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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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Police: Jonathan Dwyer head-butted wife and broke her nose

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We learned that Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested on Wednesday on assault charges stemming from an incident with his wife and more details about the arrest came to light on Thursday.

According to police records, via the Arizona Republic, Dwyer and his wife got into an argument on July 21 that segued into Dwyer trying to kiss his wife and remove her clothing. She bit his lip after requests for him to stop were ignored and Dwyer allegedly head-butted her and broke her nose. Neighbors called police, but Dwyer’s wife told officers that only she and the couple’s son was at home. She reportedly left with the child later that night, but returned when Dwyer “sent a text saying he did not want to live anymore along with a picture of a knife.”

The next day, Dwyer allegedly punched his wife during another argument and threw a shoe that hit the child in the stomach. Dwyer’s wife left Arizona that night and, according to police, reported the incidents when she safely arrived in another state.

Dwyer has been deactivated by the Cardinals and the nature of the allegations, to say nothing of the enhanced spotlight on domestic violence issues, make it hard to see that changing anytime soon.

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Rolando McClain misses second straight practice

Delanie Walker, J J Wilcox, Rolando McClain AP

The Cowboys got a couple of defensive players back at practice this week with defensive end Anthony Spencer returning from injury and cornerback Orlando Scandrick getting his suspension wiped out, but it wouldn’t be the 2014 Cowboys defense if there weren’t also some bad news in the mix.

Linebacker Rolando McClain missed a second straight day of practice on Thursday because of a groin injury, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for him to show he’s able to suit up against the Rams. According to coach Jason Garrett, McClain will have to practice on Friday if he’s going to see action on Sunday.

“We certainly have confidence in his ability to play, but we believe in practice,” Garrett said, via ESPNDallas.com. “He has to practice this week in some way, shape or form for us to believe that he can play in the game, so hopefully as the week goes on, he’s able to do get out there and get some snaps.”

The first two games of this season were the first that McClain’s played since 2012, so there’s probably reason for added precaution when it comes to his return after a muscular injury.

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San Jose police not saying much about McDonald case

McDonald AP

With Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy clumsily placed on an exempt list that wasn’t really intended to provide teams with a way to, as a practical matter, suspend players with pay, the 49ers continue to refuse to take action of any kind with defensive end Ray McDonald.

They’ve been hiding behind the shield of “due process,” a concept that matters only when the question is whether a player will go to jail.  While the truth may be that they have investigated the situation and believe that McDonald did nothing wrong, the broader truth in this context is that teams have a clear bias to believe the things said by players who are regarded as important to the broader cause of winning football games.

Meanwhile, the NFL apparently has not launched an investigation of its own regarding the McDonald case.  The San Jose police have, but they’re saying nothing about what they’ve learned.

“As a professional law enforcement organization we try not to offer a personal opinion on incidents we are responsible for investigating,” officer Albert Morales told Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.  “To that end, our investigators continue to diligently conduct follow up investigations on this case.  At this time we are not at liberty to share any information that is directly related to this investigation.”

Per Maiocco, McDonald met with investigators for two hours on September 4 at the team’s facility.  At some point, more will be known about the case.  At some point, the 49ers may have to revisit their position.

Until the NFL takes these decisions out of the hands of the teams, inconsistencies and ambiguities will exist.  And fans, the media, and sponsors will be confused about precisely what the rules are in this new post-Rice video reality.

The rules very well may be that there are no rules, and that the NFL and its teams are making it up as they go.  The longer that perception lasts, the harder it will be for the league to being the process of restoring its credibility.

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Report: Doug Martin, Gerald McCoy unlikely to play Thursday night

Doug Martin AP

The Buccaneers listed defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and running back Doug Martin as questionable for Thursday night’s game against the Falcons, but it doesn’t look like either one of them will be on the field.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that McCoy and Martin are both unlikely to be active for the NFC South matchup.

McCoy broke his hand in last Sunday’s loss to the Rams and he had a cast put on earlier this week. McCoy will likely suit up while his hand is in a cast, but he hinted that the quick turnaround to Thursday might make him a spectator against Atlanta.

That absence would likely hurt the Bucs more than Martin’s. Martin was out against St. Louis because of a knee injury, but Bobby Rainey had 174 total yards of offense in his place. If the offensive line can handle things up front, the running game should be just fine.

Replacing McCoy’s production is more difficult. Da’Quan Bowers and Akeem Spence will see more playing time if Tampa has to fill a McCoy-sized hole on their defensive line.

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Shad Khan fires another Fulham manager

Shad Khan AP

The Jaguars are willing to play it slow with the development of rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, for many reasons.

But Jaguars owner Shad Khan is proving far less patient with his other team.

According to The Guardian, Khan has fired Fulham manager Felix Magath, setting the stage for his fourth manager in the 14 months he’s been in control of the English soccer team. Khan had previously sacked Martin Jol and Rene Meulensteen since buying the team last July.

It’s been a turbulent time for Fulham, which was relegated from the Premier League after finishing 19th of 20 teams last year. (The bottom three teams in the league get sent down to the minors every year, and the top three in the minors get promoted to the show).

But things have gotten worse, as Fulham are 24th in the 24-team Championship (think AAA) this season, having just blown a lead to lose 5-3 to Nottingham Forest. Magath won just four games in his 20 in charge, which kind of makes him the Mike Mularkey of England.

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Jerome Simpson in more legal trouble

Jerome Simpson AP

Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson will serve the final game of his three-game suspension this week, but his return to eligibility may be a short one.

Ben Goessling of ESPN.com reports that Simpson, suspended after being arrested for DUI last year, has a court date on November 3 in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Simpson was cited, but not arrested, on misdemeanor charges of violating a limited license, marijuana possession and open bottle after being pulled over in a traffic stop on July 7.

Simpson’s current suspension is his second handed down by the league. He was previously suspended for three games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy in 2012 after being arrested on drug charges while he was a member of the Bengals in 2011.

A third suspension would likely be longer than three games given Simpson’s history and it could bring an end to his time in Minnesota, unless the Vikings don’t decide to just move on once Simpson’s suspension ends when Week Three comes to a close.

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Jaguars will be without Marqise Lee this week

Marqise Lee, Chad Henne AP

The Jaguars didn’t have a wealth of talent at wide receiver to begin with.

Now they have even less.

According to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, rookie wideout Marqise Lee said he won’t play Sunday against the Colts because of a hamstring issue.

My main focus is on getting it right,” Lee said. “The hamstring can linger and if you continue to come back, come back, come back and you’re feeling 85-90 percent, you’re still going to have issues.”

The Jaguars have been without Cecil Shorts (hamstring) the first two games, and he was limited in practice Wednesday. First half of the opener sensation Allen Hurns (ankle) was also held out.

That could push fellow second-rounder Allen Robinson into the starting lineup, and might force them to play Tavarres King, who was just signed off the receiver-rich (not really) Panthers practice squad.

So while their insistence on sticking with Chad Henne might be preventing them from some things, their inability to surround their quarterback with helpful parts might be much of the reason they’re sitting rookie Blake Bortles.

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Broadcasters are using Washington team name a lot less

Washington Redskins v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Plenty of fans, media, and league officials are longing for the good old days, when the NFL’s biggest controversy centered on the inevitability that the Washington franchise will, at some point, have a new name.

Until the name changes, plenty of broadcasters have tapped the brakes on using the name.  Via Brad Gagnon of Awful Announcing, Deadspin has crunched the numbers.

Based on scripts of NFL broadcasts through the first two weeks of the each of the last two seasons, the team name was said 186 times and “Washington” was used 156 times in 2013. In 2014, the team name has been mentioned only 67 times.  “Washington” has been used 169 times.

Last year, the team name was used 30 times more than “Washington.”  This year, “Washington” has been used 102 times more than the team name.

It’s a trend that will continue, and it’s an issue that eventually will resurface, lingering until the name changes, and beyond.

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Jerry Rice calls on the 49ers to deactivate Ray McDonald

riceyoung Getty Images

Jerry Rice, the former 49er considered by many to be the greatest player in NFL history, says his old team is wrong to let a player accused of domestic violence to continue to play.

Rice says that Ray McDonald, who was arrested last month and accused of assaulting his pregnant fiancee, should not be playing for the 49ers unless and until he is cleared. Rice echoed the comments of his former quarterback Steve Young, who has said that the 49ers should not hide behind “due process” and should instead take the same step that has already been taken with accused abusers Greg Hardy in Carolina, Adrian Peterson in Minnesota and Jonathan Dwyer in Arizona.

“I think I’m just like Steve Young — I would have totally just taken him off the field until it’s resolved,” Rice told SI.com. “But they have decided to let him play, and it’s just unfortunate. I feel that when you have something that’s weighing you down like that, because it’s a very important topic, and it’s very sensitive, I just feel he should have been taken off the field.”

At a time when the rest of the NFL seems to think that an abuse allegation is enough to take a player off the field, the 49ers are taking a very different stand. It’s a stand that finds them taking harsh criticism, even from some of the greatest players in the history of their franchise.

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PFT Live: Jordy Nelson, Mohamed Sanu, Week Three picks

Jordy Nelson, Darrin Walls AP

We’ve got a big PFT Live today featuring two NFL wide receivers and one man who out-picked Florio last week.

First up is Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, who’s currently leading the league in both catches and receiving yards after his huge game against the Jets on Sunday.

Then we’ve got Bengals receiver Mohamed Sanu, who stepped up with 84 receiving yards when A.J. Green went down on Sunday.

And last but certainly not least we’ve got PFT’s managing editor Michael David Smith, who beat the pants off Florio in last week’s picks competition.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Players didn’t want Olympic marijuana standard

Buds Getty Images

The new PED policy was unveiled on Wednesday.  The sheet has yet to be pulled on the new substance-abuse policy.

When it happens, the threshold for marijuana metabolites will increase from 15 ng/ml to 35 ng/ml.  But that’s still 115 ng/ml less than the current Olympic standard of 150 ng/ml.

Most would assume the NFL refused to adopt the higher standard.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the players involved in the management of the union wanted to keep the limit low, so that players wouldn’t believe that “smoke if you got ‘em” time has come to the NFL.

The current increase dispenses with the second-hand smoke excuse, giving players a buffer zone that will easily be surpassed if they are regularly inhaling first-hand smoke.

Then there’s the reality that the testing protocol exposes players to one unannounced urine donation per year, with a window that ironically opens on 4/20.  After providing that clean sample, the players face no scrutiny unless they are arrested for marijuana possession, or if a bag of weed falls out of their pocket in the presence of a league office.

So, basically, it’s still “smoke if you got ‘em,” as long as you wait to smoke ‘em until after the last drop has fallen into the cup.

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Jim Harbaugh thinks home field advantage “could be improved”

Chicago Bears v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The support of a big crowd has been a big factor for the 49ers this season.

Unfortunately, they might have had more vocal support at their road opener in Dallas than in the first game at new Levi’s Stadium.

Coach Jim Harbaugh clearly wasn’t thrilled by the noise generated by his home fans during Sunday night’s loss to the Bears.

“I noticed at times it was good and loud, yeah,” the 49ers coach said, via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. “And other times it could be improved.”

Of course, the same could be said of his team, which coughed up a 17-0 lead to lose in the debut game at the Field of Jeans.

Now they have to try to fix things on the road at Arizona Sunday, where the 49ers have also drawn a good following.

“We had a great crowd for our Monday night game in the opener [against the Chargers],” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “Historically, visiting teams have had access to tickets here. And hopefully our guys are keeping theirs.”

Of course, Levi’s Stadium is also expensive enough that hitting the road might be a cheaper alternative for some 49ers fans.

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Chip Kelly claims he had “zero” off-field issues with DeSean Jackson

Jacksonville Jaguars v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Eagles coach Chip Kelly is preparing to face DeSean Jackson for the first time since cutting him in the offseason, and Kelly claims that the only reason he cut Jackson is that Jackson didn’t fit the profile of his offense.

Asked how much concern Kelly had about Jackson off the field, Kelly answered, “Zero.”

So why was Jackson cut?

“Yeah, just trying to build the overall team in terms of what we’re looking for offensively and how we wanted to get bigger at the wideout spot and that’s what we did,” Kelly said.

That answer is hard to buy. Kelly may prefer bigger wide receivers, but he was able to make things work with a small receiver last year, when Jackson was by far the team’s leading receiver, with 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. Jackson was targeted on a whopping 126 passes last season, 42 more than any other Eagle. If Kelly had a problem with Jackson’s size, it sure wasn’t reflected in Kelly’s game planning or play calling. It’s also worth noting that one of the ways the Eagles replaced Jackson’s playmaking ability in the passing game this offseason was to trade for Darren Sproles, who is leading the Eagles in both catches and receiving yards this season and is even smaller than Jackson. Kelly even said after Sproles’s big game on Monday night against the Colts that Sproles’s size can be an advantage because it’s hard for opposing defenses to spot him in traffic.

On Sundays, Jackson looked like a great fit in Kelly’s offense. The real problems appeared to be that Jackson and Kelly were reportedly not seeing eye to eye outside game day, and that the Eagles had some concerns about Jackson away from the game. There had been talk out of Philadelphia for weeks prior to his release that Jackson could be on the way out, but the Eagles didn’t actually release him until about an hour after a story alleging that Jackson had gang ties was published.

Whatever the real reasons, Kelly seems comfortable with his decision to cut Jackson. We’ll see on Sunday whether Jackson can make him regret it.

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Bucs QB coach on Josh McCown: He can’t turn ball over like that

St. Louis Rams v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Before Josh McCown took over the Bears quarterback job in the wake of an injury to Jay Cutler last season, his reputation was not that of an efficient decision maker who gave his teams steady, turnover-free play.

McCown had thrown 37 touchdowns and 44 interceptions in his career to that point, which explains why he went from starting games in Arizona to a journeyman backup. McCown threw 13 touchdowns and one interception while posting a 109 passer rating for Chicago last season, though, and the Buccaneers splurged on him as a free agent because they believed that was the quarterback they’d be getting.

They haven’t seen him yet. While McCown has completed a high percentage of his passes, he’s also thrown three interceptions that have left quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo wondering what’s going through McCown’s mind.

“Yeah, some of the decision making, I don’t know if he’s pressing or if he starts off on fire and thinks he can complete every pass or what,” Arroyo said, via the Tampa Tribune. “But you just can’t turn the ball over the way he has, especially when you’re that tight in the red zone.”

The good news for the Bucs is that McCown’s current rate of interceptions on 5.4 percent of his throws is well above his career average so things should even out as more time passes. The bad news is that his 3.7 percent career average is a lot closer to this year’s output than it is to last year’s minuscule number and that McCown’s high level of success may have had more to do with his surroundings than the Bucs wanted to believe when they signed him.

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Adrian Peterson is most likely done in Minnesota

Peterson Getty Images

In the immediate aftermath of the child-abuse charges filed against Adrian Peterson, it seemed probable that he wouldn’t be playing for the Vikings after the 2014 season.  It’s now likely that Peterson will never wear a Vikings uniform again.

Essentially suspended with pay until his legal case is resolved and with no sign that it’ll be resolved before the end the year, Peterson’s stat line come Week 17 will be one game, 75 yards rushing.

Then, after the season ends, the Vikings will move on.  For a variety of reasons, including the $12.75 million he’s due to earn in 2015.

A week ago, the Vikings were tied to Peterson because Peterson was the face of the franchise at a time when the franchise was embarking on a two-year stay at an undersized college stadium.  Now, the Vikings will have no choice but to move on from a man who has quickly become equal parts distraction and pariah.

The contract can’t be traded without a major restructuring, and Peterson may have no desire to finish his career with the Cowboys after getting a heaping helping of the not-so-hospitable Texas criminal justice system.  In the end, Peterson will land with a team that can withstand the reaction from its fans and from the media — or with a team run by a G.M. and/or a head coach who need to win in order to save their jobs.  Or maybe the Raiders.

Regardless, the great Paul Allen likely has shouted “He’s loose!” about Peterson for the last time.  By next year, Peterson will be loose in a very different way.

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