From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- First flying bugs, now a flying bat.When it comes to the postseason, Joba Chamberlain is jinxed.The Yankees hope their season isn't, too.Chamberlain was knocked out of Game 4 of the AL division series on Thursday night when the barrel of Matt Wieters' broken bat hit him on the right elbow in the 12th inning. The Baltimore Orioles went on to a 2-1 victory that forced a decisive Game 5 on Friday night, getting the go-ahead run when Manny Machado doubled against David Phelps leading off the 13th and scored on J.J. Hardy's RBI double."I don't know if I'd hang out with me very much. I might need a bubble," Chamberlain said.He might not be the only one.On another Bronx night filled with controversy, Alex Rodriguez was pinch hit for once again. Eric Chavez batted in place of slumping A-Rod and ended the game with a lineout to third off Jim Johnson."I just do what I'm told," Chavez said. "It's kind of crazy."Now it's up to CC Sabathia to show he's an ace, taking the mound Friday night against Jason Hammel in a rematch of Game 1 starters."It's time to go," Sabathia said. "This is a one-game playoff, and this is what we play for. We're here in the Bronx at home, and like I said, I'll be excited and ready to go."New York outlasted Baltimore for the AL East title last week. Now the Yankees will try to do it again and advance to the AL championship series against Detroit."It's the same game whether it's the first game of the season or the postseason," said Derek Jeter, who shifted to designated hitter because of a sore left foot. "We're going to try to have fun with it, enjoy it."New York had runners on base in each of the first eight innings, but the Yankees went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and dropped to 6 for 28 (.214) in the series.A-Rod, 2 for 16 (.125) with no RBIs and nine strikeouts, fanned against side-arming right-hander Darren O'Day with runners on second and third and one out in the eighth. Nick Swisher then flied out."It's obviously frustrating," Rodriguez said. "That was a situation that I could do some damage, and just couldn't get it done tonight."He's not the only slumping star. Curtis Granderson is 1 for 16 (.125) with nine Ks. Robinson Cano is 2 for 18 (.111) and hitless in his last 11 at-bats. Russell Martin is batting .214, Ichiro Suzuki .200 and Swisher .133."There's really good pitching," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "There's guys on the other side that are struggling, too. You're seeing some really good pitching in these four games."Girardi won't know until Friday whether his bullpen will include Chamberlain, who has had enough mound misfortunes to fill a horror film.He was just another normal hard-throwing young gun before Game 2 of the 2007 division series. Then midges swarmed him on the mound in Cleveland and, with those bugs all around, he threw a tying wild pitch in a game the Indians went on to win 2-1 in 11 innings for a 2-0 series lead.A torn elbow ligament sidelined him in June 2011, and he was close to his return during spring training when he dislocated his right ankle in a trampoline accident while playing with his son. He finally returned on Aug. 1 -- against the Orioles -- and developed back into a dependable part of the Yankees' bullpen.Wieters led off the 12th with a single to left field, and a large piece of his bat went twirling toward the mound and hit Chamberlain's surgically repaired pitching elbow. Chamberlain threw down his glove and bent over in pain.After he was checked out by trainer Steve Donahue, Chamberlain threw three test pitches and came out. The Yankees said his elbow was bruised and X-rays were negative."You kind of see how it feels tomorrow and go from there," Chamberlain said. "It's definitely not as stiff as it was when it first happened."After Hardy's double -- his first RBI of the series, Johnson pitched a 1-2-3 bottom half. No Yankees' comeback this time, not like in Game 3 when Raul Ibanez batted for A-Rod and hit a tying homer in the ninth and a winning home run in the 12th of a 3-2 win."We'll come out ready and go out there and we'll fight and try to make it happen," Ibanez said.This matchup could hardly be more even. New York and Baltimore have split 22 games this season, with the Yankees outscoring the Orioles 103-101. Over the two extra-inning games, the Orioles' threw 331 pitches to the Yankees' 327."The baseball gods let you up off the deck if you stay true to the game," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. "We've got a big challenge ahead of us tomorrow, but we have an opportunity."Hours earlier, Girardi wiped his eyes during a pregame moment of silence for his father, who died last weekend. Girardi didn't tell his players until the death became public Thursday, not wanting to distract them from the task at hand.Nate McLouth's fifth-inning home run was offset by Cano's RBI grounder in the sixth, and McLouth saved a run in the fifth with a leaping catch against the wall in left-center on Jayson Nix's drive with a man on.It stayed that way in a battle of the bullpens. Baltimore's allowed four hits in 7 1-3 scoreless innings, and the Yankees gave up a run and four hits over 6 1-3.New York wasted a fine outing by Phil Hughes, who allowed one run and four hits in 6 1-3 innings with eight strikeouts and three walks -- all leading off innings.New York had hoped to avoid this. The Yankees wanted to end this series in four games, allowing Sabathia to start the AL championship series opener Saturday night.Sabathia held off the Orioles in winning the opener 7-2, allowing two runs and eight hits in 8 2-3 innings. The Yankees need him to do it again just to advance to the ALCS for the first time since 2010. And if they do get there, Sabathia likely wouldn't start against until Game 4 on the road.Like everything with this year's Yankees, nothing comes easily."This is going to be awesome," said Swisher, who could be playing his final game in pinstripes. "It's almost inevitable there's going to be a Game 5. We're not stressing. We know what we have to do. This place is going to be rocking and rolling."
John Elway created a stir this week when he said his Broncos, after a 3-1 start, had “gotten a little bit soft." Elway, the Broncos GM, said that after five straight Denver losses – the last two by the combined score of 92-39
Denver’s head coach Vance Joseph said Elway’s remark bothered him. He talked to his players about it. On Sunday, the Broncos went out and did something about it. They lost by just three at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. Yay.
They’re pretty much all soft in the AFC this year. Check out the AFC West. There’s Denver. And the Raiders – who the Patriots handled with disturbing ease on Sunday, 33-8. The 5-4 Kansas City Chiefs, who lost on the road to the one-win Giants after starting the season 5-0.
- Curran's Patriots-Raiders preview/review
- Charlie Weis shares text he sent to Brady during game
- Gostkowski knew he wouldn't be short on record-setting kick
The AFC East is soft. Miami was 4-2. It’s lost four straight including a 40-0 loss to Baltimore. The Jets were 3-2, they’re now 4-6 (which is a minor miracle given how ragged their roster is). The Bills were 5-2, now they’re 5-5 having lost by a combined 101-34 the past two weeks as head coach Sean McDermott willingly stuck a butter knife in an electrical outlet and replaced Tyrod Taylor with a not-ready-for-preseason-Week-4 Nathan Peterman.
The AFC South is led by the Jaguars and Titans. Jacksonville – which can play some defense – isn’t as bad as the rest. The Jags have won four straight and play cutthroat defense, but they had their hands full with the 0-10 Browns on Sunday. During the week, running back Leonard Fournette complained about having to play in the cold in Cleveland. At least he showed up Sunday and ran for 111. The Titans are awful when they leave Tennessee, which was further proven last Thursday when they lost 40-17 at Pittsburgh. Since October began, they’ve been outscored 122-43 in four road games. Their one road win in that span was a 12-9 decision over Cleveland.
The big, bad AFC North contingent led by the Steelers at 8-2? Talented. But led by a forever-whining, passive-aggressive quarterback who openly and annually mulls retirement and two “me first” skill guys in Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell. Their greatest strength may be in executing elaborate post-touchdown skits. Vital.
Meanwhile, here are the boring-ass Patriots. Yeah, they have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and continuity in the program and coaching staff, but the gap between them and everyone else in the conference is that they don’t worry about the cold or the road or the five-act plays after they score.
They stayed a week in Colorado Springs to get ready for the altitude. Two Patriots – Stephon Gilmore and Danny Amendola – had to be treated for dehydration in the second half. After five PLAYS, Raiders rookie Obi Melifonwu was asking out of the game saying he couldn’t breathe.
The Raiders – a team that went 12-4 last year - haven’t improved a bit defensively all season. They are – under head coach Jack Del Rio – one of those “we do what we do” defenses the Patriots love to face because it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Brady is now 8-1 against Del Rio-led teams/defenses and the numbers against Del Rio’s teams are absurd: 225 completions on 310 attempts for (73 percent) for 2,387 yards, 21 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
It just feels like the AFC is a collection of teams, with an overwhelming majority of them in turn-it-on, turn-it-off mode. Their coaches are just kind of casting about, constantly open to suggestion and willing to give anything a shot because, hell, they better try something to get hot or they’ll be passing out resumes at the Combine in four months.
The Patriots remaining schedule goes like this: Dolphins, Bills, Dolphins, Steelers, Bills, Jets. Shake me awake on December 17 when the Steelers game comes. And we have a mountain of data explaining how that one will go too.
I’m not weary of the team. It’s historic and fascinating, like watching a hooded Mozart compose and a helmeted Van Gogh paint every week. But the exercise of trying to conjure scenarios where the Patriots play November football with the exquisite ineptitude of their opponents is not easy.
They are doing this without Julian Edelman or Dont'a Hightower. They played Sunday without Chris Hogan, David Andrews, Marcus Cannon and Matt Slater.
Offenses can’t score against them. Defenses can’t stop them. They create points on special teams. They manage the game, the clock and their opponents like simple arithmetic while every other team’s doing trigonometry. What was broken in September has been long fixed.
The time will come again when the Patriots appear just as inept, clueless and mired in mediocrity as every other AFC team appears right now. But it won’t be this year.
So embrace the softness? I guess?
NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE
ARLINGTON, Texas - No kicker, no problem for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Carson Wentz threw for two touchdowns and three 2-point conversions after Philadelphia lost kicker Jake Elliott to a head injury, and the Eagles all but wrapped up the NFC East with a 37-9 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.
The Eagles (9-1) outscored the Cowboys 30-0 in the second half while extending their winning streak to eight games, their longest since 2003-04 and tied with New Orleans for the best current run in the NFL.
Philadelphia leads the second-place and defending division champion Cowboys (5-5) by four games with six to play after handing Dallas its worst home loss at 8-year-old AT&T Stadium.
Dallas' Dak Prescott threw a career-high three interceptions and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown in his second straight loss without star running back Ezekiel Elliott, serving a six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence.
Jake Elliott's injury wasn't a factor for nearly a half because the NFL-leading Eagles couldn't get in scoring position. They failed to get a first down on five straight first-half drives, starting with one at the Dallas 15 when Elliott missed a 34-yard attempt and soon after left the field.
Trailing 9-7 at halftime, Wentz led the Eagles on scoring drives of 75, 90 and 85 yards, the middle one boosted by Jay Ajayi's 71-yard run against his hometown team in his second game since getting traded by Miami.
"The biggest thing was sticking with the game plan," said Wentz, who is up to 25 touchdown passes with just five interceptions. "The big boys up front kind of came out angry. We ran the ball the second half really effectively."
Ajayi had 91 yards on seven carries and LeGarrette Blount added 57 on 13 carries, including a 30-yarder leading to the last offensive touchdown.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson declared at halftime that he would go for every fourth down and try 2-point conversions after every touchdown.
It came into play right away when Corey Clement scored on an 11-yard run to open the second half and ran in a screen pass behind three blockers for the 2-pointer.
The first fourth-down try was Wentz's 17-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery for a 29-9 lead. That 2-point pass failed. Torrey Smith had the other TD catch, an 11-yarder.
After Derek Barnett hit Prescott's leg and arm as he was throwing, Nigel Bradham picked up the loose ball and ran it 37 yards for a touchdown. Wentz's 2-point pass to Trey Burton provided the final margin.
"We got some nice 2-point conversions," said Wentz, who was 14 of 27 for 168 yards. "Now we've got to go back to the drawing board with our 2-point plays."
The Cowboys appeared to have fixed the problems of missing injured left tackle Tyron Smith and 2016 All-Pro linebacker Sean Lee from a week earlier, when they allowed eight sacks of Prescott along with three Atlanta scoring drives following Lee's injury in a 27-7 loss to the Falcons.
But after protecting Prescott fairly well before halftime, Dallas allowed three sacks and 180 of Philadelphia's season-high 215 yards rushing in the second half. Lee's replacement at weakside linebacker, Anthony Hitchens, left with a groin injury after halftime.
Prescott was 18 of 31 for 145 yards for a career-worst 30.4 passer rating before backup Cooper Rush took mop-up duty.
"It's no excuses," said Prescott, who teamed with Elliott in a remarkable rookie season that is now a distant memory with already two more losses and three more interceptions than Prescott had a year ago. Elliott won't be back until the final two games of the regular season.
"We're not saying injuries or any of that's bothering us. We're not saying it's the reason we're not winning is because of those guys."
NO RUST THIS TIME
The Eagles had a focus on being better following the bye after losing nine of 11 last season after a 3-0 start going into the break. Now Philadelphia will take a shot at the best record in the NFL with history on its side when starting this strong. The Eagles have two NFL championships (1949, 1960) and two trips to the Super Bowl (1980, 2004, both losses) following 9-1 starts.
The Cowboys have been outscored 47-0 in the second half the past two weeks following a three-game winning streak that seemed to have Dallas back on track following an NFC-best 13-3 record last season.
"It would be pretty tough not to panic, but I don't think we are panicking," said running back Alfred Morris, who had 91 yards filling in for Ezekiel Elliott. "It's been two tough losses, ugly losses on top of that. But at the same time, I know the character of this team and the fight we have."
Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill is the emergency kicker for the Eagles. But he completely missed the safety net on a practice try on the sidelines, sending the ball into the stands. He did reach the goal line with his first kickoff, though.
Eagles: Home against Chicago next Sunday.
Cowboys: Los Angeles Chargers visiting for annual Thanksgiving game.