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Officials hand Texans a touchdown, with an assist from Schwartz

Jim Schwartz AP

In the most embarrassing display of pathetic NFL officiating since the replacement refs’ Fail Mary ended the lockout, the Texans were handed an 81-yard touchdown on what should have been an eight-yard run by Justin Forsett.

But Lions coach Jim Schwartz deserves part of the blame as well.

Forsett took a handoff and ran up the middle and was clearly tackled after eight yards. Anyone with two good eyes (or even one good eye) could see that both Forsett’s knee and his elbow were on the ground, and players on both teams started walking back to get into the huddle for the next play.

But apparently none of the seven officials the NFL sent to Ford Field today has even one good eye, because none of them saw that Forsett was down. And when Forsett realized that none of the officials saw him go down, he got back up and sprinted to the end zone. The ruling on the field was a touchdown.

OK, no problem: Touchdowns are automatically reviewed, and this one will be overturned on replay, right? Wrong.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz threw his challenge flag, which is against the rules on scoring plays, which are automatically reviewed. And the NFL’s rules say that when you throw a challenge flag on a play that is automatically reviewed, not only are you penalized 15 yards, but the play is no longer reviewed. So Schwartz’s bonehead decision sealed the Texans’ touchdown.

But while Schwartz could be seen pointing to himself and saying, “That’s on me,” it’s really on the officials. This was an unconscionable mistake.

The NFL recently fined referee Tony Corrente his game check for swearing into an open microphone. The officials working today’s game in Detroit deserve a much harsher punishment than that, for a much worse mistake.

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Sammy Watkins to IR, Bills claim Justin Hunter

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 13:  Sammy Watkins #14 of the Buffalo Bills makes the catch for a 16 yard gain in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

When Bills coach Rex Ryan spoke to the media on Friday, there was “major concern” about Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins‘ ability to return to the lineup in the near future because of continued problems with his surgically repaired foot.

Ryan may have a penchant for hyperbole, but this wasn’t one of those times. The concern about Watkins was great enough that the Bills placed him on injured reserve on Friday afternoon.

Watkins will be eligible to return to the team in eight weeks if his foot is feeling better and the Bills opt to use their one designated return spot for him, but there’s obviously some doubt about when Watkins might be well enough to return to the Bills lineup.

The Bills filled Watkins’ roster spot by claiming wide receiver Justin Hunter off of waivers from the Dolphins. A 2013 second-round pick of the Titans, Hunter has not made good on the potential he showed coming out of college. With Watkins out of the lineup, he should get plenty of chances to do so in Buffalo in the coming weeks.

Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Greg Salas, Brandon Tate and Walter Powell are the other wideouts on Buffalo’s active roster.

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Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron questionable for Lions

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 25: Marvin Jones #11 of the Detroit Lions catches a touchdown pass in the 4th quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 25, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Lions 34-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Lions try to move to 2-2 on the year, they’ll definitely not have two key players. They possibly won’t have two others.

As expected, defensive end Ziggy Ansah and linebacker DeAndre Levy are out for Sunday’s game, with ankle and quad injuries, respectively.

Receiver Marvin Jones (hamstring) and tight end Eric Ebron (ankle) are questionable. Both fully participated in practice on Friday after being limited on Thursday.

Also questionable for the Lions are cornerback Adairius Barnes (ankle), defensive end Wallace Gilberry (abdomen), tackle Riley Reiff (ankle), defensive end Devin Taylor (ankle), linebacker Antwione Williams  (hamstring), and safety Tavon Wilson (neck).

Jones leads the league in receiving yards through three games, with 408 total yards.

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Evan Mathis, Michael Floyd set to play this Sunday

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 01:  Guard Evan Mathis #69 of the Arizona Cardinals prepares to take the field for the preseaon NFL game against the Denver Broncos at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defeated the Broncos 38-17.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals missed right guard Evan Mathis in the lineup in Buffalo last Sunday, but they’ll have him back as they try to improve their record to 2-2 against the Rams this weekend.

Mathis missed last Sunday with a toe injury, but got in a full practice Friday. He was not given a designation on the team’s injury report, which means he’s expected to play barring a downgrade at some point on Saturday.

Wide receiver Michael Floyd also went without a designation on the injury report and practiced in full the last two days after being cleared through the league’s concussion protocol. Floyd was diagnosed with a concussion on Monday after reporting headaches a day after doctors gave him the green light to return to the game following an evaluation in Buffalo.

Punter Drew Butler is out for Sunday with a calf injury, leaving Ryan Quigley to handle the punting and holding duties. Defensive tackle Frostee Rucker remains out with a knee injury.

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Josh Norman fined $48,620 for hit on Sterling Shepard

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25:  Josh Norman #24 of the Washington Redskins discusses a penalty against one of his teammates in the second half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 25, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The Washington Redskins defeated the New York Giants 29-27.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Washington cornerback Josh Norman didn’t draw any penalties for hits on his rival, Giants receiver Odell Beckham, during their much-anticipated meeting on Sunday. But Norman was penalized and fined for a hit on another Giants receiver.

Norman was fined $48,620 for a hit on Giants receiver Sterling Shepard, the NFL confirmed today.

The hit drew an unnecessary roughness flag against Norman. The fine is more than players usually get for unnecessary roughness, but Norman is considered a repeat offender after two fines for his actions when he played against the Giants last year.

Norman will see the Giants again on New Year’s Day, in Week 17.

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Emmanuel Sanders not fined for Antonio Brown-style move

Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers) AP

Key & Peele got it right; two pumps are allowed.

Two weeks after Steelers receiver Antonio Brown drew a flag and a fine for a pelvic-thrust celebration that included three (maybe four) pumps, Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders escaped both by stopping short of three.

While it’s possible Sanders added a third pump (CBS cameras cut away after two), the NFL tells PFT that Sanders was not fined.

The two plays had striking similarities. Perhaps the only difference was the number of pumps. Which would indeed make Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele prescient.

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Thursday Night Football draws eight million

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 29:  Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins attempts to escape from Geno Atkins #97 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on September 29, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

There was no press release touting the record-low eight-million-person audience generated by Monday night’s Falcons-Saints game on ESPN, which did battle with the first presidential debate. Thursday night’s Dolphins-Bengals game drew a similar audience, and it’s reason for at least a little crowing.

The league has announced that the NFL Network-only game generated a 4.76 household rating and an audience of eight million on all platforms, TV and digital. According to the league, it’s a six-percent increase over the ratings and audiences for last year’s NFLN-only games.

So how does it compare to 2015? For the first time this year, an apples-to-apples look isn’t feasible, because last year’s Week Four games on Thursday night appeared on CBS and NFLN. The Ravens-Steelers game drew a whopping 19.4 million viewers.

This year, the exclusive NFLN games are interspersed among the full schedule; in past years, the NFLN-only games came later in the year.

That dynamic alone would contribute to the lower total numbers for games that were exclusive to the league-owned network, since more of the game involve teams that aren’t vying for postseason positioning.

Next week, Thursday Night Football returns to CBS and NFL Network, along with Twitter. The numbers generated by Cardinals-49ers will be compared to last year’s Week 5 Thursday nighter between the Colts and Texans.

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Jimmy Graham questionable, Russell Wilson not on injury report

Seattle Seahawks' Jimmy Graham (88) leaps in celebration after scoring a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer) AP

In the old days, Russell Wilson might have been listed as probable on the injury report. But with that designation gone, he’s not on the report at all.

The Seahawks have ruled running back Thomas Rawls out and declared five players questionable, but none of them happen to be their quarterback who has been getting treatment for knee and ankle injuries.

Wilson had previously said there was “no doubt” he was going to play this week against the Jets.

The Seahawks listed tight ends Jimmy Graham and Nick Vannett questionable, along with linebacker Mike Morgan, defensive tackle Jarran Reed and running back C.J. Prosise.

Graham had 100 yards on six catches last week against the 49ers, but was held out of practice Thursday with knee and back issues.

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Jacoby Brissett, Jimmy Garoppolo both listed as questionable

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 11: Jacoby Brissett #7 of the New England Patriots and Jimmy Garoppolo #10 enter the field for drills before a preseason game with New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

The impending end of Tom Brady’s suspension means we know who will be at quarterback for the Patriots in Week Five, but the identity of their starter for Week Four remains up in the air on Friday.

Jacoby Brissett, who has a right thumb injury, and Jimmy Garoppolo, who has a right shoulder injury, were both limited participants at practice this week and both of them were listed as questionable on the final injury report for Sunday’s game against the Bills.

Garoppolo didn’t throw any passes during the portion of Friday’s practice open to the media, per CSN New England, but did throw earlier in the week. Brissett did throw in front of the media and showed “no signs of favoring his right thumb.”

Six other Patriots were listed as questionable, including tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski, who injured his hamstring over the summer, made his 2016 debut in a limited role against the Texans last week.

Guard Jonathan Cooper, cornerback Eric Rowe, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and tackle Marcus Cannon round out the questionable group.

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Ware, Stephenson, Green out for Broncos

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 25:  John Phillips #86 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Broncos head to Tampa Bay for a battle with the Buccaneers, the Broncos will be missing three key players: linebacker DeMarcus Ware (forearm), guard Donald Stephenson (calf), and tight end Virgil Green (calf).

Based on comments from coach Gary Kubiak, it sounds as if Green’s absence wasn’t anticipated.

“I don’t want to say it’s been a little slower than we thought,” Kubiak told reporters. “We thought we were maybe looking at [one] game, but we’re here at the end of the week. We pushed him a little bit yesterday. I don’t think we went backwards or anything, we just didn’t feel like we made enough progress to put him out there. It’s a long season. Jeff [Heuerman] and John [Phillips] have to step up again. . . .

“We’re going to play them both. I think John still starts the game. John has done a really good job. I think he’s getting better for us. Jeff obviously gained some confidence last week, making a big play for us in the game. However much we use those guys, it’ll probably be right down the middle again. We’re going to play them both.”

Phillips (pictured) had two catches for nine yards and a touchdown last Sunday at Cincinnati. Heuerman added one catch for 29 yards.

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Duane Brown remains out for Texans

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 03: An injured Duane Brown #76 of the Houston Texans is carted off the field while playing agains the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first quarter on January 3, 2016 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans have had left tackle Duane Brown on the practice field in recent days, but he’s not ready to make his regular season debut.

Brown has been out since having offseason quad surgery and was ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Titans on Friday. Brown was a limited participant in practice this week, so his return to the lineup probably may not be far off. Chris Clark will continue to start in his place.

Linebacker Brian Cushing and safety Quintin Demps were also limited in practice on Friday and both have been listed as questionable for Sunday. Cushing was expected to miss 4-6 weeks after hurting his knee in the season opener, but expressed optimism this week that he’d beat that timetable. Demps is dealing with a hamstring injury.

Wide receiver Braxton Miller has been ruled out with a hamstring injury for the second straight week. Tight end Stephen Anderson and running back Jonathan Grimes will also be inactive this weekend.

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Dez Bryant not ruled out, but “we want to be safe”

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys runs for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys aren’t ruling wide receiver Dez Bryant out for Sunday’s game against the 49ers, but it sounds like chances are good that he will miss the game.

Bryant suffered a hairline fracture in his right knee against the Bears last Sunday and his status for this week was clouded by a delay in taking an MRI until the middle of the week that, when coupled with Bryant’s absence from team meetings, led to a fine from the club.

Bryant said Friday that all is good with the team now and that everyone is trying to be “smart” about the best way to handle the injury so that Bryant returns as quickly as possible in good health.

“We want to be safe,” Bryant said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s a long season. I feel good. We’re going to go from there.”

Terrence Williams, Colt Beasley and Brice Butler would be the top wideouts if Bryant is indeed out of Sunday’s game with tight end Jason Witten also on hand as the Cowboys try to improve to 3-1.

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Antonio Brown planning to wear Arnold Palmer’s image on his cleats

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 07:  Honorary starter Arnold Palmer attends the ceremonial tee off to start the first round of the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 7, 2016 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was fined after Week One for wearing blue cleats, which is a violation of the league’s uniform rules, and he changed cleats at halftime last weekend after an official told him he wouldn’t be allowed to return to the game while again wearing shoes of the wrong color.

Brown is planning to wear black-and-gold cleats for Sunday night’s game against the Chiefs, which fits with the rule calling for shoes to be in team colors, but there will be a bit of a twist. Brown plans to have an image of the late golfing legend Arnold Palmer, who died last Sunday, on the shoes.

Brown said he wants to have “some motivation” and inspiration each week of the season and chose Palmer after spending time at Palmer’s house in Latrobe, Pennsylvania before this summer’s training camp.

“A guy like Arnold, his legacy and what he meant not only to the world, but to Latrobe, to Pennsylvania, his legacy will live on,” Brown said, via ESPN.com. “An inspiring guy. I’m glad I got a moment to share with him.”

Brown’s choice should win him the backing of Arnie’s Army along with the weekly support he and the rest of the Steelers get from the remnants of Franco’s Italian Army.

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Joey Bosa out again this week for Chargers, with lingering hamstring

San Diego Chargers NFL football player Joey Bosa wipes his brow while working out at his first practice since agreeing to a four year contract, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi) AP

We’re going to have to wait at least another week to see Joey Bosa make his NFL debut.

Via Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Chargers have ruled their first-round pick out for Sunday’s game against the Saints.

They also ruled safety Jahleel Addae and cornerback Brandon Flowers out, while tight end Antonio Gates and left tackle King Dunlap are doubtful.

Bosa practiced this week, but was limited because of the hamstring issue that has been a bother since he missed training camp and signed just before the start of the regular season.

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Running back Doug Martin still out for Buccaneers

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 27: Running back Doug Martin #22 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers warms up before the game against the Chicago Bears at Raymond James Stadium on December 27, 2015 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff McBride/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***  Doug Martin Getty Images

The Buccaneers are going to face one of the best defenses in the league, and they’re going to have to do it without several key offensiv eparts.

Via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs are listing running back Doug Martin, wide receiver Cecil Shorts, tight end Luke Stocker and defensive end Robert Ayers as out for Sunday’s game against the Broncos.

Martin left the Week Two game against the Cardinals with a hamstring strain and didn’t play last week against the Rams.

Charles Sims had 124 yards from scrimmage in his stead last week (55 yards rushing, 69 receiving), a decent performance from a backup. But against a Broncos defense that’s playing at Super Bowl level (if not better), it might not be enough.

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Stanley misses practice again, but Ravens won’t rule him out

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 11: Terrance West #28 of the Baltimore Ravens gets a hug from teammate Ronnie Stanley #79 after a one-yard touchdown in the second quarter of a preseason NFL game against the Carolina Panthers at M&T Bank Stadium on August 11, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Ravens rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley did not practice all week due to a foot injury, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Friday that he won’t rule Stanley out of Sunday’s game vs. the Raiders.

“I think he still has a chance for Sunday,” Harbaugh said.

The Ravens are obviously hopeful that Stanley will be able to play against the Raiders and All-Pro Khalil Mack. James Hurst is the most likely replacement if Stanley can’t play.

Ravens left guard Alex Lewis practiced on a limited basis Friday after missing two days due to a concussion.

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