Yankees vs. Red Sox

Los campeones divisionales reciben en casa a Boston con la oportunidad de dejarlos fuera de la postemporada.

Fenway Park getting ‘dramatic extension’ of protective netting

Yankee Stadium detailed its plans for extended netting earlier this month.

Yankees expanding protective netting past dugouts

FILE - In this May 24, 2017, file photo, fans applaud as a medical employee carrying an injured youngster from the stands after the boy was hit in the head by a piece of New York Yankees's Chris Carter's bat that split during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Yankees are expanding netting to protect seats behind each dugout and for five sections past down both foul lines, a decision announced after several fans were injured last year.(AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

FILE - In this May 24, 2017, file photo, fans applaud as a medical employee carrying an injured youngster from the stands after the boy was hit in the head by a piece of New York Yankees's Chris Carter's bat that split during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Yankees are expanding netting to protect seats behind each dugout and for five sections past down both foul lines, a decision announced after several fans were injured last year.(AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

An Ode to Daniel Bard: The Now-Retired Hurler Who Threw One of the Nastiest Pitches Ever

The career of former Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard—officially at an end today, according to him, but long ago finished—was full of promise but short on success. Two-plus seasons of exemplary relief work from 2009 through '11 that gave way to a rough few months spent as a starter in '12 followed by several years of bouncing from team to team in the minors. Injuries piled up along the way, his control vanished, and now his career is over. He last appeared on a major league mound in 2013, and by the end of his time in baseball, he was a gnarly car crash on the side of the road—teams slowed down, gawked, and moved on.

Bard's minor league numbers were appalling: 27 walks and 11 wild pitches in 15 1/3 innings in '13 with Boston; nine walks, seven hit batsmen and 13 (!) runs allowed against only two outs collected across four games in '14 with the Rangers' Class A team. He then vanished into the ether for two years; 13 walks, six wild pitches and five plunked batters upon his return in '16 with St. Louis, this time 31 years old and in high-A ball, facing hitters 10 years his junior. And finally, 24 walks in 9 1/3 innings last year split between the Cardinals and the Mets, the latter in Florida's Gulf Coast League, against kids fresh out of high school or graduated from Dominican summer leagues. His final line in his final game: nine batters faced, two retired, four walks, two hit by pitch, four runs allowed. That was it.

?

Given that statistical abattoir, why am I noting Bard's decision to call it quits? The same reason that general managers looked at those numbers, watched video of him struggling to throw strikes to 19-year-olds, and still picked up a phone to call his agent: the promise of what once was. Somewhere, underneath the walks and wildness, teams believed they could unearth the Daniel Bard who was a former first-round pick out of UNC, who threw 100 mph with ease, who shut down rallies and blew his fastball by hitters out of Boston's bullpen. If there were one thing on the minds of those front office executives as they threw Bard a minor league lifeline, it was probably the memory of this August 2010 outing against the Yankees, when he came in with the bases loaded and stranded everyone by making Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher look as if they'd been been playing dizzy bat before walking to the plate.

Watch that pitch to Swisher: a 99-mph fastball with changeup movement, like a reverse slider on full tilt. You and I have both seen swings that come up empty, swings that never had a chance to connect, swings that were misguided disasters. But Swisher's whiff is futility made flesh (or at least maple); he was so overmatched and flummoxed that he might as well have turned around and taken a cut in the other direction. It's a pitch so ludicrous, so hard to understand that the only explanation for it is some kind of magic. For a moment—a brief, tiny, incredible moment—Daniel Bard reached a level of performance that few can even imagine, much less get to. He slipped the surly bonds of Yankee Stadium and touched the face of Koufax.

Pitchers fail and break all the time; there's nothing new in that. And while the magnitude of Bard's collapse is staggering in its size, plenty of other hurlers before and after him have seen careers go up in smoke where once there looked to be nothing but brilliance. But before his descent into becoming a modern-day Steve Blass, Bard gave us that one moment, shining and perfect and eternal, in which he threw one of the nastiest, most unhittable pitches that the world has ever seen. Long after he's gone, I'll remember and thank him for that, and I hope that in life after baseball, he can find some measure of peace and happiness that equals that August day in the Bronx.

NYCFC's Jesus Medina Follows in Mold of MLS's New Target Signings

As NYCFC bowed out of the 2017 MLS playoffs at the hands of the Columbus Crew, it was more than just a farewell to the team's season. It also wound up being Andrea Pirlo’s last match ever, as after a storied 22-year career, Il Maestro exited the stage that made him a legend.

From a nostalgic perspective, it was quite a moment as it brought down the curtain on a player who gave so much artistry to the beautiful game, albeit most notably in his time with Juventus and AC Milan. But in terms of NYCFC’s future, his retirement immediately opened an opportunity for Claudio Reyna, the club’s sporting director, and the rest of the technical team to find a new Designated Player to fill the void. Pirlo’s departure was a chance for Reyna & Co. to go back to the drawing board and determine what they want from their star signings: Experience and an aging reputation or towering potential?

Enter Jesus Medina, the 20-year-old attacking midfielder from Asuncion, Paraguay.

“Jesus is a talented attacking player who can play as a winger or No. 10 and will fit really well into our system and style of play. He is a left-footed technical player with a quick turn of pace, who can score and create goals for his teammates,” said Reyna during the announcement of his signing, which was consequently done when the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1 in the time zone of Samoa and Christmas Island/Kiribati, in order to make Medina’s signing the first of any player around the world in 2018. Make that what you will.

“I’m so happy to be here in New York City. Living here is going to be a unique experience for me,” said Medina, speaking to SI. “And the fact that I am able to live in New York and play football? That’s an incredible privilege.”

From a big-picture standpoint, Medina’s arrival is another example on how NYCFC–and the rest the league–is rethinking the strategy when it comes Designated Players and international talent. The focus, it seems, is not just on well-known names and well-worn players like Pirlo, but also about trusting promising, albeit younger, players, especially from South and Central America. Incoming expansion club LAFC, for example, announced the acquisition of 19-year-old Uruguayan rising star Diego Rossi last month, and last year, Atlanta United scored 70 goals in its inaugural regular season (only Toronto FC scored more) largely thanks to its three DPs: Argentina's Hector Villalba (23 years old), Venezuela's Josef Martinez (24) and Medina’s compatriot, Miguel Almiron (23), MLS’s top newcomer in 2017. Both Almiron and Martinez were also among the top seven in MVP voting.

“Miguel’s performance with Atlanta United is a main reason why I started paying more attention to the league. But also other stars such as David Villa, Pirlo caught my attention,” said Medina, when asked about his knowledge of his new league. “MLS has gotten better with level and talent.”

Medina is also aware that he will be working under Patrick Vieira, and like any player who joins the club, his manager’s reputation does not go unnoticed.

“It’s a real honor to play under a great ex-player and now manager as Patrick Vieira," Medina said. "Personally, this is a great chance for me to learn from him and grow as a player.”

As for his new captain, David Villa? Medina has a conflicted memory of his new teammate for obvious reasons.

“I have such a particular memory watching David Villa growing up, especially his 83rd-minute goal against Paraguay at the 2010 World Cup (laughing), but I don’t hold any grudges, and honestly it’s going be an honor to train with him.”

At just 20, Medina has quite the résumé.

After making his first team debut for Paraguayan club Libertad at the tender age of 15, Medina wound up with 74 appearances, including 14 in South American club competition. Last year, he helped Libertad reach the semifinals of the Copa Sudamericana.

Medina won the Paraguayan league five times, the most recent being the 2017 Apertura, so his winning mentality will be a positive addition to NYCFC, a team that, despite having so much talent, still searches for that winning disposition that conference foe Toronto FC possesses.

For his country, Medina has featured in the U-17 and U-20 squads, and he was named in Paraguay’s provisional squad for Copa America Centenario, only to miss out. Medina eventually made his senior team debut last summer against Mexico when he came on as a substitute in the 85th minute.

On the pitch, Medina is extremely versatile, able to play as a false nine, central attacking midfielder and on either wing. Seeing as Maxi Moralez controls the support striker role for David Villa and Jack Harrison mainly works down the right flank, it will be interesting to see where Vieira places the young Paraguayan.

As journalist Tim Vickery noted, some of his best football occurs on the opposite flank, when he cuts inside from the right wing (take his exquisite goal against Brazil, for example) so Vieira has some tinkering to do if he agrees with this analysis.

Medina is also a free-kick specialist and corner-kick taker, another useful factor for a team that often seemed limited in dead-ball situations.

As far as MLS has come, it would be naïve to think that Medina’s ultimate goal is to stay in this league for the rest of his career. NYCFC, after all, is owned by City Football Group and earlier reports suggested Manchester City purchased him with the intention of an immediate loan move to New York, so it is safe to suggest his career path, if all goes as planned, will eventually lead to Europe. Medina, naturally, agrees.

“Of course, someday I envision my future in Europe and play for big teams such as Manchester City or others in the Premier League,” he says. “But I am 100% focused on my career with NYCFC and my life in MLS.”

Time will tell if Medina can adjust to his new club, especially Yankee Stadium’s narrow pitch, which can often be an obstacle for players who love to have the ball at their feet. One thing is for sure about Medina: His arrival should excite not just NYCFC fans, but those who champion the development of South American talent throughout MLS.

NYCFC's Jesus Medina Follows in Mold of MLS's New Target Signings

As NYCFC bowed out of the 2017 MLS playoffs at the hands of the Columbus Crew, it was more than just a farewell to the team's season. It also wound up being Andrea Pirlo’s last match ever, as after a storied 22-year career, Il Maestro exited the stage that made him a legend.

From a nostalgic perspective, it was quite a moment as it brought down the curtain on a player who gave so much artistry to the beautiful game, albeit most notably in his time with Juventus and AC Milan. But in terms of NYCFC’s future, his retirement immediately opened an opportunity for Claudio Reyna, the club’s sporting director, and the rest of the technical team to find a new Designated Player to fill the void. Pirlo’s departure was a chance for Reyna & Co. to go back to the drawing board and determine what they want from their star signings: Experience and an aging reputation or towering potential?

Enter Jesus Medina, the 20-year-old attacking midfielder from Asuncion, Paraguay.

“Jesus is a talented attacking player who can play as a winger or No. 10 and will fit really well into our system and style of play. He is a left-footed technical player with a quick turn of pace, who can score and create goals for his teammates,” said Reyna during the announcement of his signing, which was consequently done when the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1 in the time zone of Samoa and Christmas Island/Kiribati, in order to make Medina’s signing the first of any player around the world in 2018. Make that what you will.

“I’m so happy to be here in New York City. Living here is going to be a unique experience for me,” said Medina, speaking to SI. “And the fact that I am able to live in New York and play football? That’s an incredible privilege.”

From a big-picture standpoint, Medina’s arrival is another example on how NYCFC–and the rest the league–is rethinking the strategy when it comes Designated Players and international talent. The focus, it seems, is not just on well-known names and well-worn players like Pirlo, but also about trusting promising, albeit younger, players, especially from South and Central America. Incoming expansion club LAFC, for example, announced the acquisition of 19-year-old Uruguayan rising star Diego Rossi last month, and last year, Atlanta United scored 70 goals in its inaugural regular season (only Toronto FC scored more) largely thanks to its three DPs: Argentina's Hector Villalba (23 years old), Venezuela's Josef Martinez (24) and Medina’s compatriot, Miguel Almiron (23), MLS’s top newcomer in 2017. Both Almiron and Martinez were also among the top seven in MVP voting.

“Miguel’s performance with Atlanta United is a main reason why I started paying more attention to the league. But also other stars such as David Villa, Pirlo caught my attention,” said Medina, when asked about his knowledge of his new league. “MLS has gotten better with level and talent.”

Medina is also aware that he will be working under Patrick Vieira, and like any player who joins the club, his manager’s reputation does not go unnoticed.

“It’s a real honor to play under a great ex-player and now manager as Patrick Vieira," Medina said. "Personally, this is a great chance for me to learn from him and grow as a player.”

As for his new captain, David Villa? Medina has a conflicted memory of his new teammate for obvious reasons.

“I have such a particular memory watching David Villa growing up, especially his 83rd-minute goal against Paraguay at the 2010 World Cup (laughing), but I don’t hold any grudges, and honestly it’s going be an honor to train with him.”

At just 20, Medina has quite the résumé.

After making his first team debut for Paraguayan club Libertad at the tender age of 15, Medina wound up with 74 appearances, including 14 in South American club competition. Last year, he helped Libertad reach the semifinals of the Copa Sudamericana.

Medina won the Paraguayan league five times, the most recent being the 2017 Apertura, so his winning mentality will be a positive addition to NYCFC, a team that, despite having so much talent, still searches for that winning disposition that conference foe Toronto FC possesses.

For his country, Medina has featured in the U-17 and U-20 squads, and he was named in Paraguay’s provisional squad for Copa America Centenario, only to miss out. Medina eventually made his senior team debut last summer against Mexico when he came on as a substitute in the 85th minute.

On the pitch, Medina is extremely versatile, able to play as a false nine, central attacking midfielder and on either wing. Seeing as Maxi Moralez controls the support striker role for David Villa and Jack Harrison mainly works down the right flank, it will be interesting to see where Vieira places the young Paraguayan.

As journalist Tim Vickery noted, some of his best football occurs on the opposite flank, when he cuts inside from the right wing (take his exquisite goal against Brazil, for example) so Vieira has some tinkering to do if he agrees with this analysis.

Medina is also a free-kick specialist and corner-kick taker, another useful factor for a team that often seemed limited in dead-ball situations.

As far as MLS has come, it would be naïve to think that Medina’s ultimate goal is to stay in this league for the rest of his career. NYCFC, after all, is owned by City Football Group and earlier reports suggested Manchester City purchased him with the intention of an immediate loan move to New York, so it is safe to suggest his career path, if all goes as planned, will eventually lead to Europe. Medina, naturally, agrees.

“Of course, someday I envision my future in Europe and play for big teams such as Manchester City or others in the Premier League,” he says. “But I am 100% focused on my career with NYCFC and my life in MLS.”

Time will tell if Medina can adjust to his new club, especially Yankee Stadium’s narrow pitch, which can often be an obstacle for players who love to have the ball at their feet. One thing is for sure about Medina: His arrival should excite not just NYCFC fans, but those who champion the development of South American talent throughout MLS.

'I Wasn't Going to Be Deterred': How the NHL Winter Classic Became a Reality

With the NHL preparing to drop the puck on the 10th installment of the Winter Classic with the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres facing off January 1 at Citi Field, it's a fun exercise to look back at the roots of a league tentpole event.

There's the throwback to the outdoor game players and fans remember from childhood, skating on a fresh pond or lake, cutting through the cold, crisp winter air and seeing lungfuls of warm air materialize.

The pond hockey homage is only one part of the game's roots, as baseball and even college football played roles in the Winter Classic's existence.

In October 2004, months after NBC had signed a multi-year broadcast deal with the NHL, the network needed something to fill recently vacated college football bowl space for New Year's Day. Luckily, NBC Sports executive VP Jon Miller was watching the Red Sox and Yankees duke it out in the American League Championship Series.

"I started thinking, I need to come up with something for New Year’s Day," he says. "How great would it be if we could get the Boston Bruins to come down and play the New York Rangers at Yankees Stadium? The more I thought about it, the more I thought college football had ceded the day at that point; all the big bowl games were on in primetime on multiple different days and most of the games that were on in the afternoon on New Year's Day, at that time, were what I call 'the Who Take The Trash Out Bowl.' It really was a time we thought we could take advantage of."

With some inspiration from 2003's Heritage Classic game in Edmonton, an outdoor matchup between the Oilers and Canadiens at Commonwealth Stadium, Miller went to work.

Miller took his idea for a regular-season outdoor game to NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol, who encouraged him to bring it to the league and commissioner Gary Bettman. Initially, the NHL's reception was lukewarm; the league lacked a special events department and a clear way to turn Miller's concept into a reality. There was initially some interest from the Bruins and Rangers, but the venue was another roadblock.

"The Yankee Stadium folks thought we were kind of crazy," he says. "Who would ever want to put an outdoor hockey game in the House that Ruth Built? So, we didn't really have a whole lot of luck there, either, but I wasn't going to be deterred. I kept pushing for it."

Another obstacle popped up in the form of a season-long lockout, quickly ending 2004-05 and what was supposed to be NBC's first with the league.

Even with the NHL sidelined, Miller refused to let his idea rest. He found help in the form of Seth Winter, recently named executive VP of ad sales, and Sam Flood, the network's executive hockey producer. They brought a knowledge and enthusiasm for selling and producing the game that helped Miller continue to make his idea a "front-burner item" with the league, especially once the work stoppage ended and play resumed for the 2005-06 season.

A November 2006 meeting with John Collins, the league's new senior marketing VP and former acquaintance of Miller's from their early industry days, took things a step further.

Collins, recognizing some of the shortfalls that prevented the league from picking up the initial idea, created an events department inside the league. He called around gauging interest among teams to play in the outdoor game and returned with one promising bit of news: the Buffalo Sabres were very, very interested in taking part. Finding a second team proved to be a challenge, however, with the Pittsburgh Penguins and up-and-coming star Sidney Crosby finally joining the cause. Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium, home to the NFL's Bills, was confirmed as a venue.

With the game finally taking shape, Miller realized there was still a lot of work to do. A template existed from the Heritage Classic, but there were still concerns about the weather, the sight lines and camera angles.

"There was a very skeptical feel whether it was going to work and what it was going to be like," Flood says.

"The NHL did a great job making their announcement up in Buffalo and they sold out in a matter of hours," Miller says. "That indicated to use that we really, we had to make sure that we delivered."

The nerves dissipated when Miller, Flood and NBC on-air personality Bob Costas flew in to Buffalo on the eve of the big game. Upon landing in the middle of the night, they found a city alive with anticipation.

"By the time we got to our hotel, it was 2:30, 3:00, and people were still partying in downtown Buffalo," Miller says. "It was a real scene, and it was freezing out. We get up and go to the stadium at 10 that next morning and driving into the parking lot at the stadium was surreal for me. People were outside tailgating, playing street hockey, throwing a football around, just in a great mood tailgating, and they had been there for hours."

The snowy Buffalo weather provided a scenic backdrop as youth players chased a puck on a side rink inside Ralph Wilson Stadium. An NHL-record 71,217 fans showed up to see the spectacle, while an airplane flying overhead provided a birds-eye view.

"We were very fortunate that snow came in the morning of that first game and created a snow globe effect," Flood says.

The players, wearing heat-saving turtlenecks under their gear and retro uniforms and knit winter hats over it, found themselves taking it all in.

"When we saw the players come out amongst the snow," Miller says, "and they had their toques on to take their warm-ups, the smiles on their faces and they were wide-eyed, they just couldn't believe it—nor could we—and we just kind of realized that this is something really special and it wasn't just a one-time gimmick and it was gonna hopefully have a long, long life."

The excitement bubbled over onto the ice, where Penguins forward Colby Armstrong scored just 21 seconds into the game.

"It was fun, that first goal being scored and us taking the first replay from an airplane," Flood says. "Someone in the truck said, well, you can’t see the puck go in the net. I said, it's the first time ever you’ve had a replay from an airplane in a hockey game."

"The good thing was we had an engrossing game," NBC play-by-play man Doc Emrick says. "Marc Joannette and Don VanMassenhoven, the referees … had to constantly be shoveling and have the Zambonis out, not one player complained all afternoon. There were delays, sure, but nobody complained. It was all a part of a collective effort to get a game in and to enjoy playing a game outdoors."

The game found its way to a fitting conclusion: The Sabres tied it on Brian Campbell's early second-period strike. A scoreless third period and overtime sent the game into the shootout. If the players enjoyed it, so, too, did the fans, who were treated to a defining moment for the league and its inaugural Winter Classic.

Sabres forward Ales Kotalik opened the shootout by beating goalie Ty Conklin to deafening cheers, Penguins forward Erik Christiansen was unsuccessful against Ryan Miller. Tim Connolly's attempt was stopped, but Kris Letang went forehand-backhand to even things out for Pittsburgh. After Maxim Afinogenov failed to beat Conklin, the game came down to Sidney Crosby.

"The game on his stick right here," Emrick called as the Penguins' young star picked up the ice and sped past Miller amid falling snowflakes and a raucous Ralph Wilson Stadium crowd. Crosby slid the puck through the goalie's legs and the announcer let go an excited proclamation. "GOAL! PENGUINS WIN!"

Heading into the game, there was no guarantee for a second outdoor game. After the Penguins celebrated their victory in the cold outdoor air, it was difficult for there not to be at least a sequel.

"The original idea to put something on New Year's Day, it was kind of 'this is a one-off, let's see if this works,' and if it works, maybe we do it again in Year Two and Three," Miller says. "But I had no idea it was ever going to grow to become what it is. I did think when we first did it, it sounded like it was so difficult to get anybody to agree to host, and John did such a good job of delivering Buffalo and Pittsburgh, that it was going to become tough to maintain that. Sure enough, after Year 1, we had ten teams raise their hands."

In the years since, the NHL has brought outdoor hockey to Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Ann Arbor, Washington D.C., Foxborough and St. Louis. Games have been played in venues like Fenway Park, Michigan Stadium and Wrigley Field. The Blackhawks, Bruins, Flyers, Rangers, Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Capitals have been among teams to take part, while the league has also expanded its outdoor repertoire to games north of the border in Canada and on the considerably warmer West Coast. The game has consistently produced ratings, accounting for seven of the league's 10 most-watched regular season games.

While there's yet to be that Rangers-Bruins matchup Miller initially conjured up while watching baseball, the Winter Classic has found itself a home on the yearly hockey schedule and sports calendar, right up there with baseball postseason classics and college football bowls.

Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2017 — No. 16: A child’s injury spurs a belated adoption of expanded protective netting

In September, a baby was nearly killed by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium. Teams quickly, but belatedly, began to extend their netting.

Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2017 — No. 16: A child’s injury spurs a belated adoption of expanded protective netting

In September, a baby was nearly killed by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium. Teams quickly, but belatedly, began to extend their netting.

Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2017 — No. 16: A child’s injury spurs a belated adoption of expanded protective netting

In September, a baby was nearly killed by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium. Teams quickly, but belatedly, began to extend their netting.

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Boston College vs Iowa

Dec 27, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; Members of the Iowa Hawkeyes celebrates after their game against the Boston College Eagles in the 2017 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Iowa, Boston College on deck for Pinstripe Bowl in NYC

Boston College head coach Steve Addazio, left, and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz pose for a picture on the field at Yankee Stadium in New York, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. The Pinstripe Bowl, which will feature the two schools, will be played in Yankee Stadium on Dec. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

College Bowl games bring in millions in profits and viewe...

CNBC's Eric Chemi reports from Yankee Stadium on how College Bowl games manage to bring in so much interest and revenue.

Noa Merritt Steps Up on Defensive Line

Noa Merritt plans to bring the pressure at Yankee Stadium.

College Bowl games bring in millions in profits and viewe...

CNBC's Eric Chemi reports from Yankee Stadium on how College Bowl games manage to bring in so much interest and revenue.

College Bowl games bring in millions in profits and viewe...

CNBC's Eric Chemi reports from Yankee Stadium on how College Bowl games manage to bring in so much interest and revenue.

College Bowl games bring in millions in profits and viewe...

CNBC's Eric Chemi reports from Yankee Stadium on how College Bowl games manage to bring in so much interest and revenue.

College Bowl games bring in millions in profits and viewe...

CNBC's Eric Chemi reports from Yankee Stadium on how College Bowl games manage to bring in so much interest and revenue.

College Bowl games bring in millions in profits and viewe...

CNBC's Eric Chemi reports from Yankee Stadium on how College Bowl games manage to bring in so much interest and revenue.

College Bowl games bring in millions in profits and viewe...

CNBC's Eric Chemi reports from Yankee Stadium on how College Bowl games manage to bring in so much interest and revenue.

Previewing the Independence, Pinstripe, Foster Farms and Texas Bowls

All month long in the Daily Bowl Digest, we’ll be setting the table for each day of bowl action, with game-by-game previews and a quick look back at the previous day’s action.

What happened on Tuesday: Utah pulled away for a 30–14 win over West Virginia in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, kick-started by a 58-yard touchdown run by Utes running back Zack Moss, who finished with 150 yards on 20 carries. The Mountaineers’ absences due to injuries and draft declarations were glaring, as the offense picked up just five first downs all afternoon without starting quarterback Will Grier and starting running back Justin Crawford. Duke took care of Northern Illinois in the Quick Lane Bowl 36-14. Blue Devils quarterback Daniel Jones threw for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Alex Delton pushed Kansas State past Josh Rosen-less UCLA in the Cactus Bowl 35-14. He rushed 20 times for 158 yards and three touchdowns, while completing 7-of-10 passes for 52 yards and a touchdown.

Walk-On’s Independence Bowl (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Why you should watch: It was obviously a down year for Florida State, but this bowl still has a David vs. Goliath feeling to it. The Seminoles are a traditional powerhouse that has spent the last five years playing in either a BCS bowl, a New Year’s Six Bowl or the national championship game. This is FSU’s 36th consecutive bowl appearance; it kept the streak alive by winning four of its final five games after a 2–5 start—and refuting a Reddit commenter who pointed out that one of those six wins shouldn’t have counted because less than 90% of FCS opponent Delaware State’s roster was on athletic scholarship. (Because the NCAA rule in question also counts academic scholarships and other non-athletic forms of institutional aid, Delaware State was in fact above the 90% line.)

Despite a tumultuous year that started with an injury to QB Deondre Francois and ended with Jimbo Fisher jumping to Texas A&M, the Seminoles are still favored by over two touchdowns on Conference USA representative Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles’ best chance at an upset probably hinges on their 24th-ranked pass defense, which Florida State QB James Blackman will need to navigate. If he struggles, the Seminoles will lean hard on freshman running back Cam Akers, whom Southern Miss shouldn’t have an answer for in terms of athleticism.

Most Interesting Player on the Field: Southern Miss WR Korey Robertson. The Golden Eagles’ leading receiver has crossed the 100-yard mark five times this season, helping him rank 15th in the country in receiving yards (1,070) and tied for ninth in receiving TDs (11). Robertson will test the Florida State secondary, which will be without star safety Derwin James, who is skipping the game to prepare for the NFL draft. — Molly Geary

New Era Pinstripe Bowl (5:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Why you should watch: Football games in baseball stadiums might not be for everyone, but something about events at Yankee Stadium in cold weather makes it hard to look away. If the scenery isn’t enough to convince you to tune into the Pinstripe Bowl, the actual football game pits two pretty evenly matched teams from the middle of the Big Ten and ACC against each other. Boston College finished the season by quietly winning five of six, including a 45–42 road win over Lamar Jackson and Louisville.

Iowa has had no problem reaching the postseason—the Hawkeyes are in a bowl game for the ninth time in ten seasons—but the bowl games themselves have been a different story: Iowa has lost five in a row, the last three by a combined 73 points. The university has fully committed to head coach Kirk Ferentz, who was inked to a contract extension last year that will keep him in Iowa City until 2026, but another non-competitive bowl game will further frustrate an Iowa fan base that wants to see the program take the next step.

Most interesting player on the field: Boston College RB A.J. Dillon. Boston College’s true freshman running back was unanimously named first-team All-ACC and was also the unanimous pick for the conference’s newcomer of the year. Dillon has been the focal point of Boston College’s offense all season and racked up 1,432 yards and 13 touchdowns on more than five yards per carry. Interestingly enough, he did not catch a pass the entire season: Two hundred sixty-eight carries, zero receptions. — Daniel Rapaport

Foster Farms Bowl (8:30 p.m. ET, FOX)

Why you should watch: Arizona and Purdue both finished 3–9 a season ago, then took separate paths to turnaround years that landed them in Santa Clara. Purdue replaced head coach Darrell Hazell with Jeff Brohm, whose innovative offensive mind helped boost that side of the ball as the defense held its own in Big Ten play. Khalil Tate started off the season as Arizona’s backup quarterback, then took the college football world by storm after filling in for an injured Brandon Dawkins in October. The Wildcats sit sixth in the nation in scoring with 41.8 points per game, thanks in large part to Tate’s video-game numbers at the head of a multi-pronged rushing attack that also featured backs J.J. Taylor, Nick Wilson and Zach Green. Purdue’s 30th-ranked run defense (133.3 yards per game) will be facing its most unique challenge of the season stopping Arizona’s spread attack with a quarterback at the helm who can take it the distance himself on any given play.

Most interesting player on the field: Arizona QB Khalil Tate. Purdue allowed its most points of the season when Lamar Jackson and Louisville scored 35 in Week 1. Tate is a poor man’s Jackson, blowing past the opposition consistently with his legs while creating big plays through the air when the defense gives him a window. The fact that Tate was considered a Heisman candidate despite barely playing in September shows how dominant he was in the games he did appear in. — Max Meyer

Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Why you should watch: It is downright amazing that Missouri is playing football in December. After giving up 43 points to FCS Missouri State in a season-opening win, the Tigers went on to lose their next five games, sitting at 1–5 on Oct. 21 and looking desperately in need of a shakeup. Fans called for the head of second-year coach Barry Odom, and they got their change—in the form of an impassioned speech from Odom after the final game of September that turned the season around. The Tigers have gone 6–0 since a 53–28 loss to Georgia, and although offensive coordinator Josh Heupel has left for the top job at UCF, they still will feature one of the most fun offenses in college football under quarterback Drew Lock in the matchup with Texas.

Most interesting player on the field: Missouri QB Drew Lock. Lock piled up ridiculous numbers in his junior season, setting the SEC single-season record with 43 touchdown passes as the Tigers woke up from their start on the strength of one of the nation’s most explosive offenses. He could feast on a Texas defense that will be without several stars sitting out ahead of the NFL draft process. — Joan Niesen

Joe Garagiola

Joe Garagiola, a major league baseball catcher who had stints with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburg Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and New York Giants, died on March 23 and age 90. After retiring from the MLB, Garagiola was well known as an announcer and television host. — (Pictured) NBC sport personality Joe Garagiola prior to the start of a Major League Baseball game against the New York Yankees circa 1983 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees

Sep 26, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) throws out New York Yankees third baseman Chase Headley during the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees

Sep 26, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) throws out New York Yankees third baseman Chase Headley during the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa vs. Boston College: Pinstripe Bowl Preview

Iowa vs. Boston College: Eagles star running back AJ Dillon looks to end his stellar freshman season on a high note as BC takes on the Hawkeyes for the first time in history. The Eagles are in their 4th bowl game in 5 years under Steve Addazio and will face an Iowa team that has made the postseason 9 of the last 10 seasons. Hear from both teams as we count down to the Pinstripe Bowl on December 27th at Yankee Stadium

Iowa vs. Boston College: Pinstripe Bowl Preview

Iowa vs. Boston College: Eagles star running back AJ Dillon looks to end his stellar freshman season on a high note as BC takes on the Hawkeyes for the first time in history. The Eagles are in their 4th bowl game in 5 years under Steve Addazio and will face an Iowa team that has made the postseason 9 of the last 10 seasons. Hear from both teams as we count down to the Pinstripe Bowl on December 27th at Yankee Stadium

Iowa vs. Boston College: Pinstripe Bowl Preview

Iowa vs. Boston College: Eagles star running back AJ Dillon looks to end his stellar freshman season on a high note as BC takes on the Hawkeyes for the first time in history. The Eagles are in their 4th bowl game in 5 years under Steve Addazio and will face an Iowa team that has made the postseason 9 of the last 10 seasons. Hear from both teams as we count down to the Pinstripe Bowl on December 27th at Yankee Stadium

Iowa vs. Boston College: Pinstripe Bowl Preview

Iowa vs. Boston College: Eagles star running back AJ Dillon looks to end his stellar freshman season on a high note as BC takes on the Hawkeyes for the first time in history. The Eagles are in their 4th bowl game in 5 years under Steve Addazio and will face an Iowa team that has made the postseason 9 of the last 10 seasons. Hear from both teams as we count down to the Pinstripe Bowl on December 27th at Yankee Stadium

Iowa vs. Boston College: Pinstripe Bowl Preview

Iowa vs. Boston College: Eagles star running back AJ Dillon looks to end his stellar freshman season on a high note as BC takes on the Hawkeyes for the first time in history. The Eagles are in their 4th bowl game in 5 years under Steve Addazio and will face an Iowa team that has made the postseason 9 of the last 10 seasons. Hear from both teams as we count down to the Pinstripe Bowl on December 27th at Yankee Stadium

Iowa vs. Boston College: Pinstripe Bowl Preview

Iowa vs. Boston College: Eagles star running back AJ Dillon looks to end his stellar freshman season on a high note as BC takes on the Hawkeyes for the first time in history. The Eagles are in their 4th bowl game in 5 years under Steve Addazio and will face an Iowa team that has made the postseason 9 of the last 10 seasons. Hear from both teams as we count down to the Pinstripe Bowl on December 27th at Yankee Stadium

Iowa vs. Boston College: Pinstripe Bowl Preview

Iowa vs. Boston College: Eagles star running back AJ Dillon looks to end his stellar freshman season on a high note as BC takes on the Hawkeyes for the first time in history. The Eagles are in their 4th bowl game in 5 years under Steve Addazio and will face an Iowa team that has made the postseason 9 of the last 10 seasons. Hear from both teams as we count down to the Pinstripe Bowl on December 27th at Yankee Stadium

Iowa vs. Boston College: Pinstripe Bowl Preview

Iowa vs. Boston College: Eagles star running back AJ Dillon looks to end his stellar freshman season on a high note as BC takes on the Hawkeyes for the first time in history. The Eagles are in their 4th bowl game in 5 years under Steve Addazio and will face an Iowa team that has made the postseason 9 of the last 10 seasons. Hear from both teams as we count down to the Pinstripe Bowl on December 27th at Yankee Stadium

Orioles closer Zach Britton tears right Achilles tendon

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Zach Britton throws during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in New York. The Orioles defeated the Yankees 6-4. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Iowa junior CB Josh Jackson undecided on future

FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2017, file photo, Iowa's Josh Jackson (15) celebrates with teammate Miles Taylor, left, after intercepting a pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game against North Texas, in Iowa City, Iowa. Next weeks Pinstripe Bowl in New York could be Iowa junior cornerback Josh Jacksons last game as a Hawkeye. Jackson said Tuesday, Dec. 19. 2017, that hes 50-50 on whether hell come back for his senior season, adding that hell likely announce his plans for 2018 after the Hawkeyes (7-5) face Boston College (7-5) on Dec. 27 at Yankee Stadium. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2017, file photo, Iowa's Josh Jackson (15) celebrates with teammate Miles Taylor, left, after intercepting a pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game against North Texas, in Iowa City, Iowa. Next week’s Pinstripe Bowl in New York could be Iowa junior cornerback Josh Jackson’s last game as a Hawkeye. Jackson said Tuesday, Dec. 19. 2017, that he’s “50-50” on whether he’ll come back for his senior season, adding that he’ll likely announce his plans for 2018 after the Hawkeyes (7-5) face Boston College (7-5) on Dec. 27 at Yankee Stadium. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2017, file photo, Iowa's Josh Jackson (15) celebrates with teammate Miles Taylor, left, after intercepting a pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game against North Texas, in Iowa City, Iowa. Next week’s Pinstripe Bowl in New York could be Iowa junior cornerback Josh Jackson’s last game as a Hawkeye. Jackson said Tuesday, Dec. 19. 2017, that he’s “50-50” on whether he’ll come back for his senior season, adding that he’ll likely announce his plans for 2018 after the Hawkeyes (7-5) face Boston College (7-5) on Dec. 27 at Yankee Stadium. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees

FILE PHOTO: Jul 5, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; Former New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda (35) pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

FILE - In this July 7, 2013 file photo, Newtown, Conn., First Selectman Pat Llodra speaks to members of the media on "Newtown Day" before a baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York. Llodra, who led Newtown through the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting tragedy as head of its governing board before retiring in November 2017 said, "This is something that happened to us; we didn't cause it. It's part of our history, but it is not who we are." (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

Winter Meetings Notebook: Stanton's Pursuit of 'Crazy Numbers,' Darvish Tipping Pitches in World Series Starts and More

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Babe Ruth, Roger Maris and Giancarlo Stanton are the only players not connected to steroids to hit 59 home runs in a season. Now Stanton wants more, and he knows that his new home park, which helped lefthanders Ruth in 1927 and Maris in 1961, should help him get to 60 and beyond–to what he called “crazy numbers.”

Righthanded batters hit 156 homers last year at Yankee Stadium (second only to Oriole Park), 33 of them by Aaron Judge, an all-time city record. Just as Fenway Park rewards lefthanded hitters, Stanton knows that Yankee Stadium rewards righthanded hitters by encouraging them to stay on the ball longer, knowing that they don’t have to hit the ball especially hard to get it out to the opposite field. Righthanded batters hit 109 homers at Marlins Park, more than a quarter of them by Stanton (31).

“To get it out at Marlins Park you have to crush it and you have to get it up in the air,” Stanton said after his introductory press conference Monday. “Knowing that, it can affect your swing and your approach. There are no cheapies.”

I reminded him how Judge took advantage of home runs to rightfield at Yankee Stadium last year. Judge hit 12 home runs to the right of centerfield at home; Stanton hit only five such homers at home. When Judge is going well, he stays on the ball longer– not opening up too soon, as pitchers stay away against him–and hits the ball hard up the middle and the other way. Overall, Judge slugged 1.049 when hitting the ball the other way, second among all righthanded hitters, to J.D. Martinez.

“Knowing you don’t have to crush it to hit it out, that’s huge,” Stanton said. “I don’t mind the cheapies at all. I’ll take ‘em. That’s how you get to the crazy numbers. You mix in a few cheapies. I’m looking forward to it.”

Yankee Stadium, in its original form and in its remastered version, is known as a lefthanded hitter’s park because of the short porch in rightfield. But since the new version took out the curvature of the wall in rightfield, reducing the distance in the gap, it has become friendlier to righthanded hitters.

The late Gene Michael liked to say that to win in Yankee Stadium you need lefthanded pitching and lefthanded hitting. That’s no longer the case. The Yankees have only three lefthanded pitchers on their 40-man roster (Aroldis Chapman, Jordan Montgomery and Chasen Shreve). The have the most righthanded power since the 1999 Rockies–and it’s all good. Stanton, Judge and Gary Sanchez (five rightfield homers at Yankee Stadium, four of them in that shortened gap) all have not only elite power, but also the ability to flip pitches away into the near seats in rightfield even when they don’t hit it square.

Maris’ 61 homers in 1961 are not the record, but to many people, including Stanton, it’s the most meaningful threshold in this age of drug testing. Stanton will make a run at smashing it, not just breaking it, if Yankee Stadium gives him not only a few cheapies, but also encourages him to stay with a better approach at the plate–staying on the ball longer.

**

Now it can be told: Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches in losing his two World Series starts against Houston.

According to a Houston player, the Astros often knew what Darvish was about to throw by the way he brought the ball into his glove in the set position. (Darvish pitches exclusively out of the stretch.) The player said it worked like this: Darvish holds the ball at his side when he gets the sign from the catcher. Whether he re-grips or not as he brings the ball into his glove was the tip-off whether he was going to throw a slider/cutter or a fastball.

“We knew the first time we faced him [in Game 3],” the player said. “The next time [in Game 7] it was mostly the same, but then it was more about just having a great game plan going in. We knew he was going to try to go back to his slider to find it. We had a great approach.”

Darvish did not make it out of the second inning in either start. He threw 48 sliders and cutters to Houston hitters in the World Series. They swung and missed only twice at them while hitting .556 against the pitch.

**

Is the six-man rotation about to go mainstream?

One of the side stories of the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes was how teams were willing to at least consider a six-man rotation to accommodate Ohtani’s transition from Japan, where he was accustomed to pitching every six or seven days. The Angels, the sweepstakes winners, may indeed wind up with a six-man rotation, especially with so many pitchers with health concerns. The Texas Rangers also are considering a six-man rotation. The Indians used a six-man rotation during their American League record 22-game winning streak last year. The Giants, Padres, Phillies, Braves and Dodgers all fiddled with six-man rotations at times last year, especially at the end of the season, when pitchers show fatigue.

The six-man rotation is the natural next step in the growing emphasis on recovery. As velocity has gone up (and as the size and importance of bullpens have grown), teams are much less likely to pitch their starters on what used to be “regular” rest–pitching them by force of habit on the fifth day with four days of rest.

Last season pitchers made only 46 percent of their starts on the fifth day, the lowest percentage in the history of the five-man rotation. That was down from 52.3 percent just 10 years earlier.

The 2011 season marked the first time that pitchers made less than half their starts on “regular” rest, and that percentage has continued to trend downward since. You won’t see many teams commit all year to six-man rotations, but you’re likely to see more teams use it during certain intervals of the season. It shouldn’t be a big deal.

Years ago teams talked about how pitchers from Japan would have to adapt to the American style of pitching. But over time, and as the game moves closer to the Japanese model, teams are more likely to tread carefully with pitchers making that transition. You can see that below in the percentage of starts made on four days of rest by noted pitchers from Japan in their first year in the majors. (Because Hideki Irabu pitched a partial season in his first year, his first full season is used.) It would be a shock if Ohtani makes even 40 percent of his starts this year on the fifth day.

First-Year Starts in MLB

Pitcher Year Starts on Four Days of Rest Total Starts Percentage Hideo Nomo 1995 18 28 64.2% Hideki Irabu 1998 14 28 50.0% Diasuke Matsuzaka 2007 13 32 40.6% Hiroki Kuroda 2008 20 31 64.5% Yu Darvish 2012 13 29 44.8% Hisashi Iwakuma 2012 7 9 43.8% Masahiro Tanaka 2014 8 12 40.0% Kenta Maeda 2016 13 32 40.6%

**

So who plays rightfield for the Yankees, Judge or Stanton? Both, according to manager Aaron Boone. The new Yankees manager said he does not mind moving outfielders among positions, rather than setting on fixed positions. Both could also rotate through DH to get a measure of rest. “We’ll look at it and see what’s best,” Boone said. “We’ll take a few months with it. The good thing is it’s a non-issue with the players. They don’t mind.” … The latest evidence that it pays to be a reliever: Brandon Morrow. He went to spring training in 2016 and in 2017 on minor league contracts, posted a 7.20 ERA in the minors for two months last year, and just seven months and less than 50 innings later gets $21 million over two years from the Cubs. Why? Switching from the rotation to the bullpen, Morrow saw his velocity jump at age 33 from 94.7 to 97.8, a career high, he stayed healthy, he stopped throwing his split-change, and he learned after trying to keep his fastball down all these years to throw it at the top of the zone, as just about every reliever from the Dodgers did. Here’s how much the game has changed: Morrow, coming off less than 50 innings, gets about the same contract as last year went to Edinson Volquez, a classic innings-eater who had made 30 starts five straight years.

Teams continue to jump out after veteran relievers (Morrow, Luke Gregerson, Yasmeiro Petit, etc.), while home run hitters must wait around while their market continues to crater … MLB has made almost no progress on getting the players association to come around to the (bases empty only) pitch clock. The talks are likely to linger until the start of spring training games, which looms as a soft deadline. If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, MLB is likely to exercise its right to unilaterally implement the change. The concept of getting a limit on mound visits, however, has gained more traction with the union … The Padres’ interest in Eric Hosmer and Carlos Santana is interesting on several fronts. Not yet ready to contend, San Diego could be looking for its Jayson Werth, a surprise sign that is ahead of the team’s winning curve. It also signals a willingness to move Wil Myers back to the outfield. Mostly, it’s surprising because those are two big-ticket first basemen. The Padres never have handed out a contract more than the $83 million they gave Myers in a five-year extension.

Congratulations to Jack Morris, the last true workhorse, and Alan Trammell, the kind of player the late Sparky Anderson called “a manager’s dream,” on their election to the Hall of Fame. The fame part is especially important in regards to Morris. He changed baseball history by way of not just Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, but also as the staff ace for three world champions, each for a different franchise. Mostly, it was his ability to take the ball deep into games start after start and year after year that set him apart. Since the AL adopted the DH in 1973, nobody has taken the ball through the eighth inning in the league more often than Morris (248), and it’s hard to imagine anybody will.

Ten Things I Think I Think: On the Coolest Drive of the Year, the Giants’ GM Job and Baker Mayfield

1. I think these are my quick thoughts on Week 14:

a. I will never understand how the Seahawks thought Alex Collins was not good enough to make their team this summer.

b. One of the coolest drives of the year: The Colts drove 19 plays, 77 yards in 9:53 in a blizzard, and then used a 43-yard PAT from Adam Vinatieri to tie the game in Buffalo. That’s the most fascinating drive and PAT of the year. Easy.

c. Underrated player of the year: Since Arizona acquired Chandler Jones in a spring 2016 trade with New England, he leads the NFL in sacks (25.0) and tackles behind the line of scrimmage (39).

d. Speaking of pressure, Case Keenum will be seeing Kawann Short in his sleep for a couple nights.

e. The 27-yard T.J. Yates touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins had to be the greatest throw of Yates’ NFL career, abbreviated as it is.

f. Manti Te’o, 10 tackles. That’s a good career rebound for Te’o, now a Saint.

g. That was one terrible interception thrown by Matthew Stafford in Tampa.

h. I know it’s only two Niners starts, but Jimmy Garoppolo (2-0, 8.9 yards per attempt) is the goods.

i. Davis Webb inactive. Bizarre. Good line from our Conor Orr at the Meadowlands, about the Giants’ approach to quarterback play in this meaningless last month: “This felt like a logjam of competing interests.”

j. Ask yourselves this question, all ye who love the Giants: What purpose does it serve to play Eli Manning in the last three games instead of playing the third-round rookie, Davis Webb, to be able to add info to your 2018 first-round draft decision?

k. The NFL has to explain some of these ridiculous calls, dating back to the Monday-nighter last week in Cincinnati. Phantom calls. All over the place. Antonio Brown’s invisible 15-yard unnecessary roughness call against the Ravens last night. I concur with Sean Payton about the Sheldon Rankins roughing-the-passer call Thursday night; so marginal.

l. Not a good day for Marcus Mariota in the 12-7 loss at Arizona. Just 159 passing yards, 11 rushing yards, no touchdowns, two picks. He’s just not been the dynamic player this year we all thought he’d be in year three.

m. The Bears took Jordan Howard in the 2016 fifth round. He’s given them rushing seasons of 1,313 yards and—with three games left this year—1,032 yards. On a losing team. Nice pick, Ryan Pace.

n. Oakland, 6-7. That’s something I didn’t see coming.

o. Brett Hundley told me last week that one of his goals was to be sure the Pack was still in contention by the time Aaron Rodgers returns. Kudos to him—particularly for coming back from 14 down in the fourth quarter to beat Cleveland in overtime on Sunday. Now Green Bay’s 7-6, a game out of the last wild-card spot in the NFC with a tough slate (at Carolina, Minnesota, at Detroit) and Rodgers almost ready to return.

p. Deshaun Watson-to-DeAndre Hopkins is going to be fun to watch for six or eight years. Really fun.

2. I think I hope for the sake of the franchise, the Giants consider all candidates for the GM job, and don’t have David Gettleman’s name in pen. Not that I don’t like Gettleman; he did a very good job in Carolina. But he’ll be 67 in February. The Giants’ GM job has been sort of what the Steelers’ coaching job is. New York’s had three GMs since 1979, and none has lasted less than nine seasons; Pittsburgh’s had three head coaches since 1969. Maybe Gettleman’s the best guy out there, even if you can’t expect him to be there for more than four or five years. But I’d rather survey the field of GM candidates than pick Gettleman now and let the rest of the field go.

3. I think the combination of Nick Caserio and Josh McDaniels would be a heck of a catch for any team, by the way.

4. I think NFL teams will not have learned very much (surprise!) if Heisman winner Baker Mayfield is the fifth quarterback taken in the April draft. Or fourth. Mayfield is about 6'0¼", and scouts worry about his size. Let’s go back to 2012. Fourth QB picked: Brandon Weeden. Fifth QB picked: Brock Osweiler. Sixth QB picked: Russell (5'10¾" ) Wilson. Height, schmeight. Watch the games.

5. I think—thanks to Deadline.com, and relayed by Pro Football Talk—we’re now seeing what may be part of the future of the Rams and Chargers in Los Angeles. The Rams are really good, obviously. The Chargers might be good enough to win the AFC West this year. On Sunday, the matchup between the 9-3 Rams and the 10-2 Eagles at the L.A. Coliseum was the game of the day in the NFL—and, obviously, the league feared a laconic reaction when its pregame show, FOX NFL Sunday, went to the game site. Now, the pregame show would air from 9-10 a.m. West Coast time, for the 1:25 p.m. ballgame. When ESPN sends its College GameDay show to college campus sites, and the show is on hours before the game, crowds gather at the appointed time. But obviously, it was feared this would not happen with so much time before the Rams game. So a notice was put out on Project Casting, where aspiring actors go to look for work. “Calling all LA Rams fans!… To audition for a role in the upcoming NFL Sunday pre-game show, check out the casting call breakdown below. . . . Come out, bring your spirit, your best NFL gear & join us for NFL on FOX THIS Sunday!” More and more, I sense the NFL is going to have to resort to things like this to try to rev up the market.

6. I think the NFL and the NFLPA need to investigate—the same way I hope the Russell Wilson head-trauma examination from five weeks ago is being thoroughly investigated—the circumstances surrounding the 49ers’ brutal hit on Houston quarterback Tom Savage, and Savage’s reaction to it. Savage appeared to be twitching after the original hit and came out of the game to be looked at by the unaffiliated neurological consultant on the sidelines. Savage was permitted to re-enter the game for one series. Then he was looked at and pulled from the game, prompting an angry reaction from Savage. Bottom line: It’s good he was pulled, but should he ever have gone back in the game in the first place? This is a vital part of the NFL’s efforts to be sure no player ever plays with a concussion or symptoms of one. The program has to strive for perfection, and this didn’t look perfect.

7. I think Jerry Jones is not happy over the Roger Goodell contract. (Not that he would be.) But I just wonder what he’s got up his sleeve for the NFL meeting in Dallas on Wednesday. I bet it’s something.

8. I think the NFL would be making a mistake if it adopted the college targeting rule, which would provide for an ejection if officials judge that a defensive player targeted a defenseless player's head or neck area with an excessive hit, and would be subject to officiating interpretation. Read those last six words again: Would be subject to officiating interpretation. Often a hit that looks way over the top happens (as did the George Iloka hit on Antonio Brown last Monday night in the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game) when a defensive player looks to dislodge the ball from a ballcarrier. It's a tough call. Often the defender could be aiming for a foe's midsection, but the offensive player could duck or lunge, and then the hit could be helmet-to-helmet. It may not have been the defender's intent, but it just happens. I want to protect players as much as anyone. I'm not saying this is a bad rule. But this rule, if enacted, should be used only on obviously excessive hits.

9. I think, whether you like it or not, I’m taking you into the mind of Andy Benoit right now. Andy’s our NFL tape nerd and true football guru—an incredibly valued and valuable member of The MMQB team. He’s got a fun and interesting life out in Idaho, and he’s opinionated about a lot of things. In his weekly midweek column, you see the other side of Andy. This side:

• “I have always loved holiday lights. If everyone in every neighborhood did even just a little bit of illuminated decorating, 90 percent of our country’s problems would go away. But one caveat: no giant inflatable decorations. They’re tacky and lazy. And, if you live near them, surprisingly loud. (They hum as they stay inflated.) A giant inflatable yard decoration is better than no decorations, but a single wreath (even unlit) is better than a giant inflatable yard decoration.”

• “There are two types of people: clean freaks and slobs. When forced to live together, a clean freak’s and a slob’s most common battleground becomes the kitchen. Clean freaks do the dishes right after eating, while slobs sit around and wait for food scraps to stick to the plates. This one isn’t a matter of personal preference—there’s a right and wrong. The clean freaks are right and the slobs are wrong, and here’s why: If a dirty dish is to ever be used again, it must eventually be washed. Which makes washing that dish an inevitability. You maximize the value of that dish if you recognize that inevitability and clean it right away. Maybe you don’t need that dish until tomorrow night, but by washing it immediately after tonight’s dinner, you have 24 hours of that dish’s cleanliness. That’s 24 hours that the dish isn’t sitting in the back of your mind, yelling Wash Me! It’s 24 hours where the dish is available to be used on a whim. If you wait until, say, the morning to wash it, you get only 12 hours with that peace of mind. All for the same dish-washing effort. Or, actually, for less effort if you wash it up front, since fresh food scraps are easier to remove than old food scraps. If a dish didn’t have to be cleaned, then maybe the slobs would have an argument. But it does, and so they don’t.”

I believe you’ll all join me in pleading: MORE OF THAT, ANDY BENOIT.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. Coffeenerdness: Three hours after putting the espresso roast (new for the week) into my 12-ounce Hydro Flask, it’s still hot. What great inventions—the coffee and the vessel.

b. Beernerdness: Beer nerds will hate me for this, but when I opened the refrigerator Friday for a pre-dinner beer (or two), I didn’t want one of the Colorado craft brews in there, or the Gray Sail wheat beer, or the Allagash White. I had a hankering for a Heineken. Still a good standard when you want a couple of lighter, crisp ones.

c. Football story of the week: by Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer, on the fascinating and new protocol to treat brain trauma, the kind of treatment that could help a legion of former football players.

d. I can’t wait to see Shohei Ohtani.

e. You’re off to a heck of a start with the Marlins, Jeter.

f. Opening day against the Dunedin Blue Jays is only four months away. See if you can build up your roster with some more minor-leaguers.

g. Heresy for a follower of the Boston Red Sox, but I really admire the job Yankees GM Brian Cashman does. He has the benefit of having the Yankee jillions behind him, and of getting players to waive no-trade clauses to play in New York. But he’s still got to put a team on the field to compete with other excellent teams, and he does it—albeit with those big advantages—every year. Did he need Giancarlo Stanton? No. Will Stanton’s gigantic contract eventually cost Cashman one of his young megastars? Maybe. Does another right-handed power-hitter fit his lineup? No. But tell me: If you could get a 28-year-old MVP for peanuts, and that 28-year-old MVP is coming off a 58-home-run year, and he doesn’t appear to have many major flaws except an injury concern (he’s played 120 or more games in one of the past three years), you’d get him …

h. … Even if it makes Jacoby Ellsbury a $23-million-a-year fifth outfielder (Judge, Stanton, Gardner, Hicks, Ellsbury would seem to be the Yankees outfield depth chart, barring a trade).

i. You exist in the world you’re given. Cashman excels in his. It’s easier to excel when you have Cashman’s advantages, obviously. But you’ve still go to do it.

j. So what do the Red Sox do? My advice: pray. And, I guess, overpay for Eric Hosmer or J.D. Martinez. But the Yankees are 12 wins better than Boston, even with one of them on the Sox.

k. If I were the world champs in Houston today, I’d focus on one starting pitcher, and one top bullpen arm. Then it’d be a great ALCS: Yanks versus Astros.

l. Obituary of the Week: from the Los Angeles Times, word comes that the inventor of the SWAT team (and the ransom-deliverer in the Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnapping) has died. Now that’s an interesting life.

m. Story of the Week, by James Sullivan of the Boston Globe, on bookstores making a comeback (yay): “We don’t think of them as booksellers anymore—they’re literary entrepreneurs.” Cool look at people enjoying books around New England.

n. Baseball Story of the Week: from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, on just who and what Shohei Ohtani is. The Japanese pitcher/hitter signed with the Angels on Friday, and he could be one of the great stories in baseball history.

o. One more baseball note: Tracy Stallard, 80, died Wednesday in Tennessee. Not much of a reason for you to remember him; he went 30-57 in a seven-year major-league career. But he did have one moment in the sun: He gave up Roger Maris’ record-breaking 61st home run on the final day of the 1961 season—a line drive low into the right-field seats at Yankee Stadium, the only run in a 1-0 Yankees win, played in 1 hour, 57 minutes. “I’m not going to lose any sleep over it,” Stallard said after the game. He pitched a great game against the eventual World Series champs. The Yanks won 109 games that regular season. That’s what I loved about Stallard’s reaction. He pitched well, Maris hit a good pitch (they both said), and that’s all Stallard gave up. No sense crying about it. I like it when competitors (you hear this out of cornerbacks a lot, when they give up huge plays even when they had good coverage) say, essentially, I’ll get ’em next time.

p. Happy 24th birthday, Jacoby Brissett. Lotta football left.

q. Happy 47th birthday, Errict Rhett.

r. Sprint, don’t run, to “Darkest Hour,” the new Winston Churchill movie. There have been so many World War II movies out, many from the British perspective, and so I understand if you’re fed up with the genre. But this one takes a month in the walkup to the war, and in particular Churchill’s monumental decision about whether to negotiate a truce and settlement with Hitler as Germany is on the verge of invading England, or whether he and his country should fight to the death over their freedom. It’s so interesting how everything and everyone in his war cabinet pointed toward appeasement and making a deal with Hitler … but how stubborn Churchill was in holding out. Gary Oldman is outstanding as the prime minister.

s. So Tonya Harding (Google her, kids) got a standing ovation at the Hollywood premier of the movie about her, “I, Tonya.” So … to the people who stood and cheered: You do know that a goon hired by Harding’s then-husband and her bodyguard tried to break main rival Nancy Kerrigan’s leg with a metal pipe before the ’94 Olympics, and that Harding knew about the attack before it happened and didn’t stop it. A standing O. Wow.

t. Save the Boston Herald.

Who I Like Tonight

New England 29, Miami 9. The Patriots have won 15 straight away from Foxboro. They’ve won their last three meetings with the Dolphins by 7, 21 and 18. Miami’s 1-5 in its last six, and the five losses have been by a total of 95 points. You’ll be able to watch your local news tonight, folks. And, with a Pats’ win, you’ll look forward to the game of the year: New England (11-2) at Pittsburgh (11-2) on Sunday at Heinz Field.?

The Adieu Haiku

The kid had it all.
Supe dreams: Wentz versus Brady.
North Dakota weeps.

• We have a newsletter, and you can subscribe, and it’s free. Get “The Morning Huddle” delivered to your inbox first thing each weekday, by going here and checking The MMQB newsletter box. Start your day with the best of the NFL, from The MMQB.

Question or comment? Story idea? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

Ten Things I Think I Think: On the Coolest Drive of the Year, the Giants’ GM Job and Baker Mayfield

1. I think these are my quick thoughts on Week 14:

a. I will never understand how the Seahawks thought Alex Collins was not good enough to make their team this summer.

b. One of the coolest drives of the year: The Colts drove 19 plays, 77 yards in 9:53 in a blizzard, and then used a 43-yard PAT from Adam Vinatieri to tie the game in Buffalo. That’s the most fascinating drive and PAT of the year. Easy.

c. Underrated player of the year: Since Arizona acquired Chandler Jones in a spring 2016 trade with New England, he leads the NFL in sacks (25.0) and tackles behind the line of scrimmage (39).

d. Speaking of pressure, Case Keenum will be seeing Kawann Short in his sleep for a couple nights.

e. The 27-yard T.J. Yates touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins had to be the greatest throw of Yates’ NFL career, abbreviated as it is.

f. Manti Te’o, 10 tackles. That’s a good career rebound for Te’o, now a Saint.

g. That was one terrible interception thrown by Matthew Stafford in Tampa.

h. I know it’s only two Niners starts, but Jimmy Garoppolo (2-0, 8.9 yards per attempt) is the goods.

i. Davis Webb inactive. Bizarre. Good line from our Conor Orr at the Meadowlands, about the Giants’ approach to quarterback play in this meaningless last month: “This felt like a logjam of competing interests.”

j. Ask yourselves this question, all ye who love the Giants: What purpose does it serve to play Eli Manning in the last three games instead of playing the third-round rookie, Davis Webb, to be able to add info to your 2018 first-round draft decision?

k. The NFL has to explain some of these ridiculous calls, dating back to the Monday-nighter last week in Cincinnati. Phantom calls. All over the place. Antonio Brown’s invisible 15-yard unnecessary roughness call against the Ravens last night. I concur with Sean Payton about the Sheldon Rankins roughing-the-passer call Thursday night; so marginal.

l. Not a good day for Marcus Mariota in the 12-7 loss at Arizona. Just 159 passing yards, 11 rushing yards, no touchdowns, two picks. He’s just not been the dynamic player this year we all thought he’d be in year three.

m. The Bears took Jordan Howard in the 2016 fifth round. He’s given them rushing seasons of 1,313 yards and—with three games left this year—1,032 yards. On a losing team. Nice pick, Ryan Pace.

n. Oakland, 6-7. That’s something I didn’t see coming.

o. Brett Hundley told me last week that one of his goals was to be sure the Pack was still in contention by the time Aaron Rodgers returns. Kudos to him—particularly for coming back from 14 down in the fourth quarter to beat Cleveland in overtime on Sunday. Now Green Bay’s 7-6, a game out of the last wild-card spot in the NFC with a tough slate (at Carolina, Minnesota, at Detroit) and Rodgers almost ready to return.

p. Deshaun Watson-to-DeAndre Hopkins is going to be fun to watch for six or eight years. Really fun.

2. I think I hope for the sake of the franchise, the Giants consider all candidates for the GM job, and don’t have David Gettleman’s name in pen. Not that I don’t like Gettleman; he did a very good job in Carolina. But he’ll be 67 in February. The Giants’ GM job has been sort of what the Steelers’ coaching job is. New York’s had three GMs since 1979, and none has lasted less than nine seasons; Pittsburgh’s had three head coaches since 1969. Maybe Gettleman’s the best guy out there, even if you can’t expect him to be there for more than four or five years. But I’d rather survey the field of GM candidates than pick Gettleman now and let the rest of the field go.

3. I think the combination of Nick Caserio and Josh McDaniels would be a heck of a catch for any team, by the way.

4. I think NFL teams will not have learned very much (surprise!) if Heisman winner Baker Mayfield is the fifth quarterback taken in the April draft. Or fourth. Mayfield is about 6'0¼", and scouts worry about his size. Let’s go back to 2012. Fourth QB picked: Brandon Weeden. Fifth QB picked: Brock Osweiler. Sixth QB picked: Russell (5'10¾" ) Wilson. Height, schmeight. Watch the games.

5. I think—thanks to Deadline.com, and relayed by Pro Football Talk—we’re now seeing what may be part of the future of the Rams and Chargers in Los Angeles. The Rams are really good, obviously. The Chargers might be good enough to win the AFC West this year. On Sunday, the matchup between the 9-3 Rams and the 10-2 Eagles at the L.A. Coliseum was the game of the day in the NFL—and, obviously, the league feared a laconic reaction when its pregame show, FOX NFL Sunday, went to the game site. Now, the pregame show would air from 9-10 a.m. West Coast time, for the 1:25 p.m. ballgame. When ESPN sends its College GameDay show to college campus sites, and the show is on hours before the game, crowds gather at the appointed time. But obviously, it was feared this would not happen with so much time before the Rams game. So a notice was put out on Project Casting, where aspiring actors go to look for work. “Calling all LA Rams fans!… To audition for a role in the upcoming NFL Sunday pre-game show, check out the casting call breakdown below. . . . Come out, bring your spirit, your best NFL gear & join us for NFL on FOX THIS Sunday!” More and more, I sense the NFL is going to have to resort to things like this to try to rev up the market.

6. I think the NFL and the NFLPA need to investigate—the same way I hope the Russell Wilson head-trauma examination from five weeks ago is being thoroughly investigated—the circumstances surrounding the 49ers’ brutal hit on Houston quarterback Tom Savage, and Savage’s reaction to it. Savage appeared to be twitching after the original hit and came out of the game to be looked at by the unaffiliated neurological consultant on the sidelines. Savage was permitted to re-enter the game for one series. Then he was looked at and pulled from the game, prompting an angry reaction from Savage. Bottom line: It’s good he was pulled, but should he ever have gone back in the game in the first place? This is a vital part of the NFL’s efforts to be sure no player ever plays with a concussion or symptoms of one. The program has to strive for perfection, and this didn’t look perfect.

7. I think Jerry Jones is not happy over the Roger Goodell contract. (Not that he would be.) But I just wonder what he’s got up his sleeve for the NFL meeting in Dallas on Wednesday. I bet it’s something.

8. I think the NFL would be making a mistake if it adopted the college targeting rule, which would provide for an ejection if officials judge that a defensive player targeted a defenseless player's head or neck area with an excessive hit, and would be subject to officiating interpretation. Read those last six words again: Would be subject to officiating interpretation. Often a hit that looks way over the top happens (as did the George Iloka hit on Antonio Brown last Monday night in the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game) when a defensive player looks to dislodge the ball from a ballcarrier. It's a tough call. Often the defender could be aiming for a foe's midsection, but the offensive player could duck or lunge, and then the hit could be helmet-to-helmet. It may not have been the defender's intent, but it just happens. I want to protect players as much as anyone. I'm not saying this is a bad rule. But this rule, if enacted, should be used only on obviously excessive hits.

9. I think, whether you like it or not, I’m taking you into the mind of Andy Benoit right now. Andy’s our NFL tape nerd and true football guru—an incredibly valued and valuable member of The MMQB team. He’s got a fun and interesting life out in Idaho, and he’s opinionated about a lot of things. In his weekly midweek column, you see the other side of Andy. This side:

• “I have always loved holiday lights. If everyone in every neighborhood did even just a little bit of illuminated decorating, 90 percent of our country’s problems would go away. But one caveat: no giant inflatable decorations. They’re tacky and lazy. And, if you live near them, surprisingly loud. (They hum as they stay inflated.) A giant inflatable yard decoration is better than no decorations, but a single wreath (even unlit) is better than a giant inflatable yard decoration.”

• “There are two types of people: clean freaks and slobs. When forced to live together, a clean freak’s and a slob’s most common battleground becomes the kitchen. Clean freaks do the dishes right after eating, while slobs sit around and wait for food scraps to stick to the plates. This one isn’t a matter of personal preference—there’s a right and wrong. The clean freaks are right and the slobs are wrong, and here’s why: If a dirty dish is to ever be used again, it must eventually be washed. Which makes washing that dish an inevitability. You maximize the value of that dish if you recognize that inevitability and clean it right away. Maybe you don’t need that dish until tomorrow night, but by washing it immediately after tonight’s dinner, you have 24 hours of that dish’s cleanliness. That’s 24 hours that the dish isn’t sitting in the back of your mind, yelling Wash Me! It’s 24 hours where the dish is available to be used on a whim. If you wait until, say, the morning to wash it, you get only 12 hours with that peace of mind. All for the same dish-washing effort. Or, actually, for less effort if you wash it up front, since fresh food scraps are easier to remove than old food scraps. If a dish didn’t have to be cleaned, then maybe the slobs would have an argument. But it does, and so they don’t.”

I believe you’ll all join me in pleading: MORE OF THAT, ANDY BENOIT.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. Coffeenerdness: Three hours after putting the espresso roast (new for the week) into my 12-ounce Hydro Flask, it’s still hot. What great inventions—the coffee and the vessel.

b. Beernerdness: Beer nerds will hate me for this, but when I opened the refrigerator Friday for a pre-dinner beer (or two), I didn’t want one of the Colorado craft brews in there, or the Gray Sail wheat beer, or the Allagash White. I had a hankering for a Heineken. Still a good standard when you want a couple of lighter, crisp ones.

c. Football story of the week: by Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer, on the fascinating and new protocol to treat brain trauma, the kind of treatment that could help a legion of former football players.

d. I can’t wait to see Shohei Ohtani.

e. You’re off to a heck of a start with the Marlins, Jeter.

f. Opening day against the Dunedin Blue Jays is only four months away. See if you can build up your roster with some more minor-leaguers.

g. Heresy for a follower of the Boston Red Sox, but I really admire the job Yankees GM Brian Cashman does. He has the benefit of having the Yankee jillions behind him, and of getting players to waive no-trade clauses to play in New York. But he’s still got to put a team on the field to compete with other excellent teams, and he does it—albeit with those big advantages—every year. Did he need Giancarlo Stanton? No. Will Stanton’s gigantic contract eventually cost Cashman one of his young megastars? Maybe. Does another right-handed power-hitter fit his lineup? No. But tell me: If you could get a 28-year-old MVP for peanuts, and that 28-year-old MVP is coming off a 58-home-run year, and he doesn’t appear to have many major flaws except an injury concern (he’s played 120 or more games in one of the past three years), you’d get him …

h. … Even if it makes Jacoby Ellsbury a $23-million-a-year fifth outfielder (Judge, Stanton, Gardner, Hicks, Ellsbury would seem to be the Yankees outfield depth chart, barring a trade).

i. You exist in the world you’re given. Cashman excels in his. It’s easier to excel when you have Cashman’s advantages, obviously. But you’ve still go to do it.

j. So what do the Red Sox do? My advice: pray. And, I guess, overpay for Eric Hosmer or J.D. Martinez. But the Yankees are 12 wins better than Boston, even with one of them on the Sox.

k. If I were the world champs in Houston today, I’d focus on one starting pitcher, and one top bullpen arm. Then it’d be a great ALCS: Yanks versus Astros.

l. Obituary of the Week: from the Los Angeles Times, word comes that the inventor of the SWAT team (and the ransom-deliverer in the Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnapping) has died. Now that’s an interesting life.

m. Story of the Week, by James Sullivan of the Boston Globe, on bookstores making a comeback (yay): “We don’t think of them as booksellers anymore—they’re literary entrepreneurs.” Cool look at people enjoying books around New England.

n. Baseball Story of the Week: from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, on just who and what Shohei Ohtani is. The Japanese pitcher/hitter signed with the Angels on Friday, and he could be one of the great stories in baseball history.

o. One more baseball note: Tracy Stallard, 80, died Wednesday in Tennessee. Not much of a reason for you to remember him; he went 30-57 in a seven-year major-league career. But he did have one moment in the sun: He gave up Roger Maris’ record-breaking 61st home run on the final day of the 1961 season—a line drive low into the right-field seats at Yankee Stadium, the only run in a 1-0 Yankees win, played in 1 hour, 57 minutes. “I’m not going to lose any sleep over it,” Stallard said after the game. He pitched a great game against the eventual World Series champs. The Yanks won 109 games that regular season. That’s what I loved about Stallard’s reaction. He pitched well, Maris hit a good pitch (they both said), and that’s all Stallard gave up. No sense crying about it. I like it when competitors (you hear this out of cornerbacks a lot, when they give up huge plays even when they had good coverage) say, essentially, I’ll get ’em next time.

p. Happy 24th birthday, Jacoby Brissett. Lotta football left.

q. Happy 47th birthday, Errict Rhett.

r. Sprint, don’t run, to “Darkest Hour,” the new Winston Churchill movie. There have been so many World War II movies out, many from the British perspective, and so I understand if you’re fed up with the genre. But this one takes a month in the walkup to the war, and in particular Churchill’s monumental decision about whether to negotiate a truce and settlement with Hitler as Germany is on the verge of invading England, or whether he and his country should fight to the death over their freedom. It’s so interesting how everything and everyone in his war cabinet pointed toward appeasement and making a deal with Hitler … but how stubborn Churchill was in holding out. Gary Oldman is outstanding as the prime minister.

s. So Tonya Harding (Google her, kids) got a standing ovation at the Hollywood premier of the movie about her, “I, Tonya.” So … to the people who stood and cheered: You do know that a goon hired by Harding’s then-husband and her bodyguard tried to break main rival Nancy Kerrigan’s leg with a metal pipe before the ’94 Olympics, and that Harding knew about the attack before it happened and didn’t stop it. A standing O. Wow.

t. Save the Boston Herald.

Who I Like Tonight

New England 29, Miami 9. The Patriots have won 15 straight away from Foxboro. They’ve won their last three meetings with the Dolphins by 7, 21 and 18. Miami’s 1-5 in its last six, and the five losses have been by a total of 95 points. You’ll be able to watch your local news tonight, folks. And, with a Pats’ win, you’ll look forward to the game of the year: New England (11-2) at Pittsburgh (11-2) on Sunday at Heinz Field.?

The Adieu Haiku

The kid had it all.
Supe dreams: Wentz versus Brady.
North Dakota weeps.

• We have a newsletter, and you can subscribe, and it’s free. Get “The Morning Huddle” delivered to your inbox first thing each weekday, by going here and checking The MMQB newsletter box. Start your day with the best of the NFL, from The MMQB.

Question or comment? Story idea? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.