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ProFootballTalk: Ryan to New Orleans a done deal?

The Saints are likely to hire Rob Ryan as their next defensive coordinator, but is the deal close to being done? If Ryan does head to New Orleans, can he tame down his on-field antics?

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Calvin Johnson, Darius Slay questionable for Thursday

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 22: Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions runs his 700th reception in the second quarter while playing the Oakland Raiders, becoming the first in franchise history to reach 700 receptions  at Ford Field on November 22, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Lions didn’t rule anyone out of Thursday’s game against the Eagles, but they did list a couple of key players as questionable for their effort to extend their winning streak to three games.

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson drew the listing due to the ankle injury that he’s been dealing with for the last few weeks. There hasn’t been any indication out of Detroit that he could miss the game and he’s been listed as questionable the last two weeks before playing against the Packers and Raiders.

Cornerback Darius Slay is also questionable. He has a neck injury, but was a limited participant on Tuesday and practiced without limitations on Wednesday. Slay is coming off a very strong game against Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper and has been a big part of the improved defensive play in Detroit’s recent victories.

Safety Don Carey is questionable with a back injury and defensive tackles Caraun Reid and Gabe Wright drew the same tag due to ankle issues. All three were limited participants in practice all week.

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Tyrann Mathieu: 49ers better off with Blaine Gabbert at QB

Denver Broncos v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu called it early on, identifying the problems Colin Kaepernick was having in the 49ers passing game after his two-pick game.

But he doubled down Wednesday, saying the 49ers are in better hands with Blaine Gabbert on the field.

“That’s not to take anything away from Kaepernick, but it seems like Gabbert has a little bit better grip on what’s going on,” Mathieu said, via Matt Maiocco of “If he gets in a situation, he knows where the ball needs to go. He’s a hell of a passer. I think he’s underrated when you talk about how well he can throw the football.

“I think he gives them a better option going forward. It seems like the wide receivers are more involved. So it looks like they’re doing all right.”

While it seems strong considering it’s Blaine Gabbert, Real American we’re talking about, Mathieu touched on some valid points.

Gabbert has completed 62.7 percent of his passes in two games, has only thrown two interceptions, and put up a passer rating of 88.9. Kaepernick completed 59.0 percent of his passes, and was carrying a 78.5 rating when he was benched.

Kaepernick was clearly struggling this year, and Mathieu said it doesn’t appear it will be as easy to bait Gabbert into making bad throws.

“No, I don’t think so,” Mathieu said. “[It] seems like he takes care of the football way better. If he gets into a situation where he feels pressure, he’s not just going to give the defense an opportunity to make a play. . . .

“You don’t pick up those same things with Gabbert. He’s better in the pocket. He has a better feel for coverages. It seems like he can get to the line and see a coverage and then go to a different play. Or, see a coverage and not throw the ball. You can see Gabbert’s maturity and the different things he does well that Kaepernick doesn’t do well.”

While Gabbert has done some good things, it’s probably too soon to put too fine a point on what his better-than-Kaepernick play means on the whole.

But the fact that an opponent is so open about the difference speaks to how far Kaepernick has fallen, and how fast.

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Ryan Fitzpatrick shears beard “to switch up the mojo”

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 22: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets on the sidelines against the Houston Texans in the second quarter on November 22, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets have lost four of their last five games, hurting their position in the race for an AFC Wild Card spot with six games left to play in the season.

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has played poorly in their last two losses to the Bills and Texans, which led to questions for coach Todd Bowles about a potential quarterback change for this week’s game against the Dolphins. Bowles is sticking with Fitzpatrick, but the quarterback did something this week in hopes of changing his fortunes.

It’s not an on-field tweak, however. Fitzpatrick reported to work on Wednesday without the familiar beard — best described as the look of someone trapped in a well for several weeks — he’s sported all season.

“Just seemed like it was time to switch up the mojo a little bit,” Fitzpatrick said, via the team.

We’ll see whether it has the desired effect on the field, but one upside is that Fitzpatrick is unlikely to wind up finding Thanksgiving leftovers under his facial hair while trying to call a play against the Dolphins on Sunday.

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Josh McCown hates getting Browns starting job back this way

Josh McCown AP

Josh McCown has had a long NFL career and been signed by a number of teams because he’s athletic enough and smart enough to make a few plays, as he showed in his successful stint in Chicago.

But he’s been able to hang around because he’s great in the locker room, and the kind of leader teams want in the organization regardless of his role.

And now that his role has changed again, he showed it again.

McCown sounded practically chagrined to be back in the starting role for the Browns, because he got the job back because of the team’s disappointment with Johnny Manziel’s bye-week partying.

You never want to regain a job this way,” McCown said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Any teammate, you’d be disappointed for them. You want the best for people.”

At this stage, the question will become whether Manziel himself is willing to take the steps necessary to earn the team’s trust back. But McCown said he was encouraged by what he saw from Manziel this morning in meetings.

“It’s a credit to Johnny,” McCown said. “He came to work this morning and took notes and did everything he was supposed to do.”

If Manziel wants an example of the way he needs to handle himself moving forward, he can also look across that quarterback meeting room at McCown, who has stayed in the league 13 years by being mature and responsible as much as able to make plays.

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49ers claim Ray-Ray Armstrong off waivers

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 22: Ray-Ray Armstrong #57 of the Oakland Raiders looks on during the preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings on August 22, 2014 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Raiders 20-12. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Raiders signed linebacker Aldon Smith after he was released by the 49ers and now the 49ers have added a former Raiders linebacker to their roster.

The team announced Wednesday that they have claimed Ray-Ray Armstrong off of waivers a day after the Raiders parted ways with the three-year veteran. Defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, who tore his ACL last Sunday, was placed on injured reserve in a corresponding move.

Armstrong played in all 10 Raiders games this season and started the first two weeks of the season before moving into a reserve role. He had 21 tackles and a sack.

Armstrong also landed in the news this season in relation to a law enforcement investigation into taunting a police dog in Pittsburgh. Armstrong allegedly lifted his shirt, pounded his chest and barked at the dog before telling the dog’s handler to let it off the leash, but authorities found his actions were not malicious.

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Andrew Luck “very confident” he’ll play again this year

during the second half against the Indianapolis Colts at the Georgia Dome on November 22, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. Getty Images

The Colts won without Andrew Luck last week and they’ll try to do it again against the Buccaneers this week, but Luck said Wednesday that he doesn’t think they’ll have to play without him for the rest of the 2015 season.

In his first meeting with the media since suffering a lacerated kidney and abdominal tear against the Broncos earlier this month, Luck said he was “very confident” that he will return to action this year. Word at the time of the injury was that Luck would miss between two and six weeks and Sunday will mark three weeks since he was injured, but there was no word from the quarterback about a timetable for return.

Luck also weighed in on coach Chuck Pagano’s belief that he can’t keep playing quarterback as if he’s a linebacker. Luck was injured on a run against the Broncos that ended with linebacker Danny Trevathan and defensive end Vance Walker hitting him and agreed that he needs to work on getting down to the turf to avoid such hits in the future.

“Part of it I brought upon myself by not sliding in certain situations,” Luck said, via the Indianapolis Star. “There’s a time and place for taking a hit. I’m not going to apologize in that sense because sometimes it is appropriate. But sliding is something I need to improve on, we’ve talked about that before. It’s no secret.”

For now, though, he’ll be resting and waiting for his organs to recover so that he can return to the field for what the Colts hope will be a fourth playoff trip in a row.

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Judge says New York DFS ruling will come “very soon”

david-boies Getty Images

[Editor’s note: FanDuel is an advertiser of PFT and PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. Also, NBC Sports has an equity stake in FanDuel.]

On Wednesday, Judge Manuel Mendez heard arguments in the effort to secure a finding that daily fantasy violates New York law. According to Eric Fisher of SportsBusiness Daily, Judge Mendez said a decision will come “very soon.”

The question is whether Judge Mendez will issue a preliminary injunction banning daily fantasy in New York pending the resolution of the litigation regarding whether daily fantasy violates New York law. Via Fisher, the New York Attorney General’s office argued (while reading exclusively from a script) that daily fantasy is gambling because the players have no control over the outcome of the game, and that it’s essentially an alternative method for betting on sports.

Well-known attorney David Boies, who represents DraftKings, argued that the Attorney General’s office made a fatal error by targeting daily fantasy only and not season-long fantasy, given the similarity of the games. He also argued that daily fantasy requires even more skill than season-long fantasy, that the Attorney General’s office is essentially trying to “destroy” DraftKings’ business, and that it would be extraordinary to shut down daily fantasy without giving DraftKings and FanDuel a full day in court to develop evidence and to make arguments.

Via Fisher, the Attorney General’s office also pointed to the prevalence of DFS ads and the social ills that can arise from wagering money on these activities. FanDuel’s counsel responded by pointing out that state-sponsored lotteries create the same potential problems.

The hearing comes only a few days after Commissioner Roger Goodell explained that the NFL sees a “big distinction” between season-long fantasy and DFS, and that “[s]eason-long fantasy is [what] many people probably play in this room and it’s fun, it’s social, it’s an opportunity to enjoy the game,” via USA Today. “We encourage our kids to do it and they have clubs at school and it’s a way to connect people. And we think that’s a wonderful way. Daily fantasy’s taken a little different approach, and it’s one that we have not been as active in that. We want to make sure that we understand how it’s going to be done.”

The first question is whether it will be done, as in finished. If outlawed in New York, other stats could follow suit — and the entire industry could disappear.

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Family says Frank Gifford had CTE

Frank Gifford AP

Earlier this year, Hall of Famer Frank Gifford died at the age of 84. His family has now announced that a team of pathologists has determined that Gifford suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy.

“While Frank passed away from natural causes this past August at the age of 84, our suspicions that he was suffering from the debilitating effects of head trauma were confirmed,” says the statement from the Gifford family.

“During the last years life Frank dedicated himself to understanding the recent revelations concerning the connection between repetitive head trauma and its associated cognitive and behavioral symptoms — which he experienced firsthand,” the statement adds.

Gifford played decades before the NFL acknowledged the potential problems arising from concussions and subconcussive hit. Gifford once missed more than a full season after being knocked out by Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik.

Under the pending NFL concussion settlement, the posthumous diagnosis makes Gifford’s estate eligible for compensation from a pool that the league has agreed to fund without limitation.

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Malcom Floyd returns to practice

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 1: Wide receiver Malcom Floyd #80 of the San Diego Chargers scores a second quarter touchdown past cornerback Lardarius Webb #21 of the Baltimore Ravens during a game at M&T Bank Stadium on November 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chargers have had more bad injury news this season than they’d care to think about, but they got some good news on Wednesday with wide receiver Malcom Floyd’s return to the field.

Floyd suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder while trying to catch a pass in a game against the Bears earlier this month, but has been rehabbing it in hopes of making it back this season. Floyd announced early in the season that this would be his final NFL season and said the plan remains in place after being injured.

It would make for a nice ending for Floyd to be on the field for the final weeks of his career and the Chargers could definitely use all the help they can find for their injury-riddled roster as they try to pull themselves out of a six-game losing skid that has all but guaranteed them an early draft pick next year.

Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports that defensive end Corey Liuget, safety Eric Weddle and guard D.J. Fluker are all out of practice for the Chargers, who will be in Jacksonville on Sunday.

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Martellus Bennett won’t play on Thursday night

at Qualcomm Stadium on November 9, 2015 in San Diego, California. Getty Images

Running back Matt Forte said that he expects to be in the Bears lineup against the Packers on Thursday night, but tight end Martellus Bennett won’t be joining him.

The Bears ruled Bennett out of the game on Wednesday because of injured ribs. Bennett was listed as a non-participant in Monday’s practice and limited in Tuesday’s session. Zach Miller and Khari Lee are the other tight ends on Chicago’s 53-man roster.

Forte was listed as questionable, as was wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery missed last week’s game with a groin injury and said Tuesday that he hopes to make it back to the lineup on Thanksgiving, although he knows he won’t play “if the training staff sees how I feel and I don’t feel too well.”

Linebacker Pernell McPhee and safety Antrel Rolle are also questionable due to knee injuries. Rolle did not play last week while McPhee returned to the lineup after missing Week 10. Wide receiver Eddie Royal and running back Ka’Deem Carey have been ruled out.

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No practice for Charcandrick West on Wednesday

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 22: Charcandrick West #35 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs with the ball during the second half of a game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on November 22, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chiefs will try to keep their four-game winning streak going against the Bills this weekend in a game that looms large for the playoff hopes for both teams.

It doesn’t sound like running back Charcandrick West has a high likelihood of helping the Chiefs in their effort. West, who took over the lead role in the run game after Jamaal Charles was lost for the season, injured his hamstring in last Sunday’s rout of the Chargers, didn’t return to the game and didn’t take part in the team’s practice on Wednesday.

Coach Andy Reid said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star, that West has “a chance” of playing against Buffalo while adding that he has full confidence in Spencer Ware and Knile Davis handling the workload in the backfield. Ware did a lot to create that confidence by running 11 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns last Sunday.

Guard Ben Grubbs, defensive end Allen Bailey, linebacker Dee Ford and wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas also missed Wednesday’s practice.

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AFC playoff picture: Patriots closing in on clinching

Bill Belichick AP

The Patriots haven’t clinched a playoff berth just yet, but they may do it as soon as Sunday. And they may clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs soon after that.

At 10-0, the Patriots have a whopping five-game lead in the AFC East, and a two-game lead over the rest of the conference. New England can clinch the AFC East with a win and a Jets loss on Sunday, and New England can also open up a three-game lead in the conference with only five games to play, if the Patriots beat the Broncos and the Bengals get upset by the Rams.

So barring something unforeseen, the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC will go through New England. Here’s how the whole conference shapes up:

1. Patriots (10-0): They may not go 16-0, but they’ll be heavy favorites in all of their remaining games.

2. Bengals (8-2): Cincinnati owns the conference record tiebreaker with the Broncos for now, but the real tiebreaker between the two will be settled when they meet on December 28.

3. Broncos (8-2): The Broncos’ schedule isn’t easy, with remaining games against the Patriots, Bengals and Steelers.

4. Colts (5-5): Indianapolis has the head-to-head tiebreaker edge over Houston in the AFC South.

5. Steelers (6-4): Pittsburgh probably can’t catch Cincinnati in the AFC North, but the Steelers have the inside track on the wild card race.

6. Chiefs (5-5): Kansas City wins the tiebreaker over Houston and Buffalo based on winning percentage in conference games.

7. Texans (5-5): Houston has looked like a mess for much of this season, but the Texans still have a real shot at winning the AFC South.

8. Bills (5-5): Buffalo owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Jets.

9. Jets (5-5): After winning four of their first five, the Jets have now lost four of their last five.

10. Raiders (4-6): A three-game losing streak has Oakland looking like a long shot.

11. Jaguars (4-6): Jacksonville is only a game out in the AFC South and has an easy schedule the rest of the way. It wouldn’t be a shock to see a playoff game in Jacksonville.

12. Dolphins (4-6): Their brief turnaround under interim head coach Dan Campbell now feels like a long time ago.

13. Ravens (3-7): The Joe Flacco injury ends any glimmer of hope they had of a late-season playoff push.

14. Browns (2-8): Just playing out the string, and now they won’t even get a long look at Johnny Manziel.

15. Chargers (2-8): At this point San Diego is just trying to get enough healthy players to finish the season.

16. Titans (2-8): Tennessee is only three games out in the AFC South, but there’s no realistic chance of the Titans making the playoffs.

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Ernie Accorsi will consult on Lions G.M. search

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: The Detroit Lions helmet on the field before their game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on September 16, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

In a press conference last week, new Lions president Rod Wood said that the team would bring in an outside advisor to help them in their search for a new General Manager.

The team revealed their choice for that role on Wednesday. Former Colts, Browns and Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi will consult with the team about the hire, something he has also done for the Panthers and Bears in recent years. Accorsi also serves on the NFL’s career development advisory board.

“We are most pleased that Ernie Accorsi will serve as consultant for our G.M. search,” Wood said in a statement. “Ernie’s reputation is impeccable. Not only did he succeed as a General Manager in the NFL, but his work as a consultant with teams like Chicago and Carolina is well documented.”

Accorsi will be charged with leading a search for a new head of the Lions personnel department. Interim General Manager Sheldon White will be part of the group under consideration for the job and the Lions could also bring in execs like Marc Ross, Chris Ballard, Brian Gaine and Lake Dawson as they’ve been up for other G.M. jobs in recent years.

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NFL not pushing back against networks airing Concussion ads

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwqwntgzyjhkmzq3nmu5m2q2yjrjogqwnjvhowexmtkx AP

On Monday night, ESPN’s Monday Night Football coverage included at least one commercial for Concussion, the film that director Peter Landesman has touted as a “shot between the eyes of the NFL.”

When it comes to the promotion of said shot, the NFL isn’t flinching.

While the league office had no comment on ESPN’s decision to allow the anti-NFL film to be promoted, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the league gave ESPN no resistance.

As a result, get ready to see even more Concussion commercials during NFL coverage.

“ESPN called us early wanting our ads,” Landesman recently told the Hollywood Reporter. “All the networks have accepted our ads for football for Thanksgiving. Because network TV is usually the canary in the coal mine, I have a feeling that the country is really ready to accept this story, even the NFL broadcast networks.”

Landesman is exaggerating the connection between a network accepting a studio’s money and the network providing its imprimatur to the subject matter of the film. Plenty of crappy movies are advertised on TV all the time; it doesn’t mean the network is endorsing the movie. The network is simply providing the space and cashing the checks.

So look for more Concussion commercials in the coming days and weeks, and the NFL’s approach apparently will be to ignore them — which could be the NFL’s approach to the film itself.

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Bills bring back Thigpen, cut Herron

Marcus Thigpen AP

The Bills announced four roster moves Wednesday, most notably the signing of wide receiver Marcus Thigpen.

A veteran of 46 career games, Thigpen previously spent time with the Bills last season and earlier this season. He figures to be given a chance to help in the return game.

The team also signed guard Ryan Groy off of the Buccaneers’ practice squad. Groy started three games for the Bears last year and has also been with the Patriots, who traded for him last summer.

Running back Boom Herron and wide receiver Denarius Moore were released.

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