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Week Four Friday 10-pack

It’s Friday morning.  And since the news flow often slows down on Friday morning, we need to fill space.

So we fill space with 10 story lines emanating from the upcoming slate of games.

It’s harder with two or three storyline-worthy teams on a bye, but we eventually found a way to milk the cow this week.


1.  Jets could soon be soaring.

After a disappointing Monday night loss to break in their half of the
New Meadowlands Stadium (it’s sort of like Fred and Barney sharing a
swimming pool
), the Jets have won two in a row against their primary
division rivals.  And they’ve done it with cornerback Darrelle Revis and
linebacker Calvin Pace injured, and with receiver Santonio Holmes on
suspension.

So what happens when those guys come back?

The Vikings could find out on Monday, October 11, when Holmes definitely
be back — and when Revis and/or Pace could be dressed and playing, too.

Considering the level of play that the Jets have achieved without them,
the Jets could be poised to run away with the division.  Until then,
they won’t even have to switch to missiles to shoot down the Bills.

2.  Last chance for Mangini?

The Browns have been competitive in each of their first three games.  But they’ve lost each one.

After this weekend’s visit from the Bengals, the Browns play the Falcons, Steelers, and Saints.  Then comes the bye week.

As a result, a loss to Cincinnati on Sunday would make an 0-7 start
likely, and team president Mike Holmgren could decide to part ways with
coach Eric Mangini.  And so Sunday’s game could be Mangini’s last and
best chance to preserve his job beyond October 31.

If the Browns don’t win in Week Four, and in turn don’t pull off an
unlikely upset of the Falcons, Steelers, or Saints, there’s a chance
that, when the Jets come to Cleveland on November 14, coach Rex Ryan
could be looking across the sideline at his identical twin, Browns
defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

3.  Running back injuries confirm 18-game season concerns.

With Colts president Bill Polian sparking a belated debate regarding the
wisdom of an 18-game season, one of the primary concerns is (or at
least should be) the impact of two additional games on the short-term
and long-term health of the players.

Indeed, with seven running backs (Steven Jackson of the Rams, Pierre
Thomas of the Saints, Jahvid Best of the Lions, Ray Rice of the Ravens,
Cedric Benson of the Bengals, Fred Taylor of the Patriots, and Knowshon
Moreno of the Broncos) already dinged up after only three games and
Reggie Bush of the Saints out with a broken leg, the league and
the union need to be very concerned about the potential consequences of
additional games on the players who take the brunt of the punishment in
the 16 games that already are played.

Though the move from 14 to 16 games in the ’70s occurred without much public discussion or debate, the three-channels television universe and the absence of talk radio and the Internet fueled that outcome.  Besides, players continue to get bigger, faster, and stronger.  When they hit each other, the bones and ligaments we all possess are at more risk than ever before.

4.  Team of destiny wanted.

Last year, it was obvious after three weeks that the Saints and Colts
were headed for big things.  New Orleans hung 45 on the Lions, winning
by 18, and 48 on the Eagles, winning by 26.  Held under 30 by the Bills,
the Saints still won by 20.

The Colts started more slowly, beating the Jags by two and the Dolphins
by four.  By Week Three, however, the Colts had taken down the defending
NFC champions (the Cardinals) by 21.

This year, none of the three remaining undefeated teams have rolled over
their opponents consistently.  The Steelers and the Chiefs won close
games in Week One and Week Two before notching 20-plus point victories in
Week Three.  The Bears have won by five points, seven points, and three
points.

The absence of a team that clearly and definitively is taking care of
its business has reinforced the sense of parity that could be laying the
foundation for a playoff run with plenty of teams still alive, and a
postseason in which anything can happen.

For now, the Steelers are the team most likely to emerge as the team to
beat, but first they have to beat the Ravens on Sunday.  If the Steelers
can’t — and if the Bears lose on the road against the Giants — the
off-this-Sunday Chiefs could be the only undefeated team left after four
weeks of action.

Somewhere, Pete Rozelle will be smiling broadly.

5.  Time for Texans to prove themselves.

When the Texans toppled the Colts to open the season, the team that has
played eight years without a playoff berth seemed to be destined to
finally bust through to the postseason.  But then the Texans struggled
to beat a Redskins team that suddenly has inherited the stink of the
Rams, and the Texans lost fairly convincingly to in-state rivals who
were on the ropes, in danger of being punched through.

So are the Texans a contender, or did they merely give the first game of the season the Daytona 500 treatment?

Beating the Raiders won’t mean conclusively that the Texans are legit,
but losing will mean that Houston isn’t ready to hang with the likes of
the Colts and the Titans in arguably the best division in the
conference, if not the league.

6.  Desperation shifts from Dallas to New York.

Last week, a strong sense of desperation emerged in Dallas, where the
Cowboys had lost their first two games — and faced falling to 0-3 at
the hands of an upstart team from Houston that had started the year 2-0.

The Cowboys found a way to push the dark cloud away last week, and it
now has settled in New York, over the Rubble half of the Fred-and-Barney
pool.  (That’s the third Flintstones reference of the day.  And it’s not even 1966.)

The Giants, after beating the Panthers (who have turned out to be
toothless, de-clawed, malnourished house cats), have been spanked by the Colts and
Titans in successive weeks.  Only 14 days after losing decisively in
Indy, the Giants cannot afford to be embarrassed again before a national
audience.  (On NBC.)

With their backs firmly pressed against the wall and the Bears
overachieving their way through two of their three wins, look for the
Giants to get their act together, if only for a night.

And who knows?  Three years ago, the Giants lost their first two games
and gave up 80 points in the process.  More than four months later, they
only won the Super Bowl.

7.  Fins, Pats face “must” wins.

Yeah, it’s only Week Four.  But with the Jets, Dolphins, and Patriots
getting an early start on their round-robin routine, neither the
Patriots nor the Dolphins can afford to drop to 0-2.

The Dolphins need it even more; they play the Jets in New York on
December 12 and the Pats in New England on January 2.  Already in danger
of being swept by the Jets, the Dolphins can’t afford to lose at home
to New England, if the Dolphins have genuine designs on winning the
division.

The Patriots need this one, too.  But they still get the Jets and the
Dolphins at home.  For the Dolphins, the season could potentially be over less than a
month after it began.

8.  Loss to Browns could help the Bengals in the long run.

The Bengals, despite their 2-1 record, don’t project the same vibe as
they did a year ago.  With a good defense (Week One at New England
notwithstanding) and a capable running back, the Bengals have relied too
heavily on the passing game.

Though T.O. has thrown the offensive line under the bus without overtly
throwing the offensive line under the bus, questions persist regarding
quarterback Carson Palmer.  Whether he has lingering elbow issues or he
simply has lost his zip on the ball, the Bengals seem to be in the same
style of denial that plagued the Panthers in 2009, when they refused to
face reality regarding quarterback Jake Delhomme.

And so a loss to the Browns could help jar the Bengals into facing
reality.   Eventually, they need to ask themselves whether Palmer
truly represents the future of the franchise at the quarterback
position.

With a base salary of $11.5 million due to Palmer in 2011, we’ve got a
feeling that, win or lose on Sunday, the notoriously frugal Bengals will
think long and hard about paying that much money to a guy who has no
career playoff wins, and whose best days may be fading far behind him.

9.  Snyder’s biggest test could be coming.

For more than 11 years, Daniel Snyder has owned the Redskins.  And for
most of that time, Snyder has been impatient when it comes to the men
who are coaching the team.

After two years, Norv Turner was dumped.  (A playoff appearance likely
saved him in 1999.)  Marty Schottenheimer lasted a season.  Steve
Spurrier made it for two.  But for his resume and Hall of Fame bust, Joe
Gibbs may not have made it four years.  Jim Zorn lasted only two.

And throughout most if not all of Zorn’s final year, Snyder was wooing
(or at least planning to woo) Mike Shanahan, the presumed savior of the
franchise.

In Week One, it appeared to be a brilliant move, thanks to an unexpected
win over the Cowboys.  But after blowing a 17-point lead against the
Texans and somehow losing by 14 against the Rams, the Redskins face what
could be a very long day at Lincoln Financial Field.

It gets no easier with the Packers and Colts coming to town, followed by trips to Chicago and Detroit.

Yes, Detroit, where the Lions managed to beat the Redskins in 2009, for
their first win in 22 games.  After a bye, the Redskins have the Eagles
again, the Titans, the Vikings, the Giants twice, and the Cowboys
again.

It all easily could add up to a losing season.  Though the outcome may
be better than 4-12, it easily could be yet another two-digit collection
of losses.  And then Snyder will have to find a way to resist the urge
to act, and to instead commit to staying the course.

Given the open and obvious salivating for Shanahan, there’s no way
Snyder can make a change after only one year.  Based on his history,
however, Snyder surely will approach 2011 with questions swirling in his
mind as to whether there might be another guy out there whose name
Snyder should pencil onto the top of the latest version of his wish
list.

10.  Rams have a chance to make some noise.

Based on their pattern of three wins in 2007, two in 2008, and one in 2009, the Rams were on track to go 0-16 in 2010.

Already, they’ve blown that trend out of the water by climbing to 1-2.

This weekend, the Rams have a chance to break a 10-game losing streak to
the Seahawks, a string that dates back to 2004, when St. Louis took
three games from their division rivals, include two in the usually
impenetrable Qwest Field.

If they can — and if the Cardinals lose in San Diego — the Rams will
find themselves in a  three-way tie atop the division after four weeks.

With three of the next four games against the Lions, Bucs, and Panthers,
the Rams could be on the right side of .500 at the bye.  And that could
give them the confidence they need to make a serious run at the
division crown and the postseason home game that goes along with it.

Sure, they likely won’t win the division.  But the fact that they won’t
be dead in the water with 25 percent of the season in the books is
nothing short of stunning.

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Signs not pointing to Sammy Watkins playing

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 15:   Sammy Watkins #14 of the Buffalo Bills gets upended by  Calvin Pryor #25 of the New York Jets  during the second half at New Era Field on September 15, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

He’s listed as questionable, which currently means he’s at worst a 50-50 proposition to play. However, coach Rex Ryan made it sound like receiver Sammy Watkins is more doubtful than questionable.

Probably not real good,” Ryan said Friday regarding the likelihood Watkins will play, via Nick Veronica of the Buffalo News. “But we’ll see. If he feels good and he’s up to it, we’ll put him in there.”

Complicating matters is that someone stepped on Watkins’ injured foot during a walk-through this week. He had surgery on the foot during the offseason.

Watkins has six catches for 63 yards and no touchdowns in two games this season.

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With Antonio Gates doubtful, Chargers call up a tight end

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 28: Harrison Smith #22 of the Minnesota Vikings tackles Hunter Henry #86 of the San Diego Chargers during the first quarter of the game on August 28, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

Chargers  tight end Antonio Gates is doubtful for Sunday’s game at Indianapolis, with a hamstring injury. In anticipation of Gates not playing, the Chargers have added another tight end to the active roster.

The Chargers promoted Asante Cleveland from the practice squad. To create a spot for Cleveland, the Chargers waived running back Andre Williams.

With Gates unlikely to play, rookie Hunter Henry should get plenty of reps and plenty of opportunities to catch passes from Philip Rivers.

Henry has only one catch in two targets. That likely will change on Sunday, if as it appears Gates doesn’t play.

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Lions cut Aaron Dobson to make room for a linebacker

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 27:   Aaron Dobson #17 of the New England Patriots makes a catch with pressure from  Peyton Thompson #25 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third quarter at Gillette Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

Aaron Dobson’s stint as a Lion was a short one.

The Lions, who signed Dobson on Tuesday, announced that they waived him today.

With two linebackers, DeAndre Levy and Antwione Williams, ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Packers, the Lions had a bigger need at that position. So they signed linebacker Zaviar Gooden to the active roster from the practice squad and waived Dobson to create a roster spot for Gooden.

Dobson, the former Patriots receiver, could return to Detroit once the Lions have a spot for him on their roster.

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Twitter’s NFL stream won’t build momentum in Week Four

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Twitter scored an impressive 34-percent increase in average viewership for its live stream of Thursday Night Football from Week Two to Week Three.

For Week Four, count on a 100-percent drop.

The game between the Dolphins and Bengals will be televised only by NFL Network. As a result, it won’t be streamed on Twitter.

That was the arrangement from the get-go, with Twitter streaming only the games televised on NFLN and CBS or NBC.

The exclusivity of the broadcast relates directly to NFL Network’s arrangements with cable and satellite providers. The ability to charge the rate the NFL currently receives hinges on having a certain amount of game content.

This means that, during those weeks when games are televised by NFLN only, they won’t be available on Twitter. Which will make it hard to develop viewing habits on Twitter — and which undoubtedly will result in plenty of complaints from users who dial up Twitter on Thursday night in search of Dolphins-Bengals but can’t find it.

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Jeff Fisher won’t say which quarterback will be inactive

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Head coach Jeff Fisher of the Los Angeles Rams attends warm ups before the start of the home opening NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Coliseum on September 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

Prior to Week One against the 49ers, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said rookie quarterback Jared Goff would be inactive. Prior to Week Two against the Seahawks, Fisher said Goff would be active.

Prior to Week Three at Tampa, Fisher’s not saying anything.

“Don’t know yet,” Fisher told reporters on Friday. “Have to wait and see. . . . Come to the game.”

Fisher has decided that one of the quarterbacks will be inactive. It will be Goff or Sean Mannion.

The decision to suddenly be circumspect could be a sign that Fisher is thinking about using his second quarterback, if starter Case Keenum can’t get the offense into the end zone. Through two games, the Rams have yet to score a touchdown.

There’s no guarantee Goff would be the next man up. Mannion earned the No. 2 spot on the depth chart before the season began; if Fisher gets fed up with Keenum, Mannion could get a chance to play before Goff would be pressed into service. Once Goff is on the field, it will be hard to bench him for Mannion or Keenum, given the move the Rams made to the top of the draft to get him.

Regardless, if the Bucs are inclined to prepare for a second quarterback on Sunday, they won’t know who that will be until 90 minutes before kickoff.

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Cutler makes the trip, but Bears downgrade two

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 18:  Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears throws a pass during the NFL game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 18, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan.  The Lions defeated the Bears 37-34 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Injured quarterback Jay Cutler made the trip, but the Bears announced Saturday that running back Kadeem Carey and nose tackle Eddie Goldman did not make the trip and will not play Sunday night at Dallas.

All three had been listed as doubtful. Cutler suffered a thumb injury in last Monday’s game vs. the Eagles and did not practice all week.

Brian Hoyer is the presumed starting quarterback vs. the Cowboys.

Goldman, the Bears’ starting nose tackle, is one of several players who was injured in last week’s game. The Bears still list nine players as questionable, including wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, guard Josh Sitton, right tackle Bobby Massie, safety Adrian Amos and linebacker Willie Young.

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Elway on Osweiler: The deals you don’t make at times are the best

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Brock Osweiler #17 of the Houston Texans reacts during the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 22, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) Getty Images

Brock Osweiler looked like anything but an $18 million per year quarterback on Thursday night as the Texans were shut out in New England, and the guy who nearly signed him for not much less than that noticed.

“A lot of times those deals you don’t make are the best ones,” Broncos executive V.P. of football operations and G.M. John Elway told Dave Logan and Susie Wargin of KOA radio on Friday.

Though Elway was responding to specific question and had a lighthearted tone, he said what he said, and it’ll be interesting to see what Osweiler and the Texans eventually have to say about that.

“Obviously it was a tough night for Houston last night and — but things move on,” Elway added. “You try to make the best decision when you have to make it. . . . Excluding last night, we really felt good with the way everything’s fallen, the way we went into camp, and we’re really excited with the guys who are playing the position for us now.”

Osweiler’s replacement, Trevor Siemian, has one touchdown pass and three interceptions in two games, both at home. On Sunday, the Broncos play a true road game for the first time since December 20, a stretch of seven games without having to entire hostile territory.

The Broncos will be in their own back yard on October 24, when Osweiler returns to town with the Texans. Elway’s comments likely will provide extra motivation; based, however, on what happened Thursday night, they’ll need a lot more than motivation to match up with the defending NFL champions.

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Clay Matthews ruled out as Packers downgrade four

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 10: Inside linebacker Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers in action against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on January 10, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Packers’ defense is ailing heading into Sunday’s game against the Lions.

Green Bay announced today that linebacker Clay Matthews and safety Morgan Burnett have both been ruled out, after previously being listed as doubtful.

The Packers also downgraded two players who were previously listed as questionable — defensive tackle Letroy Guion and linebacker Datone Jones — to doubtful. Players listed as doubtful hardly ever play.

Packers cornerback Sam Shields was already ruled out with a concussion, so Green Bay’s defense is seriously depleted.

Of course, the Lions won’t have any sympathy, as three of their key defensive players are out as well in defensive end Ziggy Ansah and linebackers DeAndre Levy and Antwione Williams.
For the

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Kubiak on Siemian: “He’s made some poor decisions”

Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian (13) thaws as Los Angeles Rams defensive end Eugene Sims (97) pursues during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney) AP

Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian has three interceptions in his first two starts, and coach Gary Kubiak says those passes showed that Siemian has a long way to go in his decision-making.

Kubiak noted that Siemian still sometimes makes throws as if he thinks the opposing defenders have college speed. NFL defenders can intercept a pass that would have been out of a college defender’s range, and Siemian needs to learn that.

“He’s made some poor decisions,” Kubiak said, via ESPN. “I know that sounds kind of crazy, but it’s just learning that, ‘Trevor, That guy can make that play. You’re not in college anymore. You’re not going to throw that ball through that guy.’ I think some of the speed of the game factors that he’s beginning to understand a little bit is going to make him better each week.”

Kubiak is blunt, but he’s got a point: The Broncos are 2-0, but Siemian needs to make better decisions if they’re going to keep winning.

If Siemian doesn’t make better decisions, Kubiak may turn to rookie first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch. Kubiak showed last year that he wasn’t afraid to make changes at quarterback, from Peyton Manning to Brock Osweiler and back again. The Broncos also showed last year that to win with their defense, they don’t need great quarterback play, just adequate quarterback play. Siemian will have to cut down the mistakes if he wants Kubiak to view him as adequate enough to keep the job.

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Giants make roster swap, promote a safety

IRVING, TX - JANUARY 13:  A New York Giants helmet sits on the field before the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium on January 13, 2008 in Irving, Texas.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants promoted safety Andrew Adams from the practice squad on Saturday.

Cornerback Michael Hunter, who’d been promoted earlier in the week, was waived to make room for Adams on the roster.

Adams, an undrafted rookie, becomes the team’s third safety for Sunday’s game vs. the Redskins. Starter Darian Thompson will miss the game with a foot injury, and Nat Berhe will take his spot in the starting lineup.

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Saturday one-liners

UNITED STATES - MAY 15:  May 15, 1955, California, Los Angeles, On The Honeymooners TV show Jackie Gleason.  (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images) Getty Images

The honeymoon is definitely over between Bills fans and Rex Ryan.

With RB Arian Foster out, the Dolphins will use a committee approach at the position.

Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount is becoming a second-half force, with 92 yards and a touchdown in the final two quarters against Miami and 94 yards and two scores in the final two quarters against Houston.

Jets RB Bilal Powell says he’s not worried about a lack of opportunities in the first two games.

The Ravens will wear a helmet decal for the rest of the season to honor defensive line coach Clarence Brooks, who recently passed after fighting stomach and esophageal cancer.

Bengals OT Cedric Ogbuehi is ready to face Von Miller; “He’s probably the best player right now,” Ogbuehi said. “It’s exciting for me. This is why they drafted me. To block guys like him.”

The Browns are dealing with plenty of injuries.

Steelers RB DeAngelo Williams may revisit his position regarding references to his age if he becomes the the oldest running back in NFL history to gain 300 or more yards in the first three games of a season.

Texans WR Jaelen Strong had a rough night in New England.

If you’re curious to know the names of some of the Colts’ new cornerbacks, don’t ask their teammates.

Opponents likely will pick on Jaguars CB Dwayne Gratz until he irons out the mistakes.

The 9/11 cleats worn in Week One by Titans LB Avery Williamson raised $6,600 at auction.

With Donald Stephenson out, the Broncos will rotate Michael Schofield, Ty Sambrailo, and Darrion Weems at right guard and right tackle.

The Chiefs have done well without RB Jamaal Charles; they’ll be even better with him.

Raiders WR Amari Cooper has gotten off to a great start in his second season.

Chargers TE Hunter Henry is in line for plenty of catches this week, and possibly beyond.

Cowboys LT Tyron Smith didn’t finish practice on Friday after his back tightened.

Despite listing RB Rashad Jennings as questionable, the Giants aren’t concerned about his ability to play with a thumb injury.

Eagles DT Destiny Vaeao has made the most of limited playing time.

Washington WR DeSean Jackson will be “ready to roll” despite knee and ankle injuries.

Are the Bears destined for mediocrity unless and until the team is sold?

Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin knows his unit has “faded” in both games.

The Packers have been putting WR Randall Cobb in the backfield at times, but it hasn’t worked yet.

CB Xavier Rhodes could be a difference-maker for the Vikings on Sunday at Carolina.

Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan won’t commit to using the no-huddle offense on a regular basis, despite its success last week in Oakland.

Panthers RB Cameron Artis-Payne will get the start on Sunday, but the team will use a committee approach.

Saints LB Dannell Ellerbe continues to work his way back to full health.

The Buccaneers will unveil stadium upgrades for Sunday’s home opener; they could be a useful distraction if the team plays like it did at Arizona.

The first time Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald played in Buffalo, he didn’t catch a single pass; it’s the only time in his career that he hasn’t.

Rams RB Benny Cunningham had a 102-yard kickoff return against Tampa last season, but didn’t score; this time, he wants to finish the job.

The 49ers haven’t won in Seattle since Christmas Eve 2011.

With three sacks in two games, Seahawks DE Frank Clark already has matched his total for all of 2015.

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Joe Horn: Roger Goodell is the Vladimir Putin of the NFL

joehorn AP

Former NFL player Joe Horn has never hidden his animosity toward NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and now Horn is drawing an interesting parallel between Goodell and an infamous authoritarian leader.

“Roger Goodell is like the Vladimir f–kin Putin of the NFL,” Horn told SI.com. “You quote me on that shit. Roger Goodell is the Vladimir Putin of the NFL when it comes to players. Putin punks every country when he gets ready to. And there’s no rules when it comes to Putin, and Goodell is the same f–kin way when it comes to players. He sets all the standards.”

Asked whether Goodell would kill Horn — as Putin has reportedly had critics killed — Horn admitted that Goodell might not be quite that bad. But he’s pretty bad, in Horn’s view.

“If they read that quote, they would know that he’s not having people killed and none of the players killed,” Horn said. “But as far as dictatorship, as far as making moves to do what he wants, that’s what Putin does.”

Horn’s tenure in the NFL only overlapped briefly with Goodell’s. Paul Tagliabue was the commissioner for most of Horn’s playing career, including his famous cell phone celebration, which resulted in a $30,000 fine from the NFL. But Horn has become a harsh critic of the league under Goodell’s leadership, and Horn is one of the many former players who has sued the NFL over brain injuries.

Horn is far from the first former player to criticize Goodell, but the Putin comparison is a new one.

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Dirk Koetter declines to elaborate on decision to release Austin Seferian-Jenkins

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 26: Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins #87 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins #87 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers catches a touch down pass as outside linebacker Anthony Barr #55 of the Minnesota Vikings defends in the 4th quarter at Raymond James Stadium on October 26, 2014 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff McBride/Getty Images) Getty Images

On Friday, the Buccaneers proved yet again the time-honored sports adage that excuses are made for the stars and examples are made of the scrubs.

A DUI arrest prompted the Bucs to release tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The move came amid lingering concerns about his overall commitment to the game. If a player the team held in significantly higher regard had been arrested for DUI, he surely wouldn’t have been cut.

On Friday night, coach Dirk Koetter addressed the decision to move on from Seferian-Jenkins, without much elaboration.

“Well, it is disappointing and Austin is a guy that we had high hopes for,” Koetter said on SiriusXM NFL Radio, via JoeBucsFan.com. “He was a second-round pick here a couple of years back. He has fought through some injury issues. He’s a very talented individual. It is disappointing when guys, when they make mistakes, and there’s more to every story than meets the eye. Sometimes there is more to it than things I can say on the radio. We wish Austin well. The number one thing is I am glad that Austin is safe and healthy. And I hope he can get himself healthy.”

The use of the term “healthy” at the end of the quote will spark speculation regarding whether Koetter is referring to something beyond physical health. Any team that may be inclined to claim Seferian-Jenkins on waivers won’t have time to do their due diligence about the player’s overall “health” before making a decision on whether to try to snag him before he becomes a free agent.

A second-round pick in 2014, Seferian-Jenkins has 45 career catches for 603 yards and seven touchdowns. He has three receptions for 44 yards and one score in two 2016 games.

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High-school players in Oakland take anthem demonstration to another level

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Four weeks after 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision not to stand during the national anthem was first noticed, a high school team in Oakland has taken the anthem demonstrations to another level — with Kaepernick present.

Former NFL player Kirk Morrison, who currently has several media jobs, posted on Twitter a photos of Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem while the players laid on the ground with their hands up.

The gesture comes in a week that included a pair of fatal shootings by police of an African-American man: Terence Crutcher in Tulsa and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte. The officer who shot and killed Crutcher faces manslaughter charges; in Charlotte, clear evidence has not yet emerged to prove that the shooting was justified — although Scott’s DNA reportedly was found on a gun recovered from the scene of the incident.

Kaepernick has explained that his decision not to stand for the anthem arises from concerns about police misconduct toward African-Americans and people of color, pointing out the degree of training and education required before men and women are authorized to serve on the front lines of law enforcement, armed with a handgun and the authority under certain specific circumstances to draw it and to pull the trigger.

[Photo credit: Twitter.com/kirkmorrison]

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Done deal: Lady Gaga will perform at Super Bowl halftime

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Lady Gaga sings the National Anthem at Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images) Getty Images

The talks have ended, because a deal is done. And if I remembered the names of any of her songs or some of their lyrics, I’d be tempted to start dropping in some stupid puns.

Lady Gaga will perform at halftime of Super Bowl LI in Houston, according to Terry Lefton of SportsBusiness Daily.

The announcement will come on Sunday during FOX’s NFL programming, probably during the pregame show.

It’s unknown whether other performers will be involved in the show. The biggest unknown is whether the unpaid gig has indeed morphed into a revenue source for the league, based on a report from the Wall Street Journal in 2014 that the idea had been floated of, for example, the artist surrendering a portion of increased ticket sales arising from the nine-figure audience the Super Bowl will be delivering.

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