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Chargers, Colts headed in opposite directions

San Diego Chargers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

A week ago, we made the case that this Chargers team could be better than last year’s 13-3 squad.  After Sunday night’s 36-14 destruction of the Colts, you could argue the Chargers are playing better than any team in the league.

The Chargers outscored the Colts 20-0 in the second half and picked off four Peyton Manning passes in the victory.  The Chargers battered Manning all night, reminding viewers this team is about much more than Philip Rivers.

Mike Tolbert rushed for 103 yards and scored his ninth touchdown of the year.  Linebacker Kevin Burnett and safety Eric Weddle both scored touchdowns on interceptions.  Consider it a very good sign the Chargers could win a blowout in Lucas Oil Stadium without Rivers topping 200 yards.

While the Chargers are making their typical late season run, these Colts look unfamiliar.  The running game has gone from terrible to unprofessional.  (They had 24 yards on 13 carries.)  The offensive line can’t protect Manning for long, and  Manning’s receivers are either hurt or making uncharacteristic mistakes.   The Colts defense is missing too many playmakers.

This was the largest home loss for the Colts in the Peyton Manning era.  Their seven-season streak of 12 wins is over.    For the first time since 2001, it’s possible they may miss the playoffs.   (If another AFC South team can step up.)

You aren’t always what your record says you are.

Sunday night’s game showed the 6-5 Chargers are playing dominant football, while the 6-5 Colts are just trying to survive.

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Sammy Watkins thought he’d be a Brown

Watkins Getty Images

Before the draft, the Browns tried to make everyone think they’d select Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.  That everyone included someone named Sammy Watkins.

“I met with [G.M. Ray Farmer] probably a week before the combine, so yeah, in my head I thought I was going to get drafted there because Josh Gordon got into some trouble. Yeah,” Watkins told Cleveland reporters in advance of Sundays game between the Bills and the Browns.

Ultimately, Watkins was on the board when the Browns were on the clock.  The Browns traded down, the Bills traded up, and Watkins now works in Buffalo.

“Being a first-round pick and having someone come up and get you, that’s the best feeling ever,” Watkins said.  “Having someone trust you and think that you’re good enough to come up and get.”

The Bills gave up a 2015 first-round pick (and a 2015 fourth-round pick) to get Watkins.  Does that add pressure?

“Not at all,” Watkins said.  “I think that I’ve met their expectations throughout the course of this year, and I’ve been getting better every week.  I’m doing good, and I think I’m going to keep improving and getting better.”

Watkins has been very good.  But other receivers taken in the first round have played well, too.  In hindsight, wouldn’t the Bills be in the same shape if they’d waited for Odell Beckham Jr. and saved the first-round and fourth-round picks?

Still, Watkins and Beckham aren’t rivals.  They’re friends.

“We’re very close,” Watkins said.  “I text him.  We talk, and I wish the best for him.  We all push each other every week.  I push him; he pushes me.  I watch him play; he watches me.  Yeah, I try to go out there every week and beat his numbers and beat everybody’s numbers.  That’s the ultimate goal — to be the best.  That’s what he’s been doing.  He’s been proving to everybody that he’s an elite receiver, a top receiver, and I think I’ve been doing the same.”

Watkins is right, but Beckham has done something that none of the other rookie receivers — and few in league history — have accomplished.  If that pushes Watkins to make a highlight-reel catch for the ages, everybody wins.

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No Wednesday practice for Clowney

Clowney Getty Images

How much is Jadeveon Clowney’s surgically-repaired knee bothering him?  Enough to keep him from practicing on Wednesday.

The first overall pick in the 2014 draft missed Wednesday’s practice due to a lingering knee problem.

After Sunday’s loss to the Bengals, Clowney said he’s still affected by the injury.

Last week, Clowney participated in all practices on a limited basis.  It remains to be seen whether he’ll be taking a game off in the hopes of getting himself healthier.

The 5-6 Texans host the Titans on Sunday.

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Marshawn is probable for Thursday night

Lynch AP

When the Seahawks and 49ers get together on Thanksgiving night on NBC, the 49ers will get a full dose of running back Marshawn Lynch.

Lynch is officially listed as probable for the NFC West showdown, with a back injury.  It means there’s a virtual certainty he’ll be available for normal duty.

Out for the Seahawks are tight end Cooper Helfet (ankle), the only guy who scored a touchdown in Sunday’s win over the Cardinals.  Also due to miss the game for Seattle are center Max Under (knee, ankle) and linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (shoulder).

Questionable for Seattle are former 49ers defensive end Demarcus Dobbs (knee) and cornerback Jeremy Lane (glute).

For the home team, tight end Derek Carrier (foot), tackle Anthony Davis (concussion), and defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey (forearm) are out. Cornerback Tramaine Brock (hamstring), receiver Bruce Ellington (ankle), and tight end Vance McDonald (back) are questionable.

The “probables” for San Fran include running back Frank Gore, who has a knee injury.

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Rex Ryan: We have two good quarterbacks

genovick AP

Sometimes coaches have to put a positive spin on things even when all is lost. We’ll assume that’s what Jets coach Rex Ryan was doing when he addressed his quarterback situation today.

Asked about the decision to bench Michael Vick and start Geno Smith, Ryan maintained that both of them are good quarterbacks.

“I have said it all along I feel we have two good quarterbacks, I definitely feel that. And we have another guy that is a decent quarterback as well, in [Matt] Simms. But I feel that way,” Ryan said.

The reality is, if the Jets had two good quarterbacks they wouldn’t be 2-9 right now. If the Jets had one good quarterback they wouldn’t be 2-9 right now. The Jets have zero good quarterbacks. (And for that matter, if Simms is “decent,” then the Jets ought to let him start the last five games of the season and see what he can do.)

Truthfully, the Jets are just playing out the string, so they’ve decided to give the job to the younger quarterback. Ryan acknowledged that part of the decision to switch from Vick to Smith is to give the franchise more time to evaluate Smith.

“Let’s see how far he’s come,” Ryan said of Smith. “We’ve given him a few weeks off, let’s see how it handles it. Yeah, I am curious to see that. But again, I mentioned I’m excited to see it.”

Ryan may be the only one who’s excited to see the Jets’ offense for the last five games of the season.

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Kyle Fuller, Riley Reiff and Reggie Bush all questionable for Turkey Day

Rhett Ellison, Jarius Wright, Kyle Fuller AP

The Bears and Lions have released their final injury reports before Thursday’s game at Ford Field and it finds key players on both sides questionable.

Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller drew the tag after hurting his MCL last weekend. He was listed as a limited participant on Wednesday after being deemed a non-participant on Monday and Tuesday. If Fuller doesn’t play, it would eliminate the possibility that he’d line up across from his brother and Lions wide receiver Corey at some point on Thursday. Their parents have crafted some custom jerseys for the occasion, so it would be a letdown emotionally and sartorially if one of their sons couldn’t go.

On the other side, Lions left tackle Riley Reiff and running back Reggie Bush both got in limited practices on Friday before drawing the questionable tag. It was Reiff’s first practice of the week while Bush worked every day and has been targeting this week to return from the ankle injury that’s sidelined him recently.

The Bears listed defensive linemen Jeremiah Ratliff and Trevor Scott as doubtful due to knee injuries, and they’ve ruled out linebackers Lance Briggs and Darryl Sharpton and wide receiver Chris Williams.

Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley and guard Larry Warford remain out.

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Shaun Phillps lands with Colts

Blake Bortles, Shaun Phillips AP

Linebacker Shaun Phillips has taken an overnight elevator ride from the basement to the penthouse in the AFC South.

Phillips was waived by the Titans on Tuesday and he’ll spend Thanksgiving as a member of the Colts, who announced that they added Phillips via a waiver claim on Wednesday. The move for Phillips, who has 81.5 career sacks, is a signal that the Colts would like to boost their pass rush off the edge.

The Colts currently rank 11th in the NFL with 27 sacks, seven of which have come from outside linebackers Bjoern Werner and Erik Walden. They hoped to have Robert Mathis for the final 12 regular season games, but he tore his Achilles while working out ahead of his reinstatement from a season-opening four-game suspension.

Phillips, who is signed through next season, had just two sacks in 11 games with the Titans, so he’s hardly been an impact player this season. Phillips did have 10 sacks last year with the Broncos, so a return to a team with postseason aspirations could be a boost to his productivity.

Linebacker Victor Butler has shuffled on and off the Colts roster a few times recently and he shuffled back off with Phillips’s arrival.

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Ryan Kalil says his brother’s hat-flick was all his fault

2014 Pro Bowl Getty Images

Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil has apologized for flicking the hat off a heckling fan last Sunday.

But the guy should probably be glad Ryan Kalil didn’t give more wedgies growing up.

The Panthers center came to the defense of his little brother, saying his treatment of Matt when they were growing up may have contributed to Sunday’s outburst.

“I was a little disappointed,” Ryan Kalil said, via John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I would have liked him to go with the, ‘You spilled something on your shirt‘ move, and then flick him on the chin. . . .

“It’s probably my fault for picking on him when he was little. That hat thing was a go-to move.”

Ryan said his brother was actually on the phone with their father when the incident occurred, saying the heckler was saying “some pretty ugly stuff.”
Of course, there’s plenty being said about Matt Kalil in Minnesota, where many feel he’s not living up to his first-round status.

And for that, a bunch of Vikings fans probably wish Ryan would have given his brother a few more noogies when they were growing up.

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Donte Whitner ruffles Fred Jackson’s feathers

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Safety Donte Whitner and the Browns will travel to meet the Bills on Sunday and Whitner’s not heading for the happiest of welcomes in the town he called home for the first five years of his career.

Whitner made a crack on Twitter over the summer about the Bills moving to Toronto, which made former Bill Darryl Talley quite upset and the bad feelings haven’t died down in Buffalo. Running back Fred Jackson said Wednesday that Whitner will “never get my respect” for what Jackson felt was talking down to people in Buffalo and in the organization.

“That’s just him being him,” Jackson said, via ESPN.com. “Donte is a guy that likes to ruffle feathers. He found any way he could to try and ruffle Buffalo’s feathers, knowing he had to come up to us. It’s just dumb for him to do, and talk about people like that, and talk about the city of Buffalo like that. But at the same time, you’ve just got to take it with a grain of salt and say it’s just some dude that’s being an idiot about some stuff.”

Whitner said he’s expecting a chilly reception from the fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium, but that he doesn’t care about hurting feelings if it might help the Browns win a game.

“[The Toronto Bills comment] wasn’t excessive. It wasn’t a joke. I knew that it would get to them. I knew it would ruffle a feather. If they’re over there talking about this, maybe we are in their heads. Maybe I’m in their heads. Maybe. We don’t know, but the goal is to go 1-0, the goal is to get them talking about things other than football, and I guess that’s what they’re doing.”

Whitner and Jackson should meet up at some point when Jackson gets hold of the ball and it will be interesting to see whose feathers are the most ruffled on the other side of a collision.

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Zach Mettenberger sends himself to selfie rehab

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger made a rookie mistake by drawing too much attention to himself on social media before his first start, and incurred the wrath of Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

But Mettenberger said he’s gone cold turkey on taking selfies, in hopes of keeping a lower profile.

“I was just addicted to it I guess. I put myself in a rehab program,” Mettenberger said, via Jim Wyatt of the Tennesseean. “And now that I’ve quit I feel like I am a much better person.”

Watt criticized Mettenberger for it after the game, and had his own selfie sack celebration during.

“It’s just kind of a reminder, this is the National Football League, not high school. Welcome to the show,” Watt said then. “I just, I take my job very seriously. If I was a rookie quarterback being named the starter for the first time in the league, I feel like I’d be a little bit more focused than that. Maybe he’ll learn from it, maybe not. We won the game, so that’s all that matters.”

On a conference call this week, Watt said he was surprised it got so much attention.

“I think that definitely got blown up more than I expected it to be. I guess I should have expected it with today’s world, but somebody asked me a question after the game and I answered it,” Watt said. “That’s all there was to it. It’s football.”

Of course, Mettenberger might want to win a game before sending out any more selfies, since he hasn’t done that yet as a starter either.

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Josh Gordon on suspension: Lowest point was disassociation from teammates

Josh Gordon, Greg Little AP

Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon looked like he hadn’t missed a beat during his 10-game suspension during last Sunday’s game against the Falcons.

Gordon caught eight passes for 120 yards to help the Browns improve to 7-4 with a 26-24 victory, but the time during his suspension wasn’t as smooth as his return to the field. Gordon spoke to former Browns teammate Nate Burleson for NFL Network about feeling alienated from his teammates during the ban he received for violations of the substance-abuse and personal conduct policies.

“The lowest point of all this I think was the disassociation from a lot of friends you thought were close or you thought you were kind of cool with really not checking on you anymore, [not] hitting you up anymore, [not] wanting to hang out,” Gordon said, via the Akron Beacon Journal. “As far as even people in here [with the Browns]. I don’t want to throw names around but I can see it. I’m definitely really observant so I see how people might just be more standoffish as they were before. It’s kind of like a disease. People they want to see it but they don’t really want to touch it.”

Gordon’s description of the limbo he found himself in for the first 10 games of the season sounded right to coach Mike Pettine, who called it an “uncomfortable” situation that left players who are suspended or injured on the outside looking in at the rest of the team. Pettine added that he thought any of what Gordon felt was a product of the circumstances and not anyone’s feelings about Gordon.

“Knowing the quality of the people in this building, I doubt there would be any overt maliciousness or, basically, just what’s being described,” Pettine said. “I know Josh is well liked by his teammates.  He’s certainly well-liked by the coaching staff and he’s come a long way.”

The comparison to an injured player seems like an apt one based on the way players knocked out for the season have described their experiences. Gordon was healthy and in meetings, but he wasn’t part of the team for practice or games and that’s going to make for the uncomfortable moments that Pettine mentioned. As long as everyone feels comfortable now, and it looked like Gordon did, all should be well on that front.

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No fine for Lynch’s “yeah”-filled press conference

Lynch Getty Images

Two Sundays ago, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch avoided reporters.  He was fined $100,000 for the infraction.

This past Sunday, Lynch talked to reporters, primarily by repeatedly saying “yeah,” even in response to questions that didn’t call for a yes/no answer.

So will the NFL fine Lynch for failing to comply with the spirit of the media policy?  Nope.

Per a league source, Lynch hasn’t been fined for his latest shenanigans.  It’s likely, however, that the league won’t tolerate that approach on a regular basis.

After Texans running back Arian Foster repeatedly said that he’s just trying to be a good teammate during a session with reporters, the NFL warned him that he could be fined if he engages in similar shenanigans in the future.  So if Lynch opts for “yeah” as a standard response to reporter questions, the NFL eventually will say “yeah” when asked if Lynch has been fined.

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Josh Brent not expected to play this week

Josh Brent AP

Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent is listed as probable on the team’s injury report with a calf injury, but it doesn’t sound like that will be enough to get him a spot on Thursday’s 46-man roster.

The Cowboys placed defensive lineman Jack Crawford on injured reserve Wednesday, but coach Jason Garrett indicated defensive tackle Terrell McClain would play after joining Brent on the inactive list last weekend. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli sent a similar message about Brent’s chances of facing the Eagles.

“He’s coming along fineS,” Marinelli said, via the Dallas Morning News. “It’s just that we have some guys who are playing pretty well for us right now, too. So we’ll keep you updated when we feel he’s ready to go and I’ll alert you.”

Wide receiver Terrence Williams is also probable after hurting his finger against the Giants and practicing in full on Friday.

Cornerback Tyler Patmon is out with a knee injury, linebacker Dekoda Watson is out with a hamstring injury and safety Jeff Heath is doubtful after having thumb surgery earlier this week. Crawford also had thumb surgery and the team promoted linebacker Keith Smith from the practice squad to fill his spot on the roster.

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Latavius Murray practicing after last week’s concussion

Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

Raiders running back Latavius Murray had an eventful Thursday night against the Chiefs.

Murray saw his profile grow exponentially when he scored on 11- and 90-yard touchdown runs in the first half of the Raiders’ nationally televised first win of the 2014 season. Just as a wider group of people were getting to know who Murray was, things took a negative turn when Murray was forced out of the game with a concussion.

Sunday’s game against the Rams won’t have quite as big a viewing audience, but it looks like there’s a good chance that they’ll see Murray. According to multiple reports from Oakland, Murray was on the field and taking part in the team’s first practice of the week. That doesn’t mean he’s cleared to play Sunday, but it puts him on the right track to follow up on his four carry,112 yard breakout.

The Raiders also announced a roster move on Wednesday. Tight end David Ausberry was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury and promoted defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin from the practice squad. Ausberry had two catches in six games this season and missed all of last season.

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Devon Still refutes claims he’s not paying child support

Atlanta Falcons v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still has responded to a report that he wasn’t paying child support for his daughter Leah, but said he didn’t want to get into the details of the case.

The report in this morning’s New York Daily News said that Still hasn’t paid any child support since August 2014, while Leah has become a national storyline during her battle with cancer.

“My daughter’s battle with cancer has been inspirational to many all over the world,” Still said in a statement released by the team, via Coley Harvey of ESPN.com. “When she gets older, I want her to be able to look back and read about her positive impact on the world, not about the private issues her parents were going through. I am not going to retaliate against the mother of my daughter, and the untruthful reports in the New York Daily News article, by criticizing her character. I am going to continue to allow the court system to handle this matter, as it has been doing these past couple of months.”

The Bengals are circling the wagons around Still, after more than $1.3 million was raised through sales of his jersey to benefit children’s cancer research.

Coach Marvin Lewis said he met with Still Wednesday morning, and remains “very confident” in his defensive tackle.

“We’re not privy to all the facts of it,” Lewis said. “But Devon is very confident that he’s taking care of business the right way and eventually, at some point, if there’s things that need to be done through the legality through the courts, that all would come out that way. We’re going to continue to support him. We’re very confident in the things he’s done. . . .

“Devon has grown up so much through this unfortunate illness that his daughter’s dealing with. It’s really grown him as a man and as a person. I told him that just today how he’s handled everything. I’m so impressed.

“He’s really a beacon for a lot of people. He will be for a lot of young guys as they face different trials and tribulations as an NFL player. There are the outside pressures that no one understands that guys go through. There’s the pressure of playing, the pressure of performing. All those things that occur, and this one is really outside of football.”

The hope is that the legal fight doesn’t take away from Leah’s continuing battle, and that the adults in this situation resolve things with her welfare in mind.

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Dominic Raiola fined for hit to the head, not for hit to the knees

Dominic Raiola AP

Lions center Dominic Raiola was fined for a cheap shot against the Patriots on Sunday. Just not the cheap shot everyone has been talking about.

Raiola, who admitted he took a shot at Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore’s knees on the final play of the game, was not fined for that. But he was fined $10,000 for taking a swing at Moore’s head on another play.

“Dominic Raiola was fined $10,000 for unnecessary roughness,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora said. “Specifically, on a pass play, he unnecessarily struck his opponent, violating Rule 12, Section 2, Article 12(c) of the NFL Rule Book which prohibits ‘striking, swinging at, or clubbing the head, neck, or face of an opponent with the wrist(s), arm(s), elbow(s), or hand(s).’ The play was a third-and-nine from the Detroit 35 with 57 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Again, Raiola was not fined for his block on the final snap of the game.”

That the NFL fined Raiola for that play and not for the cut block to Moore shows that the NFL is a lot more cautious about protecting players’ heads than about protecting players’ knees. Many NFL players, especially defensive linemen, have said that all blocks to the knee should be outlawed. But the NFL is particularly sensitive about hits to the head, and it was a hit to the head that got Raiola fined.

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