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Sources — Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game moved to Tuesday due to coronavirus outbreak



The COVID-19 outbreak in Baltimore has led the NFL to postpone the Baltimore RavensPittsburgh Steelers game for a second time.

The Ravens will now play at the undefeated Steelers on Tuesday night, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Dianna Russini.

This is the third time in the Super Bowl era that an NFL game will be played on Tuesday. It happened in Week 5 this season when the Bills-Titans game was postponed because of a coronavirus outbreak in Tennessee. It also occurred in 2010 when a blizzard in Philadelphia shifted an Eagles-Vikings game.

The Ravens and Steelers were originally scheduled to play on Thanksgiving night. The NFL moved the game to Sunday after several Ravens players had tested positive in consecutive days.

The next step is for the NFL to move the Ravens’ next game. Baltimore was scheduled to play host to the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night, but that won’t happen now because the Ravens play the Steelers only two days prior.

At least 12 Ravens players have tested positive for COVID-19, including reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson. With Jackson quarantining for 10 days, Robert Griffin III will start against Pittsburgh. It’s his second start in the past four years.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh told his players on Thursday that they wouldn’t be allowed to return to the team facility until Monday at the earliest due to safety concerns, a source said.

The Ravens have had only two days of walk-throughs this week. Baltimore has been limited to virtual meetings since its team facility was closed on at noon Tuesday.

The Steelers canceled practice on Friday as they awaited clarification from the NFL. Coach Mike Tomlin also canceled Thursday’s practice, but the team is expected to practice on Saturday. The Steelers were last on the field together Wednesday.

This isn’t the first time the Steelers have dealt with shifting schedules this season. In Week 4, the Steelers-Titans game was initially postponed from Sunday to “either Monday or Tuesday” of that week as the Titans fought to control their own COVID-19 outbreak. The league eventually pushed the game back even more, rearranging the schedule for the Steelers and Titans to play Week 7 and the Steelers to face the Ravens in Week 8. With the shuffle, the Steelers’ bye moved from Week 8 to Week 4.

Information from ESPN’s Brooke Pryor was used in this report.

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Pittsburgh Steelers not bringing back offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner



PITTSBURGH — Following through on Mike Tomlin’s promise to make changes after a first-round exit in the playoffs, the Steelers announced Thursday that offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner is out.

The Steelers will not renew his contract or the contracts of offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett and defensive backs coach Tom Bradley.

The organization is also discussing a new Steelers discussing new contract with DC Keith Butler, who, at 64, plans to go year-to-year before eventually retiring, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

“I didn’t anticipate being here in this position,” Tomlin said in his end-of-season news conference Wednesday. “Disappointed by it. Understand that we better make some changes in terms of the things we do. We better look at every aspect of it. Schematics, personnel, approach to business. I am committed to that. I am also committed to not sitting in this position and feeling the way we feel right now moving forward.”

Fichtner, a long-time quarterbacks coach for the organization, drew ire in the last two seasons for the sluggish offense. The Steelers finished last in the league with 1,351 rushing yards, down from the year before when they finished 29th with 1,447 yards.

“We will not accept our current position in that area,” Tomlin said of the run game. “We cannot. We have to attack that and we will.”

Fichtner took over for Todd Haley as the offensive coordinator beginning with the 2018 season, but he’s been in Pittsburgh since 2007, when he began his tenure as the wide receivers coach in Tomlin’s first year as head coach.

Sarrett was initially promoted to offensive line coach in January 2019 after a season as the assistant offensive line coach under Mike Munchak. Sarrett joined the Steelers in 2012 as an offensive assistant.

Bradley was hired in February 2018 and coached the group for three seasons. Prior to that, he was the UCLA defensive coordinator and was a long time Penn State defensive coach.

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Ghostbuster Baker Mayfield exorcising playoff demons, giving Browns confidence – Cleveland Browns Blog



BEREA, Ohio — While on the road recruiting seven years ago, Bob Stoops kept hearing the same strange rumor — that Baker Mayfield, then a freshman at Texas Tech, was transferring to Oklahoma.

“I’m like, well, he hadn’t called me, I hadn’t heard from him,” Stoops recalled. “And then I asked my coaches, any of you guys heard from Baker Mayfield? I hear he’s coming to OU. And no one had heard. I said, ‘Well, we’ll see when we get back from break if he’s here.'”

Sure enough, Mayfield showed up to Norman from Lubbock, unannounced and uninvited. He then proceeded to do what he’s always done — first, he won over his teammates, then led them to wins on the field.

“He has such a way about him,” said Stoops, who was selected into the College Football Hall of Fame this week. “He’s always succeeded, he’s always won — and there’s a lot to do with having that feeling that’s deep inside of you, ‘that I win.’ He’s been a winner his whole life. … and that’s infectious, everybody feeds off of it, everybody picks up on it and you can’t fake that stuff.

“People pick up on it and they feel it and they start to believe it.”

Fresh off their first playoff victory in 26 years, Mayfield has the star-crossed Cleveland Browns believing now, as well.

Playing without coach Kevin Stefanski, Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio and star cornerback Denzel Ward — all of whom stayed home after testing positive for COVID-19 — the Browns stunned the Steelers last Sunday behind Mayfield’s scintillating postseason debut.

The 2018 No. 1 overall pick passed for 263 yards and three touchdowns, including a scoring screen to Nick Chubb in the fourth quarter that proved to be the dagger in a 48-37 win.

Because of COVID-19 protocols, the Browns had practiced only once all week leading in, not including a walk-through the day before the game. Yet, despite such unprecedented turmoil, Cleveland came out swinging, scoring 28 unanswered points in the first half alone, as the Browns snapped a 17-game losing streak in Pittsburgh in their first playoff appearance since 2002.

Next up is Sunday’s trip to top-seeded Kansas City (3:05 p.m. ET, CBS), where Cleveland will take on the defending Super Bowl champs for a chance to advance to its first AFC Championship Game since 1989.

“We’re here for a reason,” Mayfield says defiantly. “I wasn’t here for the things that have happened in the past, some of which I was too young to even remember.

“There’s a new standard, and we are going to try and keep it that way.”

Before Mayfield arrived, Cleveland’s standard couldn’t have been any lower. The Browns were coming off the second 0-16 season in NFL history, one year after going 1-15. But at the NFL combine, Mayfield famously declared that “if anybody’s gonna turn that franchise around, it would be me.” He said the Browns would be getting a winner, and he could guide them in the right direction. “They just need that one guy at quarterback,” he said then, “to make that difference.”

Three seasons later, Mayfield is delivering on that ambitious vow. And the Browns are beginning to believe in the new standard.

“He’s a winner, that’s his mindset,” Chubb said. “It’s big. … and definitely something that’s been contagious.”

Hank Carter walked into the Lake Travis High School indoor practice field 11 years ago to evaluate the incoming freshman class. It didn’t take long for the smallest on the field to stick out.

“He was like this little-bitty field general, not only dominating the conversation, and maybe even some of the mild trash talk, but also playing at a really high level in there,” said Carter, who soon would be promoted to head coach of the Austin, Texas, powerhouse program. “I’m from the country, so I compare it to a sheepdog, the way a sheepdog will just run a whole herd of massive bulls or cows, just because his bark is so ferocious. That’s what Baker always reminded me of.”

Though 5-foot-3 back then, Mayfield already had the gift of galvanizing those around him then.

“That’s his secret sauce, and why guys play so hard with him and believe in him,” Carter said. “And it’s been the same way everywhere he’s been. … Baker has always been able to build strong bonds and relationships with teammates, whether they’re offensive players, defensive players, and he’s going to have their back no matter what.”

To this day, Mayfield remains Carter’s only quarterback to get flagged for a personal foul in summertime 7-on-7. And though it happened more than once, Carter noted those penalties always came from Mayfield defending a teammate.

“We were playing a team that wanted to kick our butt and let us know about it,” Carter recalled. “They caught a fade and they went up and ‘Mossed’ our cornerback, and really let him know about it. So, the very next play, Baker went right after that kid, who was also playing defense, and Baker called a fade right on him and threw a touchdown. Of course, Baker ran down there and let him know about it in defense of his teammate. He’s got a little bit of that Jordan memory, right?

“He’s extremely loyal to his teammates and his coaches and his friends. People that have invested in him, he’s invested in them, too, and he tries to be their defender. To me, it’s an admirable trait, because he’s having his brother’s back, which you talk about in sports so much, right? Play for one another and be there for one another, and he walks the walk and talks to talk as well on that deal.”

Carter still references Mayfield’s leadership qualities often when addressing his teams. But the quality Carter cites most of the brash gunslinger might seem surprising.

“I don’t think people use this word in referencing Baker very much because they don’t know him, but it’s his humility,” Carter said. “And what I mean by that is, he wasn’t afraid to go walk-on, he wasn’t afraid to be the scout-team quarterback. He’s not a diva. He’ll get in there and get his hands dirty. He’s an every-man, and sometimes the quarterbacks aren’t one of the guys that way.”

In addition to being a two-time walk-on in college, Mayfield didn’t make varsity as a high school sophomore. He didn’t start to begin his junior season, either. But Mayfield could always rally those around him. And one of Carter’s favorites stories to tell came off the field, the morning after Mayfield had quarterbacked the Cavaliers to a playoff victory.

“Our band was going to a state competition, but the football guys didn’t want to go over there and give the band a send-off. They thought they were too cool for that,” Carter said. “But Baker got the entire team over there, and was at the front doing chants and yells to encourage those kids as they were getting on the bus, which meant a lot to them.

“That was him being humble. He’ll put himself out there and he’ll go to war with you. And he’s got a very infectious personality in that way.”

That carried over back on to the field, with Mayfield soon leading Lake Travis to the 2011 state title.

In 2013, Mayfield became the first true freshman walk-on to start for a Power 5 program. Sonny Cumbie, then Texas Tech’s co-offensive coordinator, remembers being blown away by Mayfield’s self-confidence during fall camp, despite showing up without a scholarship.

“He had that from the moment that he got here,” said Cumbie, who recently returned to Tech as its offensive coordinator. “I mean, the moment he came in, the other players, they just gravitated towards that.”

Mayfield summarily quarterbacked the Red Raiders to a 5-0 start before injuring his knee. When then-head coach Kliff Kingsbury didn’t hand him back the starting job later in the season, Mayfield opted to transfer — though not before hosting quarterback Patrick Mahomes on his official visit to Lubbock.

About the same time, the Sooners had just defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl behind redshirt freshman Trevor Knight, who unleashed arguably the best quarterbacking performance in OU history. Mayfield still transferred to OU, the team he grew up cheering.

“Didn’t faze him a bit,” Stoops said. “That describes the guy’s confidence right there. All you need to know.

“He comes walking up to me at our first team meeting, coming back for the second semester. We’re all getting ready to eat. He comes up, says ‘Coach, I’m Baker Mayfield.’ And I looked at him, ‘You sure as hell are, aren’t you?’ And I said, ‘Look, I’m damn glad you’re here. You will have every opportunity that every other guy has on this team to be the starting quarterback.’ And shoot, just watching him in a week or of two workouts, we’re like, ‘We got to put this guy on scholarship — we’re not going out and recruiting anybody who can do what this guy can do.'”

As a transfer, Mayfield still had to redshirt that 2014 season. But starting with his competitiveness running scout-team quarterback, Mayfield gradually began to win over his new teammates.

“I remember Baker showing up and we’re playing 7-on-7, and I was talking a bunch of crap to him and he was talking crap back. Then I remember he threw a ball at my head and we almost fought. After that day, I knew I liked him,” said Los Angeles Rams linebacker Obo Okoronkwo, then a freshman at Oklahoma, whom Mayfield texted this week just to tell him he was rooting for him in the NFC playoffs. “If you’ve ever been his teammate, if you’ve ever been in the locker room with him, you love the guy to death.”

While Mayfield continued to turn heads, the Sooners struggled that season, which ended with a humiliating 40-6 loss to Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Yet the following spring, Mayfield already was taking over the team, which incoming offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley recognized immediately.

“He’ll put himself out there and he’ll go to war with you. And he’s got a very infectious personality in that way.”

Hank Carter, Baker Mayfield’s high school coach

“You could tell the competitiveness, the swagger, I mean, he already had a pretty remarkable rapport with the team, considering he’d never played a down there when I got there,” Riley told in an interview this season. “I thought all that was really impressive. For him to be able to do all that in such a short time — win the team over, win the starting job — was pretty striking.”

That year, Mayfield had the Sooners in their first College Football Playoff. And he would lead them back there again in 2017 on the way to becoming the first former walk-on to win a Heisman Trophy.

“One of the more important things when it comes to being a quarterback is … elevating the guys around you. I think self-confidence does that,” Mayfield said this week. “I don’t have all the answers.

“But that’s how I have done it — and I’m going to continue to try to do it that way.”

Having grown up in Youngstown, Ohio, Stoops knows well the plight of the Browns and their fans.

“My dad was a huge [fan],” Stoops said. “Back in the day, I’d see him throw things at the TV at the Browns.”

Stoops, however, believed that when Cleveland drafted Mayfield in 2018, change might be on the way.

“I loved it,” Stoops said. “If he’s on your team, that motivates you and makes you want to play harder, makes you want to work for him. He’s just a guy that, to go with his talent, has an infectious personality. That’s incredibly positive when it’s on your team.”

Promise surfaced immediately during Mayfield’s first season, when he broke the NFL rookie record with 27 touchdown passes. Success, however, through four different head coaches, took a little longer. Even after a 6-10 finish last season, the Browns didn’t give up on Mayfield. And he didn’t give up on himself.

“Baker has been that way probably since he was born,” Browns veteran center JC Tretter said. “That’s his personality, that’s who he is, that’s who he is every day. As the leader of your team, that’s a really great quality to have because everybody begins to replicate that personality.

“The confidence and the swagger, it follows him and guys mimic that, and that’s why Baker is such a leader for us.”

It was fitting, then, that Mayfield delivered the play that finally ended the NFL’s longest playoff drought.

On third-and-1 with a minute left in the regular-season finale against the Steelers, Stefanski dialed up a Mayfield quarterback sweep. Following lead blockers, Mayfield dove forward for the game-clinching first down along the sidelines. He immediately popped up and pumped his entire arm before spinning the ball into the ground.

“One of the best things about Baker is he’s so very much himself in all moments,” Stefanski said. “He’s an authentic person. That rubs off on his team, and the guys respond to it.”

On the way to Cleveland’s best season since before Mayfield was born. Busting curses and snapping streaks along the way.

“Baker is the leader of our football team, and we’re rallying behind him,” Ward said. “We believe in him.

“And he believes in us.”

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NFL playoffs – Betting nuggets for the divisional round



This is the first time the Chiefs and Packers both had the best outright record in their league/conference since 1966, when Kansas City had the best record in the AFL and Green Bay had the best record in the NFL and they met in Super Bowl I. Will history repeat itself?

Here are betting nuggets for each divisional playoff game this weekend and the full schedule.

Odds listed are from Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill and subject to change.

Saturday’s games

Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (-6.5, 45.5), 4:35 p.m. ET

• Since the NFL added the wild-card round in 1978, teams that pulled off outright upsets in that round are 25-35-1 ATS in the divisional round.

Aaron Rodgers is 6-0 ATS in his career against the Rams, and Green Bay has covered seven straight meetings overall dating back to 2007.

• All five Green Bay playoff games since 2016 have gone over the total.

• Twelve of the 17 Rams games this season have gone under the total.

• All seven outdoor playoff games in weather below 32 degrees since 2017 went over the total. All four outdoor games below 32 degrees this season went over the total.

Jared Goff is 0-2 ATS and outright in his career in games below freezing with zero passing touchdowns and five interceptions.

• The current spread of 6.5 is tied for the second-largest underdog spread in a Rams game since Sean McVay took over.

• The Rams are 21-13 ATS on the road under McVay.

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills (-2.5, 50), 8:15 p.m. ET

• Baltimore is 9-1 ATS and 7-3 outright as an underdog since drafting Lamar Jackson in 2018. Jackson is 6-1 ATS and 5-2 outright as an underdog.

• Jackson is 14-3-2 ATS in his career on the road.

• Buffalo has covered eight of its last nine games, though its eight-game cover streak ended last week against Indianapolis.

• Buffalo is 7-1 ATS this season when the line is between +3 and -3.

• Bills games are 12-4-1 to the over this season, tied for the second-highest mark in the league.

• Baltimore is 11-5-1 ATS this season, tied with Miami (11-5) for the best mark in the league. Buffalo is 11-6 ATS, the third-best mark in the league.

Sunday’s games

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (-10, 57), 3:05 p.m. ET

• Kansas City is 1-7 ATS in its last eight games. The only cover in that span was a three-point win over New Orleans when the line closed at -2.5 after being -3 most of the week. The Chiefs are 0-4 ATS at home in that span and 0-3 ATS as a double-digit favorite in that span.

• Cleveland is the 10th team since 1997 to win at least 11 games in the regular season and be a double-digit underdog in the playoffs. The previous nine went 8-1 ATS and 4-5 outright. And since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, 11-win teams are 11-5-1 ATS as double-digit playoff underdogs.

• The current total of 57 (as of Wednesday) ties the highest in a divisional playoff game in the last 35 seasons. In the 2009 divisional round, New Orleans beat Arizona, 45-14, going over the number of 57. All four playoff games since 1986 with a total of 57 or higher went over.

• Double-digit favorites are 6-1 ATS in the divisional round since 2010.

Patrick Mahomes is 4-1 ATS in the playoffs (3-0 last season).

• Mahomes is 5-7 ATS in his career as a double-digit favorite and 26-13 ATS in all other games.

• Since 2014, reigning Super Bowl champions are 4-1 ATS in their first playoff game the following season.

Baker Mayfield is 0-4 ATS in his career as more than a 7-point underdog. He is 0-2 ATS as a double-digit underdog.

• Cleveland is 3-10 ATS in conference games this season.

• Cleveland has lost 22 consecutive games as a double-digit underdog, the longest active streak in the league. The Browns’ last win as a double-digit underdog came in 2010 at New Orleans.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-3, 52), 6:40 p.m. ET

• New Orleans has won and covered five straight meetings. Tom Brady has never gone 0-3 ATS or SU against one team in a single season in his career.

Drew Brees is 5-2 outright and ATS in his career against Brady. Brees’ 5-2 record is the best among 17 quarterbacks to face Brady at least five times (including the playoffs).

• History shows the cliché of “it’s hard to beat a team three times in the same season” is overblown. In the Super Bowl era, teams that won the first two meetings are 14-8 outright in the third meeting, though they are just 10-11-1 ATS.

• New Orleans beat Tampa Bay by 46 combined points in its regular-season sweep. That’s the highest point differential in a sweep for any team entering a third meeting against an opponent in a single season. However, in each of the previous three highest instances, the team that got swept in the regular season won the playoff rematch outright as at least a 6-point underdog.

• All four New Orleans playoff games since 2018 have gone under.

• New Orleans has covered the last four times it has been a home favorite.

• Tampa Bay is 2-1 ATS and 1-2 outright as an underdog this season. Brady is 39-17-1 ATS as an underdog in his career (34-23 outright). Brady is 4-3 ATS and outright as a playoff underdog.

• Tampa Bay is 1-4 outright and 2-3 ATS against teams that finished with winning records. Since 2015, the under is 21-8 in Tom Brady starts with a total in the 50s (15-5 since 2017).

• New Orleans is 7-1 ATS and outright when Michael Thomas plays this season.

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