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Cardinals owner piloted his private jet to scoop up top pick Zaven Collins after draft

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Cardinals owner piloted his private jet to scoop up top pick Zaven Collins after draft

When Zaven Collins became the 16th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft and was selected by the Cardinals, he probably couldn’t have quite imagined the scenario he’d find himself in just a few hours later en route to his introductory press conference.

The Cardinals had sent a private jet to pick up Collins at his home in Tulsa, Okla. Normal enough for a first-round prospect.

What was a bit more unusual was that the Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell was the one flying the plane.

NFL POWER RANKINGS: Where do Kyler Murray, Cardinals fall after draft?

Bidwell, 56, has had a pilot’s license since he was 19, so he has plenty of experience flying. Nonetheless, an owner flying to pick up a player is pretty unique.

But Collins seemed to enjoy it. On “Good Morning Football,” Collins was asked about his ride with Bidwell, and he had nothing but good things to say about it.

“Mr. Bidwell came and picked me up and he was laid back and he was just like, ‘Get on and we’ll talk about whatever and you can come up and sit behind the cockpit in this little area, [but] seatbelt in, buckle in,” Collins said. “It was nice. I got to let him talk to me about all the different instruments, talk about all the different stuff with the plan. You know, he’s an intelligent man and he knows so much about everything.”

And how was Bidwell as a pilot? Collins had no complaints about his skills.

“That was probably one of the smoothest landings I’ve ever had,” Collins said. “He flew us right in, and it was like we were already on the ground. I didn’t even feel the wheels bump. It was crazy. I was like, man, this was just absolutely awesome.”

Collins also detailed that Bidwell took him by one of his old fields and they got permission to bank the plane there. That’s a pretty cool additional gesture from Bidwell.

It sounds like Collins appreciated the opportunity to get fly with Bidwell as the pilot, so maybe the Cardinals’ owner will make this a tradition moving forward. If he does, it could be one of the cooler draft day perks of becoming a Cardinal.

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Broncos schedule 2021: Dates & times for all 17 games, strength of schedule, final record prediction

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Broncos schedule 2021: Dates & times for all 17 games, strength of schedule, final record prediction

The Broncos, despite finishing 5-11 and falling into last place in the AFC West last season, are giving coach Vic Fangio a chance to redeem himself in 2021. Denver hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015 — the season which ended with the team winning Super Bowl 50.

John Elway hired a GM, George Paton. But the Broncos, much to everyone’s surprise, didn’t go all in trying to replace third-year second-rounder Drew Lock at quarterback, settling to bring Teddy Bridgewater in the mix (for now). While the offense is hoping to perform better with the many talented pieces it already has around the QB, the defense continues its rebuild for Fangio.

Here is a complete breakdown of the Broncos’ 2021 schedule, including dates, start times and analysis.

NFL OFFSEASON 2021:
Team-by-team draft grades | Latest power rankings

Denver Broncos schedule 2021

Week Date Opponent Kickoff time  TV
1 Sept. 12 at Giants 4:25 p.m. ET Fox
2 Sept. 19 at Jaguars 1 p.m. ET CBS
3 Sept. 26 vs. Jets 4:05 p.m. ET CBS
4 Oct. 3 vs. Ravens 4:25 p.m. ET CBS
5 Oct. 10 at Steelers 1 p.m. ET Fox
6 Oct. 17 vs. Raiders 4:25 p.m. ET CBS
7 Oct. 21 at Browns 8:20 p.m. ET Fox/NFLN/Amazon
8 Oct. 31 vs. Washington 4:25 p.m. ET Fox
9 Nov. 7 at Cowboys 1 p.m. ET Fox
10 Nov. 14 vs. Eagles 4:25 p.m. ET CBS
11 BYE
12 Nov. 28 vs. Chargers 4:05 p.m. ET CBS
13 Dec. 5 at Chiefs 1 p.m. ET CBS
14 Dec. 12 vs. Lions 4:05 p.m. ET Fox
15 Dec. 19 vs. Bengals 4:05 p.m. ET CBS
16 Dec. 26 at Raiders 4:25 p.m. ET CBS
17 Jan. 2 at Chargers 4:05 p.m. ET CBS
18 Jan. 9 vs. Chiefs 4:25 p.m. ET CBS

The Broncos looked up to everyone in the division last season. The Chiefs are still daunting and the Chargers have some worthy buzz. Las Vegas provides the slight opening for Denver to get out of the cellar.

Outside of the AFC West six games, the Broncos join those rivals in also playing all of the AFC North and NFC East. The Jaguars and Jets are the extra last-place games in the AFC. The depleted Lions are a helpful simliar reprieve as the 17th opponent, from the NFC North.

MORE: Strength of schedule for all 32 teams in 2021

Broncos strength of schedule

The Broncos, on paper, have the sixth easiest schedule in the NFL, tied with the Dolphins. Denver’s opponents combined to go 127-143-2 last season, or a .471 winning percentage. A lot of that comes from Jacksonville, the two New York teams and Detroit.

Despite that, the Broncos still face returning playoff teams in six of their 17 games.

Toughest tests: The Broncos’ road schedule is brutal with trips to Cleveland and Pittsburgh offsetting a date in Jacksonville. They also have to play in Dallas and go to the Giants.

It’s a little different at home, where the Chiefs, Ravens and Washington represent the Broncos’ three toughest games out of nine total.

Biggest breaks: The Broncos get the “earned” breaks of the Jaguars, Jets and Lions, three teams in simliar situations. There also are the Bengals, Eagles and Raiders coming to Denver.

Bottom line: The Broncos are a mixed bag with offensive limitations and defensive overhauling. Fangio needs to win now after being saved despite his team’s dismal performance in 2020. 

If the QB situation changes dramatically, then it would be OK to consider the Broncos doing a complete 180 into contention. But in the current state, there’s little from Lock’s or Bridgewater’s recent play that inspires.

Record prediction: 6-11

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Giants schedule 2021: Dates & times for all 17 games, strength of schedule, final record prediction

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Giants schedule 2021: Dates & times for all 17 games, strength of schedule, final record prediction

The Giants are hoping for a breakout third season with quarterback Daniel Jones in 2021. New York finished second in the NFC East at 6-10 under new coach Joe Judge last season, an improvement from 4-12 the previous season.

With better health, led by running back Saquon Barkley, and upgrades in personnel all around, the Giants are more confident that they can jump into first place in Year 2 with Judge. Here is a complete breakdown of the Giants’ 2021 schedule, including dates, start times and analysis for all 17 games.

NFL OFFSEASON 2021:
Team-by-team draft grades | Latest power rankings

New York Giants schedule 2021

Here is the New York Giants’ complete schedule for 2021.

 

Week Date Opponent Kickoff time TV
1 Sept. 12 vs. Broncos 4:25 p.m. ET Fox
2 Sept. 16 at Washington (Thursday) 8:20 p.m. ET NFLN
3 Sept. 26 vs. Falcons 1 p.m. ET Fox
4 Oct. 3 at Saints 1 p.m. ET Fox
5 Oct. 10 at Cowboys 4:25 p.m. ET Fox
6 Oct. 17 vs. Rams 1 p.m. ET Fox
7 Oct. 24 vs. Panthers 1 p.m. ET Fox
8 Nov. 1 at Chiefs (Monday) 8:15 p.m. ET ESPN
9 Nov. 7 vs. Raiders 1 p.m. ET CBS
10 Nov. 14 Bye
11 Nov. 22 at Buccaneers (Monday) 8:15 p.m. ET ESPN
12 Nov. 28 vs. Eagles 1 p.m. ET Fox
13 Dec. 5 at Dolphins 1 p.m. ET Fox
14 Dec. 12 at Chargers 4:05 p.m. ET Fox
15 Dec. 19 vs. Cowboys 1 p.m. ET Fox
16 Dec. 26 at Eagles 1 p.m. ET Fox
17 Jan. 2 at Bears 1 p.m. ET CBS
18 Jan. 9 vs. Washington 1 p.m. ET Fox

The Giants have an interesting slate beyond their six division games against the Cowboys, Eagles and Washington. The other complete NFC division is the South, while the interconference rotation brings up the AFC West.

As a second-place team, the Giants also get the NFC wild-card Rams and Bears on top of the Super Bowl 55 champion Buccaneers. From the AFC, the Dolphins are the 17th opponent.

MORE: Strength of schedule for all 32 teams in 2021

Giants strength of schedule

The Giants, thanks to their weak division, are tied for the eighth-easiest schedule in the NFL with the Bills and Colts. New York’s 2021 opponents had a combined 2020 record of 128-142-2, a winning percentage of .474.

The two games against Washington lead the contests against returning playoff teams. The Rams, Bears, Chiefs, Saints and Buccaneers make it seven out of 17 games.

Toughest tests: The Giants get the Chiefs, Buccaneers and Saints on the road. The Bears, Chargers and Dolphins round out the nasty non-division away slate. Of the home games, the Rams are easily the toughest foe.

Biggest breaks: The NFC East should be better, but the division still provides their most favorable games. The Falcons, Panthers, Raiders and Broncos are a welcome quartet of contests to soften the blows at home.

Bottom line: Jones has everything around him to be more successful winning games. The Giants’ defense is in the next stage of its rebuild. Should Jones raise his passing and running, New York will have a real chance at an NFC playoff berth, either as East champs or fringe wild card.

Record prediction: 8-9

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Lakers injury updates: Are LeBron James, Anthony Davis playing vs. Rockets?

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Lakers injury updates: Are LeBron James, Anthony Davis playing vs. Rockets?

The Lakers will be short-handed for their Wednesday night game against the Rockets.

Los Angeles confirmed that both LeBron James (ankle) and Anthony Davis (groin) will be unavailable on the second night of a back-to-back following the Lakers’ dramatic overtime win over the Knicks, 

This will mark James’ sixth straight absence due to injury and his 22nd missed game in the team’s last 24 games.

MORE: Where the Lakers stand in the West’s playoff race

That said, James announced via his Twitter account that he is “getting close” to returning to action. James also said that he would attend Wednesday’s game to see the Lakers raise their 2020 NBA championship banner at Staples Center.

As for Davis, the Lakers said that the big man won’t be in action against the Rockets due to left adductor tightness. Davis toughed out the groin injury against the Knicks on Tuesday and then acknowledged after the contest he was “hurting.”

“I’m hurting,” Davis said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “Not more so my body, just my groin got tight. . . . I’m not sure about [Wednesday]. I mean, I’m going to get treatment and see how I feel. I want to say I’m going to play, but it was really bothering me [Tuesday]. We’ll see how I feel [Wednesday] and then later on in the day.”

Evidently, Davis didn’t feel well enough to go, and it makes sense that he and the Lakers would play it safe. He spoke about not wanting his injury to linger and make him miss “a couple games.” It appears the Lakers decided to give him an extra day to recover from his latest malady.

Even without James and Davis, the Lakers will still have a chance to beat the Rockets. Houston is an NBA-worst 16-53 on the season and has posted a 1-9 record in its last 10 games. But it has already locked up the top spot in the 2021 NBA Draft lottery, so perhaps it will relish a chance to play spoiler and damage the Lakers’ chances of avoiding the NBA’s play-in tournament.

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