Friday, December 15, 2017
Sports

Extra wattage

Fab five

1. Falcons 2. Texans

3. Giants 4. 49ers

5. Ravens

Best bet

Broncos (3-3) over Saints (2-4)

The Saints have bounced back with two wins following an 0-4 start, but Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will continue his fourth-quarter magic.

Numbers game

57 Games decided by seven or fewer points, the most at this point in NFL history.

Eagles on the brink

One head has rolled in Philly. Longtime coach Andy Reid — himself on the hot seat — fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo on Oct. 16. Could benching quarterback Michael Vick, left, be next?

Vick has 13 turnovers, and the Eagles have lost three of four. Though rookie Nick Foles and veteran Trent Edwards aren't enticing options, the Eagles rank 30th in scoring offense at 17.2 per game.

Vick said Castillo's firing "sent a message" to players that if you're not performing up to standards, "you are just going to be sitting beside him."

Streaks of the week

Redskins linebacker London Fletcher's iron man streak of 231 games played is in jeopardy. Fletcher injured his hamstring last week against the Giants and also is dealing with a balance problem that led him to see a neurologist. Fletcher's streak spans 15 seasons and, entering today, is tied for first among active players with Bucs S Ronde Barber. Meanwhile, Titans left tackle Michael Roos' streak will end at 119 games after his appendicitis on Monday. And Jets linebacker Bart Scott's streak also might end at 119. He's doubtful with a hyperextended big toe.

The race question

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton continues to come under fire, last season's offensive rookie of the year scuffling and sulking after a 1-5 start. And Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, a former mentor of Newton, believes some of the criticism is race-related.

"I heard somebody compare him to Vince Young," Moon told Yahoo Sports. "It's the same old (stuff). It's always a comparison of one black to another black. I get tired of it. I get tired of defending it. I think people are overreacting. How can he be a bust? He just had one of the great years a rookie has ever had. And now he can't play? Come on."

Most disappointing team

The Lions were a popular playoff pick. And why not? They reached the postseason a year ago, when they started 5-0, with the potent combination of quarterback Matthew Stafford, left, and receiver Calvin Johnson having them look like a team on the rise. But Motor City is moping after a 2-4 start. All four losses are by eight points or fewer, but it doesn't take the sting away.

"There's no way I would've thought this," offensive lineman Rob Sims said. "We returned everybody on offense. We had one of the best offenses in the league last year. The work ethic is there. The fight is there. You figure that we're going to beat Tennessee. We're going to beat the other teams we've lost to. It's just ridiculous."

What they're saying

"We didn't like losing that first game at home. All the bright lights shined on us, and they came here and whupped our butt fair and square. They were definitely the better team that night, and we will show them who is the better team come (today)."

Giants safety Antrel Rolle, on today's game with the Cowboys, who beat them 24-17 in the season opener at the Meadowlands

Poll of the week

Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is racking up negative accolades. In a recent poll of fans conducted by Nielsen and E-Poll Market Research, Suh was named the league's most disliked player with just 19 percent appeal, according to Forbes.com. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was second and Eagles quarterback Michael Vick third. The most likeable was Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.

Times wires, the Detroit Free Press and USA Today contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt's trash talk apparently matches up with his larger-than-life play on the field.

Last week, after Ravens 5-foot-8, 212-pound running back Ray Rice tried to block him, Watt quipped, "I've eaten burritos bigger than you."

Watt, 23, a second-year pro out of Wisconsin, has been one of the NFL's biggest stars this season. His league-leading 91/2 sacks and overall disruptive play make him an early MVP candidate.

"It's been a long journey, but it's been a lot of fun," he told USA Today.

Five years ago, Watt, 23, was taking classes at a community college in Waukesha, Wis., and working at a Pizza Hut when he had an epiphany. A 10-year-old boy asked the 6-5, 295-pound delivery guy why he wasn't playing football.

"That was a powerful day in my life, a humbling moment that reiterated my drive to be great and get to the top as a football player," Watt said.

Watt went on to star for the Badgers for two seasons before being the 11th overall pick in 2011 by Houston. And with end Mario Williams leaving via free agency and linebacker Brian Cushing lost for the season due to a torn ACL, Watt has been the driving force for the Texans defense.

With his large hands, long arms and leaping ability, Watt has 10 passes defended, and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden nicknamed him "J.J. Swatt."

"That J.J. Watt's the real deal," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "You'd think the Knicks would pick him up, too, with all the shot blocking he did."

Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who has coached Reggie White and Bruce Smith, gave Watt the highest praise, saying he had Hall of Fame potential: "The only players I've seen that can do what he can do, with his intensity, can be found in Canton."

 
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