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Lions start fast on Thanksgiving

Matthew Stafford AP

On the first play from scrimmage on Thanksgiving, Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt burst through the line and sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford for a seven-yard loss. But that didn’t set the tone.

After that play, the Lions’ offense methodically marched down the field, with a 12-play, 80-yard drive that took five minutes off the clock and culminated in a two-yard touchdown run by Mikel Leshoure. It was the first time all season that the Lions have scored a touchdown on their opening possession.

The Lions got big catches on the drive from receivers Calvin Johnson, Mike Thomas and Ryan Broyles (although Broyles also dropped what could have been a touchdown pass), and tight end Tony Scheffler lowered his shoulders to pick up some tough yardage and convert a third down.

Johnson’s 20-yard catch put him over 7,000 yards for his career, in his 87th career game. Only Lance Alworth, Torry Holt, Jerry Rice and Randy Moss have reached 7,000 yards faster.

Thanksgiving couldn’t have started much better for the home team.

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Report: Lavonte David to sit out Sunday’s game at Chicago

Minnesota Vikings v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Buccaneers will not have the NFL’s co-leader in tackles in the lineup at Chicago.

Weak-side linebacker Lavonte David won’t play in Sunday’s game vs. the Bears at Soldier Field, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reported this morning.

David sat out Thursday and Friday with a hamstring injury and was listed as questionable on the injury report. He shares the league lead in tackles with Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly (116).

Brandon Magee is listed as the top backup at weak-side linebacker on the club’s depth chart.

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Report: Larry Fitzgerald not expected to play on Sunday

St Louis Rams v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Cardinals held out hope all week that wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald would be able to play against the Seahawks despite suffering a sprained MCL last weekend, but it doesn’t look like things will go that way.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that it “would take a miracle” for the veteran wideout to be in the lineup on Sunday afternoon. Fitzgerald did not practice at all this week, but said Thursday he was optimistic that he’d be able to play and that his knee was feeling better as the week went on.

Fitzgerald leads the Cardinals with 46 catches and 658 receiving yards this season. Michael Floyd and John Brown will likely start at receiver if he isn’t able to play and both are potent deep threats, but Fitzgerald’s absence underneath should lead to them getting more attention from the Seattle secondary.

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Josh Gordon avoids suspension for DUI guilty plea

Gordon Getty Images

With a 10-game suspension behind him, Browns receiver Josh Gordon officially doesn’t have to worry about another suspension in the wake of his DUI guilty plea.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Gordon was fined by the NFL and not suspended after pleading guilty to DUI charges in North Carolina.

Gordon pleaded guilty to the DUI charge in September, in order to avoid the automatic two-game suspension contemplated by the revised substance-abuse policy.  Under the prior substance-abuse policy, a suspension for a first-offense DUI was possible for players who had been disciplined under the policy.  Gordon had been disciplined under the policy multiple times, culminating in a full-season suspension that the new policy reduced to 10 games.

While Gordon remains subject to further action if he tests positive for alcohol, marijuana, or other street drugs, there will be no suspension arising from his DUI guilty plea.

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Sunday morning one-liners

Torrey Smith, Antwon Blake

Bills WR Robert Woods thinks the team needs to be aggressive on Monday night.

Are the Dolphins going to win 10 games this season?

Increased physicality has been part of the Patriots’ approach this season.

The Jets are happy with WR Percy Harvin’s immersion in the offense.

Ravens WR Torrey Smith isn’t sure why his jersey is a popular item for women in Washington D.C.

Bengals QB Andy Dalton is hoping for a happier return to his hometown this Sunday.

Browns RB Isaiah Crowell has to show he isn’t a fumbler.

Looking at what the Steelers need to do to make the playoffs.

What happens when Texans DE J.J. Watt meets a horse named J.J. Watt?

A few things to watch for when the Colts face the Jaguars.

Patience paid off for Jaguars RB Denard Robinson.

Where do the Titans have an edge on the Eagles on Sunday?

The Broncos hope they get their run game going again this week.

How much will Thursday’s loss cost the Chiefs?

Raiders RB Marcel Reece could be in line for more carries.

The Chargers have missed what RB Danny Woodhead brings to the lineup.

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant was handing out turkeys on Friday night.

A 3-7 record isn’t enough for Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul to count his team out.

How worried should the Eagles be about RB LeSean McCoy?

Redskins QB Robert Griffin III is one touchdown pass away from tying Jay Schroeder for 10th on the team’s all-time list.

Three necessities for the Bears if they want a win on Sunday.

The Lions carry the underdog label this weekend.

C Corey Linsley’s ascension to the Packers starting lineup didn’t come too early.

Vikings S Harrison Smith wants to make the Packers one-dimensional on offense.

DB Charles Godfrey has accepted a special teams role with the Falcons with enthusiasm.

Getting RB Mike Tolbert back changes the look of the Panthers Offense.

Saints CB Patrick Robinson’s confidence continues to grow.

Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson could be a wanted man in the offseason.

A win on Sunday would silence a few more Cardinals doubters.

Rams QB Shaun Hill hopes to make it two straight wins this week.

DT Quinton Dial has been called into action on the 49ers defense.

Seahawks WR Paul Richardson hasn’t had the same impact as some other rookie receivers this season.

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Chargers promote offensive lineman with Rich Ohrnberger ailing

San Diego Chargers v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Chargers have started three different players at center this year and it looks like they’ll be making it four on Sunday.

Rich Ohrnberger is listed as questionable with ankle and back issues and the team made a roster move to shore up the offensive line on Saturday. Ryan Miller was promoted from the practice squad and Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports that rookie Chris Watt is expected to make his first start at center against the Rams with Ohrnberger landing on the inactive list.

Miller was a 2012 fifth-round pick of the Browns and saw limited playing time in Cleveland as a rookie. He suffered a concussion in training camp in 2013 that required him to be taken off the field in an ambulance and missed the entire season on injured reserve. He spent time with the Broncos this summer before finally landing on the San Diego practice squad.

Cornerback Richard Crawford was released to make room for Miller.

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Steelers essentially rewarded Blount for quitting on team

Blount Getty Images

Six days ago, running back LeGarrette Blount was preparing to face the Titans as a member of the Steelers.  Now, he’s preparing to face the Lions as a member of the Patriots.

The transition happened after Blount quit on the Steelers, was cut by the Steelers, passed through waivers unclaimed, and made a beeline for the Patriots.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette takes a great look at what transpired.  While there’s no evidence to suggest that Blount did what he did to engineer a return to the Patriots, the Steelers made it easy by giving Blount exactly what he apparently wanted.

Why not suspend him for a week or two without pay?  Why not deactivate him for a few weeks?  By cutting him, the Steelers gave Blount a chance to land with the team that currently has the inside track to do what it failed to do when he was a member of the Patriots in 2013 — get to the Super Bowl.

Whether it’s the Steelers cutting Blount or the Browns cutting Ben Tate, teams that abruptly dump unhappy players set a potentially dangerous precedent.  Other players who want out down the road may now try the same maneuver, which apparently requires something far less intricate than shirtless driveway situps.

At some point, a team needs to make it harder for a guy to get away to a preferred destination.  For the Steelers, they probably should have made it harder for Blount to get back to New England.

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Detroit gets another chance to welcome back Jim Schwartz

Schwartz AP

If former Lions coach Jim Schwartz had any idea he’d be playing another game in Detroit this year, he probably would have found a way to resist the urge to be carried off by players after the Bills won there in October.

Schwartz returns on Monday night to a free-ticket sellout crowd that may not be supporting the home-away-from-home team, given Schwartz’s employment by it.  Indeed, there’s a chance that a large chunk of the price-is-right-for-me crowd has opted to gobble up the free seats for no reason other than to heckle Schwartz into oblivion.

Schwartz’s reception in Detroit for this unexpected second trip becomes one of the top story lines for Monday night’s game, next to perhaps only the bizarre fact that a game between to AFC East teams is even being played in Michigan due to a major Buffalo snowstorm in November.

Ultimately, moving the Jets-Bills game to Detroit was the right call.  Ultimately, it wasn’t the right call for Schwartz to want to be carried off the field after a regular-season win against the team he used to coach.  And it’s hilarious that he now must return to the scene of the crime.

Said Lions receiver Golden Tate once he learned that the spontaneous gesture was premeditated:  “It was planned?  That’s a total douche move.”

Perhaps the only thing that would make Schwartz’s unlikely return to Detroit even better would be Tate attending the game, too.

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Report: 20-30 plays for Josh Gordon in his return

Gordon AP

With Josh Gordon finally free, the next question is when he’ll get loose.

The Browns have opted to be coy about their intended use of the man who led the league in receiving yards last year despite missing the first two games due to a suspension.  Back with the team in 2014 after a 10-game suspension, the days preceding Gordon’s return to the field have included mixed messages about whether they’ll take it easy or throw him into the fray without restrictions.

The latest piece of evidence in a conflicting stew of signals comes from Adam Schefter of ESPN, who cites an unnamed league source in support of the notion that Gordon will participate in only 20-30 plays on Sunday against the Falcons in Atlanta.

Unless Gordon has shown up out of shape (and there’s no indication of that), I’ll take the over.  Once the game gets rolling and everyone becomes reminded of the reality that Gordon possesses a special kind of talent, the Browns — who find themselves in the very unusual position of having very realistic playoff chances in late November — will use Gordon.  Especially if the game is in question and if there’s no question about Gordon’s ability to get open and likewise to attract so much attention that the rest of the offense will open up.

So while folks close to Gordon may be tapping the brakes because they’d prefer to see the player get eased back in, the folks whose jobs ultimately hinge on winning more games than they lose will have a hard time not using Gordon if he’s making a clear difference in his first game back.  And Gordon, who surely has missed playing this season, likely won’t complain if that 20-30 becomes 30-40 or 40-50.

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Bengals-Texans game carries significant playoff implications

Wild Card Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Houston Texans Getty Images

There may be no game on today’s schedule that has a greater chance of affecting both teams’ hopes of making the playoffs than the Bengals-Texans game that will kick off in Houston at 1 p.m. Eastern.

At the moment, the Bengals are in first place in the AFC North at 6-3-1, while the Texans are way down in the AFC playoff picture at 5-5. Today’s result could either solidify both teams’ positions, or knock the Bengals way down in the AFC pecking order while establishing the Texans as wild card contenders.

If the Bengals win, they remain in first place in the AFC North. But if they lose and the Browns win today and the Ravens win tomorrow, the Bengals would drop all the way down to last place in the division. Cincinnati’s remaining schedule isn’t easy (four of their five remaining opponents have winning records), so dropping into last place with five weeks to go would put Cincinnati in a precarious position.

If the Texans win, they would certainly be wild-card contenders, and perhaps even contenders to win the AFC South as well. Although that division feels like it’s been all but locked up by the Colts, the Texans are only a game behind and still have a Week 14 meeting with the Colts to play. The Texans don’t have much of a margin for error, but if they can continue to play like they did last week in beating Cleveland, they can remain in the AFC playoff hunt.

At the moment, the Bengals appear more likely to be a playoff team than the Texans. By the end of the day today, that may no longer be the case.

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NFL Weather Watch — Week 12

Minnesota Vikings v Chicago Bears Getty Images

The weather forecasts suggest snow is unlikely to be seen in any of the outdoor NFL games on Sunday.

However, fans of a certain age might have occasion to hum a few bars of “November Rain.”

Precipitation is possible for Buccaneers-Bears in Chicago and Packers-Vikings in Minneapolis. Meanwhile, the strongest winds could be experienced in Denver for Dolphins-Broncos. And if you like sunshine beaming from the television, Rams-Chargers and Washington-49ers are your best bets.

Here’s a quick look at the game-time weather conditions expected for Sunday’s NFL outdoor games. Forecast data is cited from WeatherUnderground.com:

Titans and Eagles (1 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 51 degrees.

Wind: Six mph out of the south-southwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: None.

Lions at Patriots (1 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 52 degrees.

Wind: Eight mph out of the southwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: One percent.

Packers at Vikings (1 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 41 degrees.

Wind: Six mph out of the west-northwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: 24 percent (increasing as game goes on).

Buccaneers at Bears (1 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 52 degrees.

Wind: 13 mph out of the south.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: 24 percent (increasing as game goes on).

Cardinals at Seahawks (4:05 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 50 degrees.

Wind: 10 mph out of the south-southwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: 18 percent.

Rams at Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 73 degrees.

Wind: 14 mph out of the northwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: None.

Dolphins at Broncos (4:25 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 38 degrees.

Wind: 19 mph out of the northwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: 16 percent.

Washington at 49ers (4:25 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 64 degrees.

Wind: Eight mph out of the north-northwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: None.

Cowboys at Giants (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

Temperature: 46 degrees.

Wind: Five mph out of the south.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: Two percent.

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Cuban calls opposition to gambling “hypocritical”

Cuban AP

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently expressed public support for sports wagering.  Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has now echoed Silver’s view that the time has come for legalized gaming on America’s various athletic games.

I agree 100 percent,” Cuban said Saturday, via Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com.  “I think we’re the world’s biggest hypocrites when we say, ‘Oh, we don’t want you betting on our games,’ and then we get all excited about the sports betting line and people go to Vegas on trips won from the NBA or NFL.  I mean, it’s hugely hypocritical.”

Cuban, who made waves in the NFL earlier this year by suggesting that the league’s hoggish tendencies will eventually lead it to the slaughterhouse, predicted that widespread legalized gambling is coming.

“I think over the next three to five years, it will change,” Cuban said.  “And it’ll be interesting to see how the NFL reacts as well, because they’ve still so far said that they’re adamant against it because I guess they have data that says the NFL doesn’t benefit from gambling.”

Cuban pointed to a specific revenue stream that would come from legalized gambling.

“We’ll charge the casinos for information sources, video sources,” Cuban said.  “All you’ve got to do is look overseas.  You can go and legally bet on the NBA in the U.K. and a bunch of other countries, and they’re actually big customers of NBA video. . . .  So you’ve got a template already that’s legal in the rest of the world other than America.”

The NFL remains staunchly opposed to legalized gambling, possibly/probably because the NFL realizes that the pressure to improve officiating and to ensure full integrity of injury reporting would increase dramatically with the legalization of sports wagering.  Likewise, the federal authority charged with regulating gambling would be keenly interested in any irregularities, including a late call that doesn’t change the outcome of the game but that results in significant dollars changing hands by affecting the application of the point spread.

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Jameis Winston not ejected despite contact with official

jameis AP

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston remains the most talked-about college football player in America, for good and for ill, and today he’s added another item that will be recited on the “con” side of the ledger in the NFL draft.

During Florida State’s win over Boston College, Winston moved an official aside as Florida State was trying to get a play run while the official was allowing Boston College’s defense to substitute. It wasn’t a hard shove and Winston wasn’t penalized, but former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira says that Winston should have been kicked out of the game.

“I’ve looked at this play several times, and in my opinion, Winston should have been penalized for shoving Webster not once, but twice. In fact, I feel he should have been ejected,” Pereira says.

Taken alone, this wouldn’t be a big deal as teams evaluate Winston for the draft. In fact, if a player with a clean image (like the other top quarterback prospect in next year’s draft, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota) did the same thing, people would probably say it just shows what a fiery competitor he is.

But when it’s Winston — who always seems to find a way for his behavior to overshadow his brilliant play — it raises questions once again about whether NFL teams will worry that the headaches he creates are too much to tolerate. Winston is a great college quarterback, but one whom a lot of NFL teams may view as the last person they want to be the face of their franchise.

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Doug Marrone: Fred Jackson likely to play vs. Jets

Fred Jackson AP

The Bills are planning on having their elder statesman in the lineup against the Jets.

Tailback Fred Jackson (groin) is expected to play in Monday night’s game in Detroit, Bills coach Doug Marrone said Saturday, according to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. Jackson was listed as questionable on the club’s Friday injury report.

The 33-year-old Jackson has missed two out of the last three games because of the injury. He’s third on the team in rushing yards and carries, gaining 249 yards and a touchdown on 58 attempts. His 37 catches are second on the club, and he’s accumulated 300 receiving yards and a TD reception.

A major winter storm forced the Jets-Bills game to be moved from Orchard Park, New York on Sunday to Detroit on Monday night.

The Bills (5-5) are currently 1.5 games out in the AFC wild-card race.

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Week 12 skill-position injury report — final

Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman AP

For fantasy football participants, here are the skill-position players listed on the final Week 12 injury report, with both Monday-night games (Jets-Bills, Ravens-Saints) included. Key fantasy starters are bolded.

Inactives will be posted 90 minutes before game time.

Byes: Steelers, Panthers.

OUT

Bears WR Chris Williams (hamstring).

Broncos RB Montee Ball (foot).

Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman (foot).

Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion).

Browns WR Marlon Moore (hamstring).

Colts TE Dwayne Allen (ankle).

Eagles QB Nick Foles (collarbone).

Packers TE Brandon Bostick (hip).

Rams WR Damian Williams (hamstring).

Ravens WR Michael Campanaro (thigh).

Saints RB Khiry Robinson (forearm).

Vikings RB Matt Asiata (concussion).

Washington TE Jordan Reed (hamstring).

DOUBTFUL

Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee).

QUESTIONABLE

Bills RB Fred Jackson (groin).

Broncos TE Julius Thomas (ankle).

Broncos TE Virgil Green (calf).

Buccaneers RB Charles Sims (ankle).

Buccaneers RB Doug Martin (ankle).

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (hip, foot).

Dolphins RB Lamar Miller (shoulder).

49ers TE Vance McDonald (hip).

49ers WR Bruce Ellington (ankle).

Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle).

Rams TE Cory Harkey (quadriceps).

Rams TE Jared Cook (back).

Saints WR Robert Meachem (ankle).

Texans RB Arian Foster (groin).

Titans WR Justin Hunter (knee).

Vikings WR Greg Jennings (rib).

Vikings WR Jarius Wright (hamstring).

PROBABLE

Bears WR Alshon Jeffery (hamstring).

Bears WR Brandon Marshall (ankle).

Bears WR Josh Morgan (shoulder).

Bengals RB Cedric Peerman (hip).

Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (hip).

Bills QB Kyle Orton (toe).

Bills RB Frank Summers (neck).

Bills WR Chris Hogan (hip).

Bills WR Marquise Goodwin (ankle).

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (groin).

Broncos RB Juwan Thompson (knee).

Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (concussion).

Cardinals RB Robert Hughes (hamstring).

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee).

Chargers QB Philip Rivers (chest).

Colts RB Trent Richardson (illness).

Colts WR Reggie Wayne (not injury related).

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back).

Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill (left shoulder).

Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry (shoulder).

Dolphins WR Mike Wallace (calf).

Eagles WR Jeff Maehl (foot).

Eagles WR Jordan Matthews (knee).

49ers WR Brandon Lloyd (quadriceps).

Falcons RB Steven Jackson (illness).

Falcons WR Devin Hester (wrist).

Falcons WR Harry Douglas (foot).

Falcons WR Julio Jones (illness).

Jaguars QB Blake Bortles (left wrist).

Jets QB Geno Smith (right shoulder).

Jets RB Chris Ivory (shoulder).

Jets RB Chris Johnson (knee).

Jets WR Greg Salas (wrist).

Jets WR T.J. Graham (neck).

Lions RB Joique Bell (ankle).

Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew (foot).

Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle).

Lions WR Golden Tate (hip).

Patriots QB Tom Brady (ankle).

Patriots WR Julian Edelman (thigh).

Ravens FB RB Kyle Juszczyk (foot).

Ravens TE Owen Daniels (not injury related).

Saints RB Mark Ingram (shoulder).

Saints RB Pierre Thomas (rib, shoulder).

Saints RB Travaris Cadet (hamstring).

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (back).

Texans QB Ryan Mallett (chest).

Texans RB Jonathan Grimes (ankle).

Texans WR Andre Johnson (not injury related).

Titans TE Delanie Walker (concussion).

Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon (back).

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen, groin).

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Broncos sign RB Jeremy Stewart

Denver Broncos practice at Dove Valley Getty Images

The Broncos have swapped reserve running backs in advance of Sunday’s game vs. Miami, promoting veteran Jeremy Stewart from the practice squad and waiving rookie Kapri Bibbs.

The roster move was announced in the NFL’s Saturday transactions.

The 25-year-old Stewart has appeared in 17 regular season games, all with Oakland from 2012 through 2013. A Stanford product, Stewart (5-11, 215) has rushed 27 times for 103 yards and one TD and has caught 10 passes for 68 yards.

Stewart will back up C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson on Sunday. Stewart has regular season special teams experience, and he could be called upon to cover kicks, too.

The Broncos have ruled out tailbacks Ronnie Hillman (foot) and Montee Ball (groin) with injuries.

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