it will also be interesting to see how C.J. Spiller fits into the offense

Player you’ll be buzzing about: WR Brandin Cooks — Cooks isn’t an under-the-radar player by any means, but he’s looking to take a huge leap in his second year in the league. It’s worth watching if he can live up to the hype and become a true No. 1 receiver for the Saints.
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What to watch: The Saints made waves when they traded away Graham, who is arguably the best tight end in the NFL. Graham went to the Seahawks in exchange for a first-round pick and center Max Unger. They believe Drew Brees is their offense, and all eyes will be on Cooks to see if he can prove that theory. It will also be interesting to see how C.J. Spiller fits into the offense — it seems like a perfect match, but Mark Ingram isn’t going to want to give up any touches.

Kelvin Sheppard Youth Jersey Most important position battle: Tight end — When you lose a guy like Graham, the team changes no matter what. New Orleans doesn’t seem to have any kind of a replacement for Graham on the roster, and a battle should play out between Benjamin Watson and Josh Hill.

But back then, Bell was a 230-pound rusher, more power than finesse, with one of his most translatable NFL skills as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Bell’s backfield mate at MSU, Larry Caper, remembers Bell as a thoughtful runner but more of an “urgent” back in a zone scheme.

“We all saw him being a productive back in the league. I didn’t think it would be this big where they are talking about him revolutionizing the position and all that,” Caper says. “It came from his self-confidence and staying true to himself.”

The Falcons went 7-for-13 on those tries, a 53.9 percent mark that comes in right around the league average of 51.4 percent. While some of those were desperate plays to extend games, Quinn had moments of genuine aggressiveness, most of which came in the no man’s land between midfield and Matt Bryant’s field goal range.

The NFL brought in enough money last year to pay for 10 Pluto missions

The NFL split a massive $7.24 billion in revenue with all 32 teams last season. Each team received $226.4 million as part of the split, most of which comes from the various television deals. The numbers come from the Green Bay Packers’ annual financial report, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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Dustin Hopkins Elite Jersey If you’re having trouble grasping the meaning of that massive amount of money, the NFL would qualify as one of the richest countries on the world, at least according to Wikipedia. Their numbers would put them somewhere in the 145 range. The league would rank somewhere around No. 50 overall when it comes to private companies as well, according to this list from Forbes.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers makes an average annual salary of $22 million — to put this into perspective, the Packers made just over 10 times that amount in national revenue alone.

As the only NFL team publicly owned by fans, the Packers are required to release this financial information on a yearly basis. The numbers are up significantly from last year, in which roughly $6 billion was split between the teams. That’s a pretty significant increase, which isn’t surprising given the fact that new TV deals kicked in this past season.

The national revenue sharing is up by a massive 120 percent over the last 11 years, according to Darren Rovell of ESPN. That also factors in inflation. To compare, for the 2012 season, teams received a $179.9 million slice of the pie. National revenue growth per team from 2005-10 was 16.2 percent, while from 2010-14 it grew a massive 136 percent. Needless to say, the TV deals are being awfully kind to the NFL these days. For the Packers themselves, they also reported a record of $375.7 million in revenue in 2014, up more than $50 million from the previous year.

Steelers safety Sean Davis fined $24k for helmet-to-helmet hit against the Chiefs

Steelers safety Sean Davis has been fined $24,000 by the league for a helmet-to-helmet hit that left Chiefs receiver Chris Conley shaken up late in the fourth quarter of Pittsburgh’s Divisional playoff win Sunday night.

The Chiefs trailed, 18-10, when Alex Smith led Kansas City down the field with a chance to tie the game with fewer than five minutes to play. The Chiefs faced third-and-9 when Smith dialed up Conley’s number. The second-year receiver appeared to corral a deep pass over the middle at the Pittsburgh 2-yard line before Davis leveled him to jar the ball loose:

Though Davis led with his shoulder, his helmet-to-helmet hit drew immediate flags for an illegal hit against a defenseless receiver. The penalty gave Kansas City a first down and helped sustain a scoring drive that cut the Pittsburgh lead to 18-16. However, it wouldn’t be enough, as the Steelers held on for a two-point road win to advance to the AFC Championship.

“He’s the commissioner, so obviously whatever he wants to do, he can do,” Brady said. “If he wants to come, that would be — yeah, he can come.”

Goodell’s unwillingness to visit New England was brought up to Patriots president Jonathan Kraft before last week’s divisional game against the Texans on Boston sports radio and was rather quickly dismissed.

Jon Kraft on why Roger Goodell isn’t at Gillette: “I’ll let you ask the league office about that. … Owners don’t extend invitations.”

Returning to Foxborough was always going to be awkward, but the longer Goodell avoids it the more attention it brings. Perhaps Goodell will still interact with the Patriots, though — like, say, if New England wins another Super Bowl and he hands the team the Lombardi Trophy.

Steelers’ Chris Boswell sets an NFL record with his 6th field goal against the Chiefs

Chris Boswell did something on Sunday that no other player in NFL history has ever done before. The Steelers kicker booted a league-record six field goals in a single playoff game, surpassing players like Adam Vinatieri and Matt Bahr.

Boswell has been the source of all 18 of Pittsburgh’s points in its divisional showdown with the Chiefs. He tied a long list of standout kickers that included Matt Bahr, Steve Christie, John Kasay, and Adam Vinatieri when his fifth kick of the day — a 43-yard attempt — sailed through the uprights. He passed them early in the fourth quarter with another 43-yard kick that gave his team an 18-10 advantage.

He didn’t make New York’s active roster and was eventually cut, but made enough of an impression in the preseason to earn the Steelers’ attention. This is his second season with Pittsburgh — and based on Sunday’s performance, he’ll be wearing black and yellow for years to come.

The Steelers’ Director of Communications, Burt Lauten, gave a statement Sunday night on Porter’s arrest to ESPN’s Josina Anderson.

“We are aware of an incident tonight involving Joey Porter,” the statement read. “We are still gathering information as it pertains to the situation, and we will have no further comment until we get more details.”

Porter said in a team statement via ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, “I regret that I was involved in an incident that could have been a distraction to our team,” Porter said. “Most importantly, I regret that I touched the police officer and I sincerely apologize for that action. Thankfully, no one was injured.

335-pound DT Brandon Williams does a flawless Carlton dance

Most football players get hyped up before a big game by getting angry and focusing on their opponent. Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams, however, doesn’t. Instead, the 26-year old out of Missouri Southern channels his inner Carlton.

Here’s what Williams had to say on Instagram:

This week has been superb for dancing big men. First, the Arizona Rattlers showed off their lineman-sized dancer, and now Williams is bringing back the Carlton. Let’s hope Williams showcases this dance outside of his home and does it on the field after sacking a quarterback this upcoming season.

“There is competition here, especially in our room,” Barner said of the Eagles running backs who include Murray, shifty veteran Darren Sproles and newcomer Ryan Mathews, in from the San Diego Chargers. “Sproles has the great experience, Murray led the league in rushing last year and Mathews was a first-round pick in San Diego. You have to find a way to fit in. It’s stacked. But I believe if you perform and you fit in here, you have a chance.

What Kelly cares about is the Eagles playing in his image, in his style and in him controlling every inch of everything he can control to point his team toward championships. Anyone can argue with the methods but no one can argue with his conviction.

One of the most watched players in Philadelphia this offseason is linebacker Kiko Alonso, a former Oregon player who was acquired in exchange for LeSean McCoy. Alonso was sidelined with a concussion two weeks ago in practice and missed the team’s first preseason game against Indianapolis. He suited up for Tuesday’s practice and participated in position drills. According to Bleeding Green Nation, Alonso will be eased back into practices but it is unknown yet if he will play against the Ravens on Saturday.

An Internet commenter in King Bayless’ Court

All spelling errors are intentional, we think. — The editor.

“First Take” the TV show is a morning instituton on ESPN2. It has given a national platform for the hottest most controversal takes, and it has turned Skip Bayless into a jet-setting international millionaire. First Take the lifestyle is a mentality that runs through every real sport’s fan. It is the desire to beat friends and co-workers in conversations about sports. It is the mentalty that hustles through the synapses of every talk radio show caller from coast-to-coast.

Growing up I was a ESPN fanatic. I memorized sportcenter commercials and would show up late for school on every Monday mornings because “Plays of the Week” started at 8:53, opening bell was at 9:05 and the school was 15 minutes away.

And as much as television kicks ass, the biggest influences on how I look at Sports came from car rides. I listened to “The Big Show” book on tape- the story of Dan Patrick and Kieth Olbermans heyday on the flagship ESPN program- on road trips with my mom when the signal from the Rush Limbaugh show got to weak to pick up on the radio. And “First Take”, quite frankly, is a perfect mix between the two.

Dobson and Tom Brady weren’t on the same page often when it came to the deep ball in 2013. Many times Brady seemed to misjudge Dobson’s speed and under-threw him after he broke free downfield, allowing the cornerback to recover and make a play on the ball. After having been around Dobson for going on three years, I’d guess that Brady has a better idea of just how fast he is. That should result in a lot of big plays downfield between the two of them in 2015 … if Dobson stays healthy.

Three years in is about the time when the light starts to come on for most young players. I would also expect Dobson to be much-better prepared physically for this season than he had been the previous two. He knows this is nut-cutting time.

Le’Veon Bell will make his first NFL playoff appearance with Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger understands how crucial a balanced offensive attack is in the playoffs. After all, he’s won postseason games with tailbacks like Jerome Bettis, Willie Parker, and Rashard Mendenhall.

But despite sharing a sideline with Le’Veon Bell the past four seasons, he’s never had the chance to hand the ball to his All-Pro tailback in the playoffs — until Sunday.

Bell will make his postseason debut when the Steelers host the Dolphins in a Wild Card showdown. This is the team’s third playoff appearance since selecting the elusive tailback in the 2013 NFL draft, but injuries kept him from carrying Pittsburgh to the AFC title game or beyond. Bell missed his first chance to make an impact for his team when a hyperextended right knee kept him from a 30-17 loss to archrival Baltimore in 2015.

Which famous Pittsburgh restaurant could finally help confirm that dolphins are mammals and help their city? GOT IT!

Dammit all.

I really wish we didn’t need to step in here, but we do. Pittsburgh, please listen: Dolphins are mammals. They don’t breathe underwater and don’t have gills. Before you get all uppity and say we’re being pedantic over a simple catchphrase, we know. We know that “Squish the Fish” is catchier than any alternative and we know that Steelers fans didn’t create it.

They will set two or three screens if that’s what it takes. Sometimes, the first screen is just a test — a prodding, a chance to see what vulnerabilities the defense will expose.

Denver engaged in serious talks to acquire Millsap last summer and is known to be interested again, alongside Toronto and Sacramento. (The Nuggets, for the record, are now openly shopping third-year big man Jusuf Nurkic in addition to the widely assumed availability of vets Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler).

Rex Ryan is getting a lot of interest … from TV networks

Former Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan has been a lot better at giving quotes than winning football games lately. So it makes sense that plenty of TV executives would want to get him on their station while he’s out of work.

Television has become some kind of coaching rehab. Can’t get a job during the offseason? Spend a year on TV talking about how everyone else is doing their job wrong and you’ll be mentioned for every opening that becomes available.

That being said, please Rex, go join the media. Even if it’s just for one year. It’s your destiny.

Go to ESPN and bargain your way into the Monday Night Football booth.

Put together your own version of Inside the NBA for the NFL. Bring your brother Rob. We know he needs work, too.

Between Carter, Trumbo, Napoli, and Bautista, there are a ton of dingers left on the market. The fact this is so might be why there doesn’t seem to be a rush to sign any of them. If Bautista’s demands are too high, you move on to the next defensively challenged homer-happy hitter on the list.

Hammel is the name Cafardo mentions, and he is easily the best remaining pitcher available. The 34-year old right-hander won 15 games with the Cubs last year with a 3.83 ERA and 4.48 FIP and 7.8 strikeouts-per-nine innings in 166 2?3 innings pitched. He was even better in 2015 with a lower FIP and over a strikeout-per-inning, but despite some decent seasons in Wrigley, teams are reportedly unwilling to give him more than a one-year deal.

49ers fire general manager Trent Baalke

Jed York and the San Francisco 49ers fired general manager Trent Baalke, part of sweeping changes for the 2-14 team, including the ousting of head coach Chip Kelly as well.

“Despite my feelings for Trent and Chip, I felt the decision to change our football leadership was absolutely necessary,” team owner Jed York said in a statement. “The performance of this team has not lived up to my expectations or those of our fans, and that is truly disappointing. We all expected to see this team progress and develop as the season went on, but unfortunately that did not happen. That is why now is the time to find a new direction for this team.”

Baalke confirmed his firing in an interview with KNBR, where he accepted the move and wish the organization well.

“It was the right thing to do. This is a class organization,” Baalke said. “You know, I’ve been here since 2005 and I have a lot of respect for the organization as a whole, and the ownership, the fan base. It’s difficult, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Reporters asked Doug Whaley several times,”Just what is your job and what do you do”? I was there and I still don”t understand what he does.

Whaley first joined the Bills as an assistant general manager in 2010 when Chan Gailey was the team’s head coach. He was promoted to general manager in 2013, pairing with Doug Marrone and later Rex Ryan. Buffalo’s next permanent head coach will be the fourth to work with Whaley during his seven years with the Bills and the third to be paired with him as general manager.

But it certainly doesn’t seem like Whaley’s opinion on the team’s head coach matters much to ownership.