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Ricardo Lockette, not Marshawn Lynch, was robbed of Super Bowl heroism

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    The call was not bad. It was perfect, actually.

    The NFL world with its 20-20 hindsight vision tells a different story, of course. Marshawn Lynch's retirement this year was met with more he-should-have-gotten-the-ball cries, which seem to have become eternal. But the actual robbery victim of Super Bowl XLIX was forced into premature retirement this week with a neck injury.

    PHOTOS: Scenes from Super Bowl XLIX

    That's right. Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette, not the running back, was deprived of a game-winning touchdown and Super Bowl heroism.

    Lockette, 29, suffered ligament damage in his neck during a game against the Cowboys in November. He later said he could have died on the field that day. Retirement, though "bitter sweet" for the undrafted Fort Valley State product, was his only option.

    He can thank Malcolm Butler for that "bitter" part.

    Had Tom Brady not led an epic fourth-quarter comeback, the Super Bowl MVP choice would have been easy. One play — the play of his life and what will go down as one of the better plays in Super Bowl history — would have been all the Patriots cornerback needed to win the award.

    MORE: All-time worst Super Bowl MVP whiffs

    (GIF via NFL Game Pass)

    Seattle's play call — a pass on the 1-yard line rather than a Lynch carry — is as scrutinized as any in NFL history. We ask, "Why would coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell not give their bruising back the ball?"[......]

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    Steelers LB Ryan Shazier blows past Antonio Brown, others in foot race

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    It's rare that a linebacker can outrun some of the NFL's top wide receivers, but Ryan Shazier defies the odds.

    The third-year Steelers linebacker defeated teammates Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates in a 40-yard dash after the team's practice Wednesday.

    MORE: NFL's most underrated teams for 201夜网论坛6

    Vince Williams posted Shazier's win on Twitter, and had several hilarious comments about it.

    MORE: NFL's most overrated teams for 2016

    At Shazier's pro day in 2014, he ran an unofficial 4.36-second 40 yard dash. In comparison, Brown, Wheaton and Coates all ran times within the 4.4-second range.

    [......]

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    NFL agrees to cut marketing fantasy football to kids

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    The NFL has agreed to change its fantasy football games for kids, two advocacy groups concerned about gambling announced. 

    The league, which previously aggressively marketed fantasy football games to kids on its NFL Rush Fantasy website and app during the 2015-2016 season, agreed to the move after the groups — the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the National Council on Problem Gambling — sent letters (here and here) in February citing evidence that children who play fantasy sports for valuable prizes experienced a greater incidence of gambling-related problems later.

    The NFL's fantasy games aimed at kids offered cash prizes as big as $5,000 (called a "scholarship") and Xbox One game consoles and "Madden NFL 16" games to contest winners. The league went so far as to hire an "educational marketing agency," to promote its fantasy game in schools via school curricula centered entirely on NFL fantasy football, including activity sheets and a teacher's guide. (Students were required to register for the NFL's fantasy football game in order to access lesson materials and complete assignments.)

    MORE: NFL offensive breakout candidates | NFL defensive breakout candidates

    However, the advocacy groups asserted that fantasy sports aren't a "safe" or "harmless" form of gambling for kids, especially those younger than[......]

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    Bengals have seen Andy Dalton's best, and it's not good enough

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    The defending AFC North champion Bengals, 3-6-1 and off to their worst start since 2010, are the most disappointing team in the conference.

    Which begs the question: Is it time for Cincinnati to move on from quarterback Andy Dalton?

    From my NFL management experience, I understand why it’s not an easy call for Bengals management.

    MORE: Bengals plunge in NFL power rankings

    Dalton, a good regular-season quarterback up until this year, has led the Bengals to five straight playoff appearances. But we all know what has happened in the postseason — Dalton's playoff numbers in four starts (injured for last season's wild-card loss to Pittsburgh) have been abysmal: 11 points per game, one touchdown pass, six interceptions, two lost fumbles, a 57.8 rating and, worst of all, four losses.

    Dalton is in the second season of his six-year, $96 million extension signed in 2015. It was a controversial signing at the time, since Dalton was coming off his fourth straight playoff defeat.

    But Dalton responded with his best regular season in 2015. He led the team to an 8-0 start and produced a career-best 106.2 rating, over 20 points above his career average to that point. It appeared he was poised to finally get over his playoff hurdle, but disaster struck against the Steelers in Week 14, when he suffered a fractured thumb while making a tackle after throwing an interception.

    He hasn't been the same since.

    Dalton's stats and the team's r[......]

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    NFL can prevent rapid loss of fans by addressing sluggish pace of play

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    For nearly every player at nearly every National Football League game, it is a lonely walk from the locker room to the field as halftime ends and the decisive second half beckons. The stadium that shortly before was overflowing with energy and enthusiasm, with nearly every seat occupied, now is almost entirely empty.

    Because as much as customers want to get some food or a beer — or to dispose of what they consumed before and during the first half — 12 minutes just is not enough time to get this accomplished when nearly 70,000 people are using the same window. So they remain stranded in concessions or restroom lines while the second-half kickoff transpires.

    STEELE: Bad development ruining QB play

    "I’ve noticed it on my jog out from the locker room going out for the second half," Indianapolis Colts nose tackle David Parry told Sporting News. "But as soon as the ball is kicked off and the second half starts, I'm focused on what’s going on out on the field."

    The NFL has the shortest halftime break of any major spectator sport, and that has a considerable impact on how the game is paced at other points during the three-plus hours required to complete a game. With the loud discussion since the 2016 season began about declining ratings, the league can only control those elements that are within its purview. And there is no other element of the product that can be as easily improved as the way the games are structured[......]

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    NFL Power Rankings: Chiefs, Seahawks go from stride to slide for Week 10

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    The Eagles, Steelers, Patriots and Saints have emerged as the NFL’s most feared foursome after nine unpredictable weeks of the regular season. While the AFC powerhouses are no surprises, the NFC re-boom of Philadelphia and New Orleans is real and spectacular, too.

    That also means there has been little margin for error for some established contenders. Kansas City and Seattle were breathing down the top, but tough losses to NFC East foes have them trending in the wrong direction at the worst time.

    Who are the other fallers and risers as Week 10 approaches? Here’s the weekly rundown of how NFL teams stack up so far in 2017.

    MORE: Updated NFL playoff picture

    NFL Power Rankings: Week 10

    1. Philadelphia Eagles 8-1 (last week: 1)

    Carson Wentz has passed every test from opposing defenses, and now he's getting extra help from his own defense. The Eagles are no longer a surprise team, transitioned into a real threat and, maybe, the favorite to win it all.

    This week: bye, the only thing that can keep the Eagles from soaring

    2. Pittsburgh Steelers 6-2 (last week: 2)

    The Pennsylvania two-step at the top of the league hasn't changed with Pittsburgh being off. But right before the Steelers' bye, Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown found their groove together — and a new receiving buddy, JuJu Smith-Schuster. It should be[......]

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    Nick Foles gives Eagles good QB problem, Carson Wentz reason to worry

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    MINNEAPOLIS — Nick Foles just threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns — and caught another score — to help the Eagles win Super Bowl 52 as game MVP. A quarterback who does something like that in the NFL's biggest game, as Foles did in Sunday's 41-33 victory over the Patriots, typically would be locked in as his team's starter for the following season.

    But most quarterbacks who do something like that are not viewed as a pure backup to a young franchise QB.

    The Eagles don't have to do anything with Foles soon, as he's under contract for another year with a bargain $7 million coming his way. But as they get closer to the 2018 season and learn more about Carson Wentz's recovery timetable from a knee injury, the Eagles' good QB problem will get tougher.

    MARVEZ: Eagles will stand test of time as better team in Super Bowl 52

    Foles, up first during Monday's Super Bowl MVP and winning coach press conference, wasn't about to stir up any controversy.

    "I'm not really worried about my future right now," the QB said. "There will be a time and plac[......]

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    What time is the 2018 NFL Draft? Date, time & live TV coverage

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    Round 1 through 3 of the NFL Draft are in the books, with Baker Mayfield the first overall pick and one of five quarterbacks taken on the first day. 

    Round 4 starts at noon Saturday from Dallas and you can follow along with our live NFL Draft results.

    The league is offering multiple TV and live stream options for the remaining four rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft; literally every pick can be viewed via TV or live stream. For the first time ever, all seven rounds will air live on broadcast TV.

    MORE: How did a Central Ohio suburb with a population of 20,000 produce six active NFL players?

    Here is everything you need to know about the 2018 NFL Draft.

    When & where is the 2018 NFL Draft?

    The 2018 NFL Draft ends Saturday, April 28, with the final four rounds.

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    Nick Foles keeping Carson Wentz on Eagles' bench all season can't be ruled out

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    My favorite week on the NFL calendar (other than playoff time) is upon us. And leading the way for Week 1 drama is, appropriately, the defending-champion Eagles and their quarterback situation. Super Bowl hero Nick Foles will start over franchise QB Carson Wentz, still recovering from last season's knee injury, against the Falcons in the Thursday-night opener.

    I'm here to remind everyone that the best laid plans for Wentz to reclaim the starting role at some point this season can change if Foles plays well enough.

    Doug Pederson’s cranky attitude when asked about the subject is just a reminder that NFL coaches hate QB controversies. The coach says Wentz is "close" to being game-ready, but the 25-year-old has not yet been fully cleared by team doctors. Philadelphia players, however, say Wentz has looked great in practice when splitting first-team reps with the 29-year-old Foles. Wentz's mobility reportedly has improved each week, and his arm strength is up to his normal standard.

    I saw a similar scenario unfold with my 1998 Vikings team, which had the league's best record at 15-1 and finished one game shy of the Super Bowl. The opening-day starting QB on that team, Brad Johnson, wound up watching backup Randall Cunningham lead the team en route to an MVP season.

    Johnson started the first two games before a sprained ankl[......]

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    Joe Flacco of Baltimore Ravens gives team better chance to win than does Lamar Jackson

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    All things considered, Joe Flacco played poorly in the Ravens' 34-23 loss to the Bengals on Thursday night, but he didn't play poorly enough for Baltimore to make the much-anticipated quarterback change to Lamar Jackson — not by a long shot.

    Flacco completed fewer than 60 percent of his many pass attempts (32 of 55), committed three turnovers and took four sacks, but he also threw for 376 yards and two touchdowns in a valiant comeback effort.

    The QB situation in Baltimore simply comes down to this: Now that the Ravens have fallen to 1-1, one game behind the 2-0 and AFC North-leading Bengals, would Jackson coming in for more than the handful of snaps he's getting as a gadget player make them a better team? For now, the answer is a resounding "No."

    RAVENS VS. BENGALS: SN's live blog | Stats, scoring summary

    Everyone wants to see what offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's attack will look like with Jackson as its centerpiece and with a game plan adjusted to his immense athletic skills, but other than a few wrinkles (i.e., a lot more[......]

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