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Peyton Manning and the Broncos stand above the AFC West

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In case there was any doubt before, there’s no doubt now: The Broncos are in complete control of the AFC West.

Today’s 30-23 win over the Chargers gives the 7-3 Broncos a three-game lead over the 4-6 Chargers in the division, and Denver has now swept the season series and owns the head-to-head tiebreaker as well. With the Raiders out of it at 3-7 and the Chiefs even further out of it at 1-9, Broncos fans might as well start preparing to see a home playoff game right now, because with six games to go in the regular season, there’s virtually no chance of the Broncos failing to win their division.

Peyton Manning looked excellent as usual against the Chargers, throwing three touchdown passes — his sixth three-touchdown performance in the Broncos’ last seven games. Manning, who headed into today’s game in a tie with Dan Marino for the second-most passing touchdowns in NFL history, now has 423 career touchdown passes, second only to Brett Favre’s 508.

As Manning continues to make his case for the league MVP award, Broncos linebacker Von Miller is making a strong case that he deserves to be considered for Defensive Player of the Year. Miller sacked Philip Rivers three times, forced him to fumble twice and also had a tackle behind the line of scrimmage on a running play. A dominant presence for Denver’s D, Miller is a big part of the reason that the Broncos have a chance not just to be a good team, but a great team.

And for the rest of the season, greatness is what the Broncos will be trying to achieve. We already know they’re going to win the division, but when Manning came to town, their goals got a lot higher than that. With the division all but wrapped up, the Broncos’ attention now turns toward home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs as the Broncos attempt to march toward the Super Bowl.

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Scott Fitterer chooses to stay in Seattle rather than join Eagles front office

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Getty Images

The Eagles have been searching for a personnel executive to assist coach Chip Kelly in the front office since reorganizing their hierarchy and moving Howie Roseman out of the General Manager job earlier this month.

It’s been a fitful process for the Eagles, who have seen overtures blocked by teams and the candidates themselves. Seahawks director of college scouting Scott Fitterer is the latest to join that list.

Seahawks General Manager John Schneider said at Tuesday’s Super Bowl Media Day, via multiple reports, that Fitterer interviewed for the job with the Eagles, but has opted to stay in his current position. He joins the Chiefs’ Chris Ballard, the Buccaneers’ Jon Robinson and the Texans’ Brian Gaine as candidates that have dropped out of consideration.

Chris Polian of the Jaguars and Chris Grier of the Dolphins are thought to remain in the mix for the job along with Eagles assistant director of pro personnel Ed Marynowitz. Whoever takes the job would not have control over roster decisions, as they would be working under Kelly and fulfilling other aspects of the job usually performed by the General Manager.

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Report: 49ers hiring Steve Logan for a job on offensive staff

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New 49ers coach Jim Tomsula is hiring one of his old NFL Europe co-workers, one who will easily be a better interview.

According to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea, the 49ers are expected to hire Steve Logan for a position on the offensive side of the ball. It’s not known whether it’s as coordinator or a position coach.

Logan was Tomsula’s offensive coordinator with the Rhein Fire in 2006.

Logan has been the head coach at East Carolina, and an offensive coordinator at Boston College. He was a running backs coach for the Buccaneers under Raheem Morris.

The 49ers kept running backs coach Tom Rathman and quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst, and they’re hiring Tony Sparano to coach tight ends, with Chris Foerster coming to coach the offensive line.

That doesn’t leave many chairs for Logan to fill.

He’s been out of coaching since leaving the Bucs after the 2011 season, and works for a radio station in Raleigh, N.C. in his spare time. (I’ve been a guest with him, occasionally talking football, and he’s quite entertaining). So at least Tomsula will have a guy with some media savvy on his staff.

Photo credit: WRAL.com

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Tom Benson: My family never rose to the task of succeeding me as Saints owner

Tom Benson AP

The daughter and grandchildren of Saints owner Tom Benson recently filed a lawsuit in an attempt to get Benson declared incompetent of making decisions regarding the future of the Saints and his other business holdings after Benson changed his succession plans to put his wife Gayle in position to succeed him rather than his other family members.

The lawsuit alleges that Benson doesn’t know the current president of the United Stats and that Gayle Benson is manipulating her husband into handing over his holdings while feeding him a diet consisting of mainly candy, ice cream, soda and red wine. Benson responded to that lawsuit last week by calling the claims meritless and has now filed a formal response explaining why he decided to make the change.

“For years, Mr Benson attempted to involve each of the Petitioners in various aspects of his business interests and to groom them into the type of business persons that he could have confidence in to own and/or run those business interests when he died,” Benson’s lawyers wrote, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “Unfortunately, the Petitioners never rose to the task. After years of concern and misgivings about Petitioners’ abilities … Mr. Benson made the deliberate, reasoned, and difficult decision to change course and name as his successor his loving wife, Gayle Benson.”

The lawsuit by Benson’s daughter and her children alleges that Benson attempted to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars out of trusts that held them as beneficiaries, a move that was blocked by a trustee but one that certainly won’t be the last bit of maneuvering in what’s shaping up to be an ugly public airing of family grievances.

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Rob Chudzinski’s new deal with the Colts for one year

Rob Chudzinski AP

The Colts were able to keep Rob Cudzinski off the job market with a new title, and likely a nice raise this morning.

But they may only be able to hang onto him for one more year.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Chudzinski’s new deal with the Colts is for one year only.

That gives the team and the former Browns head coach options a year from now.

If coordinator Pep Hamilton gets a head coaching job, the Colts would have an in-house replacement.

If a better coordinator job than the 49ers’ or Rams’ comes up, Chudzinski would likewise have the opportunity to pursue it. Those two were interested in talking to him before the Colts denied permission, which led to the contract extension which was announced today.

Either way, the Colts and Chudzinski will get to do this dance again, a year from now.

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Bill Belichick toes the line during an hour of media day

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If anything was obvious from the demeanor of Patriots coach Bill Belichick during Tuesday’s media day circus, it’s that he seems to consider the whole proceeding beneath him.

He’s not necessarily the only one, but it was interesting watching him alternate from engaged and mildly bemused to analytical and focused to abrupt.

But when he slid out from behind his podium, it was clear to see where this event ranked on his to do list for Tuesday.

Belichick rolled in wearing these sweet flip-flops, eager to show off his feet in the temperate climes of Arizona. (And if nothing else, this might top Florio’s picture of a Gillette Stadium bathroom.)

It’s not that he’s a slob. He just doesn’t care much for this whole production.

There were several moments of humanity from the longtime coach, who was hired 15 years ago today.

When injured linebacker Jerod Mayo’s daugher Chya stopped by with a camera crew in tow to ask him his favorite stuffed animal, he cracked what even the most jaded reporter would consider a smile.

But not every adorable child gimmick worked, as one young “reporter” asking him advice for aspiring coaches was met with a “All we’re thinking about is Seattle.”

That was roughly the same answer he gave when asked about former Panthers General Manager Marty Hurney’s suggestion that the Patriots may have created a “culture of cheating,” to which Belichick replied “We’re worried about Seattle.”

But there were other moments when he came off as remarkably human, if not amused.

There was a protracted discussion his relationship with and appreciation for Jon Bon Jovi — “Going back to the Slippery When Wet album.”

There was even a moment when he seemed to create a bond with reporters, harkening back to his days as a fan when he realized “It’s necessary, . . . I want information.”

But mostly, he was the normal gruff Belichick, who obliged the masses with an hour of performance art he cared not for, which put him about 55 minutes ahead of Marshawn Lynch.

But at least Lynch wore shoes.

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Jets tab Marcel Shipp as running backs coach

Arizona Cardinals v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

A former NFL tailback not long removed from his playing days will coach the Jets’ running backs.

Ex-Cardinals tailback Marcel Shipp, who was last on an NFL roster with Houston in 2008, has been added to Todd Bowles’ coaching staff, the Jets announced Tuesday.

Shipp was the running backs coach at Massachusetts in 2014. He was an intern on the Cardinals’ coaching staff two years ago, when Bowles was defensive coordinator.

Shipp rushed for 2,197 yards and 11 TDs in seven seasons with Arizona (2001-2007).

In addition to hiring Bowles, the Jets have tabbed Steve Marshall as offensive line coach.

Marshall was the Texans’ offensive line coach in 2004 and 2005 and the Browns’ offensive line coach in 2007 and 2008. He was Green Bay’s assistant offensive line coach in 2014.

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Patriots say there’s nothing suspicious about their ball security

blount AP

As Deflategate has dominated the football world over the last 10 days, it’s been pointed out that the Patriots have a suspiciously good track record for avoiding fumbles. Is that because they’re using deflated footballs, which are easier to grip?

Not according to the players on the Patriots, who instead say that they simply go through so many ball control drills that they have become the best team in the league at holding onto the ball.

“I can definitely tell that the coaching and the drills that we do within the spring and the offseason and camp and OTAs have really paid off for a lot of guys,” Patriots receiver Danny Amendola said. “We take a lot of drills that we do within the week, within practice, and take them to the field. We do a lot of drills that really benefit that.”

Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount has fumbled three times in his 219 career touches as a Patriot (a little less frequently than his 10 fumbles in 518 career touches when playing with the Buccaneers and Steelers), and he says that in New England the coaches always make a big deal about ball security.

“We put a heavy emphasis on keeping the football,” Blount said. “We practice holding the football, we have the defense punch at the football a lot extra more than probably most teams do. We do everything to emphasis ball security because like I said, you can’t win the game without the ball.”

That has long been an emphasis of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and so he drills ball security into his players and avoids drafting or signing players who have a history of fumbling. That’s a more plausible explanation for the Patriots’ success at avoiding fumbles than deflated footballs.

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Rob Gronkowski happy to be healthy for this Super Bowl

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The last time the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl, tight end Rob Gronkowski was slowed by an ankle injury that left him at less than 100 percent for the loss to the Giants.

Gronkowski spent the next two seasons battling a variety of injuries to his back, forearm and knee, but he’s been able to avoid any scrapes this season while playing a leading role on offense for the AFC champs. On Tuesday, Gronkowski said that he was happy to be feeling totally healthy for the Super Bowl this time.

“It’s definitely a tough experience, man. Definitely don’t take the game for granted anymore,” Gronkowski said. “It’s an honor to be out there on the field with my teammates and all. Throughout the whole year, especially this time of the year, going to the Super Bowl, being out on the practice field, helping my team do its job and just going out and practicing hard. I’m super excited for this game Sunday.”

Gronkowski’s feeling “totally back” to his old self, but that doesn’t mean he’s making any bold predictions for what’s going to happen against the Seahawks. When asked if he had any guarantees for the Super Bowl, Gronkowski said only that the game would be played this Sunday.

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Bears name Clint Hurtt outside linebackers coach

Chicago Bears v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Bears have brought several of John Fox’s assistants to Chicago from Denver since hiring Fox as their head coach, but one member of the 2014 staff will be sticking around.

Clint Hurtt was the defensive line coach in 2014 and will remain on the staff in 2015 as the team’s outside linebackers coach. The position is usually found on staffs running a 3-4 defense, which isn’t what the Bears ran last season but is likely to be at least part of their scheme in 2015 with Vic Fangio coming aboard as the new defensive coordinator.

Hurtt helped the Bears defensive linemen record 35 of the team’s 39 sacks during the 2014 season and the outside linebackers will play a major role in the team’s pass rush if the Bears do move toward more 3-4 fronts under Fangio.

The Bears also announced that offensive quality control coaches Brendan Nugent and Carson Walch would not return to the team.

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Bobby Wagner: Seahawks “will be ready” for Patriots’ formation ploys

Bobby Wagner AP

In the divisional round, the Patriots caught the Ravens by surprise by declaring typically eligible receivers to be ineligible on certain plays.

The Seahawks are well-aware of this. And as Pro Bowl middle linebacker Bobby Wagner tells it, the Seattle defense will be prepared for it.

“Everybody will be ready for it,” Wagner told reporters at Media Day on Tuesday. “It’s going to be run maybe once or twice in the game, so it’s not going to be a big deal.”

Wagner indicated the responsibility for recognizing the Patriots’ formation fell on the entire defense, as well as the officials, who have to announce the ineligible receiver.

Wagner observed that the opposition’s fatigue is a factor in New England’s formation ploys.

“They do it at a time where they feel like the team is tired, so they’re always going to catch you when you’re not thinking as much or when you’re tired, but I think we do a great job of not getting tired,” Wagner said.

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Robert Kraft: Party with Roger Goodell made Richard Sherman money

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When Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman arrived in Arizona for the Super Bowl, he opined that the Patriots wouldn’t be punished as a result of the NFL’s investigation into their use of under-inflated footballs because of a “conflict of interest” illustrated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell attending a party at Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s house before the AFC Championship game.

Kraft didn’t seem to agree with that take on Monday when he deplaned with a statement demanding an apology from the league “for what [the Patriots have had to endure this past week” in the event that the league’s investigation determines the team didn’t intentionally tamper with the balls.  Kraft then slammed the league for using “circumstantial leaked evidence” to paint the Patriots in a bad light.

At Tuesday’s Super Bowl Media Day, Kraft said he only wanted to answer questions about football, but did respond to a query about Sherman’s remarks. After calling Sherman “a very smart marketing whiz,” Kraft explained that the party in question would actually benefit Sherman.

“If you go into the facts of what he said, the NFL always used to pay for a big party for the AFC Championship Game. We’ve been privileged to own the team for 21 years, and this was our 10th championship game. When the league stopped giving the parties, we started doing it. This is our third one,” Kraft said, via ESPNBoston.com. “I think Mr. Sherman understood that he’s the biggest beneficiary, because they get over 50 percent of the revenues. So he didn’t go to Harvard, but Stanford must be pretty good because he figured it out.”

The league’s investigation isn’t expected to wrap up anytime soon, which leaves plenty of time for plenty of people to share opinions about what will  or won’t happen in the most watched study of air pressure in memory.

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Richard Sherman: Roger Goodell should have to talk weekly

Super Bowl Football AP

While Marshawn Lynch is trying to make himself into a counter-culture commodity by not talking, there are other people who might have things to say who aren’t terribly available either.

And that’s the point Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman made Tuesday at media day, specifically mentioning commissioner Roger Goodell.

Every one of the NFL’s personnel should be obligated to speak weekly,” Sherman said, via Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports. 

See, as political statements against the moneyed bosses who make them put on the red nose to participate in the circus media day has become, this one was a lot more effective.

Lynch is just doing it to be difficult, and frankly, I’m not sure he has that much to say.

Goodell has many things to address, and he’ll get his chance Friday.

That press conference could easily become the same kind of performance art as today (though league PR manages to filter out the costumed silliness better for the boss).

But Sherman’s right. I’m far more interested in what Goodell has to say than Lynch. But Roger’s not threatening to fine himself, either.

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Perry Fewell joining Jay Gruden’s staff as defensive backs coach

New York Giants Super Bowl XLVI Media Availability Getty Images

Perry Fewell drew up game plans to stop the Redskins a couple of times a year since becoming the Giants’ defensive coordinator at 2010, but he’ll have a different take on Washington’s team this year.

According to multiple reports, Fewell has agreed to become the team’s defensive backs coach a couple of weeks after the Giants canned him after a 6-10 season. Fewell also interviewed for a job on the 49ers staff and reportedly received an offer to come on board, but opted to stay in the NFC East.

Fewell will inherit a group that contributed to Washington allowing 249.4 yards per game in 2014 under Raheem Morris, who has departed for a job with the Falcons. With safeties Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark and cornerback E.J. Biggers all headed for free agency and Joe Barry replacing Jim Haslett as defensive coordinator, there will likely be a lot of new faces in the group next season.

Should Fewell want those faces to be familiar, he could push the team to bid for Giants defensive backs hitting free agency. Safeties Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown join cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Zack Bowman in that group.

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Thousands of fans spend $28.50 to attend Media Day

mediadayfans AP

Many of the players at Super Bowl Media Day don’t want to be there, even though it’s their job. Many of the reporters at Super Bowl Media Day don’t want to be there, even though it’s their job. But while Super Bowl Media Day is often disdained by those who participate in it for a living, thousands of people in attendance wanted to be there so much that they paid for the privilege.

The NFL sold tickets to Media Day at $28.50 a pop, and thousands of fans turned out to the US Airways Center in Phoenix to be there to see it live. Most of those fans seemed to be enjoying themselves.

The fans in the stands got a radio that allows them to tune to whichever podium they choose and hear whatever player they like, and fans were cheering, laughing and otherwise indicating that they liked hearing from their favorite players.

So while most of us who attend Media Day as part of our jobs probably don’t think it’s an event worthy of buying a ticket to attend, there are a lot of football fans who think it’s a fun experience. Which means that the NFL will surely continue selling thousands of tickets to Media Day.

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Marshawn Lynch shows up at media day to avoid fines

Marshawn Getty Images

A year ago at Super Bowl media day, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch played peek-a-boo with reporters, using a side entrance to make a late arrival and an early getaway.

This year, the NFL put him on a podium for a tougher escape, probably as the league’s reminder they set the rules.

Lynch showed up and did his part. Our guy Curtis Crabtree was in the best position to hear this nothing, as Lynch gave the same answer to all the early questions.

I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” he said repeatedly.

Lynch left after less than five minutes, making the appropriate gesture of whatever it is he’s trying to prove.

It really doesn’t have to be that hard. Lynch was able to make a promotional video for candy, but he can’t talk to the people who want to hear from him on other matters.

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