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Patrick Crayton is not happy with San Diego's special teamers

When the Cowboys struggled over the last few years, wide receiver Patrick Crayton wasn’t afraid to point out exactly where they needed to improve.  Joining a new team in San Diego hasn’t changed his penchant for brutal honesty.

On Sunday, San Diego’s league-worst special teams took the brunt of Crayton’s criticism after Seattle upset the Chargers 27-20 on the strength of two Leon Washington kick return touchdowns.

“Right now, [special teams] coach [Steve] Crosby is [ticked] off. I don’t blame him. The
guys who are sitting in the meetings are not taking him seriously when he tells
you to do a certain thing on a kickoff,” a frustrated Crayton said. “He’s been
in this league I don’t know how many years. He’s been around a while for a
reason, obviously. You have to take this stuff seriously.”

Crosby is upset because he knows he’s on the hot seat.  The Chargers’ special teams also cost them a game in the season opener in Kansas City.

Without a dominant defense, the Chargers can’t afford to have the worst special teams group in the league. Through three weeks, that’s exactly what they have.

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Bears banged up on defense, Detroit takes advantage

megatron AP

The Bears’ defense has suffered a couple of first-half injuries today at Detroit, and the Lions are taking advantage.

Bears defensive end Cornelius Washington has been ruled out for the rest of the game with a chest injury, and safety Chris Conte is being evaluated for a concussion. The Bears were already without linebacker Lance Briggs and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, so they’re really hurting.

And the Lions are really taking advantage: After going 25 drives over three games without a single touchdown, Detroit scored on back-to-back drives. The first was a nine-play, 78-yard drive that ended with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson. The second was a 10-play, 86-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run from Joique Bell.

That gave the Lions a 17-14 lead. The Bears started fast, with two Alshon Jeffery touchdown passes, but the Lions have turned this game around in a hurry.

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New stadium isn’t giving the 49ers a true home-field advantage

49ers Getty Images

The 49ers christened a new home stadium this year, but they’re still waiting for a new home-field advantage.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News takes a look at the relatively tranquil” atmosphere at Levi’s Stadium.  And Kawakami makes a great point — if a home-field advantage doesn’t emerge tonight against the Seahawks, it never will.

The 49ers are 4-2 at home this season, with no convincing victories.  Most recently, San Francisco barely beat Washington.

The toughest test comes against the Seahawks.  As Kawakami said, if it’s not loud and raucous in Santa Clara tonight, perhaps it never will be.

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More than half of the 2012 top 10 may not have options exercised

Luck Getty Images

Once the 2014 regular season ends, players drafted in 2012 will become eligible for new contracts.  By May 3, teams holding the rights of first-round picks must decide whether to extend their rookie deals for a fifth year.

Based on the performance of the first 10 players taken in 2012, there’s a good chance more than half of them won’t have their contracts extended.  Here’s a look at each of them.

1.  Andrew Luck, Colts:  The option definitely will be exercised.  Based on how the Colts dealt with Peyton Manning, Luck presumably won’t get a long-term deal until he completes his rookie contract and has the franchise tag applied.

2.  Robert Griffin III, Washington:  As of right now, it’s not looking good.  To say the least.

3.  Trent Richardson, Colts:  Traded from the Browns after one season and still disappointing in his second year in Indy, the Colts most likely won’t extend Richardon’s deal.

4.  Matt Kalil, Vikings:  Solid at times and spectacularly bad in big moments, there’s a strong belief that the Vikings won’t extend Kalil’s contract.  Just like they didn’t extend Christian Ponder’s.

5.  Justin Blackmon, Jaguars:  His option won’t come due in May because his rookie deal has been tolled by a suspension that has lasted more than a calendar year.

6.  Morris Claiborne, Cowboys:  He had fallen out of favor — and out of the starting lineup — before suffering a season-ending injury.  Dallas undoubtedly will pass.

7.  Mark Barron, Rams:  Traded from Tampa at the October deadline, the Rams most likely won’t be inclined to make the investment necessary to keep him from the open market after four seasons.

8.  Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins:  This could be the toughest decision for any team in the top 10.  Tannehill has been good but not great.  Productive but erratic.  Still, if they let him go after four seasons, who will the quarterback be?  That’s probably enough to swing the pendulum to yes.

9.  Luke Kuechly, Panthers:  Yes, without question.

10.  Stephon Gilmore, Bills:  A solid contributor but not yet a star player, it could be more of an investment than the team wants to make.  Especially if there’s a new coach or G.M. after the season.

To summarize, Luck and Kuechly are locks.  Tannehill is likely to get the option.  Beyond that, who knows?

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Bears strike first in Detroit

stafford AP

In the early moments in Detroit, the Bears have done everything right and the Lions have done everything wrong.

Detroit received the opening kickoff and Jeremy Ross took it out of the end zone, only to get tackled at the 14-yard line. The Lions’ offense then took the field and went three-and-out, with two Joique Bell runs for minus-1 yard, followed by Matthew Stafford badly missing a wide-open Calvin Johnson on third down.

After the Lions’ punt, the Bears methodically marched the ball down the field on a six-play, 55-yard drive that ended with Alshon Jeffery catching a short pass from Jay Cutler and running in for a 10-yard touchdown.

This is a must-win game for the Lions, who are on a two-game losing streak. If they keep playing like this, we’ll be able to cross them off the list of playoff contenders in the NFC.

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NFL: Rams-Raiders will remain in St. Louis

Shaun Hill AP

On Wednesday, there was a report in the Indianapolis Star about the “remote possibility” that Sunday’s game between the Raiders and Rams would be moved from St. Louis to a Monday start in Indianapolis because of the ongoing tension in Ferguson, Missouri.

The report said that Lucas Oil Stadium was ready to serve as a site for the game in the event that a decision was made that it wasn’t safe enough to play as scheduled, but that won’t be necessary. While we don’t know when that tension in Ferguson will ease, we do know that the remote possibility is no longer a possibility at all.

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com passes along word from a league spokesman that the game will be played as scheduled at the Edward Jones Dome with a 1 p.m. ET kickoff on Sunday. That avoids a second straight week with two Monday night games after the Jets and Bills were shifted to Detroit in Week 12 after the mammoth blizzard that buried Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo.

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Will any Thanksgiving records fall today?

OJ Getty Images

As the first of three Thanksgiving games approaches, let’s take a quick look at the history of the best of the best performances on the fourth Thursday in November.

Courtesy of the 2014 Official NFL Record & Fact Book, here are the single-game records from the league’s annual Thanksgiving game.

On Thanksgiving Day in 1929, Ernie Nevers scored six touchdowns for the Cardinals in a game against the Bears.  On three other Thanksgiving occasions, players have scored four times.  Most recently, NBCSN’s Brian Westbrook racked up a quartet of touchdowns for the Eagles against the Cardinals in 2008.

Another record could be a little easier to beat today, but not much.  On Thanksgiving in 1976, Bills running back O.J. Simpson (pictured) gained 273 yards on the ground against the Lions.  There hasn’t even been another 200-yard Thanksgiving rushing performance, with Bob Hoernschemeyer gaining 198 for the Lions in 1950 against the New York Yankees, and Earl Campbell grinding out 195 for the Oilers against the Cowboys in 1979.

Through the air, Troy Aikman passed for 455 yards against the Vikings on the day then-rookie Randy Moss exploded for three touchdowns on three catches.  Matthew Stafford nearly matched that total for the Lions in 2012, with 441 yards passing.  And long before Scott Mitchell went for nearly four spins on the scale, he threw for 410 yards for the Lions in a 1995 Thanksgiving Day win over the Vikings.

When it comes to receiving yardage, Jim Benton of the Browns racked up 303 yards against the Lions 69 years ago on Thanksgiving.  The next highest total came in 2012, with Andre Johnson generating 188 yards for the Texans against the Lions.

Will any of those records fall today?  It’s one of the wrinkles that will fascinate fans and fantasy owners as kickoff approaches.

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Reggie Bush, Riley Reiff out for Lions against Bears

Detroit Lions v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Lions hoped to have running back Reggie Bush back this week, but his ankle didn’t cooperate.

Bush is inactive for Detroit’s Thanksgiving game against the Bears, making it three straight games that Bush has missed as a result of the injury. He also missed two other games earlier in the year, which may be a contributing factor to the Lions ranking 28th in points scored this season.

Compounding the issues for the Lions Offense on Thursday will be the absence of left tackle Riley Reiff. Like Bush, Reiff was listed as questionable for the game but left off the 46-man roster. Reiff is dealing with a knee injury that knocked him out of last weekend’s lopsided loss to the Patriots. Cornelius Lucas is expected to play in his place.

The Bears had one questionable player on Wednesday, but cornerback Kyle Fuller got the nod in spite of a knee injury. That keeps alive the possibility that he’ll face off with his brother, Lions wideout Corey Fuller, at some point on a day usually spent with family. Linebacker Lance Briggs, wide receiver Chris Williams, linebacker Darryl Sharpton, defensive end Trevor Scott, offensive lineman Eben Britton, defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff and cornerback Terrance Mitchell are inactive for Chicago.

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley, guard Larry Warford, quarterback Kellen Moore, receiver Ryan Broyles and defensive end Larry Webster round out Detroit’s list of inactives.

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Colts make a change at cornerback

Cassius Vaughn, Jalil Brown, Randy Bullock AP

The arrival of Shaun Phillips isn’t the only change for the Indianapolis defense this week.

The team announced that they have signed cornerback Jalil Brown and waived cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy.

Brown was released by the Dolphins earlier in the week and will be making his third tour of duty with the Colts. Brown spent time with them late last season and played two games with them earlier this year. Brown also has another spell with the Dolphins and began his career with the Chiefs after they took him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft.

He’ll likely fill the same special teams-centric role that Purifoy played for the team, although there’s a chance he could see time on defense with Vontae Davis, Josh Gordy and Greg Toler all appearing on this week’s injury report.

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Peterson materials due to be filed by Friday

Peterson Getty Images

Next Tuesday, the appeal hearing in Adrian Peterson’s case will commence at 10:00 a.m. ET.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Peterson has until Friday, November 28 to submit any materials that he intends to introduce at the hearing.

It’s unknown what, if anything, Peterson will introduce.  Peterson submitted nothing to the NFL before the decision was made to suspend him for the rest of the 2014 season.

What Peterson submits potentially could have a huge impact on the outcome of the appeal.  If, of course, hearing officer Harold Henderson is willing to break from his track record of siding with the NFL in these appeals.

It’s unclear how quickly a ruling will be issued.  In theory, Peterson could be back as soon as December 7, for a visit from the Jets.

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Odell Beckham gives all the love to the glove

Odell Beckham Jr. AP

Making the catch of the year was mostly Odell Beckham.

But the Giants wide receiver admitted he’s not sure if he could have made his now-famous, falling-backward, three-fingered catch without his gloves.

I have no idea,” Beckham said, via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News.

Beckham’s gloves are Nike Vapor Jets, size XXXL (which may also explain how he catches flying things with one hand), which he’s been wearing since his college days at LSU.

“I definitely told them they were some of my favorites that they made,” Beckham said. “It’s just the way that they fit. They’re a tight fit, they’re very light, and they feel like they’re a part of your hand.”

If the gloves were the secret, everyone would be wearing them, but we suspect Beckham’s hands deserve a little more of the credit.

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Thanks NFL for giving us three great games today

turkey-pic-getty-images-185517752 Getty Images

On Thanksgiving, the NFL enjoys a captive audience.  With a trio of games starting at 12:30 p.m. ET and lasting possibly until midnight, monitors throughout America will be bouncing from CBS to FOX to NBC.

As Costanza said when asked why anyone would watch a show about nothing, “Because it’s on TV.”  Whatever NFL games would be on TV today, we’d all be watching.

But the NFL has given us a trio of great games, involving five of the seven NFC teams vying for the five playoff spots that won’t go to the none-of-the-above NFC South.  It starts with Bears-Lions, a Thanksgiving matchup that has happened 10 prior times.  It continues with the first of two games involving what turned out to be the top two teams in the NFC East, the 8-3 Eagles and 8-3 Cowboys.

And it finishes with the first encounter between the Seahawks and 49ers since January.  That time, it was an elimination game.  This time, it could have the same effect, knocking the loser to 7-5 and making it much harder to get to the postseason.

The biggest challenge for today?  Staying awake for the whole thing after gobbling up plenty of gobble gobble gobble turkey from jive turkey gobblers.

Of course, the NFL’s goal isn’t entirely altruistic.  Bigger games ensure even bigger audiences.  Also, the sense of gratitude that comes from having compelling games broken out from the scrum of Sunday action helps strengthen the bond with customers.

Regardless, it worked.  Thank you, NFL, for choosing great games for the fourth Sunday in Thanksgiving.

The nationally-televised games on Sunday’s slate — Patriots-Packers and Broncos-Chiefs — aren’t too shabby, either.  As to Monday night and the Dolphins at the Jets, well, I guess we can’t have everything.

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Coaching staff wanted Vick, gets Geno instead

Vick AP

There’s no greater sign of dysfunction in a professional sports organization than folks who lack the qualifications to make coaching decisions making coaching decisions.

In the current chase for the title of most dysfunctional organization in the NFL, the Jets have a clear edge over Washington in this category.

In Washington, coach Jay Gruden apparently has the power to pick his quarterback.  In New York, coach Rex Ryan apparently doesn’t.

Per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, Ryan, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, and the “majority” of others in the organization wanted to stick with Mike Vick.  Instead, Geno Smith will return to the starting lineup.

Vick seems to have the same sense of resignation that prompted the coaching staff to go along with the switch back to Geno Smith.

“I don’t own this organization,” Vick said Wednesday.  “I just play for it.  Why do things happen?  I don’t know.  I don’t ask too many questions.”

The decision to return to Smith possibly arises from a desire to answer any lingering question about whether Smith has a future with the organization.  Or maybe owner Woody Johnson has realized that there are legitimate ways to improve draft position by tanking games down the stretch.  With the Jets eliminated from the playoffs, why not make it easier to climb higher in the pecking order to get the true franchise quarterback that the franchise hasn’t had since . . . since . . . Joe Namath?

Ultimately, the dysfunction that results in the front office and/or ownership overriding the coaching staff could be the only solution to a 4.5-decade failure to get back to the Super Bowl.

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Report: Indy ready for “remote possibility” of Rams game moving

St. Louis Rams vs San Diego Chargers Getty Images

While it seems unlikely at this point, the NFL has at least looked into the chance of moving Sunday’s Raiders-Rams game in St. Louis because of the tension in nearby Ferguson.

According to Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star, a league source called it a “remote possibility,” though Indianapolis would be ready to host the game Monday if need be.

He cited public safety officials saying they’d be ready and concessions workers saying they were “on call,” if the game needed to be played there Monday.

While it’s likely just a contingency plan (one which frankly every team should have in a folder in a locked drawer somwhere), the fact it’s a possibility should underscore the seriousness of the situation in Missouri.

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Sean Payton reminding Saints of past turnarounds

Sean Payton AP

When the Saints won the Super Bowl after the 2009 season, they became the first team to take home a Lombardi Trophy after losing their final three games of the regular season.

That doesn’t mean that every team with championship aspirations should be trying to drop games at the end of the season, but it does mean that good runs can follow bad ones over the course of a year. That’s a message that Saints coach Sean Payton is trying to send to this year’s edition after they dropped three straight games at the Superdome to miss a chance to grab control of the NFC South.

Instead they fell to 4-7 and Payton feels there’s “value to referencing” past turnarounds in New Orleans and elsewhere as a way to keep the team focused on what’s still possible for them this season.

“You’re constantly, as a teacher, trying to do that,” Payton said, via the Associated Press. “You look at some parallels, some comparisons.”

Whether it’s those Saints, a Giants team that saved Tom Coughlin’s job or any of the other moments in sports history when a contender rose off the mat, there are plenty of examples that show it ain’t over until it’s over. This version of the Saints will have to play much better to join those teams, starting with this Sunday in Pittsburgh.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Terrell Suggs (55) AP

Donte Whitner’s not backing off comments he made about Buffalo and the Bills.

The Dolphins aren’t fooling themselves about the late-season danger of the Jets.

Patriots special teamer Matt Slater is thankful for a new contract.

The Jets fans who buy billboards have a new target — owner Woody Johnson.

Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs reached the 100-sack milestone last week.

The Bengals are comfortable on the road.

Browns LB Karlos Dansby is “close” to coming back from a knee injury.

Steelers backup RBs Dri Archer and Josh Harris are ready for their chance to run.

Finding an answer at QB tops the Texans’ offseason priorities (since it didn’t last offseason).

The Colts can’t be sure their running game will carry them into January.

After poking holes in QB Blake Bortles earlier in the week, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley was building him back up.

The Titans added a LB after releasing veteran Shaun Phillips.

Broncos LB Danny Trevathan returned to practice.

The Chiefs will have a tough time replacing S Eric Berry.

Raiders G Gabe Jackson is working his way back to the starting lineup.

Chargers C Chris Watt is the next man up, again.

Cowboys LB Keith Smith is riding the practice squad roller coaster.

The Giants are trying to blitz, it’s just not working.

The Eagles are still giving up far too many downfield plays.

Some Washington teammates were surprised by the decision to bench Robert Griffin III.

The Bears can’t worry about style points today.

Will this be Lions DT Ndamukong Suh’s last Thanksgiving with the team?

Packers WR Jordy Nelson isn’t sure which Patriots CB he’ll draw.

Vikings RT Phil Loadholt expects to be back by training camp.

The Falcons added some WR depth to the practice squad.

The Panthers aren’t expecting DT Star Lotulelei back this week.

Saints TE Benjamin Watson’s Facebook post about Ferguson went viral.

The Buccaneers continue to be hamstrung by a series of, well, hamstrings.

Cardinals DE Josh Mauro made a good first impression.

Rams WR Stedman Bailey has emerged as an option in the passing game again.

49ers RT Jonathan Martin is set to make his seventh start tonight.

The Seahawks are back on top of the league’s defensive rankings.

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