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Jamaal Charles gaining ground at a rate unseen in NFL history

Jamaal Charles AP

The Chiefs are completing a miserable season that may cost everyone in the front office and coaching staff their jobs, but there’s one very valuable asset that whoever takes over the Chiefs next season will inherit: A running back who has blown away the NFL’s all-time record for yards per carry.

When Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles logged his 750th career carry on Sunday, he earned a spot in the NFL record book that had been owned by Jim Brown for half a century. That’s the spot atop the list of running backs with the highest career average yards per carry: In the official NFL record book, a running back needs 750 career carries to qualify for the yards-per-carry record, and Brown’s career average of 5.22 yards per carry has been the gold standard since he retired in 1965.

But now Charles, with 770 carries for 4,483 yards in his career, has surpassed Brown by a huge margin: Charles’ average of 5.82 yards per carry is something professional football has never seen before from a running back.

Brown’s record has technically been broken, but only by a couple of quarterbacks: First Randall Cunningham retired with an average of 6.36 yards per carry, and then Michael Vick, whose current career average is 7.03 yards per carry, topped Cunningham. But if we look only at running backs, Charles is the best ever in yards per carry average by a huge margin.

In fact, Charles tops all other running backs in NFL history even if we expand the list a bit to include running backs who didn’t have 750 career carries. Pro Football Hall of Famer Marion Motley, for instance, averaged 5.70 yards a carry in his career, an even better mark than Brown. Motley was always cited by the great Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman as the best football player he ever saw, but Motley got most of his carries playing for the Browns when they were part of the All-America Football Conference in the 1940s, and the NFL doesn’t count stats from the AAFC toward its official records, so Motley has never been considered the record holder. Some football historians considered Motley the true yards-per-carry record holder even though the NFL record book gave the nod to Brown, but Charles has now surpassed even Motley’s mark.

Bo Jackson also had a better career yards per carry average than Brown, but Jackson’s career was cut short after just 515 carries. Jackson’s average was an incredible 5.40 yards per carry — incredible, but not as good as Charles’ career average.

A running back who averages five yards a carry for his career is doing something extraordinary. Five yards a carry is better than Walter Payton averaged, better than O.J. Simpson averaged, better than Eric Dickerson averaged, better than Emmitt Smith averaged. A 5.0 average is what Barry Sanders and Gale Sayers had in their careers, and it’s currently Adrian Peterson’s career average as well. Going above 5.0 is the most rarefied air a running back can reach. For Charles to close out his fifth NFL season while carrying a 5.8-yard career average is remarkable.

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Bengals trying to teach Vontaze Burfict to play safer (so he can play)

Vontaze Burfict AP

The Bengals are obviously better on defense when Vontaze Burfict is on the field.

But they might want him to play differently in the future, in hopes of actually staying there more often.

Burfict’s reckless, head-first style has resulted in him finishing one game this year, between a concussion, last week’s “cervical strain” and other vaguely diagnoses “head injuries.”

He does us no good sitting on the sideline after five snaps every week,”  Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said, via Coley Harvey of ESPN.com. “It does us no good. It does us more harm than good. So he’s got to learn how to do [tackle better] for him and the team and everybody involved.”

Of course, trying to teach an adult NFL player to do things differently at this stage in his career might be difficult.

“I tell him to keep his face up,” Guenther said. “I tell him that he’s my quarterback. Like you need to tell a quarterback to slide and to not get hit, I tell him to keep his head up so he can stay in the game. When he starts the game and he comes out, it affects everything. It affects me, it affects the unit, it affects the linebacking crew. . . .

“I’ve said this a million times: He’s my quarterback on the field,” Guenther said of Burfict. “I communicate with him, ‘Hey, tell the corner this.’ And he knows exactly what I’m thinking. Being his [former] position coach, I’ve trained the guy. It’s easier when you have a guy that you’ve trained who can understand that these are the ins and outs of what I’m thinking about. He settles the group down when he’s playing. He brings energy.”

They have other injuries at linebacker which complicate things as well, but when he leaves the game, it puts the formation-setting responsibilities on backup Vincent Rey.

Guenther’s point is a valid one, and they do need to re-train Burfict to keep him on the field. But much like Marvin Lewis’s tone-deaf remarks about concussions, it almost sounds like the Bengals are as worried about having a valuable employee available to play as much as they are about Burfict’s health and welfare.

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Lions started game-planning for the Falcons weeks ago

Lions London Football AP

Not only are the Lions five hours ahead of you right now, they’re also weeks ahead in terms of game-planning for the Falcons.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions adjusted the way they prepared for this game because of the time difference and travel lag. In addition to talking to military officers and a sleep specialists about the adjustment, they also changed the way they prepared a game-plan.

Coaches were given the option of staying late on Fridays and Saturdays, typically the shortest afternoons of the week, to work ahead on Falcons tape as opposed to cramming this week while they were flying and getting adjusted to the new schedule.

(Jets quarterback Geno Smith was not apparently consulted on this.)

“It does take quite a bit of preparation and time and you hope it doesn’t take away from the preparation of the present team that you were playing,” Caldwell said. “And I don’t think it hurt us a bit in that regard.”

In fact, the Lions have won two in a row, so any time they took away from previous weeks to get ready for the Falcons was obviously not a hindrance.

That allowed them to set up shop at a resort there, and have what amounts to a normal week of practice.

“You always have a few glitches here and there, but for the most part, it’s in place,” Caldwell said. “We have to work through a few bugs and I think we’ve gotten those worked out. But the difference is, anytime you relocate it’s bit of a challenge, right, logistically? But if you can adapt and adjust, you’ll be better for it. Our guys adjust very, very well.”

They didn’t talk to players about the Falcons at all until this week, but the fact coaches were willing to buck the “one game at a time” mantra shows an impressive flexibility on Caldwell’s part.

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Rams sticking with running back by committee approach

Tre Mason, Tharold Simon AP

Jeff Fisher is channeling his inner Mike Shanahan with his handling of the running backs for the St. Louis Rams.

Zac Stacy entered last week as the Rams leading rusher and had started the first five games of the year for St. Louis. Against the Seattle Seahawks, Stacy didn’t get a single carry as the Rams turned to Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham instead.

Mason rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries for St. Louis while Cunningham caught five passes for 46 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield.

According to R.B. Fallstrom of the Associated Press, that approach of spreading the workload around will continue for the Rams going forward.

“Zac could get 25 carries this week. He’s been a little banged up,” Fisher said. “We clearly have significant depth at the position.”

Stacy rushed for 973 yards as a rookie but has gotten off to a slower start this season. He’s rushed for 240 yards on 61 carries through the first five games. He was limited on the injury report with an ankle injury last week though he was listed as a full participant.

Mason looked promising in his first extended action against Seattle, though he did fumble on one of the Rams final offensive plays to potentially give the Seahawks a chance to win in the closing seconds.

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Seahawks to use Robert Turbin at fullback for now

Seattle Seahawks v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

Robert Turbin found out less than 10 minutes before kickoff that he was going to be called into duty at fullback for the Seattle Seahawks last week against the St. Louis Rams after starter Derrick Coleman broke a bone in his foot during pregame warm ups.

Despite never having played the position before in his football career, Turbin performed adequately enough that the Seahawks apparently feel comfortable with Turbin leading the way for Marshawn Lynch in Coelman’s absence.

“You’ve got to take your hat off to him,” offensive line coach Tom Cable said Wednesday. “That happens in pregame warm ups, which no one is ready for that. You sit down and start thinking ‘OK, what are we going to do.’ That was the obvious choice. He took the challenge and he did great.”

Seattle did have veteran Greg Jones in for a workout on Tuesday but have apparently elected to stick with the status quo in the meantime.

Turbin says he’s up for the job.

“Absolutely,” Turbin said. “I just want to win. I want to help the team as much as I can. I’m a team guy. If they need me to take on the role for the next few weeks or whatever the case may be, than sure.”

Coleman is expected to miss at least 4-6 weeks due to the broken foot.

The Seahawks may not run as much of their traditional two-back offense with Turbin as their full-time fullback now. Even with the trade of Percy Harvin, the Seahawks have two rookie draft picks in Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood at receiver they also want to get more involved in their offense. The lack of a traditional fullback could lead Seattle to go with Lynch solo in the backfield more often.

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Kessler, not Ginsberg, will be questioning Goodell

Jeffrey Kessler AP

Well, this one keeps getting even more interesting.

I’d assumed (ass, you, me) that the questioning of Commissioner Roger Goodell at the Ray Rice appeal hearing would be handled by Rice’s lawyer, Peter Ginsberg.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Goodell will be questioned not by Ginsberg but by NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler.

Kessler, a longtime antagonist of the NFL, now gets a crack at tying the man who runs the sport into a verbal pretzel, with question after question after question aimed at laying traps or twisting words or simply allowing the creation of a tangled web that Kessler then will blast apart with a flamethrower.

Goodell, who isn’t a lawyer, will need to be aggressively and meticulously prepared.  And Goodell needs to focus on the task like his job depends on it, because there’s a chance that his testimony will go badly enough that it does.

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No limits on Goodell testimony

Goodell Getty Images

The bad news for the NFL is that Commissioner Roger Goodell has been required to testify in hearing regarding the appeal of Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension.  The worse news is that, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, no limits have been applied to the topics on which he’ll be interrogated.

The case involves two separate issues — whether Rice lied to the NFL in connection with the investigation that resulted in a two-game suspension and whether the NFL knew, should have known, or needed to know the specific contents of the elevator video before issuing Rice’s initial two-game suspension.  Although the NFL’s lawyers will be able to object to any and all questions posed to Goodell, former U.S. Judge Barbara Jones applied no restrictions in her decision to compel the Commissioner’s testimony.

This doesn’t mean the NFL won’t try.  Plan A likely was shielding Goodell from testimony completely.  Plan B may be to limit the topics to which he’ll be exposed.  And with the question of what the NFL and when the NFL knew it about the Rice video far more likely to create lingering problems for the NFL than whether Rice told the truth, look for the NFL to continue to try to protect Goodell from having to answer questions regarding what the league knew or should have known under oath.

But the P.R. cost could be significant.  The effort to keep Goodell from testifying already paints the league in a not-so-favorable light.  Ongoing attempts to shape and mold and craft and limit the contours of what he can and can’t be asked will invite even more scrutiny.

Beyond the court of public opinion, there’s also a jury of 32 who may be very interested in how this plays out.

Plan C (or Plan B) could be a settlement of Rice’s appeal.  But Rice likely wouldn’t be interested in something like immediate reinstatement.  At this point, a significant amount of money would have to change hands to get Rice to release the tail of the tiger — so much that it would be obvious that the league opted not to purchase peace with Rice, but to buy Goodell’s right to remain silent.

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Report: Titans tabbing Zach Mettenberger as their starter

Zach Mettenberger AP

The Titans appear to be making a change at quarterback.

According to Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean, the Titans “plan” to go with rookie Zach Mettenberger as their starter for Sunday’s game against Houston.

Fourth-year pro Jake Locker, who has missed the last two games with a right thumb injury, went through a limited practice on Wednesday. Charlie Whitehurst, not Mettenberger, has filled in for Tennessee in Locker’s absence.

A sixth-round pick from LSU, the 6-foot-5, 244-pound Mettenberger has appeared in one regular season game for Tennessee, completing 2-of-5 passes for 17 yards with a pick in a lopsided loss at Indianapolis. In the preseason, Mettenberger completed 47-of-68 passes for 659 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. He also lost three fumbles.

The 23-year-old Mettenberger is nearly 11 months removed from an ACL tear that ended his collegiate season. Should he make his first NFL start on Sunday, it will come against a Texans defense featuring an MVP candidate in defensive lineman J.J. Watt.

When asked about Locker’s status as the top quarterback on Monday, Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt seemed to indicate Locker remained the starter.

“Nothing’s changed from the quarterback perspective,” Whisenhunt said, according to the club.

Also on Monday, Whisenhunt suggested giving Mettenberger more reps was more of a media issue than a serious in-house consideration.

“That seems to be a question you guys are saying more than I am. I’m focused on trying to prepare our team each week and play better,” Whisenhunt said.

The Titans did not make Locker available to the media Wednesday. Also, Whitehurst told reporters he was not permitted to talk on Wednesday, according to the Tennessean.

Mettenberger saw an uptick in reps with the starting offense on Wednesday, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

If Locker is healthy enough to play but is being replaced by Mettenberger, it throws Locker’s long-term future in Tennessee into further doubt. He is not signed beyond this season, and Whisenhunt was not the Titans’ head coach when the franchise took Locker No. 8 overall in 2011.

On Wednesday, Whisenhunt indicated Locker was making strides in his recovery, saying the quarterback “did pretty much everything” in the team’s first workout of the week.

The Titans (2-5) are three games behind the Colts in the AFC South.

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Report: Broncos practice squad safety John Boyett arrested

John Boyett AP

The Indianapolis Colts quickly released safety John Boyett a year ago after he was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, public intoxication and resisting law enforcement.

Boyett could now find himself in a similar situation with the Denver Broncos.

According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, Boyett was arrested on a misdemeanor third-degree assault charge on Wednesday morning.

After his release by the Colts, the Broncos signed Boyett to their practice squad last November. He turned to their practice squad this season after being released at the end of training camp and had spent the first seven weeks of the season on the squad.

However, teams are less willing to wait for due process to play out with players of lesser standing on the roster. Players on the practice squad typically get even less rope to work with. Boyett may learn that lesson the hard way for the second time in 13 months.

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Week Eight skill-position injury report — Wednesday

Martellus Bennett AP

Here are the skill-position players in Thursday and Sunday games who were listed on the Wednesday injury report. Key fantasy starters are bolded. Injury information is via the NFL and clubs.

The first injury report for Monday night’s Washington-Dallas matchup will be released Thursday.

Teams on bye: 49ers, Giants.

DID NOT PARTICIPATE

Bears TE Martellus Bennett (hamstring).

Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe).

Bills RB Fred Jackson (groin).

Bills WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring).

Broncos RB Montee Ball (groin) — OUT.

Browns WR Rodney Smith (hamstring).

Cardinals TE Troy Niklas (ankle).

Chargers RB Donald Brown (concussion) — OUT.

Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee) — OUT.

Chiefs WR Donnie Avery (groin).

Chiefs WR Junior Hemingway (hamstring).

Colts RB Trent Richardson (hamstring).

Colts TE Jack Doyle (knee).

Colts WR Reggie Wayne (elbow).

Eagles WR Brad Smith (groin) — OUT.

Falcons WR Harry Douglas (foot).

Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew (foot).

Lions TE Eric Ebron (hamstring).

Lions TE Joseph Fauria (ankle).

Packers RB James Starks (ankle).

Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle).

Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh).

Panthers WR Corey Brown (concussion).

Raiders TE David Ausberry (foot).

Rams WR Kenny Britt (ankle).

Ravens TE Owen Daniels (knee).

Saints RB Khiry Robinson (forearm).

Saints RB Pierre Thomas (rib, shoulder).

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (not injury related).

Seahawks TE Zach Miller (ankle) — OUT.

Seahawks FB Derrick Coleman (foot) — OUT.

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen, groin).

LIMITED

Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (ribs).

Bills WR Marcus Easley (knee).

Buccaneers QB Josh McCown (right thumb).

Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson (rib).

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (foot).

Cardinals WR John Brown (ankle).

Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee).

Dolphins TE Dion Sims (neck).

Dolphins WR Brandon Gibson (knee).

Eagles RB Darren Sproles (knee).

Falcons WR Julio Jones (ankle).

Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart (foot).

Jets WR Eric Decker (hamstring).

Jets WR Greg Salas (ankle, wrist).

Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle).

Lions RB Theo Riddick (hamstring).

Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle).

Patriots WR Matt Slater (shoulder).

Raiders FB Marcel Reece (quad).

Raiders WR Vincent Brown (hamstring).

Saints TE Jimmy Graham (shoulder).

Texans RB Arian Foster (not injury related).

Texans WR Andre Johnson (ankle).

Titans QB Jake Locker (right hand).

Titans RB Shonn Greene (hamstring).

Titans TE Taylor Thompson (knee).

FULL

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (groin).

Broncos K Brandon McManus (right groin) — PROBABLE.

Chiefs RB Cyrus Gray (hand).

Eagles RB Chris Polk (hamstring).

Jets RB Bilal Powell (foot).

Jets RB Chris Johnson (ankle).

Patriots QB Tom Brady (ankle).

Seahawks RB Robert Turbin (shoulder).

Seahawks TE Luke Willson (groin).

Vikings TE Chase Ford (foot).

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Brian Cushing will miss at least a week with knee issue

Cushing Getty Images

When discussing highlights of Pittsburgh’s Monday night win over the Texans on Tuesday’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN, Ross Tucker noticed that Houston linebacker Brian Cushing was having trouble moving.

He was, because of his knee.

Per a league source, Cushing will miss at least one game to rest his knee, which has been bothering him for the last two weeks.  The source says Cushing hasn’t been close to 100 percent, and that the knee has been drained a few times recently.

It’s the same knee in which Cusing tore the ACL last year.

The goal is to give Cushing some rest in the hopes that the knee will improve.  With two games left before the bye (against the Titans and Eagles), don’t be surprised if he’s out until Week Eleven at Cleveland.

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Roger Goodell will testify in Ray Rice appeal hearing

Goodell Getty Images

Ray Rice 1, NFL 0.

The first skirmish in the Ray Rice appeal hearing has resulted in a big victory for Rice and the NFL Players Association — and a potentially costly loss for the league office and Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Per a league source (and as multiple others are reporting as the news is leaked to multiple reporters), former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones has decided that Goodell should testify at the hearing.

It’s so obvious that Goodell should testify in a case that hinges on whether Ray Rice lied to Goodell that it’s surprising the league resisted.  It makes Goodell and the league look like they have something to hide, at a time when the NFL is trying to create the impression of transparency.

Then again, lawyers representing a large company typically try to shield the chief executive from testifying.  While it often happens because the chief executive actually has something to hide or lacks the ability to engage in effective verbal fencing with a skilled trial lawyer, folks who are used to having a lot of power typically don’t like submitting to someone else’s authority.

Goodell now will be submitting to the authority of Judge Jones — and answering potentially hostile questions from Rice’s lawyer.

The transcript of Goodell’s testimony, along with the rest of the evidence generated in the Rice appeal process, also will (or at least should) become part of the official investigation conducted by former FBI director Robert Mueller.  Anything Goodell says while testifying in the Rice appeal hearing should be compared to anything he said to Mueller for evidence of any inconsistencies.

With multiple owners reportedly taking a wait-and-see approach to Goodell’s employment status based on the outcome of the Mueller investigation, Goodell’s performance while testifying in the Rice appeal could, in theory, influence whether he’ll remain on the job.  He’ll need to be more direct and responsive before Judge Jones than he was during his September 19 press conference — and during his testimony in the Super Bowl ticket case.

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Pete Carroll has nothing more to say about Percy Harvin

CARROLL AP

The Seahawks haven’t really said all that much about the stunning decision to trade receiver Percy Harvin.  Coach Pete Carroll didn’t add much to the collection in his weekly Wednesday press conference.

“We already have made that move,” Carroll said in response to the question of how the team has moved on from Harvin.  “It doesn’t feel any different today.  We’re moving on.”

Still, plenty of questions remain unanswered regarding Harvin, including the specific things he did that prompted the decision to trade him for far less than what the Seahawks gave the Vikings to acquire him less than 20 months ago.  There have been plenty of reports about belligerence and refusal to play and fights with teammates, but the Seahawks have avoided confirming or commenting on any of them.

They probably never will.  And for the same reasons no one knew what was going on with Harvin while it was happening, no one will really know what’s going on in the wake of the Harvin trade, including but not limited to whether a locker-room division has emerged — and whether any potential resentment of quarterback Russell Wilson has increased in the aftermath of what some believe was an effort to clear Harvin off the roster before he could challenge the franchise quarterback who is less than three months away from becoming eligible to be paid accordingly.

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Report: LaMarr Woodley has torn biceps

LaMarr Woodley AP

One of the Raiders’ notable free agent additions could be lost for the season.

Defensive end LaMarr Woodley suffered a torn biceps in Sunday’s loss to Arizona, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported Wednesday night. The injury is thought to be season-ending, according to Rapoport.

Earlier, Raiders coach Tony Sparano indicated Woodley had suffered a potentially “serious” biceps injury, per Fallon Smith of CSN Bay Area.

The 29-year-old Woodley has played in each of Oakland’s first six games, logging 295 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus data. However, Woodley has been credited with just five tackles, and he has yet to notch a sack.

Woodley joined the Raiders in the offseason after spending six seasons with Pittsburgh. He is in the first year of a two-year contract.

Benson Mayowa is listed as the top backup to Woodley at defensive end.

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Rodgers reflects on “R-E-L-A-X” remarks

Rodgers AP

After the Packers slipped to 1-2 following a miserable loss to the Lions in Detroit, Aaron Rodgers had some advice for antsy Cheeseheads.

“Five letters.  R-E-L-A-X.  Relax.  We’re going to be fine,” Rodgers said.

Fine they’ve been.  With wins over the Bears, Vikings, Dolphins, and Panthers, all that’s standing between a 6-2 record at the bye week are the Saints at the Superdome.  In a conference call with New Orleans reporters, Rodgers was asked about the reaction to his R-E-L-A-X routine.

“First people were impressed I remembered how to spell it,” Rodgers said, via quotes distributed by the Saints.  “I think when you say something like that you take on greater responsibility as a leader and you take some of the focus off the team and I think there is a time and a place for that.  Maybe we needed a little something like that before our Week Four game in Chicago.  We responded with a good performance, four in a row, our defense is playing really well, offensively we are starting to get things going a little bit, so every now and then you say stuff like that that sticks.  If we had lost Week Four it probably wouldn’t have gone over as well as it has because we’ve won four in a row.”

It won’t be easy to extend the run to five.

“They are better than that,” Rodgers said of the Saints’ 2-4 record.  “They are 2-0 at home I believe.  They are better at home.  They have lost some close games.  Very talented offense, a very talented defense and very well coached.  I have competed against Coach [Rob] Ryan before and I have a lot of respect [for] the whole family, Rex, Rob, and their father, a guy who obviously changed how defense is played in the league.  I have a lot of respect for them and their defense.  Talented group, they play really well at home, they put up a lot of points.  You have to be expecting Drew [Brees] and those guys to be scoring points so we need to score touchdowns in the red zone and score some points ourselves.”

We’ll find out how it plays out on Sunday night.  And hopefully it’s play out with a closer game that what we’ve seen on Monday Sunday nights this season.

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Barry Cofield, Evan Mathis among Wednesday practice returnees

Howard Mudd, Evan Mathis AP

Eagles Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis was among four players on reserve lists to return to practice on Wednesday, per the NFL’s transactions.

Mathis, who is on injured reserve/designated for return with an MCL sprain, can re-enter the Eagles’ lineup on November 16 at Green Bay.

The other players returning Wednesday were Jaguars cornerback Aaron Colvin (ACL tear), Washington nose tackle Barry Cofield (high-ankle sprain) and Buccaneers tailback Charles Sims (ankle surgery). Cofield and Sims are on injured reserve/designated for return, while Colvin is on the reserve/non-football injury list.

Sims is eligible to return for the Buccaneers’ Nov. 9 matchup vs. Washington, while Cofield can be activated for the Nov. 16 meeting with Tampa Bay.

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