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Panthers beat Saints to leave both teams 7-9

Ron Rivera AP

The Saints know they’re getting their coach back next year. The Panthers can’t be sure of that yet.

Both teams finished the season 7-9 after a 44-38 Panthers win in the Superdome, a back-and-forth affair which featured 971 yards of combined offense.

Now when suspended and extended coach Sean Payton returns, he’ll have to fix a defense that gave up the most yards in NFL history.

For the Panthers, it was their fourth straight win to close the season, their fifth in the final six games under coach Ron Rivera. Of course, that means they started 2-8.

The Panthers got a huge swing on a disputed fumble by tight end Greg Olsen. While it appeared to have been recovered by the Saints, officials said after looking at it there was no clear recovery in bounds. That was part of a run of 28 unanswered points for the Panthers, helping them pull away late.

Now they have to wait to see what their future holds.

They know they’re looking for a new general manager, and the status Rivera remains up in the air. He’s 13-19 in two seasons, and taking a knee late allowed him to move his record to 2-12 in games decided by a touchdown or less. Many of his wins lacked pertinence (they won four of their final six last year), but the Panthers didn’t quit on him.

It’s up to Jerry Richardson to decide whether that means anything now.

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Texans will sign Antonio Smith

Antonio Smith AP

The Texans are planning to sign veteran defensive end Antonio Smith to a one-year deal, PFT has learned.

The signing will become official Wednesday when the Texans place All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt on injured reserve. Watt re-injured his back in last Thursday night’s loss to the Patriots.

Smith, 34, played for the Texans from 2009-13. He played in all 16 games as a backup for the Broncos last season.

Smith has 47 career sacks in 173 career games, 133 starts. He entered the league as a fifth-round pick of the Cardinals in 2004.

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Colin Kaepernick calls debate “embarrassing to watch”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listens to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) AP

In the week of the first presidential debate, neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton but Colin Kaepernick occupied the cover of Time. On Tuesday, Kaepernick was asked if he saw the 98-minute back-and-forth.

I watched a little bit of it,” Kaepernick told reporters, via Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. “To me it was embarrassing to watch that these are our two candidates. Both are proven liars and it almost seems they’re trying to debate who’s less racist. At this point . . . you have to pick the lesser of two evils but in the end it’s still evil.”

Plenty of people feel the same way as Kaepernick. Regardless, in a nation of 319 million people, these are our two primary options.

At a time when the country seems to be more divided than ever, we seem to be destined to become even more divided, regardless of the outcome of the election.

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J.J. Watt could miss rest of season with back injury

HOUSTON, TX- OCTOBER 09: J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans celebrates an Indianapolis Colts fumble after he returned it for a touchdown in the fourth quarter in a NFL game on October 9, 2014 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

Football’s top defensive player could be done for the year.

Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt has re-injured his back and is expected to miss significant time, possibly the rest of the season, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

According to the report, the Texans are still gathering information about the injury, which he apparently suffered Thursday night in New England.

Watt was dealing with a back injury throughout the offseason, and after he underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc, there were some reports over the summer that he might not be able to return in time for the beginning of the regular season. He has played all three games this year, but he hasn’t looked like himself.

Now the Texans may be looking at playing the rest of 2016 without the three-time NFL defensive player of the year. That would be a massive loss to the playoff hopes of the team that is currently leading the AFC South.

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Seahawks look at eight players, but no quarterbacks

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks warms up prior to the game against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on September 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

If Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson can’t play on Sunday with a knee injury, the team apparently will be content to roll the dice with undrafted rookie Trevone Boykin.

On Tuesday, the Seahawks tried out eight players. None were quarterbacks.

Getting look-sees were running backs Bernard Pierce, Kenny Hilliard, Tommy Bohanan, and Darrel Young, defensive back Chimdi Chekwa, receiver Jamel Johnson, linebacker Randell Johnson, and defensive end Rufus Johnson.

Wilson has a sprained MCL. If it’s a low-grade tear, he should be able to play. Coach Pete Carroll has said that Wilson will practice on Wednesday.

The team’s interest in running backs comes from the leg injury suffered nine days ago by Thomas Rawls.

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Colts alter routine as they prep for London trip

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 03:  Head coach Chuck Pagano of the Indianapolis Colts talks to his players during the game against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts held what was basically a walkthrough Tuesday, normally a day off for players.

It’s not a normal week, though, as the Colts play the Jaguars in London Sunday. This marks the fourth straight year the Jaguars will play a home game in London, but the experience is new to the Colts.

“The theme is to keep the main thing the main thing, and that’s preparation, prepare, do everything, try to keep things as normal as possible from a preparation and practice standpoint,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said, per the team’s official transcript. “You have to make a few adjustments here and there, but at the end of the day it’s focus and mindset on one thing and one thing only, and that is getting win No. 2.”

The Colts, who rallied to beat the Chargers last Sunday, will fly to London Thursday evening and practice after arriving Friday morning. Pagano said the team kept things light Tuesday but felt that using the day to begin prepping for the Jaguars was necessary given the circumstances.

“We are just coming off a really physical and mental-draining game, as you know,” he said. “We had really good, long meetings, [an] introduction to Jacksonville. We will amp it up tomorrow. We will amp it up Thursday.”

Sunday’s game kicks off at 9:30 a.m. ET.

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Cardinals try out several punters and long snappers

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 11:  Punter Drew Butler #2 of the Arizona Cardinals walks off the field following the NFL game against the New England Patriots at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Patriots defeated the Cardinals 23-21.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals will be adding a long snapper this week. They also plan to add a punter, too.

Per a league source, the Cardinals worked out Tim Masthay, Michael Palardy, and Ryan Quigley on Tuesday. Whoever gets the job will serve as the short-term solution while Drew Butler (pictured) recovers from an Achilles injury.

With Kameron Canady released, the Cardinals also tried out long snappers Tyler Ott and Aaron Brewer.

The next punter could have a chance to give Butler the boot; he is averaging a career-low 40.3 yards per punt in 2016, along with a career-low 33.7-yard net.

Butler will still serve as the holder. Botch field-goal attempts fueled by bad snaps have marred both of Arizona’s losses in 2016.

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Lions bring back Aaron Dobson

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01:  Aaron Dobson #17 of the New England Patriots looks on during warm ups prior to Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s not quite the full-blown 54-man roster trick, because receiver Aaron Dobson still isn’t a vested veteran and must pass through waivers. Still, Dobson is emerging as the early bottom-of-roster option in Detroit for player who is cut in order to create a roster spot for a position of need and then re-signed the following week.

That’s precisely what the Lions have done with Dobson, waiving him last week and bringing him back this week.

A second-round pick of the Patriots in 2013, Dobson was cut by the Patriots as the 2016 rosters reduced to 53.

Some teams will cut a vested veteran last in a given week, allowing a practice-squad player to be promoted for game day. Then, the vested veteran will be resigned the following week, getting full pay for both weeks.

Per a league source, the Lions also kicked tires on Tuesday on four other players: defensive end Quinton Coples, linebacker Bjoern Werner, and tight ends Justice Cunningham and Adrien Robinson. None were signed.

Copies and Werner are former first-round picks who currently are looking for their next NFL opportunities. The Lions have a need at pass rusher, given the ankle injury suffered in Week Two by Ziggy Ansah.

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Bears signing defensive lineman C.J. Wilson

CJWilson Getty Images

The Bears are signing defensive tackle C.J. Wilson, his agents announced on Twitter.

Wilson, 29, spent time with the Raiders and Lions last season. He was released by the Saints in August.

He’s a veteran of 78 career games and 19 starts, and he’ll have a chance to contribute immediately on a Bears defense that’s dealing with multiple injury issues.

Wilson was part of a Bears tryout Tuesday that included running back Joique Bell, tackles Clay DeBord, Colin Kelly, and Arturo Uzdavinis, guard Austin Shepherd and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga. The Bears signed Bell to the active roster and signed Kelly to the practice squad.

The Packers selected Wilson in the seventh round of the 2010 draft and he played his first four seasons in Green Bay. He has 6.5 career sacks.

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Collins says he’ll rest for now, surgery decision will come later

La'el Collins AP

Cowboys guard La’El Collins told reporters Tuesday that he plans to rest his injured toe for two weeks before a decision is made on whether he needs surgery.

Collins has torn ligaments in his right big toe. He was placed on injured reserve Monday, but he’ll eligible to return in eight weeks if he’s healed and up to speed. Collins is wearing a protective boot and undergoing treatment in hopes the injury will heal without surgery.

There had been conflicting reports on whether or not surgery would be necessary, and also whether an eventual decision would be dictated by how much pain Collins could tolerate or if the injury would heal in time for a return this season.

Ronald Leary will move into the starting lineup at left guard.

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Panthers sign Michael Griffin

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 28:  Free safety Michael Griffin #33 of the Tennessee Titans in action during the preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on August 28, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Panthers have made a veteran addition to their secondary.

The team announced Tuesday that they have signed former Titans safety Michael Griffin. Griffin was released by the Titans in February and signed with the Vikings in March, but didn’t make Minnesota’s roster coming out of the preseason.

Griffin, a 2007 first-round pick, played 141 games for the Titans over nine years with the organization. He was a two-time Pro Bowler during his run in Tennessee, but his play had slipped by the end of his time with the team.

He’ll join Kurt Coleman, Tre Boston and Colin Jones in Carolina with Dean Marlowe on injured reserve and Marcus Ball getting waived to make room for Griffin.

The Panthers also confirmed the signing of defensive tackle Kyle Love, who will help fill in for the injured Vernon Butler, and announced that defensive end Ryan Delaire is headed to injured reserve with a knee injury.

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Get to know Zachary Orr

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 11: Linebacker Zach Orr #54 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates in the first half of the Buffalo Bills vs. the Baltimore Ravens game at M&T Bank Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Ravens have one new first-year starter in 2016: Linebacker Zachary Orr. The undrafted free agent from North Texas in 2014 has made the most of the assignment, leading the team in tackles and notching the game-clinching interception to seal Sunday’s win at Jacksonville.

Orr joined PFT Live on Tuesday to discuss his team’s performance to date, the moment when he realized he belongs on the field with the rest of the Baltimore defense, and the strong temptation to keep running with the ball after he picked it off, in an effort to score a touchdown in a game the Ravens led by only two points.

Get to know him now, because based on the way he’s playing you’ll be hearing his name a lot more frequently throughout the rest of the season, and beyond.

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Cardinals dump Kameron Canaday two days after botched snap

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25:  Head Coach Bruce Arians of the Arizona Cardinals watches his team warm up before the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on September 25, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians made no attempt to hide his anger about long snapper Kameron Canaday launching a snap too high for holder Drew Butler to corral on a field goal attempt during last Sunday’s 33-18 loss to the previously winless Bills.

“Grow the hell up,” Arians said, via the Associated Press. “It has nothing to do with anything but what’s between his ears.”

The Bills returned the botched snap for a touchdown and the Cardinals will have a new player doing the snapping when they host the Rams in Week Four. The team announced Tuesday that they have waived Canaday.

The 1-2 Cardinals made a few other roster moves. They waived 2016 fifth-round pick Marqui Christian after the safety was inactive for the first three games of the season and placed tight end Troy Niklas on injured reserve due to a wrist injury.

Arizona promoted tight end Ifeanyi Momah from the practice squad, leaving them with two open roster spots. One will likely go to a punter as Butler has ankle and Achilles issues that will keep him from punting this week, although he is able to serve as a holder.

Assuming, of course, the new Cardinals snapper is able to get the ball to him.

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MNF ratings hit all-time low

gettyimages-90902414-1024x576 Getty Images

More than 80 million watched the presidential debate on Monday night. For every 10 debate viewers, one watched Monday Night Football.

Via Richard Deitsch of SI.com, only 8.047 million watched the Falcons-Saints game. Based on numbers published Monday by SportsBusiness Daily, that’s the smallest total TV viewership in the 46-year history of the franchise.

Given the intense interest in the presidential campaign and shrinking prime-time viewership in eight of nine evening games played this year (relative to the same slots in 2015), it’s mildly surprising the total audience wasn’t even lower than that.

The NFL will try to rebound in Week Four, with the NFL Network-only broadcast of Dolphins-Bengals on Thursday night, Chiefs-Steelers on Sunday night, and Giants-Vikings on Monday night.

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Report: Bears putting Kyle Fuller on IR

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 01:   Kyle Fuller #23 of the Chicago Bears carries the football ahead of  Stefon Diggs #14 of the Minnesota Vikings after making an interception in the second quarter at Soldier Field on November 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

The injury hits keep on coming for the Bears.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that cornerback Kyle Fuller is headed to injured reserve. Fuller has not played in the first three weeks of the season after having his knee scoped in August and will now miss at least the next eight games while on I.R.

The Bears already have cornerback Brandon Boykin and linebacker Lamarr Houston on injured reserve while defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, linebacker Danny Trevathan and cornerback Bryce Callahan missed Monday night’s game with injuries. Linebacker Pernell McPhee is on the PUP list and not eligible to join the team at practice or in games until after Week Six.

On the offensive side, quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Jeremy Langford are both injured while projected center Hroniss Grasu went on injured reserve before the season started.

Once Callahan is cleared to return, he’ll join Tracy Porter, Cre’von LeBlanc, Deiondre Harris, Sherrick McManis and Jacoby Glenn as active members of an underwhelming cornerback corps in Chicago.

The Bears are reportedly signing former Lions running back Joique Bell. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports that the team is also waiving linebacker Jonathan Anderson and tight end Greg Scruggs with linebacker John Timu getting bumped up from the practice squad.

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Redskins sign John Sullivan, place Kory Lichtensteiger on IR

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 13:  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins celebrates with  Kory Lichtensteiger #78 of the Washington Redskins after Lichtensteiger recovered a fumble against the Dallas Cowboys on October 13, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The word early on Tuesday was that Redskins center Kory Lichtensteiger might be headed to injured reserve due to a calf injury that coach Jay Gruden initially called “moderate” and that’s exactly what’s come to pass later in the day.

Lichtensteiger has been placed on injured reserve and the Redskins have announced the signing of former Vikings center John Sullivan. Sullivan worked out for the team earlier in the day.

Sullivan was a six-year starter for the Vikings before missing all of last season with a back injury. He will join Spencer Long as options for the Redskins with Lichtensteiger out of the lineup. The team will also be waiting to see if left guard Shawn Lauvao will be able to play after he hurt his ankle in the victory over the Giants.

The Redskins also officially placed safety DeAngelo Hall on injured reserve Tuesday because of a torn ACL. Defensive lineman Vinston Painter was signed off the practice squad to fill the open roster spot.

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