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NFLPA names five finalists for Byron “Whizzer” White Award

6ae6cbd1cd8367817930995c545cc443 Getty Images

Every year, the NFL Players Association recognizes one of its members with the Byron “Whizzer” White Award.   Named for the late Supreme Court Justice who played for the Steelers (known at the time as the Pirates) and Lions before becoming an intelligence officer in World War II, the award recognizes one player based on community service performed in their team cities and hometowns.

This year’s finalists are Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch, Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, Browns tight end Benjamin Watson, and Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.

Witten is also a finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.

The winner of the Byron “Whizzer” White Award will receive $100,000 for his charity; all finalists will receive a donation for their charities as well.

The winner of the Byron “Whizzer” White Award will be announced during Super Bowl week, at the NFLPA’s annual press conference.

Justice White was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy and served until 1993.  Justice White died in 2002, at age 84.

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Andy Reid: Justin Houston has sprained knee

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 29:  Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills avoids a sack attempt by Justin Houston #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium during the first quarter of the game on November 29, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chiefs rallied to beat the Bills 30-22 on Sunday, extending their winning streak to five games and improving their record to 6-5 on the season.

The win didn’t come without some setbacks, however. Linebacker Justin Houston was forced out of the game in the first half with a knee injury.

After the game, coach Andy Reid said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star, that Houston suffered a knee sprain. PFT has learned that Houston will have an MRI to determine the severity of the injury, but that the team is optimistic that Houston, who walked out of the locker room on his own power, avoided anything too serious.

The Chiefs also lost left tackle Eric Fisher during the game after he suffered what they called a head/neck injury.

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Jeff Fisher says critics of team’s effort can “kiss my ass”

Jeff Fisher AP

Rams coach Jeff Fisher made an early exit from his post-game press conference following Sunday’s 31-7 loss to the Bengals. Before he left, Fisher said something that will generate plenty of attention.

When discussing a four-game losing streak that has seen the team plunge from 4-3 to 4-7, Fisher said, “Anyone who implies that it’s an effort issue and they can kiss my ass, OK? Because there’s no effort problems.”

Whatever the actual problems, there are plenty for the Rams. They looked to be poised to make a run at the NFC West crown after beating the Seahawks and Cardinals. But after convincing back-to-back wins over the 49ers and Browns at home, the Rams have fallen apart.

The struggles have sparked speculation in some league circles as to whether Fisher will survive this season, regardless of whether the team relocates. As the thinking goes, a move to L.A. could require a new coach in order to create buzz in the new market. Staying put, which will require some damage to be undone locally, could compel a coaching change if only to give the folks in St. Louis a reason for hope for whatever future there may be in Missouri.

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Cards lose Powers, two backs to injuries

Chris Johnson, NaVorro Bowman AP

The Cardinals lost cornerback Jerraud Powers and running back Chris Johnson to injuries in the third quarter of Sunday’s game at San Francisco.

Powers suffered a calf injury and team announced his return is doubtful. Johnson has a knee injury and the team announced his return is questionable.

Johnson walked to the locker room escorted by team trainers about midway through the third quarter. Doctors were also examining running back Andre Ellington on the sideline.

The team announced that Ellington’s return is also questionable.

David Johnson scored a touchdown in the third quarter. The Cardinals lead, 13-10.

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Jaguars WR Hurns released from hospital

Rashad Greene, Allen Hurns AP

Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns was released from a local hospital late Sunday afternoon, about two hours after he smacked his head on the turf while trying to make a catch.

Hurns was taken off the field via stretcher in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game vs. the Chargers and taken to a local hospital. The team first announced that Hurns suffered a concussion and was taken to the hospital for further evaluation, then later announced that he had been released.

The game was stopped for several minutes while medical staff attended to Hurns. He flashed a thumbs up to the crowd as the stretcher left the field.

Hurns caught 4 passes for 42 yards in the game. The Chargers won, 31-25, to snap a six-game losing streak.

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Steelers take 18-14 lead into halftime

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 29:  Wide receiver Martavis Bryant #10 of the Pittsburgh Steelers scores a touchdown against strong safety Kam Chancellor #31 of the Seattle Seahawks in the second quarter at CenturyLink Field on November 29, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

There have been a lot of balls in the air through the first 30 minutes in Seattle, but the Steelers have a pair of rushing touchdowns to thank for a 18-14 lead.

DeAngelo Williams plunged into the end zone with 56 seconds left in the first half and the Steelers converted a two-point conversion — see what happens when you use the offense to gain two yards? — to go up 18-14 after a half of football. Martavis Bryant ran 10 yards on an end around to account for their other score.

Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t thrown a touchdown, but the passing game has been the primary mover for Pittsburgh on Sunday. Roethlisberger is 19-of-28 for 206 yards, including a 41-yard bomb to Markus Wheaton that set up the Williams touchdown.

Russell Wilson found Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse for touchdowns in the second quarter of the game to put the Seahawks up 14-10. Wilson was particularly sharp on the drive that ended with Kearse’s score as he completed 7-of-8 passes for 90 yards to drive Seattle down the field. Two of the throws were big gainers to Jimmy Graham, something that the Seahawks would surely like to see more of as the rest of the game and rest of the season unfold.

They’ll need better work from the defense to make any further gains stand up, though. Roethlisberger has shown no qualms about attacking the Seahawks defense down the field and the defense has done nothing to make him pay at either the front or back end thus far. That will have to change if the Seahawks want to avoid a return to sub-.500 waters when Sunday comes to a close.

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Ryan Shazier heads to locker room

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 20: Ryan Shazier #50 of the Pittsburgh Steelers tackles Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers by grabbing his jersey in the third quarter during the game at Heinz Field on September 20, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game because of a knee injury, but he got the green light to play in Seattle.

A different injury has Shazier questionable to remain in the game until the final whistle, however. Shazier has returned to the locker room with Steelers medical personnel in the second quarter of the game.

Shazier looked dazed on his way back to the locker room for what appeared to be a concussion evaluation and the Steelers quickly confirmed that was the case. Vince Williams took over for Shazier in the Pittsburgh defense.

Tight end Heath Miller also went to the locker room for the Steelers, but he’s expected to return after suffering a rib injury.

The Steelers lead 10-7 after a 10-yard run by Martavis Bryant on an end around put the Steelers back on top in the second quarter.

UPDATE 5:39 p.m. ET: Miller has returned to the game with the Steelers trailing 14-10 with two minutes left in the half.

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Steelers try to get cute, get picked off instead

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 15:  Head Coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers on the field before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field on November 15, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Steelers had the ball on fourth down from the Seahawks’ 27-yard-line as the first quarter came to a close with Ben Roethlisberger and the offense still on the field.

It appeared the Steelers changed their mind about going for it once the second quarter kicked off because they had the field goal team on the field, but so was backup quarterback Landry Jones and the Steelers shifted to a traditional offensive formation with Jones taking a shotgun snap.

Jones lofted a pass in the direction of tackle Alejandro Villanueva, but Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane read it the entire way and intercepted the pass. He returned it 54 yards to the Pittsburgh 24-yard-line and the Seahawks were able to capitalize on the gift from Mike Tomlin with a touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin that gave them a 7-3 lead.

One has to wonder why Tomlin thought it was better to try to gain two yards with his backup quarterback throwing to an offensive tackle rather than letting Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and the rest of a talented offense have a go at it. Being aggressive on the road is a good idea, but, as Walter White would be the first to tell you, half-measures like Tomlin’s aren’t really being aggressive.

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Garrett Celek carted off

Jalen Collins, Garrett Celek AP

49ers tight end Garrett Celek was carted off the field during the first quarter of Sunday’s game vs. the Cardinals.

Celek got his foot and/or ankle rolled on by teammate Shaun Draughn while blocking. He immediately clutched at his lower left leg.

The team called it an ankle injury and said Celek is questionable to return.

The Cardinals lead, 6-0, in the second quarter.

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Chargers snap six-game losing streak

Philip Rivers AP

Philip Rivers had another big game, and he finally got some help.

The Jaguars helped, too.

The Chargers won in Jacksonville Sunday, 31-25, to snap a six-game losing streak. Rivers threw 4 touchdown passes, 2 to Antonio Gates, and the Jaguars needed a late touchdown after a blocked punt to make it close. The ensuing onside kick went out of bounds, the Jaguars slipped to 4-7.

The Chargers improve to 3-8 with their first road win of the season. Rivers threw for 300 yards and also threw touchdown passes to Stevie Johnson and Dontrelle Inman.

Rivers threw 3 touchdown passes in the second quarter. The Chargers went up 21-9 after a Manti Te’o interception set up the second Rivers to Gates touchdown just before halftime.

The Jaguars settled for too many field goals, getting 1 touchdown in 4 trips inside the red zone. Blake Bortles was 30-of-49 for 329 yards and touchdowns to Julius Thomas and Allen Robinson.

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Jets snap losing streak, help playoff odds in 38-20 win

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 29:  Eric Decker #87 of the New York Jets celebrates his touchdown with  Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 in the third quarter against the Miami Dolphins on November 29, 2015 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets were trending sharply in the wrong direction with four losses in their last five games, leaving their once-promising playoff hopes on thin ice when Sunday’s game against the Dolphins kicked off.

They aren’t on totally solid ground after the final whistle, but they’re closer to land after a 38-20 win that gave them a season sweep of their AFC East rivals. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four touchdown passes and the defense kept the Dolphins in check until the game was well in hand to move the Jets to 6-5 on the year.

That’s the same record that the Texans, Colts and Chiefs have and the Steelers will either join them or improve to 7-4 after their game with the Seahawks comes to a close. That leaves a lot of potential combinations and the 5-6 Bills and Raiders can’t be counted out, so every win is a big one for the Jets.

They should feel good about this one. Their offense found success on the ground and in the air after two weeks of diminshed returns. Brandon Marshall dominated Brent Grimes for nine catches, 131 yards and two touchdowns and they ran for 137 yards to keep things balanced over the course of the contest. They’ll need that same balance against the Giants next weekend in an interstadium battle that has huge significance for both teams.

More of the same for the defense would be welcome as well. The Dolphins drove for two touchdowns after the Jets opened up a 35-7 lead in the fourth and taking the 156 yards they gained in those stat padding efforts leaves them with 177 yards to show for their offensive efforts. Only 12 of those yards came on the ground and the Dolphins failed on their first eight third-down tries of the game as Ryan Tannehill’s play was lacking until the game was well out of hand.

Offensive matters doesn’t figure to get any easier in the future if center Mike Pouncey is out for an extended period of time after leaving with a leg injury on Sunday.

It would seem reasonable to expect that backup Jamil Douglas will get better at snapping the ball, but those are the kinds of things that have been a problem for the Dolphins, who are now 0-5 in the AFC East, all year. Those kinds of blunders and injuries have a lot to do with the 4-7 record in Miami and the coming changes to the organization that will come once they play out the string on another dismal season.

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Anti-Jed York sign flies before 49ers game

Jed York AP

After the 49ers dumped coach Jim Harbaugh at the close of the 2014 season, 49ers owner Jed York gladly accepted the blame for any future struggles of the team.

“We don’t raise division championship banners, we don’t raise NFC Championship banners. We raise Super Bowl banners. And whenever we don’t deliver that, I hope that you will hold me directly responsible and accountable for it,” York said.

Well, he asked for it.

Via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, a plane flying over Levi’s Stadium on Sunday towed a message that made reference to the team’s official reason for moving on from Harbaugh, turning it back against the owner: “Jed & The 49ers Should Mutually Part Ways.”

It’s not the first fan-based attack against York this year, although it involved a more traditional prop than the other one.

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Giants can’t hold onto first place in the NFC East

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 29: Quarterback Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants scrambles under pressure from defensive end Jason Hatcher #97 of the Washington Redskins in the third quarter at FedExField on November 29, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said this week that “it’s a lot of fun” coaching a team that’s in first place.

Coughlin’s team is still in first place after Sunday’s game, but they have company and we’re guessing he’ll be having a lot less fun when the question comes up this week. The Redskins jumped out to a 20-0 lead and held on after two late Giants touchdowns for a 20-14 win that pulls them even with the Giants at 5-6.

If the season ended today, Washington would win the crown based on a better division record. They have two games left against the Cowboys and one against the Eagles, however, and the Giants still have a chance to even their record at 3-3 when they face the Eagles in Week 17.

There’s a lot of football to play between now and then, but the Redskins know they are going to the playoffs if they win their remaining games.

The Giants could have said the same coming into the game, but they continue to make it hard to know what to expect from them on any given Sunday. Two weeks after nearly beating the Patriots, they laid a complete egg for three quarters of the game as the home team did just enough to pull ahead by three scores. Eli Manning finally found some success in the fourth with touchdown passes to Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham, but Steve Spagnuolo’s defense couldn’t stop Jordan Reed and Alfred Morris from getting first downs that left the Giants with a few seconds and no timeouts for a last-ditch attempt at pulling out the win.

That effort wasn’t helped by punt returner Dwayne Harris’s decision to field a Redskins punt over his shoulder on his goal-line, costing the team yards to use in their attempt to pull off a miracle. There were other blunders by the Giants, who turned the ball over on three interceptions that could be blamed on both Manning and his receivers. The last came in the end zone on what looked like an underwhelming effort by Randle to break on a ball picked off by Quinton Dunbar.

Kirk Cousins wasn’t picked off at all and finished the day 20-of-29 for 302 yards and a touchdown to help his team rebound from last week’s licking against the Panthers. He had a lot of success throwing to Reed, whose eight catches for 98 yards included several drive-extenders, and played the mistake-free football that Washington needs from him. He’ll try for another round of it next Monday night against a Cowboys team that will be coming to town fresh off the latest Tony Romo injury. It’s a game Washington should win, although they haven’t proven to be much any more consistent than the Giants this season.

Ryan Kerrigan spearheaded the defensive effort with two sacks and a batted ball that almost turned into a fourth Manning interception. The Giants will need to sort things out on an offensive line that ended the day down three starters in time for their MetLife bragging rights game against the Jets next Sunday. If they can’t Week 13 might end with them out of first place altogether.

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Colts come back to beat Buccaneers, continue their roll

Gerald McCoy, Matt Hasselbeck AP

The Colts would clearly prefer to have Andrew Luck under center.

But they’re certainly making the best of things with his backup on the field.

The Colts pulled away for a 25-12 win over the Buccaneers, improving to 6-5 on the season.

But perhaps as importantly, they’re 4-0 in games started by 40-year-old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who has kept them alive and atop the AFC South standings, tied with the Texans.

Hasselbeck completed 26-of-42 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns, playing the kind of clean game they needed while Luck’s out with a lacerated kidney.

The Buccaneers squandered some early momentum and continued signs of progress by quarterback Jameis Winston, who threw for 235 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.

The Buccaneers fell to 5-6 on the season, a disappointing follow-up to wins over the Eagles and Cowboys.

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Raiders come back to beat Titans, who lose yet again at home

Seth Roberts AP

When it rains on the Titans, it pours. Especially in Nashville.

Playing in a driving rainstorm in the second half, the Titans were working on an impressive comeback before Marcus Mariota threw an interception to Raiders safety Nate Allen, allowing the Raiders to escape with a 24-21 win.

The win helped the Raiders improve to 5-6, but it was mostly another Titans loss at home. They’ve now dropped 11 straight at Nissan Stadium.

Mariota threw a pair of interceptions, overshadowing the work he did getting his team back into the lead after falling into a 17-6 hole in the third quarter. Until the Titans figure out a running game (44 yards on the day), it’s going to be hard for Mariota to do enough to make them valid.

And while it wasn’t a work of art, it was an excellent performance for Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner to Seth Roberts (his second) with 1:27 left.

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After rough start, Chiefs come alive to beat the Bills

Ronald Darby, Chris Conley AP

For the Chiefs, today’s game against the Bills was a lot like the 2015 season: A rough start and a great turnaround.

The Chiefs fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter today and looked like they were in serious trouble. But quarterback Alex Smith came alive and led a tremendous turnaround in what turned out to be a 30-22 Chiefs win.

Now Kansas City is on a five-game winning streak after starting the season 1-5. The Chiefs looked like their season was lost just a couple months ago, and now they look like they’re on their way to the playoffs.

Smith finished the game 19-for-30 for 255 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Spencer Ware, the Chiefs’ third-string running back who’s now a starter because of injuries to Jamaal Charles and Charcandrick West, topped 100 yards and ran hard all day.

The Bills were off to a fantastic start with Sammy Watkins having 158 receiving yards in the first half, but he didn’t catch any passes in the second half. The Chiefs’ defense deserves a lot of credit for the way it came back in the second half.

And the Chiefs deserve a lot of credit for the way they’ve turned their season around. They’re now AFC contenders.

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