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Wednesday's Sports In Brief (The Associated Press)
(Thu, 24 Apr 2014 01:01:24 PDT)
BOSTON (AP) -- Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected for using pine tar less than two weeks after appearing to get away with using a foreign substance in another game against Boston, and the Red Sox beat New York 5-1 on Wednesday night.

2014 NFL schedule: Steelers, Cowboys, Colts dominate lineup on Sunday and Monday night (Shutdown Corner)
(Wed, 23 Apr 2014 20:04:11 PDT)
The NFL has a lot of television network partners to keep happy, and that job got more difficult when CBS was given a package of Thursday night games this season. The league for years used "Monday Night Football" to show its highlight game each week, but when NBC landed "Sunday Night Football" and ESPN went to Monday night, the league puts its best games on Sunday night. This year NFL needs to make sure CBS and FOX were happy with their regular Sunday schedules, give CBS some good games for Thursday night, and still make "Sunday Night Football" and "Monday Night Football" must-watch events. That's not easy. [Click here to see the full 2014 NFL schedule] The NFL placated NBC and ESPN this week, a day before the schedule was released. ESPN was given a wild-card playoff game. A divisional playoff game was added to NBC's schedule through 2022. That move made it seem like the Monday and Sunday night schedule in 2014 might be watered down a bit. Shutdown Corner's Anwar Richardson and Frank Schwab will take a look at the Sunday and Monday night games, week by week, and see how entertaining the prime-time schedule will be this season: WEEK 1 Sunday: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos Monday: N.Y. Giants at Detroit Lions; San Diego Chargers at Arizona Cardinals Frank’s take: Very nice Sunday night game. The Giants have improved and the Lions are entertaining. I wouldn't have thought this a year ago, but Chargers-Cardinals isn't bad at all for the second part of the doubleheader. Anwar’s take: NFL fans have been craving football for months. It really does not matter what games are rolled out on in Week 1. We will watch every minute of each game. Verdict: Stay up, call in sick on Monday ... and then again on Tuesday. WEEK 2 Sunday: Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers Monday: Philadelphia Eagles at Indianapolis Colts Frank’s take:  That Sunday game is interesting; pretty good test for Marc Trestman's Bears offense. And two up-and-coming teams on Monday night. Two thumbs up. Anwar’s take: Nick Foles vs. Andrew Luck? First team to 50 points wins. Do not go to bed early. Verdict: The boss may be getting upset, but it's time to call in sick on Monday and Tuesday again because you're staying up late for these games. WEEK 3 Sunday: Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers Monday: Chicago Bears at N.J. Jets Frank’s take:  Always fun to watch Cam Newton. Not as fun to watch Geno Smith. Anwar’s take: Make sure you soak up all of the offense in Week 2 because these matchups are all about defense. First team to 21 points wins. Verdict: Catch up on your sleep, get to work early, assuming you still have that job.

Seahawks to open NFL season vs. Packers (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 23 Apr 2014 18:32:25 PDT)
Mike McCarthy promises there won't be any bad memories plaguing his Green Bay Packers when they open the NFL season on Sept. 4 at Super Bowl champion Seattle. The last time Green Bay visited CenturyLink Field was in Week 3 of the 2012 season, a 14-12 Seahawks victory clinched on what now is often dubbed the ''Fail Mary.'' Russell Wilson's desperation pass on the final play was called a touchdown reception for Golden Tate by the replacement officials. ''It will be about the 2014 Green Bay Packers. It's the third straight season the Packers have traveled to face the defending Super Bowl champions.

2014 NFL Schedule (The SportsXchange)
(Wed, 23 Apr 2014 17:58:19 PDT)
Games grouped by start times and listed alphabetically by home team. Listed times are local followed by Eastern.

NFL announces regular-season schedule (National Football Post)
(Wed, 23 Apr 2014 17:40:48 PDT)
Flexible scheduling expanded

NFL announce regular-season schedule (National Football Post)
(Wed, 23 Apr 2014 17:31:09 PDT)
Flexible scheduling expanded

2014 NFL schedule: Packers-Seahawks 'Fail Mary' reunion kicks off season (Shutdown Corner)
(Wed, 23 Apr 2014 17:18:57 PDT)
The NFL isn't messing around with its 2014 schedule. The world champion Seattle Seahawks will kick off the season with a game not against their archrivals, the San Francisco 49ers, or the team they beat in the Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos, but rather with a foe that created controversy two years ago. Remember the replacement referee fiasco game  — aka, The Fail Mary — in Seattle in 2012? Yep, the NFL powers-that-be have orchestrated a rematch in Week 1 on Thursday, Sept. 4 on NBC in prime time. The league announced all 256 games for the regular season, and it features some interesting highlights: • Three Thanksgiving games that feature all NFC teams for the first time. • A new Thursday slate of games, split through the season by CBS and NFL Network, that kicks off in Week 2 with a rivalry game of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens. • Flex scheduling that can begin as early as Week 5 , which is a change from years past, when it typically began starting in Week 11. • Other key prime-time Week 1 games — Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (NBC) on Sunday, Sept. 7, and the Monday night doubleheader (both games on ESPN): New York Giants at Detroit Lions for the early game and San Diego Chargers at Arizona Cardinals for the late game.  • A Super Bowl rematch of those Seahawks hosting the Broncos in Week 3. Also in that week, the Redskins' DeSean Jackson returns to Philadelphia for the first time since he was cut. • Three international games this year, up from two in 2013, all at London's Wembley Stadium. They are: Week 4, Sunday, Sept. 28, the Oakland Raiders vs. the Miami Dolphins (1 PM ET, CBS); Week 8, Sunday, Oct. 26, the Atlanta Falcons vs. the Lions at (9:30 AM ET, Fox — the first-ever nationally televised 9:30 AM kickoff); and Week 10, Sunday, Nov. 9, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. the Dallas Cowboys (1 PM ET, Fox). Now here's the entire schedule , week by week, for the 2014 NFL season. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

NFL Draft preview: Saints' secondary was primary in offseason (The SportsXchange)
(Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:56:41 PDT)
METAIRIE, La. -- Although they weren't flush with salary cap dollars in early March, the New Orleans Saints have done about as well as can be expected through the first part of the free agency signing period. Because they had a little more than $7 million tied up with All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham's franchise tag to start with, everyone assumed the Saints weren't going to be active players in the market. But they surprised a lot of people when, right out of the gate, they signed free safety Jairus Byrd to a six-year, $54 million contract to bring more bite to a secondary that already includes cornerback Keenan Lewis and strong safety Kenny Vaccaro. Of course, the Saints needed help in the back end after releasing Roman Harper and allowing Malcolm Jenkins to walk in free agency.

Team Report - ATLANTA FALCONS (The SportsXchange)
(Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:27:02 PDT)
Falcons use offseason to get tougher

Team Report - NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (The SportsXchange)
(Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:27:02 PDT)
Saints make splash with limited resources

NFL Draft preview: Falcons want more spine in lines (The SportsXchange)
(Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:15:59 PDT)
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Over the offseason, the Atlanta Falcons talked about being able to show more grit and toughness in 2013, especially in the trenches. They signed eight free agents, but the key additions were in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Matt Ryan applauded the addition to two new offensive linemen -- guard Jon Asamoah and guard/tackle Gabe Carimi. In 2013, the Falcons allowed pressure on 37.6 percent of their dropbacks, according to profootballfocus.com.

Source: Falcons worked out Connecticut linebacker Yawin Smallwood (National Football Post)
(Wed, 23 Apr 2014 15:50:47 PDT)
Linebacker auditions for NFC South club

2014 NFL schedule: Who has the toughest and easiest road to the postseason? (Shutdown Corner)
(Wed, 23 Apr 2014 15:41:52 PDT)
Not all schedules are equal. The NFL doesn’t play a round robin, so some teams benefit from the good fortune of having much easier opponents than fellow playoff contenders.  The AFC West was the main beneficiary last year. The Chiefs rode the easiest schedule in the NFL to a wild-card spot (the only winning team the Chiefs beat all year was Philadelphia, and even that game was fortunate because Kansas City caught the Eagles before they made the quarterback change to Nick Foles). The Broncos had good fortune too. They got Football Outsiders’ 31st ranked schedule , rode it to a No. 1 seed and a Super Bowl berth. The AFC West played its non-conference games against the NFC East last year, but this year it gets the NFC West, clearly the best division in football. No more easy passes. Meanwhile, other teams are going to find their path to the playoffs a lot easier. It’s impossible to predict which schedules will be toughest or weakest, because teams that drew Houston or Atlanta last year at this time were a bit nervous, more nervous than those who had to play Carolina, for example. We can’t be sure yet which games on each team’s schedule will be the hardest ones. But we can give it our best guess to try to figure out which teams look like they have a much tougher road in 2014, and which might ride a fortunate slate to the postseason. PLAYOFF TEAM IN SOME DANGER BECAUSE OF A ROUGH SCHEDULE Denver Broncos The Broncos are a good team. And they added a lot of talent. But their schedule, the second-weakest in the NFL last year, is about as tough as it gets this season. Denver’s road schedule includes five playoff teams (Kansas City, San Diego, New England, Seattle and Cincinnati), an 8-8 team that barely missed (N.Y. Jets), a 7-9 team that was better than its record (St. Louis) and an Oakland team that should be improved. Denver’s home schedule includes six teams that were at least .500 in 2014, including San Francisco and Arizona. That change from the NFC East to the NFC West is enormous. The Broncos will be challenged right away. They start the season at home against Indianapolis, then host Kansas City, then travel to Seattle before the bye in Week 4. That's a combined 2013 record of 35-13 for Denver's first three opponents, including a road date against a Seahawks team that destroyed it in the Super Bowl. The Broncos should win the AFC West, because they’re clearly the best team, and division rivals like San Diego and Kansas City are also going to get a much tougher schedule. But the goal in Denver is the Super Bowl, and it’s possible the Broncos could be a better team and not even get a first-round bye. Or, they might be a little beat up by January after facing a schedule that has 12 games against teams that went at least .500 in 2013. PLAYOFF TEAM THAT HAS THE EASIEST ROAD TO RETURN Indianapolis Colts As StampedeBlue.com points out , the Colts have the easiest schedule based on 2013 winning percentages. The combined record of their 2014 opponents is .430, lowest in the NFL. That’s what happens when you’re in a division with the Titans, Jaguars and Texans. Indianapolis also gets out of the NFC West vortex this year. It replaces the toughest division in football with the NFC East, which should be a little better this year but it won’t be great either. And the best team in that division, Philadelphia, comes to Indianapolis. After playing New England on Nov. 16, the Colts' final six games are against Jacksonville, Washington, Cleveland, Houston, Dallas and Tennessee. The combined 2013 record of the first four games in that stretch was 13-51. Tennessee and Dallas were 7-9 and 8-8, respectively. The Colts aren’t better on paper than the Broncos. But when you consider that one team has an impossibly tough schedule and the other has what looks like the easiest one in the NFL, don’t be too surprised if the Colts finish the season with a better seed in the playoffs. NON-PLAYOFF TEAM THAT HAS A CHIEFS-LIKE PATH BACK TO PLAYOFFS Pittsburgh Steelers

Source: Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has met with Falcons, Eagles (National Football Post)
(Wed, 23 Apr 2014 05:11:03 PDT)
Alabama safety in heavy demand

NFL Draft: Team Schedule (Rotoworld)
(Wed, 23 Apr 2014 03:44:00 PDT)
Evan Silva and Josh Norris break down every team's needs and which players fit those needs. Check out the weekly schedule.

Coach Smith says Julio Jones 'progressing well' (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 22 Apr 2014 17:44:40 PDT)
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) -- Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith isn't sure when receiver Julio Jones will return to full speed.

Team Report - KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (The SportsXchange)
(Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:52:20 PDT)
Chiefs move forward looking to 'finish'

NFL roundup: Snyder insists again: No name change (The SportsXchange)
(Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:50:36 PDT)
Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder insisted again on Tuesday that he will not change the team's name despite continuing objections by Native Americans. "We understand the issues out there, and we're not an issue," said Snyder, who was speaking at a ceremony after the Redskins donated $100,000 to Park View High School to go toward the installation of a synthetic turf field. Snyder responded to critics of his Original Americans Foundation, which is providing money and resources to tribal communities throughout the country. ---The New York Giants are preparing for life without safety Will Hill, who is reportedly facing his third suspension for a violation of the NFL's drug policies.

Team Report - BUFFALO BILLS (The SportsXchange)
(Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:49:26 PDT)
Trump says he would keep team in Buffalo

Source: Florida corner Jaylen Watkins has visited Falcons, Eagles, Redskins (National Football Post)
(Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:20:46 PDT)
Cornerback's brother is Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins

Smith demands bigger, stronger lines for Falcons (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 22 Apr 2014 15:36:06 PDT)
Just two days into Atlanta's offseason workout program, Falcons coach Mike Smith is calling for major improvement on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Smith fears the Falcons could bottom out for the second straight year if they don't change for the better. ''I feel like we've lost our way,'' Smith said Tuesday. The emphasis along the way is to be a bigger and stronger football team and win the line of scrimmage.'' Assessing his team's 4-12 record last year, Smith said the Falcons were most hurt by a lack of strength and size up front.

Sources: Auburn standout Dee Ford visiting Falcons today, has also visited Texans (National Football Post)
(Tue, 22 Apr 2014 12:50:56 PDT)
Ford has worked out for Saints, Buccaneers, Patriots, Colts, Texans and Falcons

Sources: Dee Ford visiting Falcons today, has also visited Texans (National Football Post)
(Tue, 22 Apr 2014 12:30:52 PDT)
Ford has worked out for Saints, Buccaneers, Patriots, Colts, Texans and Falcons

Falcons WR Jones limited in workouts (The SportsXchange)
(Tue, 22 Apr 2014 11:10:15 PDT)
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who is coming off foot surgery, will be limited in offseason workouts, coach Mike Smith said Tuesday. Jones injured his foot in Week 5 last season and missed the remainder of the year. The Falcons began voluntary offseason workouts this week. Smith said Jones will be able to take part in walkthrough drills on the field when OTAs get underway next month.

Minnesota safety Brock Vereen has met with Vikings, Colts, Panthers, Jaguars, Bengals, Falcons, Steelers (National Football Post)
(Tue, 22 Apr 2014 10:20:49 PDT)
Brother of Patriots running back Shane Vereen making the rounds

NFL draft: Two-round mock draft projects trades up for Manziel, Bridgewater (Shutdown Corner)
(Tue, 22 Apr 2014 08:08:14 PDT)
We’ve taken the next step here. Although our mock drafts this past year might outnumber our visits to the gym, this will be the first time we project trades. Are they going to happen just like we see them? Of course not. But it's fun to envision scenarios that are not immediately evident, and yet we know that trades are a huge part of the draft landscape. There were nine trades involving first- or second-round picks on the first two days of the 2013 NFL draft. In this scenario, we project a pedestrian three — enough to get our creative juices flowing and start the plate tectonics a bit, but not too many to cloud and skew the picture dramatically. But it's no coincidence that two of the three deals involve trades up for quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater. That sort of thing tends to happen on the clock when teams get antsy. We’ll check in the night before the draft — 16 agonizing days from now — with our final first-round predictions from the Shutdown Corner contributors. But here’s how the first 64 picks look right now. 1. Houston Texans — South Carolina DE-LB Jadeveon Clowney We’ve had him in this spot for months and haven’t wavered much from it. Clowney’s pro day performance displayed what we suspected: that he’d have no trouble going in reverse, if asked to. The Texans might be in their base defense only 30 percent of the time, so Clowney will be quite comfortable rushing the Andrew Lucks of the world from a right-end spot — or wherever else coordinator Romeo Crennel wants to play him. That said, a trade down wouldn't be out of the question — something we hadn't considered previously. Shaun King's take: Major question marks and concerns 2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins) — Auburn OT Greg Robinson The Rams’ offense must marry the power run game with the rhythm passing game, and Robinson can step in and help give it a boost. He’s already an NFL-caliber run blocker, and his athleticism and work ethic should allow him to be a plus pass blocker in time. Jeff Fisher’s ties to Jake Matthews aside, this is the right fit. Robinson should dominate as a second-level blocker on the turf. Shaun King's take: Best run blocker in a decade 3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Buffalo LB-DE Khalil Mack Coach Gus Bradley now has the makings of a deep and skilled front seven that can make the Jags contenders. They face a slew of good quarterbacks, but they also face a handful of teams that could be starting rookies at the position, so the m.o. in Jacksonville will be to attack and force turnovers to give the offense as many chances as possible. Mack was a turnover machine in college and is the perfect fit as the “Leo” linebacker in this scheme. Shaun King's take: Best pound-for-pound player in the draft 4. Cleveland Browns — Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews General manager Ray Farmer has been on the job a little over two months now, and he’s weighed his options at No. 4. Knowing he has two more picks coming in the subsequent 30 slots, Farmer likely will want to make as safe a selection as possible here and maybe not tie himself to a quarterback in this spot. If they need to — foreshadowing alert — the Browns can trade up for a QB later. Here, they take their starting right tackle for a decade. Shaun King's take: Most polished player 5. Oakland Raiders — Clemson WR Sammy Watkins Watkins would be a huge upgrade over the inconsistent and unreliable Denarius Moore at the “X” receiver spot and give Matt Schaub a run-after-the-catch threat. The Raiders would be in decent hands with a top three receivers of Watkins, James Jones and Rod Streater. Ideally, they’d find their quarterback of the future here, but this is a good alternative assuming they do not. Shaun King's take: Unquestionably No. 1 receiver in draft 6. Atlanta Falcons — Michigan OT Taylor Lewan Too soon? The Falcons were soft up front last season. Way too soft. Mike Tice is the new OL coach, and he likes players such as Lewan, who carry a nasty streak. The Falcons can keep Sam Baker at left tackle for now and put Lewan on the right side, but it would not be surprising to see Lewan slide over to the left at some point. He’s exactly the guy to add a little vinegar to their recipe up front. Shaun King's take: Has potential, but not refined 7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Texas A&M WR Mike Evans Prior to the trade of Mike Williams, the Bucs had depth problems at receiver. Now they have a talent deficiency, too. Evans and Vincent Jackson have some overlapping skills, but that’s OK. So, too, do Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and new Bucs QB Josh McCown might feel like he’s back in Chicago when he sees these two physical freaks running patterns. Shaun King's take: Second-best receiver in the draft

Mock draft 3.0 (National Football Post)
(Tue, 22 Apr 2014 04:00:48 PDT)
Greg Gabriel flies solo in our latest prognostication.

Source: Liberty CB Walt Aikens visiting Colts today, Packers, Bengals up next (National Football Post)
(Mon, 21 Apr 2014 15:02:08 PDT)
Aikens has also visited Jaguars, Dolphins, Chiefs, Buccaneers, Bills, worked out for Cowboys, Falcons, Jaguars

Chiefs in discussion with Smith reps on extension (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 21 Apr 2014 14:39:33 PDT)
Alex Smith would like to stay in Kansas City. ''My agent and representatives handle all that,'' Smith said. Smith is due to make $7.5 million in the final year of a contract he signed in 2012, when he was still a member of the San Francisco 49ers. I don't know when it'll get done.'' Chiefs general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid have both expressed their desire to keep Smith in Kansas City.

Chiefs begin offseason workouts after long break (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 21 Apr 2014 14:23:35 PDT)
More than three frustrating months after their season ended in Indianapolis, the Kansas City Chiefs gathered for the start of offseason workouts on Monday and there was plenty of news for coach Andy Reid to deliver. Second-year pro Eric Fisher, who will slide from right tackle to left tackle, had surgery on his left shoulder and to repair a sports hernia. The Chiefs' first-round pick a year ago has been rehabbing in Kansas City this offseason and hopes to be ready soon. ''When they tell me I'm cleared, I'll be out there doing my thing.'' Reid also said that safety Sanders Commings had surgery for an undisclosed injury and has been cleared to work out.

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