Digest of sports enterprise stories for weekend use, moving for Nov. 23-24. For questions, please call (212) 621-1630. For repeats, call the service desk at (800) 838-4616.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
CINCINNATI — Linebacker James Harrison thought about how similar he is to Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict and quickly hit on one shared quality. "I see a little bit of him in me, especially with the fines," the oft-fined Harrison said. Burfict is like him in many other ways, too, a playmaker who can bring an offense to a halt. But his knack for playing outside the rules — the thing that prompted every team to pass on him in the NFL draft — is also part of his pro style. By Joe Kay. SENT: 937 words, photos. ADVANCE for use in weekend editions of Nov. 23-24.
GAME OF THE WEEK
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Peyton Manning is having one of his best seasons and the Denver Broncos have lost just one game. Tom Brady is having a subpar season and the New England Patriots have lost three of their last six. The Patriots will be at home, where they're unbeaten, for Sunday night's highly anticipated game. But can their injury-plagued defense handle the NFL's best offense? By Howard Ulman. SENT: 846 words, photos. ADVANCE for use in weekend editions of Nov. 23-24.
FBN--ON FOOTBALL-WHAT HAPPENED?
Right about now, the Ravens and 49ers should be in the midst of their spurts toward a second straight meeting in the Super Bowl. They'd better make those spurts long and powerful, because both have hit the skids. By Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner. SENT: 848 words, photos. ADVANCE for use in weekend editions of Nov. 23-24.
FBN--NFL THIS WEEK
Carolina made a big statement with its victory over New England before a national television audience. Should the Panthers stumble Sunday at Miami, so much of the legitimacy they gained from that win could disappear. By Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner. UPCOMING: 1,600 words by 1 p.m. Friday, photos. ADVANCE for use in weekend editions of Nov. 23-24.
PHILADELPHIA — When Chip Kelly arrived in Philadelphia from Oregon, he didn't have to sell players or the new coaching staff on his system. Everyone bought into Kelly's unique way of doing things right from the start. It's working. The Eagles (6-5) are first in the NFC East going into a bye and have positioned themselves to go worst to first in a mediocre division. By Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi. SENT: 863 words, photos. ADVANCE for use in weekend editions of Nov. 23-24.
RENTON, Wash. — Earl Thomas heard the criticism that the Seattle Seahawks weren't performing like an elite team. That they were playing down to the level of their competition. That even as they kept winning, the impression they were leaving was unsatisfying. For two weeks that was true. But the Seahawks have regained form, have the best record in the NFL at 10-1 and believe another late season run is on the cusp of happening. By Tim Booth. SENT: 943 words, photos. ADVANCE for use in weekend editions of Nov. 23-24.
CINCINNATI — There are many moments when the Bengals look very little like a playoff team; when Andy Dalton throws eight interceptions in nine quarters, for instance. Somehow, they've found a way to make up for their bad plays. At 7-4, they're in control of the AFC North and looking to get several players back from injury after their bye. The division championship is theirs for the taking — if they can avoid screwing it up. By Joe Kay. SENT: 783 words, photos. ADVANCE for use in weekend editions of Nov. 23-24.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Bills punter Brian Moorman has a unique perspective in assessing the transformational change that's taken place in Buffalo — from team president, to general manager, and the immediate impact made by a Kiko Alonso-led rookie class. It's breathed new life into what's been a losing franchise. Cut by Chan Gailey last season and brought back by new coach Doug Marrone in October, Moorman can barely recognize the team he left. "Absolutely, I see a bright future," Moorman said as the Bills (4-7) entered their bye week. "We believe in ourselves, and we know that this team is very good, and very close." By John Wawrow. SENT: 819 words, photos. ADVANCE for use in weekend editions of Nov. 23-24.
FBN--NFL NOTES. UPCOMING: 1,000 words by 1 p.m. Friday, photos. ADVANCE for use in weekend editions of Nov. 23-24.
AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn is a gum-chewing football savant who has won every step of the way, from high school to the Southeastern Conference. No. 6 Auburn's first-year coach has outdone himself this season, taking a down-and-out program back into Southeastern Conference and perhaps national title contention with his no-huddle offense and his unflappable focus. By John Zenor. SENT: 966 words, photos. ADVANCE for use in weekend editions of Nov. 23-24.
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota lost two of its best players in Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams, so external expectations in the stacked Big Ten are tempered. The roster new coach Richard Pitino inherited must be molded into his fast-paced offense and full-court defense, rather than the other way around. But the simple injection of energy and enthusiasm into the program has clearly given the Gophers a boost. Pitino, after all, is roughly just 10 years older than most of his players. That he's the son of a Hall of Fame head coach doesn't hurt, either. By Dave Campbell. UPCOMING: 900 words by 1 p.m. Friday, photos. ADVANCE for use in weekend editions of Nov. 23-24.
BKC--MAUI TURNS 30
Hard to believe, but the Maui Invitational turns 30 years old next week, and the college basketball tournament known for good fields, great games and an even better location is still staying on top of the holiday hoops hype. Teams still want to play there, and fans still want to go, so it's onward and upward for this gem of a tradition. By Basketball Writer Jim O'Connell. UPCOMING: 900 words by 1 p.m. Friday, photos. ADVANCE for use in weekend editions of Nov. 23-24.
HOUSTON — Yao Ming wears a lot of different hats since hanging up his size 18 shoes and retiring in 2011. There's the stressed out Yao who owns the Shanghai Sharks in the Chinese Basketball League. There's the 33-year old college sophomore Yao who feels out of place in a classroom full of youngsters. There's also the introspective businessman Yao who owns a Napa Valley wine company. Clearly, the most famous Chinese player to make the NBA hasn't used retirement to slow down, not one bit. By Kristie Rieken. SENT: 962 words, photos. ADVANCE for use in weekend editions of Nov. 23-24.
— AP Sportlight. UPCOMING.