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Browns take 10-3 lead into halftime

Brandon Weeden AP

Brandon Weeden’s play is a big reason why the Browns lead 10-3 at halftime in Oakland.

He’s also a big part of the reason their lead isn’t larger. Weeden has thrown two interceptions, keeping the Browns from putting more points on the board despite the fact that they’ve carried the lion’s share of the play in the first half. They’ve outgained the Raiders by almost 100 yards and Weeden’s been very sharp when he isn’t throwing the ball to the Raiders, but those picks are the reason it is still a 10-3 game.

Both picks came inside the Oakland 10-yard line. Matt Giordano picked off a pass to tight end Ben Watson that sailed too far and Phillip Adams snagged an underthrown pass to Josh Gordon after the two-minute warning. Two bad passes in an otherwise strong day, but that can be all it takes to lose a game.

The Raiders will need to be better on both sides of the ball to get the win. The offense showed some life to set up a field goal attempt just before the half, but they’ll need to break off some big plays to make up the margin without more help from Weeden.

 

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Chris Long appears likely to return for Rams this week

Chris Long Getty Images

Defensive end Chris Long appeared in only the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings before having ankle surgery and landing on the injured reserve-designated to return list for the St. Louis Rams.

But Long appears set to return to the lineup for the Rams this Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

He’s coming on,” head coach Jeff Fisher said, via R.B. Fallstrom of the Associated Press. “We’ve missed him, we’ve missed his production.”

Long has been able to practice the last three weeks with St. Louis with a Monday deadline to activate him from the injured reserve list.

Long has tried to lobby himself back into the lineup last week against San Diego with the Rams ultimately electing to hold him out another week. The 10 games Long has missed are the first of his seven-year career with the Rams.

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Bills awarded returner Marcus Thigpen on waivers

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Bills have added a veteran kick returner for the stretch run, claiming Marcus Thigpen on waivers from Tampa Bay on Wednesday, the club said.

The 28-year-old Thigpen was the Buccaneers’ punt and kickoff returner for the first four games of November, bringing back six kickoffs for 120 yards and four punts for 65 yards. His most extensive NFL experience came with the Dolphins, for whom he returned kicks for two seasons (2012-2013). Thigpen (5-9, 200) has returned both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in regular season play.

The Bills are without their primary punt returner (Leodis McKelvin) and their primary kickoff returner (C.J. Spiller). McKelvin is out for the season with a broken ankle, while Spiller (broken collarbone) is on short-term injured reserve. Tailback Fred Jackson returned punts in Monday’s win vs. the Jets, while wide receiver Marcus Easley returned kickoffs.

To make room for Thigpen, the Bills waived rookie defensive end Bryan Johnson, who was inactive for a pair of games after being promoted from the practice squad on November 12.

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Nick Foles may be out longer than expected

Foles AP

A cracked collarbone was supposed to sideline Eagles quarterback Nick Foles for six to eight weeks.  Foles could be out even longer than that.

According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the initial assessment may have been a “generous” one.  Per McLane, Foles’ collarbone must be “more than” healed in order to protect it against further harm.

McLane reports that the current best-case scenario for Foles would entail a Week 16 return against Washington.

Foles suffered the injury on November 2, and he has missed three games.  The question becomes whether Eagles coach Chip Kelly automatically would replaced backup Mark Sanchez with Foles as soon as Foles is cleared, or whether Sanchez would continue to play.

If Sanchez continues to struggle — and if the Eagles lose at least two of the next three against the Cowboys, Seahawks, and Cowboys again — Kelly may want to get Foles back on the field ASAFP, since a strong return from the starter could be exactly what the Eagles will need to salvage a berth in the postseason.

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Sammy Watkins thought he’d be a Brown

Watkins Getty Images

Before the draft, the Browns tried to make everyone think they’d select Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.  That everyone included someone named Sammy Watkins.

“I met with [G.M. Ray Farmer] probably a week before the combine, so yeah, in my head I thought I was going to get drafted there because Josh Gordon got into some trouble. Yeah,” Watkins told Cleveland reporters in advance of Sundays game between the Bills and the Browns.

Ultimately, Watkins was on the board when the Browns were on the clock.  The Browns traded down, the Bills traded up, and Watkins now works in Buffalo.

“Being a first-round pick and having someone come up and get you, that’s the best feeling ever,” Watkins said.  “Having someone trust you and think that you’re good enough to come up and get.”

The Bills gave up a 2015 first-round pick (and a 2015 fourth-round pick) to get Watkins.  Does that add pressure?

“Not at all,” Watkins said.  “I think that I’ve met their expectations throughout the course of this year, and I’ve been getting better every week.  I’m doing good, and I think I’m going to keep improving and getting better.”

Watkins has been very good.  But other receivers taken in the first round have played well, too.  In hindsight, wouldn’t the Bills be in the same shape if they’d waited for Odell Beckham Jr. and saved the first-round and fourth-round picks?

Still, Watkins and Beckham aren’t rivals.  They’re friends.

“We’re very close,” Watkins said.  “I text him.  We talk, and I wish the best for him.  We all push each other every week.  I push him; he pushes me.  I watch him play; he watches me.  Yeah, I try to go out there every week and beat his numbers and beat everybody’s numbers.  That’s the ultimate goal — to be the best.  That’s what he’s been doing.  He’s been proving to everybody that he’s an elite receiver, a top receiver, and I think I’ve been doing the same.”

Watkins is right, but Beckham has done something that none of the other rookie receivers — and few in league history — have accomplished.  If that pushes Watkins to make a highlight-reel catch for the ages, everybody wins.

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No Wednesday practice for Clowney

Clowney Getty Images

How much is Jadeveon Clowney’s surgically-repaired knee bothering him?  Enough to keep him from practicing on Wednesday.

The first overall pick in the 2014 draft missed Wednesday’s practice due to a lingering knee problem.

After Sunday’s loss to the Bengals, Clowney said he’s still affected by the injury.

Last week, Clowney participated in all practices on a limited basis.  It remains to be seen whether he’ll be taking a game off in the hopes of getting himself healthier.

The 5-6 Texans host the Titans on Sunday.

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Marshawn is probable for Thursday night

Lynch AP

When the Seahawks and 49ers get together on Thanksgiving night on NBC, the 49ers will get a full dose of running back Marshawn Lynch.

Lynch is officially listed as probable for the NFC West showdown, with a back injury.  It means there’s a virtual certainty he’ll be available for normal duty.

Out for the Seahawks are tight end Cooper Helfet (ankle), the only guy who scored a touchdown in Sunday’s win over the Cardinals.  Also due to miss the game for Seattle are center Max Under (knee, ankle) and linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (shoulder).

Questionable for Seattle are former 49ers defensive end Demarcus Dobbs (knee) and cornerback Jeremy Lane (glute).

For the home team, tight end Derek Carrier (foot), tackle Anthony Davis (concussion), and defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey (forearm) are out. Cornerback Tramaine Brock (hamstring), receiver Bruce Ellington (ankle), and tight end Vance McDonald (back) are questionable.

The “probables” for San Fran include running back Frank Gore, who has a knee injury.

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Rex Ryan: We have two good quarterbacks

genovick AP

Sometimes coaches have to put a positive spin on things even when all is lost. We’ll assume that’s what Jets coach Rex Ryan was doing when he addressed his quarterback situation today.

Asked about the decision to bench Michael Vick and start Geno Smith, Ryan maintained that both of them are good quarterbacks.

“I have said it all along I feel we have two good quarterbacks, I definitely feel that. And we have another guy that is a decent quarterback as well, in [Matt] Simms. But I feel that way,” Ryan said.

The reality is, if the Jets had two good quarterbacks they wouldn’t be 2-9 right now. If the Jets had one good quarterback they wouldn’t be 2-9 right now. The Jets have zero good quarterbacks. (And for that matter, if Simms is “decent,” then the Jets ought to let him start the last five games of the season and see what he can do.)

Truthfully, the Jets are just playing out the string, so they’ve decided to give the job to the younger quarterback. Ryan acknowledged that part of the decision to switch from Vick to Smith is to give the franchise more time to evaluate Smith.

“Let’s see how far he’s come,” Ryan said of Smith. “We’ve given him a few weeks off, let’s see how it handles it. Yeah, I am curious to see that. But again, I mentioned I’m excited to see it.”

Ryan may be the only one who’s excited to see the Jets’ offense for the last five games of the season.

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Kyle Fuller, Riley Reiff and Reggie Bush all questionable for Turkey Day

Rhett Ellison, Jarius Wright, Kyle Fuller AP

The Bears and Lions have released their final injury reports before Thursday’s game at Ford Field and it finds key players on both sides questionable.

Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller drew the tag after hurting his MCL last weekend. He was listed as a limited participant on Wednesday after being deemed a non-participant on Monday and Tuesday. If Fuller doesn’t play, it would eliminate the possibility that he’d line up across from his brother and Lions wide receiver Corey at some point on Thursday. Their parents have crafted some custom jerseys for the occasion, so it would be a letdown emotionally and sartorially if one of their sons couldn’t go.

On the other side, Lions left tackle Riley Reiff and running back Reggie Bush both got in limited practices on Friday before drawing the questionable tag. It was Reiff’s first practice of the week while Bush worked every day and has been targeting this week to return from the ankle injury that’s sidelined him recently.

The Bears listed defensive linemen Jeremiah Ratliff and Trevor Scott as doubtful due to knee injuries, and they’ve ruled out linebackers Lance Briggs and Darryl Sharpton and wide receiver Chris Williams.

Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley and guard Larry Warford remain out.

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Shaun Phillps lands with Colts

Blake Bortles, Shaun Phillips AP

Linebacker Shaun Phillips has taken an overnight elevator ride from the basement to the penthouse in the AFC South.

Phillips was waived by the Titans on Tuesday and he’ll spend Thanksgiving as a member of the Colts, who announced that they added Phillips via a waiver claim on Wednesday. The move for Phillips, who has 81.5 career sacks, is a signal that the Colts would like to boost their pass rush off the edge.

The Colts currently rank 11th in the NFL with 27 sacks, seven of which have come from outside linebackers Bjoern Werner and Erik Walden. They hoped to have Robert Mathis for the final 12 regular season games, but he tore his Achilles while working out ahead of his reinstatement from a season-opening four-game suspension.

Phillips, who is signed through next season, had just two sacks in 11 games with the Titans, so he’s hardly been an impact player this season. Phillips did have 10 sacks last year with the Broncos, so a return to a team with postseason aspirations could be a boost to his productivity.

Linebacker Victor Butler has shuffled on and off the Colts roster a few times recently and he shuffled back off with Phillips’s arrival.

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Ryan Kalil says his brother’s hat-flick was all his fault

2014 Pro Bowl Getty Images

Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil has apologized for flicking the hat off a heckling fan last Sunday.

But the guy should probably be glad Ryan Kalil didn’t give more wedgies growing up.

The Panthers center came to the defense of his little brother, saying his treatment of Matt when they were growing up may have contributed to Sunday’s outburst.

“I was a little disappointed,” Ryan Kalil said, via John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I would have liked him to go with the, ‘You spilled something on your shirt‘ move, and then flick him on the chin. . . .

“It’s probably my fault for picking on him when he was little. That hat thing was a go-to move.”

Ryan said his brother was actually on the phone with their father when the incident occurred, saying the heckler was saying “some pretty ugly stuff.”
Of course, there’s plenty being said about Matt Kalil in Minnesota, where many feel he’s not living up to his first-round status.

And for that, a bunch of Vikings fans probably wish Ryan would have given his brother a few more noogies when they were growing up.

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Donte Whitner ruffles Fred Jackson’s feathers

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Safety Donte Whitner and the Browns will travel to meet the Bills on Sunday and Whitner’s not heading for the happiest of welcomes in the town he called home for the first five years of his career.

Whitner made a crack on Twitter over the summer about the Bills moving to Toronto, which made former Bill Darryl Talley quite upset and the bad feelings haven’t died down in Buffalo. Running back Fred Jackson said Wednesday that Whitner will “never get my respect” for what Jackson felt was talking down to people in Buffalo and in the organization.

“That’s just him being him,” Jackson said, via ESPN.com. “Donte is a guy that likes to ruffle feathers. He found any way he could to try and ruffle Buffalo’s feathers, knowing he had to come up to us. It’s just dumb for him to do, and talk about people like that, and talk about the city of Buffalo like that. But at the same time, you’ve just got to take it with a grain of salt and say it’s just some dude that’s being an idiot about some stuff.”

Whitner said he’s expecting a chilly reception from the fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium, but that he doesn’t care about hurting feelings if it might help the Browns win a game.

“[The Toronto Bills comment] wasn’t excessive. It wasn’t a joke. I knew that it would get to them. I knew it would ruffle a feather. If they’re over there talking about this, maybe we are in their heads. Maybe I’m in their heads. Maybe. We don’t know, but the goal is to go 1-0, the goal is to get them talking about things other than football, and I guess that’s what they’re doing.”

Whitner and Jackson should meet up at some point when Jackson gets hold of the ball and it will be interesting to see whose feathers are the most ruffled on the other side of a collision.

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Zach Mettenberger sends himself to selfie rehab

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger made a rookie mistake by drawing too much attention to himself on social media before his first start, and incurred the wrath of Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

But Mettenberger said he’s gone cold turkey on taking selfies, in hopes of keeping a lower profile.

“I was just addicted to it I guess. I put myself in a rehab program,” Mettenberger said, via Jim Wyatt of the Tennesseean. “And now that I’ve quit I feel like I am a much better person.”

Watt criticized Mettenberger for it after the game, and had his own selfie sack celebration during.

“It’s just kind of a reminder, this is the National Football League, not high school. Welcome to the show,” Watt said then. “I just, I take my job very seriously. If I was a rookie quarterback being named the starter for the first time in the league, I feel like I’d be a little bit more focused than that. Maybe he’ll learn from it, maybe not. We won the game, so that’s all that matters.”

On a conference call this week, Watt said he was surprised it got so much attention.

“I think that definitely got blown up more than I expected it to be. I guess I should have expected it with today’s world, but somebody asked me a question after the game and I answered it,” Watt said. “That’s all there was to it. It’s football.”

Of course, Mettenberger might want to win a game before sending out any more selfies, since he hasn’t done that yet as a starter either.

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Josh Gordon on suspension: Lowest point was disassociation from teammates

Josh Gordon, Greg Little AP

Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon looked like he hadn’t missed a beat during his 10-game suspension during last Sunday’s game against the Falcons.

Gordon caught eight passes for 120 yards to help the Browns improve to 7-4 with a 26-24 victory, but the time during his suspension wasn’t as smooth as his return to the field. Gordon spoke to former Browns teammate Nate Burleson for NFL Network about feeling alienated from his teammates during the ban he received for violations of the substance-abuse and personal conduct policies.

“The lowest point of all this I think was the disassociation from a lot of friends you thought were close or you thought you were kind of cool with really not checking on you anymore, [not] hitting you up anymore, [not] wanting to hang out,” Gordon said, via the Akron Beacon Journal. “As far as even people in here [with the Browns]. I don’t want to throw names around but I can see it. I’m definitely really observant so I see how people might just be more standoffish as they were before. It’s kind of like a disease. People they want to see it but they don’t really want to touch it.”

Gordon’s description of the limbo he found himself in for the first 10 games of the season sounded right to coach Mike Pettine, who called it an “uncomfortable” situation that left players who are suspended or injured on the outside looking in at the rest of the team. Pettine added that he thought any of what Gordon felt was a product of the circumstances and not anyone’s feelings about Gordon.

“Knowing the quality of the people in this building, I doubt there would be any overt maliciousness or, basically, just what’s being described,” Pettine said. “I know Josh is well liked by his teammates.  He’s certainly well-liked by the coaching staff and he’s come a long way.”

The comparison to an injured player seems like an apt one based on the way players knocked out for the season have described their experiences. Gordon was healthy and in meetings, but he wasn’t part of the team for practice or games and that’s going to make for the uncomfortable moments that Pettine mentioned. As long as everyone feels comfortable now, and it looked like Gordon did, all should be well on that front.

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No fine for Lynch’s “yeah”-filled press conference

Lynch Getty Images

Two Sundays ago, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch avoided reporters.  He was fined $100,000 for the infraction.

This past Sunday, Lynch talked to reporters, primarily by repeatedly saying “yeah,” even in response to questions that didn’t call for a yes/no answer.

So will the NFL fine Lynch for failing to comply with the spirit of the media policy?  Nope.

Per a league source, Lynch hasn’t been fined for his latest shenanigans.  It’s likely, however, that the league won’t tolerate that approach on a regular basis.

After Texans running back Arian Foster repeatedly said that he’s just trying to be a good teammate during a session with reporters, the NFL warned him that he could be fined if he engages in similar shenanigans in the future.  So if Lynch opts for “yeah” as a standard response to reporter questions, the NFL eventually will say “yeah” when asked if Lynch has been fined.

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Josh Brent not expected to play this week

Josh Brent AP

Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent is listed as probable on the team’s injury report with a calf injury, but it doesn’t sound like that will be enough to get him a spot on Thursday’s 46-man roster.

The Cowboys placed defensive lineman Jack Crawford on injured reserve Wednesday, but coach Jason Garrett indicated defensive tackle Terrell McClain would play after joining Brent on the inactive list last weekend. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli sent a similar message about Brent’s chances of facing the Eagles.

“He’s coming along fineS,” Marinelli said, via the Dallas Morning News. “It’s just that we have some guys who are playing pretty well for us right now, too. So we’ll keep you updated when we feel he’s ready to go and I’ll alert you.”

Wide receiver Terrence Williams is also probable after hurting his finger against the Giants and practicing in full on Friday.

Cornerback Tyler Patmon is out with a knee injury, linebacker Dekoda Watson is out with a hamstring injury and safety Jeff Heath is doubtful after having thumb surgery earlier this week. Crawford also had thumb surgery and the team promoted linebacker Keith Smith from the practice squad to fill his spot on the roster.

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