Djokovic Sails into the Semis

Fun Fact of the Day:  Even though controversial San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick is going to be Blaine Gabbert’s backup, his number is the top-selling jersey in the NFL Shop. It looks like there are plenty of folks out there that want to support his national anthem protest.


Today's Rundown

NFL

Running it back.  Domestic violence charges were dropped against the Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who is expected to be one of the top rookies this year. Elliott’s ex-girlfriend had alleged that Elliott hit her when they were in a parked car. She also posted about past violent incidents to her Instagram account that she has since deleted. The charges were dropped, because 4 witnesses, including 1 in the car said they didn’t see anything happen. If you picked Elliott for your fantasy league, don’t breathe a sigh of relief quite yet, the NFL is still investigating and he could face as much as a 6 game suspension under the league’s DV policy. 

O my Goff!   2016’s #1 draft pick Jared Goff won’t be active in the Los Angeles Rams’ first game this week. The team’s looking a little bit sheepish (pun intended) because they traded away a bunch of picks in the draft to get Goff in the first place. They thought he could be the franchise quarterback that they would build their team around. Unfortunately, he isn’t quite ready for the big time. Instead, the Rams are going with their old QB Case Keenum as their starter and Sean Mannion as his backup.


TENNIS

He’s baaaaack. Last night, superstar #1 Novak Djokovic won his quarterfinal match against #9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The match was a bit shorter than usual, because Tsonga withdrew with a knee injury, after losing the first 2 sets. Djokovic might be hexing people because 2 of his other opponents from earlier round matches also pulled out with injury. This was a much-needed win for Djokovic, after a summer slump that included early Wimbledon and Olympics exits. 


Spotlight on the Updated Touchback Rule

Back in March the NFL passed a temporary rule change to move touchbacks from the 20-yard line to the 25-yard line. At the end of this season, they’re going to decide whether to keep the change permanently.  Here’s what you need to know about the new rule:

Excuse me, what is a touchback again?  If the ball is kicked into the end zone during a kickoff or punt, the kick/punt returner can choose to signal for a touchback by taking a knee (psst—that means he gets down on one knee like he’s about to propose). This means that no one is allowed to tackle him and the offense will start its 1st down at its 25-yard line.

Why did they start this rule?  The kick return is one of the most dangerous parts of the game. Players run towards each other at full speed from far away distances, which can lead to serious injury. In fact, last season 11 high schoolers died from playing football, 3 of which occurred during kickoffs. The NFL is moving the touchback line farther out to make touchbacks more attractive and reduce the number of kick returns and dangerous tackles.

Will it help?  Critics say that the rule change won't make a difference because kickers and punters will just get better at targeting their kicks. They will try to make sure that the football drops between the end zone and 25-yard line, called a “sky” or “mortar” kick.  That way the ball won’t land in the end zone and a touchback won’t even be an option.  So far this preseason, the rule change hasn’t made much of a difference; the percentage of kick returns is about the same as last year.

What would help?  Some people think that the NFL should just get rid of kickoffs altogether, because they are usually pretty uneventful.  Sure, watching a kickoff get returned for a touchdown is super exciting, but last season it only happened 7 times out of 2,550 kickoffs (0.28%). In fact, during the 2015 season, nearly 60% of all kickoffs were touchbacks, and that figure could become higher with the new rule change.


Hot Read

TENNIS

U.S. Open.  Tune in to see #1 Serena Williams play #6 Simona Halep in the women’s quarterfinals tonight! The winner will advance to the semis with Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber. 7pm ET on ESPN