It’s a 50-50 shot Dez Bryant will be done for the remainder of the season with a finger injury. The PFT guys discuss his health and the effect his absence will have on the Cowboys’ playoff chances.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: Dez done for year?
The Buccaneers closed out Sunday’s 28-21 win over the Chargers with running back Doug Martin on the bench, but it doesn’t look like the veteran is going to be out for another extended period.
Martin, who missed six games with a hamstring injury this year, watched while Jacquizz Rodgers made a big catch on the game-winning touchdown drive and then ran the clock out on the next Tampa possession. He said after the game, via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, that he was “bent back” before heading for the sideline and that he expects to be fine.
“I don’t know how he was conscious after that,” tight end Cameron Brate said. “That was one of the most gruesome hits I’ve ever seen.”
Tight end Luke Stocker left for the day with an ankle injury and wide receiver Adam Humphries was knocked out with a concussion. Freddie Martino stepped up at receiver and Brate caught the winning touchdown, allowing the Bucs to end the day with the same record as the Falcons with four games left to decide the NFC South.
The Lions have made a habit out of playing nailbiters this season, but they went the other way against the Saints in New Orleans on Sunday.
Their defense held the Saints to 13 points and Matthew Stafford threw a pair of touchdown passes, including a 66-yarder to wide receiver Golden Tate that allowed them to breathe more comfortably in a 28-13 victory. It was a big day overall for Stafford, who hit on 16-of-17 passes to open the game and ended up 30-of-42 for 341 yards.
All of that came on a day when Stafford was feeling less than 100 percent. Tate revealed that Stafford showed up feeling sick on Sunday, “but just found a way.” Stafford downplayed any effect of the sickness, which coach Jim Caldwell said he didn’t even know about until after the game.
“He got rolling,” Caldwell said, via MLive.com. “Things you know — he had two touchdown passes, whatever his percentages were, he earned a [111.3 quarterback] rating. But he does much more than that for us. This was a team that blitzed us quite a bit. Getting us into the right protections, giving us a chance to try to get some big plays as a result of pressures, getting runs, taking us out of bad runs, getting us into better run situations. He does a lot of those things, but not only that, just in terms of leadership on the field, he does a tremendous job. He seems to just get better and better every week.”
The Lions hold a two-game lead in the NFC North and Stafford’s been a big reason for that as he turns in perhaps the best season of his career. The Bears will get the next crack at slowing him down, but there’s been little evidence that either defenses or bacteria can find the right formula this year.
Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald passed a pair of Hall of Famers on the all-time receptions list, and since his team won Sunday, he was able to appreciate that accomplishment for a second.
But the context of the list as a whole doesn’t escape him.
Fitzgerald caught 10 passes in the Cards’ win over Washington, passing Cris Carter and Marvin Harrison for third place on the list.
“The thing I’m most happy about is it came in a winning effort,” Fitzgerald said, via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. “A tough, hard-fought game at home that we definitely needed. It’s always nice to be able to climb up a little higher, but it is humbling to know that I am still 400 catches behind Jerry Rice.”
Rice’s 1,549 and Tony Gonzalez’s 1,325 are still seasons (plural) beyond anything Fitzgerald can reach (he has 1,106), but he’s put himself in a rare category. And he joked that at his age, the catch that pushed him past Harrison was a 3-yarder.
“They keep getting shorter and shorter,” Fitzgerald said. “But, hey, I am still getting it thrown to me, so that is all I can ask for.”
He’s also 10th on the all-time receiving yards list, with his 78 against Washington moving him past Andre Johnson. He now has 14,246 yards.
“Mind-boggling,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “I’ve been around some great receivers, but to see those statistics and the names he just passed is mind-boggling and hats to a great player and an even better person.”
The 33-year-old Fitzgerald may not be the same kind of downfield threat he once was, but he has proven himself dependable over time and could climb even higher (he’s 99 yards behind Reggie Wayne for ninth on the yardage list).
There have been plenty of games this season when the play of quarterback Brock Osweiler was a major negative for the Texans, but he turned in one of his better games of the year in Green Bay on Sunday.
Osweiler didn’t turn the ball over while completing 22-of-35 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown in the 21-13 loss. While that wasn’t enough for the team to get a win or score more than two touchdowns for the second time this season, it was enough for Osweiler to say after the game that he feels the offense is close to catching fire.
“I feel like we’re very close to exploding as an offense,” Osweiler said, via ESPN.com. “We are three, four plays away from changing multiple football games. Because of that, I don’t think we can get discouraged. … We’re tired of being close. We really are, as a team. We’re all able to see it on the film. We see it on the film every single week that we’re so close to turning that corner.”
Sunday’s loss dropped the Texans to 6-6, which is the same record as the Titans and the Colts can join them with a win over the Jets on Monday night. The Texans are in Indianapolis next Sunday and close out the year in Tennessee, so it would be a fine time for Osweiler and company to turn that corner once and for all.
Shepard was back in the mix against the Steelers, but another wideout found himself shorter on activity than he would have liked. Victor Cruz drew the short end of the stick this time around as he drew no throws while playing on fewer snaps than Roger Lewis.
“I’m going to talk to somebody. Somebody’s got to give me an answer as to why,” Cruz said, via the New York Daily News. “Absolutely, there’s always opportunities for everybody to get the ball out there and I didn’t get those today.”
Quarterback Eli Manning pointed to “what defenses are doing” as a reason for Cruz’s shutout. It’s the second time that Cruz has gone untargeted in a game this season and his drop in playing time signals the greater shift in circumstances for a wideout who hasn’t returned to his former role after missing most of two seasons following a torn patellar tendon in his knee.
People in Baltimore were beginning to wonder if Dennis Pitta was ever going to get back into the end zone.
Then the Dolphins had to wonder if he was ever going to be anywhere else.
The Ravens tight end finally scored a touchdown, and then followed it quickly with another one as part of a rout of the Dolphins.
“Yes, I had a couple touchdowns, but I feel like I have been producing all year,” Pitta said, via Edward Lee of the Baltimore Sun. “I don’t think after a game like this, I say, ‘Oh, I’m back.’ I feel like I have been back since Week One. It feels good though. . . .
“It feels good to get back in the end zone and obviously to have the kind of win and team win and offensive production that we had today was huge.”
The 31-year-old Pitta, who missed most of the last two seasons with hip problems, hadn’t scored a touchdown since Dec. 8, 2013. So it was interesting that the outburst of scoring came four days after quarterback Joe Flacco was asked what he had to do to get Pitta back into the mix.
“I wish I could take credit for all that, but no,” Flacco said. “I think we probably saw things the same way on the first one. On the first one, I’m standing behind [center Jeremy Zuttah], and you could tell that it was probably going to have a decent chance of being able to hit Dennis in the middle of the field. On the second one, he’s anywhere from second, third, anywhere in the progression. I think I had a guy coming off my right side, and he made me go left a little bit, and I just got the ball off to him, and he did a good job getting in the end zone.”
The last time Pitta scored twice in a game was Dec. 16, 2012, but he’s been contributing throughout. He leads the Ravens in receptions (61) and is third in yards (529), making him a valuable part of a passing game that is clicking heading toward the playoffs. And now that he knows where the end zone is again, he’s even more dangerous.
Sunday marked the ninth time in history that the Bills handed back a 15-point lead.
What are the Jets playing for on Monday night?
Some bye week thoughts about the Browns.
Randy Bullock made all his kicks after signing with the Steelers on Saturday.
The Texans ran for more than 100 yards for the seventh straight game.
Setting the stage for the final four weeks of the Titans season.
The Broncos defense avoided a late letdown this week.
The Raiders run defense found its footing as Sunday’s game unfolded.
The Chargers’ playoff hopes are all but done.
Prime time television won’t be light on the Cowboys down the stretch.
Sunday’s loss made the Giants’ road to the playoffs more difficult.
A thin Eagles receiving group took another hit on Sunday.
Failures in the red zone caught up with the Falcons on Sunday.
Said Panthers TE Greg Olsen, “We’re having trouble just trying to win one game. That’s all anybody should care about. Win one game. Prepare that way, play that way. Play smart, execute and win one game. That’s it. Everything else is white noise.”
The Saints offense fizzled in Sunday’s loss to the Lions.
The Cardinals found some of their old success against the Redskins.
Penalties were among the 49ers’ problems in Chicago.
Plenty of people were amused last week when Rams coach Jeff Fisher made references to “Brandon” and “Danny” while discussing the Patriots’ running backs because Brandon Bolden usually only plays special teams and there hasn’t been a Danny at running back in New England since Danny Woodhead left town.
The Rams said Fisher was referring to wide receiver Danny Amendola, but he already knew LeGarrette Blount from a brief time when Blount played for Fisher with the Titans. Blount was joined in the backfield by Dion Lewis and James White in a 26-10 Patriots victory on Sunday and he referenced Fisher’s comments by mentioning them after the game.
“He already knew my name,” Blount said, via the Boston Herald. “I think he knows James and Dion now for sure, though.”
Blount ran 18 times for 88 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, leaving him with 230 carries for 957 yards and 13 touchdowns. The attempts and touchdowns are already career highs and he’s 51 yards away from another one during a year that’s left Blount well known around the league.
Aaron Rodgers was still limited in his mobility after last week’s hamstring injury, so he couldn’t play in the snow the way he wanted.
He was still able to do enough, but is still far from 100 percent. But the Packers quarterback didn’t have to go into the mystery tent, and he said he didn’t make his left hamstring worse by playing.
“Not better than I did coming in, but I feel good about where I’m at,” Rodgers said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “Had decent movement and didn’t do anything to create a major setback.”
Of course, the Packers didn’t call the same kinds of plays they might have ordinarily, as he was clearly not able to move the way he or they were accustomed to. The fact it was snowing and the field was slick was also a factor, as they kept him in the shotgun or pistol formation most of the game (his only fumble came from under center). He completed 20-of-30 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns, which was just enough to beat the Texans.
“He’s playing great football,” McCarthy said. “So he deserves a lot of credit. The guy’s an outstanding leader. He does a lot of things that you don’t read about because people don’t hear about it. He’s an exceptional leader, and he’s a great football player. So you do what you want with that. Those are the facts.”
The fact is, he has a week to get ready for Seattle and then three division games to close the season, with his team 6-6 and fighting for a Wild Card berth.
We’ve reached the point in the season when fans are starting to look at playoff tiebreakers, and the tiebreaker scenarios feature some good news for Raiders fans.
If the Raiders and Patriots both win out to finish the season 14-2, the Raiders will be the No. 1 seed in the AFC and have home-field advantage in the playoffs, thanks to a better record against common opponents.
Under that scenario, the first tiebreaker would be head-to-head, but that wouldn’t apply because the Raiders and Patriots don’t play each other this season. The second tiebreaker would be conference record, where both teams would be 11-1. The third tiebreaker would be record in common games, and that’s where the Raiders have the advantage.
The Raiders and Patriots have a total of five games against four common opponents on their schedule: They each play the Texans, Ravens, Bills and Broncos, with the Patriots playing the Bills twice and the Raiders playing the Broncos twice. If both teams win out, the Raiders will be 5-0 in those five games against common opponents, while the Patriots will be 4-1.
The Patriots’ loss came against the Bills when Tom Brady was suspended, Jimmy Garoppolo was injured and rookie Jacoby Brissett was the starting quarterback. That game could turn out to be the reason the Patriots are leaving New England and going to the Black Hole for the AFC Championship Game.
The Patriots were able to survive the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski, at least in the short term.
Now, they’re faced with further dwindling of resources on offense.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola suffered a high-ankle sprain in yesterday’s win over the Rams. The hope is that he’ll be able to return for the playoffs.
He was hurt while returning a punt yesterday, and was on crutches and in a boot after the game.
At 10-2 the Patriots have all but wrapped up the AFC East, but they’re locked in a battle with the Raiders for the top seed and home-field advantage. They play the Ravens at home next Monday, before finishing the season at the Broncos, at home against the Jets and at the Dolphins.
And being without Amendola isn’t the biggest blow to their offense, but the steady chipping away of parts is going to complicate things for Tom Brady.
Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham avoided any major sideline blowups during Sunday’s loss to the Steelers, but there were plenty of moments when Beckham could be seen gesturing toward officials in hopes of getting a call in his direction.
Beckham didn’t get the flags he was looking for from referee Terry McAulay’s crew, leading him to say after the game that the group shouldn’t work any more games involving the Giants. McAulay was the ref for Beckham’s battle with Josh Norman last year and other members of the crew worked the game against the Redskins earlier this season that started with a warning for both players.
“It’s us against the world, in a sense,” Beckham said, via ESPN.com. “You can’t sit there and rely on refs, obviously. Obviously, that is not the case; you can’t sit there and rely on them, if anybody watched the game [on Sunday]. It’s not that I’m sitting here saying the refs are the reason we lost the game, but there is plenty of calls in the game and anybody can go watch the film. Anybody. Anybody can see exactly what is going on.”
Beckham took particular issue with an offensive pass interference call in the first quarter that backed the Giants up against their end zone. Beckham said it was a “horrible call” and that the official who threw the flag told Beckham to get out of his face when Beckham went for an explanation.
Left tackle Ereck Flowers was called for holding in the end zone a couple of plays later to give Pittsburgh their first points of the night and things wouldn’t get much better for the Giants in a 24-14 loss. One of the few places where they did fare better than Pittsburgh was on penalties. The Giants were penalized just four times overall while the Steelers were flagged 12 times for 115 yards before the day was through.
The Seahawks aren’t used to being without safety Earl Thomas, so they’re trying to wrap their mind around it.
But they know for sure last night’s broken leg from a collision with teammate Kam Chancellor is going to hurt, them and him.
Thomas was tweeting out a contemplation of retirement before the game was even over, so traumatized was he by the friendly fire injury, and his teammates and coaches understand why.
“Kam’s made of steel,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. “So it’s going to hurt, and it sure did.”
The pain is only beginning for them and that’s no offense to replacement Steven Terrell, who just isn’t Thomas (such that many are).
After the game, Carroll would say only that Thomas had a broken leg, and that his timetable was for such an injury was “always six weeks anyway.”
Chancellor said he thought his teammates’ string of tweets were also born out of uncertainty rather than an actual fear his career might be over.
“When you get injured, it becomes very emotional,” Chancellor said. “Sometimes you say things you might not mean; sometimes you say things you might mean. It’s one of those things you just have to let him sit back and breathe, let him sit back and go through his process. People are going to take it how they’re going to take it. At the end of the day he’s going to make the decision he wants to make, but right now it’s an emotional battle at this moment.”
Thomas had only missed one game previously, last week’s with a hamstring injury. He didn’t know what to do with himself, so he took his family to Portland to watch NBA games and watch the Seahawks game in a bar. So now, he’s faced with a much longer absence.
And the Seahawks have to figure out how to replace one of their best players. The Panthers attacked Terrell immediately, throwing a 55-yard touchdown to Ted Ginn Jr. over the top of him. More teams are going to try to do the same, now that a weakness has been exposed.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said after Sunday night’s loss in Seattle that he was benched for the first series because he didn’t wear a tie while traveling, which coach Ron Rivera requires of every player.
“It came down to a dress code matter,” Newton said. “I didn’t follow dress code and coach told me I wasn’t going to start. I stand by his decision. His position he’s in, I follow it.”
The Panthers played at Oakland last week and did not travel home, choosing instead to practice on the West Coast for the week before the game at Seattle. Newton said he ordinarily has proper attire for traveling, but he sent his traveling clothes off when the team shipped its gear from Oakland to Seattle and found himself without anything to wear that would conform to Rivera’s dress code.
“We’ve been in California for a week and we shipped our clothes off, so that was the big no-no. But we didn’t lose this game because I didn’t have a tie,” Newton said.
Does it make sense to bench the starting quarterback because he didn’t have his clothes due to a travel mishap? Newton said he understood Rivera’s position, although his explanation of it was hard to follow.
“If coach didn’t feel like I was dressed appropriately then I wasn’t,” Newton said. “When you’re 6-foot-5, trying to get a shirt, I was away from home for a week, I didn’t pack a shirt. There were a lot of ties I was given but I can’t wear a tie with this. Meaning, I have a tank top on – we discussed it internally, me and coach, we got on the same page. I felt as if I wore a similar outfit like this before and nothing was done but he said he has rules in place and we have to abide by them. No person is better than the next person and it is what it is.”
What it is, is one of the most bizarre coaching decisions in the history of the NFL. The league’s reigning Most Valuable Player was benched over his clothing.
The NFC South arguably, if not actually, has the best quartet of starting quarterbacks of any division in the NFL. So, as of right now, which one is the best?
That’s Monday’s PFT Live question of the day.
Vote, comment, vote again, comment again, and then tune in (just once, but stick around) to PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio at 6:00 a.m. ET. We then slide over to NBCSN at 7:00 a.m.
Guests include Darin Gantt of PFT (who may or may not be wearing a tie) and Scott Zolak of the Patriots Radio Network.