|Verfasst am: 28.11.2018, 08:09 Titel: www.patriotsauthorizedshop.com
|Four of the five teams that gave up the fewest points during the regular season are the last four left with a shot at the Super Bowl Patriots Danny Shelton Jersey , something that had never happened since the NFL-AFL merger nearly a half-century ago.
And three of the four toughest to gain yards against are still around, too.
Still think that all a team needs to succeed in the modern game is an elite QB? Go ahead and take a close look at Sunday’s matchups for the conference championship games.
Sure, Tom Brady (assuming his injured right hand is good to go) and the New England Patriots will be playing for the AFC title, just like they always do, but they’ll be going up against Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Over in the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles will send Nick Foles out to face the Minnesota Vikings and Case Keenum, hardly a marquee matchup between quarterbacks, and one set up by injuries to other signal-callers.
What this quartet of teams does have in common is solid defense, showing once again that while everyone is paying so much attention to one side of the ball, it’s the other that might truly matter the most. The more league rules and officiating tend to favor offenses, the more figuring out ways to slow that down is imperative.
”When you have a defense that can shut that type of firepower down,” said Brian Robison, a linebacker on the Vikings defense that ranked No. 1 in yards and points allowed, ”it allows you to win ballgames.”
Minnesota gave up 15.8 points per game. Jacksonville was No. 2 at 16.8, followed by No. 4 Philadelphia’s 18.4 and No. 5 New England’s 18.5.
”There’s teams that have really good defenses that aren’t talked about,” Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. ”We’re one of them.”
It’s the first time since the 1970 merger there has been that sort of defensive dominance among the NFL’s final four. The closest was at the end of the 2010 season, when teams that ranked No. 1 (Steelers), No. 2 (Packers), No. 4 (Bears) and No. 6 (Jets) in points allowed reached the conference title games.
”The most heralded guys on the field are the quarterbacks. So I would say, nine times out of 10, your detail goes into your offensive planning and things like that,” said Jacksonville’s leading tackler, Telvin Smith, who returned a fumble 50 yards for a touchdown last weekend. ”Offense sells tickets, and defense wins championships. I’m happy I’m on the defensive side.”
He is part of a young, talented and speedy D that rose to prominence quickly via a combination of shrewd drafting (linebackers Smith and Myles Jack Patriots Jason McCourty Jersey , defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr., cornerback Jalen Ramsey) and free-agent signings that panned out (defensive lineman Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye, safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson).
Take a look at the regular-season rankings in various defensive categories, and you can’t miss the Jaguars. That helps explain how they made it this far with Bortles, whose 84.7 rating ranked 22nd among QBs with at least 100 pass attempts and whose 13 interceptions were exceeded by only six players.
Campbell tied for second in NFL with 14.5 sacks, while Ngakoue added 12 and led the league by forcing six fumbles. Bouye tied for third with six interceptions, while Ramsey, Gipson and Church each had four. As a unit, the Jaguars were No. 2 in yards allowed at 286.1, trailing the No. 1 Vikings (275.9), with the Eagles (306.5) at No. 4. The Jaguars were also second in sacks and total takeaways, while they topped the NFL with seven defensive TDs.
Exceptional defense can carry a team far: In nine of the last 10 seasons, the No. 1 or No. 2 team in points allowed participated in a conference championship game. The exception was 2015, when the Seahawks led the league in that category but lost in the divisional round, and the Bengals ranked second but lost in the wild-card round.
”Now it’s down to, `May the best defense win,”’ Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham said. ”We each get to showcase what we can do.”
AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell in Eden Prairie, Minnesota; Kyle Hightower in Foxborough, Massachusetts; Mark Long in Jacksonville, Florida; and Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia contributed to this report.
The Arizona Diamondbacks open a four-game series Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and by the time they move on to Miami, their rotation could look different. As in, more intact.
Right-hander Zack Godley (7-5, 4.77 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh righty Ivan Nova (4-5, 4.42) in the opener and Patriots Trent Brown Jersey , in fact, the Diamondbacks (40-33) have starters penciled in all four games against the Pirates (36-37).
But starters Shelby Miller (Tommy John surgery) and Robbie Ray (strained right oblique) appear close to returning, particularly Miller.
“He’s getting close,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said of Miller. “With these outings and the feedback he’s giving us, he’s telling us that he’s getting closer every day.”
One possibility is that Miller will replace Matt Koch, who allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings Wednesday in a 5-4 loss against the Angels.
“Yet to be determined,” Lovullo said. “We’re going to huddle up and have some conversations … and figure out what the next course of action.”
In the meantime, Godley is 2-0 with a 2.92 ERA over his past two starts. That includes a 7-3 win Friday against the New York Mets when he gave up two runs in 6 2/3 innings.
“I had to fight through myself pretty much for the first three innings and then after that kind of settled in a little bit and got some quick outs and was able to go deep into the game,” Godley said. “I was just kind of fighting myself body-wise, just kind of not finishing some of my pitches and leaving some up and in on righties and up and away on lefties.”
Getting through that impressed Lovullo.
“He’s battling himself,” Lovullo said of Godley’s early innings in that game. “He can’t duplicate pitches, and he just made some key pitches at the right time. … So, when you see things like that when a guy doesn’t have his best stuff, that’s what sticks out for me. Pretty impressive.”
Godley is 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA in two appearances, one start, against Pittsburgh.
The Diamondbacks, who were off Wednesday, have won eight of their past 12 games. That includes taking two of three last week when the Pirates visited Chase Field.
Pittsburgh last lost two home games in a row against Arizona but had won six in a row before that.
The Pirates have won four of six after getting an impromptu day off Wednesday — their game against Milwaukee was postponed after a rain delay of more than two hours.
Nova, like Godley, is coming off two good starts, going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA since he came off the disabled list (sprained finger).
On Saturday, he struggled with his curveball but it didn’t stop him from allowing just one run and five hits in six innings in a 6-2 win over Cincinnati.
“Even though I walked a couple guys, the fastball command is better than what it was before I hit the DL,” Nova said. “I think I’ve been able to control it a bit better. I think that’s been the key.”
Nova is 1-1 with a 4.00 ERA in three career starts against the Diamondbacks.
Pittsburgh will be without starting left fielder Corey Dickerson for at least the start of the series. He is on family leave.
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