He wanted to play at Alabama and be developed into a pro-style quarterback.

Here’s what Jalen has been told: These people don’t love you, they just love what you’re doing, he said. They don’t care about you because they don’t know you. … You’re always going to have people cheering for you, and those are the people who know and care about you. And you’re going to have some people come watch you play every game to hope you fail.

Jones has been on the injury report eight of the last 10 weeks, along with two other weeks early in the season.

None of the injuries were serious enough to keep him from playing, but they did require plenty of tender loving care to make sure there were no setbacks. That’s why, over the course of the last four months, the injury report has listed him as limited or out of practice more times than he’s fully participated.

Game day is a different story.

If you say you’re gonna go, go. Don’t bring it up in the middle of the game, he said. We know it hurts. Don’t let your mind be negative. Just stay positive. If something’s hurting or anything like that, I never relay it back to (the sideline). I know it hurts. You don’t want to talk about it and bring that stuff up during the game. If I suit up, I’m going. I’m not saying anything about it.

A turning point in Jones’ pain threshold came during his sophomore season at Alabama. He broke his left hand in a game, had surgery the next day and was cleared to play the following week.

The first voting update is due Thursday, so we’ll soon find out where Oladipo stands among the fans. ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus views Oladipo as an All-Star as he ranks 10th in the NBA — fifth in the East — in RPM. — Micah Adams

The Heat rank 27th in the NBA in points in the paint (40.4) and free throw attempts (18.9) per game despite ranking third in the league in drives (50.3) per game. For a Miami team that’s top-10 in the league in making 3s — something that hasn’t happened since 2012-13 — being able to complete plays in the paint will give this offense some more diversity. — Vincent Johnson

The Pelicans are perfectly average: 18-18 on the season, 9-9 at home, 9-9 on the road, 4,002 points scored and 4,004 points allowed. In games that are decided in the final five minutes with the score within five, they’re 11-11. Making this team’s performance much more head-scratching is that with All-Stars DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, a duo the league has no answer for, the Pelicans are still so exceptionally ordinary. — Vincent Johnson

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The Steelers go three-and-out and punt. The Patriots get the ball back at their 23 with 2:06 to play, trailing by five.

Field goal, Patriots. Brady throws two straight incomplete passes and is sacked on third down. Stephen Gostkowski comes on and kicks a 46-yard field goal to cut the Steelers lead to 24-19 with 3:56 to play.

Brady fails to connect with Gronkowski on a third-down pass from the Pittsburgh 44. But the Steelers are called for defensive pass interference, extending the Patriots drive.

In total, five rookies are part of the rotation, and Shane Larkin (who was playing in Spain last year) has played a key role. Yet none of them has shrunk from the moment. Of course each has had his own share of struggles (except perhaps the unflappable Tatum), but all have managed to step into their assigned roles and contribute to the team’s success.

Of course there’s also a little bit of luck involved. With the very notable exception of Hayward’s injury, a lot of things have gone well this year. Irving hit the ground running and has quickly stepped into the franchise-player role. In a way, the roster overhaul helped him because there was no established culture to which he needed to acclimate—it was all new for almost everyone, and not even mastermind Danny Ainge could have predicted exactly how the team culture would develop.

Now let’s look at numbers. Newton’s rushing production in 2015: 636 yards and 10 TDs. His rushing production so far in 2017 with two games left: 643 yards and 5 TDs. So he’s just as valuable there.

His passing has had a big drop-off in stats and efficiency, resembling more of his disappointing 2016 season. The eye test, however, says Newton is making some big-time plays when Carolina needs him most. He helped the team beat the Patriots on the road earlier in the season, then the Vikings and Packers at home of late.

If Wilson is on the board for putting his team on his shoulders, Newton should be, too, with a better team. Newton’s chances would shoot up from zero should the Panthers win the NFC South and jump up to a No. 3 seed.

What happens next is the full-scale integration of Isaiah Thomas into the lineup. Even Thomas’ return to the Garden was subdued. He had jokes and greetings for all the familiar faces who lined up to pay their respects and he even hugged it out with Danny Ainge in the hallway when they crossed paths.

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The Nets are the gift that just keeps on giving.

Opponent winning percentage: .492; tied for the 12th-easiest. The Vikings’ schedule trended on the easier side, but look at how other teams did with backup quarterbacks this season (see: Packers, Texans, Colts and Dolphins). The Minnesota defense allowed the fewest points, but Case Keenum also finished second in Total QBR.

Opponent winning percentage: .535; eighth-hardest. The Saints played one of the toughest schedules in the NFL and held their own. Not only did they win the NFC South, but they posted a plus-57 point margin against winning teams, the second-best in the NFL.

The Lakers gave this pick up in the Steve Nash trade with Phoenix back in 2012 that began their current downward spiral. It then went to Philadelphia in an ill-fated, three-team trade deadline deal involving Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Knight. It then changed hands again when the 76ers moved up to get Markelle Fultz.

If the pick doesn’t convey to Boston, the 76ers get to keep it, but they’ll have to give up a high 2019 pick instead, likely via the Kings. More on that in a second.

Jeffery: If you ask Taylor Lewan, and if he says he blew an assignment, he’s lying. He turned out to block Clowney, and Clowney did exactly what he’s supposed to do, which was go inside. He went inside and blew past, and Taylor Lewan didn’t see it coming. Yes, it was a blocking error, because he was supposed to block him, of course, but Clowney really made that play. What I would say to people is really just stop hating. That is greatness at its best.

Thompson: Sure, the guy missed a block. But at the same time, Clowney did what he did, and I don’t think there are very many people who would do that that quickly, that violently.

Shaw: Thank god I’ve never gotten hit by JD. I can remember his first spring practice when he came to South Carolina — or maybe it was fall camp — but they taught the D-ends to tag off from the quarterback. And I go in the showers after practice, and I just had these slap marks all over my ribcage and back. I was like, JD, man, really? You’re going to have to learn just to run by me, bro.

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An argument can be made that Roethlisberger and Bell are more worthy MVP candidates.

Brown obviously wouldn’t be enjoying such prosperity without Roethlisberger delivering him the football. Big Ben has lived up to that nickname in 2017 by ranking second overall in passing yardage (3,744) and fourth in touchdowns (24).

All that said, here’s what’s been rattling around in my head recently: Wiggins’ offensive stats in wins and losses are not very different, which is quite unusual for a high minute player. He scores the same number of points on the same TS percentage in wins and losses. He does rebound and assist at a somewhat higher rate in wins, but the differences are not huge. This is bizarre, and might just be a sample size anomaly. But Zach LaVine had similar splits last season, and it makes me wonder whether the impact of a third option is less than we might expect.

This is the first four seasons of each player’s career, with of course Andrew Wiggins in the midst of his fourth season.

I include this because DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay are often cited as comps for Andrew Wiggins. As you can see, it works fairly well. Gay was (and is) bigger, a better defender and rebounder, but perhaps lacks a little of Wiggins’ offensive gifts. DeRozan was quite similar, though an even worse and less frequent three point shooter. He also made an unusual leap in his fifth year in the league.

The Raiders go three-and-out on their first drive and punt. Dallas will take over on its 32.

Turnover, Cowboys. Dallas advances to the Oakland 35 on an 18-yard pass from Dak Prescott to Jason Witten, but three plays later, another Prescott pass intended for Witten is picked off by Oakland cornerback Sean Smith, who returns it to the Raiders’ 30.

He runs the exact same play but from further above the three-point line, taking the same screen, blowing by another two defenders and pulling up for the same mid-range jump shot. Only this time, he pulls up from exactly the foul line, and only this time, it’s nothing but net.

He throws his hands up as if to say, about time.

That’s the type of night it was for Butler, who finished with 30 points on a pedestrian 7-of-17 from the field. When his shot isn’t going down, he finds other ways to make winning plays.

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the Eagles barely survived, were a nightmare on offense and sowed doubt across the league and its followers.

It’s not so much that Nick Foles is going to blow this season and take the No. 1 seed down with him. It’s that he’s failing at being Carson Wentz, which most quarterbacks in the NFL would.

And that the handful of quarterbacks in the NFC who have been on Wentz’s level this season and, more important, previously, are all lying in wait for the Eagles in the playoffs. They have home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, yet folks are shouting one and done about the Eagles right now more than they do about Kentucky’s basketball recruits.

Not only that, but Georgia will have the advantage of playing this neutral-site game in Atlanta, a city that is one hour from campus and has 90,000 alumni in the metro area. Remember, Saban won his first national championship coaching LSU on a neutral field against Oklahoma in the 2004 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

But that’s about where Georgia’s advantages stop. Alabama under Saban has been most vulnerable to dual-threat quarterbacks in an up-tempo spread. Think of Deshaun Watson at Clemson or Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M.

That is not what the Georgia offense is. As good as Bulldogs seniors Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are, does anyone think an offense that ran the ball 69 percent of the time, that is run by a true freshman quarterback (Jake Fromm), can turn back a Saban defense?

On the other hand, Georgia will have a much easier time stopping Alabama, which Clemson held to 261 total yards, than it did stopping Oklahoma, which gained 531 yards Monday in the Rose Bowl. And that’s before factoring in the knowledge that Smart will bring to bear against the Tide.

It will be very weird, Tide defensive back Anthony Averett said. He was my coach my first three years I was here. He’s a great coach. [Georgia defensive coordinator] Coach [Mel] Tucker coached me as well. They know what we’re going to do. We know what they’re going to do, like Clemson. It definitely makes it more fun.

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Panthers playoff seeding scenarios: Carolina can still get No. 2 seed in NFC

This scenario is slightly more likely for Carolina, given Minnesota is such a strong favorite against Chicago. The division-champion Panthers would overtake the losing Rams for the No. 3 seed and bump the Saints down to the No. 5 seed as a wild card.

In this scenario, the Panthers would host either the Seahawks or the Falcons in the wild-card round of the playoffs. Atlanta simply needs to win in order to grab that No. 6 seed. Seattle needs a win and an Atlanta loss in order to take it.

If the Panthers get the No. 4 seed or No. 5 seed for the NFC playoffs, they will play either the Saints or the Rams in the wild-card round. There is no scenario in which Carolina would host Los Angeles, but the Panthers would make the trip to LA if the Saints win and the Rams lose in Week 17. If the Panthers get the No. 4 seed, they’re guaranteed to host the Saints in the wild-card round.

According to SN NFL writer Alex Marvez, assuming it doesn’t get a first-round bye, Carolina should prefer to stay in the No. 5 seed as a wild card and hope for a road game in Los Angeles.

For now, the Dawgs feel only joy and the excitement of unbridled opportunity. But as Kirby Smart knows from Alabama, even the ultimate goal of a national title would bring a new burden of expectations.

After the teams combined for more than 1,000 yards of offense, the Bulldogs won when linebacker Lorenzo Carter blocked a 27-yard field goal to start the second overtime. Georgia tailback Sony Michel ran into the end zone for the winning score two plays later.

Our kids were so resilient, Smart said. They never stopped chopping wood. They kept fighting. They believed.

Georgia’s players and coaches might have been the only ones who thought they had a chance to come back from a 17-point deficit in the second half. The Sooners, with Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield and their high-flying spread offense, dominated the first half. Georgia’s defense didn’t touch Mayfield in the first quarter, and the Sooners piled up 360 yards of offense in the first half, averaging nine yards per play.

Mayfield, who battled flu-like symptoms earlier in the week, was spectacular in the first 30 minutes. He threw for 200 yards with a touchdown and even caught a 2-yard score on a pass from receiver CeeDee Lamb to give OU a 31-14 lead.

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