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Saturday, October 20, 2018

Stories by Steve DelVecchio:

15 key questions for NFL Week 7

Adam Thielen

Week 7 will be a pivotal one for several teams across the NFL, with quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston trying to keep their teams in the hunt while others like Drew Brees look to keep the good times rolling. After a week filled with dramatic finishes like the overtime game between the Dolphins and Bears and the epic shootout between Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady, there is sure to be plenty to keep fans interested yet again.

Here are 15 key questions entering Week 7 of the NFL season.

1. Will the Bears bounce back from a brutal loss?

It doesn’t get much worse than the way Chicago lost in Week 6. Facing backup quarterback Brock Osweiler, the Bears benefited from a Dolphins fumble inside the 1-yard line during overtime, and they still managed to lose. Their defense, which has been dominant for the majority of the season, looked exhausted in the South Florida heat. An injury to Khalil Mack almost certainly played a role in that, and his health will be worth monitoring going into Sunday. The Bears are hosting a white-hot Patriots team, and having a pass rush is their best chance of getting back into the win column.

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Charles Barkley hilariously defends Markelle Fultz against internet trolls

Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley is picking up right where he left off this season with his fantastic TNT commentary, and his latest rant was one in defense of Markelle Fultz.

Former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz is still trying to find confidence in his jump shot, and he finally hit the first 3-pointer of his career during Thursday night’s win over the Chicago Bulls. After the game, Barkley called out people who have mocked Fultz for whatever psychological issues he’s dealing with, and he did it the only way Chuck knows how.

“The kid is struggling mentally with his shot. We’re all pulling for him,” Barkley said. “We’re excited to see him do well. You’re just sitting at home in your grandma’s basement with your drawers on, typing on your damn keyboard, shut the hell up. We’re pulling for Markelle Fultz.”

Welcome back, Chuck.

Fultz is clearly still working through some issues, as he converted just 5-of-15 shots on Thursday and 2-of-7 in Philly’s season opener against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday. Even 76ers fans were putting pressure on him to shoot the ball during Thursday night’s game, and they went ballistic when he finally drained one from long range in the fourth quarter. It would be a huge bonus for the Sixers if Fultz continued to improve.

Cardinals fire OC Mike McCoy after disastrous game

The Arizona Cardinals have underachieved on offense this season with Bruce Arians no longer in the picture, and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is the first member of the coaching staff to take the fall.

The Cardinals announced on Friday that they have fired McCoy and promoted quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich to OC in the wake of Thursday night’s embarrassing 45-10 loss to the Denver Broncos.

McCoy was in his first season with the Cardinals. He spent four years as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers from 2013-2016 before serving as the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos last season. With the way things have gone for him at his last two jobs, McCoy could have trouble finding work going forward.

The Cardinals are trying to develop rookie Josh Rosen in what has become a rebuilding year, and they obviously feel McCoy is not the man to help do that.

Report: Broncos RB Royce Freeman has sprained ankle, could miss time

Denver Broncos logo

Denver Broncos running back Royce Freeman exited Thursday night’s blowout win over the Arizona Cardinals with an injury, and it sounds like his status for Week 8 is in doubt because of it.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Freeman suffered a sprained ankle that could sideline him for a while.

Freeman, a third-round pick, has averaged 4.4 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns this season. He has been operating in a committee with fellow rookie Phillip Lindsay, who is averaging an even more impressive 5.8 yards per carry and is on pace to have a 1,000-yard season.

It’s hard to say how serious the Broncos considered Freeman’s injury to be, as they blew the Cardinals out from the opening kick and had no reason to risk keeping any players in the game who were banged up. We should know more about the former Oregon star as the week progresses.

Alex Bregman thinks this year’s Astros were better than last year’s

Alex Bregman

The 2018 Houston Astros were considered by many to be one of the best teams in MLB history, but they are headed home after winning just one game in the ALCS. Despite their surprising shortcomings, Alex Bregman still feels this year’s Astros team had more talent than the one that won a championship a year ago.

After the Astros swept the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS, there were questions about how any team could possibly get the best of their starting rotation. Justin Verlander then went on to pitch six innings of two-hit ball against the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALCS, and some wondered if Houston would lose another game in the postseason.

It was all downhill from there, as the Astros lost Game 2 in Boston and then dropped three straight at home. The amount of potential Bregman believes the team had could make the 4-1 series loss even more painful for fans.

In the end, the Red Sox proved that their 108 regular season wins were not a fluke. They made an Astros rotation featuring Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Dallas Keuchel look mediocre, which is remarkable considering the staff had an MLB-best 3.16 ERA during the regular season. Houston’s bullpen also got knocked around after leading the majors with a 3.03 ERA this year.

Boston caught a huge break in Game 4 with a controversial fan interference call, but you don’t dominate a series and win three games on the road just because the umpires helped you out. In the end, the best team in baseball looked like the best team in baseball. Bregman could be right that the 2018 Astros were better than the 2017 team, but the 2018 Red Sox were not around when the 2017 Astros won the World Series.

Nick Young appears to offer services to Lakers in deleted tweet

Nick Young snapchat

LeBron James got his Los Angeles Lakers debut off to an exciting start early in Thursday night’s game, but the end result was a disappointing 128-119 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Nick Young apparently thinks he can help his old team improve going forward.

Young, who spent four seasons with the Lakers and is currently a free agent, appeared to offer his services to the Lakers in a tweet he sent during the game and later deleted.

The message seems pretty obvious. The Lakers converted just 7-of-30 3-point shots against Portland, which is a measly 23.3 percent. While one regular season game means virtually nothing, Young is a career 37.6 percent 3-point shooter and converted just over 40 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc when he was with the Lakers in 2016-2017.

Of course, Young is now 33 and failed to carve out a significant role with the Golden State Warriors last year. He can also be somewhat of a headache off the court, so it seems unlikely that the Lakers will bring him back. You can’t blame him for giving it a shot, though.

Brewers reportedly believe Dodgers are using video to steal signs

Dave Roberts

The Houston Astros were accused of trying to steal signs through illegal means during both the ALDS and ALCS, but the paranoia has apparently not been limited to the American League.

According to Robert Murray of The Athletic, the Milwaukee Brewers suspect that the Los Angeles Dodgers have been trying to steal their signs in the NLCS with the help of video technology. Brewers catcher Erik Kratz has openly discussed the way his team has tried to mix signals to prevent the Dodgers from picking them up with runners on second, but there have been hints that Milwaukee suspects the espionage has gone beyond what’s legal.

“You’ve seen a couple times where something looks a little bit off,” pitcher Zach Davies said. “That’s something that’s part of the game. When you start using technology and when you start using guys outside of the baseball team to try to figure out what set of signs a pitcher is using, that’s a little … that kind of crosses the line.”

While the Brewers have not come out and said it, sources told Murray they at one point noticed a Dodgers coach running from the hallway into the dugout whenever a runner reached second. That could, in theory, mean the coach was consulting a video feed and then relaying what he saw to the baserunner. While the Brewers don’t have any hard evidence, they relayed their concerns to Major League Baseball.

“They use video people to get sequences,” one source told Murray. “It’s known throughout the league. MLB knows it’s an issue.”

Whether all of these allegations we have heard are true or not, MLB knows there are some things that need to be addressed during the offseason. There has been way too much talk about cheating, and the Astros got off without penalty despite what sounded like some blatant attempts to bend the rules. Having the integrity of the game called into question is never a good thing, especially on the biggest stage.

Report: Antonio Brown says someone else threw furniture off his balcony

Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown is facing some disturbing allegations after a lawsuit was filed against him earlier this month, but he insists he is being blamed for the actions of another person.

A lawsuit filed against Brown states that the Steelers wide receiver nearly killed a 22-month-old child during a reckless fit of rage at his high-end apartment complex back in April. The man suing him, who is the father of the young boy, says Brown threw furniture and other items off his 14th-floor balcony and nearly hit the toddler, which has since traumatized him and led to night terrors.

According to new court documents obtained by TMZ, Brown acknowledged that items were, in fact, launched off the balcony of his apartment. However, he claims “the acts were committed by another individual who was also present at the time of the incident.”

A police report states that Brown’s personal trainer and “another gentleman” were trying to calm him down when police arrived, so it’s unclear whom Brown is accusing of throwing the items out of the apartment. He also called the lawsuit a “blatant shakedown” from a man who is trying to exploit his young child for financial gain.

Information from police reports appears to confirm that Brown did lose his temper. He apparently returned home from a 10-day trip to discover that someone had stolen a large sum of money and a firearm from his apartment, which is what sparked the alleged meltdown.