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Dolphins trying to figure out how to fix their stadium

Titans Dolphins Football AP

To use a scouting term, Sun Life Stadium is a bit of a tweener.

The home of the Dolphins, with 75,540 seats, is too big for regular season use. Because of the pleasant weather, it’s not worn down enough to warrant a rebuild. But it’s old enough (the 10th-oldest building in the league) to lack the amenities to put it in play for future Super Bowls or to make it tempting enough to lure viewers from off their couches.

That’s left them in a quandary as to what to do with the building.

“We’ve got a 25-year-old facility, and it clearly needs some tender loving care,” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said, via Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post. “This facility, in its current form, is not going to serve the anchor tenants for the long-term. We’re going to be in a competitive environment with a lot of facilities that have been built in the last 10 years.

“Clearly, it’s something that’s going to have to be addressed at some point.”

The biggest issue is how or whether to cover the place. A roof or canpoy would protect the fans from sweltering September sun, or from rapid-fire rainstorms such as the one that soaked the Super Bowl in 2007.

“The reality is that most stadiums are either retractable or covered,” Dee said. “That’s just something I think will put us in a much better position to not only compete for major events, but would put us in a much better position for fans who use the stadium on a regular basis.”

The Cardinals are used as a comp, as a roof and air conditioning has been the difference between vast swaths of empty seats in Sun Devil Stadium and 71 straight sellouts at University of Phoenix Stadium. Then again, the weather is a positive for Super Bowl bids, when it’s freezing in many other precincts.

“If they had a better stadium, they would get far more Super Bowls,” stadium consultant Marc Ganis said. “Can they compete? Yes, but it’s an uphill struggle.”

The league’s dangling its biggest carrot, Super Bowl L as a possibility. But after local residents ponied up for a new baseball park for a team which was just voluntarily gutted of veteran players, it’s going to be hard to convince taxpayers to offer more.

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Colts trudge to 6-3 halftime lead

Chris Smith, Andrew Luck AP

The AFC South-leading Colts are in a bit of a battle with the last-place Jaguars.

Host Indianapolis holds a 6-3 halftime lead vs. Jacksonville after two turnover-filled quarters at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts lost three fumbles, including two by Andrew Luck, who has been sacked five times. Overall, Indianapolis has fumbled five times.

However, the Jaguars haven’t been much better, with Blake Bortles throwing one interception and tailback Denard Robinson coughing up a fumble.

The Colts have outgained Jacksonville 148-104, with Luck completing 10-of-17 passes for 112 yards and rushing twice for 26 yards. By contrast, Bortles is just 4-of-10 passing for 34 yards, though he has added 21 yards on the ground.

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Winston explains contact with official

Jameis Getty Images

The link on the ESPN.com home page says Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston’s contact with an official was “unintentional.”  The headline to the story says it wasn’t “malicious.”  The quotes attributed to Winston contain neither of those inconsistent terms.

He was just holding me because he said we had a substitution,” Winston said after the game regarding the official whom Winston tried to physically relocate.  “It was actually a fast-tempo play, so I was trying to get up under there and let it ride.”

While Winston surely had no actual malice when trying to move the official, Winston’s words prove that the action was necessarily “intentional.”  He didn’t accidentally try to pick up an official and move him.  He deliberately did it.

As MDS pointed out last night, Winston’s history makes him more of a target for criticism in cases like this.  But even without Winston’s baggage, trying to lift up a game official as if he were a suitcase creates red flags, regardless of Winston’s history.

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Falcons grab halftime lead after picking off Brian Hoyer

Julio Jones AP

It hasn’t been the prettiest of halves for the Falcons, but 4-6 teams trying to win a division title can’t really worry all that much about how they get wins.

Matt Ryan threw an interception and lost a fumble on a sack by Paul Kruger, but the Browns could only turn them into six points as their offense misfired once they moved into Atlanta territory. Settling for field goals was still better than the result of another foray onto the Falcons’ side of the field.

Brian Hoyer threw a wounded duck that Falcons safety Kemal Ishmael picked off and returned to midfield. Ryan hit Julio Jones for a couple of first downs and then flipped a shovel pass to Jacquizz Rodgers for an 8-yard touchdown that made the score 14-13 Falcons at halftime. Ryan was 12-of-22 for 161 yards overall and was lucky to escape with just one interception as Browns safety Donte Whitner let a takeaway slip through his fingers.

Hoyer is 11-of-22 for 151 yards and has looked Josh Gordon’s way often in the first half. Any talk of easing Gordon back into the lineup appears to have been misguided as Hoyer looked his way 10 times. Gordon got four catches for 70 yards on those looks and Hoyer has missed him on a couple of deep balls, including one just before the half, that could have boosted those totals and the Browns’ score significantly.

That final miss to Gordon preceded a 60-yard field goal attempt that fell short and into the hands of Devin Hester. Hester returned the ball into Cleveland territory, but guard Joel Bitonio was able to stop him before he added to his record book. It was the most exciting play of a sloppy first half, so perhaps better things are in store in the final 30 minutes.

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LeGarrette Blount scores as Patriots lead Lions

blount AP

It didn’t take LeGarrette Blount to pick up where he left off with the Patriots.

Blount, who re-signed with the Patriots this week after the Steelers sent him packing, scored a three-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Tom Brady also has two touchdown passes, and the Patriots lead 21-6.

The Patriots’ offense has revolved around the passing game, with Blount as the leading rusher with just two carries for five yards late in the second quarter. Although New England went three-and-out on its first two offensive series, the Patriots have picked things up since then.

The Lions’ offense has struggled, with Matthew Stafford looking skittish behind a banged-up offensive line (left tackle Riley Reiff was hurt on the first play). Even when he’s on target, Stafford isn’t getting much help from his receivers: Joseph Fauria and Corey Fuller have both had passes go through their hands in the end zone.

The Lions have had some successful second-half comebacks this year. They’ll need their best second half of the season to beat the Patriots.

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Mike Evans does it again

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Remember when it took time for first-round receivers to hit their stride?

In May, the Buccaneers took wideout Mike Evans No. 7 overall. And on Sunday in Chicago, Evans hauled in his eighth TD of the season to give Tampa Bay a 7-0 second-quarter lead.

Evans’ 19-yard TD catch was set up when Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy drilled Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, causing a fumble recovered by Tampa Bay.

On Evans’ touchdown, the 21-year-old former Texas A&M star beat Bears rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller. However, Evans did draw a taunting foul after the score. In the end, though, the Bears didn’t capitalize.

And it appears we are far from the end of Evans’ NFL highlight reel.

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Report: Andre Smith suffers triceps tear, MRI tomorrow

Andre Smith AP

The Bengals are off to a 9-0 lead on the Texans, but they may have suffered a significant loss.

According to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, Bengals right tackle Andre Smith has suffered a “significant tear” to his triceps. He’ll have an MRI tomorrow to determine the severity of the injury, but it’s obviously bad news for a line that has dealt with injuries up front all season.

Marshall Newhouse replaced him, but had to leave briefly after getting poked in the eye, though he was able to return.

The Bengals tried to extend their lead by going for a fourth-and-inches, but Andy Dalton’s fade pass to A.J. Green didn’t quite come together. The Bengals responded by recording a safety on the next Texans play.

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Vikings use long drive to tie the Packers

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

There was nothing easy about it, but the Vikings tied things up with the Packers.

A 14-play drive was capped by a 22-yard touchdown pass from Teddy Bridgewater to Charles Johnson, allowing the Vikings to even things up at home.

Minnesota converted a pair of fourth downs during the drive, including having an interception waved off because of a Packers holding penalty.

Bridgewater’s only completed 4-of-12 passes, but he’s at least been timely, and the Packers are letting them hang around.

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Eagles lose Zach Ertz, but lead 17-7 in second quarter

Pittsburgh Steelers v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Sunday got off to a good start for the Eagles and things continued to go well for most of the first quarter.

The Titans went three plays and out on all three of their first quarter drives and Darren Sproles ran for a short touchdown as the Eagles built of Josh Huff’s game-opening kickoff return for a touchdown to take a 17-0 lead.

A Mark Sanchez interception helped close the gap, however. Sanchez made a poor throw to Riley Cooper that Cooper probably could have done more to keep from winding up in Brandon Ghee’s hands and the Titans capitalized a couple of plays later. Safety Malcolm Jenkins tipped a Zach Mettenberger pass to Justin Hunter, but Hunter was able to reel it in and keep going for a 40-yard touchdown that cut the Eagle lead to 10 points.

The Eagles also lost tight end Zach Ertz to an oblique injury as the first quarter wound down. He’s questionable to return to the game.

UPDATE 2:10 p.m. ET: Ertz is going to return to the game, which the Eagles now lead 20-14. Mettenberger and Delanie Walker hooked up on a 68-yard gain up the seam and Shonn Greene ran the ball in to draw the Titans closer.

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Turnovers the story early in Indianapolis

Andrew Luck AP

The defenses have ruled thus far in Indianapolis, with the Jaguars and Colts tied at three after one quarter.

The Jaguars and Colts have each tallied a field goal set up by a takeaway, with the Jaguars capitalizing on an Andrew Luck fumble on a sack and the Colts cashing in a Blake Bortles interception.

The Colts have had problems protecting Luck, who has been sacked four times thus far, losing a pair of fumbles when sacked. However, on both occasions, the Jaguars’ coverage was a factor.

Meanwhile, the underdog Jaguars have again struggled to play sound football. In addition to Bortles’ pick, Denard Robinson has lost a fumble. Even their made field goal was far from perfect; the Colts deflected the ball, but it made its way through the uprights nonetheless.

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Josh Gordon looks good, Browns tie score

Cleveland Browns v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Wide receiver Josh Gordon doesn’t look like he’s going to be too limited for the Browns on Sunday and that looks like a good thing for the Cleveland offense.

Gordon turned a screen pass into a 22-yard gain that took the Browns to the Atlanta 11-yard-line late in the first quarter. Running back Isaiah Crowell ran for a touchdown two plays later, tying the score at 7.

Gordon has seen plenty of playing time — 13-of-15 snaps — on the first two Browns possessions and was targeted on a deep pass on third down the first time the Browns had the ball. He was well covered by Desmond Trufant on the play, but Gordon was able to slip free for a 12-yard catch to mark his first reception of the 2014 season.

Atlanta opened the scoring with a Matt Ryan touchdown pass to Julio Jones, who was drafted with a pick Cleveland traded to Atlanta, for Jones’s first score since Week Three.

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Andre Smith done for the day with an arm injury

Atlanta Falcons v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Bengals were just getting used to having Andre Smith back in the lineup, now he’s gone again.

The veteran right tackle has left with an arm injury, and won’t return.

Smith was just getting back from an ankle problem, and has been replaced by Marshall Newhouse.

Injuries have plagued the Bengals up front all year, and having backups trying to slow J.J. Watt isn’t an ideal situation.

But they have put together their best drive of the day, and Mohamed Sanu got their on the board with a 6-yard catch-and-run touchdown.

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Free tickets to Jets-Bills are no longer free

Tickets Getty Images

After the NFL decided to move the game between the Jets and Bills to Detroit, tickets were distributed for free.  They could have picked a slightly higher price point.

According to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, the tickets are gone — and at least one scalper was looking for $125 for a ticket to the game.

This ain’t a free game, man,” one scalper said.

While it’s unlikely that many tickets would have been sold at a face value of $125, the NFL presumably could have charged something for the tickets.  Five dollars.  Ten.  Even $19.95.

It’s a great gesture by the NFL to give the tickets away, something the league has done in past cases when circumstances forced a game to move.  But if someone is going to make money for something given away for nothing, maybe the something shouldn’t be given away.

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Eagles up 7-0 after opening kickoff

Philadelphia Eagles v Houston Texans Getty Images

The Eagles are trying to shake off last week’s blowout loss to the Packers and they got off on the right foot against the Titans on Sunday.

Josh Huff took the opening kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown to hand the Eagles a 7-0 lead 13 seconds into the game.

Huff’s touchdown continues a strong season for the Eagles special teams. Darren Sproles has two punt return scores, Chris Polk has also returned a kickoff for a touchdown and they’ve blocked five kicks so far this season. That knack for big plays eluded them last week as the Packers had a punt return for a score, but it seems the old magic has returned now that the Eagles are back on their home turf.

It’s also a nice change of pace for Huff, who has had a rocky rookie season up to this point.

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No Julius Thomas for Broncos today

Julius Thomas AP

The Broncos will be without at least one of their main passing targets today.

According to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports, Broncos tight end Jay Glazer won’t play today because of an ankle injury.

They had referred to him as a game-time decision, but it appears this one came in well in advance.

Thomas’ ankle injury wasn’t as bad as feared, but they’re still going to play it smart with a guy they’ll need coming down the stretch.

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Glazer: Browns plan to unleash Josh Gordon

Gordon Getty Images

The Browns will limit receiver Josh Gordon’s reps on Sunday.  Unless they don’t.

The battle lines have been drawn.  Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Browns will use Gordon for only 20-30 snaps in his return from a 10-game suspension.  Jay Glazer of FOX reports that the Browns plan to unleash Gordon.

I’ve got no inside information on what the Browns plan to do, but the reality is that the plan often goes out the window once the game starts.  And with the Browns trying to keep their postseason hopes from going down the drain, they’ll do what they need to do to win games.  Which includes getting the most out of one of the most dynamic players in the league.

So whatever the over/under is for Gordon, take the over.

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