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NFL morning after: Statement Sunday — or was it?

Falcons tight end Gonzalez celebrates after a touchdown against the New York Giants in the first half at their NFL football game in Atlanta Reuters

With six different games matching up teams with winning records, yesterday was hyped by the NFL as “Statement Sunday.” And while it didn’t deliver a lot of particularly competitive games, it certainly did deliver a lot of statements: Statements about the strengths of the Falcons, Packers, Broncos, Texans, Cowboys and 49ers, and statements about the weaknesses of the Giants, Bears, Ravens, Colts, Steelers and Patriots.

But the thing about statements made in the NFL in December is that they often don’t hold up in January. And I’m not so sure that the teams that made statements on Sunday are going to be the teams that continue to make statements in the playoffs. So let me go through a few of the statements that were made on Sunday, and explain which ones are true and which ones are false.

1. The Falcons are the best team in the NFC. FALSE: Yes, the Falcons can make the statement that they’re the best team in the conference, both on the strength of their 34-0 win over the Giants and on their status as the team with the best record in the NFC. But the Falcons don’t play that well consistently — let’s not forget that a week earlier, they lost by 10 to a bad Carolina team. I’d pick either the Packers or the 49ers to win at Atlanta in January.

2. The Giants are in danger. TRUE: The flip side of the Falcons’ blowout over the Giants is that it really did expose some serious problems with the Giants, namely that Eli Manning has been painfully inconsistent, and that injuries in the secondary have done major damage to the defense. Early in the season it looked like the NFC East would belong to the Giants, but now it’s a three-team race, and the Redskins and Cowboys actually appear to be in better shape. The good news for the Giants is that they’ll make the playoffs if they win their final two. The bad news is that the way they played on Sunday, I don’t have a lot of confidence that they’ll win their final two.

3. The Bears are in free fall and will miss the playoffs. FALSE: It’s easy to see why Bears fans are panicking, having lost five of their last six games. But Chicago’s schedule is about to get a lot easier, with trips to Arizona and Detroit. I see the Bears winning both games, finishing 10-6, and sneaking into the playoffs.

4. The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC goes through Houston. TRUE: After the Texans’ disastrous loss in New England on Monday night, it would have been easy to disregard the Texans as legitimate title contenders. But the Texans clinched the AFC South with Sunday’s win over the Colts, and they’re now a win away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. I think they’ll get that win against the Vikings on Sunday and ensure that if they rematch the Patriots, it will be in Houston.

5. The Broncos are the best team Peyton Manning has ever played on. TRUE: Does it sound premature to say that this year’s Broncos are better than Manning’s Super Bowl-winning 2006 team in Indianapolis? Maybe. But that team — like many of Manning’s teams in Indianapolis — had major holes on both defense and special teams that the Manning-led offense had to overcome. This Broncos team is winning every bit as much because of its defense as because of the Manning-led offense. If we could stuff these 2012 Broncos into a DeLorean and send them back in time to play any of Manning’s Indianapolis playoff teams, I’d pick these Broncos to win.

6. The Steelers blew it in overtime in Dallas and blew their postseason hopes. FALSE: The Steelers’ final two games are both at home, against the Bengals and the Browns, and if they win both they’re in the playoffs. I think Pittsburgh is going to do it.

7. New England’s Super Bowl hopes were dealt a big blow on Sunday night. FALSE: The Patriots’ loss to the 49ers probably means they’ll have to host a wild card team in the first playoff weekend, then win a couple of road games after that to get to the Super Bowl. But you know what? As much as I like the Broncos and Texans, I like the Patriots’ chances of winning at Denver and at Houston in back-to-back weeks. New England is still a formidable Super Bowl contender.

That’s where I stand on the statements NFL teams made on Sunday. And now here are my statements about the rest of Sunday’s action:

Adrian Peterson is making Eric Dickerson nervous. After his 212-yard effort on Sunday, Peterson needs to total 293 yards over the final two games of the season to break Dickerson’s NFL record of 2,105 rushing yards in a season. Gaining 293 yards in two weeks isn’t easy, but it’s certainly doable for Peterson, considering that he has 366 in the last two games. In the last eight games, Peterson has rushed for 1,313 yards, a stunning yardage total that no NFL player has ever matched over an eight-game stretch of a season.

Calvin Johnson is making Jerry Rice nervous. After his 121-yard effort on Sunday, Johnson needs to total 181 yards over the final two games of the season to break Rice’s NFL record of 1,848 receiving yards in a season. Johnson tied an NFL record with his seventh consecutive 100-yard game on Sunday, so totaling 181 yards over the next two games shouldn’t be a problem. Johnson also became the first player in NFL history to gain 1,600 receiving yards in back-to-back seasons. Unfortunately for Johnson (and unlike Peterson), he’s threatening an NFL record while playing meaningless games for a bad team.

What’s JaMarcus Russell up to these days? I ask because the Raiders chose Russell first overall in the 2007 NFL draft, leaving Johnson available for the Lions to draft second overall, and Peterson available for the Vikings to draft seventh overall. Sorry to have to bring that one up, Raiders fans.

Trent Richardson’s first touchdown run was a thing of beauty. If you love good, old-fashioned, hard-nosed football, it doesn’t get much better than Richardson taking a handoff up the middle at the six-yard line, plunging into the middle and getting stacked up just as he crossed the line of scrimmage, and then simply refusing to go down as he drove forward, churning his legs and getting help from his entire offensive line while the entire Redskins’ defensive line was trying to stop him, and finally falling forward through that massive rugby scrum and into the end zone. As a rookie Richardson hasn’t been the big-play runner the Browns were hoping they’d get when they traded up to take him with the third overall pick in the draft, but he might be the toughest runner to tackle in the league.

Randall Cobb is better than you realize. Cobb had an unreal leaping catch along the sideline in the second quarter in Chicago, picking up 31 yards on third-and-six and somehow getting both feet down in bounds despite taking a hard hit just as he was grabbing the ball. Cobb has been an excellent player for the Packers since arriving last season as a second-round draft pick, but I don’t know if most fans realize just how excellent. Cobb has 2,241 combined rushing, receiving and return yards this season, and 3,857 all-purpose yards so far in his NFL career. That’s an incredible career total for a guy who’s only 22 years old.

The Seahawks are stunning. After beating the Cardinals 58-0 last week, the Seahawks beat the Bills 50-17 this week. The last NFL team to score 50 or more points in back-to-back weeks was the 1950 New York Giants, who beat the Chicago Cardinals 51-21 and then beat the Baltimore Colts 55-20 a week later. (A note of caution for Seahawks fans: Those 1950 Giants were held to just three points in a postseason loss that year.)

I guess Cam Cameron wasn’t the only problem with the Ravens’ offense. The Ravens fired Cameron as their offensive coordinator last week. So how did the offense in Baltimore do in the first game without him? Badly: The Ravens had six three-and-outs, the most of any team in the NFL all season, as they lost 34-17. On Statement Sunday, the Ravens made a statement that they’re not contenders in the AFC, and Cameron made a major statement in his absence: Don’t blame me.

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Rich Gannon blasts Raiders organization and culture of losing

GANNON AP

To say Rich Gannon isn’t happy with the Oakland Raiders would be a massive understatement.

Gannon – who won the NFL MVP award in 2002 while leading the Raiders to a Super Bowl appearance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – took his radio show Wednesday on Sirius XM NFL Radio to blast the Raiders organization and their “commitment to mediocrity” after the firing of Dennis Allen as head coach Monday night.

“You’re not winning because you have players and coaches and people in the building that have become comfortable with the process of losing,” Gannon said, via CSNBayArea.com. “It’s okay to lose out there, it’s okay. It’s not a big deal. In other places, it’s simply not tolerated. And when it gets to the point where they don’t tolerate it anymore, it’s unacceptable, and we run people out of the building who haven’t figured that out…and then bring in players who care, and players who work and players who aren’t going to tolerate that, then you’ll get the results you so long desire.

“But they don’t know how to do it and it drives me crazy.”

The Raiders fired Allen and replaced him with Tony Sparano as their interim head coach. Sparano is the eighth head coach to lead the team since 2002. Oakland doesn’t have a single winning season and just two 8-8 seasons in the 11 years since their last Super Bowl appearance.

The continued struggles of the franchise that Gannon led to three playoff appearances in four seasons pushed Gannon to blast the team and the people employed by the organization.

“There’s people out in Oakland, in that building, players, coaches, front office, people in business, accounting: stealing!” Gannon said. “They ought to give the check back. The product on the field is terrible. And when you lose like that, how can you go to the bank and cash the check? You should be embarrassed.”

The results speak for themselves. No playoff appearances in 11 seasons (and firmly on their way to making that 12 straight) and an average of fewer than five victories per season over that span. There doesn’t appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel either at this point for the Raiders.

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Week Five skill position injury report — Wednesday

Joique Bell AP

For fantasy football players, here’s a rundown of the skill position players listed on Wednesday’s injury report as furnished by the NFL. Key fantasy starters are bolded. The final injury report for Sunday games is released Friday, with the final Monday-night injury report released on Saturday

(Week Five byes: Raiders, Dolphins).

FULL

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (shoulder).

Bengals RB Rex Burkhead (knee).

Eagles TE Trey Burton (Achilles).

Browns TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder).

Eagles TE James Casey (knee).

49ers RB Michael Crabtree (foot).

Vikings RB Jerome Felton (knee). — PROBABLE

Bills WR Marquise Goodwin (concussion).

49ers RB Frank Gore (back).

Broncos TE Virgil Green (concussion).

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (knee).

Cardinals TE Rob Housler (hip).

Eagles WR Josh Huff (shoulder).

Jets RB Chris Johnson (ankle).

Titans QB Jake Locker (right wrist).

Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin (hamstring).

Bears WR Brandon Marshall (ankle).

Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon (ankle). — PROBABLE

Broncos PK Brandon McManus (right groin).

Ravens RB Bernard Pierce (thigh).

Eagles WR Brad Smith (groin).

Vikings WR Rodney Smith (hamstring). — PROBABLE

Chiefs RB De’Anthony Thomas (hamstring).

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (ribs).

Saints TE Benjamin Watson (groin).

LIMITED

Rams WR Tavon Austin (knee).

Giants WR Odell Beckham (hamstring).

Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater (ankle) — QUESTIONABLE.

Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (ankle).

Jets WR Eric Decker (hamstring).

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (foot).

Chargers TE Ladarius Green (hamstring).

Falcons WR Devin Hester (ankle).

Texans WR Damaris Johnson (foot).

Chargers WR TE David Johnson (shoulder).

Falcons WR Julio Jones (ankle).

49ers TE Vance McDonald (knee).

Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart (thigh).

Browns RB Ben Tate (knee).

Titans TE Delanie Walker (shoulder).

Steelers WR Markus Wheaton (groin).

DID NOT PRACTICE

Chiefs WR Donnie Avery (groin).

Lions RB Joique Bell (concussion).

Packers WR Jarrett Boykin (groin). — OUT

Colts RB Ahmad Bradshaw (not injury related).

Panthers TE Richie Brockel (ankle).

Steelers WR Martavis Bryant (illness).

49ers TE Vernon Davis (back).

Bills WR Marcus Easley (knee).

Buccaneers WR Mike Evans (groin).

Falcons WR Harry Douglas (foot).

Lions TE Joseph Fauria (ankle).

Chargers WR Malcom Floyd (illness).

Texans RB Arian Foster (hamstring).

Rams QB Shaun Hill (thigh).

Saints RB Mark Ingram (hand).

Texans WR Andre Johnson (ankle).

Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle).

Bengals WR Marvin Jones (ankle).

Saints RB Erik Lorig (ankle).

Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee).

Buccaneers QB Josh McCown (thumb).

Steelers TE Heath Miller (not injury related).

Browns WR Marlon Moore (illness).

Jets WR David Nelson (ankle).

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer (right shoulder).

Lions RB Theo Riddick (hamstring).

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back).

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen, groin) — OUT.

Buccaneers TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle).

Titans TE Taylor Thompson (knee).

Colts WR Reggie Wayne (not injury related).

Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh).

Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle).

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Justin Blackmon working through voluntary treatment program

Justin Blackmon, Chris Harris AP

Receiver Justin Blackmon has missed an entire calendar year’s worth of games after being suspended indefinitely by the league for repeated violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have stuck by Blackmon despite his issues but fully expect to not have him be available this season.

Whether he will ever be reinstated remains to be seen as well, but Blackmon is at least attempting to take steps needed to give himself the chance to return to his NFL career in the future.

According to Mark Long of the Associated Press, Blackmon has checked into a voluntary treatment facility and is about halfway through the 90-day program.

“He’s healing and taking time for himself,” head coach Gus Bradley said. “The great thing is he has chosen this for himself. It’s awesome to hear about.”

This isn’t the first time Blackmon has sought out treatment for his problems. He also planned to enter rehab last year after the suspension was handed down by the league. But Blackmon was arrested again in July for possession of marijuana in Oklahoma, which essentially closed the door on any chance that he could return to the field this year.

Blackmon showed great potential as a rookie in 2012 when he caught 64 passes for 865 yards and five touchdowns for the Jaguars. After serving a four-game suspension to begin the 2013 season, Blackmon also had a standout performance in Denver with 14 catches for 190 yards before he was suspended indefinitely in November.

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Cowboys player allegedly involved in a sexual assault

Cowboys Getty Images

Despite unprecedented sensitivity to the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault in the NFL, incidents involving NFL players continue.

The latest allegedly happened on the evening of September 20.

According to the New York Daily News, defensive back C.J. Spillman has been accused of sexually assaulting a female at the team’s hotel.

“We have a sexual assault report we are investigating at this time, and it does involve C.J. Spillman,” a police spokesman told the Daily News.  “He is involved in the investigation.  We are looking into the matter.”

Spillman played on September 21 at St. Louis, and again on September 28 against the Saints.  On September 26, the alleged victim’s lawyer, Gloria Allred, alerted Commissioner Roger Goodell to the allegations.

It’s unclear whether the team or the league previously knew about it.  It’s also unclear why Spillman has not yet been placed on the rabbit-from-a-hat Commissioner’s Permission list.

Now that the situation has become publicly known, chances are that Spillman will land on paid suspension until the charges are resolved.  Or maybe the Cowboys will simply cut him, since he’s not a key player.

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Alexander says suspension arises from violation “many months ago”

Alexander Getty Images

The four-game suspension imposed on Panthers defensive end Frank Alexander has become a 10-game suspension.  Alexander has issued a statement expressing regret for the incident that, according to Alexander, happened a long time ago.

“I’m very sorry to the Panthers organization, my teammates, and Panthers fans that my mistakes from many months ago will prevent me from contributing for several more weeks,” Alexander said in a statement.  “This discipline arose from a violation that occurred many months ago.  Since that violation, I have continued to grow, and I will continue to work hard, as I have been doing, to stay in shape and be a major contributor upon my return.   Through God’s favor, I will continue to show through my behavior that I have learned some valuable life lessons.”

While the violation triggering the 10-game suspension may have happened many months ago, it wasn’t only one violation that resulted in the suspension.  But for the revision to the substance-abuse policy, the latest violation would have resulted in Alexander missing an entire year, at a minimum.

A fourth-round pick in 2012, Alexander will be eligible to return after Week 15, barring another violation.

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Report: Aaron Dobson benched after he “mouthed off” to McDaniels

Aaron Dobson AP

The Patriots scratched wide receiver Aaron Dobson in each of the last two games.

We now reportedly have an idea why.

According to Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe, the Patriots benched Dobson for the Sept. 21 win vs. Oakland and the Sept. 29 loss at Kansas City after the second-year wide receiver “mouthed off” to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

A second-round pick in the 2013 draft, the 23-year-old Dobson showed potential as a rookie, hauling in 37 passes for 519 yards and four touchdowns. He’s appeared in one game this season, catching one pass for 13 yards.

The question now is whether Dobson can earn his way back onto the active roster for Sunday’s matchup vs. Cincinnati. This much is certain: team and player figure to be asked about the subject this week.

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Derek Carr could be the key to luring Gruden

Carr Getty Images

As the 2014 draft approached, Raiders owner Mark Davis developed a strong desire to draft quarterback Derek Carr.  On the afternoon before the draft began, chatter emerged that Davis was pushing for Carr to be taken with the fifth overall pick in round one.

The Raiders passed, as did each of the next 32 teams.  Then, with the fifth pick in round two, the Raiders pounced on Carr.

With a front office and coaching staff in win-now mode and a roster laden with veterans, it didn’t make sense.  With coach Dennis Allen already gone and Davis apparently interested in bringing Jon Gruden back to the Bay Area, it suddenly does.

The current thinking is that Davis wanted Carr because Davis believes Carr’s presence will help lure Gruden back to town.  For any coach with options (and it’s still not clear how many options Gruden really has had or will have), the quarterback position becomes nearly as important as the salary.  Davis thinks that Gruden’s favorite quarterback in the 2014 class was Carr.  Which could help Gruden choose to return to the Black Hole at a time when the roster otherwise contains plenty of red flags.

Other terms will be compensation and power.  Or, at a minimum, the power to hire someone Gruden trusts to set the table from a personnel standpoint.

It’s not clear whether Gruden has any interest in leaving the friendly confines of the broadcast booth, but if he’s ready to jump and if Davis is ready to pay, Carr could be the guy who helps seal the deal.

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Geno gets testy over Vick questions

Smith AP

Well, at least he didn’t tell anyone to go f–k himself.

Jets quarterback Geno Smith, who lost his cool and yelled a pair of “F” bombs into the stands at the end of Sunday’s loss to the Lions, was in no mood on Wednesday to take questions about a guy who once shot a pair of middle fingers to hecklers in Atlanta.

Asked whether Smith sees the value in using Mike Vick to provide the offense with a spark when needed, the current starter bristled.

“I don’t know what you’re trying to lead to with that question,” Smith said, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “Maybe that’s your opinion.  What do you mean a spark?  We’ve already put him in.”

Asked if it would make sense to have Vick come in not for a cameo appearance but to jump-start the offense, Smith got even more testy.

“That doesn’t make sense,” Smith said.  “What team do you see doing that? . . .  That’s not a question. Next question.”

Actually, the Cardinals did that, seven years ago.  Coach Ken Whisenhunt routinely yanked second-year quarterback Matt Leinart for veteran backup Kurt Warner when the team fell behind, re-inserting Leinart once Warner evened things up again.  That continued until Leinart, who was getting frustrated with the technique, broke a collarbone.  The next year, Warner was the starter and the Cardinals were in the Super Bowl.

For his part, Vick opted to navigate around the topic far more diplomatically.

“[W]e don’t need any more distractions right now even though I don’t think I would be a distraction if I went in and played temporarily,” Vick said.  “We just need to focus on beating San Diego.”

Or, as coach Rex Ryan put it with a reference to Bill Belichick’s bizarre Cincinnati presser, the Jets are “on to San Diego.”

For Smith, the best news coming from the road game in California is that any heckling will come from fans who are supposed to be heckling him.

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Reche Caldwell faces prison time after guilty plea on drug charge

reche-caldwell Getty Images

Former NFL receiver Reche Caldwell could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to a federal drug conspiracy.

Caldwell admitted to a scheme to distribute the drug “Molly,” prosecutors say.

According to the Tampa Tribune, Caldwell admits that he signed for and accepted a parcel from China containing 1.5 kilograms of Molly. A week later, investigators intercepted a package mailed by Caldwell that contained the drug.

A second-round pick of the Chargers in 2002, Caldwell spent seven years in the NFL in San Diego, New England, Washington and St. Louis.

Caldwell has been arrested three times this year. In addition to the arrest in connection with this case, he also was arrested in January on an accusation that he was running an illegal gambling operation, and in August on a charge of possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license.

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Kaepernick avoids topic of locker-room turmoil

Kaepernick Getty Images

After non-reporter Deion Sanders reported that 49ers players want coach Jim Harbaugh to coach someone other than the 49ers, the team trotted out several players to debunk the report from the non-reporter.

But where were the team leaders?  Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Frank Gore, Anquan Boldin, Colin Kaepernick were all silent on the topic in the aftermath of the report.

Kaepernick broke his silence on Wednesday, via the final question at his weekly Wednesday press conference.  But Kaepernick didn’t address the substance of Sanders’ non-reporter report.

“Well, I’d like to know who the source is,” Kaepernick said.  “So, when you get a source from that, then we can talk about that. Until then, that’s the media.”

It continues the dismissive tone that the 49ers have applied to Deion’s non-reporter report.  And it overlooks the fact that information from anonymous sources can be as reliable, and perhaps in some cases even more reliable, than information from on-the-record sources.

Still, it would be easier to dismiss Deion’s non-reporter report if team leaders were sounding off — not about the fact that the source isn’t named but the reality that the source is flat-out wrong.

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The time Larry Donnell shoveled dirt on every other bad beat story

Larry Donnell, Brandon Meriweather AP

Look, fantasy football bad beat stories are generally just tedious.

Here’s an example: Last week, a fantasy owner benched Giants tight end Larry Donnell in favor of 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. Donnell outscored Davis, and the fantasy owner lost.

Yawn.

Well, what if we told you the fantasy owner was Larry Donnell himself?

This apparently actually happened.

According to NorthJersey.com, Donnell mentioned Wednesday he started Davis in his fantasy league in Week Four, leaving himself on the bench.

Donnell, of course, would go on to catch seven passes for 54 yards and three touchdowns in the Giants’ win vs. Washington. Davis, meanwhile, tallied two catches, eight yards and no scores and departed with a back injury in a win vs. Philadelphia.

In the end, the Giants were triumphant, but Donnell’s fantasy squad paid the price.

“Would’ve won if I played me,” Donnell said Wednesday, according to NorthJersey.com. “During the game, I’m like, ‘Really?’ That’s the honest truth.”

Let us propose a rule. Before telling a bad beat story, ask yourself this question: is your bad beat story as compelling as Larry Donnell’s?

We thought not.

So it’s settled. Rest in peace, bad beat stories other than Larry Donnell’s.

Rest in peace.

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Trent Williams: Seahawks aren’t unstoppable, we can beat them

TrentWilliams AP

As Washington left tackle Trent Williams studies film of Seattle’s defense in preparation for Monday night’s meeting, his conclusion is this: These guys are beatable.

Williams said he and his teammates won’t go into the game against the defending champion Seahawks intimidated, because they know they can win.

Can we beat them? Yeah,” Williams said, via the Washington Post. “At the end of the day, they’re not robots. They’re human beings and nobody’s perfect. Nobody plays perfect every Sunday. They have been beaten before. It’s not like they’re unstoppable. They’re a great team, no doubt about it, but anything is possible in the NFL.”

Williams said that after the embarrassment of Thursday’s loss to the Giants, he and his teammates are motivated.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that we need to step up,” he said. “We’re going against one of the best teams in the NFL right now on Monday night. I think guys are going to come with their best effort, and hopefully we’ll turn this thing around.”

Beating Seattle would be a very big step toward turning things around.

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Knee injury keeps Kyle Williams out of practice

Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Ryan Fitzpatrick AP

The Bills have had one of the stingiest run defenses in the league through the first four weeks of the season, but they were missing one of the major cogs in that effort when they kicked off practice for Week Five.

Defensive tackle Kyle Williams didn’t participate because of the knee injury he suffered in last Sunday’s loss to the Texans. Beyond saying that Williams’s experience meant that he didn’t have to practice in order to play, coach Doug Marrone didn’t offer much insight into Williams’s condition.

“I just heard that we’re going to see how it progresses. He’s been around, he’s walking around here,” Marrone said, via ESPN.com. “That’s the doctors. When they release him, they release him, and when they don’t … I don’t have a feel. All I know is how it progresses, I’ll know more as the week goes.”

History says that no one should expect Marrone to be more forthcoming as the week goes on, so Williams’s practice status will be the best guide to predicting whether or not he’ll be in the lineup against the Lions. Stefan Charles and Corbin Bryant are the backup options in the event Williams doesn’t play.

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NFL announces extension of DirecTV Sunday Ticket deal

SundayTicket

NFL Sunday Ticket is staying on DirecTV.

The league announced on Wednesday that it has extended its agreement with DirecTV to give the satellite provider the rights to show out-of-market games. Darren Rovell of ESPN reports that it’s an eight-year deal that will see DirecTV paying the NFL $1.5 billion a year, a 50 percent increase over the $1 billion a year DirecTV was paying under its previous deal with the league.

The NFL’s announcement also said DirecTV will continue with added features beyond the live Sunday games, including the Red Zone Channel, Game Mix with eight games on one screen and the new Fantasy Zone channel. DirecTV will also continue carrying NFL Network on satellite and make it available to subscribers to watch on mobile devices.

Some fans who have cable and can’t get DirecTV will be disappointed that Sunday Ticket isn’t going to be available to cable subscribers. But DirecTV is increasingly promoting the ability of Sunday Ticket subscribers to watch games on tablets and phones, which means you no longer need a satellite dish on your roof to have Sunday Ticket. You just need to pay DirecTV for access, which millions of fans will do. Sunday Ticket is one of the most valuable properties on American television, because the NFL is the most popular programming on American television.

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Jon Gruden says the predictable thing about Raiders job

grudenx-large AP

With the Raiders already in the market for a head coach after the 2014 season and with former Raiders (and Buccaneers) coach Jon Gruden’s name the first to emerge, the elder brother of Washington coach Jay Gruden is saying all the right things about the move he potentially will make come January.

I’m not thinking about coaching,” Jon Gruden said.  “I’m thinking about heading to Washington, watching the world champions and my brother coach.”

He’s probably also thinking about the quality of the welcome he’ll get from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who may be reluctant to invite an immediate family member of the next opponent’s head coach into practice and production meetings.  Either way, Jon Gruden isn’t thinking about coaching right now because he shouldn’t be thinking about it.  Or, more accurately, he shouldn’t be talking about thinking about it.

Playing it slow and playing it cool eventually will pay off for Gruden, either via a big offer from the Raiders or more money from ESPN.  At a time when most NFL teams with vacancies aren’t beating a path to Gruden’s door for the privilege of paying him a lot of money to return to coaching, the Raiders have become the franchise with the most interest in hiring Jon Gruden since the Buccaneers became no longer interested in employing him.

It will be a delicate balance for Gruden, who won’t want to alienate a fan base that still worships him.  But his best play would be to find a way to parlay Oakland’s interest into interest from a franchise that has much better prospects for 2015 and beyond — if there’s a franchise out there that would want to hire him.

Other than the Raiders right now, there really hasn’t been.  And the truth is that, despite the hype, there may never be.

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