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Wednesday morning one-liners

Denver Broncos v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

The Jets are hiring Bobby April Jr., son of the longtime NFL special teams coach, as a quality control coach.

The Bills have some tough decisions to make at wide receiver.

The Dolphins are taking out ads to generate support for taxpayer financing of Sun Life Stadium.

Despite the loss to the Ravens, the Patriots’ season is not viewed as a failure in New England.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco and offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell say they’ve learned a lot from each other since Caldwell started calling plays in Baltimore.

Former Bengals defensive lineman and defensive line coach Tim Krumrie is glad to have DT Geno Atkins playing in Cincinnati.

The Browns have had six different Week One quarterbacks in the last six years, and No. 7 could be coming.

Omar Khan will spend another year as the Steelers‘ director of football and business administration, but many people who know him think he deserves to be a general manager.

Texans LB Brian Cushing is selling his house, with an asking price of $1.3 million.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano said of Joe Gilbert, whom he promoted to offensive line coach from assistant offensive line coach, “He did a great job last year. Joe brings great energy and passion to that room, and stresses fundamentals and technique. He expects a lot from his players and will continue to develop that unit into one of the best in the NFL.”

New Jaguars coach Gus Bradley is showing his energetic nature at the Senior Bowl.

The Titans seem likely to add a safety in the NFL draft.

Broncos boss John Elway says he likes the competition at Senior Bowl practices.

The Chiefs sure do have a lot of Pro Bowlers for a team with the worst record in the NFL.

Former Raiders FB Jon Ritchie says it’s true that the team changed its game plan just before the Super Bowl, but as Ritchie remembers it that happened as a result of C Barret Robbins suddenly leaving the team.

Someone in San Diego has discovered that the team from the city with the lower unemployment rate has won the Super Bowl 20 of the past 25 years. This year, San Francisco has a lower unemployment rate than Baltimore. If you bet money on the Super Bowl because of this, you need to get help.

Cowboys DT Jay Ratliff won’t get cut for driving drunk.

Giants G.M. Jerry Reese says it’s impossible to predict how the fake girlfriend hoax will affect the draft stock of Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o because NFL teams haven’t had a chance to talk to Te’o yet.

Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib met with the Eagles at the Senior Bowl.

A big question facing the Redskins in 2013 is how RB Alfred Morris will hold up after carrying the ball 335 times as a rookie.

Bears fans are hoping Marc Trestman coaches like a Harbaugh.

New Lions assistant Jim Washburn calls DE Kyle Vanden Bosch his favorite player he ever coached.

Bryan Bulaga may be the Packers’ left tackle next season.

Could Vikings RB Adrian Peterson be even better in 2013 than he was in 2012?

Jeff Fish is out as the Falcons’ strength coach because he has “philosophical differences” with the club.

After being promoted from the Panthers’ quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, Mike Shula says building an offense around Cam Newton has him excited.

Saints G.M. Mickey Loomis was in a mood to celebrate after Sean Payton was reinstated by the NFL.

Bucs coach Greg Schiano is keeping a close eye on the defensive backs at the Senior Bowl.

The Cardinals have promoted Jason Licht to V.P. of player personnel.

The Rams have a need at offensive tackle, but Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher may be out of reach for them at No. 16 and No. 22.

A lack of production from first-round pick A.J. Jenkins remains a concern in San Francisco.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson may liven up the Pro Bowl.

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Raiola could be facing a suspension after Sunday stomp

Raiola Getty Images

When the Lions head to Lambeau Field for the NFC North championship game next week, they possibly won’t have veteran center Dominic Raiola.

Raiola is facing discipline in the wake of his stomp on the leg of Bears defensive lineman Ego Ferguson.  That discipline could include a suspension.

“I want to emphasize that our number one goal and priority is protecting our players from unnecessary risk,” NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent told PFT on Sunday afternoon.  “Actions or techniques that may result in harm or injury are unacceptable.  This will be reviewed and appropriate discipline will be applied to these actions and any potential playing rule violations.”

Vincent declined comment on potential discipline for Raiola.  The player’s history will potentially work against him.  Last month, Raiola was fined $10,000 for clubbing Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore in the head.  Raiola escaped discipline for firing into Moore’s knees during a kneel-down snap to end the game.

Some believe the stakes of the game will be a factor in any decision to suspend Raiola.  Per a league source, that won’t matter.

Look for a decision to come by the middle of the week.  Raiola then will have immediate appeal rights, if he’s indeed suspended for Sunday’s game.

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Giants help Tom Coughlin’s cause with third straight win

Eli Manning AP

The two best arguments to use in favor of Tom Coughlin returning as Giants head coach for another season are that the team’s players still play hard for him and that the offense installed this season will be a strong unit with a year of experience under its belt.

Sunday brought support for both notions. The Giants may have been playing too hard for Coughlin, as evidenced by their excessive penalties and two ejections, but they certainly weren’t rolling over with their coach’s fate for 2015 publicly unaddressed. And their offense put up a great performance against a Rams Defense that hadn’t allowed a touchdown in its last three games.

The Giants won 37-27 as Eli Manning completed 25-of-32 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns. Two of the scores went to Odell Beckham, who became the first rookie in NFL history to post at least 130 receiving yards and a touchdown in three straight games during his first pro season. Beckham had eight catches for 148 yards overall and the prospect of teaming him with a healthy Victor Cruz in 2015 is a pretty good reason not to rock the boat on offense for the Giants.

Rookie running back Andre Williams chipped in with 110 yards to add to the reasons for positive thoughts about the future on the offensive side of the ball for the Giants. Recent signs for Coughlin’s future with the team have been encouraging and this win shouldn’t do anything to swing the pendulum the other way.

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Cowboys rout Colts, win NFC East

Tony Romo AP

After an agonizing five-season absence, the Cowboys are back in the playoffs — and as division champions to boot.

Led by a spectacular performance by quarterback Tony Romo, the Cowboys rolled to a 42-7 victory over Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Romo was splendidly efficient, completing 18-of-20 passes for 218 yards with four TD passes, three of which came in the first half as Dallas sprinted away to a 28-0 lead. And never, ever, did Dallas appear in any danger of giving up that lead.

With the win, the Cowboys (11-4) clinched the NFC East title. They are guaranteed of hosting at least one playoff game. They will be the only NFC East club in the postseason, as Philadelphia has now been eliminated from playoff contention.

The Cowboys made short work of the Colts (10-5), who saw their faint chances at a first-round bye go completely by the wayside. The Cowboys scored on their first drive, with Romo hitting wideout Terrence Williams for a nine-yard TD to give Dallas an early 7-0 lead.

And from there, Dallas poured it on against sloppy Indianapolis, which committed eight penalties and three turnovers and did not score until 5:24 left in regulation. By then, quarterback Andrew Luck had been pulled from the game as the AFC South champs  looked ahead to January. And for as poorly as they played, the Colts will be one of 12 teams with a chance to win the Super Bowl.

So too will Dallas. And with Romo in sharp form and their defense holding up its end of the bargain, the Cowboys look like real contenders.

It’s enough to make 90s kids dust off their Apex One and Starter Dallas jackets. On Sunday afternoon, the Cowboys were back. And the NFC East, finally, is theirs once again.

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Twelve fans injured by indirect lightning strikes at Bucs game

Buccaneers Lightning Strike AP

A total of 12 people were injured, though it appears none were directly struck by lightning outside today’s Buccaneers-Packers game.

According to WFLA in Tampa, a dozen fans outside Raymond James Stadium were injured by an indirect lightning strike.

Tampa Fire Rescue got a call at 4:11 p.m., right after the Bucs lost a 20-3 decision to the Packers. First responders included crews who were already at the stadium.

Seven patients were taken the St. Joseph’s hospital in stable condition, and four or five more were headed there on their own.

Some of the injured were knocked to the ground when the lightning struck nearby.

Given the large amount of people in a large open space, it’s likely fortunate the injuries weren’t worse.

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Drew Stanton inactive on Sunday night

Cliff Avril, Drew Stanton AP

The Cardinals confirmed that Ryan Lindley was going to start at quarterback no matter what they decided to do with Drew Stanton on Sunday night.

Stanton hurt his knee in the Week 15 victory over the Rams and was able to get in a limited practice during the week, which was enough for Cardinals coach Bruce Arians to leave the door open to Stanton serving as Lindley’s backup against the Seahawks.

That door’s been closed. Stanton is one of seven inactive Cardinals for the NFC West clash, leaving rookie Logan Thomas as the No. 2 behind Lindley. Wide receiver Brittan Golden, safety Chris Clemons, guard Jonathan Cooper, defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu, guard Anthony Steen and defensive end Kareem Martin are also out for Sunday night.

The Seahawks knew they would be without left tackle Russell Okung this week and expected to be without center Max Unger after listing him as doubtful. Both men are inactive along with tight end Tony Moeaki, wide receiver Kevin Norwood, defensive end Demarcus Dobbs, wide receiver Chris Matthews and defensive tackle Travian Robertson.

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Odell Beckham adds to his highlight reel

Janoris Jenkinsm, Janoris Jenkins AP

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham was in the spotlight often during the first half of Sunday’s game, usually because he and members of the Rams were jawing and taunting one another during a chippy and flag-filled first half.

Beckham remains in the spotlight in the second half, but the reasons are football-related this time. Beckham hauled in an 80-yard touchdown catch to continue his remarkable rookie season. Beckham’s score pushed the Giants to a 34-20 lead through three quarters and pushed him over 90 receiving yards for the eighth straight game. If Beckham closes out the year by topping 90 again next week, he’ll tie an NFL record.

He can put that record alongside the one that makes him the first player to catch 75 passes in his first 11 NFL games. Beckham, who went over 1,000 receiving yards for the year on Sunday, also caught a touchdown in the first half to give him 11 on the season.

It’s not enough to save the Giants season, but Beckham’s exploits certainly make it easier for Giants fans to look toward 2015 on the heels of a third straight season in the NFL wilderness.

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Down 35-0, Colts pull Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck AP

Trailing 35-0 late in the third quarter against the Cowboys, the Colts removed quarterback Andrew Luck from the lineup, replacing him with backup Matt Hasselbeck.

Before departing the game, Luck completed 15-of-22 passes for 109 yards. He was picked twice.

Hasselbeck figures to close this one out, and he could very well see action in the Week 17 finale vs. Tennessee. The Colts (10-4) are all but assured of losing to the Cowboys, which will take Indianapolis out of contention for a first-round bye. Hence, resting Luck next week wouldn’t be completely out of left field.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, are just about set to clinch the NFC East.

Party on, Dallas-Fort Worth. The home team is home free.

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Preliminary diagnosis is Achilles tear for Willie Young

Young Getty Images

The initial news isn’t good for Bears defensive end Willie Young.  Per a league source, the preliminary evaluation indicates that Young suffered a torn Achilles tendon during Sunday’s loss to the Lions.

An MRI will be performed in the morning.

Young, who spent four years with the Lions before joining Chicago, produced 10 sacks this season.  He had a total of six in four prior NFL seasons.

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Raiola claims stomp was inadvertent

Raiola Getty Images

During Sunday’s win over the Bears at Soldier Field, Lions center Dominic Raiola stomped on the ankle of Bears defensive lineman Ego Ferguson.  After the game, Raiola claimed it was an accident.

I know what my intentions were,” Raiola said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.  “We’re out there trying to score a touchdown.  I’m not going to put myself in position to get a 15-yarder, come on now.  I knew I was stumbling.  Me and [guard Rob Sims] had a combination block.  I remember exactly what happened.  Stumbling through.  If I intentionally step on him, that puts me in danger of getting hurt so let’s put that to rest.  He accepted the apology, we move on.”

But Ferguson didn’t accept the apology.  Which makes sense, given the indisputable visual evidence.

“You all saw the play; I don’t have to explain that,” Ferguson told reporters, via Birkett.  “I felt like what needs to stay in between the lines needs to stay in between the lines. . . .  We all saw the play.  You can’t take back what happened with that play, do you know what I mean?  You saw the play.”

As to the apology, Ferguson said, “None of that matters.”

The entire case will matter to the league office.  We’ll have more on this topic during NBC’s Football Night in America, which gets rolling at 7:00 p.m. ET.

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Aaron Rodgers on calf injury: It will take a lot to keep me out next week

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The Packers clinched a playoff spot on Sunday by beating the Buccaneers, but they still need a win next week against the Lions if they’re going to be the NFC North champs.

Getting that win would be much easier if Aaron Rodgers is at quarterback. Rodgers, who has been battling the flu, pulled his left calf early in the game and remained in with limited mobility over the remainder of the contest. Rodgers said that the calf tightened up on him at halftime and that he “just didn’t have the running threat” over the course of the game because of the injury, but he sounded confident that he’d be on the field against Detroit.

“Well, it’s too early to give a 100 percent guarantee, but it would definitely take a lot to hold me out of that game,” Rodgers said, via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The injury didn’t stop Rodgers from going 31-of-40 for 318 yards, but a lack of mobility might be more noticeable against the Lions defensive line than it was in Sunday’s game.

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Cowboys 30 minutes away from division title

Greg Toler, Dez Bryant AP

The Cowboys couldn’t have played much better in the first two quarters against Indianapolis.

Tony Romo’s three TD passes and a scoring run by tailback DeMarco Murray have given the Cowboys a 28-0 halftime lead over the flat Colts.

With a win, Dallas will clinch the NFC East and end Philadelphia’s playoff hopes.

Romo was nearly perfect in the first 30 minutes, completing 13-of-14 passes for 155 yards, with scoring passes to Terrence Williams (nine yards), Dez Bryant (19 yards) and Cole Beasley (24 yards).

Murray, for his part, has handled a fairly normal workload despite a broken hand, carrying 14 times for 40 yards.

The Colts have made a bushel of mistakes. Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman committed the most costly of six first-half fouls against Indianapolis; his taunting penalty kept the Cowboys’ first TD drive alive. Later, with the Colts trailing 7-0, defensive back Dewey McDonald dropped a pass from Pat McAfee on a fake punt, which set up Bryant’s TD to give Dallas a 14-0 lead.

The Cowboys’ defense, meanwhile, has been outstanding, and it slammed the door on Indy one last time to end the half when safety J.J. Wilcox picked an Andrew Luck pass in the endzone.

The Colts get the ball to begin the second half, perhaps giving Indianapolis a flicker of hope. But that’s all it will be unless Indy can match Dallas’ passion and execution.

And that could be impossible on this day, with the Cowboys right on the doorstep of the NFC East title.

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Fists and ejections fly in St. Louis

Trey Watts, Orleans Darkwa, Adrien Robinson AP

The Rams and Giants aren’t battling for a playoff spot and they don’t have much in the way of a historical rivalry, but something’s got the two teams riled up in St. Louis.

It’s been a first half filled with post-whistle pushing and shoving, personal fouls for taunting and an unnecessary roughness penalty on Giants kicker Josh Brown for kicking a member of the Rams in the face during a post-play scrum on a kickoff. Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham has been in the middle of much action, drawing a taunting penalty of his own for spinning the ball near Rams safety T.J. McDonald after a touchdown and then being the recipient of taunting from McDonald later in the half. Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree was also penalized for hitting Beckham out of bounds  near the end of the second quarter, touching off a major brawl that resulted in several ejections.

Rams defensive end William Hayes, Giants wide receiver Preston Parker and Giants defensive end Damontre Moore were all ejected for their roles in the fight. There were punches thrown and referee Pete Morelli also announced that contact had been made with an official by a member of the Giants, which left them down 15 yards when all was said and done.

When the two teams weren’t fussing and feuding, the Giants have controlled the action. They scored on their first drive, forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and turned a Shaun Hill interception into three more points on the way to a 20-13 halftime lead. Beckham’s touchdown after the fumble was the first the Rams Defense allowed in 12 quarters and running back Orleans Darkwa also found the end zone for his first NFL touchdown.

Eli Manning was 16-of-18 for 200 yards in the first two quarters, outgaining the Rams by 44 yards and outpacing the 108 penalty yards racked up by his team.

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With loss at Houston, Baltimore’s postseason hopes take a hit

J.J. Watt, Joe Flacco AP

An off day by the offense has put Baltimore’s playoff hopes in some peril.

The underdog Texans intercepted quarterback Joe Flacco three times and shut down Baltimore’s ground game en route to a 25-13 victory on Sunday in Houston. In defeat, the Ravens gained just 3.1 yards per play.

With the loss, the Ravens fell to 9-6, and they have fallen behind San Diego in the AFC pecking order. The Chargers (9-6) now are in firm control of their playoff hopes; if they win next Sunday at Kansas City, they are in the postseason, as they have already defeated Baltimore and Buffalo (8-6).

Flacco struggled through one of his worst days as a pro, completing just 21-of-50 passes for 195 yards. He did throw a pair of TD passes to Torrey Smith, but it was a nightmarish afternoon for the former Super Bowl MVP.

The Ravens had some tough injury luck, too, with left tackle Eugene Monroe and right tackle Ricky Wagner departing with injuries.

Starting less than a week after signing with the Texans, quarterback Case Keenum completed just 20-of-42 passes for 185 yards, and he was picked once. However, he was better than Flacco, which speaks to the sort of day the Ravens’ offense endured.

Texans star tailback Arian Foster had a productive day, racking up 96 yards on 25 carries and tossing a five-yard TD pass on an option pass. By contrast, the Ravens got just 33 yards on 16 carries from their ground game.

The Ravens host fading Cleveland next week, but they will need more than a just a win now to secure a playoff spot. Moreover, they are now eliminated from AFC North contention, with Cincinnati (9-4-1) guaranteed to have a better record than Baltimore.

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Cam Newton rips “classless” fans who cheered Manziel injury

Johnny Manziel AP

Cam Newton said he liked the support he heard from the home fans Sunday.

But he didn’t like the ones who cheered when Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel went down with a hamstring injury.

Newton said he thought it was “classless,” when some fans cheered as Manziel was being tended to by trainers.

“We’re better than that,” he said, before walking out of the interview room.

Newton wasn’t making a blanket statement, or ripping his entire fanbase. Just the stupid ones, who cheered when an opponent was down.

Manziel didn’t return in the second half, after leaving just before halftime.

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Panthers-Falcons tie would deliver division title to Carolina, in unusual way

Tie Getty Images

With the Falcons beating the Saints and the Panthers defeating the Browns, next week’s game between Carolina and Atlanta becomes the NFC South championship game.

But what if there’s a tie?  That’s when it gets a little interesting.

A tie between the Panthers and Falcons would give the Panthers the edge over the Falcons, with Carolina’s 6-8-2 besting Atlanta’s 6-9.  But if the Saints win to move to 7-9, what happens?

What happens is that the Saints and Panthers would, in the eyes of the NFL, be tied.  The NFL considers a tie as one-half of a win; at 7-9 for the Saints and 6-8-2 for the Panthers, the two teams would have identical winning percentages of 43.75 percent.  With the head-to-head tiebreaker a 1-1 split of their series, the Panthers would eke out the division tiebreaker with a 3-2-1 mark over the Saints’ 3-3 record.

So the Panthers win the division with a win or a tie.  The Falcons need to win the game.

And now your day is complete.

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