Chiefs rise up, fall down to level of opponent

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Chiefs rise up, fall down to level of opponent

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Chiefs have been something of a rollercoaster this season, though not in terms of wins and losses. They've been quite consistent at losing.

It's their performance that's been uneven, and it's often dictated by their opponent.

When the Chiefs have played one of the league's top teams, such as the Steelers or Broncos, a motley bunch that's lost eight consecutive games rises to the occasion. But when they follow with a game against a similarly downtrodden team, well, the results are fairly predictable.

They've lost, many of the games not even close.

``If you look at the games what we've played our best in, they've been against the `good teams' at the time,'' Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said. ``And then the following week, for whatever reason, we haven't been able to play as well and finish.''

The Chiefs' margin of defeat in games played against teams with losing records is 12 points, while they've lost by an average of 13.3 to teams with winning marks.

But when you eliminate the games played against teams within one game of .500, the numbers tell a different story: They've lost by an average of nine points to the Falcons (10-1), Ravens (9-2) and Broncos (8-3), while losing to teams 4-7 or worse by more than 13 points per game.

That doesn't bode well with Carolina (3-8) coming to town Sunday.

``We played good against teams that I guess people don't expect us to win, and then I guess a game like this, people expect us to win because they're not as good a football team as other teams we've faced,'' defensive tackle Shaun Smith said. ``But we can't let down.''

Is that it, though? Are the Chiefs simply letting down against lousy teams?

``I'd like to think we come out every week, regardless of the opponent, knowing that at any given Sunday, any team can beat anyone,'' quarterback Brady Quinn said. ``This is an extremely competitive league. The difference from team-to-team and player-to-player is very minimal.''

Surely the Saints, who have won five of their last seven, are still scratching their heads at how the Chiefs managed to overcome a 24-6 deficit to force overtime at the Superdome, and then had the gumption to finish off the biggest comeback in franchise history for their lone victory.

The Ravens probably wonder who they were playing two weeks later when they visited Arrowhead Stadium and managed to grind and slog and fight their way to a 9-6 victory.

Just last week, the Broncos came to town riding a five-game win streak. Peyton Manning was shut down most of the afternoon, and Kansas City hung around until late in the fourth quarter, when Denver kicked a field goal to help wrap up a 17-9 victory.

On the flip side, the Chiefs were routed 31-13 by struggling San Diego, ambushed in a 38-10 loss at Tampa Bay, and blown out 35-17 by Buffalo early in the year.

``It's been brought to our attention, so I don't think it will be a concern,'' linebacker Derrick Johnson said, ``but we have had that pattern throughout the year.''

Johnson didn't get into the details of how it was addressed, but he did say the coaching staff has tried to get the message across in several different ways.

``Human nature says, `I played the Denver Broncos and they're the best team in the AFC West, so now here's a team that is 3-8 and they're not as good as the Denver Broncos.' So, human nature says, `Relax a little bit. I can relax a little bit,''' Crennel said. ``So, that's what you have to fight. You have to fight human nature. That's what we are focusing on, is not letting down and being able to put forth the same kind of effort we put forth last week.''

Notes: Chiefs LB Tamba Hali (knee), LT Branden Albert (back) and C Ryan Lilja (knee) have not practiced this week. ... The Chiefs claimed OL Hayworth Hicks off waivers. They also released K Matt Szymanski and signed LB Quan Sturdivant to the practice squad.

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AFC North: Will Steelers RB Bell stay healthy this season?

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AFC North: Will Steelers RB Bell stay healthy this season?

Here’s a key AFC North question. Will Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell stay healthy?

Bell is without question one of the league’s most talented backs. However, knee injuries have ended his season the past two years, leaving the Steelers without him when they were eliminated from the playoffs.

De’Angelo Williams did a superb job in place of Bell last season, rushing for 907 yards and 11 touchdowns. But Bell is a better pass receiver and more elusive – capable of turning almost any play in to a big play. In 2014, Bell had over 2,000 yards combined from scrimmage – 1,316 yards rushing and 854 yards receiving.

Bell doesn’t want to be labeled as injury-prone, yet some people already view him that way. But at Steelers OTA’s, Bell showed up looking healthy, while vowing not to run cautiously next season.

“I’m going to be physical,” Bell told ESPN.com. “I’m out here with no knee brace or anything, didn’t wear a sleeve or anything. I’ve been training my knee for everything I’m about to go through, so when September gets here I’ll be even better than I am now. That’s even crazy to think about. But I’m excited.”

When Bell has been healthy, putting up numbers has not been a problem. The more Bell plays next season, the better the Steelers’ chances of making the playoffs.

Urschel spends his spring getting straight A's at MIT

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Urschel spends his spring getting straight A's at MIT

If the NFL had an All-Academic team, Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel would be on it.

In February, Urschel began the Ph.D program in mathematics at MIT. How’s he doing so far? Here’s a hint. When it comes to grades, Urschel is only familiar with one letter in the alphabet.

“My first semester in school in nearly three years,” Urschel wroter on Twitter. “Four PhD classes at MIT. Four A’s. The streak continues!!!”

Entering his third season with the Ravens, Urschel has found a way to juggle his love for football with his love for mathematics. He posted an interesting article on The Players Tribune this week in which he described training with the football team at MIT this spring.

“I probably had about 50 or 60 pounds on the biggest guy on MIT’s O-line,” Urschel wrote. “But when we ran, they put me to shame. They could outsprint me.

“What I found is that the team at MIT is no joke. It is a football team – in some ways, more of a football team than any I’d ever seen. These guys love football. They are playing the game because they want to. No one is making them come to practice, no one is checking up on them. They know as well as anyone about head injuries; they know that football is dangerous; they know the feeling of exhaustion and pain. They still play. They don’t do it for money, and they don’t do it for status.

“We talk about dedication and passion in the pros, but the truth is, sometimes the game feels like a job. You start to think of the paycheck. You feel the grind. But training with the team at MIT, I started thinking about what had drawn me to football as a kid. It felt like a game again. I had thought I might have something to teach the team. I never imagined they’d have so much to teach me.”

That guy in the Dos Equis beer commercials might be the most interesting man in the world. But Urschel has built a strong resume as the most interesting player on the Ravens.

RELATED: NFL ANNOUNCES LOCATIONS FOR 2019, 2020 AND 2021 SUPER BOWLS

NFL announces locations for 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls

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NFL announces locations for 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls

The NFL has decided on the locations of the 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls. The vote took place at the NFL owners meetings in Charlotte on Tuesday. 

Atlanta will host Super Bowl LIII in 2019, while South Florida (Miami) will get the event in 2020 and Los Angeles will host in 2021. 

The cities chosen each included new or upgraded stadiums in their pitches to the league. 

Atlanta will be home to the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, opening in 2017. 

Miami's stadium (Sun Life Stadium from 2010-2016) is undergoing a $400 million renovation that will include an open-air canopy to provide shade for 92 percent of seats, according to Sports Illustrated. Construction should be complete before the 2017 season. 

And Los Angeles will boast a new 300-acre, campus-style stadium housing the Rams and potentially a second team. The $2.6 billion project will be the most expensive sports arena in the world, reports CNN, and should be ready before the 2019 NFL season.