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Special Monday 10-pack: Winners and losers in free agency

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Only six days ago, the free-agent market opened.  One of the biggest classes of veteran players, with some of the biggest names, landed on the market.

Apart from the Peyton chase, much of the dust has settled.

And so now we’re required by the laws of football analysis to tell you who won and who lost, even though we won’t really know the answer until they start playing games.

Which, you know, will feature winners and losers.

1. Winner:  Eagles.

Last year, with a compressed offseason and a new defensive coordinator who had been an offensive line coach for 14 prior seasons, the Eagles foolishly embarked on a spending spree, bringing in a bunch of big-name players and setting the stage for a Wonderlic pick-sixer blurting out the dreaded “Dream Team” label.

Apart from the challenge of getting a bunch of new employees on the same page quickly, the move surely caused some of the men already under contract to wonder why they weren’t getting a share of the free-agency windfall.

This year, the Eagles have focused on taking care of their own, which is a much better way to ensure that a true spirit of team will take over the locker room.

Perhaps most importantly, the Eagles have set the stage for receiver DeSean Jackson to turn back the clock to 2009, when he wasn’t concerned about staying healthy and/or getting paid.  The Eagles have addressed those concerns via a long-term deal that, in comparison to some of the too-heavy contracts given to lesser receivers and in light of Jackson’s rocky recent history, looks like a win-win.

Maybe that means “win” will be a more common term in the term’s vocabulary this season.

2.  Winner:  Packers.

G.M. Ted Thompson rarely makes a big splash in free agency.  The biggest exception came in 2006, when at the very public urging of quarterback Brett Favre the team signed cornerback Charles Woodson.

Other than that, the Packers under Thompson take a very conservative approach, building through the draft and using free agency on a limited basis, with low-cost talent addressing specific needs.

It’s not sexy this time of year.  But this isn’t the time of year when championships are won.  Unlike downtrodden organizations (such as the Packers themselves in 1993, when Reggie White chose Green Bay from a long list of suitors), the Packers don’t need to do anything to fire up the fan base or breathe life into the franchise.

It’s the right approach for this specific team.  The Packers have won, once again, by doing nothing.

3.  Winner:  Bills.

Speaking of downtrodden organizations, no team needed a big-ticket free agent like Mario Williams more than the Bills.  And they went all in, pulling out all the stops and persuading Williams to spend two nights in town and eventually getting the job done.

It gives Buffalo and the Bills a major boost, igniting intense local interest and legitimate national attention.  It also makes good football sense; defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt now has a player around whom the team’s new 4-3 defense can be built.

It wasn’t cheap, and it may prove to be a mistake.  But it was a risk the Bills needed to make if they ever hope to become relevant again.

4.  Winner:  Patriots.

At first, it looked like the Pats would follow the Pack’s “closed for business” approach to the early days of free agency.  But with needs at receiver, they’ve added a player in Brandon Lloyd who’ll have a far bigger impact than Chad Ochocinco (then again, the bar is low), and they’ve given Wes Welker a little cause for concern by landing a candidate to play slot receiver in Anthony Gonzalez.

They’ve also addressed an area of need on defense, adding the once-promising Trevor Scott to the rotation of recently underachieving pass rushers.

The Pats could still use a true deep threat to clear out all the underneath traffic.  But even if Lloyd is the biggest addition, the team that nearly won the Super Bowl in 2011 will be contending again in 2012.

5.  Winner:  Chiefs.

Yes, they were denied admission to the Peyton chase.  But let’s not forget that, despite all the dysfunction and key injuries of 2011, the Chiefs weren’t far away from winning the weakest division in the NFL.

Unlike most teams, the Chiefs found bargains even before the market softened, adding running back Peyton Hillis to a one-year, fire-under-butt-lighting $2.6 million contract, tight end Kevin Boss for three years and $9 million, right tackle Eric Winston, and backup quarterback Brady Quinn.

Hillis and Quinn played for offensive coordinator Brian Daboll in Cleveland, adding some familiarity to the new Romeo Crennel regime.  Winston addresses a key area of need, and Boss gives the Chiefs a second pass-catching tight end, which apparently is now a mandatory requirement for any team that hopes to be highly successful in the passing game.

Next up, don’t be surprised if Crennel lures another former Brown to Kansas City, with linebacker Kamerion Wimbley on the market.

6.  Loser:  Dolphins.

Peter King of chronicles a decade of bizarre personnel moves by the Dolphins, but the organization is now developing another troubling reputation:  anyone with options won’t opt for Miami.

It began last year with owner Stephen Ross clumsily pursuing coach Jim Harbaugh, which painted a vivid picture of disloyalty to coach Tony Sparano.  It continued in 2012 when Ross tried, and failed, to lure coach Jeff Fisher to town.  And it spread to the ranks of players in 2012, with Peyton Manning showing tepid interest at best in joining the team (even though some believed it was a done deal that he’d be a Dolphin).  Then, Matt Flynn’s decision to play for the Seahawks instead of former Packers coordinator/Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin did more than raise eyebrows — especially when followed by Steelers safety Ryan Clark proclaiming that “no one” wants to play for the Dolphins.

It’s possible that Philbin simply wasn’t all that interested in Flynn, and that Philbin knows  Flynn’s pair of high-end performances (one in 2010 and one in 2011) won’t translate to being an effective week-in, week-out starter, once opposing defenses have a chance to study enough of his film and figure him out.  If that’s the case, the Dolphins shouldn’t have even brought him to town for a visit.  By doing so, it creates the impression that they wanted him — and that yet again they failed to get their man.

Correct or not, there’s now a perception that no one of significant consequence wants to work for the Dolphins.  And the harder Ross tries to turn the page by making a “big splash,” the more likely it is that he’ll continue to swing the bat and hit himself in the face with it.

7.  Loser:  Saints.

With Bountygate lingering, the Saints had even more reason to work out a new, long-term deal with Drew Brees.  And yet the Saints continue to fail to find a middle ground with their franchise quarterback.

There’s a chance Brees simply wants too much.  But here’s the problem:  He deserves it.  The best NFL quarterback of the last six years, if he wants to max out his contract, then he should.

And as to the idea that he needs to leave some money behind so that the Saints can field a competitive team given the salary cap, here’s one important point:  It never stopped the Colts from being competitive when Peyton got every last dollar he could.

And while it’s good that the Saints kept receiver Marques Colston, they lost Robert Meachem.  And while it’s good that they lured Ben Grubbs away from Baltimore, the lost Carl Nicks.

More importantly, they’ve yet to do anything to address needs on defense, which could become even more significant once the suspensions come down.

8.  Loser:  Vikings.

Good teams can afford to sit on the sidelines in the early days of free agency.  The Vikings are not a good team.

With plenty of cap room and a tenuous stadium situation and a fan base that may choose to do things other than attend or watch Vikings games this season, the franchise needed to make a splash.  Not a Mario Williams cannonball; but something more significant than a John Carlson dog paddle.

It’s doesn’t mean the Vikings should go hog wild.  But they should have made it a priority to land one big-name player, even if it meant overpaying a little.

The offseason is about selling hope.  Teams like the Packers, Patriots, Giants, and Steelers can afford to do nothing in March; the hope is implied.  For teams that have fallen, March is an opportunity to prove that they’re at least trying to get up.

9.  Loser:  Ravens.

The Ravens had four players in the PFT Hot 100 free-agency list.  Three already have bolted for greener pastures:  defensive end Cory Redding, linebacker Jarret Johnson, and guard Ben Grubbs.

To make matters worse, guard Evan Mathis opted to stay with the Dream Team in lieu of joining a team that, on paper, seems to have a better chance of making its dreams come true.

Then there’s the lingering possibility that someone will make restricted free agent cornerback Lardarius Webb an offer the Ravens can’t afford to match.

Though there’s a long way to go before September, it’s hard not to think that, at least for now, the Ravens have faded a bit closer to the pack in the AFC.

10.  Loser:  Bengals.

By capping 2011 with an unlikely playoff berth, it can’t be said that Paul Brown Stadium routinely was less than full due to the fact that the team was bad.  Instead, the fan base is fed up with owner Mike Brown.

Even though the team is laying a solid foundation of youthful players, Bengals fans think it’s not because of Brown but in spite of him.  And with a huge cap surplus for 2012, the Bengals haven’t done much to persuade anyone that they’re willing to spend.

The good news is that, after several days of inaction, the Bengals have gone bargain shopping, adding offensive lineman Travelle Wharton and defensive back Jason Allen.  They also managed to keep free-agent safety Reggie Nelson, who had attracted an offer from the Jets.

But this is the one playoff team that needed to at least chase a marquee free agent.  They didn’t have to land the guy.  Mike Brown simply needed to show that he’s willing to move from the nickel slot machines over to the no-limit poker table.

The Bengals may once again be competitive in 2012.  The fans won’t embrace the franchise they way they should, however, until they see large chunks of their money being reinvested in players who can help the team compete for a championship.

11.  Loser/Winner:  Redskins.

I know.  I said there would be only 10 winners and losers.  But I didn’t say anything about the team that lands in both categories.

The $36 million in unexpected cap charges for treated the uncapped year too literally makes the Redskins losers.  Their refusal to shrug their shoulders when they did nothing wrong makes them winners.

Their ability to still find a way to spend money makes them winners.  Their decision to give so much money to the likes of Pierre Garçon and Josh Morgan makes them losers.

Their willingness to move up to No. 2 and get the franchise’s first true franchise quarterback since Sammy Baugh possibly will make them winners.  Mortgaging the future by giving up three first-round draft picks and a second-round pick possibly will make them losers.

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NFL may have to use pre-Ray Rice procedures for other Josh Brown violations

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 18:  Brad Wing #9 of the New York Giants comforts teammate Josh Brown #3 as they take on the New Orleans Saints during the second half at MetLife Stadium on September 18, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the NFL reopens its investigation of Josh Brown, its hands could be tied by the policies that were in place at the time any other incidents of alleged domestic violence occurred.

The NFL’s new six-game baseline suspension for first-offense domestic violence was adopted after the Ray Rice situation in 2014, as a response to the intense media and fan reaction to the decision to suspend Rice for only two games once video of his conduct finally surfaced. The new procedures don’t apply to anything that happened before the procedures were adopted.

As to Brown, the authorities in King County, Washington identified two potential incidents of domestic violence: One occurred in May 2015, and the other occurred in May 2014. Brown already has been suspended one game for the incident in 2015, which came with the new policies in place.

The other incident predated the changes to the rules, which would force the league to use the prior approach. For a first offense, Brown would be suspended two games.

The next question is whether other incidents of domestic violence could be proven by a preponderance of the evidence (i.e., more likely that not) based only on information from Josh Brown, the police report that finally has been issued, and the record and journals created by Brown. Possibly, separate acts of domestic violence could be stacked against Brown, the way they were for Greg Hardy.

At some point, the question becomes whether the NFL would attempt to impose enhanced discipline for the May 2015 incident, based on supposedly aggravating factors of past misconduct or the argument that the May 2015 incident was a second (or third, or fourth, etc.) offense. That will be harder for the league to pull off, because Brown already has been disciplined for the May 2015 incident.

Ultimately, none of it may matter. Josh Brown quickly has become synonymous with Ray Rice, and there are plenty of men who can do what Brown does. Whatever the official punishment eventually imposed by the NFL, Brown likely will become a pariah, with his only remaining NFL paychecks coming for however long he remains on the Commissioner-Exempt list.

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Brandon Marshall touts his maturity

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 17:  Wide receiver Brandon Marshall #15 of the New York Jets reacts after a reception against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 17, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

If there’s a silver lining in the ongoing free fall of the New York Jets, it comes from receiver Brandon Marshall learning how to handle tough times.

I’m growing, man,” Marshall told on Friday. “I’m growing as an individual. Obviously, it hasn’t been perfect. But through adversity, character is built. I’m not saying I’ve been perfect throughout it, because it’s really difficult to handle.

“But that’s one of the positives from this start is, I love how I’m maturing and handling things better than I have in the past, when you’re in a losing locker room or when adversity hits. That’s been one of the things I’ve really focused on. I’ve got to continue to grow.”

Marshall added that his relationship with defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson is “good” after a Week Three run in.

“We have had our moments, whether it’s in practice or in meetings, had a lot of conversations. Everyone comes from different walks of life, and don’t always see things the right way,” Marshall said.

Richardson apparently doesn’t see why Marshall chose to talk about the situation.

“That’s Brandon, bro,” Richardson told “I’ve got nothing to talk about on that note. It’s locker room business. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

Teammates aren’t supposed to fight with each other, either. But it definitely happens on losing teams. For the 2016 Jets, the fighting began in before the losing even started, with Marshall and cornerback Darrelle Revis getting into it during practice.

Frankly, Marshall’s maturity may be relative. The Broncos, Dolphins, and Bears each traded him.

With nine days left in this year’s trading window, maybe a fourth trade would be the best move for the team and for the player, who has still not yet played in a single postseason game.

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League is considering a developmental league

PHOENIX - JUNE 30:  Kicker Eric Houle #16 runs down field during a game against the Grand Rapids Rampage at the US Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona on June 30, 2008.  (Photo by Gene Lower/Getty Images) Getty Images

With NFL Europe/Europa/Whateva long gone and the Arena Football League close to joining it in extinction, football players not yet ready for the NFL have limited options for developing their game. And so the NFL continues to discuss the possibility of launching a developmental league.

“We’ve talked about it,” Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters earlier this week. “Some of you may have heard we spent a fair amount of time at the [quarterly] meeting on what we call the 2020 plan, which is talking about how we plan for the future and the things we want to accomplish. One of them is obviously the game, and how do we improve the game? A developmental league could be something that we want to do to try to help develop players.

“We pick up on the rosters from the start of the season to the end of the season, probably three to four hundred players on average. Having those players ready to play as quickly as possible and developed so that their skill set’s furthered are all positive things about the long-term future of the game. I particularly have an interest in that and would like to make sure we’re evaluating that as something that can help improve the game and improve our players.”

A developmental league particularly is needed for the quarterback position, where not nearly enough players are good enough to play at the NFL level. But a developmental league also would be useful for all other positions, along with officiating, coaching, and scouting.

The question is whether the NFL could make money from a developmental league and, if not, the amount of losses the league would be willing to tolerate. NFL Europe wasn’t profitable, and the league eventually decided to stop the sangre.

Some owners may see no reason to give players not yet ready to earn a roster spot a chance to do so — and plenty of players with one of those roster spots may agree. Still, there’s a need for game-ready talent when injuries inevitably occur.

Given the ongoing decline in TV ratings, the NFL also should be wary of potentially diluting the product by adding more football in presumably markets not currently served by the NFL. Would the fans in those markets support a minor league team? If so, would they be less likely to support a nearby NFL team?

As every other professional league has learned in the past 40 years, Americans love football — but only so much of it. Between high school, college, and the NFL, the saturation point possibly has been reached. Before the NFL adds even more football in the interests of developing better football, the NFL should be sure that the effort won’t fail miserably.

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Buccaneers make receiver swap

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 31:  Wide receiver Freddie Martino #16 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hauls in a pass from quarterback Ryan Griffin for a first down while being pressured by running back Keith Marshall #39 of the Washington Redskins during the fourth quarter of an NFL preseason game on August 31, 2016 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Buccaneers made a wide receiver swap Saturday, promoting Freddie Martino from the practice squad and waiving Donteea Dye.

Martino has previously spent time this season on both the active roster and the practice squad. He’s played in two games.

Dye could land back on the practice squad next week.

Earlier this week the Bucs placed veteran wide receiver Vincent Jackson on injured reserve.

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LeSean McCoy travels with Bills to Miami

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 16:  LeSean McCoy #25 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half at New Era Field on October 16, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills running back LeSean McCoy still may not play in Sunday’s game at Miami with a hamstring injury, but he still hasn’t been ruled out.

McCoy has made the trip to South Florida, PFT confirms. The news was first reported by Jeff Darlington of ESPN.

While it’s possible a ruse aimed at making the Dolphins think they’ll be facing McCoy, if his hamstring injury is bad enough to keep him from playing, it wouldn’t be a good idea to take him to Miami.

This doesn’t mean McCoy will definitely play. But it means that he still could.

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Jets place Henderson on non-football injury list

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 22: Keith Mumphery #12 of the Houston Texans fumbles the ball while being hit by Erin Henderson #58 of the New York Jets in the fourth quarter on November 22, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Texans won 24 to 17. (Photo by Thomas Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets placed veteran linebacker Erin Henderson on the non-football injury/illness list Saturday.

Henderson had started four games this season and led the team in tackles in each of the last two games.

His absence creates another hole in the defensive lineup with first-round linebacker Darron Lee out for at least Sunday’s game vs. the Ravens with an ankle injury.

The Jets promoted two linebackers from the practice squad Saturday, Julian Stanford and Victor Ochi. Stanford has already played in three games for the Jets this season. Ochi is an undrafted rookie outside linebacker who spent the offseason with the Ravens before landing on the practice squad with the Jets.

The Jets also placed tight end Braedon Bowman on injured reserve.

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With Carlos Hyde out, 49ers promote DuJuan Harris

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 03:  DuJuan Harris #32 of the San Francisco 49ers runs for 47-yards to the nine-yard line against the St. Louis Rams during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

49ers running back Carlos Hyde will miss Sunday’s game against the Bucs with a shoulder injury. That means more reps for Mike Davis and Shaun Draughn — and a roster spot for DuJuan Harris.

The 49ers have promoted Harris to the active roster. To create space for him, the team waived defensive tackle Taylor Hart.

In two games late last season, Harris generated 140 rushing yards and 97 receiving yards. He was inactive for the first two games of 2016, waived on October 1, and signed to the practice squad on October 3.

Davis, a fourth-round pick in 2015, had more snaps than Draughn a week ago. Davis has a career average of 1.7 yards per carry.

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Okung, Latimer await final clearance for Monday night

SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 13:   Cody Latimer #14 of the Denver Broncos warms up before the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on October 13, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Broncos prepare to return to prime time, 11 days after a Week Six loss to the Chargers, two of the team’s players await final clearance to return from concussions.

Tackle Russell Okung and receiver Cody Latimer are both listed as questionable for Monday night’s game against the Texans. Broncos coach Gary Kubiak told reporters on Saturday that the next step for each player is official and final medical clearance.

“They both practiced today and are doing well and obviously they have to be cleared,” Kubiak said. “That’s the key there.”

The clearance will come on Saturday, if at all.

Meanwhile, linebacker DeMarcus Ware continues to be out with a forearm injury. Kubiak said that a recent CT scan was encouraging, and that Ware is expected to return to practice this week.

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NFL’s TV ratings gains in the UK are overstated

Fans wait outside before a NFL Fan Rally at the NFL House in Victoria House, in London, Saturday Oct. 22, 2016. Los Angeles Rams are due to play the New York Giants at Twickenham stadium in London on Sunday in a regular season NFL game. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland) AP

We previously passed along a report about a supposed 80 percent increase in TV viewership for NFL games in the United Kingdom this season. But it turns out that report was spinning the NFL’s UK ratings in a more positive light than is warranted.

A reader who tracks NFL viewership on UK television at contacted us to point out that the numbers being used to peddle a narrative of a significant ratings increase in the UK are misleading. Those ratings refer to the cumulative total number of viewers who watched all NFL programming in the UK this season as opposed to last season — but this season there’s more NFL programming available in the UK than there was last year, thanks to new highlight shows on BBC. So it’s no surprise that the cumulative total viewership is higher.

A better apples-to-apples comparison for TV viewership in the UK is how this year’s first London game, Colts-Jaguars, fared on BBC2 compared to last year’s Bills-Jaguars game in London. And on that score, the NFL isn’t growing in London: The Colts-Jaguars game drew 351,000 viewers on BBC2, a decrease compared to the 381,000 viewers for Bills-Jaguars last year on BBC2. This year’s Colts-Jaguars game did draw a larger audience than last year’s other early London game on BBC2, Jets-Dolphins, although that game’s ratings were lower because it aired at the same time as the Rugby World Cup.

Whether the NFL ever becomes appointment viewing for large numbers of UK fans remains to be seen. Right now, in a country of about 65 million people, less than 1 percent watch a typical NFL game.

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Texans place 2015 first-round pick Kevin Johnson on IR

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 16:  Kevin Johnson #30 of the Houston Texans congratulates Johnathan Joseph #24 of the Houston Texans after intercepting a pass during the third quarter of the game against the Houston Texans at Paul Brown Stadium on November 16, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans cornerback Kevin Johnson has been placed on injured reserve.

Johnson, the Texans’ first-round draft pick last season, suffered a broken foot on Sunday against the Colts.

Although it’s possible that Johnson could return in eight weeks, he is likely done for the season.

Johnson also suffered a foot injury as a rookie last year, although he was able to play through it and finish the season before having offseason surgery.

This year Johnson was beginning to emerge as one of the most important pieces in the Texans’ secondary, and he played every snap but one against the Colts despite the injury. Now the Texans will have to reconfigure their secondary without him.

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Jeff Fisher says Rams won’t bait Odell Beckham

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 21:  New York Giants receivers celebrate after a third quarter touchdown against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on December 21, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images) Getty Images

Fans at a London rugby stadium could be treated to a different kind of scrum on Sunday, when the Rams and Giants play there.

With the often-chippy Odell Beckham Jr. squaring off against the usually-chippy L.A. defense, Nigel and his mates may learn a lot more about American football than they previously had known. After all, a game in December 2014 between the two teams featured a late hit on Beckham, a brawl that led to three ejections, and thousands in fines.

Beckham emerged from the melee with a $10,000 penalty for kicking at linebacker Alec Ogletree.

That happened a year before Beckham’s outburst against the Panthers resulted in a suspension. Now, only a few weeks after Beckham once again proved that he has skin thinner than a late-night-tweeting politician, the Rams get another chance to light his stubby fuse.

Surprisingly, coach Jeff Fisher says that won’t happen.

“We’re going to play between the snap and the whistle, and that’s it,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher told reporters, via “No, we’re not going there. Our guys are going to play hard and play fast, tackle, and have been instructed not to hurt the football team.”

It’s one thing to not do anything that would draw a flag. It’s quite another to constantly try to rattle and harass Beckham. The players are smart enough to know there’s a benefit to doing that — and Fisher is smart to stake out his “I ordered them not to touch Private William Santiago” territory before kickoff.

In other words, bollocks.

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NFL sees TV ratings increase in the UK

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 27:  Flags advertising the NFL in London are seen on Regent Street prior to a Pittsburgh Steelers press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel on September 27, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL hasn’t seen much good news on the television ratings front this season, with far fewer people watching this year than last year. But there is one place where NFL TV ratings are up.

According to the New York Daily News, TV ratings on Sky Sports and BBC networks in the United Kingdom are up 80 percent from last year.

There’s a feeling in some league circles that the NFL is already as popular as it’s ever going to get in the United States, and if the league is going to continue to grow it will have to do so overseas. London has been the focal point of the NFL’s international growth efforts, and those television numbers would suggest that the league is making inroads.

What remains to be seen is whether the league can become a consistently popular sport in London, and not just a passing fad. The NFL is committed to playing at least three games a year in London, which suggests that the league believes there are real opportunities for growth across the pond, at the same time as the NFL’s ratings tumble in the United States.

UPDATE 3:58 p.m. ET: It turns out that those TV ratings gains in the UK were overstated.

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Jim Irsay: Colts could be 6-0 if the ball bounced our way

Ryan Grigson, Jim Irsay AP

Why is Colts owner Jim Irsay standing by G.M. Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano despite the team’s 2-4 record? Because he doesn’t think they’re as bad as 2-4 suggests.

According to Irsay, the Colts could easily have won every game this season if only they had caught a few breaks.

We could be 6-0 right now if the ball bounced our way,” Irsay told USA Today.

It’s true that the Colts have lost some close games: Three of their four losses were one-score games, and even their 34-20 loss to the Broncos was a one-score game until the final minute. Of course, the Colts’ two wins were one-score games as well. By Irsay’s logic, they’re only a couple good bounces from being 0-6.

The reality is that basically every bad team in the NFL can say it’s a few good bounces away from having a good season. The good teams are the ones that find a way to win even when the bounces don’t go their way.

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Saturday one-liners

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11:  Eric Decker #87 of the New York Jets reacts after his first down reception against the Cincinnati Bengals during the fourth quarter MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Cincinnati Bengals defeated the New York Jets 23-22.  (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) Getty Images

With hip and shoulder injuries on deck, Jets WR Eric Decker insists that he’ll be good to go for 2017.

If RB LeSean McCoy and WR Robert Woods can’t go at Miami, a couple of former Miami players will be called upon to fill the void.

The Dolphins will use a couple of little-known tight ends on Sunday.

Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount will return to Pittsburgh for the first time since snaking his way out of town.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco had “good zip” and “good velocity” on his throws at practice on Friday, after missing two days with a shoulder injury.

The Bengals may be 2-4, but QB Andy Dalton apparently is improving.

Undrafted rookie Tracy Howard, who moved from safety to corner at the suggestion of defensive coordinator Ray Horton, will make his first career start on Sunday.

The Steelers have a plan for covering Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett on Sunday — which hopefully will go better than last year’s periodic zero-man approach to Gronk.

Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has praised the leadership of LB Brian Cushing.

The Colts have been trying to build a dominant defense for five years — and failing.

Jaguars TE Julius Thomas is tied for 28th at his position with 13 receptions.

A collection of paintings and artifacts previously owned by deceased Titans founder Bud Adams will be displayed in Indianapolis on November 12.

Broncos RB C.J. Anderson isn’t worried about his job security.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid will work his 300th game on Sunday.

A blend of rookies and free agents is making it harder for the Raiders defense to excel.

The Chargers think/hope/pray RB Melvin Gordon’s 48-yard run from Week Six is a sign of things to come.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says it’s “absurd” to suggest trading WR Dez Bryant.

Giants DL Damon Harrison would have no interest in playing for a team permanently headquartered in London.

Eagles CB Leodis McKelvin has guaranteed a win over Minnesota, sort of; “We’re going to go out there this week, play as a team, win as a team,” he said.

Washington’s defense knows it will have its hands full against Detroit.

The Bears have nine more days to figure out whether QB Jay Cutler can return to action, for a Monday night date with the Vikings.

Lions QB Matthew Stafford will play his 100th career game on Sunday.

Four days after having a tough outing against Dallas, Packers CB Ladarius Gunter held Alshon Jeffery to 33 yards on three receptions.

33-year-old Vikings DE Brian Robison has been moving around a lot this year.

The Falcons offense is getting better and better under Kyle Shanahan.

Chancellor Lee Adams, the son that former Panthers WR Rae Carruth hoped would be killed along with his mother, will be waiting outside the prison the day Carruth is released.

Former Tulane DE Royce LaFrance hopes to make the most of his latest chance with the Saints’ practice squad.

The Buccaneers will be leaning heavily on RB Jacquizz Rodgers, again.

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer was healthy enough to participate in the weekly bucket challenge, which likely means he’ll be healthy enough to play.

The Rams have been let down by the offense and the defense in successive weeks.

Seahawks LS Nolan Frese knows that the less he’s known, the better he’s doing.

ESPN ranks all American pro sports teams, and the 49ers landed at No. 122.

Out of 122.

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Ravens activate Taliaferro

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 20:  Lorenzo Taliaferro #34 of the Baltimore Ravens in action against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum on September 20, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Ravens activated running back Lorenzo Taliaferro from the physically unable to perform list Saturday.

Taliaferro missed all of the offseason and the start of the season while recovering from a foot injury he suffered last October. A third-year player, Taliaferro has five career rushing touchdowns. Terrance West has emerged as the Ravens’ No. 1 running back, but Taliaferro should get some opportunities.

The Ravens also announced some other moves. Cornerback Robertson Daniel was promoted from the practice squad, while tight end Daniel Brown was waived and safety Kendrick Lewis was placed on injured reserve.

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