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Most improved team in every NFL division

Don’t laugh, but I’m going to say the Jaguars are back-to-back offseason champions on paper.

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56 anos de emancipação

The Jacksonville Jaguars are an American professional football franchise based in Jacksonville, Florida. The Jaguars compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the American Football Conference (AFC) South division. The team plays its home games at EverBank Field.

The Jaguars and the Carolina Panthers joined the NFL as expansion teams for the 1995 season. Since their inception, the Jaguars have won division championships in 1998 and 1999 (as members of the defunct AFC Central) and have qualified for the playoffs six times, most recently in 2007.

From their inception until 2011, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ majority owner was Wayne Weaver. The team was then purchased by Pakistani-born businessman Shahid Khan for an estimated $770 million. In 2015, Forbes estimated the team value at $1.48 billion.

In 1989, the prospective ownership group Touchdown Jacksonville! was organized. The group initially included future Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Jacksonville developer Tom Petway, and came to be led by shoe magnate Wayne Weaver, founder of Nine West.

In 1991, the NFL announced plans to add two expansion teams in 1994 (later delayed until 1995), its first expansion since the 1976 addition of the Seattle Seahawks and the talented Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Touchdown Jacksonville! announced its bid for a team, and Jacksonville was ultimately chosen as one of five finalists, along with Charlotte, St. Louis, Baltimore, and Memphis.

Jacksonville was considered the least likely expansion candidate for several reasons. The Jacksonville metropolitan area and television market were smaller than those of nearly every team in the league. Although Jacksonville was the 15th largest city in the nation at the time (It has since grown to become the 11th-largest), it has always been a medium-sized market because the surrounding suburbs and rural areas are far smaller than the city itself. There were 635,000 people in Jacksonville proper according to the 1990 census, but only 900,000 people in the metropolitan area. Additionally, the Gator Bowl was outdated, and the ownership group struggled to negotiate a lease with the city.

The troubled negotiations over the Gator Bowl lease led the ownership group to withdraw from the NFL expansion bidding in July 1993.

First franchise

Charlotte was awarded the first franchise – the Carolina Panthers – in October 1993. Surprisingly, the naming of the second expansion city was delayed a month. Most pundits speculated that the delay was made to allow St. Louis to shore up its bid. At the time, St. Louis was considered the favorite for the second franchise, with Baltimore’s three bids also considered strong. However, in a surprising move, the NFL owners voted 26–2 in favor of awarding the 30th franchise to Jacksonville.

Jack Del Rio

In 2003, the Jaguars hired Jack Del Rio as head coach. Del Rio was a linebacker during the late 80s and early 90s before retiring. He was formerly the Carolina Panthers’ defensive coordinator, bringing the team’s defensive ranking from 30th to second. Prior to that, Del Rio was the Baltimore Ravens linebackers coach, participating in that capacity on the Ravens’ record setting championship 2000 defense.

The Jaguars selected quarterback Byron Leftwich with the seventh pick of the NFL draft. The Jaguars had high hopes for their new quarterback. The team had many failures and heartbreaking moments, ending the 2003 season at 5–11 and missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Despite resolving their salary cap problems, the team’s rebuilding was clearly taking longer than expected.

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Which defense will reap big rewards?

After last week’s review of the best and worst projected defenders for 2017, let’s now look at teams projected to make the biggest improvements from last season as well as the teams taking on substantial defensive risks.

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56 anos de emancipação

After last week’s review of the best and worst projected defenders for 2017, let’s now look at teams projected to make the biggest improvements from last season.

The Chicago Cubs are an American professional baseball team based in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) Central division, where they are the defending World Series champions. The team plays its home games at Wrigley Field, located on the city’s North Side. The Cubs are one of two major league teams in Chicago; the other, the Chicago White Sox, is a member of the American League (AL) Central division. The team, first known as the White Stockings, was a founding member of the NL in 1876, becoming the Chicago Cubs in 1903.

The Cubs have appeared in a total of eleven World Series. The 1906 Cubs won 116 games, finishing 116–36 and posting a modern-era record winning percentage of .763, before losing the World Series to the Chicago White Sox (The Hitless Wonders) by 4-2. The Cubs won back-to-back World Series championships in 1907 and 1908, becoming the first major league team to play in three consecutive World Series, and the first to win it twice.

Most recently, the Cubs won the 2016 National League Championship Series and 2016 World Series.

It ended a 71-year National League pennant drought and a 108-year World Series championship drought, both of which are record droughts in Major League Baseball.

The 108-year drought was also the longest such occurrence in all major North American sports. Since the start of divisional play in 1969, the Cubs have appeared in the postseason eight times.

The Cubs are known as the North Siders, a reference to the location of Wrigley Field within the city of Chicago, and in contrast to the White Sox, whose home field (Guaranteed Rate Field) is located on the South Side. The Cubs have multiple rivalries. There is a divisional rivalry with the St. Louis Cardinals and also a newer rivalry with the Milwaukee Brewers.

After over a dozen more subpar seasons, in 1981 the Cubs hired GM Dallas Green from Philadelphia to turn around the franchise.

Green had managed the 1980 Phillies to the World Series title. One of his early GM moves brought in a young Phillies minor-league 3rd baseman named Ryne Sandberg, along with Larry Bowa for Iván DeJesús. The 1983 Cubs had finished 71–91 under Lee Elia, who was fired before the season ended by Green. Green continued the culture of change and overhauled the Cubs roster, front-office and coaching staff prior to 1984. Jim Frey was hired to manage the 1984 Cubs, with Don Zimmer coaching 3rd base and Billy Connors serving as pitching coach.

Scott Sanderson

Green shored up the 1984 roster with a series of transactions. In December, 1983 Scott Sanderson was acquired from Montreal in a three-team deal with San Diego for Carmelo Martínez. Pinch hitter Richie Hebner (.333 BA in 1984) was signed as a free-agent. In spring training, moves continued: LF Gary Matthews and CF Bobby Dernier came from Philadelphia on March 26, for Bill Campbell and a minor leaguer. Reliever Tim Stoddard (10–6 3.82, 7 saves) was acquired the same day for a minor leaguer; veteran pitcher Ferguson Jenkins was released.

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Venus Williams, Kerber reach 4th round

Seeded 11th, she’ll next play No. 7 Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won Key Biscayne in 2006 and was the runner-up last year.

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56 anos de emancipação

Venus Ebony Starr Williams (born June 17, 1980) is an American professional tennis player who is generally regarded as one of the all-time greats of women’s tennis and who, along with younger sister Serena Williams, is credited with ushering in a new era of power and athleticism on the women’s professional tennis tour

Ranked World No. 11 in singles as of January 28, 2017, Williams has been ranked World No. 1 by the Women’s Tennis Association on three occasions, for a total of 11 weeks. She first became the World No. 1 on February 25, 2002, the first African American woman to do so in the Open Era. On 10 June 2002, Venus and Serena became the first sisters to hold the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the singles rankings, respectively.

On 7 June 2010, Venus became co-No. 1 in doubles with Serena after they won their 4th consecutive grand slam doubles title at Roland Garros. By virtue of that doubles ascension, Venus became one of only seven women to reach No. 1 in singles and No. 1 in doubles. On 21 June 2010, Venus and Serena again occupied the No. 2 and No. 1 spots in the singles rankings, respectively. Astonishingly, this came almost exactly 8 years after first accomplishing this feat.

At the time, Venus had just celebrated her 30th birthday and Serena was three months shy of her 29th birthday, both ages at which many of their peers had retired. Her seven Grand Slam singles titles ties her twelfth on the all-time list, more than any other active female player except sister Serena.

She has also won fourteen Grand Slam doubles titles and two mixed doubles titles. Her five Wimbledon singles titles ties her with two other women for eighth place on the all-time list. Williams is one of four women to have won five or more Wimbledon singles titles in the Open Era. From the 2000 Wimbledon Championships to the 2001 US Open, Williams won four of the six Grand Slam singles tournaments held.

She is one of only six women in the Open Era to win 200 or more main draw Grand Slam singles matches.

All time leader

As of the 2017 Australian Open, Williams extends her record as the all-time leader, male or female, in Grand Slams played, with 73. Furthermore, Williams’ run to the 2017 Australian Open Women’s Singles final set the record for longest span between singles slam finals in the open era at 20 years, the beginning of which was marked by her appearance in the singles final at the 1997 US Open.

At the US Open, after setting a Grand-Slam record 129 mph (208 km/h) serve in the opening round, Williams advanced to her first Grand Slam semifinal outside of Wimbledon since 2003. However she then lost to eventual champion Justine Henin. The tournament resulted in Williams’ ranking moving up to World No. 9. Williams then won her third title of the year at the Hansol Korea Open Tennis Championships in Seoul, South Korea, defeating Maria Kirilenko in the final, before then losing in the final of the Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo to Virginie Razzano.

Williams had earned enough points during the year to qualify for the year-ending WTA Tour Championships in Madrid; however, she withdrew because of continuing problems with anemia. Williams finished the year as World No. 8 with three titles, her best performance in both respects since 2002, and a winning percentage of 83 percent.

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Lydia Ko experiencing mixed results

She opened the year by finishing 46th, then showed glimmers of her form with two eighth-place finishes and a ninth.

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56 anos de emancipação

Lydia Ko (born 24 April 1997) is a Korean-born New Zealand professional golfer who became the No. 1 ranked woman professional golfer on 2 February 2015 at 17 years 9 months 8 days of age, making her the youngest player of either gender to be ranked No. 1 in professional golf. She is the current No. 1 golfer. Upon winning The Evian Championship in France on the 13 September 2015, she became the youngest woman, at age 18 years, 4 months and 20 days, to win a major championship. Her closing round of 63 was a record lowest final round in the history of women’s golf majors.

On 3 April 2016, she won the ANA Inspiration, where she also became the youngest player to win two women’s major championships. Since turning professional in 2014, Ko has career winnings of $7,341,477 as of 31 October 2016. Additionally, she is the first LPGA Tour player to win at least $2,000,000 in each of her first three full seasons on Tour.

She had been the top-ranked woman amateur golfer in the world for 130 weeks when she announced she was turning professional on 23 October 2013.

She became the youngest person ever to win a professional golf tour event and youngest person ever to win an LPGA Tour event. In August 2013, she became the only amateur to win two LPGA Tour events. As an amateur she never missed a cut in 25 professional tournaments, and by September 2013 had risen to fifth in the Women’s World Golf Rankings in only 23 professional tournaments.

LPGA Tour

Ko played her first LPGA Tour event on 9 February 2012 (14 years, 9 months, 16 days) and made the cut in her first 53 consecutive LPGA Tour events through 4 June 2015 (18 years, 1 month, 11 days) until she missed the cut at the 2015 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Since that lone missed cut, Ko has made the last 36 consecutive Tour events and counting (as of 28 November 2016).

On 23 April 2014, one day before her 17th birthday, Ko was named as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. The same month she advanced to world No. 2 in the Rolex Rankings when she won the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. It should also be noted that Lydia would go on to win the 2015 Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic as well, marking the second time she defended a title but her first as a professional.

On 22 November 2015, Ko won the LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award by two points over Inbee Park, making her the youngest winner in the 49 years of the award.

In both 2014 and 2015, Ko has been named in the EspnW Impact25 list of twenty-five athletes and influencers who have made the greatest impact for women in sports. In 2016, Ko was named Young New Zealander of the Year in the annual New Zealander of the Year Awards.

Silver at Rio

At the Rio Olympics in August 2016 Ko won the silver medal for women’s golf. As of 10 October 2016, Lydia has won 14 LPGA Tour titles in her young career. That tally means only 38 LPGA Tour players have ever won more Tour titles than Lydia Ko, at the ripe old age of 19 years, 5 months and 16 days.

Ko’s 2016 started where she left off from 2015, winning the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open for a third time in four years by two shots from Hye Jin Choi, Felicity Johnson, and Nanna Koerstz Madsen. Just 11 minutes before she was due to tee off for her final round, an earthquake struck, with Ko vowing to donate her prize money to charity to help those affected.

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