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Team-by-team look at who would/could/should be tagged

Clady AP

On Monday, the two-week window for using the franchise tag opens.  Every team can use the franchise tag (or the rarely-used transition tag) on one player.

Last year, 21 teams took advantage of the franchise tag, which no longer is based on the five highest-paid players at the position but on a far more convoluted (and club friendly) formula.

It’s not a coincidence.  The new formula makes it much cheaper to keep a player off the open market than it would to pay him a multi-year market contract.

Here’s a look at the team-by-team candidates for the 2013 tag, in alphabetical order.

Arizona Cardinals:  The Cardinals need to keep hard-nosed cover corner Greg Toler, but not at anything close to the eight-figure franchise number.  No other pending free agents have the talent or potential to justify franchise money.  Last year, the Cardinals used the tag on defensive end Calais Campbell; they eventually signed him to a long-term deal.

Atlanta Falcons:  Left tackle Sam Baker, drafted in round one the same year as the man whose blind side he protects, has had good years and bad years.  After starting 16 games in 2012, Baker hits the market on a high note.  Still, the glut of tackles in free agency and the draft will make it hard to justify tagging Baker; if he leaves, the Falcons can find a capable replacement after the market softens.  In 2012, the Falcons used the tag on cornerback Brent Grimes, who tore an Achilles tendon in Week One.  Tagging him would cost $12.48 million for 2013.  It would cost nearly half that amount to tag safety William Moore.

Baltimore Ravens:  It’s not a question of if the Ravens will tag quarterback Joe Flacco.  The only remaining unknown is the level of the tag.  And while a lazy look at the situation would lead to conclusively presuming that there’s no way Flacco leaves Baltimore, there’s a chance (slim, but a chance) that the player and the team could be destined for a game of chicken that would result in both cars flying off the cliff.  The Ravens could opt to go non-exclusive, daring Flacco to sign an offer sheet with another team — and assuming that he never would.  Another team with plenty of cap space could easily craft a front-loaded offer sheet that the Ravens wouldn’t be able to match.  It’s not likely, but anyone who thinks there’s no way Flacco leaves the Ravens hasn’t been paying close enough attention to the far crazier things the NFL has seen in recent years.

Buffalo BillsJairus Byrd has become one on the best free safeties in the league.  With George Wilson gone in a cap move, the Bills need to keep Byrd.  Absent a long-term deal, the tag is the only way to make it happen.  If a long-term deal can be negotiated, guard Andy Levitre becomes a candidate for the tag.  The only impediment would be the fact that interior offensive linemen get the same franchise tender as tackles.

Carolina Panthers:  Their list of potential free agents contains no names that cry out for use of the tag, especially since the Panthers are still dealing with the sins of salary caps past.

Chicago Bears:  The Bears need to keep defensive tackle Henry Melton, but they’ve already got plenty of cap space tied up with defensive players like sackmaster Julius Peppers, cornerback Charles Tillman, and linebacker Lance Briggs.  With Melton regarding himself as the best defensive tackle in the league, a long-term deal could be hard to come by.  Despite his name recognition, linebacker Brian Urlacher isn’t a serious candidate for the tag.

Cincinnati Bengals:  The Bengals are extremely careful with money.  On defense, lineman Michael Johnson is the most obvious candidate to be tagged.  It’s just as likely that the Bengals will be content to go bargain shopping (again) for defensive players to replace their bevy of free agents on that side of the ball, and then hope that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer can whip up another batch of chicken salad.  On offense, the tag could be used to keep Andre Smith, who quietly has overcome his notorious Jello run to develop into an elite right tackle.  Last year, the tag was used on kicker Mike Nugent; tagging him again would cost only $3.48 million.  Which could make him the most likely candidate.

Cleveland Browns:  Kicker Phil Dawson was tagged in 2011 and 2012.  Using it a third time would entitle him to quarterback money.  So if it’s used, it won’t be used on him.  Punter Reggie Hodges is hitting the market after three years with the team.  Though his performance doesn’t cry out “franchise tag,” it could be cheaper to squat on him for a year than to sign a replacement on the open market; that’s why so many punters and kickers have been tagged in recent years.

Dallas Cowboys:  Tagged last year at $10.5 million, linebacker Anthony Spencer still hasn’t had the kind of impact that he should, given that he plays across from DeMarcus Ware.  Spencer isn’t worth $12.4 million for one more year.

Denver Broncos:  V.P. of football operations John Elway has said that the tag will be used on left tackle Ryan Clady, and for good reason.  Last year, Clady turned down a five-year, $50 million deal.

Detroit Lions:  It’ll take $12.4 million to use the tag for a second straight year on defensive end Cliff Avril, and it won’t be easy for the Lions to round up the kind of cap space necessary to keep him around.  Safety Louis Delmas doesn’t like being labeled as injury prone, but he is.  And the Lions will have to decide whether they want to make a long-term or short-term (via the tag) investment in the guy who could be this decade’s Bob Sanders.  Tackle Gosder Cherilus also could be tagged, but in a buyer’s market for tackles it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to do it.

Green Bay Packers:  Receiver Greg Jennings turns 30 in September.  In other words, the Packers won’t be using the tag on Greg Jennings.  The Packers learned while he was injured in 2012 that they can live without him, and they won’t be inclined to invest $10 million in cap space to a guy who plays a position that, with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, is virtually interchangeable.  If the Packers wanted to keep Jennings, they’d be trying to sign him.  They’re not, which likely means he won’t be tagged.

Houston Texans:  Last year, the Texans passed on tagging linebacker Mario Williams because of the exorbitant tender that the final year of his first-overall rookie contract would have generated.  With linebacker Connor Barwin, much less cap space would be consumed.  After seeing former Texans receiver Jacoby Jones deliver an MVP-caliber performance in the Super Bowl, G.M. Rick Smith may be a little less willing to let quality players walk away in 2013.  Another possible (and cheaper) candidate for the tag is punter Donnie Jones.

Indianapolis Colts:  The man with the self-styled boomstick can be kept off the market for the low, low price of the punter/kicker franchise tag ($2.9 million).  Absent a long-term deal, it’s hard to envision the Colts moving forward without punter Pat McAfee.

Jacksonville Jaguars:  A roster thin on star power naturally doesn’t create many franchise-tag candidates, especially with a new G.M. and (another) new coaching staff.  If linebacker Daryl Smith didn’t miss most of the season, he’d be a potential candidate.  Fullback Greg Jones would be a candidate, if fullbacks weren’t lumped in with running backs for franchise tag purposes.

Kansas City Chiefs:  The Chiefs are trying to work out a long-term deal with receiver Dwayne Bowe; if they don’t, it would cost $11.4 million to keep him around for a second season via the tag.  But receivers are more plentiful than competent offensive linemen, and new Chiefs coach Andy Reid witnessed the hard way in 2012 the consequences of not having competent blockers.  This reality makes tackle Branden Albert a more likely candidate to be tagged.  Then there’s punter Dustin Colquitt, who like most punters and kickers could be cheaper to keep via the one-year franchise tag.

Miami Dolphins:  Tackle Jake Long’s rookie deal makes the cap number for tagging him way too high to justify, especially in light of the gradual decline in his play.  With cornerback Sean Smith looking for big money, the best move could be to tag him instead of Long.

Minnesota Vikings:  G.M. Rick Spielman wants to keep road-grading right tackle Phil Loadholt.  With left tackle Matt Kalil tied up via an affordable rookie deal, the Vikings can afford to pay Loadholt a large chunk of money for at least the next two seasons, before Kalil will be looking for his second contract.  Whether that large chunk of money equates to the franchise tag for Loadholt is a decision the Vikings have to make in light of the realities of the tackle market — and within the context of the impact of the use of the tag on the expectations of receiver Percy Harvin.  They’d also like to keep fullback Jerome Felton, but there’s no fullback franchise tag; they’d have to tender him at the running back level.

New England Patriots:  The Patriots have a trio of players who are potential candidates for the tag.  Whether it’s receiver Wes Welker, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, cornerback Aqib Talib, or no one, it won’t be an easy decision.  Welker would command $11.4 million, given that he was tagged in 2012.  It would be a shock if they tag him.  Vollmer has Marcus Cannon behind him on the depth chart, plus plenty of other tackles available in free agency.  The Pats could be inclined to let Vollmer leave if someone else is willing to overpay him.  Talib presents the biggest conundrum, given his positive impact on the team’s so-so defense.  They need him, but he present plenty of risk given his history of off-field incidents.

New Orleans Saints:  Left tackle Jermon Bushrod is the most obvious candidate for the tag.  But the Saints don’t have the cap space to spare.  They easily replaced guard Carl Nicks with Ben Grubbs last year, and the tackle market is far more plentiful in 2013 than the market was for guards last season.  Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis doesn’t project to nose tackle in the team’s new 3-4 defense, but he could be a candidate to play defensive end in Rob Ryan’s defense, if the Saints want to fork over the money necessary to keep him around.  Things would get interesting if the Saints tag Ellis as a tackle despite a desire to move him to end, since there’s a $2.6 million gap between the two tenders.

New York Giants:  But for the likely existence of collusion in the restricted free agency market, the Giants should be thinking about tagging receiver Victor Cruz.  Since teams have abandoned in recent years the pursuit of RFAs, there’s no reason for the Giants to double the compensation they’d get if someone else swipes Cruz.  Left tackle Will Beatty becomes a candidate for the tag, along with safety Kenny Phillips.  The cheapest of all would be tight end Martellus Bennett, who didn’t get the long-term deal he wanted a year ago in free agency, opting instead for a one-year stay in New York and another shot at the market.

New York Jets:  Safety LaRon Landry is the only guy who merits the tag, but his one-year deal from last year expressly prevents the team from using it.  No one else who is due to become a free agent deserves it.

Oakland Raiders:  There’s a major problem with using the franchise tag on punter Shane Lechler, apart from the fact that the Raiders have landed in a salary cap black hole.  While the franchise tag for punters and kickers will be an affordable $2.9 million in 2013, Lechler’s cap number last year was $4.9 million.  Under the CBA, he’s entitled to a 120 percent raise over that number, which translates to a cap number of $5.88 million.  It could be time for the much cheaper Marquette King, a converted receiver who has drawn comparisons to the monster-legged Reggie Roby.  Either way, it’s hard to imagine that the cap-strapped Raiders would pay a punter twice the amount of the base franchise tag for punters.

Philadelphia Eagles:  The Eagles don’t have many looming free agents, which means that they don’t have many candidates for the franchise tag.  Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would be one, if he was, you know, better.

Pittsburgh Steelers:  The Steelers have said they won’t use the franchise tag.  Which means that receiver Mike Wallace will hit the open market.  Which means that someone will overpay him on the first day of free agency.

San Diego ChargersLook at their free agents.  Though cornerback Quentin Jammer has been a mainstay in San Diego since 2002, he’s not worth what it would cost to keep him via the franchise tag.  No one else with an expiring contract justifies the tag, which is one of the reasons why there’s a new G.M. and head coach.

San Francisco 49ers:  Safety Dashon Goldson doesn’t want to be tagged again, but what he wants and what he gets could be two different things.  Absent a long-term deal, the Niners have to keep Goldson around — even if using the tag for a second time virtually guarantees he’ll hit the market in 2014.  If Goldson gets a new deal, it’ll be interesting to see whether the Niners would use the tag on their second-string but highly versatile tight end, Delanie Walker.

Seattle Seahawks:  The ultra-low kicker tag of $2.9 million could be used to keep the strong-legged Steven Hauschka.

St. Louis Rams:  Receiver Danny Amendola has become one of the best slot receivers in the NFL, but his injury history and the eight-figure franchise tender for wideouts likely will scare the Rams away.  Still, if Amendola hits the market, he won’t be there long.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  The Bucs plans to spend on keeping their own guys.  When it comes to using the tag, it’s a toss-up between tackle Jeremy Trueblood and defensive end Michael Bennett, or neither.

Tennessee Titans:  The Titans reportedly are expected to use the tag on tight end Jared Cook, absent a multi-year deal.  Kicker Rob Bironas also is a possibility, but he had a cap number of $3.675 million in 2012.  Which means that the tag would cost the Titans $4.41 million in 2013, $1.5 million more than the base tag for kickers and punters.

Washington Redskins:  With $18 million in missing cap space, the Redskins can’t afford to use the tag.  Especially since tagging tight end Fred Davis again would bump his 2012 tender by 20 percent — a year after he suffered a torn Achilles tendon.  Punter Sav Rocca is a slim possibility, but even the $2.9 million will be more than the Redskins can justify with their cap situation.

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Report: Kyle Rudolph needs sports hernia surgery

Kyle Rudolph, Jerraud Powers AP

It doesn’t look like Teddy Bridgewater will have tight end Kyle Rudolph to lean on when he makes his first start at quarterback for the Vikings.

Rudolph left Sunday’s loss to the Saints with a groin injury and was expected to have an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the damage. Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that Rudolph will need to have sports hernia surgery and is expected to miss about six weeks while he recovers.

If that’s the case and the timeline is in the neighborhood that Breer reported, he could be a candidate for injured reserve with the designation to return as the Vikings haven’t used it yet this season.

The Vikings have targeted Rudolph 17 times this season, just behind Greg Jennings for the most of anyone on the team. That would make for a significant absence that the Vikings will try to fill with Rhett Ellison and MarQueis Gray.

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Arian Foster says he’s day-to-day with hamstring injury

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The Texans played without running back Arian Foster on Sunday because they didn’t feel Foster’s hamstring was up to facing the Giants.

Foster was missed. Alfred Blue broke a 46-yard run, but had 32 yards on his other 12 carries and the team was forced to lean too heavily on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to get their offense moving in a 30-17 loss that wasn’t as close as the final score might lead you to believe.

On Monday, Foster said that his hamstring felt “good” while working out on Sunday although it obviously wasn’t good enough to allay any fears that the team might have had about his condition. While he felt good on Sunday, he wasn’t making any overly optimistic predictions for this week’s game.

Foster, who looked good in running for 241 yards in the two Texans wins that opened the season, described himself as “day-to-day,” which will make his practice status on Wednesday closely watched in both Houston and Buffalo.

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Dolphins won’t commit to Ryan Tannehill as starter

Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

Well, this should be a fun trip to London for the Dolphins this week.

During his press conference today, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin refused to commit to former first-rounder Ryan Tannehill for their game against the Raiders at Wembley Stadium.

After some early hedging, Philbin was asked specifically if Tannehill would start against the Raiders.

We’ll decide our game plan before we leave to play Oakland,” Philbin replied, via Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post.

The No. 8 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft — selected by a guy who no longer works there — Tannehill has slumped this season.

Tannehill helped them to a win over the Patriots in the opener, but his numbers this season are well off his previous pace. He’s only completing 56.5 percent of his passes, and his passer rating his declined each week to get him to 74.1 for the year.

The option is Matt Moore, and Philbin did everything he could to provide no clarity. Asked if the two were competing this week for the job, Philbin replied: “we’ll utilize the players the best way we see fit.”

Tannehill has shown flashes of competence, but nothing about him suggests that he’s going to be anything more than an average NFL quarterback, at best. Moore has shown similar flashes, and lighting a fire under the starter can’t hurt at this stage.

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Pettine blames himself for Browns’ loss

pettine AP

After the Browns surrendered a fourth-quarter lead and lost to the Ravens on Sunday, Mike Pettine put the blame on himself.

“I thought for the bulk of it the players played well enough to have a victory. I put this one on me. We didn’t coach well enough to win today. I’m not going to get into too much of the specifics until I get a chance to go through it. The list is long,” Pettine said, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Pettine didn’t say exactly what he feels he should have done differently. But the Browns had a sloppy fourth quarter in which they picked up four penalties, had a field goal blocked and twice allowed the Ravens to drive into field goal range, resulting in a 21-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter turning into a 23-21 loss. Pettine also acknowledged that the Browns had to burn timeouts because the coaching staff didn’t do a good enough job of communicating to the players what personnel package they were supposed to be in.

That was a tough loss for the Browns to take. Pettine is taking it hard.

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Technically, league is running out of time on Rice appeal

Ray Rice AP

Ten days ago, the NFL indefinitely suspended running back Ray Rice.  Last Tuesday, Rice appealed the suspension.

Six days later, Commissioner Roger Goodell still hasn’t appointed a hearing officer, and no progress has been made toward establishing a date for the appeal.

That could soon become a problem for the league.  Per multiple sources, the following language from the labor deal applies to the resolution of Rice’s appeal: “Appeal hearings under Section 1(a) will be scheduled to commence within ten (10) days following receipt of the notice of appeal, except that hearings on suspensions issued during the playing season (defined for this Section as the first preseason game through the Super Bowl) will be scheduled for the second Tuesday following the receipt of the notice of appeal, with the intent that the appeal shall be heard no fewer than eight (8) days and no more than thirteen (13) days following the suspension, absent mutual agreement of the parties or a finding by the hearing officer of extenuating circumstances. If unavailability of counsel is the basis for a continuance, a new hearing shall be scheduled on or before the Tuesday following the original hearing date, without exception.”

In English, this means that the hearing ideally will be held between Tuesday and Thursday of this week, with the hearing held no later than next Tuesday, September 30 — unless the hearing officer decides that the circumstances prevent it, or the NFL and NFLPA agree to delay it.

The NFLPA accidentally cited the offseason rule in the announcement of the Rice appeal, and it’s possible the NFL will claim that this operated as a waiver of the stricter in-season timetable. That would be a flimsy argument, however; the rules are plainly set forth in the labor deal, and the first order of business in any situation where a party must take action by a certain time should be to figure out the last day on which the action can be taken.

The NFL may argue that Goodell’s decision to hand the baton to someone else creates “extenuating circusmtances” that justify a delay, but the league office told PFT last Wednesday that Goodell “never intended” to handle the appeal. So why has he waited 10 days and counting since suspension was imposed to appoint someone to handle it?

There’s a chance the NFLPA won’t make an issue of this. Rice literally (not actually literally, unless there’s a glow we don’t know about) has become radioactive to potential suitors. Whether the hearing happens this week or next week or next month or next year, it won’t change the fact that no one will be rolling out the red carpet for him any time soon.

Still, at a time when the league and the various teams embroiled in controversy have talked openly and repeatedly about “getting it right” despite so many things having gone badly wrong, it would be nice to see that something can be gotten right, especially when that something entails the fairly simple application of a clearly-worded scheduling rule that the NFL has used many times in the past.

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Two more Panthers backs headed to MRI tubes

Jonathan Stewart, Mike Mitchell AP

This is some kind of sick joke.

The Panthers — after years of buying all the running backs — are suddenly out of running backs.

Coach Ron Rivera just told reporters that Jonathan Stewart (knee) and Mike Tolbert (leg) were getting MRIs today on injuries suffered in last night’s loss to the Steelers.

The Panthers were already playing without starter DeAngelo Williams, who has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury and reserve/special teamer Fozzy Whittaker.

That forced them to call undrafted rookie Darrin Reaves up from the practice squad over the weekend, and he is currently atop the depth chart.

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Lions confirm: Stephen Tulloch tore ACL celebrating

Stephen Tulloch AP

It’s bad enough he was compared to a Gramatica.

Now Stephen Tulloch has the entire season to plan his next celebration.

The Lions confirmed that Tulloch tore his ACL yesterday while celebrating a sack, and would be placed on injured reserve.

As difficult a break as it was, Lions coach Jim Caldwell knows it’s hard to curb such celebrations.

“It’s not going to happen,” Caldwell said. “This is an emotional game. We want enthusiasm.”

The Lions thought they ended their bizarre injury luck when they let veteran receiver/pizza delivery guy Nate Burleson go this offseason, but this may be even worse.

In a related development, high fives have been prohibited, and Ndamukong Suh has been given a big, soft, fuzzy boot to wear when he feels like stomping someone.

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Another OL hit: Jason Kelce needs sports hernia surgery

Jason Kelce

The hits keep coming for the Eagles offensive line, which was supposed to be their foundation.

According to Jeff McLaneof the Philadelphia Inquirer, center Jason Kelce has a sports hernia and will likely need surgery to repair it.

Kelce left yesterday’s game just after halftime and didn’t return.

They’re still another week away from the return of right tackle Lane Johnson from suspension, and left guard Evan Mathis is already using the IR/designated for return spot. Sixth-man/spot-starter Allen Barbre was lost for the season to an ankle injury in the opener.

Kelce could miss two months or more, though they’re waiting for additional tests to determine the time frame.

Backup David Molk replaced him yesterday, but they’d need to make some degree of roster move as their numbers dwindle. Veteran Wade Smith was dragged in off the street to start at guard, and he can play center as well.

The Eagles were scrambling yesterday, as veteran Todd Herremans was their only regular left after left tackle Jason Peters was ejected for fighting, leaving people called Andrew Gardner, Dennis Kelly, Smith and Molk to finish the game.

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Lions change kickers, replace Nate Freese with Alex Henery

Alex Henery AP

After three games with their rookie kicker, the Lions have seen enough.

Nate Freese, the seventh-round pick who has already missed four field goals this season and ranks dead last in the NFL in field goal accuracy, is on the way out. The Lions will sign Alex Henery to replace him, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The move comes as no surprise: Freese was already on very thin ice even before missing a 41-yard attempt at Ford Field on Sunday. Freese has been shockingly bad this year, going 3-for-7 with a long field goal of just 30 yards. The Lions use punter Sam Martin on kickoffs, so Freese wasn’t giving them anything there, either.

Henery has played three NFL seasons, all with the Eagles. He’s made 86 percent of his field goals, with a long of 51 yards.

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PFT Live: Eagles talk with Geoff Mosher, Jaguars talk with Mike Dempsey

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Eagles moved to 3-0 with a 37-34 win over the Redskins during a wild day in Philadelphia that saw DeSean Jackson return to town and a brawl that wound up with two players ejected.

Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly will join Mike Florio on Monday’s edition of PFT Live to discuss the biggest takeaways from the game for the Eagles. One area of concern might be LeSean McCoy, who left the game briefly to be evaluated for a concussion but returned to run 19 times for just 22 yards. Another would be the injury to center Jason Kelce, which put the Eagles down three starting offensive linemen (Jason Peters made it four when he was ejected) and opened to door for a lot of big hits on Nick Foles over the course of the contest.

The Jaguars are the exact opposite of the Eagles after dropping their third straight game on Sunday. The game saw Blake Bortles make his first appearance and he’ll start next week for Jacksonville, so we’ll have Mike Dempsey of 1010XL in Jacksonville on the show to break down the start of the Bortles era in Jacksonville.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Eli Manning: This is how offense is supposed to work

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Before the season, the Giants talked about Eli Manning completing 70 percent of his passes during the 2014 season.

The claim was met by plenty of scoffing and the laughing didn’t die down in the first week of the season, but it seems less outlandish after Week Three. Manning hit on 75 percent of his throws against the Texans, up from connecting on 67 percent in Week Two despite several drops by his receivers and a sign that the Giants are starting to get the hang of things on offense.

Sunday saw them run the ball very well in support of the efficient Manning, whose biggest plays came on short completions that left his receivers a chance to make plays with the ball in their hands. The offensive line was strong in both phases, the tempo was where it needed to be and Manning was on the same page with his targets all day. If not for a fumble inside the 10 and an abysmal snap on a field goal, the 30-17 win would have been an even bigger rout.

“That is the way it’s supposed to work,” Manning said, via the New York Post.

The Giants offense found its footing at a good time. Three of their next four games are road dates against NFC East foes, including a trip to Washington on Thursday. Winning all of them will be tough, but taking two of three would set them up very well for the back end of the season and a run at a playoff spot.

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DeMarco Murray disappointed in himself for fumbling

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Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray has rushed for at least 100 yards and a touchdown in all three games this season. He has also lost a fumble in all three games this season.

Some running backs get benched when they keep fumbling, but Murray is at no risk of losing playing time. Murray is leading the league in carries (75) and rushing yards (385) and is tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns (three), rushing first downs (22) and runs of 20-plus yards (three). Cowboys coach Jason Garrett says he’ll keep feeding the rock to his workhorse, and trust Murray to stop fumbling..

“We’re going to continue to give him the ball and he’s got to get it right,” Garrett said. “He’s going to get it right.”

Murray acknowledged that he needs to do a better job of holding onto the ball.

It’s very disappointing,” Murray said. “I’m very disappointed in letting that one go. I’ve got to get it fixed and I will get it fixed.”

Murray needs to get the fumbling problem fixed, but Garrett may need to limit Murray’s carries less because of fumbling concerns than because of concerns that Murray won’t stay healthy for 16 games if he keeps taking this many hits. Murray has 22, 29 and 24 carries in his three games so far this season, which puts him on pace for 400 carries for the season — a total that only five running backs in NFL history have reached. A 400-carry season is an all but impossible workload, especially for a running back like Murray, how has had problems with durability in the past.

Murray is disappointed in himself for fumbling. Garrett will be more disappointed in himself if he runs Murray into the ground.

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Tom Brady only sees one guy playing well on offense

Tom Brady AP

Tom Brady wants to make it clear — his offense needs to get better, and soon.

After beating the Raiders 16-9 yesterday, the Patriots’ offense has 22 points in the last six quarters.

“I don’t think anybody has really found their stride this year,” Brady told WEEI, via the Boston Herald. “I don’t know who you can point to on offense and say, ‘Wow, they’re really clicking.’”

When it was suggested that wide receiver Julian Edelman (10 passes for 84 yards yesterday, top 10 in the league in both receptions and yards) might qualify, Brady reluctantly let him in the club.

Yeah, he’s done a good job, so that’s one,” Brady said. “We’ve got a lot of other guys on offense. There’s 22 other guys on offense, so I’m not going to sit here and say every single guy is clicking. We’ve had one individual player that’s caught some passes. Great. Does that make a good offense? I don’t think so. . . .

“We’ve all got to figure out how to do a better job of that. It’s not one person. It’s not not singling any person out to say, ‘Wow, if this person were out, or if this person were in.’ I mean, if we had 11 people on the field that were producing like Julian Edelman, we’d have a pretty good offense. We’ve got one guy.”

While it’s easy to zoom in on skill position players thanks to fantasy football, the Patriots’ problems being up front.

From veteran line coach Dante Scarnecchia’s retirement to the surprising trade of Logan Mankins, the Patriots have looked disorganized in their blocking.

And that’s left only one guy able to hold his head high.

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Report: Jarvis Jones likely needs wrist surgery

Jarvis Jones AP

Injuries to three defensive starters took some of the fun out of the Steelers victory on Sunday night and it looks like the Steelers will be feeling those absences as they try to build on the win over the Panthers.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that linebacker Jarvis Jones likely needs wrist surgery to repair his injury and that he’ll be out indefinitely as the team sorts out exactly what’s wrong. Jones has two sacks in three starts this season, which is already double what he managed as a rookie, and he’s forced one of the two fumbles the Steelers have caused this season, so his absence will be a significant one.

Arthur Moats is the next man up at outside linebacker, although the Steelers may need to look for other help for what’s suddenly a thin linebacker group. Schefter reports that Ryan Shazier has been diagnosed with a sprained MCL. He’ll have an MRI on Monday to sort out the extent of the damage and the length of his absence from the lineup.

With cornerback Ike Taylor also down with a broken forearm, the Steelers are going to have their hands full finding a defensive lineup that works in the coming weeks.

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Bucs think they’ll be healthier for the Steelers game

St Louis Rams v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Steelers are coming off a huge win, and the Buccaneers a terrible loss.

But when they meet next weekend, the advantage may go to the one with the most available bodies.

The Steelers suffered three key defensive injuries last night, but the Bucs are hoping they get some players back.

According to Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune, the Bucs are optimistic they’ll get defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (broken hand), running back Doug Martin (knee) and right defensive end Michael Johnson (ankle) back in time for the Steelers game.

Less likely is that quarterback Josh McCown will be back from his sprained thumb, but having their best two defensive linemen back should help.

“Gerald, [tight end] Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Michael Johnson — all those guys will eventually help us,’’ Smith said. “That’s why we’re optimistic things are going to change, because we don’t have those players out for the season. They’ll all be coming back, so reinforcements are on the way.”

Considering the Bucs lost an embarrassing 56-14 decision to the Falcons Thursday night, the cavalry better hurry.

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