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Vikings not fans of FieldTurf

A few Giants players weren’t happy with the team’s new FieldTurf installation, believing it caused the season-ending injury to Domenik Hixon.

One of New York’s NFC rivals agrees with the sentiment.

As pointed out by ESPN’s Tim Graham, the Vikings have argued in a lawsuit that the surface is unsafe.

“Medically, FieldTurf has proven to increase risk and severity of injury in NFL players,”
the Vikings stated, according to recent court documents. 

FieldTurf is suing the Vikings for choosing a competitor despite a cheaper bid to resurface the Metrodome.  Meanwhile, Giants G.M. Jerry Reese is defending the FieldTurf, as is the company’s spokesman.

“With all due and sincere respect to Antrel Rolle, who is a wonderful
player, he is simply not medically trained or qualified to make such a
statement,” FieldTurf spokesman Chip Namias said. “The people who run
NFL teams are ultra conscientious, and there’s a very good reason why 21
of the 32 member clubs use FieldTurf.”

It will be interesting to see if the number of teams using FieldTurf drops in the upcoming years.

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Charles Woodson: Tony Sparano “made his case” to stick around

Buffalo Bills v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

The Raiders won for the third time under interim coach Tony Sparano on Sunday, knocking the Bills out of playoff contention and running their home winning streak to three games in front of an appreciative group of fans.

With Oakland on the road next week, it could have also been Sparano’s final home game in charge of the team. The Raiders are expected to look elsewhere for a permanent head coach, although Sparano can rest assured that his belief that he should be considered for the job is shared by several of his players.

Defensive tackle Antonio Smith said that Sparano has done “so many things to change the mindset of this team” and quarterback Derek Carr also threw some love in Sparano’s direction. Safety Charles Woodson, who said that he’d like to see his position coaches back with the team regardless of other moves, said he thinks Sparano made a strong impression.

“I think he’s done a strong job for us,” Woodson said, via CSNBayArea.com. “Of course I’m not privy to those decisions, but up until this point, he’s definitely made his case.”

The Raiders held onto Tom Cable after he finished a season well as an interim coach, but he went 13-19 over two seasons as the permanent coach and there are several other examples around the league of sticking with a successful fill-in only for things to go south down the road. How much that history or the players’ feelings will impact Raiders owner Mark Davis is unclear, but the Raiders have likely helped whatever chances Sparano has of keeping the job with their efforts in recent weeks.

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Russell Wilson deserves MVP consideration

Wilson Getty Images

Various debates have emerged in recent weeks regarding the looming MVP vote.  You know, the one that will be taken after the season and not announced until the night before the Super Bowl, when we no longer care very much about the MVP award.

From J.J. Watt to Aaron Rodgers to Tom Brady to DeMarco Murray to Tony Romo to Le’Veon Bell, different points and performances in the season have justifiably sparked discussion and/or fascination about the biggest individual prize in the NFL — even though the process for determining it remains flawed and far from perfect.

When it’s time for the clique of 50 Associated Press voters to cast one vote in a rules-are-there-ain’t-no-rules process that permits them to split votes if the spirit so moves them and that cries out for a Heisman-style system with more voters and a first-, second-, third-place ballot, Russell Wilson deserves consideration.

Wilson deserves consideration not just for what he has done all year long, but for what he did on Sunday night, in a game with enormous stakes.  The Cardinals, with a win, would have nailed down home field advantage throughout the entire postseason, given the site of the Super Bowl.  The Seahawks, with a win, would become a Week 17 home victory against the Rams away from winning the division and possibly seizing home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

In a rousing Seahawks victory, Wilson led the Seattle offense to a franchise record 596 total yards, accounting for 427 of them himself (339 passing, 88 rushing).  Wilson had a 55-yard run and an 80-yard touchdown pass in the same game.  He engineered an offense that put 35 points on one of the best defenses in the NFL.

For the year, Wilson now has 26 total touchdowns and only six turnovers.  He has thrown for 3,236 yards and added 842 on the ground.

It’s easy to dismiss Wilson as a glorified game manager, benefiting from a great defense and the presence of Marshawn Lynch, who perhaps deserves a little MVP consideration of his own.  It’s easy to do that, if you don’t watch the Seahawks play.

At a time when the league has caught up with mobile quarterbacks, no one can catch Wilson.  He buys time being the line of scrimmage, darting and spinning and accelerating away from defenders.  He finds the open man from the pocket and outside it.  And when he decides to run, run he does — at all times protecting himself from the kind of hits that have put other mobile quarterbacks on the sidelines.

There’s still a game to go, and the final playoff tree and season statistics should have a lot to do with the final vote.  For now, Wilson at least deserves a spot in the conversation.  A week from now, it’s possible he’ll deserve the prize itself.

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Dolphins owner says he never considered Jim Harbaugh (this time)

Baltimore Ravens v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross cleared the schedule for Miami reporters by declaring there would be no coaching search this year.

Of course, Ross has gone looking for coaches when he had one before, but as he retained Joe Philbin, he said that wasn’t the case this time.

I didn’t put out any feelers,” Ross said, via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. “I did not talk to Harbaugh.”

That would be soon-to-be available Jim Harbaugh, whom Ross once wooed while Tony Sparano was still under contract.

But the Ross stood firm behind Philbin, saying he like the direction of his team even before yesterday’s comeback win.

“I believe in this team, I believe in the coach, we are building something,” Ross said. “I have looked at the whole situation, as I have been looking at it all year. I think the coach has a year on his contract, we are bringing him back and, you know, what else can I tell you? I think we are building something great here. He is the right guy for this team, and we are building something.”

Of course, even as Ross made it clear he was keeping Philbin, that comes with conditions.

“Patience is a virtue, you know,” Ross said, “but I’m expecting big things next year, I’ll tell you that.”

Leaving things as they are is a hard lesson for owners to learn, but Ross is taking an important step, by refusing to play with the shiniest toy of the offseason.

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Roddy White to Keenan Lewis: We just woke up out of the grave

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

After the final gun in Sunday’s 30-14 Falcons win eliminated his team from playoff contention, Saints linebacker Junior Galette said it felt like “a funeral” in the locker room.

It was an interesting choice of words. During the week leading up to the game, Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis said that the team planned on sending the Falcons to their funeral, a bit of trash talk that the Falcons didn’t answer when meeting with the media. They saved their response for the field and the postgame meetings with reporters instead.

Wide receivers Roddy White and Harry Douglas both pointed out that Lewis had to come out of the game to get an IV at one point, with Douglas saying that you “can’t send us to a funeral you’re not showing up for.”

“If you’re going to go out there and be talking about funerals and arranging funerals and bringing in flowers and doing all that stuff, you’ve got to finish the game,” White said, via ESPN.com. “Unfortunately, he didn’t even play the whole game. … Today, at [3:48 p.m.], we just woke up out the grave. So right now, we’re going to get ready for next week.”

For his part, Lewis tipped his cap to Atlanta and said they deserved to move on to a Week 17 date with the Panthers that will decide the race for the NFC South crown. That means there will be another funeral with the Falcons trying to again send the wreath rather than receive it,.

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Monday morning one-liners

Khalil Mack, Sio Moore AP

RB Fred Jackson set a new personal best for single-season receiving yards as the Bills lost in Oakland.

Dolphins players were happy to hear that coach Joe Philbin will return in 2015.

WR Danny Amendola stepped up with Julian Edelman out of the Patriots lineup.

Said Jets G Willie Colon of coach Rex Ryan, “I honestly wanted to win for him more than anybody.”

Current members of the Ravens who once played for the Texans didn’t get the homecoming they wanted.

The Bengals will play for the AFC North title next week regardless of what happens on Monday night.

WR Josh Gordon’s quiet return to the Browns continued in Sunday’s loss.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin called a taunting call against CB William Gay “ridiculous,” but Gay said he respects anything the officials call.

K Randy Bullock had a big day as the Texans knocked off the Ravens.

The Colts didn’t look ready for the playoffs in Dallas on Sunday.

If Marqise Lee has five catches in Week 17, the Jaguars will be the first team with three rookies that caught at least  40 passes.

The Titans feel G Chance Warmack has improved this season.

Is the Broncos defensive line the best in team history?

The Chiefs haven’t authored a strong finish to this season.

Raiders LB Khalil Mack is closing his rookie season on a high note.

Saturday’s big Chargers comeback was fueled by the defense.

Said Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray of his injured left hand, “It affected me a little bit, it was hurting throughout the game. But I made my mind up a long time ago that I was going to play. I was happy to be out there and happy to do whatever I can to help this team win and it’s awesome with the win.”

Giants WR Rueben Randle had his best game of the year.

How much have the Eagles missed WR DeSean Jackson this season?

The Redskins Defense has started picking up more turnovers.

QB Jimmy Clausen’s fire on the field was appreciated by the Bears.

The Lions were sloppy on Sunday, but they survived.

Sacks just kept on coming for the Packers.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t pleased with his defense’s play on Sunday.

Falcons KR Devin Hester took a moment to offer an official a shoulder rub during Sunday’s win.

RB Jonathan Stewart came up with a big game for the Panthers.

A frame-by-frame look at what officials ruled was a crucial fumble by Saints TE Jimmy Graham.

The Buccaneers Offense was hard to find in a 20-3 loss to the Packers.

Cardinals defenders had one sack Sunday night after picking up seven in their first meeting with the Seahawks.

The Rams were left to lament their mistakes after losing to the Giants.

49ers T Anthony Davis tried to get under Chargers LB Manti Te’o’s skin on Saturday.

TE Luke Willson had a breakout game as the Seahawks romped in Arizona.

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Tom Coughlin wants Odell Beckham Jr. to “tone it down”

New York Giants v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

With the way rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is piling up catches and yards and touchdowns, you’d think it would be hard to find fault with him.

But Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he was almost glad Beckham was penalized for taunting an opponent with his ball spin, hoping it taught him a lesson after the Rams turned the field position into a field goal.

He finally got flagged for his celebration,” Coughlin said, via Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News. “That was an issue, because here we are kicking off from the 20-yard line and they got the ball with great field [position]. I said something to him when it happened. When he was called for it, I said something to him. . . .

“He will tone it down, he will. He did.”

While it’s easy to paint Coughlin as the grumpy old man who wants the kids to get off his lawn, the bigger question might be with the call.

Yes Beckham spun the ball, and it was in the area near Rams defenders. But it sure didn’t look like an act of aggression, rather a kid who’s on a hot streak enjoying his hot streak.

“I spun the ball in front of me. But it is something that was a penalty,” Beckham said. “That’s just being young and trying to learn the rules and what you can and can’t do. I didn’t know that that was a penalty.”

Coughlin might be the only one who can curb Beckham’s celebrations, because for the last three months, opponents haven’t been able to.

He had eight catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns yesterday, giving him 79 catches for 1,120 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s had at least 90 receiving yards in eight straight games.

Not bad for a whippersnapper.

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Seahawks praise Marshawn Lynch after “one of the best runs ever”

Marshawn Lynch, Justin Britt, Earl Thomas AP

Marshawn Lynch may be hearing from the league this week about the way that he chose to put an exclamation point on his 79-yard touchdown run against the Cardinals on Sunday night, but his Seahawks teammates were a bit more concerned about the journey to the end zone than the grab of the nether regions that punctuated his arrival at his destination.

Coach Pete Carroll called the run, which saw Lynch go through and around the Cardinals Defense before tip-toeing down the sideline and then exploding into top gear, as good as any he can remember seeing and defensive end Michael Bennett also put it in the top spot in his own personal memory bank.

“Twenty years from now we’ll go back and we’ll say that was one of the best runs ever in the National Football League,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said, via the team’s website. “And in football period. From little league all the way up. You’ll probably never see anything like that ever again. And if you do, it’ll probably come from Marshawn.”

Cornerback Richard Sherman called Lynch a “bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, continue to say bad, man” and promoted Lynch as an MVP candidate with Sunday night’s run making up most of his case. That candidacy probably isn’t going to go anywhere, but the Seahawks stand a much better chance of having another Super Bowl MVP in their organization thanks to Lynch’s exploits on Sunday night.

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Buccaneers move closer to clinching the top pick in 2015 Draft

01102da90eb68a718688e686ac79b920 Getty Images

If the Buccaneers want to focus on drafting a quarterback to fix their mess, they’re close to having the opportunity to take any one they want.

With a week to play, the 2-13 Bucs are close to clinching the top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

A loss next week to the Saints should seal the deal, as playing in the NFC South gives them a lower strength of schedule number than the teams they’re nearest in the standings, and that’s how selection order ties are broken.

The Titans are in the second slot at the moment, and those two cleared some distance as the other teams at the bottom won cosmetic games.

As it stands today, the Jaguars would pick third, the Jets fourth and the Raiders fifth, followed by Washington, the Bears, Falcons, Vikings and Saints.

Of course, if the Falcons beat the Panthers next week and take the NFC South title, they’d fall all the way to 21st (or lower, depending on how they do in the playoffs).

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Julio Jones shows what a “stud” he is during comeback

Julio Jones, Pierre Warren AP

It might not have been as dramatic as a car wreck, but Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones was playing through some pain too.

But it was hard to tell by the way he played.

Jones was a last-minute decision to play as he came off an oblique injury, but had seven catches for 107 yards as the Falcons beat the Saints 30-14 to set up next week’s win-and-in playoff game with the Panthers.

“You can’t say enough about what Julio did today,” quarterback Matt Ryan said, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. “Obviously, he’s been hurting the last couple of weeks and for him to gut it out and play the way he did today, I think that speaks volumes about his great toughness but also showcases what a stud he is. When he’s out there, he’s making plays that a lot of other people aren’t capable of making, So, obviously when he’s on the field, that’s a big deal for us.”

Jones said he’s still not what he’d describe as fully well, but he knew he needed to be out there.

“I felt OK,” Jones said. “I know I needed to be out there with my teammates. I missed last week. Before the game, I went out and ran around. I felt pretty good: Not 100 percent, but it was good enough to go out there and get the `W.'”

“Yeah, I’ll be OK. Just keep getting treatment. They’ve been doing a great job here with me. And I’ve got to keep going.”

He has one more week to go, meaning that pain will be the furthest thing from his mind next week.

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Johnny Manziel doesn’t leave much tape, but wants to be the guy in Cleveland

Cleveland Browns v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel hurt his hamstring early in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers, knocking him out of the game and possibly dropping the curtain on his rookie season a week earlier than expected.

Coach Mike Pettine said that Manziel’s availability will be determined this week, but a negative prognosis will only make quarterback decisions more difficult for the Browns. The team was reportedly already planning to evaluate all options at the position and they’ll have less than six full quarters of Manziel’s work (and just 51 offensive snaps over two starts) to use as part of their evaluation if he doesn’t play against the Ravens in Week 17.

Manziel said after Sunday’s game that he felt more comfortable running the offense against Carolina than he had against Cincinnati and sounded like he was looking past Week 17 to the offseason when he said that he plans to show the Browns that he wants to be the man in charge of the offense.

“And that’s what I want to do and that’s what I want to be for this organization so for me, if anything, this has motivated me more to head into this offseason,” Manziel said, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “We had a better team than we have had here in years past, and we need to capitalize on these guys that we have coming back next year and the talent that we do have on this roster that our coaching staff and our management has put on this team. So if anything it makes me more hungry to work in this offseason and get with these guys and stay on top of this stuff and come back next year and come out and try to have some success early in the season and sustain that through a season.”

It’s a long way from September 2015, which makes looking into the crystal ball a dicey enterprise. What seems clear, though, is that Manziel hasn’t convinced anyone that he can be the man for the Browns and that will keep the intrigue dialed up in Cleveland this offseason.

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Cam Newton’s toughness on display yet again

Cleveland Browns v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

That Cam Newton was able to bounce back from a potentially game-killing interception was one thing.

But the fact he bounced back so quickly after breaking two bones in his back less than two weeks ago inspired his Panthers teammates. After missing last week’s game following his car wreck, Newton led the Panthers to the verge of the playoffs with a 17-13 win over the Browns.

It kind of speaks to who he is and his toughness, his mental toughness, his physical toughness,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “But also what he means to his teammates. Just the fact that every day he came back out, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and the way his teammates rallied around him and worked with him. I think that was extraordinary. It is one of those moments that you as a coach like to see. It kind of shows that the guys are behind him as well.”

Newton was downplayed his own role in it, thanked the trainers and medical staff, and said he didn’t do anything out of the ordinary in terms of pain management (he hates needles).

And of the drama of the last two weeks of his life, he seemed exhausted by it all.

“It was somewhat tiring, honestly, just to go through so much,” Newton said. “But yet, I can remember family members and loved ones at the hospital and they would not turn it to ESPN. They would not turn to any news channels. I was like, do people know? Then when I saw the helicopter, it was like okay, it’s a big deal.

“But, for me to come out of an injury like that, or an accident like that, all praise goes to God and it just shows that he’s using me in a positive way and I’m using my influence in a positive way. I’m on a pinnacle each and every day whether I want to or not. So, whether I do good things or bad things, people are going to be affected, and I just want to use mine in a positive light to encourage the next person. Whether a child, whether a male, female, what have you, that’s what we are on this earth for – to make people better.”

He made those around him better Sunday, and has given hope to a previously hopeless team.

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NFC playoff picture: Seahawks take control

ricardolockette AP

Five of the six NFC playoff teams have been determined, as the Seahawks, Cardinals, Lions, Packers and Cowboys have all clinched playoff berths. And the sixth will be determined on Sunday, when the Panthers visit the Falcons.

And the defending champions are now the favorites to get back to the Super Bowl: Seattle’s win on Sunday night means the Seahawks are currently the No. 1 team in the conference and the favorite to earn home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Here’s how the NFC playoff picture looks with one week to go:

1. Seattle Seahawks (11-4) The Seahawks will be the No. 1 seed if they beat the Rams on Sunday, unless the Lions and Packers tie and the Cowboys win.

2. Detroit Lions (11-4) The Lions currently own the tiebreaker over the Packers, but they’ll have to win or tie at Green Bay on Sunday to win the NFC North. If the Packers win, the Lions will be a wild card.

3. Dallas Cowboys (11-4) The Cowboys have won the NFC East. They can get a first-round bye if both the Seahawks and Cardinals lose on Sunday.

4. Carolina Panthers (6-8-1) The Panthers will be the 4 seed if they win or tie in Week 17. If the Panthers lose to the Falcons, the Falcons will be the 4 seed.

5. Green Bay Packers (11-4) The Packers would be a wild card if the playoffs started today, but they’re favored to win the NFC North and get a first-round bye with a win over the Lions on Sunday.

6. Arizona Cardinals (11-4) The Cardinals can still win the NFC West if they beat the 49ers on Sunday and the Seahawks lose to the Rams. Otherwise, the Cardinals will be a wild card.

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Steve Smith expects criticism of Ravens offense, won’t pay attention to it

Torrey Smith, Steve Smith AP

Sunday was a miserable day for the Ravens Offense.

They gained just 211 yards, quarterback Joe Flacco threw three interceptions while picking up under four yards per attempt and generally looked inept from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. Wide receiver Steve Smith, who had five catches for 49 yards, didn’t search too hard for a way to describe what went down on Sunday.

“Bottom line is offensively, we just got our ass kicked,” Smith said, via ESPN.com. “That’s what happened. That’s what the score looks like. That’s what it looks like when you just lose. That is the consequences of losing.”

Smith’s succinct explanation of a disastrous day for the Ravens offense doesn’t mean that he’s keen on hearing any criticism of the team’s effort. Smith told reporters to write about concern for the offense so that Smith could tell them how much BS it was and told anyone else who might find fault with the team that their words are going to fall on deaf ears.

“We expect and understand and anticipate all of the negative feedback and all of the fat, lazy, sorry couch quarterbacks are going to come out,” Smith said. “We expect that and understand that. We’re not going to pay attention to it.”

Ass kickings come with negative feedback whether Smith and the Ravens want to hear it or not and putting a positive spin on being the worse offense in a game that saw Case Keenum quarterback the other team isn’t going to change the realities for Baltimore. They don’t control their playoff destiny and could see their season end in seven days even if they’re the ones doing the ass kicking against the Browns.

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NFL morning after: Playing hard, with nothing to play for

marcelreece AP

I admire the upset pulled off by Washington this weekend. I respect the way the Bears and Jets played in hard-fought losses. And I’m amazed by what the Texans did to the Ravens.

But the most surprising result might have been that the Raiders — considered the worst team in the league for most of the season — pulled off a big upset and ended the Bills’ playoff hopes. That game was a fitting end for Sunday afternoon in the NFL, as this was a weekend that reminded us that even when we, the fans, say there’s “nothing to play for,” football players have a funny way of deciding for themselves that they have something to play for.

It happens every year, so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, but I’m always impressed by the teams that seemingly have every reason to pack it in and give up on their seasons, and instead put forth a spirited effort.

Washington has looked like a disaster for most of this season, but on Saturday, in a game the Eagles desperately needed to win, it was Washington that won a hard-fought, back-and-forth battle. And Houston seemed like it was even more of a disaster, down to fourth-string quarterback Case Keenum. But the Texans, whose playoff hopes are slim, put their quarterback issues aside and dominated the Ravens, who are right in the thick of the battle for a playoff berth.

And even the teams that came up short showed a lot of heart. Everyone thought the Bears had quit on this season, and yet Jimmy Clausen, starting after Jay Cutler’s benching, looked pretty good as Chicago gave Detroit a tough four quarters of play. Then there were the Jets, whose coach, Rex Ryan, is sure to be fired a week from now. They did everything they could to give Ryan a win over the rival Patriots before coming up just short.

By Week 16, when the playoffs are within reach, we have a tendency to write off those teams who have been eliminated from playoff contention. But we shouldn’t. There are a whole lot of players still playing hard, even if we don’t think they have anything to play for. The Jimmy Clausens and the Case Keenums of the world don’t get a lot of credit, but they were some of my favorite players on the field on Sunday.

Here are my other thoughts on this weekend’s action:

J.J. Watt for B.F.P. J.J. Watt won’t win the Most Valuable Player award, mostly because when people think about what constitutes “valuable” they almost always think of a quarterback, or maybe a running back — and they almost always think of a player on a playoff team. But I propose another award, the Best Football Player award, or BFP. If we gave an award for the best player in football, is there any doubt that Watt would win it? In Sunday’s win over the Ravens, Watt had seven solo tackles, one sack, three tackles for loss and four quarterback hits. There’s no better football player than J.J. Watt.

A surprising vote of confidence for Joe Philbin. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said after Sunday’s game that Philbin will remain his head coach, despite the Dolphins being eliminated from the playoffs. That’s surprising. I’m not at all convinced that Philbin, who still hasn’t made the playoffs after three seasons at the helm, deserves to keep his job. Miami has not improved during his time at the helm.

Chip Kelly’s blunder. I like Chip Kelly. I said when he was at Oregon that I thought his system could work in the NFL, and I still think it can. But Kelly made a huge mistake when he cut receiver DeSean Jackson, and it probably cost the Eagles a playoff berth. Jackson burned Philadelphia’s secondary for 126 receiving yards when the Eagles lost at Washington on Sunday, and the Eagles, who averaged 6.8 yards a pass, could have used a big play threat. Sometimes a player is talented enough that a coach has to put up with him, even if the coach doesn’t much like him. Kelly should have sucked it up and put up with Jackson. Cutting Jackson was a mistake.

Robert Griffin III didn’t look good. There’s a tendency to praise any quarterback who wins, but let’s be honest: Even though Washington pulled off an upset over Philadelphia on Saturday, RG3 didn’t play very well. He managed only 220 passing yards and no touchdowns, didn’t do anything impressive running the ball, and threw an ugly interception on an underthrown pass to DeSean Jackson. If Jay Gruden wasn’t convinced before Saturday’s game that RG3 is his quarterback of the future, he isn’t convinced now, either.

Joe Flacco was terrible. Flacco’s halftime stats: 3-for-18, 27 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions, one sack, one fumble and a 0.0 passer rating. Flacco was a little better in the second half (he couldn’t really be any worse), but this was still an abysmal performance by Flacco. The Ravens are paying Flacco a fortune because he came through in a big way when they won the Super Bowl two years ago. But Flacco was nothing short of terrible in a big loss to the Texans on Sunday.

A future Hall of Famer joins an exclusive club. Raiders defensive back Charles Woodson got his 60th interception on Sunday, making him just the 11th player in NFL history to pick off 60 passes. Woodson is the career leader in interceptions among active players and is still playing surprisingly well at age 38. Woodson isn’t getting much attention because he’s on a terrible team in Oakland, but he’s still playing well at an age when few defensive backs are still playing at all.

Panthers-Falcons: Great game or terrible game? There’s no Week 17 game with more at stake than Panthers-Falcons, which is essentially a playoff game because the winner wins the NFC South and the loser goes home. And yet it’s also a matchup of a 6-8-1 team and a 6-9 team. The NFC South is awful, but I confess that I’m looking forward to seeing which seven-win team wins the division. I feel pretty confident saying that those two losing teams will still be playing hard until the end.

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Cowboys bang MVP drum for Tony Romo

Tony Romo, Brandon Carr AP

Sunday was a good day for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

He led a 42-7 rout of the Colts that sewed up the NFC East title and returned the Cowboys to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. He also passed Troy Aikman to become the leading passer in the history of the franchise and continued a December run that’s been nearly flawless for both individual and team. Romo has 10 touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 79.2 percent of his passes in a closing kick that has some in Dallas talking about Romo as the MVP.

Owner Jerry Jones said Romo is the MVP in his book, tight end Jason Witten admitted his bias while saying Romo should be in the mix and Dez Bryant is all for the guy who has helped him to 14 touchdowns this season.

“Hell yeah, he is. He’s the MVP,” Bryant said, via ESPNDallas.com. “Look at the performance. He’s giving ‘em hell in December. Icing on the cake. Give it to him. He’s doing a hell of a job.”

In addition to his strong finishing kick, Romo leads the league in yards per attempt and completion percentage over the course of the entire season and there’s no arguing with the leadership he’s provided to the division champions in Dallas. That should earn him a look from MVP voters, although Aaron Rodgers may ice his own cake with a big outing against the Lions in Week 17’s matchup for the NFC North title.

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