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Matt Ryan Says Falcons Know 'What Time of the Year It Is'

Leon Halip/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- The Atlanta Falcons can keep their playoff hopes alive on Sunday when they take on the NFC South leading New Orleans Saints.

The Falcons are 2-4 on the road this year, and they sit one game behind the Saints in the division.

Quarterback Matt Ryan has faith that his team will be up for the game.

"Everybody understands the situation," Ryan said on Wednesday.

"Everybody understands what time of the year it is, where we're at," he continued. "I think [head coach Mike Smith] has done a great job of setting the schedule up to have everybody as fresh and prepared as we can possibly be."

Ryan and the Atlanta offense are averaging 24.9 points this year, while the Saints defense is giving up 26.7.

"It comes down to hitting [receivers] when you have the opportunity," Ryan said.  It's about making the play when they present themselves.  We've got to make sure we understand our plan and that when things come open, we nail it."

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Ravens Preparing for 'Physical' Game Against Texans

Rob Carr/Getty Images(BALTIMORE) -- The Ravens enter Sunday's game against the Texans holding onto the final spot in the AFC playoffs.

With the Chiefs and Chargers right behind them, Baltimore understands the importance of getting a win against Houston.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said he expects it to be a tough game on the body. "Every time we play Houston, it's always extremely physical," he said Wednesday.  "They're always committed to running the football; they have one of the best backs in football [Arian Foster]."

Baltimore is 4-3 on the road this season and Houston is 3-3 at home.

"We've played down there a good amount," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said.  "It's not going to be a new scene, we've played against most of those guys, how much that really matters, I don't know."

Houston Pro-Bowl defensive end J.J. Watt has recorded seven sacks in the last three games for a season total of 16 1/2, which is third in the league.

When asked what will happen if Watt gets to him on Sunday, Flacco said, "I'm going to pick myself up off the ground. I don't know who hits me; I hope it's not him. I hope it's not any of them."

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Philip Rivers Expects the 49ers Best

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- The San Diego Chargers find themselves still in the thick of things in the AFC as they head into their game on Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers.

San Diego sits in the eighth spot with the Chiefs, Ravens, and Steelers ahead of them.  

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is expecting the 49ers to be in spoiler mode, having been eliminated last weekend.

"Not only can they embrace that role if they so choose. I also know that there's a lot of prideful, Pro-Bowl players on that team," Rivers said. "When they suit up they play."

San Francisco is allowing 20.4 points a game this year.

49ers safety Antoine Bethea said of Rivers is a "veteran quarterback one of the top ten, quarterbacks in the league. He's been doing it for a while and he's got a lot of weapons to get the ball to."

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Wisconsin Badgers Name Chryst Head Coach

David Stluka/Get?ty Images(MADISON, Wi.) -- The Wisconsin Badgers have found their replacement for the surprising departure of Gary Andersen.

The Badgers football team announced Wednesday that Paul Chryst will take over as head coach, who leaves the University of Pittsburgh to return to the University of Wisconsin. Chryst was formerly the offensive coordinator of the Badgers from 2005 to 2011. 

Chryst is also a Wisconsin native who graduated from the University in 1988.

"To be able to do this and come back home, to Wisconsin, it truly is special," Chryst said.

Athletic director and former head coach Barry Alvarez said that finding a candidate with Wisconsin ties wasn't a requirement, but it did help.

"To continue to grow and learn, and then leave and be able to come back ... Coach, I appreciate that, more than you know," said Chryst, while turning toward Alvarez.

During his three-year tenure at Pittsburgh, Chryst was 19-19. His best record was 7-6 in 2013, where the Panthers capped their season with a 30-27 win over the Bowling Green Falcons in the Little Ceasar's Pizza Bowl.


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Reports: Royals to Sign SP Edinson Volquez

Major League Baseball(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) -- The American League pennant winners are adding to their rotation.

Starting pitcher Edinson Volquez will join the Kansas City Royals rotation on a two-year, $20 million deal, according to Jon Heyman of 

The right-handed pitcher spent 2014 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was a bounce back season as he posted a 3.04 ERA, 140 strikeouts and a 3.3 BB/ 9 over 192.2 innings pitched.

Volquez, 31, had struggled after Tommy John Surgery in 2009. He was suspended for 50 games in 2010 after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. He was then traded to the Padres and had a brief stint with the the Dodgers. In that span, he never posted an ERA better than 4.14.

He will likely replace James Sheilds in the Royals rotation as he is expected to leave via free agency. 

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Padres Acquire Wil Myers in Three-Team Trade.

Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images(SAN DIEGO, Ca.) -- The San Diego Padres have acquired outfielder Wil Myers in a three-team trade.

In a deal with the Nationals and Rays, the Padres also obtain young pitchers Jose Castillo and Gerardo Reyes, as well as veteran catcher Ryan Hanigan from Tampa Bay.

In return, the Rays receive Burch Smith, a right-hander who was drafted by the Padres in 2011, first baseman Rene Rivera, catcher Jake Bauers, a 2013 draft pick of the Padres and outfielder Steven Souza as well as left-hander Travis Ott from the Nationals.

The Nationals receive right hander Joe Ross and shortstop Trea Turner, who both come from San Diego in the deal.

Myers, 24, was acquired by Tampa Bay in 2012 as part of seven-player trade that saw Kansas City acquire James Shields.  

The next season, Myers batted .293 and smacked 13 homeruns and 88 RBI on his way to the 2013 rookie of the year award. 

After dealing for Matt Kemp, the Padres are expecting to improve on an offense that ranked last in baseball with 535 runs scored.

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Report: Bears to Start Clausen Against Lions

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images(CHICAGO, Ill) -- The Bears will bench Jay Cutler in favor of Jimmy Clausen as Chicago prepares to face Detroit Sunday.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Chicago is making the switch after Cutler leads the NFL with 24 turnovers and has shown a clear regression in head coach Marc Trestmann's offense.

"Our whole football team isn't where it needs to be," Trestmann said, during Wednesday's press conference when talking about the offense.

"Quarterback's always going to be the guy to get looked at, no doubt about it. We all can do better."

Clausen, 27, a second round pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2010. He was 1-9 in his rookie season before the Panthers drafted Cam Newton first overall the next season.

Cutler signed a seven-year, $126 million contract extension this offseason, that also saw the team allow back-up quarterback Josh McCown leave for Tampa Bay.

McCown signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Buccaneers after completing 66.5 percent of his passes for 1,829 yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception in eight games with the Bears last season.

Turmoil has taken over the Bears organization as player outbursts and anonymous criticisms have been the focus of the 2014 season. After a loss to the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 19, wide receiver Brandon Marshall could be heard from the team locker room calling out teammates for a lack of effort.  Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer was discovered to have been an anonymous source in a story that criticized Cutler and his poor performance.

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Scoreboard Roundup - 12/17/14

Hemera/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- NBA: Phoenix Suns 111 (13-14) – Charlotte Hornets 106 (6-19)

Atlanta Hawks 127 (18-7) – Cleveland Cavaliers 98 (14-10)

Boston Celtics 109 (9-14) – Orlando Magic 92 (10-18)

Dallas Mavericks 117 (19-8) – Detroit Pistons 106 (5-21)

Utah Jazz 105 (7-19) – Miami Heat 87 (12-14)

Toronto Raptors 105 (20-6) – Brooklyn Nets 89 (10-14)

Memphis Grizzlies 117 (21-4) - San Antonio Spurs 116 (17-9) (F/3OT)

Houston Rockets 115 (19-5) - Denver Nuggets 111 (10-15) (F/OT)

Los Angeles Clippers 112 (18-7) - Indiana Pacers 110 (8-18)

Top 25 Men’s College Basketball:  (12) Ohio State 97 (9-1) – North Carolina A&T 55 (1-11)

(16) Washington 86 (9-0) - Grambling St. 38 (2-7)

 Cincinnati 71 (7-2) - (19) San Diego State 62 (7-3)

(25) Michigan State 66 (8-3) - Eastern Michigan 46 (8-2)

NHL:  Ottawa Senators 2 (13-12-6; 32pts) – New Jersey Devils 0 (11-16-6; 28pts)

Boston Bruins 3 (16-13-3; 35pts) – Minnesota Wild 2 (16-12-2; 34pts) OT

Dallas Stars 2 (12-13-5, 29 pts) - Vancouver Canucks 0 (18-11-2, 38 pts)

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S.D. Padres Sign P Brandon Morrow to 1-Year Contract

Tom Szcaerbowski/Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- The San Diego Padres signed free agent right-handed pitcher Brandon Morrow to a one-year contract, the team announced on Wednesday. Financial terms of the deal were not announced.

In 13 appearances last season for the Blue Jays, Morrow went 1-3 with a 5.67 ERA.

Morrow was originally selected out of University of California, Berkeley by the Mariners with the fifth overall pick of the 2006 MLB draft. In 231 career games with Seattle and Toronto, the eight-year veteran is 42-43 with a 4.28 ERA. He has struck out 765 batters in 735 2/3 innings of work.

To make room for Morrow on the 40-man roster, the Padres designated left-handed pitcher Juan Oramas for assignment.

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Mariners Acquire OF Ruggiano From Cubs

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images(SEATTLE) -- The Seattle Mariners acquired outfielder Justin Ruggiano from the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday for minor league pitcher Matt Brazis.

In 81 games last season with the Cubs, Ruggiano batted .281 with six home runs and 28 RBIs. He also scored 29 runs and had an OBP of .337.

Ruggiano’s best season came in 2012 for the Miami Marlins, when he hit .313 with 13 homers and 36 RBIs. The six-year veteran also swiped 15 bases and had an OBP of .374.

Brazis was selected out of Boston College in the 28th round of the 2012 MLB draft. The right-handed reliever is 8-6 with a 2.89 ERA across three minor league seasons.

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