Tommy Gilligan/USA Today Sports

Fall is in the air—so are a hell of a lot of changes in the NFL.

Le'Veon went from worst to first, Dan Quinn is out of job, and like college athletes, sports journalists apparently aren't allowed to make money from sponsorships. Meanwhile, coronavirus is running in the background, taking out teams before opponents even get the chance.

Here are the oofs and ahhs in this week's edition of Shots Taken.



The NFL Is Done With The Rona, But The Rona Isn't Done With The NFL

Coronavirus has been a headline for the entire year, and it's still making NFL headlines in a season that's chugging along despite an outbreak that may have officially killed the Patriots dynasty.

Meanwhile, the Colts are coping with four false positives, rushing to reopen their facility before their Sunday game against the Bengals. But with false positives and confirmed cases, the Rona is on the brink of a full-on takeover.

In a matter of weeks, the coronavirus has knocked out half of the Titans roster, it's taken out the Patriots' best players on offense and defense, and it's switched around nine bye weeks and seven weeks of scheduling. Sure, infected players are being sidelined as teams move forward, but there's going to be more cases, and there is only so much rescheduling teams can do. What happens, for example, if the Patriots see even more cases, or the Steelers experience an outbreak and need another bye week?


Moving the Chains with Ashmere | COVID in the NFL www.youtube.com


While discussions of a bubble seem unrealistic for the NFL, perhaps they'll be a two-week hiatus that allows everyone to quarantine. Maybe players will have to shuffle into a controlled hotel environment for the second half of the season. Whatever they decide to do, coronavirus will be running in the background like the virus that took over your Windows computer.


The Bell Now Tolls For Kansas City

If you're not first, you're last.

While there is some truth in Ricky Bobby's wisdom, it's still early in the season, and we don't quite know who's taking home the Lombardi this year. But we do know who isn't taking it home (the Jets) and who did last year (the Chiefs). We also know that in a matter of days, Le'Veon Bell just jumped from last to first by getting cut by the Jets, then signing with the Chiefs.



It almost seems like there should be a rule against the Chiefs accumulating so much talent, but no, the Jets may have ruined everyone's postseason chances by letting them snag the former Steelers star. While Bell's woes began over contract negotiations, he's slated to only make $690,000 with the Chiefs with the opportunity to make up to $1.69 million.

The best part of it all? Bell is being treated to a revenge game opportunity against the Jets in Week 8. Here's to hoping Bell can rebuild his reputation by swerving, stiff arming and straight-up shaming the Jets defense.


After Quinn's Departure, Will The Falcons Finally Take Flight?

The only surprising thing about Dan Quinn's dismissal from the Falcons is that it took this long to execute. Liz Roscher of Yahoo Sports summarized Quinn's tenure as "six years on the job, two winning seasons and one memorably painful Super Bowl appearance", the worst part being that his team hasn't had a winning season since 2017.

The Falcons lost that Patriots Super Bowl, they lost Kyle Shanahan to the 49ers, and they haven't been the same since. After an eerily-similar repeat of their Super Bowl loss in Week 2 against the Cowboys, the calls to fire Quinn were louder than ever, yet Quinn and GM Tom Dimitroff were given three more weeks to redeem themselves. With Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Todd Gurley and Calvin Ridley, there's no reason that the Falcons couldn't have won one game—well, besides coaching.

If players win games and coaches lose them, then perhaps the Falcons still have a chance to salvage their season without Quinn leading the charge.


Ian Rapoport Gets Cut Down For Endorsing Manscaping

In some football-adjacent news, prominent NFL reporter Ian Rapoport has been suspended by NFL Network until October 22nd for something racy he shared on his Instagram… an ad for Manscaped.

Manscaped, which specializes in full-body hair trimming options for men, has employed a highly-effective viral marketing model by getting celebrity endorsements in the spaces men typically frequent—on podcasts, social media and in the sports world. Rapoport was one of these celebrities, but apparently he didn't get clearance from the network to share the endorsement on his social channels, thereby violating network guidelines.


While Rapoport said he respects and understands the network's decision and is "deeply sorry for his mistake", it brings about an interesting discussion about how sports journalists, like athletes, may be limited in the ways they can make money through their celebrity. Already-shrinking newsrooms have been slashed by COVID cuts, and though Rapoport likely isn't affected by this, there shouldn't be anything wrong with trying to earn a side hustle in an impoverished journalistic landscape—even if that means Rapoport breaks the news on the best way to, uh, mow the lawn.

Paul George grabbing a rebound in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals

Barry Gossage/Getty Images

In a must win game for the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul George was finally able to look like the best player on the floor in a playoff game.

After a slow start, George poured it on in the second half on his way to a game high 41 points in Game 5. The performance elevated the Clippers over strong outings from the likes of Devin Booker and Chris Paul as L.A. outlasted Phoenix 116-102.

The Clippers don't have much time to bask in their win however as they have to turn around and play two more elimination games just to make it out of the West. The Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead as Los Angeles struggled to find their identity without Kawhi Leonard. If the Clippers are to stave off elimination any longer, George has to continue this level of play.

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Ben Simmons disappointed in the playoffs this season

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Following a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers and coach, Doc Rivers, are questioning if Ben Simmons is the right guy to be running their offense through moving forward.

Offense being the key word here.

Simmons is an all-world defender possessing the ability to guard virtually any opponent on the court from the perimeter to the rim. But it was his lack of offensive help throughout this playoff season that stood out beyond any accomplishments this year. Simmons joined Rudy Gobert as unanimous selections for the NBA's All-Defensive First Team this year and also finished fifth in the NBA in assists per game with 8.8 per contest.

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The Lakers looked lost in the Valley

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns are just a win away from sending LeBron James home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in the King's illustrious career.

After stating that "These shoulders were built for a reason," James referring to facing the challenge of taking on added responsibilities after Anthony Davis was ruled out for Game 5, the Lakers and LeBron disappointed in a big way Tuesday night. L.A. started off hot jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind a couple shots from James and a three from Davis' replacement Markieff Morris. But it didn't take long for the wheels to completely fall off for the defending champion Lakers as they spent most of the first half trying to remember how basketball works.

LeBron James LeBron looking on during Game 5Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Two numbers stick out in the Game 5 loss for the Lakers and those are 34.5 and 12. Los Angeles shot 34.5% from the field on Tuesday night and were minus 12 in turnover ratio. No matter who's on your team, if you can't shoot and you can't protect the ball, the outcome is already determined.

The Suns weren't simply beneficiaries of a poor performance however as the Suns put it on the Lakers early and often and they never let their foot off the pedal for 48 minutes. Phoenix ended with 15 more assists, had seven more combined steals and blocks, and outscored L.A. in the paint by 12 points. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne were spectacular and they seemed to hit big shots every time the Lakers appeared to threaten a comeback. Mikal Bridges was effective on both sides of the ball adding three steals and two blocks to help electrify his team with the defensive effort.


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