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Bucs can’t sell enough tickets to lift blackout

Carolina Panthers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Buccaneers announced earlier this week they needed to sell 7,400 tickets this week to lift the local television blackout.

They did not.

Even though they’ve won four in a row, and are playing the 9-1 division-rival Falcons, the Bucs didn’t reach the 85 percent threshold of non-premium tickets sold, meaning local fans won’t be able to watch, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.

This makes 18 of the last 21 Bucs games to be blacked out, and it makes you wonder when they will sell the place out.

Prices on many tickets are getting cheaper, and the product’s getting better, and it’s not as if they’re asking people to stand out in the cold.

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Lance Briggs expects groin injury to keep him out “a few weeks”

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Longtime Bears linebacker Lance Briggs knows the clock is ticking.

And his time in Chicago might be even shorter than he imagined, thanks to a groin injury picked up last week.

Briggs said during his weekly show on CSN Chicago that his groin issue would likely keep him out “a few weeks.”

While originally mentioned as a game-time decision for Thursday’s game with the Lions, that likely knocks him out for the game.

With only four games left, it’s unclear how many times Briggs will suit up for the Bears again, since he’s accepted the fact he’s probably not going to do it in Chicago next season.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Bills WR Robert Woods made the Jets pay for single coverage.

The Dolphins have had some bad luck.

Patriots QB Tom Brady and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers have never started against each other, until Sunday.

The latest “Fire John Idzik” billboard tells Woody Johnson to sell the Jets if he’s not going to make a wholesale change.

The Ravens’ Monday night win gives their playoff hopes a shot in the arm.

Cincinnati needs OT Marshall Newhouse to step up in place of OT Andre Smith.

The Browns have a meaningful game with the Bills in late November. Who saw that coming?

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says the team just needs to take care of business: “If we do what we need to do on a week-in and week-out basis in terms of our business in our stadium, then it’s not going to be required that we look around. We play some significant people moving forward.”

Texans DE J.J. Watt delivered some pizza to Houston police officers and firefighters.

Will running woes plague the Colts in the playoffs?

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley bristled at questions about whether his assistant coaches are getting the job done.

Members of the Titans are volunteering to feed the homeless this Thanksgiving.

Said Broncos coach John Fox of getting LB Danny Trevathan back from a knee injury, “We won’t give him a lot of work because we’re not getting him game ready yet. He hasn’t played football for a while. He will participate in individual drills and probably some scout-team work just to get him back into playing shape.”

The Chiefs added DL Nick Williams to the active roster to replace S Eric Berry.

Said Raiders coach Tony Sparano of FB Marcel Reece, “The thing that I’ve noticed is that he’s a guy who, when given the opportunity to run the football, makes yards that way, no matter when.”

The Chargers helped get 1,000 people to donate blood in San Diego.

Said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett of Eagles coach Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense, “It certainly challenges you. It’s different than what the NFL has seen for a number of years, but it’s been in place here for a little bit. You have to be ready to play an up-tempo style of offense and you have to be able to get yourself lined up and play sound defense against it.”

Eagles QB Mark Sanchez and Cowboys QB Tony Romo are both hoping to re-shape their reputations with a run to the playoffs this year.

Here’s a look at some of the Giants who should be part of the franchise’s future.

Is Jay Gruden doing what Dan Snyder hired him to do?

Bears DE Willie Young is excited to return to Detroit.

His numbers are way down, but Lions WR Calvin Johnson says he’s the same guy he’s been for years.

As the Packers prepare for the Patriots on Sunday, are they also preparing for their Super Bowl opponent?

A bum knee is bad news for Vikings LT Matt Kalil.

The Falcons are leading a historically awful division.

It may be Amini Silatolu’s turn at right tackle for the Panthers.

If the Saints get to six wins, is that enough to get to the playoffs?

Buccaneers QB Josh McCown says the defense played well enough to win on Sunday.

Said Cardinals coach Bruce Arians of his rookie defensive lineman, “Josh Mauro would have gotten a game ball if we would have won the game. He played his tail off, stout at the point of attack. Really, really nice surprise.”

Rams WR Stedman Bailey is finally emerging as a part of the passing game.

The 49ers say they’re not seeking revenge against the Seahawks on Thanksgiving.

The Seahawks have generally kept 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick from using his big arm to his advantage.

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J.J. Watt, human being, thanks cops and firemen with free lunch

J.J. Watt AP

Proving it’s possible to be a star player, be in many commercials, and still be a human being, J.J. Watt continues to impress on and off the field.

Via the Houston Chronicle, Watt had pizzas delivered to police and a fire station in Houston, thanking them for their service.

“You show up day in and day out, never knowing what the day might hold and never getting enough thanks for what you do, yet you still continue to put others ahead of yourselves,” Watt said in a hand-written note.

While the gesture is impressive, Watt’s handwriting is also perfect, which is one more reason to wonder if he’s a real person, or was born on Krypton and sent to save the planet Earth.

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Jim Caldwell: Lions have no comfort zone on offense

Detroit Lions v New England Patriots Getty Images

Going two weeks without a touchdown is a sign that things aren’t working for your offense, but the signs were there for the Lions even before they lost their last two games while scoring a total of 15 points.

They are scoring their fewest points per game since the 2009 season, haven’t run for a touchdown since the seventh week of the season and they’ve had to patch together an offensive line around injuries that have sapped the unit’s effectiveness. According to quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is coming off a career-low in completion percentage in Week 12, it’s left the team “trying to figure out what we’re really, really good at.”

Coach Jim Caldwell believes there’s nothing the team is really, really good at right now, however.

“We have no comfort zone,” Caldwell said, via ESPN.com. “We have no area that we are comfortable with at this point in time with our offense.”

That’s clearly not where you’d like to find yourself heading into the final month of the regular season, especially since the offensive issues have been widespread enough that it’s hard to believe everything is just going to click into place all of a sudden.

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Jets name Geno Smith starting quarterback

Geno Smith AP

Geno Smith is back as the Jets’ starting quarterback.

The Jets announced this morning that Smith, not Michael Vick, will start on Monday night against the Dolphins.

Jets coach Rex Ryan met with both Smith and Vick this morning and informed them that he has made the switch. Vick had a disastrous game against the Bills on Monday night, and Smith was slightly better after Vick was benched, so that may have been what made Ryan make the decision.

It’s also possible that the decision wasn’t up to Ryan. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reported that Ryan preferred Vick — but that the decision might be taken from Ryan by G.M. John Idzik and owner Woody Johnson.

Regardless, the Jets are going nowhere this season. And the quarterback to lead them in the future probably isn’t on the roster right now.

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Math, trustworthy, shows Washington better with Luck not RG3

Griffin and Luck shake hands at midfield after their NFL preseason football game in Landover, Maryland Reuters

In the 2012, the Colts had a choice — Stanford’s Andrew Luck or Baylor’s Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.

Washington was going to take the other one.

And with Griffin benched, it looks like this is shaping up like another Colts draft call — when they took Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf.

But the numbers show that if the roles were reversed, RG3 might not be as big a disaster as he is now.

The website PredictionMachine.com ran 50,000 computer simulations which put Luck in Washington and Griffin in Indianapolis. The verdict’s hardly surprising.

“If Luck were the starter all season in Washington, the Redskins would be projected to win the NFC East with a 10-6 record. Indianapolis, with RG3 would finish second in the AFC South behind Houston with a projected 7.5 wins.

Luck would be projected to throw for 4,529 yards, 34 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in Jay Gruden’s offense. RG3, assuming a full healthy season, would be projected to throw for 2,994 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions as a Colt.”

Washington would probably have taken that kind of line out of Griffin, and he might not have been benched if he were playing that well.

We already know the Rams are glad to have traded with Washington, so there are at least two teams grateful for how this one has turned out.

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Aaron Rodgers: It’s not me against Tom Brady

Aaron Rodgers AP

Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have both been around the NFL long enough that they are running low on new things to experience in the professional ranks.

One of the few things left on each man’s list will get checked off on Sunday when Brady and the Patriots hit Lambeau Field to face the Packers. Brady and Rodgers have never started the same game, adding some intrigue to a game that already had plenty by pitting the two hottest teams in football against each other.

Rodgers, who missed a 2010 matchup with the Patriots because of injury, is focusing on the team part of things this week instead of on his matchup with a player who won’t be on the field at the same time or the lack of a foil like Peyton Manning has been to Brady over the years.

“I have a ton of respect for them in their careers, but again I don’t ever look at it like it’s one quarterback against another. It takes 11 every single play to be effective. We play against some great teams in the NFC all the time. They’ve spent their careers in the AFC and that’s kind of the way it’s gone,” Rodgers said on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show. “I’d like to think that at some point by the end of my career, I’ll have a number of matchups against a quarterback in the NFC who they like, much in the way that they like Brady and Manning, and they can make some comparison there, but I won’t have any void from not playing those guys. I’d rather not; they’re great players.”

Rodgers is right about it being 11-on-11 obviously, but it’s a quarterback-driven league and the fact that we’ve never seen Brady and Rodgers in the same game means that it’s an angle that will get played heavily between now and Sunday’s kickoff. And the accompanying noise will only grow should the teams remain hot and force a second meeting that comes much quicker than the first.

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Jason Avant compares himself to NBA great Tim Duncan

Carolina Panthers v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

It’s hard to remember a player who has sounded so relieved at getting fired.

But Jason Avant, cut by the 3-7-1 Panthers after he made some comments critical of the offense, is now back in an offense he knows and loves and trusts. He said he wanted to sign with coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs this offseason, yet he ended up in Carolina, where he was little more than a stable pony.

“He’s had big receivers like [Dwayne] Bowe, smaller receivers like DeSean [Jackson], . . . and he’s able to use guys in the right way,” Avant said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star. “He looks at everybody as having an ability. Everyone has a strength and he tries to find that strength and use it to their ability and also to the team’s best interest.

“I’m pretty sure coach Reid is going to move me around as he sees fit. I believe in what he’s preaching. I believe in everything he’s about, so I trust him in whatever that decision is.”

Gosh, when he says it like that, it sounds like he wasn’t a fan of the offensive stylings of Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula.
But Avant was in the mood to take shots during his reunion, he was more interested in explaining how he can play a role for a team that hasn’t gotten the most out of their wide receivers (they’re still waiting for their first touchdown from a wideout this year).

“You see Tim Duncan still play at a high level because he was a fundamental person,” Avant said of the NBA’s best post player for the last two decades. “So when his talent or speed kind of diminished, he was still able to play at a high level because he learned the game the right way. That’s what I want to be as a pro — learn the game the right way and as I get older, I’m still able to perform at a high level.”

The Panthers thought he was far less than Tim Duncan, that’s for sure. So it will be interesting to see if he returns to the productive player he was for Reid in Philadelphia.

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DeMarco Murray has no doubts he can keep up workload

DeMarco Murray AP

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray continues to lead the NFL by a wide margin in both rushing attempts and rushing yards and he also leads the league in questions about whether he can keep up his current pace without slowing down or breaking down.

Murray has run the ball 268 times this season, leaving him on pace for 390 carries after 16 games. Murray said Tuesday that he has no doubts that he’ll be able to continue working at that pace for the rest of the year and that he’s actually feeling better now than he was during the early part of the season.

“As the year goes on, you feel better,” Murray said, via the Dallas Morning News. “I feel like I’ve gotten stronger throughout the year, so I have to continue to work hard during the week and it’ll show up on Sundays.”

Injuries can strike at inopportune moments, of course, but Murray certainly hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down to this point. He keeps churning out similar performances behind the Cowboys’ high-performing offensive line and there’s little reason to predict otherwise as long as those holes keep opening with regularity.

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Rex Ryan sounds like a man who knows what’s coming

Rex Ryan AP

Boastful Rex Ryan is so much more fun, with all his jokes and playoff promises.

Beat-down-by-life Rex Ryan’s kind of depressing, watching him acknowledge that’s almost certainly fired.

Ryan’s tone was downcast when he met with Jets reporters yesterday, following their latest catastrophe, a 38-3 loss to the Bills.

We’re running out of tomorrows,” Ryan said, via Seth Walder of the New York Daily News.

Ryan has to know what’s coming, because he called this a month ago. When the Jets were 1-4, he said in a radio interview that “if… we don’t get this thing on the right track, I don’t think for a minute I’ll be here.”
They’ve gone 1-5 since then.

“My thoughts haven’t changed,” Ryan said Tuesday. “I know we have to clearly get better.”

With the Jets mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, and Ryan admitting it’s time to play some younger guys, it’s hard to see how that’s going to happen.

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J’Marcus Webb tweets he’s signing with Vikings

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After hosting free agent tackles J’Marcus Webb and Eric Winston for workouts on Tuesday, the Minnesota Vikings have apparently made a decision on their replacement option for injured right tackle Phil Loadholt.

Webb tweeted Tuesday night that he is re-signing with the Vikings.

Webb appeared in eight games for Minnesota in 2013 while making one start. Webb had played his first three seasons for the Chicago Bears before joining the Vikings last season.

The Vikings will likely turn to Mike Harris to take over as the starter in place of Loadholt with Webb replacing Harris as the backup tackle.

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Kam Chancellor hated watching player he was earlier this season

Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor couldn’t stand watching the player he was at times earlier this season.

Bone spurs in his ankle, coupled with a nagging hip issue left him unable to recognize the player he saw on film each week. The enforcer of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” just wasn’t able to be the player he came to expect week in and week out.

“Yeah, definitely. It was tough,” Chancellor said. “I hated watching film. I hated watching myself. Just hated it.”

Chancellor was ultimately sidelined for two weeks due to a groin issue to go along with the ankle and hip injuries he played through the first half of the year. They were only the second and third games Chancellor had missed due to injury since assuming the starting safety job alongside Earl Thomas in 2011.

“It comes with the territory. It comes with football and you’ve just got to find way to get through it and push forward,” Chancellor said.

The silver lining was that the downtime helped alleviate the ankle and hip issues as well for Chancellor. His performance the last two weeks against Kansas City and Arizona appeared to be the best two games Chancellor had played since Seattle’s season opener against Green Bay.

“It definitely helped me out a lot. I feel a lot better (now),” Chancellor said.

Chancellor has 60 tackles in nine games this season with an interception and a forced fumble.

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Griffin is surely done in D.C.

Griffin Getty Images

Well, that escalated quickly.

Only nine days ago, quarterback Robert Griffin III remained entrenched as the starter in D.C.  After nearly beating the Vikings in his return from a dislocated ankle, Griffin had two weeks to get ready for a gimme putt against the Buccaneers.

And then Tampa won by 20, Griffin looked horrible in the process, and coach Jay Gruden launched a public campaign against Griffin that laid the foundation for Tuesday’s news that Gruden had benched Griffin — even though Gruden said after a closer-than-expected game in San Francisco that Gruden had “every intent” to start Griffin at Indianapolis.

With the report that Griffin has been benched for the second time in less than a year comes the news (from the same reporter) that Griffin “still appears to be a significant part” of the team’s “long-term plan.”

Sure he is.  He’s a significant part of the team’s long-term plan because the long-term plan is to trade him for draft picks who will become part of the long-term plan.

There’s no way the bridge can be rebuilt again in 2015, not after former coach Mike Shanahan cast Griffin aside and now current coach Jay Gruden has done the same thing.  Unless Gruden gets fired after one year (it’s not as outlandish a proposition as it would seem), Griffin won’t want to return to Washington next season, where at a minimum he’ll have to win via open competition during the offseason, training camp, and preseason a job his head coach currently thinks he isn’t suited for.

So look for Griffin to quietly begin clamoring to be traded or cut.  Trading him makes the most sense, because if he’s cut it’s likely he’ll land in Philly with Chip Kelly, with a strong incentive to do everything possible to make Washington look like it made a mistake with the guy on whom Washington made a mistake by giving up three first-round picks and a second-round pick.

And if the team resists giving Griffin what he wants, maybe he’ll decide to finally share his personal opinion about the team’s nickname.

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Bruce Arians says Cardinals needed a bigger back in backfield

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With a rushing attack that ranks 31st in total yards and dead last in yards per attempt, Arizona head coach Bruce Arians knew the Cardinals needed a different piece in their backfield for the stretch run.

A bigger back is a piece the Cardinals have been lacking since Jonathan Dwyer was placed on the non-football injury list after a domestic violence arrest in September. After a failed waiver claim on Ben Tate, the Cardinals elected to turn to Michael Bush instead, working him out and signing him to a deal on Tuesday.

We really miss (Dwyer),” Arians said in an interview with Alex Marvez and Takeo Spikes on Sirius XM NFL Radio. “I like our backs but we need a guy who’s going to pound it in there and close out some games in short yardage and goal line situations. Michael is in great shape.”

Bush has not played for anyone since the Bears released him in March after two years with the team. He ran for 608 yards and eight touchdowns on 177 carries during his time in Chicago.

The Cardinals have been held to less than 65 rushing yards as a team in their last three games against Seattle, Detroit and St. Louis.

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Report: Washington to start Colt McCoy on Sunday

Washington Redskins v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

Robert Griffin III’s return to the starting lineup lasted all of three games.

Griffin is being benched in favor of Colt McCoy for Sunday’s game at Indianapolis, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Tuesday night.

Washington coach Jay Gruden initially indicated Griffin would likely start against the Colts, but Gruden made it clear he reserved the right to change his mind. Now, on the eve of Washington’s first practice of the week, comes word McCoy, not Griffin, will be getting the first-team reps.

Since returning from an ankle injury in Week Nine, Griffin has been sacked 17 times in three games, and he completed just 11-of-19 passes for 106 yards with a lost fumble in Sunday’s loss at San Francisco.

According to Schefter, a club source indicated Griffin is still regarded as a key part of the club’s future. Nevertheless, this is no small setback for Griffin, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. And it will invite further speculation that Griffin faces an uncertain future in Washington.

For McCoy, the return to the lineup is another high point in a comeback season for the former Browns starter. In his lone start for Washington, McCoy helped lead an upset of Dallas on October 27.

Six days later, Griffin was back as Washington’s starter to begin November. But now, two days before Thanksgiving and five weeks before the end of the season, Griffin has been demoted, another chapter in a hard-to-believe story.

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