Bills vs. Texans 2014 picks and predictions: Houston earning confidence from experts

The Houston Texans (2-1) are picked by many to beat the Buffalo Bills (2-1) Sunday afternoon at NRG Stadium. Both teams enter 2-1 after a taste of defeat from Week 3, with Houston falling to the New York Giants while the Bills lost at home to the San Diego Chargers.

Buffalo has been aided by turnovers, currently tied for the fourth-best differential at +4. The Bills have only committed one turnover, an EJ Manuel interception. Manuel has been cautious when throwing, leading to ball control but also a limited pass attack. The Bills rank 28th in the NFL with 191.3 passing yards per game.

The Giants’s secondary has done its job, holding Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins to just 89 yards and one touchdown through the air. Meanwhile on offense, the Giants are rolling in all phases of the game with 150 yards passing and 48 yards on the ground.

New York has struggled mightily on defense through three games and is looking to turn things around. If the Giants are without Rodgers-Cromartie for an extended period, that’s going to prove more difficult as they navigate the high-powered offenses of the NFC East.

The Giants currently lead Washington, 21-7, as the first half is coming to a close.

Washington cannot afford to lose any more players on offense as quarterback Robert Griffin III went down with a severe ankle injury in Week 2. Williams has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons and hasn’t missed a game since becoming a full-time starter.

The 26-year-old out of Oklahoma is an important piece of the offensive puzzle for Washington as it tries to sort out its woes at quarterback. Kirk Cousins is in the midst of his worst game as a professional after throwing four interceptions through three full quarters of action.

On the other side of the ball, DeAngelo Hall is out for the season after rupturing his Achilles. Another injury to a major player would be devastating.1

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors

In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union’s agreement — such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

“Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don’t think it would have been a major adjustment for us,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule “beneficial in developmental leagues.”

Brewers manager Craig Counsell, who spent 16 seasons in the major leagues as a player, told ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that he hopes the league and the union continue to have a dialogue over ways to enhance the entertainment value of the game without making too many drastic changes.

Fitzgerald will be 34 this fall, and while he led the NFL in receptions (107), his career-low 9.6 yards per catch was a testament to both how the Cardinals used him and how Carson Palmer’s skills had declined behind center. The veteran wideout was targeted much closer to the line of scrimmage than in years past, in part to serve as his quarterback’s safety blanket in a disappointing season. Palmer’s QB rating dropped from 104.6 to 87.2 as he played out his age-36 season.

While those numbers and his age raise some red flags for the Patriots, New England would be thrilled to have the future Hall of Famer on the roster. Head coach Bill Belichick has often raved about Fitzgerald, even using him as the measuring stick by which other wideouts are compared.

Fitzgerald wouldn’t be a home run, but he’d be another solid hit for a franchise that’s piled up free agent and trade victories en route to a dynasty. The only question here is whether he’d be willing to leave the only NFL franchise he’s called home — and whether the cost would be low enough for the notoriously stingy Patriots to bite.235000253135345325-C201-1

I love playing against Clemson when I face Grady Jarrett.

I asked South Carolina guard A.J. Cann which NFL player he looks to emulate, and he mentioned Tennessee guard Chance Warmack. “I became friends with [Chance] a while back and ever since then I have been watching his game and just looking at him play.” Warmack was also known as a “pure” guard and a mauler in the phone booth, and went 10th overall in 2013.

As for Colorado State tackle Ty Sambrailo? “I watch a lot of Joe Staley, I’m from the Bay Area, and he came out kinda when I was starting to play tackle. He’s always been a great player. He’s fun to watch. Athletic, technician, great feet.”

South Carolina’s A.J. Cann: “I love playing against Clemson when I face Grady Jarrett. I think he’s a very good player. He’s a smart player and he’s very physical. He gives it all he’s got every time, and I love playing against guys like that. We had battles all the time.”

LSU OL La’el Collins: “Game planning against a guy like Dante Fowler, somebody who is an extremely good pass rusher, somebody who can cause problems. So being able to look at him and break down film on him, understanding his moves and what he likes to do and being able to compete against him is nice, against that caliber guy.”

Iowa OL Andrew Donnal: “Both at guard and at tackle I’ve faced some pretty good guys. What comes to mind is both the bowl games. I played against some good guys against LSU and Tennessee, against some good defenders. And in Big Ten play, every week’s a battle. There’s no real days off, which is a good thing, says a lot about the conference.”

Paying off bet, Zoo Atlanta names cockroach after Tom Brady

More than a week after the Falcons fell victim to the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, an Atlanta zoo has named a cockroach after Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Tom Brady says he doesn’t have a problem if some of his teammates decide not to go to the White House to celebrate New England’s Super Bowl LI victory.
Zoo Atlanta says on its Facebook page that it had a bet with Rhode Island’s Roger Williams Park Zoo that called for the loser to name a baby animal after the winning team’s star quarterback. Both zoos figured the loser would be pretty bitter about the game, so they agreed the animal in question would be a Madagascar hissing cockroach.

The zoo introduced a whole family of cockroaches in a video Monday, including a tiny Tom Brady.

Brady and the Patriots came back from a 25-point deficit to defeat Atlanta 34-28 in overtime to win the team’s fifth Super Bowl title.

The Chargers likely would be unwilling to match that kind of deal.

The franchise tag is a labor designation that restricts a player’s potential movement in exchange for a high one-year salary. It is governed by owners and players through the collective bargaining agreement.

There are two types of designations, exclusive rights and non-exclusive. The exclusive-rights franchise tag designation means a player is bound to the team for the upcoming season. A player’s agent is prohibited from seeking offer sheets elsewhere.

The amount earned is the average of the five largest salaries at the player’s position through the end of the current year’s restricted free-agent signing period (April 21 this year), or 120 percent of the player’s salary the previous year — whichever is greater.

The drive that led to Vinatieri’s kick included so many memorable plays

Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal with no time left started the Patriots’ dynasty. Keep in mind that in 2001, NFL place-kickers converted 46.8 percent of 48-yard attempts. Vinatieri had converted only 58.3 percent of attempts between 40 and 49 yards. The win probability model accounted for the indoor environment of the Superdome, and at the worst the Patriots were going to overtime with the Rams. But in those days, it was a relatively low-percentage attempt.

The drive that led to Vinatieri’s kick included so many memorable plays, but the Patriots’ win probability swung most dramatically after Brady’s 23-yard pass to Troy Brown. The play put the ball at the Rams’ 36-yard line, nearly in Vinatieri’s range, with 29 seconds remaining. It was the first time during the drive when the Patriots had a better than even chance to win.

Once Colin Kaepernick opts out, San Francisco will have no quarterbacks under contract. That’s a bold strategy. Let’s see how it works out for them. The first order of business for new coach Kyle Shanahan and new general manager John Lynch: Find a quarterback. This is why they were smart to get six-year contracts.

Good question, Alex. I just wasn’t wearing one the day of the photo. I seem to recall it being really hot outside. Probably a good thing I went sans tie because neck sweat from having your dress shirt buttoned all the way to the top is the absolute worst. You can’t hide that with a suit coat. Maybe ESPN will update our glamour shots in the spring. But I doubt that’s high priority at the network!

Garrett attended the show at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta and spoke to an ESPN social media producer, who asked whether there was a specific team he might want to join in the NFL. His answer was “100 percent supposed to be fun,” the producer said.

The NFL Combine’s most persuasive prospects

Each NFL team has completed its annual trek to Indianapolis for the scouting Combine. Each team tested, timed, probed and found a few players who surprised. But in most instances, the Combine was a check mark. It has become an exercise in confirmation.

There is no supplanting a player’s game film.

The Vikings released a statement of their own shortly after the NFL announced it would challenge Judge Doty’s decision:

“Adrian Peterson is an important member of the Minnesota Vikings, and our focus remains on welcoming him back when he is able to rejoin our organization. Today’s ruling leaves Adrian’s status under the control of the NFL, the NFLPA and the legal system, and we will have no further comment at this time.”

The NFLPA is pleased with the result, with executive director DeMaurice Smith stating that it is an example of why neutral arbitration is important:

“This is a victory for the rule of law, due process and fairness. Our collective bargaining agreement has rules for implementation of the personal conduct policy and when those rules are violated, our union always stands up to protect our players’ rights. This is yet another example why neutral arbitration is good for our players, good for the owners and good for our game.”

Peterson was initially suspended after pleading no contest to misdemeanor assault charges. Under the terms of the suspension, Peterson would not be permitted to file for reinstatement until April 15, effectively sidelining him for the entirety on this season.