#DigSportsDesk - The Lede

Duke vs St. John's Preview:

January 25, 2015 -- Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski earned his 903rd career victory at Madison Square Garden in 2011 to become the winningest coach in NCAA history. The Hall of Fame coach returns to the venue in search of history again Sunday, hoping to become the first men’s basketball coach to reach 1,000 wins when his sixth-ranked Blue Devils visit St. John’s. Krzyzewski is no stranger to success at MSG as Duke has posted a 25-8 mark at New York’s famous arena under his guidance, with 17 victories in its last 20 visits.

Krzyzewski improved to 999-308 during his 40-year career – the first five of which he spent at Army – following Monday’s 79-65 home victory over Pittsburgh. The Blue Devils have won 15 of their 18 meetings under Krzyzewski against the Red Storm, who defeated former Duke standout Steve Wojciechowski’s Marquette team 60-57 at MSG on Wednesday to halt a 1-4 stretch. Even after their recent struggles, St. John’s is off to its best 18-game start since the 1999-2000 season.

TV: 2 p.m. ET, Fox

ABOUT DUKE (16-2): Krzyzewski relied heavily on a 2-3 zone instead of his preferred man-to-man defense for the second straight game to protect a unit that allowed North Carolina State and Miami (Fla.) to average 88.5 points and convert 20-of-36 from the 3-point line in back-to-back losses. The results have been favorable as the Blue Devils have yielded 58.5 points and 7-of-35 shooting beyond the arc in consecutive victories against Louisville and Pittsburgh. ACC leading scorer Jahlil Okafor (18.6) ranks second in the country in field-goal percentage (67) while fellow freshman Tyus Jones matched a season high with 22 points Monday after averaging six over his previous six contests.

ABOUT ST. JOHNS (13-5): Okafor could be in for the biggest challenge of his stellar freshman season against Red Storm center Chris Obekpa, who ranks third in the nation with 3.6 blocks. Two-time Big East Player of the Week D'Angelo Harrison is the conference’s second-leading scorer (19.5) and figures to stretch the Blue Devils’ zone defense since he is St. John’s all-time leader in 3-pointers (238) and ranks second in the conference in free-throw makes (98) and attempts (119) this season. “(Harrison is) a great player because he can play transition, he can play really well off pick-and-rolls, he can come off screens. He’s a very versatile scorer,” Duke assistant coach Jon Scheyer told The Chronicle.

TIP-INS

1. Okafor has scored in double figures in each of his first 18 contests and can move past Jabari Parker into second place on Duke’s all-time freshman list with another such game on Sunday. 

2. St. John’s leads the Big East in field-goal percentage defense (38.5), blocks (6.9) and steals (8.7).

3. The Blue Devils’ starting backcourt of Quinn Cook (24-of-25) and Jones (36-of-39) is a combined 60-of-64 from the foul line over the last nine contests.


God Have Mercy on the Man Who Doubts What He's Sure Of

By Terry Lyons, Editor in Chief

BOSTON, January 23, 2014There’s a lot going on in Boston during these long, dark days of January. 

On the local crime blotter, one of the two morons who took it upon themselves to set off a couple homemade bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon is on trial for his senseless crime which killed four and maimed thousands. Out in the Fall River area, an All-Pro NFL tight end, named Aaron Hernandez, is on trial for orchestrating a homicide or three. Meanwhile, on the international sports scene, Boston was recently chosen by the United States Olympic Committee to put forth a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, an idea that sounded preposterous just months ago but just might land “The Games” in the Hub, whether it be nine or 13 years in the future.

Yet, the lead story on the local and national nightly news today is focusing on the pounds per square inch of pressure not properly pumped in or brazenly removed from a dozen footballs used in the AFC Championship game, one of the NFL’s two crown jewel semifinals contests which draw some 80-120 million eyeballs to HD, widescreen televisions tuned in to watch some American Football between hours of commercial ads for beer, car insurance and hero sandwiches. The attention today was largely focused on Bill Belichick, the coach of the New England Patriots, and Tom Brady, the prince-like veteran quarterback of the team, each who were forced in front of hot lights and microphones to face the music from a legion of news reporters, most of whom would prefer to be asking questions about Super Bowl preparation rather than challenging the credibility of the two men and their so-called model franchise, once caught cheating and spying on their opponent.

While all the hell-a-ballou was taking place, there were frequent references to an NFL investigation and the Patriots’ full cooperation to aide that investigation. There were dozens of questions and, mostly, non-answers to those questions. There were reports, stated as fact, that the NFL found 11 of 12 game footballs to be under-inflated after being re-inspected during halftime of the game, a fact made obvious when the third quarter was delayed as ballboys scrambled along the sidelines to get a regulation ball into Brady’s mitts.

Four days later, the bumbling investigative unit of the NFL, proven to be grossly incompetent in their New Jersey-based investigation of the Ray Rice domestic abuse case earlier this season, were exposed again when Brady let it slip during his media interrogation that the NFL had yet to contact him in regard to the Patriots’ role in possibly dodging fair play, morality, if not only the basic rules of the game. Stunningly, the NFL failed to issue a statement, nor provide a sound-byte, update or even a veep in a suit to lay-out their game-plan to quell the growing public and media scrutiny of their product.

It all became sports talk radio nirvana and the insular New England faithful, once again, took an “Us Against the World” underdog approach as they backed up their coach and quarterback, who seemingly walked away from the podium with their pants on fire as former NFL quarterback turned sportscaster Mark Brunnell was damn-near reduced to tears in the aftermath of emotion.

Tears. Yes, tears of emotion, frustration, sadness, disappointment or distrust welled in the eyes as his strong and sure voice cracked under the pressure of the tv lights. Similarly, the usually strong and somewhat playful voice of Brady quivered at the start of his impromptu press conference which came after he had spoken to his teammates, and surely after he compared notes with his coach and public relations people. Later, Brady would be criticized by legions of fans, media, social media users and fellow players who noted the QBs mild and meek defense in his trial of public opinion. That public opinion sought a sincere explanation, or someone who might have the guts to own the issue of the day rather than kick the ball down the road with no answers and, as Belichick so frequently put it, “No explanation for the situation.” 

Surely, a man accused of brazenly breaking the rules of the game, someone accused of cheating, someone having his character and his credibility questioned to the highest degree in sports would’ve taken a more aggressive approach at the press conferences - totally denying and unequivocally stating to have no role in tampered with the game balls at anytime in the pregame or actual gametime during Sunday’s AFC Championship. Instead, both Belichick and Brady parsed their words, wavered under pressure and showed no signs - verbally or body language - to defending their professional reputations.

The DeflateGate story dominated the news this week, from the late night Sunday sports shows to Monday morning sports radio all the way to the aftermath of the ill-conceived press sessions with two men choosing their words ever so carefully, but not under oath. Sadly, the world paid more attention to the pounds of pressure in a football rather than a much more important story than the real life criminal trials and the fantasy sports trial by sports talk public opinion. In case you missed it, earlier this week a man by the name of Stephen D. Pasceri walked into Brigham and Women’s Hospital on Tuesday morning and sought out Dr. Michael J. Davidson, a skilled surgeon in the cardiovascular unit of one of the best hospitals in the world. Pasceri, distraught over the recent death of his 78-year old mother sought answers to questions about his mother’s treatment and medication regiment, diagnosed in the 1980s as severe emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Not satisfied with the answers, Pasceri brandished a concealed firearm he owned and fired three fatal shots, two into Dr. Davidson and one to commit suicide.

Whether it be two men awkwardly defending their professional credibility, a senseless criminal act in the name of jihad, a selfish athlete of entitlement thinking he had authority over the basic human right to live, or a deranged and delusional son seeking his own warped justice for the inevitable death of his mother, we must rearrange our priorities and values. And we better do it before the big game is over.

(Headline is a lyric by Bruce Springsteen in his song Brilliant Disguise)


Super Bowl: "It's On to Seattle"

FOXBOROUGH - January 18, 2015 -- Bill Belichick followed Pete Carroll as head coach of the Patriots in 2000, and on Sunday he made sure New England chased the defending champion Seattle Seahawks to Glendale, Ariz., where the teams will meet Feb. 1 in Super Bowl XLIX.

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    The Patriots buried the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game. Carroll oversaw a furious Seahawks rally with 15 points in 44 seconds, and Seattle beat the Green Bay Packers 28-22 in overtime in the NFC title game.

    Seattle returns to the Super Bowl, looking to become the first repeat champion since New England won Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, 32-29 over the Carolina Panthers, and bagged another in 2005, taking Super Bowl XXXIX with a 24-21 decision against the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Both of this year's Super Bowl teams enter on huge highs, Seattle's unlikely rally against Green Bay and New England's dominance against Indianapolis.

    "The second half of that game was the second half of our season," Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. "When we were 3-3, 6-4, people counted us out. They gave up on us."

    Both teams were the top seed in their conference entering the playoffs.

    The Seahawks will be 354 days removed from winning their first ever Lombardi Trophy when the teams take the field at University of Phoenix Stadium for the 49th Super Bowl in NFL history. Belichick won his first three Super Bowl appearances (2001, 2003, 2004) but lost with the Patriots in 2007 and 2012.

    The Patriots lost Super Bowl XLII, 17-14 to the New York Giants, at University of Phoenix Stadium in 2008.

    Patriots owner Robert Kraft fired Carroll in 1999 and hired Belichick, now the NFL's longest-tenured head coach.

    Carroll was winning championships in the Pac-10 at Southern California as the Patriots marched to dynasty status in the 2000s.

    The other constant for the Patriots through it all is Brady, who was drafted in the sixth round in 2000 and started for the 2001 Super Bowl team that shocked the heavily favored Rams. Sunday's win over the Colts was a record 20th in the playoffs for the coach-quarterback combo.

    Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson beat Brady and Belichick in Seattle in 2012, a game remembered for Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman yelling at Brady postgame, "You mad, bro? You mad, bro?" Sherman said Brady told him during the game to come find him if the Seahawks won, and Sherman did.

    Wilson had cause to be mad after a poor first half Sunday. However, even on one of his worst statistical days, he found the magic touch in overtime, going 5-of-5 for 80 yards.

    The prized passers, stars overlooked entering the NFL but now chasing historic success, will be prominent in the NFL's grand finale. Similar in poise and excellence under pressure, the player's styles are diametric opposites. Brady, 37, had 33 touchdowns in the regular season and completed 64.1 percent of his passes.

    Brady won the AFC Championship Game for the sixth time in nine tries to set a record for Super Bowl appearances.

    Wilson, 26, led NFL quarterbacks with 849 rushing yards and 7.2 yards per carry in a decidedly run-heavy offense that ran 525 times in the regular season, compared to 438 for the Patriots. Wilson had 20 regular-season touchdown passes and seven interceptions with no receiver noted as a legitimate No. 1 threat outside.

    Not only will Super Bowl XLIX feature two of the NFL's best quarterbacks, but two of the best cornerbacks will oppose them. All-Pro cover men Darrelle Revis and Sherman once disputed their greatness over social media. Now they get to show their stuff on the same field.

    That is, if Sherman's injured elbow/wrist/arm allows it.

    The Seahawks' left cornerback and leader of the vaunted Legion of Boom secondary got hurt Sunday but played through the ailment. Seattle free safety Earl Thomas, whose value is often understated, exited with a shoulder injury but returned. If either player is unavailable after two weeks to prepare for the Patriots, it would be surprising, but the Seahawks scheduled MRI exams for Monday.

    "They're going to have to take more than our arms," Sherman said.

    The Seahawks lost only once since mid-October, and they carry an eight-game winning streak to Glendale.

    New England lost to the Packers, 26-21, on Nov. 30, snapping a seven-game losing streak. The Patriots are 5-1 since then, the lone loss in a meaningless regular-season finale against the Buffalo Bills.

    The Patriots finished fourth in the NFL in scoring (29.3) in the regular season and first in margin of victory at 9.7 points per game.

    Seattle's swarming defense was suffocating during the current win streak. On the year, the Seahawks led the NFL in total defense (267.1 yards per game), points allowed (15.9 per game) and passing defense (185.6 yards per game).


  • Seahawks Win OT Thriller

    SEATTLE, January 18, 2015 -- Shortly after throwing the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime of the NFC Championship Game, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson knelt down at midfield and led a group of players in prayer.

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    • That is when the tears swelled up and began gushing out. Wilson had no way to stop them.

      After one of the most emotional conference championship games in recent memory, the emotionless quarterback finally lost control. Wilson's 35-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jermaine Kearse on the fifth play of overtime gave the Seahawks to a 28-22 victory over the Green Bay Packers, and the emotions that had built up on the way to the improbable victory came pouring out.

      "I'm usually pretty calm," Wilson said. "As soon as I threw that touchdown pass, I thought of my dad (who died a few years ago)."

      The Seahawks overcame five turnovers, a 16-point deficit and the fourth overtime in eight NFC Championship games before getting a rare shot at the repeat. Seattle put aside a horrific first half and scored 15 points in a span of 44 seconds late in the fourth quarter to stay alive before outlasting Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in overtime.

      "It was a hard game," said Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin, whose team will face either the New England Patriots or the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Ariz. "There was a time in the fourth quarter when I thought I'd be packing my locker up in the morning. But we kept fighting, and we got it done."

      Just getting to overtime wasn't easy, though. Seattle trailed 16-0 at halftime and 19-7 with 2 1/2 minutes to go before one of the most unlikely finishes in NFC Championship history.

      First, Wilson ran for a 1-yard score, pulling the Seahawks within 19-14 with 2:09 left.

      Seahawks receiver Chris Matthews then recovered an onside kick after Green Bay tight end Brandon Bostick failed to corral the high kick. Seattle went on to score the go-ahead touchdown on a 24-yard touchdown run by running back Marshawn Lynch with 1:25 remaining -- giving the home team its first lead of the game.

      Wilson hit tight end Luke Willson on an improbable two-point conversion, a sky-high pass following a scramble, to put the Seahawks ahead 22-19.

      Rodgers, the Green Bay quarterback who was playing with a torn calf muscle for the second week in a row, put on a show of his own while leading the Packers down the field for the tying field goal. He guided a seven-play, 48-yard drive that began with back-to-back 15-yard receptions. Kicker Mason Crosby's fifth field goal of the day, from 48 yards out, tied the score at 22 with 14 seconds left in regulation.

      Wilson completed all three of his overtime passes, including back-to-back 35-yarders to win the game. He connected with wide receiver Doug Baldwin on the sideline before hitting Kearse over the middle for the game-winner on near-perfect throws.

      "There ain't nothing more beautiful than that last play," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "That was exquisite football."

      It was Kearse's first catch of the game.

      "Even though I had a rough start, a rough game early on, (Wilson) stuck with me and gave me another opportunity to win the game for my team," Kearse said.

      Wilson overcame a horrific first half to complete 14 of 29 passes for 209 yards and the touchdown. He threw four interceptions.

      Rodgers completed 19 of 34 passes for 178 yards with two interceptions and a touchdown, which came as the Packers were building up a 16-0 halftime lead.

      "It's going to be a missed opportunity that we'll probably think about for the rest of my career," Rodgers said of the loss. "We were the better team today and we played well enough to win and we can't blame anybody but ourselves."

      Packers coach Mike McCarthy unveiled very little of his disappointment afterward, calling it one of the best games he ever was a part of.

      When pressed, McCarthy offered: "This is a hard one to swallow."

      In the opening half, Wilson went 2-for-9 for 12 yards with three interceptions and a 0.0 passer rating -- the worst half of his career. He rebounded after halftime, but it was a punter who may have made the most important throw of the day.

      Seattle's Jon Ryan, who was holding for what turned out to be a fake field goal, hit eligible lineman Garry Gilliam on a 19-yard touchdown pass with 4:44 remaining in the third quarter to put the Seahawks on the board for the first time.

      Green Bay responded with a field goal to open up a 19-7 lead, and it looked for most of the afternoon as if that would hold up.

      Rodgers threw two first-half interceptions, but Green Bay was able to come away with a 16-0 halftime lead.

      Seattle turned the ball over four times during the first half. The Seahawks were also penalized seven times.

      After Green Bay's first drive resulted in an end-zone interception, the Packers drove to the Seattle 1-yard line on back-to-back possessions but had to settle for a pair of Crosby field goals and a 6-0 lead. One field goal came after a Wilson interception, while a Baldwin fumble on a kickoff return set the Packers up for the second.

      Green Bay finally got into the end zone on the final play of the first quarter, with Rodgers hitting wide receiver Randall Cobb for a 13-yard touchdown and a 13-0 lead.

      Crosby added a third field goal 5 1/2 minutes into the second quarter to put the Packers ahead 16-0.

      Green Bay outgained Seattle 178-59 in total yardage during the first half. The Seahawks didn't get a first down until seven minutes into the second quarter, and Wilson's first completion came with 3:30 remaining in the half.

      Seattle's defense played most of the second half with obvious injuries. Star safety Earl Thomas appeared to get his left shoulder popped back into place during the second quarter, while cornerback Richard Sherman appeared to hurt his left elbow on the opening play of the fourth quarter. Both played through the injuries.

      The win put Seattle in position to be the NFL's first repeat champion since the 2004-05 Patriots.

      NOTES: Fox Television reported just before kickoff that Packers WR Randall Cobb spent three hours in a hospital Saturday night. Cobb reportedly was complaining of abdominal pain that the team thought might be appendicitis. Cobb played Sunday and scored a touchdown on the final play of the first quarter. ... Seahawks RT Justin Britt (knee) was ruled inactive for the game. Veteran Alvin Bailey started in his place. ... During the opening 10 minutes of the game, Seattle had possession for less than a minute. An interception on the third play of the opening drive and a fumbled kickoff return resulted in two quick turnovers as Green Bay opened up a 6-0 lead. After one quarter, the Packers held a time-of-possession advantage of 12:38-to-2:22 while leading 13-0.


 

Patriots School Luck and Colts, 45-7

FOXBOROUGH, January 18, 2015 -- The New England Patriots will get their third shot at the fourth NFL title of the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era.

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    The Patriots, who last won the Super Bowl after the 2004 season and lost to the New York Giants in the final game twice since, drubbed the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in the AFC Championship Game Sunday night on.

    The blowout set up a Feb. 1 date in Glendale, Ariz., against the defending-champion Seattle Seahawks, who stunned the Green Bay Packers for a 28-22 overtime win Sunday. The Patriots' undefeated 2007-08 run ended at the hands of the Giants in Glendale.

    Belichick, known for always looking just at the next opponent, held the AFC championship trophy aloft postgame and said, "I only have one thing to say -- we're on to Seattle."

    Brady added, "It's nice to close the deal, baby."

    Quarterback Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes, and running back LeGarrette Blount ran for three touchdowns to pace New England. The Patriots took a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game and cruised from there, leading 17-7 at halftime before breaking it open in the third quarter.

    The win was the 21st for Belichick in the postseason, breaking a tie with Tom Landry for No. 1 all time. Brady earned his 20th win and will play in his sixth Super Bowl, both records for a quarterback.

    In the fourth quarter, many who remained in the rain-soaked crowd chanted, "A-ri-zo-na." They also chanted "Bra-dy," who acknowledged the crowd with a celebration shown on the video screen with 5:45 left in the game.

    Brady, who came out to start a late possession but was removed for an ovation after one play, finished 23 of 35 for 226 yards and one interception. It was the seventh three-touchdown game of his postseason career.

    The Patriots recorded a fourth straight blowout of the Andrew Luck-led Colts by a combined count of 189-73. New England won 42-20 at Indianapolis in November.

    Blount, who ran for 166 yards and four touchdowns in last year's divisional playoff win over the Colts, set a club record with 30 carries Sunday and finished with 148 yards. The three touchdowns gave him a club-record seven postseason scores in just four games.

    Blount left the Patriots as a free agent after last season, got himself released by the Pittsburgh Steelers by walking off the field before the end of a game and was re-signed by New England. He was an absolute dancing bull on Sunday night.

    Luck had another dreadful game against New England, getting picked off twice, bringing his total to 10 interceptions in four games against the Patriots. The 25-year-old quarterback finished 12 of 33 for 126 yards and a 23.0 passer rating.

    A week after stinging the Baltimore Ravens by declaring a player as an ineligible receiver for three consecutive plays on an important drive, New England used a similar tactic twice in the first three quarters Sunday. They also declared an offensive lineman eligible for plays. Early in the third quarter, tackle Nate Solder reported as eligible, caught a pass from Brady and bulled his way into the end zone for a 16-yard score to make it 24-7.

    Running back Zurlon Tipton scored on a 1-yard run to bring the Colts to within seven points with less than five minutes remaining in the first half, but Indianapolis never got closer.

    Brady threw three third-quarter touchdown passes, padding the margin to 38-7.

    A mistake-filled first quarter left the Colts in a 14-0 hole, and they never fully recovered.

    Indianapolis return man Josh Cribbs, attempting to make a fair catch, muffed a Ryan Allen punt right into the arms of oncoming linebacker Darius Fleming. The ball was recovered at the Colts 26, and six plays later, Blount scored 4:45 into the game.

    Running back Daniel Herron also dropped two passes, one that would have been a touchdown.

    Brady's seven three-TD games have him second in NFL history, two shy of Joe Montana's mark.

    Brady, starting his fourth straight AFC Championship Game, went over the 6,800-yard postseason passing mark, retaking the all-time lead from Peyton Manning.

    NOTES: Patriots DT Chris Jones was a surprise scratch, a day after the club brought DT Joe Vellano back from the practice squad. New England was also missing C Bryan Stork (knee), shifting RG Ryan Wendell to center. ... The Colts had three unusual absences. LB Josh McNary was arrested on a rape charge this week, RB Trent Richardson was sidelined due to personal reasons, and OT Xavier Nixon missed the team flight. ... Tarps covered the field turf until hours before game time. Rain started just before kickoff, quickly subsided and picked up in the third quarter. .. The Patriots averaged 48 points per game in the last three wins over QB Andrew Luck and the Colts, 41.2 per during a five-game winning streak in the series that predated Luck's arrival. ... Former Patriots greats Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi and Troy Brown were on the field for the coin toss. ... Game-time temperature was a balmy 51 degrees but wind was gusting over 15 mph. ... The start of the game was delayed 10 minutes because the NFC Championship Game went into overtime.


Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez Head 2015 Hall of Famers

BOSTON, January 6, 2015 -- Two pitchers who won a total of eight Cy Young Awards head up the 2015 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class, announced on January 6, 2015. Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez rank first and third all-time in strikeouts-per-nine-innings pitched, and are cinches to be elected in their first year on the ballot. Johnson was menacing on the mound at 6-foot-10 and with a devastating fastball. He pitched 22 seasons with Montreal, Seattle, Houston, Arizona, the New York Yankees and San Francisco, compiling a 303-166 career record. Nine times Johnson led his league in strikeouts. His average of 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings ranks first among all pitchers. He was awarded the Cy Young Award five times.

Martinez was one of the greatest right handers in history. He won the Cy Young three times and was runner-up twice and finished third once. Five times he led the majors in ERA and three times he led his league in strikeouts. In a seven-year period from 1997-2003, Martinez went 118-36 with a 2.20 ERA with 1,761 strikeouts in 1,408 innings.

Craig Biggio, who fell two votes short of being elected last year, also was elected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America while John Smoltz, another first-time eligible player along with Johnson and Martinez rounded out the four-player Class of '15. Smoltz compiled a 213-155 record, 154 saves, a 3.33 ERA and 3,084 strikeouts in 3,473 innings. He also won a Cy Young award and had five other top-10 finishes. He also underwent five arm surgeries during his career.

There were 34 players on this year's ballot. 

Mike Piazza heads the list of players who fell short of enough votes to enter the hall. Other former players who could gain some traction in the years to come, but were left short this year, are Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were elected last year.


NFL: Looking to Sept 2015

BOSTON, December 2014 - After applying the NFL's official formula to determine common opponents for the 2015 season, the winners are:

The NFC East and the AFC South. Those are the two divisions whose teams must each play every team in the NFC South, a division without a winning team this year and a pathetic combined record of 22-41-1. The losers, determined by flipping the same logic, would be the be the AFC West and NFC West, whose 2015 schedules are tied to the AFC North, which sent three teams to this year's playoffs and finished regular season with a combine 38-25-1 mark. The NFC West itself will once again be a tough division because it not only plays against the NFC North (38-25-1 this year) but plays twice against each of its divisional rivals (NFC West was 37-27 this season). For those who do not have the NFL's official schedule abacus, here are the basics elements: Every team plays 16 games as follows:

--Home and away against its three division opponents (6 games).
--The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (4 games).
--The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (4 games).
--Two intraconference games based on the prior year's standings (two games). These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place, and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.

Beginning in 2010, a change was made to how teams are paired in the schedule rotation to ensure that teams playing the AFC and NFC West divisions would not be required to make two west coast trips (e.g. at San Francisco and at Seattle), while other teams in their division had none (e.g. at St. Louis and at Arizona).

The official 2015 schedule, with playing dates and times, will be announced in the spring.

NFL Kickoff 2015 Weekend will begin on Thursday night, Sept. 10, and the regular season will conclude on Sunday, Jan. 3.

Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, will be played on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016.

Here are the 2015 matchups by formula:
--AFC EAST intraconference vs. AFC SOUTH
--AFC EAST interconference vs. NFC EAST
--AFC NORTH intraconference vs. AFC WEST
--AFC NORTH interconference vs. NFC WEST
--AFC SOUTH intraconference vs. AFC EAST
--AFC SOUTH Interconference vs. NFC SOUTH
--AFC WEST intraconference vs. AFC NORTH
--AFC WEST interconference vs. NFC NORTH
--NFC EAST intraconference vs. NFC SOUTH
--NFC EAST interconference vs. AFC EAST
--NFC NORTH intraconference vs. NFC WEST
--NFC NORTH interconference vs. AFC WEST
--NFC SOUTH intraconference vs. NFC EAST
--NFC SOUTH interconference vs. AFC SOUTH
--NFC WEST intraconference vs. NFC NORTH
--NFC WEST interconference vs. AFC NORTH

Here are opponents for all teams in 2015:
AFC EAST
--1. New England Patriots. Home: Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins; Away: Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants.
--2. Buffalo Bills. Home: Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants. Away: Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins.
--3. Miami Dolphins. Home: Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants. Away: Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins.
--4. New York Jets. Home: Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins. Away: Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants.

AFC NORTH
--1. Pittsburgh Steelers. Home: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers. Away: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, New England Patriots, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks.
--2. Cincinnati Bengals. Home: Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, Houston Texans, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks. Away: Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers.
--3. Baltimore Ravens. Home: Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks. Away: Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers.
--4. Cleveland Browns. Home: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers. Away: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, New York Jets, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks

AFC SOUTH
--1. Indianapolis Colts. Home: Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Away: Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers.
--2. Houston Texans. Home: Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Away: Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers.
--3. Jacksonville Jaguars. Home: Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, San Diego Chargers, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers. Away: Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
--4. Tennessee Titans. Home: Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers. Away: Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

AFC WEST
--1. Denver Broncos. Home: Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings. Away: Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions.
--2. Kansas City Chiefs. Home: Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions. Away: Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings.
--3. San Diego Chargers. Home: Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions. Away: Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings.
--4. Oakland Raiders. Home: Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings. Away: Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions.

NFC EAST
--1. Dallas Cowboys. Home: New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, New York Jets. Away: New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins.
--2. Philadelphia Eagles. Home: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins. Away: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, New York Jets.
--3. New York Giants. Home: Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, New York Jets. Away: Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins.
--4. Washington Redskins. Home: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins. Away: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, New York Jets.

NFC NORTH
--1. Green Bay Packers. Home: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers. Away: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders.
--2. Detroit Lions. Home: Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders. Away: Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers.
--3. Minnesota Vikings. Home: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers. Away: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders.
--4. Chicago Bears. Home: Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders. Away: Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers.

NFC SOUTH
--1. Carolina Panthers. Home: Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts. Away: Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans.
--2. New Orleans Saints. Home: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans. Away: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts.
--3. Atlanta Falcons. Home: Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts. Away: Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans.
--4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Home: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans. Away: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, St. Louis Rams, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts.

NFC WEST
--1. Seattle Seahawks. Home: Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers. Away: Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals.
--2. Arizona Cardinals. Home: St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals. Away: St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers.
--3. San Francisco 49ers. Home: Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals. Away: Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Cleveland Browns. Pittsburgh Steelers.
--4. St. Louis Rams. Home: Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers. Away: Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals.