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17/08/2018

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Minnesota has a gleaming new stadium. Wholesale Vans Shoes Online . The Vikings are division champions for the first time in six years. Now theyre reeling from the loss of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the entire season.The headlines around the division sure have a purple shade.Theres still plenty of green, or rather Green Bay, left to repaint the NFC North horizon.Aaron Rodgers and the proud Packers have wide receiver Jordy Nelson back from the right ACL injury that kept him from playing in 2015, aiming for repossession of the title.Rodgers came back leaner after some dietary changes, recharged for another run at a Super Bowl trophy hes touched once -- five-plus years ago.My 12th season, all with the same team, its exciting, said Rodgers, who will turn 33 on Dec. 2. It actually gets a little sweeter I think every single year.Dethroning the Vikings would sure be delicious. Fittingly, the Packers will be Minnesotas opponent on Sept. 18 for their regular-season opener at U.S. Bank Stadium in front of a crowd of 66,000 and a Sunday night national TV audience.Bridgewater, who dislocated his left knee and tore the anterior cruciate ligament in practice last Tuesday, will be relegated to inspirational pregame speaker for that one.Were not looking for excuses. Were going to go out and fight like we always do, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said after Bridgewater was hurt. Everybody can count us out if they want, but I think that would be the wrong thing to do.While it appears Shaun Hill will step in for now, the Vikings also acquired quarterback Sam Bradford from the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday for a pair of draft picks, including a first-rounder in 2017.Keeping up with Minnesota and Green Bay will be a challenge for Detroit and Chicago, with the Lions trying to avoid replicating that 1-7 start in 2015 and the Bears burdened by a five-year absence from the playoffs.Heres a quick glance around the NFC North as this Great Lakes states quartet gets ready for the regular season:UNDER COVERThe Vikings have moved back inside after a two-year stint at the University of Minnesota while their $1.1 billion, ship-shaped, see-through venue was being built. The gawking will go on all season, with the translucent, space-age roof and the ground-to-ceiling glass on the front side giving the enclosed stadium an outdoor feel.The controlled climate ought to help a passing game that has lagged near the bottom of the league, but losing Bridgewater sure wont. Hill, a 15-year veteran, and Bradford will be aided by the additions this season of left guard Alex Boone and wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.DIGGING INTo take back the division title theyve won eight times in 14 years, the Packers need some improvement on defense. Linebacker Clay Matthews has moved back outside to his natural position, after a solid performance playing inside to fill in.That has put the spotlight once again on the men in the middle, a position that has often been in flux during the past decade under coach Mike McCarthy.Jake Ryan and Sam Barrington are the expected starters for now. Ryan cracked the starting lineup down the stretch as a rookie fourth-round draft pick, and Barrington has been working his way back from a foot injury that cost him most of the season. The Packers ranked 21st and 23rd in yards rushing allowed in the NFL the past two years.AIR BEARSAlshon Jeffery was the only player who topped 500 yards receiving for the Bears last season, and calf, hamstring, groin and shoulder problems limited him to nine games. The seventh pick in the 2015 draft, Kevin White, missed his rookie season because of a stress fracture in his left shin. That left Jay Cutler without much to work with in the passing game.With stalwart running back Matt Forte and talented tight end Martellus Bennett gone, therell be even more onus on Jeffery and White to not only stay healthy but produce like a top-flight tandem. Jeremy Langford will be the featured runner, now that Forte has joined the New York Jets.GETTING GROUNDEDDetroits replacement of Calvin Johnson, following the star wide receivers surprise retirement at age 30, will be under scrutiny all fall. Newcomers Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin and Andre Roberts, who have 25 seasons of experience in the league between them, are getting settled with quarterback Matthew Stafford to supplement Golden Tate.Running back Ameer Abdullah, along with third-down standout Theo Riddick, is really the one to watch, though. The Lions ranked last in the league in rushing yards last season when Abdullah was a rookie. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, under whom Stafford thrived after a midseason change, has been tasked with establishing better balance.PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISHPackers, Vikings, Lions, Bears.---Online:AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL coverage on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL Vans Shoes Outlet . Aaron Harrison scored a 22 points for Kentucky (6-1), which has won four in a row following a Nov. 12 loss to current No. 1 Michigan State. Julius Randle overcame a scoreless first half and added his sixth double-double in as many games with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Vans Shoes Clearance . Newcastle dominated in the early stages but City weathered the storm and then raised its game in extra time. Negredo broke the deadlock from close range after a simple move in the 99th minute before Dzeko took the ball round goalkeeper Tim Krul to seal the victory in the 105th. http://www.vansoutletstore.com/ . -- Running backs Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings were back at practice for the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday despite being hampered by hamstring injuries. LOS ANGELES -- It really is hard to find a narrative that LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers isnt willing to indulge in. The other night he even asked a group of journalism students from USC, who were observing his postgame news conference, for extra questions at the end of what had already been a lengthy session after a blowout 127-95 win against the Brooklyn Nets.But there is one subject he isnt touching right now.And its a topic the rest of the league most definitely is talking about with the Clippers off to a franchise-best 10-1 start.So you know theres all this talk of the Clippers being the best team in the NBA now ...Noooo. Mmm, mmm. Nooo. Nooo, Rivers said before the question was even asked.Part of Rivers caution is the youngness of the season. Eleven games is hardly a large enough sample size to start making judgments, let alone boast about anything.But mostly its because Rivers and his team have been stung by all manner of playoff scorpions in recent years.You get tired of losing, Rivers said. The whole second-round [playoff ceiling the franchise has yet to break through] ... I dont think our guys care about that, they just want to win. At some point guys just get tired of losing. I think our guys are at that point.There are all sorts of metrics that would make a compelling case for the Clippers as the best team in the NBA right now.According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Clippers have outscored their opponents by 183 points this season, the fourth-best margin through 11 games of a season in NBA history behind only the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls (plus-212), 1964-65 Boston Celtics (plus-194) and 1971-72 Milwaukee Bucks (plus-193).Theyre leading the NBA in defensive efficiency and have the most dominant five-man lineup in the league. (According to ESPN Stats & Information, starters Blake Griffin-Chris Paul-J.J. Redick-DeAndre Jordan-Luc Mbah a Moute are 98 points better together than any other five-man lineup in the league.) They also feature a vastly improved bench with the additions of Raymond Felton, Brandon Bass and Marreese Speights.Still, Rivers isnt going there.I dont care really, Rivers said, dismissing the best-team-in-the-league talk. We like us. As good as were playing, we can play a lot better.Griffin actually started his postgame interview on Monday by saying his team had a couple of defensive lapses and couldve played better during a first quarter in which it led the Nets 35-7 at one point.Challenged to explain where any lapses couldve been in a 35-7 game, Griffin laughed and sheepishly said, Yeah, a couple.In other words, this team really doesnt want to take any bows yet.Rivers said it reminds him a bit of the 2007-08 championship team he coached in Boston. That was the NBAs first super team, if youre into those sorts of labels, where Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined forces to win each of their first titles.Oh yeah, Rivers said. It was the exact same thing with Paul and KG and Ray. They were tired of losing and they were like, Well, we gotta do it together.But that team was all about Ubuntu, a philosophy and rallying cry used by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu as they fought against apartheid in South Africa that roughly translates as, I am because we are.This years Clippers team has no such higher calling. Pierce was in Boston when Rivers explained it and ingrained Ubuntu into the DNA of that team. Hes in Los Angeles now -- although he has yet to play this season -- and says its vastly different.Its a lot different, Pierce told ESPN.com. This team has a lot of built-up frustration. They have first-round lossees, second-round losses. Vans Shoes Outlet USA. Ubuntu -- we dont have that. Its a totally different team. Different style, different team. This looks like built-up frustration over here.The biggest difference really is that the 2007-08 Celtics were about three future Hall of Famers coming together after a decade-plus of failing apart, with other teams. These Clippers have mostly been together for six years, sharing all these painful playoff losses.It all looked so promising in the first year of Lob City when the Clippers rallied to win a Game 7 on the road in Memphis in the first round of the 2012 playoffs. They were swept by San Antonio in the next round, but the season went down as a success for such a young team.They went backward in Year 2, losing to the Grizzlies in a bruising six-game first-round series. The Clippers won the first two games, lost the next three, then lost Griffin to a high-ankle sprain during walk-through practice. According to one insider, they were practicing traps to get the ball out of Zach Randolphs and Marc Gasols hands. Griffin spun, leaped, got bumped, landed on Lamar Odoms foot and let out the kind of scream that makes everyone in the gym cringe.The Clippers lost Game 6, fired coach Vinny Del Negro and turned to Rivers to get them over the hump. Instead, the Donald Sterling scandal landed like a stink bomb in the middle of a first-round series against the Golden State Warriors. The Clippers somehow pulled out the series in seven games, marking the last time theyve been ahead of the Warriors. But they basically collapsed out of emotional exhaustion in the next round against Oklahoma City. Which seemed like the worst thing that would ever happen in their careers, until they blew a 3-1 series lead against the Houston Rockets the next season.Last season was just stupid. Griffin and Paul went down with season-ending injuries in the same game of a first-round playoff series against Portland, and Damian Lillard put them out with four straight wins.You sort of have to bunch all those memories together to deal with the emotional trauma they evoke. Put it all in a run-on, stream-of-consciousness sentence and swallow it whole. Down it like a snake trying to eat a huge rat.The Houston series, Griffin said. Thats something that we still think about.Of all the Clippers playoff losses, thats still the worst because it was entirely in their hands. There wasnt a freak injury or twist of cruel fate. They just melted down.It happens, Griffin said. You saw it happen to Oklahoma City, you saw it happen to the Warriors in the Finals, the Indians if you want to go baseball. Thats part of it. As a team when you go through something like that, it can