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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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Frank Gore puts in limited practice Thursday

San Francisco 49ers v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

The 49ers appear set to have at least one of their top two tailbacks in the lineup Saturday night against San Diego.

Veteran Frank Gore (concussion) went through a limited practice on Thursday, according to the injury report. Furthermore, head coach Jim Harbaugh indicated Gore was on schedule to play against the Chargers.

The 49ers’ all-time leading rusher, the 31-year-old Gore needs 229 yards to reach 11,000 for his career. He is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Gore paces the Niners (7-7) with 804 rushing yards on 204 carries.

While Gore appears to be progressing, rookie tailback Carlos Hyde (ankle) sat out a second straight practice Thursday. If Hyde were out, Alfonso Smith would be in line to back up Gore, with Phillip Tanner also in reserve.

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With win, Jaguars currently fourth in draft order

Kris Durham, Dwayne Gratz AP

The Titans’ 21-13 loss at Jacksonville puts Tennessee in the lead for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. The outcome also moves the Jaguars down the board to No. 4 overall. Both Jacksonville and Tennessee are guaranteed no worse than a top-six pick in Round One, which will be held April 30 in Chicago.

Here’s how the top 10 picks would look if the season ended today. All non-playoff teams are ordered by record, with each club’s strength of schedule (in parentheses) the first tiebreaker. The 12 playoff teams are seeded based on postseason results and their records.

1. Tennessee (2-13, .483).

2. Tampa Bay (2-12, .467).

3. Oakland (2-12, .571).

4. Jacksonville (3-12, .507).

5. Washington (3-11, .470).

6. N.Y. Jets (3-11, .533).

7. Atlanta (5-9, .495). ***

8. N.Y. Giants (5-9, .505).

9. Chicago (5-9, .513).

10. Carolina (5-8-1, .503). ***

*** — Atlanta and Carolina are still alive in the NFC South race. Neither would pick higher than 21st if the division winner.

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Jaguars players wear “I can’t breathe” shirts in pregame warm ups

Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

Several members of the Jacksonville Jaguars joined the growing numbers of athletes making statements with their attire in pregame warm ups prior to Thursday night’s game against the Tennessee Titans.

According to Mike DiRocco of ESPN.com, defensive end Ryan Davis and receivers Cecil Shorts III, Marqise Lee, Ace Sanders and Allen Hurns all donned T-shirts with “I can’t breathe” written on them.

The message was in support of Eric Garner, a New Yorker who died after being put in a chokehold by police officers than attempted to subdue him in July.

Similar gestures have been made by Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers and others in recent weeks.

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Underclassmen requests for evaluation down 42 percent

Graduation Getty Images

There could be fewer underclassmen entering the 2015 draft than last year’s record throng of 102 who exited college football early.

A sharp drop in players seeking evaluations for early entry hints at an eventual drop in players choosing to enter early.  NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent points out on Twitter that requests for early evaluation have dropped from 214 last year to 147 this year, a reduction of 42 percent.

If the eventual class of early entries drops by 42 percent, 59 players will choose to enter the draft with eligibility remaining.

Generally speaking, the NFL wants players to remain in college as long as possible, since that ensures a high degree of cooperation from college coaches who prefer to maximize the largely free services they receive.  For players who know with a high degree of confidence that they are ready for the NFL, it’s in the players’ best interests to leave.  An education can be obtained later; cartilage and tendons and other connective tissue, muscles, and bones have a finite shelf life.  Playing for the wholesale cost of an education (plus snacks!) risks the ability of the player to eventually play for as much money as he can earn.

And so the reduction in players seeking evaluations is bad news for those players who ultimately would be deemed to be definitely ready to enter the NFL.  Then again, the early evaluation process is inexact.  A far better system would allow players to make themselves eligible for the draft and then return to school, if they choose to try to enhance their draft stock via more play-for-no-pay.

It wouldn’t be a perfect system, but it would be far more fair than the crapshoot system currently in place, giving players the best possible information before deciding whether to convert their skills into cash.  After all, isn’t that why anyone goes to college in the first place?

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Jaguars earn 21-13 victory over Titans

Jacksonville Jaguars v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Jacksonville defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks sacked Tennessee quarterback Charlie Whitehurst to prevent a game-tying Hail Mary attempt as the Jaguars held on for a 21-13 victory over the Titans on Thursday night.

The sack by Marks also triggered a $600,000 contract bonus for having eight sacks in a season.

Jacksonville rushed for 177 yards against the Titans porous rush defense on the night with Toby Gerhart and Jordan Todman each finding the end zone for the Jaguars.

Whitehurst connected with Leon Washington for an 8-yard touchdown to cap a 12-play, 89-yard scoring drive on the opening possession of the game. Tennessee extended the lead to 10-0 in the second quarter with a 50-yard field goal by Ryan Succop.

Blake Bortles connected with Marcedes Lewis on a 4-yard touchdown just before halftime to get the Jaguars on the board. Jacksonville then scored on their first possession of the second half with Gerhart finding the end zone on a 1-yard run to give the Jaguars a 14-10 lead.

Gerhart left the game in the fourth quarter with a rib injury.

Todman then broke free and scampered for a 62-yard touchdown run with just over nine minutes to play as the Jaguars took a 21-10 lead over the Tennessee Titans in the fourth quarter. Todman’s lengthy touchdown run was the longest run in four years by a Jaguars player.

Tennessee managed to respond on their ensuing possession as a 39-yard pass from Charlie Whitehurst to Kendall Wright moved the Titans into Jacksonville territory. However, the drive stalled at the 5-yard line with Tennessee forced to settle for a 23-yard Ryan Succop field goal to pull within 21-13.

However, one final chance to tie the game came up short as Chris Clemons beat Titans left tackle Jamon Meredith around the edge, forcing Whitehurst into Marks before he could send a Hail Mary try toward the end zone.

Whitehurst finished 24 of 35 for 287 yards and a touchdown for the Titans.

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Raiders now have NFL’s longest underdog streak

Oakland Raiders at St. Louis Rams Getty Images

With the Jaguars closing as favorites vs. the Titans on Thursday night, 31-of-32 teams have been favored by oddsmakers this season.

The lone exception is the Raiders, who have been underdogs in 22 consecutive regular-season games. They were one-point favorites vs. Philadelphia on November 3, 2013, a game they lost 49-20. The Raiders’ underdog streak is poised to extend to 23 games; the Bills are 6.5-point favorites at Oakland on Sunday.

Moreover, it’s likely the Raiders will go the entire 2014 season without being favored. They finish out the campaign at Denver (11-3) on December 28.

While the Raiders have been consistent underdogs, they haven’t been pushovers against the point spread. They are 7-7 against the number, per “The Linemakers” of Sporting News. That’s the same point spread record as Denver, which has been favored in 12-of-14 games entering Week 16.

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Jaguars holding onto lead after 62-yard Jordan Todman touchdown run

Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

Jacksonville running back Jordan Todman broke free and scampered for a 62-yard touchdown run as the Jaguars took a 21-10 lead over the Tennessee Titans in the fourth quarter.

The Jaguars took the lead on their first possession of the second half. Jacksonville marched 72 yards on 11 plays with Toby Gerhart scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run to take a 14-10 lead.

Todman’s lengthy touchdown run with nine minutes left to play gave the Jaguars a two-score lead. It was the longest run in four years by a Jaguars player.

Tennessee managed to respond on their ensuing possession as a 39-yard pass from Charlie Whitehurst to Kendall Wright moved the Titans into Jacksonville territory. However, the drive stalled at the 5-yard line with Tennessee forced to settle for a 23-yard Ryan Succop field goal to pull within 21-13.

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Golden Tate excited for Jimmy Clausen to get another starting opportunity

Michigan Wolverines v Notre Dame Fighting Irish Getty Images

Detroit Lions receiver Golden Tate is happy his former college quarterback, Jimmy Clausen, is getting another opportunity to start in the NFL for the Chicago Bears

It just so happens that start will come as Clausen’s Bears will take on Tate’s Lions this week.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Tate feels Clausen didn’t get a fair chance to prove what he can do as a starting quarterback in the NFL after being selected in the second round out of the University of Notre Dame by the Carolina Panthers in 2010.

“I think it was unfair when he was in Carolina,” Tate said. “He wasn’t on a great team and being a rookie, the next year, they draft Cam Newton, so he sits as a No. 3 because Derek Anderson was the No. 2. They wouldn’t let him go, so he couldn’t even get an opportunity to prove himself.”

Tate said he sent Clausen texts congratulating him for getting a chance and said he hopes Clausen plays well, to a certain extent.

“I believe in him and I’m hoping that he makes the best of his opportunity for his last two games,” Tate said. “In a perfect world he would play well and throw no touchdowns and we will win.”

Clausen stated 10 games for the Panthers in 2010 for a team that finished 2-14 on the year. He completed just 52.5 percent of his passes for 1,558 yards with three touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also fumbled nine times, losing two. The Panthers went 1-9 with Clausen as their starting quarterback.

Clausen had not played in the previous three seasons before getting signed by the Bears this offseason. He’s appeared in three games in limited duty this season for Chicago, completing 3 of 9 passes for 42 yards.

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Week 16 skill-position injury report — Thursday

A.J. Green, Ike Taylor AP

The following skill-position players were on Thursday’s injury report. Key fantasy starters are bolded. All information was furnished by the NFL:

DID NOT PARTICIPATE

49ers RB Carlos Hyde (ankle).

49ers WR Stevie Johnson (ankle).

Bears PK Robbie Gould (right quadricep).

Bears WR Alshon Jeffery (not injury related).

Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe).

Bengals WR James Wright (knee).

Broncos RB Juwan Thompson (hip, knee).

Browns WR Andrew Hawkins (illness).

Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (ankle).

Chargers WR Keenan Allen (ankle/shoulder).

Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe (illness).

Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (hamstring).

Dolphins RB Daniel Thomas (knee).

Eagles QB Nick Foles (collarbone).

Falcons WR Julio Jones (hip).

Giants RB Rashad Jennings (ankle).

Raiders TE Brian Leonhardt (concussion).

Raiders WR Denarius Moore (knee, ankle).

Raiders WR Vincent Brown (groin).

Ravens TE Owen Daniels (not injury related),.

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (back).

Seahawks TE Tony Moeaki (shoulder).

Seahawks WR Paul Richardson (hamstring).

Steelers TE Matt Spaeth (elbow).

Steelers WR Markus Wheaton (illness).

Texans QB Tom Savage (knee).

Texans TE Garrett Graham (ankle).

Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins (ankle).

LIMITED

49ers RB Frank Gore (concussion).

49ers WR Michael Crabtree (knee).

Bills K Dan Carpenter (right groin).

Bills TE Chris Gragg (knee).

Bills WR Marcus Thigpen (foot).

Broncos QB Peyton Manning (thigh).

Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman (foot).

Broncos TE Jacob Tamme (ribs).

Browns TE Gary Barnidge (rib).

Browns WR Marlon Moore (knee).

Buccaneers WR Solomon Patton (foot).

Cardinals QB Drew Stanton (knee).

Cardinals RB Kerwynn Williams (knee).

Cardinals WR Jaron Brown (toe).

Chargers TE Ladarius Green (concussion/ankle).

Chiefs TE Anthony Fasano (knee).

Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray (hand).

Dolphins TE Charles Clay (hamstring).

Falcons WR Harry Douglas (foot).

Falcons WR Roddy White (knee)

Jets WR Percy Harvin (ankle).

Jets WR Saalim Hakim (quadricep).

Packers RB Eddie Lacy (eye).

Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (hand).

Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount (shoulder).

Patriots RB Shane Vereen (ankle).

Patriots WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder).

Patriots WR Julian Edelman (thigh, concussion).

Texans RB Arian Foster (hip).

Vikings RB Matt Asiata (foot).

Vikings WR Greg Jennings (hamstring).

FULL

Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham (toe).

Bills RB Anthony Dixon (chest).

Broncos RB C.J. Anderson (ankle).

Broncos TE Julius Thomas (ankle).

Broncos WR Cody Latimer (concussion).

Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas (ankle).

Buccaneers RB Bobby Rainey (wrist).

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee).

Chargers QB Philip Rivers (chest/back).

Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (knee, ankle).

Colts WR Joshua Cribbs (not injury related).

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back).

Eagles K Cody Parkey (right groin).

Eagles RB Chris Polk (ankle).

Eagles TE Brent Celek (neck).

Eagles WR Jordan Matthews (knee).

Jaguars QB Cam Newton (back).

Jets K Nick Folk (right hip).

Jets RB Chris Johnson (knee).

Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle).

Patriots QB Tom Brady (ankle)

Raiders QB Derek Carr (right thumb).

Ravens RB Bernard Pierce (back).

Ravens WR Jacoby Jones (illness).

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related).

Steelers TE Heath Miller (not injury related).

Texans WR Andre Johnson (concussion).

Washington TE Jordan Reed (not injury related).

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Punts aplenty, Titans-Jaguars is coal in fans’ stockings

bortles AP

NFL Network is giving fans one of the worst prime time games in history with the 2-12 Titans and 2-12 Jaguars squaring off, but something extraordinary happened on the first drive: Charlie Whitehurst looked like a competent quarterback.

The Titans received the opening kickoff and marched downfield for a touchdown, with Whitehurst going 6-for-6 passing, and it looked like a real, honest-to-goodness, legitimate NFL football game. Could the backup quarterback known as Clipboard Jesus give us a Festivus Miracle and give us a good football game?

Nope.

Instead, we’re getting the coal in the stockings we all expected. After that opening drive, we’ve had seven drives ending in seven punts.

Whitehurst has at least looked OK. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles has looked like the lost rookie he is, and watching the Jaguars it’s hard to believe they were actually favored in this game. It’s hard to believe the Jaguars could be favored over anyone.

Late in the first half, the score remains 7-0, Titans. Stay tuned to see if any more touchdowns are scored. Or don’t.

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Drew Stanton limited in practice for Cardinals

Drew Stanton AP

Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton was a surprise participant in practice today.

Stanton was listed as limited on the team’s injury report. That’s better than expected; it was assumed he’d be out of practice today.

It still seems unlikely that Stanton will be able to play after suffering a knee sprain a week ago. Reports have indicated that Stanton will miss multiple weeks. It would be a major upset if he’s able to play on Sunday against the Seahawks.

But even if Arizona is stuck with Ryan Lindley on Sunday against Seattle, the fact that Stanton is on the practice field at all today is a good sign that he could be back in time for the playoffs.

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Report of Michigan offer to Harbaugh is disputed

Jim+Harbaugh+cpUYrtG9pt2m Getty Images

Just as reports that Michigan offered 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh $8 million per year had lingered long enough to be accepted as gospel truth, another report has emerged disputing those reports.

Per Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports, the reports of an offer worth $8 million annually to Harbaugh are not accurate.

It’s unclear specifically how the reports aren’t accurate.  Is the $8 million figure too high?  Was the offer a wink-nod “we’ll make this offer if you’ll accept it” kind of offer?  Has Michigan simply not made the offer but intends to?  Or is Michigan simply not interested?

The fairly obvious assumption emerging from the dueling reports is that Harbaugh’s camp leaked the initial information to NFL reporters, and that Michigan has leaked contradictory information to a college football reporter.

Gamesmanship and misinformation are predictable in this context.  Harbaugh, who spurned Michigan and $5.2 million per year in 2011 for the 49ers and $5 million per year, wants to maximize his earnings at his next NFL stop, and to minimize the amount his new team must give the 49ers in trade.  If Harbaugh’s agent can create the impression (true or not) that Michigan is ready to pay $8 million per year at a time when plenty of wheels are surely moving behind the scenes on his next NFL opportunity, Harbaugh wins.

Michigan likewise benefits from the free publicity that news of the offer generates.  But Michigan also has a strong interest in ensuring that the eventual target to replace Brady Hoke doesn’t think Michigan is ready to blow the lid off the market.

So, basically, Michigan has offered Harbaugh $8 million per year.  Unless it hasn’t.  The details won’t matter if it helps Harbaugh get the kind of money from the Raiders that he couldn’t get from the 49ers.

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Blake Bortles gets the start for the Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles is nursing a foot injury, but he’s healthy enough to start tonight against the Titans.

The Jaguars have confirmed that Bortles is active and good to go. He’ll start once again, giving many fans who rarely watch the Jaguars when there are better teams on TV on Sundays their first chance to see the rookie quarterback.

The Jaguars’ inactives are WR Tommy Streeter, CB Teddy Williams, CB Jeremy Harris, S Matt Daniels, OL Tyler Shatley, DE Andre Branch and DT Roy Miller.

The Titans’ inactives are QB Zach Mettenberger, DB Jemea Thomas, LB Zaviar Gooden, OLB Dontay Moch, T Terren Jones, T Taylor Lewan and DL Mike Martin.

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Tedford heads to the B.C. Lions

Tedford AP

Health issues kept Jeff Tedford from serving as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator in 2014.  Now released from his contract, Tedford has found a new job, north of the border.

Per a league source, Tedford has accepted an offer to become the new head coach of the B.C. Lions of the CFL.

Tedford, who was out of football in 2013 after being fired by Cal, ultimately took a leave of absence after heart problems emerged prior to the start of the regular season.  He never returned, and his absence became a vastly underrated detriment for a team with a defensive-minded head coach (Lovie Smith) and a smattering of offensive position coaches without the experience needed to coordinate the offense in Tedford’s absence.

Tedford’s decision to return to coach suggests he could have returned to work for the Bucs in 2015.  Which invites speculation as to whether he wanted to leave Tampa, whether Tampa wanted him to go, or a little bit of both.

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Jim Harbaugh won’t answer Michigan question

Harbaugh AP

On Wednesday, multiple reports indicated that Michigan has offered the vacant head coaching job to 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.  Asked about the situation on Thursday, Harbaugh opted not to dust off a Nick Saban-style answer.

Instead, Harbaugh refused to address the situation.

“As you know, I only talk about the job that I have,” Harbaugh said, via Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News.  “We’ve been together a long time.  Always been my policy.”

It’s unclear whether anyone asked Harbaugh on Thursday whether he’ll have in 10 days the job he currently has.  Then again, some questions don’t need to be asked.  It’s become a given that Harbaugh won’t return to the 49ers in 2015, and no one from the team’s camp or the coach’s camp has even attempted to float the idea that he’ll be back.

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