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Seahawks break it wide open in third quarter

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bruce Irvin AP

Earlier this week, Bills General Manager Buddy Nix said that it was the right time for the team to trade up to get a quarterback.

Nix likely meant that he’d be doing it in April before or during the draft, but watching Ryan Fitzpatrick might make him try to find a way to do it sooner. Fitzpatrick has opened the second half by throwing an interception, losing a fumble while getting sacked and having another interception returned for a touchdown by Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. The score has ballooned from 31-17 to 47-17 halfway through the third, making it safe to chalk this one up in the win column for the Seahawks.

Fitzpatrick isn’t getting much help from the offensive line or receivers not named Stevie Johnson, but the pick by Thomas came on the kind of inexcusable throw under pressure that gets quarterbacks benched. Fitzpatrick didn’t see where he was throwing and left the ball in the air for Thomas to take without much trouble. It’s something we’ve seen too often from Fitzpatrick before Sunday, which was reason enough for Nix to be thinking about moving in another direction.

We’ll see how the Bills close things out, but we’re inclined to agree with Tim Graham of the Buffalo News who observed on Twitter that this is the kind of game that can get a coach fired.

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Sunday morning one-liners

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 16:  Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates his game winning touchdown in overtime of the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Arizona Cardinals beat the Green Bay Packers 26-20.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills have lost nine of their last 10 against the Steelers.

The Dolphins should have plenty of cap space at their disposal this offseason.

Patience has worked out for Patriots LB Kyle Van Noy.

QB Bryce Petty isn’t the only young player who will get time as the Jets play out the string.

Ravens TE Nick Boyle is usually a blocker, but likes when the ball comes his way.

Will the Bengals win the battle of the running games in the Battle of Ohio?

QB Robert Griffin III is back in action for the Browns on Sunday.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is closing in on 100 career wins.

Texans RB Lamar Miller has been resilient this season.

Getting off to a quick start would help the Colts against the Texans.

Will the Jaguars end their interception drought this week?

A win on Sunday would push the Titans closer to a division title.

LB DeMarcus Ware says the Titans won’t push the Broncos defense around.

The Chiefs wouldn’t mind more from their ground game.

The Raiders defense held up on Thursday night.

Injuries took a heavy toll on the Chargers this year.

The Cowboys remain confident in the brightness of LB Jaylon Smith’s future.

A look back at how the Giants handled Dez Bryant in Week One.

The Eagles’ effort level will be watched closely this week after coach Doug Pederson said it wasn’t good enough in Week 13.

C Kory Lichtensteiger is back in action for the Redskins.

Bears CB Deiondre’ Hall hopes to make up for time lost to injury during his rookie season.

Lions RB Joique Bell got a master’s degree on Saturday.

A tough effort is required if the Packers are going to beat the Seahawks.

Can the Vikings close the season the way they did in 2012?

TE Austin Hooper could be a factor for the Falcons against the Rams.

The Panthers need to show more fight than they did last week.

A loss on Sunday would all but cancel the Saints’ already long playoff odds.

Takeaways have been a strength of the Buccaneers defense.

Said Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, “We need to win out and we need a little help down the stretch. All we can do is control what we can control, and that’s our effort and our performance.”

A win would help the Rams quiet talk about organizational dysfunction.

The Jets offer the 49ers this week’s chance to snap their losing streak.

Seahawks receivers have to hone their skills as blockers.

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Julio Jones’ status to be determined in pregame workout

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons warms up before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Falcons 24-15. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

Among the players listed as questionable each week are many who are expected to play unless something goes awry in the hours leading up to the game and some who are truly game-time decisions because of injuries.

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones appears to be in the second category this Sunday. Jones picked up a turf toe injury in last week’s loss to the Chiefs and did not practice all week. He was listed as questionable, but word during the week was that the team was optimistic about his chances of playing.

Things aren’t quite so optimistic now. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team will make its call after seeing Jones run on the grass in Los Angeles during pregame workouts. Rapoport adds that Jones was able to go through the team’s walkthrough on Saturday, raising hope that he’ll be able to go as the Falcons try to remain a leg up on the Buccaneers in the NFC South.

Left tackle Jake Matthews was also listed as questionable by the Falcons. He hurt his knee last weekend and got in a limited practice on Friday.

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Todd Bowles is safe, unless he isn’t

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 30:  Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets looks on during the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s that time of year, folks. Embattled coaches throughout the NFL are safe, unless they aren’t.

The first guy to firmly fall into this category is Jets coach Todd Bowles. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media delivered moments ago on NFL Game Day First the news that the Jets won’t fire Bowles, unless they do.

Basically, Rapoport says Bowles is safe unless the team continues to perform like it did on Monday night against the Colts. Which is a softer way of saying Bowles is coaching for his job at this point, and that he needs to get a team that seemed to quit six days ago to reverse its attitude and its performance in the final four games of the season.

The report was less equivocal regarding multiple big-name players who may not be part of the effort to turn the franchise around, with receiver Brandon Marshall, defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, and cornerback Darrelle Revis specifically mentioned as likely castoffs.

Marshall, whose talent can’t be denied, has been traded three times before. He’s also never made it to the postseason in 11 NFL seasons.

Revis has a $6 million fully guaranteed salary in 2017, and a $2 million roster bonus due in March. So if they make a move with Revis, they’ll likely make it before the extra $2 million becomes due.

The Jets tried to trade Richardson prior to the October deadline for doing so, but they ultimately could find no taker — possibly because they wanted too much. In the offseason, they may have to take whatever they can get if the goal is to move on from the player who once was regarded as the future cornerstone of the defense.

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Jordan Reed expected to play on Sunday

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 24:   Jordan Reed #86 of the Washington Redskins catches a touchdown pass during the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 24, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

It looks like tight end Jordan Reed’s absence from the lineup will come to an end this Sunday.

The Redskins played without Reed last weekend because of a shoulder injury he suffered in the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Cowboys and the team listed him as questionable to play against the Eagles this week. According to multiple reports, Reed will be on the field for that game.

Reed said during the week that the AC joint separation in his left shoulder was still causing him pain, but he was able to be a limited participant in practice all three days and said he believed he’d be able to go on Sunday.

Last week’s loss left the Redskins behind the Giants and Buccaneers in the race for Wild Card spots in the NFC. They can’t afford too many more before the possibility of a playoff berth goes away for good.

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Snow is in the forecast for multiple games on Sunday

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 22:  A beer sits between snow covered seats prior to the NFL game between the Chicago Bears and the Denver Broncos at Soldier Field on November 22, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last week, snow made an appearance in Chicago and Green Bay. This week, there could be more of it.

Via Weather.com, snow could be a factor in Buffalo (Steelers-Bills), Cleveland (Bengals-Browns), and Green Bay (Seahawks-Packers). Also, wet snow is possible for the Sunday night game in New Jersey, between the Cowboys and Giants.

As noted by Weather.com, three years ago this week snow was a major factor in several cities, with Lions-Eagles in Philly, Vikings-Ravens in Baltimore, Dolphins-Steelers in Pittsburgh, and Chiefs-Washington in Maryland all played with significant frozen precipitation in the air and on the field.

Fans typically love it, especially if they’re watching it from the comfort of the inside of their homes. For players, the biggest challenge will be knowing how much is too much when the spirit moves them to celebrate with a snow angel.

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Trevor Siemian to start for Broncos

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 27:  Trevor Siemian #13 of the Denver Broncos in action against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 27, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos have their starting quarterback back.

Trevor Siemian, who missed last week’s game with a foot injury, has been cleared to return today against the Titans.

The Broncos managed to beat the Jaguars last week with rookie Paxton Lynch at the helm, but beating the Titans will be a taller task, and having the starter back on the field will be a boost for the Broncos.

Siemian and Lynch split practice time last week, and Siemian’s mobility may still be limited, but if he’s healthy enough to go he’s the better choice in a game the Broncos need to win as they try to keep pace in the AFC playoff race.

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Lions expecting to have Eric Ebron, Marvin Jones

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 14:  Eric Ebron #85 of the Detroit Lions makes a juggling catch against the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford should have a full complement of targets today against the Bears.

Although tight end Eric Ebron and receiver Marvin Jones are both listed as questionable, both are expected to play, according to multiple reports.

Jones is second on the Lions with 730 receiving yards, and first on the team with a 17.4-yard average. Ebron has 489 receiving yards.

If the Lions beat the Bears they’re assured of at least a two-game lead over the Vikings and Packers in the NFC North with three games to go.

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Mark Davis has yet to reject Oakland proposal

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis stands on the sidelines prior to their NFL game against the Atlanta Falcons at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 18, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The last time Oakland released information regarding its plan to build a stadium that would keep the Raiders from moving to Las Vegas, owner Mark Davis quickly made it clear that he’s not interested in deviating from his plan to relocate the team. With Oakland releasing a term sheet that outlines the project, Davis has said nothing, yet.

Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a publication owned by casino mogul and potential Las Vegas stadium partner Sheldon Adelson, has published a profile (puff piece) about Davis that doesn’t even mention the effort in Oakland to persuade Davis to stay, or his reaction to it.

The Raiders did not respond to a request for comment on the Oakland proposal submitted early Saturday by PFT.

There’s still no reason to believe Davis will change his mind about moving, and it could be that he has opted to say nothing for now, allowing his partners come to the conclusion that the proposal isn’t as attractive as the Las Vegas plan, which carries with it $750 million in taxpayer money. The Oakland effort would result in a $1.3 billion, 55,000-seat venue, with the city putting up $200 million for infrastructure and site preparation via bond sales (not taxes) and donating $150 million in land. The group led by Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott would contribute $400 million toward the construction of the stadium.

The proposal goes nowhere if Davis wants nothing to do with it. For now, there’s no reason to think he has changed his mind.

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Will any coach be fired during the season?

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Gus Bradley of the Jacksonville Jaguars yells out on the sideline during NFL game action against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on November 27, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

In each of the two seasons preceding 2016, a head coach was fired after only four weeks. This year, with four weeks to go, no head coach has been fired yet.

The question becomes whether anyone will be.

There’s been a sense for several weeks that only one embarrassing loss is standing in the way of the Jaguars firing coach Gus Bradley and giving former Bills coach Doug Marrone a test drive for the balance of the campaign. Beyond Bradley, the coaches of the other struggling teams (Browns, 49ers, Bears, Jets) aren’t believed to be in danger of being let go before the day known in NFL circles as Black Monday.

If no coach is fired during the season, it will be only the fourth time that’s happened since at least 2000. Four years ago, no firings happened during the season.

Last year, the Dolphins fired Joe Philbin after a Week Four loss in London. The Titans also fired Ken Whisenhunt, and the Eagles fired Chip Kelly. In all, 27 head coaches have been fired during the season since 2000.

At this stage of the season, it’s smart to wait. Teams that appoint an interim head coach from the surviving staff often see a short-term improvement in performance, as the players try to help the interim head coach shed the temporary label. Otherwise, a new coach will arrive and commence the process of finding new players.

Then, once the interim head coach becomes the permanent head coach, the players can go back to playing the way they did before the prior coach got fired.

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Cardell Hayes insists Will Smith had gun, denies shooting Smith’s wife

Cardell Hayes is placed in an Orleans Parish Sheriff van to be transported back to Orleans Parish Prison as he leaves Orleans criminal court, after the first day of testimony in his trial for shooting and killing NFL star Will Smith, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in New Orleans. (David Grunfeld/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP) AP

Trials arising from “stand your ground” incidents will be resolved in large part based upon the credibility of the key witnesses. On Saturday, the man who shot and killed former Saints defensive end Will Smith in April made some incredible claims.

Via the Associated Press, Cardell Hayes testified that Smith had a gun when Hayes opened fire. Smith’s gun however, was found inside his vehicle. Indeed, most accounts and suggestions had been that Hayes shot Smith as Smith was returning to his car to get the gun.

Hayes himself didn’t mention that Smith had a gun to the authorities on the night of the shooting.

“I never gave a full statement to anyone,” Hayes said. (With the case turning on whether Hayes believed he was about to be shot, whether Smith had a gun would seem to be an important detail.)

More surprisingly, Hayes strongly denied shooting Smith’s wife, a contention that flies in the face of the ballistics evidence indicating that the bullets that struck Raquel Smith, who survived the incident, came from Hayes’ gun.

Hayes also denied ramming his vehicle into Smith’s, another contention that contradicts other evidence.

The trial is expected to conclude on Sunday, with closing arguments and the commencement of jury deliberations.

Whatever the outcome, the glitches in the evidence prove how hard it can be for a jury to reconstruct the events that culminate in one person shooting another in supposed self-defense. In this case, however, it may not be all that difficult for the jury to reject Hayes’ testimony regarding the circumstances that led to him pulling the trigger — and in turn to reject the claim that he was acting in self defense.

Unfortunately for Hayes, he may not be lying. It’s possible that he genuinely remembers that things happened in a way that they didn’t, due simply to the stress of the situation.

Which is another reason for states with “stand your ground” laws to reconsider allowing private citizens lacking the training and experience of police officers to attempt to discern in a fog of actual or perceived threats whether it is appropriate to open fire.

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Mike Zimmer will coach from the sideline, with special sunglasses

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 13: Head coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings looks on against the Washington Redskins in the second quarter at FedExField on November 13, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the Vikings’ playoff hopes in doubt as four games remain in a season of constant adversity, the team will be getting its coach back for Week 14 — and things will be mostly normal for him.

Via Mark Craig of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Mike Zimmer will coach from the sideline on Sunday in Jacksonville. He’ll wear special sunglasses in his first game since multiple additional eye surgeries to repair a detached retina caused him to miss the Week 13 prime-time matchup with the Cowboys.

The glasses will black out his right eye, which still has some double vision.

“We’ll be OK,” Zimmer told reporters when asked about his eye.

Whether the Vikings will be OK is a different issue. From 5-0 to 6-6, the Vikings now need to win games and hope for help to get to the playoffs. That’s a far cry from visions of home-field advantage and a path to Houston for the Super Bowl.

If they get to the playoffs, they’ll be climbing the playoff tree the hard way. Which would be fitting, because little about the team’s 2016 season has been easy.

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Giants activate Shane Vereen

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 20:  Shane Vereen #34 of the New York Giants in action against the Atlanta Falcons during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 20, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants on Saturday activated running back Shane Vereen from their injured-reserve list.

Vereen had been out since September due to a triceps injury. He returned to practice in late November and was activated, as expected, ahead of the deadline for the Giants to make a decision on his status.

Vereen was a valuable and productive pass-catcher out of the backfield for the Giants last season. In three games this season he’s caught eight passes for 75 yards.

Offensive lineman Adam Gettis was waived to create a roster spot for Vereen.

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Jaguars place Thomas, Odrick on IR

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 13:  Julius Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars rushes against  Dwight Lowery #33 of the Indianapolis Colts during the game at EverBank Field on December 13, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jaguars placed tight end Julius Thomas and defensive end Jared Odrick on their season-ending injured-reserve list Saturday.

Thomas has a back injury and has missed the team’s last two games. He finishes 2016 with 30 catches for 281 yards and four touchdowns.

Odrick played in just six games this season due to a shoulder injury.

The Jaguars filled their open roster spots by promoting running back Bronson Hill from the practice squad and activating offensive lineman Luke Bowanko from the physically unable to perform list.

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Pitt’s James Conner declares for the draft

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 25: James Conner #24 of the Pittsburgh Panthers reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the game at Heinz Field on October 25, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Panthers lost 56-28. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images) Getty Images

A year after disclosing a cancer diagnosis, Pitt running back James Conner has declared for the draft.

The redshirt junior, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards and scored 20 total touchdowns, announced his intentions on Twitter.

Conner became the ACC player of the year as a redshirt freshman in 2014. His 2015 season was derailed by a knee injury. Then came the news that Conner has Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

He’ll finish as No. 2 on the all-time rushing list at Pitt with 3,701 yards, behind only Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett. (Making the accomplishment even more impressive is the fact that Pitt has enjoyed the likes of Curtis Martin, LeSean McCoy, and Craig Hayward over the years.) Also, Conner’s 56 touchdowns are an ACC record.

“When they talk about someone who made a positive impact on the program,” Conner said on Twitter, “I hope they mention my name.”

Conner’s college career will conclude later this month in the Pinstripe Bowl, when Pitt faces Northwestern at Yankee Stadium.

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Danny Amendola out, Martellus Bennett questionable for Pats

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 04:  Danny Amendola #80 of the New England Patriots is tackled by T.J. McDonald #25 of the Los Angeles Rams during the second half of their game at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Ravens prepare to face the Patriots on Monday night. They won’t have to worry about Danny Amendola. (Or, for that matter, Danny Woodhead.)

Amendola will miss his first game of the season, due to an ankle injury suffered last Sunday in a win over his former team, the Rams.

Questionable for the Patriots is tight end Martellus Bennett, with ankle and shoulder injuries. He became the team’s top option at the position after a season-ending back injury suffered by Rob Gronkowski.

Also questionable for the 10-2 Patriots are safety Jordan Richards (knee), linebacker Elandon Roberts (hamstring), cornerback Eric Rowe (hamstring), and receiver Matt Slater (foot).

The best news for the Patriots is that quarterback Tom Brady has been removed completely from the injury report. He practiced all week without being mentioned in any way on the report. Brady had missed practice time in recent weeks with a knee injury.

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