The Washington Kastles look to hoist the Billie Jean King cup for the second year in a row this weekend at the 2012 World Team finals.Despite the momentum of their 30 match winning streak, they'll have to dismantle their rivals, the New York Sportimes, en route to the finals. The Kastles opened with a win over the Sportimes, but it was a close contest as Washington edged New York just 20-18 aided by the clutch play of, Bobby 'The Closer' Reynolds, in the final match.Reynolds, along with veteran and doubles specialist, Leander Paes, were instrumental in the Kastles victory capturing both men's singles and doubles, as well as mixed doubles.The Kastles other sister act, Anastasia and Arina 'Hot Rod' Rodionova, however struggled versus the Sportimes, dropping both events.This time around, reigning Wimbledon and Olympic doubles champion, Venus Williams, will be suiting up for Washington as they face the Sportimes.When Venus joined the Kastles in New York on July 21st, she defeated another former World No. 1 Martina Hingis 5-1. Williams was victorious in both overtime games and didn't drop a point during the 7 point Supertiebreaker leading the Kastles to a 21-20 win. Earlier this week, Coach Murphy Jensen noted that the Kastles success isn't the result of one superstar's 'herculean' effort, but rather the cohesiveness of the squad. But it can't hurt to have Williams' massive serve on the Kastles side of the net.If the Kastles capture the Eastern Conference title to advance to the finals, they'll face the Sacramento Capitals who swept all 5 sets to beat the Orange County Breakers, 25-15 Friday night. The Kastles know it won't be easy taking down the Capitals, whom they survived in the regular season 21-19. But luckily for the Kastles, the Caps will be without marque player Sam Querrey, who is representing the U.S. team in Davis Cup action. Meanwhile, both Reynolds and Paes opted to play in the WTT Finals this weekend versus representing their respective countries in the Davis Cup.Paes's decision caused a stir in his native India, and he said of his decision, "We come together as a team; as a community. I love playing on the Kastles team. This week the Indian Davis Cup team is playing New Zealand back in India, but the fact that I am here to support the ideals of what were trying to doshows how much I care for this team."
Kirk Cousins' price tag just moved even higher with the news that he will replace Matt Ryan in the Pro Bowl. ESPN's John Keim reported the roster move first.
Ryan's Atlanta Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl on Sunday with a 44-21 dismantling of the Green Bay Packers. That victory means Ryan will not be available for the Pro Bowl, held this Sunday in Orlando. Cousins got his spot as an alternate.
Cousins gets the spot deservedly. This season he passed for 4,917 yards, completing 67 percent of his passes and throwing 25 TDs to 12 INTs. In two seasons since being named starter for the Redskins, Cousins has thrown for more than 9,000 yards.
The Pro Bowl nod for Cousins will only make the Redskins pending contract talks that much tougher. The quarterback played in 2016 under the franchise tag, which netted him nearly $20 million. This season Washington could again place Cousins on the franchise tag, with a price tag around $24 million. Both sides can still work for a long-term deal, though the value of that contract would likely soar past $100 million and closer to $120 million.
Some questions exist within the Redskins organization if that is too much money devoted to one player, even if it is a Pro Bowl quarterback.
It's fitting that Cousins is subbing in for Ryan, who has found much success playing under Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. All signs points to Shanahan taking over as the 49ers head coach after the Super Bowl, and a report emerged that San Francisco would make a strong push to obtain Cousins, either in free agency or via trade.
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The Ravens may need to rethink their draft strategy regarding cornerbacks. They haven’t drafted a cornerback in the first three rounds since 2011, when they took Jimmy Smith with the 27th overall pick.
Smith is still the Ravens’ best corner. However, he has been plagued by injuries in recent years, and lack of cornerback depth has become a glaring weakness for the Ravens, in a league that features many explosive wide receivers.
Related: NFL Mock Draft 1.0
According to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., this year’s draft is loaded with talented corners. With the 16th overall pick, the Ravens can address their need at cornerback with someone who might be talented enough to start as a rookie.
“There’s a lot of corners in this draft that are going to go in the first round,” Kiper said during a recent conference call.
Many believe Marshon Lattimore of Ohio St. will be the first cornerback off the board, and will likely be gone before the Ravens can grab him. In his first mock draft, Kiper had Lattimore going No. 6 to the Jets.
However, the list of top-rated corners that could be available for the Ravens at No. 16 includes Marlon Humphrey of Alabama, Sidney Jones of Washington, Jourdan Lewis of Michigan, Teez Tabor of Florida, Cordrea Tankersley of Clemson, and Quincy Wilson of Florida.
The Ravens grabbed a promising corner in the fourth round last year in Tavon Young, who had a strong rookie season. But the Ravens may not have the luxury of waiting to take a cornerback this spring. Instead of taking the best player available at No. 16, the Ravens will have to consider taking the best corner available.