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NFL morning after: Peyton Manning is just fine, thank you

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Broncos coach John Fox was asked last week, What’s wrong with Peyton Manning’s arm? Fox got a good laugh out of that question, and it’s a good thing he enjoyed it. Because he probably won’t get that question again.

Manning demonstrated on Sunday against the Raiders that he’s just fine, thank you: More than capable of carving up an opposing defense and leading his team to a big win, which is exactly what he did in completing 30 of 38 passes for 338 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions, as the Broncos beat the Raiders 37-6. Fox said afterward that he’s seeing just the kind of weekly improvement from Manning he expected from a player who had to sit out the entire 2011 season with a neck injury.

“He’s getting more comfortable,” Fox said. “Let’s not forget he didn’t play for over a year and this is a new team, new coaching staff, new city, new field, new everything for him. The type of guy he is, he’s going to get better and better.”

Is it possible that Manning has lost a little speed off his fastball? Maybe. But Sunday’s game demonstrated that any talk that Manning no longer had an NFL-quality arm after last year’s neck surgeries was every bit as laughable as Fox made it out to be. And anyway, Manning has always beaten opposing defenses more with his head than with his arm. After a year away, Manning looks like more or less the same player who won four league MVP awards in Indianapolis. Manning’s passer rating so far this season is 96.9 — better than the 91.9 rating he had in 2010, his final season with the Colts.

Up next for Manning is a trip to New England for a Sunday showdown with a Patriots team that was his biggest rival when he was in Indianapolis. When Manning and Tom Brady are squaring off, we’re seeing two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history on the field. And while both Manning and Brady are still playing great football, the reality is that they’re the two oldest starting quarterbacks in the NFL right now, and we probably won’t get many more opportunities to see them playing against each other. So when you watch Broncos-Patriots on Sunday, savor the greatness you’ll see from these two quarterbacks.

Here are my other thoughts on this week’s NFL action:

Cam Newton’s touchdown record may only last a year. As a rookie in 2011, Newton set a new NFL record for touchdown runs by a quarterback in a season, with 14. But Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is on pace to top that this year, with four touchdowns in four games. Griffin, who threw for 323 yards and ran for 43 yards in leading his team to a 24-22 win in Tampa Bay on Sunday, is the best athlete ever to play the quarterback position, and it’s easy to see him continuing to average a touchdown a game for 16 games this season — but only if he stays healthy enough to play 16 games this season. Griffin is so confident in himself that he takes some reckless chances with his body when he runs up the middle, and sometimes he takes violent hits. Eventually, he’s going to need to learn that if the end zone is not in reach, he needs to get down, or else he’ll be spending more time on the sideline than in the end zone.

Welcome back, real refs. Ed Hochuli’s bulging biceps were a sight for sore eyes Sunday, and so were the rest of the regular referees, back to work after the NFL wisely ended the lockout of the officials. All those baffling penalties and foolish mistakes from the replacement refs were a thing of the past, and for fans watching at home, it was especially nice having the real referees move the games along quickly: Most of the games that kicked off at 1 p.m. were over before the 4:05 p.m. kickoffs, something that didn’t happen on any of the first three Sundays of the season. Unfortunately, the Packers — who were ripped off by the replacement refs last week — were saddled with the worst regular ref in the NFL, Jeff Triplette. A week after the Packers were robbed of a victory over the Seahawks by the replacement officials, the Packers were nearly robbed of a victory over the Saints by Triplette and his crew. Green Bay overcame major officiating mistakes including a Saints fumble that was wrongly ruled down by contact and an obvious push-off on a Saints touchdown catch that was somehow not called. If bad officiating had cost the Packers another game, there might have been a riot at Lambeau Field.

When Vikings defensive end Jared Allen is inducted into the Hall of Fame some day, Jeff Backus should introduce him. Backus, the Lions’ longtime left tackle, knows better than anyone how hard it is to block Allen. Because Backus has to do it twice a year, and Allen always gets the better of him. Last season, Allen had three sacks in each of the Vikings’ two games against the Lions. On Sunday, in the Vikings’ 20-13 win over the Lions, Allen had a sack and three tackles for loss. There are few bigger mismatches in the NFL than a one-on-one battle between Backus and Allen.

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith looks like the first pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Smith had an absolutely insane stat line against Baylor on Saturday: 45-of-51 for 656 yards, with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. Smith has a good arm, he’s a good athlete, and he’s an intelligent young man who should be a quick study in learning an NFL offense. A lot can change between now and April, but Smith looks like the kind of player who will make NFL scouts drool.

Rex Ryan had the quote of the day. Describing his Jets’ loss to the 49ers, Ryan said, “I was going to say we got our butt kicked, but really, we got our ass kicked.” Ryan was in too bad a mood to avoid profanity, and it’s hard to blame him. The Jets lost 35-0 and looked like a mess.

I can’t believe the Cardinals are 4-0. And I also can’t believe the Saints are 0-4. But that’s what makes the NFL so fun: We spend all offseason obsessing over coaching changes and free agency and the draft and training camp battles, and we’re sure we know how the league stacks up this year, and then by the time the season is a quarter of the way over, impossible things have happened. Like a team we knew was bad starting undefeated, or a team we knew was good starting winless, or an aging and injured quarterback still playing like a great one.

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Who has the best defense?

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Devonta Freeman #24 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts after scoring a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 26, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

On Wednesday’s PFT Live, Broncos safety T.J. Ward made the case for his team having the best defense in the NFL. So we’ve decided to put it out to a vote on Thursday’s PFT Live.

Cast a ballot below, and then add a comment below that — including any and all complaints about teams included and excluded from the list of finalists.

Then tune in at 6:00 a.m. ET for the three-hour tour of the National Football League. The first hour airs only on NBC Sports Radio. The next two are simulcast on NBCSN.

Guests include Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, who’ll face the Panthers on Sunday.

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Palmer tells Goff to be patient, prepare diligently

OXNARD, CA - MAY 06:  Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams and quarterback coach Chris Weinke discuss a play during a Los Angeles Rams rookie camp on May 06, 2016 in Oxnard, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

As a former No. 1 overall pick who didn’t play immediately, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has been where Rams rookie quarterback Jared Goff is.

Palmer’s advice for Goff includes maximizing his time on the sideline and studying for Sundays knowing he won’t be a backup or a spectator for long.

“You have a chance to watch how you prepare as a starter, how you go about your business as a starter, especially if you’re coming from a very non pro-style offense,” Palmer said Wednesday. “Seeing how offenses prepare, seeing the different pressures you’re going to see and the different defenses you’re going to see…it’s tough if you’re not ready and you get thrown in there. If you struggle it can linger, so I think it’s important.”

The Bengals made Palmer the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft. He spent his entire rookie season watching from the sideline before taking over in 2004. Goff, the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, is currently waiting behind Case Keenum.

Palmer said he understands every situation is different and said that while Goff waits, he needs to make sure he’s improving and mastering the offense.

“There’s such a fine line between throwing a guy in there, making him play…and he knows he’s going to go in and struggle because the team is not good like some guys have been,” Palmer said. “The Rams are different. That’s a very good team. They don’t need to throw a rookie in there and him learn on the run and the team suffer.”

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Russell Wilson fully participates in practice

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on September 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 37-18.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

High ankle sprain? Big deal. MCL sprain in the other leg? So what?

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has shrugged off both injuries to fully participate in practice on Wednesday.

The development is an encouraging sign regarding Wilson’s potential availability for Sunday’s game at the Jets.

Running back Thomas Rawls (fibula) didn’t practice. Limited were tight end Jimmy Graham (knee), tight end Nick Vannett (ankle), guard Germain Ifedi (ankle), receiver Tyler Lockett (knee), and linebacker Mike Morgan (hip).

Running back CJ Prosise (wrist) and defensive end Cliff Avril (hamstring) fully participated.

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Brian Cushing returns to practice, could play Sunday

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 09:  Brian Cushing #56 of the Houston Texans leaves the field after their 30-0 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at NRG Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The good news for the Texans, if there can be any on the day three-time defensive player of the year J.J. Watt landed on IR, is that linebacker Brian Cushing could be back in the lineup, as soon as Sunday.

Cushing has returned to practice, two weeks and three days after injuring his MCL.

“It’s really good to get him back,” coach Bill O’Brien told reporters. “He looked good today. Moving around and looks like he’s ramping it up to be able to play in the game.”

O’Brien was noncommittal regarding whether Cushing will play against the Titans.

“The expectation is that he’s going to practice tomorrow and we’re going to see where that is,” O’Brien said. “Then he’ll practice Friday and we’ll see where that is.”

“[J]ust a lot of hard work,” Cushing said when explaining his ability to return so quickly. “I didn’t want to believe it would be four to six [weeks]. I’m not saying I’m all the way back yet. I’m not saying for sure what I’m doing, but I know I practiced today. I know I felt good. I’m happy about the progress, that’s for sure. I’ve been hurt too much in my career, in my opinion. It’s something that I don’t want to do anymore, or want to be, so anything I can do to get back and get out there as soon as I possibly can and be healthy and be effective, I’ll do. Just excited to be back out there with the guys.”

Cushing said there’s a “possibility” he’ll play Sunday, but that they’re “taking it day by day.”

The Texans may be a little hesitant to put Cushing back on the field so quickly, after what happened to Watt. But Cushing said that, structurally, his knee is “great.” If so, there’s no reason for Cushing to not play.

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Spiller plans to sign with Seahawks

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 13: Running back C.J. Spiller #28 of the New Orleans Saints runs with the ball in the first quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff McBride/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** C.J. Spiller Getty Images

Veteran running back C.J. Spiller will sign with the Seahawks, per multiple reports.

The Saints cut Spiller earlier this month. The Seahawks have been hit hard by injury at the running back position, so taking a flyer on Spiller makes sense.

Spiller, 29, played for the Saints last season after five seasons in Buffalo. He has 12 rushing touchdowns and eight receiving touchdowns in his career.

The Seahawks are planning to be without injured starter Thomas Rawls for a few weeks, so Spiller will probably get a chance to play on third downs behind Christine Michael while he catches up with the offense.

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Dolphins cut Justin Hunter

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 23: Justin Hunter #15 of the Tennessee Titans runs for a touchdown after making a catch in the second quarter of the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 23, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins released wide receiver Justin Hunter on Wednesday.

The Dolphins play in Cincinnati Thursday night. The timing of Hunter’s release indicates the Dolphins need a roster spot due to injury or other circumstances and could promote someone from their practice squad.

Hunter was released by the Titans in early September and claimed by the Dolphins. He played in one game this season and did not record a reception.

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Jets waive Dee Milliner from injured reserve

New York Jets v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

The disappointing Jets tenure of Dee Milliner has now officially come to an end.

Milliner, the former No. 9 overall pick in the draft, was waived/injured before the start of the regular season, and when he cleared waivers he went to the Jets’ injured reserve list. Now the Jets have waived him off their injured reserve.

That means if any team wants Milliner, he can be claimed on waivers. If he goes unclaimed he’ll become an unrestricted free agent and can play this season, assuming he’s healthy enough to do so. If he had stayed on the Jets’ injured reserve he wouldn’t have been able to play this year.

An excellent cornerback at Alabama, Milliner was a big disappointment in the NFL. He may still have a chance to catch on somewhere else, but he’s now officially done as a Jet.

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Rams claim Marqui Christian off waivers from Cardinals

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 01:  Defensive back Marqui Christian #25 of the Arizona Cardinals in action during the preseaon NFL game against the Denver Broncos aat the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Broncos 38-17.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals and Rams will square off this Sunday and the Rams have added a former member of the Arizona secondary to their roster ahead of the game.

Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports that the Rams claimed safety Marqui Christian off of waivers on Wednesday, a day after the Cardinals dropped him as part of a series of transactions. The Cardinals said the move was due to the need to bring in another punter while Drew Butler is recovering from ankle and Achilles injuries.

Christian was a fifth-round pick by the Cardinals in April. He starred at Division II Midwestern State and was named the top small college defensive player last year, but hasn’t played in the regular season as it appears the leap in levels to the NFL has been a big one.

He may have some insight into the Cardinals that the Rams could find useful over the next couple of days, however.

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Chargers list Bosa as limited again

San Diego Chargers rookie defensive end Joey Bosa trains during an NFL football rookie training camp Friday, May 13, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) AP

Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa was listed as a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice due to a hamstring injury.

That means it’s a new week but the same story for Bosa, who’s still trying to get healthy enough to make his NFL debut.

The No. 3 pick in last year’s draft participated his first practice in pads last week but was ultimately held out of last weekend’s game. Bosa missed almost all of training camp and the preseason due to a contract dispute, then was injured in his first practice back.

Veteran tight end Antonio Gates remained out of practice with a hamstring injury. Offensive tackle King Dunlap missed practice due to migraines, coach Mike McCoy told reporters.

The Chargers host the Saints on Sunday.

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Hue Jackson won’t say whether Alvin Bailey will play on Sunday

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Tackle Alvin Bailey #78 of the Seattle Seahawks looks on during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at CenturyLink Field on September 22, 2013 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Two days after offensive lineman Alvin Bailey was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, it’s unclear whether the Browns will take action against him for it.

“We will see,” coach Hue Jackson told reporters on Wednesday. “Obviously, this is a league matter. Those kind of things that happen, I’m not very excited about it at all. There will be consequences for it, but we have to follow league protocol as far as that is concerned. We will do what we feel is right.”

Alcohol offenses fall under the NFL’s exclusive jurisdiction, via the substance-abuse policy. A first offense generally results in a two-game suspension.

While teams can’t fine players accused of DUI or suspend them without pay, players can be released for arrests (like the Bucs did last week with tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins), they can make them inactive on game day, and they can choose not to play them, even if they are active.

So will Bailey play on Sunday against Washington?

“You will find that out on Sunday,” Jackson said.

The Browns may have a separate problem in this case. Bailey reportedly told police he drank on the team flight back from Miami. Nine years ago, however, the NFL banned teams from providing alcohol on team flights.

There’s currently no evidence the team provided alcohol to Bailey or any other player. However, there’s also no evidence that Bailey or any other player snuck a bottle of booze or a six-pack of beer onto the charter, either.

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NFL, Tom Coughlin’s agent deny meeting with Pegulas occurred

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 03:  Head coach Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants reacts in the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles during their game at MetLife Stadium on January 3, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

If Tom Coughlin eventually will be getting back into coaching in 2017 (or sooner), there’s no current effort in Buffalo to make that happen.

Both Coughlin’s current employer (the NFL) and Coughlin’s agent (Sandy Montag) have denied a report that emerged over the weekend indicating that Coughlin had met with Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula.

“This meeting did not happen,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT via email on Wednesday.

“I do confirm that a meeting did not occur,” Montag told PFT via email.

The Bills opted to say nothing, citing a “longstanding practice not to respond to media posts based on rumors.” While accounts of the Coughlin-Pegula meeting may have begun as rumor, Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported that a meeting occurred.

The fact that the Bills scored an unlikely win over the Cardinals likely contributed to the fizzling of the rumor/report. But if the Bills struggle again, talk of Coughlin could resurface. Regardless of what happens in the future, the NFL and Coughlin’s agent have been unequivocal: No meeting happened.

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Pete Carroll would be surprised if Russell Wilson doesn’t play

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks runs out of the grasp of outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks #55 of the San Francisco 49ers the first quarter of the game at CenturyLink Field on September 25, 2016 in Seattle,Washington. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) Getty Images

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said on Monday that quarterback Russell Wilson would be on the practice field Wednesday to kick off the on-field preparation for Sunday’s game against the Jets.

Nothing changed on that front over the last two days and Carroll confirmed Wednesday that Wilson will be working with the rest of the team after going through a morning walkthrough. The quarterback added a sprained MCL to an ankle injury during last Sunday’s victory over the 49ers, but, as reported by Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com, he has been working with a physical therapist who has been living in his house this week.

Carroll said Wilson is feeling well at this point in the week.

“He’s upbeat and feeling good,” Carroll said, via Curtis Crabtree of PFT and 950 KJR. “We’ll know more after today.”

Carroll went on to say that he would be surprised if Wilson doesn’t play, something that’s supported by the fact that the team opted against working out any quarterbacks who could join Trevone Boykin as options in the event Wilson isn’t in the lineup.

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Foster, Cameron, Pouncey, Misi out for Miami

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Arian Foster #29 of the Miami Dolphins carries the ball during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

When the Dolphins face the Bengals in Cincinnati on Thursday night, four players will definitely not be playing.

Running back Arian Foster (hamstring), tight end Jordan Cameron (concussion), linebacker Koa Misi (neck), and center Mike Pouncey (hip) officially are out for the first game of Week Four.

Linebacker Jelani Jenkins (groin) is doubtful, as is guard Anthony Steen (ankle).

Ten other Dolphins are listed as questionable, including receivers Jarvis Landry (shoulder) and DeVante Parker (hamstring), safety Reshad Jones (knee), tight end Dion Sims (ankle), and tackle Branden Albert (ankle).

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Edelman coy about his role on Sunday

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10:  Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots throws a touchdown pass on a flea flicker play during the second half of the 2015 AFC Divisional Playoffs game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) Getty Images

If either Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett can’t suit up on Sunday, receiver Julian Edelman will serve as the backup quarterback, again. If both can’t go, Edelman will be the starter.

In a Wednesday conference call with Buffalo media, Edelman was asked whether he has spent time this week practicing at quarterback.

“It’s a team policy that we’re not allowed to talk about where we’ve been practicing, but I can tell you that what we have been doing has been tough because of the opponent, the Buffalo Bills and coach [Rex] Ryan, and what he does, he does so much,” Edelman said. “It’s one of those things where we have to really tap in in the classroom and bring it to the grass in practice and translate that into regular drills, team drills, and all those types of things because we know it’s going to be against a tough opponent this week.”

Asked later by Ryan himself (who identified himself as Walt Patulski of the Buffalo News) whether Edelman will play quarterback this week, the receiver said, “I’m going to do whatever the coaches ask me to do. If they ask me to go out and give a glass of water to someone on the sideline, I’m going to do that with a smile on my face if it helps our team win. You can ask coach [Bill Belichick] that one.”

Ryan had a smile on his face, because Edelman didn’t realize Ryan was the one posing the questions.

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Bengals list Eifert, Kirkpatrick as doubtful for Thursday

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 5:  Tyler Eifert #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a touchdown pass during the fourth quarter of the game against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium on November 5, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Cleveland 31-10.(Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bengals Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert’s return will likely wait at least another week.

The Bengals are listing Eifert as doubtful for Thursday night’s game vs. the Dolphins. Eifert had returned to practice last week.

Eifert had ankle surgery last spring after being injured in the Pro Bowl. Last week marked the first time he had practiced in a team setting.

The Bengals are also listing starting cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick as doubtful. Kirkpatrick has a hamstring injury and will likely be replaced in the starting lineup by Darqueze Dennard.

Safety Derron Smith, who has a chest injury, is listed as questionable.

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