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Teams could be lining up for crack at Romo in 2014

Tony Romo AP

Even after extensive neck and nerve problems, the rare availability in 2012 of a franchise quarterback sparked an intense chase for a guy who has racked up Hall of Fame stats but, in all fairness and objectivity, has underachieved in the postseason.

Speaking of franchise quarterbacks who have underachieved in the postseason, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo reportedly will be available in free agency come 2014.  While Romo has one less Super Bowl ring (and eight fewer postseason wins) than Peyton Manning, Romo also has had four fewer neck surgeries.  And Romo is four years younger.

So if, as Ian Rapoport of NFL Network has reported, Romo can’t be tagged in 2014, Romo needs to merely get through the 2013 season unscathed.  He then can sign with the highest bidder, or pick the best situation.

Based on current quarterback situations, interesting teams include the Bills, Jets, Bengals, Browns, Texans, Jaguars, Chiefs, Raiders, Eagles, Bears, Vikings, Buccaneers, Cardinals, and Rams.

We’ve still got a long way to go, and it’s possible that the Cowboys will interpret the contract differently.  Still, for the second time in three offseasons a franchise quarterback could be headed to the open market.

In a league without nearly enough franchise quarterbacks, that’s a huge development.

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Russell Wilson giving 49ers’ defense fits in first half

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

Early in the second quarter of Thursday night’s matchup vs. Seattle, the 49ers got an object lesson in the dangers of blitzing Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

On a 3rd-and-9 play, Wilson spun away from onrushing 49ers defensive back Dontae Johnson, cut back to his right, avoided tackle attempts from Johnson and linebacker Chris Borland and flipped the ball out to tight end Tony Moeaki, who was wide open down the right sideline. Moeaki would rumble 63 yards down to the San Francisco 1, coming oh-so-close to scoring.

The 49ers would hold the Seahawks to just a field goal, with Seattle extending its lead to 10-0.

However, any momentum the Niners might have gotten from their goal-line defense was short lived. The offense again sputtered, and Wilson would lead another drive ending in a field goal, giving Seattle a 13-0 lead it holds with about four minutes left in the first half. On that drive, Wilson would again make a big play vs. the blitz, hitting tailback Robert Turbin for 34 yards after the Niners again blitzed but couldn’t get home.

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Seahawks capitalize on Sherman pick, score first vs. 49ers

Seattle Seahawks v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

The visiting Seahawks struck first in Thursday night’s pivotal matchup with San Francisco.

And one of their stars got the ball rolling.

Cornerback Richard Sherman’s interception set up Seattle in opposition territory, and the Seahawks’ offense took it from there, marching 45 yards on seven plays and tallying the game’s first points on tailback Robert Turbin’s 13-yard TD reception to take a 7-0 lead.

On the pick, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick targeted wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, but Sherman read it well and stepped in front of the throw.

Kaepernick has indicated he wouldn’t avoid Sherman, the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl cornerback. And indeed, he tried Sherman early on Thursday.

Score one for Sherman. And put a seven next to Seattle on the scoreboard.

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Michael Crabtree suffers injured ribs, returns to game

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers got an injury scare in the opening minute of Thursday night’s game at Seattle, but it appears it was just a scare.

Wide receiver Michael Crabtree was shaken up on the game’s second play, clutching at his chest and grabbing at left knee after being tackled on a five-yard reception. Though the club termed his return as questionable with injured ribs, Crabtree was soon back on the field.

However, that’s not all for 49ers injury news. Defensive end Ray McDonald (finger) is questionable to re-enter the contest, the team said.

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Sanchez gets Thanksgiving redemption

Sanchez AP

The butt fumble has yielded to an ass kicking.

Two years ago, the career of quarterback Mark Sanchez hit a nadir when his noggin slammed into the backside of guard Brandon Moore.  The accidental blast into Moore’s hind quarters resulted in a turnover, and the term “butt fumble” was born.

Fast forward to November 2014, where Sanchez has authored a stirring victory over the Cowboys in their own building.  The 33-10 final score — the second-worst Dallas loss on Thanksgiving — suggests that a significant gap exists between the two teams vying for supremacy in the NFC East.  It also will make some wonder whether that 8-3 start by Dallas will inevitably disintegrate into another Auld Lang Syne of 8-8.

For the day, Sanchez threw for under 300 yards for the first time while playing for the Eagles.  He had a career-high 202 yards in the first half, but the Eagles didn’t need him to throw much in the second two quarters, with the defense stifling the Dallas offense and running back LeSean McCoy moving the chains.

With the Seahawks and Cowboys due to visit Philly in the next two weeks and Nick Foles‘ collarbone possibly taking longer than 6-8 weeks to heal, it could be that Sanchez will remain the starter for the rest of the regular season and beyond, with the former Jet whose prospects nose dived after back to back AFC title-game appearances getting a chance to take the Eagles to the NFC championship, and possibly beyond.

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Amid rampant rumors and reports, 49ers front office silent about Harbaugh

Harbaugh Getty Images

As the 49ers move closer to the end of the 2014 season, the sense that coach Jim Harbaugh will be leaving the franchise continues to linger.

Through it all, the organization hasn’t done much to push back against the perception that Harbaugh won’t be back for 2015.  When the reports reached critical mass in early October, with some suggesting that the players wanted Jim to hit the road, Jack, owner Jed York offered up this via Twitter:  “Jim is my coach.  We are trying to win a [Super Bowl], not a personality or popularity contest.  Any more questions?”

While the quest to win a Super Bowl this year continues, with a showdown against the Seahawks starting later tonight, there has been nothing more from the organization to rebut the notion that, as soon as the season ends, the process of separating will commence.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports has reported that Harbaugh will be gone regardless of whether the team wins the Super Bowl.  Weeks later, that specific report hasn’t been rebutted or refuted by the team.

That’s caused some in the league to notice that Harbaugh hasn’t received the support he deserves in what apparently will be his final year.  Eventually, the question will be Harbaugh’s next move — which is expected to entail staying in the Bay Area or, at a minimum, on the West Coast.  It makes the Raiders (Oakland or L.A.) the most likely NFL landing spot for Harbaugh.

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With Ron Parker moving to safety, Chiefs look at cornerbacks

Lankster Getty Images

The season-ending illness to safety Eric Berry has prompted the Chiefs to move cornerback Ron Parker back to the position he maintained while Berry missed time due to an ankle injury.  Which means that the Chiefs need to beef up the depth chart not at the safety position, but at the cornerback position.

Toward that end, the Chiefs have worked out a trio of cornerbacks.  Per a league source, they’ve taken a look at Ellis Lankster (pictured), Johnny Patrick, and DeMarcus Van Dyke.

Parker’s play during Berry’s absence earned a starting cornerback job for him.  Philip Gaines, a third-round rookie from Rice, could be in line to replace Parker at starting cornerback.

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Eagles push lead to 20

McCoy AP

Barring a comeback that would become fodder for legends on par with Clint Longley and Leon Lett, the Eagles will be beating the Cowboys in their first Thanksgiving Day get-together since the Bounty Bowl in 1989.

Midway through the third quarter, the Eagles lead the Cowboys, 30-10.

Philly running back LeSean McCoy has 129 yards rushing on 17 carries, including a 38-yard run that pushing the margin to 20 points.

Down 23-7, Dallas had a chance to make things interesting after a McCoy fumble deep in the Eagles’ end of the field.  But Philly’s defense stiffened, culminating in a self-sack by Tony Romo aimed at keeping his fragile back in one piece.

There’s plenty of time left, but Dallas will have to find a way to triple its output of points in the next 20 minutes of clock time.  If that doesn’t happen, the Eagles will move to 9-3, the Cowboys will fall to 8-4, and the rematch will happen on December 14 on NBC.

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Seahawks may wait to work out new deal with Wilson

Wilson AP

After the Seahawks won the Super Bowl to cap quarterback Russell Wilson’s second NFL season, it became a given that Seattle would sign Wilson to a big-money contract as soon as he became eligible for a new deal, after the completion of the 2014 regular season.

With the Seahawks struggling (in comparison to last year) and with Wilson showing signs of regression, the Seahawks may decide to wait.

Per a league source, the team’s willingness to give Wilson a new deal will depend in large part on how the current season turns out.  Miss the playoffs or get eliminated early, and the Seahawks will be inclined to wait.  Return to the Super Bowl, and a new deal becomes more likely.

Whatever happens, the Seahawks will be sure to do that which is regarded as fair within the locker room.  They didn’t hesitate to pay cornerback Richard Sherman or safety Earl Thomas, cognizant of the importance of rewarding those who have helped contribute to the team’s success.

Wilson definitely has contributed, but the challenge becomes pegging his value if both player and team achieve a lot less than they did last year.

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Eagles take 16-point lead at halftime

Sanchez AP

It looked like it was going to be a shootout, but the Cowboys haven’t done much shooting.

At halftime in Dallas, the Eagles lead the Cowboys, 23-7.

After the Cowboys cut the lead in half, the Eagles generated a trio of field goals, while keeping the Cowboys off the board.

Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez has 202 yards passing, a career first-half high.  He has thrown for more than 300 yards in three straight games.

The Cowboys get the ball to start the third quarter.  Philly’s failure to turn multiple opportunities inside the 10 into touchdowns could come back to haunt the Eagles, if/when Dallas can start scoring more points — and start holding the Eagles from doing the same.

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Cowboys cut lead in half

Romo AP

A Thanksgiving shootout could be shaping up in Dallas.

Down 14-0, the Cowboys on their second drive of the game punched in a touchdown that trimmed the Philly lead in half.

The seven-play, 67-yard drive ended with a short touchdown run from running back DeMarco Murray.  The touchdown was set up by a 38-yard pass from quarterback Tony Romo to receiver Dez Bryant, who hauled in the pass despite being interfered with.  (Again.)

The Eagles lead 14-7 early in the second quarter.

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Eagles take 14-0 lead over Cowboys

Sanchez AP

For the second time in five days, the Cowboys face a double-digit deficit against an NFC East rival.

On Sunday night, they came from 11 behind to beat the Giants.  On Thursday, the Cowboys trail the Eagles by 14.

Philly scored on each of its two drives, with a 2-yard run from quarterback Mark Sanchez and a 27-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to receiver Jordan Matthews.

In between, the Eagles eventually forced a Dallas punt on a drive that ended with Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant apparently being interfered with on third down.  A flag was not thrown.

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Sanchez leads Eagles to touchdown on opening drive

Sanchez AP

In his shot at redemption for an embarrassing Thanksgiving game with the Jets two years ago, Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez engineered a touchdown drive to open the game.

Sanchez completed four of five passes for 30 yards, capping the 80-yard effort with a two-yard run on a read-option play.

Wisely, Sanchez ran where the butts weren’t.

The touchdown was upheld on replay review, and the Eagles lead, 7-0.

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Griffin addresses media, says he’s here to help the team win

Griffin Getty Images

Last week, Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III was focused on San Francisco.  Now, he’s focused on something other than playing.

On Thursday, Griffin met with reporters for the first time since he was supplanted by Colt McCoy.

It was Coach’s decision,” Griffin said, via Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com.  “I’m here to help this team win.”

Asked to explain his level of disappointment over the decision, Griffin repeated himself.  The same way he did last week.

“Like I said, it was Coach’s decision,” Griffin said.  “I’m here to help this team win.”

Will he use the situation as motivation?

“Be ready to play,” Griffin said.  “I’m here to help the team win anyway I can.”

He won’t be helping the team by playing, at least not for now.  We’ll have more on what the events of the past few days actually mean for Griffin later tonight.  Unless the Tryptophan wins.

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Julius Thomas practices, Fox dubs tight end “day to day”

Thomas Getty Images

Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, who hasn’t done much since injuring an ankle 11 days ago, participated in Thursday’s practice on a limited basis.

Via Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com, it’s the most Thomas has done in the aftermath of the injury.

Coach John Fox declined to say much about whether Thomas will face the Chiefs on Sunday night.

“We’re just day to day,” Fox said, via quotes distributed by the team.  “I don’t like trying to predict the future.”

A label will be applied to the expected availability of Thomas on Friday.

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Lions snap two-game skid, beat Bears to improve to 8-4

calvinjohnson AP

After back-to-back losses raised questions about the Lions’ ability to contend for a playoff berth, Detroit got the win it needed today.

The Lions started slowly and fell behind 14-3, but a three-touchdown second quarter turned things around in a hurry, and the Lions controlled the second half as well to win 34-17.

Lions receiver Calvin Johnson had a big day, catching 11 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Now that Johnson is finally back to 100 percent healthy, the Lions’ offense may finally be back on track. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who had been struggling for much of the season, had an excellent game. Stafford completed 34 of 45 passes for 390 yards, with those two touchdowns to Johnson and no interceptions.

The Lions’ defense shook off its slow start, in which Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery scored two first-quarter touchdowns, and mostly shut down the Bears the rest of the way. Detroit’s run defense was particularly impressive, and safety Glover Quinn made a great diving interception after Darius Slay tipped a Jay Cutler pass that ended the Bears’ last chance to make a game of it.

For the Bears, the loss drops their record to 5-7 and makes clear that they’re not going anywhere. After showing some promise in Marc Trestman’s first season last year, the Bears have taken a step backward. Now about all the Bears can do is hope to play spoiler over the next three weeks, when they have games against playoff contenders Dallas, New Orleans and Detroit again.

The 8-4 Lions, however, are very much alive in the playoff race. If the Packers lose to the Patriots on Sunday, the Lions would become the leaders in the NFC North. And even if the Packers win, the Lions are in good position for a wild-card run. This was a game the Lions needed to win, and they delivered with one of their best performances of the season.

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