Golf

Broncos roll into playoffs with rout of Chiefs

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Broncos roll into playoffs with rout of Chiefs

DENVER (AP) The fans behind the south end zone who earlier had a great view of Peyton Manning's heart-skipping effort to tackle cornerback Brandon Flowers held up their index fingers as the final seconds ticked away on Denver's 38-3 rout of the Kansas City Chiefs.

``We're No. 1!''

It was an appropriate salute for two franchises whose fortunes couldn't have been more different this year.

With their biggest win ever over their AFC West rival, the Broncos (13-3) on Sunday secured the top seed in the AFC playoffs for the first time since John Elway was leading touchdown drives instead of cheers from his luxury suite.

The Chiefs (2-14), well, they own the top pick in the NFL draft now.

Manning guided Denver to its 11th straight win and made sure the only trip the Broncos will have to make on their road to a championship would be to New Orleans for the Super Bowl. They'll open the playoffs at home the weekend of Jan. 12 against Baltimore, Cincinnati or Manning's old team, the Colts.

``I threw it OK today, I guess,'' said the ever-modest Manning, who completed 23 of 29 passes for 304 yards and a 144.8 passer rating.

He was within 41 yards of his career high when he donned a cap for the fourth quarter, yet another NFL record in his pocket - this marked his 73rd three-touchdown game, surpassing the record held by Brett Favre.

Before he threw any of them, though, Manning had to race downfield to try to deny Flowers a touchdown after the Chiefs cornerback scooped up rookie Ronnie Hillman's fumble at the Kansas City 24 in the first quarter.

He didn't get there, but he did slow him down enough to make Flowers cut back, and tight end Joel Dreessen dragged him down at the 12. After that, the Chiefs settled for a field goal and then watched the Broncos score the next 31 points.

``Me, I'm telling him to get out of the way,'' Champ Bailey said, echoing the sentiments of Broncos fans everywhere. ``But the competitive nature of him is telling him to make the tackle. He stuck his neck out there.''

His four-time surgically-repaired neck.

``I didn't get the tackle?'' Manning deadpanned. ``Dreessen hit him? That's perfect. . I knew if I at least made them cut back, I thought somebody would be in there. I thought I got a hand on him though. Maybe a half? Can I get a half? Can we check with that? I thought I got a piece of him.''

He'll have to be satisfied with a season for the ages - at 36, coming off a year's forced sabbatical, Manning put up numbers that were better than the average of the four years he won MVP honors. He finished the season with 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns and a 105.8 passer rating, all second-best of his 15-year career, putting him in line for a fifth MVP award.

``What he has done, to be coming off that type of rehab, that type of injury, at his position, in a new city, with a new team, I think it's unprecedented,'' coach John Fox said after his 100th win. ``Historical would be the word I'd use.''

Asked if he was a year ahead of where he thought he'd be in his comeback, Manning said, ``I guess you could say that. I just didn't know. I still think there are still things we can improve on. I still think there still are things that just take time, that you just can't get done in a year.''

Manning threw two touchdown passes to Eric Decker and one to Demaryius Thomas. Each had a one-handed TD grab that gave the Broncos some otherworldly highlights to go with their home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

This was the second straight Sunday Manning used a grey-and-orange glove to prepare for the cold, playoff weather he could face at home the next two games.

``You know, for wearing it for the first time in my entire football career, I guess you could say it's been OK the past two weeks,'' Manning said.

Thanks to Houston's 28-16 loss to Indianapolis before the Broncos kicked off, Denver will be the top seed for the sixth time. The Broncos made the Super Bowl four of the previous five times.

Though the Chiefs gave the Broncos as tough a tussle as anyone during their 11-game winning streak - in a 17-9 loss last month - this wasn't expected to be much of a game, and it wasn't.

``It's been a gratifying regular season,'' Manning said. ``I will admit that. It is certainly more than I expected.''

On the other end of the spectrum are the Chiefs, who finished with 119 yards of offense a week after running for 352 yards in what might have been coach Romeo Crennel's farewell.

Injuries and ineffective play derailed a team predicted to finish near the top of the AFC West before the season. They also faced adversity off the field as well, when Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend before committing suicide at the team's practice facility on Dec. 1.

``I think the season finally caught up to these guys and I think it showed on the field,'' Crennel said.

NOTES: Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles ran for 53 yards to finish with 1,509. ... The Broncos swept six games in the division for the first time since 1998 - the last time they won the Super Bowl. ... Broncos S Rahim Moore got his first career sack and Miller had one to extend his team single season record to 18 1/2. ... Hillman wasn't seen against after his fumble. Lance Ball replaced him as Knowshon Moreno's backup and led the team with 66 yards on 15 carries. ... Broncos QB Brock Osweiler threw his first NFL passes and finished 2 for 4 for 12 yards. ``I'm not here just to hand off,'' he said.

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2018 Open Championship Preview: Predictions, picks, fades, fantasy golf

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USA TODAY Sports

2018 Open Championship Preview: Predictions, picks, fades, fantasy golf

Golf's oldest major, the Open Championship, returns to Carnoustie in Scotland for the 147th edition of the prestigious links golf tournament.

As the best golfers in the world head to the United Kingdom for what is likely to be a challenging weekend of golf, there is no clear-cut favorite. But with Tiger Woods back in the fold, and Rory McIlroy still the face of European golf, the picks and predictions vary from popular superstar to unheralded golfers. 

The panel of golf experts offering their predictions, picks and analysis are:

Chris Garosi, The Fantasy Fix
Geoff Feinberg, Fantasy Golf Expert
Garrett Johnston, NBC Sports Washington
Kenny Kim, Fantasy Golf Degenerates Podcast
Doug McKinney, NBC Sports Washington/Sports Junkies
Matt "Valdez" Myers, 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies

2018 Open Championship Picks

Geoff Feinberg: Rickie Fowler
Picking Rickie is either met with one of two responses. The first being "ugh, you're crazy he has no business being included in this part of the odds board, he can't event win normal tour events anymore" Or like-minded people who believe his time is NOW. He checks two very important boxes for me that once again have me all-in, current form and scrambling. 

Chris Garosi: Tyrell Hatton
I wouldn’t blame you if you pick favorite Dustin Johnson. He checks all of the boxes. However, I’m going with Tyrell Hatton based on his work on at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (which includes Carnoustie as one of the courses) where he’s won twice. His Open Championship record is abysmal with just one made cut (a T5 in 2016) in six starts which may speak to the poor fit his temperament has when paired with a course which requires patience and an even-keeled nature. He’s comes in with three straight top 10 finishes including a T9 at last week’s Scottish Open.

Garrett Johnston: Justin Rose
He nearly won the US Open and his distance with driver and accuracy with the irons make his second major win a formality.

Plus, look at the age of winners here in 99 (Paul Lawrie) and 07 (Padraig Harrington), this course is for no spring chickens. Rose is a vet like they were.

Kenny Kim: Tiger Woods
If Tiger is going to win a Major this year, this week looks like his best chance. His iron game and scrambling have been near the best on Tour for the last couple of months. His big weakness this year has been off the tee but that should be muted this week with less than a driver in his hands off most tee boxes at Carnoustie. The last time we’ve seen an Open Championship this baked out and dry was at Royal Liverpool in 2006. The winner, Tiger Woods.

Doug McKinney: Marc Leishman
I spent more time trying to filter through who I liked for this week's Open than actual work this week. 

Dustin Johnson. Rickie Fowler. Paul Casey. Brooks Koepka. It's ThunderDome just trying to pick one. 

So I'm going to stick with my gun - Marc Leishman - who was my call to win this event at the start of the season.  I can bore you with the stats, course/tourney history, and recent form...but I do enough of that in the rest of my picks.  Cliff notes version: his stats are sexy, he has plenty of Top 10's in this major and he's playing solid golf.  His game fits The Open and as I've mentioned countless times when talking about the Virginia Beach resident; he is one of the best wind players in golf.  So bring on the gusts and let's go Team Leishman. I'm also one day older than he is, so there's that.

Matt Valdez: Brooks Koepka
Has the length to hit iron off the tee since fairways are so baked.  Two-time U.S. Open winner actually made his chops on the European Tour.  Sneaky familiar with links style golf and always plays well at majors.

 

2018 Open Championship Sleeper Picks

Geoff Feinberg: Patrick Reed, Tyrell Hatton 
I might be overstepping my bounds on what constitutes a sleeper but in these stacked fields of 2018 it seems like anyone who isn't publicly considered a 'super elite' and with that, I present our 2018 Masters champion who also managed to finish with a big performance at the US Open Patrick Reed. Reed is quickly becoming one of the top "big game hunters" on tour and his current odds of 40/1 is flat out disrespectful. As much as I am the guy banging the drum for Fowler I can admit his betting number is way too low but this Reed # is equally egregious to be this high. 

Ty Hatton at 50/1 is also someone I expect to represent well this week, he's a two time Alfred Dunhill Links champion and is also flashing some very good current form. 

Chris Garosi: Zach Johnson
It seems odd to make Zach Johnson a sleeper, but his odds are far too long for a golfer with an Open Championship record like his. Carnoustie was the site of ZJ’s first cut made at the Open in 2007 and he’s made every cut since. Johnson has three straight top 15s at the Open and five of his last six starts at this major have put him in the top 15 including a win in 2015. 

Garrett Johnston: Tony Finau
Top 30s in both his Open appearances. Says he absolutely loves Links golf and he believes his game is built to WIN major championships.

Kenny Kim: Jason Day
It’s not often we can call Day a sleeper but it seems like no one is mentioning him this week. This could be due to his less than stellar finishes at The Open over the years but being the best in the field in scrambling and putting can go a long way this week especially if the weather turns bad. His last Top 10 at The Open came in 2015 when he was playing lights out all season. He’s been playing exceptionally well this year and it could lead to a surprisingly high finish at Carnoustie.

Doug McKinney: Francesco Molinari
It depends on how you define a sleeper pick, because Molinari is inside the Top 15 in world rankings and it'd be a shame if the golf world would sleep on a Top 15 player.  For the point of this exercise, we will allow it because it seems that our dear Italian friend is not getting the pub and love he deserves...even if he is one of the hottest golfers in this solar system.  His last 5 appearances read: 1-2-t25-1-t2.  Sweet Christmas.  Really the only thing he has going against him is that Kenny Kim picked to fade him this week (I don't usually like going against KK's advice).

Matt Valdez: Russell Knox
Knox was in top form and won two weeks ago the Irish Open.  He's a hometown favorite, but I'm a bit skeptical since he's playing with Tiger Thursday and Friday.

 

2018 Open Championship Longshot Picks

Geoff Feinberg: Emiliano Grillo
The books don't seem to afraid of anyone pushing triple digits this week and its hard to blame them when considering recent major history  (minus my friend Willet of course) so this has led to some incredible drift up the odds boards for some guys that I couldn't resist laying it on but my favorite of the bunch is my Grillo 250/1 ticket. 

*Keep an eye on the status of Bryson if we get positive health reports that 100-125/1 must get tickled. 

Chris Garosi: Danny Willett
2016 Masters winner Danny Willett seemed to fall off the face of the Earth soon after his first major win. Some of that could be attributed to a hangover (both from winning and celebrating that victory). However, Willett struggled with injuries in 2017 and could never get untracked. Is he back (see what I did there)? He’s made back to back cuts for the first time since late 2017 (and those were T68 and T57). He has two top 10s in his last five tourneys and was T19 at the Scottish Open last week. He has two top 15s in his six Open starts.

Garrett Johnston: Bernhard Langer
The course will be playing fast. Remember when Turnberry played fast on 2009? 59 year old Tom Watson had a putt to win on the 72nd that week, Langer is older and has the patience for The Open’s hardest course.

Kenny Kim: Matthew Southgate
Southgate might not be too well known on this side of the pond but he is an extremely talented links player. He finished 6th and 12th at The Open the last two years, came in 2nd last year at the Irish Open, and has a TP Tour win at Royal St. Georges a few years back. He was at or near the top of the leaderboard after round 1 the last two weeks at the Irish and Scottish Opens and is ranked 15th in greens in regulation on the Euro Tour this season.

Doug McKinney: Matthew Fitzpatrick, Lee Westwood
I know it's been 26 years since the last time an Englishman has won this event, so that's why the aforementioned are paired in the "Longshot picks" category.  With that said, I expect both to place in the Top 25 this weekend.  Fitzpatrick, isn't a long striker, but he should be in good position often with the fast fairways in play.  Including The Masters, Fitzy has placed inside the Top 40 in 7 of 8 cuts where he saw the weekend (including a t38 @ Masters, t8 @ BMW PGA Championship and t12 @ U.S. Open) in his last overall 9 events.  His track record is okay at Open Championship, but I'm expecting the good form to continue.  As for Westy, Americans haven't heard much from the well-traveled vet this past year, as he has opted to play on the European Tour.  Westwood will be teeing it up in his 80th major of all-time, with 0 wins to show for...but plenty of near-misses.  He has a remarkable 18 Top 10 finishes in Majors, including 5 at this tournament.  The 45-year old has a decent course history here, has been playing pretty solid golf as of late and should be motivated to remind people of just who he is.

Matt Valdez: Haotong Li
Li plays mostly on the European Tour and has 6 wins at 22.  Outdueled Rory at the Dubai Desert Classic this year.  Finished 3rd at The Open last year.  T32 and T16 in the Masters and US Open this year.  

 

2018 Open Championship Fade Picks

Geoff Feinberg: Jordan Spieth 
Seems like the easy call for some nowadays but lets not forget who was banging that drum very early so I cant not stay on brand, dont worry if he wins ill be wearing egg on my face to go w my empty pockets. 

Chris Garosi: Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson looks like a new man with three wins this calendar year. Perhaps he’s worth a look based on his rejuvenated form. However, he’s never enjoyed the Open Championship irrespective of where it’s held. His best finish in nine starts is a T23 back in 2012 and is his only top 25 in nine starts.  

Garrett Johnston: Dustin Johnson
He’s the fade specialist in recent majors. Led by 4 at US Open through 36 and faded and also faded after leading through 36 in this championship in 2015.

Kenny Kim: Francesco Molinari
This is a tough one for me because I have made a bunch of money rostering Molinari the last month or so but I won’t be rostering him this week. First off I expect his ownership to be very high on DraftKings which automatically makes him less appealing. Secondly, his great performances the last month and a half have come on easier courses with a high birdie rate. I think the difficulty of this course and lack of true birdie-able holes will hurt him.

Doug McKinney: Henrik Stenson
Health and that's really the only factor.  He missed the cut here back in 2007, but I really wouldn't take that much into consideration seeing his good form as of late.  There are safer options out there to pick with the 2016 Champion Golfer of the year not 100% right now.  (Also tip of the cap to yours truly: last time I faded Stenson was in 2017 U.S. Open, where he missed the cut)

Matt Valdez: Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson
Bubba HATES links golf.  It's hard to shape and curve a shot with lots of wind.  He's never finished better than 23rd at an Open Championship.  

Phil is in a weird place. He peaked with his win in Mexico and so lost, he violates a rule every other week.

 

2018 Open Championship DraftKings "Price is Right" Bargain Picks

Geoff Feinberg: Dylan Frittelli ($6,800), Emiliano Grillo ($6,800) 

Chris Garosi: Matthew Southgate ($6,900), Eddie Pepperell ($7,000), Stewart Cink ($6,600), George Coetzee ($6,700)
I imagine everyone is going to be on Matthew Southgate as the bargain or sleeper pick of the week. But, if you want to win, you can’t go with the crowd. If it’s a links course I’m always on Eddie Pepperell and I’m usually on an island by myself with him.

He’s a late entrant to the DK game as he got into the Open Championship after finishing second at the Scottish Open (a links course). Oh, he also won the Doha Qatar Masters earlier this year (certainly a links-style course if only based on the past winners and certainly because of the exposed nature of the course).  Throw in a T7 at the Alfred Dunhill Links in 2017 (in which Carnoustie is one of the courses in the rotation) and I’m all over Eddie.

Stewart Cink looks like the free space of the week. He won at Turnberry in 2009, finished T6 at Carnoustie in 2007. He’s in excellent form with two top-five finishes in his last three events on Tour. 

South African George Coetzee is another interesting, inexpensive option for GPPs based on his work in Doha (four top 15s in six starts).

Kenny Kim: Zach Johnson ($7,200)
Zach Johnson at $7,200 seems very cheap to me. You’re looking at a guy whose game fits a links style golf course. He’s accurate off the tee, good with his irons, has a tremendous short game, and is an above average putter. His track record at Open Championships speaks for itself with six Top 16s in the last seven years including a win in 2015.

Doug McKinney: Paul Casey ($8,700), Patrick Reed ($8,400), Matthew Fitzpatrick ($7,600), Lee Westwood ($7,200)
I already talked about Fitzpatrick and Westwood.  My money is on Casey to finish inside Top 10, so the fact he is available for under 9 grand is a steal.  Patrick Reed, for whatever reason, is going to continue to be severely under-owned...and I love that trend.  

Matt Valdez: Emiliano Grillo
Not long off the tee, but won't matter with fairways like glass.  Didn't play well at majors last year but had a lingering injury.  Didn't play well at Shinnecock but no one did.  Just think the course sets up well for Grillo.  Fairways and Greens should keep him on the leaderboard.

Quick Links

Braden Holtby’s save in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup wasn’t even nominated for an ESPY

Braden Holtby’s save in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup wasn’t even nominated for an ESPY

On Wednesday night ESPN hosts their yearly sports award show, the ESPYs, to celebrate the best of the last 365 days in sport. 

One thing they will not be celebrating, or did not even consider celebrating, was Braden Holtby’s save in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final

This year there were 16 plays nominated to be the “Best Play” and were seeded into a bracket. For the past month fans have been voting in each head-to-head matchup culminating in four pretty outstanding plays:

All of those plays can be viewed here

Three of those four were in a championship game, the other was a just a once in a lifetime play from a teenager. 

But the ESPYs are saying that there are 16 plays from this past year that were better than Holtby’s save… Can we really believe that? Everyone loves buzzer beaters, but they accounted for six of the 16 plays. One of them could have easily gotten bumped. 

And aside from the three listed above there were only two that were in the championship event for each sport. Holtby could have rounded it out for six.

We’re not saying that Holtby’s play was the best in the past year, or even in the top four. Heck, there should be no one that tops Ogunbowale’s incredible heroics. But arguably the best play in D.C. sports history not making the top-16 for best plays in a 365 day period? 

It must have been one heck of a sports year.  

For those that are nominated, Alex Ovechkin is a finalist for Best Male Athlete and Best NHL Player. The Capitals are in the running for Best Team.

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