Roger Goodell still won’t go to a Patriots home game, 2 years after DeflateGate

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been notoriously avoiding New England since DeflateGate popped up more than two years ago — going so far as to break with tradition in not attending the Patriots’ home opener after they won Super Bowl XLIX.

That won’t change this week, either, when the Patriots host the Steelers Sunday night in the AFC Championship. Goodell, who attended the Falcons’ 36-20 win over the Seahawks in the Georgia Dome last week, will return to Atlanta for the NFC Championship:

Roger Goodell will attend the NFC Championship game in Atlanta on Sunday, per a league spokesman.

Sherman appeared on Seattle’s injury report just once with an injury designation this season. That came in Week 12, and Sherman’s injury was identified as an ankle. Sherman did not participate in practice on Wednesday of that week, and returned to full participation Thursday and Friday.

There was no mention of Sherman on the team’s injury report through Week 7 of the regular season. After that point, Sherman appeared on the injury report each week with the exception of Week 15. In every week except for the ankle injury in Week 12, Sherman was held out of practice one day with a non-injury related designation.

Carroll said that, like Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett, Sherman fought through the injury and didn’t miss any practice or playing time.

“They all had it during the course of the season and they just made it through it,” Carroll said. “They never complained, they didn’t want to miss a practice and they basically didn’t miss anything but they were legit, it was legit injury, it showed up and the whole thing.”

Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones got so pumped that he threw up everywhere

The Kansas City Chiefs were trying to get themselves pumped before attempting to make one last defensive stop against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Defensive lineman Chris Jones was swaying his head, and eventually threw up, spitting it into the thin, cold Kansas City air.

Unfortunately for the Chiefs, it wasn’t enough, as the Steelers held on to an 18-16 lead to advance to the AFC Championship.

They followed up that stretch with four consecutive losses, with a bye week slapped in the middle. At 4-5, The Steelers’ fall felt faster than their ascent, and for a hot minute, it appeared that the entire AFC North was a dumpster fire. To be fair, Pittsburgh’s losses came to the Dolphins, Patriots, Ravens, and Cowboys. Three of those four were playoff teams — and the Ravens finished with the league’s No. 7 defense — so it wasn’t exactly a cakewalk.

That losing streak was broken with a win against the Cleveland Browns on the road, but heading into Week 12, serious questions remained about the Steelers. Little did we all know they’d put together one of the stronger finishes by any team we would see to finish the 2016 regular season.

They look like they’ve gotten things together and could go far
Since that losing streak, the Steelers have peeled off eight consecutive victories. Games against the Browns and Colts helped ease them into the winning streak, before pulling out victories over the Giants, Bills, Bengals, Ravens, Browns, and most recently the Dolphins.

In the Steelers’ Wild Card game against the Dolphins, Bell showed us what we he’s capable of on a big stage, setting a team playoff record with 167 rushing yards. It helped power the Steelers past the Dolphins for an easy win, something that the team was missing last postseason. The offensive line was a big reason for this, along with the team’s overall success. They’ve given up just 1.31 sacks a game, which is the second-least in the NFL.

Tom Brady misses practice for ‘DeflateGate,’ Peyton Manning will get snaps in Saturday’s preseason game

Tom Brady missed practice on Tuesday to be in New York for settlement talks relating to DeflateGate, but those negotiations yielded no progress as it appears more and more likely that Brady and the NFL are not going to be able to reach a settlement in this case.

Instead of staying in the Big Apple to attend Wednesday’s federal court hearing, Brady has decided to join his teammates in West Virginia, where the New England Patriots are scheduled to hold joint practices with the New Orleans Saints in advance of their preseason matchup on Saturday night.

While Brady was away, Jimmy Garoppolo took all the reps at quarterback as the Patriots held an unpadded walk-through at Gillette Stadium this afternoon. According to NESN.com’s Doug Kyed, the second-year signal caller completed 9 of 14 passes with two interceptions during the hour-long practice session.

Peyton Manning will get his first taste of preseason football in 2015, as Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak told reporters after Tuesday’s practice that the 39-year-old quarterback will play Saturday against the Houston Texans. Manning, who sat out the opener last week, is expected to be on the field for “a quarter-and-a-half to a full half.”

It is not unusual for Manning to get a bunch of reps during the preseason. In 2013 and 2014, he played in each of the Broncos’ first three preseason games before sitting out the finale. This will be Manning’s first live game action in Kubiak’s zone-blocking offense, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in the new scheme.

While Manning’s anticipated debut might get the headlines, a couple kickers stole the show at the Broncos’ practice on Tuesday. Brandon McManus and Connor Barth, who are battling for one of two kicking spots, engaged in a kick-off and didn’t disappoint the fans watching at Dove Valley. They must love that mile high air.

The 49ers’ investment in Tank Carradine is finally paying off

On paper, the San Francisco 49ers defense is in shambles. Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Chris Borland and Ray McDonald are all gone. They added Darnell Dockett in free agency, but he’s coming off a serious knee injury.

This year’s first-round pick, Arik Armstead, looks to be more of a long-term project rather than a day one starter. It’s going to be vital that Tank Carradine and last season’s backups step up big-time in 2015 if that defense has any chance of living up to the high standards of play they’ve set for themselves.

Carradine was one of those luxury draft picks that the 49ers have been so adept at accumulating lately. This kid was a fucking terror his last season at FSU, coming home with 11 sacks on the year. Unfortunately, he tore up his ACL at the end of the season, so it wasn’t likely he would play right away, if at all, during his rookie year.

So I flew into Hartford the evening before the big meeting of the minds and made the 40 minute drive into Bristol so that I could take in the sites and do some tourism in Bristol. The thing is, as it turns out, theres not a whole lot to do there. Out of the top 10 things to do in Bristol on Trip Advisor, 7 are restraunts. The other three are Lake Compounce water park, the clock museum, and the museum of fire. So obvously I made a bee line for the water park.

Unfortunately it had rained earlier that day so the Water Park was closed down which is like a prostute taking a day off on Valentines Day. But Bristol is the type of small town America where people still trust each other, no one locks there front doors, even the people that own the Water Park. So I let myself into Lake Compounce and went on a little tour of the place:

In fact, First Take is the highest rated show on ESPN2 by far despite the fact that it airs at 10 AM Eastern on weekday mornings when many of our nations employed elite are at there office jobs.

Matt Moore leveled by brutal helmet-to-helmet hit that almost started fight

The Miami Dolphins’ Wild Card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers hasn’t gone their way so far, and things appeared to be getting worse after quarterback Matt Moore took a vicious hit from the Steelers’ Bud Dupree.

Dupree was called for a personal foul, roughing the passer. He hit Moore square in the chin on the hit. After the play, unsportsmanlike conduct on Jay Ajayi was called as he pushed Dupree for the hit.

T.J. Yates started warming up, and came out for for the Dolphins at quarterback. It was his first time being on the field since Dec. 2015 when he was with the Houston Texans.

After going through some tests on the sideline, Moore came back into the game after missing just one play.

Postgame, Moore described the hit and how it affected him:

Matt Moore: “I just got popped. I just needed a second there. It was more my jaw than anything else. He got me pretty good.”

The Browns are trying to get a fresh start on a defense that utterly collapsed this year, ranking 31st in yards allowed per game and 30th in points given up per game.

“It’s very exciting for me to become part of the Cleveland Browns organization and join Hue Jackson’s coaching staff,” Williams said. “I have so much respect for Hue having competed against him in this league for so many years. We’re looking forward to getting to work.”

Williams will likely be tasked with coaching up that side of the ball while the Browns try to rebuild through the draft. His ugly history with the Saints will always follow him around, but Williams is a decent hire for a Browns team searching for credibility.

Texans try surprise onside kick, but don’t recover even with an offsides penalty

The Houston Texans have nothing to play for in Week 17 after securing the No. 4 seed in the AFC, regardless of the team’s result against the Tennessee Titans. So Bill O’Brien is a little more willing to roll the dice and take risks, but things haven’t worked out for the Texans so far.

After finally getting on the board with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Brock Osweiler to C.J. Fiedorowicz in the third quarter, Houston tried to keep the momentum going with a surprise onside kick after the Titans were called for unsportsmanlike conduct on the touchdown.

While the aggressive strategy is lower risk than most surprise onside kicks, it was still unsuccessful:

“We have to have competition at every position and if they’re not the best player, I’m certain they won’t be out there.”

Aguayo finished the year with a field goal percentage of 71 percent and his longest successful kick of the year was a 43-yard attempt in Week 1. Koetter defended his lack of long kicks, though, telling reporters that the team just didn’t provide him many opportunities to kick from long distance.

His field goal percentage was the lowest in the NFL, but Aguayo was 32 of 34 on extra points.

Competition in camp isn’t uncommon for kickers, though. If nothing else, teams need more than one kicker to give the rest of the special teams units reps. But Aguayo will still need to elevate his play if he hopes to stay with the Buccaneers long, second-round selection or not.

Bad memories for Lions fans

The Packers-Lions game was all but decided when the fourth quarter was winding down. The Lions were on offense and short on time, so they decided to bomb it to the end zone. They got it, but what transpired was probably the saddest Hail Mary.

It’s not that the pass and reception weren’t impressive. Anquan Boldin did an excellent job securing the football as he fell. It’s just that a Hail Mary at Ford Field feels awfully familiar.

The Packers shocked Detroit last year with one of their own, the longest Hail Mary in NFL history. This one — especially because the Lions still needed an onside kick recover and another Hail Mary — was false hope. Still, the Lions are in the playoffs! No need to carry that pessimism into the postseason. They should, however, keep that gunslinging going.

There was trouble brewing ahead of the season when quarterback Colin Kaepernick demanded a trade, before being benched for five weeks due to “arm fatigue” when he was forced to stay in San Francisco. Eventually, Baalke renegotiated his contract, removing his 2017 injury guarantee, but allowing for a postseason opt-out option — one the quarterback was reported to have expressed utilizing.

Former Niners head coach Mike Nolan spoke out in early December in Baalke’s defense, noting that some of the personnel turnover the past few seasons has been atypical, and that Baalke’s coaching choices might be the ultimate reason for his firing.

“I think they have the right guy in place to pick the players. But unfortunately for Trent, I think the choice of Tomsula hurt him, and currently right now you know, with Chip Kelly, it’s not helping him either. All of a sudden you say, “Look, we can’t keep him, he’s the one that picked the last two guys,” I guess is maybe what they’re saying.”