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Jets escape with a win behind Greg McElroy

New York Jets' McElroy celebrates after he threw touchdown pass against Arizona Cardinals in NFL game in East Rutherford

If the Jets had been playing just about any team other than the Cardinals, there probably wouldn’t have been a happy ending to Mark Sanchez’s benching.

His three interceptions and inability to put points on the board against Arizona forced coach Rex Ryan to do what many have been calling for him to do all season. Greg McElroy promptly came in, led the Jets on a 69-yard touchdown and threw himself into the mix for the starting quarterback job in the weeks to come. He handled himself well enough on Sunday, thanks in part to an interception wiped out by an illegal contact penalty, and the Jets might as well see what he can do with a full week of practice since they can’t just turn back to Sanchez.

McElroy finished the game 5-of-7 for 29 yards and a touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland. That was the only touchdown in a 7-6 Jets win that featured some truly terrible offensive football. Sanchez probably wasn’t even the worst quarterback on the field. Ryan Lindley was 10-of-31 for 72 yards and, frankly, those numbers make his day sound better than it was. The Cardinals had plenty of chances and couldn’t capitalize on a single one behind a quarterback whose presence in the lineup remains hard to understand. The Cardinals failed to convert any of their 15 third-down opportunities and picked up 137 overall.

The Jets did get some good work late from Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell, allowing them to grind out the clock in the fourth quarter with their slim lead. The win moves them to 5-7, but its real significance is that it moves them past the point where Sanchez was just the answer at quarterback. The door is wide open now and McElroy might be the first guy to get a chance to walk through it.

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Nick Foles still not ready to take a hit, but healing well

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It’s hardly a surprise that as Mark Sanchez again looked entirely comfortable under center for the Eagles, the guy he replaced starts feeling better.

According to Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News, a source close to Foles said he was “healing as expected” from his broken collarbone.

Foles isn’t ready to take a hit yet, but the results of a recent CT scan showed he can start ramping up his strengthening work.

The timetable for his return remains uncertain, but if Sanchez continues to play capably, as he has most of the time he’s been starting, there will be less incentive to push Foles before he’s completely healed.

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Trent Williams “definitely optimistic” about getting back this week

Washington Redskins v New York Giants Getty Images

While the quarterback position has made it impossible to get a read on the offense as a whole lately, they’re getting another part back this week which should help.

Left tackle Trent Williams said he was “definitely optimistic,” he’ll be ready to go when his team travels to Indianapolis Sunday.

“I’m not expecting it to be 100 percent, but as long as I can be effective, [I’ll play],” Williams said, via Zac Boyer of the Washington Times.

Williams missed last week’s loss to the 49ers with a sprained MCL, suffered the week before against the Buccaneers. But he got through a full practice Thursday and seemed optimistic about his prospects.

Having him back on the field should help Colt McCoy, as rookie Morgan Moses looked overmatched there against the 49ers.

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Tony Romo: I promise I’ll be better next week

Tony Romo AP

The Cowboys fell down early to the Eagles on Thursday afternoon and never really climbed back into a game that wound up as a 33-10 loss that knocked them out of first place in the NFC East.

As owner Jerry Jones pointed out after the game, the Eagles controlled the line of scrimmage as their offensive and defensive lines won battles and set the tone for the day. That left quarterback Tony Romo under pressure and he responded with a pair of interceptions in perhaps his poorest performance of the season.

Romo said that it was difficult making a quick turnaround from Sunday night, but that there were “no excuses” for the way that he or his teammates played against the Eagles.

“We should have been better,” Romo said, via the Dallas Morning News. “I should have been better. And I am going to play much better next week, I can promise you that.”

After watching Matthew Stafford and the Lions get right offensively against the Bears on Thursday, that’s a promise Romo would seem to have a good chance of keeping. The Cowboys will still need to figure out a better approach against the Eagles, though, because Week 15 is fast approaching.

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Dez Bryant thinks Eagles were “kinda cheap” on Thursday

Bryant AP

Two of the three Thanksgiving games featured division rivals who’ll play twice in the next three weeks.  In both cases, the home team lost — and will go on the road for a rematch on December 14.

Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant is looking forward to the return date with the Eagles.

“They were being kinda cheap, that’s another story,” Bryant said after the game, via CBS Philly.  “It is what it is, I’ll get it cleaned up and I’ll be fine.”

Bryant may have been referring to multiple instances of interference.  Or possibly to the busted lip he had after the game.  Either way, he sounds mad.

“I’m really not mad at all,” Bryant said.  “They beat us and I’m going to accept that. . . .  [I’m] not looking past Chicago, but I cannot wait to go up there and play [Philadelphia] again, cannot wait.”

It’s very important to not look past the Bears.  If in six days the Cowboys lose at Soldier Field — where they were blown out last December — the regression to 8-8 will be in full gear.  Lose to the Bears and then in Philly, the Cowboys will need to beat the Colts or Washington to avoid a fourth straight .500 finish.

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Another week, another injury concern on the Panthers offensive line

Amini Silatolu AP

The Panthers return from their bye week to face the Vikings on Sunday, but their week off hasn’t done anything to stop the season-long issues with injury on their offensive line.

Amini Silatolu was a full participant in practice on Wednesday before missing practice on Thursday with a knee problem. Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer reports he’s out on Friday as well.

Silatolu, who tore his ACL last year and missed the team’s loss to Atlanta before the bye because of swelling and soreness in his knee, has played guard in Carolina, but was expected to make the move to right tackle this week now that the Panthers have lost Nate Chandler for the season.

Chris Scott and Mike Remmers are other options at right tackle for the Panthers in the event that Silatolu misses another game. Center Ryan Kalil has been the only member of the offensive line to start every game this season, which is one of the leading reasons why this season hasn’t gone according to plan in Carolina.

While things have gone off course on the way to a 3-7-1 record, the Panthers are very much alive in the NFC South as they embark on the final five games of their schedule. There’s not much reason to believe the offensive line is going to suddenly become a strength, but the Panthers will get a few more chances to successfully work around it before hope of a playoff berth is officially extinguished.

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Patriots release Don Jones

Cincinnati Bengals v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Patriots found a spot on the roster for safety Don Jones against the Lions last week after making him a healthy scratch in Week 11, but Jones didn’t have the same luck this week.

The team announced that they have released Jones, who has played in nine of their first 11 games this season. Jones, who gave up his No. 29 to LeGarrette Blount when the running back returned to New England, saw most of his time on special teams and recorded six tackles.

Jones was a seventh-round pick of the Dolphins in 2013 and played in all 16 games with the team as a rookie. He was with the team through the end of the preseason, although he did serve a brief suspension and underwent sensitivity training mandated by Miami after Jones made some Twitter remarks concerning Michael Sam during this year’s draft.

The Patriots didn’t immediately fill the roster spot and could bring Jones back to the practice squad if they are so inclined.

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Packers defenders readying for chess match with Patriots

Casey Hayward AP

The Packers and Patriots will square off at Lambeau Field on Sunday and the Packers Defense is preparing for as tough a test as they’ve faced this season.

With tight end Rob Gronkowski back to full speed, the Patriots Offense has taken flight during their seven-game winning streak. They are averaging more than 39 points per game and forcing defenses to pick their poison as they take advantage of favorable matchups from week to week.

The Packers know that they will need to pressure Tom Brady and bring Gronkowski down when he does make a catch, but, ultimately, cornerback Tramon Williams says that Green Bay’s chances will come down to their ability to adapt to whatever area the Patriots try to attack.

“That’s been their MO,” Williams said, via the team’s website. “They find different ways to attack different teams. You never know what it’s going to be from week to week. That’s the chess match, and that’s what the great teams do. They play chess. It isn’t a checkers game. Hopefully we can go out and play chess a little bit, too.”

Recognizing what it takes to slow down the Patriots is a far different thing than actually doing it once the ball is snapped, but the Packers are on the right track when it comes to knowing that they’ll need to be adaptable. It’s something that has been a hallmark of the New England offense this season and any Packers win will require their defense to have the same approach.

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Griffin’s departure from starting lineup could be temporary

Griffin Getty Images

When the decision to start quarterback Colt McCoy was coupled with a suggestion that Robert Griffin III remained part of Washington’s long-term plans, plenty scoffed.  How, after all, can the team bench Griffin for the second time in less than a year and then embrace him all over again?

Apparently, they can.  Quite possibly, they will.

Griffin’s absence from the starting lineup could be as short as one week, and it could last until the start of next season.  Either way, the plan is to try to get Griffin back to being the player he was in 2012, when he took the league by storm (and kept defenses off balance) with a perfect mixture of accurate passing and explosive running ability.

The organization understands that Griffin has encountered a significant amount of adversity, most of which was beyond his control.  Weeks before he arrived, the NFL robbed the team of $36 million in cap space for treating the uncapped year of 2010 as, you know, uncapped.  And the draft picks given up to get Griffin made it harder to put high-level young talent around him.

Throw in the torn ACL, last year’s Shanahan-driven dysfunction, and a dislocated ankle that derailed his ability to learn coach Jay Gruden’s offense, and Griffin’s failure to develop into one of the best quarterbacks in the game becomes far more understandable.

It doesn’t mean Griffin is destined to return to what he was in 2012.  But the organization isn’t ready to give up on him.

In that regard, the organization includes coach Jay Gruden.  While his words suggest that Gruden is waging a battle to bench Griffin for good, the team believes Gruden wants Griffin to get better — and that Gruden is opting for candor instead of coddling as he tries to coax the most out of Griffin over the long haul.

By the start of the 2015 season, Washington’s roster could look a lot different.  Considerable dollars will be spent in free agency.  The first-round draft pick won’t belong to the Rams.  And some of the players who have kept the team from being successful will be gone.

Despite the current feeding frenzy fueled by common sense and conventional wisdom that Griffin will be among the former members of the team by next season, the plan really is to keep him around.  Surprisingly, that doesn’t seem to be a ploy to salvage his trade value.

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Seahawks still have Kaepernick’s number

kaepseahawks AP

Colin Kaepernick struggled against the Seahawks on Thursday night. As usual.

In Seattle’s 19-3 Thanksgiving night win at San Francisco, Richard Sherman picked off Kaepernick twice and the 49ers’ offense never got into the end zone. In fact, the 49ers only got into the red zone once, and on their one and only red-zone play, Kaepernick was sacked and the 49ers were pushed back out of the red zone.

That kind of game has become commonplace for Kaepernick against Seattle. In Kaepernick’s five starts against the Seahawks (counting the playoffs) he has completed 77 of 146 passes for 820 yards, with three touchdowns and nine interceptions. The 49ers have lost four of those five games.

That’s a far cry from Kaepernick’s numbers in the rest of his career: When not facing Seattle, Kaepernick has completed 629 of 1,031 passes for 8,336 yards, with 50 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Kaepernick has never thrown more than one touchdown pass in a game against the Seahawks but has thrown more than one touchdown 14 different times against other teams. On the other hand, Kaepernick has only thrown more than one interception in a game four times. Three of those four were against Seattle.

The 49ers will need Kaepernick to figure out Seattle’s defense in a hurry. The teams meet again in Seattle on December 14, in a game that looks like a must-win for the 49ers.

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Fans flood former Bills linebacker Darryl Talley with contributions

Talley Getty Images

On Thanksgiving, Tim Graham of the Buffalo News shared a troubling glimpse into the current struggles of former NFL linebacker Darryl Talley, a member of the Bills’ Ring of Honor and a key piece of the team that went to four straight Super Bowls.  While it appears the Bills organization may have turned its back on Talley, Bills fans definitely haven’t.

An effort launched Thursday to raise money for Talley, a College Football Hall of Famer who starred at West Virginia before playing for the Bills, already has generated more than $27,000.

On one hand, the NFL and its teams need to do more to take care of the men who struggle with medical and financial issues after giving so many years to the sport of football.  On the other hand, fans could be the best way to fill the void.

It’s not surprising that fans have genuine gratitude; any success a team enjoys flows from the efforts of its players.  While the NFL surely believes it’s doing enough to take care of the men who made pro football into a billion-dollar behemoth, someone needs to do more for Talley.  Now, someone is.

Kudos to those who have contributed.  For Bills fans, Mountaineer fans, and general fans of the sport who haven’t given but want to, just click the link.

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Jadeveon Clowney calls chances of playing this week “slim”

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney’s rookie year has been severely compromised by the torn meniscus in his knee that he suffered in the first week of the regular season and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to his difficulties.

Clowney was able to play in last weekend’s loss to the Bengals, but hasn’t practiced this week because of swelling and doesn’t think things will clear up in time for him to face the Titans on Sunday. He said Thursday that his chances of playing for the fifth time this season are “slim.”

“My knee swelled up on me a little bit, and I’m trying to get it back to the way it was before,” Clowney said, via the Houston Chronicle. “It’s bothering me a lot right now. I’m in a lot of pain. It’s been bothering me off and on the whole season. It’s the kind of thing if I can go, I’ll go. If I can’t, I won’t. I told them [trainers, doctors and coaches] how I feel, and it’s up to them.”

Clowney has solicited the advice of Brian Cushing about dealing with knee problems and Cushing showed him some stretches that loosened the knee up enough for him to play last weekend. It seems more lasting health is going to take a while, however, and that’s probably going to make the first overall pick’s rookie season a glorified redshirt year.

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Baalke’s daughter chimes in on Greg Roman

Roman Getty Images

Tick.  Tick.  Tick.

The boom is coming; it’s just a matter of time.  And the countdown arguably accelerated after Thursday night’s loss, when the owner’s decision to take to Twitter was matched by the daughter of 49ers G.M. Trent Baalke.  Said Cassie Baalke, a college freshman, about the team’s offensive coordinator:  “Greg Roman can take a hike. The 49ers don’t want you no more.”

49ersnews.com has the screen shot of the deleted tweet.  She later added this message:  “Everyone’s entitled to an opinion..sorry mine doesn’t favor you or agree with yours.”

The real question is whether and to what extent that opinion was influenced by anything she’s heard from her father.  It’s also fair to ask whether this relatively meaningless spark will blow the lid off the relationship between Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh, who brought Roman to the 49ers from Stanford and who has plenty of influence over the currently uncoordinated offense that Roman coordinates.

For whatever reason (and probably for more than one reason), tension has existed for a while between Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh.  A recent profile of Harbaugh by Seth Wickersham of ESPN The Magazine mentioned the painfully awkward shared elevator ride at the Scouting Combine, where the two supposed partners in football behaved like total strangers.  And as one league source explained it to PFT in August, no interaction of any kind was witnessed between Harbaugh and Baalke during a multi-day preseason stay in Baltimore for a game and joint practices with the Ravens.

So could Cassie Baalke’s deleted tweet become the equivalent of Gavrilo Princip’s bullet?  While there’s a good chance Archduke Ferdinand already has been dead for months, it’s the kind of tangible event that could trigger the kind of snide back and forth between G.M. and coach that turns a crack into a compound fracture.

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Larry Fitzgerald: I’m “highly likely” to play on Sunday

Detroit Lions v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Cardinals played and lost without wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald last Sunday and they haven’t had him in practice yet this week, but the wideout isn’t ruling himself out for this week’s matchup with the Falcons.

Quite the opposite, actually. Fitzgerald worked out on the side while the rest of the team went through practice and said afterward that he was feeling optimistic about his chances of being on the field in Atlanta.

“I’m highly likely, but it’s not my call, though,” Fitzgerald said, via the Arizona Republic.

Fitzgerald said he was running fine and offered his weekly paycheck to race a member of the media to prove it. The offer was declined even after Fitzgerald pointed out the potential upside for his opponent, but we’ll have to wait to see if coach Bruce Arians and the medical staff are willing to take the bait.

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Friday morning one-liners

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

The Bills hope Marcus Thigpen is the answer to sparking their kick return game.

It didn’t get the attention of Odell Beckham’s catch, but Dolphins CB Brent Grimes had an athletic interception last week.

Patriots S Devin McCourty isn’t expecting too many takeaways this week.

S Jaiquawn Jarrett has been responsible for highs and lows this Jets season.

Ravens DE Chris Canty, the team’s union rep, is saddened by continued discord between the NFL and NFLPA.

Going on the road has paid off for the Bengals.

Browns LT Joe Thomas thinks this year’s team is better than the last Cleveland team to finish with a winning record.

Setting the stage for the final five weeks of the Steelers season.

Tom Savage will be the backup quarterback for the Texans this week.

Colts LB Shaun Phillips has no bad feelings about his time with the Titans.

DE Andre Branch is expected back for the Jaguars.

The Titans may be awfully shorthanded on the offensive line this weekend.

The Broncos haven’t won a road game this season when their opponent gets on the board first.

The Chiefs are holding a blood drive this week.

Spreading Thanksgiving cheer was part of the Raiders’ plan for the week.

The Chargers’ hurry-up offense showed improvement last weekend.

Cowboys WR Dwayne Harris took issue with a personal foul call against him.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin will face the team that gave him his first chance as an NFL head coach in his 300th game in the job.

It’s now a 6-0 record on Thanksgiving for the Eagles.

The Redskins won’t look outside the organization for immediate help at cornerback.

Another loss leads to more questions about the Bears.

The Lions secondary found its footing after a rough start to Thursday’s game.

It looks like Mike Neal and Jayrone Elliott will be at outside linebacker in place of Nick Perry for the Packers this weekend.

T Mike Harris is excited about his opportunity in the Vikings starting lineup.

The thoughts of Falcons G Jon Asamoah and CB Javier Arenas are with their former Chiefs teammate Eric Berry.

Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin isn’t worried about hitting a rookie wall.

Some suggestions for an improved mental approach for the Saints.

Buccaneers LB Mason Foster feels he’s back on form after a shoulder injury.

Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson is looking forward to tangling with Falcons WR Julio Jones.

Rams G Rodger Saffold is preparing to face a Raiders team it looked like he’d be joining this offseason.

Said 49ers WR Michael Crabtree, “Everybody’s a football player. We’ve been here. We’ve been the best team the past three years and we lost Super Bowls and lost big playoff games. We’ve been here before. We got to do better. That’s it. That’s it, man.”

What did we learn about the Seahawks during Thursday night’s win?

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Jim Harbaugh: We always evaluate offense, we’ll do it again

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

In the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, the 49ers managed to score 33 points in games against a pair of NFC East bottom feeders but avoided generating much of an alarm because they were able to win both games.

They are now up to 36 points in their last three games and the alarms are sounding because they both lost and lost to the Seahawks on Thursday as a result of their low-functioning offensive unit. 49ers CEO Jed York said the team’s play was “not acceptable” and quarterback Colin Kaepernick agreed with that assessment while coach Jim Harbaugh said that the team needs to win all four of it’s remaining games to make the playoffs.

Harbaugh’s likely correct and he was asked if there needed to be a deeper evaluation of or major changes to the offense in the wake of things hitting rock bottom against the Seahawks in order for that to happen.

“We always do that. We’ll do that again. We’ll evaluate it. I don’t know what you refer to with major changes,” Harbaugh said, via the San Jose Mercury News.

It’s a bit late in the game to be making major changes to the offense for this season and there aren’t a lot of people feeling confident that Harbaugh will be the guy overseeing those changes when they are made come the offseason.

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