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Receivers Justin Hunter, Stedman Bailey declare for NFL draft

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Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter and West Virginia wide receiver Stedman Bailey have announced that they’re leaving college and entering the 2013 NFL draft.

Hunter had previously been mum about the widespread speculation that he was going pro, but he confirmed on Twitter on Monday that he has declared for the draft. Hunter suffered a torn ACL in 2011 and may not have been all the way back to full speed this season, but he still had 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns for the Volunteers. He has a chance at being the first receiver selected in April.

Bailey had amazing numbers this season in the Mountaineers’ high-scoring passing attack, with 106 catches for 1,501 yards and 23 touchdowns. He had been widely expected to leave West Virginia early.

Although next year’s draft features a weak crop of senior receivers, there have now been four juniors to enter the draft: Hunter, Bailey, Cal’s Keenan Allen and Tennessee Tech’s Da’Rick Rogers.

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After loss, Jaguars name Blake Bortles their starter

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The Jaguars have switched starting quarterbacks.

Blake Bortles has been named the team’s starter, head coach Gus Bradley said after Jacksonville’s 44-17 loss to Indianapolis on Sunday, according to the Jaguars’ official Twitter feed.

Bortles relieved Henne at halftime and showed promise in his first NFL regular season action, completing 14-of-24 passes for 223 yards with a pair of touchdowns. He also rushed twice for 30 yards. Moreover, Bortles was sacked just once, and he handled pass rush pressure quite well.  On the other side of the ledger, Bortles was intercepted twice, with one pick returned for a score.

Nevertheless, the Jaguars’ offense showed life with Bortles, who wasn’t at all overmatched. These factors made it an easy call for the Jaguars, now 0-3, to make the switch.

While the Jaguars made a major long-term decision Sunday, the Colts (1-2) regained their footing in the short term, racking up 529 yards against Jacksonville’s porous defense. Quarterback Andrew Luck was outstanding, completing 31-of-39 passes for 370 yards and four touchdowns.

With the Texans’ loss to the Giants, Indianapolis moved within one game of the AFC South lead. The Colts host the struggling Titans next Sunday.

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Eagles hold off Redskins 37-34 on a chaotic afternoon in Philly

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The best thing about Sunday’s Eagles-Redskins game is that they’re going to play again later this season.

Philadelphia moved to 3-0 with a 37-34 win after 60 minutes filled with all the twists and turns that you’d want to see from an NFL game. There was a huge play by DeSean Jackson in his return to Philadelphia, a full-scale brawl that resulted in a pair of ejections, comebacks by both teams and almost 900 yards of offense between the two teams.

The Redskins had 511 of them in Kirk Cousins’s first start of the season. It’s one that will likely embolden those that feel he’s a better fit for the Redskins offense than Robert Griffin III. Cousins was 30-of-48 for 427 yards and three touchdowns on the afternoon and he was able to make some big plays through the air in the second half to keep the Redskins in the mix after they blew a 10-point lead in the first half. He threw an interception and couldn’t convert a first down after a bad punt gave the Redskins the ball in Eagles territory with two minutes to play, but it was a very strong performance overall for Cousins.

Nick Foles’s numbers weren’t quite as gaudy, but his performance was just as strong. Foles shook off hit after hit, including the Chris Baker block that touched off the aforementioned brawl, to complete 28-of-42 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns. The last of them was a 27-yard strike to Jeremy Maclin just after that brawl, breaking a 27-27 tie and giving the Eagles the lead for good.

It was a tough performance for Foles and he was helped out by Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews at different points. Jackson’s touchdown was a reminder of what the Eagles lost, but Maclin and Matthews (16 catches for 213 yards and three scores between them) made it clear that all is well on the depth chart.

The battering of Foles and the loss of three starting offensive linemen aren’t coincidental, so the Eagles will have to hope that center Jason Kelce can make a quick return after leaving Sunday’s game with an abdomen injury.

All those hits, the fight and Jackson’s theatrics on his touchdown all helped amp up the emotions in Philly on Sunday afternoon, making for one of the more exciting games of the young season. They’ll do it all over again in Week 16.

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Ravens come through late, knock off Browns on last-second field goal

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This one’s going to hurt for Cleveland.

Placekicker Justin Tucker’s 32-yard field goal as time expired gave the Ravens 23-21 victory over the Browns in Cleveland on Sunday.

It was a thoroughly frustrating fourth quarter for the Browns (1-2). First, kicker Billy Cundiff missed a 50-yard field goal and had a 36-yard field goal blocked. Then, with a 21-20 lead and chance to close out the game in the final minutes, the Browns went three-and-out deep in their own end, setting up the Ravens at midfield at the two-minute warning.

Two plays later, the Ravens made the game’s pivotal play. Wide receiver Steve Smith beat cornerback Joe Haden off the line, and quarterback Joe Flacco hit him for a 32-yard gain. Now, the Ravens were in slam-dunk field goal range, and Tucker — one of the game’s clutch kickers — gave Baltimore the win.

In victory, Flacco completed 19-of-31 passes for 217 yards with one TD and one pick. The Ravens’ ground game was very productive even without Bernard Pierce, racking up 160 yards. Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro helped pick up the slack with 91 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.

The Browns got another solid performance from quarterback Brian Hoyer, who connected on 19-of-25 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown. But Hoyer also went over the line of scrimmage on a fourth quarter TD pass to Miles Austin, resulting in a loss of down. On the next play, Cundiff’s field goal was blocked.

And in the end, Cleveland couldn’t close out Baltimore (2-1).

The Ravens suffered a potentially serious personnel loss in the win, as tight end Dennis Pitta departed the game on a stretcher after a right hip injury. He was taken to a hospital, according to the club.

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Matt Cassel has broken foot, which means it’s Teddy Time

Teddy Bridgewater AP

The Vikings’ starting quarterback job is Teddy Bridgewater’s for the forseeable future.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told reporters after the game that starter Matt Cassel has several broken bones in his foot, which means the job is Bridgewater’s by default.

Asked if Bridgewater was his starter moving forward, Zimmer replied: “That is correct.”

The rookie did not look overwhelmed in his first NFL action, despite losing to the Saints. It wasn’t the toughest defense to play against, but there were at least some signs of life from their offense.

And since they don’t figure to have Adrian Peterson back on the field anytime soon or ever, any bit of hope on offense is a good thing.

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Rashad Jennings runs wild in first Giants win of year

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The Giants got their first win of the 2014 season on Sunday and they did it with a lot of help from one of their biggest offseason acquisitions.

Running back Rashad Jennings posted a career-best 176 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries as the Giants cruised past the Texans 30-17 in New Jersey. Jennings was helped by a strong performance by the Giants offensive line, but he made the most of his opportunities by hitting holes quickly and keeping things moving after initial contact.

It was exactly the kind of power running game the Giants wanted to add to their team and you could see the possibilities for their offense on Sunday. When the Giants weren’t battering the Texans with Jennings, they were having Eli Manning throw quick passes that his receivers held onto more often than they did in the first two weeks of the season. Manning wound up 21-of-28 for 234 yards and two touchdowns and Victor Cruz was a positive factor for the first time of the season with 107 yards and a score.

All the quick passing helped keep J.J. Watt in check. Watt had an impressive sack early and blew up Jennings on one running play, but the Giants were able to keep him from dominating matters up front and that’s a big win for an offense these days.

Houston lost for the first time of the year and one major, if obvious, takeaway is that they’re better off when they don’t have to rely on Ryan Fitzpatrick to generate the lion’s share of their offense. Fitzpatrick settled down after getting picked off twice in the first half, but those picks were damaging and the team’s offensive totals got a boost by an 80-yard scoring drive when matters were already settled. If running back Arian Foster gets healthy, the Texans should be able to get back on track but things look a lot bleaker if he’s out for any extended period.

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Chargers overcome another injury, beat Bills 22-10

Philip Rivers AP

The Chargers keep losing parts, but keep making plays.

They improved to 2-1 with a 22-10 win over the Bills, which saw them get even thinner on offense.

The Chargers continued to run the ball, even after losing Danny Woodhead to an early ankle injury (more troubling as they were already without Ryan Mathews).

While replacement Donald Brown wasn’t eye-popping, he ran well enough to keep the clock and chains moving. He had 31 carries for 62 yards, which was important for the time they took more than the ground they covered.

That was all Philip Rivers needed to keep things balanced. Rivers threw a pair of touchdown passes to Eddie Royal and was 18-of-25 for 256 yards, consistently able to get yards in chunks.

The Bills never found any offensive rhythm, in their first loss of the season. Much of that had to do with San Diego’s defense, but they looked disjointed throughout.

Sammy Watkins finished the day with two catches for a grand total of 19 yards, hardly what they’re expecting from their first-round pick (and next year’s).

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Jason Peters, Chris Baker ejected after brawl in Philly

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Redskins and Eagles are having an old-fashioned NFC East slugfest. Literally.

The game came to a halt in the fourth quarter when a hit on Eagles quarterback Nick Foles touched off a wild brawl between members of both teams. Redskins defensive lineman Chris Baker laid out Foles with a blindside block during an interception return, which led Eagles tackle Jason Peters to confront him and then both sides spilled onto the sideline in one of the bigger fights in recent memory.

There was far too much going on to give a proper blow-by-blow, but it ended with both teams being directed to their benches over the public address system. Baker and Redskins left tackle Trent Williams were both immediately ejected from the game.  Referee Tony Corrente later explained that not Williams but Eagles tackle Jason Peters was ejected. That leaves the Eagles with no reserve offensive linemen as Jason Kelce was already lost to an abdomen injury.

Foles remained in the game and the Eagles kept the ball because all of the above need not have happened. The ball hit the ground before Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland corralled it, but it was incorrectly ruled a clean pick. It was overturned on replay, but not before the rest of a 27-27 game was greatly impacted by bad feelings spilling out all over the place.

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Cowboys storm back to beat the Rams

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It was an ugly start for the Cowboys. And an even uglier finish for the Rams.

In a game that saw St. Louis jump out to an early 21-0 lead, the final 35 minutes of play were all Cowboys, and Dallas won 34-31.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo made one very bad decision, a pick-six to Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins, but otherwise he was accurate and efficient.

Dallas receiver Dez Bryant had a big day, catching a 68-yard pass on which he got so wide open that the Rams’ defense didn’t even seem to realize he was on the field. Also having a big day was Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, who lost a fumble early but gave the Cowboys some big plays late, including a 44-yard run that was his longest since 2012. Murray ended the game with 24 carries for 100 yards.

There was a bright spot for the Rams in that young quarterback Austin Davis looked pretty good for his second consecutive start. Although the game ended with Davis throwing a desperation interception, he went over 300 yards and threw three touchdown passes. If Davis proves himself to be a legitimate NFL starter, that’s a bright spot for the entire season.

But Davis wasn’t enough today. This was a heartbreaking loss in St. Louis.

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Bengals throttle the Titans 33-7 to move to 3-0

Andy Dalton, Mohamed Sanu AP

The Bengals are still perfect.

That’s a reflection of their record, and perhaps their offensive balance, after a 33-7 win over the Titans pushed them to 3-0 heading into their bye week.

It was their 11th straight home win, setting a new franchise record.

Giovani Bernard ran for a pair of touchdowns, and Andy Dalton caught a touchdown pass from wide receiver Mohamed Sanu as part of a diverse attack.

All told, it was an efficient performance, even though Dalton threw an interception and only finished with 169 yards.

That was more than enough to beat the Titans, who looked hapless throughout the game.

From taking a safety while trying to punt to missing field goals to turning the ball over, they were bad in all three phases.

Jake Locker threw two interceptions for the Titans, who fell to 1-2.

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Raiders comeback falls short, Patriots survive a scare

ridley AP

The Patriots were the heaviest favorites in the NFL this week. But the Raiders didn’t make it easy today in New England.

Although Oakland stormed back and appeared to have scored a game-tying touchdown in the final minute, a penalty wiped that touchdown off the board and the Patriots survived to beat the Raiders 16-9.

The Patriots sealed the win when Raiders quarterback Derek Carr dropped back to pass and hit receiver Denarius Moore, only to have the ball ricochet off both Moore and Patriots defensive back Logan Ryan before New England nose tackle Vince Wilfork — of all people — intercepted it to clinch the game.

As he has been for most of the season, Tom Brady was unspectacular. But he did enough not to lose, completing 24 of 36 passes for 234 yards, with one touchdown (to Rob Gronkowski) and no interceptions.

Carr was not particularly good, completing 21 of 34 passes for 174 yards. But he didn’t have any interceptions until that game clincher, which was not his fault.

And that’s about all the Raiders can hang their hats on — Carr wasn’t terrible, and they weren’t terrible. But they also weren’t good enough to win.

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Saints hang on to beat Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings

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Drew Brees was hot early, but got heated late.

And that was enough to get the Saints their first win of the season, 20-7 over the Vikings.

Brees was surgical on the first two drives, leading the Saints to quick touchdowns.

But the Vikings defense decided to show up after that, and made life difficult for Brees.

The slump ended right about the time Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn suplexed Brees to punctuate a sack, which led to Brees popping up to his feet and into the face of the Vikings defense.

He then responded with touchdown pass to Marques Colston to put the game away, and lend a little life to a team that needed it.

Brees finished 27-of-35 for 293 yards and two touchdowns.

The Vikings lost starting quarterback Matt Cassel to a toe injury, and rookie Teddy Bridgewater played acceptably well in his stead.

Bridgewater didn’t get them into the end zone, but he has no running game help, and was able to get them close enough for three field goals. He finished 12-of-20 for 150 yards for the Vikings, who lost their second straight to move to 1-2.

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Lions’ defense steps up in big NFC North win over Packers

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It’s too early in the season to say there’s been a changing of the guard in the NFC North. But the Lions did just take a big step toward establishing themselves as contenders.

With the defending NFC North champion Packers in town, an injury-riddled Detroit secondary played surprisingly solid defense against Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and Co. and won a hard-fought game, 19-7.

The Lions were aided by Packers coach Mike McCarthy’s suspect play calling: Despite the big holes in the Lions’ secondary, McCarthy opened the game by trying to establish the run and getting the ball to running back Eddie Lacy. That didn’t work well at all, as a Lacy fumble was picked up by Detroit’s Don Carey and returned for a touchdown to give the Lions an early 7-0 lead, and Lacy was later tackled in the end zone for a safety to give Detroit a 9-7 lead.

The Lions’ offense struggled early on, with Matthew Stafford throwing two first-half interceptions and losing a fumble in the red zone on the first drive of the second half. But they eventually began to make things happen, and a Reggie Bush 26-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter put the game away.

Bush’s run — and the Lions’ offense in general — was aided late in the game by the absence of Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who left with a groin injury and did not return.

There are still plenty of questions in Detroit, especially on special teams, where rookie kicker Nate Freese missed another field goal — his fourth miss already this season. But the Lions played well and improved to 2-1 — a game ahead of the Packers for first place in the NFC North.

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DeSean Jackson ties game with 81-yard touchdown

DeSean Jackson AP

DeSean Jackson said he was looking forward to making an impact in his first game in Philadelphia as a member of the Redskins.

Mission accomplished.

Jackson hauled in a deep pass from Kirk Cousins, shrugged off a defender and made his way to the end zone. Jackson didn’t just stroll in, however. He turned back toward Eagles safety Nate Allen on his way over the goal line and then flapped his arms at the Eagles crowd in a gesture they would have appreciated much more this time last year.

The big play snapped a sluggish second half for the Redskins offense that saw them doing little to press the issue downfield. Cousins had loads of time to get the ball to Jackson on the touchdown, however, and dropped a pass just in front of him to make the six points academic once Jackson secured the ball.

The game is now tied at 27 late in the third quarter.

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Jared Cook drops touchdown pass, shoves guy who threw it

Cook Getty Images

A quarterback has gotten the treatment once supplied by quarterback Jay Cutler to a teammate.

In St. Louis, where the Rams had seen a 21-0 lead evaporate to 21-20, the offense moved to the brink of the Dallas end zone.  One third and goal, quarterback Austin Davis thew a pass to tight end Jared Cook, who dropped an easy score.

On the sidelines after the play, Cook walked toward Davis.  Davis extended a hand.

And Cook shoved Davis.

There’s likely more to the story.  Maybe it will surface after the game — especially since the Cowboys now have a 27-23 lead

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Lorenzo Taliaferro impresses in extended work for Baltimore

Lorenzo Taliaferro AP

A thigh injury to Bernard Pierce has given Ravens rookie tailback Lorenzo Taliaferro an extended chance at playing time in Sunday’s game at Cleveland.

And Taliaferro has made the most of that opportunity.

A fourth-round pick from Coastal Carolina, Taliaferro rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries in the first three quarters against the Browns, who hold a 21-17 fourth quarter lead.

When Pierce returns, the Ravens will have to decide how to parcel out carries between Pierce, Taliaferro and Justin Forsett, the latter of whom contributes well in the passing game. But Taliaferro has certainly made a case to be in the mix.

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