This season have proven, once again, that Gronk isn’t indestructible.
With news this week that Rob Gronkowski will probably be out until next season following back surgery for a ruptured disc, it marks the fifth straight season that the superstar TE hasn’t played a full season. Granted, the past two years, he played in 15 games, but this season his final tally is just eight.
Gronk missed the beginning of the season while rehabbing a hamstring injury and started slowly when he did debut. But starting in Week 5, he showed why he was a first-round fantasy pick, scoring 65.3 points in the next four games. In fact, despite playing in just eight games, he still ranks as a top-10 TE in scoring.
With Gronk gone until at least the Super Bowl, Martellus Bennett looks to have the most to gain, stepping in as the Pats’ top TE.
There’s also speculation that they’ll start using more three-receiver sets instead of two-TE looks due to this injury. This could be a big boon for the emerging Malcolm Mitchell for the rest of the season (more on him in SIT/START) while Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan (back from injury this week) should also see a few more targets.
Look out for receiving backs James White and Dion Lewis, too. Coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady have no shortage of options, even if they are missing their best one.
REED IT AND WEEP
Gronk owners aren’t the only ones looking for a replacement TE this week.
Washington’s Jordan Reed has been ruled out with a shoulder injury suffered during the Thanksgiving Day game against the Cowboys and there’s no guarantee that he’ll return in Week 14.
That puts former 49ers star Vernon Davis in the spotlight for Washington, which could make him an impact player down the stretch for fantasy teams.
Not including a shutout against Green Bay, Davis has been bringing some decent returns since Week 6, averaging 9.5 points in five games.
NOT PACKING IT IN
If the Packers ran the ball as well as coach Mike McCarthy talked up his running backs, Green Bay wouldn’t have such a big issue with its ground attack.
Despite the fact that Green Bay hasn’t had a rusher get more than 60 yards in a game since Eddie Lacy in Week 6, McCarthy still sees a lot of positives from his RBs.
This week, he said that he wants to get both Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael “more opportunities,” though James Starks remains the No. 1 back.
Whether that actually happens remains to be seen, but considering McCarthy’s penchant for telling Aaron Rodgers to chuck it 40+ times per game, we wouldn’t invest too much in Packers RBs for the foreseeable future.
JAGS BACK JACKED
The backfield in Jacksonville is looking like even more of a dicey proposition than usual this week.
Though there have been positive signs for the Jags running game with new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett committing to the rush a bit more, this week it could be in trouble.
Chris Ivory has already been ruled out with a hamstring injury and T.J. Yeldon is nursing an ankle injury, which should limit his workload against a tough Broncos defence.
That means Denard Robinson should get more than a few touches, regardless of Yeldon’s status.
WHAT’S UP WITH WATKINS
After returning from the IR last week, the Bills are unsure how much Sammy Watkins will be able to handle this week against the Raiders.
Buffalo’s top receiver is reportedly dealing with another broken bone in his foot and missed some practice this week. Bills offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn also isn’t sure about how much Watkins’ foot can handle over the rest of the season, which should concern fantasy owners that grabbed the WR as a stash.
As much as Adrian Peterson wants to return from his knee injury – and he is ahead of schedule in his rehab, reportedly – the Vikings may not let him. Minnesota is fading down the stretch and may not want to risk rushing back their superstar RB for some meaningless games.
The Vikes may need to stay in contention for AP to get his wish and play again this season.
Start Matthew Stafford, QB, DET at NO
He hasn’t scored 18 points in the past five games, but the Saints defence can easily be lit up.
Sit Cam Newton, QB, CAR at SEA
He has a decent history against the Seahawks, but Seattle’s D has held the past three QBs it faced under 18 points.
Start Lamar Miller, RB, HOU at GB
The Packers defence have given up the second most points to opposing RBs since Week 8.
Sit Rashad Jennings, RB, NYG at PIT
After a nice two-game run with double-digit points, Jennings fell back to earth last week and he’s very TD-dependent this week.
Start Jordan Howard, RB, CHI vs. SF
The 49ers have given up over 30 yards more per game than the next worst run defence.
Sit Allen Robinson, WR, JAC vs. DEN
This hasn’t been a good season for the Jags top WR and it will only get worse against Denver.
Start Malcolm Mitchell, WR, NE vs. LA
Of the Patriots’ options in the passing game, Mitchell has the best matchup this week against Rams CB E.J. Gaines.
Sit Randall Cobb, WR, GB vs. HOU
Has averaged just 42.5 yards per game over the past four with just a single TD. His targets are down and so is his fantasy stock.
Against the Panthers last week, Khalil Mack became the first player since Charles Woodson in 2009 to have an INT, sack, forced fumble, recovery and TD in same game.
ADD OF THE WEEK
Tyreek Hill, WR, KC
Hill was the star of the Chiefs big prime-time win over Denver last week and fantasy owners are certainly paying attention. As long as Jeremy Maclin is out, Hill is a solid fantasy option.
DROP OF THE WEEK
Cameron Meredith, WR, CHI
Even with a decent matchup against the 49ers on tap, fantasy owners have been ditching the Bears WR. It’s easy to see why: He had just two catches on nine targets last week for 19 yards.
WAIVER WIRE DEFENCE
San Diego Chargers DEF
Came back off their bye week with a strong game against Houston and now host the Bucs. The Chargers may only have three sacks in the past four games, but have 11 turnovers in that span.
Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020
Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.
Theo Bair (MLS)
This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)
Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.
Connor McDavid (NHL)
McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.
Chuba Hubbard (College Football)
The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.
2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.
Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo
Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.
The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.
Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.
Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.
“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”
Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.
Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.
“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”
Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.
“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”
Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.
Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.
“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”
After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.
“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”
None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.
“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.
Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.
“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”
That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.
“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.
Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month
NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.
The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.
Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.
“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.
“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”
It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.
For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.
Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.
A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.
It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.
Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.
“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.
“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”
Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.
“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.
“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”
And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.
“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”
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