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Titans expected to tag Jared Cook if no long-term deal

Antoine Bethea, Jared Cook AP

The Titans would prefer to sign tight end Jared Cook to a long-term deal.

But if they can’t, they still want to keep him.

According to Jim Wyatt of the Tennesseean, the Titans are expected to use the franchise tag on the tight end, since it doesn’t appear likely that a long-term deal is getting done soon.

The tag would be for just under $6 million, but would preserve a quality receiving threat that they’ve underutilized. He’s been grouchy about that in the past, and when looking for financial security, a tag probably wouldn’t help that outlook.

But as they try to insulate quarterback Jake Locker, keeping Cook (and actually using him more often) might be the prudent play.

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Tom Coughlin expects Geoff Schwartz to be placed on injured reserve

Odell Beckham Jr. AP

After guard Geoff Schwartz left Sunday’s game with a leg injury, the Giants initially said that he would be able to return to the game before updating his status to say that he would miss the rest of the game after fracturing his leg.

Given the point we’re at in the season, it sounded like a season-ending injury but Schwartz held out hope on Twitter that he would be able to return to the team this season. Coach Tom Coughlin didn’t sound anywhere near as hopeful when he spoke to the media on Monday, however. While the coach didn’t rule anything out, he said he’s preparing to lose Schwartz for the rest of the year.

“No, but it’s not good,” Coughlin said, via Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News. “He has a fracture above the plate on his leg. I’m sure he’ll have to be put on IR.”

Schwartz started at left guard Sunday as the Giants covered for the absence of Justin Pugh by flipping Schwartz to that side and starting John Jerry at right guard. Bobby Hart entered the game after Schwartz’s injury.

The Giants were also starting Dallas Reynolds at center in place of Weston Richburg, which could leave the Giants with a lot of patchwork to do against the Jets this week. Coughlin says he hopes to have at least one of them back this week, but that he doesn’t “have any evidence” that will be the case at this point.

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Chiefs stepping up as a group without Jamaal Charles

Chris Conley, Knile Davis, Spencer Ware AP

“Next man up” is an easy thing for coaches to say, when inevitable injuries or bad news starts to pile up.

But the players who actually have to implement that slogan are still human beings, and sometimes it takes weeks for it to become a reality.

So the Chiefs don’t mind admitting it took them a moment to overcome the shock of losing running back Jamaal Charles to a torn ACL, or any of the other hurdles they’ve overcome along the way to five straight wins and the thick of the AFC playoff race.

“Without a doubt. You look at how much we’ve used Jamaal Charles, and he’s the focal point of this offense, it kind of left us with our palms up like, ‘Where do we go from here?’” tight end Travis Kelce said, via Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports. “But Charcandrick [West] has done an amazing job and Spencer Ware’s done a phenomenal job stepping in for both of them. It’s fun, it’s exciting when you see a guy step up into the shoes of Jamaal Charles. It just makes it that much more fun when you have success and win.”

The Chiefs were en route to a 1-4 when Charles went down with a torn ACL. But after a week for the shock to subside, they began playing the way they were capable of with one of the most dynamic runners in the game. Much of that has to do with West, but he missed yesterday with a hamstring injury and Ware ran for 114 yards and a touchdown. But it took some getting used to.

“Knowing that Jamaal isn’t back there, you start to concentrate a little more knowing you don’t have a guy as special and things like that,” Kelce said. “Not saying you don’t block your tail off for Jamaal, but there’s that consciousness in the back of your head that, ‘OK, if someone goes down, we have to make something out of it.'”

Of course, there’s also a pretty good role model for bouncing back still on the field with them as well.

“We just keep fighting,” said safety Eric Berry, who has come back after being diagnosed with lymphoma last year. “A lot of us have been through a lot of different things, on and off the field, and we just bring those experiences to the field and just keep pushing on and something is going to crack.”

So far, it’s the people the Chiefs are playing, five weeks in a row.

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Dan Campbell: Firing Lazor was my decision

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 22: Interim head coach Dan Campbell of the Miami Dolphins looks on during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Sun Life Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Dallas defeated Miami 24-14. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

During his appearance on PFT Live Monday, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald said that the decision to fire offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was made by interim head coach Dan Campbell and not executive vice president for football operations Mike Tannenbaum or anyone else in the front office.

Campbell said the same thing during his Monday press conference while discussing Lazor’s departure from the team. Campbell called it 100 percent his decision and that it came after he shared his feeling with Tannenbaum and team owner Stephen Ross. Campbell pointed to the team’s lack of balance offensively — 61 called passes in Sunday’s loss to the Jets and nine runs — as the reason why he wanted to make a change.

“We have to find a way to become a more physical offense,” Campbell said, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “We need more of a physical presence. How ever we establish that, that’s what I’m looking for. I don’t think we scare anybody in the AFC East and that bothers me. We need to find a way, even if it is two yards and a cloud of dust. … I am a more run-oriented person. I want to be more balanced. I like a more balanced approach.”

Campbell certainly isn’t the first to point out the lack of balance on offense for the Dolphins, but, then, you’d have to be blind not to pick it up. Excluding penalties that resulted in no official play, the Dolphins have dropped back to pass more than twice as often as they’ve run the ball this season and those numbers weren’t much closer during the 2014 season under Lazor either.

New offensive coordinator Zac Taylor said Monday he’s on board and that the team will “streamline what we do” to create more balance on offense moving forward. If the results aren’t any better, the end of the season will likely bring more changes to the coaching staff in Miami.

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Kelly denies any contact with USC

Chip Kelly AP

We know that USC isn’t hiring Chip Kelly to be its football coach, and Kelly said Monday that he never was going to be.

During his usual Monday press conference, the Eagles’ head coach said he never spoke to anyone connected with USC, which Monday announced that interim coach Clay Helton will become the school’s full-time coach. Kelly refuted a prior report that someone connected to USC had met with Kelly in Philadelphia last Friday to gauge his interest in the job.

“I wasn’t even in Philadelphia Friday,” Kelly said.

This is all part of the business and of the coaching carousel. Kelly said he understands that but reaffirmed his commitment to the struggling Eagles by saying he’s never been involved with any other job since taking over the Eagles in early 2013.

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Mike Pouncey day-to-day with minor foot injury

Mike Pouncey AP

Dolphins center Mike Pouncey got some good news with today’s medical checkup.

Pouncey, who was carted off the field on Sunday with what looked like it could be a serious injury, actually isn’t hurt badly at all. Dolphins head coach Dan Campbell said today that Pounce had suffered only a minor foot injury and is considered day-to-day.

Campbell did say the Dolphins will likely sign another center, just in case Pouncey has to miss a game. He also said Pouncey’s absence may affect how often the Dolphins are able to use a shotgun formation.

The Dolphins fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor today, in another move that may affect how the offense runs for the rest of the season.

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Despite Lions’ surge, Caldwell doesn’t regret waiting for Cooter

Jim Caldwell, Chip Kelly AP

The Lions’ season turned around quickly when they fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and promoted Jim Bob Cooter to that role midseason.

But head coach Jim Caldwell said he doesn’t regret waiting this long to make the move, despite the fact they’re 3-1 since then and just dropped 45 points on the Eagles.

“No,” Caldwell said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “That’s probably the simplest way [to answer that]. Like I said, it’s not that easy. It’s a difficult transition what we’re going through right now, even just in terms of our offensive system and how it’s functioning. It’s an unusual change.”

The Lions were 1-6 before Caldwell made the move, and the results have been dramatic. Quarterback Matt Stafford said he loved Cooter’s more aggressive play-calling, though that’s not the only reason things have turned around.

As much as anything, they’ve cut down on turnovers (three in four games after 18 in the first seven), and protected Stafford better and run the ball more, all things which lead to the opportunity for a more wide-open offense.

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Report: Bills lose Alex Carrington for rest of season

<> of the New England Patriots of the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on November 23, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Getty Images

The Bills came into Sunday’s game with injury issues on their defensive line and it appears they only got worse during their 30-22 loss to the Chiefs.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that defensive end Alex Carrington tore his quad tendon and will have surgery on Monday to repair the injury. Per the report, Carrington’s season is over.

Carrington started in Kansas City because Mario Williams missed the game with a foot injury he suffered in the team’s Week 11 loss to the Patriots. Defensive tackle Kyle Williams also announced last week that he will have knee surgery and miss the rest of the season, so the Bills will need to dig a bit deeper on the depth chart for help up front on defense over the final five weeks.

Carrington was a third-round pick of the Bills in 2010 and played for the Rams in 2014 before returning to the Bills as a free agent during the offseason.

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Colts place Ahmad Bradshaw on IR for third straight year

Ahmad Bradshaw, Jude Adjei-Barimah AP

The Colts have turned their season around with an old quarterback.

But he won’t be able to rely on his old running back the rest of this season.

The Colts announced that Ahmad Bradshaw was going on injured reserve, after suffering a wrist injury against the Buccaneers.

This is his third straight season which has ended on IR, playing just 17 games for the Colts over that span. In 2013, it was a neck injury, with a broken leg sidelining him last year.

He came back on Oct. 14, and caught three touchdowns in six games. The Colts filled his roster spot by bringing back running back Zurlon Tipton.

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Dwayne Harris: We took win for granted

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 29: Wide receiver Dwayne Harris #17 of the New York Giants carries the ball against linebacker Preston Smith #94 of the Washington Redskins in the third quarter at FedExField on November 29, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham said after Sunday’s loss that there was “no explanation” for the lack of fight that his team showed during the first three quarters of a game that could have given them a comfortable lead in the NFC East.

One of his fellow wideouts has some explanation, although it’s not one that Beckham or anyone else in the organization should be happy to hear. Dwayne Harris said he thinks that the team’s lack of fire was caused by overlooking the challenge that the Redskins presented after beating them the last five times they played.

“I think we were ready to play but we probably took this team a little bit for granted because … I don’t know,” Harris said, via “I don’t know everyone else’s mindset but we came out slow. I think everyone was ready to play but we came out too slow.”

Every season brings several results that make it clear that no NFL team can afford to go into a game expecting that they can just go through the motions and get a victory. The Giants should know that better than anyone given how many times they’ve dropped games to mediocre or worse competition in the Tom Coughlin era, to say nothing of the times they’ve stepped up to win games as underdogs.

It’s not a mistake that they should make again over the final five weeks, but making it once might have been enough to dash their hopes of winning a division title.

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Report: Rob Gronkowski may only miss one game, if that

Brock Osweiler AP

Given his history and his importance to their offense, it’s natural that the Patriots held their breath when tight end Rob Gronkowski was carted off last night.

They can apparently exhale.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Gronkowski is “unlikely to miss more than one game,” and may not miss that one.

The Eagles would certainly take the absence, as it would leave Tom Brady with precious few possibilities to throw to. But it’s good news for the Patriots as they look to the playoffs, and because Bill Belichick looks like he secretly enjoys messing with reporters who ask injury questions.

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Jack Del Rio told alma mater no thanks when they called

Jack Del Rio, Dyrol Prioleau AP

Chip Kelly apparently wasn’t the only NFL head coach who was approached in some fashion about the Southern Cal opening.

According to Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, the Trojans called Raiders coach Jack Del Rio about the opening, but he told them he wasn’t leaving his current gig.

Del Rio was a natural name for their short list, since he was a two-sport star at USC, as a linebacker and a catcher on the baseball team.

But with him just embarking on his second stint as a head coach (he was 68-71 in nine years with the Jaguars), it was likely too soon for him to consider going back to the alma mater.

The Raiders are 5-6 this year and on the fringe of the AFC playoff chase, with a promising young quarterback and hints of stability.

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Broncos suddenly have a contracts problem for 2016

Brock Osweiler AP

Good news, Broncos! Quarterback Brock Osweiler looks like he can play the position at a high level!

Bad news, Broncos! Copy and paste the above here!

In the fourth year of his rookie contract, Osweiler is now only five regular-season games away from becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency. And if he hits the open market after with last night’s snow-globe takedown of the Patriots on his resume, one of the handful of teams with horrible quarterback situations (you know who you are) will gladly pay Osweiler big money to take the reins.

Meanwhile, Broncos linebacker Von Miller is also rocketing toward unrestricted free agency, and the Broncos (like every NFL franchise) have only one franchise tag to use. So at least one of those two guys will need to be signed to a long-term deal before the deadline comes and goes for applying the tag to the other.

Meanwhile to the meanwhile, quarterback Peyton Manning has a $19 million base salary for 2016.

The easiest decision will be to move on from Manning. The harder decision will be to determine how much of Manning’s $19 million should go to Osweiler. If Osweiler decides to push for the open market (and his agents at CAA surely will know what the market will bear for him), the Broncos may need the full $19 million and then some in order to tag the quarterback — and they’ll also need to break the bank for Miller in order to keep him off the market, too.

Some would say it’s a good problem to have. Others would say the only good problem is no problem. Either way, 2016 has plenty of challenges for the Broncos. It’ll be here the moment the 2015 postseason concludes.

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PFT Live: Brian Hoyer, Kurt Coleman, Dolphins talk with Armando Salguero

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 29: Brian Hoyer #7 of the Houston Texans motions while playing against the New Orleans Saints in the second quarter on November 29, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans got quarterback Brian Hoyer back in the lineup on Sunday and kept their winning streak going with a 24-6 thumping of the Saints that moved them to 6-5 and kept them even with the Colts in the AFC South.

On Monday’s PFT Live, Mike Florio will talk to Hoyer about the victory over the Saints and everything that has fallen into place for the team during their four-game winning streak. A defense that’s allowed just 35 points in that span is at the top of the list, but we’ll find out about the offense as well during Hoyer’s visit.

Panthers safety Kurt Coleman will also drop by the show to discuss the even longer winning streak that the Panthers are on. Coleman had an interception return for a touchdown in the team’s Thanksgiving victory over the Cowboys, which is one of the things that we’ll talk about on Monday.

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald will be on hand as well to discuss the team’s decision to fire offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. They’ve already fired their head coach and defensive coordinator so we’ll ask Salguero whose head will be the next to role in a dismal season in Miami.

As always, we also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app.

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Panthers sign Cortland Finnegan

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28:  Cortland Finnegan #24 of the Miami Dolphins returns a fumble 50 yards to score a touchdown during the NFL match between the Oakland Raiders and the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium on September 28, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Panthers have added veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan for the stretch run.

Finnegan worked out for the team last week and the Panthers announced Monday that they have signed him to their 53-man roster. Finnegan played for Miami last season, but has been out of the NFL since the Dolphins released him in the offseason.

That departure did not come as much of a surprise as Finnegan’s play in 2014 showed the same signs of decline that he exhibited in St. Louis during the two previous years. Finnegan seemed to agree that the game had passed him by because he said he was retiring after getting dropped by the Dolphins, but there’s nothing like interest from undefeated teams (the Patriots also worked him out recently) to make you think twice.

Carolina has been stretched a bit thin at corner the last two weeks with Charles Tillman out of the lineup and Colin Jones has struggled in the slot with Bene’ Benwikere moving outside to take over for Tillman, who is expected to miss more time. They’ll hope for more from Finnegan as they try to continue the league’s longest current winning streak.

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Chris Johnson, Andre Ellington having MRIs after injuries

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 29:  Chris Johnson #23 of the Arizona Cardinals is hit by Ian Williams #93 of the San Francisco 49ers at the line of scrimmage during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on November 29, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals squeaked out a 19-13 victory over the 49ers when Carson Palmer rambled into the end zone for a touchdown and spike that gave his teammates a good laugh.

It might be easier to leave the running to the players who are on the team for their ability in that area, but the Cardinals were running low on options in Sunday’s game. Both Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington left the game with injuries that General Manager Steve Keim said will have them in the MRI tube Monday.

Appearing on Arizona Sports 98.7, Keim said that Johnson suffered a bone bruise to his knee and that Ellington is dealing with a toe injury. He termed both players as “day-to-day” pending the results of the MRIs.

The Cardinals will be in St. Louis next weekend and rookie David Johnson will get the call if neither back is able to get back on the field in time to face the Rams.

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