Bears

Baseball expands playoffs to 10 teams

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Baseball expands playoffs to 10 teams

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Major League Baseball expanded its playoff format to 10 teams Friday, adding a second wild-card in each league. The decision establishes a new one-game, wild-card round in each league between the teams with the best records who are not division winners, meaning a third-place team could win the World Series. This is the only change in baseball's playoff structure since the 1995 season, when wild-card teams were first added. "This change increases the rewards of a division championship and allows two additional markets to experience playoff baseball each year," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. Had there been additional wild-card teams last season, the Braves would have made the playoffs in the NL, while the Boston Red Sox would have qualified in the AL. Instead, each missed the postseason by a game, both going down with historic September swoons. For the 2012 postseason, the five-game Division Series will begin with two home games for lower seeds, followed by home games for the higher seed. After that, it will return to the 2-2-1 format previously used. "The players are eager to begin playing under this new format in 2012, and they look forward to moving to full realignment in 2013," MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner said. As part of baseball's labor deal, the Houston Astros will switch to the American League for 2013, creating two 15-team leagues with three divisions each. Players wanted the change to equalize the chances for making the playoffs for every division. Each season, eight of 30 major league teams have made the playoffs under the format that began in 1995, a year later than intended because of a strike that wiped out the end of the '94 season. The postseason included just the league winners from 1903-68, then increased to four teams in 1969 after the leagues split into divisions. In the NFL, 12 of 32 teams make the playoffs. In both the NBA and NHL, 16 of 30 teams advance to the postseason. Adding two more playoffs teams this year has been complicated because the regular-season schedule was drafted last spring and summer, and the extra game has to be put in place in a manner that doesn't disrupt the World Series schedule. In a further complication, both sides reached a consensus that ties for division titles would be broken on the field with a tiebreaker game under the new format, and not by head-to-head record. Head-to-head record has been used since 1995 to determine first place if both teams are going to the postseason. But the sides decided that with the start of a one-game, winner-take-all wild-card round, the difference between first place and a wild-card berth is too important to decide with a formula and that a tiebreaker game should be played.

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

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.