responded to that with a 14-3 run to take a 10-point lead. A 13-4 run early in the second half, highlighted by a deep 3-pointer from Tyler Lewis, put Utah away. Butler did what it's done all season -- shoot well from the field, play stingy defense and limit turnovers. The Bulldogs shot 52.8 percent and held the Utes to 36.5 percent. Tyler Wideman chipped in 15 points for Butler. ------ No. 25 WEST VIRGINIA 108, MANHATTAN 61 MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- Esa Ahamad scored 19 points to lead No. 25 West Virginia to a 108-61 victory Monday night in the final game of the NIT Season Tip-Off. The Mountaineers (5-1) forced a school-record 40 turnovers, surpassing the 34 by VMI in 2014-15. West Virginia started the game on an 8-0 run over the first 3 minutes, then both teams essentially traded baskets through the next 12 minutes. In the final 5 minutes of the first half, James Long and Nathan Adrian led a 22-5 scoring run, giving the Mountaineers a 60-27 lead. Adrian had 15 points for West Virginia, while Daxter Miles Jr. added 11 and Long had a career-high 10. Zavier Peart led the Jaspers (2-4) with 11 points. Tuesday, November 29, 2016 Celtics get past Heat MIAMI (AP) -- Isaiah Thomas endured his worst shooting night of the season, and the Boston Celtics still made scoring on Miami look easy. Thomas had 25 points and eight assists, Avery Bradley added 18 points and the Celtics beat the Heat 112-104 on Monday night -- putting up more points on Miami than any other opponent all season. Thomas shot 7 for 23, but the Celtics put six players in double figures and never trailed after the midpoint of the first quarter. "We took what the defense gave us," said Boston's Kelly Olynyk, who had 14 points. "We just kind of found ways to score however they were guarding us." Jae Crowder scored 17 points for Boston, which beat Miami for the fourth consecutive time. Goran Dragic had 27 points and 17 assists for the Heat, setting season bests in both categories. Hassan Whiteside added 25 points and 17 rebounds, and Josh Richardson scored 12. "That is the Goran Dragic we know," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It's my responsibility to get him to that more frequently." JAZZ 112, TIMBERWOLVES 103 MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- George Hill had 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Rudy Gobert had 16 points and 17 rebounds to lead Utah over Minnesota for its third straight win. Gordon Hayward scored 24 points and Utah's top-ranked defense put the clamps on young Timberwolves stars Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. RAPTORS 122, 76ERS 95 TORONTO (AP) -- Kyle Lowry scor d 24 points and set a team record by hitting all six of his 3-pointers, and Toronto extended its winning streak over Philadelphia to 13 games. WIZARDS 101, KINGS 95, OT WASHINGTON (AP) -- Bradley Beal made a career-high seven 3-pointers and finished with 31 points as Washington recovered after giving up a late lead and beat Sacramento in overtime. John Wall had 19 points and 11 assists for the Wizards, but committed a career-high 11 turnovers. Washington had a season-high 24 giveaways, but held the Kings to three points in overtime after seeing an eight-point lead evaporate over the final 5:12 of regulation. DeMarcus Cousins had 36 points and a season-high 20 rebounds for Sacramento, which also committed its most turnovers of the season with 20. HORNETS 104, GRIZZLIES 85 MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb scored 21 points apiece, and Charlotte built an early lead on the way to beating Memphis. Walker and Lamb were a combined 14 of 25 from the field, including 7 for 13 on 3-point attempts. The rest of the Hornets were 2 of 13 from outside the arc. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 14 points and Frank Kaminsky added 12 for the Hornets, who won their second straight after a four-game losing streak. Lamb grabbed nine rebounds. Marc Gasol led the Grizzlies with 19 points and eight rebounds. Mike Conley had 15 points before leaving in the third quarter with a lower back injury. Tuesday, November 29, 2016 Westbrook records another triple-double as Thunder top Knicks NEW YORK (AP) -- Russell Westbrook doesn't just do triple-doubles in games anymore. Now he's got one for the entire season. Westbrook raised his averages to 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.3 rebounds through more than a month of play with his NBA-leading eighth triple-double as the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the New York Knicks 112-103 on Monday night. Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson is the only NBA player to average a triple-double for a season, so Westbrook was asked if his current pace is sustainable. "Winning is sustainable," he said. "That's all I know, man, and my job is to make sure we go out and find the best way to win games and right now we've won three straight and that's the most important part for me." Westbrook had his third straight triple-double and the 45th of his career and nearly did it by halftime, finishing with 27 points, 18 rebounds and 14 assists. He had 14 points, 10 boards and nine assists at the break. "He is going to put up numbers because of his ability and just how hard he plays and his gifts, but he's doing a lot of other things that the stat sheet doesn't measure," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "I know everybody is focused on that right now and rightfully so. It's historic what he's doing. But he's really a complete point guard all the way around." Enes Kanter added a season-high 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Steven Adams had 14 points and 10 boards as the Thunder outrebounded the Knicks 53-40. "We got manhandled. That's tough," Knicks center Joakim Noah said. "Russ definitely puts a lot of pressure on the bigs when he's going downhill like that. At the end of the day it's always tough knowing that we lost the game on the glass." Derrick Rose scored a season-best 30 points, but the Knicks had their six-game home winning streak snapped. Kristaps Porzingis added 21 points and Carmelo Anthony had 18, but shot just 4 for 19. Westbrook fell just shy of his third straight 15-assist game, but had his highest rebound total of the season -- and one off his career best -- to keep the Thunder rolling after a recent three-game skid. The Knicks led by 11 in the first quarter and things were coming easily, but the Thunder began to grab control with Westbrook's hustle and Kanter's muscle, getting numerous baskets inside to turn around the game. It happened so quickly that Westbrook nearly had the stat sheet stuffed before the break. Joffrey Lauvergne missed a 3-pointer that would've given Westbrook a 10th assist with 32 seconds left in the half, but the point guard who was MVP of the All-Star Game on this floor two years ago had a shot at the halftime triple-double after grabbing his 10th rebound on the defensive end with a little more than 20 seconds left. He brought the ball up and tried to create, but turned it over on a pass with about 5 seconds to go. Tuesday, November 29, 2016 Hickey's OT goal lifts Isles NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Islanders have found their footing in Brooklyn once again, and the road-weary Calgary Flames don't feel too bad about Monday night's result, either. Thomas Hickey scored 1:53 into overtime, helping the Islanders rebound from a vexing West Coast trip with a 2-1 win over the Flames. Hickey won it after Flames forward Michael Frolik broke a stick in the defensive end, leading to an awkward line change for Calgary. Islanders captain John Tavares wheeled around the zone with the Flames momentarily short-handed before backhanding a shot that Hickey tipped off goalie Brian Elliott and in. "I was glad to get a stick on it in overtime," Hickey said. "This was a game we had to have." New York improved to 3-1-0 in home games following a road loss by relieving frustration from a wild swing through California. They beat Anaheim in a 14-round shootout but then lost twice on goals in the final 3 minutes of regulation against Los Angeles and San Jose. Last-place New York is just 1-6-1 on the road but remains respectable in Brooklyn, improving to 6-4-3 at Barclays Center. Tavares also scored in the first period and has six goals and 11 assists this season. The goal was his first in 10 games. "I have a lot of expectations," Tavares said. "I have to make plays and produce. And lead by example." Thomas Greiss stopped 25 shots for the Islanders, standing tall during a barrage late in the second period before allowing Sean Monahan's tying goal 5:51 into the third. Monahan scored on a one-timer from the left circle. Elliott was mostly solid with 25 saves but still lost his seventh straight start. He was acquired from St. Louis over the summer to be Calgary's primary goalie but had sat three straight games in favor of journeyman Chad Johnson. Elliott had a few pivotal saves late, including when he stopped Shane Prince on a breakaway midway through the third. "The guy works so hard and cares so much," Flames captain Mark Giordano said. "So for him to have a big night for us and come and bounce back and play that well was nice to see." Monahan's goal helped Calgary complete a grueling six-game, nine-day trip 3-2-1. "I think anytime you're over .500 on a long one it's successful," Giordano said, adding, "I think we can build off of getting a point there." The Flames fought fatigue in a 5-2 loss to the Flyers on Sunday and didn't show much life early in this one, either. Both teams flailed at the start, with each getting one shot on goal in the first 5 minutes. Calgary finished with just four shots in the first period. Josh Bailey and Tavares teamed up for a 1-0 lead 7:28 in. Bailey rushed into the middle of the zone, turned left in the high slot, and then delivered a no-look, backhand pass for Tavares, who shot over Elliott's shoulder from the right side. The goal started a strong stretch by New York, and the Islanders had a few near misses later in the first, including a shot off the post from Cal Clutterbuck with about six minutes left. Calgary made a push in the second period but got stalled by solid goaltending. Greiss gloved Michael Ferland's shot on a rush and got his pad on a chance by Sam Bennett around the midpoint of the period. Later, he stopped Matt Stajan on a breakaway and Alex Chiasson on a heavy one-timer about 15 seconds apart. The Islanders have won five straight over the Flames and improved to 17-1-3 against Western Conference foes at Barclays Center. NOTES: Islanders D Adam Pelech exited late in the second period and did not return because of an upper-body injury. ... The Flames have scored two goals or fewer in 13 of their past 16 games. ... Calgary F Johnny Gaudreau missed his eighth straight game with a broken finger. The Flames were also without Ladislav Smid (neck) and Lance Bouma (shoulder). ... The Islanders made Ryan Strome and Scott Mayfield healthy scratches and also sat Ryan Pulock (lower-body injury) and Dennis Seidenberg (upper-body injury). UP NEXT Flames: Host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night to begin a three-game homestand. Islanders: Host the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday for the second time in two weeks. Pittsburgh won the first matchup 3-2 in overtime. Tuesday, November 29, 2016 Future ominously cloudy for Jets NEW YORK (AP) -- These are tough and uncertain times for the New York Jets and their fans. Turn on local sports radio or check Twitter, and the frustration and desperation oozes right out of the speakers and jumps off the screen. It's open season on just about everyone, from owner Woody Johnson to general manager Mike Maccagnan to coach Todd Bowles to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and cornerback Darrelle Revis. That's what happens when the team is 3-8 after high hopes just a few months ago -- and the future is ominously cloudy. "Sometimes in life, you take body blows," wide receiver Brandon Marshall said Monday. "We all get hit and we all fall down and it hurts. It's disappointing, it's scary and there's a lot of frustration and there's a lot of emotions there. You've just got to pick yourself back up and deal with reality." After a 10-6 season, led by Fitzpatrick's franchise-record 31 touchdown passes, huge years by Marshall and Eric Decker and a solid showing by Bowles' defense, the next step for the Jets was expected to be a playoff appearance. They finished a win short of that a year ago, and a daunting early season schedule did little to temper those hopes within the organization. Then, the losses began piling. So did the injuries and the critical mistakes. "We've hit stumbling blocks throughout the year," Marshall said. And, now, the Jets are here: They'll likely miss the postseason for the sixth straight year. Bowles' seat is getting warmer by the week in only his second season and many fans are angry. The clusters of empty seats at MetLife Stadium on Sunday were as clear a signal that they've had enough with the losing as the banners that flew around the practice field imploring Johnson to clean house two years ago. It would seem that Bowles is safe, at least to get to next season. But his repeated decision to stick with Fitzpatrick rather than turn to second-year quarterback Bryce Petty for the final stretch of games has been met with a collective shaking of heads from fans who have already put this season aside and want to start planning for next season. "Frustrated. It's definitely not what you want," Bowles said of this season. "None of us got to these positions by not handling adversity or going through adversity. We just have to keep fighting and keep swinging." But Bowles' in-game management has been criticized, and the revelation that defensive line stars Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson were late for a team meeting earlier this season had some wondering if cracks in the foundation are starting to show. "No, no coaching change," cornerback Buster Skrine said. "Todd Bowles is a great coach. We just need to finish (games). Coach can't go out there and play the game. "Obviously, he's coaching us well enough to get us in situations to win. We just have to make plays at the end of the game." Such as in Sunday's loss , when Tom Brady marched the Patriots down the field 83 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Five of the Jets' eight losses have been by margins of 10 points or fewer, and the blame from fans and media has often been directed at the coaching. "They all hurt the same," Bowles said. Many Jets fans, however, aren't sure where to turn to feel better. Well, other than that high draft spot. Fitzpatrick is a free agent and so is Geno Smith, leaving Petty and Christian Hackenberg as the only signed quarterbacks on the roster heading into the offseason. Revis has stunningly gone from being a shutdown cornerback to looking like a shell of himself. He's due $13 million next season and his $15.3 million salary cap hit could make him an offseason casualty. Marshall is scheduled to make $7.5 million next year, and Decker is due to make $7.25 million. "You never know in this business," said Marshall, when asked if he thinks he'll be back before adding that he'd like to retire someday with the Jets. Center Nick Mangold has played all 11 of his NFL seasons with the Jets, but his $9.075 million cap hit could have him looking for a new team next offseason. New York looked into trading Richardson during the deadline this year, and could be even more inclined to make a deal this offseason with him scheduled to make $8.069 million with the fifth-year option on his rookie deal. That's a whole lot of money and familiar faces that could be cleared from the roster. There are still five more games to go before all of that, though. Bowles hopes there are a few wins along the way. "You have to keep fighting and you have to become smarter at the same time, and only then will we get better," he said. "We're working on that every day. We're fighting going forward and we've been through adversity before and we'll come out of this one." ------ For more NFL coverage: and Tuesday, November 29, 2016 Big 10 reprimands Harbaugh for criticizing game officials By RALPH D. RUSSO The Associated Press The Big Ten reprimanded Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and fined the school $10,000 on Monday for violating the conference's sportsmanship policy by criticizing officials after the Ohio State game. Harbaugh blasted the officiating after the Wolverines' 30-27 double-overtime loss Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, saying he was "bitterly disappointed" during a lengthy rant. He complained about an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he drew in the second half of the game when he tossed headphones and a play card, a pass interference against Michigan that prolonged a key drive for the Buckeyes and a non-call of pass interference against Ohio State. He was most ardent about the spot of a fourth-down play that gave the Buckeyes a first down in overtime when a stop would have won the game for the Wolverines. Ohio State scored the winning touchdown on the next play. The Big Ten cited its sportsmanship policy in punishing Harbaugh, saying his comments were in violation of a portion that states in part that "The Big Ten Conference expects all contests involving a member institution to be conducted without compromise to any fundamental element of sportsmanship. Such fundamental elements include integrity of competition, civility toward all, and respect, particularly toward opponents and officials." The statement said the conference would have no further comment. Michigan's loss to the Buckeyes prevented the Wolverines from earning a spot in the Big Ten title game and likely ended their hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff. ------ More AP college football: Tuesday, November 29, 2016 McAdoo says Giants in position to make December important EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- In his rookie season as coach, Ben McAdoo has taken the New York Giants into somewhat neglected territory. The Giants (8-3) are in the playoff hunt for the first time since 2012, a year they faltered down the stretch, winning two of their last five games to finish 9-7. Despite riding a six-game winning streak and the second best record in the NFC, New York is going to have to work to make the playoffs for the first time since winning the Super Bowl in February 2012. It has the AFC North co-leading Steelers (6-5) in Pittsburgh on Sunday. NFC East leader Dallas (10-1), whose only loss is to the Giants, is at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 11, followed by NFC North-leading Detroit (7-4) on the 18th. Four days later, the Giants face the rival Eagles on the road, and close out the schedule at Washington on Jan. 1. The Redskins (6-4-1) have the second-best record in the wild-card race, right behind the Giants. For a team that has not put it all together this season, especially on offense, the playoffs are not guaranteed. "As a team, where do we go from here?" McAdoo asked. "It's December football. This is where the real football begins. All our hard work to this point has set the table for December. It's an exciting time against a lot of playoff teams and playoff environments. The margin for error is small. This is where our identity needs to take over." The Giants' identity has been that of a team that gets things done. For the most part, it has been star players stepping up and making plays. In the 27-13 decision over the Browns (0-12) on Sunday, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul led the way with seven tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble return for a touchdown. Eli Manning added three touchdown passes, including two to Odell Beckham Jr. The constant in the winning streak has been the play of the defense, which has been led by safety Landon Collins. McAdoo insists the Giants won't be focused on making the playoffs. "I think it's important to address the elephant in the room, so to speak," McAdoo said. "Everything gets cranked up a notch in December with everyone jockeying for position. We just need to make sure we play our best football moving forward." If any group has to step up, it's the offense. It has been inconsistent most of the season, especially the running game. While the Giants scored 27 points against the Browns, the defense set up the first touchdown with a turnover at the Cleveland 31 in the second quarter. Pierre-Paul's return got another touchdown. Special teams also need to improve. Cleveland got three points after Bobby Rainey muffed a punt, and a Mark Herzlich holding penalty nullified a punt return for a touchdown by Beckham in the fourth quarter. "I think it's great that we have players that can change the game in one play," McAdoo said. "We need to be mentally dialed-in to play a complete game at all three phases for four-plus quarters. We really need to cash in on that in December." NOTES: McAdoo refused to say whether Beckham would continue to return punts down the stretch. ... Herzlich and safety Nat Berhe were hurt in the game and are starting the week in the concussion protocol. It's the second time this season for Berhe. ... Rookie receiver Sterling Shepard not only failed to catch a pass for the first time this season, he also was not targeted. McAdoo called it unfortunate. "We're not completing enough balls or moving the chains as much as we need to move the chains for everyone to get involved. ... It's too early to tell whether Gs Justin Pugh (knee), Brett Jones (calf) and Marshall Newhouse (knee) will be able to practice this week, McAdoo said. ... McAdoo did not know if RB Shane Vereen, who has been on injured reserve with a triceps injury since Week 3, would practice this week. ------ For more NFL coverage: and -- Tuesday, November 29, 2016 Ryan's next test is breaking Bills' hex at Oakland ORCHARD PARK (AP) -- Rex Ryan was stumped when asked if he knew how long it's been since the Buffalo Bills last won at Oakland. "Fifty years ago? Phew," the Bills coach said Monday when informed of the answer before correctly guessing Jack Kemp was the quarterback in that 31-10 win in 1966. "That's amazing. Woof. You talk about a drought." Not including a 1-2 record against the Los Angeles-based Raiders, the Bills have lost their past eight games at Oakland. That includes Buffalo's most recent visit, a 26-24 loss in 2014 that eliminated the Bills from playoff contention. As if Ryan and the Bills (6-5) needed another reminder of how daunting their bid might be to manufacture a late-season playoff push that resumes at the AFC West-leading Raiders (9-2) on Sunday. "I don't know if it's extra motivation that this team's got this record or whatever. They've got that record because they earned it," Ryan said. "We know our backs are to the wall regardless of who we play. So they're going to get our best shot one way or the other." The Bills have shown perseverance in overcoming a rash of injuries and second-half deficits to win each of their past two games. Buffalo followed a 16-12 victory at Cincinnati by exchanging leads five times in the second half to pull out a 28-21 win over Jacksonville on Sunday. Ryan acknowledged the Bills haven't been perfect. And yet, he's not complaining about how his team has bounced back from a four-game skid to have a winning record through 11 games for just the fourth time since the Bills' 16-season playoff drought began in 2000. "I liked the fact that we were resilient, we stayed the course and we found a way to get it done," he said. It won't get much easier this weekend given how depleted the Bills might be as a result of injuries. Ryan was unable to provide any definitive updates on the status of players hurt against Jacksonville. It's a group that includes starting cornerback Ronald Darby (concussion protocol), starting defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (strained abdomen) and backup receiver Walt Powell (left ankle). And then there are receivers Robert Woods (left knee) and Percy Harvin (migraines), who were sidelined the previous week. On the bright side, Ryan said backup running back Mike Gillislee is expected to return after missing one game with a hamstring injury. He was also encouraged by how receiver Sammy Watkins and running back LeSean McCoy performed despite their injuries. Watkins had three catches for 80 yards, including a 62-yarder, in his first game in nine weeks since aggravating an injury to his surgically repaired left foot. McCoy had 103 yards rushing and scored twice a week after having surgery to repair a dislocated left thumb. With 153 yards rushing, Buffalo continues to lean heavily on its running attack, which has topped 150 yards in each of its past four games. The Bills haven't had a five-game streak of more than 150 yards since the first five weeks of the 1975 season. Trailing 7-0, Buffalo overcame a four-point deficit for just the second time in two seasons under quarterback Tyrod Taylor. On defense, the Bills gave up three touchdowns and failed to get a takeaway for the fourth time in five games, but they limited the Jaguars to 301 yards offense. NOTES: The Bills' 20 touchdowns rushing this season are already tied for fourth on the team list, and are six short of the franchise record set in 1975. ... Buffalo's six giveaways are the fewest through 11 games in league history, breaking the old record of eight shared by five teams. ... Including playoffs, the Bills are 19-20 against the Raiders, and 5-12 overall at Oakland. ------ For more NFL coverage: and Tuesday, November 29, 2016 Holding on purpose helped Ravens seal victory over Bengals By DAVE CAMPBELLO The Associated Press Forced to punt from deep in their territory with a seven-point lead over Cincinnati and 11 seconds remaining, the Baltimore Ravens weren't about to risk a fluke fumble or a blocked kick. So they ordered their linemen to keep the Bengals away from punter Sam Koch by any means necessary, including holding. The plan worked perfectly , with Koch catching the snap at his 15-yard line, casually dropping back toward the goal line, shuffling to his right and then backing out of the end zone to take the safety after draining the clock and avoiding any contact. The line of scrimmage during the strange play looked like a high school wrestling tournament, missing only the rubber mats. A half-dozen Baltimore blockers each engaged with a Cincinnati rusher with a bear hug that in some cases resulted in a full takedown. Yellow flags flew from the officials like confetti from a crowd, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh knew the rule. The game can end on a penalty by the offense, unlike an infraction against the defense, and that's exactly what happened in the 19-14 decision that kept the Ravens in first place in the AFC North. "I thought our guys did a great job," Harbaugh said. "Part of the deal was just identifying all of their men, because if we misidentify on the count and leave one guy running through there, he's going to get to Sam, and there's going to be very little time off the clock. Everybody did a great job of communicating. They were moving and shifting like they are well coached to do." As linebacker Terrell Suggs reminded Harbaugh, the play Sunday wasn't the best intentional safety in Ravens history. With a 34-29 lead over San Francisco in the Super Bowl four years ago, facing fourth down in the shadow of the end zone and the game almost over, Koch ran around to kill time and was pushed out of bounds with 4 seconds left. That prompted a free kick that essentially put the game out of reach. "What I meant was that it was the best-executed safety ever taken," Harbaugh said, "because we kept him clean the whole time." Here are three more decisions that stood out from Week 12 around the NFL: KUBIAK SAYS KICK IT: With Denver and Kansas City tied late in overtime, Broncos coach Gary Kubiak sent kicker Brandon McManus out for a 62-yard field goal on fourth-and-10 instead of punting or going for the first down to extend the drive and try to get closer. McManus missed from that difficult distance , even in the thin mile-high air. The Chiefs turned around with 1:03 left and drove 40 yards for the winning field goal. Even a punt in that case would've made a tie more likely, rather than the loss that pushed the Broncos into third place behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. "My thing is that we're going to try to win around here," Kubiak said. "I made that decision, and it just didn't work out. I have a lot of confidence in Brandon. I have a lot of confidence in our football team." The Broncos were out of timeouts, which factored into Kubiak's call. "B-Mac, he's one of the best kickers in the National Football League," linebacker Von Miller said. "I'm with Kube on that one. What are we playing? Are we going to play for a tie or are we trying to win the game?" ------ RIVERBOAT RON RUNS AGROUND: After Carolina kicker Graham Gano had an extra point try blocked early in the second half at Oakland, the Panthers trailed 24-13. The Panthers scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter to take the lead, which would've been bigger had they converted their conversion attempts. Coach Ron Rivera elected to go for 2 points twice, with Cam Newton's pass falling incomplete both times; stalwart tight end Greg Olsen dropped the second one. Even though the Panthers reached the end zone again early in the fourth quarter to take a 32-24 lead, they could've been ahead by 10 points with a pair of kicks. The Raiders rallied to tie the game with a touchdown and 2-point conversion before making the go-ahead field goal with 1:45 remaining. "You can't really dwell on that," Newton said. "You still have to play the game. With how this game was going, with so many momentum swings, we took their best shot and they took our best shot. We knew it was going to come down to that type of finish, but that's just what happens." ------ AGGRESSIVE SAINTS: New Orleans coach Sean Payton went on fourth-and-short twice during what became a blowout of Los Angeles, at the 10 and the 1-yard lines. Both times the Saints converted on their way to a touchdown. What helped Payton make the decision was that the Saints have had two field goals and two extra points blocked already this season. One extra point was returned for a defensive 2-point conversion that lifted Denver to victory. "Those are big momentum swings in games," right tackle Zach Strief said. "Obviously we have struggled a lot in field goal protection, so let's be a little more aggressive than usual. We had a really good plan this week." ------ For more NFL coverage: and Tuesday, November 29, 2016 Brady ties Manning with 200th victory, Patriots beat Jets 22-17 EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Tom Brady was hobbled, yet efficient as ever with the game on the line and time on the clock. Playing with an ailing knee, Brady tied Peyton Manning for most wins by a quarterback in NFL history, getting his 200th by throwing a go-ahead 8-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Mitchell with 1:56 left, leading the New England Patriots to a 22-17 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday. It was the 50th time Brady has led a Patriots win while facing a fourth-quarter deficit or tie. "The quarterback's job is to win," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "He's won a lot. That's good. I'm glad he's our quarterback." Trailing 17-16 with 5:04 left and the ball on the Patriots 17, Brady led a solid drive by completing six passes. After James White stretched for 4 yards on fourth-and-4, a 25-yard catch by Chris Hogan put the ball at the 8. Brady then zipped a pass to Mitchell to put the Patriots (9-2) ahead. "We didn't play as well as we wanted to," Brady said, "but we made the plays when we needed to." A 2-point conversion try by White was initially ruled good, but reversed on replay because the ball never crossed the goal line -- giving the Jets (3-8) a final chance. But Chris Long hit Ryan Fitzpatrick before he could throw, resulting in a fumble recovered by Trey Flowers. The Patriots then ran out the clock to win the closely played game that had been flexed out of a prime-time spot. The teams have had a final margin of seven points or fewer in each of their last seven meetings. "We've got to find a way to finish at the end of ballgames," Jets coach Todd Bowles said. Patriots fans loudly chanted "Brady! Brady!" in the final moments at MetLife Stadium, which had lots of empty seats as frustrated Jets fans apparently stayed home. Brady improved to 22-6 in regular-season games against the Jets, joining Brett Favre as the only QBs in NFL history with at least 22 wins vs. two teams. Brady has 26 victories vs. Buffalo. It was the 500th win in franchise history for the Patriots, the first original AFL franchise to reach the mark. Brady, who was questionable with a knee injury , wasn't his usual spectacular self, but finished 30 of 50 for 286 yards and two touchdowns. Mitchell caught five passes for 42 yards and two touchdowns. Fitzpatrick, back as the starter after missing New York's last game with a sprained knee, was 22 of 32 for 269 yards. "Playing against the Patriots, you don't have to play the perfect game," Fitzpatrick said, "but you can't make mistakes." The Jets had taken a 17-13 lead with 10:17 left when Quincy Enunwa leaped over Malcolm Butler in the end zone to grab a pass from Fitzpatrick. The wide receiver's right foot came down inbounds and while his left foot never touched the ground, his backside did. It was initially called an incomplete pass, but Bowles challenged and the call was reversed for a 22-yard touchdown. Stephen Gostkowski's 41-yard field goal cut the Patriots' deficit to 17-16. BRADY'S BUNCH New England took advantage of a Jets turnover in the second quarter when Robby Anderson caught a pass and gained 25 yards, but had the ball punched out of his hands by Devin McCourty. Butler recovered, and Brady went to work. He completed an 18-yard pass to Julian Edelman, joining Manning (71,940), Favre (71,838), Drew Brees (64,180) and Dan Marino (61,361) as the only players with 60,000 yards passing. Brady is now at 60,229. A 15-yard run by Dion Lewis got the ball to the 5 and he added a 1-yard run. On the next play, Brady fumbled the snap but recovered and fired a pass to Mitchell for the tying score. GRONK HURT New England tight end Rob Gronkowski left the game late in the first quarter with a back injury. He had been uncertain to play after missing last week's game with a chest injury. It was not immediately certain if the latest injury was connected to the previous one. Gronkowski had no catches when he left. BLOCK AND A MISS Nick Folk had a 54-yard attempt blocked by Alan Branch that was recovered by Dont'a Hightower with 1:58 left in the opening half, giving Brady and the Patriots the ball at their 46. New England got to the 21, but the Patriots opted to not use a timeout. After an incompletion to Mitchell in the end zone, Gostkowski's 39-yard attempt was wide left, leaving the game tied at halftime. Gostkowski kicked a 29-yarder midway through the third quarter, giving New England a 13-10 lead. BACK IN THE END ZONE Brandon Marshall's first touchdown catch since Oct. 9 against Pittsburgh gave New York a 10-0 lead 4 seconds into the second quarter. UP NEXT Patriots: vs. Los Angeles next Sunday. Jets: vs. Indianapolis next Monday night. ------ For more NFL coverage: and Monday, November 28, 2016 McCoy rallies Bills to win over Jags ORCHARD PARK (AP) -- Once LeSean McCoy eluded two defenders and cut up the right sideline with nothing but the end zone in front of him, the Bills' running back had time to glance up at the big screen and start celebrating. "You can just hear the crowd yelling," McCoy said, recalling his 75-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. "You feel the guy (behind you) and then you look on the screen and I know I've got him beat." McCoy's touchdown provided the Bills the spark they needed to persevere through a topsy-turvy second half and pull out a 28-21 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. It was McCoy's second touchdown of the game, the longest of his career, and breathed life into a Tyrod Taylor-led offense that had managed just 63 yards of offense in the first half. "It's huge. It gave the entire team life," guard Richie Incognito said. It provided a boost to Buffalo's defense, too. "It's like we're back," said cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. "It's like get back out there and do what we do. Fresh start." The Bills (6-5) won for the second straight week in which they've trailed at the half to stay in the AFC playoff picture. And Taylor overcame a fourth-quarter deficit for just the second time in 25 games. Taylor's 16-yard touchdown pass to Justin Hunter with 10:46 remaining put the Bills ahead for good, and he also scored on a 7-yard run. The game was decided with four minutes left, when the Jaguars were unable to convert a fourth-and-9 at the Buffalo 46. Blake Bortles hit Marquise Lee on a crossing pattern over the middle, but he was limited to a 4-yard gain. The Bills then took over and ran out the clock. The Jaguars (2-9) lost for the sixth straight game -- their longest skid since opening the 2014 season at 0-6. And they did so by blowing a fourth-quarter lead for the third time this season. "We just can't get over the hill," said Jaguars defensive lineman Malik Jackson, who had two sacks. "We have moral victories and that's good for us because we're learning and we're getting better," Jackson added. "But when compared to the other 31 teams in the league, we're not doing too good. And that's what we get graded on." Bortles went 13 of 26 for 126 yards and two touchdowns, and also had a career-best 81 yards rushing. The Jaguars, who entered the game with a league-high 22 giveaways, also didn't turn the ball over. Injuries, however, became an issue. Chris Ivory, who opened the scoring with a 2-yard run , was sidelined in the first half by a hamstring injury. And then Jacksonville lost receiver Allen Hurns, also with a hamstring injury while diving into the end zone on a 12-yard catch and run . The Bills overcame their growing list of injured players. McCoy, who also scored on a 2-point conversion, finished with 103 yards rushing and showed few signs of being bothered a week after having surgery for a dislocated left thumb. Receiver Sammy Watkins had three catches for 80 yards -- including a 62-yard reception -- playing his first game in nine weeks since aggravating an injury to his surgically repaired left foot. "It just shows the resiliency of this bunch," Incognito said. "It just keeps our dream alive." JAGS' BIG OPENING The Jaguars snapped the NFL's longest active drought by scoring on their opening possession for the first time in 25 games. The streak began in Week 3 of the 2015 season, and featured the Jaguars combining for three field goals, punting 18 times and turning the ball over three times. Ivory's touchdown capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive spanning 6:45. The Jaguars converted three third-down chances, including their last one courtesy of a defensive holding penalty against Corey White on third-and-goal from the 3. SPECIAL TEAMS Bills kicker Dan Carpenter missed his first point-after attempt wide left, his third this season. On the bright side for Buffalo, Brandon Tate's 43-yard punt return late in the second quarter set up the Bills first score -- a five-play, 22-yard drive. INJURIES Jaguars: Ivory (hamstring), WR Rashad Greene Sr. (Achilles) and FS Peyton Thompson (ankle) and Hurns (hamstring), who was hurt while diving into the end zone on his touchdown catch. Bills: CB Ronald Darby (concussion), WR Walter Powell (left ankle), DT Marcell Dareus (abdomen). NEXT UP Jaguars: Host Denver on Dec. 4. Bills: At Oakland on Dec. 4. ------ For more NFL coverage: AP NFL website: and Monday, November 28, 2016 Pierre-Paul scores TD, shines as Giants beat Browns 27-13 CLEVELAND (AP) -- The football popped into the air and Jason Pierre-Paul knew exactly what to do next. Use both hands. "I knew one of these days I was going to catch the ball," he said. "I knew if I was ever catching a ball, I'm going to the end zone." Pierre-Paul returned a fumble 43 yards for a touchdown and recorded three sacks to lead the New York Giants to their sixth straight win, 27-13 over the Cleveland Browns. Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes -- two to Odell Beckham Jr . -- as the Giants extended their longest winning streak since 2008 and moved closer to securing their first playoff berth in five years. The Browns (0-12) have lost 15 straight dating to last season. With the Giants (8-3) slogging through a game where they seemed to be playing down to Cleveland's level, Pierre-Paul helped New York open a two-touchdown lead and avert disaster with his third career touchdown -- maybe one that meant a little bit more to the defensive end. Under pressure, Browns quarterback Josh McCown was hit as he threw by New York's Jonathan Hankins and the ball was corralled by Pierre-Paul, who tucked it under his left arm and rambled untouched for the TD to give the Giants a 20-6 lead. It was another stirring moment in the comeback for the 27-year-old Pierre-Paul, whose career was nearly ended by a horrifying fireworks accident in 2015, when he lost his index finger and parts of two others on his right hand. The fumble return only reaffirmed Pierre-Paul's return to form as an elite player, coming a week after he had 2 1/2 sacks, forced a fumble and deflected a pass in a win over Chicago. "I'm not proving anything," he told reporters Sunday. "I told you all last year when I came in, I already won." Pierre-Paul is the first player to have three sacks and a fumble return for a touchdown of at least 40 yards since 1982, when the NFL first recognized individual sacks as an official statistic. His humility after the performance was just as impressive. He has been an inspiration to his teammates, who have marveled at his resiliency. "He's basically taken over these last two games," Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. "I've been a fan of JPP since he came into the league, and knowing what he's been through, it's so encouraging to watch him now." Pierre-Paul's TD was originally ruled an interception before being changed to a fumble. "It was an interception," he said with a laugh. "How else can you get seven points? The ball never touched the ground, so we're going to call it an interception." The Giants recorded seven sacks on McCown, who said there are few players as tough to block as Pierre-Paul, who was limited in practice this week because of a knee injury. "He is a big dude and a heck of an athlete, and he plays hard," McCown said. "You have those types of things where he has a very rare skillset for that size and speed. That is what gives him an edge." Here are a few other takeaways from the Giants' win: NEW ROLE? Beckham had a 59-yard punt return TD called back by a holding call, but that didn't stop him from celebrating in the end zone. As he mimicked the powder toss made famous by Cavaliers star LeBron James, a close friend, Browns punter Britton Colquitt informed him the play was coming back. "I told him, 'I don't care, I still ran it back on you,"' Beckham said. Giants coach Ben McAdoo wouldn't commit to Beckham taking over return duties. DOWN BROWNS: Cleveland is four losses from history, and first-year coach Hue Jackson may have reached a breaking point. Jackson's eyes teared up when discussing a nightmarish season that is almost over. The Browns are trying to avoid joining the 2008 Lions as the only 0-16 teams, and Jackson is vowing his team won't be bad in 2017. "I am not feeling like this next year," Jackson said. "There is no way. Uh-uh. No. I am a fighter, and I don't lose many fights." WAR OF WORDS: Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor and Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins won't be exchanging Christmas cards. Despite Pryor catching six passes for 131 yards, including a 54-yarder, Jenkins ripped him on Twitter following the game with a vulgar post. Pryor answered back with praise, writing "you are a great corner. Solid defender! You played a solid game. Good luck rest of year." Earlier in the week, Jenkins said Pryor, a converted quarterback, wouldn't be a challenge and called him "another receiver, just bigger." ------ For more NFL coverage: and Monday, November 28, 2016 Albany holds off Siena in 2nd half ALBANY (AP) -- David Nichols scored a career-high 29 points, including three 3-pointers, and Albany held off Siena for an 81-72 win Sunday night to regain the Albany Cup from its crosstown rival. Nichols was 10 of 20 from the field, and 6 for 9 from the free-throw line. Former Scotia-Glenville standout Joe Cremo added 20 points and Mike Rowley had 10 for Albany (4-2), which made 6 for 12 from long range. "We beat a good basketball team, a talented basketball team," said Albany coach Will Brown, who has led Albany to four Albany Cup victories in the last five years. "Any time you beat your rival, it is special, and when you beat them in this tremendous venue, it is even more special." A sellout crowd of 4,538 at the SEFCU Arena saw the Albany Cup game on the UAlbany campus for the first time ever. UAlbany celebrated the regaining of the Albany Cup with a postgame ceremony on the floor, including UAlbany interim president Dr. James Stellar and director of athletics Mark Benson. As a team, UAlbany shot 51.9 percent from the field and turned the ball over a season-low six times. Albany also had 36 points in the paint to Siena's 24. The Great Danes took the lead for good early in the first half with one of Nichols' 3-pointers, which made it 12-9 and sparked an 8-2 spurt that stretched into a 38-20 halftime advantage. Siena (2-4) chipped away in the second half and pulled into striking distance with Nico Clareth's jumper, shaving the deficit to 76-72 with just over a minute to play. Albany sealed it with a layup and 3 of 4 free throws. Marquis Wright's 18 points led four Siena players in double figures. Monday, November 28, 2016 No. 3 Indiana routs Mississippi Valley State BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) -- OG Anunoby had 21 points and eight rebounds, Robert Johnson added 14 points and No. 3 Indiana routed Mississippi Valley State 85-52 on Sunday. Thomas Bryant had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Hoosiers (4-1). They played with James Blackmon Jr., the Big Ten's second-leading scorer who missed the game because of a knee injury. Rashaan Surles led the Delta Devils (0-8) with 14 points. NO. 11 GONZAGA 73, NO. 21 IOWA STATE 71 LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) -- Nigel Williams-Goss scored 18 points and Gonzaga nearly blew an 18-point second-half lead against Iowa State in the AdvoCare Invitational championship game. Josh Perkins added 12 points, and Przemek Karnowki had 11 for Gonzaga (6-0). Deonte Burton scored 21 of his 29 in the second half for Iowa State (5-1). NO. 14 UCLA 74, TEXAS A&M 67 ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Lonzo Ball had 16 points and 10 assists and UCLA beat Texas A&M in the Wooden Legacy championship game. Issac Hamilton scored all 17 of his points in the first half, to lead UCLA (7-0). Admon Gilder led the Aggies (4-2) with 17 points, and Tyler Davis added 16. NO. 15 ST. MARY'S 76, UAB 63 LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Jock Landale scored 20 points to lead St. Mary's past UAB. Landale was 9 of 11 from the field for St. Mary's (5-0). The Gaels outscored UAB (3-3) 30-16 during a 14-minute stretch in the first half to open their largest lead of the game, 40-23. NO. 16 WISCONSIN 95, PRAIRIE VIEW A&M 50 MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Nigel Hayes scored a season-high 17 points to lead Wisconsin. Hayes was 5 of 5 from the field and 7 of 8 from the free-throw line. Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter each scored 11 points for the Badgers (5-2). Zachary Hamilton led the Panthers (2-5) with 15 points. Monday, November 28, 2016 Bruins offense shows up in 4-1 win over Lightning BOSTON (AP) -- Jimmy Hayes capped Boston's three-goal second period with his first of the season, Tuukka Rask stopped 30 shots and the Bruins beat Tampa Bay 4-1 on Sunday to snap a three-game skid. Rask allowed only Victor Hedman's goal with 2:39 to play. David Pastrnak had his team-leading 13th goal, and David Backes and Dominic Moore also scored. Claude Julien coached his 726th game with the Bruins, tying Milt Schmidt -- the oldest living member of the Hall of Fame at 98 years old -- for second in team history. COYOTES 2, OILERS 1 EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) -- Jamie McGinn broke a tie with 3:44 left and Mike Smith made 41 saves in Arizona's victory over Edmonton. McGinn was left all alone in front and beat goalie Cam Talbot to the stick side. Radim Vrbata also scored to help the Coyotes complete a home-and-home sweep. They edged the Oilers in a shootout Friday night in the desert. The Coyotes have won three of their last four to improve to 8-10-2. Arizona is 21-0-4 against Edmonton in the last 25 meetings between the two teams. HURRICANES 3, PANTHERS 2 RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Jeff Skinner had a goal and an assist for Carolina, and Florida fired coach Grrard Gallant after the game. Florida fired Gallant after the game, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press. Tom Rowe, who was promoted to general manager before the season, will assume the coaching duties, said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team hasn't announced the moves. FLYERS 5, FLAMES 3 PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Anthony Stolarz made 29 saves for his first NHL victory in Philadelphia's win over Calgary. Stolarz also became the first New Jersey native to appear in goal in an NHL game. The 22-year-old was born in Edison, about 60 miles northeast of Philadelphia. Michael Raffl, Jakub Voracek, Chris VandeVelde, Wayne Simmonds and Roman Lyubimov scored to help the Flyers snap a two-game losing streak and improve to 10-10-3. T.J. Brodie, Matthew Tkachuk and Alex Chiasson scored for the Flames. JETS 3, PREDATORS 0 WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) -- Connor Hellebuyck made 42 saves, Drew Stafford scored his first goal of the season and Winnipeg beat Nashville to end a five-game losing streak. Hellebuyck had his second shutout of the season and fourth overall. Mark Scheifele and Adam Lowry added empty-net goals for the Jets. Rookie Juuse Saros made 21 saves for Nashville. The Predators beat Winnipeg 5-1 on Friday night in Nashville with Hellebuyck in net. Monday, November 28, 2016 Anderson makes 32 saves, Senators beat Rangers 2-0 NEW YORK (AP) -- Despite playing less than 24 hours before, Craig Anderson wanted to be in net when the Ottawa Senators took on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The goalie got his wish and made 33 saves in a 2-0 shutout victory Sunday night. Anderson is 7-1-1 in nine regular-season starts at Madison Square Garden. "It's New York man," Anderson said. "It's one of those buildings there's a lot of history. Great team over there and it's one of those things you just get up for. The historic buildings who knows how long they'll be around for. You're fortunate enough to be a part of it and that's kind of the way I address that mentally." Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Mark Stone scored in the second period. Ottawa improved to 6-3 in the road. It also improved to 3-0 in the second night of back-to-back sets. "To have to play here back to back on the road and get a team that's been firing from all cylinders," Senators coach Guy Boucher said. "One of the best offensive teams in the league and to get a shutout you can't ask for better." Pageau scored 1:54 into the second. Zach Smith worked the puck behind the Rangers' net to Tom Pyatt, who drew in two defenders and fed Pageau in front of the net for his third goal of the season. "It was a really nice play by (Smith) and Pyatt nice pass," Pageau said. "I was just trying to put it on net and that was in our game plan. Go in the blue paint and try to put pucks on net. So that's what I tried to do." The Senators scored again on a power play. Stone fired a wrist shot from inside the faceoff circle for his sixth goal of the season. Rangers goalie Antti Raanta made 18 saves in his first loss of the season. He was making his first start since Nov. 21 against Pittsburgh. The Rangers were 8-0-1 at home through their first nine games before going 0-3-1 in their last four games at Madison Square Garden. New York's power play struggled against the Senators, going 0 for 4. The Senators were 1 for 3. "We had a couple power plays with some open nets and when a team is playing that good defensively," Derek Stepan said. "They didn't make a single mistake -- you have to execute perfectly all the way to your dumps. We just were a little off and they defended extremely well and that's the story tonight." Ottawa forward Derick Brassard played against the Rangers for the first time since he was traded over the summer. New York sent Brassard to Ottawa on July 18 for Mika Zibanejad and a draft pick. "I'm really thankful for the fans here and for appreciating my work here the last four years," Brassard said. NOTES: Adam Clendening and Oscar Lindberg were healthy scratches for the Rangers. ... Mika Zibanejad missed his fourth game with a broken left fibula. ... Fredrik Claesson and Max McCormick were scratched for the Senators. UP NEXT: Rangers: Host Carolina on Tuesday night. Senators: Host Buffalo on Tuesday night. Monday, November 28, 2016 Irving, James lift Cavs PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The Cavaliers have so many ways to beat teams, and this time it was Kyrie Irving's turn to win a game. Irving scored 19 of his season-high 39 points in the fourth quarter and LeBron James had a triple-double with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists, leading Cleveland to a 112-108 comeback victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday. Kevin Love chipped in 25 points and 11 rebounds to help the defending champions (13-2) improve to their fourth straight win. "When you have great players, it can come from any of us at any given moment," Irving said. "When one of us gets it going, we always continue to go to that person. It can be anybody's night. We're always trusting each other. That fourth quarter was just for me to be aggressive." Joel Embiid led seven players in double figures with 22 points for the 76ers, who have lost three straight. Embiid also had nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks. "When those guys are on like that, it's really hard to beat them," Embiid said. The Cavaliers never led through the first three quarters, but Irving got hot early in the fourth to put Cleveland in front. He gave Cleveland its first lead on a layup 2:38 into the period and had 10 of the first 13 Cavaliers fourth-quarter points on a variety of jumpers and drives. His layup with 7:51 left gave Cleveland its biggest lead to that point, 90-86. Asked what he liked about Irving's fourth quarter, James said, "Could you not like everything?" "Whoever has the hot hand, we want to continue to get it to him," James said. "Kyrie understands what needs to be done in order for us to win. He showcased that today." Cleveland trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half. The Cavaliers got as close as 72-70 on James Jones' 3-pointer with 3:53 left in the third quarter. But the 76ers scored nine of the next 10 points, capped by Dario Saric's 3-pointer that made it 81-71. James had four and Love two as the Cavaliers ran off the final six points of the quarter to enter the final period down 81-77. STITCHED UP Love was limited to 28 minutes after receiving five stitches for a cut over his right eye suffered early in the first quarter. SLOW START The Cavs missed their first 14 shots, but Philadelphia couldn't take full advantage and led just 10-2 before James' driving layup with 6:50 left in the first quarter resulted in Cleveland's first field goal. VERBAL EXCHANGE James and Embiid got into a verbal altercation late in the first quarter. Richard Jefferson was whistled for a foul on Embiid's drive, and James questioned the call. Embiid went toward James' direction, but officials stepped between the players. The incident drew a rise in the crowd. James provided a couple of first-half highlights, dunking with 6:03 left in the first quarter and then following a missed free throw with a dunk with 1:17 to go in the first half. He has three triple-doubles this season. OFF NIGHT J.R. Smith went 0 for 11 from the field, including 0 for 7 from 3-point range. "As a shooter you're not going to make every shot," Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. "Defensively, he was great like he's been all year. His shots are going to fall. When they do, we'll be really tough to stop." MORE MINUTES? Embiid was limited to 25 minutes, eight of which came in the fourth quarter, as part of his minutes restriction that is part of his rehab plan after missing the last two seasons with a foot injury. "You come up with some really hard decisions that maybe don't favor me or us or whatever," 76ers coach Brett Brown said. "But for the long term lens that we all have, we have to be responsible with Joel Embiid. Winning a game in the middle of November in 2016 sometimes that takes a back seat." Embiid didn't play in Friday's 105-89 loss to the Bulls and won't play Monday night at Toronto, marking the sixth game he will miss this season. IT MUST BE THE SHOES James was excited about many Ohio State players wearing his shoes in Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan football game, a game in which the Cavaliers attended as a team. "They looked good in those shoes," James said. "It was a proud moment for me. I don't get too happy about a lot of things, but I was happy about that." TIP-INS Cavaliers: Channing Frye (personal) was not with the team. Frye's father died Thursday. ... Cleveland beat Philadelphia 102-101 on Nov. 5. ... James' 3-pointer with 5:01 left in the second period was his 1,000th as a member of the Cavaliers. ... Cleveland has made at least 10 3-pointers in every game this season. 76ers: Jerryd Bayless (left wrist) didn't play. Bayless missed the first 13 games of the season with a left wrist injury. UP NEXT Cavaliers: At Milwaukee on Tuesday night. 76ers: At Toronto on Monday night. Monday, November 28, 2016 Ohio State vs. Michigan is high-stakes rivalry again By MARLA RIDENOUR Akron Beacon Journal Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel knew the significance. After beating Michigan in the first of 10 meetings during his tenure, Tressel stood in the corner of the interview room in Ann Arbor clutching his two teenage daughters tightly and sighing, "Oh, boy. Oh, boy." It is a mental picture I will never forget. That day, Nov. 24, 2001, was when the pendulum swung back in Ohio State's favor. From 1988 until that afternoon, Michigan had owned OSU. Facing UM coaches Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr, Buckeyes coach John Cooper went 2-10-1 against The Team Up North even when he had rosters loaded with NFL talent. But since Tressel's victorious debut, Ohio State is 13-2 (including a vacated victory). Tressel lost only once, the other defeat suffered by interim coach Luke Fickell in 2011. OSU coach Urban Meyer puts his 4-0 record on the line today when the No. 2 Buckeyes meet the No. 3 Wolverines in Ohio Stadium. It could be a new dawn for the most storied rivalry in all of sports, perhaps a rebirth of the infamous Ten Year War of Ohio State coach Woody Hayes and Schembechler. The teams split 5-5 in that span from 1969-78 and only once, in the last game, was one of the two not ranked in the top five by The Associated Press. I'm not so sure whether this is the beginning of Ten Year War 2.0, only because I wonder if Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will be there that long. A former quarterback for Schembechler in the 1980s, Harbaugh is in his second season. Before he arrived at UM, Harbaugh spent four years directing the San Francisco 49ers. He turns 53 next month. His brother John coaches the Baltimore Ravens, so he keeps a finger on the league's pulse. The lure of the NFL might still be strong. But if Jim Harbaugh feels he's found the ultimate career challenge, he seems the perfect foil for Meyer, who is threatening Alabama's Nick Saban for the mantle as the nation's top coach. They were born seven months apart in the same Toledo hospital, but they seem polar opposites in terms of personality. Harbaugh is brash and quirky, Meyer measured and supremely confident. Meyer would never climb a tree like Harbaugh did in January during the recruiting of four-star cornerback David Long. Fielding a team decimated by the recruiting woes of predecessor Brady Hoke, Harbaugh suffered a 42-13 loss to OSU in Ann Arbor last year. But he's closing the talent gap on Ohio State, which lends weight to the premise that the Buckeyes' dominance is over. On national signing day in February, Harbaugh brought in Derek Jeter, Tom Brady, Ric Flair and Jim Leyland to fete a class ranked fourth in the nation, one spot behind OSU. In preliminary rankings for 2017, the Buckeyes are second, the Wolverines 10th as the recruiting contact period opens Sunday. The Wolverines' 2016 roster includes 43 fourth- and fifth-year seniors, but it also features game-changers like receivers Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, tight end Jake Butt and linebacker/defensive back Jabrill Peppers, who has lined up at 15 different positions this season. Harbaugh has extended the boundaries of Michigan's recruiting territory and he and his staff know how to best use the talent when they get it. Saturday will be only the 11th time in the 113 games dating back to 1897 that both teams have been in the top five of The Associated Press poll. OSU and Michigan enter 10-1. With a victory, Michigan will earn the Big Ten East Division title and a spot in next Saturday's league championship. Ohio State's place in that game hinges on its victory and a Penn State loss to Michigan State, but if it defeats the Wolverines, a berth in the four-team College Football Playoff is still possible. With Harbaugh and Meyer at the helm, the rivalry seems poised to return to the high-stakes level most recently seen in 2006, when No. 1 OSU beat No. 2 Michigan 42-39 and earned a trip to the BCS national championship. Both teams came in undefeated. Schembechler died at age 77 on the eve of the game. The classic was the subject of a recent special on the Big Ten Network. Such showdowns might no longer come once every 10 years. Such implications could become commonplace. Ohio State junior linebacker Chris Worley can't imagine playing in an era when Michigan dominated the rivalry like in the Cooper years. "Good thing I didn't have to witness all those losses," Worley said. "God works in mysterious ways and He worked perfectly for me." As long as Meyer is wearing scarlet and gray and Harbaugh is clad in maize and blue, God might become an impartial observer once again. Saturday, November 26, 2016 No. 1 Kentucky crushes UT-Martin LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Malik Monk scored a career-high 26 points, De'Aaron Fox added 16 and No. 1 Kentucky routed UT-Martin 111-76 on Friday night for its biggest victory this season. The taller Wildcats overcame a cold shooting start and 15-14 deficit to the athletic Skyhawks before rolling to season highs in points and victory margin. Kentucky (6-0) shot a season-best 55 percent from the field by controlling the paint 54-28 and the boards 48-26. Monk's 10-of-17 shooting led the way with Fox making 7 of 12 from the field. Monk has scored at least 23 points in three of his past four games. Wenyen Gabriel and Bam Adebayo each had 15 points for Kentucky, which won the game that was part of matchup of unbeaten teams in the Bluegrass Showcase. Matthew Butler scored 15 points and Jacolby Mobley had 14 for UT Martin (5-2), which shot just 33 percent in the second half and 41 percent overall in having its five-game winning streak stopped. ------ No. 5 KANSAS 95, UNC ASHEVILLE 57 LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- Frank Mason III had 21 points and Udoka Azubuike added 17 as Kansas dunked its way to a victory. Josh Jackson contributed 14 points, Lagerald Vick had 12 and Devonte Graham finished with 11 assists, including consecutive alley-oop passes to Azubuike that helped the Jayhawks (5-1) win their 42nd straight game at Allen Fieldhouse. The only bummer for Kansas came in the closing minutes, when Graham banged up his right foot on a drive to the basket. He did not return, though the injury did not appear to be serious. Kevin Vannatta and Ahmad Thomas led Asheville (3-3) with 12 points apiece. ------ No. 7 VIRGINIA 74, IOWA 41 NICEVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Jerred Reuter led a well-balanced scoring attack with 14 points and Virginia's stifling trademark defense set the tone for a victory in the semifinals of the Emerald Coast Classic. The Cavaliers (5-0) will play for the tournament title on Saturday against the winner of Friday's late game between Memphis and Providence. Three other Cavaliers scored in double figures: London Perrantes with 12, Isaiah Wilkins 11 and Darius Thompson 10. The Cavaliers began the day leading the nation in scoring defense by holding opponents to 38.8 points per game. Iowa (3-2) barely bested that average, led by Peter Jok's 13 points. The Hawkeyes shot only 31.3 percent from the field including 26.1 percent from 3-point range. The Cavaliers hit 48.3 percent from the field including 47.1 percent on 3s. ------ PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) -- King McClure scored all 15 of his points in the second half and Baylor rallied from 22 points down in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game. Johnathan Motley also had 15 points, and Terry Maston had 10 of his 12 in the final 20 minutes. The Bears (6-0) shot 65 percent in the second half in a stunning reversal from a start that saw the Cardinals shut down just about everything. Louisville led by 22 points late in the first half, by 20 early in the second and 54-42 on Quentin Snider's 3-pointer at the 10:07 mark. But the Bears responded with a 21-5 run, with Motley putting the ball on the floor to drive by Anas Mahmoud for the go-ahead dunk with 2:49 left. Donovan Mitchell scored 17 points for Louisville (5-1), which shot just 33 percent (9 of 27) in the second half. ------ TEMPLE 81, No. 19 WEST VIRGINIA 77 NEW YORK (AP) -- Obi Enechionyia had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead Temple to the upset in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off. Enechionyia scored 18 points in the first half for Temple (4-2), but it was his free throw with 1 second left that sealed the win. Alani Moore II added 18 points for the Owls, while Daniel Dingle finished with 15 and Quinton Rose had 12. Esa Ahmad led the Mountaineers (4-1) with 19 points, Teyvon Myers added 15, and Nathan Adrian and Tarik Phillip had 13 apiece. Enechionyia was named the Most Outstanding Player of the two-day tournament. ------ No. 21 IOWA ST. 73, MIAMI 56 LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) -- Deonte Burton scored 21 points and Darrell Bowie keyed a second-half surge that carried No. 21 Iowa State in the AdvoCare Invitational. The Cyclones (5-0) advanced to Sunday's championship game, bouncing back from a poor shooting performance in a tournament-opening win over Indiana State. Matt Thomas had 12 points and Nazareth Mitrou-Long added 10 for Iowa State. Bowie hit an awkward layup as he tumbled to the court and made a short jumper during a 17-2 run the Cyclones put together over an 8-minute stretch of the second half. Ja'Quan Newton had 21 points for the Hurricanes (4-1), who shot 36 percent from the field, including 2 of 16 on 3-point attempts. ------ No. 23 RHODE ISLAND 82, BELMONT 73 KINGSTON, R.I. (AP) -- Hassan Martin scored a career-high 31 points and Jarvis Garrett added a season-high 23 for Rhode Island. Kuran Iverson added 13 points for the Rams (5-1) while Dylan Windler had a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Bruins (1-3). Belmont played without its leading scorer, Evan Bradds, who was sidelined with a concussion. The Rams held Belmont to 18.5 percent shooting (5 of 27) from beyond the 3-point arc which denied the Bruins a key part of their offense. Rhode Island forged a 46-31 lead and prevented the Bruins from getting closer than six points by shooting 55.4 percent from the field (31 of 56). Nick Smith had 17 points for Belmont. ------ No. 24 MICHIGAN ST. 77, WICHITA ST. 72 Miles Bridges scored 21 points for Michigan State in the Battle 4 Atlantis third-place game. Eron Harris added 13 points for the Spartans (4-3), who followed Thursday's loss to No. 20 Baylor by building a huge second-half lead -- and then nearly blowing it. They led by 18 midway through the half and held a 15-point lead with 8:05 left, only to see the Shockers (5-2) turn to fullcourt pressure to get back in it. Wichita State ran off a 14-0 run to get to 66-65 on Daishon Smith's layup over Bridges with 4:13 left. The Shockers ultimately had one more chance to tie it in the final seconds, but Smith missed a long straightaway 3. Bridges grabbed the rebound and hit two clinching free throws with 4.7 seconds left. Darral Willis scored 16 points to lead Wichita State. ------ No. 25 FLORIDA ST. 72, ILLINOIS 61 NEW YORK (AP) -- Dwayne Bacon scored 17 points to lead for Florida State in the third-place game of the NIT Season Tip-Off. Jonathan Isaac had 15 points and seven rebounds for Florida State (5-1). CJ Walker finished with 13 points and Xavier Rathan-Mayes had 10 for Florida State. Malcolm Hill had 18 points for Illinois (4-3), which lost its third straight. Leron Black chipped in with 15 points, and Te'Jon Lucas had 10. Saturday, November 26, 2016 Chad Johnson makes 35 saves, Flames nip Bruins BOSTON (AP) -- Chad Johnson made 35 saves and Alex Chiasson broke a tie at 7:05 of the third period in Calgary Flames' 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night. Coming off a 2-0 victory Wednesday night at Columbus, Johnson allowed only David Pastrnak's goal off a rebound at 5:55 of the third period. Sam Bennett had a goal and an assist to help Calgary win for the third time in four games. Bennett set up winner with a backhand pass from behind the net right to Chiasson, who easily beat goalie Anton Khudobin as he scrambled to get back across. Boston has lost three straight and four of five. Saturday, November 26, 2016 Anthony's jumper, 35 points give Knicks OT win over Hornets NEW YORK (AP) -- Carmelo Anthony scored a season-high 35 points, including the tiebreaking jumper with 3.1 seconds left in overtime, and the New York Knicks beat the Charlotte Hornets 113-111 on Friday night. Derrick Rose added 16 points and blocked Kemba Walker's 3-pointer that would have won it just before the buzzer. Kristaps Porzingis also scored 16 points in the Knicks' sixth straight home victory. Former Hornets guard Courtney Lee finished with 12 points in the opener of a home-and-home series. Marco Belinelli scored 19 points, Nicolas Batum had 18 and Walker added 17 for the Hornets, who have lost four straight games. Porzingis' 3-pointer from the corner gave New York a 111-109 lead before Michael Kidd-Gilchrist tied it on a backdoor layup. Anthony then made a fadeaway jumper after previously missing a potential game-winning elbow jumper in regulation. Charlotte took its largest lead of the game at 70-57 in the third quarter. New York responded with a 22-4 run to take a 79-74 lead heading into the fourth. Anthony had 11 points in the third quarter. Anthony scored 16 points in the first quarter on 6-for-8 shooting from the field. TIP-INS Hornets: Coach Steve Clifford made the case for Kemba Walker to become an All-Star this season. "I thought he could've been an All-Star last year," Clifford said. "I think if our record were better at the All-Star break, I would think he would've been the next guy that didn't make it. He had a terrific year last year and he's playing even better this year. If you're around him every day, he plays well because of the right things. He deserves it." . Walker passed Alonzo Mourning for third place on Charlotte's career free throws made list. . Marvin Williams sustained a hyperextended left knee in the third quarter and didn't return. Knicks: Coach Jeff Hornacek attributed Porzingis' rising shooting percentage to natural growth and playing within the system: "I like what KP is doing. He's not trying to force a lot of things. He's playing within the game," Hornacek said. "When he's rolling then there's a time when he may take one that they call 'heat checks' or ill-advised shots, but a lot of times he's making those. He's really growing in his game and he's finding out where he can get his opportunities." . Lance Thomas (sore left ankle) and Marshall Plumlee were inactive. LOSING LEE Clifford, on Lee's departure as a free agent: "Our problem was, frankly, we had six free agents and they all played well. When we sat down by the time, which was the first day we signed Nicolas (Batum), the second day we signed Marvin (Williams), there was no way we were going to have enough money for those guys. We had really enough for two and Al (Jefferson), Jeremy (Lin) and Courtney all made a lot more money. We couldn't have gotten any of those guys. He played great for us. If you look at our record after we picked him up, he's a terrific player. He's the ultimate dependable, pro, intelligent player." UP NEXT Hornets: Host New York on Saturday. Knicks: Visit Charlotte on Saturday. Saturday, November 26, 2016 Puempel, Lundqvist lead Rangers past Flyers, 3-2 PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Just as they hoped they would, Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers bounced back from a dismal performance. Matt Puempel scored in his first game with the Rangers, and Henrik Lundqvist made 40 saves to help New York defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 on Friday. Derek Stepan and Kevin Hayes also netted goals for the Rangers, who rebounded from Wednesday's 6-1 home drubbing against Pittsburgh. Lundqvist was lifted after allowing four goals on seven shots in the second period of that one, but he responded with a strong performance against the Flyers to improve to 32-13-4 in his career against Philadelphia. "You just regroup and everybody tried to hold everybody accountable to play their absolute best," Lundqvist said. "When we don't play that well, we want to come back with a better performance. That's what we were looking for. "It was a good game for us and a good game for me." Shayne Gostibehere and Chris VandeVelde scored in the third period for Philadelphia, which threatened throughout the final period. The Flyers opened a three-game homestand with a third loss in the last four games. Stepan gave New York a 1-0 lead in the first period when he beat Steve Mason with a wrist shot from the slot. J.T. Miller set up the goal with an assist from behind the net after a turnover by Philadelphia's Scott Laughton, playing in his second game since being recalled from Lehigh Valley of the AHL. "You're not going to have your 'A' stuff every night, and the next game is so important," Stepan said. Stepan has 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists) in 30 career games vs. Philadelphia. Puempel, claimed off waivers from Ottawa on Monday, gave the Rangers a 2-0 advantage 1:34 later with his first goal of the season. "Good for the kid," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "It's got to help his confidence and it was without a doubt helpful for our team." A 2011 first-round pick of the Senators, Puempel went without a point in 13 games with Ottawa this season and had just four goals and two assists in 52 career games. But he showed a deft scoring touch when he skated past Philadelphia's Andrew MacDonald, settled a bouncing backhand pass from Jimmy Vesey and buried the puck past Mason from close range. "Unbelievable," he said. "I couldn't be happier right now." The first period featured a pair of fights and physical play that is typical of the rivalry. Philadelphia's Travis Konecny took on Brandon Pirri after Pirri boarded Brandon Manning. Konecny drew an instigation minor in addition to a fighting major to erase a Flyers power-play opportunity. Chris Kreider got the better of Manning in a fight with 1.8 seconds left in the period. Hayes extended New York's lead to 3-0 in the second period after another bad Philadelphia turnover in its zone. Mark Streit sent the puck from behind the net to the blue line right on the stick of New York's Nick Holden. Holden passed to a wide-open Hayes in the slot, and Hayes re-directed the puck over Mason's left shoulder for his 10th goal of the season. "We have to get them out of our game," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said of the turnovers. VandeVelde got the Flyers on the board early in the third period. MacDonald sent the puck in front and it caromed off VandeVelde's skate past Lundqvist. The play was reviewed but officials allowed the goal. Gostisbehere's slap shot from the slot with 2:04 left made it 3-2. But Philadelphia couldn't get anything else past Lundqvist. One of his best saves came midway through the second period when he used his mask to deny Claude Giroux from close range on a 2-on-1 break. "He played an incredible game," Stepan said of Lundqvist. NOTES: Laughton is replacing Sean Couturier, who is out four to six weeks with a lower body injury after being hurt in Tuesday's game at Florida. . The Rangers went ahead in the all-time series that has been played 340 times. New York has 152 wins to Philadelphia's 151. There have been 37 ties. Friday was the first of four meetings between the teams. . Giroux hasn't scored a goal in seven straight games. UP NEXT Rangers: Host Ottawa on Sunday night. Flyers: Host Calgary on Sunday night. Saturday, November 26, 2016 Jets' Mangold questionable FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) -- Nick Mangold is getting closer to returning -- slowly but surely. The New York Jets center is questionable to play Sunday against the New England Patriots with a sprained right ankle that has sidelined him the last three games. Coach Todd Bowles announced Friday that no decision had been made on Mangold's status. "It's been frustrating and disappointing, not being out there and not contributing," Mangold said. "I've been trying to do everything that I could behind the scenes to try to help out. It's tough. Having gone this long without playing a game isn't fun, so hopefully I'll get back as soon as I can." Mangold was limited for the second straight day, a sign that the ankle is improving. He ran a little Thursday during practice, marking the first time he did so since being hurt against Baltimore on Oct. 23. Mangold, in his 11th season, was asked if the opponent being the Patriots added any sense of urgency to him trying to get back on the field this week. "Division opponent, this is the first time that I will have missed the game against them," he said. "So, it would be difficult." Having been forced to sit out for an extended period has caused Mangold to consider his playing future. While it's uncertain if he'll remain with the Jets beyond this season -- he's a $9.075 million salary cap hit next year -- Mangold has no thoughts of retiring anytime soon. "If anything, it's made me want to play more so I can keep going, because I've missed being out there," he said. "It's probably going to make me linger on longer than my body will want me to. It gives you the thought that, hey, this game could be gone at any moment. So, you've got to enjoy the time that you get out there." He appeared on his way to getting back a few weeks ago, but said he overdid things in his rehabilitation and ended up back in a walking boot. Mangold is feeling better and got "some good reps in" at practice on Friday. "It's been just a gradual process after having the setback that I did," he said. "Just trying to get better each day, and it's going in the right direction." Wesley Johnson has been solid while filling in for Mangold, who has been stuck on the sideline during games and trying to find a role even though he hasn't been playing. Mangold never missed more than two straight games before this injury. "It's been weird," he said. "It was tough, the last game (against Los Angeles on Nov. 13), because it was the first home game I've ever missed. So, going through that whole process and coming into our locker room and being in our stadium, that was a different experience." Mangold has tried to "stay out of the way" while also being "eyes for the coach, eyes for Johnson and those guys" where he might see things from the sideline that could help. "The games are crazy long when you're not playing in them," he said with a smile. "It's definitely a different view. I'll have to look back somewhere down the road to see if I've learned anything from it, but it's definitely been a different experience trying to help out from the sideline and not on the field." Meanwhile, cornerbacks Nick Marshall and Marcus Williams were both ruled out against the Patriots with ankle injuries. Defensive tackle Steve McLendon is questionable with a hamstring issue that limited him at practice Thursday and Friday. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall (foot) and linebacker Bruce Carter (quadriceps) fully practiced after being limited. Carter has missed the last three games with the injury, and Friday marked the first time he was a full participant since he was hurt against the Ravens. ------ For more NFL coverage: and Saturday, November 26, 2016 Giants thin at left guard with Pugh, Jones and Newhouse out EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The New York Giants are going to be changing their starter at left guard for the fourth consecutive week. Coach Ben McAdoo announced Friday that guards Justin Pugh, Brett Jones and Marshall Newhouse all will miss Sunday's game in Cleveland. The rookie head man also said backup guard Adam Gettis is dealing with a calf injury. Gettis has practiced this week, but it is uncertain whether the Giants (7-3) can count for the contest against the Browns (0-11). Veteran Will Beatty, who started at tackle for most of his career with the Giants, and Shane McDermott, who was cut before the season and recently added to the active roster, are the only other offensive linemen on the roster. "It's been a culmination of everything I've been through," Gettis said Friday. "Being with the different teams and seeing so many different fronts. Just preparing like I prepare. I know I'm ready to go. I'm going to play well for the guys in the locker room." Gettis has not started a game since Dec. 30, 2011, when he played for Iowa in the Insight Bowl. He has played in 16 NFL games in four seasons, including two this year. He has been cut five times in his career, including four times by the Giants. "In the past couple of weeks, when he had his opportunities, he has a finish mentality," offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said of Gettis. "He's a tough guy, he's a strong guy and also very smart. He has good versatility in terms of being able to snap the ball if necessary or play on the inside. Confident that if he's given his opportunities, he'll make the most of them." Pugh started the first seven games at left guard before spraining a knee against Philadelphia. Jones started against Cincinnati and lasted one series before injuring a calf. Newhouse started against the Bears last weekend and sprained a knee. Saturday, November 26, 2016 Larry Fitzgerald putting together HOF numbers By The Associated Press Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald certainly is putting together a Hall of Fame-caliber resume. Fitzgerald had six catches last week, bringing his career total to 1,092. He's caught a pass in 189 successive games. With a reception Sunday at Atlanta, Fitzgerald would tie Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison for the third-longest streak in NFL history. The only ones ahead of him would be tight end Tony Gonzalez, who had 211 in a row, and Hall of Fame wideout Jerry Rice, whose 274 likely is uncatchable. Fitzgerald is three catches from passing Hall of Famer Tim Brown for the fifth-most career receptions. He currently has 1,092. Rice also tops that list with an almost unthinkable 1,549. He's followed by Gonzalez (1,325), Harrison (1,102) and yet another Hall of Famer, Cris Carter (1,101). ------ LENGTHY STREAK: Donald Penn has come a long way since entering the league back in 2007 as a low-priority undrafted free agent with just a $5,000 signing bonus. Penn overcame the odds to make the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and became a starter at left tackle in just his fifth game of his rookie season. Penn hasn't been sent to the bench since. Now a mainstay on Oakland's stellar line, Penn is set to make his 150th consecutive start at left tackle, the second longest streak among active linemen to Cleveland's Joe Thomas at 155 and counting. "I'm blessed man," Penn said. "I started at the bottom and worked my way up. I hope people look at it as an example." ------ SETTING THE TONE: The Minnesota Vikings had four sacks and two interceptions while holding the Arizona Cardinals to 290 total yards in Week 11. The biggest hit of the game, though, might've been during pregame introductions when the team ran out of the replica Vikings ship onto the field. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph, the biggest player on the team, and defensive end Brian Robison, who's no small human himself, were leading the charge when an audio operator for Fox's broadcast crew didn't get out of the way fast enough and was knocked onto the turf. The sound man, Bernie Beaudry, had his eyeglasses broken and his nose scratched but was otherwise unscathed. He was able to complete his assignment during the game. Robison and Joseph were planning to put together a care package with an autographed picture of the collision. "Bernie, man, he's got to check both ways before he crosses the road," Robison said afterward. "I heard he finished the game out, so hats off to him. That's probably the hit of the year. I don't think that's going to be topped." ------ GLOBAL FOOTBALL, POP WARNER STYLE: Teams from Canada, Finland, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates will travel to Orlando in December to compete at the 60th annual Pop Warner Super Bowl. The youngsters will be among the more than 16,000 American football and dance and cheer enthusiasts who will converge on the central Florida city from Dec. 3-10. Six international teams will compete in the Varsity age bracket: Finland Blue Lions, EAFL Falcons (UAE), Team Canada, Mexico Football, Queretaro (Mexico) and Puebla (Mexico), each playing three group games. The Junior Varsity bracket will feature Finland Blue Lions, Mexico Football, EAFL Falcons (UAE) and Puebla (Mexico) playing each other once apiece to produce an overall winner. Finland's Blue Lions will make history as the first European nation represented at the Pop Warner International Super Bowl. Roope Noronen, president of the American Football Association of Finland (SAJL), says: "It is a new opportunity for Finnish American football to participate in this event and we expect it to provide a unique experience to our players and coaches to test their talent against international opponents. I know our players and coaches are enthusiastic for their trip and looking forward to enjoy football, friendship and the Florida sun." When the tournament began in 2010, the goal was to have teams representing every continent. "We started small with North American teams, but quickly we expanded to include a Central American representative in Panama, while expanding our numbers across Mexico," says Patrick Steenberge, Global Football's founder. "Then in 2014 the United Emirates sent a team, further broadening the scope of the event. "Now, I am proud ... that our first European nation, Finland, will bring two teams this December." Since 1996, Global Football has provided 15,000 amateur football players, coaches, families and fans from 350 schools the opportunity to travel and compete internationally. ------ AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner and Dave Campbell, and Sports Writer Josh Dubow contributed. ------ For more NFL coverage: and Saturday, November 26, 2016 Buzz might be gone, but Pats, Jets still expect close contest EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- When the NFL schedule was released in April, two late-season showdowns between the New England Patriots and New York Jets made for some possible intrigue in the race for AFC East supremacy. Well, not even close. Tom Brady's bunch is rolling toward its eighth straight division title and 13th in 14 years. Meanwhile, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the sputtering Jets (3-7) are looking at a sixth consecutive season without a playoff appearance. The game even got flexed out of a prime-time slot on Sunday night. That doesn't mean that Bill Belichick and the Patriots (8-2) are taking their latest matchup at MetLife Stadium lightly. "It's always a tough game," Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. "I think Bill said that seven of the last eight games are like one score or overtime that we played them. It's going to be a tough challenge because I think both teams know each other well." New England has won eight of the past 10 meetings, but New York came away with a 26-20 overtime victory last December. The Jets are looking to beat the Patriots in two straight for the first time since winning the last matchup in 2008 and the first of the 2009 season, which would be a rare positive in a dismal season so far. "I think it would be, especially them being one of the top teams in the league now, this would definitely give us more confidence, I feel, as a team coming out with a win on Sunday," Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "I think we'd be able to feed off that." And, Belichick is right: Other than a 49-19 drubbing by New England in 2012, the teams have been closely matched lately. There have been margins of one point (Patriots 17-16, 2014), two points (Patriots 27-25, 2014), and three by three points (Patriots 29-26 in OT, 2012; Patriots 13-10, 2013; Jets 30-27 in OT, 2013). There were New York's six-point win last December and a seven-point Patriots win (30-23) in the first meeting last season. "Everything we do this week is going to be very important toward the outcome," Belichick said, "based on how tight all of those other games have been." Here are some things to know for the latest Patriots-Jets matchup, in which a New England victory would make it the first former AFL franchise with 500 total wins: BRADY KEEPS ROLLING: After sitting out the first two practices with a knee ailment, Brady was back on Friday . The Patriots star is having a fantastic season and could tie Peyton Manning for the most total wins by a QB with 200. He also needs just 57 yards passing to become the fifth player in NFL history to reach 60,000. Oh, and another win over the Jets would give him 22 against his rivals, joining Brett Favre as the only quarterback with at least that many against two teams. "We all know what a great player he is and even in a historical context what a great player he is," Fitzpatrick said. "But to be able to take the hits week after week and continue to be out there ... it's amazing to see a guy like that, that just looks better than ever." FITZ IS BACK: After sitting out a game with a sprained left knee, Fitzpatrick returns as the Jets' starting quarterback. Bryce Petty, who filled in for a game while making his first NFL start, returns to the sideline. While some fans and media think it's the wrong move by Todd Bowles, the coach insists he wants to win and believes Fitzpatrick gives the Jets the best chance to do so against the Patriots. "I'm not into the other argument right now," Bowles said of those who think New York should give Petty playing time to develop. "I'm into winning ballgames." LOTS OF OPTIONS: The Patriots' offense got a boost last week when running back Dion Lewis returned at San Francisco after having surgery for a torn knee ligament last year. Lewis was on the field for 21 of 76 offensive snaps in New England's win over the 49ers, giving the Patriots three running back options -- along with LeGarrette Blount and James White -- in the game plan for really the first time this season. "We've got three guys that all have different roles and I think that all three guys impacted the game in a positive way, whether that was with the ball or without it," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. "We'll try to build off of that, but I have confidence in all three of those guys and look forward to continue to use all three of them the best we can each week." THIRD-DOWN PROWESS: Whether it has been the return of Brady to the offense or tweaks in the play calling, one big component in New England's offensive success over the past month has been its production on third down. The Patriots rank second in the NFL, converting on 65 of 134 (48.5 percent) attempts. Belichick is expecting a lot of different looks and blitzes from the Jets. That could mean even more use for Danny Amendola, who has been one of Brady's go-to receivers both on third down and in the red zone. "He's a really dependable, consistent player; tough," Belichick said. "He seems like he always has his best plays in those critical situations when you need them most." ------ AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower in Foxborough, Massachusetts, contributed. ------ For more NFL coverage: and Saturday, November 26, 2016 This Iron Bowl features 2 top defenses, not just 1 TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- It's no surprise that Alabama brings a formidable, aggressive defense that ranks among the nation's best into the Iron Bowl. The twist: Now, Auburn can make the same claim. The 16th-ranked Tigers have the program's best defense in years coming into Saturday's showdown with the top-ranked Crimson Tide, which still probably sets the standard among college defenses. "It's the best defense in college football," Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. "I think that's pretty obvious." Auburn's is pretty good, too. Both have defensive fronts that can punish runners and quarterbacks alike, with playmakers in the secondary and linebackers who can cover some ground. The Tide ranks second nationally in scoring defense, giving up 11.4 points per game. Auburn's allowing 14.3 points on average, seventh-best nationally. The Tigers haven't ranked better than 48th in that category in the past seven seasons. "They've improved greatly since last season," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said of Auburn's defense. "When we went into this season, we felt like this had a chance to be one of our better defenses, at least since I've been here. Each week it seems like they've gotten better. "They're stopping the run very well. We're not giving up a lot of explosive plays in the pass or run game and our red zone defense has been excellent." The game features two defenses that excel at stopping the run but also some of the Southeastern Conference's best pass rushers. Alabama has Jonathan Allen (seven sacks), Tim Williams (8.0) and Ryan Anderson (6.5). Auburn's Carl Lawson actually clocks in as the Iron Bowl leader with nine sacks, pairing with tackle Montravius Adams to lead a defensive front that is talented and fairly deep. "They're very physical and aggressive," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "They've got several very good pass rushers. A combination of all those things has made them probably the most effective front we've played against all year." The same undoubtedly goes for Auburn's offense. The Tigers lead the SEC in rushing, but face the nation's best defense when it comes to stopping the run. Alabama opponents are averaging just 68.9 yards on the ground with only three rushing touchdowns. The fact that the Tide is also second nationally in sacks per game bolsters those numbers, too. Auburn, meanwhile, hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown in the past eight games. Alabama remains loaded with defensive stars. Allen is a finalist for the Bednarik Award given to the nation's top defensive player. Leading tackler Reuben Foster is a Butkus Award finalist as the nation's top linebacker. The Tide hasn't allowed a touchdown in the last nine-plus quarters despite having lost safety Eddie Jackson to a broken leg and having to shift cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick over. The defense has even scored nine TDs. Auburn's defense has excelled in different ways. The Tigers trail only Florida nationally in red zone defense, allowing opponents to score just 67 percent of the time after penetrating the Tigers' 20-yard line. They're also tops with 65 passes broken up. The game gives former colleagues a chance to match wits. First-year Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele worked on Alabama's staff two years ago in Lane Kiffin's first season running the Tide offense. Kiffin has led a transformation of 'Bama's offensive style that now features the running abilities of freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. "I personally think he's got a creative offensive mind," Steele said. "He's very quick and creative. He calls the game with no fear and his players do things he puts it in their hands to execute. He does a great job of that." ------ More AP college football at and Saturday, November 26, 2016 Pitt seniors looking to go out as winners against Syracuse PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The signs of progress at Pittsburgh are unmistakable. From the remodeled offices to the return of the popular "script" logo on the helmets to the arrival of living, breathing adrenaline rush Pat Narduzzi as head coach in December 2014, the vibe today is in stark contrast to the one tackle Adam Bisnowaty felt when he arrived in the summer of 2012. And while all those things are great, what Bisnowaty will miss the most isn't the place so much as the people, including the fellow seniors who will storm out onto the Heinz Field tunnel one final time on Saturday when the Panthers (7-4, 4-3 ACC) host Syracuse (4-7, 2-5). The program was in the middle of a bumpy patch when Bisnowaty signed in February 2012. Paul Chryst had been on the job less than two months after Todd Graham abruptly left after one season for Arizona State. Then Chryst walked out the door, too, given a chance to return home to Wisconsin. All that adversity, however, only deepened the bonds forged in the locker room and on the practice field. "We all came here to play football for Pitt no matter who was our coach," Bisnowaty said. "That's what we decided we were going to do. That's what we're going for every day." Just don't expect Bisnowaty or his teammates to get too sentimental. That will come later. There's too much at stake against the Orange. A loss would blunt the momentum of a regular season that already includes wins over rival Penn State and ACC powerhouse Clemson. A win would also better their already promising bowl prospects and give the Panthers consecutive seasons of at least eight victories for the first time since 2008-09. The stakes aren't quite so high for the Orange, who have dropped three straight by an average of 33.3 points. "We need to go out there and we need to play a good football game -- a competitive football game down to the fourth quarter when we have a chance to win," first-year coach Dino Babers said. "I think that's the key to bouncing back from all this stuff and trying to send the seniors out on a positive note." Some things to look for as Pitt goes for its 13th win in its last 15 meetings in a series that dates back to 1916. GOODBYE JAMES?: A year ago, Pitt running back James Conner was diagnosed with cancer. Last Saturday, he scored his 53rd career touchdown to set a new ACC record. The 2014 ACC Player of the Year is keeping quiet about whether he'll return for his senior season, saying this week he won't make any decision until after the bowl game. POROUS LINE: Syracuse QB Zack Mahoney was sacked eight times last week by Florida State and never could develop any kind of rhythm on offense. That means Pitt's Ejuan Price is more than likely salivating just a little bit. The senior defensive end has compiled 19 TFLs and 11 sacks on the year. "It's a different game when a quarterback is getting hit a lot," Babers said. "They're not supposed to get hit a lot. We've got to find a way to help him." BLAME CANADA: Pitt has already set a school record with 432 points despite entering the season with serious questions at wide receiver. Much of the credit goes to offensive coordinator Matt Canada, whose creative approach has created plenty of open space for Conner and do-everything wide receiver Quadree Henderson. Canada could become a candidate to land his first head coaching job in the offseason though he insisted he's happy getting in "the lab" with the rest of the Panthers staff and finding ways to exploit mismatches. DRIVE FOR FIVE: A Syracuse victory would place the Orange in the mix for a possible bowl invitation if enough teams don't reach six wins to fill all 80 bowl slots. Last year, three 5-7 teams played in bowl games. Babers, however, is more focused on his team simply playing better. "When you look at our 12-game schedule, we've only been favored to win one game," Babers said. "For us to have (four) wins out of that situation with one game left to play, I think is a testament to the seniors and the staff and also that we're trending up." ------ AP Sports Writer John Kekis in Syracuse, New York, contributed to this report. ------ More AP college football: and Saturday, November 26, 2016 Arizona holds off Santa Clara in Vegas semifinals LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Lauri Markkanen had 16 points and nine rebounds, and No. 8 Arizona held off Santa Clara 69-61 on Thursday night to reach the championship game of the Continental Las Vegas Invitational. Kobi Simmons added 14 points for the Wildcats (5-0), who will play Butler for the title on Friday. Arizona limited the Broncos to 36 percent shooting (9 of 25) in the second half. And yet, Santa Clara sliced its deficit to 59-58 when Jared Brownridge drained a long 3-pointer with 4:10 left -- the team's fourth straight 3 during a 12-4 run. But then Keanu Pinder converted both ends of a 1-and-1, Santa Clara turned the ball over and Parker Jackson-Cartwright hit a 3 to push Arizona's lead back to 64-58. The Wildcats closed the game on a 10-3 spurt, and the Broncos (3-3) went scoreless over the final 3 minutes. Brownridge had 25 points for Santa Clara. No. 10 LOUISVILLE 62, WICHITA STATE 52 PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) -- Donovan Mitchell made two 3-pointers in the final 4 1/2 minutes and scored 14 points to help Louisville beat Wichita State for a spot in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game. Quentin Snider also scored 14 points for the Cardinals (5-0). They will play Baylor for the title. Wichita State (5-1) shot just 32 percent for the game, while Louisville -- which shot 37 percent -- helped itself by making 17 of 23 free throws and taking a 46-33 rebounding advantage. Markis McDuffie and Shaquille Morris each scored 10 for the Shockers. No. 20 BAYLOR 73, No. 24 MICHIGAN STATE 58 PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) -- Johnathan Motley scored 20 of his 26 points in the first half and Baylor beat Michigan State to reach the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game. Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. added 14 points and eight rebounds -- nearly all in the second half -- for the Bears (5-0). They sprinted out of the break with a 12-2 run and shot 55 percent in the second half. Freshman Miles Bridges had 15 points for the Spartans (3-3). They shot 39 percent in the second half, going 1 for 10 on 3-pointers. TEMPLE 89, No. 25 FLORIDA STATE 86 NEW YORK (AP) -- Quinton Rose scored 26 points, including two free throws with 2 seconds left, in Temple's victory over Florida State in the NIT Season Tip-Off at the Barclays Center. Shizz Alston Jr. added 22 points, and Obi Enechionyia had with 16 points and eight rebounds for the Owls (3-2). They will face West Virginia in the title game Friday. Dwayne Bacon led the Seminoles (5-1) with 22 points. No. 19 WEST VIRGINIA 89, ILLINOIS 57 NEW YORK (AP) -- Nathan Adrian had 13 points and eight rebounds in West Virginia's victory over Illinois in the NIT Season Tip-Off. Jevon Carter added 10 points, six rebounds, six steals and five assists for the Mountaineers (4-0). Esa Ahmad and Elijah Macon each had nine points, and Teyvon Myers and Daxter Miles Jr. added eight each. Michael Finke led Illinois (4-2) with 13 points, and Mike Thorne Jr. had 12. No. 11 GONZAGA 82, QUINNIPIAC 62 LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) -- Jonathan Williams and Zach Collins led a balanced offense with 13 points apiece, helping Gonzaga pull away from Quinnipiac in the first round of the AdvoCare Invitational at Disney World. The Bulldogs (5-0) also got 10 points each from Jordan Mathews and Josh Perkins to advance to the semifinals of the eight-team tournament against Florida. Peter Kiss paced Quinnipiac (0-3) with 18 points. No. 21 IOWA STATE 73, INDIANA STATE 71 LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) -- Monte Morris scored 20 points and Iowa State took the lead for good in the final minute in the opening game of the AdvoCare Invitational at Disney World. The Cyclones (4-0) will face Miami in the semifinals. Joe Thomas shrugged off a poor shooting performance to put Iowa State ahead with a 3-pointer with 54 seconds remaining. Nazareth Mitrou-Long made one of two free throws with 7.6 seconds left, and Indiana State's hope for an upset ended when Brenton Scott's 3-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer. Scott led Indiana State (2-2) with 20 points. Friday, November 25, 2016 Rookies lead Cowboys past Redskins By SCHUYLER DIXON AP Sports Writer ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott keep winning for the Dallas Cowboys, even with Kirk Cousins setting records for the Washington Redskins. Prescott accounted for two touchdowns , Elliott ran for a pair of scores and the Cowboys extended their franchise regular-season record with a 10th straight victory, beating the Redskins 31-26 on Thursday. Prescott tied Don Meredith's club quarterback record from 50 years ago with his fifth rushing TD and the NFL-leading Cowboys (10-1) won despite 449 yards passing and three touchdowns from Cousins, the first Redskins quarterback with two 400-yard games in a season. "You know you're talking to someone who knows how hard this is to win 10 games in a row, and I do," Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "I know how we're getting it done, and we're getting done by hard work and Dak's a great example." The Redskins (6-4-1) got swept by their NFC East rival, and the defending division champions fell 3 1/2 games behind Dallas with five games left. It was their seventh loss in eight tries on Thanksgiving against Cowboys, who had never won more than eight straight in the regular season. "We've been in third place for a while, so we have to understand where we are what it's going to take to get an opportunity to come back here in the future," Washington coach Jay Gruden said. "The last five games of the year are critical." Elliott, the NFL rushing leader, had the fourth score on five straight second-half touchdown drives between the two teams with a 1-yard run for a 31-19 lead midway through the fourth quarter. The 21-year-old had 97 yards to give him 1,199 for the season. After getting 43 yards on the first Dallas possession, Elliott had just 13 yards before a 21-yarder to start Dallas' last TD drive. It was the second straight week he finished with 97 yards after some difficulty in the first half. "Over time, you keep running the football, you're going to wear them down," Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. "He made some big runs late that were critical. It really broke their back." The Cowboys had an eight-game streak with at least 400 yards snapped, finishing with 353. But Dallas answered with touchdowns each time the Redskins got within a score on Cousins' passes of 5 yards to Jordan Reed and 67 yards to DeSean Jackson , who had 118 yards receiving. After Cousins' second scoring toss to Reed, an 8-yarder with 1:53 remaining, Dustin Hopkins' onside kick went out of bounds. The Cowboys ran out the clock. "The way Dallas was able to come back and put points on the board in those situations is part of the reason why they are such a good football team," said Cousins , who was 41 of 53 and finished 8 yards shy of his career high. "As an offense, whenever we got the football, it was pretty much the same. Move the football, put points on the board, make good decisions and manage it well." Cousins took the Washington career lead with his third 400-yard game and became the first Redskins quarterback with consecutive 350-yard games since Jay Schroeder in 1986. He had 375 last week against Green Bay. Reed had 10 catches for 95 yards after missing most of the first half when he injured his left shoulder leaping for a pass over his head in the end zone. Prescott was 17 of 24 for a season-low 195 yards and one touchdown, a toe-tapper to Terrance Williams . He had eight carries for 39 yards, including a career-long 18-yarder. Dez Bryant led Dallas with 72 yards on five catches. BACK TO THE PACK Undrafted rookie running back Robert Kelley of the Redskins was held to 37 yards on 14 carries a week after getting a career-high 137 yards with three touchdowns against the Packers. He was averaging more than 100 yards per game the previous three. SUN FIELD The late-afternoon sun shining through the glass doors on the west side of the stadium was an issue in the opener when Dallas tight end Jason Witten admitted that the glare contributed to a pass he dropped in the New York Giants' 20-19 win. Cousins had to battle it during a second-quarter drive that ended in the second of Dustin Hopkins' two missed field goals: a 55-yarder. Prescott threw away from the sun to Williams for the touchdown on the subsequent possession, and the glare wasn't a factor after that. UP NEXT Redskins: Washington gets the 10-day break before the second of three straight road games in Arizona on Dec. 4. The trip ends with another crucial NFC East game at Philadelphia on Dec. 11. Cowboys: It'll be a "regular" seven-day week with a visit to Minnesota next Thursday. Then Dallas gets the longer break before a Dec. 11 visit to the New York Giants that is likely to be a battle of the top two teams in the division. Friday, November 25, 2016 Good feelings gone as Bryant and Norman feud after Cowboys' win ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Dallas receiver Dez Bryant and Washington cornerback Josh Norman professed their respect for each other before their first meeting in Week 2. The good feelings were gone by the end of Round 2, which nearly turned into a fight. Bryant and Norman had to be separated after the Cowboys' 31-26 victory Thursday, which included several testy moments between the Cowboys' 2014 All-Pro and the free agent who signed a five-year, $75 million contract in the offseason. "Tell Washington to get their money back," Bryant yelled at reporters on his way into the locker room before repeating it prior to the first question in his postgame interview. During the game, Bryant was most upset when Norman grabbed his leg after a tackle on a catch in the second half. But the jawing started early, after Bryant's first catch early in the second quarter. Bryant's longest reception was a 26-yarder against cornerback Kendall Fuller to set up the Cowboys' final touchdown for a 31-19 lead in the fourth quarter. After the game, the players were facemask-to-facemask for several seconds before Bryant's teammates stepped in. Bryant grabbed Norman's facemask and Norman swung in his direction and threw a towel at Bryant as he was being pulled away. "That guy is soft man," said Bryant, who had a team-high 72 yards on five catches. "He is really soft. He's supposed to be a lockdown corner but you can't even play man-to-man." Norman was asked about Bryant's claim that he "exposed" the former Carolina player before a Washington spokesman whisked Norman away. "I've played him three or four times now," Norman said. "And those times I don't think he broke 30 yards. Or had any significance on any kind of game. But at the end of the day, I will let him speak for himself. If he feels like he wants to have that, then go play with the kids on the playground." Norman ended up with the Redskins after Carolina surprisingly rescinded a contract offer under the franchise tag in the offseason, making him a free agent. He didn't get to cover Bryant until late in the first meeting, a 27-23 Dallas victory that started its franchise-record 10-game winning streak. Bryant had seven catches for 102 yards in the first meeting. "He got frustrated," Bryant said. "I feel like, if you're going to give fire, you better be able to take it. Because if you get me rolling, I'm not stopping." Bryant, who has had some volatile moments in his career, was asked what would have happened in a similar postgame incident earlier in his career. "I would have beat him up," Bryant said. "Right on the field. Straight up." Dallas coach Jason Garrett said he thought Bryant handled the matchup with Norman well. "You are going to play against certain guys that are going to try to get you off your team and distract you," Garrett said. "I keep using the word focused, but I thought he was focused throughout this ballgame." Bryant took to Twitter not long after the game to criticize Norman again, responding to a follower by writing, "Boy stop ... go watch the film.... the man can't cover one on one... I broke him down on so many routes tonight." But Bryant was more reflective about the incident a couple of hours later, tweeting, "I just finished watching my interview on espn ... I shouldn't have even stooped down to that ... we have something special here in Dallas." Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he didn't see the postgame exchange. "And I don't care," Gruden said. "Those two guys are great competitors. Both of them are great players and I'm sure I'll read about it on Twitter." ------ For more NFL coverage: and ------ Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at Friday, November 25, 2016 Green's steady presence keeps Warriors ticking OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- For five months, Draymond Green has worked to block out the unrelenting criticism that his Game 5 suspension in the NBA Finals cost Golden State a repeat championship -- punishment for a fateful swipe at LeBron James' groin that swung the series for Cleveland. It stings Green to this day that he couldn't play, forced to watch from next door at an Oakland Athletics baseball game while his teammates fought for a title without him. Still, if James ever steps over Green again like he did in a testy Game 4 , Golden State's emotional, uncensored forward knows little will keep him from responding. Perhaps not with another grab for King James' shorts , but certainly something to let the Cavaliers superstar know he will not be disrespected. "With the LeBron situation in the Finals, no, I didn't grow from that because I'm still never going to let someone just step over me. Now, did I learn about certain situations? Absolutely," Green said during a recent interview with The Associated Press. "But to say somebody's going to step over you and just walk over the top of your shoulder and you're not going to react, I'm not perfect enough as a person to say I'm not going to react." Green is about as real as they come in big-time sports, and this season, his steady, versatile and unselfish game has allowed the Warriors to blend Kevin Durant right into the mix. While a series of offseason incidents forced Green to take some accountability, the man who made it out of Saginaw, Michigan, will never feel the need to explain his on-court actions. Green doesn't expect fans to understand his in-game antics, "because I know they probably don't have a passion about anything near as much as I care about this." Nor is he bothered by critiques of how he does his job -- celebratory biceps flexing, trash-talking and all. Green's fire is largely unmatched, he insists, so most people might never experience the same energy and love for anything that he has for hoops. "When you look at the world, 90-some-odd percent of people are OK with mediocrity," Green said. "I hate mediocrity. ... One thing I learned is I can't expect them to understand how I felt about a certain thing or how I look at something, because they're OK with being mediocre. And I am not. Mediocre bothers me, it hurts me to the core." That inner drive fuels him to deliver nightly, no matter who else is on the court with him. Runner-up for NBA Defensive Player of the Year the past two seasons, he is making the timely plays -- like tipping away the Bucks' inbounds pass in Saturday's 124-121 road victory when Milwaukee had a chance to tie it with 10 seconds left. From Day 1 this season, NBA Coach of the Year Steve Kerr said Green faced the most daunting adjustment with the addition of Durant. Instead, Green is doing it all, even if his scoring is down. Not that he's counting. Green isn't gunning for triple-doubles, tracking his points or comparing shot totals with two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson or KD. Green can play every position and still prides himself in doing the little things: crashing the boards, creating for teammates, setting the perfect screen, hitting the floor for a loose ball. "That's why he's one of the best players on this team, because he can adjust to any situation," guard Ian Clark said, "and he's fine with it." In fact, Green's teammates have been getting on him for passing up wide-open 3s. "He doesn't care about scoring. We want him to be more aggressive than what he is," Durant said. "He's more a glue guy than just a flat-out scorer. He can go and fill a stat sheet up in the scoring column, but he'd rather do everything else." The 26-year-old Green was a second-round draft pick taken 35th overall out of Michigan State in 2012, and he can name every player selected ahead of him, by what team and in exact order. That also motivates him. An Olympic gold medalist for the U.S. alongside Durant and Thompson in Rio de Janeiro a few months ago, Green has had his share of forgettable off-court moments during that stretch, too. He's willing to take scrutiny for that. He was arrested in his college town of East Lansing in July on a charge of misdemeanor assault and battery. He has also gotten in trouble via Snapchat, on one occasion accidentally sharing a photo of his private parts, and in March posting a video of his speedometer at 118 mph -- he later said he exhibited "poor judgment." All that came after he apologized for his outburst at Kerr during halftime of a game at OKC in late February. "Now, if you if want to say Draymond got arrested, this, that happened and you want to judge me off that, I can live with that because that is a mistake that I made. A true, honest something that I have grown from," Green said. "Those are the things that happen in life. OK, if you want to judge me and say he's a bad dude, I can live with that. Am I? I know I'm not, yet the way I look at that situation, I did give someone a reason to be able to say that. That's something that I have to live with and it's something I truly grew from. I wouldn't change it for nothing in the world because it's really something that has helped me grow more importantly as a person and as a man. Sometimes you need experience like that to grow. Will it happen again? No." Kerr is thrilled with Green's growth, something the All-Star mentioned to management during the summer as a goal. "Draymond has made a change since a year ago," Kerr said Wednesday. "He's backing it up. ... He's kept his poise. He's been one of the best players in the league night in and night out, and he's doing it in a manner in which he's kind of maintained his emotion but kept his edge. That's the balance we were hoping he would find. He has to play with an edge. If he loses that then he's nowhere near the player that he is. He has to play with that chip on his shoulder." This is the same guy who gave away tickets to three underprivileged top students in the area to attend his team's record-setting 73rd victory that broke the Chicago Bulls' single-season wins record. Green is the guy who pushed the Warriors to chase the mark rather than resting down the stretch. He is one of general manager Bob Myers' favorites. And Kerr's, even if they have their heated moments. "I think he would tell you he needed to change. I think he has changed. We all change every day," Myers said. "He kind of had all these things happen at once, whereas usually they're spread out a little bit but maybe that's what needed to happen. He would tell you he's better for it. ... I'm the wrong person to ask. I have some blind spots for Draymond. I know that's probably not the right answer. Give me all those guys -- he cares, he's genuine, he wants to be a better person. He loves his teammates. ... Draymond's the type of person, 10, 15, 20 years from now, 30-40, I'll remember my interactions with Draymond Green, and I'll probably remember them in a very positive way." And, about kicking Oklahoma City center Steven Adams below the belt during the Western Conference Finals, Green said: "I know truly in my heart that I didn't do it on purpose. ... I'm not going to let the world make me feel like I did something unruly, ungodly and completely just abomination." Through the soul searching, Green has realized everything he does now will get him noticed. "You have to understand who you are," he said. "You're not the same person that you used to be. You've kind of placed yourself in a different category that what you do is scrutinized. You have to understand that and adjust to it. It catapulted me to where my life is. Things like that have shown me, this is where I am now. It all happened so fast for me. Two years ago I was a guy on the bench hoping to get minutes. Two years later, I'm an All-Star and Olympic gold medalist and NBA champion. Is that stuff I believed I could do? Absolutely. Is that stuff that I ever thought would happen? Absolutely not. So, you have to adjust to it. With that adjustment, I think anything in life is trial and error. I've had some error." Friday, November 25, 2016 Antonio Brown scores 3 TDs for Steelers in 28-7 win over Colts INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Antonio Brown has a history of making big plays against the Indianapolis Colts. Thursday night was no different. Brown hauled in three touchdown catches of more than 20 yards to give the Pittsburgh Steelers a 28-7 victory over a depleted Colts team that was missing star quarterback Andrew Luck. "I don't take it for granted, but I'm not surprised by it," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of his star receiver. "He maximizes opportunities." Even when Ben Roethlisberger doesn't throw much. He finished the game 14 of 20 for 221 yards with three TDs. Brown took full advantage of his chances by scoring on three of his five catches and finishing with 91 yards, two short of joining Hines Ward as the only receivers in franchise history with four straight 1,000-yard seasons. Brown has 23 receptions for 342 yards and seven TDs in three career games against the Colts. Those weren't the most interesting numbers to the Steelers (6-5), though. They helped their playoff chances with a second straight win and snapped a four-game losing streak on Thanksgiving, a stretch that began with a loss at Detroit in 1983. Luck sat out with a concussion, and his absence showed as Indy's first winning streak of the season ended at two games. While replacement Scott Tolzien hung tough most of the night, the performance wasn't good enough to extend the Colts' 10-game winning streak on Thursday nights. The Steelers built a 21-7 lead by scoring touchdowns on each of their first three possessions -- a 5-yard run from Le'Veon Bell, and touchdown catches by Brown of 25 and 33 yards. Indy's only score came on a 5-yard TD pass from Tolzien to Donte Moncrief early in the second quarter, a play set up by the first completion of Pat McAfee's career on a fake punt. The Colts (5-6) had two chances to trim the deficit but Tolzien was stopped twice on third-down runs at the 1-yard line, and the Steelers forced incompletions on both fourth-down plays. "This is a humbling league and God, when you're that close, we've got to put them in," Tolzien said. "Personally, I look at those two opportunities. I had two chances with the ball in my hand and I just wish I could have punched them in." Bell ran 23 times for 120 yards. Tolzien finished 22 of 36 for 205 yards with one TD and two interceptions. RINGING TRUE Colts greats Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison received their Hall of Fame rings at halftime. Dungy was the coach of the 2006 Super Bowl championship team that celebrated its 10-year anniversary Sunday. Harrison is the team's career leader in receptions, yards receiving and TDs and also played on the title team. Both were inducted into the Hall of Fame in August. INJURY REPORT Steelers: LB James Harrison was escorted off the field by officials in the first quarter after getting dinged. Pittsburgh safety Mike Mitchell (stinger) left late in the first half. Neither stayed out long. Colts: It was a rough night. After starting the game without Luck, they lost center Ryan Kelly (left shoulder) on the opening series, right guard Denzelle Good (neck and shoulder) on the second series, cornerback Vontae Davis (groin) in the second quarter and receiver T.Y. Hilton (bruised lower back) late in the first half. Good and Hilton both returned but then left again in the second half. Kelly and Davis did not return at all. Outside linebacker Robert Mathis (elbow) exited late in the game and did not return. THEY SAID IT Steelers: "When you're in the huddle with him, you know you're going to have a chance to make some big plays," Brown said, referring to Roethlisberger. Colts: "When you're on the goal line, the 1-yard line, you've got to find a way to punch them in and we didn't," coach Chuck Pagano said. UP NEXT Steelers: Will try to extend their winning streak to three Dec. 4 when the New York Giants visit. Colts: Hope to have Luck back in the lineup when they visit the New York Jets on Dec. 5. Friday, November 25, 2016 Guice runs for LSU-record 285 yards, No. 25 Tigers roll COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) -- Derrius Guice ran for a school-record 285 yards and had four touchdowns and Danny Etling threw for 324 yards and two scores to give short-handed No. 25 LSU a 54-39 victory over No. 22 Texas A&M on Thursday night. The Tigers were playing without star running back Leonard Fournette and leading tackler Kendell Beckwith because of injuries. But Guice and Etling did plenty to allow LSU (7-4, 5-3 SEC) to handle Texas A&M, and gave the Tigers a 300-yard passer and a 200-yard rusher in the same game for the first time in school history. It certainly wasn't the first time Guice has had a big game this year, with Fournette struggling with an ankle injury for a big chunk of the season. His performance pushed his career-high rushing total to 1,249 and his four TDs were a career high. The game gave him one more yard than Fournette gained to set the school's single-game rushing record last month. Guice was asked if he'd thought about breaking Fournette's record. "I haven't. My head's been on I miss him," Guice said. "He was supposed to be out here with us tonight." The Tigers spoke this week about wanting a win to help boost interim coach Ed Orgeron's chances of keeping the job. But on Thursday reports surfaced that LSU was zeroing in on Houston's Tom Herman. The reports prompted LSU's vice chancellor and athletic director Joe Alleva and university administration to issue a statement denying they had chosen a new coach and praising Orgeron's work since taking over in September when Les Miles was fired. Orgeron said after the game that he hadn't heard anything about his future, but that he would love to retain the job. "We had to turn this team around and we did," he said. "It was a ship that was sinking and we turned it around." While LSU wasn't at full strength, the Aggies (8-4, 4-4) were the healthiest they've been in weeks, with defensive end Myles Garrett over an ankle injury and quarterback Trevor Knight back from a shoulder injury. Knight made an unexpected return after missing the last two games with the injury. Coach Kevin Sumlin said days after he was injured that he would miss the remainder of the regular season but would return for A&M's bowl game. Instead he returned to throw for 211 yards and three touchdowns before leaving the game late in the fourth quarter with what looked to be a knee injury. "We were 6-0 and No. 4 in polls at one point. Here we are three weeks later, and we are unranked (in College Football Playoff rankings)," Knight said. "That is disappointing." Friday, November 25, 2016 Lions beat Vikings 16-13, have sole possession of 1st place DETROIT (AP) -- Darius Slay dropped into coverage as if he was going to cover a deep route and pounced on an opportunity to help the Lions come back to win another game. Slay intercepted Sam Bradford's pass from the left hash across the field to help send the Lions into sole possession of first place in the NFC North. Slay returned the interception 13 yards with 30 seconds left to set up Matt Prater's 40-yard field goal as time expired, lifting the Lions to a 16-13 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday. Minnesota could have stuck with the conservative approach it took on offense for much of the game and played for overtime on its last drive, but coach Mike Zimmer allowed Bradford to pass and Slay made him regret it. "I knew they were going to throw," Slay said. "They didn't want overtime. They know what happened last time." Earlier this month, Prater made a game-tying 58-yard field goal at the end of regulation at Minnesota and the Lions won in overtime. Slay, a standout cornerback, who calls himself "Big Play Slay," fooled Bradford by coming up and stepping in front of Adam Thielen to pick off the pass. "I wish I could have seen him fall off the outside route and come back in," Bradford said. The Lions (7-4) have won six of seven, including two against Minnesota this month and four of the wins have come on Prater's field goals, despite trailing in the fourth quarter of every game this season. Slay sealed the first victory during the successful stretch with an interception late in the game on Oct. 9 against Philadelphia. "He's as good as they come in those situations," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "He's kind of got a knack for it. He's a bit of a riverboat gambler." Detroit extended its NFL record of having its first 11 games decided by seven or fewer points. "They come from behind every week, so when we took the lead in the fourth quarter, we knew the game wasn't over," Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph said. "We had to keep playing, but we didn't make enough plays." The Vikings (6-5) have lost five of six, plummeting out of first place after surging to the top of the division by winning their first five games. LOSING THE LEAD(S) Forbath put the Vikings ahead for the first time, giving them a 13-10 lead early in the fourth on a 28-yard field goal after Cordarrelle Patterson gained 22 yards on a reverse . The Lions moved a step closer toward winning a division title for the first time since 1993 by breaking a tie atop the NFC North with Minnesota. If both teams finish the regular season tied atop the division, Detroit would win the tiebreaker. "If they were handing out trophies the day after this win, I'd feel a little bit different," Caldwell said. "It means nothing right now, right? We haven't done anything." THREE-AND-OUT Minnesota didn't convert a third down until Bradford connected with Patterson late in the third quarter and finished 2 of 10 on third down. "We weren't good enough on third downs offensively," Zimmer said. "We can't continue to shoot ourselves in the foot with some of those penalties and negative plays." INJURY REPORT Vikings: A banged-up offensive line took a hit in the first half when center Joe Berger was evaluated for a concussion, and wasn't cleared to return. The line had yet another setback midway through the fourth when tackle Jeremiah Sirles had to be helped off the field. "Every time we get some chemistry going on the line, we lose someone else," Rudolph said. Minnesota started the game without receiver Stefon Diggs (knee), cornerback Terence Newman (neck) and punt returner Marcus Sherels (rib, ankle). Lions: Linebacker DeAndre Levy was inactive, but appears to be closer to coming back from a knee injury that has kept him out since Week 1. UP NEXT Vikings: In a week, Minnesota will host the NFC-leading Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night. Lions: Detroit gets an extended break before playing Dec. 4 at New Orleans. Friday, November 25, 2016 Ohio State, Michigan meet with big stakes By MITCH STACY AP Sports Writer COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Besides having national playoff implications, this year's Ohio State vs. Michigan game is full of questions, story lines and intriguing matchups. Can Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett solve Michigan's best-in-the-nation defense? Will Michigan superstar Jabrill Peppers be able to shut down Curtis Samuel, Ohio State's do-it-all hybrid back? Will injured quarterback Wilton Speight be healthy enough to play for Michigan? If not, can backup John O'Korn rebound from a lackluster performance last week to hurt Ohio's State's ball-hawking defense? If Ohio State triumphs, does it belong in the College Football Playoff even without a conference championship on its resume? Most of those answers will become clear Saturday afternoon after No. 2 Ohio (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten) State and No. 3 Michigan (10-1, 7-1) tangle in Ohio Stadium in the 2016 version of the storied rivalry. "The Game" hardly needs any more hype, but it returns to the national spotlight for the first time in a decade because the winner is likely to end up in the playoff, with the loser shut out. "Yeah, we're playing for it all, pretty much," Ohio State center Pat Elflein said. "The stakes are always pretty high for this game. Everyone knows you can save a season by beating this team, no matter what your record is, but definitely the stakes are higher." Michigan tight end Jake Butt, who graduated from the same suburban Columbus high school as Elflein, said he can't wait to get on the field at Ohio Stadium. "No. 2 vs. No 3, really everything on the line," Butt said. "For both teams it's an absolute must-win game, so it's going to be a great atmosphere. Everybody is going to be tuning in to watch this." Some other things to watch as Michigan visits the Horseshoe on Saturday. LET'S GET PHYSICAL Peppers said he has watched other teams, including Penn State, Wisconsin and Northwestern, give the Buckeyes problems by getting extra physical. He and the Wolverines plan to test their rival in the same way. "We're going to see how they respond with physicality," Peppers said. "We come with bad intentions. It's never our intention to hurt anyone, but when we hit you, we want you to feel it." Peppers, who plays a position that is a hybrid between linebacker and defensive back, believes Michigan is in a much better position to win The Game than it was a year ago when Ohio State won in a rout. "We got a lot of smart, savvy guys who have been through the 5-7 seasons and winning seasons," he said. "We got a lot of experience on our side. We got much better athletes this year, too." CONTAINING BARRETT Michigan defensive end Chris Wormley said the experience playing against other teams that run a spread offense should help them to corral Barrett, who's passed for 2,304 yards and 24 touchdowns, and added 722 yards and seven scores on the ground. Last year against Michigan, Barrett ran for 139 yards and three touchdowns in Ohio State's 42-13 win. "The last couple years we played him he put some numbers up against us," Wormley said. "We've seen a lot of similar offenses this season, the spread, different option plays they have, quarterback runs and things like that, so we've been preparing all year. Obviously they have different athletes and things like that. It's going to be a game where we're going to have to shut down a few players, and I feel we're ready for that task." LAST HOME GAME FOR J.T.? Barrett demurred when he was asked this week if the Michigan game might be his last at Ohio Stadium. In other words, would he leave for the NFL after this season? "Nah, I haven't really begun to think about that, really," he said. "I'm just taking each week, trying to focus on the moment. But yeah, my mind, I haven't got there." RIVALRY 101 Ohio State wide receiver Terry McLaurin, a sophomore from Indianapolis, said out-of-state players are schooled on the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry pretty quickly. "When you come here, that's one of the first things you learn," McLaurin said. "We don't really say their names, and we know the significance and the history of the rivalry. You kind of learn pretty quickly what all this rivalry's about -- probably the biggest rivalry in all of sports. Coming in as a freshman, you learn very quickly what this game means to this university and to the team." He said it also didn't take much time for him and other out-of-staters to develop a distaste for "the team up north." "To be honest, we don't like 'em," he said. "It's kind of personal for everybody. It's personal for the people who have played in the game, and it's personal for the people who are currently about to play in the game. That's just kind of how it's always been." BIG TEN JUMBLE Because of the tie-breaker system, Ohio State may not advance to the Big Ten Championship game if they beat Michigan. Penn State will win the East Division if Ohio State wins and the Nittany Lions take care of business at home against Michigan State. If Michigan beats Ohio State, the Wolverines will claim the divisional crown. If Ohio State beats Michigan, the playoff committee will have to decide whether to place them in the top four without having won their conference. That could be a good scenario for the Buckeyes, who get an extra week off and won't risk an upset in the conference championship game that would eliminate them from the playoff. Friday, November 25, 2016 Revis: Brady probably best ever FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) -- Darrelle Revis has played against Tom Brady for years, and won a Super Bowl ring during the one season he played with him. As far as the New York Jets cornerback is concerned, the list of the NFL's greatest QBs starts with Brady -- and everyone else follows. Revis thinks what Brady has done so far in his 17th season following a four-game suspension only supports his assertion. "There's no difference in his game," Revis said of the 39-year-old Brady. "I know a lot of people say he came back with a chip on his shoulder. He's the ultimate competitor. He's always been that way since he stepped in the league and he's continuing his legacy as being probably the best quarterback to ever step on the field." Brady missed the first four games as a result of his role in the "Deflategate" saga, but came back without missing a beat. He has thrown for 1,915 yards and 16 touchdowns with just one interception while compiling an NFL-leading 123.3 quarterback rating. "I think that's just giving him credit for how hard he works on a day-to-day basis, how much dedication and time he puts into his craft, and him wanting to be at the top of the food chain," Revis said. "Every year, he's proven himself. Every year, I mean, they're one of the best teams in the NFL. His legacy speaks for itself. Like I said, he's probably the best quarterback to step on the field, ever." Revis played with Brady during the 2014 season, when the Patriots won their fourth Super Bowl. He practiced against him every day that year, developing an even greater respect for Brady than he had when he was an opponent twice a season. "I just feel he's a very intelligent football player," Revis said. "He studies the game like no other. He just works, man. He comes in working and he comes in and challenges guys. I mean, he called me out a few times when we were teammates: 'I'm coming at you today, 2-4.' He challenges guys like a leader should. That definitely speaks to how successful he's been in this league." And, how did Revis respond when Brady called him out? "I said, 'Bring it!'" Revis said with a smile. Revis said that never really motivated him any more than usual, and acknowledged he has faced plenty of players, such as Chad Johnson, who liked to rile up opponents. "It's good to be around that camaraderie and it's good to be around and play with a Hall of Famer," Revis said of Brady. "He's definitely a first-ballot Hall of Famer. It's guys that can feed off each other's energy that are great players and just compete and play against one another." The struggling Jets (3-7) take on the first-place Patriots (8-2) at home on Sunday, with Brady taking aim at history. With another victory, the Patriots star would tie Peyton Manning for the most overall wins for a QB in NFL history with 200. Revis and the Jets will try to keep Brady from matching the mark this weekend. "He's probably going to shatter that record," Revis said. "His stats are always off the charts. The guy, he puts the numbers up. If a lot of people could see how hard he works behind closed doors, I think they would have the utmost respect. "Not to say they don't, but if they could look inside the life of Tom Brady and see how hard he works, they would have more of an appreciation of the whole body of work that he's put together." NOTES: Revis declined to comment on the lawsuit he filed on Nov. 15 against his former agents, claiming they allegedly raised their commission fee on an endorsement deal without his consent. "I'm not speaking on that matter," Revis said. ... Jets coach Todd Bowles said newly re-signed Jeremy Ross would serve as the punt returner over rookie Jalin Marshall against the Patriots. "I thought Jalin struggled a little bit catching the ball," Bowles said. "It got to the point where he's helping out more on offense and we're trying to take something off of his plate." ... Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick on celebrating his 34th birthday on Thanksgiving: "It doesn't happen every year, so, I'm OK with it. It just means I don't have as much pie because we have to save room for birthday cake." ------ For more NFL coverage: and Friday, November 25, 2016 Wideman, Turris score in third, Senators beat Bruins OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) -- The Ottawa Senators left the Boston Bruins behind with a big third period. Chris Wideman and Kyle Turris scored in the third to help the Senators beat the Bruins 3-1 on Thursday night. Mark Stone tied it in the second period, and Craig Anderson made 19 saves. "We're becoming a more resilient group, a more veteran group where we don't play to the scoreboard, we just play our way, the way we're supposed to whether we're up a goal or down a goal," Anderson said. "I think we've grown here since the start of the year." The Senators were coming off a 4-3 victory at NHL-leading Montreal on Tuesday night. Before producing seven goals in their last six periods, the Senators had struggled to score 12 goals in their nine previous games. "Huge win for us," Turris said. "We just have to keep the momentum going now. We're playing we. We played real strong defensively and in the neutral zone. It was just an all-around solid game for us." David Pastrnak scored for Boston, and Tuukka Rask stopped 23 shots. "I think the whole game there was poor puck management in my estimation," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We've been a better team than that. It's disappointing tonight in an important game like this we came out with one of worst efforts in probably a month," Julien said. "I didn't like our game tonight, decision making, puck management, I would say there were a lot of no shows, as well. Those are things that can't happen in these kind of games. Definitely not happy with not just the outcome, but our team. Definitely we need to be better." Wideman scored at 6:28 of the third. After Rask made a save off Derick Brassard, Torey Krug tried to clear the puck, but he put it right onto the stick of Wideman, whose shot bounced off Bruins defenseman Dominic Moore in front of Rask and in. Turris scored at 10:16, taking a pass from Bobby Ryan and beating Rask on a breakaway. NOTES: The Senators improved to 12-7-1, and the Bruins dropped to 11-9-0. ... Ottawa scratched Fredrik Claesson and Max McCormick, and Colin Miller, Zdeno Chara and Anton Khudobin sat out for Boston. ... The Senators have scored the first goal just five times in 20 games this season. UP NEXT Bruins: Return home to face Calgary on Friday night. Senators: Host Carolina on Saturday night. Friday, November 25, 2016 Meyer and Harbaugh have a chance to recharge a rivalry By RALPH D. RUSSO AP College Football Writer The story of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry will always best be told through the tale of Woody and Bo. For 10 years, Woody Hayes' Buckeyes and Bo Schembechler's Wolverines reigned over the Big Ten and captivated the country. Teacher vs. pupil. Dear friends and fierce competitors, their legacies are linked. More than three decades since their Ten Year War concluded, Michigan and Ohio State are about to play one of the highest-stakes games in the history of series that will reach 113 games Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. With modern-day titans of coaching on each side and both teams contending for a national championship, this feels as if it could be the start of something big: a new era of epic competition between two coaches with roots that trace back to the men who defined the rivalry. On one side, Ohio State's Urban Meyer, a Buckeye by birth who was mentored by Hayes' successor in Columbus. With three national championships on his resume, he is 4-0 against Michigan since taking over at Ohio State. On the other, Michigan's Jim Harbaugh, who played quarterback for Schembechler in the mid-1980s. After turning around Stanford and taking the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl, he returned to Michigan and needed just two seasons to make the Wolverines great again. "Ohio State-Michigan is always special, but when you put such brash personalities and big personalities, guys who have a little bit of an ego with all they have accomplished, and you put them on sideline with all that's at stake it just really adds to the drama," said ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit, a former Ohio State quarterback whose father played for and coached under Hayes. The best rivalries have always been at their most compelling when the teams are being led by powerhouse coaches, whether it was Tom Osborne at Nebraska facing Barry Switzer at Oklahoma or Florida's Steve Spurrier matching wits and throwing zingers at Bobby Bowden and Florida State. Meyer vs. Harbaugh is not just a throwback for Ohio State-Michigan. "This is college football at its finest and at its peak in my opinion," former Ohio State linebacker and Fox NFL analyst Chris Spielman. Schembechler was an assistant to Hayes at Ohio State for five years before eventually taking over at Michigan. Their teams played 10 times from 1969-78. Michigan won five, Ohio State four and there was one tie. One or the other won the Big Ten title every year, unless they shared it. They were gruff and uncompromising. They were the embodiment of Big Ten football and the faces of two programs that in many ways mimicked each other. And they loved each other like family, though competition took precedent during the fall. "They never talked to each other during the season," said Bruce Madej, the longtime former sports information director at Michigan. Hayes and Schembechler set the tone for the rivalry some fans just call The Game. "It's like two brothers or two best friends trying to beat each other," Herbstreit said. Growing up in Ashtabula, Ohio, the northeast part of the state, Meyer and his family were unabashed Buckeyes fans. His first taste of college coaching was at Ohio State, where he was a graduate assistant in 1986 and '87 for Earle Bruce, the man who worked for and then replaced Hayes as Buckeyes head coach in 1979. Meyer, 52, said he approaches the rivalry the way Schembechler and Hayes did and wants his Ohio State teams to harken back to the Buckeyes of his youth. "I didn't say like, but there's a mutual respect," he said this week. "And I learned it from those two, two of the greatest coaches of all time. They handled themselves with incredible class, toughness, demanded of their players, and you got to see that every time those two teams played. So that's my memory, and that's how we go about our business here." Harbaugh, 52, was born seven months before Meyer in the same hospital in Toledo, Ohio. "What a small world, as they say," Harbaugh said. The son of a coach, Harbaugh's father, Jack, worked for Schembechler in the '70s, and eventually Jim Harbaugh played for Bo. The last time Harbaugh was involved in a football game in Columbus, he was Michigan's quarterback in 1986, delivering on a victory he guaranteed. "He is one of Bo's boys," Madej said. "That adds to everything that we have here at Michigan and I think that adds to the rivalry." Ohio State has won 11 of the last 12 meetings with Michigan, including the series only 1-2 matchup in 2006. The day before Ohio State beat Michigan 42-39 to earn a spot in the national championship game, Schembechler, long since retired from coaching but still very much a much a presence at Michigan, died. In the years that followed, Michigan sifted through coaches and lost its identity. When Harbaugh arrived in 2015, even Buckeyes could feel a difference. "There's no question he has intensified the rivalry," said two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, who never lost a game to Michigan in his four years of service for Hayes during the 10-year War. "Quite frankly, I was happy to see them hire Jim Harbaugh." In typical Harbaugh fashion, he did not reminisce this week. "Just really thinking about the process of preparation this week," he said. "Getting ready for the actual game." The Buckeyes won the first meeting of Harbaugh and Meyer 42-13 in the Big House last season. While Harbaugh has never been shy about taking a fellow coach to task, he has traded no barbs with Meyer. They are not close but clearly admire each other's work. Saturday in Columbus one will likely end the other's chance to win a national championship. They will likely never share a bond the way Schembechler and Hayes did, but Meyer and Harbaugh could be about to write the next memorable chapter in one of college football's greatest rivalries. ------ This story has been corrected to show that there have been 113 games, not 114, in the series, when taking into consideration a vacated game. ------ More AP college football: and . ------ Follow Ralph D. Russo at Thursday, November 24, 2016 Crosby, Pens pull away from Rangers in 6-1 blowout NEW YORK (AP) -- Sidney Crosby had two goals and an assist during a five-goal second period and the Pittsburgh Penguins shut down the division-leading New York Rangers in a 6-1 rout on Wednesday night. The Penguins held New York without a shot on goal over 23:59 spanning the second and third periods. Scott Wilson, Conor Sheary, Phil Kessel and Matt Cullen also scored for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray had 16 saves. The Penguins moved two points behind New York for first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers won at Pittsburgh 5-2 on Monday behind a breakout second period. The Penguins exacted revenge Wednesday in nearly the exact same fashion. Pittsburgh trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes, but then the defending Stanley Cup champions took control, chasing Henrik Lundqvist after four goals on 17 shots. Wilson got his third of the season 2:02 into the second to tie it. Stationed in front of Lundqvist, Wilson corralled a cross-ice pass from Kessel and scored with a forehand shot. Crosby put the Penguins ahead 2:56 later by redirecting Ian Cole's point shot. Cole had intercepted Mats Zuccarello's clearing attempt inside the blue line to start the counter attack. Kessel increased Pittsburgh's lead to 3-1 with a wrist shot over Lundqvist's left shoulder at 10:12, and Crosby pushed the advantage to 4-1 2:45 later with his second of the game and NHL-leading 14th of the season. Crosby and Sheary broke in on a 2-on-1 with Ryan McDonagh defending, and Crosby's attempted pass deflected off of McDonagh's stick and fluttered over Lundqvist's paddle. Following Crosby's second goal, New York coach Alain Vigneault replaced Lundqvist with Antti Raanta. The goaltending change didn't work, as Sheary wristed his fourth goal of the season with 3:18 left. Cullen's fourth of the season with 6:55 left in the third ended the scoring. Raanta finished with 19 saves on 21 shots. Pittsburgh may have been sparked by a first-period incident involving McDonagh, Sheary and Crosby. Crosby dropped his gloves and challenged McDonagh after New York's captain drove Sheary into the half wall. McDonagh had his jersey pulled over his head during the tussle, and officials assessed McDonagh a five-minute major for boarding and Crosby got a two-minute minor for roughing. The Penguins didn't score on the extended power play but did generate three shots and their pressure kept the Rangers from being able to implement and sustain their attacking style of play. New York led after Rick Nash's power-play goal 4:22 into the game. Nash poked a loose puck past a sprawled Murray for his ninth of the season, five seconds after Evgeni Malkin was assessed a two-minute minor for tripping J.T. Miller in the neutral zone. New York went 1 for 3 on the man advantage while killing all three Pittsburgh power plays. New York's 17 shots were a season-low. Zuccarello ended the nearly 24-minute shot drought with a backhander with 3:45 left in the game. NOTES: Newly acquired LW Matt Puempel participated in New York's morning skate. The Rangers claimed Puempel off waivers Monday from the Senators. He and D Adam Clendening were scratched. ... Pittsburgh scratched D Steve Oleksy and LW Tom Sestito. RW Patric Hornqvist did not make the trip as he is recuperating from concussion symptoms. ... Following the morning skate, Vigneault said the Rangers essentially modeled themselves after the Penguins during the offseason. "There's no doubt they found a way to play at a fast pace, with speed; the right way. They won. They're the champions," Vigneault said. ... The Metropolitan Division rivals will meet three more times in the regular season: Dec. 20 in Pittsburgh, March 31 in New York and April 9 in New York. UP NEXT: Penguins: Play at Minnesota on Friday night. Rangers: Play at Philadelphia on Friday night. Thursday, November 24, 2016 Johnson counting beyond 7 titles in chasing NASCAR history By GEORGE DIAZ Orlando Sentinel HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- So, Mr. Johnson, what are the chances of you winning an eighth Cup season title? Too soon? Hardly. It's going to be a permanent and persistent question for Jimmie Johnson after he reached the seven-time NASCAR Parthenon, joining Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt this past weekend. Johnson's reaction? Bring it. "I don't know what the chances are, but let's go," he said late Sunday night in the media center at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "I'm so excited to put that in front of myself, and the team has a hurdle to get over and an accomplishment to achieve. "I had a lot of fun racing for the sixth. This one and the calm nature and the way we went about business and got it done only gives me more confidence for the future. I honestly feel like I'm playing with house money. I never aspired to be famous. I never aspired to be a champion. I just wanted to race." Johnson added that his mindset makes his No. 48 Chevy team "really dangerous," which means troubled waters for everybody else in the garage. Johnson is by no means a one-man show. He has cobbled together all the elements of success, starting with Hendrick Motorsports, and his wing man, crew chief Chad Knaus. They are quite the pair, blood brothers chasing the same thing. Knaus has as many rings as Johnson, bonded like Bogie and Bacall, a stock-car bromance for the ages. "I love him like a brother," Knaus said. "He's a fantastic individual. "Jimmie has taught me more about life than life itself has taught me. He's taught me about family. He's taught me about relationships. He's taught me about being a champion. You know, when we started this thing, all I was was just a racer guy, and he was a cool California kid, and we kind of grew up together." That two-fer is very motivated -- and very hard to beat. At 41, Johnson gives everyone a blueprint for success, but there's this little problem: All the variables in play make it impossible to replicate. There are the driver, crew chief and team dynamics. A driver with a fierce competitive drive. A driver who is also a fanatical workout guy who tracks everything on the Strava app - runs, bicycling, swimming. A fine-tuned body with a fine-tuned car. Johnson plans things meticulously while leaving a little room for superstition. He said he was going to run seven miles the night before Sunday's title race for a little extra mojo. Only he didn't. Good-natured ribbing ensued from journalists who included that in their race-setup stories. "I'll buy you all a beer," said Johnson, who had a celebratory cup of Corona (and slice of pizza) himself. "Let's bring the beer in. I'm a failure, sorry. I've got seven trophies now. I mean (bleep)." There might be a lot of bleeping going on in the years to come. Jimmie Johnson is hardly a failure. He is playing with house money. Everyone is invited to a take a seat at table, but you might want to keep your money in your pocket. Thursday, November 24, 2016 Cowboys, Redskins rolling for Thanksgiving showdown By SCHUYLER DIXON AP Sports Writer ARLINGTON, Texas -- Kirk Cousins was rolling going into his previous visit to Dallas with Tony Romo sidelined, just as the Washington quarterback is this season. The Cowboys have an answer this time in rookie Dak Prescott, who's been so good that Romo didn't get his job back when the 36-year-old completed his recovery from a preseason back injury. Dallas, at an NFL-best 9-1, is looking for its first 10-game winning streak in the same regular season in another Cowboys-Redskins matchup on Thanksgiving. The run started with Prescott's first career victory at Washington in Week 2. Cousins and the Redskins (6-3-1) are trying to keep up in the surprisingly strong NFC East, a year after visiting the Cowboys in the regular-season finale when they had already wrapped up the division title at 8-7. Cousins had three touchdown passes in the first quarter and was on the bench before halftime of that playoff tuneup. The look was similar in last weekend's 42-24 win over Green Bay, with Cousins tossing three TDs in Washington's sixth win in eight games since starting 0-2. "He's playing great," Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. "They were able to move the ball up and down the field and they were also able to make a lot of big plays in the passing game at critical times. That goes to the weapons he has, how they use the weapons and his ability to distribute the football." Prescott led a fourth-quarter comeback in a 27-23 win over the Redskins after fellow rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliott was benched because of two fumbles. Now Prescott is the leading rookie passer in the NFL, and Elliott is the league's top rusher at 1,102 yards. "He's been bottled up from time to time in the first quarter, but as the game goes on, that offensive line can wear you down and he gets chunks of yardage," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "And Dak has just done a great job. He's just been very poised under pressure." Elliott hasn't had fewer than 92 yards since getting 83 before the benching at Washington. "I think we're a different team, but I mean they're in the same case," the 21-year-old former Ohio State star said. "As the season goes on, you're going to get better, you're going to play more together, you're going to get more chemistry. It's going to be a good matchup." Things to consider in the eighth Thanksgiving meeting with the most frequent holiday rival for the Cowboys, who have won six of the first seven: NO ROMO: It's the first time a healthy Romo won't start on Thanksgiving for Dallas since 2005, the year before he was a midseason replacement for Drew Bledsoe. Romo was a Thanksgiving whiz early in his career, winning his first five. Most of those were when Prescott was a young Cowboys fan in Louisiana. "It was always, 'get up, eat some good food and then watch the Cowboys play,"' the 23-year-old Prescott said. "Now I'm kinda excited to be playing in it." "FAT ROB" RUNNING: Undrafted rookie running back Robert Kelley -- nicknamed "Fat Rob" -- appears to have solved Washington's need in the backfield, producing 137 yards and three TDs on 24 carries in Week 11. It was his first 100-yard game since high school. "He just keeps moving the pile, keeps moving his feet and does a great job," Gruden said. "He's a physical runner and obviously his ball security has been outstanding, knock on wood." Kelley took over after Matt Jones had fumbling problems. SLOWING COUSINS: The Cowboys offered little resistance to Cousins on their home field last season, when he was 12 of 15 for 176 yards in less than a half to clinch the NFL's best completion percentage. Dallas is without safety Barry Church (broken arm) and cornerback Morris Claiborne, who was having the best season of his career before a groin injury. "They're hot right now," cornerback Brandon Carr said. "They have a lot of confidence in their team. That's great. We have the same confidence over here." TY FOR TRENT: So much for the Redskins being in trouble with their best lineman, left tackle Trent Williams, suspended four games after violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Williams' replacement, 6-foot-8, 335-pound Ty Nsekhe, has been terrific in two starts, victories against Minnesota and Green Bay. He'd only started two NFL games previously. "I have no complaints over Ty," Gruden said. "Like I said before, he's a starting tackle in the National Football League, without a doubt." DANCING SNYDER: Washington cornerback Josh Norman, who figures to draw the Dez Bryant assignment more than he did during Bryant's 102-yard day in the first meeting, wasn't sure what to make of owner Dan Snyder's modest dance moves caught on national TV against the Packers. "What in the world is he doing up there?" Norman joked. "I was like, 'Man, if he's having a good time, I'm all for it.' It's a good feeling to know that the owner is having a good time." Thursday, November 24, 2016 Branca, pitcher who gave up 'Shot Heard 'Round World,' dies By BEN WALKER AP Baseball Writer Ralph Branca's career was defined by that one high-and-inside fastball. The Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher who gave up Bobby Thomson's famed "Shot Heard 'Round the World" that still echoes more than six decades later as one of the most famous home runs in baseball history, died Wednesday. He was 90. His son-in-law, former big league manager Bobby Valentine, said Branca died at a nursing home in Rye, New York. Branca was a three-time All-Star and spent 12 seasons in the majors. Brought in from the bullpen in the bottom of the ninth inning during the deciding Game 3 of the National League pennant playoff in 1951, he gave up a three-run homer to Thomson that gave the rival New York Giants a stunning 5-4 victory. The one-out line drive into the left field lower deck at the Polo Grounds prompted the frenetic call from announcer Russ Hodges, "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" The team and its fans celebrated wildly as Thomson breezed around the bases while Branca, wearing his unlucky No. 13 jersey, trudged off the mound. "You know," Branca told The Associated Press in 1990, "If you kill somebody, they sentence you to life, you serve 20 years and you get paroled. ... I've never been paroled." Thomson, who also homered off Branca in Game 1, capped a sensational comeback for the Giants, who trailed the Dodgers by more than a dozen games heading toward mid-August. For the next 50 years, Branca and Thomson often appeared together at card shows, corporate events and baseball functions, re-telling the story of the home run that grew into a sports legend. They always were friendly at the affairs, sometimes even teaming up to sing about the big moment. But it wasn't until many years later that it was revealed that the Giants had a little extra help, too. That's when it came to light that the Giants employed a telescope-and-buzzer system that season to steal signs from opposing catchers. With that advantage, Giants hitters got a boost in their swings. And for years, the question remained: Did Thomson know the high-and-inside fastball from Branca was coming? Thomson firmly asserted that, no, he didn't get a sign in advance. A three-time All-Star himself, Thomson stuck to that claim until he died in 2010 at age 86. Branca, however, wasn't so sure about that. In 2003, the Giants' sign-stealing operation was detailed in a story in The Wall Street Journal. A few days after that, Branca and Thomson saw each other for the first time at an event in Edison, New Jersey. They talked in private for five minutes, about a secret they'd both known about but never shared. Later, they spoke about their discussion. "It's been a cleansing for both of us," Branca said then. "He knew that I knew. It's better this way." "To me, it was a forbidden subject," the right-hander said. "And I didn't want to demean Bobby or seem like I was a crybaby." Said Thomson: "It was like getting something off my chest after all those years. I'm not a criminal, although I may have felt like one at first." And then, hours later, Thomson and Branca appeared together in Manhattan at the New York baseball writers' dinner. In front of a ballroom full of fans, they took turns singing about the fateful pitch and swing, to lyrics written to the old standard "Because of You" -- a reprise of the act they performed when the same dinner was held in January 1952. His matchup with Thomson was recounted by Don Delillo in a 1992 Harper's Magazine story "Pafko at the Wall," included five years later in the novel "Underworld." "Yes. It is Branca coming through the dampish glow. Branca who is tall and stalwart but seems to carry his own hill and dale, he has the aura of a man encumbered. The drooping lids, clodhopper feet, the thick ridge across the brow. His face is set behind a somber nose, broad-bridged and looming." One of the last remaining Boys of Summer, Branca was 88-68 with a 3.79 ERA in his big league career. He spent the first 11 years with the Dodgers, then played for Detroit and the Yankees before returning to Brooklyn for a final game in 1956. Branca made his debut as a teen in 1944 and went 21-12 with 15 complete games during Jackie Robinson's first season in 1947. Branca added another win that year at Yankee Stadium in the World Series. He co-founded the Baseball Assistance Team, which aids members of the baseball family in need of financial, medical or psychological assistance, and served as its president for 17 years. He was a pallbearer at Robinson's funeral in 1972. "Ralph's participation in the 'Shot Heard 'Round the World' was eclipsed by the grace and sportsmanship he demonstrated following one of the game's signature moments," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "He is better remembered for his dedication to the members of the baseball community. He was an inspiration to so many of us." Branca is survived by wife Ann; and daughters Patti and Mary -- the latter the wife of Valentine. A funeral is scheduled for Tuesday at the Church of the Resurrection in Rye. Thursday, November 24, 2016 Arena faces a more skeptical audience in US sequel NEW YORK (AP) -- Bruce Arena the sequel faces a more skeptical audience than the original. Arena was celebrated for coaching the Americans to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals, and fired four years later after they failed to advance past the first round. Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann led the U.S. to the round of 16 at the last two World Cups, and a second-round appearance is pretty much a minimum accomplishment for an American coach these days as a maturing fan base has increased expectations exponentially. "I don't think there's any doubt that pressure has increased on everyone involved in the game, whether that's players, coaches, administrators, leaders or anything else," U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said Tuesday after replacing Klinsmann with Arena. "Changes in technology and the speed of information and social media add the dimension of pressure that wouldn't have been the same for Bruce in his first go-round." And that's not all. "Our fans know the game in a way that may not have been the case in such numbers 20 years ago or even 15 years ago," Gulati said. "We have more educated, passionate fans with a way to express their views: social media." With five NCAA titles at Virginia, two Major League Soccer championships with D.C. United and three more MLS crowns with the LA Galaxy, the 65-year-old Arena is a proven winner. He was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame six years ago. But he inherits a roster frequently outmatched, one that appeared dysfunctional in losses to Mexico and Costa Rica opening the final round of World Cup qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean. "I think U.S. soccer has made great progress," Arena said. "I believe since I left in 2006 the pool of players has certainly expanded." Both his World Cup rosters included 12 players from European clubs and 11 from Major League Soccer. The U.S. remains a team partly suffering from jet lag when it gathers. "This group will not see each other again until Sunday or Monday before a Friday qualifier in March," captain Michael Bradley said after last week's 4-0 loss in Costa Rica, which led to Klinsmann's firing, Arena will have to juggle his lineup right from the start: midfielder Jermaine Jones and right back Timmy Chandler are suspended for the March 24 home qualifier against Honduras because of yellow-card accumulation. Arena's national team was known for emphasis on defense and counterattacks. As he takes over, the priority will be on grinding out wins to wipe out the deficit in the Americans' eight remaining games of the hexagonal. The top three teams qualify and the fourth-place finisher advances to a playoff against Asia's No. 5 team. If the U.S. wins at home against Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Panama, and picks up a few points on the road, it should qualify for its eighth straight World Cup. "The American qualities have certainly been teams that are hard to play against," Arena said. "We're traditionally strong in the goal; we have very good goalkeepers. We have some young attacking talent, and we have some experienced players in the midfield. We have to find a way to get the right balance, the right combinations on the field and the right mentality, and we'll produce a good team. What it looks like in the end, I can't tell you now but I'm certain we're going to develop a good team." Christian Pulisic, just 18, already has shown himself to be one of the more formidable dribblers on the team, able to get past several defenders. But he still lacks judgment on when to take on the third or fourth defender or to pass. Klinsmann had targeted 18-year-old defender Cameron Carter-Vickers and 20-year-old midfielder Lynden Gooch as players of the future. Coaches -- and fans -- want to look ahead, but Arena's focus will be earning points. Draws at home and losses anywhere usually lead to furious fans. "No one likes to face the firing squad, as it were, in terms of media or fans that are upset about something," Gulati said, "but that's a natural part of the growth of the game, and that certainly is a very big positive." Thursday, November 24, 2016 Steelers face Colts with Andrew Luck sidelined INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin guessed wrong. He expected Andrew Luck to overcome a head injury and suit up for tonight's primetime game. Instead, the Indianapolis Colts ruled out their star quarterback Wednesday after he missed practice for the third straight day. The likely replacement will be the rarely used Scott Tolzien, whom Tomlin doesn't have much tape on because Tolzien hasn't played since the preseason. But Tomlin didn't win two Super Bowls without successfully devising contingency plans -- and he'll have to rely on that experience to win at Indy. "I just think it's prudent for us to prepare for Andrew and then react to whatever may transpire that's different than that, as opposed to the other way around," Tomlin told Indianapolis reporters during a conference call before Wednesday's injury report was released. Indy (5-5), of course, did a good job keeping Luck's status shrouded because that's how NFL teams operate. And Pagano didn't drop any hints about his backup plan, either, when he told reporters Tuesday simply that the Colts had "options." The most likely scenario, of course, is that Pagano sticks with Tolzien. Otherwise, Pagano could go with Stephen Morris, a practice squad player who was promoted to the active roster Wednesday, some combination of both or use running back Frank Gore in the wildcat formation as the Colts have done sporadically the past two games. None of those options, of course, would be as promising as having Luck. There's no choice now, and Pagano can't afford to fret with a critical game looming between two playoff contenders. "It's just football. It's life in the National Football League," he said. "They're not cancelling the game and so we'll put our best foot forward." Complicating matters is that Pittsburgh (5-5) has posed major problems for the Colts. They've won the past three in the series, the past two by a combined score of 96-44. Losing Luck, who entered the concussion protocol Sunday night after complaining of concussion-like symptoms following a victory over Tennessee, won't help. But with only four days between Sunday night's diagnosis and this week's game there wasn't enough time to get him cleared by doctors and the Colts finally made the decision to hold him out. "You can rub dirt on a lot of things, but you can't rub dirt on the brain so you have to be smart with that," said Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Here are some other things to watch tonight: BLING BLING: Four days after honoring the Colts' 2006 Super Bowl team, they will have another halftime celebration when former coach Tony Dungy and former receiver Marvin Harrison receive their Hall of Fame rings. Both were inducted in August, were part of the title team and could not attend Sunday's ceremony. BROWN & HILTON; Antonio Brown and T.Y. Hilton grew up together as youth league teammates and are still friendly even when they're on opposing sidelines. This week, they'll be chasing the same goals. Brown needs 93 yards to join Hines Ward as the second Steelers receiver in history to record four straight 1,000-yard seasons. Hilton needs 112 yards for his fourth straight 1,000-yard season, something only two other Colts' receivers (Harrison and Reggie Wayne) have done. LEARNING ON THE JOB: The Steelers have three rookies starting on defense: safety Sean Davis, cornerback Artie Burns and nose tackle Javon Hargrave. They're growing up quickly. Burns has two interceptions in Pittsburgh's past three games, Davis has rapidly gone from lost backup to first string and Hargrave recovered a fumble for a TD in Cleveland. The Steelers will need their fresh legs over the final six games to make the playoffs for a third straight season, something they've never done under Mike Tomlin. "I just hope they keep coming along the way they have," defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE While Pittsburgh has lost four straight Thanksgiving Day games since 1983, the Colts have won the only two such games they've been involved in since the move to Indy. The Colts also have won 10 straight Thursday night games since 2007. But they haven't beaten Pittsburgh since 2008. LEAN ON LE'VEON: Oh the benefits of being 24. Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell is feeling good just a few days removed from a heavy workload against the Browns. Bell touched the ball 32 times while piling up 201 total yards and Pittsburgh's only offensive TD in Cleveland. The more carries Bell gets, the better things seem to go for the Steelers. Pittsburgh is 8-2 when he runs for 100 yards. "He is a young guy that wants it all the time," offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. "I haven't seen him ever dragging around after a big game, which is what he had." ------ For more NFL coverage: and Thursday, November 24, 2016 Bills WR Watkins returns to practice, status uncertain By MARK LUDWICZAK Associated Press ORCHARD PARK -- Buffalo Bills receiver Sammy Watkins made his long-awaited return to practice on Wednesday. But his status for Sunday's game against Jacksonville remains up in the air. The Bills' top wideout returned after missing two months because of a left foot injury. He was limited during the portion of practice open to reporters, but showed no signs of pain or struggling on the practice field. After suffering a setback two weeks into the season -- which resulted in Watkins being placed on injured reserve -- the Bills and Watkins are playing it safe when it comes to his full return. "Obviously we're encouraged by the fact that he has been cleared to participate. I think that's a good sign," Bills coach Rex Ryan said. "He feels good, so we'll see how it goes. ... We'll be smart with him." Watkins missed most of the offseason after having surgery in April, when he had two screws inserted into his left foot to repair a stress fracture. He aggravated the injury in Week 3 when a teammate stepped on his foot at a walk-through. During the open portion of practice on Wednesday, Watkins ran a couple of uncontested routes in individual drills before using a stationary bike. Watkins gave receivers coach Sanjay Lal a thumbs-up and was in good spirits when talking with Bills trainers. "First day of practice, getting all the butterflies out, moving fast and just really trying to get back on the same page," Watkins said. "I think 90 percent of the game is mental and I think I'm over that hump and really have just got to get back out there running routes, playing with the guys, catching balls. "Right now I'm not feeling normal out there, but I think two or three days I'll start feeling back myself and moving along." Asked if he could play in a game on Thursday, Watkins responded "probably not" -- yet there is a chance he may play on Sunday. The biggest hurdle at this point seems to be stamina, not pain. "Just really getting back used to seeing if I can go out there and run 60 plays full speed," Watkins said. "I don't think it's the injury, or what I can do or can't do. I just think it's what can you do this Sunday. Can you go out there and run 10 plays, 15, 30, 60, we don't know yet. ... I did 20 today. Gotta get in shape." The Bills are in need for some reinforcements at wide receiver. No. 2 option Robert Woods, who has been Buffalo's top option in the passing game with Watkins missing, is likely out because of a knee sprain. Buffalo is last in the league in passing. "I think the health of Sammy is the big question, whether Robert's healthy or not," Ryan said. "Make sure Sammy's ready to go before he's out there. As much as we want him, obviously he's a difference-maker when he's out, there so I get it." Watkins isn't the only key offensive player whose status is in question for Sunday. Running back LeSean McCoy had surgery on his left thumb Sunday night after suffering an injury in Buffalo's 16-12 win over Cincinnati. The Bills have maintained that they expect McCoy to play against Jacksonville, but must wait to see how the week goes. "The big thing is making sure his thumb doesn't get infected," Ryan said. "That's the No. 1 thing. If that stays clean, then there's no issue there." Backup running back Mike Gillislee left Wednesday's practice with a hamstring injury, but it's not believed to be serious. Left tackle Cordy Glenn (back) and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (ankle) did not practice. Thursday, November 24, 2016 Lions play Vikings in meaningful game on holiday for a change DETROIT (AP) -- Darius Slay smiled, ear to ear, and his eyes lit up while he sat on the stool in front of his stall. Detroit's standout cornerback can't wait to play on Thanksgiving with a lot at stake for a change. The Lions will have a featured game on the holiday as usual, continuing a tradition that dates to 1934, but it will be very significant to them in the standings unlike many matchups over the past two-plus decades. Detroit (6-4) hosts the Minnesota Vikings (6-4) in a matchup of first-place teams in the NFC North. It will be the first time the Lions are in first place on the holiday since 1993, which is also the most recent year the franchise won a division title. "I love it," Slay said. "We know the risks, and the stakes." If the Lions beat Minnesota for the second time this month and sweep the season series, they would win the head-to-head tiebreaker if both teams are tied at the end of the regular season. "You can't help but think about that," said Detroit receiver Golden Tate, who flipped into the end zone for a game-winning touchdown in overtime at Minnesota in Week 9. "The winner of the game will definitely have an advantage in the division and will be in the driver's seat down the stretch." If the Vikings win, they will move into first place with a favorable schedule that includes only one team that currently has a winning record. "I don't necessarily think this is necessarily for the division championship," Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said. "It's not like it's the last game of the season." Here are some things to watch when Detroit and Minnesota kick off the NFL's holiday tripleheader: DIGGING IT: The Lions limited receiver Stefon Diggs to a season-low 6.15 yards per catch in the previous meeting, but he set a career high with 13 receptions. "You let him catch too many and at some point in time he's going to burn you because he's explosive," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "That's an area where we've just got to continue to get better. There's not a point in time where you say, 'Hey, we'll let that guy catch as many balls as he'd like." ROLLING ROBERTS: When the Lions signed Andre Roberts in June, a month after Washington cut him, they were hoping he would compete to be their returner and possibly provide depth at receiver. Roberts has surpassed expectations, becoming the first Detroit player to return two punts for a touchdown in a season since 2005. He has also made some clutch catches, including a 27-yard reception that set up Matt Prater's game-tying kick as time expired at Minnesota. BERGER THE BULWARK: One bright spot on Minnesota's depleted offensive line has been veteran center Joe Berger, who will make his 36th straight start. The native of Newaygo, Michigan, played at NCAA Division II Michigan Tech and went undrafted before stints with the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys. "He's a really smart guy," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "He's really helped me with protections. I think that's one of the first things when you learn a new offense as a quarterback. You want to know, 'How am I being protected? What are the calls?' And he's been awesome." MAKING HISTORY: Detroit, which has trailed in the fourth quarter of every game, is the first NFL team to have the first 10 games decided by seven points or fewer. SPECIAL SPECIALISTS: Detroit's Sam Martin and Minnesota's Jeff Locke are two of the top punters in the NFL. Martin leads the league with a net average of 45.8 yards. Locke ranks second in the NFL with 25 punts pinned inside the 20. Last week when Minnesota was clinging to a six-point lead over Arizona late in the fourth quarter, Locke had a 72-yard punt with a friendly roll to push the Cardinals deep into their territory. What Locke has learned to do, perhaps unlike former Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh and some of his struggling peers, is forget about mistakes. "In the past, I might've been sitting on a bad punt and letting it affect the next punts," he said. "But now I've learned especially this year just to clear it." Soon after Walsh missed an extra point and had a field goal blocked in the loss to Detroit, the Vikings released the former All-Pro kicker and signed Kai Forbath to replace him. Forbath and Prater both had an extra point blocked last week. They contributed to the total of 12 extra points missed , the most in one week since the NFL merger in 1970. Prater has been an asset for the Lions. He made a season-long, 58-yard field goal at Minnesota before the Lions won 22-16. He has also made three game-winning field goals this season with 1:29, 1:28 and 4 seconds remaining in games. ------ For more NFL coverage: and ------ Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at Thursday, November 24, 2016 Manning is enjoying the Giants' winning streak EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Eli Manning is one of the few players on the New York Giants who knows what it is like to make a playoff run. The previous time the Giants did it was in 2011 and Manning went on to lead New York to its second Super Bowl title in five seasons. The past four years have been dismal, including consecutive 6-10 seasons the past two years that forced Tom Coughlin out and led to the hiring of Ben McAdoo. New York (7-3) will head into this weekend's game at Cleveland riding a five-game winning streak and in position to end a four-year playoff drought. It has the best record among NFC teams not leading a division, but the schedule will get tougher in the final six weeks. "It feels good. We're winning football games and doing some things well," Manning said Tuesday. "We just have to stay hungry and keep competing. Keep working on getting better each and every week. We just have to stay the course. Definitely room for improvement." If there is an area of concern for Manning, the offense just isn't putting up a lot of points. The Giants are averaging under 21 points and their seven wins have been by a total of 27 points. Winning close games was something the teams in 2007 and '11 did in their title runs. "That's what you have to do in this league," Manning said. "Those teams, win the close games and on the line, we tend to play our best football. That's a good thing. That's a great quality to have. "You have a confidence that when you get in the fourth quarter and in these close games, we're going to be able to pull it out." Manning isn't worried about a letdown in a trap game against the winless Browns. He said the team has done a good job of focusing on the weekly task. "For us, we have to understand and be prepared for every game and situation," the 13-year veteran said. "If you don't go about and you don't prepare, you're going to lose. "We have to have great preparation. It's not a team we've played a whole lot. We have to get familiar with the personnel, their scheme, have a great practice, go into a tough environment and win a football game." Winning also has created a loose locker room. There is a lot of work, but also a lot of kidding around. "The locker room should be fun," Manning said. "You win football games, five in a row, it should be fun. You're enjoying that time and in contention to win a division. All of those things. It's an exciting time. There should be a lot of good energy around the locker room." NOTES: The big question mark this week will be who plays left guard. Justin Pugh sprained a knee two games ago. Backup Brett Jones had a calf injury two games ago and Marshall Newhouse sprained his knee last week. Adam Gettis, who was recently signed off the practice squad, finished against the Bears. Wednesday, November 23, 2016 Prescott, Elliott have been a rare breed this NFL season By DAVID MOORE The Dallas Morning News FRISCO, Texas -- The historic run the Cowboys find themselves on began against the team they face on Thanksgiving. A win against Washington on Sept. 18 was the first notch in a franchise-record nine-game streak. That was back before the Chicago Cubs ended a 71-year NL championship drought, Donald Trump was the president-elect and the Cowboys forged the NFL's best record. These are truly rare times. "This is a rare team," owner Jerry Jones said in the wake of his team's victory over Baltimore. Jason Garrett does little to acknowledge accomplishments during the season. The Cowboys' head coach believes doing so distracts from the focus required to keep moving forward. Garrett did talk to his team about how hard it is to win in the NFL after beating the Ravens, but that's a message he emphasizes every week. "It means we have a great team that believes in ourselves," quarterback Dak Prescott said of being two months removed from the Cowboys' only loss. "We're not going to flinch, and we're not going to blink. "We don't really focus on the score. Just take it one play at a time. We just keep moving forward and know things will break for us." Opponents have been the ones to break over the last 72 days. Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott have formed a rookie firewall between the team and defeat. Prescott has thrown from 227 and 319 yards in each of the nine games. He has a quarterback rating of 103.8 or higher in all but one of those games. Seattle's Russell Wilson is the only player in league history to have more games (nine) with a quarterback rating to exceed 100. Prescott finished with a rating of 127.2 against Baltimore despite being 4 of 10 for 31 yards with a sack to open the game. "It's really rare when young players can do that," tight end Jason Witten said. There's that word again. "That's not the first time we've seen that," Witten continued. "He continues to answer it every single week. You just can't say enough about how that's worked out, good preparation to see the coverages then to capitalize with some big throws." Elliott has rushed from 83 and 157 yards during each game of the winning streak. He failed to average at least 4 yards a carry in only one game during this stretch. These two rookies have been more than brilliant. They've been consistent. But they aren't alone. Four different players have led the Cowboys in receiving during the nine games. None of them had done it in back to back games until Dez Bryant did so these last two weeks. "We always talk about when your number is called you have to execute," Witten said. "You really don't know when that's going to be from within a drive to within a game to week in and week out. "That's just the way this football team works together." Players on both sides of the ball are stepping up. Three different players have led the team in tackles, and 10 have had at least one sack during the streak. Touchdowns have been spread among 10 players as well. "This is exactly how it's supposed to be," receiver Cole Beasley said. "Anybody can have a big day on any given day depending on what they (opponents) do and who they take away. "That's why we run the offense the way we do. We run the ball to get them out of the two-high (safety) looks and get them down to single high and then we take advantage outside. When they keep it underneath, that's when me and Witten play a big part and the running backs. "We've got a lot of guys we can get it to, and we'll throw it to any of them." It's a democratic approach that has led to an autocratic streak. The next-longest streak in the league at the moment belongs to the New York Giants and Miami at five games. "That's incredible, man," Beasley said of nine consecutive wins. "It's so awesome to be a part of, but it's not what we're here for." What the Cowboys are here for, Garrett will tell you, is a rematch against Washington, the first victim in this burgeoning streak. Kickoff is 3:30 Thursday afternoon at AT&T Stadium. "I'm excited," cornerback Brandon Carr said. "You look forward to it. Our division is tight. Our division is stacked right now. "It's going to come fast." Wednesday, November 23, 2016 Ohio State's offense on fire as Michigan game looms COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- When Ohio State's passing game was sputtering last month, J.T. Barrett kept saying everything was OK. Even after the loss to unranked Penn State, the quarterback insisted no big changes were necessary and the offense was on track. The quiet Texan's confidence and patience paid dividends. The Buckeyes went out and routed then-No. 10 Nebraska 62-3 to open November and swamped Maryland by the same score a week later, with Barrett throwing for 680 yards and six touchdowns in the two games. The wind blew down Ohio State's passing attack last week against Michigan State, but the Buckeyes escaped with a 17-16 win. Mike Weber rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown, and Barrett ran for 105 yards and threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Samuel. No. 2 Ohio State is preparing to face the best defense it's seen all season in No. 3 Michigan on Saturday, with terrific linebacker/defensive back Jabrill Peppers, a game-changer who has to be accounted for on every play, and perhaps the nation's best secondary. Michigan leads the nation in limiting opponents to 245.6 yards per game. "We have a respect for them," wide receiver Terry McLaurin said. "Just watching a couple of clips within the last couple of days, the press man, they're going to load a lot of the box and as a group we have to beat man coverage. That's why you come to Ohio State. That's why they recruit you, to come beat man coverage." While Barrett spread the ball around earlier in the season, Ohio State's offensive resurgence has been built around the dual-threat quarterback; Weber, who is the third Ohio State freshman ever to run for over 1,000 yards; and Samuel, a hybrid back who runs the ball and catches passes with equal skill. Wide receivers have become mostly supporting players. "We've got a lot of different things in our offense that allow us to utilize all three of those playmakers, and there's other guys, too," center Pat Elflein said. "Our receivers are playing well, they're blocking well, which allows for the whole offense to open up. As long as we keep doing that, we'll hit our shots and we'll keep playing Buckeye ball like we have been." Barrett said it begins and ends with the play of the offensive line. During the October swoon, the line struggled in pass protection and Barrett was constantly on the run. Adjustments were made. "I think our O-line is doing what they need to do, and if our O-line plays well then we have a good day on offense," Barrett said. "The main thing is that the offense has really opened things up for the guys running and also for me running the ball." Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Barrett is hard to predict because he's able to do so many things well. The junior is responsible for 99 touchdowns in his Ohio State career, seven shy of Drew Brees' Big Ten record. "Slippery," Harbaugh said. "Tough runner, like a running back, but he's got the vision of a quarterback, he's got the throwing ability of a quarterback. There's times where he can put the ball into the tightest of windows. He plays with a lot of confidence. He's an outstanding player. It's a unique combination for a quarterback to have all those things." Samuel has emerged as the go-to guy for Barrett. He leads the team in receiving with 790 yards and seven touchdowns, and has rushed for another 650 yards and seven scores. In what promises to be one of the more intriguing matchups of the day, Samuel could line up in the slot and be staring across at Peppers. That's a matchup that makes the game even more intriguing, if that's possible. The winner stays in the mix for the College Football Playoff. Wednesday, November 23, 2016 Washington up to 5th, Louisville drops in latest CFP rankings By MATT MURSCHEL Orlando Sentinel Things remained unchanged at the top of this week's College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night, but there is plenty of intrigue remaining as we edge closer to the final postseason lineup. The top four spots remained No. 1 Alabama (11-0), No. 2 Ohio State (9-1), No. 3 Michigan (10-1) and No. 4 Clemson (10-1), with the biggest development coming at the No. 5 spot. Louisville's loss to Houston last Thursday moved the Cardinals out of the playoff discussion, making way for Washington (10-1) to move up to fifth overall. Other teams moved up a spot from last week, with No. 6 Wisconsin (9-2), No. 7 Penn State (9-2), No. 8 Oklahoma (9-2), No. 9 Colorado (9-2) and No. 10 Oklahoma State (9-2) rounding out the top 10 this week. Among Group of 5 programs, Boise State moved up to No. 19, just ahead of Houston at No. 20, undefeated Western Michigan at No. 21 and Navy at No. 25. The final poll will be revealed live on ESPN at noon Sunday, Dec. 4. The top four teams qualify for the two semifinal games, which will be held at the Fiesta and Peach bowls on Dec. 31. The winners will meet in the national championship game on Monday, Jan. 9, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. The remaining games that compose the New Year's Six access bowl games -- Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton -- will select the highest-ranked remaining teams that fill their criteria. The highest-ranked conference champion from the Group of 5 conferences -- American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt -- also will receive a spot. The selection committee is composed of 12 members: Kirby Hocutt, Barry Alvarez, Jeff Bower, Herb Deromedi, Tom Jernstedt, Bobby Johnson, Jeff Long, Rob Mullens, Dan Radakovich, Condoleezza Rice, Steve Wieberg and Tyrone Willingham. Wednesday, November 23, 2016 After raucous weekend, NFL will likely be back in Mexico MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Mexican fans welcomed the NFL in raucous fashion, and it probably won't be the last time Azteca Stadium hosts American futbol. Next time, however, they'll try to ban laser pointers. Nearly 80,000 fans came to see the Raiders defeat the Houston Texans in a 27-20 win Monday night in what felt like a Raiders home game. The crowd harassed the Texans and supported the Raiders , one of the most popular NFL teams in Mexico. The success of the game and the full weekend of events could entice the league to bring more games to the Mexican capital. WILD FANS The NFL says 76,473 fans were at the game, and the atmosphere was very different from the more neutral crowd for games in London. Thousands of other football fans attended a weekend-long fan fest. Although many wore silver and black, it was clear that the Cowboys, Texans, Steelers and Broncos also have fans south of the border. "Besides the game, we had an excellent trip here, great experience for our players. Unbelievable crowd. Just a really cool atmosphere for both teams," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "It was a great trip as far as that's concerned." Before the game, there was concern that Mexican fans could boo the U.S. national anthem because of the political tension since Donald Trump was elected president, but the crowd did not . A SOCCER CROWD The fans' behavior was similar to the atmosphere when the Mexican national team or local club America play their soccer matches in Azteca Stadium. "I was able to play at Wembley Stadium in my rookie year, and then being able to play here, I mean it was amazing," Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. "There's so much history and so much rowdiness. I love soccer, so it gave me kind of a soccer feel." Throughout the game, the crowd chanted a gay slur that is common in soccer matches when the opposing goalkeeper clears the ball. This year, FIFA has fined Mexico three times for the chant. The NFL did not comment about the slur. Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler was targeted by a green laser on several plays, something that is common against visiting soccer teams playing at Azteca. "Certainly, having a laser zoomed in on your eyeball definitely affects how you play," Osweiler said. THE MEXICO RAIDERS? The Raiders are exploring a move to Las Vegas, but in the meantime, they could consider another trip back to Mexico, where they clearly have a devoted fan base. According to the NFL office in Mexico, the Raiders are the fifth-most popular team in the country. They were clearly more popular Monday night than the Texans. Yon de Luisa, sporting vice president of the Televisa media company which owns Azteca Stadium, has said the deal with the NFL could include two future games in the venue. THE AZTECA RENOVATIONS Azteca Stadium, famous for hosting two World Cup finals, was renovated with a $12 million investment for its 50th anniversary and to celebrate club America's 100th year. As part of the deal to bring the NFL back, Televisa had to comply with several upgrade requests by the league. Azteca built new football-only locker rooms, installed new seats and boxes that reduced its capacity from over 100,000, and added a new wireless internet network. The stadium still needs major renovations in other areas: the parking lot is insufficient, there are no escalators and the stadium lights and most of the ramps are 50 years old. ALTITUDE Before the game, Mexico City's altitude of 7,380 feet above sea level played was a cause for concern for both teams, who arrived a day earlier to avoid the effects as recommended by the NFL Mexico office. Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree had trouble breathing, and the Raiders called a timeout for their players to catch a break late in the game. "I mean you talk about the elements is always a factor, but at the same time you talk about resiliency and the coaches having us prepared," Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack said. "... It was a weight that we could fight through and you've seen that throughout the finishing of the game and especially in the fourth quarter." ------ For more NFL coverage: and Wednesday, November 23, 2016 Bubba for mayor? Watson starts mulling life behind the golf world By DOUG FERGUSON The Associated Press Bubba Watson is already thinking about his career after golf, which just might include public office. He wants to run for mayor. "I've had a dream," Watson said. "I moved back in the city limits of Pensacola (Florida) so one day I can run for mayor." The two-time Masters champion already is building quite the local enterprise at home. Last year he became a part-owner of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, a Double A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. This year, he opened a candy shop in Pensacola called "Bubba's Sweet Spot," serving up premium candy and ice cream. "What American doesn't like chocolate? So for me, it was something fun," Watson said. "That really is a kid in a candy store, like everyone talks about. We built it from scratch. That wasn't buying a shop." And he didn't stop there. His latest venture is a car dealership, Sandy and Bubba's Milton Chevrolet (he thinks the new electric car is going to be big), along with a robotics company in Pensacola that makes everything from military equipment to toys. He has invested in a few golf courses, and he is involved in an apartment complex being built in Pensacola. "It's funny, I say to my friends, I say to my wife, to my manager, to my team that if you say 'Bubba Watson the golfer,' then you're limiting who I am, who I want to be and who I think I am," Watson said at the HSBC Champions. "These other businesses are fun. Golf is fun. The golf is great. But there are other things I want to do. I have other dreams. Golf made it possible. Luckily for me, haven't had bank loans. I'm able to pay cash for these things." Watson, who defends his title next week in the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, has 10 victories worldwide, and his PGA Tour earnings alone top $35 million. It's more than he imagined when he first reached the PGA Tour in 2006. But at 38, with two children, he's approaching a stage in is life when he's starting to think. He has lived in Orlando, Florida, and Scottsdale, Arizona, and North Carolina. He still keeps a home at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. But his future is near his birthplace of Bagdad in the Florida Panhandle, and he wanted to be sure to live in Pensacola to possibly run for mayor someday. "To be back home ... my mom works in the candy shop," he said. "The excitement around these businesses, the city of Pensacola realizes I love them. They brought me everything I have now. They took time to sponsor sporting events that I participated in. That's the same thing I'm doing. I'm trying to help the community grow." So what would he do as mayor? Given a chance for some humor, Watson turned serious. "The first thing you do is some form of education," he said. "We talk inner city. It's where the most growth can happen, no matter what background you are. But it all starts with education." ------ INAUGURATION PLANS: Jim Herman will be going places he has never been in January. By winning the Shell Houston Open, he gets to start his year at Kapalua for the Tournament of Champions. And after the Sony Open, he is planning a trip to Washington to see one of his biggest supporters. "I think I'm going to go to the inauguration," Herman said. Herman gave up on the mini-tours and was working as an assistant pro when he landed a job at Trump National in Bedminster, New Jersey. Once he was told that he would be playing with the boss -- Donald Trump -- Herman made a quick impression. Trump told him he was good enough to play the tour, and he helped financially back Herman, who eventually made it to the big leagues, and last year won his first PGA Tour event. Trump came to watch him in the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2015, not long after he announced his candidacy. And now he's the president-elect. Herman said he hasn't had a chance to talk to Trump yet. Trump will be at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for Thanksgiving. "Hopefully, I'll be able to see him there, get a round in," Herman said. "But his schedule is going to be pretty busy. I hope to get a word in with him and congratulate him. It's a pretty amazing run for him." ------ ERNIE AND ZAC: Ernie Els is thinking about signing up for the team event at the Zurich Classic, and he knew exactly whom to ask. Zac Blair. Never mind that they are separated by 21 years in age and 60 victories. Blair loves golf architecture and often will go to the classic courses to play during tournaments or his weeks off tour. Els designs golf courses and has taken a liking to the 26-year-old from Utah. "You know what I like about Zac? He's a freakin' architect," Els said. "We can talk architecture. He loves that. I love that, too." Blair said Els approached him about the team event, and he'd love nothing better than to play New Orleans with the Big Easy. "We'd have four majors between us," Blair said. "Not many (teams) could say that." ------ TIME WARP: Mackenzie Hughes grew up near Hamilton Golf & Country Club, and he was the standard bearer at the Canadian Open in 2003. One of the players in his group that day was Steve Allan of Australia. Fast forward 13 years. Hughes won the Price Cutter Charity Classic on the Tour in August, all but assuring his PGA Tour card. Playing with him in the last group that day was none other than Allan. "He had a huge laugh out of that," Hughes said. ------ PHILIPPINES SCRAPPED: Rory McIlroy was supposed to play an 18-hole exhibition with Jason Day in the Philippines. And when Day pulled out to rest his back, McIlroy was to play against Dustin Johnson. And now no one is playing. The event fell apart when contracts could not be fulfilled. The 18-hole exhibition was to be held Nov. 29. The good news for Johnson? He never officially withdrew from the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas and plans to be there. ------ DIVOTS: Diana Murphy has been nominated to second one-year term as USGA president. ... CME Group Tour Championship winner Charley Hull became the 15th player on the LPGA Tour to surpass $1 million in earnings this year. ... A small consolation for Camilo Villegas and Henrik Norlander, who lost in the RSM Classic in a playoff, is that they get into the Sony Open in January by finishing in the top 10. Norlander has no status, and Villegas is a past champion. ... Brooks Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan, meaning his seven pro victories have come in six countries -- the United States, Japan, Turkey, Scotland, Italy and Spain (twice). ... Robert Allenby finished 10th at the Australian Open. It was his first top 10 in two years. ... The World Cup of Golf will be the third time this year that Rickie Fowler (U.S.), Rafa Cabrera Bello (Spain) and Thomas Pieters (Belgium) play for the flag this year. They also played in the Olympics and the Ryder Cup. ------ STAT OF THE WEEK: The last four PGA Tour events of 2016 were won by players ranked No. 448 (Cody Gribble), No. 451 (Rod Pampling), No. 271 (Pat Perez) and No. 287 (Mackenzie Hughes). ------ FINAL WORD: "I had a lot of fun doing it, even though a 9-year-old was taking the whatever out of me." -- Rory McIlroy on his European Tour interview with 9-year-old Billy Jenkins, who grilled him on Zika, his favorite female tennis player and what clubs he will be using next year. Wednesday, November 23, 2016 If asked, Furyk would be honored to be Ryder Cup captain ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (AP) -- Nothing about Jim Furyk's game would suggest with certainty he has played his last Ryder Cup. Aesthetics aside, he has one of the most repeatable and reliable swings. In an era of the long ball, he has won 21 times in 23 years around the world. He played in every Ryder Cup from 1997 until this year, when wrist surgery kept him from starting his season until May. He still managed a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open, became the first player in PGA Tour history to shoot 58 and was under serious consideration as a captain's pick until the final two weeks. The only thing that could change his Ryder Cup outlook would be a request -- not a campaign -- to be the captain. "I would accept the job," he said. That doesn't mean he is lobbying to be the next U.S. captain. Furyk simply gave an honest answer to a hypothetical question. He contemplates being Ryder Cup captain the way he considers his chances for the World Golf Hall of Fame. He doesn't think about it at all unless someone brings it up. In this case, three reporters stopped him in the lobby of the Sea Island Lodge after he opened with 64-69 in the final PGA Tour event of the year. The six-member Ryder Cup committee has its first meeting in two weeks to start laying the groundwork for picking the next captain. Among the candidates who are bound to come up are the 46-year-old Furyk and Steve Stricker, the current Presidents Cup captain who turns 50 in February. Davis Love III, the winning captain at Hazeltine, is on the committee with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and three PGA of America officials. "Again, it's all hypothetical," Furyk said. "I haven't had a conversation with Tiger, Phil, Davis. I haven't had any conversation with the PGA of America, so I don't want to put the cart before the horse. That committee is in place for a reason. If they decide '18, '20, '22, whenever it is, if they decide that I'm the right person, I would love to have that job. I think everyone would. Anyone in that position would want that tap on the shoulder and that confidence that Davis was given." The more he spoke, the more clear it became how much the players now have a stake in every aspect of the Ryder Cup. Furyk was part of the task force that first met two years ago and ultimately asked Love to be captain for the second time. Furyk considers it one of the highest honors -- not just being the captain, but the manner in which a captain is chosen. "Unless I'm wrong, I don't think you publicly pine for the job or promote yourself or say, 'I really want the job,"' he said. He recalls the task force throwing out the best qualities of a captain, the nature of the job and the best candidates. Before long, they all settled on Love. "I think that's the highest compliment you can be paid," Furyk said. "He didn't ask for the job. That committee went to him and said, 'Hey, we want you to take the job. Would you like it?'... Those six folks will try to figure out who the next guy is. They're going to try to figure out who the absolute best person is for the job." Love said only that the next U.S. captain would be "somebody with experience." The trouble now is that some candidates are still playing good golf. Furyk, for example, is No. 34 in the world even though he missed six months of the previous season. Mickelson is determined to extend his record by qualifying for his 12th straight team. Are such players forced to choose between being a captain and wanting to play? "That's the big thing we'll talk about in early December," Love said. "Who are the candidates and how do they feel about it?" Furyk realizes making another team will be tougher than ever. He plans to reduce his schedule to about 18 events a year, which puts him at a disadvantage with players half his age who play a lot more. And while he was 15th in Ryder Cup points with a limited schedule, nearly half those points came from one tournament (U.S. Open). Before leaving Medinah in 2012, Furyk said he looked over the top of the bridge on the first tee at a sea of fans dressed in red and wondered if that was his last Ryder Cup. He made the 2014 team, and when it was over, he stood on the 18th green by himself at Gleneagles and wondered the same thing. "Maybe I played my last one," he said. "I don't know." If the Ryder Cup committee decides Furyk is the best choice for captain, there won't be any doubt. Wednesday, November 23, 2016 No. 18 Syracuse crushes SC State SYRACUSE (AP) -- When six of nine scholarship players score in double figures and three register double-doubles, even hard-to-please Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim can find a few reasons to smile. Andrew White had 15 points and the No. 18 Orange (4-0) held South Carolina State to 27 percent shooting in a 101-59 victory Tuesday night. "I'm very happy with what these guys have accomplished to this point," Boeheim said. "We've gotten guys a lot of experience in game situations and I think they have a good understanding of what they're doing." Tyler Lydon had 14 points and 10 rebounds, one of three players who finished with a double-double for the Orange (4-0). He was 4 of 5 from 3-point range. Frank Howard had 10 points, 11 assists and only one turnover. Tyler Roberson had 13 points and 12 rebounds. "We've got nine guys and it's different than playing six or seven. We've got to get them all in there," Boeheim said. "Guys play different positions, so they get in there and play different positions. We have some flexibility with this team, and we've got to keep working on it." Six players scored in double figures for Syracuse, and five hit at least one 3. John Gillon had 14 points and Taurean Thompson tied his career high with 12. Thompson and Paschal Chukwu each had four of Syracuse's 11 blocks. "We have so many different weapons who are able to do so many different things on the court," said Lydon, a sophomore. "We have seven, eight, 10 guys or whatever, who can score the ball. It creates things for everybody and it makes us really hard to guard." Lydon entered 2 of 8 from 3-point territory after shooting 40 percent from deep during his freshman season. "I put some pressure on myself and I was able to get it off my back tonight," he said. "My teammates were able to find me in open positions, in good spots, and I was able to knock them down. You've just got to keep shooting the ball." Ozante Fields led the Bulldogs (1-3) with 11 points, and James Richardson added nine. Syracuse has overpowered four undermanned opponents by an average of 34 points per game, so it's hard to tell just how good the Orange will be. Next up, they hit the road for games against South Carolina and Wisconsin, two good tests. "Games like these are learning games," Howard said after the first double-double of his career. "Execution is the big thing. Being crisp and sharp." Syracuse went 13 of 24 (54.2 percent) from 3-point territory and 37 of 68 overall (54.4 percent), while the Bulldogs shot 5 of 27 (18.5 percent) from beyond the arc and 19 of 70 overall. "Last year we made it to our (conference) championship game. This year our goal is to win our conference championship. Thank God we don't have to beat Syracuse to win the MEAC," Bulldogs coach Murray Garvin said. South Carolina State scored the first basket of the game, a 3-pointer by Edward Stephens at the shot-clock buzzer. Syracuse responded with a 15-0 run, highlighted by 3-pointers from Lydon, White and Howard. The Bulldogs missed 11 straight shots before Tashombe Riley connected. The Orange led 46-31 at halftime and outscored the Bulldogs 55-28 in the final 20 minutes. "We've proven so far that we can shoot the ball really well as a team," Lydon said. "We have a lot of different weapons and we can do a lot of different things. When we can get inside and create plays, it opens up the outside shots." BIG PICTURE South Carolina State: The overmatched Bulldogs were never really in this one, but should find an opponent more to their liking when they play Holy Cross on Friday. Syracuse: The Orange step up in class Saturday against undefeated South Carolina. Much more will be known about Syracuse after games against the Gamecocks and Tuesday at No. 16 Wisconsin. POLL IMPLICATIONS This victory probably won't have much bearing on Syracuse's standing in the poll, but wins against South Carolina and at Wisconsin would likely bump the Orange up. FEELING FINE Thompson showed no ill effects from a foot injury sustained Friday against Monmouth. HIGHLIGHT REEL Thompson's turnaround slam -- with authority -- extended the Orange lead to 41-26 with 1:37 to go in the first half. TURNING POINT Dajuan Coleman gave the Orange some breathing room in the first half with five straight points on two point-blank shots and a free throw that extended Syracuse's lead to 23-12. UP NEXT South Carolina State hosts Holy Cross on Friday. Syracuse travels to Brooklyn on Saturday for a matchup with South Carolina. Wednesday, November 23, 2016 Porzingis, Rose help Knicks edge Trail Blazers, 107-103 NEW YORK (AP) -- Derrick Rose had a red-hot Kristaps Porzingis and an ice-cold Carmelo Anthony, and he chose neither. Down the stretch, Rose called his own number. Rose made the go-ahead basket with 3:15 remaining and hit the jumper that clinched it with 6.8 seconds left as the New York Knicks beat the Portland Trail Blazers 107-103 on Tuesday night. "I'm not here to bust or brag but I'm used to being in positions where I have the ball in my hand, playing in Chicago," Rose said. "I've really played like that my entire life, through grammar school, high school, college and here." Porzingis had 31 points and nine rebounds and Rose scored six of his 18 points down the stretch. Brandon Jennings had 11 assists off the bench as the Knicks won their fifth straight at home. "That's why we came here," Jennings said. "We came here to win." Anthony finished with 17 points after going scoreless in the fourth quarter and shooting 2 for 12 in the second half, but tipped out the rebound of Rose's miss with about 30 seconds left, allowing the Knicks to keep possession before Rose's jumper that clinched it. "There's other ways to impact the game if your shots not falling and he did it another way and that was defense and rebounding," guard Courtney Lee said. Damian Lillard scored 22 points for the Trail Blazers but fell to 4-1 at Madison Square Garden. CJ McCollum added 16 points. The Blazers were trying for a New York sweep, having routed the Brooklyn Nets 129-109 on Sunday. They managed just a pair of free throws from Lillard after taking a three-point lead with 3:58 to play. "We've got to go out there and get after it. We've got to play hard, understand who they are and what they're capable of," Lillard said. "At the end of the day it's the NBA, anybody can be beat." Rose made consecutive baskets, with his reverse layup giving the Knicks a 102-101 lead. It appeared he was going to lose possession on their next trip, but the ball came out to Mindaugas Kuzminskas for a 3-pointer that made it 105-101 with 2:37 to play. Lillard's free throws cut it to two with 1:22 left, but the Blazers turned it over, then couldn't grab the rebound after a Knicks miss. Rose hit a jumper as the shot clock was winding down to put away the victory. TIP-INS Trail Blazers: Portland had won four straight at MSG, with its last loss in March 2012, a few months before drafting Lillard. ... Coach Terry Stotts remained with 190 wins, tied with Mike Dunleavy for fourth on Portland's career coaching list. Knicks: The Knicks played without starting center Joakim Noah (illness) for the second straight game. ... Jennings cramped up and didn't play in the fourth quarter. ... New York won for just the second time in the last nine meetings. NEW YORK, NEW YORK Stotts, on the Blazers' lengthy stay in New York, where they arrived Saturday for their two-game stint: "It's actually nice not to have to travel for that extra game. It makes the road trip a little more tolerable, but to be able to stay in New York four days is pretty nice," he said. SIBLING RIVALRY Knicks backup center Marshall Plumlee didn't get into the game to play against his older brother Mason, the Blazers' starting center. Marshall Plumlee made his NBA debut on Sunday, a day after Mason surprised him by showing up to watch him play for the Westchester Knicks of the NBA Development League. UP NEXT Trail Blazers: Visit Cleveland on Wednesday, the first meeting since the Blazers' 105-76 rout last Dec. 26 in a game they played without Lillard. Knicks: Host the Hornets on Friday in the opener of a home-and-home series. They play Saturday in Charlotte, where they have lost five straight. Wednesday, November 23, 2016 NHL expansion team gets a name: Vegas Golden Knights LAS VEGAS (AP) -- The NHL's newest team is named the Vegas Golden Knights. Owner Bill Foley and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the Las Vegas expansion franchise's official name and revealed its logo and colors Tuesday night at a gala ceremony for about 5,000 fans outside T-Mobile Arena, where the Golden Knights will begin play next season. The Golden Knights' logo is a simple front view of a fighting helmet with a conspicuous "V" in the middle. Their colors are steel grey, gold, red and black. "Our logo and our name is really going to exhibit the highest element of the warrior class -- the knight," Foley told the crowd. "The knight protects the unprotected. The knight defends the realm. The knight never gives up, never gives in, always advances, never retreats. And that is what our team is going to be." The NHL awarded its 31st franchise in June to this gambling mecca in the Mojave Desert. Foley is a billionaire businessman who sold the league on the potential of being the first major pro sports franchise in the growing market while playing in a new $375 million arena already constructed on the south end of the Strip. The franchise made its name announcement near an outdoor rink where young hockey players braved the 58-degree nighttime temperatures in Vegas' desert basin. The ceremony endured technical difficulties when a video presentation refused to run, prompting Foley and Bettman to kill time. Bettman grinningly encouraged the fans to boo him, saying it's a true indication that Las Vegas is a real NHL city. "Believe me, we won't screw up the first game like we screwed up the video," Foley said with a laugh. Foley paid $500 million as an expansion fee to the other 30 ownership groups, and the West Point graduate strongly considered naming his team the Black Knights in honor of his Army roots. He changed his mind during the lengthy process of developing a brand and an identity for his team, but Foley kept a military touch in the name despite some local criticism for its lack of a connection to Las Vegas. Foley has said the team didn't want to include an overt gambling reference in the name, but also considered Desert Knights and Silver Knights. Fans chanted Foley's name when he stepped to the podium to make the announcement. "I'm very proud of our name, and I'm very proud of our logo," Foley said. The team has been enthusiastically received in southern Nevada, which is getting the first major professional sports franchise in a market of nearly 1.4 million. Foley led a successful drive that landed several thousand deposits on season tickets months before the NHL officially granted a team to the city. The Golden Knights immediately began selling team merchandise at the announcement. Wednesday, November 23, 2016 Jake Allen stops 39 for Blues in 4-2 win at Boston BOSTON (AP) -- The St. Louis Blues turned around a listless start by getting gritty in the second period. Robert Bortuzzo and Paul Stastny scored 2:12 apart in the second and Jake Allen had 39 saves, helping the Blues beat the Boston Bruins 4-2 on Tuesday night despite getting just seven shots on net in the first 20 minutes. "We were so sideways in the first period trying to make plays that weren't there," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Once our attack went direct, I thought the second period was the best we've played on the road." Star Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara played just one shift in the second period before exiting with an undisclosed injury. With Boston using only five defenseman, St. Louis was able to wear the Bruins down. "We got caught in our own end at times for long periods of time and then we had some guys that were out there tired," Boston coach Claude Julien said. The Blues won their fourth straight and put an end to a four-game road losing streak. Hitchcock said the turnaround was remarkable and simple. The Blues kept control of the puck in the offensive zone, kept it moving and got themselves in position to capitalize on rebounds. "I thought in the second period we had a lot of participants. We're still not there yet, but the second period was a marked improvement from what we've been playing on the road before," Hitchcock said. "It was a direct contrast to the first period." Jori Lehtera scored twice for St. Louis, including a shot into an empty net with 1:16 left just after Allen stopped a one-timer to preserve the lead. Colton Parayko and Patrik Berglund each had two assists. Longtime Blues captain David Backes scored for Boston in his first game against his former club, putting the Bruins up 1-0 early in the first with the 20,000th goal in franchise history. Montreal is the only other NHL team with 20,000 goals. Dominic Moore also scored for the Bruins, who played much of the last two periods without Chara. "Hopefully it's very temporary and he'll be back in short order," Backes said. Boston lost for just the third time this season with Tuukka Rask starting in goal. Rask had 24 saves for the Bruins, who had won four of five. After a troubling first period, the Blues had 14 shots in the second and scored three times to take a 3-2 lead into the third. "I think we were just playing on our heels a little bit," Stastny said. "We were kind of playing wishing hockey a little bit, watching too much, trying to go for whole plays instead of playing that simple game. You've just got to find a way to possess the puck, get it on the forecheck and create your own chances. That's what we started doing." Lehtera tied it at 1 when he tipped Parayko's past Rask 3:23 into the second. Boston challenged the goal but lost when the officials reviewed it and found there was no interference on Rask. Moore put Boston back up briefly with a wrist shot over Allen's glove for a short-handed goal at 8:59 of the second. Bortuzzo backhanded in a wide rebound to tie it again with 6:01 left in the second for his first goal of the season, then Stastny gave St. Louis its first lead when he poked in another rebound off a shot by Jaden Schwartz. Backes, who signed with Boston as a free agent July 1 after spending his first 10 seasons with St. Louis, knocked in a rebound from in front of the crease when Allen couldn't control Torey Krug's slap shot 7:44 into the game. NOTES: Krug's assist on the opening goal was the 100th in his career. ... LW Alexander Steen did not travel with the Blues and missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury. ... RW David Pastrnak, who leads Boston with 10 goals, missed his third consecutive game with an undisclosed injury. UP NEXT Blues: At Washington on Wednesday night, wrapping up a quick visit to the East Coast with back-to-back games. Bruins: At Ottawa on Thursday night for an Eastern Conference opponent after playing five straight against Western Conference teams. Wednesday, November 23, 2016