Bears

Predicting the winner of the 2016 NFC Championship game

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Predicting the winner of the 2016 NFC Championship game

Love the matchups: elite offense (Cardinals) vs. elite defense (Panthers), MVP (Cam Newton) and one of the NFL’s most balanced offenses (49.6 percent run) vs. a Carolina defense that ranked Top 10 in virtually every significant category.

[RELATED - Predicting the winner of the AFC Championship game]

Three tipping points:

1 - These are the two teams that led the NFL in takeaways: Carolina with 39, Arizona with 33. No other team had more than 30. The Panthers only gave the football away 19 times to the Cardinals’ 24, not a huge difference over a 16-game schedule, but games turn on takeaways and nobody does that better than Ron Rivera’s defense.

2 - The Panthers have rushed for 100 or more yards in 30 straight games and are 21-2 in the last 23 of those. Why that looms as significant is that the Cardinals’ three losses this season were the games in which they allowed their most rushing yardage: to St. Louis (164), Seattle (145) and Pittsburgh (141). And two of Arizona’s three losses were in among the three games in which the Cardinals failed to rush for more than 55 yards (Pittsburgh 55, Seattle 27).

3 - Neither quarterback has played before with a Super Bowl 60 minutes away. The notion of Newton tensing up is difficult to imagine, particularly at home. But if there was one surprise from Arizona’s survival win over Green Bay, it was Carson Palmer’s occasional accuracy issues, including two interceptions. That was in a truncated game plan, per Bruce Arians, and had the look of Palmer wobbling just a tad under pressure.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

That will be all the Panthers, Thomas Davis, Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman will need.

Pick: Panthers 28, Cardinals 24

USWNT star Carli Lloyd has received inquiries from NFL teams after hitting 55-yard field goal

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USA TODAY

USWNT star Carli Lloyd has received inquiries from NFL teams after hitting 55-yard field goal

Could Carli Lloyd become the next big multi-sport athlete?

Lloyd, a star soccer player and two-time World Cup champion with the U.S. women's national team, attended Philadelphia Eagles training camp this week. The 37-year-old lined up for a few field goals, drilling a 55-yarder along the way.

NFL teams took notice of Lloyd's kicking prowess. In an interview with Sports Illustrated's Planet Fútbol TV, Lloyd said she's received some inquiries following her kicking demonstration.

“I’ve definitely got some inquiries, I’ve definitely got some people talking," Lloyd said. "Anything is possible but right now, I’m strictly a soccer player and we’ll see what the future holds.”

Lloyd is a legendary soccer player, so one shouldn't be surprised at her kicking prowess. However, her accuracy is extremely impressive, especially considering that she was kicking through skinny/non-NFL regulation uprights.

Following the double doink that ended their 2018 season abruptly, the Bears' offseason has been defined by their kicking vacancy. Even though Lloyd said she's strictly a soccer player, perhaps the Bears should give her a call. Maybe they already have?

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Report: Colts will start third-string quarterback against Bears

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USA TODAY

Report: Colts will start third-string quarterback against Bears

Don’t call the Bears third preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts a “dress rehearsal,” because neither team is treating it that way.

Matt Nagy has been clear about how he feels about playing his starters in the preseason, and injury concerns are leading the Colts to follow the trend.

With Andrew Luck injured, backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett is their de-facto starter, so head coach Frank Reich plans to sit him too, according to The Athletic.

Third-string quarterback Chad Kelly is expected to get the start, with former undrafted free agent Phillip Walker to follow.

The nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly was a seventh-round pick by the Denver Broncos in 2017. He connected on just under 70 percent of his passes in the first two preseason games but is averaging only 6.6 yards per attempt.

Nicknamed “Swag” Kelly, he’s known as somewhat of a gunslinger, which could make for a more exciting preseason opponent under center.

He hasn’t had a turnover yet this preseason, but the Bears defense will be looking to nab his first.

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