ProFootballTalk: Ravens-Patriots set for AFC rematch
The news was as good as the Cowboys could have hoped. Ed Werder of ESPN reports that the tests showed no structural damage in Lee’s neck and that he’s expected to play against the Packers in Week 15 despite “soreness and stiffness.”
Lee’s one of the most valuable members of a Cowboys defense that ended its string of capable performances at two by getting torn apart by Josh McCown and the Bears. They’ll need to be better regardless of who starts at quarterback for the Packers, but could still catch Green Bay without Aaron Rodgers if Rodgers’ Wednesday visit with doctors doesn’t result in a green light to return.
Werder also reports that linebacker Bruce Carter, who went for an MRI of his own after hurting his hamstring on Monday, is unlikely to play against Green Bay.
Every time the topic of concussions has come up, Brandon Stokley has said he wants to keep playing.
After the most recent of his double-digit career concussions Sunday, the Ravens decided to make the decision for him.
The team announced they were putting the veteran wide receiver on injured reserve, replacing him on the roster with running back Bernard Scott.
In the team’s release, they cited Stokley’s multiple concussions and said they “determined after testing that this would end his season.”
The 37-year-old wideout played in just six games because of a variety of non-head injuries. He caught 13 passes for 115 yards. And with his track record, it might be a surprise if anyone gives him a chance to continue to play.
If the Dolphins are going to advance to the playoffs, they’ll do it without cornerback Dimitri Patterson.
The team announced Tuesday that Patterson has been placed on injured reserve. Patterson has been battling a groin injury for almost the entire season, limiting him to just six games. Patterson’s been productive in those games with four interceptions, but he suffered a setback against the Steelers in Week 14 and won’t be able to get back.
Miami also placed cornerback R.J. Stanford on injured reserve Tuesday. Stanford, who played sparingly on defense and often on special teams, broke his leg. Stanford joined the team on waivers in 2012 and has played all 29 games over the last two seasons.
As previously reported, the Dolphins signed safety Michael Thomas off of the 49ers practice squad. They also announced that they have signed cornerback Justin Rogers, who started the year as a starter with the Bills and played one game for the Texans after his release from Buffalo.
As the fourth quarter of the season unfolds, a franchise quarterback seems to be having a lot of trouble in the fourth quarter of games.
According to Tim Twentyman of the team’s official website, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has a passer rating of 30.2 in the fourth quarter of the last four games. The only win in those four games came against the Packers, during a Thanksgiving contest that was no longer in doubt by the time the final 15 minutes commenced.
While other failures have contributed to the team’s inability to win more than seven of 13 games, the franchise quarterback needs to step up when the game is on the line. Stafford, in recent weeks, hasn’t.
As a result, the Lions are now in danger of blowing the NFC North crown. They’ll get their next chance to push toward the team’s first division title in 20 years on Monday night, when they welcome to town the Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco. Per Twentyman, Flacco has a passer rating of 85.3 in the fourth quarter of the last four games.
Last month, reports that the Steelers quarterback possibly wants out of Pittsburgh pissed Ben off — and sparked a winning streak. Now that the Steelers have lost a pair of winnable games in a row, Ben is upset about something else.
He doesn’t like the perception that he took a shot at offensive coordinator Todd Haley after Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins.
“It’s unbelievable,” Roethlisberger told 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, via ESPN.com. “It gets blown up and it’s by reporters that come in there and ask the dumbest questions after a game, and it makes it ridiculous when they only take part of your answer.
“It was taken way out of context. There is absolutely no issue between Coach Haley and I. I love where this offense is right now.”
As we’ve explained once or twice (or 50 times), there’s a huge difference between taking a quote out of context and isolating a quote. Isolating a quote in a way that doesn’t give it a different meaning when lifted out of its context is fair.
Here’s what Roethlisberger said that created the sense problems linger, via Adita Kinkhabwala of NFL Network, when asked about why the team got away from the running game in the second half against the Dolphins: “No idea. Coach Haley’s over there. You can ask him.”
Roethlisberger now says that the suggestion to pose the question to Coach Haley wasn’t intended to be a reflection on the man to whom Roethlisberger referred reporters.
“They take one little blurb of a whole sentence and it was not directed at Coach Haley, like ‘Go ask him, I don’t know why we didn’t do it,’” Roethlisberger said Tuesday. “It was, ‘He’s our coordinator, if you want to ask questions about play calling, go ask him about it. He’s the guy that calls the plays. If you want to ask me about the no-huddle and I’m calling [plays], then you can ask me.’”
That extra context isn’t doing much to change our own perception that Roethlisberger’s answer reflected frustration with Haley’s play calling. Otherwise, Ben would have shared some of the nuggets he has picked up during the past two years of working directly with Haley to help explain why the offense did what it did in that situation. Or maybe Ben would have provided some of the insights he acquired while talking to Haley during, you know, the game.
“[I]n no way shape or form was the [comment] directed negatively at him,” Roethlisberger insisted. “I think the offense is as good as it’s been in a long time. We’ve got guys doing some great things. I genuinely am enjoying this offense and what Coach Haley is doing and where we’re going. We’re getting [better] every week, and I think we can keep getting better.”
That doesn’t explain why Roethlisberger also reportedly declined to answer the question of whether he thinks changes need to be made on offense.
Maybe the media was unfairly taking his non-answer out of context, too.
After the Eagles and Bears both won games with major NFC playoff implications in Week 14, the NFL decided to give their meeting in Week 16 a prime time audience.
The Bears-Eagles game in Philadelphia has been moved from its previously scheduled 1 p.m. Eastern kickoff on FOX to Sunday Night Football on NBC. Chicago is currently tied with Detroit for NFC North supremacy (though the Lions own the tiebreaker), while Philadelphia is currently one game ahead of Dallas in the NFC East. That makes Bears-Eagles a big game.
The Patriots-Ravens game in Baltimore that had been scheduled for Sunday Night Football on December 22 has now been moved to a 4:25 p.m. kickoff on CBS. Although the Patriots and Ravens are both fighting for playoff spots, Bears-Eagles is the game that will draw the bigger audience.
There’s a good chance that either the Bears or the Eagles will play on Sunday night in Week 17 as well. The NFL tries to put a game with playoff implications for both teams in the final prime time matchup, and the most likely Week 17 candidates are Eagles-Cowboys as a battle for the NFC East or Bears-Packers as a battle for the NFC North. The Week 17 prime time game will be announced after Week 16, when all the playoff scenarios are known.
With the season drawing to a close, even teams in the playoff hunt are thinking about the future.
According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, the Dolphins are poaching safety Michael Thomas off the 49ers practice squad.
The 49ers had given Thomas a raise over the practice squad minimum recently, but couldn’t offer a spot on a 53-man roster, which the Dolphins did.
Thomas, who can also play nickel cornerback, played at Stanford under 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
It might be a move of short-term expedience for Thomas, as the 49ers could need depth there. Donte Whitner’s a free agent after the season, and Eric Reid has suffered a pair of concussions already. Otherwise, their safeties are primarily special teamers,
The 49ers have been able to talk practice squaders out of leaving before, hanging onto players such as wide receiver Ricardo Lockette and guard Al Netter.
The Colts have already clinched the AFC South, and the Broncos and Seahawks have both clinched playoff berths. Those three teams can be joined by as many as six others on Sunday.
The NFL has released this week’s playoff scenarios, and they show that the Chiefs, Patriots, Bengals, Saints, Panthers and 49ers all have the ability to clinch playoff berths this week. Here’s a look at what each team has to do:
Chiefs: Clinch playoff berth with a win, or a loss by either the Dolphins or Ravens.
Patriots: Clinch the AFC East with a win. Can also clinch at least a wild card if they lose and the Ravens lose.
Bengals: Clinch the AFC North with a win and a Ravens loss.
Saints: Clinch a playoff berth with a win. Can also clinch a playoff berth if they lose and the Cardinals and either the Cowboys or Eagles lose.
Panthers: Clinch a playoff spot with a win and losses by both the Cardinals and 49ers, plus a loss by either the Cowboys or the Eagles.
49ers: Clinch a playoff spot with a win, a Cardinals loss and either a Cowboys or Eagles loss.
The Broncos can also clinch the AFC West with a win and a Chiefs loss, and they can clinch the AFC West and a first-round bye with a win and losses by both the Chiefs and the Bengals. The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West and a first-round bye with a win and a 49ers loss, and they can clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win and losses by both the 49ers and the Saints.
In just about every realistic scenario, five of the AFC playoff spots will go to the Broncos, Chiefs, Patriots, Bengals and Colts, and four of the NFC playoff spots will go to the Seahawks, 49ers, Panthers and Saints. The remaining battles are for the final AFC wild card spot (Baltimore and Miami are currently tied at 7-6), for the NFC East (Eagles or Cowboys) and NFC North (Lions, Bears or Packers).
If you’re a fan of one of the teams that can clinch, that’s obviously what you’re hoping for. Otherwise, hope for the teams that can clinch to lose. The more teams are still fighting for playoff berths, the more fun we’ll have in the final weeks of the season.
It’s fairly easy for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh to get dressed for work, since he always wears the same thing.
But when his footwear failed to keep him upright during a scuffle, he had to make an adjustment.
He still wears the same khakis and black pullover, with the same red pen on a lanyard, but Harbaugh has started wearing cleats on game-days, after he slipped while trying to break up a fight during a game against the Titans earlier this year.
“The first thing that prompted it was that scuffle I was trying to break up in Tennessee,” Harbaugh said, via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. “I had no traction.
So being the creature of habit he is, he wore them the following week in London.
But then after returning to the United States, he wore his regular shoes in games against the Panthers and Saints. Losing both caused him to go back to cleats.
“I’ve been wearing the cleats because we’ve won every time I’ve worn the cleats,” he said. “So there was a time I was superstitious about not being superstitious. Now, I’m suddenly superstitious a little bit.”
You don’t say, Jim.
The Cowboys’ defense has a lot of problems it needs to fix, but owner and General Manager Jerry Jones says there’s no one he’d rather have to fix it than defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
Jones indicated in an interview on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas that he still believes in Kiffin, defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and the rest of the Cowboys’ defensive staff.
“To fix what we’re doing, there’s nobody I’d rather have than him and Rod Marinelli, and where we are today to get this fixed over the next week, two weeks, three weeks,” Jones said. “There’s nobody I’d rather have than him to fix it. First of all, he knows what we’re doing better than anyone, and if there are adjustments to be made, he’s the right man for the job right now.”
So for anyone thinking the Cowboys should do this year what the Ravens did last year — fire an under-performing coordinator and attempt to turn the team around late in the season — Jones says that’s not going to happen. Instead, Jones said, he expects Kiffin to get to work at improving the defense to get the Cowboys to the playoffs.
“He takes it personally. It’s hard on him. It’s very hard on him. He’s been doing it a long time at his age and he’s had a lot of different experiences,” Jones said. “He doesn’t in any way reject the responsibility. As a matter of fact, he invites it on himself.”
Jones says the Cowboys are disappointed to now be a game behind the Eagles in the NFC East, but they’re still optimistic, knowing that if they win their last three games (including a Week 17 meeting with the Eagles), they win the division.
“That’s hard to take, and particularly hard to take under the circumstances. We start the weekend off thinking about really having a good situation as far as our next three ballgames are concerned, and now our backs are against the wall and we have a real challenge on Sunday,” Jones said.
And Kiffin will be the man getting the Cowboys’ defense ready for that challenge.
Tuesday’s edition of PFT Live will spend a lot of time talking about a pair of AFC South teams that will miss the playoffs this season.
While both the Jaguars and Texans are falling short of the postseason, there’s a different feeling around the two teams. Jaguars coach Gus Bradley has instilled some optimism about the future with four wins in five games while the Texans are looking for a new coach after firing Gary Kubiak amid a losing streak that’s reached 11 games.
Bradley will join Mike Florio to talk about what’s accounting for the improved results in Jacksonville and what he plans to do in the offseason to make sure that there isn’t a repeat of this year’s season-opening eight-game losing streak. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle will also be on the show to discuss the Texans’ coaching search and other changes that may be coming to the team.
You can watch it all live at noon ET by clicking right here.
The NFC North is the NFL’s only remaining three-way division race, and it’s a race that looks like it will go down to the wire.
Detroit, at 7-6 and with every tiebreaker advantage, is in control of the division. If the Lions win their final three games, home against the Ravens, home against the Giants and at Minnesota, they win the NFC North no matter what else happens.
But Green Bay and Chicago both have to like their chances. The first reason is simple: The Lions have a tendency to lose games they should win. Detroit hasn’t won three straight at any point this season, so the Bears and Packers can feel pretty good about the possibility that Detroit will find a way to lose one over the last three games of the season.
And if Detroit loses a game, then the Bears and Packers both just need to win out to win the division. If the Lions lose one and the Bears and Packers win their next two each, then the winner of the Week 17 Bears-Packers game would win the NFC North.
So how likely is it that the Bears and Packers will each win their next two? The Packers are on the road at Dallas and at home against the Steelers the next two weeks. If Aaron Rodgers is cleared to return, Green Bay is probably the favorite to win both of those games. Without Rodgers, winning both would be a tall order.
The Bears have to go on the road to Cleveland and then to Philadelphia before hosting the Packers in Week 17. Going 2-0 in those two is a tall order as well, although if the Bears play in the next two weeks like they played on Monday night, those are games they can win.
The Lions have lost three of their last five and aren’t inspiring much confidence right now. But the good news in Detroit is that the two games they won in the last five were against the Bears and Packers. And that’s why the Lions remain the favorites to win the division. Barely.
An initial round of tests on his injured foot showed no Lisfranc injury and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson reportedly got good news after a CT scan as well.
Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press reports that a team official confirmed that the results of further testing on Monday confirmed that Peterson will not need to have surgery to repair the injury. That leaves the door open for a return to the field this season.
A report from ESPN.com on Monday evening had Peterson unlikely to play in Week 15, but Murphy reports that no decision will be made about Peterson’s playing status will be made until he’s out of the walking boot he’s currently wearing to protect his foot. Peterson obviously isn’t going to play if he doesn’t get out of the boot, but it appears we’ll have to wait until late this week for any definitive word.
Coach Leslie Frazier also said Monday that the team’s record would be a factor in how they proceed with Peterson over the rest of the season. With no shot at the postseason, it might behoove the Vikings to start Peterson’s offseason a little early and go for as high a draft pick as possible in hopes of finding a long-term answer at quarterback.
Monday night was another rough one for the Cowboys defense.
They didn’t stop the Bears once all night en route to a 45-28 loss, which is bad enough for a team that needs every possible win to assure they finish in front of the Eagles in the NFC East this season. The night was even worse, though, because linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter both need MRIs on Tuesday to determine the extent of their injuries.
Lee had to leave the game, his return to the lineup after missing two games with a hamstring injury, after hurting his neck in the third quarter. Carter left the game a short time later with a hamstring injury, leaving the Cowboys with a linebacking corps of Kyle Wilber, Ernie Sims and Cameron Sheffield.
Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News reports that Lee said he plans to play in Week 15 and Carter also said that he thinks he’ll be OK, but the results of the MRIs will provide more clarity about their status for Week 15. The defense hasn’t been particularly good when both men are healthy, but it’s certainly preferable to have all hands on deck at this point in the proceedings.
For teams and players out of the playoff race, the last three weeks are about an eye to the future, and changes that are coming.
But even though the next three weeks could be his last in Houston, Texans running back Ben Tate said he’s trying to keep those thoughts at arm’s length.
“That’s something I can’t really answer right now,” Tate said when asked if he wanted to return, via Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle. “Just the fact so many things are going to change once the season’s over — different head coaches, different people fired everywhere else. That’s something I haven’t really thought about yet. That’s something I’ll probably think about after the next three weeks.”
Not knowing who the coach will be is one thing. But Tate’s in the final year of his rookie contract, and the Texans’ next coach will inherit Arian Foster’s new deal as well. So the likelihood of Tate hanging around are slim.
He’s shown toughness this season, playing through broken ribs. And while the market for backs hasn’t been strong, he should still be able to find a role of his own and a raise elsewhere.