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The Colts were a trendy Super Bowl pick last season, this season they want to be a favorite

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Stephon Gilmore

Stephon Gilmore
Photo: Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts were certainly not thrilled with the way that their 2021 season ended. It started in disappointing fashion by losing their first three games. They improved, but still lost twice to division rival Tennessee Titans, including a heartbreaker at home — 34-31 in overtime. Then the Colts went on a tear.

They won six of their next seven games, forcing people to realize their roster was one of the deepest in the NFL. When healthy, their offensive line was outstanding and their main ball carrier, Jonathan Taylor, was exceptional behind that group, totaling 2,171 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns. Michael Pittman Jr. showed that he is a capable No. 1 wide receiver with 88 catches for 1,082 yards and six touchdowns. The Colts defense was ranked seventh overall in weighted DVOA by Football Outsiders.

By Week 17, the Colts were a chic pick to win the Super Bowl, and then their season ended with a loud fart instead of a bang. They lost at home to the Las Vegas Raiders, but still only had to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars to get to the playoffs. The Jaguars, who had a few weeks prior fired their coach, Urban Meyer, during one of the great single-season disasters in NFL history, ended their season with the great consolation prize of their second win of the season, and the bonus of knocking a division rival out of the playoffs — the Colts.

That loaded roster couldn’t make a seven-team playoff, so instead of standing pat, they decided to make some changes. For one, they did not hesitate to bail on Carson Wentz after one season and the all of 185 yards he totaled on 17 pass attempts in a must-win game against a terrible team. The Colts are going with a different starter this season, the ever steady Matt Ryan. The 2016 MVP may not be spectacular, but there’s a good chance that he will not be spectacularly awful especially on a team this talented.

Not satisfied with their defense as is, the Colts inked another NFL award winner to a contract. Today, they signed 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore to a two-year deal. He was traded midway through last season from the New England Patriots to the Carolina Panthers. He will play opposite Pro Bowl cornerback Kenny Moore II.

Gilmore wasn’t the only player the Colts added to their stout defense. To bolster their pass rush they traded for Yannick Ngakoue, who totaled 10 sacks last season, the second double-digit sack season of his career. He will join a front seven that already includes some of the best players in the NFL in Darius Leonard and DeForest Buckner.

The Colts could still use some speed at wide receiver, but unfortunately their most glaring weakness this year is that they don’t have a first-round draft choice. Still, this is a deep wide receiver class, and Chris Ballard has proven himself to be great at finding talent at any round during the NFL Draft.

They had every reason to be upset with the way that last season ended, but going all in has no guarantees, especially in the loaded AFC. The Colts are still going to have to fight off the Titans in their division, and a playoff matchup against the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, or 2021 AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals on the horizon. Also the Baltimore Ravens should have better injury luck than they did last season, and the Cleveland Browns will also be a championship contender after adding Deshaun Watson, and they will also be hoping that the injury bug doesn’t come biting so hard in 2022.

The road to the Super Bowl is not smooth by any means for the Indianapolis Colts, but they have loaded up as best as they can for the journey. It’s a roster that can stack up with any in the NFL, all they have to do now is stay as healthy as possible and avoid tripping over their own two feet again at the end of the season.



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European Super League: Fresh plans for 80-team competition announced by chief executive Bernd Reichart | Football News

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A new-look, open European Super League could contain up to 80 teams in a multi-divisional format, the competition’s chief executive has said.

The competition would be based on sporting performance only with no permanent members, A22 chief executive Bernd Reichart told German newspaper Die Welt.

Teams would be guaranteed a minimum of 14 matches per season, Reichart wrote.

A22, a company formed to sponsor and assist with the creation of the Super League, has consulted with nearly 50 European clubs since October last year and developed 10 principles based on that consultation which underpin its plans for a new-look league.

Reichart wrote: “The foundations of European football are in danger of collapsing.

“It’s time for a change. It is the clubs that bear the entrepreneurial risk in football. But when important decisions are at stake, they are too often forced to sit idly by on the sidelines as the sporting and financial foundations crumble around them.

“Our talks have also made it clear that clubs often find it impossible to speak out publicly against a system that uses the threat of sanctions to thwart opposition.

“Our dialogue was open, honest, constructive and resulted in clear ideas about what changes are needed and how they could be implemented. There is a lot to do and we will continue our dialogue.”

A22 has challenged UEFA and FIFA’s right to block the formation of the Super League and sanction the competing clubs in the courts, arguing the governing bodies are abusing a dominant position under EU competition law.

The European Court of Justice is due to give its final ruling in the case later this year, but a non-binding opinion delivered by the Advocate General in the case in December said rules allowing UEFA and FIFA to block the formation of new competitions was compatible with EU law.

Reichart said the new-look Super League would be an open competition, with qualification achieved via performance at national level and with all its teams competing in their domestic leagues.

Those national leagues would remain “the foundation” of the game, Reichart said, and argued that the new Super League would generate new revenues to support the entire pyramid.

The guarantee of a minimum of 14 matches, Reichart says, would provide “stablility and predictability” of revenue.

Reichart set out plans for cost control measures, saying clubs should spend only a fixed percentage of their annual football-related revenue on player salaries and net transfers.

“Club spending must be based solely on the funds generated and not on competitively distorting capital injections,” he wrote.

What has already happened?

In October last year, Reichart revealed the new-look European Super League could be up and running by the 2024/25 season.

Asked then if that was the earliest the failed project could start up again, Reichart said: “That might be the first reasonable and realistic call but there are so many variables that I can’t actually foresee. That is probably the first realistic call.”

The Premier League referred to their statement from June 2021 when contacted by Sky Sports News.

The European Super League was initially launched in April 2021 with 12 founding members – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid – who would permanently take part in the competition.

The plan quickly collapsed after the six Premier League clubs pulled out in the face of fierce criticism from supporters, pundits, clubs and the media, but Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid remain committed to the concept.

Permanent membership of the European Super League for the founding members was a significant point of criticism, but Reichart previously said: “There has been an important reassessment and the concept is spreading out about openness and taking the permanent membership off the table. I can say the three clubs have credibly reassessed and taken some learnings from the first approach.

“I am aware of what the English clubs stated a year and a half ago, but I hope the whole football community is appreciating the approach to continue to care and try to come up with solutions.”



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No mention of Flores’ lawsuit in Goodell Super Bowl presser

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference in advance of Super Bowl LVII at Phoenix Convention Center on Feb. 8, 2023, in Phoenix.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference in advance of Super Bowl LVII at Phoenix Convention Center on Feb. 8, 2023, in Phoenix.
Image: Getty Images

Every year at the Super Bowl, journalists get a chance to ask NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell the questions that need to be answered on live television as the world watches. This year, the inquiries and subject matters ranged from two Black quarterbacks making history, Damar Hamlin, officiating, and the potential ways that the league will broadcast upcoming games. But, the Black cloud — no pun intended — that’s been hovering over the NFL for over a year wasn’t mentioned once on Wednesday. And it’s proof that the NFL is loving the fact that people seem to have forgotten that Brian Flores, Steve Wilks, and Ray Horton have an ongoing class-action lawsuit against the league for its alleged racist hiring practices.

Distractions are part of the game

It’s been over a year since the former Miami Dolphins head coach — and current defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings — dropped a bomb on the sports world when he decided that legal action was the only way to make people thoroughly understand just how rigged the game is for Black coaches in the NFL.

“It’s hard to speak out…but this is bigger than football. This is bigger than coaching,” said Flores.

Days later, Goodell was on stage answering questions at the Super Bowl about that, and more.

“I think I’d start with the basis that racism or any form of discrimination is against our values. And really something that we will not tolerate,” he said at last year’s press conference.

Same as it ever was

On Wednesday, it was more of the same. “I do, but I still feel like there’s better work, and more work ahead of us,” Goodell said about the “meaningful progress” that’s taken place with diversity amongst head coaches. “I think that there is progress, and we’re pleased to see progress. But it’s never enough.”

A lot has happened since Goodell took the stage last year in Los Angeles and when he returned to it in Arizona. For instance, Steve Wilks and Ray Horton joined Flores’ lawsuit. Flores spent last season as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he’s now with the Vikings — as an assistant, again. Wilks was the interim head coach of the Carolina Panthers, but due to the history of the men who carry that title with his skin color, he never had a chance of permanently landing the job — no matter if Panthers owner David Tepper is claiming to be trying to eradicate the league’s “old boys network.” Horton is coaching in the USFL. And you can still count the number of African-American head coaches in the league on one hand and have some fingers left to spare, as Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh), DeMeco Ryans (Houston), and Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay) are the melanated trinity.

I thought Goodell said progress was taking place. Does it look like it to you? Maybe my eyesight is bad.

Last fall, the plaintiffs’ lawyers were alleging racial bias against the NFL as the league wanted things to move to arbitration — where nobody can see. In court documents, the lawyers wrote that “arbitration would allow ‘unconscionably biased one-sided ‘kangaroo courts’ to determine the outcome. If arbitration is where things land, it means that Goodell will be the arbitrator — which is in the best interest of the teams that are being sued, and the league. The latest development occurred last week when it was reported that the judge presiding over the case has requested that more written briefings about arbitration be submitted later in the month.

What does that mean?

That this thing is still in limbo, as we’re waiting to see if this will play out in court or behind closed doors.

But, even if this arbitration decision does go the way of Brian Flores, Steve Wilks, and Ray Horton, we have no idea when the dust will finally settle — which is a win for the league. Because while the league might wind up losing this case, they have a winning strategy. Which is to ignore it, as everyone else did on a Wednesday afternoon in Glendale, Arizona.



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Man United 2-2 Leeds LIVE! Sancho goal – Premier League result, match stream and latest updates today

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S

ubstitute Jadon Sancho’s first goal since September earned Manchester United a thrilling 2-2 draw with Leeds United in the Premier League on Wednesday as the hosts came back from two goals down to salvage a point.

Leeds flew out of the traps and stunned Old Trafford into silence after 55 seconds when Wilfried Gnonto arrowed the visitors in front from the edge of the penalty area.

The home side wasted a host of chances to level in the first half, before Leeds looked to have stormed into a match-winning position early in the second period as Raphael Varane put through his own net to double the visitors’ advantage.

However, in-form Marcus Rashford headed the hosts back into the match in the 62nd minute and Sancho stepped off the bench to rescue his side a point eight minutes later, squeezing the ball past goalkeeper Illan Meslier.

Old Trafford sensed another rousing comeback would be completed with a late winner, but their side ran out of steam, failing to win at home for the first time in 14 matches in all competitions.

United stayed third in the standings, three points ahead of Newcastle United in fourth, having played one game more.

Managerless Leeds climbed one place to 16th, one point clear of the relegation zone.

United had beaten their Roses rivals Leeds by a scoreline of 11-3 in their previous two clashes at Old Trafford, and the visitors were on a seven-game Premier League winless streak which led to manager Jesse Marsch being sacked this week.

Their form made it all the more surprising when Leeds raced into an early lead, Gnonto netting the second-earliest goal scored by an away player at Old Trafford in the Premier League, after Edin Dzeko’s strike in 2014 for Manchester City.

After De Gea denied Leeds a second with a smart stop at his near post, United twice went close to levelling as debutant Marcel Sabitzer volleyed over before Garnacho drilled just wide.

The chances kept coming for the home side, with Garnacho rounding Meslier before seeing an effort blocked and Sabitzer denied by a brilliant save.

The hosts’ profligacy looked to have proved costly as Leeds appeared to be on course to secure a first win in 18 trips to Old Trafford after Varane was powerless to prevent Crysencio Summerville’s cross rolling into his own net.

Rashford, however, had another ideas, steering a header home to become the first Manchester United player to score in six consecutive appearances at Old Trafford in the Premier League since Wayne Rooney in 2012.

Brenden Aaronson hit the post from a Leeds free kick, a let- off Manchester United capitalised on as Sancho, back in the squad after a lengthy absence due to physical and mental wellbeing issues, grabbed the equaliser with a calm finish.

Live updates

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Thank you

Thank you for joining Standard Sport’s LIVE coverage of Manchester United’s draw with Leeds.

Find our report and reaction below.

Good night!

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Ten Hag sends exciting Sancho message after key Man United goal

Erik ten Hag hailed the “magnificent” Jadon Sancho after the Manchester United forward scored his first goal since September in Wednesday’s thrilling draw with Leeds.

The England international only recently made his return to the United set-up after training on his own following what ten Hag said to be “physical and mental issues”.

Sancho’s strike won a point for the home side after Marcus Rashford had first pulled one back following Leeds’ quick-fire start in both halves.

Read Ten Hag’s message in full here!

AFP via Getty Images
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Full match report: Sancho steps up to save Man United but worrying signs without Casemiro

Jadon Sancho’s first goal since September rescued a point for Manchester United in a thrilling draw with rivals Leeds.

Wilfried Gnonto had put the visitors ahead in less than a minute, catching a United side missing the midfield control of Casemiro and Christian Eriksen cold.

Jadon Sancho’s first goal since September rescued a point for Manchester United in a thrilling draw with rivals Leeds.

Wilfried Gnonto had put the visitors ahead in less than a minute, catching a United side missing the midfield control of Casemiro and Christian Eriksen cold.

The home side wasted a host of chances to level in the first half, before Leeds looked to have stormed into a match-winning position early in the second period as Raphael Varane put through his own net to double the visitors’ advantage.

Read our full match report here!

Manchester United via Getty Images
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FT: Man United 2-2 Leeds

A thrilling draw at Old Trafford.

Just a reminder, these two teams play again on Sunday!

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FIVE MINUTES ADDED ON!

90 mins: Are we in for a winner?

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All Man United now

83 mins: Dangerous game for Leeds.

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CHANCE FOR MAN UNITED!

79 mins: Varane heads over the bar!

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Brilliant game

73 mins: Both teams still going for it! Surely there’s going to be a winner.

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GOAL! Man United 2-2 Leeds | Jadon Sancho ‘69

69 mins: MAN UNITED LEVEL!

Sancho squeezes one in from close range!



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