Walter Payton Man of the Year: Greg Olsen, Ben Watson, J.J. Watt finalists for prestigious honor

Greg Olsen, Benjamin Watson and J.J. Watt are the three finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

The prestigious award honors NFL players who have shown not just excellence on the field, but have been leaders in volunteer and charity work.

Watt, who has missed most of the past two seasons to injuries, is a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the Texans. The defensive end has long been active in charitable causes. He stepped up big in the wake of Hurrican Harvey, which devastated Houston. Starting a fund-raising campaign on social media, he raised more than $37 million in less than three weeks. In addition, his Justin J. Watt Foundation, founded in 2010, has provided more than $3.4 million in funding for youth sports.

Greg, Benjamin and J.J. have changed countless lives with their generosity and commitment to helping others, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. As remarkable leaders on and off the field, they personify the character of the late Walter Payton. We commend them for using their platforms to leave a positive impact on communities across the country.

The Portland guard hit his first nine shots — including seven 3-pointers — and scored 31 points as the Trail Blazers beat the Dallas Mavericks 117-108 on Saturday night for their season-best sixth consecutive home win.

Lillard, who didn’t miss a shot until late in the third quarter, went 10 of 15 from the floor and handed out nine assists to lead Portland. Backcourt mate CJ McCollum scored 26 points, while Evan Turner had 17 points and Al-Farouq Aminu 13.

Portland tied a season high with 18 3-pointers. Six Blazers made at least two each, led by Lillard’s seven.

Patriots, Vikings going to Super Bowl 52, according to NFL’s now-deleted Facebook post

The NFL stirred controversy this week when a graphic that depicted the New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings in the Super Bowl appeared on its Facebook page.

The post, which appeard Tuesday, was supposed to be for a promotional giveaway in which fans were given the opportunity to win Super Bowl seats if they donated to United Way. It read:

Unsurprisingly, Philadelphia fans felt particularly disrespected by the situation and began to shout conspiracy. NBC Sports Philly’s Amy Fadool helped calm some of the uproar.

New England special teams stalwart Matthew Slater probably put it best during his media availability Wednesday. When asked why his team wasn’t talking trash he didn’t mess around.

I’ll pose a question at you, he said. Why should we have to?

Since 2000, the Patriots are 18-3 in the playoffs at home, an 85.7 percent winning percentage, good for second best in the league (min. seven games) over that span (Seattle 10-1, 90.9 percent).

The Jaguars are 4-5 in the playoffs when playing on the road. However, they are 2-1 in their last three road playoff games, with both wins coming against the Steelers.

The Patriots set a franchise record with eight sacks in their playoff game last week against the Titans. Their previous playoff record for sacks was six against Jacksonville in 2006.

I understand why the Jaguars did what they did against the Bills, going for shorter passes and screens to combat a loaded box and catch them looking in the backfield, but you also have to try to back them off early in the game. Bortles hasn’t exactly instilled confidence passing the ball the past few weeks, but you’ve got to do better in the passing game if you want to win.

Mike Trout wears dog mask to support Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field

Mike Trout was hard to miss Sunday at the NFC championship game in Philadelphia. Not just because he’s one of baseball’s biggest stars, but because he was wearing a dog mask.

Trout, a native of Vineland, N.J. — about 40 miles south of Philly — has been an Eagles fan since his childhood. Of course, the big thing with Eagles fans this week has been dog masks and T-shirts. It started when Eagles offensive lineman Lane Johnson and defensive end Chris Long donned dog masks after last week’s win against the Falcons, to symbolize the Eagles being the first No. 1 seed in history to be a home underdog against a No. 6 seed.

NBA All-Star reserves, voted by the coaches, will be announced Tuesday. Portland’s next game isn’t until Monday, and by then, many coaches will have already voted. Saturday’s performance might have been Lillard’s last All-Star statement.

Lillard didn’t see Saturday’s game as an All-Star audition, but rather, what he’s supposed to do.

I gotta play at a certain way and perform at a certain level for us to be able to win games, he said. That’s why my job is. I don’t have anything else to say about it.

Olsen and his wife, Kara, founded the HEARTest Yard Fund in 2013 after an exam of their unborn son, T.J., revealed the infant had a congenital heart defect. The couple have not only donated their own money toward pediatric heart equipment and screening, but headline an annual gala that has raised almost $4 million in only three years. The HEARTest Yard Fund unveiled a new cardiac neurodevelopmental program in 2017.

Watson, who missed all of the 2016 season with an Achilles injury, returned this season to haul in 61 passes for 522 yards and four touchdowns. He has been hailed for his work in a variety of charitable efforts, but his One More Foundation supports both existing charities and initiates programs of its own in working to combat human trafficking and violence against the poor. He also hosts the Big BENefit, which offers 25 underserved families an opportunity to provide holiday gifts for their children.