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Vikings GM Spielman: “Ponder is our guy”

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

Christian Ponder could do no wrong as the Vikings got off to a 4-1 start. But even though he proceeded to look exceedingly human, the Vikings still think he’s the right guy.

General manager Rick Spielman just finished a talk with Vikings beat writers, and made it clear where the organization stood on their second-year quarterback.

“I know everybody in this organization believes Christian Ponder is our guy,” Spielman said, via Tom Pelissero of “And I have full, 100 percent belief that Christian Ponder’s going to be our quarterback heading into the future.”

Beating the Lions last week to go into a bye week 6-4 has quieted some of the criticism, but there’s been reasonable doubt about Ponder after a tough stretch of games that made the Vikings look like they could only do one thing well — run.

“Those are things that you look at when you’re developing a young quarterback, is OK, he had a hiccup for a couple weeks — how does he respond?” Spielman said. “Well, he came out of that and responded pretty well last week. I think he ended up with a 114 quarterback rating and was very productive and probably would have been more productive, but we had a few dropped balls here and there, too.

“So, those are the signs that you’re looking at, not only from his physical ability, but how he handles the pressure at that position from the mental standpoint, too.”

Speilman said he’s been encouraged by Ponder’s approach, even the way he joked about his sideline-reporter girlfriend, which became a topic during his slump.

“You have to have stuff roll off your back at that position, just like a head coach or general manager,” Spielman said. “You know there’s going to be — the praises come with that position, but the heavy criticisms come with that position, too. But you have to have the mental makeup to be able to handle all of that.”

Either way, Spielman said he was still well short of the time he needed to make a final determination on Ponder.

“I always have followed the three-year rule,” Spielman said. “The quarterback position — you’ve got to remember, our guy’s only in his second year. You look at the history of development of quarterbacks and I’ve talked to you guys a lot about that and where they come.

“I know they’re getting measured regardless if they’re a rookie or second-year [player]. They’re going to get evaluated from the outside and from the media on their performance that week. But you have to be, from an internal standpoint, looking at the whole picture and looking at a length of time.”

That’s good news for Ponder, especially if they use the time between his second and third year to add some weapons to the outside, which will allow him to look like more than a guy who hands off to Adrian Peterson.

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Kiko Alonso questionable with hand injury, Ravens rolling

Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta, center, scores a touchdown between Miami Dolphins free safety Bacarri Rambo, left, and strong safety Isa Abdul-Quddus in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton) AP

The problems are mounting for the Dolphins, as one of their most productive defensive players has already left inured.

Linebacker Kiko Alonso is questionable to return with a hand injury, after leaving in the first quarter.

The Ravens are taking advantage of his absence and the Dolphins in general, up 14-0 so far. The madcap Ravens converted a fourth-down conversion as well, taking some chances and making them pay off.

Joe Flacco’s thrown a pair of touchdown passes already, and is 11-of-14 passing for 136 yards.

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Nugent field goal gives Bengals early lead

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 23:  Mike Nugent #2 of the Cincinnati Bengals attempts a field goal during the fourth quarter of the game against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Cleveland 31-17. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bengals got the ball first Sunday and drove inside the Eagles’ 20 before stalling, as they’ve done too much this season.

Struggling kicker Mike Nugent made a 32-yard field goal, drawing a sarcastic cheer from the home crowd. So, the Bengals and Eagles are off to a flying start.

The Eagles got to midfield on their first drive before they stalled and had to punt.

Both teams are just about out of chances to stay in the playoff race, though the winner will at least live to scoreboard watch another week.

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Falcons, Chiefs trade quick touchdowns

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons warms up before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Falcons 24-15. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

Both offenses came out in fine form in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon.

The Falcons drove 81 yards in just under five minutes to open the game with a touchdown and the Chiefs needed just over two minutes to answer back with a score of their own. The Falcons lead 7-6 after blocking Cairo Santos‘ extra point attempt, however.

Atlanta’s drive saw a heaping helping of Julio Jones as the Falcons wideout caught four passes for 52 yards as they cruised down the field. An apparent touchdown catch by Taylor Gabriel was wiped out by a holding penalty on Jake Matthews, but Devonta Freeman was able to punch the ball in from a yard out after a pass interference call on Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen in the end zone.

Travis Kelce played Jones’ part with the Chiefs thanks to a pair of catches that covered 56 yards. Spencer Ware scored on a three-yard run to put Kansas City’s first points on the board.

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Lamar Miller heads to locker room with apparent rib injury

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 21:   Lamar Miller #26 of the Houston Texans rushes the ball against the Oakland Raiders at Estadio Azteca on November 21, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico.  (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans have a tall order at Lambeau Field on Sunday. It could be getting a lot taller without running back Lamar Miller.

Miller has gone to the locker room for evaluation of an injury. Per Tracy Wolfson of CBS, trainers were looking at Miller’s ribs.

The Texans had a nice drive to open the game, but a fumble by tight end Ryan Griffin ended the effort. The Packers drove to the doorstep of the Houston end zone, but a fumbled snap was recovered by Texans defensive lineman Vince Wilfork.

UPDATE 1:31 p.m. ET: Miller has returned to the lineup.

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Joe Flacco spreading it around effectively, Ravens up early

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco throws to a receiver in the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) AP

The Dolphins are the ones on the streak, but it was Joe Flacco who was elite early today.

Flacco just completed a sharp opening drive with a touchdown pass to running back Terrance West, giving the Ravens a 7-0 lead over the Dolphins.

Flacco was 6-of-7 passing for 73 yards, finding six different receivers on the drive.

The Dolphins have won six straight, but are in a fight for a wild card spot, making this game crucial to their chances. A missed field goal on their ensuing possession didn’t help their cause.

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Patriots go for it on early fourth down, get 43-yard touchdown

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  LeGarrette Blount #29 of the New England Patriots in action against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots didn’t let the absence of tight end Rob Gronkowski stop them from going for it on fourth down near midfield on their first possession of Sunday’s game against the Rams.

The Rams didn’t stop them from getting a touchdown on the play. LeGarrette Blount took a handoff from Tom Brady and turned the corner for a 43-yard touchdown run that put the Patriots up 7-0 less than five minutes into the contest.

The Patriots used three different running backs on the drive with Blount seeing the ball three times for 55 yards and Danny Woodhead going unused, which likely confounded Rams coach Jeff Fisher. Brady completed all three passes he tried, but all were of the shorter variety and added up to 12 yards in total.

Los Angeles will now get the ball for the first time, although they’re missing wide receiver Tavon Austin and left guard Rodger Saffold on their visit to New England.

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Tom Savage a surprise scratch with elbow infection

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Tom Savage #3 of the Houston Texans looks to pass against the Arizona Cardinals in the third quarter of a preseason NFL game at NRG Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

If the Texans were considering a change from Brock Osweiler to Tom Savage, it’s definitely not happening on Sunday against the Packers.

Savage is inactive for Sunday’s game. Per multiple reports, he has an infection.

Savage had not appeared on the Week 13 injury report.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports that Savage has a “viral infection” that is causing him to get antibiotics. Tracy Wolfson of CBS reports that Savage woke up with an infection in the elbow of his throwing arm. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the infection is in the skin.

The development sounds a lot like the staph infection that suddenly appeared on the knee of defensive end J.J. Watt two days before an October 2015 game at Jacksonville. If the infection on the elbow of Savage is bacterial and not viral, the question becomes whether the Texans have now had a pair of staph infections in consecutive years, and whether that will prompt an effort to scrub the team’s locker room and other facilities.

Per McClain, Savage is expected to return to practice on Monday. So whatever it is, it’s serious enough to knock Savage out for Sunday, but apparently not much longer than that.

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Sean Payton quietly resumes play-calling duties

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 17:  Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints walks the field before their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last week, Saints coach Sean Payton seemed to relish hanging 49 points on former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. As it turns out, Payton had a more direct role in the output than usual.

Via Ed Werder of ESPN, Payton called the offensive plays in the Week 12 game against the Rams — and Payton will do it again on Sunday against the Lions.

We’ll switch this throughout the year,” Payton told reporters in September. “It’s not like we’re going to come out and make an announcement to you guys that we’re doing it. Pete’s in with the quarterback on every meeting, and we’ve just been together long enough where we feel comfortable with it.”

Payton may feel even more comfortable with the idea of calling plays, now that the Saints are in win-every-week mindset. The fact that the offense nearly put 50 on the board last weekend suggests that Payton should keep doing it, too.

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No Tavon Austin, Robert Quinn or Rodger Saffold for Rams

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Robert Quinn #94 of the Los Angeles Rams celebrates a sack during the second quarter of the game against the Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Coliseum on November 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots listed a fair number of their players as questionable to play against the Rams this Sunday, but key parts of the team like Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Martellus Bennett are all active for the game.

Things didn’t go as well for the Rams when it came to game-time decisions. The team’s list of inactive players for the matchup at Gillette Stadium includes defensive end Robert Quinn and left guard Rodger Saffold.

Quinn has a concussion and it seems he did not get cleared through the concussion protocol in time to play the Pats. Saffold has a hand injury that knocked him out against the Saints last week. Saffold started that game at left tackle in place of the benched Greg Robinson, but Robinson is back on the active roster this week.

Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin is also inactive, although that was expected after he missed practice all week with a chest injury before being listed as doubtful on Friday.

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DeVante Parker active despite back injury

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 03: DeVante Parker #11 of the Miami Dolphins is tackled by Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter of the game at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images) Getty Images

Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker went through a pregame workout Sunday morning and convinced the team’s decision makers he’s healthy enough to play Sunday vs. the Ravens.

Parker suffered a back injury last week. Parker didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday, and the team promoted rookie wide receiver Rashawn Scott from the practice squad in anticipation of Parker missing the game.

Scott is inactive Sunday.

Parker has 14 receptions for 246 yards and a touchdown over the last three games.

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Week 13 early inactives

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 13:  Trevor Siemian #13 of the Denver Broncos reacts after a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 13, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Broncos won 25-23. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) Getty Images

Every week we bring you all the inactives from the early games in one post, constantly updated with the latest information. Check back to see the full list as it becomes available a little more than an hour ahead of the 1 p.m. ET kickoffs.

Chiefs at Falcons

Chiefs: WR Jeremy Maclin, QB Tyler Bray, CB Phillip Gaines, RB Knile Davis, LB Dadi Nicolas, OL Mike Person, TE Ross Travis

Falcons: DE Adrian Clayborn, S Sharrod Neasman, RB Terron Ward, CB Deji Olatoye, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, OL Trevor Robinson, OL Wes Schweitzer

Dolphins at Ravens

Dolphins: C Mike Pouncey, CB Jordan Lucas, CB Xavien Howard, LB Jelani Jenkins, T Bryce Harris, WR Rashawn Scott, TE Thomas Duarte

Ravens: TE Crockett Gillmore, G Alex Lewis, RB Lorenzo Taliaferro, CB Chris Lewis-Harris, RB Buck Allen, LB Kamalei Correa, OL Ryan Jensen

49ers at Bears

49ers: QB Christian Ponder, CB Marcus Cromartie, RB Mike Davis, LB Aaron Lynch, DT Tony Jerod-Eddie, OL John Theus, TE Je’Ron Hamm

Bears: QB Jay Cutler, WR Eddie Royal, CB De’Vante Bausby, CB Deiondre’ Hall, OL Cornelius Edison, DL Jonathan Bullard, S Adrian Amos

Eagles at Bengals

Eagles: RB Ryan Mathews, T Halapoulivaati Vaitai, WR Jordan Matthews, DE Steven Means, OL Josh Andrews, OL  Dillon Gordon, DT Taylor Hart

Bengals: WR A.J. Green, DE Wallace Gilberry, S Derron Smith, LS Clark Harris, TE C.J. Uzomah, OL Christian Westerman, QB Jeff Driskel

Texans at Packers

Texans: LB Jadeveon Clowney, RB Tyler Ervin, LB John Simon, WR Jaelen Strong, QB Tom Savage, OL Oday Aboushi, OL Josh Walker

Packers: G T.J. Lang, LB Kyler Fackrell, C J.C. Tretter, CB Makinton Dorleant, LB Blake Martinez, WR Trevor Davis, DL Christian Ringo

Broncos at Jaguars

Broncos: QB Trevor Siemian, LS Casey Kreiter, WR Bennie Fowler, WR Marlon Brown, G Connor McGovern, DB Lorenzo Doss, G Billy Turner

Jaguars: WR Allen Hurns, RB Chris Ivory, DE Jared Odrick, QB Brandon Allen, CB Josh Johnson, OL Jeremiah Poutasi, TE Julius Thomas

Rams at Patriots

Rams: WR Tavon Austin, QB Sean Mannion, DB Steve Williams, T Pace Murphy, OL Rodger Saffold, TE Temarrick Hemingway, DE Robert Quinn.

Patriots: S Jordan Richards, WR Matthew Slater, RB D.J. Foster, DL Woodrow Hamilton, OL LaAdrian Waddle, DT Darius Kilgo, CB Justin Coleman

Lions at Saints

Lions: LB DeAndre Levy, WR Marvin Jones, LB Tahir Whitehead, S Don Carey, T Cornelius Lucas, OL Joe Dahl, QB Jake Rudock

Saints: T Terron Armstead, RB Daniel Lasco, LB Sam Barrington, RB Marcus Murphy, WR Jake Lampman, OL Landon Turner, CB De’Vante Harris

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Rams extend Les Snead, too

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 21: Les Snead, general manager of the St. Louis Rams looks on during warm ups prior to playing against the New York Giants at the Edward Jones Dome on December 21, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

Rams coach Jeff Fisher isn’t the only guy who has gotten a new contract in L.A. G.M. Les Snead has a new deal, too.

PFT has confirmed that the new contract for the coach coincides with a new contract for the General Manager.

Snead, who was hired in 2012 from the Falcons front office, has worked closely with Fisher over the past five years. The fact that Fisher was hired before Snead created the impression that Fisher runs the show, and that Snead sets the table for the draft and free agency.

Snead presumably has a two-year extension as well. It’s unclear whether the extension previously was in place, but given that Fisher’s was, it’s safe to assume Snead’s was, too.

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Sean Payton not a fan of Brandin Cooks trade speculation

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 16:  Brandin Cooks #10 of the New Orleans Saints catches the ball for a first down against the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 16, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks aired some frustrations after going untargeted by quarterback Drew Brees in last week’s game against the Rams, something that coach Sean Payton said doesn’t concern him but could lead to a move this offseason.

According to multiple reports, Cooks could find himself on the trading block this offseason. The Saints have two other productive receivers in Michael Thomas and Willie Snead and scored 49 points last week despite getting nothing on the stat sheet from the wideout. Trading Cooks could allow them to address other needs on the roster, notably a defense that remains a work in progress in New Orleans.

Or they could just continue on with Cooks. Payton retweeted a Twitter user castigating Ian Rapoport of NFL Media for reporting on the possibility of a Cooks trade, although Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that “some believe” there were talks with the Patriots about a trade involving Cooks and linebacker Jamie Collins before the Patriots traded Collins to the Browns.

Cooks has 51 catches for 736 yards and six touchdowns this season, leaving him on pace to fall short of his totals from last year with five games left this season.

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Jeff Fisher extension was signed “weeks ago”

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 1: Head coach Jeff Fisher of the Los Angeles Rams looks on during the fourth quarter of the game against the Minnesota Vikings on September 1, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Rams 27-25. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

For most of the season, league insiders have insisted that the Rams and coach Jeff Fisher already have a new deal in place. In the aftermath of the news that Fisher has a two-year extension, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the deal indeed has been in place for “weeks.”

Which raises an interesting question about the contract: Why was the news of it leaked today?

It could be that the Rams and Fisher became increasingly antsy about the fan base’s willingness to accept a continuation of Fisher’s tenure with the team, given an all-out assault from Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson that has culminated in Dickerson recently playing the “where are the naked pictures?” card.

Then there’s the fact that the news was leaked only a few hours before the Rams face the Patriots, a franchise that has beaten Jeff Fisher-coached teams by the combined score of 104-7 in their past two encounters. Squatting on the secretly-signed contract until after the Patriots hang another 40 or 50 on the Rams would have made it a lot harder to justify the move.

And so while the Rams apparently were waiting for the right moment to announce the deal with Fisher, it could be that they decided there would be no right moment, and that the contract needed to be unveiled before the wrong moment became a worst-case scenario.

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Two-year extension suggests 2017 will be up-or-out for Jeff Fisher

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 02:  Head coach Jeff Fisher of the Los Angeles Rams walks the sidelines during the second quarter of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

When it comes to contracts given to NFL players and coaches, the devil takes up permanent residence in the details. As to players, those details always become known. As to coaches, the nuances rarely make their way to the surface.

As to Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who officially has received a two-year extension, the biggest detail relates to the actual security Fisher has received. If, as some league insiders believe, the contract includes a one-year out for the team, Fisher has security only for 2017.

The winds had been blowing in the direction of Fisher staying put. Comments from COO Kevin Demoff strongly suggested that the team’s 4-7 record wouldn’t be held against Fisher, given the changes the team has endured in 2016.

Even without a one-year out clause in the new contract, 2017 now feels like an up-or-out year for Fisher. In 2012, Fisher received a five-year deal, and the exclamation point of commitment that went along with it. With only a two-year Band-Aid currently in place beyond 2016, the not-so-subtle message is that, while Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson isn’t getting what he wants for now, the change he craves could be coming in 2017.

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