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As playoff race heats up, Giants stay ahead of Redskins, Cowboys

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Everyone in the NFC East won on Sunday, which means the race for the division race didn’t change. And that’s good news for the Giants.

On the strength of their win over the Saints, the Giants improved to 8-5 and stayed a game ahead of the Redskins and Cowboys, who both won to improve to 7-6. With only three weeks left, the Redskins and Cowboys are running out of time to catch the Giants. But if they keep winning, the Redskins and Cowboys will at least be in the playoff mix when they meet each other in Week 17.

In the AFC, the Ravens tried and failed to clinch a playoff berth for the second straight week: Baltimore is on a two-game losing streak, but the Ravens remain the favorites to win the AFC North, thanks to the Steelers and Bengals both losing on Sunday as well.

Below we provide the state of the playoff race, with the six playoff teams that would be in the postseason in each conference if the playoffs started today.


1. Falcons (11-2): Despite losing at Carolina on Sunday, the Falcons remain the favorites to earn home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

2. 49ers (9-3-1): San Francisco probably won’t catch Atlanta, but the 49ers remain poised to earn a first-round playoff bye.

3. Packers (9-4): Beating the Lions while the Bears lost to the Vikings put the Packers in command of the NFC North.

4. Giants (8-5): New York stays ahead in the NFC East race.

5. Seahawks (8-5): Sunday’s blowout win over the Cardinals makes Seattle look like a safe bet to earn one of the NFC’s two wild card berths.

6. Bears (8-5): Chicago is in free fall, having lost four of five. It doesn’t get any easier next week, when the Packers come to town.

In the mix: The 7-6 Redskins, 7-6 Cowboys and 7-6 Vikings all have a shot, while the 6-6-1 Rams are staying alive but probably have too much ground to make up and not enough time to do it.


1. Texans (11-1): Even if they lose to the Patriots on Monday night, the Texans will have the inside track for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

2. Broncos (10-3): At the moment, the Broncos are half a game ahead of the Patriots in the race for a first-round playoff bye.

3. Patriots (9-3): If they beat the Texans, the Patriots will move ahead of the Broncos on the strength of New England’s head-to-head tiebreaker edge over Denver.

4. Ravens (9-4): Baltimore’s two-game losing streak has dimmed its hopes of earning home-field advantage in the playoffs.

5. Colts (9-4): Indianapolis hasn’t actually clinched, but there are very few scenarios left under which the Colts don’t get to the playoffs.

6. Steelers (7-6): Pittsburgh still gets in based on the head-to-head tiebreaker edge over Cincinnati.

In the mix: The 7-6 Bengals’ playoff hopes took a hit with a loss to Dallas, but if they beat the Steelers in Week 16, the Bengals will probably get to the playoffs. The 6-7 Jets are, amazingly, still in the playoff hunt, but they’re a long shot.

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Jon Gruden may be the Raiders’ target as their next head coach

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The Raiders have fired head coach Dennis Allen, and there’s one man Raiders owner Mark Davis would love to hire next: Jon Gruden.

Gruden coached the Raiders from from 1998 to 2001 and then beat the Raiders in the Super Bowl after Davis’s father, the late Raiders owner Al Davis, traded him to the Buccaneers. Gruden has long been viewed as the first choice for Mark Davis as the person who could come back and turn the franchise around.

But it remains to be seen whether Gruden is interested in the job. Publicly, Gruden has always insisted that he loves working as a commentator and has a contract that ties him to ESPN for years to come. But few people believe Gruden would turn down the right opportunity to return to coaching.

The question, then, is whether he views Oakland as the right opportunity. Given the current state of the franchise, which hasn’t made the playoffs since Gruden beat them in the Super Bowl after the 2002 season, Gruden may have no interest. But if Davis were to offer Gruden significantly more money than ESPN is paying him, and offer Gruden the authority to oversee the personnel department and pick his own players, it could pique Gruden’s interest. Don’t be surprised if Davis makes a run at Gruden.

And if Gruden says no, Jim Harbaugh’s name is being floated. This could get fun.

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Arrowhead Stadium takes back its noise record

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The Seahawks and Chiefs are no longer division rivals, but they do keep going back and forth at each other.

Via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star, the Chiefs took back the record for loudest outdoor stadium during last night’s thrashing of the Patriots.

A representative from Guinness confirmed that Arrowhead Stadium reached 142.2 decibels, surpassing the previous record of 137.6 set at Seattle last season.

The Seahawks broke the previous record of 137.5 set by the Chiefs against the Raiders.

We have the feeling these two are going to be yelling at each for years to come.

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Bill Belichick scoffs at questions about quarterback change

Tom Brady AP

The Patriots have a lot of problems at the moment.

But they do not, as you might suspect, have a quarterback controversy.

After his team took a 41-14 thrashing from the Chiefs, coach Bill Belichick answered a lot of questions.

But he didn’t have to answer the one about whether the quarterback position would be evaluated this week, after he pulled Tom Brady and let rookie Jimmy Garoppolo finish up.

According to Phil Perry of, Belichick “was dismissive, chuckling briefly, at the question.”

That’s a reasonable response considering it’s Tom F. Brady, but the Patriots offense was a mess all night.

And Garoppolo was sharp, going 6-for-7 for 70 yards and a touchdown to Rob Gronkowski. It was nice outing, even if it started down 41-7.

Meanwhile, Brady turned it over three times, and passed for 159 yards.

Asked whether playing the rookie was “performance-related to Tom or skill-related,” Belichick said: “We played everybody tonight.”

“I think our team competed,” he said. “I thought we competed there at the end. That’s what they should do.”

It was just hard to tell for most of the night.

“We need to do everything better offensively,” Belichick said. “We had like five first downs in the first half or something like that? We did a lot of things wrong. And we turned the ball over in the second half. Pretty much we need to do everything better.”

But don’t doubt they’re going to do it with Brady, lest you be scoffed at.

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Report: Tony Sparano won’t be Raiders interim coach

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In the wake of the firing of head coach Dennis Allen Monday night, one of the most logical choices for an interim replacement was assistant head coach and offensive line coach Tony Sparano.

Sparano served four years as head coach of the Miami Dolphins from 2008-2011 and has the most recent head coaching experience of any member of the Raiders coaching staff.

But according to Fallon Smith of, Sparano will not be the interim head coach of the Raiders.

Only two other coaches currently on staff would seem to be viable options – offensive coordinator Greg Olson and senior offensive assistant Al Saunders.

Saunders served as head coach of the San Diego Chargers from 1986-1988 and had the title of assistant head coach while coaching in Kansas City, St. Louis and Washington.

Olson was the assistant head coach in Jacksonville in 2012 and has been an offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions (2004-2005), St. Louis Rams (2006-2007), and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2008-2011).

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Allen’s firing 23rd permanent in-season coaching change since 2000

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The firing of Raiders coach Dennis Allen marks the 23rd time an NFL club has changed coaches in-season for reasons of resignation or termination since 2000.

Of the 22 interim coaches in this span, eight went on to earn the club’s full-time head-coaching job the next season. This includes the Raiders’ Tom Cable, who took over for Lane Kiffin in 2008, then went on to coach Oakland through 2010.

Overall, interim head coaches replacing a departed predecessor are a combined 48-81 since 2000 (.372). That’s an improvement over the combined record of the coaches who preceded them. Including Allen’s 0-4 mark with Oakland this season, coaches fired or leaving on their own accord during the season are 65-162 before their severance (.286).

Here’s the list of interim coaches since 2000. Coaches who were eventually awarded the full-time job are bolded. Coaching records are from NFL and Pro Football Reference records:

2000 (4)
Cincinnati Bengals: Dick LeBeau. Record: 4-9.
Arizona Cardinals: Dave McGinnis. Record: 1-8.
Detroit Lions: Gary Moeller. Record: 4-3.
Washington Redskins: Terry Robiskie. Record: 1-2.

2001 (1)
Minnesota Vikings: Mike Tice. Record: 0-1.                                               

2003 (1)
Atlanta Falcons: Wade Phillips. Record: 2-1.

2004 (2)
Cleveland Browns: Terry Robiskie. Record: 1-4
Miami Dolphins: Jim Bates. Record: 3-4.

2005 (1)
Detroit Lions: Dick Jauron. Record: 1-4.

2007 (1)
Atlanta Falcons: Emmitt Thomas. Record: 1-2.

2008 (3)
Oakland Raiders: Tom Cable. Record: 4-8.
San Francisco 49ers: Mike Singletary. Record: 5-4.
St. Louis Rams: Jim Haslett. Record: 2-10.

2009 (1)
Buffalo Bills: Perry Fewell. Record: 3-4.

2010 (4)
Denver Broncos: Eric Studesville. Record: 1-3.
Minnesota Vikings: Leslie Frazier. Record: 3-3.
San Francisco 49ers: Jim Tomsula. Record: 1-0.
Dallas Cowboys: Jason Garrett. Record: 5-3.

2011 (3)
Jacksonville Jaguars: Mel Tucker. Record: 2-3.
Miami Dolphins: Todd Bowles. Record: 2-1.
Kansas City Chiefs: Romeo Crennel. Record: 2-1.

2013 (1)
Houston Texans: Wade Phillips. Record: 0-3.

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Report: Dennis Allen fired by Raiders

Dennis Allen AP

Dennis Allen’s time as head coach of the Oakland Raiders appeared to be running short after the Raiders fell to 0-4 with a 38-14 loss in London against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Now that hourglass has run out of sand.

According to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports, the Raiders have informed Allen he has been terminated as head coach of the Raiders.

Terry Collins of the Associated Press initially reported Sunday evening that Allen had been fired before deleting the report and issuing an apology. Whether the wheels were already in motion then or if it took until Monday evening for a decision to be made is unclear.

Allen won just eight games in just over two seasons as head coach of the Raiders. It would seem likely that Tony Sparano would take over as head coach on an interim basis.

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Jamaal Charles, Alex Smith lead Chiefs to 41-14 rout of Patriots

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The Kansas City Chiefs steamrolled to a 41-14 victory over the New England Patriots on Monday night.

The Patriots defense could do nothing to slow the Chiefs offense and Tom Brady posted one of the worst starts of his stellar career.

Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis led the Chiefs to 207 rushing yards and Alex Smith passed for 248 yards and three touchdowns as the Chiefs (2-2) posted a dominant showing against New England.

After missing last week due to an ankle sprain, Charles return to the lineup was a boost for the Kansas City offense. Charles scored a rushing touchdown and two receiving touchdowns for the Chiefs.

Smith tossed two scores to Charles and a third to Travis Kelce in posting a 144.4 passer rating on the night.

Meanwhile, the Patriots (2-2) looked disjointed all night. New England’s offense line couldn’t open holes in the running game and Brady was hurried frequently by a strong Kansas City pass rush.

Brady completed 14 of 23 passes for 159 yards with one touchdown with two interceptions – one returned 39 yards for a touchdown by Husain Abdullah. He also fumbled possession to Kansas City following a sack by Tamba Hali. Brady posted a passer rating of just 59.9 Monday night. It was just the 18th time in 195 regular season starts that Brady was held to a passer rating under 60.

The 27 point defeat was the second largest of Brady’s career, behind only a 31-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 7, 2003.

Brady was lifted following his second interception for rookie Jimmy Garappolo.

Garoppolo led one touchdown drive that culminated with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski. Garoppolo finished 6 of 7 for 70 yards and a touchdown.

Brandon LaFell was one of the few strong performers for the Patriots. He finished with six catches for 119 yards and a 44-yard touchdown reception.

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Rex Ryan “confident” Dee Milliner will play in Week Five

Dee Milliner AP

For the time being, the Jets are hanging around the fringes of the AFC East race.

And it appears they will be getting one of their top cornerbacks back for Sunday’s game at San Diego.

Second-year pro Dee Milliner, who has missed 3-of-4 games this season because of injury, is expected to play in Week Five, coach Rex Ryan said Monday.

“Milliner, we will just see how he is. I know there will be a pre-practice evaluation on him on Wednesday. But I am confident he will be ready to play this week,” Ryan said, according to an interview transcript from the club.

A first-round pick in 2013, Milliner notched 56 tackles, defended 17 passes and intercepted three passes as a rookie. Even more was expected of him this season, especially after the club parted ways with Antonio Cromartie and didn’t add any marquee cornerback help in free agency or the draft.

And there would be no better time than now for Milliner to return to action while building on his rookie campaign. The Jets, who are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, have the tall order of matching up with the Chargers’ versatile and potent passing game next Sunday.

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AEG seeks six-month extension of Farmers Field agreement

Handout of architectural firm Gensler's artist rendering showing the proposed Farmers Field stadium and event center Reuters

As the NFL privately claims that a return to Los Angeles is coming sooner than later, one of the companies hoping to build an L.A. stadium hopes to expand a soon-to-be-expiring window for doing so.

AEG has announced that it is seeking a six-month extension to an agreement with the City of Los Angeles regarding the construction of the venue that already is known as Farmers Field.  The current deal expires on October 18.

“We have resumed discussions with the NFL and, while much remains to be done before a deal could come together, we remain committed to this project,” AEG president and CEO Dan Beckerman said.  “In light of the positive tone of recent conversations, we feel it would be productive to continue this dialogue while at the same time further exploring alternative plans with the City.”

AEG hopes to build a downtown stadium, at the L.A. LIVE complex.  Rams owner Stan Kroenke has acquired acreage at Hollywood Park, another potential location for an NFL stadium.

The Raiders, Rams, and Chargers are among the teams that could relocate to Los Angeles.  It’s possible that L.A. eventually will have two teams, like it last did 20 years ago, right before the Raiders and Rams left town.

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Bridgewater doesn’t practice on Monday

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Despite positive news via X-rays and MRIs, Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s sprained ankle kept him from practicing on Monday, three days before the Vikings face the Packers on Thursday Night Football.

Many teams playing on a short week don’t practice on Monday, submitting instead an estimation of who would and wouldn’t have practiced.  For the Vikings, the report includes no such disclaimer, which means that practiced without their starting quarterback.

Which explains the decision to add Chandler Harnish to the practice squad along with McLeod Bethel-Thompson, which gave the Vikings three quarterbacks on Monday.

Also missing practice on Monday were linebacker Chad Greenway (hand, rib), cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (illness), and tight end Kyle Rudolph (abdomen, groin).  Running back Jerick McKinnon (ankle) and cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring) participated on a limited basis.

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Chiefs survive Andy Reid’s clock management before halftime

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In all his years as a head coach, Andy Reid still hasn’t quite figured out clock management.

That was on display at the end of the first half tonight in Kansas City, where the Chiefs narrowly avoided paying dearly for a clock management blunder against the Patriots. As the Chiefs drove deep into Patriots territory with time running out, they wasted several seconds before finally calling their final timeout with eight seconds left. Then, instead of throwing deep into the end zone, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith threw a pass short of the goal line, and Dwayne Bowe was tackled inbounds. The clock would have run out on the play if not for a penalty on the Patriots on the play.

Fortunately for the Chiefs, that New England penalty stopped the clock with one second left, and the Chiefs were able to kick a field goal as time expired.

The Chiefs took a 17-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. With any luck, this game won’t be close enough for Reid’s boneheaded clock management to cost Kansas City in the second half.

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Boone, Baalke balk at reports of discord in San Fran

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In response to Deion Sanders’ claim that unnamed 49ers players want coach Jim Harbaugh to hit the road, Jack, both a player and the team’s G.M. went on the record to attack the unnamed report of strife in Santa Clara.

“To be quite honest I find it a little ridiculous when people outside the locker room are talking about it,” G.M. Trent Baalke told 95.7 The Game in San Francisco. “Let’s get back to football. Let’s talk about the game itself, the performance of the guys, the way they grinded through things, the coaching staff included. It’s a good victory and those are the things we should be talking about.

“For me to speculate on what keeps driving it, obviously there’s people saying stuff that have never been in this building. So when it’s coming from people who have never been in this building or unnamed sources it’s not even worth the time of answering these questions especially when there’s ten follow ups to every question that’s given.”

Guard Alex Boone was a bit more blunt.

“If you’re not in our locker room, then keep the 49ers name out of your mouth,” Boone said. “Let’s just do that because you have no idea what goes on inside our locker room. For guys to talk about, ‘Oh so and so told me this,’ Who’s so and so? ‘Oh I can’t tell you that.’ Because it’s probably not true. It’s not important.”

Neither guy denied the accuracy of the report. Instead, they complained about its existence — and they objected to the use of unnamed sources.

But unnamed sources make the journalism world go ’round. Some people who know things or believe things can’t put their names to those things without actual or potential repercussions. That doesn’t stop those people from talking under the cloak of anonymity, and it doesn’t prevent reporters from deciding whether the information is credible and, in turn, reportable.

With or without Deion’s attempt to play reporter for a day, it’s widely believed in league and media circles that Harbaugh won’t coach the 49ers beyond this year, barring a Super Bowl win that prompts the team to pay him like a Super Bowl-winning coach. The reactions from the likes of Harbaugh, Baalke, and Boone are aimed at keeping the situation from becoming untenable during a season in which the goal of winning the franchise’s sixth title remains viable, albeit at this point unlikely.

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Jamaal Charles is back and the Chiefs take an early lead

Jamaal Charles AP

Jamaal Charles is back.

Charles, the running back who was held to just 23 yards in the first two games of the season and missed Week Three with a high ankle sprain, is back tonight against the Patriots and already making a huge impact.

With the first quarter not even over yet, Charles already has seven carries for 38 yards and a touchdown, giving Kansas City an early 7-0 lead.

The Chiefs’ offense has looked methodical and efficient, with Alex Smith completing six of his eight passes. They may need to worry about left tackle Eric Fisher’s inability to block Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones, but otherwise the Chiefs’ offense is looking strong.

Now Tom Brady needs to pick things up to get the Patriots back in it.

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Jamaal Charles active for Chiefs; Patriots suit up four WRs

Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles AP

The Chiefs’ top tailback is officially back in uniform.

Jamaal Charles (ankle) is active for Monday night’s game vs. New England, the team’s website announced on Twitter.

Charles’ return gives the club three active tailbacks for Monday night, with Knile Davis and Cyrus Gray also up for the Chiefs.

The Chiefs’ inactives are strong safety Eric Berry (ankle), offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, tailback Joe McKnight (Achilles), quarterback Aaron Murray, defensive end Damion Square, tailback De’Anthony Thomas (hamstring) and wide receiver Albert Wilson.

Berry, a key member of the Chiefs’ secondary, had previously been ruled out. Ron Parker is expected to start in his place.

The Patriots’ announced inactives are cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, offensive lineman Jordan Devey, wide receiver Aaron Dobson, offensive lineman Josh Kline, defensive end Zach Moore, wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins and defensive lineman Casey Walker. All but Dennard (shoulder) are healthy scratches.

With Dobson and Thompkins sitting, the Patriots have four active receivers: Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell and Matthew Slater.

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Panthers sign Chris Ogbonnaya

Chris Ogbonnaya AP

A club in need of tailback help has added some.

The Panthers have signed veteran back Chris Ogbonnaya, the team said Monday.

In five NFL seasons, the 28-year-old Ogbonnaya has rushed for 660 yards and one score on 144 carries and has caught 96 passes for 714 yards and two touchdowns. The bulk of his NFL action came in the last three seasons with Cleveland, which released him in August.

The addition of Ogbonnaya comes with the Panthers’ backfield beset by injuries. DeAngelo Williams (ankle) is unlikely to play in Sunday’s game vs. Chicago, while Jonathan Stewart (knee) is on the mend.

In a corresponding roster move to Ogbonnaya’s addition, the Panthers waived tailback Tauren Poole, who lost a fumble on his lone carry in Sunday’s loss at Baltimore.

The transaction leaves the Panthers (2-2) with five tailbacks, with Darrin Reaves and Fozzy Whittaker joining Ogbonnaya as options beyond Williams and Stewart.

The Panthers also announced they had reinstated defensive end Frank Alexander, who had been suspended for the first four games of the regular season. The Panthers have received a roster exemption for Alexander.

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