People are discussing this season's NFL MVP race as if it's very close, but I don't see it that way. Not yet at least.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady should be running away with the award. And before you start, no, I don't hate Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (in fact, I've been bashing the unnecessary criticism of him for years, way before it became cool).
In recent years, when there's a close MVP race people pick sides and feel the need to find fault in the player they aren't backing. Mike Trout's MVP candidacy a few years ago shouldn't have had to include bashing Miguel Cabrera, but that's what it became in many circles. That's not going to happen here. Newton has been great. The Panthers have built their entire offense around him, not only in the passing game but the ground game as well. Newton is unlike any quarterback we've seen before, because he's bigger than many linebackers (seriously, he's listed as seven pounds heavier than 238-pound Luke Kuechly, and I'd guess it's at least 17 pounds) and he has one of the NFL's best arms. He can make a flat-footed throw 55 yards in the air and hit his target in stride. He's a treat to watch. His enthusiasm makes the game fun too.
That's all great, but Brady has simply been better.
Brady's team is undefeated too, of course. I don't buy that MVP votes should come down to who has the better teammates. Players shouldn't be penalized for having other good players around them. Brady clearly has a better supporting cast, but that's out of his control. And he makes the supporting cast he has much better. Brady is having an otherworldly season, with 25 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 107.4 rating. He's on pace for 5,312 yards. Newton has been great too, but Brady has been significantly better in every passing measure. It's not close enough where Newton's rushing stats (or even his lack of a great supporting cast) close the gap.
That said, there's still a lot of time left, and late-season surges are given extra weight with every award for every sport. So are top-shelf performances on Thanksgiving, and Newton has a chance to make a huge step if he torches the Dallas Cowboys like he did the Washington Redskins last week. A big performance with everyone watching the marquee game of the day — and don't forget Brady has a tough assignment against the Denver Broncos' top-ranked defense this week with a lot of his receivers hurt — could start to make it a really interesting race.
But it shouldn't be close race now. It's Brady's award and Newton has a long way to go to catch up.
3. Carson Palmer, Arizona — Palmer fits Bruce Arians' aggressive offense perfectly.
4. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals — If you watched last week, you had to be impressed at how Dalton brought his team back in the fourth quarter.
5. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers — There's a big gap between No. 4 and 5. I'd love to put a non-quarterback in the top five, but who? We'll revisit that question next week.
Here's a look at the other major awards after 11 weeks ...
Defensive player of the year: Remember when J.J. Watt was having a quiet season? Well, he has 7.5 sacks in his last four games, and the Houston Texans are 3-1 in those games as they've climbed back into a first-place tie in the (admittedly bad) AFC South. He leads the NFL with 11.5 sacks. If I had to vote now I'd still go with Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, who has been outstanding all season. But I think we all see where this is going. The Watt train is gaining steam.
The ballot: 1. Norman, 2. Watt, 3. Arizona CB/S Tyrann Mathieu
Offensive player of the year: I'll include this because it's a major award, but I never understand the logic of voting for someone other than your MVP unless specifically instructed to do so. So my pick is Brady.
The ballot: Same as MVP
Coach of the year: Sometime soon I'll complain about how this award is decided (in short, it's always based on which preseason media prediction was the most incorrect ... like there needs to be some explanation other than just a media prediction being really wrong), but let's be clear, if the award wasn't decided by such a weird criteria it would easily go to New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. He's undefeated after a pretty big offseason controversy, and has kept this team focused despite it coming off a Super Bowl championship. He's the best coach. The best coach never wins this award. I don't get it.
The ballot: 1. Belichick, 2. Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera, 3. Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis
Offensive rookie of the year: This is a fun category, and I have the feeling Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is going to make a really nice push in the last six games. I'm still hanging on to St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley for one more week, because his recent slump doesn't erase how great he was his first four starts.
The ballot: 1. Gurley, 2. Oakland Raiders receiver Amari Cooper, 3. Winston
Defensive rookie of the year: The weird Kwon Alexander PED suspension/"It was an energy drink!" story makes this a difficult pick. I won't punish the Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker yet, but I'm going to give the top spot to the rightful winner: Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks. He won't ultimately win it, because he's on injured reserve now and we'll forget about him by season's end, but make no mistake — he was the best defensive rookie this season. He deserves to be on top of this list for at least a week.
The ballot: 1. Hicks, 2. Alexander, 3. New Orleans Saints LB Stephone Anthony
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Ryan Fitzpatrick really has this "Movember" thing all mixed up.
With men everywhere using "No-Shave November" as an excuse to not shave to bring awareness to prostate cancer, Fitzpatrick has gone the other way. With the New York Jets struggling, the quarterback has trimmed the most glorious beard in football.
Fitz on the beard decision: "Just seemed like it was time to switch up the mojo a little bit." pic.twitter.com/ytBuaRkeLU— New York Jets (@nyjets) November 25, 2015
It's just not the same. And I'm not buying this "switch up the mojo" excuse. This just happens to come right before Thanksgiving, when Fitzpatrick's family members are probably slated to stop by for turkey and offer derisive comments asking when he's going to shave that darn thing? Too coincidental.
However, it's also true that The Beard wasn't helping in the karma department anymore. After a fast start, the Jets have lost four of five, and this week the media was asking Todd Bowles if he was sticking with Fitzpatrick at quarterback. #FitzBeard apparently is only a funny deal when the team is winning.
It's been a while since we've seen Fitzpatrick look like a (somewhat) clean-cut Harvard man. He had the beard with the Houston Texans last year. He seemed to trim it for minicamp, but it was back at its full Civil War-era self by the time the season rolled around.
Don't fret, though. Considering how quickly the beard seemed to be regrown to its glorious bushy fullness this summer, Fitzpatrick might be looking like a ZZ Top member again before he leads the Jets into Super Bowl 50.
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We're going to switch things up on the projections this week and take a look at the glut of teams in the middle class of the NFL that still could find their way into the playoffs.
It's stunning how much parity there is outside the bottom few and the top handful of teams.
There are no more byes left on the schedule, so everyone has the same number of games left. But the schedules the teams still in contention must play are far different.
Let's assume, for arugment's sake, that the AFC East, AFC West, NFC South and NFC West divisions are wrapped up — even though they aren't really. But all four of those division leaders have three-game (or more) cushions they should be able to hold onto.
The least-sure bet would be the NFC West, as we know what happened exactly a year ago: The Arizona Cardinals, entering Week 12, held a three-game edge on the Seattle Seahawks, exactly as it stands now. The Seahawks overtook the division and came within a yards of another Super Bowl title then, but it's a tougher climb with only one game left against the Cardinals, having lost to them two weeks ago in Seattle.
But there still is a glut of nearly 20 teams fighting for a wild-card or division berth with at least a 4-6 record, plus the 3-7 Dallas Cowboys who are only two games out of first. Let's take a look at how things stand for these teams looking forward.
First, here's the AFC picture:
|Team||Record||Division games remaining||Opponent win % (remaining games)|
|Kansas City Chiefs||5-5||3||34|
|New York Jets||5-5||3||48|
Clearly, the Bengals are in great shape to clinch a playoff spot and perhaps a first-round bye; they have games left vs. the Steelers, whom they are trying to hold off for the division, and the Broncos, who are the current AFC No. 3 seed.
Don't snooze on the Chiefs, who started 1-5 but who have the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL. They're a legit wild-card contender and not out of the division race.
Of the 4-6 teams, the Jaguars clearly have the easiest road in with the South being a garbage division. The fact that their opponents have won 39 percent of their games is also nice, but the Colts' schedule isn't that much harder. Like the Chiefs, the Texans have saved their season and still could be a wild card, too.
And now here's the NFC:
|Team||Record||Division games remaining||Opponent win % (remaining games)|
|Green Bay Packers||7-3||3||49|
|New York Giants||5-5||2||56|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||5-5||3||57|
|St. Louis Rams||4-6||3||56|
|New Orleans Saints||4-6||3||55|
It's clear here that the Vikings missed their opportunity to gran ahold of the North in last week's loss to the Packers. They meet again in Week 17, but will the Vikings be playing for a wild card at that point and not the division title?
We must be nuts. We still like the Cowboys' chances to win the East despite a tough schedule and a lot of catching up to do, needing to pass the other three teams. In fact, the Cowboys are technically the 16th-ranked NFC team entering Week 12 based on current playoff seeding tiebreakers. But they might not be done with Tony Romo back.
And don't snooze on the Bucs! They already beat the Falcons in Atlanta, have the easier schedule of the two teams and the rematch in Tampa in Week 13 that could help tilt the scales toward Jameis Winston's crew, winners of three of four and four of the past six games.
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The family of NFL Hall of Famer and longtime broadcaster Frank Gifford revealed on Wednesday that Gifford's brain showed he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
The legendary New York Giants running back/flanker died of natural causes in August at age 84.
Gifford's family released the following statement:
"After losing our beloved husband and father, Frank Gifford, we as a family made the difficult decision to have his brain studied in hopes of contributing to the advancement of medical research concerning the link between football and traumatic brain injury.
"While Frank passed away from natural causes this past August at the age of 84, our suspicions that he was suffering from the debilitating effects of head trauma were confirmed when a team of pathologists recently diagnosed his condition as that of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)—a progressive degenerative brain disease.
"We decided to disclose our loved one's condition to honor Frank's legacy of promoting player safety dating back to his involvement in the formation of the NFL Players Association in the 1950s. His entire adult life Frank was a champion for others, but especially for those without the means or platform to have their voices heard. He was a man who loved the National Football League until the day he passed, and one who recognized that it was—and will continue to be—the players who elevated this sport to its singular stature in American society.
"During the last years of his life Frank dedicated himself to understanding the recent revelations concerning the connection between repetitive head trauma and its associated cognitive and behavioral symptoms—which he experienced firsthand. We miss him every day, now more than ever, but find comfort in knowing that by disclosing his condition we might contribute positively to the ongoing conversation that needs to be had; that he might be an inspiration for others suffering with this disease that needs to be addressed in the present; and that we might be a small part of the solution to an urgent problem concerning anyone involved with football, at any level.
"The Gifford family will continue to support the National Football League and its recent on-field rule changes and procedures to make the game Frank loved so dearly—and the players he advocated so tirelessly for—as safe as possible."
Gifford is one of the first players, if not the first, from the pre-Super Bowl era to have been diagnosed with CTE.
He was on the receiving end of a brutal hit from the Eagles' Chuck Bednarik during a November 1960 game, a hit that rendered him uncocious, flat on his back on the Yankee Stadium grass. Gifford would spend several days in the hospital, diagnosed with a "deep brain concussion" that not only meant the end of the 1960 season for him, but also kept him out the following year. Gifford returned to the Giants in 1962 and played three more seasons.
While the statement isn't hard on the NFL, which has long dismissed the effects of concussions and brain trauma on players, the revelation that Gifford, one of the founders of the NFL Players' Association, could have a big impact going forward, partucularly as the statement says the issue "needs to be addressed."
A recent study showed the brains of 87 of 91 formers players had CTE.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement on the Gifford findings on Wednesday afternoon:
"Frank Gifford was a beloved member of the NFL family. He exemplified everything good about our game throughout his 85 years of extraordinary accomplishments, both on and off the field.
"We appreciate the Gifford family's desire to help the medical community understand more about CTE, and we are grateful for their support of the league's efforts to improve safety in our game. At the NFL, we are supporting grants to NIH and Boston University as well as other independent efforts to research the effects of repetitive head trauma.
"But we are not waiting until science provides all of the answers. We are working now to improve the safety of our game. The NFL has made numerous rules changes to the game, all to enhance player health and safety at all levels of football. These include 39 rule changes and better training and practice protocols that are yielding measurable results.
"This work will continue as the health and safety of our players remains our highest priority. We have more work to do — work that honors great men like Frank Gifford."
Tuesday seemed like the end of Johnny Manziel's chances with the Cleveland Browns.
After being named the starting quarterback for the rest of the season, and having discussions with the staff about what he needed to do on the bye week, video of Manziel partying was leaked. And Manziel was benched, all the way down to third string. It had to be tremendously frustrating for the Browns.
But if it appeared Manziel had reached the end of the line in Cleveland, Browns coach Mike Pettine insisted it was not. He was asked if Manziel had played his last game with the Browns.
"I certainly hope not," Pettine said in his Wednesday news conference. "He’s made great progress and there’s no better proof than last Sunday at Pittsburgh. But sometimes you have to take a step back to take a few forward.
"We told him yesterday, this is not a dead end. It’s a hurdle."
Manziel said to the media before the bye that he wouldn't be an embarrassment to the team and nobody would have to worry about him. He obviously told the staff some version of that too, because a few times Pettine said that Manziel was benched because of a breach in trust and accountability.
Manziel had a wasted rookie season. He went to rehab in the offseason. He played better this season, highlighted by a promising 372-yard game at the Steelers. Many NFL players party during their bye week, and some fans wondered how the Browns could punish Manziel for doing something that wasn't outside of the law, and something that other players likely did outside of TMZ's vision.
Pettine's answer was that the quarterback position is judged differently. And it was clear that the team wanted to see a certain dedication from Manziel, even in the bye week.
"The position of quarterback is always going to be held to a higher standard than any other position on the team, that’s the reality," Pettine said "It’s not just about talent, it’s not just about what you do on the field. To be successful at the position requires a great understanding of what’s involved in the non-physical aspects: the leadership, the trust, the accountability, the responsibility, the diligence. You have to take the mentality that nobody is going to outwork you. That has to be understood when you play the position at this level.
"When you have a great opportunity in front of you, it’s important you demonstrate you can handle the responsibility that comes with it. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the trust and accountability piece. This is where we had an obvious shortcoming."
One reason the Browns are reluctant to cut the cord is they are invested in Manziel, and they started to see some progress on the field this season. It's tough to start over at quarterback in the NFL, especially when you invest a first-round pick in the position, as Cleveland did a year ago. Pettine said Manziel has "shown tremendous improvement, but he has to make better decisions." Pettine said the decision to demote Manziel was "absolutely necessary to maximize his chance for future success." And Pettine made it clear he still hopes for that future success for Manziel in Cleveland. It's on him to show progress off the field now.
"We’ll see. We’ll see," Pettine said. "We’ve talked about it often with him ... words vs. actions. This is a heavy dose of adversity, we’ll see how he handles it."
Pettine didn't rule out Manziel getting another shot this season, saying the NFL landscape is fluid. Nothing would be better for the Browns organization than for Manziel to react in a positive way to this punishment, get another shot and take over as the starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. Cleveland has been looking for an answer at quarterback since it came back into the NFL in 1999. At this moment, Pettine said he still believes Manziel can be that answer.
"There’s nobody who’s going to be more proud, when he turns the corner and he’s a success, I don’t think anybody will be more proud than I am," Pettine said. "Sometimes when you’re a parent, the concept of tough love is the best."
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The NFL announced the dates for its three International Series games that will be played in the United Kingdom next season, and also announced five of the six teams who will head to London:
• Oct. 2, the Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Indianapolis Colts at Wembley Stadium.
• Oct. 23, the St. Louis Rams will host an NFC East team at Twickenham Stadium.
• Oct. 30, the Cincinnati Bengals will host the Washington Redskins at Wembley Stadium.
The Rams will host whichever team finishes in the same spot in the NFC as they do in the NFC West, making it possible for Washington to become the first team to play in London in back-to-back weeks.
This will be the fourth straight year the Jaguars play a "home" game in the U.K., though next year will mark the first time they face a divisional opponent; it will be the Colts' first time playing overseas. It will also be the first U.K. game for Cincinnati and the first regular-season game overseas for Washington, which played a preseason contest in London in 1992.
If the Rams wind up playing the Philadelphia Eagles, it would also mark the first time that franchise has played in London.
The Rams serving as the home team for a game seems to come as a surprise to the St. Louis Convention and Visitors' Commission, which owns the Edward Jones Dome. The commission sent the following statement on Wednesday:
"We recently became aware that the NFL has selected the Rams to play in London during the 2016 football season, and have designated them the ‘home’ team. The Rams are on a year-to year lease and have until Jan. 28, 2016 to inform us if they will play the 2016 season at the Edward Jones Dome. We have had no formal discussions with the Rams about their 2016 intentions or a London game in 2016, but if they do play in the Dome in 2016, the terms of the lease remain in effect and provides that all Rams NFL home games (other than preseason) will be played at the Facilities."
St. Louis is one of three teams, along with the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers, pushing to relocate to Los Angeles.
The NFL may also announce a fourth International Series game for next season, which would be played in Mexico City.
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There has been a lot of talk this season about NFL players being fined by the league for sending a message, be it through their eye black or choice of cleats.
One of those players, Pittsburgh's William Gay, penned a column for The MMQB detailing why he happily paid the fine for wearing purple cleats for domestic violence awareness, and brings up an important thought: NFL players have the platform, so why can't they use it?
We’ve talked about this a lot in the locker room... So many of us feel like there has to be a solution; a way for the league to work with us for trying to promote good things, rather than punish us. Ben Roethlisberger came up with the idea to allow each team to have one cause that affects the community that we play in and have each player be able to represent that. Another idea, and one I feel strongly about, is to allow every player in the league one amnesty week—one game during which they can support their cause through a shoe color or eye-black and not have any consequences. Where is the harm in that?
Both Roethlisberger's idea and Gay's idea are good ones. Players would likely prefer to advocate for a cause personal to them, but it's a discussion worth having with the league. It makes the NFL look small when a player is docked money for a small gesture in remembrace of a loved one or trumpeting a cause the league doesn't also support. It seems easy enough to dedicate one or two weeks a season, at minimum to letting players wear eye black or cleats or a towel to bring a little attention to something close to their hearts, as long as they submit their plan to the league beforehand.
Gay is one of three Steelers players to draw a fine this season: running back DeAngelo Williams wore eye black that said "FIND THE CURE" for his mother, who died of breast cancer last year (four aunts also died from the disease), and defensive end Cameron Heyward wore "IRON HEAD" on his eye black in memory of his father, former NFL fullback Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, who died of brain cancer.
October is breast cancer awareness month, and the NFL allows players to wear pink cleats and towels for that month. But it is also domestic violence awareness month. When he was 8, Gay's mother was killed by his stepfather, who shot her three times before turning the gun on himself.
So as he did last year (and he was fined last year as well), Gay happily donned the purple cleats, the color of the cause, and paid the $5787 fine.
"It’s not that I don’t understand the value of money, and it’s not that I’m trying to stir trouble. When I wore those purple cleats, I was standing for something much larger than a football game," Gay wrote. "My mother didn’t know she was in an abusive relationship until it was too late; she didn’t know what domestic violence was, let alone how to get help. Awareness, to me, is everything.
"And so when I wore those cleats, people noticed. People asked about it. During the game one official actually came up to me and asked me why I had purple shoes on. Later, he told me, 'I really appreciate what you’re doing.' I came home that night to hundreds of messages on Twitter and Instagram. I gave interviews about it. Fans chatted about it. People were talking about what I did, but in doing so, they were talking about domestic violence. The discussion grew louder. Domestic violence, an often uncomfortable and neglected issue in our culture, was brought to the attention of thousands."
Gay does what he can for his cause, volunteering at shelters and speaking about domestic violence, and believes if wearing the purple cleats helps just one person, paying the fine was money well spent.
Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan brought in one of his former players, a legend of the game, to give a pep talk to his team before it played the New England Patriots on Monday night.
That's not uncommon. But then the Bills' inspirational speaker, Ray Lewis, was on the ESPN set the next night talking about the game. That's unusual, to say the least. He picked the Bills, a seven-point underdog, to win.
Lewis played under Ryan when the latter was a defensive assistant with the Baltimore Ravens. Ryan confirmed on Wednesday that Lewis spoke to the team though he didn't get into specifics of what Lewis said, according to ESPN.com's Mike Rodak.
And then, yes, Lewis was one of the two ESPN folks including Chris Berman, whose schtick includes supporting the Bills, who picked Buffalo to beat the undefeated Patriots at home. Discounting a Week 17 loss to Buffalo last season, in which New England had its playoff seed set and rested starters, the Patriots haven't lost a regular-season game at home since Dec. 16, 2012. New England won 20-13 on Monday night. The Patriots are 10-0.
Lewis hasn't been a big Patriots fan through the years, so it wasn't surprising that he said this week he prefers Ryan as a coach over New England coach Bill Belichick, who has won four Super Bowls.
It's not like Lewis is a journalist, and there are always going to be biases when former athletes analyze games that include their friends, former teammates and former coaches. Michael Irvin, for example, has been rooting for the Dallas Cowboys in an over-the-top manner on NFL Network for a while (two of his offerings are "Irvin on Cowboys: The best team in the NFL" and "Michael Irvin: Cowboys are unstoppable"), and by now we all know to take opinions like those or Lewis picking the Bills less than seriously.
But the Patriots still might wonder why someone included with one of the NFL broadcast partners' game day productions was giving a speech to the other team the night before the game.
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Tony Romo had an uneven performance on Sunday, his first game back after missing seven with a broken collarbone.
That’s to be expected after so much time off. What was also unsurprising is that the Cowboys looked a lot better on offense. You could see the difference a professional quarterback makes for the Cowboys passing game. The Cowboys were 7-of-14 on third down, and had the ball for more than 38 minutes. A big reason is that Romo could make throws to sustain drives. He also made some great throws to put points on the board, which we’ll get to in a bit.
First let’s look at two interceptions that, you’d have to think, happened in part because because Romo was rusty. In the first quarter, the Dolphins ran a “zero blitz” with no deep safety, and linebacker Neville Hewitt came free. So with no definition on the throw and Hewitt in his face, Romo threw the ball falling away with no vision. Even though Dez Bryant beat cornerback Brent Grimes to the inside, Grimes got an easy interception.
Hewitt got an interception later, and again Romo made an undefined throw in the face of pressure. Against a blitz, the pocket closed down. Romo tried to make a throw to running back Robert Turbin, releasing out of the backfield. It was a bad throw.
Even though Romo looked at times like a quarterback who hadn’t played in two months, he had moments where he gave the Cowboys some high-level quarterbacking they lacked during a seven-game losing streak.
Here’s a 31-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams. The Dolphins doubled tight end Jason Witten with a linebacker and a safety. Williams ran a vertical route to get over cornerback Jamar Taylor, and Romo made an excellent throw to get it to him.
Romo’s touchdown to Bryant was an example of the Dolphins doubling one of Dallas’ weapons, and the quarterback and receiver working together to beat it. The Dolphins blitzed, there was a double on Bryant with the safety and linebacker, but Bryant just won the route. Then Romo made a great throw to get him the ball.
The Cowboys weren’t great in this game. The offensive line, and in particular left tackle Tyron Smith, struggled. Romo made a few mistakes and missed some throws he normally would make. But Romo also made plays that the Cowboys hadn’t gotten out of the offense in seven weeks. There’s a reason that team could overcome their issues at Miami on Sunday and still win by 10 points.
You’d figure Romo will feel a little more comfortable in his second game back, which makes the Thanksgiving showdown against the Carolina Panthers a lot more interesting.
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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.
As if the Detroit Lions haven't ruined enough of our Thanksgivings already, cornerback Darius Slay has finally provided the last straw necessary to remove them from our annual turkey day festivities forever.
That's right: Slay hates turkey. Like, really doesn't like it. He described it as "nasty." Four times.
The following is his exchange with ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein for a regular Question of the Week segment. This week's query: "What Thanksgiving foods do Detroit Lions players absolutely despise?"
Slay: "Turkey. So nasty. I hate turkey. I don't know why Thanksgiving has like turkey as a logo. That's like a logo for turkey. It has to be ham, because ham is way better than turkey. Turkey is terrible. I hate turkey. So nasty. Hate turkey."
Reporter: "Were you forced to eat it as a kid?"
Slay: "Nuh-uh, because my mom don't eat turkey. So she didn't make turkey and then I was like, ‘Man, I want to try turkey, mom.' Then I see why she don't like it. It's real nasty. Some people try to make it juicy. It don't change nothin'. It still gets dry. It's nasty. I love ham, though. Ham and I need me a pie. My mom, I'm trying to find a way to send this pie to my house. I don't know how that's going to operate but that sweet potato pie is going to be on point. I need like two of them. Man, it's so good. My grandma, she had me one saved anyway but I need one for Thanksgiving because I'm not going to be home."
Slay may have saved himself there with the line: "Ham and I need me a pie." Solid gold, that one. I might have to borrow it when my aunt asks around the dinner table, "Can I get you anything, dear?" Um, ham and I need me a pie, please. Still, this is a serious anti-turkey lobby from Slay. And he's not alone.
CB Quandre Diggs: "I don't eat Thanksgiving food. I'm not a big fan of Thanksgiving food. I celebrate the holiday, I just don't eat the food. I just don't like it."
CB Nevin Lawson: "I don't like turkey like that. I don't like turkey. It's just not my type of bird to eat. I like chicken and steaks and ham. That's pretty much it. Even my family members, we're Jamaican so we won't make turkey on Thanksgiving. We'll make a whole chicken. I had it before, but my family never cooked it. I had turkey before."
Pro-bird, anti-turkey, huh? Interesting approach. And here I was thinking Lions were the kings of the jungle, up for eating whatever presents itself on the plains that serve as their dinner tables. Now, I understand a lot of folks eat ham on Thanksgiving and your niece is going through her vegetarian phase right now, but I'm pretty sure Myles Standish and Squanto didn't squash their beef over pig and Tofurky.
In honor of the great John Madden, I will only accept ham, chicken and/or steak at my Thanksgiving meal if they are all stuffed inside of each other and jammed into a turkey. Then, and only then, is it acceptable.
Turkey unites. Turkey makes us sleepy enough to nod off during the second half of another blowout of the Lions on Thanksgiving. You don't see kids tracing their hands to bring home a ham drawing to their parents every November, do you? I mean, Steve Martin didn't ride "Plains, Trains and Automobiles" to get home for Tofurky. And Adam Sandler wasn't singing, "Love to eat chicken, like a good boy should."
Should we forgive Slay, Lawson and Diggs, since they were born in the 1990s, when political correctness probably ruled out teaching about turkeys in schools for fear the vegans may revolt? Thankfully, 31-year-old Lions defensive end Darryl Tapp is around to offer some sound advice with respect to the turkey:
"Ever since I got turned on to deep fried turkey, I don't look at regular turkey the same. It's gotta be deep fried and Cajun now. I can't look at regular turkey the same anymore, unless it's some deli meat, I can't do it. I've been tainted. Got a taste of the good life."
Deep fried turkey, just as I imagine the good Governor William Bradford enjoyed his Thanksgiving meal after tossing his freshly bow and arrowed fowl into a piping hot cauldron of vegetable oil over a campfire.
Lions running back Ameer Abdullah went on an ill-advised anti-cranberry sauce rant, while teammates Calvin Johnson, Larry Warford and T.J. Jones appropriately took aim at turnip greens, beets and cream of corn as the worst side staples of Thanksgiving. A conversation about side dishes deserves its own post entirely, but I will say this: I'm on board with mashed potatoes — sweet or otherwise — cranberry sauce and stuffing. If there's a sliver of the plate left over for some green bean casserole, I can live with it.
My wish for you + yours this Thanksgiving: no one forces you to eat the side dishes about which you have such strong negative opinions— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) November 25, 2015
A quick poll of my Shutdown Corner colleagues revealed some interesting Thanksgiving traditions. Here are four of the ones that won't out relatives who do their best to annually destroy the year's greatest meal:
— Shalise Manza Young is on board with Slay's pro-ham stance, and I'm speechless. This is a thing now. Although, she redeems herself by sharing she used to have two Thanksgiving dinners — a traditional meal and an Italian feast. As Yahoo's Charles Robinson responded: "Where do I send my RSVP, Shalise?"
— Eric Edholm's "Thanksgiving protein power rankings: 1. Sausage, 2. Game, 3. Turkey (dark meat), 4. Ham, 5. Lobster, 138. Turkey (white meat)." And boy did he hear it about the lobster. Everything from "Daddy Warbucks over there" to "We need to renegotiate Edholm's contract," until he offered undeniable proof that the first Thanksgiving featured lobster. Plus, he's a fellow New Englander, so he gets a pass, as long as he tells me where those lobster traps are hiding. My new power rankings: 1. Turkey, 2. Lobster.
— Frank Schwab details one of his life's great meals: "When I covered Denver at KC on Thanksgiving ... I had dinner in the ballroom at the Marriott and they had EVERYTHING." A Marriott? Schwab elaborated: "The Marriott Thanksgiving was unreal. Like 10 chef stations, and was all legit. ... Was like each station was trying to one-up the other." This is the Thanksgiving ethos of Donald Trump's America: No matter where, there should be a chair for you with a plate in front of it — and 10 chef stations. USA! USA! USA!
— Kevin Kaduk, as always, takes the reasoned approach: "Any protein is amazing if you cover it in sweet potato casserole." I've never had sweet potato casserole, but I take a similar approach with gravy. Just douse it on everything, and it'll make up for when grandma overcooks the turkey for a 10th straight year.
Speaking of streaks, after losing nine straight, the Lions have somehow won two straight Thanksgiving games — over the Packers and Bears — with Slay and his turkey-hating ways on the roster, no less. So, like the crazy uncle who will bring up the Syrian refugee crisis at the dinner table, we'll give Detroit one more Thanksgiving to not ruin our day. And then we'll go back to complaining about it for another year.
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On Oct. 25, Joseph Randle started his sixth straight game at running back for the Dallas Cowboys. He was owned in almost every fantasy football league in America.
Exactly one month later he was out of the NFL and behind bars in Kansas.
Randle's incredible fall continued when he was arrested and charged with one felony and five misdemeanors following an incident Tuesday night in a Kansas casino. KSN.com said he was in Sumner County Jail with a $25,000 bond. Late last month Randle went AWOL from the Cowboys when he learned he lost his starting job, following news that he violated the NFL's conduct policy (he was eventually suspended four games), and he was cut by the Cowboys on Nov. 3. Randle had some high-profile run ins with the law before Tuesday.
On Tuesday, he was arrested on suspicion of criminal threat, assault on a law officer, battery, disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, and interference with law enforcement, KSN said.
TMZ reported Randle was intoxicated and belligerent on the casino floor and was asked to leave, and on the way out he spit on the floor and assaulted a security officer.
The Cowboys stuck with Randle after he was caught shoplifting underwear and cologne last year in an embarrassing episode, and after a more serious legal matter in February when police responded to a domestic violence call concerning an incident with Randle and the mother of his child. Randle was arrested on possession of marijuana but not charged with domestic violence.
Randle didn't play that poorly for the Cowboys, with 315 yards and four touchdowns on 76 carries. When he was cut, no other team showed any interest in picking him up. This latest episode might close that door forever.
After everything that has happened in the past month, his days as the starting running back for perhaps the highest profile team in the NFL seems like another lifetime ago.
More on Cowboys
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Whenever folks on Twitter are invited to ask questions to a controversial individual, the results are always - how can we put this? - colorful.
On Wednesday morning, NFL Network's "NFL HQ" morning show invited viewers to tweet questions for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, using the hashtag #AskJerryJones. Jones joined the program on the eve of his team's annual Thanksgiving Day game.
And just as you'd expect, there were some "honest" questions regarding the Cowboys' playoff chances now that Tony Romo is back from injury, but there were numerous that brought up Jones' signing of Greg Hardy and Jones' own reported debauchery.
Things started out innocently enough:
#AskJerryJones when do you start the unenviable task of finding Romos successor?— Steve Sanchez (@steve7_steve) November 25, 2015
Do you have any superstitions on game day? Lucky socks, lucky meal, lucky tie? #AskJerryJones— Matt Carlyon (@dmcarlyon) November 25, 2015
This probably isn't something Jones, who is also the team's general manager, wants to read, but it's an honest question:
Do you feel with recent struggles that it is time to hand over control For personnel decisions to others and take a step back #AskJerryJones— Leonard Pappas Jr (@Leonithis) November 25, 2015
Continuing to employ Hardy, who was found guilty of domestic violence last year but then saw the charges dropped on appeal, came up frequently.
Why are you showing kids that it's ok to abuse someone and get away without consequences by keeping Hardy on your roster? #askjerryjones— Philly Eagles (4-6) (@RulersPhilly) November 25, 2015
#askjerryjones do you like having woman beaters on your team?— eric (@COFF1996) November 25, 2015
And then there's this young man. Why not take a shot?
Can you pay my tuition? #AskJerryJones— Matt Manzo (@TheGreat_Matsby) November 25, 2015
There were many more that just weren't re-printable, so it's worth searching the hashtag on Twitter, if you're so inclined.
We even took a long, hard pause before speculating too much about the pending opening for the NFL team that currently employs Kelly's college quarterback and apple of his eye, Marcus Mariota.
But now the din is starting to increase in Philly about Kelly and his future with the Eagles. Hint: It's not looking as rosy as it once did.
ESPN's Adam Schefter said Tuesday night on Sirius XM Radio that the signs are pointing toward an offseason split with the NFL's most controversial coach and the team that has limped to a 4-6 record after back-to-back 10-win seasons.
“I think the momentum and signs seem to be piling up against a Chip [Kelly] return to Philadelphia,” Schefter said. “I think both sides are sick of each other. I think the fans are tired of him. I think he’s tired of the situation there. That’s just my read from afar.”
Although Schefter's words don't sound incredibly forceful, we've learned to read the tea leaves with his premonitory hint dropping and take them as legitimate possibilities. He added:
“I just think that Chip Kelly — if given a choice — might be comfortable elsewhere.”
Nothing shocking, right? Well, it depends on how you look at it.
The Eagles essentially remade the organization in Kelly's likeness, giving him tremendous power and say over the roster, which led to some controversial manuevers this offseason that had Eagles fans crowing and media members scratching their collective heads. But based on his first two seasons in the league, there was a sense of ... hey, maybe this mad wizard knows something we don't.
Some of Kelly's wizardy seems to have been dispelled. Sam Bradford has remained mostly pumpkin. The offensive water has not turned into wine. Players that Kelly let walk — LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin, to name a few — look quite cozy with their new teams, injuries notwithstanding. The smoke might be clearing and the mirrors cracking with Kelly's vaunted system.
He's under contract with the Eagles runs through the 2017 season, so the team likely won't let him out of that deal without getting significant coin back — or if another NFL team approaches the Eagles about wanting Kelly, some kind of draft-pick compensation.
Kelly also could just say, "Hey, void the last two years. I just want out." He turns 53 on Wednesday, and he's made a lot of money the past several seasons. Kelly clearly still wants to coach, and he'll have options galore in 2016. It might be best for both sides.
USC? Titans? Texas? (Hey, we know ...) There will be multiple offers for Kelly, and the Eagles still have a mildly attractive situation for the team to find a quality successor. The way this thing is going, we need to start seriously considering what the next dominoes will be.
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Teammates and players around the NFL are reacting with shock and prayer to the news early Wednesday morning that St. Louis Rams wide receiver Stedman Bailey was shot while riding in a car with his family.
The former third-round pick is in stable condition after being struck twice in the head during an apparent drive-by shooting in Miami Gardens, Fla., according to the NFL Network's Mike Silver and Ian Rapoport. Bailey reportedly suffered non life-threatening injuries and will undergo additional surgery on Wednesday.
Bailey, who is currently serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, was a passenger along with two young relatives in a car driven by his cousin, who did suffer life-threatening injury upon shielding the children from the bullets, according to Rapoport's Twitter feed.
Here's the latest on the Stedman Bailey shooting from Miami Gardens police. pic.twitter.com/ZBBPyM4hsd— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) November 25, 2015
As rumors circulated around the NFL, the Rams offered a rather vague statement on their website:
“We are aware Stedman Bailey was involved in an incident this evening. We have spoken with Stedman and he is in the hospital in critical, but stable, condition. We are gathering facts about the situation and will provide updates as we learn more.”
Meanwhile, Bailey's teammates called for prayers on Twitter from their fans on the eve of Thanksgiving.
Prayers up for my bro @iamSB3 .....— Kendall Langford (@KendallLangford) November 25, 2015
The devil is a lie !!!! Prayers up to my bro @iamSB3 !!! Please keep him in your prayers !— Trumaine Johnson (@Trujohnson2) November 25, 2015
Keep our brother @iamSB3 in your thoughts, prayers tonight. I don't wanna believe it....— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) November 25, 2015
I'm praying for my brother @iamSB3 and his family ..God will see this through I know it.. 🙏🏾— Rodney McLeod (@Rodney_McLeod4) November 25, 2015
Strong spirits and heavy prayer up for my bro @iamSB3— Isaiah Pead (@iPead) November 25, 2015
Praying for guardian angels over Sted. We're with you brother.— Johnny Hekker (@JHekker) November 25, 2015
I'm sending you and your fam my wish. #StedStrong— Mr.Pix6Sh*t (@JjenkzLockdown) November 25, 2015
Prayers up for my man Steddy B!— Chris Givens (@CG1three) November 25, 2015
Worst way to wake up.. @iamSB3 prayers up brother🙏🏿— Eugene Sims (@EugeneSims2) November 25, 2015
Likewise, players from around the NFL responded in kind with regard to every athlete's worst nightmare.
prayers to my brother Stedman Bailey— Le'Veon Bell (@L_Bell26) November 25, 2015
Lord please be with Stedman Bailey and his family at this time! Give them the strength, faith, and healing they need to push through!— Mark Ingram II (@MarkIngram22) November 25, 2015
My prayer going out to my lil bra !!!! WVU family first football second !!! https://t.co/r4YLGzYITI— ADAm Pacman Jones (@REALPACMAN24) November 25, 2015
Bailey starred for Miramar High School in Miramar, Fla., before reaching All-American status at West Virginia University. His 1,622 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior both set Mountaineers records. Bailey has collected 843 yards and two touchdowns on 59 catches in two-plus seasons in St. Louis. The entire NFL community is obiviously praying the 25-year-old makes a full recovery and returns to the field again.
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Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is expected to undergo surgery on a sports hernia Wednesday morning, according to the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, leaving Seattle's playoff hopes in serious peril.
#Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch is set to have surgery on his sports hernia tomorrow morning, source said. Expected to be out about a month.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 25, 2015
Lynch is expected to miss home games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns sandwiched around road contests against the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens. The hope is he returns for NFC West battles against the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals to finish the regular season.
The two-time defending NFC champions trail the Cardinals by three games in the division and currently sit on the outside looking into the conference's playoff picture. While Thomas Rawls performed exceedingly well in Lynch's absence this past Sunday, rushing for 209 yards in Seattle's 29-13 victory against the San Francisco 49ers, Lynch has been the bell-cow for a Super Bowl contender since arriving in 2010.
Given that the Atlanta Falcons currently hold the second wild-card spot with a 6-4 record, the Seahawks are far from eliminated, but the next two weeks could determine their future. A win against either the Steelers or Vikings sans Lynch would leave them at 6-6 heading into a two-game stretch against the Ravens and Browns before needing a win over either the Rams or Cardinals to make the playoffs at 9-7. That's right: A 9-7 team could make the playoffs as a wild-card in the same year a sub-.500 team could emerge as a division winner in the NFC East. (And, yes, even the Dallas Cowboys still have a chance.)
Should Rawls emerge as a viable option in full-time duty, Lynch's future in Seattle becomes cloudy, since he turns 30 in April and is due $16 million over the next two seasons. Lynch has dealt with back problems throughout his Seahawks tenure, but missed just one game in four previous seasons. He's already missed three this year, and Rawls has rushed for 426 yards and two touchdowns on 70 carries in those contests, leading Seattle to a 2-1 record. Granted, those wins came against the 49ers and Detroit Lions.
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Super Bowl 50, billed as a celebration of a half-century of what has become the pinnacle sporting event in the Western Hemisphere, was marred — before the game ever started — on an obscure automatic coin toss loss by the Carolina Panthers for sending too many captains (teams are allowed six) out to midfield against the New England Patriots, leading the Patriots to score on their deferred first possession of the second half in what would end up a 27-24 victory.
Oh, phew, what a nightmare we just had!
It’s understandable during this poor-call-plagued season to fear the worst: that a playoff game — or worse, the Super Bowl — could be decided on a blown call by the referees. Human error aside, the repeated issues have drawn all kinds of negative attention to the league, the quality of the games and the possibility of serious controversy for a league cloaked in it already.
Just past the midpoint of the season, there already have been several massive missteps by refereeing crews across the NFL. And after a Monday night affair in Foxborough that was about as bad as we’ve seen on that front, start to finish, we’ve boiled it down to the top five missed calls this season.
1. Play blown dead in Pats-Bills
We don’t want to be prisoners of the moment, but this was awful from Monday’s Buffalo Bills-New England Patriots game. Tom Brady escapes the initial rush, rolls to his right and delivers a pass — a good 2 feet from the sideline — to Danny Amendola, who smartly broke off his route to give Brady an outlet. The pass was pretty improvisation and could have resulted in a 69-yard Patriots touchdown and a 17-3 lead. Except for one thing: The referee blew the play dead. Why? Head ref Gene Steratore basically said after the game that the line judge lost track of the ball. So he blew his whistle? That might be the last thing one should do there; let someone who has seen the play make the call there, geez. The result — the Patriots getting the ball at the point Amendola caught it — felt almost as unsatisfactory, as the whistle blew before he caught it. It was bad and could have severely impacted a playoff race.
2. Jags-Ravens ending
This Week 10 error cost the Baltimore Ravens a victory and thrust the Jacksonville Jaguars into the playoff race. The Jaguars were driving late, down 20-19, and yet it appears the Ravens were about to win when quarterback Blake Bortles was sacked on fourth down with one second remaining by Elvis Dumervil. One problem: Dumervil was flagged for a facemask, which gave the Jaguars new life. On an untimed down (the game can’t end on a defensive penalty) Jaguars kicker Jason Myers hit the game-winner in a 22-20 final. Uh, but yeah, one more problem: The league acknowledged that the Jaguars should have been called for false start on the Dumervil sack play, a dead-ball foul that would have ended the game with the 10-second runoff for an offensive penalty. So the Jaguars shouldn’t have won a game they won. That’s why it’s No. 2 on the list.
3. Seahawks batted ball vs. Lions
It might be a somewhat obscure rule, but it’s a rule nonetheless: A player can’t intentionally bat a ball, unless he’s trying to tip a forward pass. When the Detroit Lions faced the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4, the game came down to an illegal bat when Calvin Johnson caught a pass but was stripped of the ball at the 1-yard line by Kam Chancellor. The ball tumbled into the end zone, and Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright — making what he thought was a smart, instinctive play — tipped it intentionally out of the end zone. Normally, if Johnson fumbles out of the end zone, it’s Seattle ball at their own 20. That’s what the referees ruled, not flagging the blatant bat. So instead of the Lions having the ball inside the Seattle 1-yard line with 1:45 left to play and a chance to win the game, down 13-10, the Seahawks took over and ran out the clock for a dubious victory.
4. Golden Tate catch, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love the NFL
Take your pick. It’s almost a joke at this point to wonder aloud what is and isn’t a catch in the NFL these days. Tyler Eifert, Devonta Freeman, Odell Beckham Jr. — they and scores of other offensive players have been denied catches. And in the case of Tate, defensive players have equal concerns over the definition of a catch. When the Detroit Lions faced the Chicago Bears in Week 6, Tate caught a pass from Matthew Stafford in the final minute of the first half and crossed the goal line. But before he completed the act of catching the ball — whatever that means — the ball was jarred loose and popped directly into the hands of linebacker Jonathan Anderson. Here’s the way the rule reads: “In the field of play, if a catch has been completed, and there is contact by a defender causing the ball to come loose before the player who caught the loose ball is down by contact, it is a fumble, and the ball remains alive.” Fumble, or in this case interception — no difference. Except that the referees ruled Tate controlled it long enough for a touchdown, touching off the whole “what is a catch?” madness this season. We still don’t have an answer, even if NFL head of officials Dean Blandino says he knows (it’s everyone else who needs to learn apparently).
5. Clock error in Steelers-Chargers
The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the San Diego Chargers on a walk-off touchdown by Le'Veon Bell as time expired back in Week 5, and it’s a good thing they did because they were robbed of nearly 20 seconds worth of clock after taking over on their final possession. The clock operator fell asleep at the wheel after the Chargers kicked off to the Steelers, as it should have stopped before their first ensuing offensive play. But instead, 18 valuable seconds ticked off — and neither referee Pete Morelli nor side judge Rob Vernatchi noticed — before the Steelers ran their first offensive play. League spokesman Michael Signora issued a lengthy explanation the next day with this key line: "Had the side judge or any of the other six on-field officials noticed the timing error, they could have corrected it." Luckily, the Steelers won, saving them even more embarrassment.
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It was a more eventful postgame for Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott than it was a game last Saturday.
After being held under 100 yards rushing for the first time in 16 games, Elliott fired a few salvos in the direction of the Buckeyes' coaching staff and then announced his plans to turn pro right after that. Quite the turn of events in the loss to Michigan State, putting a serious dent in the Buckeyes' chances of winning back-to-back titles.
“We weren’t put in position to win this game,” Elliott said after his 12-carry, 33-yard game. “I deserve more than  carries, I really do. I can’t speak for the play-caller. I don’t know what was going on.”
The play caller is Ed Warriner, but Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said he had a say on which plays were called. After the upset, Meyer said, “I couldn’t disagree with his comments.” Still, Meyer added that the timing of Elliott's comments were an issue. “That’s not the place, and he knows that,” Meyer said.
Would this have any bearing on Elliott's draft stock? Shutdown Corner heard from three NFL talent evaluators on the matter. All three didn't seem too concerned overall, especially after Elliott issued an apology on social media the following day.
"Yeah, I read it," one AFC college scouting director said by phone. "It was fine. He wasn't wrong [after the game] as Urban said. But he's got to know how to handle that better. I've not been through there, but our [scouts] say he's not a bad kid. Passionate, yes. Bad? No, I don't think so. Just had a little moment there.
"We're grading the football player here."
An NFC scout added:
"If he tries that as a rookie, it's a different story. Kid wanted the ball, I get that. [There's a] time and a place and all that. We'll ask him about it in Indy [at the scouting combine], or if we go back through there [in Columbus]. You want to hear him say it again. But I doubt it's a big deal."
Time has a way of diffusing these sorts of stories. The combine is three months away, and though it will be dug back up there that quickly will fade. The draft is two months after that.
"He's a team guy," the AFC scout said. "The coaches told me that themselves this season."
Fact: The Buckeyes don't win a championship last season without the late-season running of Elliott, who was in the Heisman Trophy discussion this year prior to the loss. He has shown bell-cow ability in NFL evaluators' eyes and following the immediate success of the St. Louis Rams' Todd Gurley, Elliott could end up a mid-first-round pick.
"Not on Gurley's level but has the vision, the leg drive, the prouduction to be very good in our league," the NFC scout said.
The third scout we spoke with, also from the NFC, said he felt the biggest issues with Elliott could come with his contributions to the passing game.
"I'm not all there on him yet on the pass game. Needs work as a receiver. His protections looked fairly basic; still needs technique there," he said. "Not sure he'll get dinged a lot for the coaches comments, but then again we have a bit of an old-school coach who likes to [have us] shine a light on these guys and get real close and ask them uncomfortable stuff.
"We tend to make it bigger than it really is. I guess I wasn't all that worked up by it."
Example: Would you picture the Dallas Cowboys, having enabled Greg Hardy amid a season of turmoil, turning down the chance to take Elliott in Round 1 if he's there? When it comes down to it, more than 150 days' worth of news cycles will have passed since Elliott make a few correct judgments of his college coaches, and there will be far bigger character red flags to break down as the draft approaches.
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The Cleveland Browns have benched second-year quarterback Johnny Manziel after TMZ posted video of Manziel partying in Austin, Texas on the team's bye week.
In a statement posted to the team website, head coach Mike Pettine said the Browns will once again go with veteran Josh McCown as the starter, with Austin Davis as his backup. Manziel will be the team's third quarterback.
“Josh McCown will be the starting quarterback on Monday night against the Ravens. I informed the quarterbacks of that decision after I sat down and spoke with Johnny, Flip (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) and (quarterbacks coach) Kevin (O’Connell) after practice today. Johnny will be the third quarterback. I’ve spoken to Ray (Farmer) and Jimmy (Haslam) to inform them of my decision, and they are in full support.
“Everyone in this organization wants what is best for Johnny just like we do for every player in our locker room. I’m especially disappointed in his actions and behavior because he has been working very hard. The improvements from last year to this year have been tremendous but he still has to consistently demonstrate that he has gained a good understanding of what it takes to be successful at the quarterback position on this level. It goes well beyond the field. We are going to continue to support him in every way possible, but at this point, we’ve decided it’s best to go with Josh as the starter going forward.”
TMZ posted video on Monday showing Manziel at a club in Austin, with TMZ claiming the quarterback went on a two-night "bender." The video showed Manziel clutching a bottle of champage and lining up for a photo.
Manziel said videos "can be old," but did not deny that he was partying in Austin. The video can't be too old, as the song "March Madness" by Future is heard in the clip; that song was released in mid-March, and Manziel was in rehab for 10 weeks beginning in early February.
It was just a week ago that Pettine announced that Manziel would be the team's starter for the remainder of the season. With the team again on the outside unlikely to make the playoffs, the move would give the Browns time to evaluate whether Manziel has what it takes to be the quarterback of their future.
Earlier Tuesday, via tweets from Cleveland Plain-Dealer beat writer Mary Kay Cabot, Pettine said he had seen the video and spoken to owner Jimmy Haslam and general manager Ray Farmer.
"It's disappointing. Very," Pettine said, adding that his frustration comes from Manziel's repeated pattern of incidents.
Just last month, Manziel was involved in a domestic incident with his girlfriend, and the police report of the incident has Manziel admitting to drinking and an officer saying he detected alcohol but he was not given a blood-alcohol test.
McCown, who has been cleared to play after a rib injury, told reporters he'd be ready to go if called upon, and said he hopes Manziel is making "healthy choices."
As we all know, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick can be as prickly as a cactus - and as huggable as one as well.
But if you can set aside your feelings for Belichick the person, there's no denying that Belichick the coach is one of the best to ever pace an NFL sideline. As head coach of the Patriots, he's won four Super Bowls and gone to two others. He keeps his players on their toes through detailed quizzes and is not above releasing a bottom-of-the-roster player to remind the others not to get so comfortable that they don't handle their job.
Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan, as a person, is the type of guy almost anyone would want to have a beer with: he's quick with a joke and not afraid to don a wig to get a laugh. He's known as a players' coach, making bold proclamations of success, though none of them have come true yet. As head coach of the Jets, he did lead his team to two AFC title game appearances.
Their resumes as head coaches would appear to speak for themselves, but for one former player, the resume doesn't matter.
Ray Lewis, who spent his career with the Baltimore Ravens and now works with ESPN as a commentator, said during the network's Monday Night Foobtall pre-game show that he'd choose Ryan over Belichick.
"I'm not choosing nobody else but Rex Ryan," Lewis said. "If you're asking me, Bill Belichick or Rex Ryan, I'm taking Rex Ryan all day, because Rex relates to players, as well as myself, more like a father."
Lewis saw Ryan in action for years, as the coach joined the Ravens in 1999 as defensive line coach, three years after Lewis was drafted by the team. Ryan served as defensive coordinator from 2005-08 before leaving to become head coach of the Jets.
Lewis' comments of course have caused a stir, though his ESPN teammate may have offered the best reaction:
Steve Young succinctly sums up America's view of Ray Lewis and his pre-game commentary... pic.twitter.com/CfeDSobaee— Andy from WEEI (@AndyWEEI) November 24, 2015
Even former Raiders executive Amy Trask, now an analyst on CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network, had a strong reaction to the idea that someone would choose Ryan:
Rex Ryan over Bill Belichick? In what universe? Seriously.— Amy Trask (@AmyTrask) November 24, 2015
Only in Ray Lewis' universe.
Carson Palmer is quite the businessman, it seems.
This is a quarterback who has earned a rare quartet — four banner huge contracts since coming into the NFL, and he's still going strong, very much steeped in the league's MVP race at age 35.
Total estimated career earnings, per Spotrac: more than $138 million.
God bless the NFL. And America.
And god bless real estate, which apparently could net Palmer another windfall. Check out this listing of Palmer's house in Del Mar, Calif., per the Los Angeles Times, which he's listing for a breathtaking $24.995 million.
But here's the kicker: Palmer, according to real-estate transactions, bought the property for $4.4 million in 2010 and completed building the house in 2014. Without knowing how much the house cost to erect, Palmer still would stand to make an insane return on his initial investment — assuming he gets anywhere close to asking. That would be quite the flip.
Del Mar is a popular celebrity locale, and fellow NFL quarterbacks Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers have owned homes in the area. (So has former Journey singer Steve Perry, for you music nuts out there.) It's gorgeous, right on the water and is a short drive up the coast from Torrey Pines Golf Course among other places that rich people frequent.
Take a look at the insane pad — 8,000 square feet, six bedrooms, six full baths (two half baths), three stories, infinity pool, outdoor dining area, bocce ball court (!), five fireplaces (LOL) and, oh yeah, a 10-car garage — Palmer has built here.
Worth $25 mil? Who knows? But it's fun to click and dream a bit ...
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Monday night's game between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots was a poorly officiated mess. If we can call out coaches, players and even TV analysts, then why should referees be above reproach?
They shouldn't. And when they offer less-than-satisfactory and, lo, incorrect reasoning for their mistakes then it's fair game to go to town.
The center of many folks' ire in the game was the inadvertant whistle that essentially blew dead a would-be huge play from Tom Brady to Danny Amendola, and the clean-up act — awarding the Patriots the ball at the spot Amendola caught the ball — felt an odd concession.
But the final play of the game, with Sammy Watkins rolling out of bounds untouched but the referees letting the clock run out, was just as bad. The explanation was worse.
Here's the seldom-seen pool report from head referee Gene Steratore after the game:
“What we had as far as the last play with Buffalo’s reception was that the receiver gave himself up voluntarily in the field of play,” Steratore said. “When that occurs and we deem that the runner, which he would have been after he maintained possession after his reception, he was now a runner, had given himself up in the field of play. Then fact that he scoots out of bounds is not as important.
"We wound the clock. It was a judgment call by that head linesman that he felt like he gave himself up in the field of play. It’s not a reviewable play. So winding the clock or stopping the clock is not something we review. So in his judgment, he deemed that the runner gave himself up in the field of play voluntarily, which does put him down by contact in the field, so he wound [the clock].”
This makes no sense. It's flat-out wrong. Any armchair football fan would know this. There should be no "judgment" from the head linesman in this situation.
Answer this: Why on God's green earth would Watkins "give himself up?" That's the NCAA rule.
Watkins landed at the Buffalo 48-yard line, which would have given the Bills ample time to throw up a heave. And, heck, in a game such as this — replete with officiating errors — who is to say a pass-interference call doesn't give the Bills an untimed-down play in the red zone?
That's where we're at with this league: We're mad about one missed call not begeting another.
Everyone with any officiating stripes agrees. Former NFL officiating head Mike Pereira called it like he saw it, which was not good.
The pool report states that the runner gave himself up after catching the pass at the sideline. Really? That makes bad even worse.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) November 24, 2015
Jim Daopoulos, an 11-year referee in the league, also hammered the call.
If a player is trying to get out of bounds and goes sideways., backwards or forward at that point in game....you stop the clock!— Jim Daopoulos (@RefereeJimD) November 24, 2015
So did Mike Carey, former NFL head referee and now CBS officiating expert.
Fair interpretation of the new replay rule should have been in effect & BUF would have had at least 1 more snap. https://t.co/KdoSfDqyzU— Mike Carey (@MikeCareyRef94) November 24, 2015
It's always worse when the explanation takes a bad mouth taste and makes it linger.
More NFL: Power Rankings
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Dallas Cowboys star Dez Bryant has his share of head-shaking moments, but the receiver can also surprise you in a good way.
Receivers and cornerbacks are frequently called the divas of the sport (a well-earned reputation), but on Sunday, after the Cowboys ended its seven-game losing streak with a win against the Miami Dolphins, Bryant had nothing but good things to say about Brent Grimes, the cornerback who spent the afternoon shadowing him all over the wet Sun Life Stadium turf.
"Oh, man, I love Grimes," Bryant said, saying the three-time Pro Bowler is arguably the best corner in the league. "It's like even when you make a move on him, he's still there. You get him picked around, he's still there. And I think that's what I respect most about his game.
"You know, he's very patient, he's very quick, real quick, and guys like that, you want to train with those kinds of guys, you know? Because it will help you as well, and that's what me and him were talking about. At the end of the year, in the offseason, we're going to get together and try to do some work together."
Bryant even asked for Grimes' jersey off his back when the game was over, and the two swapped, a memento from their on-field battle. Bryant was targeted nine times by Tony Romo; Grimes held him to just four catches for 45 yards, one of them a touchdown. Grimes also had an interception.
"Got his jersey," Bryant said. "You know it's that real. Like I said, I respect him, I have high respect for him."
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If you thought the Kansas City Chiefs' season was over at 1-5, history was on your side.
Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, the only 1-5 team to make the playoffs was the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals. They were actually 1-6, in a 14-game season, and won out to make the playoffs. That's amazing (also, as a side note, that was the team for which Bill Walsh is credited for devising what would eventually become the "West Coast Offense").
What the Chiefs are doing is remarkable, as well.
Kansas City has won four in a row and is in a four-way tie for the last wild-card spot in the AFC. And they have to be considered a favorite to get a wild-card spot based on this remaining schedule:
Week 12: vs. Buffalo
Week 13: at Oakland
Week 14: vs. San Diego
Week 15: at Baltimore
Week 16: vs. Cleveland
Week 17: vs. Oakland
Wow. Not one winning team among the six remaining opponents. Three of the worst teams in the NFL (San Diego, Baltimore and Cleveland) remain. The only .500 team, Buffalo, comes into Kansas City next week off a short week, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor hurt his shoulder on Monday night. Oakland should provide a couple tough games, but you have to figure the Chiefs get at least a split there.
A 4-2 finish, given that schedule, is the minimum it seems. A 5-1 mark seems about right and 6-0 might happen. Could we see a team start 1-5 and finish 11-5? Take a look at that schedule again, and you tell me.
The Chiefs have saved their season with a formula that has worked through the Andy Reid era: a good running game (even without Jamaal Charles), a safe passing game and a really good defense. Even though that brand of football isn't exciting, the possibility in front of them is. If they win the games down the stretch that they'll be big favorites to win, they're going to become the first team in 35 years to start 1-5 and make the playoffs. And if they do that, who is going to want to play them in January?
Here are Shutdown Corner's power rankings after Week 11:
32. San Francisco 49ers (3-7, Last week: 32)
The final score didn't reflect it, but for a while in the second half the 49ers were in that game against the Seahawks, after falling behind early. Give them credit for continuing to play hard.
31. Cleveland Browns (2-8, LW: 31)
Cornerback Justin Gilbert, a 2014 first-round pick who went ahead of Odell Beckham, among others, has played 32 snaps all season for a bad team. And 23 of those came in one game. Because of the team's other first-round pick last year, Gilbert doesn't get a ton of attention. But he's going down as an all-time bad pick.
30. Baltimore Ravens (3-7, LW: 28)
The Ravens will go the rest of the season without Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman on that offense. It might get uglier the rest of the way.
29. Tennessee Titans (2-8, LW: 29)
The Titans won't have too much intrigue the rest of the way, but the backfield provides some. Antonio Andrews has been productive, and rookie David Cobb made his debut last week. Can either of them make the case to be the 2016 starter?
28. San Diego Chargers (2-8, LW: 26)
The breaking point was reached. Too many injuries and not enough to play for equaled a total zero in that loss to the Chiefs. Can't imagine it gets better the rest of the season.
27. Detroit Lions (3-7, LW: 30)
The Lions gave up 42, 34, 28 and 45 points before the bye. In the last two weeks they've given up 16 to Green Bay and 13 to Oakland. That's a heck of a turnaround.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-6, LW: 27)
It's not like they played that well against the Titans last Thursday night. But a win is a win, and they're still just a game out of a playoff berth.
25. New Orleans Saints (4-6, LW: 24)
Dennis Allen gets to take over the defense as the new coordinator replacing Rob Ryan. How he does the next six weeks could significantly affect his future job prospects, especially if the Saints show a lot of improvement.
24. Washington Redskins (4-6, LW: 21)
In a bad game, it was good to see Washington finally get DeSean Jackson involved, with five catches and 87 yards. That'll help its offense a lot.
23. St. Louis Rams (4-6, LW: 18)
On the Case Keenum concussion issue: The NFL has fined Cameron Heyward writing a tribute to his late father on his eye black. The league tried to suspend Tom Brady four games for being "generally aware" of something or another in deflate-gate. The league claims to take concussions seriously. Unless the NFL takes punitive action against someone — the officials whom Jeff Fisher said told the Rams trainers to leave the field after briefly questioning Keenum, the trainers, Fisher himself for being "generally aware" his quarterback had a concussion, the press box spotter, any number of people who could have done something to help Keenum but didn't — then it's hard to take the league seriously anymore when it says the concussion issue matters to them. Just saying, "Well, we'll tell teams again about our protocols" is ignoring the issue and sweeping it under the rug, which shouldn't be the case anymore.
22. Miami Dolphins (4-6, LW: 19)
Seven carries for red-hot Lamar Miller in a game that Miami didn't trail by more than one score until the final nine minutes? Sure, makes total sense.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (4-6, LW: 16)
For all the angst, for all the people who are so strangely excited to see Chip Kelly get chased back to college, the Eagles are one game out of first place. Behind an average-at-best Giants team.
20. Oakland Raiders (4-6, LW: 12)
Surprising to see rookie receiver Amari Cooper have such a quiet day, with just one catch for 4 yards. He hadn't had fewer than four catches or 46 yards in any game before Sunday. One has to assume he'll make up for it next week.
19. Houston Texans (5-5, LW: 23)
For the second straight year, Bill O'Brien is getting a lot more out of the offense than he should. He has done a nice job as the Texans have crawled back to .500.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5, LW: 25)
I'll give it to Lovie Smith: Having this team at .500, after how bad they looked in Week 1 against Tennessee, is a big surprise.
17. Atlanta Falcons (6-4, LW: 11)
They're not the first team to start fast, especially with a little juice from a new coach, and then fade. But it's still stunning to see how dramatic the decline has been.
16. Dallas Cowboys (3-7, LW: 22)
It feels like if they can beat Carolina on Thanksgiving, it's game on in the NFC East race.
15. Chicago Bears (4-6, LW: 17)
Jeremy Langford watch: 78 carries, 3.2-yard average.
14. New York Giants (5-5, LW: 15)
The Giants' schedule is not easy down the stretch. They probably can't afford to drop Sunday's game at Washington, especially with the Cowboys becoming a factor again.
13. Indianapolis Colts (5-5, LW: 20)
The Matt Hasselbeck story is really fun.
12. New York Jets (5-5, LW: 10)
The Jets are sticking with struggling Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, reports said on Monday. I mean, I understand the question, but what other option do they really have?
11. Seattle Seahawks (5-5, LW: 14)
If you put nostalgia aside, I'm not sure why you'd pay Marshawn Lynch $9 million in base salary next season, especially with how Thomas Rawls has played this season.
10. Buffalo Bills (5-5, LW: 9)
The problem is this: The Bills fought really hard in that loss, have nothing to show for it in the standings, and now have another important road game at Kansas City on short rest. Rex Ryan has a big challenge ahead getting his team ready, especially if quarterback Tyrod Taylor isn't healthy.
9. Kansas City Chiefs (5-5, LW: 13)
Never thought a couple months ago I'd be saying this, but Charcandrick West's health is a big story this week. He left Sunday's game with a hamstring injury. Kansas City vs. Buffalo on Sunday is a huge game in the playoff picture.
8. Minnesota Vikings (7-3, LW: 6)
Sunday was a reminder that this is still a young team that played for nine weeks like it was ahead of schedule. And the Vikings can still finish strong and win the NFC North.
7. Green Bay Packers (7-3, LW: 8)
Randall Cobb is having an odd season. He hasn't been over 100 yards since Week 2, and has had more than 53 yards once since Week 3. He has six touchdowns, but three of those came in one game. On Sunday he had two catches for 24 yards, though he did have a score. It can't be the preseason shoulder injury still holding him back, can it?
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4, LW: 7)
Sunday will be a really fun game at Seattle. This Seahawks isn't what it was the last couple years, but it's still a great matchup against the Steelers' fantastic passing game.
5. Denver Broncos (8-2, LW: 5)
This team will beat the Patriots on Sunday night. This is a team that was 7-2 with the 32nd rated starting quarterback in the NFL. They're better now, with Brock Osweiler, than they were a couple weeks ago.
4. Cincinnati Bengals (8-2, LW: 3)
I don't think there was anything to be concerned about from their play on Sunday night. If anything, I feel better about the Bengals' chances of doing well in the playoffs after they played very well in a tough spot on Sunday night at Arizona. They just came up a little short.
3. Arizona Cardinals (8-2, LW: 4)
Rookie J.J. Nelson had four catches for 142 yards on Sunday night. It's unfair how deep Arizona is at receiver.
2. Carolina Panthers (10-0, LW: 2)
Devin Funchess has improved a lot since the start of the season. If he can keep getting better, maybe he can be the true No. 1 receiver the Panthers could use in January.
1. New England Patriots (10-0, LW: 1)
At some point, even the great Tom Brady needs some receivers. Who will be healthy for Sunday's game at Denver?
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What would a Monday night NFL game, or a New England Patriots game for that matter, be without a little officiating controversy?
There were plenty of head-scratching moments on Monday night from the officials, which seems to be the norm this season. The Patriots got a potential touchdown taken away in the third quarter on a weird call, and then the Buffalo Bills had a chance for a last-second throw to the end zone taken away on another controversial call.
The game might not have been in doubt at the end if not for an inadvertent whistle that took a potential Danny Amendola touchdown off the board. Brady rolled right, a whistle blew even though Brady was a few feet from the sideline, and the confusion began.
Brady's pass was caught by Amendola, and Amendola had a chance to get by one Buffalo Bills defender and take it the rest of the way for a long touchdown. But the whistle had blown so play stopped. Referee Gene Steratore explained that a whistle had inadvertently blown when Amendola caught the ball, so the ball was dead at the spot Amendola made the catch, and Rex Ryan was given a penalty for interfering with the line judge on the sideline who apparently blew the whistle.
The only problem with the explanation was that the part about when the whistle blew wasn't correct. And it wasn't the last time there was an officiating controversy.
The whistle blew before Amendola caught the pass. In the ESPN booth, former official Gerry Austin said that if the whistle blew before the pass was caught, the play was a "do over." Not only did the officials blow a whistle by mistake, they got the part about when it was blown wrong too. Steratore, in a pool report after the game, said that the officials huddled and determined that Amendola had caught the ball before the whistle blew. Had the officials correctly determined that the whistle blew with the ball in the air, the down would have been replayed. Steratore also explained that the line judge "lost track of maybe where the ball was at that point and almost by its own definition, inadvertently blew the whistle."
The Patriots got robbed of a possible touchdown by Amendola, and at the end of that drive Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal.
The Bills got hosed a bit too, but not quite as bad. That happened at the end of the game.
On the final play, Bills receiver Sammy Watkins caught a pass and got out of bounds before he was touched. But the officials motioned to keep the clock running, and it ran out instead of time stopping and the Bills heaving a throw of a little more than 50 yards into the end zone. Former NFL officiating chief Mike Pereira said the clock should have stopped. A Hail Mary throw into the end zone doesn't connect often, but it does sometimes. The Bills never even got the shot they deserved.
Steratore told a pool reporter after the game that the judgment was made that Watkins gave himself up on the play, which is why the clock ran and the play couldn't be reviewed.
"What we had as far as the last play with Buffalo’s reception was that the receiver gave himself up voluntarily in the field of play," Steratore said.
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There were also plenty of long meetings throughout the game among the officiating crew, a really long review of a first-down catch that wasn't spotted right at the start of the Bills' final drive, and a wrong call on a Watkins fourth-down catch that had to be reversed after a review.
It wasn't the best night for the officials, but at least you can't say they were biased. Both sides had reason to complain.
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You don’t get to 10-0 by being one-dimensional, and the New England Patriots are far from that.
The Patriots’ offense gets a lot of attention, which happens when you have the MVP favorite at quarterback. The defense, however, played really well on Monday night in a workmanlike 20-13 win over the Buffalo Bills.
Cornerback Malcolm Butler mostly took Bills receiver Sammy Watkins out of the game, tight end Charles Clay had a quiet night and for the most part the Pats kept running back LeSean McCoy in front of them. Late in the game, when the Patriots had a seven-point lead, they ran into the line three straight times and punted, trusting the defense wouldn’t give up the lead at the end. And New England's defense came through, never letting the Bills cross midfield before time ran out.
The final result was just one touchdown for the Bills and a fairly mundane victory for New England.
The Patriots have shown a bit of vulnerability in the past couple games that they very rarely did in the first eight. They needed to convert a fourth-and-10 and hit a long field goal to beat the New York Giants, and on Monday night the Bills got the ball back inside the two-minute warning with a chance to at least tie. Injuries have played a part in the Patriots seeming a little less than indestructible.
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The offensive line is banged up. Julian Edelman is out for a while. On Monday night, receiver Aaron Dobson was knocked out of the game with an ankle injury. Danny Amendola played well, but came out of the game in the third quarter with a knee injury. They’re missing a lot.
The Patriots had scored points in 38 straight quarters, but that NFL record streak came to an end with a scoreless fourth quarter. Tom Brady wasn't sacked a lot but he was hit often, as Rex Ryan's Bills threw a lot of different blitzes at him.
Without many healthy receivers to worry about, the Bills took Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski out of the game, holding him to two catches for 37 yards. Brady had a fairly quiet night too, with 277 yards and a touchdown on 39 attempts. We're used to seeing the Patriots go up and down the field, so Monday night was unusual.
It won’t get easier next week for the Patriots. They visit the Denver Broncos, who have the NFL’s best defense. But the Patriots have a cushion at 10-0. The most pressing question the rest of the way is if they can complete a 16-0 season again. The defense made sure that dream stayed alive for another week.
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It wasn't quite Aaron Rodgers using "New York Bozo" as a pre-snap check when he knew Chris Christie would be at Lambeau Field, but Tom Brady had his own fun on Monday night.
Playing against the Buffalo Bills and their outspoken coach Rex Ryan, a division rival of the Patriots for many years, Brady had a special signal before a play on New England's first drive. He called out, very clearly so all the sideline microphones could pick it up, "Rex Ryan!"
The Patriots ran to the right the first time Brady made the "Rex Ryan" call, for what it's worth. Jon Gruden on the ESPN broadcast wondered if "Rex Ryan" meant in the audible that something would be going to the right. It could have just been a dummy call too, Brady's idea of a little troll towards the Bills coach.
This probably won't catch on like Peyton Manning's "Omaha!" but it was good for a chuckle.
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The NFL announced it is continuing to investigate the St. Louis Rams' actions, or inactions, from Sunday, when quarterback Case Keenum was not removed from the game despite being visibly concussed.
The league's statement:
"Promptly after the conclusion of yesterday's game, we began a review to determine the facts of the injury to St. Louis quarterback Case Keenum and why he was not removed from the game for the necessary evaluation by a team physician or the unaffiliated neuro-trauma consultant as required by our concussion protocols. We are continuing that review today, which includes discussions with the Rams and their medical staff, the ATC spotter, the game officials, our medical advisors and the NFLPA. In the meantime, prior to this week's games, we will reinforce with all involved the need to ensure that these injuries are properly identified and addressed in a manner consistent with our protocols."
The NFL Players Association is also looking into the matter, according to the union's George Atallah:
The NFLPA is reviewing the concussion protocol in the Case Keenum incident from yesterday's game.— George Atallah (@GeorgeAtallah) November 23, 2015
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the NFL competition committee, did not address Keenum's situation after the game.
Keenum was sacked late in the Rams' loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the back of his head hitting the turf. He immediately grabbed his head and struggled to stand up, then spent a few moments on all fours.
Keenum chatted with one of St. Louis' trainers, but he was not removed from the game.
There are spotters in the press box at every game whose sole job is to look for players who may have suffered a concussion during the course of play, and this year, for the first time, the spotters were given the ability to signal down to the officials to stop the game if a potentially injured player should be checked out.
That did not happen in Keenum's case.
Two plays after the sack, Keenum fumbled, the Ravens recovered, and went on to score the game-winning field goal.
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If Sunday's win against the Chicago Bears wasn't enough, Brock Osweiler will have a huge opportunity to make a permanent claim to the Denver Broncos' starting quarterback job this week. He will start on Sunday night against the undefeated New England Patriots.
There will be no 17th meeting between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, at least not on Sunday. Manning is battling injuries, which caused coach Gary Kubiak to go with Osweiler on Sunday against Chicago. And Osweiler will start again, according to multiple reports including Chris Mortensen of ESPN. Although the Manning-Brady rivalry has been great for the NFL for the years and would have been good theater again on Sunday night, it wasn't meant to be this time around.
Manning was in Charlotte on Monday to get another medical opinion on his foot, Kubiak said. Kubiak said not to read anything into it, that it was typical for players and the team will know more about his health status on Tuesday. Kubiak hasn't ruled out Manning for practicing some this week. Kubiak also avoided answering a question about the possibility of Manning being done for the season, saying he's just taking things day by day. But Manning won't start this week, for sure.
What about if Manning is healthy at some point before the season? Will he get his job back? Kubiak was careful with his words, always talking about Manning's health and how all the team is worried about currently is getting ready for New England. Kubiak was asked specifically if it would be Manning's job if he gets healthy.
"We go week to week," Kubiak said. "We have made a decision to proceed this week just like we did last week. That’s what’s best for our team. That’s what’s best for [Manning], as far as a health standpoint."
Kubiak said Manning is frustrated, but he's frustrated because he's injured. He said his conversation with Manning on Monday morning was a good one.
Osweiler had a good game in his first career start. He completed 20-of-27 passes for 250 yards, two touchdowns and probably most importantly, no interceptions. Manning had 17 interceptions in Denver's first nine games.
Manning has foot and rib injuries. The foot injury has been reported as a torn plantar fascia in his left foot. One of the game's true legends has not played to his normal standard all season though, at age 39. He has a 67.6 rating, the lowest among all NFL starting quarterbacks at the time he was benched. There's no tangible reason, based on this season's results, to go back to Manning, though there is a well-deserved amount of respect for him within the Broncos building of course.
There has been a lot of debate if the Broncos are better off with Osweiler, considering Manning's struggles this year, or if their best chance to win a Super Bowl still ultimately rests with Manning's ability to lead them there.
If Osweiler can knock off the defending champion Patriots, the Broncos might not have any other choice but to keep starting him until he gives them a reason to make the change back to Manning, if Manning gets healthy enough to make it a question.
More on Osweiler vs. Manning
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When you watch your team perform well for 60 minutes and post a 44-16 win to move to 10-0 for the first time in franchise history, you might want to feel like dancing.
Or, as was the case for Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera on Sunday, dab on 'em.
It's a short clip, but you can see how thrilled Rivera's players are to see him do the move, which quarterback Cam Newton came under some fire for last week, using it as part of his touchdown celebration against the Tennessee Titans.
Though the Panthers' performance wasn't perfect, as they gave up a 99-yard kickoff return at the end of the first quarter, it was strong offensively and defensively. Rivera expressed concern earlier in the week that his players weren't focused enough, telling NFL Network's Albert Breer that there was too much horsing around during Thursday's practice, so he had to tell the team, "I love the personality, but we can't lose our focus."
Rivera's players responded, and will put their record on the line on Thanksgiving in Dallas.
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The Philadelphia Eagles were embarrassed at home on Sunday, losing 45-17 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, dropping them to 4-6. Though the good news is playing in the NFC East means Philly still isn't out of the division race (the 5-5 New York Giants are currently in first place), that might be the only good news for the team right now.
The Eagles' performance in recent weeks – they were up 16-3 at home against the Miami Dolphins after the first quarter but lost 20-19, and gave up 235 rushing yards to Tampa Bay's Doug Martin while rookie QB Jameis Winston threw for five touchdowns with no interceptions – is not sitting well with Philadelphia fans.
But some players aren't thrilled with what they're seeing either.
Philadelphia Inquirer beat writer Jeff McLane has one Eagle questioning the effort of high-priced running back DeMarco Murray, signed in free agency earlier this year.
"Well, when you see DeMarco sliding before getting hit, you tell me. Was that giving full effort?" said an Eagles player who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "You see that [stuff], and it makes you wonder."
Murray did not talk to media after Sunday's game.
The play in question wasn't on Sunday against the Bucs, but a week earlier against the Dolphins, when Murray gave himself up on a third-and-1 instead of absorbing a hit:
It was one of the final plays of the first quarter, a successful frame that saw the Eagles score two offensive touchdowns, with the defense adding a safety after a forced fumble to take a 16-3 lead. But they would score only a field goal the rest of the way as Miami fought its way back.
Where there is one, there are surely others. Other Eagles who bust it every practice and every game who can't help but be bothered when a teammate so easily gives himself up and other Eagles who, for whatever the reason, have started to check out.
"I believe so, but, hey, I don't know," receiver Josh Huff said when asked whether he thought every player was giving 100 percent. "I believe everyone is giving their all, but then again, may not be. I don't know. All I can [do] is speak for myself."
It's difficult to say for certain that Murray, despite the evidence on that play, is shirking from contact. And it isn't certain that the Eagles are starting to bail on the season and possibly Kelly because of all the mistakes over the last two weeks.
But when one player questions another player's effort, it does suggest something larger about the institution. Kelly dismissed a question that wondered whether his players still believed in his plan after putting forth such a performance against a rebuilding Bucs team.
As far as fans' frustration goes, within that Inquirer story, there is a poll asking if head coach Chip Kelly's job is "safe" - with over 9,200 votes, 82 percent are responding no.
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The Cincinnati Bengals lost an excellent football game Sunday night against the Arizona Cardinals in what felt like a Super Bowl-like atmosphere.
But Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis thought his team got jobbed a bit on the Cardinals' penultimate offensive play. The Cardinals drove 56 yards in 52 seconds to set up what would have been a 47-yard field goal to win the game.
Until Bengals nose tackle Domata Peko was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for what the referees said was mimicking the Cardinals' snap count, which is a no-no. Lewis said all that was hooey, saying it was "phantom call" and that it was "kind of ridiculous," per ESPN.com. The ensuing 32-yarder was good, and the Cardinals won a big game.
"I trust what our player did and said," Lewis said. "He's alerting a run [play] and [it was] not anything to do with what they're saying.
"I don't see how they make that call at that point in the game like that. I trust our guy to be honest with me."
Lewis has a point: Making that call at that point required some serious stones by Terry McAulay's crew; they had better have been darned sure.
But it appears the Cardinals had heard the Bengals mimicking the cadence earlier in the game, according to Darren Urban, and alerted the refs about it, putting them on full watch.
As for the the field-goal try, Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro's accuracy in his two NFL seasons hasn't been that different from 30-39 yards (19 of 21, 90.5 percent) to 40-49 yards (14 of 16, 87.5 percent). But the difference between a near-50-yarder and a kick that's shorter than an extra point is significant.
Still, Peko defended his actions.
"We were still running back from our prior play, and I was just saying, 'Get set, get set, get set,'" Peko said.
"I don't know if 'set' sounds like 'hike' to them," Peko said. "I don't know if it was the way I said it quicker like, 'Get set!' with the bass in my voice or whatever. I don't know."
But later, Peko hit on a theme that is correct: The Bengals committed too many penalties in the game — 10 for 108 yards. No game comes down to one play, and the Bengals shot themselves in the feet, especially early in the game when they had a lead they let get away.
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Carson Palmer got revenge against his former team, the Cincinnati Bengals. The way Sunday night's game went, he might see them again.
If the Bengals and Arizona Cardinals played that game in the Super Bowl, we'd be good with it, right? In a season that doesn't have too many great teams and not a ton of classic games, the Bengals and Cardinals played a good one on Sunday night. The Cardinals won 34-31 on a last-second field goal.
Palmer made some big throws to help the Cardinals pull off the win after the Bengals tied it in the final two minutes. He had consecutive completions to the ageless Larry Fitzgerald to get the Cardinals deep into Bengals territory. A penalty on Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko, for calling out Arizona's snap count to try to get a false-start penalty, moved the ball half the distance to the goal. That gave Chandler Catanzaro a chip shot to win the game, and he drilled it with a second to go.
Palmer admitted this week that the game meant more to him, because he had an acrimonious split from the Bengals. The win had to be pretty sweet. Palmer had 317 yards and four touchdowns. It was also important in the standings. The Cardinals keep their three-game cushion in the NFC West, and improve to 8-2. The Cardinals also keep a game lead over the co-leaders in the NFC North, Green Bay and Minnesota. Carolina currently has the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and Arizona is No. 2.
The Bengals, who were undefeated before taking on two losses in seven days, performed well in a tough defeat.
The Bengals looked to be in a lot of trouble after the Cardinals scored three touchdowns in the third quarter to take a 28-14 lead. But Cincinnati is a good team and has been resilient all year. Andy Dalton got the Bengals back in the game. His second touchdown pass to Tyler Eifert late in the fourth quarter cut the Cardinals' lead to 31-28. Dalton then got the Bengals into field-goal range, and Mike Nugent tied the game after A.J. Green came oh-so-close to a third-down circus catch for the late lead.
Ultimately, the Bengals gave Palmer too much time and he drove the Cardinals for the win. It was some pretty good theater for "Sunday Night Football." It would have been a worthy game for early February, too.
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The Philadelphia Eagles’ season went up in flames on Sunday afternoon.
Technically, the Eagles are still going to be hanging around the NFC East race because that division is awful. However, the Eagles are a big reason the division is so bad. Even if, somehow, the Eagles win that putrid division, they're not a team that can make any waves in the postseason.
Sunday’s 45-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was absolute futility for the 4-6 Eagles. Doug Martin had 235 rushing yards for the Bucs, including 177 in the first half. Jameis Winston tied an NFL rookie record with five touchdown passes. The Buccaneers had 521 yards on Sunday, the second most in franchise history and the most in 35 years.
Winston is playing well as a rookie, but he was just 18th in the NFL in passing yards coming in. Likewise, the Buccaneers were 18th as a team in total offense. In other words, the Eagles got absolutely shredded by a mediocre team. Can’t blame Mark Sanchez for that.
The Eagles' many failures this season come back, of course, to Chip Kelly. Many people are excited for him to fail in the NFL, and he fed that machine on Sunday.
And maybe Kelly is failing. His offseason moves haven’t worked well. His big gamble, trading Nick Foles and a second-round pick for the expensive Sam Bradford in his contract year, has worked out about as everyone could have guessed: With Bradford playing uninspiring football before he got hurt. And obviously the defense isn’t any better this season, because it had an embarrassing day against a Buccaneers offense that scares nobody.
I don’t think Kelly is going to get pushed out in Philadelphia. That ignores that he had 20 wins the past two seasons. Only seven of 32 teams have posted double-digit wins each of the past two seasons, and Philadelphia is one of them (Denver, New England, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Seattle and Arizona are the others). Some people really, really want Kelly to fail, but he hasn’t yet. This is, however, a bad season. And it can’t be ruled out that Kelly will want out, either to a college job or maybe to the Tennessee Titans and quarterback Marcus Mariota (with a ton of draft-pick compensation from Tennessee to Philadelphia, of course). Kelly is a bit of a mystery, so anything is possible. But Philadelphia simply firing him doesn’t add up.
That doesn’t mean the Eagles are going to turn it around this season. They look like a lost team, and they haven’t really played well all season. They have just lost back-to-back home games to the Miami Dolphins and Buccaneers.
At no point since the preseason have the Eagles looked like a playoff-caliber team. That falls on Kelly. He likely is not going to get chased back to college against his will after the season, but this season looks like an obvious step back for him and the Eagles. Sunday was a wake-up call to anyone who hadn't realized that yet.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 11 of the NFL season:
Cam Newton, MVP candidate and fox tail wearer: Tom Brady is still lapping the NFL MVP field, but Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is making sure he’s right there if Brady opens the door for anyone else down the stretch.
Newton was very good on Sunday, throwing for a career-high five touchdowns. He now has 20 passing touchdowns and six rushing touchdowns, mostly working with a receiving corps that would have trouble getting playing time in most other NFL lineups. He's been very good for a 10-0 team.
And you know you’re really feeling it when you can wear this getup to your postgame news conference, complete with an apparently real fox tail:
Cam Newton Sunday: career-high 5 TD passes, 2 glitzy shoes, 1 fox tail (yes it is real) pic.twitter.com/CADtsSwi9U— scott_fowler (@scott_fowler) November 22, 2015
James Jones’ hoodie: Since we’re speaking of fashion, NFL fans seemed quite fascinated at the Green Bay Packers receiver wearing a green hoodie under his jersey on Sunday.
First, former NFL officiating head Mike Pereira had the answer to the question everyone was wondering about: Is it legal? In short, yes, the hoodie was legal.
There wasn’t a crazy backstory behind the fashion statement. Our Kevin Kaduk has the full story here. Jones had 109 yards and a touchdown in a big Green Bay win, so superstitious Packers fans might try talking him into wearing it the rest of the season.
Andy Reid: There are a couple of undefeated coaches so I’m not going to stump for Reid to be in the Coach of the Year mix, but he has done a remarkable job.
The Chiefs were 1-5 and seemingly done (it’s worth pointing out here that Reid’s terrible decision to hand off to Jamaal Charles against the Broncos led to a last-minute fumble and a loss). Charles was done for the season, and he provided most of the Chiefs’ offense. It would have been easy to write off the season.
But the Chiefs kept at it and after Sunday’s 33-3 win against the San Diego Chargers they are 5-5 and riding a four-game winning streak. If the Buffalo Bills lose Monday night at the New England Patriots, the Chiefs will be tied for the final AFC wild-card spot.
Credit the defense. Philip Rivers came into Sunday's game on a pace for about 5,300 yards this season, and he was totally shut down. Rivers threw for just 178 yards. The Chargers didn’t score a touchdown but the Chiefs’ defense did, when Justin Houston grabbed a pick-six on a screen pass. The Chargers have a lot of injuries, but the Chiefs played really well on Sunday.
The Chiefs also have a favorable schedule the rest of the way. They play one more game against a winning team, and that’s next week against the Bills at home (and by late Monday night, the Bills might not be above .500 anymore).
If the Chiefs go from 1-5 to a playoff spot, give Reid a ton of credit for it.
Thomas Rawls: When Marshawn Lynch was a late scratch due to injury, Thomas Rawls was thrown into the starting lineup. And he played better than Lynch has all season. Statistically, he had a better day than Lynch ever has in the NFL.
Rawls had an incredible game in a win against the San Francisco 49ers. He had 209 yards rushing, 46 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Lynch has never had more than 153 rushing yards in a regular-season game, surprisingly enough. Rawls has a 169-yard game and a 209-yard game already as a rookie, the only two games in which he has received more than 20 carries.
Of course this all leads to a bigger picture talk about Lynch and his future. Lynch is slated to make $9 million in base salary next season, and his numbers are down and he is missing games for the first time in his Seahawks career. He'll be 30 years old next year. Rawls is slated to make $525,000 in 2016. It will be hard for the Seahawks to let Lynch go, if they decide on that route. Seeing Rawls play like he has will make it a little easier.
New York Jets: At one point, the Jets looked like a pretty good bet to make the AFC playoffs. Now, they can’t even beat a Houston Texans team quarterbacked by T.J. Yates, who didn’t have an NFL job a month ago.
The Jets, who started 2-1, have now lost four of five. The offense is a mess, and the defense with all those big names hasn’t been too great either.
DeAndre Hopkins had 118 yards for the Texans, and a lot of that came against Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. Chris Ivory had a quiet day on the ground for the Jets offense, and Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t the kind of quarterback to carry a team.
It was a troubling loss, and it’s not like the schedule is that easy the rest of the way. The Jets play home games against Miami, Tennessee and New England, and on the road against the Giants, Cowboys and Bills. At 5-5, the Jets will probably need to go at least 4-2 the rest of the way to make the playoffs. The team that lost at Houston doesn’t look capable of that.
Atlanta Falcons: Oct. 4 was a big day for the 2015 Falcons. It’s the last time they had a good performance.
The Falcons have lost four of five, and the only win in that stretch was an ugly 10-7 victory at the Tennessee Titans when Zach Mettenberger had to start for an injured Marcus Mariota. The last win before that came on a Kirk Cousins pick-six in overtime against the Washington Redskins. The team that rolled to four convincing wins to start the season hasn’t been seen in a long, long time.
Sunday’s 24-21 home loss to the Matt Hasselbeck-led Indianapolis Colts was really bad. Now all of a sudden the Falcons are 6-4, barely ahead of the 5-5 Buccaneers and 5-5 Seahawks. And it doesn’t look like the Falcons are up to the task of holding them both off for a playoff spot, either.
The Chicago Bears’ two-point conversion call: The Bears scored with 24 seconds left, and then needed a two-point conversion to tie the game and send it to overtime. Their play call was not good.
The Bears ran it. Safety T.J. Ward came off the edge and helped thwart the Jeremy Langford run, but there was nowhere for Langford to go. He was tackled, and the game was basically over.
The play call was a pass and quarterback Jay Cutler checked to a run.
“It was one of those deals where we had a pass checked to a run,” left guard Matt Slauson said, according to WGN Radio. “Jay felt like we had the right look and he wants to put it on us to put it in. And we just have to get it done.”
WGN and Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times were among those to point out that there was an apparent miscommunication because tight end Martellus Bennett ran an outside pass route. Ward slipped in the backfield and was a big part of making the play.
It’s not exactly clear what Cutler saw to cause him to change the play, either. The Broncos had the Bears outnumbered in the box. If Bennett blocks Ward and the receiver to the right, Cameron Meredith, blocked cornerback Aqib Talib (which he did), it’s still eight Broncos defenders for seven Bears blockers. No obvious edge there.
No matter what the reasons, it didn’t work out well for the Bears. And they took a loss that is a huge blow to their slight playoff hopes.
The 49ers' front office: Let's remember that the 49ers' big plan was to run Jim Harbaugh out of town, and then hire Jim Tomsula to be the new head coach. Apparently this was going to make for a calmer workplace environment, I guess. Whatever.
Fox Sports' Jay Glazer threw out the possibility of Tomsula being fired at the end of this season (and a new coach perhaps wanting to keep quarterback Colin Kaepernick around). It's hard to even imagine how much dysfunction would have to go into the 49ers firing the guy they wanted to replace Harbaugh, who went 44-19-1, after just one season.
Tomsula hasn't done a great job, but he also is leading a team that had what is likely the worst offseason of any NFL team in history. Firing him after a year is screaming to any coaching candidate out there that your front office is as bad as it gets in the league. Although, it wouldn't take much for anyone to guess that already.
The 49ers are a mess, and apparently they're considering making it an even bigger mess. That Super Bowl appearance seems like it happened so long ago.
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But wearing a hoodie underneath your jersey like a fourth-grader on his way to play in the neighborhood Turkey Bowl?
Well, that's apparently OK, because this is the NFL, where nothing ever makes a lick of sense.
Not that we disliked James Jones' choice to wear a green hoodie underneath his Green Bay Packers jersey on Sunday. On the contrary, Jones' unintentional display of individualism had him trending on Twitter as he caught six passes for 109 yards and a touchdown in Green Bay's big 30-13 road win over Minnesota.
Jones' hoodie grew so big that it sparked a couple of mock Twitter accounts and probably displaces Aaron Rodgers' turtleneck as the most popular uniform choice for Midwestern winters.
Jones usually practices in a hoodie and said his decision to wear it during the game was a last-minute thing based on how cold it was in Minneapolis for Week 11. He had some reservations that a Vikings defender might grab it during a tackling attempt, but they went unfounded.
"I was warm," Jones told reporters after the game. "I practice in it every day ... I was like, practice how you play. It was team-issued colors, so I felt kind of swagged up out there with it. So I'm like, let me go out there and play with it. I was just hoping nobody would grab me from the back because they might treat it like dreads. It kept me warm."
Jones' hoodie caused such a buzz during the game that Mike Pereira of Fox Sports taped a short video explaining the rules of wearing one. The short explanation of it being legal is that it was issued by the team and it matched the Packers' color scheme. It would have been a different story had the hoodie's color been, say, Dolphins' aqua,
Hey, if it's good enough for Bill Belichick, it should be good enough for anyone else in the NFL.
Though he didn't make any promises, we'll have to see if Jones brings back the hoodie for Thursday night's game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.
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Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones came to the defense of embattled defender Greg Hardy after their Week 11 win over the Miami Dolphins.
Although Jones wouldn't talk about it specifically, he and Hardy met last Thursday — as ESPN first reported — to discuss Hardy's behavior. Jones said that Hardy is trying to change for the better. And no surprise here: It comes off as another form of enabling of a player who believes he has done nothing wrong.
"He is aware that everything he does — his personality, his style, his enthusiasm — it's all going to be interpreted negatively," Jones said. "If he's not aware of that, then he's hurting a lot of people.
"I think he really gets that. We certainly feel that way. He understands it, and he has agreed to really work on it."
This report comes on the heels of another one that dropped Sunday morning, before kickoff, from NFL's Ian Rapoport that suggested Jones and the Cowboys might be inching away from the troubled Hardy.
The #Cowboys support for DE Greg Hardy is waning, I'm told. He was late last Thursday, late to a night-before game meeting last Saturday.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 22, 2015
More seriously, of course, Hardy was suspended by the NFL for the first four games this season for violating the league's personal conduct policy with his involvement during an alleged domestic violence incident from 2014. The story was churned up when Deadspin released graphic photos of the bruised body of Hardy's alleged victim.
Since that story came out two weeks ago, Hardy has missed or been late to team meetings, including missing a meeting and practice that he and Jones reportedly met. The topic of releasing Hardy has been discussed, but he's too valuable — unlike other troubled ex-Cowboys such as Joseph Randle, Christine Michael and Corey White, who committed missteps of varying degrees before being released this season.
Why? Because Hardy is good at football. And there was Jones making excuses for his team's best pass rusher, who started Sunday, had two tackles, two quarterback hits and half a sack.
"I will say this: Over the last three or four weeks, I would hate to see anybody who had more pressure on him than Hardy," Jones said. "There is a genuine effort for him to rehab what is the perception of him."
Yes, the man who changed his Twitter bio to claim his innocence and who no-commented his way through an earlier-season interview with the media and who also said he "didn't want to reminisce about the past" when asked about the allegations against him ... yes, that player is seeking to clease his image, per Jones.
We'll believe it when we see it.
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Did you miss any of the Week 11 action in the NFL? We've got you covered. Here are five plays you shouldn't miss.
Hopkins dusts Revis
DeAndre Hopkins said he heard the hype all week about Darrelle Revis, and Hopkins did his best to change the narrative. Watch as Hopkins goes to the post for a 61-yard touchdown — even having to slow up a step to catch it — beating one of the best corners in the NFL by two steps as the Houston Texans beat the New York Jets and reached .500 in doing so.
Former Bird bites back
The defensively challenged Atlanta Falcons decided to let their former safety, Dwight Lowery, walk in free agency this offseason. The defensively challenged Indianapolis Colts were happy to add his services. The Week 11 game in Atlanta served as Lowery's reminder what the Falcons were missing. Watch as he corrals a terrific pinball interception off the hands of Falcons receiver Roddy White. Lowery also made a great pass breakup on the penultimate play of the game to help preserve a Colts road win.
No score, but full bore
Doug Martin turned in the second-most rushing yards in his career for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 235 in a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Interestingly, Martin never found the end zone. The closest he came was his longest run — an 84-yard scamper down to the Philadelphia 1-yard line that featured some terrific stiff-arms (yes, more than one) to Eagles corner Nolan Carroll before Connor Barwin forced Martin out just before he could score.
Shorts goes long
T.J. Yates was the Texans' starting quarterback, as we saw above, but he was not the only one to throw a TD pass in the win over the Jets. Here's Yates lateraling to Shorts, who fires a pass back across the field to a wide-open Alfred Blue for a touchdown. But this is nothing new for Shorts: He's now 3-for-3 passing for 53 yards and two TDs in his career, which is good for a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
Follow the bouncing INT
Jay Cutler played well for a shorthanded Chicago Bears offense against his former Denver Broncos team, but he was hit with some bad luck. With 2:30 remaining and the Bears driving for the game-tying score, Cutler was stripped from behind by Von Miller, but it was not a fumble — Cutler's arm was moving forward. Watch as the ball caroms off Bears offensive lineman Patrick Omameh and to Broncos D-lineman Malik Jackson, who makes a one-handed interception.
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It's bad enough that St. Louis Rams quarterback Case Keenum was stumbling around on the football field with what everyone on TV could plainly see was a probable concussion. The really bad part is that nobody thought to stop the game to evaluate him.
With a little more than a minute to go against the Baltimore Ravens, Keenum’s head hit hard on the turf when he was sacked. He grabbed his head immediately. Rams lineman Garrett Reynolds tried to help Keenum up, but Keenum went down again and was on all fours for a few seconds. He was in obvious distress.
Keenum’s teammates on the St. Louis Rams didn’t do anything. The coaching staff didn’t try to see if he was OK — someone did, however, put in the effort to have Nick Foles warm up in case Keenum had to come out. Priorities. The NFL has spotters in the press box whose jobs are to look out for players with concussions, and this year a new rule was made that they could buzz down to the officials and stop the game if they thought someone had a concussion. The game never stopped.
Two plays later Keenum fumbled, and the Ravens ended up winning on a last-second field goal. In the locker room afterward, Keenum was unavailable to the media. Myles Simmons, who works for the Rams' official site, said Keenum was diagnosed with a concussion.
The whole episode is shameful for the NFL, which tries to tell us all the time it is taking concussions seriously but rarely acts like it.
It’s impossible to believe nobody saw Keenum or believed he could have had a concussion. He was sacked on the play in question, so this isn’t something that happened away from the action. And, Foles started warming up because it was clear Keenum was hurt. Television cameras were aware enough to pan to Foles warming up, and the television folks caught everything else including a replay of Keenum grabbing his head and struggling to his feet. Also, there’s a spotter in the press box whose job consists of spotting concussions. Most concussions aren’t nearly as obvious as Keenum’s was, either.
Former New England Patriots center Dan Koppen said what a lot of folks were thinking.
There’s been a lot of buzz about how the new Will Smith movie “Concussion” will look bad on the NFL. And it probably will. But sometimes the NFL doesn’t need any help looking bad when it comes to the concussion issue.
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The Green Bay Packers didn’t look good for three weeks in a row, but they also weren’t ready to give up control of the NFC North.
The Packers aren’t through the woods because they beat the Minnesota Vikings 30-13 on Sunday evening, but they avoided falling into a big hole in the division. The Packers are again tied for first place in the NFC North at 7-3 with the Vikings with the head-to-head tiebreaker for the moment, and to use the well-worn joke, Packers fans have a few days to R-E-L-A-X.
The performance wasn’t beautiful — Aaron Rodgers didn’t light up the scoreboard, there were too many Mason Crosby field goals and not enough touchdowns, and again there wasn't a ton from the Packers’ top receivers — but it was a huge win. And it was led by the defense.
Green Bay’s defense swarmed Teddy Bridgewater with six sacks, at one point briefly knocking him out of the game with a shoulder injury. The Packers also held Adrian Peterson, the NFL's leading rusher coming in, to 45 yards on 13 carries. Green Bay’s defense didn’t look great in losses to Denver or Carolina, but played fairly well last week against the Detroit Lions and carried that over to Sunday.
The offense was productive too. Eddie Lacy had his best game all season with 100 yards on 22 carries. Rodgers had a vintage throw on a touchdown to James Jones in the fourth quarter and then a fun backhand flip to Jones for the two-point conversion. That put the Packers ahead 27-13 and the game was all but done at that point.
The Packers have a tough assignment, with just three days off before coming back for a Thanksgiving night game against a Chicago Bears team that has played much better in recent weeks. And the Packers still need to keep winning, because before Sunday the Vikings showed they’re a formidable challenger for the division. The Packers and Vikings meet again in a Week 17 game that has “Sunday Night Football” flex game written all over it.
But those are worries for another day. After the past three weeks, the Packers and their fans should be able to briefly enjoy the win and … yeah, you know.
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After a loss to Carolina on Sunday, one Washington veteran had an interesting theory as to why a key call went against his team. Defensive end Jason Hatcher suggested that perhaps the team's controversial 'Redskins' nickname plays a role in the calls they get or don't get from officials.
The ire of Washington's players and fans was raised in the first half when cornerback Chris Culliver hit Greg Olsen and caused a fumble that he intercepted and returned for a touchdown himself. The score, however, was called back after Culliver was flagged for unnecessary roughness on a helmet-to-helmet hit on the tight end. Culliver's touchdown would've given the Redkins a 21-14 lead. Instead, the Panthers got the ball back and scored themselves, marking a 14-point swing.
Though Washington would lose by a much larger margin —the final score was 44-16 — the sequence of events still bothered Hatcher and his teammates after the game.
“We’ve just got to check ourselves. Everybody got to look theirselves in the mirror," Hatcher said of the loss, which dropped Washington to 4-6. "This is a team sport, and we lost as a team. Everybody got to get they self together, get mentally and physically tougher so we can go in here and win. It’s going to be hard, you know, we fighting against teams and the referees. It just is what it is.
“I’m not saying this out of character to get fined, but it is what it is. I don’t know if it’s about the name or what, but at the same time, we play football too. We work our butt off too. Don’t single us out. At the end of the day, it’s the name. Don’t worry about the name – we players and we work our butt off too. I’m just frustrated with it. We shouldn’t have to be punished for that. It’s been every game, calls after calls that should’ve been made in our favor, but it goes to them. It’s just not right. We in the league too. We’re National Football players. We got a team too. We go out there, and we sweat and work hard too. I don’t give a crap about the name. We are players. We’ve got feelings too, and we want to win too.”
That's seems like a reach worthy of Stretch Armstrong from Hatcher. Bad calls are made in the NFL every day - heck, the officials initially called a Ted Ginn touchdown pass an incomplete pass only to overturn it when the Panthers challenged - and are part of the game. Additionally, the penalties called for both teams were almost even on Sunday. Washington was flagged nine times for 68 yards while the Panthers racked up 66 yards on eight penalties.
Considering the NFL, unlike the federal government, has not pressured Washington to change the name and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has done nothing but defend the Redskins name, it seems highly unlikely there's a covert plan to undermine Washington because of the team nickname.
Hatcher stuck to his stance on the nickname via Instagram:
That's not to say that no referees have ever acknowledged being bothered by the nickname. Retired referee Mike Carey revealed after his officiating days were done that he asked the league after the 2005 season not to assign him to any more Washington games because he felt the name was offensive.
If he was never on the field for one of the team's games, his opinion couldn't impact his decision-making.
The NFL has tried to clean up the game of some dirty hits, and that’s a good thing. But it becomes a bad thing when defensive players can’t play football anymore.
Washington Redskins cornerback Chris Culliver had what looked like an interception for a touchdown on Sunday, which would have put his team up 21-14 over the Carolina Panthers. Huge play.
But there was a flag, and if you can watch the play and figure out what exactly Culliver did that should be penalized, you’ve got me beat. Everything about that play looks like football. I can't even tell you what the officials thought was illegal about it – that's how bad of a call it was.
Culliver hit Olsen, who had to reach a bit for a pass from Cam Newton. That hit looked normal and legal in every way. But a flag was thrown, the officials talked about it for a while (“Wait, you actually saw something illegal that play? Like what?” is what I imagine was said) and decided to penalize Washington 15 yards instead of letting a legitimate touchdown stand.
That call turned the momentum of the game. Washington battled for a while, but it’s hard when you have a touchdown stolen from you. Carolina went on to win 44-16. And that one play wasn't the reason Washington ultimately lost.
“That call didn’t give them five touchdown passes and 44 points,” outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said, according to the Washington Times. “But, you do wonder if we go up 21-14 there and they don’t have the ball on the red-zone fringe, like where they had it, you wonder what happens. But, you can’t you blame officials when you get beat by 30 points.”
The NFL is right to try to clean up the game and make it as safe as it can, but when Culliver’s play isn’t legal, what is anymore?
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Back in the old days, if your team lost, you had to be near the tunnel to yell at them and let them know they stunk on their way back to the locker room. Now, it's as easy as a few swipes on your phone and the send button.
Social media is a fun tool sometimes, but probably not for athletes who either let down your fantasy team or were part of a big loss for someone's favorite team. The mentions on Sunday night after an NFL loss must be rough.
But St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long, in a self-punishing tweet, welcomed all the trolls to bring it on after a disappointing 16-13 loss on Sunday to the Baltimore Ravens.
I'm not even gonna look at my mentions. I deserve all of them. Disgusted. Thanks for sticking with us, rams fans.— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) November 22, 2015
Funny enough, this invitation worked to Long's advantage. Most of the replies were of the "It's not your fault!" or "It's the offense that stinks!" variety.
The way to avoid scorn on the Internet is to invite it. Who knew?
That won't help Long's mood much. The Rams are now 4-6 after what seems like the 50th no-show game in the Jeff Fisher era (does he get a cake or something for that milestone?). What was once a promising season with exciting rookie Todd Gurley has turned into yet another wasted year for a talented team.
So Long feels your pain. You can even tell him all about it, if you're so inclined.
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Anyone able to read lips?
Watch above as San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates appears to rip into his long-time quarterback, Philip Rivers, and say something somewhat threatening. We think we have a good idea of what he's saying including Gates threatening to beat a certain body part of Rivers.
This shouting match came after the Chargers settled for a long field goal at the start of the second quarter. Rivers scrambled on third-and-7 the play prior, so we're guessing he might have missed an open Gates on the play.
The Chargers eventually lost in a wipeout to the Kansas City Chiefs, 33-3.
This is not the Gates we know. Of course, this hasn't been the easiest season for him — he began the season with a four-game suspension and the Chargers are sitting at 2-8, tied for the fewest wins in the NFL. The Chargers' frustration cup hath runneth over this seaosn.
Here's a theory on why Gates might be barking at his quarterback from the past 12 seasons, having reached old-married-couple status by this point: CHECK OUT HIS NEW 'STACHE.
Philip Rivers has a mustache, and it. is. breathtaking. pic.twitter.com/uCHLHPRvmc— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 22, 2015
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Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers were dancing, celebrating and handing out footballs on Sunday afternoon against Washington, lifting their record to 10-0 with a 44-16 drubbing of their visitors.
Newton threw a career-best five touchdowns, each to a different receiver, against zero interceptions. Four of those TDs were in the first half, a franchise record.
It was a great capper to a week that saw much discussion about his love of dancing after touchdowns and celebrating first downs, a debate touched off by an "open letter" to Newton written by a Nashville mother who claimed to have been offended that her 9-year old daughter was subjected to Newton's dancing when he scored against the Titans (but she apparently had no issue with Tennessee players dancing when they sacked Newton).
By and large, the reaction to Newton's dancing was positive, with many agreeing with Newton: If defenses don't like to see him dance, they should keep him out of the end zone. His joie de football should be appreciated. Others, like the Nashville mother, have a problem with it, twisting themselves into pretzels as they try to explain why Newton is so offensive, while very few believed Carson Palmer screaming "suck it!" to the Seattle crowd was as well.
On Sunday, cameras caught Newton dancing during his warm-up session, and dancing on the sideline at the end of the game as he watched backup quarterback Derek Anderson finish off the win. He hit the dab on the tail end of a 9-yard run on third-and-8 at the end of the first half.
With each touchdown, either Newton or the teammate who caught it singled out a young fan in the stands, handing over the ball to the delight of the child.
And with the game in hand, Newton and several teammates had a message for anyone bothered by their dancing:
As the offense rolled, the Panthers' defense did more than its share: Washington had just nine first downs, converting 22 percent of its third-down chances and totaling fewer than 200 yards. Washington ran 47 offensive plays to Carolina's 75 and had a measley 14 rushing yards on 12 carries, a Carolina record for stinginess.
Carolina became the 16th team in NFL history to get to 10-0; not surprisingly, the first 15 all went to the playoffs, with 10 advancing to the Super Bowl. The Panthers are headed to Dallas for a Thanksgiving matchup; the Cowboys snapped their seven-game losing streak in Miami on Sunday.
Take a hike, William "Refrigerator" Perry.
There's a new big guy in the record books.
The Kansas City Chiefs' Dontari Poe became the heaviest player in NFL history to score a rushing touchdown on Sunday, plunging in from 1 yard out in a 33-3 victory against the San Diego Chargers.
The Chiefs' defensive lineman is listed at 346 pounds, putting him a few training-table trips ahead of Perry, who was 335 pounds when he scored against the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 3, 1985.
Heaviest players to run for a TD via @pfrefD. Poe 346Fridge 335Shaun Smith 320Sheldon Richardson 294James Jones 290Jorvorskie Lane 277— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) November 22, 2015
Fantasy owners of the Chiefs' regular running back Charcandrick West will also note that Poe broke another record with his score. He now also owns the title of world's biggest vulture.
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Fans have burned jerseys of opposing players for years. That's nothing new.
But flying a burning jersey on a drone? Innovative.
Check out the handiwork of some Minnesota Vikings fans as they sent into flight a flaming Aaron Rodgers jersey, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Carlos Gonzalez. Amazing stuff here:
Drones seem to be all the rage these days, so why not use one to show your hatred of an opponent?
The cheap ones cost a few hundred bucks, but expensive ones can go for $1,000 or more. If you're going to attach a flaming jersey to one, it had better be of high quality, one would think, to avoid mid-air combustion.
If anyone questioned the Vikings' hatred of the Green Bay Packers, this might be enough to convince them otherwise.
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Not that it'll ruin the Baltimore Ravens' playoff hopes, but they'll play out the string this season without quarterback Joe Flacco, who tore his ACL on Sunday, coach John Harbaugh said.
Flacco tore "at least" his ACL on a slant pass on the Ravens' last series in their last-minute win over the St. Louis Rams, Harbaugh said. Flacco got rolled up on by one of his linemen, according to Harbaugh. Flacco told reporters after the game he believes his MCL is likely torn as well.
Flacco finished the game, which is a testament to his toughness. Next week will be the first time in Flacco's career he has missed a game. He had started all 122 Ravens regular-season games since he was drafted in 2008.
The Ravens are in the middle of a horrific season, though Sunday's win improved their record to 3-7. Technically they're not eliminated from the playoff race, but realistically their season ended long ago. Now the season is officially over for their quarterback. The Ravens also lost running back Justin Forsett to a broken arm on Sunday, and had previously lost pass rusher Terrell Suggs and receiver Steve Smith to season-ending injuries.
The Ravens will turn to veteran Matt Schaub the rest of the season, and sign a new backup. Flacco presumably should be good to go for the start of next season. Carson Palmer tore his ACL in early November last year, didn't miss a game and is in the MVP conversation. So the Ravens' 2016 plans shouldn't be affected by his injury.
This season was already lost for the Ravens. Now they'll really be challenged to be competitive the rest of the way after taking on a couple more serious injuries in a win over the Rams.
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Jameis Winston grew up rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles. He spent most of his Sunday dicing them up.
Winston threw for five touchdown passes in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' stunning 45-17 victory over the Eagles as he and running back Doug Martin (235 rushing yards) embarrassed the Fighting Chip Kellys.
Jameis Winston has tied a rookie record with 5 TD passes; tying Matthew Stafford from 2009 and Ray Buivid from 1937. #TBvsPHI— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) November 22, 2015
As a team, the Bucs racked up 521 yards — the second-most in franchise history behind the 573 they gained in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings in 1980.
The Eagles might consider this one of the worst losses in recent franchise history. The Bucs, however, might consider Sunday a flashpoint: The win brought them to .500 for the first time since Week 12 of the 2012 season, and it has thrust Winston into the Rookie of the Year discussion.
For the season, he has accounted for 19 touchdowns (15 passing) and nine interceptions — and only two picks since Week 4.
This is Winston's team now. He has taken the heat off head coach Lovie Smith, whose job had been in question prior to winning three of the past four, and general manager Jason Licht, the man who drafted him. Another week, another Bucs win and another dunk in the pool for Licht, and maybe Smith too.
This is not a watered-down NFC South, either. The division now has a combined record of 26-14 a year after it won a combined 22 games all season. Winston spent his early season looking wild and under fire behind a bad offensive line. But he has kept his composure and looked like a smart first overall pick.
Of course, even with the football questions that arose during Winston's hot-and-cold 2014 season at Florida State, just as great — if not more so — were the concerns over his character. And the discussion Monday might be less about his five-TD game and more about his role in an incident on campus that raised the biggest red flags about him.
Winston's camp tried — in vain, it appears — to curb CNN from airing a documentary, "The Hunting Ground", which features the most extensive commentary from a woman who accused Winston of rape in college. The film showed at the Sundance Film Festival previously but has not been distributed widely. All indications are that Winston's lawyers couldn't prevent CNN from showing it, despite some loud protest.
Will this become a setback? Some NFL decision makers said they believed the rape case was a distraction during his final season at FSU despite Winston claiming otherwise.
The Bucs suddenly are in a playoff race (kind of) with the Atlanta Falcons losing, and these teams meet again in two weeks.
Things are good right now in Bucsdom and for Winston. We'll see if that changes. But we're willing to bet that even with a possibly damaging documentary airing nationally on Sunday evening, the Buccaneers feel they drafted the right man first overall.
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Get ready for Osweiler-Brady Bowl I next week. Probably, anyway.
The Denver Broncos can’t go back to Peyton Manning next week, can they? There’s the question if he’ll be healthy enough to play with a significant foot injury, but quarterback Brock Osweiler might have made that point obsolete.
Osweiler was very efficient, the Broncos’ run game came to life and Denver won at the Chicago Bears, 17-15. Osweiler had a 127.1 rating in the game, completing 20 of 27 passes for 250 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Manning’s rating this season is 67.6.
Osweiler did things in the offense that Manning hasn’t been able to do. The bootleg pass was back, a staple of Broncos coach Gary Kubiak’s offense through the years. His rushing offense also relies on the threat of the quarterback keeping the ball on outside zone run plays, and that has been missing. With Osweiler’s mobility, the Broncos passed their season average for rushing yards in the third quarter. The Broncos, 29th in the NFL in rushing yardage and also with a lackluster 3.8 yards per carry coming in, had 170 rushing yards as a team on Sunday.
The Broncos' defense did the rest. They got a key stop on fourth-and-goal in the fourth quarter, and Von Miller caused a huge fumble on a sack of Jay Cutler just before the two-minute warning. When the Bears scored with 24 seconds left, Denver's defense stuffed a Jeremy Langford run on the two-point conversion to seal the win. The Broncos have had a great defense all season, they just need a decent offense to go with it.
With Tom Brady and the New England Patriots coming to Denver next week, the Broncos will have an interesting call if Manning is healthy enough to play. According to the Denver Post's Troy Renck, Kubiak didn't discuss it after the game, but praised Osweiler and said, "We needed to play clean football." And Manning might not be ready to play; he didn’t make the trip to Chicago as he got treatment in Denver. But whenever he's healthy, if you strip away the names and the history, it's hard to argue that Manning is the Broncos' best choice right now.
The Broncos haven’t gotten much out of Manning this season, and although he made some key plays in their seven wins, the team was 7-2 with him in the lineup despite a quarterback who had nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions. The Broncos offense looked capable on Sunday with Osweiler at the helm.
In a suburban Denver sports bar, the chant started after Osweiler hit Cody Latimer for a fourth-quarter touchdown.
“Brock! Brock! Brock!”
Maybe they’ll keep chanting that for the rest of the season, if he keeps this up.
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The Marshawn Lynch retirement rumors were strong for a while before the 2014 season. Then he reported to camp (with a reworked contract), he kept running over defenders and the Seattle Seahawks kept winning.
In 2015 Lynch is no longer indestructible, the Seahawks are no longer winning most of their games, and one has to wonder if the retirement rumors might become reality soon.
Lynch was declared inactive before the Seahawks' game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. He has been dealing with an abdominal issue, but was questionable on the injury report. Apparently he wasn't healthy enough to play. Lynch has been banged up most of this season. Lynch missed one game with the Seahawks before this season, and that came back in 2011. Sunday is his third missed game this season.
Everyone knew that Lynch's physical style, and the numerous carries he has had since entering the NFL, would catch up to him. It didn't last year, when he averaged 4.7 yards per carry and had 13 rushing touchdowns as the Seahawks came a yard away from a Super Bowl victory. Lynch hasn't been the same guy this season.
He has 3.8 yards per carry this year. He had never been below 4.2 yards per carry in any of his first four full Seahawks seasons. Lynch was a foundation of their offense, with Russell Wilson playing an important yet complementary role to "Beast Mode." But Lynch hasn't looked dominant this season. And the Seahawks haven't been the same team, limping into Sunday with a 4-5 record. Lynch has 2,144 career carries and turns 30 in April.
And he is owed $9 million in base salary next season.
Do the Seahawks part ways with a player who has meant so much to their great success and has been one of the best backs of his era? Parting ways has to be considered, given Lynch's age, workload through the years and his salary. It also has to be possible that Lynch, who has a violent running style and has made a lot of money already, doesn't want to put up with battling through injuries for another season.
So Lynch was out on Sunday. The bigger question is, is this close to the end for Lynch in Seattle?
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Running back is a brutal job. Just ask Justin Forsett and Devonta Freeman
The Baltimore Ravens have been crushed by injury, especially on offense, this season. They lost another key skill-position player in Sunday's 16-13 victory against the St. Louis Rams when Forsett went down with a broken right arm, the team reported.
It's too early to know for sure, but a broken arm could end Forsett's season.
And the Atlanta Falcons can ill afford to have their best two-way playmaker miss any time. He is done for the game with a concussion in a key game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Freeman has been a fantasy superstar this season, so his absence was felt hard by both the Falcons – losers on Sunday against the Colts – and fantasy owners.
The Colts' Frank Gore, scheduled for a heavy workload this week, left the game, too, before returning.
Playing running back in the NFL means taking a physical beating. We saw it play out on Sunday.
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Noooo. No, no, no. No, Rob Ryan.
Rob Ryan just said "everything in New Orleans is blamed on me, including Katrina" 😧😧😧 https://t.co/i0CudRLJZB— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) November 22, 2015
Fired as New Orleans Saints' defenisve coordinator this past week after two-plus seasons, Ryan is on NFL Network's "Game Day Morning" as a commentator, and as you'd expect when there's a camera on a Ryan brother, some funny lines come out.
During a segment about Washington, Ryan said the team turned his "bye week into a bye-bye week," referring to the 47-14 loss last Sunday that saw quarterback Kirk Cousins post a perfect passer rating against Ryan's defense, and quipped that New Orleans was so bad this season it is "ranked 33rd in the league and there's only 32 teams."
But then Ryan went where he shouldn't have gone, as you can see in the Vine above, saying "everything in New Orleans is being blamed on me, including [Hurricane] Katrina."
Host Rich Eisen immediately covers his face with his hand at Ryan's comment, and Marshall Faulk, who is from New Orleans, laughed uncomfortably.
Being self-deprecating is always good, but Ryan took things way too far. Was the Saints' defense bad under Ryan? Yes. But to compare the results of games to one of the worst natural disasters in history, which claimed the lives of over 1,200 people is as ill-advised as it gets.
So apparently there is something the Dallas Cowboys' Greg Hardy can do that will affect his support in the organization: show up late. Repeatedly.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, support for Hardy is "waning" after arriving late a few times in recent weeks. Citing three team sources, Rapoport reports Hardy missed several team meetings two weeks ago and was almost late to practice the same day; Hardy also was late to a pregame meeting in Tampa last week, the night before the Cowboys' loss to the Buccaneers.
The #Cowboys support for DE Greg Hardy is waning, I'm told. He was late last Thursday, late to a night-before game meeting last Saturday.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 22, 2015
Hardy has consistently received support from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones this season, first when Dallas was one of three teams who showed interest in signing him after his 2014 domestic violence incident, then backing him after Hardy's tone-deaf news conference when he was reinstated from suspension ("I hope his guns are ablazin'," Jones said in his defense), his sideline tantrum and confrontation with special teams coach Rich Bisaccia in the waning moments of last month's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles (Jones called him "one of the real leaders of this team" after that), to Hardy briefly changing his Twitter bio earlier this month to paint himself as a victim.
It shouldn't be surprising that repeated tardiness might get Hardy in hot water – NFL teams have a long history of overlooking off-field problems as long as a player is performing. Being late shows that Hardy isn't dedicated to the team, a slap in the face for an organization that has stood by him throughout his many self-made storms in recent months.
Rapoport indicated that Dallas, which heads into Sunday's game with a seven-game losing streak, released running back Christine Michael and defensive back Corey White this past week after they were not in dress code for the trip to Tampa; they were the only players who did not wear suits.
We don't know who runs the Carolina Panthers' Twitter account, but he or she deserves a raise for a fantastic response to a Washington post on Saturday night.
Washington held a rally at Whisky River in Charlotte in advance of Sunday's road game against the Panthers, complete with former tight end Chris Cooley amping up the crowd. Because of the turnout, Washington sent out a tweet declaring Carolina as "Redskins country."
The post didn't escape the Panthers' tweet master:
In case you haven't been keeping track, last year the U.S Patent office canceled the "Redskins" trademark, calling it disparaging to Native Americans, and now the team is in the court system fighting for its offensive nickname.
The Panthers' Twitter feed is one of the best in the NFL. Earlier this week, after a "concerned" Tennessee fan wrote an open letter to Cam Newton in the Charlotte Observer because she didn't like Newton's post-touchdown dancing, the team's account showed support to the quarterback.
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Out of the blue on Saturday, the San Francisco 49ers announced that quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been sent to season-ending injured reserve. There goes any chance for Kaepernick to change the 49ers' mind about him before the end of the season.
Now the team has a tougher job in evaluating what to do for 2016 and beyond.
According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, Kaepernick went to team doctors after practice on Friday and said his shoulder was sore. Barrows wrote that Kaepernick's injury dated back to a game against the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 4. He didn't show up on the injury report for a shoulder issue until Friday. He was listed as probable for this week's game, but on Saturday his season officially ended. Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News specified that Kaepernick has a torn labrum and will have surgery on Tuesday. Quarterback Dylan Thompson was activated from the practice squad.
Kaepernick, of course, had already lost his job to Blaine Gabbert. He was benched, and then Gabbert had a solid game in a win over the Atlanta Falcons two weeks ago. Still, there had to be some thought in the organization that Kaepernick would get another shot before the season ended, just to provide some further evaluation.
Now the 49ers go into the offseason knowing Kaepernick is due $16.7 million next season and $19.3 million the season after that. Will they pay that for a player who struggled so badly this season he was benched for Gabbert? Kaepernick has been in a severe decline the last two seasons, after helping the 49ers reach a Super Bowl in the 2012 season and an NFC championship game the season after that. But Kaepernick is still just 28 years old, it's hard to start over at quarterback in the NFL, and Gabbert has never shown he's a long-term answer as a starting NFL quarterback.
So with Saturday's news, it's possible Kaepernick's 49ers career is over. His season definitely is. Now the team has a complicated offseason ahead of it in which it has to figure out the rest.
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Adrian Peterson, at 30 years old and coming off a season in which he played just one game, looks as strong as ever for the Minnesota Vikings.
In last week’s win against the Oakland Raiders, we were reminded that there is no better back in the NFL at creating yards in confined space than Peterson. His combination of lateral explosion and downhill velocity is unmatched. Peterson had more than 200 yards against the Raiders, and leads the NFL with 961 yards.
In this game, based on personnel and play calling, it was evident Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner did not feel the Vikings could effectively break down the Raiders’ pass defense. It was mostly base personnel packages, predominantly “12” packages with one back and two tight ends. The Vikings had just two passes of more than 20 yards, and they were both short passes with a long run after the catch.
The Vikings needed Peterson to have a big game, and he did.
A 17-yard run in the first quarter is a great example of Peterson’s quick feet and explosive speed. You can see him get to the outside perimeter and outrun contain. That’s tough to defend. Peterson makes a big play out of nothing.
Peterson put the game away with an 80-yard touchdown with just over two minutes remaining. It came out of “13” personnel, with a third tight end. It was a downhill run with two double teams at the point of attack. Cornerback Neiko Thorpe was the unblocked defender, and he couldn’t bring Peterson down after Peterson had a good, hard inside cut.
The Vikings gained 263 of their 385 yards on the ground. Peterson had six runs of 11 or more yards. We can’t be sure how exactly the Vikings will attack the Green Bay Packers in a huge NFC North game on Sunday, but we all know Peterson will be heavily involved in the game plan.
Newton's strong performance
Cam Newton is coming off another good game for the Carolina Panthers. From the first possession last week against the Tennessee Titans you could see he was composed in the pocket and threw with anticipation and precise ball placement.
Newton also continued to do a lot more at the line of scrimmage. He’s definitely in command of the Panthers offense. The coaches give him that freedom, which tells you what they think of his ability to run the offense.
Here are two great throws from Newton against the Titans. On a first and 10 on Carolina’s second possession, the Titans had a “Cover 3” zone called, and three second-level defenders reacted to the outside zone backfield action. Devin Funchess ran a skinny post and Newton threw it with anticipation and precise accuracy.
Later in the first quarter, Newton made a big-time throw against “Cover 3.” It was a 9/6 route combination, with Jerricho Cotchery from the inside slot running a “9” route and Ted Ginn running a dig route. Newton had a precise throw from a muddied pocket.
Newton has mostly played very well, with some inconsistent moments, and he goes into Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins coming off a very nice performance.
One thing that has become apparent from watching Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie quarterback Jameis Winston is that you must blitz him.
One of Winston's faults right now is his poor lower body mechanics. And that really becomes a problem when his tempo is increased. That can lead to hurried decision making and inaccurate throws.
Winston has been blitzed on 30 percent of his drop backs, and he has a 51.2 completion percentage against the blitz with a passer rating of 73.4.
Every once in a while Winston makes an excellent throw with poor balance and lower body mechanics, but overall Winston was not very sharp against the Dallas Cowboys last week. His inconsistencies showed up, in terms of poor pocket movement and erratic accuracy. These are things he'll have to work on in his first full NFL offseason, and things that are worth keeping an eye on this week as the Buccaneers travel to face the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cleveland Browns have decided to go with Johnny Manziel as their quarterback the rest of the season, and he made some strides last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Manziel was calmer with his feet in the pocket, and less likely to move. He stuck his back cleat in the ground on his drops – a marked improvement. Overall Manziel was a much more poised and composed player, not as frenetic and not as quick to leave the pocket.
The Browns also did a good job getting Manziel comfortable and defining his reads. There was a lot of quick throws, play action and boot action. The Browns also incorporated a lot of empty sets, which plays to Manziel's comfort level.
You will always have to live with the fact that Manziel can’t see some things from the pocket because of his height, and will not be able to operate effectively in a muddied pocket. But overall last week was a strong performance by Manziel. It was clearly a game to build on.
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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.
The New York Giants did a lot, schematically, to slow down the New England Patriots and Tom Brady. Brady had to make some key plays to win the game, and he did.
But it wasn’t easy.
The Giants had a multiple, diverse defensive game plan, and safety Craig Dahl was a big part of it. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo used Dahl in different positions in different personnel groupings, which was part of showing Brady a lot of different cover looks, especially on third down.
Here’s one example of Spagnuolo and the Giants getting creative with coverages. In the tight red zone in the third quarter, they double-teamed Rob Gronkowski with a down lineman, Robert Ayers (91), and Dahl (43).
Dahl matched up with Gronkowski a number of times, in particular when Gronkowski lined up out wide as an “X iso.” When the Patriots get Gronkowski matched up against a linebacker or safety in “X iso,” they will throw to him. Brady hit Gronkowski for a 12-yard gain against Dahl on a third and 1 in the second quarter.
The Giants got a lot of good individual performances, which is what any team will need to slow down the Patriots. In particular, stacked linebackers Jasper Brinkley and Jonathan Casillas played very well against the run, doing a great job stepping up and playing their gaps with physicality. The Patriots rushed for just 77 yards on 23 attempts.
Without a running game, and with the Giants doing so much schematically to confuse the offense (New York does not have a very good defense from a talent standpoint), Brady had an odd game for his standards with two fumbles and a red zone interception. And the Giants had plenty of chances to win, especially if it weren’t for an 82-yard punt return by Danny Amendola in the third quarter. But in the end, Brady made the plays he had to make to win.
Here’s an example of the Giants having a plan and executing it, but Brady improvised. In a set with three tight ends, the Patriots wanted to get the ball to Gronkowski on a quick drag route. Brinkley (53) hit Gronkowski and disrupted the route the Patriots wanted. But Brady was patient and came off Gronkowski knowing immediately that the window to tight end Scott Chandler would be clear. He hit Chandler for a 1-yard score.
The Patriots hit a huge play when the Giants got caught disguising a coverage. The Giants disguised “man free” with Dahl rotating late to a single-high position and safety Brandon Meriweather matched on Gronkowski. Gronkowski’s outside stem on his route widened Meriweather, creating space for his seam route. Dahl, because of the disguise before the snap, was playing catch up and was late to the seam route. Brady doesn’t need much of an opening, and Gronkowski went for a 76-yard score.
The Patriots needed a field goal to win the game at the end, and Brady was very patient on the game-winning drive. He had an intuitive feel for how many yards he needed and the time it would take to get those yards. He survived a dropped interception by Landon Collins on the first play of the drive, when Brady was hit as he released the ball. And the key play came on fourth and 10.
Against “Cover 3” zone, Casillas at linebacker was staring at Brady without any awareness of Amendola on an in-breaking route. Brady took advantage and hit Amendola for 12 yards.
The Giants had a very interesting, diverse plan to beat the Patriots, and they executed very well for much of the game. And the Patriots still came out with the win. We learned that it’s going to take an exceptional effort to beat New England.
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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.
The NFL preseason is way, way too long, but give the league credit: They seem to understand that too.
Preseason games are cash grabs for owners — if you have season tickets and therefore forced to pay full price for these sham games, you're nodding right now — so it has always seemed unlikely that the NFL would just cut a game or two from the longstanding four-game preseason format without adding to the regular season.
While there doesn't seem to be an immediate push to add regular-season games, cutting the preseason back sounds like a real possibility based on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's interview with "The Doug And Wolf Show" in Phoenix.
"(W)e have spent a great deal of time talking about the quality of our preseason," Goodell said according to a transcript that was produced by the league. "The question from a football standpoint point, Wolf, is do we need three preseason games? Four preseason games? Or could we even go to two?
"I think the general view from our Competition Committee and many of our football people is that you certainly could get through with three preseason games. We have not talked about adding a regular-season game because that would have to be collectively bargained with the union. We would not have to, if we reduced from four to three, to do that through collective bargaining."
That's a pretty surprising angle from Goodell, who works for the owners. Perhaps they wouldn't fight the shortening of the preseason? There's more money to be made, but there were also more than a few really crushing injuries this preseason. Ask the Green Bay Packers, who aren't the same without receiver Jordy Nelson. Nelson tore his ACL in a preseason game. And anyone who has sat through the fourth preseason game understands how meaningless it is.
The other topic that Goodell was asked at length about on "The Doug and Wolf Show" was the Los Angeles relocation possibility. When asked if the Arizona Cardinals would be affected from a scheduling standpoint by a team in Los Angeles, Goodell said, "We're a long ways from that at this stage." He reiterated that the NFL is trying to work out solutions in the current markets. The St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders have all been rumored as possibilities to play in Los Angeles.
"I think our focus right now has been obviously one, can we make sure that there are no potential solutions in their current markets that can work to keep their teams there successfully for the long-term," Goodell said. "If someone doesn't and can't reach those kind of long-term agreements, then how would they necessarily qualify for the Los Angeles opportunity and which of those projects makes the best sense for long-term success in Los Angeles."
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The Detroit Lions have not been too good, historically, at this hiring and firing business.
Since 2000, the team has had eight head coaches and might be looking for another one in 2016. They've had three full-time general managers, currently have interim Sheldon White manning the position and likely will seek a new one now that new club president Rod Wood has taken over amid a mess of a season that has seen a GM, a president and three assistant coaches all hacked.
Now, another firing: The team's flagship radio station.
It was announced on Friday that the Lions will have a new radio home in 2016 with WJR-AM 760, parting ways with WXYT-FM 97.1 “The Ticket,” which has been calling the team's games since 2004 (when it was known as WKRK). Owner Martha Firestone Ford hired Wood, who announced the move.
Why the switch? Not enough on-air loyalty to and pompomp waving for the last-place team, it appears.
The Lions had been in negotiations with WXYT for retaining the broadcast rights, but one of the club's stipulations had been that the station needed to part ways with afternoon host Mike Valenti, who has been critical of the team in the past. Apparently, the Lions didn't like that. Instead, they just went to a new station for what they are calling "a better deal."
Lions vice president of marketing Elizabeth Parkinson has vehemently denied that Valenti's firing was ever requested.
"I can categorically deny that we requested, or there were any conversations, around Mike Valenti's dismissal," Parkinson told MLive.com. "It's just not something that was discussed, nor was his agent involved in any of the negotiations. I truly don't know where that's coming from."
But Parkinson did acknowledge that the Lions' public relations department did have a seat at the negotiation table, although she claims they were not part of the decision-making process. Why don't we believe that? Valenti certainly doesn't. He went on a rampage on 97.1 after the announcement was made to give some examples of Lions PR trying to control the station's message — perhaps just an extension of the Lions' common catch phrase of "Defend The Den."
Valenti: "The reason the Lions want to leave is because the Lions want to control the message."— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) November 20, 2015
Valenti had more — plenty more — to say on the matter:
Valenti: "The Lions, in short, hate me because I don't care about them. I don't fear them."— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) November 20, 2015
Valenti going all in on Lions: "Leaving because you don't like me? You look stupid."— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) November 20, 2015
Valenti says Lions PR boss Bill Keenist would try calling him between segments.— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) November 20, 2015
Valenti says Lions kept him off various programs "because they don't like the things I say."— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) November 20, 2015
Valenti: Play games, win games, I say nice things. Play games, lose games, I say mean things. It's that simple— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) November 20, 2015
Valenti on Lions: You're trying to wreck me, but you've been wrecking fans for 57 years.— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) November 20, 2015
We're in a gray area, media-wise, when team-operated websites and radio stations get "exclusive" access to players and coaches ... but often only if they play ball and are not critical of the team in any way. It's more of a cheerleading operation than it is anything resembling journalism.
I remember once asking a veteran Detroit writer what it was like covering the 0-16 Lions team on a daily basis in that fateful 2008 season, and as much as he said it was a struggle there had been — and still are — issues with the team's public-relations department being out of touch and difficult to work with.
"If a national media outlet wanted to come in and do a feel-good story, they'd probably act like they didn't even know they were there," the writer said of the Lions' PR department. "They're too worried about what the local guys are saying."
This clearly bleeds over onto the flagship radio station, which the Lions would appear to want as the homer element with a heavily filtered or cleansed voice. This is a loser's mentality that clearly has remained with a franchise that has four winning seasons in the past 20 years and would need to win the rest of their games this season to make it five.
Controlling the message never really works, and it's the fans who lose out. No matter which station broadcasts Lions games.
Do you have faith the new regime will be better than its many previous ones? Consider this statement Friday from Wood:
New Lions president Rod Wood: "I would probably say that Im not qualified to run any other NFL team but I think I'm qualified to run this 1"— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) November 20, 2015
Wow. That pretty much says it all.
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