Will playoff seeding be affected by the ‘Fail Mary’ call from Week 3? Who has the edge in Sunday’s matchup between the Cowboys and Redskins? The PFT guys discuss this and more as they break down the NFC playoff picture.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: Previewing the NFC playoff picture
One day after Redskins coach Mike Shanahan conducted a memorable press conference regarding his controversial decision to shut down quarterback Robert Griffin III, Shanahan’s son made it clear that he was among the naysayers.
“You play your starting quarterback, that’s been Robert,” Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Thursday. “I’m pretty disappointed we don’t get to play with him. But it is what it is, and I’m gonna deal with the cards I’ve been dealt.”
Kyle Shanahan also said didn’t know that Griffin would be shelved for Kirk Cousins until Wednesday morning.
“I’ve got zero involvement in that,” Kyle Shanahan said. “I actually game-planned for both all Tuesday. It was a little frustrating to game plan for both. I was told the final decision Wednesday morning, then rolled with it.”
But Kyle wasn’t thrilled with the outcome.
“I definitely made it clear I was disappointed in that. . . . I think it would be good for Robert to get the reps,” Kyle Shanahan said.
If Kyle is telling the truth, Mike could be trying to protect Kyle from the potential fallout of whatever it is that Mike is trying to do.
And it could be that Mike’s broader goal is to protect Kyle’s career. By creating a triangle of dysfunction that focuses on quarterback, owner, and coach, Mike helps ensure that the offensive coordinator will survive the mess with his future prospects as an NFL head coach unaffected.
Thursday’s explanation from Kyle cuts against the perception that father and son are fused at the femur. On Wednesday, Mike seemed agitated and inconsistent. Kyle came off as credible and reasonable.
If Mike gets fired this year, it’s unlikely anyone will hire him to serve as head coach. Kyle, on the other hand, could surface in a place like St. Louis, where Mike’s friend Jeff Fisher could need a new offensive coordinator, given the so-so results generated by the son of former NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer.
Texans tight end Owen Daniels is running short on chances to come back from injured reserve.
Daniels was eligible to return to the active roster for last week’s game against the Jaguars, but the short week before a Thursday game didn’t leave him much time to practice and make sure he was ready to go after fracturing his fibula. They have had ample time to prepare for the Colts this week, but the result isn’t any different.
Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com reports that Texans interim coach Wade Phillips said Thursday that Daniels will not be activated for this week’s game. Phillips said he thought Daniels would still play again this season, although it’s probably still fair to wonder if Daniels will come back to play for a team that’s lost its last 11 games.
Daniels’ continued absence could leave the Texans with an issue at tight end. Garrett Graham, who has been targeted often since Daniels has been out of the lineup, missed practice on Thursday with a hamstring injury. Jake Byrne, who backs up Graham with Ryan Griffin, has also been dealing with an illness this week.
Don’t tell Brian Urlacher, but the Bears aren’t listening to him.
When asked about the risk of sitting a hot quarterback (backup Josh McCown), Trestman acted as if it wasn’t a decision at all.
“This decision was made a long time ago,” Trestman said, via Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune. “I don’t look at it like that.”
As efficiently as McCown has played in his absence (13 touchdowns, one interception, a 109.8 rating this year), Cutler’s clearly the more talented quarterback of the pair. And he’s also the one they’re going to have to make an expensive decision on this offseason.
So even if it’s just to take one last look at him to decide whether to allow him to go to the market, or to sign him to a long-term deal or franchise him, the Bears are going to put him back in there.
Yes, owners were told on Wednesday to expect the 2014 salary cap to climb from $123 million to $126.3 million.
The real expectation is that the expected number will be even higher.
Per a league source, the final number could be more than $127.5 million per team. That would be a 3.65-percent increase over last year.
Last year, the league initially expected the salary cap to inch up from $120.6 million to $121 million. We were told (by the same source) that it would actually be more than $122 million.
The final numbers are announced not long before the start of the new league year in March, at which time every team must be in compliance with the spending maximum.
Ravens safety Matt Elam tugged on Megatron’s cape this week when he said that the Ravens secondary was going to be physical with Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson on Monday night because the 28-year-old Johnson was too old to play a physical game.
As you’d imagine, the comments made their way to Johnson on Thursday. Johnson joked that he would show Elam and the Ravens what he could do with his old-man strength and then pointed out that Elam could say just about anything he wants since he and Johnson won’t be going head-to-head during the game.
“He can talk all he wants. He plays back. I don’t see him every play unless I run past him,” Johnson said, via Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun.
Johnson also said he thought that Elam and fellow Ravens safety James Ihedigbo were “nothing extraordinary” and that he thought the Lions will be able to make plays downfield against the Baltimore defense. The statistics bear that out as the Ravens have given up 16 passing plays of 40 or more yards this season, the most in the league.
The Lions are No. 2 on that list, so there’s a pretty good chance of a shootout on Monday night.
They may need some help at wide receiver this weekend, though. Tom James of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star reports that LaVon Brazill was out of practice and in a walking boot for the second straight day on Thursday, casting doubt on his availability for Sunday’s game against the Texans.
The injury comes at an inopportune time for Brazill as he has moved ahead of Darrius Heyward-Bey on the depth chart in recent weeks. Brazill played almost twice as many snaps last Sunday as Heyward-Bey and caught three passes for 53 yards and a touchdown. Coach Chuck Pagano said this week that Brazill and rookie Da’Rick Rogers each deserved to play more in the coming weeks.
“You know what, they were productive in that football game and they gave us a spark in that second half,” Pagano said, via ESPN.com. “And so certainly they’ve earned a right to play more.”
If things don’t improve with his foot quickly, Brazill may have to wait a bit for that opportunity.
Someone really ought to tell Dashon Goldson how reputations get made.
The Buccaneers safety, who is a regular guest on the league’s weekly fine list and has been suspended for being a repeat offender, said it bothers him that people consider him dirty.
“I remember being on the good side of it, hearing commentators, analysts talking about how perfect, how good, how I do it the right way, and all of a sudden with the new rule I’m a dirty player, a nasty player, targeted and I’m not playing the game how it’s supposed to be played,” Goldson said, via Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com. “I think that’s ridiculous, and [I'm] being targeted, I feel, because it’s been a few times people have been in the situation or worse situations than me and haven’t gotten penalized like I’ve been.”
Goldson said he thinks players and coaches respect his style (although he might not have asked the people he keeps hitting illegally).
“I think the players, they understand the game and how it’s supposed to be played,” Goldson said. “They’re more on my side than anybody else, and coaches on top of that.
“Now with the new rule, you do have some of those guys, as far as coaches, who complain about hits. And they’re the same guys I’m sure who are teaching their players how to hit and congratulating them when they make a big hit.”
In a sense, Goldson has a point. Because he’s a recidivist, the league is going to look at his actions more closely, and use him as an example to create a deterrent factor for other players.
But he should also look at the tape, and see how he developed the reputation to begin with.
As the University of Texas does, or doesn’t, search for a new head coach, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh doesn’t seem to be interested.
“Are you trying to be funny?” Harbaugh said when asked by reporters about the possibility of a jump to the NCAA on Thursday, via Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group.
That remark from Harbaugh didn’t make it into the official transcript circulated by the team. This one did: “I don’t ever talk about any jobs other than the one I have.”
He’ll have his current job through at least 2015. NFL coaching contracts typically aren’t as easily escaped as college contracts, unless the coach negotiates the ability to walk away whenever he wants, like Nick Saban did eight years ago in Miami.
Texas isn’t the first high-profile college program to potentially be interested in Jim Harbaugh. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, USC recently made a run at Harbaugh, who “flat out rejected” the overture.
It’s unknown whether A.D. Pat Haden responded by saying, “What’s your deal?“
Harbaugh’s deal is that he’ll likely get a new deal from the 49ers after this season. And if Texas pays Nick Saban or someone else $10 million per year, Harbaugh could be in line for a big raise.
The Lions release their first practice report of the week on Thursday and running back Reggie Bush will be listed as out.
Tim Twentyman of the team’s website reports that Bush is not participating in practice as the team prepares to face the Ravens on Monday night. Bush was questionable to play in last week’s game because of a calf injury, but was on the 46-man active roster for the game before winding up sidelined when he aggravated the injury during warmups.
Bush said Wednesday that there was no way he could have pushed through the injury and played last weekend. He said he plans on playing Monday, though.
“It’s one of those things where I can’t really wrap my brain around it because it’s never happened to me before,” Bush said. “I still don’t really understand how it happened. It’s just one of those things and I look forward to getting back this week.”
Bush’s feelings won’t stop his status from remaining uncertain. Given what happened last Sunday, it will likely remain that way until Bush is actually on the field on Monday night.
Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton will play tonight against the Chargers, but he’s not happy about it.
Knighton is among the many NFL players who have spoken out against the league’s practice of having regular Thursday night games, saying that it shows the league cares more about making money for NFL Network than it cares about giving players enough time to recover between games.
“It’s about the NFL, their logo, making money and what the fans want. You know, they don’t really care about us,” Knighton told the Denver Post.
Knighton says players need a full week to recover from a game, and half a week just isn’t sufficient.
“I say Thursday, I’m probably around 75 percent, 80 percent,” Knighton said. “By Saturday, I’m probably around 90, and Sunday morning I feel good.”
For its part, however, the NFL says there are no more injuries in Thursday games than there are in games on other days. And so, while tonight’s game is the last Thursday game this season, the Thursday games will continue. No matter what the players think.
Solder suffered a concussion in last weekend’s victory over the Browns and missed Wednesday’s practice while going through the league’s concussion protocol. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports that Solder was back at practice on Thursday, however.
Solder, who has never missed a regular season game in his three NFL seasons, will still need to pass another test before he’s cleared to play in a game, which should happen as long as his return to practice doesn’t result in a new round of concussion symptoms. If it does, New England will likely have to look elsewhere for a left tackle this weekend.
The only member of the Patriots who did not practice on Thursday was wide receiver Aaron Dobson. Dobson has missed the last two games and remains without a timetable for his return from a sprained foot.
Wednesday was a busy day for Bears quarterbacks.
Josh McCown was named the NFC offensive player of the week and then coach Marc Trestman brought word that he was “optimistic” Jay Cutler would return to the lineup against the Browns this weekend. John Mullin of CSN Chicago will join Mike Florio on PFT Live to discuss how things will play out at the position for the Bears this week and whether he thinks the team is making a mistake switching back to Cutler given how well McCown has played.
Thursday’s also the day to break down the picks for that Bears-Browns game and everything else that will make up the schedule in Week 15. MDS will join Florio for that exercise as they draw closer to naming the champion for their year-long battle.
You can watch it all live at noon ET by clicking here.
Texans interim head coach Wade Phillips didn’t pull any punches when asked what this season has been like.
“Well, it’s obviously a nightmare,” Phillips said on a conference call with Indianapolis reporters. “It’s been so many games and so close, and just not being able to make the one or two plays. It’s not like we’re getting beat by 20 points every game, so it’s been very frustrating.”
Phillips is right, to a point: The Texans’ last seven losses have all been by seven points or fewer. Of course, one of Houston’s two wins came on a field goal as time expired, and the other was in overtime. So while you can say that the Texans have been only one or two plays away from winning any of their last seven games, you can also say the Texans are only a couple plays away from being 0-13.
Still, Phillips says it’s frustrating because the Texans are losing a lot of games they think they can win.
“You feel like you can win, but we haven’t,” Phillips said.
Some would say the best thing for the future of the franchise would be to lose their last three games and earn the first pick in the draft. But Phillips doesn’t see it that way.
“It’s pride and people are playing for their jobs and coaching for their jobs, obviously,” Phillips said.
Phillips is coaching for an opportunity to keep his job, and to get the “interim” removed from his title. He’d like to think he’s the man to keep the Texans’ 2014 season from being a repeat nightmare.
With multiple Week 14 games featuring frozen precipitation and an open-air New Jersey Super Bowl looming, it makes sense to make sense of the NFL’s rules regarding in-game snow removal.
The official rulebook never mentions the term snow. The league’s game operations manual addresses what is and isn’t permitted when it comes to snow removal.
For starters, and to clear up some lingering confusion regarding the situation in Philly during Sunday’s game between the Lions and Eagles, the field can be plowed at halftime. As explained by ESPN.com, that didn’t happen on Sunday because there wasn’t enough space to put the multiple inches of snow that had fallen during the first half of the game, and not enough time to clear the playing surface.
During a game, the following rules apply, as quoted to PFT by the league office:
1. Where possible, brushes or other appropriate clearing devices should be used to keep sidelines, goal lines, and end lines as clear as possible.
2. Under no circumstances will a Referee permit clearing by the grounds crew of a spot for a PAT or field goal attempt. It is permissible for players to clear such spots by hand or foot.
3. It is permissible to clear the 10-yard intervals, sidelines, goal lines, and end lines away from the direction of an offensive team during play.
3. If an offensive team is inside its opponent’s 20-yard line, it is not permissible to clear any 10-yard intervals behind such team that would give it a potential open spot for placement of a field goal or PAT attempt.
4. If an offensive team is going in for a possible score, the goal line can be cleared only if there is doubt on the part of the game Referee as to the location of the goal line. If it is visible, no clearing will be permitted.
The harder it snows, the more important these rules become. Clearing of snow can happen during a game by the grounds crew, especially when the action is occurring at the other end of the field.
Presumably, the NFL will have extra help available in early February, if/when (when) it snows at MetLife Stadium for the first open-air, cold-weather Super Bowl.
Though the football thing seems to be working out for him at the moment, Russell Wilson still has options.
The Texas Rangers chose the Seahawks quarterback in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft this morning, spending $12,000 to get his rights away from the Rockies organization for a little attention and a good example.
“From a baseball standpoint, we feel like if he ever decided he wanted to come back to play again that he’d be a guy we’d want in our system,” Rangers assistant general manager A.J. Preller said, via Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “The biggest thing that intrigued us on Russell from afar is the makeup, the way he goes about his business, the professionalism, the competitor, the message we try to preach throughout our organization, for us to at least have that as part of our organization.
“At the end of the day, he obviously has a lot bigger things that he’s working on right now, and we don’t want to interrupt that aspect of it. But if at some point down the road he decides he wants to do baseball again, we decided it would be a positive to have him with us.”
Preller said they don’t expect him to give up his football career, and haven’t had any contact with him.
Wilson was a fourth-round pick in the baseball draft in 2010, and hit .238 in parts of two minor league seasons.
He’s been slightly more successful in football.