Can the Tampa Bay Lightning Be Stopped?

Can the Tampa Bay Lightning Be Stopped?

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The most dangerous club in the National Hockey League will
be at the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday night – and no, we’re not talking about
the home team.

Little has changed for the Lighting since the Flyers did
battle against them in Tampa Bay 10 days ago. They maintain a firm grasp on
first place in the Southeast Division by virtue of their 12 points off of a 6-2
record. They also continue to exhibit the most explosive offense in the NHL,
only while the rest of the league has come back down to earth, the Bolts are
still setting an absolutely ludicrous pace.

Tampa Bay is averaging 4.88 goals per game, over a full
point more than second-place St. Louis. They’ve been held to three goals or
less in just two games – both losses – with their lowest output of the season currently
at two. Meanwhile the Lightning have scored five on two occasions, six on two
more occasions, and have set the bar with eight goals in a game already.

It’s a lot of the usual suspects. Two-time NHL goal scoring
champion is at it again, placing third with seven tallies, and second with 16
points. Six-time All Star Martin St. Louis is hot on Stamkos’ heels in with 14
points, while captain Vincent Lecavalier has chipped in 11.

But new arrivals have made the squad more formidable to
opposing goaltenders than ever. Rookie Cory Conacher, a player that went
undrafted out of college due to his size (5-7, 176), is off to a torrid start,
leading all rookies in points (12), assists (7), plus-minus (7), and tied for
the league lead with goals (5). Free-agent pickup and former Flyer Matt Carle
has quickly installed himself as an opportune scorer as well, leading all Tampa
Bay defensemen with six points.

They’ve come together to create a devastating attack under head
coach Guy Boucher, who in his first two seasons with the Lightning had his
squad finish in the top 10 in scoring. They also fell one game short of a
Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2010-11.

They’re a force to be reckoned with against any team in the
NHL, not just the Flyers – although the Orange & Black have had their
troubles with them.

The Lightning won the last meeting 5-1. Philly got out to an
early lead on a fluke goal, but Tampa stole the momentum after killing a
four-minute 5-on-4, then took advantage of backup netminder Michael Leighton
making his first start of the year. While it was a questionable decision to
start Leights that night (or ever), Ilya Bryzgalov hasn’t fared much better
against them. Bryz went 1-2-1 against the Bolts last season, posting a 3.44 GAA
and awful .814 SV%.

It’s probably unlikely Tampa Bay continues on at quite this
obnoxious of a pace, but at this rate they are likely to finish as one of the
top two or three highest-scoring teams in the NHL this season. So far, the most
any opponent has been able to do is slow the Lightning down, and give their
forwards a chance to take advantage of suspect defense and goaltending.

Tough for a team like the Flyers, less than full strength
and hardly averaging over two goals a game, to compete in that environment. Then
again, over the long haul it’s going to be tough for anybody in the NHL to
compete with this explosive offense.

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Eagles-Redskins: 5 matchups to watch

Eagles-Redskins: 5 matchups to watch

The Eagles are coming off their third straight loss and have dropped five of their last six. 

The Redskins have dropped two straight, but are still very much in the playoff hunt at 6-5-1.

The Birds are looking for their first win against the NFC East this season. Here are five matchups to watch.

Eagles defensive line vs. Redskins offensive line
In the matchup in Washington, the Redskins' O-line owned the Eagles' D-line to the tune of 230 rushing yards and nearly 500 yards total. The Eagles also failed to record a sack. And that was at a time when their line was playing fairly well.

The Eagles' line has come under serious fire and for good reason. They've grossly underperformed for a unit that's supposed to be the team's strength. As for the Redskins, their line has been very good all season and they'll get All Pro Trent Williams back after the massive tackle served a four-game suspension.

DeSean Jackson vs. Eagles' corners
DeSean has been on a roll. The Eagles' corners have not. In his last three games, Jackson has nine catches for 228 yards (good for 25.3 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. 

Last week in Cincinnati, the Eagles were burned by the formidable trio of Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd and Cody Core for 11 catches for 219 yards. Each receiver had at least one reception of 29 yards plus. It could be a long day for Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin and Jalen Mills.

Carson Wentz vs. Joe Barry
It's no secret that Wentz has been struggling. In his last three, Wentz  has three touchdowns to six interceptions and has completed less than 60 percent of his passes. Equally as alarming is that Wentz is 83 of 141 over that span. That's a ridiculous 47 attempts per game. Yes, the Eagles have been behind in those games, but Doug Pederson still needs to find a way to give this offense balance.

Barry's unit hasn't exactly set the world on fire, ranking 23rd in yards per game and 20th in points allowed. They've let up 31 points in each of their last two games, but it is important to note that they've played the Cowboys and the Cardinals. The Eagles don't have playmakers like Ezekiel Elliot and Dez Bryant or David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald.

Ryan Kerrigan vs. Allen Barbre
Kerrigan looked unstoppable in the NFL debut of Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Kerrigan racked up 2.5 sacks and five quarterback hurries in the Redskins' win. Kerrigan has already reached double-digit sacks for the second time in his career and has notched a sack in each of his last three.

Barbre has performed admirably in the absence of both the suspended Lane Johnson and the injured Vaitai. It's also pretty clear that Barbre's best position is guard. It's going to be a stiff test for Barbre to contain Kerrigan. 

Jordan Matthews (maybe) vs. Josh Norman 
With Paul Turner performing well in the slot, it'll be interesting to see if Pederson decides to use Matthews on the outside more. Matthews is coming off an ankle injury that kept him out of the Eagles' loss to the Bengals and is listed as questionable on Sunday. Even if Matthews is 100 percent, it's not an ideal matchup for the Eagles.

Louisville's Lamar Jackson wins Heisman Trophy

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Louisville's Lamar Jackson wins Heisman Trophy

NEW YORK -- Lamar Jackson leapt over a loaded field of Heisman Trophy contenders early in the season and by the time he slowed down nobody could catch him.

The sensational sophomore quarterback became the first Louisville player to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, beating out preseason favorite Deshaun Watson of Clemson despite some late-season struggles.

Baker Mayfield finished third and Oklahoma teammate and fellow finalist Dede Westbrook was fourth. Michigan's Jabrill Peppers was fifth.

Watson, who finished third in Heisman voting last year, led a stacked group of contenders entering this season that included five of the top seven vote-getters in 2015.

Jackson outdid them all in his first season as Louisville's full-time starter, accounting for 51 touchdowns and averaging 410 yards per game in total offense. He ultimately won going away, with 2,144 points to Watson's 1,524. By percentage of possible points received, Jackson's victory was the sixth largest in Heisman history, and he became the youngest winner at 19 years, 352 days.

Jackson is the first Heisman Trophy winner to play on a team that lost its last two games of the regular season since Tim Brown of Notre Dame in 1987. He's the first to enter the postseason without a chance to win the national title since Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M in 2012.

No matter. Jackson did so much before November it was difficult to deny him the award because of a couple of missteps at the end.

He provided a signature moment against Syracuse, hurdling a defender on his way into the end zone, and then played his best against Louisville's toughest competition.

In a romp over Florida State and a close loss at Clemson, Jackson threw for 511 yards, ran for 308 and accounted for eight touchdowns. After ripping apart Florida State in September, he earned the stamp of approval from his idol, former Virginia Tech and NFL star Mike Vick.

Jackson left that Oct. 1 game in Death Valley as a threat to run away with the Heisman, but losses to Houston and Kentucky, when he committed four turnovers, in late November provided an opportunity for others to sway voters.

Watson made the biggest surge, but ultimately fell short.

Jackson continues a recent trend of breakout stars winning the Heisman. He is the sixth player to win the award as either a redshirt freshman or sophomore, all since 2007, joining Manziel (redshirt freshman), Jameis Winston (redshirt freshman), Mark Ingram (sophomore), Sam Bradford (sophomore) and Tim Tebow (sophomore).

Jackson came to Louisville as a three-star recruit from Boynton Beach High School in Florida. Some colleges were not sold on him as a quarterback, but Jackson was such a dynamic talented Louisville coach Bobby Petrino altered his offense to accommodate Jackson's speed and elusiveness.

Jackson flashed brilliance as a freshman and showed what was to come in the Music City Bowl against Texas A&M. He had 453 total yards and led Louisville to a victory.

Still, with so many well-established stars from Watson and Mayfield to running backs Christian McCaffrey of Stanford, Dalvin Cook of Florida State and Leonard Fournette of LSU, Jackson entered the season without much fanfare.

Just the way he likes it.

Jackson spent this season adjusting to newfound fame, growing into the role of face of the team and trying to stay out of the spotlight. He said he cut down on trips to the mall to avoid the inevitable crowds he drew.

He is about to become even more popular. Especially back in Louisville, where he has another year before he can even consider his next big jump -- to the NFL.