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PFT Live: Can 49ers run game dominate Ravens?

NFL Films Producer Greg Cosell breaks down what to expect from the 49ers on offense and who could be the x-factor in Super Bowl XLVIII. The rushing game will be vital if the Niners want to control the tempo on offense, but Cosell says Colin Kaepernick’s ability to attack Ray Lewis and company will become the deciding factor between a win and lose.

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Belichick: LeGarrette Blount’s role is “totally up to him”

LeGarrette Blount AP

Running back LeGarrette Blount is back in New England as the newest member of a deep group of running backs.

The Patriots have last week’s hero Jonas Gray, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, James White and James Develin in the backfield along with Blount, who was released by the Steelers on Tuesday after leaving the Patriots to sign with them as a free agent in the offseason. Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked how Blount, who had 266 yards on 65 carries for the Steelers would fit into that mix.

Belichick was circumspect about specifics, but said that how much Blount plays will ultimately be up to Blount.

“That’ll be up to him, just like everybody else,” Belichick said, via “When he gets an opportunity, how much he can take advantage of it, how much he can be productive, what he can do with those opportunities will determine how many more there are. It’s totally up to him. He knows that. We’ve talked about that. He knows that’s the way it is and I think he’s excited about it.”

Blount knows as well as anyone how running backs can fall into and out of favor in New England. There were 10 weeks last season, including the playoffs, that saw Blount get 10 or fewer carries and eight weeks when he had 11 or more so there’s little reason to believe anyone has much of an idea about how Blount’s return to New England will play out at this point.

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DirecTV announces Jets-Bills is available on Sunday Ticket

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets Getty Images

Monday night’s Jets-Bills game will be available to NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers, as well as on the local CBS affiliates in the Buffalo and New York City markets.

DirecTV announced this morning that Jets-Bills, which was pushed back from Sunday afternoon to Monday night because of the snowstorm in Buffalo, will be on NFL Sunday Ticket. That only makes sense, as Sunday Ticket subscribers are paying for the privilege of seeing every NFL game. It wouldn’t be fair to Jets or Bills fans who live outside New York that they wouldn’t be able to see the game.

However, it took a bit of maneuvering to reach this point. In fact, DirecTV was telling customers this morning that they wouldn’t be able to see the Jets-Bills game on Sunday Ticket, before reversing course and saying the game would be on Sunday Ticket after all. But now it’s official: If you have DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket, you can watch Jets-Bills on channel 706 on Monday starting at 6 p.m. Eastern.

The NFL’s contracts with CBS, ESPN and DirecTV made it a bit difficult, as ESPN pays for the exclusive right to televise NFL football on Monday night. ESPN probably isn’t thrilled that some viewers of its regularly scheduled Ravens-Saints game will be siphoned off and will be watching Jets-Bills instead.

This was the right call. Fans who pay for Sunday Ticket are paying a lot of money because they want to see every NFL game. This morning’s announcement ensures that they can.

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Jay Cutler wants to keep on rolling (out)

Jay Cutler AP

When the Bears self-scouted over the bye week, they realized that quarterback Jay Cutler was a bit of a sitting duck.

So last week against the Vikings, they rolled him out more and used more shotgun formations, and being able to throw on the move helped him get back on his feet.

It was a subtle change, but one Cutler hopes they stick with.

It was great,” Cutler said, via John Mullin of “We got to keep doing it. We got to keep doing it in different ways, showing different looks, get off the spot as much as we possibly can because it helps with everything. It helps the pass rush, get some easy balls out to the flat, out on the outside lets the guys run, it’s got to be something in our offense that we do more of.”

Cutler was sharp as ever last week, completing 72.1 percent of his passes.

Of course, the challenge this week is repeating against guys who know his weaknesses well.

Against former Bears head coach Lovie Smith and former Vikings head coach and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, he’s facing two coaches who will instruct the Buccaneers everything they learned from years of coaching with and against Cutler.

Frazier’s Vikings sacked Cutler often, but Smith probably has even more valuable insight as to which buttons to push against his former quarterback.

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New Jersey sports betting ruling could come Friday

Football Getty Images

With New Jersey temporarily prevented from launching sports betting until a final ruling comes in the challenge filed by five major sports leagues against the plan, that final ruling could be coming as soon as Friday.

Via Brent Johnson of, Judge Michael Shipp heard oral arguments on Thursday regarding New Jersey’s latest effort to circumvent federal law that prohibits the expansion of sports betting beyond states that had sports betting prior to 1990, like Nevada.  After New Jersey’s first attempt to legalize sports betting failed, New Jersey passed a law that simply decriminalizes the state’s existing ban on sports betting.

Among other things, the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and NCAA contend that legalized betting will create open the door for some games to be “fixed.” That seems to be a flimsy contention; with millions already changing hands illegally, the temptation to fix games already exists.

The bigger concern for the NFL likely flows from the reality that legalized gambling would put more pressure on the league to do everything it can to get all calls right, from using full-time officials to using instant replay in all circumstances to putting chips in footballs to show when the ball has cross the goal line to anything and everything else that potentially would push the error rate to 0.0 percent.  It also would compel the league to adopt a more meaningful and exacting injury-reporting system, so that anyone and everyone would have complete information about a player’s health — and that there would be no inside information of any kind.

Whatever Judge Shipp decides, the loser certainly will appeal the case to the next level.  If New Jersey ultimately prevails, it’s unlikely that the Super Bowl would ever return there.  It also would potentially take New Jersey out of play for the next home of the Giants and Jets when MetLife Stadium inevitably becomes obsolete in another 15 or 20 years.

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Drew Brees is 0-for-Baltimore, Ravens don’t want to hear it

Cincinnati Bengals  v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

Drew Brees has done a lot of amazing thing on the football field.

But he’s never beaten the Ravens.

Granted, he’s only played them three times, but has lost all three, once with the Chargers and twice with the Saints.

“I am aware. I played them in ’03, ’06 and ’10. Thanks for reminding me,” Brees said, via Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. Every time I step on the field, I want to win. But certainly, you want to say that you’ve beaten every team.”

Likewise, Saints coach Sean Payton hasn’t checked the Ravens off his list yet, but Ravens players don’t want us discussing it.

“Didn’t I tell you all about the no-hitter?” outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “You guys are the worst. I don’t even know to answer that.”

While the small sample size skews the data, he has completed just 59.6 percent of his passes against the Ravens, his second-lowest of any opponent. He has six touchdowns and seven interceptions against them, far beyond his normal ratio.

Of course, he’s nearly 10 points off his passer rating from last year as well (from 104.7 to 95.9), in part because he’s not getting the big chunk plays he has in the past. Losing Brandin Cooks for the season isn’t going to help that, or necessarily help against a team with a vulnerable secondary.


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Marvin Lewis: Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you go to the top

Marvin Lewis AP

The Bengals and quarterback Andy Dalton made the rebound they needed to make between Weeks 10 and 11, putting a dreadful performance against the Browns behind them in time to come up with a comfortable win in New Orleans last weekend.

It’s the kind of swing that can drive fans mad, especially when there were already doubts about whether Dalton, who posted a 2.0 quarterback rating against the Browns, can be consistent enough to win a playoff game for the first time in decades. Coach Marvin Lewis said Friday that the blame for that loss should be spread far beyond Dalton while also saying that it is sometimes darkest before the dawn.

“Sometimes you gotta hit rock bottom before you can go all the way back up to the top, and we certainly were at rock bottom a few weeks ago on Thursday night,” Lewis said on NFL Network.

Sunday brings a date with the Texans, who brought the Bengals to rock bottom in the playoffs in each of Dalton’s first two seasons. Dalton threw four interceptions and no touchdowns in those games and he also lost his lone regular season game against Houston in his rookie season, so this would be a good time to show that he can put together a string of good performances for the Bengals.

If things go the other way, Lewis will have a hard time convincing people that rock bottom is a way station on the road to anything other than another disappointing loss.

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Dez Bryant: We didn’t work hard enough during 8-8 seasons

Dez Bryant, Johnathan Cyprien AP

The Cowboys return from their bye with a game against the Giants on Sunday night and they’ll be trying to take another step toward the playoffs when the game kicks off.

If the Cowboys can make it to the postseason, it will snap a three-year run of 8-8 records that culminated with the division title on the line in Week 17. The Cowboys lost all those games, including a loss to the Eagles last December that inspired wide receiver Dez Bryant to get an early start on preparations for the 2014 season. That experience has left Bryant with the feeling that the Cowboys weren’t working hard enough over the last few years.

“I’m going to give you my honest opinion. The years that we did go 8-8, I think — me, because this is just how I am — I don’t think we worked hard enough,” Bryant said, via “I’m not saying we didn’t work, like, I mean the offseason, during the OTAs — not the coaches. That’s on us. The first thing that I did right after the game, we lost to Philadelphia, my brother will tell you — I was working out the next day. Just because I felt like ‘Damn, we didn’t do enough.’ Obviously we didn’t do enough, they was the better team. It feels different, it’s a lot different — it’s a lot different from last year. We’re more together, we want it more, we’ve got the same vision, and that’s kind of hard when you’ve got a team like that.”

Bryant had a huge second quarter against the Jaguars in the Cowboys’ last game, but it’s been an otherwise quiet stretch for the wideout of late. He’s had catches in just three of the last 12 quarters the team has played, something that will have to change if the Cowboys are going to finish the job in front of them in the regular season. An injury-riddled Giants secondary might be just the thing to get him back on track.

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Raiders win makes nexts Friday’s PFT on NBCSN a little more interesting

REID Getty Images

We close every in-season Thursday edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN by picking the winner of the Thursday night game.  Last night, it was presumed the Chiefs would win.  So the question was a little different.

What would you do if the Raiders beat the Chiefs?

Former NFL running back Brian Westbrook said he’ll catch the first plane to Buffalo and start shoveling snow.  I said that, on next Friday’s edition of the show, I’ll do the entire show dressed as Chiefs coach Andy Reid.

Does anyone have a really big red jacket?

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Bills planning Friday night practice at Detroit’s facilities

Calvin Johnson AP

The Bills are slated to practice at the Lions’ practice facilities at 7:15 p.m. Eastern on Friday night, the club announced this morning.

The NFL has moved the Jets-Bills game from Orchard Park, New York on Sunday afternoon to Detroit on Monday night because of heavy snow in the Buffalo area. This allows the Bills to get in two practices and a walk-through, a customary work schedule for NFL clubs.

The Bills’ travel plans for Friday are not known, and the practice information is tentative, the club said. The Buffalo Niagara International Airport was operational as of this morning.

The Lions’ headquarters are in Allen Park, Michigan, about 15 miles to the southwest of Detroit. The Lions play at New England on Sunday afternoon. Detroit typically practices on Friday morning during game week, which ostensibly would leave Buffalo the space and time it needs to work out later today.

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Glenn Dorsey may not make his return this weekend

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The 49ers activated defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey from injured reserve on Monday, leading many people to suspect that Dorsey will be part of the defensive line mix against Washington this weekend.

It might be a bit premature for Dorsey to get back on the field, however. Dorsey didn’t practice on Thursday and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said that his recovery from a torn biceps hasn’t progressed quite far enough for Dorsey to feel totally comfortable on the field.

“I think Glenn’s at a point where he’s kind of stuck. I don’t think he’s taken any steps backward. Nothing negative has happened. Just hasn’t taken that next step yet to where he feels like he can go out there and cut it loose yet,” Fangio said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “I don’t think he feels he’s close to being 100 percent to use it, the way you need to be able to use it down there in the trenches.”

If Dorsey can’t go, Quinton Dial would start for the second straight week as Ian Williams has been placed on injured reserve with a fractured fibula. Dial didn’t play much in last week’s win against the Giants, however, as the Niners opted for more nickel looks in their 16-10 victory.

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Kelly, Sanchez have differing assessments of the quarterback

Kelly Getty Images

Former top-five draft pick Mark Sanchez has found a new opportunity in Philadelphia, stepping into the starting job after Nick Foles snapped a collarbone.  So how is the once and future (perhaps) Sanchize doing?

It depends on who you ask.

The player gives himself a tough assessment, pointing to six turnovers in three games under center.  Sanchez had two interceptions and two lost fumbles in a blowout loss to the Packers on Sunday.

“Whether you’ve been out of the league for 10 years and you suddenly come back, it doesn’t matter,” Sanchez said, via Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News.  “You’ve got to take care of the ball.”

Coach Chip Kelly was far more forgiving.

“I think he’s done a good job,” Kelly said, via Bowen.  “He played a half a game against the Texans, hadn’t played before that since the preseason. . . .  Then he had the Carolina game and the Green Bay game.  I thought, obviously, from not playing — he missed an entire year, a year ago — with the shoulder injury . . . I thought for the time we’ve had him, half the Texans game and the two games since then, I think he’s done a nice job.”

Of course, what else is Kelly going to say?  He needs Sanchez to hold down the fort until Foles can play.  After all, the alternative is Matt Barkley, who to date has proven to be immune to the dulcet tones of the league’s latest quarterback whisperer.

So the goal will be to have Sanchez keep it together pending Foles’ return, and to hope that the Eagles can finish strong and nail down a playoff berth.  Which makes 2014 in Philly a lot like 2013 in Green Bay, when Aaron Rodgers returned from a broken collarbone just in time to save a spot in the postseason field.

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Sio Moore apologizes for celebration

raiderscelebrate AP

Raiders linebackers Sio Moore and Khalil Mack committed one of the bonehead plays of the season on Thursday night when they forced their team to burn a timeout — at a time when the clock was running and the Chiefs were trying a last-minute comeback — because their celebration of a sack carried on too long.

It ended up not hurting the Raiders, who stopped the Chiefs on fourth down on the next play. But Moore acknowledged afterward that he screwed up.

“I was so caught in the moment, that was an error I’ve got to make sure I clean up,” Moore said. “In another situation, in all seriousness, that can make the difference, and I’ve got to understand that. I do apologize for putting the guys in that situation because that could come up in another situation later. I can’t let my emotions get the best of me.”

Raiders coach Tony Sparano said he didn’t chew out his players for their lapse in judgment, but he will address it with the team.

“I’m going to let them enjoy this right now, but eventually we’ve got to talk about that, have a little conversation about that,” Sparano said after the game. “At that point I had to do something to stop the clock. It’s just two young players who have got to learn. I love their energy and their passion, but that’s something they’ve got to learn from.”

It had been more than a year since the Raiders won a game, so it’s not surprising that they were eager to celebrate. But next time, they really ought to wait until the game is over.

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Friday morning one-liners

New England Patriots v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

Six Bills were listed as limited on the team’s theoretical practice report.

DE Dion Jordan has been a versatile piece for the Dolphins since his return from suspension.

Patriots DT Vince Wilfork is expecting a tough fight with the Lions.

The Jets aren’t feeling sorry for the Bills’ snowbound plight.

The Ravens will try to take a page from the Bengals and slow down the Saints’ offense.

Bengals QB A.J. McCarron felt like a kid again after returning to practice this week.

Justin Gilbert remains the No. 4 cornerback in the Browns secondary.

Said Steelers DE Cam Heyward, “I like us under the radar. We don’t need everybody to talk about us. They can save that for the Denvers and New Englands of the world.”

Texans wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson are in a good spot heading into Week 12.

Colts TE Coby Fleener admits to sometimes wondering if he’s good enough to play in the NFL.

A couple of scuffles at practice on Thursday didn’t bother Jaguars coach Gus Bradley.

TE Chase Coffman hopes for more opportunities with the Titans.

The Broncos want to run the ball more often.

The Chiefs run defense wasn’t up to snuff Thursday night.

A 17-play drive got the Raiders the points they needed for their first win of the year.

How far are the Chargers from getting back on track offensively?

Cowboys LB Bruce Carter isn’t thinking ahead to free agency right now.

CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is looking forward to matching up with Dez Bryant when the Giants face the Cowboys.

A call for RB Darren Sproles and TE Zach Ertz to play bigger roles for the Eagles.

Young Redskins players won’t get playing time just to get experience.

It’s the 37th anniversary of former Bears RB Walter Payton’s single-game rushing record.

Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s name has come up in relation to the head coaching vacancy at the University of Florida.

DB Micah Hyde has been a football version of a Swiss Army Knife for the Packers.

Vikings WR Charles Johnson finds it easy to find room for improvement in his game.

CB Robert McClain feels ready for more responsibilities with the Falcons.

The Panthers have to strike the right balance between the present and the future over the rest of the season.

RB Pierre Thomas is guarded about the chances he’ll return to the Saints lineup on Monday.

The Buccaneers aren’t planning to change their offensive philosophy.

Cardinals QB Drew Stanton feels better since cutting dairy from his diet.

DE Chris Long is progressing toward a return to the Rams lineup.

The 49ers hope their outside linebacker rotation runs more smoothly this weekend.

Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn criticized his unit’s missed tackles in Week 11.

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Rex Ryan: Jets improved “in a zillion ways” in three weeks

Steelers Jets Football AP

We now know how to quantify the difference Michael Vick has made since taking over at quarterback for the Jets.

Three weeks ago, the Geno Smith era ended with three interceptions in the first quarter against the Bills, a disastrous 43-23 loss.

And as they prepare to play the Bills Monday night in Detroit, Jets coach Rex Ryan is confident his team is better now.

In a zillion ways,” Ryan said, via Seth Walder of the New York Daily News. “Almost every way.

“I know we’re a better team, so I don’t care about if anybody else writes it or knows it.”

The switch to Vick has certainly given them a spark, and he hasn’t turned the ball over the last two weeks.
Of course, a zillion is an imaginary number, so maybe it’s the perfect way to describe what’s happening there.
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Revis calls Megatron a man among boys

revismegatron AP

Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis will do battle with Lions receiver Calvin Johnson on Sunday in one of the league’s premiere individual matchups. Revis says he expects to have a big challenge on his hands.

“He’s a man amongst boys out there. You see it all the time. The dude’s 6-foot-6, 230 pounds. And he runs a 4.3. That’s pretty freakish,” Revis said. “It’s like an alternate [universe] receiver that you want. So if you can create him on the video game, that’s basically what he is. . . . I have a lot of respect for him. I feel like our defense has a lot of respect for him. He has a lot of respect around the league as well.”

Revis has faced Johnson twice. The first time, in a 2010 Lions-Jets game, Revis was outstanding and Johnson finished with just one catch for 13 yards in a Jets win. The second time, in a 2013 Lions-Buccaneers game, Johnson got the better of the matchup and finished with seven catches for 115 yards (although Revis left that game early with an injury and not all of those yards were on him).

The Lions’ offense has struggled for much of this season, even after Johnson returned from his high ankle sprain. Johnson winning his individual matchup with Revis would go a long way toward the Lions pulling an upset in New England.

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