Did you get the test alert yesterday?

first_imgShare Share via TwitterShare via FacebookShare via LinkedInShare via E-mail Published: April 5, 2018 Yesterday, the campus conducted the spring semester test of the CU Boulder Alerts platforms. It took just two minutes to send the text alert to 90 percent of the more than 52,000 registered users in the system. If you didn’t receive a text but want to, make sure you are signed up; see instructions here. It is very important to follow each step in order.New this year is the Alertus smartphone app, which uses Wi-Fi to send campus emergency alerts when cell service is unavailable. This is a great solution for people who often find themselves in areas with a poor cellular signal or have a Wi-Fi based phone. After downloading and opening the app, find CU Boulder’s organization code (cuboulder) and use your @colorado.edu, cu.edu, cufund.org, cusys.edu, or ucdenver.edu email address to complete the registration process.After receiving an alert during a real emergency, you will find the most up-to-date information at alerts.colorado.edu.Categories:SafetyCampus Communitylast_img read more

Chili pepper cocktail points to wide-awake surgery

first_imgImagine an epidural or a shot of Novocain that doesn’t paralyze your legs or make you numb yet totally blocks your pain. This type of pain management is now within reach. As a result, childbirth, surgery, and trips to the dentist might be less traumatic in the future, thanks to researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School (HMS) who have succeeded in selectively blocking pain-sensing neurons in rats without interfering with other types of neurons.The pint-sized subjects received injections near their sciatic nerves, which run down their hind limbs, and subsequently lost the ability to feel pain in their paws. But they continued to move normally and react to touch. The injections contained QX-314, a normally inactive derivative of the local anesthetic lidocaine, and capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot peppers. In combination, these chemicals targeted only pain-sensing neurons, preventing them from sending signals to the brain.“We’ve introduced a local anesthetic selectively into specific populations of neurons,” explains HMS Professor Bruce Bean, an author on the paper, which appears in Nature today (Oct. 4). “Now we can block the activity of pain-sensing neurons without disrupting other kinds of neurons that control movements or nonpainful sensations.”“We’re optimistic that this method will eventually be applied to humans and change our experience during procedures ranging from knee surgery to tooth extractions,” adds Clifford Woolf of MGH, who is senior author on the study.Despite enormous investments by industry, surgical pain management has changed little since the first successful demonstration of ether general anesthesia at MGH in 1846. General and local anesthetics work by interfering with the excitability of all neurons, not just pain-sensing ones. Thus, these drugs produce dramatic side effects, such as loss of consciousness in the case of general anesthetics or temporary paralysis for local anesthetics.“We’re offering a targeted approach to pain management that avoids these problems,” says Woolf.The new work builds on research conducted since the 1970s showing how electrical signaling in the nervous system depends on the properties of ion channels, that is, proteins that make pores in the membranes of neurons.“This project is a perfect illustration of how research trying to understand very basic biological principles can have practical applications,” says Bean.The new method exploits a membrane-spanning protein called TRPV1, which is unique to pain-sensing neurons. TRPV1 forms a large channel, where molecules can enter and exit the cell. But a “gate” typically blocks this opening. The gate opens when cells are exposed to heat or the chili-pepper ingredient capsaicin. Thus, bathing pain-sensing neurons in capsaicin leaves these channels open, but nonpain sensing neurons are unaffected because they do not possess TRPV1.The new method then takes advantage of a special property of the lidocaine derivative QX-314. Unlike most local anesthetics, QX-314 can’t penetrate cell membranes to block the excitability of the cell, so it typically lingers outside neurons where it can’t affect them. For this reason it is not used clinically.When pain-sensing neurons are exposed to capsaicin, however, and the gates guarding the TRPV1 channels disappear, QX-314 can enter the cells and shut them down. But the drug remains outside other types of neurons that do not contain these channels. As a result, these cells fully retain their ability to send and receive signals.The team first tested the method in a Petri dish. Alexander Binshtok, a postdoctoral researcher in Woolf’s lab, applied capsaicin and QX-314 (separately and in combination) to isolated pain-sensing and other neurons and measured their responses. Indeed, the combination of capsaicin and QX-314 selectively blocked the excitability of pain-sensing neurons, leaving the others unaffected.Next, Binshtok injected these chemicals into the paws of rats and measured their ability to sense pain by placing them on an uncomfortable heat source. The critters tolerated much more heat than usual. He then injected the chemicals near the sciatic nerve of the animals and pricked their paws with stiff nylon probes. The animals ignored the provocation. Although the rats seemed immune to pain, they continued to move normally and respond to other stimuli, indicating that QX-314 failed to penetrate their motor neurons.The team must overcome several hurdles before this method can be applied to humans. They must figure out how to open the TRPV1 channels without producing even a transient burning pain before QX-314 enters and blocks the neurons, and they must tinker with the formulation to prolong the effects of the drugs. Both Bean and Woolf are confident they’ll succeed.“Eventually, this method could completely transform surgical and post-surgical analgesia, allowing patients to remain fully alert without experiencing pain or paralysis,” says Woolf. “In fact, the possibilities seem endless. I could even imagine using this method to treat itch, as itch-sensitive neurons fall into the same group as pain-sensing ones.”Research in the Woolf lab is supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Research in the Bean lab is supported by NINDS and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.Harvard and MGH have filed patents on this technology platform.For a copy of the paper: [email protected]last_img read more

Texas Motor Speedway provides special scoreboard section to Dale Jr.

first_imgRELATED: Dale Jr. gift gallery | Full schedule for TexasTexas Motor Speedway provided a Lone Star State-sized gift to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s season-long send-off, giving him part of the track’s scoreboard from his first win.Track president Eddie Gossage supervised the festivities on horseback before opening practice for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 (2 p.m. ET, Sunday, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM).Earnhardt is set to make his likely final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at the 1.5-mile track, where he scored the first win of his premier series career as a rookie in 2000. Gossage unveiled a large scoreboard segment, with his former No. 8 illuminated in the first position as a parting gift.“That’s it. That’s the one,” Earnhardt said. “Isn’t that something?”The track also made the gift of naming a horse from a nearby therapeutic horse ranch in his honor as part of the Jr. Nation Apprecia88ion Tour. Gossage also provided a baby gift for Earnhardt and his wife, Amy — a kids’ hot-rodded push car stroller. [email protected] was gifted the original scoreboard of his first win at Texas and the track will sponsor a therapy horse in his name. #Appreci88ion pic.twitter.com/s2tls26KGf— Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) November 3, 2017Earnhardt announced in April that this would be his final full season of competition.last_img read more

Odds & Ends: Max von Essen Set for Actors Fund Holiday Benefit Sparkle & More

first_img Here’s a quick roundup of stories you might have missed today. Max von Essen Set for Actors Fund Holiday Benefit SparkleThe Actors Fund has secured a talented group of stage stars to appear in its 7th annual winter benefit Sparkle: An All-Star Holiday Concert, taking place at The Cutting Room on December 2 at 7:30pm. The one-night extravaganza, produced and hosted by TV personality Scott Nevins (The People’s Couch), will feature a starry slate of performers from stage and screen. The lineup will include Tony nominee Max von Essen (Anastasia), Tony winner Daisy Eagan (The Secret Garden), Tony nominee Sharon McNight (Starmites), Erich Bergen (Waitress), Chris Weaver (The Voice), Christina Bianco (Forbidden Broadway), Nick Adams (Priscilla Queen of the Desert), Matt Doyle (The Heart of Rock & Roll), Kevin Smith Kirkwood (Kinky Boots), Marty Thomas (Xanadu), Erin Quill (Avenue Q), The Skivvies, recording artist Shayna Steele and more. Brian Nash will serve as the evening’s music director and arranger.William Craver, Literary Agent of Jonathan Larson & David Auburn, Dies at Age 87William Craver, a beloved general manager and company manager who excelled as a longtime theatrical literary agent, died at the age of 87 on November 8 in Austin, TX. Craver spent 40 of his 58 years in New York City as an agent representing playwrights, composers, lyricists and directors. Three of his clients won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama: Jonathan Larson for Rent, David Auburn for Proof and Robert Schenkkan for The Kentucky Cycle. Craver’s Broadway credits as a general manager and company manager include a variety of plays by the late Neil Simon, including Barefoot in the Park (1963), The Odd Couple (1965), The Star-Spangled Girl (1966) and Plaza Suite (1968), along with Herman Raucher’s Harold (1962), Terence Frisby’s There’s a Girl in My Soup (1967) and John Patrick’s Love Is a Time of Day (1969). In addition to his work as a prolific agent, Craver also co-owned and was a partner in Writers and Artists Agency until Paradigm acquired the firm in 2004. Craver served on the boards of The American Theatre Wing, the Dramatists Play Service and The Jonathan Larson Foundation.Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Olivier-Nominated Fleabag to Make Off-Broadway PremiereFollowing a sold-out run in London, Fleabag, the Olivier-nominated solo play written by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, will cross the pond to the U.S. for a 2019 run at off-Broadway’s SoHo Playhouse. Vicky Jones will direct the production, slated to begin previews on February 28 with an opening set for March 7. The play that inspired the hit Amazon Prime series, Fleabag is a comedic look at a woman who may seem oversexed, emotionally unfiltered and self-obsessed. The production will feature scenic design by Holly Pigott, lighting design by Elliot Griggs and sound design by Isobel Waller-Bridge. Fleabag is slated to play a limited off-Broadway engagement through April 7.Lee Sunday Evans Named New Artistic Director of WaterwellFollowing an extensive national search, acclaimed nonprofit theater company Waterwell has announced Obie winner Lee Sunday Evans as its new artistic director. “Lee Sunday Evans has a strong commitment to civic engagement in all her work, as a director, educator and leader,” said Tony nominee Arian Moayed, Waterwell’s co-founder and board chair. “Waterwell works with artists and educators to create socially conscious and civic-minded entertainment. Lee is exactly the visionary artist to help us do more of that work, and it is inspiring to have her take the helm as artistic director.” Evans’ off-Broadway directing credits include acclaimed productions of Dance Nation, [PORTO], Bull in a China Shop and the Obie-winning A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes. Evans also served as assistant director on the 2014 Broadway revival of The Real Thing. Max Von Essen(Photo: Emilio Madrid-Kuser for Broadway.com) View Commentslast_img read more

Amapakabo Picks Ezenwa, Ibrahim, 18 Others For Togo

first_imgHead Coach Imama Amapakabo has unveiled a list of 20 senior home-based professionals to take on Togo’s Sparrow Hawks in Saturday’s 2020 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifying final leg in Lagos.Super Eagles’ goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa tops the list, with Nasarawa United’s stormy forward Sunusi Ibrahim and Akwa United’s Ndifreke Effiong, who netted a brace for the U23 team in the 5-0 defeat of Sudan in Asaba in September, also selected.Kano Pillars’ ace Nyima Nwagua, Fatai Gbadamosi of Shooting Stars and Lobi Stars’ trio of Ebube Duru, Sikiru Alimi and John Lazarus make the list, alongside goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar of Wikki Tourists and Enugu Rangers’ Anthony Shimaga are included.Nigeria have a mountain to surmount at the Agege Stadium, Lagos on Saturday, with Togo having won the first leg by a handsome 4-1 scoreline in Lome.20 EAGLES TO WRESTLE DOWN SPARROW HAWKSIkechukwu Ezenwa (Heartland FC); Adamu Abubakar (Wikki Tourists); Theophilus Afelokhai (Enyimba FC); Nwagua Nyima (Kano Pillars); Stephen Manyo (Enyimba FC); Ifeanyi Nweke (Kano Pillars); Ifeanyi Anaemena (Enyimba FC); John Lazarus (Lobi Stars); Reuben Bala (Enyimba FC); Ifeanyi Nweke (Kano Pillars); Ebube Duru (Lobi Stars); Daniel James (Plateau United); Sikiru Alimi (Lobi Stars); Olisah Ndah (Remo Stars); Anthony Shimaga (Rangers International); Fatai Gbadamosi (Shooting Stars); Ibrahim Olawonye (Rangers International); Ndifreke Effiong (Akwa United); Samuel Mathias (Akwa United); Sunusi Ibrahim (Nasarawa United); Mfon Udoh (Akwa United)Relatedlast_img read more

Is a kiss just a kiss?

first_imgSamson MulugetaWhen Jacob Zuma was confirmed as president of South Africa in parliament in Cape Town on May 6 2009, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela stood up to congratulate him by wrapping her left arm around his neck and planting a kiss on  his lips. For South Africans, it was as normal as a handshake. But for foreigners, it was a classically South African custom.Many world travellers say that South Africa is the only place where they have noticed that people who are not married or romantically involved give each other quick pecks on the lips as a form of greeting. Friends do it, relatives do it, little kids do it, whites do it, blacks do it, coloureds do it. In South Africa, almost everybody does it at social and family gatherings.No-one talks in public about things like this but everybody finds it interesting. And types different greeting around the world are fascinating: the fist-pump in the African-American community made famous when Michelle did it to Barack during the campaign, the complicated hand-shakes of some South Africans that end with a thumb snap, and the “I love you, man” shoulder hug of guys the world over.The lip balm company, Blistex, has a nice list of greetings customs around the world.Is it indeed only a South African thing? What is the etiquette around it? Is the right reaction to respond in kind, offer a cheek, or hold the other person at arm’s length?An email inquiry brought in a torrent of responses.Many foreigners living in South Africa have long been amazed by this bit of local colour.“I find the protocol for greeting someone in South Africa more complicated and varied than just about anywhere else I’ve been,” said Kristy, an American living in Johannesburg.  “For me, it’s basically a question of remembering which of my friends is a hugger, which a cheek kisser and which a lip kisser and responding in kind. But sometimes I forget, and go for the cheek while they’re going for the lips and there’s this awkward fumble!”Sara is a Swede who spent a month in South Africa in East Brunswick, a mostly coloured area.“I noticed these quick pecks on the lips and was a bit amazed,” she said. “But it took about two to three weeks until I received my first ones, by a female friend. I was a bit shocked at first as I didn’t expect it, but then I realized it was a sign of friendship. In Sweden we shake hands until we know each other a bit better, then we hug.”Eva has lived here for 13 years and has inherited a South African family that crosses the coloured and Xhosa spectrum, but is still not used to the custom.“Both cultural groups (the coloured and Xhosa) do the lip kissing thing and no, you don’t have to be close family, which would have made a little more sense,” said Eva, who was born in Uganda but grew up in the United States. “I will never get used to kissing 30 to 40 people at a family event, and watching my kids have to do the same. I love hugs and happy to kiss cheeks as many times as a cheek is offered, but I always feel the lip kissing thing is just a little too intimate!”Justin is a South African journalist who has travelled and lived abroad but is now back home.“I never really thought of this as being an exclusively South African thing, though now that you mention it, I realise that having spent quite a few years outside of South Africa, I have negotiated the various conventions of cheek kissing (once, twice, or thrice) or handshaking or hugging in different countries – but never encountered the lip kissing thing elsewhere,” he said.“I’d say that there is some ethnic differentiation involved – I am more likely to lip-kiss with coloured or white Afrikaans friends than others. Among my other friends, I do with some and not others – it’s hard to distinguish why. I can’t remember what was more common when I was growing up (in a white Anglophone community), cheek kissing or lip kissing. Though lip kissing was certainly not unusual, as it seems to be elsewhere in the world.”Justin lived for many years in Angola where he had to negotiate different conventions of greetings.“I remember when I’d been a long time in Angola, where every social occasion involves a lot of cheek-to-cheek kissing, twice,” he said. “Back in South Africa, without thinking, I did a double cheek-kiss with a friend whom I would normally lip-kissed and then realised she must have thought I was being very strange, or pretentious.”Justin said that cheek-to-cheek kissing is rarer in South Africa, but that it is catching on in some circles.“I’d say that cheek-to-cheek-twice is definitely foreign to South Africa – though it is catching on in some circles. Even cheek-to-cheek-once (no lip contact) is a little bit foreign. In families if it’s not lip-to-lip, it will be one person’s lips on the other person’s cheek,” he said. “But then hugging is also becoming more common, and is less complicated. It’s now fine for men to hug each other, which it definitely wasn’t when I was a kid.”Paul, who owns a guesthouse in Melville, comes from an “Anglo Saxonish” family.“A kiss on the lips as a hello (between women and men, and women and women but not men and men!) is standard fare,” he said. “The cheek kissing thing is more European and considered a bit upper-class and offish. It’s a bit like the African handshake in social occasions as you’re never quite sure when to do it or how it’ll be construed.”Laura, a newspaper editor, said she would extend the custom to southern Africa because she has noticed it in Zimbabwe and Botswana.“It’s a funny thing though, I always try to offer a cheek, but some people get offended when you don’t want to kiss them on the lips,” she said.Delicia, who is coloured and lives in Pretoria, said her American fiancé had asked her about this form of greeting and she could not give him an adequate answer.“I was brought up greeting people this way,” she said. “My dad tells me it’s an English habit.”Astrid, who grew up in Cape Town, said: “’I am coloured and it’s definitely something we do; that’s how I was brought up. We greet with a little peck, but not just to anyone, mainly family or very close friends.”Marlize, an Afrikaner, said: “To greet with a kiss is something that we grew up with. It’s something completely normal to me.  But it’s also something you do more with people that you associate with, a somebody that you like. Not everybody. Also, times have changed, and people are influenced a lot by other people they meet from other countries. “Khadeeja, a Muslim South African of Indian descent, said greeting on the lips as a greeting is rare in her community. “Indian community does not do this among themselves,” she said. “Only my white friends greet this way … the rest of the cultures in South Africa (that is, in my circle) all peck on the cheek, or hug, or shake hands. Personally, I don’t like it, as it is an intimate act.”Virginia, who is of French and Ivorian background, said that her main challenge is to remember what each friend’s preference is. Her now seven-year-old daughter quizzed her when they first moved to South Africa four years ago.“When my daughter asked me why people were kissing on lips, especially parents with their kids – while I had told her it was only a ‘lovers’ thing,” she said. “I then told her that different people from different cultures have different habits. But she was really puzzled by my answer, didn’t seem convinced for a while and eventually just had to accept it (and accept that I will not kiss her on the lips, whatever happens).”Flavia, who was born in Brazil and now lives in Johannesburg, said: “I think it’s just a continuation of what mothers and fathers do to their toddlers. I mean, I don’t have kids but I’ve seen different people kissing their toddlers on the lips. I see it as a very nice show of affection between friends and family members. From my experience it’s not isolated to any race, as I have friends from all backgrounds that do that. “Katarina, who is from Sweden and now lives in Johannesburg with her South African husband, said she still struggles to get it right.“The first time I kissed a South African friend goodbye we ended up in a face fight where – I understood much later – he was aiming for my mouth and I for his cheeks,” she said. “Since then I’ve learned to embrace this way of greeting but live in a constant fear of – without thinking – opening my mouth too much or start doing funny things with my tongue.”Do you have queries or comments about this article? Email Mary Alexander at [email protected]last_img read more

Jim Harbaugh Had A Hilarious Response When Asked Why His Team Never “Laid An Egg”

first_imgJim Harbaugh talks about Rutgers trash talk during halftime of their game during a press conference.jim harbaugh rutgers trash talkIn sports, saying a team “laid an egg” is a popular expression, used when a favored squad comes out and doesn’t play up to its potential. Usually, “laying an egg” means the team loses the game.Michigan hasn’t really come out flat this season under Jim Harbaugh. At 8-2, it lost its opener at Utah and in the final seconds against Michigan State. In eight victories, the Wolverines have pretty much played as they are supposed to.So perhaps that’s why Harbaugh had this funny response today when asked why his team hasn’t “laid an egg” following a road win at Penn State.  Harbaugh on why U-M never laid egg: “Analogy doesn’t resonate with me.I don’t like comparing humans to chickens or any other type of animal.— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) November 21, 2015Harbaugh is never boring. He’s…unique. But not boring.last_img read more

2014 NFL Preview Great Players And Gambling Problems In The NFC North

Last year, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers missing half the season due to a broken collarbone, the Packers finished with just an 8-7-1 record, and gave up more points than they scored. Despite all that, they still eked out an NFC North division championship for the third year in a row.In the eight games in which Rodgers played more than the opening drive, the Packers went 6-2 with an average margin of victory of 7.4 points. In the eight games that featured the smorgasbord1Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien and Seneca Wallace all started games in Rodgers’s absence. of Packers backups, they went 2-5-1 with an average margin of defeat of 8.8 points. It’s difficult to disentangle a quarterback’s performance from that of his teammates (or his coaches), but the Packers’ 2013 results are perhaps the best evidence yet that Rodgers is the real deal.2Though not quite Peyton-esque.Since Rodgers took over for Brett Favre in 2008, the Packers have been one of the NFL’s best franchises. They’ve won the fourth-most games (they’re in essentially a four-way-tie behind the Patriots) and a Super Bowl (as many of those as anyone else over that period, and one more than the Patriots). ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) is one of the most all-encompassing quarterback rating systems out there today.3Note this isn’t necessarily a compliment. In a phenomenon I like to call “The Paradox of Quarterback Metrics,” beyond a certain point, the more information a QB metric takes into account, the less it tends to tell you about the quarterback. Rodgers’s QBR in the last six years is 72.9, second only to Peyton Manning’s 80.7. Rodgers performs fantastically well in a variety of other quarterback metrics.But that’s what happens when you a) play for a good team and b) don’t throw interceptions. These are strongly related. Most interceptions are thrown when the quarterback’s team is trailing (about twice as many as when it’s ahead), and they become more and more likely the more his team is down or the closer they come to the end of the game4Being ahead or behind one score is 0-8 points, two scores is 9-16 points, three scores is 17+ points.:Interceptions are often (even largely) a product of completely rational risk-taking by desperate quarterbacks. A logical implication of this is that if a quarterback is too conservative, he can throw too few interceptions, which can be just as bad as throwing too many.Despite his various successes, it’s possible Rodgers fits this description of an overly conservative quarterback. For example, with his team down by two or more scores (9+ points) he has thrown only three interceptions out of 354 passes attempted (0.8 percent) in his career. This is typically when quarterbacks throw the most INTs, because they’re trying to get their teams back into the game, and high-risk strategies often give them the best chance to win. Overall, quarterbacks throw interceptions about 3.5 percent of the time on average in those situations, with even most great quarterbacks breaking 3.0 percent. Peyton Manning, for example, has averaged 3.1 percent, Drew Brees has averaged 3.3 percent, and even Tom Brady has thrown 2.3 percent (slightly above his career average).5Based on play-by-play from 2001 through 2013.Being insufficiently willing to gamble even when circumstances are dire can be good for a QB’s stats, while bad for his team. And there’s evidence of this in Rodgers’s record as well: He has only engineered six fourth-quarter comebacks in his career — good for 149th all time (Russell Wilson already has eight).There’s nothing wrong with giving your team the lead and then keeping it.6I vividly but hazily recall this being Troy Aikman’s response when someone asked him about his lack of fourth-quarter comebacks back in the ’90s — and he had one about every 10 games. But Rodgers has averaged one fourth-quarter comeback every 14.5 games. This is staggeringly low, even for a player whose team isn’t behind that often. Brady has played for an even more consistently good team and has a fourth-quarter comeback once every 6.2 games. Both brothers Manning have averaged one every six games, Ben Roethlisberger has one every 6.2, Drew Brees and Joe Flacco have one about every eight. Favre (surprisingly) had one only every 9.9 games.But the good news for Packers fans is that Rodgers has some pretty low-hanging room for improvement: If he starts taking more calculated risks (likely sacrificing his stats a little in the process), the Pack may be even more dangerous.Chicago BearsExpected wins: 8.4Playoff probability: 39 percent (25 percent to win the NFC North)Super Bowl win probability: 3 percent ­Editor’s Note: FiveThirtyEight is running a series of eight NFL previews, one division at a time, to highlight the numbers that may influence each team’s season. America’s favorite weekly soap opera is about to begin; get prepped.Green Bay PackersExpected wins (using implied power ratings from Las Vegas point spreads): 9.4Playoff probability: 55 percent (41 percent to win the NFC North)Super Bowl win probability: 6 percent This includes a record 13 touchdowns (the previous career record for any punt returner was 10). Hester also has five touchdowns from kickoff returns (good for eighth on the all-time list9Despite playing for a good defensive team for much of his career and not even returning kicks full-time for parts of it.) and is looking to break his present tie with Deion Sanders for most non-offensive touchdowns in NFL history.Kick and punt returns normally aren’t a big enough part of the game for a good returner to produce much value unless he also does other things well. But Hester is so insanely good he may be as close to an exception as you’ll ever see.Determining how much value Hester added on kick returns is relatively simple. Taken on a season-by-season basis, a typical NFL kick returner would have scored about 1.8 touchdowns on Hester’s attempts, while Hester had 6.0. This leads to about an extra .20 points per game.10Actually it’s .204 points per game, compared to .208 if you estimate the value of additional field position directly.But where things get interesting is with punts. With teams taking such crazy measures to avoid giving him the ball, Chicago’s punt return game benefited greatly whether Hester actually touched the ball or not.11Giving Hester credit for Chicago’s entire return game is neither an aggressive nor a conservative assumption. If the rest of the special teams squad was below average, it’s possible that Hester provided even more value than the squad as a whole.Since 2006, when Hester joined the team, Chicago has had the highest number of yards per punt return, resulting in the best average starting position, and has scored a touchdown on one of every 21 returns. The average for teams other than Chicago was one TD every 82 punt returns. And that’s not even counting all the times other teams punted short or out of bounds to avoid a return.According to ESPN’s “expected points added” metric, Chicago’s punt return game was worth about .15 expected points over expectation for each of the 668 punts they faced, or about .80 points per game total.Combining this .80 with the .20 Hester gained returning kickoffs, he was probably worth around 1 point per game overall.We’re obviously not talking Aaron Rodgers-type value here. But football is a 46-on-46 sport: It’s hard for any one player (aside from a quarterback) to matter much. A reliable 1 point per game is pretty significant.Chicago had an average margin of -2.1 points per game last year, so with Hester’s departure, let’s say the team is starting out in a 3-point hole. If the offense gets worse or the defense gets better, it could go either way from there.Detroit LionsExpected wins: 8.3Playoff probability: 38 percent (25 percent to win the NFC North)Super Bowl win probability: 3 percent Last season, the Chicago Bears finished 8-8, fitting for a team with one of the best offenses (not led by Peyton Manning) and one of the worst defenses in football. That’s a good excuse to talk about their special teams.For as yet unknown reasons, Chicago let its best player7Relative to his position. go.While Devin Hester never developed into the double-threat for Chicago that the team hoped (much less the triple-threat he was at the University of Miami), he is almost certainly the greatest punt returner in NFL history.8Some of that field position is no doubt due to Hester’s reputation and the fact that teams went to great lengths trying to avoid kicking him the ball — so he probably grabbed the ball in better positions. But the average Chicago field position from a non-Hester return was around the 30 yard line. And the fact that Hester was able to take so many returns and still do so much with them is remarkable in its own right. Last year the Detroit Lions finished 7-9, the second-highest win total of quarterback Matthew Stafford’s career. Despite throwing for 4,650 yards and 29 TDs, Stafford now faces headlines like this one from Fox Sports: “Stafford needs to bounce back in a big way.”According to that article, Stafford “must cut down on his crucial mistakes when it’s make-or-break time.” Presumably, this refers to the six fourth-quarter interceptions Stafford threw in one-score games last year.But, see above: Interceptions are hard to interpret. Stafford also had seven touchdowns under those circumstances, and four of his six interceptions were with his team trailing.12Also known as the best time to throw interceptions. So let’s break down Stafford’s interception rate a bit further:With his team down 2+ scores, his interception rate is 2.5 percent. If anything, this may be too low.With his team down one score or less, his interception rate is 2.8 percent. This is probably just about right.With the game tied, his interception rate is 2.2 percent, which is below average.With his team up 2+ scores, his interception rate is about 3 percent, which is a little high, but not necessarily a problem considering the sample size.With his team up one score or less, his interception rate is pretty high: 3.8 percent overall and a whopping 6.7 percent in the second quarter.In other words, if there’s one spot where Stafford has been making an unusually high number of mistakes it hasn’t been “make-or-break time,” it has been earlier in the game, when his team is up one or fewer scores and most QBs would play it safe (league average interception rate is around 2.3 percent under those circumstances).Of course, while throwing interceptions with your team up one score isn’t generally wise, it could be worth it if it’s helping you gain a ton of touchdowns. Indeed, Stafford throws a good number of TDs in these situations.While that 4.5 percent is good, it’s only 0.5 percentage points better than average — in other words, it’s not a very good trade-off considering his interception rate under these circumstances is 1.5 percentage points higher than average.To generalize a bit, you can think of the sum of a player’s touchdown rate and interception rate as his “aggression level.” Stafford is a fairly aggressive quarterback overall, but his aggression level while ahead by one score or less in the second quarter is 10.4 percent, which is off the charts compared to the league average of 6.8 percent. This isn’t really the best time to get aggressive, and it isn’t really working for him.Minnesota VikingsExpected wins: 6.5Playoff probability: 17 percent (9 percent to win the NFC North)Super Bowl win probability: 1 percent Adrian Peterson now has more than 10,000 yards rushing and 91 touchdowns in his seven-year career, giving him over 2,000 more yards and 24 more touchdowns than anyone in the last seven years. Yet the Vikings finished 5-10-1 last year, their third 10-loss season in four years. They haven’t had a top-10 offense since Brett Favre’s miracle year, nor before that since the Randy Moss era.The utility of the running game in football is still an open question. While pass-heavy offensive approaches typically gain points (and wins) more efficiently than run-heavy ones, we’re nowhere near game-theoretical dominance. In other words, however marginal it may become, the running game still has its uses:The threat of the running game forces defenses to defend multiple strategies, which makes the passing game more efficient.It’s low-risk and eats up the clock: A team that is ahead may be willing to give up a small amount of per-play value in order to shorten the remainder of the game and decrease the chances of a costly turnover.Runs gain positive yards more consistently than passes, which can be useful in a number of ways beyond average yardage. For example, very good running backs (or running games) set up a higher number of second-and-short situations than passes do, and these can be better than first downs.Of course for Nos. 1 and 2 to work most efficiently, you have to run effectively. And running effectively mostly means No. 3.While Peterson breaks a larger share of long runs than typical running backs, he is neither a consistent gainer nor a producer of high-leverage situations.Obviously Adrian Peterson’s long runs are worth something: They’re worth a lot of yards. But yards are easier than ever to come by in today’s game. No matter how great a running back is at breaking long ones, he’s not going to be as efficient at gobbling up yards as his team’s passing game is (no matter how mediocre the team’s quarterbacks are).On the other hand, the better a team is at strategically maximizing the running game, the more valuable those “bonus” yards become — because the running plays that produce them are no longer taking the place of passes.In other words, if you can’t run consistently, it doesn’t matter if you can break a bunch of long runs, because you’d still be better off passing. But if you can run consistently, those long runs become gravy.None of this is to say that Peterson’s shortcomings necessarily reflect poorly on his running skills, no more than we can say the same for any running back’s underperformance. Peterson has simply produced a little below average at the bread-and-butter stuff that keeps the running game relevant, and this undercuts the value of his long runs considerably. With a better offensive line, or quarterback, Peterson’s value would improve doubly.Read more of FiveThirtyEight’s NFL season previews. read more