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Victor Cruz is positive he’ll work out a long-term deal with the Giants

Victor Cruz, Bruce Carter AP

Giants receiver Victor Cruz has been saying for months that he’s close to reaching an agreement on a long-term contract with the team, and yet that contract hasn’t gotten done. But Cruz isn’t worried.

Cruz said on WFAN that he doesn’t see any way that he and the Giants won’t come to terms.

“Obviously, you never know, it’s all negotiations, but I feel positive that I’m gonna be in New York for a very long time,” Cruz said, via ESPNNewYork.com. “And I feel positive that myself and my agents will get something done with the management of the Giants. I feel comfortable where we’re at. I think I’ve done enough to show them I’m a good guy on and off the field, and that I’ve done everything positive up until this point to prove that I’m somebody that the organization will want to keep around for a long time. I’m positive things will come around and a positive outcome will come out of all this.”

Cruz acknowledged that there had been a stall in talks between his agents and the Giants, but he doesn’t seem concerned about that.

“It got tabled for a couple weeks, mainly because of the two sides agreeing to disagree at the same time,” Cruz said. “So it had been tabled for a couple weeks, but now that the season’s over and the statistics are what they are, I think we’re going to get back and pick up the pen again and see what we can do.”

Cruz, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent and signed a three-year, league-minimum contract in 2010, has been one of the most underpaid players in the league over the last two years. But if he’s upset about his status as one of the most underpaid players in the league, he’s not letting on.

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Lions cornerback Quandre Diggs out for the season

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 09: Quandre Diggs #28 of the Detroit Lions breaks up a pass intended for Jordan Matthews #81 of the Philadelphia Eagles during first half at Ford Field on October 9, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Lions have parlayed a relatively short injury list to the division lead this season, but they’re apparently lost a key defensive player.

Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Lions nickel cornerback Quandre Diggs will miss the rest of the season with a pectoral injury. The team announced it as a shoulder during Sunday’s win over the Saints.

The 2015 sixth-rounder had found a spot as their third corner, and started four games this year. He was replaced by rookie Adairius Barnes.

The Lions have lost just one starter to IR so far this season — running back Ameer Abdullah — which is a big factor in their being 8-4 at the moment.

 

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Julius Peppers contemplating his football future

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 08:  Julius Peppers #56 of the Green Bay Packers warms up before their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Packers pass-rusher Julius Peppers moved into fifth place on the NFL’s all-time sack list Sunday, and he’s trying to decide if he wants to come back and take a shot at moving up a spot on the list.

The soon-to-be 37-year-old Peppers is heading into the final month of his contract with the Packers, and admitted he’s been giving thought to playing again next year.

“I’m not saying that I don’t want to play next year,” Peppers said, via Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “I’m not saying that I do. I’m just saying that right now, I don’t know. And I’ll figure it out at some point.

“There’s a lot of things that can happen between now and February.”

Finishing up his 15th NFL season, Peppers just passed Michael Strahan on the all-time sack list, and has 142.5. Next up is Chris Doleman at 150.5, and nothing Peppers has shown this season suggests reaching that level’s inconceivable.

Peppers admitted he “reflected a little bit on it,” after Sunday’s win over the Texans, realizing his place in football history. For a guy who was just hoping to get to 100 sacks when he was drafted second overall by the Panthers in 2002, he has surpassed every expectation. Now, he’s looking for meaning.

“It’s all about how I feel,” he said. “How one feels, and having a purpose to do it. Obviously, you know what the purpose is — the Super Bowl and all that stuff — but even without that. What’s the purpose? If the season ends, I don’t have a contract obviously, and if nobody calls and nobody says anything — which I don’t think will be the case — but I’ve got to sit back and figure out if I really want to play and if I do, why? And I don’t know. I don’t know.

“I feel like if I wanted to play, that I could. Yeah, I could, for sure.”

He’s had a sack in each of his last three games, and considering the market for guys who can do that, he should find offers. It’s just a matter of where, and for how long.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 04:  Matt Barkley #12 of the Chicago Bears looks for a receiver against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field on December 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the 49ers 26-6.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills coach Rex Ryan said he wasn’t sure how much the team’s game plan changed with TE Charles Clay missing the game in Oakland.

Will future Dolphins opponents target their tight ends heavily after Dennis Pitta’s big day?

The Patriots defense has shown signs of improvement the last two weeks.

Said Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson, “Guys gotta play harder. We’re not going to start pointing the finger. We played like s–t.”

Is Ravens QB Joe Flacco elite … when it comes to buying Christmas trees?

T Jake Fisher got extended time in the Bengals lineup in Week 13.

Browns G Jonathan Cooper believes he’ll make the most of a starting opportunity.

The Steelers defense has been a strength in recent weeks.

Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins had some issues hanging onto the ball in Green Bay.

TE Dwayne Allen had a big Monday night for the Colts.

The Jaguars turn the ball over too much and don’t make enough big plays on offense.

CB Jason McCourty wants to see more chemistry in the secondary.

Donald Stephenson is back at right tackle for the Broncos.

The Chiefs expect it to be cold for Thursday night’s game.

The Raiders are doing well in Pro Bowl voting.

A look at the Chargers’ fourth quarter issues.

Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne remains hopeful about a return to the field this year.

LT Ereck Flowers has been a liability for the Giants of late.

A call for the Eagles to put TE Zach Ertz on the bench.

It’s desperation time for the Redskins.

Bears coach John Fox thinks QB Matt Barkley is more confident now.

The Lions liked the “productive paranoia” of last week’s practices.

The Packers are comfortable when Randall Cobb is returning punts.

Will RB Adrian Peterson be back on the field for the Vikings this season?

Bad marks for Falcons QB Matt Ryan’s efforts against the Chiefs.

The Panthers got some time off after their extended road trip.

Saints DE Cameron Jordan said he played through an MCL sprain this year.

The Buccaneers are thin at receiver.

Will the Cardinals make a change at punter?

A strong finish would be a good thing for Rams coach Jeff Fisher.

Pride’s about the only thing left for the 49ers to play for this season.

S Earl Thomas‘ injury may raise the pressure on the Seahawks offense.

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Ben McAdoo on Victor Cruz: Inconsistency makes it hard to involve everyone

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 06:  Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants in action against the Philadelphia Eagles during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 6, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

After he went untargeted in Sunday’s loss to the Steelers, Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz said he’s going to “talk to somebody” to get an answer about why the ball never came his way.

During a Monday appearance on NFL Network, Cruz was more specific about who he planned to talk to about the situation and said he would have a conversation with head coach Ben McAdoo. McAdoo said he welcomes such a chat and pointed to the team’s overall ineffectiveness on offense as a reason why a receiver going without a look is an issue for the second straight week.

“When you have been as inconsistent as we have on offense, it’s a challenge,” McAdoo said in a conference call. “Victor, like everybody else, including myself, wants to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. So my door is always open for any of these guys that want to come in and have a conversation.”

After Sterling Shepard was shut out in Week 12, Giants quarterback Eli Manning apologized to the wideout. It doesn’t sound like Cruz should expect something similar.

During an appearance on WFAN Monday, Manning said there were plays that had Cruz as a lead option but that he wound up going elsewhere when the play unfurled. That suggests Cruz isn’t getting open, which is a reminder that the questions we ask don’t always come with the answers we want.

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RG3: I’m here to help Browns beyond the next four weeks

FILE - In this Sept. 11, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III runs the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles in Philadelphia. Griffin moved closer to playing again this season as the team designated him for return from injured reserve. The team officially made the move Wednesday, nov. 23, 2016, giving the Browns 21 days to activate him to the roster.(Winslow Townson/File) AP

Browns coach Hue Jackson said he isn’t ready to publicly name a starter for this weekend’s game against the Bengals, but most speculation about who will get the nod is centered on Robert Griffin III.

Griffin has been practicing for a little while and is expected to be formally restored to the 53-man roster this week so that he can make his second start of the season. His first resulted in the broken bone in his left shoulder that landed him on injured reserve, which leaves him eager to “give the team as much of a spark as I possibly can.”

Griffin said Monday that he is in the dark about Jackson’s plans for this week, but that he wants to be part of them beyond the end of this season regardless of the choice for Week 14.

“I don’t know, coach could wait until Sunday,” Griffin said, via Cleveland.com. “That’s why he’s got the HC on his hat and we all trust him in this locker room. I trust him, and it’s just a matter of do they feel I’m ready to play or do they feel like I need to take some more time. So whatever their decision is, I’ll be OK with it because I’m here to be a Cleveland Brown. I’m here to help this team, not just these last four weeks but into the future.”

Griffin knows that future isn’t guaranteed and admitted that “the world could end tomorrow” while discussing the uncertainty of what’s ahead. He was waxing philosophical at that moment, but playing behind the 2016 Browns offensive line has felt that way on more than one occasion.

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Trent Williams coming back this week, in his normal spot

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 2: Tackle Trent Williams #71 of the Washington Redskins acknowledges the crowd in the fourth inning against the Cleveland Browns at FedExField on October 2, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) Getty Images

Washington’s coming off a tough road loss with more injuries to deal with, but at least they’re getting their best offensive lineman back this week.

Via Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post, left tackle Trent Williams is set to return from his four-game drug suspension to play against the Eagles.

Backup Ty Nsekhe has played well in his absence, and Williams has plugged in at guard before when injuries forced their hand, but coach Jay Gruden isn’t going to fiddle with things now.

“The plan moving ahead with him is he’s our starting tackle, and he’s the best in the business,” Gruden said of Williams. “So we’re excited to get him back.”

Center Spencer Long is in the league’s concussion protocol. He was replaced Sunday in Arizona by John Sullivan. There’s a chance of activating Kory Lichtensteiger from IR if they need another body there, but they’ll need to find another center regardless.

And tight end Jordan Reed’s status is also up in the air because of his shoulder injury, creating plenty of uncertainty as Washington pushes for a Wild Card berth. They’re 1-4 in the five games Reed has missed with injury the last two seasons.

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Jets closing in on top five pick in 2017 NFL Draft, which is nice

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 05:  A New York Jets fan wears a bag on his head after they were defeated by the Indianapolis Colts 41 to 10 at MetLife Stadium on December 5, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

If you’re a Jets fan looking for a silver lining this morning, well, there isn’t really one. Your team stinks.

But as we’d rather light a candle than curse your darkness, we can point out that they are moving closer to securing a top-five spot in the 2017 NFL Draft order thanks to last night’s loss and the Bears’ epic win over the 49ers.

If the season ended today, the 0-12 Browns (of course) would still pick first, followed by the 1-11 49ers and the 2-10 Jaguars. The 3-9 Jets and Bears are deadlocked (no, really, that’s a perfect word) at 3-9, and have the same strength of schedule number at the moment so they’d flip for the fourth and fifth picks.

They’d be followed by the Titans (enjoying that Rams pick), the Panthers, Bengals, Saints, and Chargers in the top 10.

Also, if the season ended today, people would say “Why on Tuesday?”

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Colts keep foot on gas, in driver’s seat of AFC South

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 05:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 5, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

When a possibly bad team beats an indisputably wretched one, it’s easy to roll your eyes when the winner starts to puff out his chest.

But in the case of the Colts, it’s legitimate, as improving to 6-6 has them in great position to win the AFC South.

Oh, at the moment, there’s a three-way tie for the division lead, with Houston and Tennessee. But after dismantling the Jets last night, the Colts are feeling like it’s theirs for the taking.

“It’s December football — we wanted to start fast and take the crowd out of the game,” Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton said, via Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star. “And we didn’t want to take our foot off the gas.”

The Colts own a tiebreaker over the Titans via head-to-head sweep. The Texans beat the Colts the first time through, but a Colts win this week would give them a one-game advantage in the standings with three to play.

The Texans have lost three straight (though they’re apparently on the verge of greatness or something), but after the Colts game they get to close with home games against the Jaguars and Bengals before going to Tennessee.

The Colts finish with potentially tricky road trips to Minnesota and Oakland before hosting Jacksonville to finish, so on paper it’s a tougher way to end the season.

The Titans have games remaining with the Broncos, at the Chiefs and Jaguars and the home finale with the Texans.

“Everything is right there in front of us,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.

And while it’s not the most glamorous division in football, one of them is getting invited to the party at the end of the season, and at the moment, it looks like the Colts have the best chance.

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Ugly loss raises calls for Jets regime change

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 17:  Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets watches from the sidelines during the fourth quarter of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 17, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Jets 28-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets, flexed out of prime time a week earlier, got a stand-alone close-up on Monday night. And it wasn’t pretty.

“For the first time this year, we got our ass handed to us,” coach Todd Bowles told reporters after the 41-10 loss to the Colts, the biggest win by the Colts over the Jets since a 52-19 victory in 1975 . . . in Baltimore. “That’s very disappointing from a physical standpoint. . . .

“I thought they kicked our ass. I don’t think we had a lot of effort. I’ll see the film. I’m sure there are some people who showed up, but for the most part, we got our ass kicked. . . . It’s very troubling when you get your ass kicked.”

To his credit, Bowles made no excuses nor deflected blame: “All of it falls on me. I’m the head coach.”

So is Bowles concerned that his second year with the Jets will be his last?

“No,” Bowles said. “You know your job is in jeopardy when you take one of these jobs.”

That matter-of-fact calm demeanor has been one of Bowles’ strengths. With the season, and perhaps his job, crumbling, it could quickly becomes a liability — because it may send a message he doesn’t really care as much as he should.

And he should seem to care more than he does. The calls for Bowles to be fired have begun; Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, for example, writes that it’s time for Bowles to go.

Why give him a third year when 28 games into his head coaching career he has proven he’s not the right man to end the Jets nearly half-century Super Bowl drought?” Myers writes. “No need to make a bad situation even worse. This is a multi-billion dollar business and you can’t give away seasons.”

Of course, that same argument could be made in the direction of Bowles’ boss. And the question becomes whether owner Woody Johnson would blow out G.M. Mike Maccagnan along with Bowles, or whether Maccagnan — the man who has assembled the quarterback clusterfudge that has delivered nothing this year — should get a chance to both hire a coach and find a competent signal-caller.

One major factor in the final analysis surely will be the instant success the Giants have realized by making big changes after the 2015 season.

That same season brought so much hope for the Jets after they nearly qualified for the playoffs. This year, they’ve been eliminated with four games to play.

One of those games will be played in 11 days on NFL Network, at home against the Dolphins. The Just End the Season season then ends in Week 17 with a visit from Rex Ryan and the Bills.

At this point, the question may not be whether Bowles is fired at the end of the season, but whether he even makes it through the final 25 percent of it.

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Rams’ Johnny Hekker having the greatest punting season ever

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 02:  Punter Johnny Hekker #6 of the Los Angeles Rams during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Rams defeated the Cardinals 17-13.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Rams coach Jeff Fisher took some criticism yesterday when he said, “We’re on a record-setting pace with our punt team.” For the coach of one of the worst teams in the league to boast about punting doesn’t sit well with some football fans.

But here’s the thing: Rams punter Johnny Hekker really is having a great season. He’s having perhaps the greatest season of any punter in NFL history.

Net punting average is the single most important stat to use to evaluate a punter, and by that measure Hekker is having the best season ever, and it’s not even close. Hekker is already the only punter in NFL history to finish a season with a net average of over 44 yards, setting the league record for net punting average at 44.2 yards in 2013,. But this year Hekker isn’t just over 44 yards, he’s over 45 yards: If he stays at his current pace of 45.8 yards, he’ll obliterate his own record.

And Hekker is consistently putting opposing teams in bad field position: He already has 40 punts inside the 20-yard line this season, by far the most in the league and within striking distance of the NFL record of 46. At his current pace, Hekker will finish the season with 53 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Perhaps most amazingly, Hekker is nailing all those punts inside the 20 without kicking any too far: He has just one touchback this season. A ratio of 40 punts inside the 20 to one touchback is preposterous.

So laugh if you must at Fisher propping up his punting team. But know this: Fisher’s punter is having the best punting season ever.

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Bryce Petty to start final four games for Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 05:  Bryce Petty #9 of the New York Jets looks to pass in the second half against the Indianapolis Colts during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 5, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets head coach Todd Bowles said that Bryce Petty will start the final four games of the season after another dismal showing for Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets’ offense Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts.

Bowles claimed that the decision to start Petty for the final four games of the season had already been decided prior to Monday night’s outing.

“Well the plan was for us to start him the last four games anyway so we just started a half early,” Bowles said. “We could have won 45-0, he was going to start the last four games.”

If there was any doubt about making a change, Fitzpatrick did little to make a case for himself. Fitzpatrick completed just 5 of 12 passes for 81 yards with an interception as the Colts smacked the Jets 41-10.  The Jets have now lost four straight games and were officially eliminated from playoff contention on Monday night.

“We weren’t doing much in the first half so put the kid in and try to get a spark,” Bowles said.

The Jets were already trailing 31-3 before Petty entered the game in the third quarter. He completed 11 of 25 passes for 135 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

“I didn’t get it done,” Fitzpatrick said.

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Luck throws four touchdown passes as Colts embarrass Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 05:  Dwayne Allen #83 celebrates his second touchdown in the first quarter against the New York Jets with teammate  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 5, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Andrew Luck threw four touchdown passes, two on the game’s first two drives, and there was never a doubt about Monday night’s result.

The Colts cruised to a 41-10 victory. Tight end Dwayne Allen caught those first two touchdown passes and a third later in the first half.

The Jets had three personal foul penalties in the first 20 minutes — and it really didn’t get much better from there. Down 31-3 by the time they got the ball in the third quarter, Jets coach Todd Bowles inserted young quarterback Bryce Petty and removed Ryan Fitzpatrick, probably for the last time.

The Colts improve to 6-6 and are in a three-way tie atop the AFC South with the Texans and Titans.

It was a night of milestones for the Colts. Frank Gore passed Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett for eighth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list, T.Y. Hilton passed Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison for the most 100-yard receiving games (22) in the first five years of a career, and Allen became just the third tight end in franchise history to post a three-touchdown game.

It was Luck’s eighth career game with at least four touchdown passes.

The Colts thought they had another touchdown late in the first half but tight end Jack Doyle was ruled to have fumbled into the end zone for a touchback. That was about the only thing that went wrong for the Colts until veteran linebacker D’Qwell Jackson walked to the locker room after suffering a neck injury in the fourth quarter.

In addition being generally defenseless — the Colts rolled up more than 400 yards of offense — the Jets turned the ball over three times and didn’t get into the end zone until Petty threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to rookie Robby Anderson in the fourth quarter. They managed 116 yards and five first downs in the first half.

The Jets fall to 3-9 and figure to stick with Petty the rest of the way as they point towards 2017.

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Which bad team is the closest to contending?

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 04:  Leonard Floyd #94 of the Chicago Bears sacks Blaine Gabbert #2 of the San Francisco 49ers in the end zone for a safety
at Soldier Field on December 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the 49ers 26-6.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

For every good team in the NFL, there’s necessarily a bad team. And for every really good team, there’s usually a really bad team.

So which of the really bad teams is in the best position to become really good? Or at least good enough to contend?

That’s the PFT Live question of the day for Tuesday. Cast a vote, drop a comment, and then tune in at 6:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Radio. We migrate to NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET for the final two hours of the show.

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Seahawks to sign fullback Marcel Reece

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 08:  Marcel Reece #45 of the Oakland Raiders runs the ball during the 1st half of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on November 8, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks are expected to sign former Oakland Raiders fullback Marcel Reece.

Reece played his college football at the University of Washington in Seattle where he was a wide receiver for the Huskies. After going undrafted, Reece spent eight seasons with the Raiders and was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the last four seasons.

The expected signing – first reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN.com – was confirmed to PFT by a team spokesman.

Reece caught 205 passes for 2,015 yards and 12 touchdowns and has rushed for 844 yards and three touchdowns during his career with the Raiders.

Seattle fullback Will Tukuafu has a concussion after a collision on a kickoff with Panthers linebacker David Mayo, who also suffered a concussion on the play. The Seahawks could place Tukuafu on injured reserve to make room for Reece on their roster. However, Earl Thomas is likely IR bound as well after fracturing his left tibia in Sunday’s win over Carolina and could also free up a spot.

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Jets bench Fitzpatrick, go to Petty

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 13:  Quarterback  Bryce Petty #9 of the New York Jets looks on in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at MetLife Stadium on November 13, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets’ season is over, and coach Todd Bowles acted accordingly in the third quarter Monday night when he replaced quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick with second-year quarterback Bryce Petty.

Fitzpatrick is on a one-year deal, and his career with the Jets is probably over, too. The Jets will be 3-9 when this game is over. They trailed the Colts, 31-3, when the change was made.

What was left of the crowd at MetLife Stadium cheered when Petty was inserted into the game. Petty completed his first pass to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and also had a third-down completion to Brandon Marshall, but the Jets punted soon after.

Petty made his first career start last month when Fitzpatrick was injured. The Jets lost that game, 9-6.

The Jets managed just 116 total yards and five first downs in the first half Monday night with Fitzpatrick at quarterback.

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