Jabrill Peppers got the Browns off to a fast start on Monday with an impressive 31-yard punt return following the Giants’ first drive of the game.

After the Browns defense forced a rare three-and-out, Giants punter Brad Wing got off an impressive 52-yard punt that looked like it was going to pin the Browns deep in their own territory. Only that didn’t happen, because after Peppers caught the punt, the Giants couldn’t catch him.

Just think how terrible the Green Bay offense would be with Brett Hundley at QB if Coach Mike McCarthy had not invested all that time in Hundley’s development, as he testily reminded everyone he’d done while bristling at questions about the lack of consideration given by the Packers to signing Colin Kaepernick.

Which was the worst of Coach Sean McDermott’s moves: benching Tyrod Taylor in favor of Nathan Peterman; allowing Peterman to stay in the game long enough to throw five interceptions; or saying that he didn’t regret the switch? They’re all terrible. McDermott let down a team that had — and has — a chance to reach the playoffs with an ill-advised decision that wasn’t fair to either quarterback.

Blaine Gabbert is not the answer at QB, as if there was any doubt about that. Gabbert actually played reasonably well in the loss to the Texans. But when a team eagerly awaits the return of Drew Stanton, that tells you all that you need to know.

Centralizing replay and bringing the surface tablets to the sidelines so the official can see it, all that has sped up what we consider down time — time that’s not, we don’t believe, attractive to our fans. We’re happy with it. It’s only six weeks. We’ve got a long way to go. But we’re continuing to see what we can do to keep pushing that because we believe that’s good for the [fan] experience.”

Beckham’s contract … New York Giants co-owner John Mara said Wednesday, as owners left the meeting, that Beckham’s injury should not affect negotiations on a potential long-term contract. The Giants have Beckham under contract through next season after exercising the fifth-year option in his original rookie deal.

I saw him in the hospital last week. He’s in a good place, I think, and I think he’ll come back stronger than ever. … I don’t think it will have any effect because I think he’s going to make a full recovery.”chargers_078

Dion Lewis among top fantasy football free-agent finds for Week 8

We’re past the halfway point of the fantasy football regular season (the default setting on ESPN Fantasy is for the playoffs to be conducted Weeks 14-17 of the NFL regular season), with yet another typically fast season cruising by. How’s your squad holding up so far?

Rookie left tackle Garret Bolles and new right guard Ronald Leary have been solid, helping elite center Matt Paradis. But the Broncos’ mix at both left guard and right tackle have been awful, the latter further hampered by injuries to Menelik Watson and Donald Stephenson. Players such as Allen Barbre shouldn’t be starting on any line. That also hurts Denver’s continuity and any chance for cohesiveness.

Chuck Pagano’s team has avoided the ignominy surrounding the 49ers and Browns by winning two of its first seven games, doing so specifically by beating those two teams by three points each. The Colts have lost their other five games by a combined 109 points. Football Outsiders believes that the Colts — not their winless brethren — are the worst team in football on a play-by-play basis.

The biggest problem for the Colts, of course, is that their franchise quarterback hasn’t thrown a pass since New Year’s Day. Andrew Luck underwent shoulder surgery in January and was supposed to return in July. Things changed. Luck’s return kept getting pushed back further and further, and it quickly became clear the organization had no idea when he would be back. The team took him off the physically unable to perform list, implying that they believed he would be back before Week 7, but Luck didn’t make his way back into practice until before Week 5. Shortly after, he stopped throwing because of soreness in his shoulder, and now there’s no timetable for Luck’s return.chargers_016

New coach Sean McDermott has not wasted time maximizing their defensive potential.

New coach Sean McDermott has not wasted time maximizing their defensive potential. And keeping the offense as simple as possible with Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy and Charles Clay has worked because they haven’t needed to do too much (yet).

Carson Wentz may get some help from a strong running game after all, as the combination of LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood look ideal. The Eagles will need to hold up somehow defensively as long as Fletcher Cox and Ronald Darby are out.

A defense led by Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower shouldn’t be that lost under Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick. But this problem is going on four weeks. This would not be close to a .500 team without Brady.

Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are forming their special tag team again, but it’s hard to make up for a limited, reeling defense that saw Sean Lee miss another game. The Cowboys are not a lock to repeat in the NFC East.

New coach Sean McDermott has not wasted time maximizing their defensive potential. And keeping the offense as simple as possible with Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy and Charles Clay has worked because they haven’t needed to do too much (yet).

Carson Wentz may get some help from a strong running game after all, as the combination of LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood look ideal. The Eagles will need to hold up somehow defensively as long as Fletcher Cox and Ronald Darby are out.browns_032

J.J. Watt goes to locker room with injured finger vs. Jaguars

The Houston Texans got J.J. Watt back Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars after he missed most of 2016 due to a back injury, but the defensive end suffered a hand injury in his first game back and was taken to the locker room.

Shortly after leaving, the Texans announced Watt was probable to return and he did make his return to the field in the third quarter.

After the game he brushed off the injury, even if it sounds pretty sounds.

But open heart surgery may mean the end of his NFL career.

The serious condition was found by a Saints doctor who performed a physical on Dorenbos. Saints coach Sean Payton said that the diagnosis “basically saved his life.”

However, he was released by the team Saturday and Payton said the team is working to rescind the trade due to the pre-existing condition which has prevented him from suiting up for the team.

Dorenbos was a two-time Pro Bowler with the Eagles, but he grabbed headlines last year when his abilities as a magician earned him a third place finish on NBC’s America’s Got Talent. Hopefully he makes a full recovery and gets back to blowing Jon Gruden’s mind with magic.bears_019-223x223

Thursday night games will feature teams wearing solid-colored “Color Rush” uniforms.

The looming weakness now was a strength as recently as 2015: the offensive line, which has shed starting guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang along with interior lineman JC Tretter, who started seven games at center last season. If the line comes together, this Packers team might be as loaded as any since the 15-1 squad of 2011.

When Nike took over the NFL’s uniform contract in 2012, the Packers were one of several teams that opted to stick with the old Reebok fabric and tailoring template (which is easy to spot — just look for the mesh fabric), and they’ve continued to stick with it this season. They’ve basically bypassed the Flywire era by standing still.

There should be some concern about the lack of resources poured into a frequently frustrating offensive line, but few teams have as much top-level talent on offense and defense as the Giants. If everyone stays healthy and tackles Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart improve, Big Blue could be an absolute juggernaut.

Finally: Want to go to the head of the line when boarding an Alaska Airlines flightLast year, the airline extended that privilege to anyone wearing a Russell Wilson jersey, and it has renewed the promotion for 2017. No word on whether fans in the old Flywire jerseys have to wait a bit longer.

As has been the case the past two seasons, Thursday night games will feature teams wearing solid-colored “Color Rush” uniforms. Although the specific color matchups haven’t been announced, you can see this season’s Thursday night schedule here. (As an aside, at least one team wanted to amend the league’s bylaws so it could opt out of the Color Rush program, but the proposal was later withdrawn.)raptors_138

Have Jets found secret to selling NFL tickets to millennials?

The Jets have have missed the NFL Playoffs six straight seasons and unfortunately play in the same AFC East division as the Super Bowl champion Patriots. But the club has come up with an ticket idea adventurous enough to appeal to millennials: the new Jets Boarding Pass season ticket plan.

“We’ve been in contact with Colin’s representatives, and we’ve let them know that we’re there and ready to help with whatever they’d like — whether it’s just some guidance on P.R. or whatever,” Winston said. “I know they’ve chosen to lay low, and I respect that. Every player has to make a decision on how they want the union’s help, and I completely understand that, and that’s fine.

“The union’s always stood ready to help him in any way that we need to. We will continue to monitor that situation, we’ll continue to do anything that we can to make sure that he has another opportunity to play. At the end of the day, that’s really it. We’re not going to force ourselves on a player. He’s calling the shots, he wants what he wants, and I respect that, and that’s what we’ll do.”

Winston added that while the veteran is still a free agent for reasons understood by many, it certainly seems like Kaepernick is being blackballed by NFL owners.

“You definitely get that feeling — obviously, that’s very hard to prove and it’s very hard to show,” Winston said. “But, at the same time, for Christ’s sakes, you have an owner out there publicly saying, ‘I’m polling fans to decide whether I should have this guy on my team or not.’ It’s obvious that owners are scared of it, are worried about it.

Phil Simms holding a boombox is every dad trying to be cool

The NFL on CBS crew came across a dance crew in Times Square, and it was just how you’d expect it to be — awkward.

As of Thursday morning, a quick Google search will show you that Brady, not Woody Johnson, owns the Jets.

The Jets aren’t alone. Basically, Brady’s beat almost every team more often than not — the Denver Broncos are the only team with a winning record against him.

The Buffalo Bills have been even worse against Brady than the Jets, with just three wins in 29 games against the quarterback. He has 66 touchdowns against Buffalo — his highest total against any team — but Google lists the Pegulas as the owners of the Bills.

It also says Arthur Blank is the owner of the Atlanta Falcons even though … well, you know.

Sorry, Jets, that’s just a tough break.

In the big picture, the Browns ended up with six draft picks, two of those being first-rounders. Whiffing on both is one of the many reasons why Cleveland is still drafting in the top five three years later.

Jets: There couldn’t be just one “biggest loser” in this draft, because the Jets really gave the Browns a run for their money. Of the 12 draft picks, only two of them are still on the roster — Pryor and sixth-rounder Quincy Enunwa. Second-round TE Jace Amaro did nothing, and neither of the other WR picks (Jalen Saunders, Shaq Evans) amounted to anything. With a complete waste of resources up and down the board, this draft was a fitting end to the Rex Ryan/John Idzik regime.

Colts: They traded their 2014 first-rounder the previous year for Trent Richardson. Whoops.

Thunder’s Taj Gibson drains 61-foot football throw at halftime buzzer

Taj Gibson chucked the ball like a quarterback, and sunk it through the net in the closing seconds of the half in the Thunder’s Thursday night matchup against the Trail Blazers.

That shot gave the Thunder a three-point advantage heading into the break.

Gibson was acquired by Oklahoma City along with Doug McDermott in the final hours of the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 23, in a deal that sent Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow to the Bulls.

OKC didn’t trade for him with the assumption he’d drain shots from deep, especially that deep, but teammate Russell Westbrook will take all the scoring help he can get. It was just the fourth 3-point make of Gibson’s career in 35 attempts.

Back in Milwaukee for draft night three months later, the front-office staff had zeroed in on Antetokounmpo as their best-case scenario with the 15th pick. The mock drafts would call that a stretch. Sporting News had Antetokounmpo going 19th, as did Sports Illustrated. One ESPN mock draft had him slipping to 26th.

Hammond had no doubts. “We were sitting with the 15th pick,” he said. “How do you get value at 15? He was our guy. If there were risks, we felt he was worth it.”

This season, Morris has 200 assists to just 35 turnovers. That’s an outrageous near-6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is even crazier when you also consider that he’s responsible not just for creating for his teammates, but also being the driving shot creator behind an Iowa State team that is peaking at the right time after winning the Big 12 Tournament.saints_022-223x223

Clint Frazier sends Yankees past Brewers with walk-off home run

This is a value signing for the Spurs from a player who likely took a discount to stay where he was comfortable in San Antonio. Mills averaged nearly 16 points and six assists per 36 minutes last season while hitting 41.4 percent of his 3s for a 57.6 true-shooting percentage. Those are great numbers for an awesome backup guard.

More than that, though, it’s the versatility Mills can provide for a team that will be missing Tony Parker for a portion of the year next season. Sure, Mills is still at his best running off screens and using his lightning quick release to knock down 3s, but he’s also improved his ability to step in as a point guard when necessary over the years. Despite his size limitations, the six-foot guard has worked to become a pesky defender that won’t be a liability in most situations.

Clint Frazier picked the fastest way to earn the hearts of Yankees fans: helping them win a game.

The young outfielder blasted a walk-off home run Saturday to lead the Yankees to a 5-3 home win against the Brewers. It was the the 22-year-old’s second home run of the season, and first at Yankee Stadium.

New York trailed 3-2 entering the bottom of the ninth inning, but Didi Gregorius and Jacoby Ellsbury reached base, setting up Frazier’s game-winning moment.

Yankees fans are used to seeing rookies hit home runs. Aaron Judge already has 30 this season, which leads MLB.

While Frazier is not a pure power hitter like Judge, he packs a punch with a powerful, compact swing. The Yankees are bound for exciting times with so many talented, young hitters producing at a high level.

NBA free agency: Andre Iguodala has agreed to return to Warriors

The Warriors are getting back their sixth man and the entirety of the NBA lets out a collective groan.

While Andre Iguodala may not average more than 20 points per game or even 30 minutes a night for the Warriors, he is still a vital piece to their growing dynasty.

He agreed Saturday to terms on a deal that will keep him with Golden State.

Nash and Nowitzki both arrived in Dallas in 1998, playing together for six seasons that saw the Mavericks improve from a 19-win team to a Western Conference Finals participant. With Nash running the point, Finley (a career 37.5 percent three-point shooter) on the wing and Nowitzki spreading the floor, this Dallas trio would be potent offensively.

Carmelo Anthony played with several supremely talented point guards in Denver, including Allen Iverson, Andre Miller and Chauncey Billups, but we’ll take Iverson’s 2008 season when he averaged 26.4 points per game. Melo wasn’t far behind at 25.7 points per game, giving the Nuggets two go-to scorers, along with Camby, who finished second in the NBA that season in total rebounds and first in blocks. Camby also peaked as a passer that season, averaging 3.3 assists per game as a center.

After drafting O’Neal No. 1 overall in the 1992 NBA Draft and acquiring Hardaway, the No. 3 pick the following year, the Magic made a run to the NBA Finals in 1995. O’Neal averaged 29.3 points and 11.4 rebounds per game that season, while Hardaway added 20.9 points and 7.2 assists per game. Anderson averaged as many as 20 points per game in Orlando and shot 35.6 percent from three during his career.browns_032