Fire

Bad news for Cowboys fans

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Bad news for Cowboys fans

From Comcast SportsNetIRVING, Texas (AP) -- The Dallas Cowboys might be without wide receiver Dez Bryant for their playoff push.Bryant injured his left index finger in an emotional 20-19 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday, one day after practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown was killed in a car accident that landed defensive tackle Josh Brent in jail on intoxication manslaughter charges.Dallas coach Jason Garrett said Monday that Bryant was still being evaluated. The Cowboys play Pittsburgh at home Sunday in a battle of 7-6 teams trying to keep playoff hopes alive.Bryant re-entered the game after sustaining the injury and caught a touchdown pass that pulled the Cowboys to 19-17 in the fourth quarter. Dallas won on a field goal by Dan Bailey on the final play."I think adrenaline sometimes allows players to continue to play after they've had an injury," Garrett said. "He certainly made a big play in the ballgame, and I think that's a real tribute to his toughness and his love for the game."If Bryant ends up on injured reserve, he will be the fifth Dallas starter sidelined by a season-ending injury. The other four are defenders, and nickel cornerback Orlando Scandrick is out for the year with a hand injury. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff has missed seven games with ankle and groin injuries.Brent was set to make his fifth start in Ratliff's place against the Bengals, but police say he was speeding and drunk when the vehicle he was driving clipped a curb and flipped in the Dallas suburb of Irving early Saturday, hours before he was to be on the team flight to Cincinnati. Brown was found unresponsive at the scene and pronounced dead at a hospital.Garrett told the team about Brown's death on the plane just before takeoff. The Cowboys kept an empty locker for Brown in the visitor's locker room at Paul Brown Stadium, and Jason Hatcher raised Brown's No. 53 jersey over his head as he walked on the field after Bailey's winning kick."I think it's the most emotional game that I've ever been a part of anywhere, player, coach," Garrett said Monday. "You're trying to place life and football in some kind of context together and it doesn't really fit and you don't really have a whole lot of time to kind of process it."Garrett said the Cowboys "absolutely" will carry Brown's death with them for the rest of the season and beyond. But they still have the postseason to pursue. Dallas is still a game behind Chicago and Seattle for the two wild-card spots in the NFC, and the New York Giants stayed a game ahead in the NFC East by beating New Orleans."It was difficult for us to do it in Cincinnati, but it's just the reality of life," Garrett said. "We have to continue to move on. We have to honor Jerry. We have to help Josh any way that we can. But then we have to get back to work."

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

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USA TODAY

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

The wait to find out which players have their options picked up or declined by the Fire might still be a couple weeks, but the first news of a player move in the Fire's offseason came via Twitter.

Defender Joao Meira announced he won't be returning to the club in 2018.

Meira signed with the Fire just before the start of the 2016 preseason after being out of contract in Europe. The Portuguese center back signed a one-year deal with a club option for the second year.

After he played 28 matches with 26 starts in 2016, the Fire picked up his option. He became even more of a fixture at center back in 2017, beating out Jonathan Campbell for the other starting spot alongside Johan Kappelhof. Meira played in 30 regular season matches and made 27 starts, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (2,412).

That Meira won't be back isn't a major surprise for a few reasons. First, he was out of contract. He was one of two players, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on the Fire's roster that the team had no control over for 2018. On top of that, the 30-year-old had made it clear that he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Portugal.

Meira's departure leaves a gap at the center back position for the Fire. Kappelhof, who enters the third year of a three-year guaranteed deal in 2018, and Campbell, who will likely have his club option picked up, enter as the only healthy center backs in 2018. Christian Dean was added in August via trade, but is coming off a broken foot, an injury that has plagued him before. His status for the start of the 2018 season is unclear.

Grant Lillard, a potential homegrown signing and a senior at Indiana, could compete for time at center back next season. He is one of the top rated players in the country for the Hoosiers, which are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Lillard could step in from a numbers perspective and would add size to the Fire's back line (Lillard is 6-foot-4), he wouldn't be able to replace Meira's ability on the ball. Meira wasn't as effective of a defender as Kappelhof, but was arguably the best passer among the Fire's center backs and helped alleviate pressure at times.

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Only three of John Fox’s 12 wins as Bears coach have been against NFC North opponents, while 12 of his 29 losses have come against divisional opponents. 

That’s a recipe for back-to-back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North. And if the Bears can’t beat an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, why could it beat a Detroit Lions team that has a healthy franchise quarterback?

The positive end of that answer is the Bears do have wins over two playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina) while six of their four losses have been by eight points or fewer. Sunday’s game will probably be close, again (if it’s not, and the Bears are on the losing end of it, it would raise some significant concerns about the state of Fox within the locker room). 

So if the game is decided by one possession or less, this could be the difference: Detroit has one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Bears are 28th by the same measure. 

Getting Sherrick McManis back this week should help solidify Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units, but Jamal Agnew has two punt return scores and is averaging 18.3 yards per return. 

“Tough guy — he’ll return inside and outside,” Rodgers said. “He’s got multiple longer returns against people this year. it’s not just, ‘I had a long return in Week 2 or Week 1,’ and kinda held onto that. he’s been productive in a lot of games. certainly a guy that we’ve gotta do a good job against.”

If the Bears don’t do a good job bottling up Agnew, though, he could be the reason why the game flips to Detroit — or, at least, why the Lions keep the Bears at arm’s length. 

Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 16