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PFT’s 2012 postseason awards

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

The Associated Press now unveils its postseason awards the night before the Super Bowl, weeks after most people have stopped caring about the winner.

So we announce ours immediately after the regular season ends.

At a time when you still actually are interested in these matters and not, you know, you’ll win the Super Bowl, here are the men who, in our opinion, deserve special recognition for their accomplishments in the freshly-completed regular season.

Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Winner: Russell Wilson, Seahawks.

Runner-up: Robert Griffin, III, Redskins; Andrew Luck, Colts.

Honorable mention: Alfred Morris, Redskins; Doug Martin, Buccaneers.

The AP award likely will go to either of the top two picks in the draft, but it shouldn’t.  Wilson entered the league short on height and long on smarts and talent and determination.  Russell Wilson commanded the No. 1 spot on the depth chart in Seattle, beating out big-money free-agent Matt Flynn and incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson, and Wilson then began to prove week-in and week-out that he is as good as his more famous counterparts who were selected much higher.

Despite the 11-5 record for the Colts, Luck had too many turnovers (contributing to a mediocre passer rating of 76.5), and Griffin missed a game and crunch time in another due to an inability to avoid contact.  While Luck broke Cam Newton’s rookie passing yardage record, Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s record for touchdown passes by a rookie — and Wilson showed that he could run the ball effectively (489 yards, four touchdowns) without getting hit or, in turn, hurt.

The best news is that the three rookie quarterbacks all made it to the playoffs, and they’ll all make their postseason debuts on the same day.

Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Winner:  Luke Kuechly, Panthers.

Runner-up:  Janoris Jenkins, Rams.

Honorable mention:  Bobby Wagner, Seahawks; Lavonte David, Buccaneers; Casey Heyward, Packers; Harrison Smith, Vikings.

The ninth overall pick in the draft, Kuechly led the NFL with 164 tackles, finishing 10 short of the rookie record set in 2007 by Patrick Willis.  Kuechly also had 10 games with 10 or more tackles.  In Week Five, he slid from outside linebacker to the middle, where he participated in every snap on defense for the rest of the season.

Jenkins, a second-round steal, instantly became a dangerous cover man and return specialist.  He could soon be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.  Some may say he already is.

Coach of the Year.

Winner:  Bruce Arians/Chuck Pagano, Colts.

Runner-up:  Leslie Frazier, Vikings.

Honorable mention:  Mike Shanahan, Redskins; Pete Carroll, Seahawks; John Fox, Broncos; Mike Smith, Falcons.

The best coach routinely is determined based on a team’s actual performance relative to its expected performance.  This year, no team exceeded expectations more than the Colts, who won 11 games a season after winning only two.  Pagano and Arians combined to generate a wild-card berth despite Pagano’s three-month absence due to leukemia treatments, as part of a run that included seven come-from-behind wins.

Frazier and the Vikings improved their win total by seven, going from 3-13 to 10-6 and a playoff berth secured on the last day of the season against the Packers.  Shanahan and the Redskins reeled off seven straight to secure the NFC East after Shanahan seemingly threw in the towel on the 2012 season.  (And all future coaches whose teams are 3-6 after nine games will do the same.)

In all, three of the six worst teams from 2011 have vaulted to the playoffs only one year later, providing real hope to every other non-playoff team, in 2013 and beyond.

Comeback Player of the Year.

Winner:  Peyton Manning, Broncos; Adrian Peterson, Vikings.

The two greatest comebacks in NFL history came in the same year.  For Manning, the return from multiple neck surgeries was unprecedented.  For Peterson, his performance following a Christmas Eve 2011 ACL tear was equally stunning and unlikely.  Both deserve the recognition, and it’s only fair for them to share it.

It’s also only fair that there be no one else mentioned as the runner-up or otherwise.  Manning and Peterson are in their own class on this one, and no one else comes close.

Executive of the Year.

Winner: John Elway, Broncos.

Runner-up: John Schneider, Seahawks.

Honorable mention: Ryan Grigson, Colts; Rick Spielman, Vikings; Les Snead, Rams.

Elway wanted Peyton Manning in large part because it gave Elway cover to dump Tim Tebow.  The gamble (in light of Manning’s recent medical history) paid off in a major way, making other teams (like perhaps the Texans) wish they’d done more to land one of the greatest players in NFL history.  Though making the move for Manning is enough on its own, hiring coach John Fox in 2011 after a two-win season in Carolina, picking linebacker Von Miller in last year’s draft, and not giving up on Knowshon Moreno are icing on a cake that Elway has been masterfully baking for the past two season — even though Elway entered the job with fry-cook credentials.

Schneider found a quarterback who could become one of the best current signal-callers in the league in round three of the draft, five spots after the Jaguars picked a punter.  Schneider likewise rolled the dice in round one on Bruce Irvin, a controversial pick who panned out as a rookie.  Throw in linebacker Bobby Wagner in round two and the prudent decision to re-sign Marshawn Lynch, and Schneider had a lot to do with the team’s unexpected success in 2012.

Grigson quickly turned around a talent-challenged roster with a strong draft and the ability to make good decisions about who should stay and who should go, bringing back Reggie Wayne and keeping Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.  His success will make more owners opt for young, grinding scouts.

Offensive player of the year.

Winner:  Adrian Peterson, Vikings.

Runner-upCalvin Johnson, Lions.

Honorable mentionDrew Brees, Saints; Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks.

Peterson is the easy and obvious choice, given that he rushed for 2,097 yards, the second most in NFL history.

Johnson set the single-season record for receiving yardage with 1,964, and Brees threw for more than 5,000 yards for the third time in his career.  Lynch’s performance gets lost in Peterson, but the guy the Bills gave away has become one of the best running backs in the league.

Defensive Player of the Year.

WinnerJ.J. Watt, Texans.

Runner-up:  Von Miller, Broncos.

Honorable mention: Aldon Smith, 49ers; Charles Tillman, Bears.

Watt was a wire-to-wire disruptive force for the Texans.  Beyond his league-leading sack total (20.5), Watt has shattered the mold for 3-4 defensive ends.  Miller is becoming one of the best 4-3 outside linebackers in the NFL, and Smith has emerged as the top 3-4 pass-rushing outside linebacker.

Amazingly, all three players are in only their second seasons in the NFL.

MVP.

Winner:  Adrian Peterson, Vikings.

Runner-up: Peyton Manning, Broncos.

Honorable mention: J.J. Watt, Texans; Aaron Rodgers, Packers; Tom Brady, Patriots; Matt Ryan, Falcons.

Many have wrestled with this one for weeks, determined to give it to Manning but keeping an open mind for Peterson.  It would have been easy to say Peterson gets it only if he sets the single-season rushing record.  It’s harder to accept that he missed it (by 27 feet) but still deserves it.

In the end, Peterson’s value to his team simply outweighs Manning’s — even though Peyton once again has had a season to remember, shrewdly picking a talented team with an easy schedule and pushing the franchise to the top seed in the AFC.  Last year, however, the Broncos made it to the final eight without Manning.  This year, the Vikings would have been nothing without Peterson, a man who overcame a serious knee injury to become better than he ever was.

Moreover, at a time when we are more sensitive than ever before to the damage inflicted on the bodies of NFL players, Peterson earned every yard, foot, and inch that he gained.  Even the long runs came after he ran through a potential tackler.  Or two.  Or five.

So that’s the full list.  Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments.

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49ers sign Vance McDonald to five-year extension

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 29:  Vance McDonald #89 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after scoring a touchdown on an eight-yard pass against the Arizona Cardinals during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on November 29, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The 49ers don’t have many players worthy of long-term extensions. They believe they have at least one.

Tight end Vance McDonald has signed a five-year extension. The team announced the deal, which puts McDonald under contract through 2021, on Friday night.

A second-round pick in 2013, McDonald was due to become a free agent in March.

“Vance has shown consistent growth throughout his four-year career and his production this season is the result of his dedication and hard work,” G.M. Trent Baalke said in a press release. “We believe he has only scratched the surface of what he will be able to accomplish in his career. Vance is a tremendous ambassador for the 49ers, and his passion for helping others provides a wonderful example for this organization. We look forward to his continued contributions to this organization, both on and off the field.”

McDonald has 10 starts in 10 appearances this season, with 24 catches for 391 yards and four touchdowns.

The deal reportedly is worth $35 million in new money, according to ESPN. The contract also carries $16 million guaranteed, which as we know by now means little without knowing how much is fully and actually guaranteed at signing.

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Oakland unveils details of stadium plan, with few actual details

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  A fan holds a sign in the stands in reference to a potential move by the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas during the NFL game between the Oakland Raiders and the Atlanta Falcons at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 18, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the bell tolling for Oakland’s football future, the race is on to put a viable stadium proposal on the table. Or at least to act like a viable stadium proposal is on the table.

Oakland has announced the details of a stadium plan that would keep the Raiders from moving to Las Vegas or, in theory, Los Angeles. But the lengthy release regarding the details of the stadium plan is devoid of actual, you know, details.

“This term sheet agreement puts Oakland in the running to keep the Raiders in a way that is responsible to the team, the league, the fans and the taxpayers,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in the press release. “Everything the City and County and the investor team is doing is about putting forward the best offer to encourage the Raiders ownership and the NFL to keep the Raiders in Oakland, where the team belongs.”

The term sheet agreement to which Schaaf referred hasn’t been disclosed yet. Instead, the press release lists the following “key elements” of the plan: (1) “an economically viable proposal that can keep team in Oakland and Alameda County with no taxpayer monies, but instead the use of the Coliseum land”; (2) “a professional group of investors to develop the stadium and other associated mixed-use projects to support cost of stadium”; (3) “the creation of a major Grand Central station-like development around the property that incorporates and enhances the use of the BART station”; and (4) “a location for a new Oakland A’s stadium should the Major League Baseball team determine it wants to remain at the Coliseum site.”

So how much will the stadium cost? How much will the Raiders and the NFL pay for it? How big will it be? How will the revenue be generated and shared?

Most importantly, will the people providing the private financing that will bridge the gap between the team and league contribution expect to buy a piece of the team — and if so, how much?

The press release answers none of those questions.

According to the press release, the County of Alameda will hold a public hearing and vote at 2:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Dec. 13, and the Oakland City Council will hold a hearing and vote at 9:30 p.m. ET on the same day as part of an expedited financial development proposal and exclusive negotiation agreement.

The timing isn’t coincidental; NFL owners will meet the next day, and at that time the league office is expected to make a proposal that extolls the virtues of keeping the Raiders in Oakland.

There’s currently no reason to believe the Raiders will be interested in the proposal. Owner Mark Davis has at no time deviated from his intent to move to Las Vegas, explaining that the folks in Nevada stepped forward and crafted a viable plan at a time when Oakland couldn’t or wouldn’t. It would be a surprise if the formal proposal changes his mind.

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Green-Beckham fined for cleats that didn’t support an actual cause

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The NFL’s “My Cleats My Cause” weekend allowed players across the league to support various messages and causes during last week’s games outside the league’s usually stringent uniform rules.

The catch was that there was supposed to be actual cause.

Eagles wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has been fined $6,076, per multiple reports, for wearing adidas-brand cleats from the popular Yeezy line.

Green-Beckham apparently said his cleats were meant to support “The Yeezy Foundation,” but the NFL was not buying that such a foundation existed.

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Jeff Fisher on leaks: “We’ll find out where it’s coming from”

gettyimages-488045590-0-500x333 Getty Images

The Rams had nothing to say on Thursday regarding a report of dysfunction between coach Jeff Fisher and G.M. Les Snead. On Friday, Fisher had plenty to say.

“When you’re 4-8, people are frustrated, you know, they’re frustrated,” Fisher told reporters. “We’ll find out where it’s coming from.”

The issue arose from comments made by Fisher to the media on Tuesday that seemed to criticize the front office for the plight of the team. An unnamed Rams source told Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com that Fisher’s words were regarded as a shot at a front office that Fisher ultimately controls.

“If you go back and look at the transcripts, I was speaking the truth,” Fisher said. “Honestly, I don’t know where this came from. . . . I’ll find out. In our business, unnamed sources, they’re not good. If we’ve got sources within the organization that are speaking, then we’ll address it. But there are no issues between Les and I – by no means. We agree to disagree and we’ve had a fun run, but we’re certainly disappointed – as I said on Tuesday – in the outcome and where we are. We’ve got work to do, but we’re doing it together.”

Fisher specifically took issue with a contention from Breer that front-office personnel “question how hard the team is pushed, with a lack of in-season padded practices being an example of the perceived problem.”

Said Fisher: “Somebody said that we don’t pad our practices. We padded on Wednesday. So whoever is talking obviously has not been out to practice or does not understand the CBA. Enough is enough, Les and I are good, we’re all good. Our focus is on Atlanta right now.”

Fisher also suggested that the characterization of the organization as “Rams Junior High” didn’t originate with anyone in the organization but with those who published the story.

“That came from either the editor or the writer, but I didn’t think the ‘junior high’ thing came from an unnamed source,” Fisher said. “But again, I don’t pay as close attention to those things as you do because I’m more concerned about the Falcons. But I’ll just say this again, Les and I are fine. We work together. We talk every day. I don’t know where that’s coming from.”

Fisher may need to pay closer attention. Breer wrote that “some in the building have come to know [the organization] as ‘Rams Junior High,'” and that the “Junior High” nickname has stuck inside the building. So the name wasn’t manufactured by a writer or an editor; it came from one or more people in the organization.

Regardless, the principal is about to find out who’s been talking out of school. And that’s an exercise that will do little to get those who are or aren’t using the “junior high” nickname to stop.

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Jurrell Casey a game-time decision vs. Broncos

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 27:   Ted Larsen #62 of the Chicago Bears blocks  Jurrell Casey #99 of the Tennessee Titans in the second quarter at Soldier Field on November 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey didn’t practice again Friday, and Titans coach Mike Mularkey told reporters that Casey will be a game-time decision Sunday for the Broncos.

We’ve still got 48 hours,” Mularkey said Friday.

Casey is dealing with a sprained foot he suffered two weeks ago against the Bears. The Titans were off last weekend and enter the home stretch in a three-way tie atop the AFC South with the Texans and Colts.

Casey, a Pro Bowler last season, has missed only one game in his six-year career.

Mularkey said the Titans are likely to make an extra defensive lineman active for Sunday’s game even if Casey is active and said the decision “could go all the way up” to 90 minutes before kickoff, when teams have to submit their active players for that day’s game.

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Jaguars won’t have Allen Hurns, Julius Thomas again

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 20: Julius Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs for yardage against Rafael Bush #31 of the Detroit Lions during second half action at Ford Field on November 20, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Jaguars try to avoid losing for the 11th time in 13 games, they won’t have two key components of their offense. Again.

Receiver Allen Hurns is out with a shoulder injury, and tight end Julius Thomas is out with a back injury. Hurns missed last weeks game against Denver, and Thomas has missed the last two.

Their absences put even more pressure on quarterback Blake Bortles, who has struggled mightily in what was supposed to be his breakout season. It’s been anything but, and it has thrown the franchise into uncertainty, with coach Gus Bradley widely expected to be fired and real questions about whether his successor will want to stick with Bortles — regardless of what the next coach says in order to get the job.

The 2-10 Jaguars face the 6-6 Vikings on Sunday. The Vikings are playing for everything; the Jaguars are playing for not much.

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Week 14 injury report roundup

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 06:  Jason Pierre-Paul #90 of the New York Giants celebrates after blocking a field goal against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter of the game at MetLife Stadium on November 6, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Week 14 kicked off on Thursday with a Chiefs win and it continues with 14 more games on Sunday, which means that the 28 teams in those games submitted their final injury reports of the week on Friday.

Questionable players are uncertain to play, doubtful players are unlikely to play and out should be self-explanatory. Players who are on active rosters and don’t appear below should be considered in the lineup barring any announcements on Saturday. The teams playing on Monday night won’t release their injury reports until Saturday and are not listed here.

With that housekeeping out of the way, here are all the injury reports for Sunday.

Steelers at Bills

Steelers WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot) and S Shamarko Thomas (concussion) have been ruled out. DT Javon Hargrave (concussion) is unlikely to play after being listed as doubtful. K Chris Boswell (abdomen), G Ramon Foster (chest) and RB DeAngelo Williams (knee) are listed as questionable.

Bills TE Charles Clay (knee), T Cordy Glenn (back), WR Sammy Watkins (foot), DT Kyle Williams (back) and WR Robert Woods (knee) drew questionable tags. Coach Rex Ryan said Watkins and Woods will play, but Williams was a Friday addition to the injury report after his back locked up on Thursday night. LB Lerentee McCray (concussion) will not play.

Chargers at Panthers

The Chargers ruled out CB Brandon Flowers (concussion). They listed LB Jatavis Brown (knee) and G Orlando Franklin (knee) as questionable.

Panthers LB Luke Kuechly, S Kurt Coleman and CB Daryl Worley are all questionable due to concussions, although all three progressed through the protocol enough to practice this week. DE Mario Addison (foot) is also questionable while DE Charles Johnson (hamstring), LB David Mayo (concussion) and T Daryl Williams (ankle) have been ruled out.

Bengals at Browns

DE Wallace Gilberry (calf), WR A.J. Green (hamstring), S Derron Smith (thigh), TE C.J. Uzomah (calf) and WR James Wright (knee) will all sit out for the Bengals. LS Clark Harris (groin) is listed as questionable.

The Browns return from their bye week without any players listed with injury designations.

Bears at Lions

The Bears don’t expect to have T Mike Adams (back) or WR Eddie Royal (toe) after listing them as doubtful. LB Jonathan Anderson (hamstring), CB Johnthan Banks (ankle), WR Josh Bellamy (shoulder) and WR Marquess Wilson (groin) received questionable tags.

It looks like LB DeAndre Levy (knee) may play for the first time since Week One. He’s officially listed as questionable along with DE Ziggy Ansah (ankle), S Don Carey (hamstring), TE Eric Ebron (knee), WR Marvin Jones (quadricep), RB Theo Riddick (wrist), RB Dwayne Washington (ankle) and LB Tahir Whitehead (knee). C Travis Swanson (concussion) will not play.

Texans at Colts

DE Jadeveon Clowney (elbow, wrist) and LB Brian Cushing (back, ankle) are listed as questionable, but the Texans expect to have both in the lineup. Coach Bill O’Brien said there’s a “remote” possibility CB Johnathan Joseph (ribs) plays, although he’s also listed as questionable rather than doubtful. RB Tyler Ervin (ribs), WR Braxton Miller (shoulder), QB Tom Savage (right elbow), LB John Simon (chest) and WR Jaelen Strong (ankle) have been ruled out.

The Colts ruled out S Clayton Geathers (neck), T Denzelle Good (concussion), DT Zach Kerr (concussion), LB Robert Mathis (bicep) and CB Patrick Robinson (groin). LB Curt Maggitt (concussion) is listed as questionable.

Vikings at Jaguars

The Vikings won’t have C Joe Berger (concussion), DT Sharrif Floyd (knee) or S Harrison Smith (ankle) in the lineup this week. LB Edmond Robinson (hamstring) and CB Marcus Sherels (rib) drew questionable designations.

WR Allen Hurns (hamstring), DE Jared Odrick (shoulder), RB Denard Robinson (ankle), TE Julius Thomas (back) and S Peyton Thompson (ankle) will not play for the Jaguars on Sunday. The team listed RB Chris Ivory (hamstring), G Brandon Linder (ankle) and LB Dan Skuta (elbow) as questionable.

Cardinals at Dolphins

S Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder) will miss another game for the Cardinals. WR John Brown (illness), LB Markus Golden (hamstring), DT Robert Nkemdiche (elbow) and CB Tharold Simon (ankle) have all been listed as questionable, although coach Bruce Arians said Friday that he expects them to play.

The Dolphins listed LB Kiko Alonso (hand, hamstring), LB Jelani Jenkins (knee, hand) and DE Mario Williams (ankle) as doubtful to be in the lineup Sunday. S Isa Abdul-Quddus (neck), T Branden Albert (wrist), RB Kenyan Drake (knee), CB Xavien Howard (knee), DT Earl Mitchell (back), QB Matt Moore (right shoulder), WR DeVante Parker (back), LB Spencer Paysinger (ankle), G Anthony Steen (shoulder, foot) and C Kraig Urbik (knee) make up a long list of players deemed questionable.

Redskins at Eagles

TE Jordan Reed (shoulder) headlines a list of Redskins players listed as questionable that also includes DE Chris Baker (ankle), TE Derek Carrier (knee), LB Will Compton (hip), DE Ricky Jean Francois (foot, knee), G Shawn Lauvao (groin), T Ty Nsekhe (ankle), G Brandon Scherff (ankle) and LB Preston Smith (groin). S Will Blackmon (concussion, thumb), DE Anthony Lanier (shin) and C Spencer Long (concussion, stinger) have been ruled out.

WR Dorial Green-Beckham (abdomen), RB Ryan Mathews (knee) and WR Jordan Matthews (ankle) drew questionable tags from the Eagles. T Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) will miss another game.

Broncos at Titans

The Broncos say they’ll make a call on QB Trevor Siemian (foot) on Saturday after listing him as questionable.WR Bennie Fowler (knee) is also listed as questionable and Denver ruled out LS Casey Kreiter (calf) and LB Brandon Marshall (hamstring).

DT Jurrell Casey (foot) is the only Titans player with an injury designation. He’s listed as questionable.

Jets at 49ers

Antonio Allen (concussion), T Breno Giacomini (back, calf, shoulder), WR Jalin Marshall (concussion), LB Lorenzo Mauldin (ankle), DT Steve McLendon (hamstring) and RB Khiry Robinson (lower leg) make up a long list of Jets that have been ruled out of Sunday’s proceedings. DE Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) is listed as questionable.

49ers T Joe Staley (hamstring) is in line to miss his first game since the 2010 season after being listed as doubtful. DT Quinton Dial (elbow) and LB Aaron Lynch (ankle) each drew questionable tags.

Seahawks at Packers

The Seahawks ruled out LB Brock Coyle (foot), DE Damontre Moore (foot), RB C.J. Prosise (shoulder) and RB Will Tukuafu (concussion). LB Michael Morgan (hip) is listed as questionable.

Packers linebackers Kyler Fackrell (hamstring) and Nick Perry (hand) won’t play on Sunday. CB Ladarius Gunter (illness), G T.J. Lang (foot), LB Blake Martinez (knee), LB Clay Matthews (shoulder), CB Damarious Randall (groin, illness) and C J.C. Tretter (knee) will have their statuses determined over the weekend after being listed as questionable.

Falcons at Rams

WR Julio Jones (toe) is questionable for the Falcons while DE Adrian Clayborn (knee) and WR Mohamed Sanu (groin) have been ruled out. T Jake Matthews (knee) and S Robenson Therezie (ankle) are also listed as questionable.

The Rams listed RB Benny Cunningham (neck) as doubtful. CB E.J. Gaines (thigh) and DE Robert Quinn (concussion) are listed as questionable.

Saints at Buccaneers

The Saints listed T Terron Armstead (quadricep, knee), RB Mark Ingram (toe, knee), G Senio Kelemete (hip), S Shiloh Keo (hamstring), RB Daniel Lasco (hamstring), LB Craig Robertson (shoulder), WR Michael Thomas (foot) and C Max Unger (foot) as questionable.

Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy (foot) is listed as questionable, just as he was before playing last weekend. S Chris Conte (chest), T Demar Dotson (concussion), WR Adam Humphries (concussion) and TE Luke Stocker (ankle) have been ruled out while C Evan Smith (knee) is also questionable.

Cowboys at Giants

Cowboys S Barry Church (forearm), DE Jack Crawford (foot), LB Justin Durant (hamstring), DE Demarcus Lawrence (back), CB Orlando Scandrick (foot, not injury related) and T Tyron Smith (back) are listed as questionable for the NFC East matchup. CB Morris Claiborne (groin), T Chaz Green (back) and S J.J. Wilcox (thigh) have been ruled out.

DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) will be a big absence for the Giants on Sunday night. S Nat Berhe (concussion) and LB Mark Herzlich (concussion) have also been ruled out. DT Johnathan Hankins (quadricep), WR Dwayne Harris (ankle), DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee), G Justin Pugh (knee) and CB Coty Sensabaugh (ribs) are listed as questionable.

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No fine for Cedric Thornton

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 23: NFL referee Tony Corrente stretches as the Atlanta Falcons host the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome on November 23, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cowboys defensive lineman Cedric Thornton avoided a flag for whacking Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford in the head last Thursday night. Thornton also has avoided a fine.

Per the NFL, Thornton was not financially penalized for his unpenalized instance of roughing the passer on the two-point try that would have forced overtime.

It’s hard to know with any uncertainty what a decision to not fine a player means. Does it reflect a belief that the blow to the head was not forcible and thus not a penalty? Or was it possibly forcible enough for a flag but not for a fine?

Regardless, the decision not to fine Thornton keeps the NFL from implicitly admitting that referee Tony Corrente got it wrong last Thursday night. And it seems in recent weeks that the league has made a shift, deliberate or otherwise, away from openly acknowledging officiating errors. (Indeed, the Week 13 media video from senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino addresses two plays from the Cowboys-Vikings game, but make no mention of the missed call on the fateful two-point conversion.)

On one hand, the transparency is admirable. On the other hand, it’s troubling — to the extent that the NFL is wallowing in a slop of flaws that it’s doing little to correct, either by using full-time officials, enhanced replay review, or a video official who would bridge the gap in real time between what seven officials don’t see on the field and what millions watching at home do.

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Broncos’ Brandon Marshall shares threatening, epithet-filled letter sent to him via team

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 04:   Ben Koyack #83 of the Jacksonville Jaguars tries to catch a pass in front of  Brandon Marshall #54 of the Denver Broncos at EverBank Field on December 4, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall shared a disturbing letter sent to him via the team on Instagram Friday.

The handwritten letter informs Marshall that the writer hates him and that Marshall’s “time is coming” before telling him that “we are channeling a devastating hard hit for you” that will leave Marshall in a wheelchair. Interspersed throughout the letter are a variety of racial epithets and, in what seems to be a reference to Marshall kneeling during the national anthem earlier this season, an invitation to “go back to Africa.”

Marshall said that the letter came with a return address saying it was from a sixth-grade class, which he guessed was done to make sure it got to him. Marshall said he turned the “disgusting, disheartening, deplorable” letter over to team security and coach Gary Kubiak said they are “on top of it.”

“I just wanted to show that … to expose that racism still does exist,” Marshall said of sharing the letter publicly, via ESPN.com. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh, it’s over; it’s not out there,’ but it really is. … I wanted to expose that and that there are people like that and we still have a long way to go as people. I wanted to expose that people still hate each other … whether it’s because of your belief system or the color of your skin or just because I’m not like you, you’re not like me.”

Marshall met with the Denver chief of police Robert White after choosing to kneel for the anthem and pledged $300 per tackle to “organizations that benefit the Denver community and others through the services, awareness and funds they provide” to deal with social issues. He has since resumed standing during the playing of the anthem.

Earlier this week, Giants fullback Nikita Whitlock said that he returned to his home to find it had been burglarized and that whoever broke in left swastikas and “go back to Africa” written on the walls.

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Beckham fined for verbal abuse toward officials

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 04:  Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants cannot come up with a pass thrown by Eli Manning #10 in the second half during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 4, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was fined $12,154 for verbal abuse and using excessive profanity towards an official in last week’s game at Pittsburgh, USA Today reported.

The report said the fine was for on-field behavior and was not tied to Beckham’s postgame criticism of the officials. He continued that this week when he said, among other things, that “Stevie Wonder could see” some of the calls Beckham felt were missed in that game.

It’s the fifth known fine of the season for Beckham.

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Doug Pederson’s effort remarks lead to “testy” meeting of leaders

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Head coach Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles questions a call during the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons during a game at Lincoln Financial Field on November 13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Falcons 24-15. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

Eagles coach Doug Pederson raised plenty of eyebrows this week when he said “not everybody” was playing hard in Sunday’s loss to the Bengals.

And some of those eyebrows were attached to some of the old heads in his locker room.

According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Pederson’s weekly Tuesday meeting with his leadership council was “more contentious than others” after calling out their effort.

Pederson twice deflected questions about effort last Sunday, but on the third time came the admission. And whether it was unintended or a veiled shot, the players seem to have been caught off guard by it.

“I think it puts us in a little bit of a tough position as players,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “Because now everybody wants to know who you’re talking about.”

The council of 13 is comprised of one player from each position group, and includes mostly veterans, along with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz.

And according to those who were in the meeting, the topic of effort was one of the main points discussed, with the conversation described as “testy.” When asked Wednesday about the player response to his remarks, Pederson said the response was “great” and “positive.”

But calling out a room full of professionals is a questionable way to get their attention, especially for a first-time head coach who can’t point to skins on the wall.

“Me personally, although I love Doug, he’s not the reason I get up and play and go to work every day,” Jenkins said. “It’s about the guys in the room. I don’t think our effort or how we perform is a direct reflection of Doug.”

Whether it is reflected in their play now that it has been called into question by Pederson remains to be seen.

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Two more Jets fined for unnecessary roughness last week

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 05:  Anthony Castonzo #74 of the Indianapolis Colts in action against  Buster Skrine #41 of the New York Jets  during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 5, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets offensive tackle Breno Giacomini and cornerback Buster Skrine were each fined $9,115 for unnecessary roughness penalties in last week’s loss to the Colts, PFT has confirmed.

As previously reported, Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was also fined for his late hit out of bounds on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Richardson said on Thursday that he’s appealing his fine.

All three penalties came in the first 20 minutes as the game got away from the Jets, who slipped to 3-9.

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NFL declines to fine players who made snow angels

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 04:   Rashard Robinson #33 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL says officials have some discretion in determining whether making a snow angel constitutes an illegal celebration. The league also has some discretion in determining whether to fine a player for an illegal celebration.

The league office confirmed today that neither 49ers cornerback Rashard Robinson nor Packers receiver Randall Cobb was fined, even though both players did snow angels as celebrations, and even though the NFL routinely fines players who break the celebration rules.

The officials in Chicago flagged Robinson for his snow angel, but the officials in Green Bay did not flag Cobb for his. The league’s rules are clear that going to the ground to celebrate is a penalty, but the league isn’t always consistent about enforcing that rule.

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Trumaine Johnson, Todd Gurley fined for Week 13 infractions

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 06:  Trumaine Johnson #22 of the Los Angeles Rams reacts after an incomplete pass during the fourth quarter of the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Los Angeles Coliseum on November 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

A couple of Rams players heard from the league this week about fines that will add some financial losses to the on-field one they suffered against the Patriots last weekend.

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson has been fined $18,231 by the league for a facemask on Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount. Johnson yanked Blount down by the facemask on what looked to be an intentional grab at the tail end of a run late in the first half of the game.

Blount was already down when Johnson pulled on the facemask, although that wasn’t enough to give the game’s officials cause to penalize Johnson on the field.

Rams running back Todd Gurley was fined $9,115 for a chop block on Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower that was penalized. Hightower was shaken up on the play, but returned to help the Patriots finish off a 26-10 win.

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Browns rookie WR suspended for final four games

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 11: A Cleveland Browns helmet rests on the field prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on September 11, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Browns 29-10. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

Browns rookie wide receiver Jordan Payton has been suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Payton will be eligible to return to the active roster at the conclusion of the regular season.

A fifth-round pick last spring, Payton has played in four games this season and has one reception for three yards.

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