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Clayton Kershaw vs. Gio Gonzalez in Game 1 of the NLCS

Kershaw vs. Gonzalez in the series opener

The Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers both needed an extra day to win a tiebreaker game to win their respective divisions. Now, both teams are well rested heading into Friday night’s Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park in Milwaukee (8:09 p.m. ET, FS1, Fox Sports Go, FuboTV).

The Brewers swept away the Rockies in Round 1, allowing just two total runs in three games in the process. Their NLDS ended on Sunday, so they got four days off before opening their first NLCS trip in seven years at home. The Dodgers needed four games to beat the Braves, which qualified that as a competitive series in a rather lopsided first round (the higher seeds went 12-2 overall).

Dodgers vs. Brewers Game 1 TV and streaming info

  • Teams: Dodgers (92-71) vs. Brewers (96-67)
  • Location: Miller Park, Milwaukee
  • Time: 8:09 p.m. ET
  • TV: FS1
  • Online: Fox Sports Go, FuboTV

After bumping Clayton Kershaw to Game 2 in the opening round, giving him an extra day of rest in between starts, the Dodgers are back to the usual, with Kershaw starting Friday night, the ninth Game 1 start of his career. Kershaw will be on six days rest against the Brewers, and in 17 starts with extra rest in 2018 the left-hander posted a 2.48 ERA, compared to a 3.21 ERA in nine starts on regular, four days rest.

Milwaukee will turn to Gio Gonzalez in Game 1, the first start for the veteran in 12 days. Gonzalez was 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in five starts with the Brewers after he was acquired from the Nationals on Aug. 31.

The Brewers will start Wade Miley in Game 2, meaning a pair of southpaws out of the gate. The Dodgers on the season were in the middle of the pack against left-handed pitchers, hitting .240/.324/.409 on the season, a 101 wRC+. But they improved as the season wore on, buoyed by the acquisitions of Manny Machado in July and David Freese at the end of August. Since Aug. 1 the Dodgers hit .269/.349/.457 against lefties, a 121 wRC+ that ranked second in MLB.

No matter who starts the Brewers will be aggressive with their reliever usage, since they have the best bullpen in this series.

“It’s no secret that we’re going to use our pitching a little differently than traditionally, than the traditionalists would like,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell told reporters on Thursday.

FS1 will televise all but one game of this series, with Game 2 on Fox. The broadcast crew includes Joe Buck on play-by-play alongside analyst John Smoltz, plus reporters Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci.


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2018-10-12T20:00:01Z
Mike Tomlin is 100 percent right about the NFL roughing the passer rule

It wasn’t just a problem for the Steelers this week either. Teams and players keep getting burned by this, and it’s a real problem.

One week. We had one week, last week, where the NFL’ roughing the passer rule wasn’t a total shitshow. The braintrust that came up with it in the first place had a conference call, didn’t make any changes to the impossible rule, but did quietly issue some clarifications that took some of the stupidity out of it.

We should have known it wouldn’t last.

This week, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was again spared the arbitrary wrath of an inexplicable flag. Instead, Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt got served up as the league’s sacrifice to a nonsensical rule. His teammate Jon Bostic got one too.

Mike Tomlin is mad AF, and you can’t blame him

It had to happen to the Steelers too, a team already volatile. At least they got the win. I can only imagine Mike Tomlin’s reaction if they’d lost, and he was plenty pissed off after Sunday’s game.

He made a direct attack on the penalties:

“Those looked like legitimate calls, we’ve gotta be better there, but some of the other stuff, man, is a joke. We’ve gotta get better as a National Football League. Man, these penalties are costing people games and jobs. We’ve gotta get them correct. So I’m pissed about it, to be quite honest with you, but that’s all I’m gonna say on it.”

The brutally honest comments unsurprisingly cost him some money:

But so what? Tomlin was absolutely right. Point. To. The. Lie.

Watt’s older brother, J.J. (perhaps you’ve heard of him), asked a very pertinent question about the hit that we are all wondering:

T.J. Watt said after the game he did everything he could to avoid “roughing” the quarterback on that play.

“I understand the rules. I’m not a dirty player. I tried to pull off him at the end. Whether the ref saw it or not, I understand why they call it. It was a low hit. But I tried to pull my arms off. We’ll see if I get a check in the mail or not. ... It puts us in a bind because I don’t know what else I can do. I couldn’t have rolled off, then I risk hitting someone in the knees or hurting myself.”

T.J. was fined $20K for the play, something his brother was angry about too — and he wasn’t the only one:

When asked about the call on Bostic, the game’s referee told him he didn’t know why it was a penalty either.

The Steelers weren’t the only team to get burned by the rule this week

There were 11 roughing the passer penalties in Week 5, bringing the season total up to 50 so far. And the infractions, mostly, are about as ticky tack and random as you can imagine.

49ers cornerback Ku’Waun Williams got a flag because his arm hit Cardinals QB Josh Rosen’s facemask while Williams was turning in mid air to avoid hitting Rosen.

The Eagles really got screwed on a call against Michael Bennett in a loss to the Vikings on Sunday. Bennett went to tackle Kirk Cousins above the knees, to avoid the penalty, but he slipped while he was bringing him down. FLAG.

The call might have flipped the game for the Vikings too. Minnesota was able to extend the drive because of the 15-yard penalty, instead of facing a third-and-35. They scored, and that put them up 17-3 at the half.

Eagles players were livid, screaming about the call as they headed into the locker room.

Referee Walt Coleman explained it this way:

“He went low into the quarterback’s knees with his shoulder, with force. And the rule is that you cannot hit the quarterback low at the knee area or below with force. He got him there with his shoulder, so that’s what I had as far as roughing the passer.”

That falls under the roughing the passer rules from before this season’s infamous “body weight” addition, and Coleman’s an experienced ref. But it’s still symptomatic of the larger problem here — there’s no consistency or room for judgement calls when players touch a quarterback who happens to fall to the ground.

“It wasn’t like he was putting him in danger,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “I know they don’t want low hits on the quarterback, but if you’re falling down, I guess you’re supposed to just let the quarterback go? The explanation from the official is he has to avoid that hit, which means he can’t do his job. He can’t tackle the quarterback while he has the ball.”

Why does this rule suck so much?

It’s the inconsistency, stupid. Textbook tackles are being punished now alongside malicious takedowns that really do deserve a flag. It’s not fair to players who are only getting flags telling them what they can or can’t do, despite the fact the rule emphasis obviously represents a major sea change for defenders.

And it’s a rule being enforced by the most inexperienced group of officials in years.

Don’t put it all on the refs though. They’re doing what they’re told to do by the guys who sign their checks.

Owners doubled down on the roughing the passer rule this season in part to protect their investments in quarterbacks. Plus, the league’s been so fixed on expanding the offensive element of the game over the years because of its appeal to a wider audience. It’s hard not to wonder if the recent ratings decline of the last few seasons has anything to do with this too.

Pass rushers spoke to SB Nation’s Natalie Weiner about the rules and how much harder their jobs are as a result. You should also re-read retired NFL defensive end Stephen White’s assessment of the rule and its folly. Nobody’s going to explain it better than he did. In short, this is some ass-covering PR stunting by owners, who never sought or listened to player input.

Tomlin’s outrage over the rule is perfectly justified. It’s also worth pointing out he’s on the competition committee, so he’s uniquely positioned to do something about it or at least use his direct line to the league’s brass to lobby for a fix. But even that has its limits if it touches the upper bounds of the NFL pretending like its doing something about player safety.

But you know what, even if they do fix yet another mess they created, nobody should forget the Keystone Kops manner in which the NFL slapped together these rule changes this past offseason. And the next time the league claims to be committed to player safety, maybe be a little more skeptical before you buy that hook, line, and sinker.

Remember the catch rule and what a mess that was? This has the potential to be 100 times worse. This rule is even more arbitrarily applied. Refs on the field more pressure to enforce the rule while at the same time having less discretion to stand on their own judgement lest it be overturned by the league’s centralized officiating center in a black box somewhere on Park Avenue.

Worse, the more fans have to see it, have to hear their favorite team’s players’ exasperation over the rule deciding the outcome of games, it’s just going to give them one more reason to watch something else on Sundays.


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2018-10-12T18:36:58Z
The 6 best and 5 worst offensive lines in the NFL right now

Retired NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz takes a look at which OLs are getting it done, which aren’t, and who had the nastiest blocks last week.

Welcome back to Disrespectful Blocks of the Week! It’s a day later than usual (thank you, old neighborhood with even older trees falling on power lines in a storm), but it’s back with a new format. No longer will I just write out what I’ve said in the blocks video because that’s um, boring. I’ve already said everything in the video.

The video will be attached at the bottom of this article so you can still watch, but the new format is simple. I’m going give y’all the top and bottom offensive lines in the NFL, with a unique take on the offensive lines that are playing well.

Important note: this isn’t a ranking. Ranking offensive lines is tough when there’s not a clear No. 1, as there has been in years past.

I’m always going to start with the best of the units. Here they are after the first five weeks — again, in no order.

The six best offensive lines right now in the NFL

New Orleans Saints: I LOVED this unit last season and they have continued where they left off. Their offense was without Mark Ingram for the first four weeks, but no worries, they kept chugging along. They’re currently third in adjusted rushing rate and fifth in least amount of times stuffed in the run game, according to Football Outsiders.

Los Angeles Rams: I detailed this last season when I wrote about the Rams offensive line, but they have put tons of resources in making sure they unit is elite. Adding free agents Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan last season has made this unit one of the best, and they drafted three offensive linemen this year to help for the future. They’ve only allowed six sacks and lead the league in adjusted rushing.

Green Bay Packers: The Packers, alongside the Eagles, have the best pair of pass-protecting tackles in the NFL. David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga have been outstanding for years, and that’s one of the reasons Aaron Rodgers is able to hold the ball as long as he does. And no, they don’t hold every play. Get over that, Packers haters.

New England Patriots: Tom Brady has played the majority of his career with just two left tackles: Matt Light and Nate Solder. When Solder left in free agency to the Giants, it left a huge hole at that spot. The Patriots realized there was no one on the roster to fill that spot, so they traded for Trent Brown. Brown has stabilized that unit. The Pats OL is first in adjusted sack rate and sixth in rushing.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles had the best offensive line in football last season, but it’s been a tad tougher this season to match that success. Defenses have tried to move on the Eagles offensive line and especially on passing downs with line games. It’s been successful. I look for the Eagles to adjust.

Pittsburgh Steelers: No Le’Veon Bell, no issue so far. James Conner has picked up the slack. Throw in their pass protection success, and they are still getting it done upfront.

And now, the five worst offensive lines

OK, time for the worst. I dislike getting into detail about the bottom OLs, because I understand that feeling as a former offensive lineman. So I’m just going to list them, again in no order:

New York Giants
Buffalo Bills
Houston Texans
Minnesota Vikings
Arizona Cardinals

Finally, the most disrespectful blocks of Week 5

Now let’s end with a bang! Check out all the Disrespectful Blocks of the Week, from D.J. Fluker destroying Ndamukong Suh to Cam Newton laying out a defender:

DBOWW5

Y'all... We have an all time Disrespectful Block to start this video. DJ Fluker freaking savagely destorys Suh on this touchdown run. We have a full slab of ribs for Brian Winters, plus a running back and a tight end getting in on the action. It's amazing

Posted by Geoff Schwartz on Thursday, October 11, 2018

You can also watch the video on my Facebook page.

As a reminder, if you see any filthy blocks in Week 6, just holler at me on Twitter @geoffschwartz.


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2018-10-12T18:30:02Z
Roberto Clemente, MLB Hall of Famer and humanitarian, got his own Google Doodle

Clemente’s greatness expanded beyond baseball. Let’s talk about how special he was.

Roberto Clemente was many things. An NL MVP who carried the Pittsburgh Pirates to great heights. A humanitarian who dedicated offseasons to helping others. A U.S. Marine. The first Latin American to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

And now, he’s a Google Doodle, too.

The tech giant honored Clemente Friday as part of its celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Clemente, a native of Carolina, Puerto Rico, was one of baseball’s biggest stars over the course of an 18-year career. He was a 15-time all-star, a 12-time Gold Glove winner, a four-time batting champion, the 1966 NL MVP, and a major part of two Pirates World Series champion teams in 1960 and 1971.

But as impressive as he was on the field, he was even greater off it. Clemente dedicated his life to helping others, using his winters to return to Puerto Rico and countries throughout the Caribbean and Latin America to distribute food, supplies, and baseball equipment. He took fellow Latinx players under his wing in the majors. He embraced his status as a role model in the neighborhood where he grew up.

“I go out to different towns, different neighborhoods,” he said in Smithsonian. ”I get kids together and talk about the importance of sports, the importance of being a good citizen, the importance of respecting their mother and father.”

That dedication would ultimately lead to his death. When an earthquake devastated Nicaragua in the winter of 1972, Clemente organized relief missions to ply the region with food and medical supplies. When his first three planeloads were deferred by the nation’s Somocisto dictatorship, he decided to travel to Managua himself along with 74 tons of freight to ensure the supplies got into the proper hands. His overloaded plane never made it to Nicaragua — it crashed into the ocean shortly after takeoff, killing Clemente at age 38.

While his life came to an end, his legacy never will. Artist Roxie Vizcarra’s work proves his vision and ability to unite people is ever-present. She partnered with Clemente’s surviving family — particularly Roberto Clemente Jr. and Luis Clemente — to craft a loving tribute. Those sons, and the rest of the Clemente family, released a statement honoring the man whose love stretched beyond the diamond:

47 years ago today, the Pittsburgh Pirates won game 3 of the 1971 World Series in which our Dad went 1 for 4 with an RBI in the Pirates 5-4 win against the Baltimore Orioles. He was named the MVP for that series, becoming the first Latino to ever do so.

At the conclusion of the Series, he asked to say something in Spanish to his parents and children in Puerto Rico. With this act, asking for his parents blessings in Spanish on live global broadcast, he galvanized the hearts of all Hispanics across the nation. Today, we are proud that our Dad’s legacy is stronger than ever with numerous namesakes like baseball leagues, parks, schools, awards, and statues around the world celebrating everything he represented and stood for, including standing up against injustice and the importance of humanitarianism. Our Dad was an incredible athlete, but more importantly, he continuously used his platform to better humanity.

To maintain and preserve our Dad’s legacy worldwide, our family started The Roberto Clemente Foundation years ago, a nonprofit organization incorporated in Puerto Rico. Specifically, our mission to develop tomorrow’s leaders through education, sports and service leadership to continue his vision as we build nations of good.

It is amazing to see a kid from Carolina, Puerto Rico be remembered with this Google Doodle in this age of technology and new platforms to communicate with people around the world. The best part however, is the human story of our Dad behind it, which we hope motivates us all to do something to help our brothers and sisters.

We feel very honored to be Roberto’s sons and extremely fortunate to be Vera’s sons as well. It is an honor to carry the name Clemente!

Clemente was an undeniable icon who cultural borders could not contain. Friday’s Google Doodle just gives us all another chance to remember the man whose greatness as a human shined whether he was roaming the grass at Forbes Field (and later the unforgiving turf of Three Rivers Stadium) or dedicating his time to helping others.


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2018-10-12T18:00:35Z
Would you rather have Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes leading a game-winning drive in 2018?

Which quarterback can win you a game NOW? The 41-year-old GOAT or the 23-year-old phenom?

It’s only been six starts, but Patrick Mahomes looks like the NFL’s next great quarterback. The Kansas City signal caller leads the league with 14 touchdown passes and has averaged more than 300 passing yards per game this fall. That MVP-like performance has pushed the Chiefs to a 5-0 record and established them as the early frontrunners for the AFC crown.

But with a big game on the line, is he good enough in 2018 to usurp the GOAT?

The 23-year-old Mahomes has shined through the first 30 percent of his season. Meanwhile, last year’s MVP Tom Brady is in the midst of his least efficient campaign in five years. The Patriots quarterback only threw eight interceptions in 2017 but has six through five games. His 7.0 yards per pass is nearly a full yard lower than last year’s mark. And, perhaps most surprisingly, he was unable to crack the Jaguars and Lions defenses to lead comeback wins in Weeks 2 and 3 this fall.

So after Mahomes’ hot start and Brady’s sudden re-entry to the orbit of merely good quarterbacks, it’s no longer such a stretch to ask which player you’d rather have in 2018. But let’s take it a step farther. Your team is trailing by four points. There are 90 seconds on the clock. They’ve got two timeouts and the ball at their own 8-yard line.

Who would you rather give the ball to: Mahomes or Brady?

The case for: Tom Brady

He’s 41 years old, but he’s still the most clutch quarterback the league has ever seen — his fourth-quarter fumble in Super Bowl 52 notwithstanding. And while his 2018 start has been good but not great, Brady has earned the trust to be “the guy” until his arm explodes or he retires, whichever comes first.

I’ll skip the lecture about the many comebacks he’s staged in a legendary career and address the argument against Brady instead. Yes, he’s been underwhelming to start 2018, but so much of that can be explained by an understaffed roster. Josh Gordon didn’t join the team’s active roster until Week 4. Julian Edelman’s PED suspension kept him from the field until Week 5. With Cordarrelle Patterson, Chris Hogan, and Phillip Dorsett threatening exactly no one as WR1s, opposing defenses were able to consistently double- (and triple-) team Rob Gronkowski.

Factor in serious injuries to Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead and a slow start for previously injured rookie Sony Michel, and you’ve got the blueprint for offensive stagnation. Good defenses — particularly the Jaguars but also a Lions team intimately familiar with what makes the Patriots tick thanks to first-year head coach Matt Patricia — didn’t have much trouble exploiting that.

But in Week 5, Brady showed up to demolish the team who eventually got him suspended for the first four games of 2016: the Colts. With a fully stocked wide receiving corps, he carved up an overwhelmed Indianapolis defense with a combination of short screens and deep throws. He threw for 242 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 2.5 quarters. He made Josh Gordon look like Randy Moss.

And while he finished with two interceptions staining his box score, neither one was his fault; each came well into Indianapolis territory after caroming off his intended receivers’ hands:

It was only against the Colts, but Brady appears to be back in working order. And now he may have an honest-to-goodness lead back who can carry drives and rip off the big gains that prevent opponents from loading the field with defensive backs and playing exclusively against the pass.

That means he’s the guy I want to lead my game-winning drive — no matter how impressive Mahomes has been. — Christian D’Andrea

The case for: Patrick Mahomes

Am I going to pick against the GOAT? Yep. I’m picking against the GOAT.

Why? Because it’s 2018 and eventually it’s fair to think somebody is better at the job. Five games into the season, Brady hasn’t had one of his trademark fourth-quarter comebacks or game-winning drives. The Patriots cruised to three wins with leads they built early, and couldn’t climb out of giant holes in their two losses.

The Chiefs haven’t needed to do much digging and the only time they did, Mahomes pulled it off in style. Down 23-13 against the Broncos in the fourth quarter, Mahomes led a 12-play, 95-yard touchdown drive to bring the Chiefs within three. Then he led an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive which included throwing a first down with his left freakin’ hand to snatch away the win.

I know the rule of thumb is “Never count out Touchdown Tom” and that’s definitely fair. Brady’s most recent comeback was shrugging off a 20-10 deficit against the Jaguars in the AFC Championship. He was masterful in his eighth playoff comeback. But then he was on the wrong side of a fourth-quarter swing in the Super Bowl.

Brady was on the sideline as Nick Foles orchestrated a 14-play touchdown drive that took about seven minutes and gave the Eagles a 38-33 lead. The GOAT of comebacks was given 2:21 to do his trademark magic and he promptly fumbled on the second play. The Patriots defense held the Eagles to a field goal and he got one more crack at it with 58 seconds, but he couldn’t quite get it done.

Does that mean he’s washed? No. But is Brady the comeback wizard he was 10 years ago? It’s only logical to assume he’s not quite the same guy.

Five games into the 2018 season, Brady is 22nd in passing yards per game and 13th in passer rating. Mahomes, on the other hand, is putting together MVP numbers so far.

So who do I want behind the wheel if I need a well-orchestrated drive in the final minutes of a game right now in the year 2018? Give me the young gun. — Adam Stites

Which quarterback is your pick?


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2018-10-12T18:00:02Z
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