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Waiver wire for Week 8: Gio Bernard, Carlos Hyde among top pickups



It is often said that running back is the most difficult position to find in fantasy football. This year has put that to the test, as the two top drafted backs (Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley) have appeared in a total of four games this season, and this week has put this to the test even further. A handful of injuries to top running backs popped up in the past seven days, which has put their fill-ins on the fantasy radar.

And that will be our focus today: the most important set of running back replacements that we’ve seen in any week so far this season. Here are the Week 8 ESPN Fantasy waiver-wire adds of note.

Note: All players on this column are available in at least 50% of leagues on ESPN.com

Week 8 byes: Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, Washington Football Team

Carlos Hyde, RB, Seattle Seahawks (5.0%): Chris Carson is now dealing with a midfoot sprain that forced him out of action early in Week 7 and thrust Hyde into a more prominent role. He delivered with 15 carries for 68 yards and a score, plus three total catches. While not the same level of explosive player, Hyde is used to toting big workloads; he is coming off of a 1,000-yard season in Houston and should be equipped to handle 20 rushes in any game that Carson misses. Hyde is an essential add.

Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (48.5%): With Joe Mixon out due to an injury, Bernard turned in a 20.6-point performance, handling 13 carries and adding five catches and a receiving score. Mixon did not practice this past week, and it would stand to reason that he is iffy for Week 8. Bernard is a top-20 option until Mixon returns and is a must-add.

JaMycal Hasty, RB, San Francisco 49ers (3.5%): With news that Jeff Wilson Jr. is headed to injured reserve, Hasty has a very good chance to settle in as a short-term starter for the 49ers, who essentially rested Jerick McKinnon in Week 7 after a heavy workload in the previous weeks. Hasty had an awesome camp, and no one schemes up runs better than Kyle Shanahan. He is a must-add in all leagues.

Jamaal Williams, RB, Green Bay Packers (45.4%): While Aaron Jones seems likely to return in Week 8, Williams would represent a fantastic option in the event that Jones (calf) is unable to go. As he reminded us in Week 7, Williams is one of the best non-No. 1 backs in the NFL, piling up 19 carries and four catches to go along with a score. A quality add as an important stash on your bench at the very least, with the chance to be an invaluable part of your roster.

Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants (36.2%): Shepard was a popular drop after spending four weeks on injured reserve, but in his return to action in Week 7, he reminded us of how capable he is. He has played in two full games this season, has six catches in each of those two games and has at least six targets in every game he has played since Nov. 19, 2018 (except for Week 2 of this season, when he left early due to injury). He is an add in all leagues.

Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals (49.5%): In a year when we have preached the importance of rostering a second quarterback because of the weekly possibility of a game being moved or altered, Burrow needs to be rostered in more than 50% of leagues. He has three efforts with at least 20 points this season and is coming off the best game of his young NFL career. He leads the NFL in attempts and completions and is third in passing yards, as the Bengals have been forced to throw the ball perpetually. He’s so good and so fun to watch.

Cole Beasley, WR, Buffalo Bills (39.3%): If I told you a player is on pace for a 90-catch, 1,075-yard season, you’d tell me that’s the type of player you want on your roster, right? Good news: Beasley is now on pace for just about 90 catches and 1,075 receiving yards this season after his sixth straight game with at least 10 fantasy points. While he may not be a massive touchdown-maker, Beasley piles up catches in bunches, and quarterback Josh Allen is a vastly improved player this season.

La’Mical Perine, RB, New York Jets (11.1%): The Jets are starting to commit to Perine as their lead back, despite Frank Gore‘s persistent role that will never entirely fade. But as the season wears on, it will behoove the Jets to continue to develop their rookie fourth-rounder. Perine showed well in Week 7 with 11 carries (the same number as Gore) for 39 yards and a touchdown, while also adding a pair of catches on three targets. He’s a potential flex option if his workload grows.

Wayne Gallman, RB, New York Giants (0.7%): With Devonta Freeman (ankle) leaving the Week 7 game early, Gallman was pressed into extensive action for the G-Men. There have been no concrete indications as to whether Freeman will be available in Week 8, but in the event that he is out, Gallman seems like the next man up in the Giants’ backfield. He’s an adept pass-catcher and explosive enough runner to merit flex consideration.

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers (20.7%): Aiyuk’s talent is already apparent — he can scoot! Couple that with the way coach Kyle Shanahan creatively incorporates his offensive skill players, and the future is bright. Unfortunately for San Francisco, Deebo Samuel is now once again banged up with a hamstring injury. While his absence earlier this season did not foretell massive volume for Aiyuk, he should get more involved if Samuel misses games this time around, as the rookie becomes more comfortable and familiar within this offense.

Rashard Higgins, WR, Cleveland Browns (0.2%): With Odell Beckham Jr. (ACL) expected to miss the remainder of the season, Higgins will be stepping into an expanded role. He made good on his opportunity in Week 7, catching all six of his targets for 110 yards, and he figures to be a busy man going forward. Cleveland has long liked the raw talent of Higgins, who has a chance to earn his keep in Beckham’s absence. He is an add and stash for those looking for wideout help.

Harrison Bryant, TE, Cleveland Browns (0.7%): It’s unclear how much time Austin Hooper will miss after undergoing surgery for appendicitis late last week, and he has been solid of late with three straight games of double-digit scoring. His absence meant Bryant, the 2019 Mackey Award winner as the top tight end in college football, was counted on even more, and he responded with a pair of touchdown grabs on five targets. He’s a good athlete and a guy who might also need to shoulder a heavier load if both Hooper and Beckham are out again in Week 8.

Richard Rodgers, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (4.0%): The Eagles are in an unfortunately familiar spot, having to find replacements for their stars, which includes tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, each of whom is on injured reserve. Rodgers played plenty in Week 7 and delivered a total of 85 receiving yards on six catches, as he was the only Eagles tight end to see a target in the win over the Giants. The Eagles may need Rodgers again this Sunday, and the best matchup of the season is on the horizon: the Cowboys.

Marquez Callaway, WR, New Orleans Saints (0.1%): The Saints were thinned out at wide receiver in Week 7 as Emmanuel Sanders landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, while Michael Thomas remains uncertain to play in Week 8 because of a hamstring injury. Callaway — an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee — stepped up in a major way with eight catches for 75 yards. Neither Thomas nor Sanders figures to be out much longer, but monitor Callaway if you’re looking for a last-minute step-up replacement in a deep league.


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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home



On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

Stream FC Daily on ESPN+
– 2020 MLS Playoffs: Who’s in, schedule and more
– MLS on ESPN+: Stream LIVE games and replays (U.S. only)

Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”



Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.


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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment



The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.


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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls



With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast


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