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NFL morning after: Luck has the Colts on the way to the playoffs

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Luck looks for a receiver against the Miami Dolphins during the fourth quarter of their NFL football game in Indianapolis Reuters

Andrew Luck was supposed to be this good. Just not this soon.

Everyone knew long before this year’s NFL draft that Luck would be the first overall pick, and everyone figured that Luck would eventually become a good franchise quarterback and lead the Indianapolis Colts back from last year’s disastrous 2-14 season without Peyton Manning and into the playoffs again. But did anyone really think Luck could lead the Colts to the playoffs as a rookie?

That’s what Luck has a real chance of doing after the Colts’ win on Sunday against the Dolphins, when Luck completed 30 of 48 passes for an NFL rookie record 433 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions, as the Colts won 23-20 and improved to 5-3 on the season. Only two teams in the AFC — the Texans and Ravens — have better records than the Colts, who are the leaders in the AFC wild card race at the halfway point of the season.

“No one cares about your record at this point of the season,” Luck said after the game. “It’s all about making it to the playoffs. Obviously, it was a step in the right direction. I am proud of that, but we haven’t accomplished the end goal by any means.”

Will the Colts accomplish their goal of making the playoffs this year? I don’t know, but I do know that there are at least four games left on their schedule in which they should be favored: Thursday night at Jacksonville, Week 12 at home against the Bills, Week 14 at home against the Titans and Week 16 at Kansas City. If the Colts do nothing more than win those four games, they’ll have a 9-7 record, which is probably going to be good enough to make the playoffs in the mediocre AFC. For the worst team in the league last season, a 9-7 record and a wild-card berth would represent an enormous step forward.

And it’s a step that they’re taking primarily because of Luck, who has complete command of the Colts’ offense and a veteran’s mastery of reading through his progressions and finding open receivers. Luck also has a beautiful NFL arm, as he showed on his 36-yard touchdown strike to T.Y. Hilton on Sunday. At age 23, Luck isn’t a good quarterback prospect. He’s a good quarterback right now. And he may be a starting quarterback in a playoff game in two months.

Luck turned in my favorite performance of this Sunday in the NFL. Here are my other thoughts:

Turn your microphone off, ref. Dolphins-Colts referee Tony Corrente got into a shouting match with one of his fellow officials and yelled an expletive — with his microphone on, for all the fans and the TV audience to hear. The NFL’s officiating department will surely remind Corrente that he needs to make sure his mic is turned off after he’s done making an announcement.

Is this pro wrestling? The most shocking moment on Sunday came when Browns linebacker Kaluka Maiava lifted Ravens left tackle Michael Oher and slammed him to the ground. Oher, who as the subject of The Blind Side is the NFL’s most famous offensive lineman, weighs 315 pounds and isn’t easy to throw around. But if there’s any NFL player who can do pull off a wrestling-style takedown of Oher, we shouldn’t be surprised that it was Maiava: He’s the nephew of pro wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Ed Reed is as good a safety as the NFL has ever seen. Reed, who recorded the 60th interception of his NFL career in the Ravens’ 25-15 win over the Browns, has been brilliant in pass coverage during his 11-year career. But my favorite thing about him is the way he turns into a playmaker when he gets the ball in his hands: Reed is the all-time leader in interception return yards, with 1,507, and his average of 25.1 yards per interception return ties him with his old teammate Deion Sanders for the best average ever for a player with at least 30 interceptions. He would have been a great two-way player.

Christian Ponder better turn things around in a hurry. Ponder had a hot start this season and the Vikings won four of their first five games. Now he’s gone into a tailspin and the Vikings have lost three of their last four. Ponder was terrible in Sunday’s loss in Seattle, completing 11 of 22 passes for 63 yards, for a pathetic 2.9 yards per pass, with an interception. After looking like playoff contenders at the start of the season, the Vikings are now a loss to the Lions this week away from being in last place in the NFC North.

Doug Martin is amazing. Have you seen what Martin, the Buccaneers’ rookie running back, has been doing lately? Martin had 25 carries for 251 yards and four touchdowns on Sunday in Oakland, just the second time in NFL history a player had 250 yards and four touchdowns in a game. Martin is a phenomenal athlete with great speed, but I also love what a smart runner Martin is. As Martin raced down the sideline on his 67-yard touchdown, he saw that Raiders safety Matt Giordano was gaining on him. Giordano is one of the fastest players in the NFL, one of the few players who could catch Martin from behind, and Martin saw that Giordano was bearing down on him. So Martin wisely put on the brakes and allowed Giordano to run right past him before cutting back inside and getting into the end zone. Martin was just named the NFL’s offensive rookie of the month for October, and he played his best game yet on the first game day of November. No one is playing the running back position better than Martin right now.

Peyton is the king of the comebacks. Manning’s Broncos trailed 20-17 in the fourth quarter against the Bengals, but on the strength of his two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, the Broncos ended up winning 31-23. Sunday’s game featured Manning’s 48th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime, passing Dan Marino for the most comeback wins for any quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, which is as far back as those records are kept. Manning is continuing to show in his first season in Denver that he’s among the handful of players in the conversation about the greatest quarterback ever to play the game. It says something about how well Luck has played that the fans in Indianapolis don’t seem to miss Manning right now.

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Jeff Tedford given indefinite leave of absence from Bucs

Tedford AP

The Buccaneers were hoping offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford was close to a return.

Instead, there’s no way to know when he’ll be back.

Via Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com, the team has given Tedford an indefinite leave of absence.

Tedford had a heart procedure before the start of the season, but had returned to work on a limited basis. He’s been around the team, but quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo had called the plays the first three games.

Coach Lovie Smith had said that Tedford hadn’t experienced any setbacks, but he clearly needs more time to get himself well.

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Panthers put Mike Tolbert on IR/designated for return

Pittsburgh Steelers v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Panthers banged-up running game will be without its biggest part for at least eight weeks.

The team announced that fullback Mike Tolbert was placed on injured reserve/designated for return.

That will keep him out at least eight weeks, after he suffered a hairline fracture in his leg in Sunday’s loss to the Steelers.

The team signed linebacker D.J. Smith to fill his roster spot, which might actually be a good sign for their other backs.

DeAngelo Williams could return this week after missing the last two with a hamstring. Jonathan Stewart left the game last week with what coach Ron Rivera called a “severe sprain” of his knee, pending an MRI.

If they’re not signing a back now, they must think Williams will play this week, because the only other healthy back on the roster is practice squad promotion Darrin Reaves.

Tolbert was viewed as a luxury buy at the time (one of the last backs former General Manager Marty Hurney bought before he was fired), but went to the Pro Bowl last year after leading the team with seven touchdowns.

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Jerry Jones: Morris Claiborne isn’t what we hoped for

brianquick AP

In the 2012 NFL draft, Cowboys General Manager Jerry Jones traded both his first-round pick and his second-round pick to St. Louis to move up and draft cornerback Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick. So far that’s not looking like a great move.

Jones says he still has hopes that Claiborne is going to turn out to be a very good player in Dallas, but he admits that through two-plus seasons, Claiborne hasn’t been the player the Cowboys believed he was when they pulled the trigger on that trade.

“Is he what we had hoped for at this point when we drafted him with the sixth overall pick, giving up the [second-round] pick to go up to the sixth pick to get him? No,” Jones said on KRLD-FM, via the Dallas Morning News. “But he’s going to be a good player.”

Claiborne had a late interception on Sunday against the Rams, but St. Louis quarterback Austin Davis was also picking on Claiborne all day until that point. Claiborne has to play better than he did on Sunday.

The two picks the Cowboys traded away turned out to be Michael Brockers, who is now starting for the Rams at defensive tackle, and Alshon Jeffery, whom the Bears drafted after a trade with the Rams and who has become one of the best young receivers in the NFL. Jones probably wishes he had stayed put and used those picks on the same two players, rather than using both picks to get Claiborne.

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PFT Live: Ravens talk with Clifton Brown, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Baltimore Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti Press Conference Getty Images

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti held a press conference on Monday in response to ESPN’s article about the team’s handling of the Ray Rice case and we’ll be talking about it on Tuesday’s edition of PFT Live.

Clifton Brown of CSN Baltimore will join Mike Florio to give his take on Bisciotti’s comments, including his belief that no one would be fired as a result of the way the team handled things with Rice and his admission that it never crossed his mind to push harder to get the video from inside the elevator on the fateful night. They’ll also talk about the Ravens moving to 2-1 with a win over the Browns and what lies ahead for the team.

Florio will then switch from asking questions to answering them, so we invite PFT Planet to share some of their biggest queries. You can send them in on Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or give a call to 888-237-5269 during the show.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Mike Pettine on Joe Haden: Great players need to make big plays when team needs them

Steve Smith, Joe Haden AP

Browns coach Mike Pettine said Monday that he wanted to take the blame for the team’s loss to the Ravens on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t find fault with anything that his players did on the field.

One example would be the 32-yard pass to Steve Smith that set up Justin Tucker’s game-winning field goal. Smith beat Browns cornerback Joe Haden on the play and Pettine said on Monday that his team’s best defensive player needs to make a play in those kinds of situations.

“He’s played well at times, but as you can see, at some inopportune times he’s not played well,” Pettine said, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I think he’ll admit that, as well. That’s what we talk about. The great ones are going to make big plays when it’s needed, and I think that’s one area where Joe will look to improve.”

Haden hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts this season after signing a big contract extension over the offseason, something that Pettine said he doesn’t think is a result of the foot injury that bothered him late in the preseason. Haden’s history says that things will get better, which will be a welcome development for a Browns team that is a couple of big plays away from a 3-0 record.

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Week Three power rankings

Seahawks AP

1. Seattle Seahawks (No. 1 last week; 2-1):  Why couldn’t they have toyed with the Broncos like this in February?

2. Cincinnati Bengals (No. 5; 3-0):  It’s a lot easier to be among the NFL’s best when there aren’t playoff games to win.

3. Denver Broncos (No. 2; 2-1):  At least they won’t be intimidated if they play Seattle again in February.

4. Philadelphia Eagles (No. 7; 3-0):  How long until Cary Williams is doing shirtless situps in his driveway?

5. New England Patriots (No. 3; 2-1):  Given the way he secured the game-clinching interception, maybe Vince Wilfork should be moved to tight end.

6. Arizona Cardinals (No. 8; 3-0):  Bruce Arians isn’t the coach of the year; he’s the coach of the century.

7. Baltimore Ravens (No. 10; 2-1):  Given the way this team plays under duress, maybe the next conspiracy should be to start more conspiracies.

8. San Diego Chargers (No. 12; 2-1):  It’ll be hard to keep winning games if they keep losing running backs every week.

9. Atlanta Falcons (No. 14; 2-1):  They should have saved some of those points for later in the season.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 16; 2-1):  At a time when the Panthers were becoming the Steelers, the Steelers showed the Panthers who the Steelers really are.

11. New Orleans Saints (No. 11; 1-2):  Before Drew Brees was slammed to the ground, it looked like the Vikings were applying a sleeper hold to the Saints.

12. Detroit Lions (No. 17; 2-1):  Stephen Tulloch’s injury proves that the Lions haven’t had nearly enough practice celebrating things.

13. Chicago Bears (No. 13; 2-1):  Two non-convincing road wins are still a lot better than two non-convincing road losses.

14. Green Bay Packers (No. 4; 1-2):  Maybe they just stink.

15. Carolina Panthers (No. 6; 2-1):  Maybe they should reinstate Greg Hardy so he can play on the offensive line.

16. Indianapolis Colts (No. 15; 1-2):  Yes, the Jaguars are so bad that blowing them out results in a one-spot drop in the rankings.

17. San Francisco 49ers (No. 9; 1-2):  That “Who’s got it better than us?” chant could soon become, “Who doesn’t?”

18. Buffalo Bills (No. 18; 2-1):  Yep, we know how the “Bills start strong in September” book ends.

19. Dallas Cowboys (No. 23; 2-1):  This team is still a long way from glorywhole.

20. Houston Texans (No. 19; 2-1):  I have a feeling I won’t be hearing from many of the folks who had complained that the 2-0 Texans were only No. 19.

21. New York Jets (No. 20; 1-2):  It’s just a matter of time before Mike Vick is playing enough to get injured again.

22. Cleveland Browns (No. 21; 1-2):  The schedule softens considerably on the other side of the bye week.

23. Washington (No. 22; 1-2):  When they trade RGIII, they probably won’t get three first-round picks and a second-round pick.

24. Kansas City Chiefs (No. 28; 1-2):  With games against the Patriots and 49ers looming, that win at Miami likely helped avoid taking an 0-5 record into the bye week.

25. Miami Dolphins (No. 24; 1-2):  Losing two games in a row after beating the Patriots has become a trend.

26. New York Giants (No. 30; 1-2):  One win over a team with a fraudulent 2-0 record doesn’t mean everything is fixed.

27. St. Louis Rams (No. 25; 1-2):  It takes a bad team to make the Cowboys look that good.

28. Tennessee Titans (No. 26; 1-2):  Week One feels like it was a long time ago.

29. Minnesota Vikings (No. 27; 1-2):  A season of quiet optimism has yielded to loud pessimism.

30. Oakland Raiders (No. 32; 0-3):  Maybe they won’t go 0-16, after all.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 31; 0-3):  With all the focus on the team’s crappy offense, it’s easy to forget they have a crappy defense.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 29; 0-3):  Last week’s performance in the team’s new uniforms could make fans forget about all the horrible performances in the team’s original uniforms.

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Tom Brady is there for Patriots owner Robert Kraft

tom-brady.vadapt.955.medium.0 Getty Images

Tom Brady hasn’t been left hanging often in his life, but he’s been caught on camera waiting for a high five a few times before.

So he felt sorry for Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is still waiting for a high five from Mark Wahlberg which never came.

After that photo made a lap around the internet, Brady posted a photoshopped picture of him high-fiving his boss.

Not cool Mark! Mr. Kraft, I know how you feel,” Brady wrote on his Facebook page.

Somewhere, Logan Mankins has to be thinking the exact same thing.

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James Harrison’s return to Steelers a “done deal”

james-harrison2 Getty Images

Apologies to Thomas Wolfe, but you can go home again.

Just ask James Harrison. Harrison spent a year playing for the Bengals and then retired last month, but none of that has stopped him from returning to the Steelers in the wake of Jarvis Jones’s wrist injury.

Reports out of Pittsburgh on Monday were that Harrison would be back with the team that employed him for 10 years and Harrison confirmed it on Tuesday morning when he announced a “done deal.” He also shared a picture of the moment he signed his contract with the team.

Arthur Moats is expected to get the starts in place of Jones, who was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return. Harrison’s experience with the defense likely helped push the Steelers in his direction as they shore up their depth after losing Jones for a long stretch and Ryan Shazier for a shorter spell.

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Kevin Kolb working to help Mexican hurricane victims

Kevin Kolb AP

Former NFL quarterback Kevin Kolb wasn’t used to having weekends off in the fall.

But what he saw while vacationing in Mexico scared him more than any hit he took in his career, and now he’s wondering where the help is.

Kolb, his wife and some friends were vacationing in Cabo San Lucas last week when Hurricane Odile hit, and he said he was alarmed at the lack of response or concern.

“Now that I’m back, the thing that is most disturbing is no one here realizes just how bad it is down there,” Kolb told Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “When we got to customs, we told him where we were coming from, and he said, ‘Oh, I heard there was a little storm down there.’

“This is a tragedy. It should be a full humanitarian effort down there, and for some reason, it’s not being made out to be as big of a deal as it should be.”

Kolb described in harrowing detail how they rode out the storm while stranded at their hotel, unable to get a flight out in advance of the storm. He and his wife piled mattresses on top of themselves in the bathroom as 125 mph winds lashed their hotel, before eventually heading for a shelter.

He and his friends eventually made it to the airport after the storm, and got on a Mexican military plane to Guadalajara, and then came back to Texas.

“I know there are still a lot of U.S. tourists down there, and we saw no U.S. support anywhere,” Kolb said. “We saw Canadian government officials helping, but where is the U.S.?”

Kolb said he plans to return to the hotel to help employees who worked to safeguard their guests, and lost much of what they owned in the process. But he’s wondering why more people weren’t aware of the destruction.

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Mike McCarthy focused on problems with offensive execution rather than scheme

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Getty Images

After the Packers scored just seven points in their loss to the Lions on Sunday, quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the team needed to do “a better job of adjusting” than they did against the Cover-2 looks they were seeing from Detroit.

Rodgers didn’t elaborate on the adjustments he would have liked to have seen and offensive coordinator Tom Clements said Monday that he didn’t know what Rodgers was talking about. Coach Mike McCarthy said that he questioned not being more aggressive in the passing game earlier in the contest, but also said that he wasn’t sure what adjustments Rodgers wanted to see and that the bigger problem with the team’s play had to do with execution rather than scheme.

“I’m not really up here to talk about scheme,” McCarthy said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “One thing I always talk to our players about all the time is scheme is not a crutch. The fundamentals and the things we do from an execution standpoint were not good enough, clearly, on offense.”

Playing both safeties deep was an invitation for the Packers to run the ball and they didn’t do it well enough, something that led to particular criticism from McCarthy. Rodgers didn’t set the world on fire either, however, and things have to get better across the board for the Packers to move back to the top of the division.

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Rex bites his tongue about bad call

rextrestman AP

A blown call by the officials cost the Jets a touchdown on Monday night, as a Jay Cutler fumble was wrongly blown dead just as Demario Davis was picking it up with a clear path to the end zone. But Jets coach Rex Ryan wouldn’t complain afterward.

When reporters pressed Ryan about the play, he declined to blast the officiating, perhaps conscious of the fact that he could get fined by the NFL if he did.

“I’ll let you guys figure out how frustrating that is,” Ryan said.

Davis was a little more talkative afterward.

“I knew it was a fumble,” Davis said. “I knew when I picked it up that it was a fumble. And it should’ve been a touchdown. I talked to a couple referees before [Monday] and they said that they are supposed to let that play stay open. They are taught to call that a fumble, because you always can review it. But if you blow it dead, then the play dies there. That came back to bit us in the butt. But we didn’t have the best officiating in our game. But it comes with the territory. That’s not an excuse for us. We have to play better.”

The Jets have to play better. But the officials also have to call the game better. Ryan knows he can only get away with saying one of those two things.

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Report: Cardinals grab running back from Chargers practice squad

Arizona Cardinals v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

With Ryan Mathews expect to miss the next few weeks and Danny Woodhead missing the rest of the season, the Chargers are a good bet to make a move to bolster their backfield at some point in the near future.

It appears they were too slow to have Marion Grice provide some of that help. Grice was a sixth-round pick in May and landed on the practice squad after failing to make the team in August, but Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports that the Cardinals gave Grice a physical on Monday and that they’ll be signing him to their 53-man roster.

The Cardinals have their own need for depth in the backfield in the wake of Jonathan Dwyer’s arrest and placement on the NFI list. Grice also might have welcomed a chance to return to the state he called home while playing his college ball at Arizona State. Grice ran for 79 yards on 17 carries against the Cardinals in a preseason game late in August.

Donald Brown and Branden Oliver are the only backs on the Chargers roster right now, something we’d expect will change before they next take the field.

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As Geno struggles, Vick looms

Vick Getty Images

Coach Rex Ryan still supports quarterback Geno Smith.  Because Smith needs support right now.  Because it’s not going well for him.  And because if it doesn’t turn around, it’s just a matter of time before Rex can no longer afford to support Geno Smith.

Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News points out that, as Smith continues to turn the ball over, veteran Mike Vick looms.  Vick, with more experience and arguably more talent than Smith, wasn’t given a chance to compete for the starting job — and he wasn’t afraid to say so.

Soon, fear of getting fired could get Rex to make a change.  With the 2-1 Lions coming to town followed by games against the 2-1 Chargers, the 2-1 Broncos, and the 2-1 Patriots on a short week, the margin for error is starting to shrink, and the climb is getting steeper.

While Rex continues to support Geno Smith, he hasn’t ruled out giving Vick more playing time.  At this point, it’s impossible to rule out Vick getting all of the playing time.  Especially if the mistakes and losses continue to pile up in the coming weeks.

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Jonathan Goodwin’s high ankle sprain forces Saints shuffle

Drew Brees AP

The Saints are going to have to do some shuffling up front, as it appears center Jonathan Goodwin is going to miss some time.

According to Mike Triplett of ESPN.com, Goodwin suffered a high ankle sprain in Sunday’s win over the Vikings, and will miss some time.

That leaves the job to Tim Lelito, who worked with the ones during training camp before Goodwin rejoined the team.

“I think we felt the whole time like we had two starters, and whoever they named the opening day starter was fine with us,” Saints right tackle Zach Strief said. “We feel good about both of ‘em. And hopefully we’ll get Goody back sooner than later.”

Strief said “nothing changed” when Lelito entered the game, but there was that one thing.

On his first snap, he launched a shotgun snap past quarterback Drew Brees, though Brees said he owned some of the blame for not fielding it.

“Listen, I gotta play shortstop,” said Brees, who went to Lelito to encourage him after that play. “I can’t let those balls get by me. I don’t care if they’re low, high, coming in hot, whatever. That’s my job. So I’m as mad at myself as anybody.”

He’ll need to work on turning that double play this week, because it appears Lelito is going to be feeding him for the next few weeks.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

Denard Robinson, Malliciah Goodman AP

Was Bills coach Doug Marrone too conservative against the Chargers?

The Dolphins defense wants to find a better approach to stopping the run.

The Patriots offense didn’t earn a high grade this week.

There were plenty of red zone chances for the Jets on Monday night.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh likes the team’s running back depth.

Said Bengals QB Andy Dalton, “We’re playing with a lot of confidence. It’s not just one side of the ball, it’s every phase of the game. It makes it fun. We have a lot of great guys on this team, and the coaching staff has done a good job of making it fun.”

The Browns could make some changes on special teams.

Power football helped the Steelers to a Sunday night win.

T Duane Brown said the Texans should learn a lot from their loss to the Giants.

The Colts offensive line has handled a slew of injuries fairly well.

Jaguars RB Denard Robinson’s playing time is going up.

Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt wants to see more discipline from his team.

LB Danny Trevathan hopes to rejoin the Broncos defense in Week Five.

The Chiefs expect RB Jamaal Charles and S Eric Berry to practice this week.

Raiders LB Khalil Mack felt good about his performance against the Patriots.

The Chargers have gotten a boost from their tight ends this season.

A late interception might not be enough to keep Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne in a prominent role.

S Stevie Brown appears to have fallen out of favor with the Giants.

The Eagles didn’t generate any pass rush against the Redskins.

It’s a crowded Redskins injury report with Thursday’s game approaching quickly.

Bears coach Marc Trestman pushed a lot of the right buttons on Monday night.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell isn’t concerned with the lack of production from the team’s rookies.

The Packers haven’t gotten much from their tight ends.

QB Christian Ponder is back in the No. 2 spot on the Vikings depth chart.

Falcons DT Ra’Shede Hageman will be returning to Minnesota in Week Four.

The Panthers don’t want WR/PR Philly Brown to apologize for Sunday night’s botched punt.

Saints WR Brandin Cooks continued building a strong rookie season against the Vikings.

Injuries have hampered the Buccaneers’ efforts to get consistency on the defensive line.

Cardinals S Tyrann Mathieu is still building his confidence.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher took issue with the officiating in Sunday’s loss.

Said 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, “The mindset has to be, going forward, to fix. You push against something until it’s upright. That’s the process our team uses, and we have total belief in everybody associated with our program, coaches and players.”

Seahawks CB DeShawn Snead got engaged on the field after Sunday’s win.

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