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Week Five Friday 10-pack

As the new ’68 VW bus rolls toward the train that will roll me to New York, I justify the write off by banging out the weekly Friday 10-pack.

This week, the write off extends to Tuesday, thanks to the Vikings-Jets Monday night game in the New Meadowlands Stadium.

I’ll be joining Paul Allen, Pete Bercich, and Greg Coleman of the Vikings Radio Network for the third quarter of the game, with the goal of being a little less disastrous than Christian Slater on Monday Night Football in 2006.

And so this week’s edition of the Friday 10-pack puts a little extra focus on the Monday night game.

1.  What will Favre do?

When the Vikings’ offense lines up to play the Jets on Monday night, quarterback Brett Favre will face a dilemma.

When Moss takes off down the field, drawing a cornerback from the line and a safety over the top, will Favre choose to try to be on the front end of one of those legendary rainbows that splash down into Randy’s arms, with Moss somehow securing possession even as he’s draped by two or three men — and possibly an official?  Or will Favre check down to one of the guys who’ll be facing single coverage, like Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe, or Adrian Peterson?

Favre acknowledged the dilemma during his press conference on Thursday.

“I’m like everyone else,” Favre said. “I’m watching the Monday night game, and I’m like, ‘He’s only been thrown to one time?’  So what if he’s covered?  That’s the thing about Randy.  So what if he’s covered?  But does that mean you just throw it to him and you got four other guys that are wide open?  There’s this added pressure.  Maybe it’s just I’m getting old.”

Favre needs to forget about the pressure and just play.  And he needs to defer to the coaches when it comes to distributing the football.  In some cases, it will make sense to chuck it deep, even if Moss is triple-covered.  In other cases, the smart move will be to take what the defense gives Favre.

And that’s why Favre is feeling pressure.  He knows his nature meshes with winging it deep, on pretty much every drive.  And in what apparently will be his final season (unless it isn’t), Favre finally has a guy who reliably will be in position to catch one out of every two or three of those bombs.  

How can Favre resist?  

2.  Revis need to zip it.

Earlier this year, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis called Randy Moss a slouch.  In Week Two, that slouch blew by Revis and made a one-handed grab for the ages, as Revis was playing the Al Czervik broken arm routine

Now, with Revis still recovering from a Moss-induced hamstring strain that traces to Revis’ August holdout, Revis again is taking shots at Moss, claiming that Randy shut it down in the second half of Pats-Jets game.  Revis even has influenced Antonio Cromartie, who by all appearances held Moss in check on a day Revis couldn’t, to join in the chorus, even though it minimizes Cromartie’s accomplishment from Week Two.  

Revis, who seems like a smart guy, isn’t smart enough.  He should take a cue from Bill Belichick and smother Randy in verbal bouquets.  Few other players find more motivation from external sources than Moss, and Moss will be even more ready to face the Jets, thanks to Revis and Cromartie.

3.  Pats set a dangerous precedent.

The circumstances were familiar.  A disgruntled receiver who wants more money from his current team or a trade to a new one begins to cause trouble, agitating and distracting until he gets what he wants or the whole thing explodes.

Five years ago, the “original 81” took that situation to the extreme, pushing the Eagles to the breaking point and beyond after Terrell Owens’ performance against the Patriots in the Super Bowl prompted Owens to push for a new contract.  The Eagles refused to relent, concerned in part that other players could thereafter try to talk their own way out of town.

With the “other 81” (who is now back to being the “original 84”), the Patriots decided not to dig in their heels, giving Moss what he wanted before the situation involved shirtless situps or press conferences featuring guys saying “next question.”  (OK, the second thing still happened anyway.)

Some will now say that the Patriots have set a dangerous precedent.  And anyone who would say that would be right.  Moss has given any future Patriot who wants a new deal or a trade to a team who’ll give him one a blueprint for getting out.

But here’s the thing.  Moss’ talent level and his accomplishments made the team more likely to relent.  Also, when the Pats acquired him in 2007, the transaction represented at a certain level a deal with the devil.  They knew that, eventually, the Moss who metastasized through the Minnesota and Oakland organizations would return, and they accepted the fact that, when it happens, they’ll deal with it.

Moving forward, the precedent that has been set may not be a problem because the Pats seem to be recommitting to the notion of acquiring only those guys who want to be there.    

4.  Will Cushing be the same?

Though most of the attention in Houston this week centers on receiver Andre Johnson, who’ll be a game-time decision a week after missing a game due to a lingering ankle problem, another player who should be watched carefully going forward is linebacker Brian Cushing, the two-time (literally) 2009 Associated Press defensive rookie of the year.

Cushing returns from a four-game suspension.  Unlike the other high-profile players whose quarter-season banishments have ended (Santonio Holmes of the Jets and Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers), Cushing’s punishment arose from a violation of the league’s policy regarding performance-enhancing substances.

Assuming, then, that Cushing actually cheated and that his multiple excuses (as the league concluded) hold less water than a fettucini strainer, the question will be whether he can play at the same level without the benefit of the steroids he took before chasing them with hCG in order to kick-start his natural production of testosterone, which shuts down during a steroids cycle.

If Cushing merely used steroids to speed the recovery of an injured knee in order to ensure that he’d be able to play in Week One of his rookie year, he should be able to play as well without them.

Until, of course, he gets injured, and he’s forced to rehab without the use of impermissible chemicals.

5.  Eagles are taking a huge gamble.

When the Eagles travel to San Francisco for a Sunday night game against the desperate and thus dangerous 49ers, they’ll have two quarterbacks:  Kevin Kolb and Mike Kafka.

If Kolb should have his helmet planted into the Candlestick turf like the stump of a used Christmas tree, the rookie from Northwestern will be pressed into service.

And so the Eagles are taking a huge gamble by not having on the roster a veteran with knowledge of and experience in the West Coast offense.  Last year, when Donovan McNabb went down and Kolb stepped up, the Eagles brought back Jeff Garcia in an effort to beef up a depth chart that otherwise included only Mike Vick.  How, then, can the Eagles choose to fly blind with the only alternative to Kolb being an unproven, unaccomplished, and (in comparison to Vick) dramatically less talented first-year player?

6.  Door should be open for Kolb.

The Eagles apparently are willing to assume (or at a minimum hope) that they won’t have to resort to Mike Kafka until Mike Vick returns from a rib/chest injury.  But what if Kevin Kolb plays as well as he did when Donovan McNabb had a rib/chest injury in 2009?

Coach Andy Reid
already has said that Vick remains the starter, something Reid said about Kolb when Kolb was injured.  If Vick was able to alter that status quo, it’s only fair that Kolb should be able to do the same thing.

Though Kolb currently is saying only the right things, Kolb has to be thinking that the door is open.  If he plays incredibly well (admittedly a big “if”, but not impossible), he needs to have a chance to take his job back.

And if Kolb doesn’t get the same consideration Vick received, Kolb will have clear cause to be upset.     

7.  Peppers comes home.

Bears defensive end Julius Peppers returns home on Sunday.  The one-time high-profile Carolina rookie has a simple goal — demolish the Panthers’ current high-profile rookie, quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

Though the Panthers may not win the game, they’ll surely be obsessed with preventing Peppers from having an impact.  They paid him millions, especially in his final season with the team, and he often complained.  At times, he underachieved.  At other times, it seemed that he didn’t give his all on every play.

If coach John Fox has any desire to finish out the season, he’ll find a way to use Peppers’ past words and actions (or inactions) to fire up the troops to give their best possible effort.  With quarterback Jay Cutler out due to a concussion, the Panthers have a chance to pull this one off.

And if the Panthers were to win only one game this year, like they did in the season that put them in position to pick Peppers, they’d likely want the one win to come against Peppers and his new team.

8.  Keep an eye on Kyle Orton.

When the Broncos traded quarterback Jay Cutler to the Bears for a pair of first-round draft picks, quarterback Kyle Orton was tacked onto the deal as an afterthought.

In his second season with the Broncos, Orton is anything but a forgotten man.

Orton currently leads all quarterbacks with 1,419 yards passing, a pace that would shatter Dan Marino’s all-time single-season record.  Though on one hand it’s not surprising given the extent to which the Broncos have tilted their offense toward throwing the ball, the players still need to execute, and no one ever dreamed that Orton would be able to do it.

If he can fire missiles throughout M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, Orton will move even closer to being regarded as an elite quarterback.

The truth could be that he’s already there.

9.  Colts have no silver lining.

Many league observers assume that the Colts’ slow start (they’re 2-2) represents a major shift from their recent history of 10-0 launches to the season.  The reality, however, is that it’s the second time in three years that the Colts have struggled in September and October.

In 2008, the Colts opened at 1-2 and later slid to 3-4 before catching fire, winning nine in a row.  That year, however, Peyton Manning was hampered in the early going by late-offseason surgery to clean a staph infection out of his knee.

This year, Manning is fine, notwithstanding rumors of lingering nerves problems in his neck.

So if we accept the fact that Manning is firing on all cylinders (and his numbers suggest that he is), the Colts have no reason to think things will get much better as the season unfolds.  It could be, then, that the pack finally is catching up to the Colts, and that the days of 12-or-more-win seasons are done.

At least for 2010.

10.  Uprising of the winless teams?

In one of the most parity-driven seasons since former Commissioner Pete Rozelle decided that seeing the Steelers, Cowboys, and Raiders competing for every Lombardi Trophy, four teams have been unable to navigate the first four weeks of the season with a win.

This week, each of the four winless teams could change the “0” to a “1” in the win column.

In Buffalo, the Bills welcome the up-and-down Jaguars, who probably are feeling a little too good about themselves after pulling off an unlikely win over the Colts.  In Detroit, the close-but-no-cigar Lions could have an exploding stogie in store for the Rams, who probably are feeling a little to good about themselves after winning two games in eight days.  In Charlotte, as mentioned earlier, the Panthers welcome Julius Peppers home, without having to face Jay Cutler.  And in San Francisco, the better-than-their-record Niners get an Eagles team that won’t have Mike Vick.

Don’t be shocked if each of these four 0-4 teams find a way to further prove the parity premise by pushing the bottom of the pack a step closer to the front.

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Blake Bortles is the king of garbage time stat padding

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 27:  Quarterback Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars throws a pass against the Tennessee Titans during the second half at Nissan Stadium on October 27, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) Getty Images

If you skipped last night’s game and just looked at the box score this morning, you might think Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles played well. You’d be wrong.

Yes, Bortles’ stat line looks good: He completed 33 of 54 passes for 337 yards, with three touchdowns. But Bortles padded those stats with a second-half performance against a Titans defense that was happy to let the Jaguars march down the field with time-consuming drives.

Take a look at the first half stats and you see the truth about Bortles’ game: In the first half, Bortles was 8-for-16 for 64 yards, and the Jaguars trailed 27-0 at halftime. Yes, in the second half, Bortles completed 25 of 38 passes for 273 yards, but so what? With a four-touchdown second-half lead, the Titans’ defense was happy to let Bortles complete lots of short passes, and that’s exactly what Bortles did.

And it wasn’t just last night. It’s been that way for Bortles throughout his career. Check out Bortles’ career stats by quarter:

First quarter: 1,598 yards, 4 touchdowns
Second quarter: 2,356 yards, 15 touchdowns
Third quarter: 1,912 yards, 13 touchdowns
Fourth quarter: 3,364 yards 26 touchdowns

Bortles puts up huge stats in the fourth quarters of games. Now, if Bortles were doing that while leading fourth-quarter comeback wins, it would be one thing. But the Jaguars are 10-26 in Bortles’ 36 career starts, and Bortles has engineered just five game-winning drives in his three NFL seasons.

Put it all together, and it’s clear that Bortles is not as good a quarterback as his statistics suggest. The Jaguars are going to have a big decision to make this offseason when they choose whether to pick up his fifth-year option and give him a vote of confidence as their franchise quarterback, or decline that option and make clear that they don’t think Bortles is the man to lead their team going forward.

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Darrelle Revis knows he’s going to be watched like a quarterback

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 23:  Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets and Marcus Williams #20 are seen in the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium on October 23, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis gets paid like a quarterback, so it only makes sense that he’s being micro-analyzed like one.

And after a slow start to the season, Revis said he thinks he’s “played better” over the last two weeks.

I brought it upon myself by playing the game and the position at such a high level for so long,” Revis said, via Daniel Popper of the New York Daily News. “There’s nothing you can do. You take the good with the bad and you go with it.

“It’s almost like you’re getting critiqued like you’re a QB, and I’m a DB. But at the same time, it’s how it goes. Win or lose games, for the DB position, what I’ve done in this league, it’s how I get critiqued: as a quarterback. If we’re winning and losing games or if a pass is getting caught, it’s just like a quarterback throwing a game-winning touchdown or a game-losing interception.”

There was plenty of criticism of the veteran corner early this year, but after coming back from a hamstring injury, he did a solid job against Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald.

Coupled with an ankle injury sustained in practice and his offseason wrist surgery, the 31-year-old has had to overcome a number of physical challenges this year.

“Just one thing after another in my journey here — the hamstring, and even before that, coming off the wrist surgery, trying to get back in shape. So it’s a lot of things that was going on at the time,” Revis said. “At the end of the day, I’m a person who perseveres through things. I don’t make excuses for anything that’s going on with me.”

Whether he does or doesn’t, his every move is going to be watched closely, because that’s what happens with stars.

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Mike Zimmer: I didn’t mutilate stuffed animals

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings argues with field judge James Coleman #95 during the fourth quarter of a game at Lincoln Financial Field on October 23, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The eagles defeated the Vikings 21-10. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

During the Vikings’ bye week, there were stuffed cats scattered around the team’s locker room including one festooned with a sign reading “Fat Cats Get Slaughtered” as a message to remind the team not to get complacent after a 5-0 start to the season.

Some of those plush cats wound up with their throats cut and red paint splattered on them, which may have foreshadowed the result when the Vikings took the field in Philadelphia. It’s not clear who decided to go to work on the toys, but coach Mike Zimmer wanted to make it clear that it wasn’t him when he met with the media on Thursday.

Zimmer read headlines from stories suggesting he was the culprit while defending himself against those accusations.

“I want to set the record straight on an erroneous report that I feel like attacked my character and reputation,” Zimmer said, via the Pioneer Press. “I had nothing to do with that. The stuffed animals I did have here were given to charity and Toys for Tots. I just want to make sure we get the record straight because my foundation website is getting things saying, ‘Your dad’s crazy, blah, blah, blah’; all this stuff. I do a lot of crazy stuff but I’ll admit to it.”

We still don’t know who ordered the code red, but it seems likely Zimmer and company will be looking in directions other than the stuffed animal aisle for motivational tools for Monday night’s game against the Bears.

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With Matt Jones injured, Redskins add a running back

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 16: Running back Matt Jones #31 of the Washington Redskins carries the ball against defensive end Brandon Graham #55 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the second quarter at FedExField on October 16, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Running back Matt Jones didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday because of a knee injury, which doesn’t bode well for his chances of playing when the Redskins meet the Bengals in London on Sunday.

Neither does the news that the Redskins have promoted a running back from their practice squad. The team announced on Friday morning that they have added Mack Brown to their 53-man roster.

Brown spent time on the team’s practice squad last year as well and has never played in the regular season. He did make a push for a roster spot with 149 rushing yards in the preseason finale and an NFL-high 227 rushing yards over the entire preseason, but got cut in favor of Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson.

Both of those backs remain on hand and are set to play this weekend. If Jones’ situation didn’t take a major turn for the better on the flight over to London, Brown will likely be joining them in the lineup.

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C.J. Anderson declares surgery “a super success”

C.J. Anderson AP

NFL players almost always refer to every surgery as “a success.” Broncos running back C.J. Anderson has gone a bit further than that.

Anderson, who had surgery to repair a torn meniscus on Thursday, wrote on Twitter this morning that his surgery was not just a success but “a super success.”

“Surgery was a super success been resting all day. FaceTime all my teammates got some good laughs #blessed love them boys,” Anderson wrote.

It remains to be seen whether that “super success” will be enough to get Anderson back on the field this season. Although Anderson initially disputed a report yesterday that he had already declared himself out until 2017, he later acknowledged that he might miss the rest of the year.

The Broncos’ starting running back, Anderson has 110 carries for 437 yards and four touchdowns this season. Rookie Devontae Booker, who has shown a lot of promise as Anderson’s backup, will now be Denver’s starting running back. Kapri Bibbs will move up to No. 2 on the depth chart, and Juwan Thompson could be called up from the practice squad.

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Will Khan make a coaching change?

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 18: Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan watches the action before the game against the Houston Texans at EverBank Field on October 18, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

I know, I know. Jaguars owner Shad Khan said after Thursday night’s more-hideous-than-their-jerseys loss to the Titans that he’s not making a coaching change.

But let’s think about this one for a second. What else under those circumstances could Khan have said?

“Yes, I am. Now please don’t tell Gus until I get a chance to”?

“Maybe. Maybe not”?

Even a “no comment” would have sparked widespread speculation that the bell is tolling for Gus Bradley, without Khan having the chance to give his head coach the courtesy of a meeting at which Bradley doesn’t already know what the message will be — or without Khan having the chance to make sure the preferred interim coach will take the job. Which means that “no” was the only possible answer, regardless of whether it’s the true answer.

Maybe the hint came via this succinct elaboration from Khan: “Actions speak louder than words. Very little for me to say.”

The words are what they are. The actions are what matters, and Khan in the immediate aftermath of one of the ugliest games of Bradley’s 55-game tenure really can’t say anything more on the topic of a possible coaching change than to deny it.

Change or not, wins will be hard to come by for the Jaguars over the final nine games of the season.  At Kansas City is next, which means 2-5 becomes 2-6. A visit from the Texans means 2-7, probably. Then, back-to-back games at Detroit (2-8) and Buffalo (2-9) are on the docket.

Next up, visits from the Broncos (2-10) and the Vikings (2-11).

Tennessee comes to town on Christmas Eve, which could be the next game in which the Jags are possibly favored. A season-ending trip to Indy could be the difference between 2-14, 3-13, or 4-12.

Either way, the wheels have flown off the wagon, and it will take a major turnaround to get this one back on track — especially after the effort or lack thereof that anyone who had the misfortune of watching last night’s game witnessed.

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Friday morning one-liners

Seattle Seahawks NFL football cornerback Richard Sherman talks to reporters while dressed as a wizard from the Harry Potter movie and book series, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, at Seahawks headquarters in Renton, Wash. From Sunday night to Monday morning, Sherman was suffering from dehydration and fatigue on the flight back to Seattle after being on the field for nearly 100 plays and more than 46 minutes of game time in the Seahawks' 6-6 tie with the Arizona Cardinals. (Stephen Cohen/ via AP) AP

The Bills could use better work from their offensive line.

Larry Csonka likes the direction the Dolphins running game has taken the last couple of weeks.

Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower likes the way defensive tackles Alan Branch and Malcom Brown have played.

CB Darrelle Revis believes he’s played better in the last couple of weeks than he did early in the Jets season.

Who is the MVP of the Ravens season thus far?

Bengals RT Cedric Ogbuehi will be tasked with slowing Ryan Kerrigan this Sunday.

Browns WR Terrelle Pryor is looking forward to facing Darrelle Revis.

LB Jarvis Jones is starting to make an impact for the Steelers.

S Quintin Demps is closer to returning for the Texans.

C Ryan Kelly has fulfilled many of the expectations the Colts had when they took him in the first round.

Decent final numbers can’t cover another bad night for Jaguars QB Blake Bortles.

Said Titans RB Derrick Henry of his first NFL touchdown, “It felt good. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

The Broncos are dealing with a long injury report this week.

S Ron Parker has been a stabilizing force for the Chiefs defense.

The Raiders defense could get a pair of reinforcements in the coming weeks.

RB Melvin Gordon has taken over as the man in the Chargers backfield.

Said Cowboys G Ron Leary, “We pride ourselves in the front five and Philly prides themselves in the front seven. We’ve got a lot of respect for them and it’s going to be a good game.”

Giants rookie S Darian Thompson is itching to get back on the field.

How will the Eagles use S Malcolm Jenkins against the Cowboys?

The Redskins say there’s no rift on their defense.

The return of QB Jay Cutler to the Bears lineup could be a good thing for WR Alshon Jeffery.

Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin explained why his unit has struggled on third downs.

Punt returns haven’t been a strength for the Packers.

LB Chad Greenway thinks the Vikings will respond well after their first loss of the year.

K Matt Bryant is four points away from becoming the Falcons’ all-time leading scorer.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera reminisced about a dinner with late Cubs announcer Harry Carey.

The Saints are still waiting for T Terron Armstead to get healthy.

The Buccaneers need to cut down on explosive plays allowed.

Are the Cardinals overworking RB David Johnson?

Mike Martz has fond memories of his days coaching the Rams.

The 49ers are on a bad trajectory this season.

J.K. Rowling liked seeing Seahawks CB Richard Sherman dressed up like Harry Potter.

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For Panthers secondary, any good news is welcome

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 18:  Head coach Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers checks the scoreboard against the San Francisco 49ers in the 2nd quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

Considering how inexperienced in the secondary they were to start the year, and then how thin they became after injuries, it doesn’t take much for the Panthers to see tangible improvement there.

So getting a key cornerback back had coach Ron Rivera feeling good about things.

“He’s progressed very well,” Rivera said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “We’re pretty excited about him right now.”

Of course, the “him” in question is veteran nickel Leonard Johnson, who has made it through four straight practices in his comeback from Achilles surgery, and could be activated from the non-football injury list today or tomorrow.

Johnson, who spent three years in Tampa Bay and played four games for the Patriots last year, isn’t the kind of name that normally makes a coach light up. But considering the mess the Panthers secondary became when they replaced Josh Norman with three rookies and then injuries began to mount there, getting Johnson back is a relative boost.

They’re still unsure whether the best of the rookies (second-round pick James Bradberry) will be ready to come back from his turf toe injury, which has cost him the last two games. If he can’t go, the Panthers will be trying to stop their slide against the Cardinals with some combination of third-rounder Daryl Worley, Robert McClain and perhaps Johnson.

UPDATE 9:38 a.m. ET: The Panthers activated Johnson from the NFI list Friday, and placed special-teamer Teddy Williams (knee) on injured reserve to create the roster spot.

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Jason Witten says Tony Romo looked “rejuvenated” in practice

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 02:   Injured quarterback Tony Romo #8 of the Dallas Cowboys talks with receiver Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys on the sidelines during the second half against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s still very unclear when or if Tony Romo will be back on the field.

But just having him back on the practice field was a welcome sight for the Cowboys yesterday, as he took part on a limited basis in his first day of work since breaking bones in his back on Aug. 25. Thursday was the nine-week mark of a recovery pegged between six to 10 weeks. He’s not going to play this week against the Eagles, and the Cowboys didn’t want to get too far down that road considering how well rookie replacement Dak Prescott’s playing.

“I don’t think we knew exactly how long or still know how long it will be,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said, via Todd ARcher of “I’m sure he’s been chomping at the bit to get back out there, but he’s got to listen to the doctors, trainers and his body and just don’t be impatient. Just get better on a daily basis.”

Linehan stuck closely to “We’re just getting ready to play this game this week,” in terms of Romo’s future, but it was hard for those who have known Romo the longest to not be a little excited.

“He looks good. Young 9 out there throwing it,” veteran tight end Jason Witten said. “He looks rejuvenated. As I say, he brought a lot of energy. It’s always good to have him back out there. I know he’s worked hard to come back and excited to see him take that next step of going on the field.”

When he takes the next step as a starter again is anyone’s guess.

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Tyrann Mathieu: I’m still a step behind

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 23:  Free safety Tyrann Mathieu #32 of the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals and Seahawks tied 6-6.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

After opening the year only playing free safety for the Cardinals, Tyrann Mathieu back into his role as a slot corner a few weeks ago in hopes of starting to have the same kind of impact on games that he had before tearing his ACL last season.

When Mathieu was playing safety, he wasn’t in the thick of things the way he is when he’s playing corner and that means he wasn’t being tested by opposing offenses anywhere near as often as he had been in the past. That’s changed with the move back to the slot and Mathieu says the tests he’s facing have shown him that he’s still not 100 percent back to form.

“It will probably be that way until I start making plays,” Mathieu said, via the Arizona Republic. “Drag routes, pick routes, drive routes, they just want to see if I can explode and be able to get from Point A to Point B. A lot of teams are going to attack me like that. … What hurts the most is when you know what teams are going to do and you can’t stop them. I know it’s coming and I’m still a step behind.”

Mathieu feels like the brace he’s wearing on his right knee is part of the problem, saying it “restricts me a lot” but that he doesn’t want to take it off too soon and leave himself vulnerable to another injury.

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Titans feel like a statement was made with dominant win

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 27:  Delanie Walker #82 of the Tennessee Titans congratulates teammate Kendall Wright #13 on scoring a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half at Nissan Stadium on October 27, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s easy to look at last night’s Titans win over the Jaguars (such that it was easy to look at) as a case of a bad team rolling over on the road.

But the Titans had something to do with it too, and now that they’re 4-4, they’re feeling pretty good about themselves.

I think it speaks loudly,’’ veteran tight end Delanie Walker said, via Jim Wyatt of the team’s official website. “I think everyone saw how we felt coming in at halftime, and how we felt coming in after the game. I know they are not blind.

“I think they understand this is the way we need to play every week. . . . Guys like this feeling.”

Of course, it’s hard to separate the conditional — It was against the Jaguars — but it was a strong performance on a number of levels. Quarterback Marcus Mariota was efficient (148.1 passer rating), but they ran for 214 yards, with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry establishing the personality they want to show.

“It is hard to run the ball in this league, and it is definitely hard to run for 200 yards,’’ Murray said. “We have a good team, and we all believe in that and we have all said that all along. Just to see the three phases play collectively well throughout the night, obviously it wasn’t perfect.

“But to have that game, it was huge for us going forward.”

They now exceeded last year’s win total (three) and have as many wins as the division leader (the 4-3 Texans). Even though it’s not the best division in the NFL, somebody from the AFC South is going to get invited to the playoffs. And as easy as it is to dismiss the division, the Titans at least made a statement that they’re a serious threat to win it.

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Aaron Williams to decide playing future in offseason

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 16:  Torrey Smith #82 of the San Francisco 49ers breaks free of  Aaron Williams #23 of the Buffalo Bills for a touchdown during the first half at New Era Field on October 16, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

On Thursday, Bills coach Rex Ryan confirmed that there were long-term concerns about safety Aaron Williams‘ neck after he was injured for the second time in as many seasons during last Sunday’s game against the Dolphins.

Ryan didn’t specify how long Williams will be out, but it didn’t sound like there was great hope that Williams will be back in the lineup anytime soon. There’s also a chance that Williams won’t be returning at all, although that won’t be known for a while.

Williams’ father told the Associated Press that his son will make a decision about continuing his playing career in the offseason. Anthony Williams said that they haven’t talked about retirement yet, but his son was open this offseason about the possibility that he’d have to walk away from the game after having neck surgery and this year’s plan to “make the best decision that’s right for him” will obviously include an end to his playing days.

The 2011 second-round pick has spent his entire career with the Bills, seeing action in 59 games and establishing himself as a starter before the neck injuries that now cloud his future.

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Which game are you most looking forward to watching this weekend?

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 16:  Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys attempts a pass against the Green Bay Packers during the first quarter at Lambeau Field on October 16, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

The game we all were least looking forward to watching has come and, thankfully, gone. So we can now focus on the rest of Week Eight, and specifically the game we’re much more excited about watching.

That’s the subject of Friday’s PFT Live question of the day.

Make your choice from the options listed below, complain in the comments about the games that were omitted, and then before watching the games on Sunday check out the last show of the week, featuring a visit from Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry.

The show gets started at 6:00 a.m. on NBC Sports Radio, and the simulcast begins at 7:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN.

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Gus Bradley says Jaguars need “some soul searching”

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley talks to defensive tackle Richard Ash, left, in the second half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski) AP

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said after last night’s blowout loss to the Titans that his team needs to look within itself and address why this season has gone so poorly.

“This is some soul searching. We need to find out what’s the issue,” Bradley said. “I think all of us are frustrated in our play.”

Bradley acknowledged that his players came out not looking like they were playing very hard, but he was unsure what he could have done differently to get them ready.

“It wasn’t good enough, obviously,” Bradley said. “We looked like we got punched in the mouth and we didn’t respond real well. All of us take responsibility. There are some coaching things and some playing things.”

Jaguars owner Shad Khan indicated after the game that he doesn’t plan to fire Bradley, and so Bradley will get plenty of time to figure out how to clean up this mess. He has some soul searching of his own to do.

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Jaguars owner Shad Khan says no coaching change for Jaguars

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 27:  Head coach Gus Bradley watches from the sideline during a game against the Tennessee Titans during the second half at Nissan Stadium on October 27, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan met with coaches and players this week in an attempt to figure out just why his team was not winning more football games.

The Jaguars responded with an absolute dud Thursday night in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans. Jacksonville fell behind 27-0 in the first half. Dante Fowler Jr. picked up a personal foul for a pseudo punch to an Titans player just four days after Mailk Jackson (personal foul accumulation) and Jalen Ramsey (fighting) were ejected against Oakland.

Head coach Gus Bradley is now 14-41 during his tenure in Jacksonville. With 10 days before the Jaguars have to play again, the question is whether Khan would look to make a change at head coach.

According to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, Khan said there will not be a coaching change following Thursday night’s 36-22 loss.

However, Khan also said “actions speak louder than words. Very little for me to say.”

Unless something drastic changes, Bradley’s time in Jacksonville would seem to be running short. Changing coaches in season likely won’t do anything significant and a real change won’t realistically be possible until January at the earliest. But having your previous head coach, Mike Mularkey, hand your team a beat down like the Jaguars experienced Thursday night can’t sit well with Khan.

There’s enough talent on the roster now that Jacksonville should be beyond these types of performances. If they can’t make a change with Bradley at the helm, they’ll probably be making changes without him in the near future.

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