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There isn’t a team with more tantalizing, unfulfilled upside in this bracket than the Falcons.

They have the reigning MVP in Matt Ryan, a superstar wideout in Julio Jones, a dynamic running back in Devonta Freeman and a defensive unit full of young players who can wreck havoc on opponents at different levels. And yet, despite that, it’s hard to trust the Falcons. Pete Prisco picked them to make the NFC Championship Game during our latest Pick Six Podcast and that’s on the table.

But it’s also possible to see the Falcons get overwhelmed by a Rams team during the first weekend of the playoffs and get sent home to try and reboot things for another playoff run under Dan Quinn next year. When the Falcons are operating at maximum efficiency, they are cooking with gas. But too often this season, we’ve seen them get bogged down on both sides of the ball and fall short of the expectations everyone set following last year’s Super Bowl run.

The Eagles just have to hold serve against two teams at home in order to make the Super Bowl. But in this conference-less situation, the Eagles would not have that advantage.

With so many other things going on in the Cowboys-Packers game last Sunday night, the two-touchdown performance by Green Bay wide receiver Davante Adams probably was lost in the shuffle. It was remarkable. When Adams was taken from the field on a stretcher and spent the night in a hospital after that hit by Chicago linebacker Danny Trevathan, did anyone think there was any chance that he would play the Packers’ very next game? …

Trevathan’s suspension is over, by the way. That doesn’t feel like it will be a major deterrent, does it? The feeling here remains that the league’s original two-game suspension of Trevathan was justified and it should not have been halved on appeal. …

Now the rest of Mitchell Trubisky’s NFL career begins, hopefully without a play-by-play referendum on how good he will or won’t be. …

The Cardinals may as well hand the ball often to Adrian Peterson to find out, after trading for him, if he has anything left. What do they have to lose? The league’s last-ranked rushing offense can’t get much worse.

If you want to rule a ball is fumbled, don’t blow the play dead.

You can go back and review it later. Once the whistle sounds, it’s over. NFL refs are terrible about this, and it might have cost the Jaguars.

Philly was leading 24-7, so a flea flicker was utterly unnecessary. The Eagles’ flea flicker resulted in a back-breaking touchdown that ended the game and snuffed out any hope the Vikings had. The Eagles’ play was against a really dangerous defense (so was the Patriots, and Brady made a great throw). And the Eagles’ play featured Foles throwing a laser for at touchdown pass. Plus, it came in a game after we already saw two happen in the previous game.

It’s not often for an NFL star tight end to have his wife playing in a sporting event at the same time he’s trying to win the NFC Championship Game, but that was the case for Zach Ertz on Sunday night, as his wife Julie Ertz was playing in a game for the U.S. Women’s soccer team. She was doing her best not to check the score while playing and said she texted with Zach up to the moment they had to stop.

As long as that player is paid, he might not have any recourse. But if the Cowboys were to suspend the player without pay, that could be different. The collective bargaining agreement says that a team can suspend a player without pay for as many as four games for conduct detrimental to the club. But is that detrimental conduct, especially given that the league and other teams don’t define it as such? And who gets to determine that? And the suspension could not last beyond four games, even if the Cowboys were able to impose it.

It does not look particularly promising at this point that Luck will play this season. He had resumed practicing, but now the Colts have shut him down again because of soreness in his surgically repaired shoulder.

Joel Embiid had a huge day in a lot of ways on Thursday.

DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, responded on Twitter early Saturday morning that the union “will never back down.” He also challenged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to respond to Trump’s comments:

Goodell issued a statement later Saturday morning that read: “The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”

Trump had more to say on the subject of players kneeling during the anthem on Saturday via Twitter, including a response pointed directly at Goodell.

In their statement on Friday, however, Elliott’s team promised “a slew of additional credible and controverting evidence will come to light” in the coming weeks.

Elliott and the Cowboys now have three business days to file an appeal, and a hearing on that appeal must be held within 10 days of the notice of appeal. The hearing would be heard either by Commissioner Roger Goodell or a league official designated by Goodell.

Yahoo’s Charles Robinson reported later Friday that Elliott will go to great legal lengths to clear his name, much as Tom Brady and the Patriots did during the Deflategate saga:

McAdoo was the first coach ousted, but he surely won’t be the last. Here is a look at the coaches who could be next, beginning with those whose seats seem to be the toastiest:

Burfict’s hit clearly was dangerous and probably unnecessary, given Sherman’s distance from where the pass was thrown.

“I find comforting the fact that 7 is my quarterback,” Tomlin said. “If everybody on the field is uncomfortable, then that’s advantage Pittsburgh Steelers. And that’s why we chose not to spike the ball. We wanted to try to win that game in regulation. We knew that a spike, a fake spike, an incomplete pass and then running your field goal unit out, there were seconds there that I wanted to take advantage of that’s why we instructed him not to spike it. Given the opportunity to do that again, I’d do it again.”

Whether it was illegal under the defenseless player rules is a separate matter, and that is what is at question. All of this comes against the backdrop of the sport dealing with concussion issues and attempting to get certain types of hits out of the game.

The Philadelphia Eagles won again, pushing their record to 8-1 and giving them a 2.5-game lead in the NFC East. The Kansas City Chiefs also should cruise to the AFC West crown despite Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The same goes for the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFC and AFC North, respectively.

The other divisions may be in play, but the wild-card spots are not. In fact, using each team’s talent level — which takes into account a team’s actual record and what their record should be based on points scored and allowed — to simulate the season 1,000 times shows only a few playoff spots are still up for grabs.

Kyrie Irving did not play on Thursday due to a sore left shoulder that also kept him out of practice on Wednesday. Irving is the engine of the Celtics’ offense, so his absence was uniformly bad for the entire team on Thursday. The team managed only 80 points on 40.5 FG% and 24.1 3FG%, with no one scoring more than 14 points or turning in more than four assists. Marcus Smart (available in percent of leagues) started in his place on Thursday, and turned in 13 points (6-11 FG) with 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 3-pointer and 4 TO against the 76ers. Terry Rozier was expected to play a larger role, but managed only 4 points (2-7 FG) with 2 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal and 2 TO in 20 minutes off the bench.

What a Vikings win would mean for Super Bowl ticket prices

The face value of tickets to Super Bowl 52 ranges from $950 to $5,000, an increase from last season, Yahoo Sports is reporting, citing a source with intimate knowledge of this year’s Super Bowl ticket release.

Let’s just say that if the Vikings win, there will be a lot of bass fishing boats for sale next week in Minnesota, joked one broker.

In other words, we know which team avaricious brokers will be rooting for Sunday in Philadelphia.

In addition to his various film and television appearances, Riggle is a stand-up comedian and improv actor who spent seven years studying, teaching and performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater.

According to the report, Del Rio is still set to earn an average $6 million per year from the Raiders over the next three seasons, but any salary paid by the Giants would be offset against his Oakland contract.

The report also noted that Shurmur is expected to be brought in for a second interview in New York in the coming days. Shurmur remains the Vikings’ defensive coordinator, but the speculative Giants coach could sign a new deal as early as this week if Minnesota falls to Philadelphia in Sunday’s NFC championship.

Del Rio announced he had been fired by team owner Mark Davis following the Raiders’ loss to the Chargers in their regular-season finale. Oakland finished the season with a disappointing 6-10 record after the team went 12-4 in 2016 to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

The move came one day after ESPN reported the Raiders were pursuing former NFL coach and broadcaster Jon Gruden, who was officially hired by Oakland on Jan. 6.

2018 NFC championship game: 10 fast facts for Vikings-Eagles

The Vikings are one win away from becoming the first team to host a Super Bowl.

Standing in their way are the pesky Eagles, who will be home underdogs for a second straight week. Sunday’s NFC championship game is also a battle of the two best defenses in the NFC.

Minnesota is 6-1 on the road since Week 5, tied for the best road record of any team in that time. Additionally, they rank in the top five in both yards allowed per game (298.9) and turnover differential (plus-4).

Philadelphia running back LeGarrette Blount ran for his ninth postseason touchdown last week, tying him for the seventh-most postseason rushing touchdowns in NFL history.

Last week, Minnesota wide receiver Stefon Diggs became just the fourth player in franchise postseason history with more than 130 receiving yards and more than one receiving touchdown in a game, and the first since Sidney Rice in 2010.

Philly PD commissioner Richard Ross Jr. also advised businesses that plan to be closed Sunday to take precautions against fans who might be celebrating a Philly victory.

To avoid any problems with celebrants … on Sunday, January 21, 2018, the 15th Police District respectfully request and suggest that if you own a business located in the area of Frankford and Cottman Avenues, and your business will be closed, that you have grates locked and secured in order to protect your property. Please remove anything outside your business — trash cans, flower pots, etc.

If you are a bar owner, the 15th District is requesting that you sell alcoholic beverages in plastic cups and refrain from selling take-out bottles.

That’s in contrast with Papa John’s, which cut its earnings growth expectations for the year and saw its stock fall by about 10 percent Wednesday. In reaction, CEO John Schnatter said, NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders.

Boston TV station features Aaron Hernandez in tweet about Patriots’ AFC title game win

A Boston television station tweeted a questionable file photo to accompany an article about the Patriots’ victory over the Jaguars in the AFC championship game Sunday.

The issue was going to come if it happened between warm-ups and postgame during that five-hour window on Sunday.

Based upon the pregnancy timeline, Wood believed there was a chance that delivery could happen since Leslie gave birth early to the couple’s daughter Grace.

Michigan State shot 68.2 percent, which set a record at State Farm Center for an opponent’s shooting percentage. Illinois shot 43.1 percent.

Kipper Nichols led Illinois (10-11, 0-8) with a career-high 27 points. Trent Frazier and Leron Black added 13 and 12, respectively.

In unrelated incidences, Eagles fans were also seen booing and hurling unopened beer cans at Vikings fans as they entered the stadium. No wonder some Minnesota travel agents were warning Vikings fans about possible dangers if they were traveling to Philadelphia.

Asked if Dejounte Murray would continue to start at point guard, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, We’ll see.

Murray had eight points, seven rebounds, four assists and four turnovers in 28 minutes.

A little different, so I guess we’re figuring where we need certain things (with Parker) coming off the bench to start the game, Spurs guard Danny Green said. Trying to get a happy medium of getting some fast pace, slower pace, getting it inside, working outside, but turn the ball over a little less, move it a little bit better.