As the expression goes, Father Time is undefeated. But James is at least making him sweat.

To be clear, James is not quite the player he was at his peak because his defensive value — blocks aside — is not as high. And as he reaches his mid-30s, declining athleticism could finally become an issue for James, particularly if his improved 3-point shooting proves fluky.

Big Ben had little explanation, except to say, “That’s just the AFC North.”

We get it. There are a ton of tough players on the Steelers and Bengals who can take hits and deliver them, Roethlisberger being among the toughest.

But Monday night was a little different from the last time we saw ugliness prevail when Ryan Shazier, Giovani Bernard, Vontaze Burfict and Antonio Brown were all on the same field — in that infamous 2016 AFC wild-card battle.

After Shazier, attempting to tackle Bernard, went down early in the first quarter with a devastating back injury that required him to be taken off the field on a spine board and taken by ambulance to a local hospital, an injury that prompted prayers from players and fans well beyond those in the stadium, you would think the approach of how the teams “took it each other” in the latest heated edition of their rivalry would have changed.

Meanwhile, the Jets seem to have too much scoring talent to fall out. I think the same is true of the Islanders, though they haven’t had the goaltending to make them a more comfortably-projected playoff team.

After that it gets trickier. Right now, only four points separate the top six teams in the Metropolitan Division. It’s still anybody’s division and all six are going to jockey for five playoff spots.

Passing on a quarterback (again) may be tough for Browns fans to swallow, but getting a top offensive tackle and a playmaking defender like Fitzpatrick to go with last year’s draft should excite Cleveland.chargers_028-180x180

It’s hard to believe this is the same team that won the Super Bowl two seasons ago as the AFC’s best

As far as maintaining a somewhat healthy roster is concerned, the Ducks can’t catch a break. Just as Ryan Getzlaf (face) rejoins the lineup, down goes Perry with a lower-body injury, a suspected knee issue that was serious enough to warrant a trip to the hospital. The top-line winger is considered week-to-week. We could see Jakub Silfverberg slide in next to Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell for now, with either Ondrej Kase or Logan Shaw joining second-line center Adam Henrique. Keep an eye on how the top six washes out in the next couple of days.

And the last coach bagged before the end of the season was Bill Arnsparger in 1976, when the team started 0-7 on its way to 3-11. That was in the midst of the 17-year run of missing the playoffs, dating to their last NFL title game in 1963, encompassing a stretch in which they became an NFL punchline, a laughingstock, a team on which Jets fans could look down.

It wasn’t pretty for banged-up Matthew Stafford and the offense against Tampa Bay, but then it never is. They’re back to making clutch plays late in close games. Detroit is currently eighth in the NFC, but with its schedule, the opportunity to sneak into the playoffs is right there.

Sometimes a totally lame duck staff is coaching the bowl game, and sometimes most of the assistants doing the coaching are going to be retained. The goal is always to get a read on who’s checked out and who’s all in.

Joseph and his staff have lost control of all three phases. There’s no efficiency, no direction and no complementary football at all. They’re not sure what to do with personnel, and the schemes make them stale and predictably easy to burn on both sides fo the ball.

But, then again, it isn’t. Joseph, an inexperienced coach, has been overwhelmed by the team’s weaknesses, only causing them to expand.nike_chargers_544-180x180

Beal said that the officials gave him a simple explanation afterward.

Washington’s second opportunity didn’t go so well. Center Marcin Gortat was forced to take a contested 21-foot jump shot that missed, ending the game.

“Excuse my language, because I’m gonna say verbatim what they said,” Beal said. “They said it’s something called the … some s— rule. It’s a freak rule. To me, it didn’t really make sense because you kind of take a basket away. You go back and we get the same amount of time, but we didn’t get the same amount of time and then the ball was placed in the corner.”

“(Giants chairman) Steve (Tisch) and I spoke after yesterday’s game in Oakland and agreed to talk again today,” said Gians president John Mara. “This morning, we decided in the best interest of the franchise that we would relieve Jerry and Ben of their duties, effective immediately. This season has been incredibly disappointing for the organization and our fans, and while it would be ideal to make these kinds of decisions at the conclusion of the season, we simply felt now is the time to prepare for a fresh start.

The team would only save $5 million in 2018 by cutting him, but it would save itself another $13 million that could be used in the future. It’s probably a given that Vernon will be retained if only to avoid carrying $12 million in dead money.

Harrison is probably safe no matter who is in charge, unless someone knocks the Giants out with a good trade package. He already has $2.5 million guaranteed for next season, and cutting him would only create $2.3 million in cap space. He remains one of the best run defenders in the NFL.

Jason Pierre-Paul is already locked into his contract with no escape other than trade, so keeping Harrison and Vernon would give the Giants — on paper, at least — a solid defensive line, which should help the team even while rebuilding next season.

The Texans have gone into a free fall as the AFC South has become out of reach for them behind the Titans and Jaguars.

The Cubs are also banking on Chatwood holding the improved velocity he showed in 2017. He had Tommy John surgery in July of 2014 and missed all of 2015. That was actually his second TJ surgery, having had his first one while still in high school. According to Statcast data, his four-seam fastball velocity improved from 92.7 mph in 2016 to 94.8 in 2017, the biggest increase in the majors.

Big injuries marred their chances early; now, little injuries have hurt their chances of a respectable finish.

The defense can’t seem to put things together, and the offensive personnel keeps being misused by Dirk Koetter. Jameis Winston has become a forcing-the-ball-to-Mike-Evans turnover machine. The lack of creativity is shocking.

With that in mind, let’s take a peek at 2018 salary cap and see what might lie in store for the Giants.

Despite that fiasco with the University of Tennesssee, Schiano is gaining steam for a return to head-coaching somewhere after rebounding from his Bucs burnout. Schiano, well respected by Bill Belichick, is New Jersey all the way, having led a turnaround at Rutgers. At only 51 and having learned a lot from Tampa Bay, Schiano could be better in a second NFL go-round.

Would Harbaugh leave the Wolverines for this other high-profile job? More important, would Giants ownership welcome his weirdness? Those are two big ifs, but at this point, Harbs can’t be ruled out to rejoin the ranks of brother John.

The Hornets had no legs left to challenge.

“I was just shocked because I didn’t know he went down,” 76ers rookie Ben Simmons said. “I just spoke with him and hopefully he’ll be all right.”

Asked if Covington will play Sunday against New Orleans, Brown said, “I can’t assume anything, but it would seem like he’s a no-go.”

Dykes was 13 when his dad, then a high school coach, asked his son what he wanted for his birthday. Enamored by the Pony Express of Eric Dickerson and Craig James, Dykes’ answer was tickets to an SMU game, so the two small-town West Texas natives made the trip to Lubbock.

Texas Tech had just pulled even on a field goal with 17 seconds left when Bobby Leach took a long lateral on the kickoff and ran untouched 91 yards up the sideline for a 34-27 win during SMU’s 11-0-1 season.

“We’ve got to learn to play under pressure,” Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said. “They got that goal there to go ahead and we got it back with five minutes left under pressure. A couple of giveaways, people sinking and you’ve got to play under pressure in this league. It’s a hard league.”

Kemba Walker scored 23 points and Dwight Howard had 21 points and 12 rebounds for the injury-riddled Hornets, who have lost seven of eight.

The Lakers led by one entering the fourth but went on a run midway through the quarter to push the margin to 15.

Clarkson beat Walker on a backdoor cut for a jam, Caldwell-Pope knocked down a 3-pointer and Julius Randle scored on a layup and drew a foul. Ingram’s tip-in off his own missed layup and Clarkson’s floater increased the Lakers’ lead to 14 with four minutes remaining.royals_010

The New Mexico Bowl is also the final game for Rams defensive coordinator Marty English before he retires.

Perhaps the strangest part to an already strange season for the Bulls is that Mirotic and Portis are actually playing very well together in their brief time on the floor. Mirotic, who has accepted Portis’ apology through the media, but up to this point hasn’t publicly revealed if he has spoken to Portis since the fight, seems to have found a rhythm with a player whom many observers thought he would never play with again.

Holliday said he anticipates the Stevens-Gallup connection to remain dangerous despite coaching staff shake-ups at Colorado State. The Rams lost offensive coordinator Will Friend, who is joining newly named head coach Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee.

The Packers had no chance to make the playoffs over the 9-3 Saints had New Orleans fallen from first to third in the NFL’s toughest division. The Saints have a strong three-game advantage over the Packers, which includes a win at Lambeau in Week 7.

“We’re not getting off to a great start and it’s just playing its way all the way through to when we get late in games, and for whatever reason we try to turn it on,” George said. “It just seems we’re a completely different team that last four or five minutes, and that’s the way we’ve got to battle for 48 minutes.”

The Thunder have shown flashes of their potential; but their inconsistency, particularly on the offensive end as they try to sort out fitting Westbrook, George and Anthony together, has been the overarching issue.

Now that Mariota is healthy deep into a season, he needs to find another gear.

DeMarco Murray has slowed down the Titans’ traditional rushing attack, and they still seem reluctant in letting Derrick Henry get more chances. As well as Tennessee has lit up the scoreboard in some games, the maddening inconsistency has left a lot of untapped potential.

An overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday left Washington sitting 11th in the NFC playoff chase, meaning the Redskins need to jump over five teams in the final six weeks. On the plus side, starting with the Giants (a team they play twice), the Redskins won’t face a team that currently has a winning record the rest of the way.

“I feel like we have a lot of warriors on this team, guys who are winners and want to compete every single play,” tight end Vernon Davis told the Washington Post. “Weeks like thisreally test your character and test who you are as a man. How will you respond?”

I don’t think there is a player in the league who shoots the puck like him. I don’t think his wrist shot is the hardest or the release is the quickest, but it seems to be the most deceptive. Seeing something different is fun. Additionally, scoring 52 goals through one’s first 100 NHL games is a super-rare occurrence for a player of Matthews’ age. Alex Ovechkin is the only other player with more goals through his first 100 games in the last 20-plus years. Witnessing such a rare scoring talent certainly raises the entertainment value in a big way.

As for Darnold, the Trojans’ quarterback has a ways to go in the intermediate passing game, and he makes the bad mistake far too often. While that is understandable for a redshirt sophomore, it’s something scouts want to see him clean up.

But his ability to extend the play and keep his eyes down the field is second to none in the 2018 draft class, and the way hecomplete those passes when he has to is unmatched by any quarterback that is draft eligible for the next two years.nike_bills-087

Blues coach Mike Yeo held his breath during the fight.

The problem for Peterson’s fantasy managers is twofold. First, a 7.5 GBYPA is actually lower than the league average of 7.8 GBYPA, so it isn’t exactly a feather in the proverbial metric hat.

The second issue is Peterson has posted a 7.7 GBYPA that is slightly lower than the team total in that metric and he has a GBYPA of 5 or fewer yards in the three aforementioned games where tallied fewer than five fantasy points.

And, if the general rule is that you need five fantasy points per thousand dollars of price, Antetokounmpo hasn’t hit that threshold in either scoring format in his past four games. It is legitimate to question whether Eric Bledsoe’s presence is contributing to that, and until that is answered and/or his price goes down a bit, Antetokounmpo is too risky to spend that much of your budget on.

The NFC is more open with the Seahawks and Cowboys at 5-3 and the Packers (4-3), Cardinals (4-4), Redskins (4-4) and Falcons (4-4) all in contention.

“We don’t want Vladdy getting into fights, but he sent a message there,” Yeo said. “If you saw the way the bench got up … I could hear what they were saying.

“It is what it is but again, you don’t want a guy like him fighting and he breaks his hand. He did pretty well. He’s so strong. But again, that’s not what we want him doing.”

It was Tarasenko’s second career Gordie Howe hat trick — a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game. The other one came on Nov. 13, 2014, against Nashville.nike_bills-081

The Rams were 4-12 last season and scored just 24 touchdowns in 2016.

The Eagles held a 31-9 halftime lead on the Broncos. It was the first time since 2010 the Broncos had allowed 30 points in a half. Denver has now lost four straight, the team’s first four-game losing streak since that same 2010 season, when the Broncos finished 4-12.

After Sunday’s 51-17 win over the Giants, the Rams (6-2) already have 27 touchdowns this season and are the NFL’s highest-scoring team.

“My music selection is pretty aggressiveness with the softness,” a jovial Newton quipped.

The Panthers (7-3) now enter their bye week and Newton said he’ll use the time off to take cupcakes and pizza to his daughter’s school and get some family pictures taken.

Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz (38.5): Found at No. 20 among small forwards on the Player Rater during the past two weeks, Ingles offers a helpful blend of dimes — at least four in five of his past six games — and clean shooting production (47.1 percent from beyond the arc).

Things didn’t change for the better against a much-improved New England defense, as Carr managed to throw for only 237 yards and tallied only 13.5 fantasy points against the Patriots.

So what is the problem? A big part of it is subpar pass blocking. Oakland ranked 21st in Week 11 in ESPN Stats & Information’s pass pressure rate (PPR) metric that measures how often a defense gets pass rush pressure on a quarterback. nike_bills-111

Score, results, highlights from Monday night game in Charlotte

Cam Newton threw for four touchdowns to lead the Panthers to a 45-21 home win over the Dolphins on Monday night.

Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton caught five passes for 175 yards and two scores, including an odd 80-yard touchdown when Hilton fell while cutting at the Texans 35-yard line, but wasn’t touched. He got up and scored in what was the deciding score in the Colts’ 20-14 win over the Texans.

The Rams had a huge game against the Giants defense, which is led by former Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo. Rams quarterback Jared Goff completed only 14 passes, on 22 attempts, but those completions went for 311 yards and four touchdowns. One touchdown was a 52-yarder to Robert Woods on third-and-33.

They signed Alshon Jeffery in free agency this year (34 catches with five TD receptions) and traded for a top corner in Ronald Darby. Two weeks ago, they acquired running back Jay Ajayi, who ran for 77 yards on eight carries in the win over Denver, in a trade with the Dolphins.

But the fifth-year pro still has a clear role in this offense, as he has 14 catches the past three games and will get occasional red zone work. In a deeper league (14 or 16 teams), he’s on the flex radar. He should be rostered in 12-team or larger leagues.

The greater difference we’ve seen for technical foul shooters this season (4.4 percentage points) is probably partially noise, but we also saw a larger gap than expected in a study of technical free throws by Roland Beech (3.1 percentage points), so I think it may have something to do with the unusual nature of shooting a free throw without any other players on the line.