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Week 12 Thanksgiving 10-pack

Packers Lions Football

We’ve moved the Friday 10-pack to Thursday, since posting it on Thursday puts the Thanksgiving games in play for our 10 takes regarding the coming weekend of games.

I also needed to get it done early because I’ll be spending Thursday night preparing to host The Dan Patrick Show on Friday, a process which may look a lot like achieving and maintaining a turkey-induced stupor.  Primarily because that’s precisely what it will be.

1.  At least the NFL tried to give us good games on Thanksgiving.

Every year, complaints arise regarding the quality of the games played on the fourth Thursday in November.  This year, the NFL did something about it.

Though the Lions continue to have a hammerlock on the early game, the NFL picked the Patriots to be the visiting team.  (Because CBS will televise the game, the road team had to be from the AFC; this year, the choices were the Jets and the Patriots.  Either way, a quality opponent would have been pegged for the game.)

For the afternoon contest, the NFL earmarked a game that, as of April, looked to be one of the 10 best of the year — Saints at Cowboys.  Though the Cowboys’ struggles have made the game less intriguing, the NFL opted not to take advantage of its captive audience by offering up the weakest home game on the Dallas schedule.  (Then again, the Lions already were booked.)

The night game — Bengals at Jets — also looked as of April to be a potentially great game, given that the Bengals and Jets both made the playoffs in 2009.  Who knew that the Bengals would be after 10 games The 2-Ocho Show?

Short of moving Thanksgiving to September, the risk that games that looked great in April will be relevant in November applies to every NFL season.  All we can ask is that the NFL attempt to provide quality games.

Even if the Lions and Cowboys would lose their automatic home games, there’s no way of knowing that the games picked prior to the season will involve quality teams by the time the games are played.  What if the Vikings had “earned” a home game on Thanksgiving as a result of their 2009 performance?  Or the 49ers, based on the widespread belief that they’d be much improved in 2010?

In April, every season is a crapshoot.  At least the NFL has finally decided to shoot for something other than crap on Thanksgiving.

2.  Favre could thrive under Frazier.

The decision of Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier to keep brett Favre at quarterback makes sense.  Frazier will earn the job for 2011 only by winning games, and Farve at quarterback gives Frazier the best chance to do that.

The Vikings don’t need to know what Tarvaris Jackson can do; he had relevance only when a change of quarterbacks may have belped salvage a playoff berth.  And Frazier has no interest in developing Joe Webb to become the possible starter for the next regime.

So what of the notion that Favre will continue to produce more turnovers than a baker on an IV full of Red Bull?  Without former coach Brad Childress peering over Favre’s shoulder and constantly telling him what to do and what not to do, it’s entirely possible that Favre will perform better.

Even though reeling off six in a row likely won’t be enough to edge out one of the three-loss teams currently in position to take both of the wild-card spots, a strong finish to the season would partially rehab Favre’s fading legacy — and it would give Frazier a fighter’s chance at keeping the job.  Having Childress out of the picture will make if easier for Favre to just relax and play.

3.  Delhomme’s revenge.

Earlier this year, the Carolina Panthers discarded quarterback Jake Delhomme like an empty bottle of screw-top wine.  And for good reason.  Ever since the completion of the 2008 regular season, Delhomme had been playing like a guy whose Gatorade had been spiked with a full bottle of screw-top wine.

On Sunday, Delhomme will get his first start since Week One, due to Colt McCoy’s ankle sprain.  Coincidentally, that start will come against the Carolina Panthers.

So the game will provide Delhomme with a shot at redemption, a chance to prove the Panthers wrong.

Then again, given that Delhomme received a contract worth $20 million guaranteed before the 2009 season, it’s the Panthers that should be thinking about revenge.

Either way, the link gives a sliver of meaning to an otherwise meaningless game.

4.  It’s getting no easier for Mike Vick.

If the Eagles and quarterback Mike Vick struggle at Soldier Field on Sunday, it’ll be easy to blame the Sports Illustrated jinx, given that he graces the magazine’s cover this week.  But we’re not much for jinxes, unless the person to be jinxed allows himself to think that the jinx exists.

For Vick, the bigger concern should be opposing defenses studying ever bit of tape from his performances to date, building on game plans that slowed him down and trying to devise the one tactic that will shut him down and/or knock him out.

Though the Bears present the latest challenge, a pair of games against the Cowboys, a rematch with the Giants, and a date with the Vikings remain.  With each passing week, defenses will be trying even harder to be the team that solves the Vick riddle, preferably by putting him back on the injury report.

Look for the Bears, mired in a seven-quality-teams-but-only-five-spots chase for the postseason, to pull out all the stops.

5.   Monday night loser could still be alive.

Thanksgiving weekend wraps up with a Monday night game between the 49ers and Cardinals.  It presents a rare stinker on ESPN’s 2010 slate.  But it’s not as bad as it appears, if we ignore the fact that each team has a record of 3-7.

If the 5-5 Seahawks lose on Sunday against the Chiefs, the loser of Monday night’s game will remain only two games out of first place with five games to play.

Sure, the loser will be a woeful 3-8.  But if we can get past that won-loss record, the reality is that the loser can still get hot in December and steal the division and reset its record to 0-0 in the single-elimination tournament that will commence with the NFC West champion hosting a playoff game.

6.  In Atlanta, home-field advantage possibly hangs in the balance.

The game of the week undoubtedly occurs in the Georgia Dome, where the red-hot Packers take on the red-hot Falcons.

Under quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons have won 18 games and lost only one at home.  Under quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have scored a total of 76 points in consecutive games against the Cowboys and Vikings.

The Packers are more than a good offense; their defense has allowed only 10 points in three games, including the pitching of a shutout of the Jets at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

With these two teams destined to play beyond January 2, this game will go a long way toward determining where the second game may occur.  And regardless of what happens this time around, the location of a January rematch will have a lot to do with its potential outcome.

7.  Keep an eye on Tom Brady’s foot.

Vikings quarterback Brett Favre has no qualms when it comes to talking about his injuries.  Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is more apt to talk about his hair.

And so it’s impossible to know the exact diagnosis of and prognosis for Brady’s current foot injury, which caused him to miss practice on Tuesday and Wednesday and to be listed as questionable for Thursday’s game, a rare departure from his usual designation as probable.

Sporting a defensive line that could give the Patriots flashbacks to Super Bowl XLII and a Detroit team that is otherwise irrelevant in NFL circles, it’ll be interesting to see whether these Lions use their rare national spotlight as an occasion to roar, by pouncing on Brady’s bum foot.

8.  Colts are suddenly in trouble.

If the season ended today, the Colts’ season would be over.  And while they’ll play four of their final six games at home, the Colts face the prospect of missing the playoffs — and of winning fewer than 10 games — for the first time since Jim Mora refused to use the “P” word.

The slide very well could continue on Sunday night, when the surging Chargers come to town.  The Chargers have played the Colts well in recent years, providing Indy with a consistent thorn in their side.

And while both of the quarterbacks have had to overcome injuries to their supporting cast on offense, the Chargers are getting healthy a lot faster than the Colts.  And the Chargers will have receiver Vincent Jackson back, for the first time all year.

It could spell trouble once again for the Colts.  At 6-5, the Colts would have to make like the Chargers and finish strong in order to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.

9.  Bucs get their chance to impress.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have handled every team they’ve faced, with the exception of the three elite franchises they’ve played — the Steelers, Saints, and Falcons.

This weekend, the Bucs draw the Ravens.  On the road.

On paper, this is another game that Tampa should lose.  If the Bucs find a way to win, it’ll be time to take this team seriously.

Actually, it’s already time to take this team seriously.  With upcoming games against the Redskins, Lions, and Seahawks, 10 wins could be in the offing.  With the Ravens, Falcons, and Saints also on the docket, victory in any one of those games will help the Bucs do the unthinkable — nailing down coach of the year honors for Raheem Morris, and possibly executive of the year recognition for Mark Dominik.  With a roster devoid of pricey veterans, the Bucs are one of the few teams that is playing like a true team.

10.  Chargers are following form, and will likely continue to do so.

After the Chargers lost five of their first seven games, we said (one or twice, or more often) that the team eventually would try to follow a slow start with a fast finish — and fail.

But the Chargers have shown that they can do it again, reeling off three wins and moving to within a game of first place in the AFC West.  And they’ll likely continue their climb to the playoffs.

Where they’ll likely lose in one of the first two rounds.

While, as mentioned above, they match up well with the Colts, the Chargers eventually would face the Patriots, Jets, Ravens, or Steelers.  And with five losses already in the standings, the Chargers will have to take their pass-first offense to an open-air stadium in the Northeast.  In the middle of January.

Moving forward, and as our friend Scott Caplan of XX 1090 in San Diego pointed out during our weekly Wednesday morning radio visit, the Chargers should redouble their efforts to figure out why they can’t win more games in September and October.  If they could emerge into November and December with a better record, they’d be able to force some of the other elite teams to San Diego in January.

Hey, at least the Chargers wouldn’t have to face a long flight home after losing.

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Billick bashes Falcons defensive talent

Billick Getty Images

On the surface, recent remarks from coach-turned-commentator Brian Billick about the quality of the Falcons’ defensive talent will raise no eyebrows.  Billick was doing what commentators do, commentating with commentary about topics worthy of comment.

But Billick and Falcons coach Mike Smith are family, in the Walter White/Uncle Hank sense.  Married to sisters, that relationship has in the past ruffled feathers at other franchises when Billick was working Falcons games for FOX.  Now, the feathers could be ruffled within Falconland.

“I can’t think of another team in the league that has less quantifiable talent on it defensively,” Billick told 92.9 The Game in Atlanta, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Billick added that Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has been working with “smoke and mirrors” for awhile, and that he’s now merely dealing with “smoke.”

Given the relationship between Billick and Smith and, separately, the relationship between Billick and Nolan (who spent four years with Billick in Baltimore), Billick’s words easily could be viewed not as his own thoughts but as a recitation of complaints he has heard from either or both men.  Which could be interpreted as evidence of a growing disconnect between the coaching staff and the front office.

Which perhaps cries out for some sort of joint effort by the coaching staff and the front office to demonstrate that they’re on the same page, and that they’re not not pointing fingers at each other in the event that the season unfolds more like Week Two and Week Four and less like Week One and Week Three.

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Derek Carr thinks he’ll be ready to play after bye week

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The Raiders fired coach Dennis Allen this week and named Tony Sparano as their interim coach, a decision that has overshadowed everything else going on with the Raiders this season.

Sparano will coach his first game when Oakland returns from their bye for a Week Six game against the Chargers and one of the things he’ll have to figure out is who will be starting at quarterback. Derek Carr suffered a high ankle sprain and an MCL sprain in last Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins, injuries that would suggest at least a little bit of time out of the lineup.

That’s not what Carr is thinking. The quarterback said Wednesday that he is “doing a lot better” and that he doesn’t think he’ll be forced to miss the game against San Diego.

“We’re taking it [a] day at a time,” Carr said, via CSNBayArea.com. “But knowing myself, I’ll be ready — that’s my answer, that’s my goal. I’ve just got to continue to work hard to get ready.”

Matt Schaub returned to practice on Wednesday after missing the last two games and the trip to London while dealing with a family matter. He and Matt McGloin would be Sparano’s options if Carr can’t go, but they won’t be needed if the rookie is correct about how quickly he’s healing.

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Cecil Shorts said he was “selfish” to play through hamstring

Brandon Flowers, Cecil Shorts AP

It might be weeks before Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts gets back on the field.

But he said he was “selfish” for trying to play a week ago.

Shorts aggravated a previous hamstring problem during the loss to the Chargers, and pulled up on a play which turned into an interception.

‘“I probably shouldn’t have done that – that was selfish on my part to try and play through it,” Shorts said, via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. “I felt [the injury] the play before the interception and was thinking, ‘OK, TV timeout, let’s see how it feels.’ So I’m jumping around and doing a little bit.

“But I went in motion and I pulled up and couldn’t come back to the ball. I hung my team out to dry. That hurt me because I let the team down and gave [San Diego] three points. That was definitely one me.”

This hamstring injury is his third since the start of camp, and will at least cost him this week’s game against the Steelers. His previous two each cost him two weeks of game time (in the preseason and regular season), and he said this one could be the same.

He has just seven catches on the season, and his lack of availability is one of the things that has bogged down their offense this season, beyond the quarterback decision.

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Pagano says talk of piped-in crowd noise is an “insult” to fans

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As the Ravens prepare to face the Colts in Indy, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh made a tongue-in-cheek reference to notion that the Colts artificially augment the crowd noise at home games.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano wants the crowd to show Harbaugh he can stick it somewhere other than in his cheek.

“I think it’s more of an insult to our 12th man, if you will,” Pagano told reporters on Wednesday.  “I think he’s calling out our fans, which I think are the best fans in the National Football League.  So let’s see how our 12th man reacts to that insult.”

Nearly seven years ago, the Colts were cleared of using artificial noise during a game against the Patriots.  The Pats had complained about the situation, and coach Bill Belichick likewise groused that his coach-to-quarterback communication system wasn’t working.

Two years earlier, the Steelers complained about piped-in crowd noise in Indy, prompting then-Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to issue a memo threatening the stripping of draft picks for franchises that artificially made it louder in their home stadiums.

While there’s no evidence that the Colts have ever artificially increased the volume of the fans at Lucas Oil Stadium or its predecessor, the RCA Dome, Pagano’s comments surely were aimed at creating an artificial controversy that will prompt an increase in the natural noise from the stands.

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Sammy Watkins: Ball comes out faster with Kyle Orton

San Diego Chargers v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Bills handed the keys to the offense to quarterback Kyle Orton this week and it hasn’t taken long for Orton’s teammates to notice the differences from the way things ran with EJ Manuel.

Wide receivers Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins have both picked up on the new things that Orton brings to the table. Woods noted Orton’s “directness” and the way he tells the other members of the offense what to look for when they break the huddle and line up for the play. Watkins has noticed that as well and also pointed out some other ways that Orton’s experience has revealed itself during recent practices.

“We just had a different approach to practice. [Orton] demands what he wants out of us,” Watkins said, via ESPN.com. “He’s more of a veteran guy. The way he talked, the way he handles business, the way he looks at plays and breaks down defenses, it’s kind of different than EJ. He reads it quicker, the ball is coming out faster. That’s just some things that we have to adjust to.”

Orton wasn’t taking the bait when it came to questions about what he will do better than Manuel, but the comments from the wide receivers suggest that Orton’s going to be more advanced when it comes to reading defenses and more able to direct his younger teammates in the offense. Both should benefit the Bills as long as Orton’s physical abilities are up to snuff.

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Ndamukong Suh won’t talk about 2015

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Getty Images

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh can become a free agent after the season and a report last weekend indicated that Suh was unlikely to remain with the Lions once the offseason does arrive.

That report had New York, Chicago and Dallas listed as preferred destinations, but Suh didn’t stick around to answer any questions about it or anything else after Detroit’s victory over the Jets. Suh reportedly was in such a hurry that he wore the same undershirt he wore during the game onto the team bus, but Suh said that wasn’t true when he met the media on Wednesday.

Suh said he that he “always” takes a shower after games and that it would be “bad hygiene” to do anything else. Attempts to turn the discussion toward his 2015 plans were less successful, however. Suh said he was happy to answer questions about this week’s matchup with the Bills, but only about the matchup with the Bills.

“I cannot address that [report] just from the simple fact that I have not spoken to any reporter about it or any reporters about supposedly what has come out,” Suh said, via the Detroit Free Press.

Suh and the Lions have tabled talks on a new deal until after the season, which doesn’t leave Suh much to talk about on the 2015 front at the moment. That won’t stop speculation or questions from bubbling to the surface, but it does seem they’ll go unanswered for a few more months.

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2015 NFL Draft set for April 30-May 2

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The NFL still hasn’t decided where the 2015 draft will take place, but the date is set.

The first round of the draft will take place on Thursday, April 30, with the second and third rounds set for May 1 and the fourth through seventh rounds for May 2, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Last year the NFL moved the draft back two weeks from its usual late April start, prompting some complaints that it was too late in the year. This year the draft has been bumped up a week earlier in the offseason than last.

We still don’t know where next year’s draft will be. The NFL has been weighing the options of moving the draft to Chicago or Los Angeles for months.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Tennessee Titans v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Bills QB Kyle Orton brings a sense of calm.

The Dolphins are getting a good return out of their rookie class.

The return of Patriots CB Brandon Browner should be a big boost.

Jets FB John Conner thinks he might have a bigger role this time around.

Ravens rookie LB C.J. Mosley has made them better against the run.

The Bengals have a good matchup this week with their defensive line against the Patriots.

Browns WR Travis Benjamin’s ready to “showcase my skills” this week.

Steelers S Mike Mitchell knows the team has to reduce penalties.

The Texans added some CB depth to the practice squad.

Colts S Sergio Brown will get the first chance to replace LaRon Landry.

Upon return from his suspension, Jaguars WR Ace Sanders said he’s ready to step up.

Titans backup QB Charlie Whitehurst, aka Clipboard Jesus, was named one of the 25 most beautiful people in Nashville.

Broncos QB Peyton Manning is approaching another passing milestone.

Chiefs T Donald Stephenson returned from suspension.

Stanford’s David Shaw shot down any interest in the Raiders job.

The Chargers are still at risk, even without blackout rule.

The Cowboys have no regrets drafting LT Tyron Smith over J.J. Watt.

Giants WR Odell Beckham is apparently wowing people in in practice.

Eagles C Jason Kelce is hoping for a quick recovery from sports hernia surgery.

Washington is trying to keep the focus inward.

Bears DE Jared Allen is on track to play this week.

The Lions are 0-4 all-time against Kyle Orton.

The Packers going shotgun so often has slowed down RB Eddie Lacy.

The Vikings made a significant investment in nickel CB Captain Munnerlyn.

Falcons DE Osi Umenyiora tries not to look back on his time in New York with regrets.

It’s been kind of a busy week for the Panthers, at least off the field and in the trainers room.

The Saints changed their practice schedule to make it more competitive.

Bucs QB Josh McCown still isn’t about to throw, which is a problem.

Cardinals assistant Tom Moore knows Peyton Manning well, but deflects credit.

Rams WR Tavon Austin was back to work on a limited basis.

CB Tramaine Brock is beginning rehab on a sore toe, and not expected to play this week.

The Seahawks thrive in prime time environments.

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Nick Foles has problems, but they’re not physical

Nick Foles AP

Nick Foles doesn’t look like Nick Foles any more.

But Eagles coach Chip Kelly insisted there was nothing physically wrong with his quarterback.

According to Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com, Kelly said his quarterback hasn’t missed any time, and hasn’t had any MRIs.

He hasn’t had any of that,” Kelly said. “He just got banged in the shoulder. He hasn’t missed a day of practice [and] hasn’t missed a rep throwing.”

That’s not for a lack of trying by his opponents. The hit he took from Washington’s Chris Baker two weeks ago probably still has some teeth loose, and Foles followed with an uncharacteristic performance against the 49ers last week.

Completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes and throwing two picks, it wasn’t the kind of clean performance we’re accustomed to, and there were more hard shots.

But he wasn’t on the injury report Wednesday, and Kelly said he had no examinations scheduled. So it must be something else.

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Cam Newton’s ankle surgery more complicated than he thought

Terrell Suggs, Cam Newton AP

Cam Newton’s still not himself, still not able to run pain-free because of his offseason ankle surgery.

That was an expected part of the process, but Newton said Wednesday he might have been unclear about the expectations going in.

“We kind of teased about it a couple weeks ago, how the doctor kind of downplayed how the surgery was going to go,” Newton said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “I just thought this was a surgery just to clean up the ligaments and what not. But after reading a lot of reports from you guys, hearing about so much of ligament repair and this major ankle surgery that may hold Cam Newton off for a couple months, that’s when I started scratching my head like, man, this may be bigger than I thought. And something I thought may have a cast on for a couple weeks end up to be a couple months. I’m still in that mode where I’m trying to realize that I’m still trying to recover from a major ankle surgery that was displayed to me originally as just a regular little cleanup.”

It’s entirely possible that Newton heard what he wanted to hear rather than he was misled, since he’s never had to rehab a major injury. So when doctors told him it would be a year before he was fully pain-free, he might have shrugged it off.

Either way, it’s kept him from being himself, and the shot to the ribs in the preseason which kept him out of the opener didn’t help. He has just eight rushing attempts on the season, and his inability to run has caused the Panthers as a whole to lag behind in the run game.

“My body is mending up, slowly but surely,” Newton said. “That’s giving me a lot of confidence when I am thinking about running the football and throwing the football as well.”

He’s actually throwing it better than ever, with career highs in completion percentage (63.8) and passer rating (98.2), and hasn’t thrown a pick yet.

Yet he hasn’t been himself, and until he’s able or willing to run the way he can, he won’t be.

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Rich Gannon blasts Raiders organization and culture of losing

GANNON AP

To say Rich Gannon isn’t happy with the Oakland Raiders would be a massive understatement.

Gannon – who won the NFL MVP award in 2002 while leading the Raiders to a Super Bowl appearance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – took his radio show Wednesday on Sirius XM NFL Radio to blast the Raiders organization and their “commitment to mediocrity” after the firing of Dennis Allen as head coach Monday night.

“You’re not winning because you have players and coaches and people in the building that have become comfortable with the process of losing,” Gannon said, via CSNBayArea.com. “It’s okay to lose out there, it’s okay. It’s not a big deal. In other places, it’s simply not tolerated. And when it gets to the point where they don’t tolerate it anymore, it’s unacceptable, and we run people out of the building who haven’t figured that out…and then bring in players who care, and players who work and players who aren’t going to tolerate that, then you’ll get the results you so long desire.

“But they don’t know how to do it and it drives me crazy.”

The Raiders fired Allen and replaced him with Tony Sparano as their interim head coach. Sparano is the eighth head coach to lead the team since 2002. Oakland doesn’t have a single winning season and just two 8-8 seasons in the 11 years since their last Super Bowl appearance.

The continued struggles of the franchise that Gannon led to three playoff appearances in four seasons pushed Gannon to blast the team and the people employed by the organization.

“There’s people out in Oakland, in that building, players, coaches, front office, people in business, accounting: stealing!” Gannon said. “They ought to give the check back. The product on the field is terrible. And when you lose like that, how can you go to the bank and cash the check? You should be embarrassed.”

The results speak for themselves. No playoff appearances in 11 seasons (and firmly on their way to making that 12 straight) and an average of fewer than five victories per season over that span. There doesn’t appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel either at this point for the Raiders.

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Week Five skill position injury report — Wednesday

Joique Bell AP

For fantasy football players, here’s a rundown of the skill position players listed on Wednesday’s injury report as furnished by the NFL. Key fantasy starters are bolded. The final injury report for Sunday games is released Friday, with the final Monday-night injury report released on Saturday

(Week Five byes: Raiders, Dolphins).

FULL

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (shoulder).

Bengals RB Rex Burkhead (knee).

Eagles TE Trey Burton (Achilles).

Browns TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder).

Eagles TE James Casey (knee).

49ers RB Michael Crabtree (foot).

Vikings RB Jerome Felton (knee). — PROBABLE

Bills WR Marquise Goodwin (concussion).

49ers RB Frank Gore (back).

Broncos TE Virgil Green (concussion).

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (knee).

Cardinals TE Rob Housler (hip).

Eagles WR Josh Huff (shoulder).

Jets RB Chris Johnson (ankle).

Titans QB Jake Locker (right wrist).

Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin (hamstring).

Bears WR Brandon Marshall (ankle).

Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon (ankle). — PROBABLE

Broncos PK Brandon McManus (right groin).

Ravens RB Bernard Pierce (thigh).

Eagles WR Brad Smith (groin).

Vikings WR Rodney Smith (hamstring). — PROBABLE

Chiefs RB De’Anthony Thomas (hamstring).

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (ribs).

Saints TE Benjamin Watson (groin).

LIMITED

Rams WR Tavon Austin (knee).

Giants WR Odell Beckham (hamstring).

Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater (ankle) — QUESTIONABLE.

Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (ankle).

Jets WR Eric Decker (hamstring).

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (foot).

Chargers TE Ladarius Green (hamstring).

Falcons WR Devin Hester (ankle).

Texans WR Damaris Johnson (foot).

Chargers WR TE David Johnson (shoulder).

Falcons WR Julio Jones (ankle).

49ers TE Vance McDonald (knee).

Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart (thigh).

Browns RB Ben Tate (knee).

Titans TE Delanie Walker (shoulder).

Steelers WR Markus Wheaton (groin).

DID NOT PRACTICE

Chiefs WR Donnie Avery (groin).

Lions RB Joique Bell (concussion).

Packers WR Jarrett Boykin (groin). — OUT

Colts RB Ahmad Bradshaw (not injury related).

Panthers TE Richie Brockel (ankle).

Steelers WR Martavis Bryant (illness).

49ers TE Vernon Davis (back).

Bills WR Marcus Easley (knee).

Buccaneers WR Mike Evans (groin).

Falcons WR Harry Douglas (foot).

Lions TE Joseph Fauria (ankle).

Chargers WR Malcom Floyd (illness).

Texans RB Arian Foster (hamstring).

Rams QB Shaun Hill (thigh).

Saints RB Mark Ingram (hand).

Texans WR Andre Johnson (ankle).

Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle).

Bengals WR Marvin Jones (ankle).

Saints RB Erik Lorig (ankle).

Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee).

Buccaneers QB Josh McCown (thumb).

Steelers TE Heath Miller (not injury related).

Browns WR Marlon Moore (illness).

Jets WR David Nelson (ankle).

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer (right shoulder).

Lions RB Theo Riddick (hamstring).

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back).

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen, groin) — OUT.

Buccaneers TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle).

Titans TE Taylor Thompson (knee).

Colts WR Reggie Wayne (not injury related).

Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh).

Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle).

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Justin Blackmon working through voluntary treatment program

Justin Blackmon, Chris Harris AP

Receiver Justin Blackmon has missed an entire calendar year’s worth of games after being suspended indefinitely by the league for repeated violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have stuck by Blackmon despite his issues but fully expect to not have him be available this season.

Whether he will ever be reinstated remains to be seen as well, but Blackmon is at least attempting to take steps needed to give himself the chance to return to his NFL career in the future.

According to Mark Long of the Associated Press, Blackmon has checked into a voluntary treatment facility and is about halfway through the 90-day program.

“He’s healing and taking time for himself,” head coach Gus Bradley said. “The great thing is he has chosen this for himself. It’s awesome to hear about.”

This isn’t the first time Blackmon has sought out treatment for his problems. He also planned to enter rehab last year after the suspension was handed down by the league. But Blackmon was arrested again in July for possession of marijuana in Oklahoma, which essentially closed the door on any chance that he could return to the field this year.

Blackmon showed great potential as a rookie in 2012 when he caught 64 passes for 865 yards and five touchdowns for the Jaguars. After serving a four-game suspension to begin the 2013 season, Blackmon also had a standout performance in Denver with 14 catches for 190 yards before he was suspended indefinitely in November.

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Cowboys player allegedly involved in a sexual assault

Cowboys Getty Images

Despite unprecedented sensitivity to the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault in the NFL, incidents involving NFL players continue.

The latest allegedly happened on the evening of September 20.

According to the New York Daily News, defensive back C.J. Spillman has been accused of sexually assaulting a female at the team’s hotel.

“We have a sexual assault report we are investigating at this time, and it does involve C.J. Spillman,” a police spokesman told the Daily News.  “He is involved in the investigation.  We are looking into the matter.”

Spillman played on September 21 at St. Louis, and again on September 28 against the Saints.  On September 26, the alleged victim’s lawyer, Gloria Allred, alerted Commissioner Roger Goodell to the allegations.

It’s unclear whether the team or the league previously knew about it.  It’s also unclear why Spillman has not yet been placed on the rabbit-from-a-hat Commissioner’s Permission list.

Now that the situation has become publicly known, chances are that Spillman will land on paid suspension until the charges are resolved.  Or maybe the Cowboys will simply cut him, since he’s not a key player.

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Alexander says suspension arises from violation “many months ago”

Alexander Getty Images

The four-game suspension imposed on Panthers defensive end Frank Alexander has become a 10-game suspension.  Alexander has issued a statement expressing regret for the incident that, according to Alexander, happened a long time ago.

“I’m very sorry to the Panthers organization, my teammates, and Panthers fans that my mistakes from many months ago will prevent me from contributing for several more weeks,” Alexander said in a statement.  “This discipline arose from a violation that occurred many months ago.  Since that violation, I have continued to grow, and I will continue to work hard, as I have been doing, to stay in shape and be a major contributor upon my return.   Through God’s favor, I will continue to show through my behavior that I have learned some valuable life lessons.”

While the violation triggering the 10-game suspension may have happened many months ago, it wasn’t only one violation that resulted in the suspension.  But for the revision to the substance-abuse policy, the latest violation would have resulted in Alexander missing an entire year, at a minimum.

A fourth-round pick in 2012, Alexander will be eligible to return after Week 15, barring another violation.

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