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Warriors vs. Mavericks game postponed following death of Golden State assistant Dejan Milojevic

The Golden State Warriors’ home game against the Dallas Mavericks scheduled for Friday has been postponed following the death of Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic, the NBA announced on Thursday. Milojevic, who was 46, died Wednesday morning. He was hospitalized on Tuesday night in Salt Lake City after having a heart attack at a team dinner.

Golden State’s game against the Utah Jazz, scheduled for Wednesday in Utah, was also postponed. Neither game has yet been rescheduled.

“This is a shocking and tragic blow for everyone associated with the Warriors and an incredibly difficult time for his family, friends, and all of us who had the incredible pleasure to work with him,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Milojevic in a statement. “In addition to being a terrific basketball coach, Dejan was one of the most positive and beautiful human beings I have ever known, someone who brought joy and light to every single day with his passion and energy.”

The Warriors-Mavericks game was set to air nationally on ESPN. Instead, the Los Angeles Lakers’ game against the Brooklyn Nets will be broadcast in that spot on Friday.

The next scheduled game for Golden State (18-22, 12th place in the Western Conference) is Wednesday, Jan. 24 at home against the Atlanta Hawks.

Dallas’ next scheduled game is Monday, Jan. 22 at home against the Boston Celtics. On Wednesday in Los Angeles, Mavericks coach Jason Kidd told reporters that they would fly back to Dallas on Thursday if the league decided to postpone the game against the Warriors.

Byadmin

Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic dies at 46 after suffering heart attack in Utah

Golden State Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic died Wednesday after suffering a medical emergency in Salt Lake City, Utah on Tuesday night, the team announced. He was 46 years old. Milojevic was hospitalized after suffering the emergency at a restaurant during a team dinner. The NBA postponed Wednesday night’s game between the Warriors and Jazz in Utah as well as Friday’s Warriors vs. Mavericks game in San Francisco.

“We are absolutely devastated by Dejan’s sudden passing,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said in a statement. “This is a shocking and tragic blow for everyone associated with the Warriors and an incredibly difficult time for his family, friends, and all of us who had the incredible pleasure to work with him. In addition to being a terrific basketball coach, Dejan was one of the most positive and beautiful human beings I have ever known, someone who brought joy and light to every single day with his passion and energy. We grieve with and for his wife, Natasa, and their children, Nikola and Masa. Their loss is unfathomable.”

Milojevic, a native of Serbia, was added to the Warriors coaching staff in 2021 and helped the franchise win a championship in 2022. He played in Serbia, Spain, Montenegro, and Turkey during his 14-year professional career and was named the MVP of the Adriatic League three times (2004-06). He joined Kerr’s staff after coaching stints with Mega Vizura in Serbia and Buducnost in Montenegro, where he won the Montenegrin League Championship.

Milojevic made the most of the talent available to him during his time coaching overseas and helped establish a strong pipeline from Mega Vizura to the NBA. Eleven of the players Milojevic coached during his eight seasons with Mega Vizura went on to be selected in the NBA Draft. Among them were Nikola Jokic, Ivica Zubac, Goga Bitadze, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Vlatko Cancar.

“The NBA mourns the sudden passing of Golden State assistant coach Dejan Milojevic, a beloved colleague and dear friend to so many in the global basketball community,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “In addition to winning the 2022 NBA championship in his first season with the Warriors and mentoring some of the best players in the world, Dejan had a decorated international playing career and was a distinguished head coach in his native Serbia. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Natasa, their children, Nikola and Masa, and the Warriors organization during this tragic time.”

The game in Utah was set to be the last matchup on Golden State’s four-game road trip. With the Friday game against the Mavericks also postponed, the team’s next scheduled game is Wednesday, Jan. 24 against the Hawks at the Chase Center.Golden State Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic died Wednesday after suffering a medical emergency in Salt Lake City, Utah on Tuesday night, the team announced. He was 46 years old. Milojevic was hospitalized after suffering the emergency at a restaurant during a team dinner. The NBA postponed Wednesday night’s game between the Warriors and Jazz in Utah as well as Friday’s Warriors vs. Mavericks game in San Francisco.

“We are absolutely devastated by Dejan’s sudden passing,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said in a statement. “This is a shocking and tragic blow for everyone associated with the Warriors and an incredibly difficult time for his family, friends, and all of us who had the incredible pleasure to work with him. In addition to being a terrific basketball coach, Dejan was one of the most positive and beautiful human beings I have ever known, someone who brought joy and light to every single day with his passion and energy. We grieve with and for his wife, Natasa, and their children, Nikola and Masa. Their loss is unfathomable.”

Milojevic, a native of Serbia, was added to the Warriors coaching staff in 2021 and helped the franchise win a championship in 2022. He played in Serbia, Spain, Montenegro, and Turkey during his 14-year professional career and was named the MVP of the Adriatic League three times (2004-06). He joined Kerr’s staff after coaching stints with Mega Vizura in Serbia and Buducnost in Montenegro, where he won the Montenegrin League Championship.

Milojevic made the most of the talent available to him during his time coaching overseas and helped establish a strong pipeline from Mega Vizura to the NBA. Eleven of the players Milojevic coached during his eight seasons with Mega Vizura went on to be selected in the NBA Draft. Among them were Nikola Jokic, Ivica Zubac, Goga Bitadze, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Vlatko Cancar.

“The NBA mourns the sudden passing of Golden State assistant coach Dejan Milojevic, a beloved colleague and dear friend to so many in the global basketball community,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “In addition to winning the 2022 NBA championship in his first season with the Warriors and mentoring some of the best players in the world, Dejan had a decorated international playing career and was a distinguished head coach in his native Serbia. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Natasa, their children, Nikola and Masa, and the Warriors organization during this tragic time.”

The game in Utah was set to be the last matchup on Golden State’s four-game road trip. With the Friday game against the Mavericks also postponed, the team’s next scheduled game is Wednesday, Jan. 24 against the Hawks at the Chase Center.

Byadmin

Lakers’ LeBron James shocked to learn he has played against 35 percent of all players in NBA history

LeBron James is certainly one of the most accomplished players in NBA history. However, one new statistic of his comes across as absolutely mind-boggling.

After facing the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, the ESPN on ABC broadcast revealed that James has now played against 35% of all of the players that have ever played in the NBA.

INSANE.

LeBron has played against 35% of all players in NBA history 🤯 pic.twitter.com/Xr6Qz7IExz

— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 18, 2024
It definitely was a very surprising statistic to many, including James himself. Following Wednesday’s 127-110 win against the Mavericks, James responded to the crazy stat on his Instagram story by calling it “insane.”

James was the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, and made his debut in the 2003-04 campaign. The Los Angeles Lakers star has scored 39,591 points in 21 seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and Lakers. In February 2023, James passed Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most points in NBA history.

The NBA came into existence in 1946, so there were obviously several decades of players who took to the hardwood before James made his NBA debut. Still, James’ longevity has allowed him to play 21 seasons and become one of the greatest players that the league has ever seen.

Byadmin

Trae Young widens gap on Damian Lillard, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander chasing Steph

The third and final All-Star voting returns are in, and the guard spots are still the only real races to monitor. In the Eastern Conference, Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks has increased his lead for the second spot, with 85,862 more votes than Milwaukee Bucks guard Damian Lillard. In the Western Conference, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder gained a bit of ground on Stephen Curry, but is still trailing the Golden State Warriors superstar by 285,041 votes.

Just like they did in the last two weeks of returns, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks leads all vote-getters (4,309,630 votes), while LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers leads all players in the West (3,938,571).

In the frontcourt, the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic has a 31,642-vote lead over the Phoenix Suns’ Kevin Durant for the No. 2 spot in the West, and the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid has a 3,691-vote lead over the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum. For these “races” to matter, though, the media and player voting would have to differ fairly drastically from the fan voting. The top three frontcourt players and top two backcourt players in their respective conferences will start in the All-Star Game, which will take place in Indianapolis on Sunday, Feb. 18.

LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo lead their respective conferences in the third fan returns of #NBAAllStar Voting presented by AT&T.

Fans account for 50% of the vote to decide All-Star starters. NBA players and a media panel account for 25% each. pic.twitter.com/fyGeQXgEhH

— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) January 18, 2024
You can vote until Saturday at 11:59 p.m. ET. All fan votes received on Friday, the last “3-for-1” day, will count three times. The results of this voting do not determine the starters outright; fans account for 50% of the overall vote, with the other half split between NBA players and a panel of media members.

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The All-Star starters will be announced next week (Jan. 25) on TNT. The reserves, which will be chosen by NBA coaches, will be announced the following week (Feb. 1) on TNT.

Byadmin

Defending champ Birmingham Stallions start at top, Philadelphia Stars No. 2

Fresh off of last year’s successful campaign, the USFL is gearing up for what could be an even better 2023 season — but which team will capture the title?

Led by quarterback J’Mar Smith, the Birmingham Stallions begin their defense of last year’s championship when the league kicks off this Saturday, April 15. The Philadelphia Stars, who came up just short against Birmingham in last year’s USFL Championship Game, are expected to once again be in the mix with the return of their quarterback, Case Cookus. The league’s two other playoff teams last year, the New Jersey Generals and New Orleans Breakers, are also expected to make a run at the crown.

Joining the fray of USFL teams for the 2023 season are the Memphis Showboats, who will be one of three teams that will get to play in front of their home fans this season (check out everything to know in our 2023 season primer, the complete season schedule and much more). After all the league’s regular-season games were held in Birmingham last year, three new venues have been added to the mix for 2023: Memphis, Canton and Detroit. The Showboats are in essence the Tampa Bay Bandits, who are on a hiatus in 2023 after going 4-6 in 2022.

With Week 1 on the horizon, who are the top teams? Here’s how we rank them in our Week 1 Power Rankings:

  1. Birmingham Stallions
    Last season: 9-1, defending champs, defeated New Orleans and Philadelphia in playoffs
    Skip Holtz’s team returns the majority of last year’s championship roster. That includes Smith, who said he is roughly 10-15 pounds lighter than he was last year. Running backs Bo Scarbrough, C.J. Marable and linebacker Scooby Wright are three other key members of Birmingham’s championship team that are back for the 2023 season.

Smith is expecting more of a contribution this season from receiver Marlon Williams, who last season finished second in the USFL in touchdown catches and third in receiving yards. The two connected on a deep touchdown pass in last year’s championship game win over Philadelphia.

In 2023, Birmingham will try to do something that no NFL team has done in nearly 20 years: repeat as champion.

“I love having a target on my back,” Smith recently told CBS Sports. “It makes me play harder. I know that everyone is going to give us their best shot. I’m not going run away from their shot. I love to step up to the challenge.”

  1. Philadelphia Stars
    Last season: 6-4, defeated New Jersey in playoffs, lost to Birmingham in championship game
    The Stars have their sights set on a championship after coming up just short in last year’s championship game. A big reason for Philadelphia’s optimism is the return of Cookus, who went 6-3 as the team’s starting quarterback last season. Cookus led a Stars offense that averaged a league-high 26.2 points per game.

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Cookus will again be aided on offense by running back Matt Coburn II (who scored nine total touchdowns) and Jordan Suell, who caught a touchdown in the USFL Championship Game. Cookus will have a new target this season in former Browns first-round pick Corey Coleman, who caught 20 touchdowns during his final season at Baylor back in 2015.

  1. New Jersey Generals
    Last season: 9-1, lost to Philadelphia in the playoffs
    New Jersey, which tied Birmingham with the league’s best record during the 2022 regular season, is motivated this season after last year’s playoff upset at the hands of the Stars.

“The guys come in with a chip on their shoulder, kind of like unfinished business a little bit,” said offensive coordinator Steven Smith, via the league’s website. “The guys came in ready to go and focused on getting it done and making things happen that we didn’t finish last year.”

The Generals lost one of their key players from last year’s team to the NFL in Cowboys All-Pro return specialist KaVontae Turpin. Reigning Offensive Player of the Year Darius Victor is back, however, along with fellow running back Trey Williams. Last season, the duo helped the Generals average a league-high 161 yards on the ground per game.

Quarterback is the big question mark. De’Andre Johnson, the team’s backup last season, is looking to win the job over Kyle Lauletta, a former Giants draft pick who made two starts for the Maulers last season.

  1. New Orleans Breakers
    Last season: 6-4, lost to Birmingham in the playoffs
    One of the league’s four playoff teams in 2022, New Orleans will usher in a new era in 2023. The team has a new coach in John DeFilippo, who won a Super Bowl in 2017 as the Eagles quarterbacks coach.

New Orleans’ top-ranked defense is expected to again be among the league’s best. The big question is at quarterback, as the Breakers have a three-man competition between McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Davis Cheek and Aqeel Glass. The front-runner to win the job is the 34-year-old Bethel-Thompson, a two-time Canadian Football League champion who decided to move to the USFL instead of spending another season in Winnipeg.

“It’s all betting on one year, which is tenuous but also challenging,” he recently told the Toronto Sun. “Every game matters. Every practice matters. Every throw matters. If I don’t perform physically or mentally, or maybe play half the year and then get benched, I could very well have ended my career as opposed to having four more years in the CFL. It’s moving all your chips in on a pretty bizarre hand.”

  1. Memphis Showboats
    Memphis’ possible advantage at quarterback moved them up several spots on this list. Showboats coach Todd Haley recently announced that his starting quarterback will be Brady White, who enjoyed a prolific college career at Memphis that included throwing for a school-record 10,690 yards and 90 touchdowns.

“Brady has kind of cemented himself as the starter here as we get the season going,” Haley recently told Fox Sports. “But Ryan (Willis) and Cole (Kelley) are talented guys that have impressed us throughout this process. I don’t think it’s beyond thinking that you’ll see all these guys play at some point.

“The name of the game is winning. So, whoever gives us the best chance to win will be the guy handling the football most of the time. But Brady, having been with us most of the time last year, definitely had a head start. I know he’s excited about being in Memphis, where he played his college football. He’s like a superstar walking around town down here. I know he’s enjoying and embracing that, and we’ll just have to see how it plays out.”

Memphis’ offense also includes Alex Collins, a veteran NFL running back who nearly ran for 1,000 yards in 2017 with the Seahawks.

  1. Houston Gamblers
    Last season: 3-7
    Houston was much better than its 2022 record indicated. You could say the Gamblers were snake-bitten after losing five straight games where they led in the fourth quarter. The defense was Houston’s strength, but the unit underwent a total transformation this offseason. The defense will include 14 new players, including expected standouts in defensive end Eli Howard and linebacker Isaiah Pryor.

The Gamblers’ offense is expected to be significantly better, largely because of the expected uptick in play from quarterback Kenji Bahar. If Bahar is able to complement Houston’s talented running game (led by Mark Thompson), this could be the surprise team for 2023.

  1. Pittsburgh Maulers
    Last season: 1-9
    On and off the field, the Maulers underwent massive changes this offseason. They changed their color scheme to mimic the black and gold flavor of the city they represent. Speaking of Pittsburgh’s fabled football history, the team hired a former Steelers Super Bowl-winning assistant coach, Ray Horton, as their new head coach.

One of the things that is expected to stay the same in Pittsburgh is a Maulers defense that was one of the USFL’s better units last season, led by former NFL first-round pick Reuben Foster. Pittsburgh’s offense has the weapons to be a solid unit, but its success will likely come down to whether James Morgan or Troy Williams can provide steady play at quarterback.

  1. Michigan Panthers
    Last season: 2-8
    Michigan might be the USFL’s biggest enigma. Led by first-year head coach Mike Nolan, the Panthers could make a surprise playoff push while turning Ford Field into a massive home-field advantage. Michigan has a formidable rushing attack and is expected to field a good defense.

As with several other teams, quarterback is the big question in Michigan. The Panthers’ offense will be led by either Josh Love (who spent time with the NFL’s Rams and Panthers) or Carson Strong, an undrafted rookie last season who spent time with the Eagles and Cardinals.

Byadmin

2024 NFL divisional round picks, predictions by model on 183-129 roll

After enjoying a bye week, the San Francisco 49ers will host the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round of the 2024 NFL playoffs on Saturday. San Francisco won the NFC West and earned the No. 1 seed in the NFL playoff bracket, while Green Bay earned a wild card and began the 2024 NFL Playoffs with a 48-32 upset of the Cowboys last week. However, the Packers have been knocked out of the NFL postseason by the 49ers in two of the last four seasons and the 49ers are the current odds-on favorites to win the 2024 Super Bowl (+176).

Kickoff from Levi’s Stadium is set for 8:15 p.m. ET. San Francisco is a 9.5-point favorite in the latest 49ers vs. Packers odds via SportsLine consensus, while the over/under for total points scored is 50.5. Before locking in any Packers vs. 49ers picks, you need to see the latest NFL predictions from SportsLine’s proven projection model.

The model, which simulates every NFL game 10,000 times, is up well over $7,000 for $100 players on top-rated NFL picks since its inception. The model enters the divisional round of the 2024 NFL playoffs on an incredible 183-129 run on top-rated NFL picks that dates back to the 2017 season. It is also on a 37-21 roll on top-rated picks since Week 7 of last season and nailed seven straight top-rated picks entering the 2024 NFL playoffs.

The model also ranked in the top 10 on NFLPickWatch four of the past six years on straight-up NFL picks and beat more than 94% of CBS Sports Football Pick’em players four times during that span. Anyone who has followed it is way up.

Now, the model has zeroed in on 49ers vs. Packers and just revealed its picks and predictions. You can see the model’s picks only at SportsLine. Here are several NFL odds and betting lines for Packers vs. 49ers:

49ers vs. Packers spread: San Francisco -9.5
49ers vs. Packers over/under: 50.5 points
49ers vs. Packers money line: San Francisco -454, Green Bay +349
SF: 49ers were 3-5 against the spread as home favorites in the regular season
GB: Packers are 5-3 ATS as road underdogs this campaign
49ers vs. Packers picks: See picks here
49ers vs. Packers live stream: fubo (try for free)
Why the 49ers can cover
San Francisco should be well-rested coming into Saturday’s matchup, having rested key starters in a Week 17 loss to the Rams and also coming off a bye week during NFL Super Wild Card Weekend. Now the 49ers will look to unleash the full potential of one of the most versatile offenses in the NFL against a Packers defense that ranked bottom half of the NFL in yards allowed and that just gave up 510 yards of offense to Dallas.

The 49ers were top five in the NFL in passing yards and rushing yards, with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle giving Brock Purdy a quartet of extremely talented playmakers to work with. They combined to produce over 5,500 yards from scrimmage and score 46 touchdowns and figure to give the Green Bay defense all sorts of problems on Saturday. See which team to pick here.

Why the Packers can cover
Green Bay played a near-perfect game against Dallas on Sunday en route to its seventh victory in its last nine contests and becoming the first No. 7 seed to record a win since the playoffs expanded in 2020. Quarterback Jordan Love completed 16-of-21 pass attempts for 272 yards and three touchdowns in his first career postseason game after finishing second in the NFL with 32 during the regular season. The 25-year-old has thrown 21 TD passes and just one interception over his last nine contests.

After rushing for just two touchdowns in each of the last two regular seasons, Aaron Jones had three scoring runs against the Cowboys on Sunday. The 29-year-old tied the franchise record for most rushing scores in a playoff game and the NFL marks for most in a road playoff game and a wild-card contest. The Packers were 31st in the league with seven interceptions in the regular season but had two in Dallas, including one that safety Darnell Savage returned 64 yards for a touchdown. See which team to pick here.

How to make 49ers vs. Packers picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning Under the point total, predicting 45 total points. The model also says one side of the spread has all the value. You can see the model’s NFL picks and analysis only at SportsLine.

Byadmin

Aaron Jones helping power NFL’s youngest team to postseason run as 49ers await

ARLINGTON, Texas — The seventh-seeded Green Bay Packers entered this postseason as the NFL’s youngest playoff team since the 1974 Buffalo Bills, and on Sunday on the road against the second-seeded Dallas Cowboys, they pummeled the home team 48-32. Green Bay led by as many as 32 in the fourth quarter before head coach Matt LaFleur took his foot off the gas.

The victory made the Packers the youngest team (average age: 25 years, 214 days) to win a playoff game since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger. First-time starting quarterback Jordan Love’s “wow” performance — throwing for 272 passing yards and three touchdowns on 16 for 21 passing, with a 157.2 passer rating, 1.1 points short of a perfect rating — was obviously a crucial component to the Packers’ victory. His 157.2 passer rating is the new single-game Packers postseason record, as are his 13 yards per pass attempt.

However, in a time in which the NFL sentiment is that one running back isn’t more valuable than another, Aaron Jones, one of the offense’s elder statesmen at age 29, served as the Packers’ tone-setter. Green Bay’s RB ran for playoff career-highs of 118 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, an incredibly efficient 5.6 yards per carry. That output tied the NFL all-time record for rushing touchdowns in a road playoff game, rushing touchdowns in a wild-card round game and rushing touchdowns in a Packers postseason game. Jones’ seven career playoff rushing touchdowns are the most in Green Bay history.

“You guys see it, right? Just his ability to put his foot in the ground and just be explosive, make people miss,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said of Jones postgame. “I can’t say enough great things about the guy, the football player. What he means to our team. The leadership he brings. He’s a rare guy. There’s not many like him. Just how he encourages his teammates, how he uplifts his teammates. But I think you’ve got to give it up for the offense line, too. It’s not just those guys, it’s really the other 10 men on the field. But it starts up front. I thought our tight ends really did a great job. I know on the one touchdown, (tight end) Josiah (Deguara) had a great cut block on the backside. I think he got the Parsons down. And the receivers, their willingness to go in and dig out safeties, and block at the second level. They’re usually the difference, in my opinion, of springing an explosive gain into a touchdown. Those guys bring it. They battle and they fight for one another.”

Jones dominating the Dallas Cowboys isn’t anything new. The El Paso, Texas native now has over 100 rushing yards and at least one touchdown in all four of his career games against his home team, joining Pro Football Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson as the only other player in NFL history to begin his career with four such games in a row against a single opponent, including the postseason, per OptaStats. Tomlinson’s victim was the Cleveland Browns.

“You know, it was a full circle moment,” Jones said of his historic domination of the Cowboys. “I feel like this is kind of how we got into football. This was my dad’s team. This was my team growing up. You always want to be like your father, so that’s how it became my team. Emmitt Smith was my running back. My first jersey was a No. 22. I got the chance to speak to him before the game, so that was special to me as well. My dad did get to see me play here my rookie year and I know he was in here tonight. Dallas is a special place to me. It was a first circle moment. It feels like home.”

What’s different for Jones now following this Packers victory over the Cowboys (Green Bay has won 10 of the last 11 games against Dallas) is that, at 29 years old, he’s positioned as the offensive leader to help cultivate the growth of his offensive skill position teammates, just about all of whom are younger than him:

2023 fifth-round pick wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks (22 years old)
2023 second-round pick tight end Luke Musgrave (23 years old)
2023 third-round pick tight end Tucker Kraft (23 years old)
2023 second-round pick wide receiver Jayden Reed (23 years old)
2022 fourth-round pick wide receiver Romeo Doubs (23 years old)
Undrafted wide receiver Malik Heath (23 years old)
2022 second-round pick wide receiver Christian Watson (24 years old)
2022 seventh-round pick (by Seattle Seahawks) wide receiver Bo Melton (24 years old)
2020 first-round pick quarterback Jordan Love (25 years old)
2020 second-round pick running back AJ Dillon (25 years old)
2022 seventh-round pick wide receiver Samori Toure (25 years old)
“I’ve had to become a little bit more vocal,” Jones told CBS Sports back in July when talking about his role in Green Bay’s youth movement. “We have a very, very young team. I was more of a lead-by-example guy, but now I’ve had to become more vocal because we don’t have those vets that we have had like the Randall Cobbs, the Aaron Rodgers’ and the Marcedes Lewis’ on the offensive side of the ball. I have to [become more vocal]. It’s only right. Those guys did it for me, instilled the confidence and so many other things in me, so it’s only right that I give it back to these young guys.”

He is living up to his preseason promise to lead his younger teammates with words and actions. In years prior, future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers likely would have led the offensive pregame huddle with a speech. On Sunday, it was a different Aaron but the same result against the Cowboys.

“This our shit. We are going to take it over,” Jones said in a pregame huddle to the Packers offense prior to their win at the Cowboys on Sunday, via “Inside The NFL.” “We already set our standard. We are going to punch the frontrunners in the mouth. We are going to set our tone. It’s going to be four quarters of locking them in a cage and giving them that G Way ball.”

Quarterbacks are typically positioned as a football’s team primary leader, but Love fully embraces Jones as the offense’s vocal and on-field center for a unit whose plays revolve around their success in their under-center, zone-blocking ground game.

“You get so much. Obviously, just the leader he is on the team and then you add his playmaking ability when he gets the ball,” Love said on Sunday. “He’s the total package right there. I love Aaron Jones. He brings a huge spark to the team just the way he carries himself, the way he handles his business and shows up ready to work every day. I can’t enough about him.”

Love may not be able to say enough about him, but the records can. Jones has run over 100 yards in four consecutive games, tied with Ahman Green in 2003 for the such longest streak in Packers history

“We’re playing all together as one,” Jones said when asked about his success. “The blocking unit is doing their thing up front. They make it easy for me to pick and chose which hole I want to run through…I think it’s a credit to them and the play calling as well.”

Playing together for Jones means also uplifting his young teammates. Rookie fifth-round pick Dontayvion Wicks struggled to find a role in the Packers’ crowded, young attack early in the season. After a drop against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 9, Wicks’ head drooped as he trudged back toward the Green Bay sideline. Jones stopped Wicks in his tracks and physically lifted his head up.

Wicks has basically been en fuego since this moment pic.twitter.com/MaqdWXMfoy

— Shanahannigans™ (@Ferd_Turgeson) January 16, 2024
That type of encouragement eventually paid dividends for Wicks and the Packers. The rookie caught three touchdowns in his last two games played in the regular season, Week 16 at the Carolina Panthers and Week 18 against the Chicago Bears. He also hauled in a 20-yard receiving touchdown on Sunday against the Cowboys in an incredibly pivotal moment. Green Bay faced 3rd-and-7 from the Dallas 20. The Cowboys showed they were going to blitz as the play clock dropped under 10 seconds.

Love quickly made an audible before snapping the football with a second remaining on the play cock. Wicks cooked 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore off the line of scrimmage and corralled Love’s scoring strike that essentially functioned as a Cowboys kill shot with the Packers going up 20-0.

JORDAN LOVE DELIVERS. PACKERS UP 20-0.

📺: #GBvsDAL on FOX
📱: Stream on #NFLPlus https://t.co/Ut3BRhC2CE pic.twitter.com/NdIftoEEW9

— NFL (@NFL) January 14, 2024
“Yeah, yeah. I’m happy for him (Jones),” Wicks said Sunday when asked about Jones’ performance. “One-hundred-yard games back to back, that’s hard. He’s just our fire starter, and we keep the flame going.”

Fellow rookie wide receiver Jayden Reed, a second-round pick who led the Packers in catches (64), receiving yards (793) and receiving touchdowns (8, tied with Romeo Doubs for the team lead), didn’t register a single catch on three targets in the Packers victory on Sunday. However, he didn’t pout. Instead, he put everything he had into blocking for Jones because of the way he has poured into the Green Bay youngsters this season.

“You’re the reason I go hard bro,” Reed said to Jones during the team’s win on Sunday, per Inside The NFL. “You somebody to look up to bro. You somebody to play for. I want to go out there and block for you. I feel fu–ed up when I don’t make the block.”

Jones has a similar effect on his young offensive linemen.

“It motivates us for sure,” Packers offensive lineman Zach Tom, a 2022 fourth-round pick, said Sunday when asked about how hard Jones runs. “We know all you have to do is give him a tiny little crease and he’ll make something happen. It motivates us.”

Now, the Packers degree of difficulty ratchets up considerably as they head west to take on the NFC’s top seed, the San Francisco 49ers, on Saturday night. The 49ers are the first team since the 2004 Indianapolis Colts — who an offense compromised of three Hall of Famers (QB Peyton Manning, RB Edgerrin James and WR Marvin Harrison) and a 2024 Hall of Fame finalist (WR Reggie Wayne) — to have a 4,000 yard passer (Brock Purdy) and four players with at least 1,000 scrimmage yards (RB Christian McCaffrey, WR Brandon Aiyuk, WR Deebo Samuel and TE George Kittle).

“Because we believe in each other,” Jones said when asked why the Packers can to continue having success this postseason. “We have faith in each other…we have all the weapons we need on this team. People can continue to doubt us. That’s fine. We love the underdog mentality. We love the underdog approach.”

LaFleur clearly believes in Jones, giving him 19 more carries after his first two went for negative-3 yards against Dallas on Sunday.

“I think that was huge even though the first two run plays they stopped,” Jones said. “I’m glad we stuck with it. Like I said, when you’re able to run the ball, it opens everything else up. We were able to set them up pretty nice on Luke’s touchdown. We had
seen a lot of outside zone all game and we hit them with that.”

As for those who still don’t believe in the Packers after their demolition of the Cowboys, all Green Bay does is smile, laugh and let their play on the field do the talking.

“Just a little chuckle,” Jones said when asked about his reaction to those still doubting his Packers. “You know it’s in your memory bank and you go tell your teammates…We talk about how we feel and if you feel disrespected, you go do something about it.”

Byadmin

Can 49ers, Ravens live up to hype?

Super Wild Card Weekend is in the books, and we’re already onto the next round of action in the 2024 NFL playoffs. Six teams have moved on. Another six have been left behind. While the latter clubs will no doubt hurry to begin planning for the offseason, those who remain in the mix for this year’s Lombardi Trophy have plenty of their own hurdles to clear in the coming weeks.

On that note, here are the biggest questions facing each of the teams remaining in the playoffs:

Baltimore Ravens: Can Lamar get over the hump?
Past playoff games may not directly affect Lamar Jackson going into their Divisional Round matchup with Houston, but just like Dak Prescott in Dallas, he’s still got big-stage boxes to check, entering with a 1-3 record as a playoff starter. He’s been more efficient as a passer and decision-maker in Todd Monken’s system, but now it’s time to deliver in a must-win scenario.

Buffalo Bills: Can they survive more injuries on ‘D’?
We all know Josh Allen, James Cook, Stefon Diggs and Dalton Kincaid are capable of getting this team on the scoreboard. But after missing key starters in Rasul Douglas and Tyrel Dodson, Buffalo’s defense took more hits against Pittsburgh, losing Taron Johnson and Terrel Bernard, among others. They’ll need as many reinforcements as they can get versus Kansas City.

Detroit Lions: How long will the clean pockets last?
They deserve all the credit in the world for bringing playoff hopes to fruition, and Jared Goff was particularly sharp in their back-and-forth with the Rams. But almost all his work came from a pristine pocket. We know Goff is a different quarterback when pressured — more affected than most — and the Buccaneers are coming into town after a blitz-crazy domination of the Eagles.

Green Bay Packers: How far can the youth movement go?
Jordan Love looked unstoppable slinging it against the so-called “elite” Cowboys defense in Green Bay’s blowout wild-card win. The speed at his disposal was also apparent. But facing the 49ers is a different task, with even more experience and physicality on the other side. Is it possible the Packers are a year ahead of schedule? Or are they so electric to play spoiler again?

Houston Texans: Can the defense hold up?
There are precious few questions about C.J. Stroud right now, especially after the remarkable rookie QB shredded the Browns’ vaunted defense in the wild-card round. But Joe Flacco’s reckless passing may have aided their own “D,” whereas Lamar Jackson and Co. should pose a greater threat this weekend. They’ve been a bit more vulnerable through the air.

Kansas City Chiefs: Will they stay committed to the run?
Let’s be real: When push comes to shove, it’s Patrick Mahomes who’s built to propel this team, as well as the Chris Jones-led defense, whose physicality completely befuddled the Dolphins. But Isiah Pacheco has been an underrated key for their success; the Chiefs are 8-2 this year when he gets at least 15 carries, helping balance an attack also featuring an emergent Rashee Rice.

San Francisco 49ers: Can they live up to the hype?
No one really denies the all-star talent they’ve got on both sides of the ball, not to mention the sidelines. Now it comes down to meeting expectations. Brock Purdy’s last playoff start ended early due to injury, and Christian McCaffrey is coming off a calf issue. If they’re both healthy along with the other pillars of Kyle Shanahan’s attack, they’re well positioned to advance.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Can they tighten up in opposing territory?
Baker Mayfield was on fire dicing up the porous Eagles defense on Monday, as was Todd Bowles’ pass rush, but the crazy thing is Tampa Bay probably could’ve — or should’ve — beaten Philly by even more. Mayfield took a couple sacks that pushed them out of field-goal range, and drops also hurt potential scoring series. They’ll need to be sharper to beat Detroit.