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18/09/2017

not as bad as the alternative; the sixth seed proba

ATLANTA -- The team from right down Interstate 75 is eager to take on the big boys. Ryan Callahan Jersey .In some ways, this will feel almost like a home game for Mercer.The Bears are making the 87-mile trip from Macon to Atlanta on Saturday to take on Georgia Tech, their first game against a top-level school since bringing back the private universitys long-dormant football program three years ago as part of the Football Championship Subdivision.Mercer has some 40 players from Atlantas sprawling suburbs.Its very exciting, said offensive lineman Bret Niederreither, a Pennsylvania native and one of the few Mercer players from outside the state. A lot of guys on our team are from Georgia and the Atlanta area, so theyre ready to go.While the schools are less than a two-hour drive apart, this will be their first meeting since 1938.Mercer dropped its program during World War II and didnt return to the gridiron until 2013, eventually joining the Southern Conference.Now, the Bears (0-1) are taking a big step up in competition.Coach Bobby Lamb is hoping for plenty of support at 55,000-seat Bobby Dodd Stadium, the largest venue his fledgling program has played in.Obviously weve had a lot of firsts here at Mercer, Lamb said. This will be our first FBS game, and what better way to start that then in our home state and in Atlanta, where we have over 30,000 alumni.Georgia Tech (1-0) opened its season with a game much farther from home, traveling to Dublin, Ireland to take on Atlantic Coast Conference foe Boston College.The Yellow Jackets rallied for a lackluster 17-14 victory , scoring the winning touchdown in the final minute but doing little to impress coach Paul Johnson. He promised plenty of lineup changes if his team, coming off a dismal 3-9 showing a year ago, doesnt show signs of improvement.Johnson is also urging his team not to take Mercer lightly, even though the Yellow Jackets have a clear edge is speed, size and talent.Two year ago, Georgia Tech barely escaped with a 42-38 victory over Georgia Southern, which was in its transition stage moving up to FBS from the Southern Conference.Mercer, Johnson fretted, could pose a similar challenge if the Yellow Jackets are caught looking ahead.Im sure theyre fired up and excited to play, he said. We need to be, too.---Some things to watch for in Saturdays game:LINEUP CHANGES: Johnson mentioned punter, A-back and the offensive line as positions that could have new starters this week. He was especially disenchanted with fifth-year senior Ryan Rodwell, virtually guaranteeing that someone else will be handling the punting duties against Mercer. Also, freshman B-back Dedrick Mills, who scored the winning touchdown against Boston College, was suspended for the game for violating team rules. Marcus Marshall will likely get the start.GOTTA GET RUNNING: Georgia Techs triple-option offense bogged down in Week 1, managing only 119 yards rushing and an average of 2.7 yards per carry, one of the worst showings in Johnsons nine seasons at the helm. The coach will be looking to get more production out of the A-backs, who combined for only 3 yards on the ground.JUST FOR KICKS: Both teams have reliable kickers. Georgia Techs Harrison Butker booted a clutch 40-yarder against Boston College that began the fourth-quarter comeback, and all four of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Mercers Cole Fisher went 3-for-3 last week in a 24-23 loss to Citadel, including a career-best 47-yarder.CLUTCH THOMAS: Mercer will have its hands full trying to defend Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas , who came through with a stirring performance in the closing minutes against Boston College. On the winning drive, he escaped a sure sack on one play, completed a 22-yard pass on fourth-and-19, and then connected on a 26-yarder when facing third-and-10.FLAG ON THE BEARS: Mercer was flagged for 10 penalties totaling 103 yards in its opener, a far cry from the team that was one of the least penalized in the nation a year ago. The Bears wont be able to afford that sort of sloppiness against Georgia Tech.---Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .---AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org Andrei Vasilevskiy Jersey .B. -- The Baie-Comeau Drakkar took over sole possession of first place atop the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League on Thursday with their sixth straight win. Alex Killorn Lightning Jersey . Ashley Youngs cross was inadvertently headed by Chester into his own net in the 66th minute, allowing United to claim a third straight league win. "We had to dig deep with our fighting spirit and weve done that," United striker Wayne Rooney said. http://www.lightninghockeystore.us/Braydon-Coburn-Jersey/ .B. - Sebastien Auger made 44 saves as the Saint John Sea Dogs edged the visiting Acadie-Bathurst Titan 2-1 on Saturday in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action. Three-quarters of the NFL season is over. If youre waiting for your favorite team to break out, well, its probably not going to happen. For several organizations, the season is all but over. That said, just about everyone else has something to play for, whether thats trying to win a division, claiming a top seed, or simply trying to advance into the postseason by any means necessary.While many of the remaining contests will matter for one team or the other, with one-quarter of the season left to go, we can pinpoint games that will be most important for clarifying the playoff picture. Ive gone through and highlighted the three games from each week with the most meaning over the four remaining weekends of the 2016 campaign -- you can even consider this a viewers guide for the 12 most essential games of the 64 left on the calendar.To work with dynamically generated playoff odds, I used the web simulator created by The Upshot, which generates playoff odds after identifying winners and losers for specified games by simulating the season thousands of times. When I mention games after Week 14 and how they impact playoff odds, keep in mind that unless stated otherwise, Im only identifying a winner for that particular game and then using The Upshot to simulate the remaining games, which includes games that might have occurred before the one in question. If that seems confusing, or you enjoy nerd fun -- well, then play around with the simulator yourself.WEEK 14Oakland Raiders at Kansas City ChiefsAny list of the seasons best remaining games starts with whats on Thursday night. Something has to give in this battle for the AFC West, given that both of these teams have been lucky to win a disproportionate number of their close games this season. The 10-2 Raiders are 7-1 in games decided by seven points or fewer this year, and the 9-3 Chiefs are 6-2 in those circumstances.Both teams are likely to make the playoffs, but the winner can put a stranglehold on the AFC West.Raiders win: They would move two games ahead of the Chiefs and 2.5 games ahead of the Broncos with three games to play. The Upshot then suggests that the Raiders would have an 82 percent chance of winning the division and a 65 percent chance of coming away with the top seed in the AFC. Indeed, this is the toughest matchup remaining on Oaklands schedule. If Derek Carr plays well in front of a national television audience, it might also solidify his MVP candidacy.Chiefs win: They move into an incredibly advantageous position with a victory. In addition to all but sealing a playoff berth, Andy Reids team would move into first place in the AFC West by virtue of a tiebreaker, having swept the Raiders in their head-to-head matchups this season. They also would lead the Broncos by 1.5 games while having clinched the divisional tiebreaker over their rivals, which also would come in handy if both of these teams end up as wild cards. The Chiefs would have a 68 percent chance of winning the division with a victory, but merely a 12 percent shot at the West with a loss.Houston Texans at Indianapolis ColtsThe Texans have faded badly in the South, losing three consecutive games to fall to 6-6. The good news for them is that they hold a strong tiebreaker lead in the division, as theyve started 3-0 in the South, putting them well ahead of the Colts (2-2) and Titans (1-3). The bad news is that they still have to travel to Indianapolis and Tennessee, starting with the Colts this week. Oh, and the Texans are also a significantly worse team than their divisional brethren; Houston is a dismal 30th in DVOA.?Tennessee is 18th and Indianapolis is 25th.If the Colts lose, theyre basically toast. They would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker to the Texans, and while they would be only a game back with three to play, Andrew Luck?& Co. have to travel to Minnesota and Oakland for games against playoff contenders over the next two weeks. The Upshot gives Indy just a 7 percent chance to make the postseason with a loss, and theyre a 50-50 proposition with a win. The Texans would have a 76 percent chance of making the postseason with a victory, which falls to 27 percent with a loss.Dallas Cowboys at New York GiantsThis isnt really a huge game in terms of the playoff picture for the Cowboys; they already have clinched a playoff spot and are overwhelming favorites to win the NFC East. Their chances of winning home-field advantage in the NFC would rise from 93 percent to 98 percent with a victory, but even if they lose, they would have a 95 percent chance of winning the division and an 85 percent chance of staying home in Dallas throughout January. Dallas would need to lose two more games to be in any serious threat of missing out on the divisional crown.Its a much bigger game for the Giants, who lost handily to the Steelers last week and have the leagues fourth-toughest schedule in the final quarter of the season, according to Football Outsiders. At 8-4, the Giants can all but clinch a wild-card spot by going 2-2 over their remaining four games. A loss here would drop their playoff chances from 76 percent to 63 percent, with one remaining home game against the surging Lions before back-to-back road tilts against the Eagles and Washington to end their season. Big Blue might have handed Dallas its only loss of the season in a 20-19 thriller in Week 1, but thats one of only two games the Giants have won over teams .500 or better this year -- their only other win was a three-point victory over Baltimore in Week 6.WEEK 15New England Patriots at Denver BroncosWhat is likely to be the first matchup in the to-be-legendary series between Tom Brady and Trevor Siemian?could determine whether the Patriots end up with the top seed in the AFC. The Raiders currently hold the top seed in the conference by virtue of the strength of victory tiebreaker, but the Patriots dont play in the brutal AFC West, which is why they have a 50 percent crack at coming away with the top seed (the Raiders are at 35 percent).A loss to the Broncos would open up things for the West -- before accounting for any other games, it would drop the Patriots chances of claiming the No. 1 seed down to 35 percent. It also would give the Broncos an 85 percent chance of making the playoffs, while theyre only a 50-50 shot with a loss. Losing to their perennial rivals from the East also would essentially eliminate the Broncos from contending for the AFC West title; even if they qualified for the playoffs, it probably would be as the sixth seed, meaning their playoff path probably would travel through New England in January.Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas CowboysThe Cowboys are 3-point favorites at New York on Sunday night. If they do avenge their loss to the Giants, a win over the Buccaneers would allow the Cowboys to clinch home-field advantage in the NFC with two weeks to spare in the regular season. While the Cowboys arent going to bench all of their starters and give them three consecutive bye weeks before returning in the postseason, wrapping up the conference early would allow them to echo what Jerry Jones suggested and start giving those players who do need rest time to prepare for the postseason. It could be the difference, for example, between giving Ezekiel Elliott?10 carries or 25 in Week 16. (Sorry, Ezekiel Elliott fantasy owners.)A loss here doesnt really hurt the Buccaneers playoff chances, if only because most projection systems would assume theyre extremely likely to lose in Dallas anyway. It would be aggressive to count the Bucs out, given that they managed to come away with road victories over the Chiefs and Chargers in recent weeeks. Tampa Bay Lightning Jersey. They would still have a 48 percent chance of making the playoffs with a loss to Dallas, as their three other remaining games, all of which take place in the NFC South, are the ones that will truly determine their playoff future.Detroit Lions at New York GiantsAnother one for the Giants, who need to win this one if they lose to the Cowboys. Consecutive losses would drop their playoff odds to just 35 percent with those two NFC East road games to go. Throwing away a playoff berth after starting 8-3 would be impressive; teams who started with eight wins in their first 11 games since the league went to its current playoff format in 2002 have made the playoffs 38 out of 42 times, better than a 90 percent clip.The Lions, meanwhile, have all but done enough to make it into the postseason. They currently have an 88 percent shot at the playoffs and have the lowly Bears visiting Detroit this week. If they beat the Bears and the Giants, not only are Matthew Stafford?& Co. guaranteed a playoff berth, but they have a 44 percent chance of picking up a first-round bye along the way. With a road game against the Cowboys in Week 16, the Lions would rather not need a victory over the best team in the conference to lock up the North.WEEK 16Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay PackersThis game seemed like a possible divisional title game earlier this year, but the Lions have all but locked up the North; they have an 82 percent chance of claiming the division before any Week 14 games are played.The Vikings need to win this game to have any realistic prayer of getting into the postseason. Their playoff odds, already dim at 16 percent, would fall to 1 percent or so with a loss to Green Bay. Even if they won their three other games -- a realistic proposition, given they play the Jaguars, Colts and Bears -- the Vikings would have only a 5 percent chance of advancing past Week 17. Thanks to that easy schedule, Minnesota would have a 40 percent shot at making the postseason with a victory. Green Bay, meanwhile, would have just a 5 percent chance of making the playoffs with a loss to the Vikings, but the Packers would be a 50-50 shot if they won their three other games.Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh SteelersThis is as close to a pure playoff game as well see before Week 17. These teams have a combined 99 percent chance of winning the AFC North, and neither of them are likely to win a wild-card berth; the Ravens have only a 4 percent chance of doing so, and the Steelers are up at 6 percent. The winner of this game will be the comprehensive favorite to win the division.The Steelers are favored in this game by virtue of being at home, but the Ravens hold the tiebreaker in the North after beating Pittsburgh in Week 9, so the home team needs this one more. If the Steelers lose here, they would (ignoring the other unplayed results before this game) be 1.5 games back with three games to work with, given Baltimore would clinch the tiebreaker with a head-to-head sweep. Pittsburgh would have just a 17 percent chance of winning the division and a 25 percent chance of making the playoffs, and Baltimore would be at 25 percent and 30 percent, respectively, with a loss of its own.Denver Broncos at Kansas City ChiefsWe know this will mean a lot in terms of everything from deciding the AFC West champion to determining playoff seeding, but the specifics depend upon what happens to these two teams when they play the Raiders in Week 14 and Week 17. As it currently stands, given Kansas Citys narrow win in Week 12, this is a much less important game for the Chiefs than the Broncos. Kansas City still has a 90 percent chance of making it to the playoffs even with a loss to Denver at home, and the Broncos see their playoff hopes fall from 67 percent to 55 percent if they cant pull the upset at Arrowhead.WEEK 17Houston Texans at Tennessee TitansThe Titans have a 20 percent shot at winning the AFC South, but theyll need to win this game or convince the NFL to have a special playoff berth for the leagues most exotic team if they want to make the postseason. If they win this game, theyll have a shot: Tennessees division odds would rise to 33 percent without considering any of its other games, and if the Titans can beat the Jaguars in Jacksonville in Week 16, their playoffs odds would be right under 50 percent.If the Texans can beat the Colts in Week 14 and follow up with a win here, theyll have a 97 percent chance of winning the South. Even if they lose their other two games against the Jags and Bengals, they would have an 84 percent shot of winning the division with an 8-8 record, thanks to their superior tiebreakers.Oakland Raiders at Denver BroncosWhile theyve all but clinched a playoff berth, the Raiders arent yet guaranteed to make the postseason. If it goes on a four-game losing streak, Oakland would lose the division and have a 13 percent chance of missing the playoffs altogether, with the second-place teams from the AFC East and AFC North competing to take its spot. If the Raiders just win their lone remaining home game against the Colts in Week 16, that will be enough to carry them into their first playoff game since Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003.Theres also a reasonable chance that the Raiders will have locked up the top seed in the AFC and have the ability to rest their players in Week 17 against a Broncos team playing for its playoff spot, which would be an interesting philosophical discussion: Would the Raiders play their starters and use their whole playbook, or leave Derek Carr on the bench and save their scouting for a possible playoff matchup? The Bengals faced this decision against the Jets in 2009 and sleepwalked through the first half of a must-win game for Rex Ryans team in New York before taking out their starters; they promptly lost to the Jets in the wild-card game in Cincinnati the following week.?New York Giants at WashingtonThe Giants and Washington are still the favorites to finish as the fifth and sixth seeds in the East, but a lot can go wrong on the way to the ball. The 5-7 Eagles could still make a run into the postseason, to start. (If that seems improbable, youll only have to go back to 2015 to remember that this same Washington team was 5-7 before reeling off four straight wins to win the NFC East, or that the 2013 Chargers won their final four games after starting 5-7 to claim a wild-card berth.)After losing to Arizona last week, Washington is looking over its shoulder at teams from other divisions. Tampa Bay, Green Bay and Minnesota are its biggest rivals for a wild-card berth. The good news for Washington fans -- especially compared to the Giants -- is that theyre likely to be favored in each of their final four contests. Theyre currently 1-point favorites at Philadelphia, host the scuffling Panthers, and travel to face the injury-riddled Bears before finishing up at home against the Giants.If Washington goes 3-0, this could very well be a game where the winner gets a wild-card spot and/or the No. 5 seed, both of which would be useful. The fifth seed in the NFC probably will travel to face the NFC South winner before facing the Seahawks in Seattle, which sounds bad, but not as bad as the alternative; the sixth seed probably will face the Lions in Detroit and have to follow that by opposing the Cowboys in Dallas. If it does lose to the Eagles this week and then falls to the Giants in Week 17, Washington would need to win its other two games and get a lot of help to make it into the playoffs. 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