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Where the playoff races stand

Tennessee  v Houston Getty Images

We’ve seen some confusion out there on the remaining playoff scenarios, so let’s quickly recap things after the end of the 1 p.m. ET games.

AFC

1. The Patriots have clinched the No. 1 seed with their win over the Bills.

2. The Ravens and Steelers are still battling to win the division. The Ravens clinch the division and the No. 2 seed with a win over the Bengals.

3. The Texans will host either the Bengals or Titans next week.

4. The Broncos and Raiders can both win the AFC West. Oakland needs to beat San Diego and get the Broncos to lose. The Broncos win any ties. Yep, they could get in at 8-8 on a three game losing streak.

5. Second place in the AFC North will travel to the winner of the AFC West.

6. The Raiders can’t win a wild card spot now. The Jets are out.

The Bengals win the No. 6 seed with a win over Baltimore. The Bengals also get in if the Broncos OR the Raiders lose.

In short, the Bengals are in good shape even if they lose. The Bengals beat Tennessee in Week 9, so they win the head-to-head tiebreak over the Titans.

If three teams tie at 9-7, the Titans would nab the final spot.

NFC

1. The Packers clinched the No. 1 seed last week, then beat the Lions with Matt Flynn at quarterback for good measure.

2. The 49ers clinched the No. 2 seed with their close win over the Rams.

3. The Saints will host the No. 6 seed next week. It’s likely to be the Lions.

4. The winner of Giants-Cowboys will host the No. 5 seed next week.

5. Atlanta is up huge against Tampa. If they hold on to the lead, they will travel to the winner of the NFC East.

6. Detroit’s loss in Lambeau will likely have them heading to the Superdome next week. Doh.

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Falcons say no-huddle offense was stymied in Cincinnati by officials

Ryan AP

Lost in the concern over whether the NFL’s officials are throwing too many flags is whether they’re tapping the brakes on no-huddle offenses.

Falcons coach Mike Smith believes that, in Cincinnati on Sunday, the men in black and white made it hard to put the pedal to the metal.

“Each game has a completely different dynamic in terms of the tempo,” Smith said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  “That was a game where both teams hardly ever huddled.  When you watch the game, you could see that they had their no-huddle offense going as well.  I think sometimes the officials can slow a tempo game down.”

Smith pointed out that, on several occasions, the offense and defense were lined up and ready, but an official was standing over the ball.

“I think if you look, there were plays where both teams wanted to get out there and play, but there was a stoppage by the officials,” Smith said. “They stood over the ball a lot more in this game than they had in other games.”

The Falcons hope to have more success running the no-huddle attack on Thursday night against the Buccaneers.

“I think the key for us is continuing that tempo and being able to convert on third downs,” quarterback Matt Ryan said.  “We did not do a good enough job last week.”

This week, keep an eye on whether the Falcons can unleash the kind of pace they want on offense, speeding up the attack.  If it works, it will mean less commentary from Phil Simms between plays.  Which could result in a ratings spike from the Denver market.

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A.J. Green plans to play if his toe will let him

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

The Bengals have a bye after this week’s game against the Titans, and wide receiver A.J. Green could certainly use the rest.

But he said yesterday he’s going to try to play through his toe injury, if he’s able.

If it’s feeling good, then I’m going to go,” Green said, via Coley Harvey of ESPN.com. “If it’s not, then we’ll go from there.”

He said he originally suffered the injury early in the opener against the Ravens, but continued to play (catching an 80-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter). But last week, he made it just six plays before he had to leave the game.

He was short on specifics, saying only it was “something like turf toe, but not as bad.”

As long as Mohamed Sanu continues to catch and throw big plays, the Bengals might survive a week. But if this problem plagues Green throughout the year, it’ll take more than trick plays to fix it.

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Broncos fans don’t want Phil Simms doing their games

Simms Getty Images

In the same week that former NFL quarterback Phil Simms made it to the list of 99 players who eventually will become the 2015 Hall of Fame class, far more than 99 people have expressed their desire that the current CBS analyst no longer be assigned to Broncos games.

Via the Denver Post, more than 40,000 fans have added their names to a Change.org petition urging Simms to be barred from calling any games involving the Denver franchise.

“CBS please ban Phil Simms from Broadcasting anymore Bronco games,” the petition states.  “We do not know why he is assigned to the Broncos games every year.  It is sure and complete torture for us Broncos Fans to have to listen to his biased drivel every week.  Please hear us out on this, we are tired of Phil Simms in Denver!”

The Post has compiled some of the more entertaining comments from fans who signed the petition, a group that as of this posting stands at 41,543 and counting.

As Vic Lombardi of CBS 4 in Denver has pointed out, the Broncos have won 10 straight games with Simms in the booth.  So maybe they should hold their noses (or mute their TVs) and let this one play itself out.

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Carson Palmer trying everything he can to wake up nerve in shoulder

Carson Palmer AP

Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer missed Week Two because of a nerve problem in his right shoulder and he’s still being bothered by it this week.

It’s not for a lack of trying to find ways to alleviate the issue. Palmer told reporters that he has tried methods including electrical stimulation, acupuncture and dry needling in hopes of waking up what he’s described as a dead nerve. While the arm is feeling better, Palmer doesn’t know when it will feel well enough for him to resume a full schedule.

“I wish I had a concrete answer or somebody knew exactly what to do to wake it up,” Palmer said, via the Arizona Republic. “The only answer is time, and I’m hoping it doesn’t take any more time.”

With Palmer still ailing, Drew Stanton is in line to make a second straight start for Arizona when the 49ers come calling on Sunday. The team’s faith in Stanton is high after he led them to a win over the Giants, but they’d gladly send him back to the bench should Palmer stumble on the right therapy for his shoulder.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Arizona Cardinals v New York Giants Getty Images

The Pegula family bid for the Bills was approved by the league’s finance committee.

Dolphins QB Ray Tannehill is trying to fix his inaccuracy.

Patriots LB Jerod Mayo’s absence was not injury related.

Jets CB Antonio Allen, a converted S, has a big challenge on his hands this week.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco has a cold, but he’s 11-1 against the Browns.

Whoever came up with “Hue Live Crew” for the Bengals’ offense, take a bow.

Oh goody: More “will he or won’t he” about Browns QB Johnny Manziel.

Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell was stressing the need for balance on offense (which might have helped during roadside sobriety tests).

Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick says he respects the Giants defense.

Colts QB Andrew Luck won’t let the first two games of the season define them.

The Jaguars might be starting six rookies on offense (and it might help).

The Titans know they have an issue this week, and have to get to QB Andy Dalton.

Broncos WR Wes Welker is excited to be reinstated.

Chiefs RB De’Anthony Thomas hopes to make his NFL debut this week.

The Raiders were missing five starters in practice.

The Chargers’ defense is getting some respect as one of the best.

Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick is motivated to make the most of his second chance.

Giants WR Victor Cruz promises he won’t drop his next chance.

Eagles LB Mychal Kendricks is iffy for the next game with a calf injury.

Washington WR DeSean Jackson is ready for a “huge game” against his former team.

Bears CB Charles Tillman could be at the end of a remarkable career with the team.

Lions RB Reggie Bush responds to criticism of his spanking policy (write your own Kardashian joke here).

Packers CB Sam Shields is ready to challenge Megatron.

The Vikings had another big absence yesterday, LB Chad Greenway has a broken hand.

Falcons WR Roddy White is questionable for tonight’s game (if he’s ever whole, he’ll be something).

Panthers FB Mike Tolbert says the hit he took from Nick Fairley is the hardest he’s taken.

Saints TE Ben Watson says new drug policy is a win-win.

Caridnals QB Carson Palmer is still fighting through an arm injury.

Rams WR Stedman Bailey is back and ready to go.

The 49ers were still without TE Vernon Davis in practice.

Seahawks RB Robert Turbin is grateful for an increased role.

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Ryan Tannehill: “I’m upset at myself the way I’ve played”

tannehill AP

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill did not have a good game in Sunday’s loss to the Bills. He’s not happy about that.

Tannehill threw for just 241 yards on 31-of-49 passing, and he was also sacked four times for a loss of 31 yards. That’s just 3.96 yards per dropback, and that’s a big part of why the Dolphins were shut out in the first half on the way to a 29-10 loss.

“It’s not discouraging, it’s frustrating,” Tannehill said, via the Sun-Sentinel. “I’m upset at myself the way I’ve played, so obviously I want to get it corrected. But we’ve got a long season ahead of us and it starts with this week. You flip it around in one week and you play well and then you start stringing good games together. So it’s just a matter of going out and taking care of business this week.”

Tannehill admits that he’s missing open receivers and has to do better.

“I just haven’t been putting the ball in the right spot,” he said. “I haven’t been at my best and it’s got to change, and it’s got to change fast.”

If it doesn’t change fast, the Dolphins may start to doubt that the 26-year-old Tannehill is the right man to be their franchise quarterback.

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Pegula bid for Bills approved by finance committee

Detroit Lions v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Bills moved closer to officially having new owners on Wednesday.

Terry Pegula met with the league’s finance committee on Wednesday so that they could approve the $1.4 billion bid for the team that the Pegulas made last week. Approval was expected coming into the meeting and the Pegulas got it by a unanimous vote. NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman called “a very big step” toward completion of the sale, although Pegula isn’t counting any chickens just yet.

“As far as I can say, we’re not NFL owners until that vote is approved, and we’ll have no further comments,” Pegula said, via the Associated Press.

The bid now needs approval from 75 percent of the league’s owners when they vote on the bid at league meetings on October 7 and 8. Pegula is expected to get that approval and become the second owner in the history of the Bills franchise.

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Ma’ake Kemoeatu gives brother Chris the gift of life

Chris Kemoeatu, Ma'ake Kemoeatu AP

We all need a feel-good story about football players right now, and what better way than for family to matter more than the regional rivalries, and for something more than the game to overcome.

Former Steelers guard Chris Kemoeatu, who had to retire from the game because of kidney problems, got the gift of life from his brother, former Ravens defensive tackle Ma’ake in the form of a kidney donation.

Everyone jokes about me having a Ravens’ kidney,” Chris said, via Mike Klingaman of the Baltimore Sun. “But hey, I can live with that.”

It beats the alternative.

Ma’ake joked that his little brother (relative) “owes me a lot of steak dinners,” but their sheer size made the surgery more complicated than most.

Chris had to have a heart surgery beforehand to make the procedure possible, and both men checked into the hospital weighing 345 pounds.

“It was the largest normal kidney I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Dr. Stephen Bartlett, the hospital’s surgeon-in-chief. “I felt like somebody had thrown me a small football.”

But this story is far beyond football, about the lengths a family will go to look after one another.

“I’m the oldest of seven kids and it’s my responsibility to take care of the rest,” Ma’ake said. “If my siblings need blood, it will be my blood. If they need a kidney, it will be my kidney. We both stopped our careers for this, but I’d have done it even if I was a rookie with the Ravens. I have to lead by example.”

Hopefully, more people in his old line of work will take on that same challenge.

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Panthers have plenty of problems besides Greg Hardy

Ron Rivera AP

It was easy to lose sight of everything but the paid vacation given to Panthers defensive end Greg hardy yesterday, but the Panthers had some other stuff going on.

According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, they had to practice without seven starters, and they were down to one healthy running back.

The good news was that it didn’t include quarterback Cam Newton, who came back with an incredible performance last week against the Lions.

The injury report included a whopping 12 names, a high total for this time of year, though some of them will practice today.

Among the missing Wednesday were running backs DeAngelo Williams (thigh) and Mike Tolbert (chest), rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (knee), starting tackles Byron Bell (toe) and Nate Chandler (toe), defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (back) and linebacker Thomas Davis (hip).

Rookie return man Philly Brown (ankle) was also out, leaving them ridiculously thin at the skill positions.

When Jonathan Stewart is your only healthy back, something is messed up.

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Captain Munnerlyn on Adrian Peterson hiatus: “I really don’t get it.”

St. Louis Rams v Minnesota Vikings AP

The Minnesota Vikings came to the decision to place running back Adrian Peterson on the exempt list early Wednesday morning to keep him away from all team activities until the resolution of his legal issues.

However, not all members of the Vikings organization seem to understand the move.

Minnesota cornerback Captain Munnerlyn disagrees with the decision and believes that Peterson should still be allowed to play with the team.

“I think he should be able to play football. I really don’t get it,” Munnerlyn said, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “And at the end of the day I know they came up with the decision, but I really don’t get it.”

Munnerlyn said he received similar treatment as a child as to what Peterson  did to cause injuries to his 4-year old son. He doesn’t see anything wrong with that style of discipline being levied by a parent and believes that Peterson is being treated unfairly.

If Adrian wasn’t in the limelight I don’t think this would be coming up at all because you raise your kids how you raise your kids,” Munnerlyn said. “I think Adrian is a great guy, great dude, great father, great football player, and I just think the way he’s been treated is unfair.

Munnerlyn said Peterson hasn’t been convicted of anything and he supports Peterson and everything he did.

Regardless of Munnerlyn’s thoughts, Peterson still won’t be playing for the Vikings any time soon.

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Week Three skill position injury report

Tony Romo AP

Below is a compilation of skill position players listed on Wednesday’s Week Three injury report. Their final status for players whose teams play on Sunday will be announced on Friday.

Did not practice

Rams WR Tavon Austin (knee).

Giants WR Odell Beckham (hamstring).

Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin (knee).

Colts RB Ahmad Bradshaw (other).

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (shoulder).

Panthers WR Philly Brown (ankle).

Bengals RB Rex Burkhead (knee).

Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (ankle).

49ers TE Vernon Davis (ankle, knee).

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (foot).

Ravens QB Joe Flacco (illness).

Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart (foot).

Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe).

Jaguars TE Clay Harbor (calf).

Rams TE Cory Harkey (knee).

Jaguars WR Allen Hurns (ankle).

Washington WR DeSean Jackson (shoulder).

Raiders RB Maurice Jones-Drew (hand).

Saints RB Mark Ingram (hand).

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (back).

Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee).

49ers TE Vance McDonald (knee).

Steelers TE Heath Miller (not injury related).

Seahawks TE Zach Miller (ankle).

Dolphins RB Knowshon Moreno (elbow).

Cowboys RB Joseph Randle (concussion).

Washington TE Jordan Reed (hamstring).

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back).

Buccaneers TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle) — out.

Raiders WR Rod Streater (hip).

Browns RB Ben Tate (knee).

Panthers RB Mike Tolbert (chest).

Colts WR Reggie Wayne (other).

Falcons WR Roddy White (hamstring) — questionable.

Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh).

Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (thigh).

Limited

Steelers RB Dri Archer (ankle).

Panthers WR Jason Avant (thigh).

Lions RB Joique Bell (knee).

Browns TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder).

Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee).

Patriots WR Julian Edelman (back).

Cowboys TE Gavin Escobar (knee).

Texans TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (foot).

Washington PK Kai Forbath (right groin).

Texans RB Arian Foster (hamstring).

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (knee).

Rams QB Shaun Hill (thigh).

Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (groin).

Eagles WR Josh Huff (shoulder).

Jaguars WR Marqise Lee (hamstring).

Buccaneers RB Doug Martin (knee) — questionable.

Panthers TE Greg Olsen (calf).

Titans RB Dexter McCluster (foot).

Broncos PK Brandon McManus (right groin).

Seahawks RB Christine Michael (hamstring).

Lions RB Montell Owens (hamstring).

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer (right shoulder).

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen).

Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts (hamstring).

Vikings WR Rodney Smith (hamstring).

Chiefs RB De’Anthony Thomas (hamstring).

Patriots RB Shane Vereen (shoulder).

Bills WR Robert Woods (ankle).

Washington RB Darrel Young (neck).

Full

Browns WR Travis Benjamin (knee).

Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe (quadricep).

Steelers WR Martavis Bryant (shoulder).

Eagles TE Zach Ertz (knee).

Texans TE Garrett Graham (ankle).

Chiefs RB Cyrus Gray (foot).

Chiefs WR Frankie Hammond (shoulder).

Dolphins WR Brian Hartline (back).

Seahawks TE Cooper Helfet (knee).

Washington RB Roy Helu (quadricep).

Chiefs WR Junior Hemingway (hip).

49ers RB Carlos Hyde (calf).

Texans WR Andre Johnson (ankle).

Falcons WR Julio Jones (ankle) — probable.

Jaguars RB Storm Johnson (ankle).

Steelers WR Lance Moore (groin).

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (ribs).

Eagles WR Brad Smith (groin).

Titans QB Charlie Whitehurst (right finger).

Chiefs WR Albert Wilson (ankle).

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Marshawn Lynch sits out practice Wednesday with a sore back

Marshawn Lynch Getty Images

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch left the sidelines early with still over a minute to play in Seattle’s 30-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

Head coach Pete Carroll said Monday the reason for Lynch’s early departure was due to a sore back that tightened up late in the game.

“It’s an ongoing issue for him for years,” Carroll said. “It’s something we’re always monitoring”

Lynch did not practice with the Seahawks on Wednesday due to his back issue.

Lynch has only missed one game with Seattle since being acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Bills in October 2010. He was a scratch from Seattle’s 6-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns in 2011 after having back spasms before the game.

Lynch frequently doesn’t practice on Wednesdays throughout the season and always finds a way to play on Sunday.  The fact that the injury in question is Lynch’s back could be the one troubling issue for Seattle.

The Seahawks have grown increasingly more diligent on limiting his workload in practice to keep him fresh for games. Despite sitting out Wednesday, alarm bells over Lynch’s status for games should only go off if he misses multiple practices in a week.

 

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“Goodell Must Go” banner to fly over Georgia Dome on Thursday night

Goodell Reuters

The Commissioner wants to become a leader in the “domestic violence space.”  A group opposing domestic violence will return to the airspace (see what I did there?) over an NFL stadium with the message that it’s too late.

The national women’s advocacy organization known as UltraViolet will once again fly a “Goodell Must Go” banner over the site of a prime-time, nationally televised game.  The group announced Wednesday that the banner will fly over the Georgia Dome before Thursday night’s game between the Buccaneers and the Falcons.

The message could be lost on the folks attending the game, since the stadium is, you know, a dome.  But those outside will see it from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. ET, and it appears the organization has no plan to stop its push for change at the top of the league office.

Last week, the banner flew at multiple NFL venues, including MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

While the assault has largely subsided in recent days, the outcome of the NFL’s investigation regarding the Ray Rice situation and the NFLPA appeal of the indefinite suspension imposed on Rice will have a strong influence, one way or the other, whether the owners will change Commissioners.

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Mark Davis: Paid leave should follow domestic violence charges, allegations

Mark Davis AP

An NFL owner believes paid leave from league activities should follow an arrest or allegation of domestic violence.

In a story published Wednesday, Raiders owner Mark Davis told Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News that “if somebody’s accused or arrested in a domestic violence case, they should be suspended with pay.”

Davis’ remarks come as the NFL and its clubs have come under major criticism for their treatment of and reaction to domestic and family issues. The remarks also come on a day where Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson, Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and Cardinals tailback Jonathan Dwyer were asked to stay away from their clubs as their legal issues were resolved, a marked change in how teams have responded to off-field issues in the past.

In the Mercury News interview, Davis also weighed in on the 49ers’ decision to allow defensive lineman Ray McDonald to continue playing after his August 31 arrest on domestic charges, telling the newspaper he believed a suspension would be a better policy but that he understood the Niners’ position.

“I see what the 49ers and [owner] Jed (York) are going through and what they’re saying, ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ and that’s the American way. But I think we have to get this right, and suspension with pay in those cases (while the investigation moves forward) is the only thing that makes sense to me right now,” Davis said, according to the Mercury News.

If nothing else, Davis’ suggestion — if made a policy — would at least be a standardized approach to an issue that has riddled the league and its teams.

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Richard Sherman says he didn’t reufuse to speak to media after loss to Chargers

Sherman Getty Images

After the Seahawks fell to the Chargers on Sunday, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman reportedly refused to speak to the media.  Sherman disputes that contention.

“When I got done taking a shower and everything Earl [Thomas] was being interviewed and I stood there for a while and nobody came to me,” Sherman told reporters on Wednesday.  “I put my stuff on and walked out.  I signed a few autographs and then there was a guy who asked for an autograph and then asked for an interview after the autograph and I though this guy can’t be serious.  That might have been the guy that said I wasn’t talking to media, but I didn’t really consider him media.”

After later in the Wednesday press conference about the subject, Sherman reiterated his position that he was available.

“I was literally standing in my locker,” Sherman said.  “Earl [Thomas] was being interviewed.  When you come off the field in a 120-degree game, and the locker room is about 90, you probably don’t want to stand there for an extra hour waiting for everyone to get done for interviews.  I’m tired and I’m hot.  I’m trying to get cool.  So I sat there though, I was available. . . .   I didn’t sneak off.  I was standing there and they just happened to be interviewing other people, nobody called for me and said, ‘Hey Sherm.'”

It’s unclear whether members of the media who were covering the game dispute Sherman’s account.  If they do, those with Twitter accounts may have something to say.

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