Posts Tagged ‘Season Expectations’

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It’s been a difficult stretch for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as the team has suffered three regulation defeats and allowed 23 goals in its last four games.

However, the Leafs remain positive despite the rough patch.

“In our meetings today just talking with one another, we’re not sulking or getting down on one another,” Auston Matthews told reporters on Monday. “We want to hold each other accountable and be better for one another.”

Head coach Mike Babcock believes such a losing skid can help his team grow.

“Adversity is really important for you in life. When you don’t have some, you think you should get some so you can get better,” Babcock told reporters. “When you get it, you don’t want it. We have it right now. Let’s pull together.”

Goaltender Frederik Andersen has been one of the league’s top netminders this season but has posted just a .885 save percentage and 3.97 goals-against average during March.

“I think a little adversity will be good for some teams sometimes, and I’m sure once we work our way out of it, we’ll be better off,” Andersen said. “You don’t feel good doing it, but once you get out of it, you are probably, like I said, better off and learn some very valuable lessons.”

The Leafs have 10 games remaining in the regular season and will kick off a two-game road trip against the Nashville Predators and Buffalo Sabres beginning Tuesday.

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Dave Gettleman is once again standing behind his veteran quarterback.

During a conference call Monday, the New York Giants general manager confirmed Eli Manning will receive his $5-million roster bonus for the upcoming campaign, according to USA Today’s Art Stapleton.

“On offense, you gotta have a QB run out there,” Gettleman said, according to NFL Network’s Kim Jones. ” … This narrative that Eli is overpaid and can’t play is a crock. It really is.”

Gettleman added that keeping Manning on the Giants’ 2019 roster “really wasn’t a hard decision to make,” according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post.

The 38-year-old passer was more effective toward the end of last season, as the GM’s noted multiple times this winter, but struggled overall, averaging 7.5 yards per attempt while tossing 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

New York’s front office is so committed to starting Manning that the team’s reportedly not interested in selecting top prospect Dwayne Haskins in the 2019 draft.

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The Cleveland Browns are now the AFC North favorites following the trade for Odell Beckham Jr., an unfamiliar position for a team only one year removed from going 0-16.

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has the Browns as +140 favorites to win their division next season, according to ESPN’s Ben Fawkes. The Pittsburgh Steelers trail at +160, and the defending division champion Baltimore Ravens sit at +250.

The Browns last won the AFC North way back in 1989.

“They have the most talented roster in the division and they are the team the public will be looking to bet,” SuperBook director John Murray told Fawkes.

“Multiple big-name stars means public fascination and I think they would’ve won the division last season had they gone with the Kitchens/Mayfield duo from Week 1.”

The Browns are even being mentioned in Super Bowl conversations, and they currently hold 14-1 odds to win Super Bowl LIV.

David Njoku

David Njoku doesn’t believe the new-look Cleveland Browns can be stopped in 2019.

The tight end appeared on NFL Network Wednesday and reacted to his team’s blockbuster trade for star receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

“This is huge for me, really,” Njoku said, via NFL.com’s Kevin Patra. “Because we have so much talent on offense, defenses won’t know how to handle us. We’re just so versatile. You can have me out wide. You can have Odell, Jarvis (Landry), (Rashard) Higgins, everybody, the running backs in the slot, out wide, everywhere. So no one’s really sure of what we’re doing.”

Beckham joins Njoku, quarterback Baker Mayfield, receiver Jarvis Landry, and running backs Nick Chubb and recently-signed Kareem Hunt on what looks to be a prolific scoring unit. Though there appears to be many mouths to feed, the second-year player doesn’t foresee an issue on the field.

“It’s competition,” Njoku said. “Whoever’s open gets the ball. We’re a team, so we’ve got to see it as such. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to compete.

“Really the most important thing is to really ignore the noise,” he continued. “Obviously, getting Odell, getting a bunch of players we got, there is so much noise going around saying we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that. We’ve really just got to focus on ball, our job.”

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Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of the Golden State Warriors‘ season.

A recent slide at the end of February saw Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins receive criticism from fans and media for his defense, leading teammate Draymond Green to step in and redirect blame to the entire team. Green’s public support appeared to help lift Cousins in Golden State’s 106-104 win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, as the latter big man scored a season-high 27 points to go with eight rebounds and seven assists.

After arguably his best game with the Warriors, Cousins couldn’t help but compare the team’s turbulent season to a daytime soap opera.

“Oh, it’s something every day,” Cousins said, according to ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “It’s like my grandmother – when I was younger, she had this show she used to watch. I’m sure y’all heard of it – ‘As the World Turns.’ She called it her story: ‘I gotta watch my story.’

“I used to watch it with her; and every episode, it was something. That’s what this has turned into – ‘As the World Turns.'”

Cousins, who only made his Warriors debut in January after recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, is averaging 15.8 points and 6.6 rebounds in 20 games, numbers that pale in comparison to his career averages of 21.3 and 10.9, respectively.

He has, however, looked more like his old self since the All-Star break, registering 18.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per contest in nine appearances. After Wednesday’s game, Green credited the first-year Warrior for adapting to the reigning champions’ style amid the intense spotlight.

“The NBA is a soap opera in itself,” Green said. “It’s probably the best soap opera in the world. If you want to put it in those terms then, yeah, I’m sure it is. Because you got the NBA, which is a soap opera, and then you got this team, which is right in the middle of that entire soap opera.

“And then he get thrusted into that team that’s right in the middle of it. So … it’s interesting.”

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Despite watching Joe Flacco get benched in 2018, Denver Broncos general manager John Elway believes the 34-year-old quarterback still has plenty left in the tank.

With Denver’s trade for the longtime Baltimore Ravens pivot finally official, Elway offered insight into why the veteran passer was targeted.

“We really feel like Joe has a lot of football left in him,” Elway told NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. “(Former Broncos coach) Gary (Kubiak) was with him three or four years in Baltimore in his system and was very successful with that. So we thought that with the availability and what the compensation was (a 2019 fourth-round pick), that Joe was going to be a very good fit for us.

“He’s played under the center, his arm strength is still great, he can still throw the ball downfield, a he’s a guy who’s won,” Elway continued. “He’s proven he can win in this league and has a tremendous amount of experience. So at 34 years old, we thought he was just going into his prime, so we’re excited that Joe is here.”

Though Flacco is experienced – he’s started 163 games over the last 11 seasons – his level of play appears to have declined in recent years.

The former Super Bowl MVP was benched for rookie first-rounder Lamar Jackson last season after the Ravens went 4-5 through nine games.

Flacco has three years remaining on his current deal, and is fully expected to open the 2019 season as Denver’s starting quarterback.

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Relations between the Toronto Blue Jays and Marcus Stroman have appeared somewhat strained at times this spring, but one member of the team’s front office seems to have the right-hander’s back.

Asked about Stroman’s place in the rebuilding team’s plans during a Tuesday media availability, Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro seemed to suggest the 27-year-old does indeed have a place with the Canadian club going forward.

“He’s the kind of player we want in our clubhouse because he’s highly competitive, highly athletic, and has been a big part of what we’ve accomplished here over the last four-to-five years,” Shapiro said, according to John Lott of The Athletic.

A former first-round pick, Stroman’s emerged as both a vital presence on the field and an immensely popular player off of it. But an injury-plagued 2018 campaign helped lead to an increase in trade rumors over the winter.

Questions have also occasionally been raised about whether the 27-year-old’s outspoken personality – especially on social media – might have rubbed the team the wrong way.

Stroman has never been shy about expressing his feelings. Earlier this spring, he discussed a lack of extension talks with the team, saying “it seems like I’m not wanted sometimes.” He also sent out a multi-tweet rant Monday detailing his frustration over the multitude of unsigned veteran free agents.

Shapiro clarified he has no issue with Stroman’s social media habits and said he sees his personality as a positive for a team that counts the pitcher as one of its oldest and most experienced players.

“If we spend our energy and time looking at one player’s tweets, then we’re wasting time that we could be spending trying to build a championship organization and team,” Shapiro said. “No, it honestly does not bother me.”

He added: “I also think that you need to have individualism. I want players to feel free to say what they believe and what they think. … So the player can say anything they want, and how it impacts our team, our environment, is handled within that clubhouse. And I think, while we’re still young and we’re maybe not there yet, we’re a long way towards being there.”