Cubs

Peyton Manning cleared to resume his career

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Peyton Manning cleared to resume his career

From Comcast SportsNetINDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Peyton Manning is cleared to play football. Still not so clear is whether it will be with the Indianapolis Colts. He got the good news Thursday while little brother Eli was making final preparations to lead the New York Giants against the New England Patriots in Sunday's Super Bowl -- something big brother always aims for. Maybe there's even a Manning vs. Manning Super Bowl in the offing. What remains unsettled, though, is Peyton's status with the Colts and whether he and team owner Jim Irsay can patch up their very public spat. At least it's a possibility now that Manning's surgeon has given the star quarterback clearance to start taking hits again. "Peyton Manning underwent a thorough medical re-evaluation as part of a postoperative visit with his surgeon," Dr. Robert Watkins said in a statement. "As a result of this examination, Manning is medically cleared to play professional football." Colts owner Jim Irsay responded to Watkins' statement by writing on Twitter that Manning has not been cleared to play by the team because he has not passed its physical. He said the club would issue a statement later Friday. That's just another piece of this muddled mess. The Colts owe Manning a 28 million roster bonus by March 8, they want to use the No. 1 pick in this year's draft on Manning's successor and they must make key decisions over the next five weeks without knowing yet how much room they'll have under the salary cap. Manning, who turns 36 in March, had neck surgery in September -- his third in 19 months. "We're in a holding pattern in that respect," new general manager Ryan Grigson said when asked if the uncertainty would prevent the Colts from doing business with their soon-to-be free agents. "Until it is (resolved), we're going to go about our business as usual." Nobody seems to know how this will play out. The biggest problem in Manning's recovery has been regaining the strength in his throwing arm. That's something Manning and the Colts have not discussed, and, apparently, it's not even a topic between the two brothers. "I don't know what's going to happen with Peyton," Eli Manning said. "I know he is rehabbing. He is going to try to get better. I know he wants to continue to play football, if that's an option. The No. 1 priority for him is to get to 100 percent. Until he gets to that position, it's tough to say what is going to happen." The Manning circus has dominated the headlines at Indianapolis' first Super Bowl. It started with rumors about Manning's possible retirement, and the Colts' pending statement will certainly keep Peyton in the headlines -- and overshadow his brother's quest for a second Super Bowl title -- for a fifth consecutive day. The question is whether the Colts are willing to pay a 36-year-old quarterback who has had three neck surgeries in 19 months. And there have been growing indications the Colts may be ready to part with their longtime franchise player, though Irsay will make the final call. "You can't do things to where you are going to hurt the whole franchise with other decisions that you know might hurt at the moment, but in the end they help the sum of the parts," Grigson said. "It is a tough deal in this business, and it happens at every position. It happens with coaching, it happens with people in personnel and it is completely part of the process and the business." Irsay and Manning are scheduled to meet again next week. Last month, the Colts fired vice chairman Bill Polian, general manager Chris Polian, coach Jim Caldwell and most of Caldwell's assistants. The flurry of moves prompted Manning to go public with his complaints, which drew a strong rebuke from Irsay. The two appeared to mend fences Friday. But the onslaught of Manning news just keeps coming. "It's hard not to pay attention. It seems to be all over the news everywhere and I don't live in a cave," said Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, the presumed successor to Manning. "You never really replace someone like that," he added. "He (Manning) is such an iconic sports figure especially for this city, this area. From what I understand, he's done so many great things outside of football and in the community."

Predicting NLCS Game 3: Cubs are due for a win...right?

Predicting NLCS Game 3: Cubs are due for a win...right?

The Cubs are "due."

That's a funny thought in general. For anybody or any team to be "due," that's saying that everything will even out eventually.

That's often true in baseball. But that's over the course of a 162-game season, far and away the longest sample size in professional sports. 

In an abbreviated postseason series, there really is no such thing as "due" because the season's over before you get a chance to see things even out.

The baseball gods don't ensure that everybody gets the same amount of luck at the same time. The sample size is absolutely too small for that. Plus, the Cubs have had plenty of luck and caught their fair share of breaks already this postseason.

So while it's easy to point to some of the Cubs numbers and say things like "they're not going to hit .162 as a team forever," that's not necessarily true because there are only two guaranteed games left in the 2017 for Joe Maddon and Co. It is absolutely possible the Cubs' season is over before they get a chance to correct their offensive woes.

Though, it would be pretty stunning to see the Cubs offense finish a 9-game October stint with Jon Lester and Jose Quintana as the team's leading hitters (both are 1-for-4, .250 average). 

Like a deliriously-happy, champagne-soaked Theo Epstein said early Friday morning in our nation's capital, "we always hit eventually."

So if I'm a betting man (which I'm not, unless you count fantasy sports), I'm betting on the Cubs offense finally waking from their fall slumber. 

They're simply too good to continue these numbers. This team has combined for a .513 OPS, which is essentially a team of Andres Blancos, a 33-year-old backup infielder who defined "light-hitting" with a .192 average and .549 OPS in 144 plate appearances this season.

The urgency is now a very real thing with the Cubs, and that's something — maybe the ONLY thing — that has really motivated this 2017 squad. They've really only played well when they've had a sense of urgency and they did not have that the first two games in Los Angeles.

Which is understandable. After such a physically, emotionally and mentally draining Game 5 that didn't end until early Friday morning, the team had to travel all the way across the entire continental U.S. only to wind up getting diverted to New Mexico where they sat on the tarmac for five hours.

Every single starting pitcher on the team was exhausted and working on short rest, and that's not to say anything about Wade Davis, who gave everything he had just to get the Cubs to the NLCS.

The Cubs have now had a full day off to clear their heads, get back to center and find their mojo again.

I'm betting that's exactly what they've done, because this team has proved over and over again how resilient they are. I mean, really, a 2-0 deficit is nothing for a team that stared down a 3-1 deficit in the World Series a year ago.

Prediction

Cubs 5, Dodgers 2

The Cubs started out the two-game set in LA by having a few good at-bats against the game's best pitcher (Clayton Kershaw) before things got awful against the Dodgers bullpen.

But if we're talking about being "due," that Dodgers bullpen is due for a regression on some level. They've been absolutely incredible this postseason, allowing only one baserunner to the Cubs in eight innings thus far.

Breaking things down individually, there are positive signs for several guys:

—Kris Bryant struck out only three times in 8 at-bats in LA, which is actually an improvement considering he struck out 10 times in 20 at-bats in the NLDS.

—Addison Russell lined a homer to left off Rich Hill for the Cubs' only run in Game 2. He had some really good at-bats in Game 5 and the game's biggest hit when he doubled home two runs off Max Scherzer.

—Javy Baez walked in Game 2. I mean, if that's not enough of a reason for positivity, what is??

Either way, the Cubs offense has their hands full against Yu Darvish (10-12, 3.86 ERA) and Alex Wood (16-3, 2.72 ERA) the next two games and if they win one of those two, Kershaw awaits in Game 5 Thursday.

Five teams you can't overlook come IHSA playoff time

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Five teams you can't overlook come IHSA playoff time

With the IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show just days away, here are five teams that you need to keep in mind when the brackets are announced. They could cause big matchup problems once the postseason begins. You can catch show live this Saturday night starting at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago+ with live streaming at nbcsportschicago.com/IHSAPairingShow and via the NBC Sports app.

Class 8A

Edwardsville: The Tigers (5-3) got off to a rough start and lost their first three games, including an opening week stunner, 53-49, to Naperville North. It was a game that the Tigers led 42-0 in the second quarter. However, coach Matt Martin and company are riding high with a five-game winning streak. They feature an explosive offense led by junior QB Kendall Abdur-Rahman and a deep group of backs. Keep an eye on freshman RB Justin Johnson. 

Naperville North: The afforementioned Huskies (5-3) have lost two of their last three games but don't be fooled. Naperville North can trade offensive punches with everyone in the 8A field behind QB Drake Davis, WR Nick Calcagno and a deep group of receivers. Senior LB Ryan Marrano leads the Huskie defense. The team has marquee wins over Edwardsville, Wheaton North, Lake Park and Naperville Central.

Class 7A

Mount Carmel: The Caravan (5-3) will wind up starting the state playoffs on the road.  And trust me: every opponent will not be excited to see this tradition-heavy program come to town. Mount Carmel will look towards its running game with QB Alek Thomas (a TCU baseball and football commit) along with a big offensive line led by senior Jeremy Cooper (Cincinnati). 

[MORE: Edgy Tim's Week 9 Power Rankings]

Class 6A

Providence Catholic: The Celtics (5-3) are coming off a tough Week 8 loss to Loyola. Don't let the three losses fool you. The combined record of the three teams Providence lost to is 22-3. Keep an eye on senior RB Deshon Gavin (WIU commit), a big and physical offensive line and a strong group on defense. Providence has won five of its last six games.

Class 5A

Rochelle: It is the last season for Hubs' veteran head coach Kevin Crandall. Rochelle (5-3) will look to run the football early and often. They also have a fast, physical defensive unit. Rochelle's three losses this season come to the likes of Sterling (8-0), Morris (7-1) and Johnsburg (8-0) and this team will be a tough out for every opponent in 5A. Rochelle is 157-95 under Crandall, including three 12-win seasons.