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Saints Move Ahead of Rams for NFC’s Top Spot…Saban: Tua “Ahead of Schedule”…Notre Dame’s Kelly Coach of the Year

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – New Orleans has a one-game lead over Los Angeles for the top seed in the NFC playoffs following the Saints’ 12-9 win at Carolina. Alvin Kamara had 103 total yards, including a 16-yard touchdown run that put the Saints ahead with 12:22 remaining. New Orleans held Cam Newton to 132 yards passing, sacked him four times and forced turnovers.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) – Alabama coach Nick Saban says quarterback Tua Tagovailoa┬áis “probably ahead of schedule” in recovering from ankle surgery. The Heisman Trophy runner-up injured the ankle when his own lineman came down on his right foot during the fourth quarter of the SEC title game against Georgia. Tagovailoa has been practicing for the top-ranked Crimson Tide in preparation for the College Football Semifinal matchup against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

UNDATED (AP) – Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly is The Associated Press college football Coach of the Year, becoming the third multiple winner since it was established in 1998. Kelly received 16 of 58 first-place votes from AP college football poll voters and 81 total points. Alabama’s Nick Saban was second with 16 first-place votes and 66 points and Central Florida first-year coach Josh Heupel (HY’-pul) was third with 33 points. Kelly joins Saban and TCU’s Gary Patterson as two-time winners.

UNDATED (AP) – A person familiar with the negotiations tells The Associated Press the Houston Astros have agreed to a two-year deal with free agent outfielder Michael Brantley. The 31-year-old Bradley had spent his entire 10-year career with the Indians, batting .295 with a .351 on-base percentage. He hit .309 with 17 home runs, 36 doubles and 76 RBIs in 143 games for Cleveland last season.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The Philadelphia Flyers have fired head coach Dave Hakstol and replaced him with Scott Gordon on an interim basis. The Flyers have lost 11 of their last 14 games and are in last place in the Eastern Conference, prompting newly-hired general manager Chuck Fletcher to dismiss Hakstol. Gordon was in his third season as head coach of the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms and spent two-plus seasons as head coach of the New York Islanders.

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