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Bears won’t let Jon Hoke interview with Vikings

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The Vikings wanted to interview Bears defensive backs coach Jon Hoke for their defensive coordinator vacancy, but the Bears said no.

The Bears declined the Vikings’ request on Monday, the Chicago Tribune reports.

It’s no surprise that the Bears wouldn’t let Hoke interview with a division rival while he still has a year left on his contract. Although Bears coach Lovie Smith has said he likes seeing coaches on his staff get the opportunity to advance in their professions, the Bears also refused to allow offensive line coach Mike Tice to interview to become the Titans’ offensive coordinator last year. The Bears later gave Tice a new contract, and now he’s been promoted to offensive coordinator in Chicago.

Last year Hoke interviewed for the Eagles’ defensive coordinator position, which ultimately (and controversially) went to Juan Castillo. But from the Bears’ perspective, that was a different situation because Hoke’s contract expired after the 2010 season. After being considered by the Eagles, Hoke eventually ended up signing a new two-year deal with the Bears at the same time that Tice got his new contract.

Before joining the Bears’ staff in 2009, Hoke was an assistant with the Texans from 2002 to 2008. Before that he spent 20 years as a college assistant. Hoke is the brother of Michigan head coach Brady Hoke.

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Giants-Packers sets ratings record

Divisional Playoffs - New York Giants v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

It’s almost a surprise at this point when NFL playoff games don’t set ratings records.

The NFL notes that an averaged of 45.1 million viewers watched Packers-Giants, which set the all-time record for viewers for a divisional round game. It beat last year’s Jets-Patriots game by 4%.

The 49ers-Saints (35.6 million viewers) and Broncos-Patriots on CBS (34.2 million) also broke records for divisional round games played on Saturday.

The 49ers-Saints rating shows how valuable a close game can be. It beat Tebow-Brady despite an inferior timeslot. To put the NFL’s dominance in perspective, Texans-Ravens topped the BCS title game by almost 30%.

The Super Bowl, of course, will crush all the numbers above. Patriots-49ers or Patriots-Giants could do an especially huge number.

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Report: Michael Floyd will not attend Senior Bowl

Navy v Notre Dame Getty Images

SI.com draft guru Tony Pauline reported late Monday that Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd will not participate in next week’s Senior Bowl.

Along with Baylor’s Kendall Wright, Floyd is one of the top rated senior receivers for the 2012 NFL draft. The reasons for Floyd’s absence are unclear, but it appears Senior Bowl management was aware he wouldn’t attend all along.

The all-star game’s website lists nine wideouts on its 2012 roster, and none of them are Floyd.

Pauline indicates that Gerell Robinson of Arizona State will be Floyd’s Senior Bowl replacement. Robinson is coming off a career-best game, having racked up 13 receptions for 241 yards and a touchdown in the Sun Devils’ Las Vegas Bowl loss to Boise State.

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49ers could get big offensive addition Sunday

New York Giants v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

Tight end Delanie Walker was San Francisco’s leading receiver the first time the team faced the Giants.  Out since Week 16 with a broken jaw, it sounds like Walker may return for the NFC championship game.

Walker said on Twitter that he will return to the lineup. Coach Jim Harbaugh says the doctors haven’t determined Walker’s status quite yet.

While he’s not a household name, he’s a huge part of the 49ers offense. Walker is a physical marvel and lines up anywhere on the field. He’s a great blocker and his versatility makes their tight end offense tough to defend.

The Giants’ safeties and linebackers have struggled to cover tight ends this year, so Walker and Vernon Davis present plenty of issues. and makes their two tight end attack work. Davis scored a long touchdown on the Giants last time around.

The 49ers can use as many receiving weapons as possible. Braylon Edwards was a starter the last time these teams played, and he has since been cut. Ted Ginn isn’t at 100%.

Walker’s return would provide a nice boost for the 49ers offense.

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No serious damage to Ed Reed’s ankle

Divisional Playoffs - Houston Texans v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

Ed Reed entered the playoffs with a shoulder injury.

He appeared to hurt his back in the second quarter of Sunday’s game against the Texans, then had to be carried off the field by his teammates after hurting his ankle on Houston’s final Hail Mary play.

In between all that, Reed put together one of the signature performances of his amazing career. He will be able to attempt an encore Sunday in Foxborough.

“Ed looks like he’s all right with the ankle,” coach John Harbaugh said via the Baltimore Sun. “Everything’s come up OK as far as the X-rays.”

The Ravens should have everyone available for their matchup against the Patriots. New England is also as healthy as its been all season, especially on defense.

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Colts decision on Caldwell could be coming soon

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Last week, the Colts hired a new G.M. in Ryan Grigson.  But the team has not yet announced whether coach Jim Caldwell will be joining the Polians as a former employee of the team.

Much focus has been given to a Monday mailbag column from Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star, in which Chappell writes that he envisions that a decision will be coming soon.  It’s unclear, however, whether Chappell is actually reporting that as hard news.

“I expect something to be announced Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest,” Chappell writes.  “And I expect Caldwell to return.  I know that’s not what you or a lot of Colts fans want to hear.  Just a feeling I have.”

If Chappell’s “feeling” is that an announcement will be made Tuesday or Wednesday, it’s just that:  a feeling.  If his “feeling” is that Colts fans don’t want to hear that Caldwell will be back, then the expectation takes on greater weight.

Either way, if this were the Star moving an item that the coach isn’t getting fired, it would likely appear in something other than a space-filling Q& routine.

If Caldwell stays, the fans could revolt.  Phillip B. Wilson of the Star writes that rumors are pointing to Caldwell staying, and that paying customers are vowing to vote with their wallets if that happens.

Still, it won’t be a surprise if Caldwell sticks around.  Tony Dungy of Football Night In America explained prior to the Bengals-Texans wild-card game that owner Jim Irsay likely plans to keep Caldwell, to retain Peyton Manning if healthy, and to select Andrew Luck with the first pick in the draft.  Of the eight candidates for G.M. that Irsay screened and hired in little more than one week’s time, it would have been a major upset if the winner didn’t say to Irsay that which Irsay wanted to hear on those fairly important matters.

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Report: Luck makes agent choice

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After weeks of rumors and rumblings regarding Andrew Luck’s choice of representation at the NFL level, the player who likely will be the first overall pick in the 2012 draft has made a decision.

According to Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal, Luck will be represented by Wasserman Media Group, both in on-field and off-field matters.

As part of the deal, Luck’s uncle, Will Wilson, will join WMG.  Mullen previously had explained the possible link between Wilson and Luck.

Given the involvement of Casey Wasserman (pictured) in efforts to bring a team back to Los Angeles, the question now becomes whether WMG will try to steer Luck toward a team that may be moving to Los Angeles.  Though it will be easy (relatively speaking) for Luck to try to scare off the Colts from picking him, it will be much harder to ensure that Luck goes to a team on the short list to move.

Besides, Luck’s main priority will be (presumably) to play right away, in a situation where he’ll be more likely to succeed both in the short- and long-term.  If he ends up with a franchise that has to mortgage the future in order to move up to get a franchise quarterback, that may not be an ideal situation for Luck.

The broader question continues to be whether Luck and Peyton Manning will want to be teammates in Indianapolis.  Last year, Archie Manning expressed doubt (before backpedaling like a Pro Bowl cornerback) that the two quarterback have no desire to share a locker room.

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Fisher expected to get $35 million for five years, no extra title

J. Fisheryay AP

Jeff Fisher will officially be introduced as Rams coach Tuesday after finalizing the terms of a five-year contract.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports its “believed” Fisher will earn roughly $7 million-per-year to coach the Rams. So if he’s taking less money than he would have in Miami, it’s not much less.

Fisher is not expected to have any additional titles like “executive vice president.” He may wind up with final say on personnel matters, but Thomas says it won’t be a “my way or else” proposition.

Thomas writes that Fisher will at least be on equal footing with any personnel chief, but it’s safe to say the coach will have more power. He’ll likely have final say on the roster and be involved with the general manager search.

While Hue Jackson is talking with Fisher about the offensive coordinator gig, Thomas believes that former Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottheimer remains the favorite for that job. Dave McGinnis, Chuck Cecil, Tim Hauck, and Fisher’s son Brandon are mentioned as other staff possibilities.

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Antrel Rolle declares that Giants “can’t be beat”

New York Giants Antrel Rolle celebrates after they defeated the Green Bay Packers in their NFL NFC Divisional playoff football game in Green Bay Reuters

Like the other team that plays in New York, the Giants have a habit of talking big.  Unlike the other team that plays in New York, the Giants have a habit of backing it up.

But safety Antrel Rolle, who has done some talking this year that the team hasn’t backed up (Redskins fans know what we’re referring to), has taken it to a high level, essentially calling his shot for the NFC title game and the Super Bowl after it.

“We wouldn’t say we’re unstoppable, but our mindset is extreme at this point.  We’re not going to be denied. . . .  I might be a little biased, but in our minds, we can’t be beat,” Rolle said Monday, per Peter Botte of the New York Daily News.

“It don’t matter who we play,” Rolle said.  “You can put an All-Star team in front of us, and we’re going to go out there and compete.  We don’t fold.  No matter what happens, if there’s a bad call, or things aren’t going our way, we’re not going to break.”

Though the boastfulness can invite trouble for the Giants, there’s no replacement for confidence, regardless of its source.  And the Giants seem to have just as much confidence as they had in 2007, when some of them said they’d beat the unbeaten Patriots — and they did.

Really, the Giants seem like the best overall team remaining in the postseason field.  They have the defense to hold the opponent’s score in a range that their offense can overcome, whether the opponent is the 49ers, Ravens, or Patriots again.

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49ers coach thankful Saints showed their blitzes in preseason

Saints Camp Football AP

Back in August, there was a mini-controversy after the 49ers faced the Saints because New Orleans blitzed San Francisco in their first preseason game like it was the second round of the playoffs.

After Saturday’s divisional round win against New Orleans, the 49ers were thankful for the experience. They had seen it all before.

“Thankfully, they blitzed us in the preseason game and really gave us some good film to study,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman told Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. “We pretty much had the whole montage of blitzes.

“They’re really good at what they do and they came up with one or two that gave us problems during the game. Thankfully, most of them we saw in the preseason.”

That’s about as close as an NFL coach comes to trash talking. Those words will spice up the Rams-49ers rivalry next year with Gregg Williams now joining the NFC West in St. Louis.

Maiocco writes that the Saints blitzed 32 times in 46 pass plays against the 49ers Saturday. San Francisco settled down their protections by the end of the game.

As Saints safety Malcom Jenkins said, New Orleans lives by the blitz and dies by the blitz.

We think Roman was just tweaking Williams, but it seems the Saints died in small part because Williams and the Saints staff tried to prove a point back in August.

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Not so fast on Schottenheimer to St. Louis

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On Sunday night, Mike Lombardi of NFL.com reported that the Rams offered, and former Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will accept, the position of offensive coordinator on Jeff Fisher’s staff.

And so it was jarring to see the blurb from MDS, citing Chris Mortensen of ESPN, that former Raiders coach Hue Jackson will interview for the job.

Per Mort, Schottenheimer is still considered the favorite, but Hue “gets a shot.”

But the gist of Mort’s report is that Schottenheimer hasn’t been offered, and hasn’t accepted, the position.

It could be that Fisher has given Jackson an interview as a courtesy, in order to inject his name back into the NFL news cycle a week after he was fired.  With Fisher preferring a power-running game in the past, Jackson’s more pass-happy attack wouldn’t seem to fit.

Or maybe the powers-that-be in St. Louis weren’t thrilled with the initial reaction to the decision to import Schottenheimer, who has been widely blamed for the poor performance of the “ground and pound” offense in New York.

Either way, this fairly important position on the staff of a head coach with a background in defense remains unfilled.  And the development of quarterback Sam Bradford hangs in the balance.

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Eli muses about a Manhattan Manning reunion

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With all the chatter about Colts quarterback Peyton Manning possibly pulling a Favre and trading his years of Indy equity for a fresh start in the Big Apple, his brother Eli has gotten in on the talk, too.

It would be fun,” Eli tells WEPN-AM, via NFL.com.  “We could probably commute to work maybe, and, you know, come home, eat dinner together and have the kids be playing.”

Eli then continued to have fun with the possibility of sharing a city with his sibling:  “Twin beds . . . we could share notes on opponents and watch some film together.”

But then Eli, who has a chance to double his brother’s career Super Bowl wins in the House That Peyton Built, turned serious.

“[W]ould it be fun?” Eli said.  “Yeah, I think it would be interesting to have your brother in the same city playing football together.  I don’t think we would see each other that often, just ’cause I . . . think our schedules would be a whole lot different, probably just talk on the phone more than see each other during the season, but, you know, it would be interesting.

“I’m not saying it’s gonna happen or I want it to happen, but to have your brother that close to you and playing in New York would be very unique.”

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Eli’s remarks is his willingness to so openly entertain something that should seem unthinkable.  In this latest edition of “What Else Would You Expect Eli To Say When Asked A Direct Question?,” the safer response would have been something like, “I can’t imagine Peyton playing for anyone other than the Colts, and it’s ridiculous to try to envision him in any other uniform.”

The fact that something that gives much more credence to the possibility of Peyton leaving the Colts popped out of Eli’s mouth suggests that the Brothers Manning have been talking about a not-so-distant future that entails Peyton playing in a different city.

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Rams to interview Hue Jackson for offensive coordinator

Hue Jackson AP

Hue Jackson may not be unemployed for long.

Jackson, who was fired a week ago as coach of the Raiders, is now a candidate to become the next offensive coordinator of the Rams. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that new Rams head coach Jeff Fisher will interview Jackson on Wednesday.

The 46-year-old Jackson has a wealth of experience as an offensive coordinator: He held the position in Oakland in 2010 before becoming head coach in 2011, and he coordinated the offenses under Bobby Petrino with the 2007 Falcons and under Steve Spurrier with the 2003 Redskins. In college Jackson was offensive coordinator at USC from 1997 to 2000 and at Cal in 1996.

Fisher has already hired a former NFL head coach to be his defensive coordinator, with Gregg Williams taking the St. Louis job yesterday.

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