SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers became the first team to clinch a playoff spot in the pandemic-shortened season, beating the San Diego Padres 7-5 Wednesday behind Dustin May’s gutty effort out of the bullpen and home runs from AJ Pollock and Chris Taylor.
Will Smith drove in three runs for the seven-time defending NL West champion Dodgers, who opened a 3 1/2-game lead in the division by winning two of three in the matchup of the NL’s two best teams.
Mookie Betts tied his career high with three stolen bases, had two hits and scored a run.
At 35-15, the Dodgers breezed into the expanded 16-team postseason field. Los Angeles is seeking its first World Series title since 1988.
San Diego, quieted by Dodgers pitching a second straight game even as it heads for its first playoff berth since winning the division in 2006, has lost two straight for the first time since mid-August.
San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr., who had been considered the NL MVP front-runner recently, went 0 for 4 to extend his slump to 2 for 27 over eight games. His average has dropped from .314 to .281.
May, who had been scheduled to start before manager Dave Roberts decided to go with a bullpen day, was the Dodgers’ third pitcher of the game. He went 5 1/3 innings and was in control until Jurickson Profar homered to right field with two outs in the seventh to pull the Dodgers to 7-3. Mitch Moreland reached on an error by second baseman Gavin Lux opening the inning.
After Profar’s homer, May struck out Trent Grisham and blew off some steam by yelling a few profanities that could be heard around empty Petcom Park. Grisham angered the Dodgers by briefly posing at the plate after homering off Clayton Kershaw in the Padres’ 7-2 win Monday night.
May allowed Manny Machado’s solo homer with one out in the eighth, his 14th, and was lifted by Roberts.
Until the seventh, May had breezed through four innings by allowing only a single and a walk. May struck out six in .
Starter Brusdar Gasterol allowed a hit and a run in 1 1/3 innings before Adam Kolarek (3-0) allowed a hit and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.
Pedro Baez got the final two outs for his second save.
San Diego used nine pitchers.
Pollock homered past the palm trees to the right of the batter’s eye in straightaway center field off rookie Adrian Morejon (2-1) with two outs in the second. It was his 11th. Taylor greeted Garrett Richards with a leadoff shot into the second deck in left -center leading off the sixth, his sixth, for a 7-1 lead.
San Diego tied it in the bottom of the inning. Wil Myers hit a one-out double off Graterol, who made way for Kolarek. Jason Castro doubled with two outs to bring in Myers.
The Dodgers regained the lead in the third against Joey Lucchesi, who opened the season in the rotation before being sent to the alternate training site after two starts. Making his first big league relief appearance, he allowed Max Muncy’s two-run double and Smith’s RBI infield single in the third. Lucchesi slipped trying to field Smith’s checked-swing dribbler and the catcher beat it out for a hit.
Dodgers: Placed LHP Caleb Ferguson on the IL with an injured left elbow. He was scheduled to have an MRI in Los Angeles on Wednesday after facing just one batter Tuesday night. To take his roster spot, RHP Josh Sborz was recalled.
Padres: Reinstated C Francisco Mejía (bruised left thumb) from the 10-day IL and optioned OF Abraham Almonte to the alternate training site.
Dodgers: LHP Julio Urías (3-0, 3.53) is scheduled to start the opener of a four-game series Thursday night at Colorado, which will counter with LHP Kyle Freeland (2-1, 3.54).
Padres: RHP Chris Paddack (3-4, 4.74) is scheduled to start Friday night in the opener of a three-game series at Seattle.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Chiefs unanimous No. 1 in the AP Pro32 poll
NEW YORK (AP) — Patrick Mahomes showed once again that the defending Super Bowl champs are the class of the NFL.
In a matchup of the past two regular-season Most Valuable Players, Mahomes got the better of Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night.
Mahomes threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns and added a rushing TD in the Chiefs’ 34-20 victory over the Ravens in the highly anticipated matchup.
That victory kept the Chiefs on top in the latest AP Pro32 poll. And this week, it’s unanimous: Kansas City received all 12 first-place votes for 384 points in balloting Tuesday by media members who regularly cover the NFL.
”The Chiefs imposed their will against the Ravens on Monday night, proving they remain the best team in the NFL,” said Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk.
”Maybe they left a question about that following their overtime win over the Chargers in Week 2. There is no doubt now.”
The Ravens fell two spots into a tie for fourth with the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills.
Russell Wilson, another QB off to an outstanding start, and the Seattle Seahawks climbed a spot to reach No. 2 in the poll.
”With a record 14 touchdown passes through the first three weeks of the season, Russell Wilson has been the definition of an MVP so far,” said Jenny Vrentas of The Monday Morning Quarterback.
”The only downside of his performance is that he’s almost required to play this well for his team to win, as the Seattle defense has given up nearly 500 yards per game.”
And the Green Bay Packers also gained a spot to reach No. 3. The Packers will look to stay unbeaten when they close out Week 4 by hosting the winless Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.
”Aaron Rodgers is off to a spectacular start, and the Packers get out of the gate at 3-0, looking very much like an early Super Bowl contender,” Newsday’s Bob Glauber said.
The Pittsburgh Steelers remained at No. 6 and are scheduled to face the Tennessee Titans, who moved up three spots to No. 8, in the only matchup of 3-0 teams.
But Sunday’s game could be in doubt after the Titans suspended in-person activities through Friday after the NFL said three Titans players and five personnel tested positive for the coronavirus.
The New England Patriots gained a spot to No. 7 and will head to Arrowhead Stadium to face the Chiefs on Sunday.
The Los Angeles Rams slipped two spots to No. 9 after their comeback fell just short in Buffalo in a 35-32 loss.
And Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers round out the top 10; they jumped five places after beating the winless Denver Broncos.
”Brady & (coach Bruce) Arians still figuring out all their options on offense, but the defense is rock solid,” Fox Sports’ John Czarnecki said.
The Broncos, who are ranked No. 30, will open Week 4 when they head to the Meadowlands on Thursday night to face the New York Jets, who remain last at No. 32.
”What’s even more cringe-worthy than watching the league’s worst team is seeing (quarterback) Sam Darnold’s regression in a pivotal third NFL season,” said Alex Marvez of Sirius XM.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL
Projections to help with sit-start decisions
With a healthy dash of context, it could be helpful — actionable, even — to know how a defense is being attacked.
Are opposing offenses peppering the middle of the field against a certain defense, leading to a glut of tight end opportunity? Are wide receivers having their way against a defense, commanding a massive target share? Are running backs seeing plenty of dump off opportunities against a particular defense?
These are questions I’ll address in this space, examining which positions are seeing the most opportunity against a certain defense in an exercise that might serve as the tiebreaker in your agonizing start-sit decisions.
We’re going to glean from 2019 target data to start, but with every passing week, our understanding of how offenses are going after defenses should improve. Context will be key, as a bunch of targets to Travis Kelce doesn’t mean Tyler Eifert is going to see the same kind of opportunity against the same defense. If only it were that easy.
These numbers are compiled weekly by my lovely Living The Stream co-host, JJ Zachariason.
Devin Singletary (Buffalo Bills) vs. Raiders: In 12-team leagues, you might be torn on using Singletary in the flex this week after he got the backfield gig to himself in Week 3 and failed to cap off an otherwise productive day with a touchdown. Fantasy managers in 10-team leagues might not consider Singletary this week, depending on roster construction. But wait!
Singletary’s peripherals, even with rookie Zack Moss in the lineup, have been encouraging, bordering on spectacular. In Week 1, he out-snapped Moss 59 percent to 45 percent, seeing seven targets to Moss’ four, and running 26 routes to Moss’ 20 routes. Yeah, Moss caught the touchdown. The opportunity belonged to Singletary though. In Week 2, Singletary again out-snapped, out-targeted, and ran more routes than the rookie. Moss, in fact, didn’t run a single route that week, seeing eight carries to Singletary’s 10.
With Moss out of the Buffalo lineup last week, Singletary drew five targets (16 percent target share) while running the fifth most routes among running backs (36). TJ Yeldon went without a target and got three totes. That’s a long winded way of saying that even if Moss is activate for Week 4 against the Raiders, Singletary looks an awful lot like the primary pass-catching back for the Bills.
Running backs have seen 32.3 percent of the targets against the Raiders through Week 3. Only the Panthers have allowed a bigger target share to backs. You may furrow your brow and say, but wait dear fantasy analyst, didn’t the Raiders play Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara in the season’s opening weeks? You would be correct, dear fantasy analysis consumer. But CMC saw just four targets against the Raiders in Week 1. Kamara had nine targets in Week 2, and perhaps most tellingly, Rex Burkhead saw 10 targets against Vegas in Week 3. Patriots backs totaled 14 targets against the Silver and Black. No defense has been beat for more running back receiving yards than the Raiders.
Vegas linebacker Cory Littleton has been taken advantage of by opposing runners this year, allowing 14 receptions on 19 targets for 130 yards. All of five linebackers have given up more catches this season. Vegas linebacker Nicholas Morrow has been less terrible, giving up six catches on 12 targets for 59 yards and a touchdown. Singletary could continue the running back pass-catching onslaught against Vegas if he gets matched up with Littleton. He should see solid opportunity either way.
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Dalton Schultz (Dallas Cowboys) vs. Browns: A mere six tight ends ran more pass routes than Schultz last week against Seattle. In Week 2, only seven tight ends ran more routes than Schultz. He’s a mainstay in a high-powered offense that averages a league-high 76.7 offensive snaps per game. It’s hard to ask for much else from a fantasy tight end plucked off the waiver wire two weeks ago.
Schultz, with 16 targets (16 percent of the Cowboys’ target share) over his two games as starter, gets a prime matchup this week against Cleveland. Nearly 26 percent of targets against the Browns this year have gone to tight ends — the fifth highest rate in the league. That comes out to 31 tight end targets over three weeks. Only the Saints and Falcons have allowed more tight end receptions than the Browns.
It didn’t amount to much, but last week Logan Thomas had seven targets against the Browns, finding himself open on most of those looks. He didn’t get many catchable balls from Dwayne Haskins, infuriatingly enough.
Opponents using their tight ends against Cleveland is hardly a mystery: the team has struggled to fill injury gaps at safety and linebacker, leaving backups and special team players to cover tight ends. Safety Andrew Sendejo has been targeted seven times, resulting in five receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown. Fellow safety Karl Joseph has given up seven grabs for 59 yards and a score on just eight targets. Meanwhile, Browns linebacker B.J. Goodson is the most targeted linebacker in the NFL, allowing 18 catches for 167 yards and a touchdown on 25 targets through three weeks. Schultz will likely see coverage from some combination of Goodson, Joseph, and Sendejo this Sunday.
Dallas has an implied total of 29.75 points. Good process says we play tight ends on teams with high totals. Let’s go.
Greg Ward (Philadelphia Eagles) at 49ers: It’s something less than fun to tout a guy catching passes from Carson Wentz, but here I am, doing just that.
Despite their best efforts to improve their receiver grouping this season, the Eagles are once again left with Ward as the presumed No. 1 option. We saw Ward last week command a 25 percent target share, the 11th highest of Week 3. The converted quarterback ended up with 72 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals while running 46 routes, more than all but six wide receivers in Week 3.
Ward in Week 4 goes against a 49ers defense that’s seen 68 percent of opponents’ targets go to wideouts. Only two teams — Seattle and Philadelphia — have a higher rate. It’s not quite the opportunity that it might seem because the 49ers are allowing 63 offensive plays per game, the ninth lowest in the NFL.
I’m not sure we can put much stock in the Giants’ Week 3 performance against the Niners. The entire New York offense was a raging dumpster fire — an unholy sight that should inspire a new horror movie franchise. Their main wideouts, Darius Slayton and Golden Tate, each saw a meager seven targets. It wasn’t so bleak in Week 2, when the practice squad guys playing receiver for the Jets saw 25 targets against the 49ers. Arizona receivers, led by DeAndre Hopkins, saw 27 targets against the Niners on the opening Sunday.
Alshon Jeffrey is expected to miss another week in his long, slow comeback from offseason foot surgery. DeSean Jackson is banged up, as per usual. Jalen Reagor is out for at least another month. That leaves Ward and rookie John Hightower — who ran more routes than Ward in Week 3 — as the team’s lone healthy wideouts. With the Eagles likely to face heaps of negative game script (they’re 7 point road underdogs) this week, you could do worse than Ward as a flex play in deeper formats.
C.D. Carter is co-host of Living The Stream, owner of DraftDayConsultants.com and author of fantasy football books, including How To Think Like A Fantasy Football Winner. He can be found on Twitter @cdcarter13. He never logs off.
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Josh McDaniels explains how he’s rebuilt the playbook around Cam Newton’s strengths
When the New England Patriots gave the starting quarterback job to Cam Newton, they were committing to building an offense around him.
That’s how New England does it. Bill Belichick insinuated as much when he said in Sept. that “everything we’ve done for the last 20 years, and rightfully so, was for Tom Brady.” A similar logic applies to their next quarterback, Newton. They’ll make their offensive decisions around him. But because Newton and Brady have some significant differences in their style of play, the Patriots have had to morph their offense.
“It’s different,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels told reporters on Tuesday. “There’s certainly a huge chunk of what we’ve been able to try and do in the past that we continue to try and do. You take certain strengths of each player and in this particular case we’re talking about the quarterback. You take the strengths of the players that you have and you try to put them in the positions to be successful that they have the most confidence in.
“Whether it is some version of an adjustment in the running game, some ability to use his legs or his size and strength, we’ve tried to do some of all of that. At the same time, the most important thing for us and for Cam, is to run the offense.”
There is overlap between the offense that Newton runs and the one Brady ran. McDaniels noted that Newton will need to execute the same fundamentals that Brady did. That means that some plays will be identical. But he and Newton are working together to make sure the offense is the best it can be every week as New England designs their custom game plan for each opponent.
“I think the development, even though he’s played in the league a long time, I think the development of this year for him as a player and our team as an offense, is far from over. Really enjoying the process. I look forward to every day I get to coach him and he obviously reciprocates that with his effort and the time he spends trying to prepare himself for the game.”
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