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PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 26: Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles Introduce Chip Kelly Getty Images

Should we be skeptical or optimistic about the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles?

Both feelings seem appropriate. Not buying into the Eagles? We can’t blame you. No team has disappointed more in the last two seasons. The much-hyped 2011 squad finished .500, while last year’s club managed a mere four wins in a playoffs-or-bust year for coach Andy Reid.

With Reid gone, Chip Kelly inherits a roster that’s lately looked better on paper than on the field. But let’s look on the bright side. Can you imagine Kelly’s fast-paced offense with the Eagles’ skill-position players?

And let’s consider the Eagles’ division. The NFC East doesn’t  have one team that stands above the rest. Every one of the clubs seems capable of playing that role in a given week, but in recent years, this division has been contested all the way until the end.

Of course, if the Eagles are to be competitive down the stretch, they must improve on their surprisingly poor recent form.


The Eagles’ depth chart has some top-end skill players at running back (LeSean McCoy) and wide receiver (DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin). Their offensive line could be very good if left tackle Jason Peters stays healthy and rookie right tackle Lane Johnson proves a quick study. The Eagles will be strong inside, with guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans an above-average tandem. This could be a dynamite running team; McCoy and Bryce Brown are a nice 1-2 punch, and Kelly oversaw impressive rushing attacks at Oregon.

Even in areas where the Eagles don’t have clarity, they at least have some viable options. Case-in-point: Michael Vick or Nick Foles each have the potential to be serviceable at quarterback — and perhaps more than that. Also, the Eagles should be able to get a solid pass rush from outside linebackers Connor Barwin, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham, even with Cole and Graham transitioning from defensive end.


The Eagles have committed a combined 75 turnovers in the last two seasons. One positive: Eagles quarterbacks threw 10 fewer interceptions in 2012. Prudent passing and better ball security could give the Eagles — who outgained opponents last season despite finishing 4-12 — a bit of a lift.

The Eagles also need to get better in the red zone; they scored touchdowns on just 44 percent of their trips inside the opposition 20 a season ago, fifth-worst in the NFL.

From a personnel standpoint, quarterback is the greatest concern for Philadelphia, which enters training camp without a clear-cut starter. That’s never a particularly comforting feeling. Also, the Eagles’ pass defense could be vulnerable even after investing in the secondary in free agency.


The Eagles’ changes aren’t just confined to offense. Their defense is different, too, with a new coordinator (Bill Davis) and a new base scheme (the 3-4). The scheme change necessitated a couple front seven additions in free agency, as the Eagles signed the ex-Texan Barwin and former 49ers nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga. However, the Eagles are trying to run the 3-4 primarily with the personnel brought in for various versions of the 4-3 the club employed under Reid and his defensive coordinators.

The Eagles are starting over in the secondary. Cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are gone after disappointing two-season stints, replaced by Cary Williams (ex-Baltimore) and Bradley Fletcher (ex-St. Louis). At safety, the Eagles signed Patrick Chung from the Patriots and Kenny Phillips from the Giants to push incumbents Nate Allen and Colt Anderson. Considering how lackluster the Eagles were against the pass in 2012, wiping the slate clean would be perfectly understandable, but with so many new faces comes the prospect of everyone needing time to get on the same page on the back end of the defense.

On offense, there’s great anticipation about what Kelly has planned. At the very least, the Eagles are likely to play at a quicker-than-average pace. They would also figure to employ some read-option concepts, too. That said, the Eagles’ new offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur, is grounded in the West Coast scheme. Philadelphia would seem to have the schematic and personnel flexibility needed to show numerous looks on offense.

Camp battles.

Vick and Foles are the primary contenders for the starting quarterback job, with rookie Matt Barkley seeming likely to hold down one of the reserve roles. Vick, 33, has just one year left on his contract, and he took a big paycut earlier in the offseason. Miscues (15 turnovers in 10 starts in 2012) are the major concern with Vick.

Foles, who’s nine years younger than Vick, got some valuable experience late last season. While Foles did show some potential in a six-game starting stint, he too had some issues with turnovers, and he faltered against a very good Cincinnati defense late in the campaign.

Other positions where there could be competition are safety, cornerback, outside linebacker and defensive end. The Eagles need stability to develop at the secondary positions.


Every team could use 1) a good start to the season and 2) some injury luck. Well, the Eagles really could use these things. Half of the Eagles’ road games are in the first six weeks of the season, including three straight games away from Philadelphia, with trips to the Broncos (Sept. 29), Giants (Oct. 6) and Buccaneers (Oct. 13) in Weeks Four through Six.

The Eagles open the season at defending NFC East champion Washington on Sept.9 — the first of three games in 11 days for Philadelphia. Home tilts vs. San Diego (Sept. 15) and Reid-led Kansas City (Sept. 19) are games the Eagles have to believe they can win — and they may very well need to win them with that challenging road stretch thereafter.

The Eagles do not get their bye until Week 12 — hence the need for that run of good collective health — but they do have the benefit of having their week of rest sandwiched between three home games: Washington (Nov. 7), Detroit (Dec. 1), Arizona (Dec. 8).

By then, we’ll have a good idea of how Kelly’s offense looks. If Kelly’s personnel takes to his scheme and opposing defenses are caught a little off-guard, the Eagles could be a sleeper in the NFC East. However, if the Eagles sputter early, they could be left with too much work to do down the stretch.

The other major storyline to watch, of course, is whether a quarterback emerges as a solid starter. If not, the focus turns to how the Eagles address the position in 2014.

For now, though, there’s the matter of whether Kelly can get more out of a team that’s left us wanting more the last two seasons.

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Pete Carroll: Russell Wilson is “best he’s been” from the pocket

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 29:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks passes against the Pittsburgh Steelers at CenturyLink Field on November 29, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Some of Russell Wilson’s most memorable plays have come while extending plays, breaking out of the pocket and making big throws downfield on broken plays.

But Wilson seems to be showing that he can make big throws from inside the pocket as well.

Wilson tossed a career-high five touchdowns on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers with all five scoring throws coming from inside the pocket.

“I think he’s the best he’s been in the pocket,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. “You can see him most solid with his reads and his decision-making and all of that. I think that was an illustration of it yesterday, that he has come a long way and he’s really comfortable. He can rip the football and use all of his guys and use the whole field when we can give him a chance to. It’s a real positive sign.”

One reason is he’s actually had a pocket to throw from in recent weeks. After allowing 31 sacks through seven games, Seattle made a change by inserting Patrick Lewis at center over Drew Nowak. Seattle has since allowed just six sacks in four games and has given Wilson more time to run the offense. Nowak was released on Tuesday.

“I think the pocket being so consistently solid for him makes a huge difference,” Carroll said. “The rhythm, since the (bye week), we’ve really tried to feature a fast rhythm and making sure he’s really got a chance to get the ball out fast to keep the pressure off of the guys up front. All of that has happened with more earnest because of how the start was. I think it’s a combination, but I really think the guys up front are really improving and that’s what’s made the difference for us.”

Wilson made a pair of touchdown throws to Jermaine Kearse and another to Doug Baldwin in the red zone. He then hit Baldwin for a 30-yard score and the 80-yard clinching touchdown late in the fourth quarter on time from the pocket.

It was the first time in Wilson’s tenure in Seattle that the Seahawks had won a game when an opponent had scored at least 25 points. With the defense not being quite as formidable as in past seasons, the Seahawks may need more performances like Sunday’s outing against Pittsburgh down the stretch.

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Falcons owe Matt Ryan more than $50 million over the next three years

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The Falcons won’t be benching quarterback Matt Ryan, in large part because they don’t have anyone else who would be remotely successful for the balance of 2015.

Come 2016, things could get interesting.

Under his second contract, signed in 2013, Ryan is still due to receive more than $50 million over the next three seasons. Specifically, he gets a base salary of $15.75 million in 2016, $15.75 million in 2017, and $19.25 million in 2018.

Ryan already has received a $28 million signing bonus, a $12 million option bonus, and base salaries of $23 million over the last three years. That’s $63 million so far.

In making decisions about Ryan, the Falcons need to forget about the money that has been paid and consider the money to be paid. Is Ryan worth another $50.75 million over the next three years? Would someone else pay Ryan more than whatever the Falcons are willing to pay on a reduced deal?

The other question is whether someone else would be willing to pick up Ryan’s contract, which would allow the Falcons to potentially trade him.

Ultimately, the Falcons have to ask themselves whether they can do better than Ryan. And if Kyle Shanahan will be sticking around as offensive coordinator, it’s not unreasonable to wonder whether he shares his father’s feelings about Kirk Cousins.

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Kurt Coleman says it’s “easy” to focus on one game at a time

Kurt Coleman AP

The Panthers have adopted a five-letter “F” word for their current 11-0 predicament. They focus on one game at a time, one opponent at a time.

So how hard is that to do as the Panthers move closer and closer to the second 16-0 regular season in NFL history?

“Personally it’s easy for me,” Carolina safety Kurt Coleman told PFT Live on Monday. “I think in life we want to think about tomorrow and forget about today, but if you don’t enjoy every single moment you really just don’t get to enjoy the whole ride. I think this whole year, we’ve been able to just enjoy the journey that we’ve been on [and] not really thinking about the destination.

“Obviously everybody that starts off in the NFL wants to be Super Bowl champs, would love to go undefeated, et cetera. But I think if you don’t enjoy the journey that you’re on with the people that you’re on the journey with you’ll never be able to fully embrace the whole moment. And I think we’ve all embraced every single moment that we’ve had as a team collectively, and we’ve been focused each and every week. And say ‘put in everything we have today’ and then when the whole season’s done, we can look back and say, ‘that was a great season.'” But right now I really do believe this team is very focused on just beating New Orleans coming this Sunday.”

They’ll have some help on defense as they prepare for the New Orleans offense, thanks to the arrival of recently unretired cornerback Cortland Finnegan.

“I’m excited,” Coleman said about Finnegan joining the team. “I think every piece that the coaches and the G.M. have made thus far have really improved our team. I think Cortland brings a lot of veteran experience, he also brings the attitude that we’re looking for because we know if you’re going to be a corner on our team you’ve got to be able to tackle, you have to have the mindset that if a guy is running my way, I’ve got to be able to tackle him. And obviously Cortland’s resume speaks for itself. He’s going to have to get caught up with the playbook, the system and how we kind of mesh together but I’m excited. I got a text message from one of his old teammates, James Laurinaitis, and he was just telling me how Cortland was one of his favorite teammates. So I just think he’s going to be a great addition to what we’re trying to build here in Carolina.”

They’ve built a team that hasn’t lost a regular-season game in a year. They’re building a team that’s going to be very hard to beat in January, and perhaps on the first Sunday in February.

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Cowboys won’t put Romo on IR, yet

Tony Romo AP

Jerry Jones has said that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo won’t play again this year due to a re-broken collarbone. But the team’s actions have yet to match the words of the franchise’s owner and General Manager.

Specifically, the Cowboys have not yet placed Romo on injured reserve, which would prevent him from playing again this year. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Cowboys currently plan to carry Romo on the active roster.

So why would the Cowboys keep Romo around if he’s not able to play for several weeks?

“Why else?” the source said. “The division stinks.”

Indeed it does. With the Giants and Washington at 5-6 and the Eagles at 4-7, the 3-8 Cowboys remain within striking distance of a playoff berth. If they can get to the postseason without Romo, they can get Romo back for the postseason, potentially.

The only downside will be having one less player available for practice and games. Still, seven players from the 53-man roster don’t dress each week. Romo will simply be one of the seven, for now. Also, with the practice squads expanded from eight to 10 players, the Cowboys have enough guys available to get the reps in throughout the week, even if Romo is contributing nothing.

It could all change, quickly. If the Cowboys lose to Washington on Monday night, Dallas may view the situation very differently by Tuesday. But if the Cowboys win — and if the Giants and/or Eagles lose — Dallas could still end up being the best of four bad teams assigned to the NFC East, and they could still have Romo when the time comes to play the best teams from the rest of the conference.

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Patriots officially add veteran WR, another to practice squad

Damaris Johnson AP

The Patriots addressed their shortage of healthy pass catchers Tuesday with a host of roster moves.

The team signed veteran wide receiver Damaris Johnson to the active roster and wide receiver Austin Hill to the practice squad. The Patriots also claimed running back Trey Williams off waivers from the Cowboys and placed rookie defensive lineman Trey Flowers on injured-reserve.

Earlier Tuesday, the Patriots and tight end Rob Gronkowski released a statement regarding Gronkowski’s knee injury. It said he suffered no structural damage and will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis.

Wide receiver Chris Harper was cut Monday, a day after he misplayed a punt in a loss to the Broncos. The Patriots played that game without wide receiver Danny Amendola and will be without Julian Edelman for an indefinite period of time.

The addition of Johnson should fill the punt return role. Johnson previously played for the Eagles and Texans.

Williams is an undrafted rookie who was with the Redskins prior to spending a month with the Cowboys. The 6’3 Hill is an undrafted rookie who’s bounced around rosters and gives the Patriots a healthy receiver on the practice squad to play on the scout team.

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Panthers, Patriots, Bengals can clinch playoff spots this week

Jamie Collins, Andy Dalton AP

No NFL team has clinched a playoff berth yet, but three teams can punch their playoff tickets on Sunday.

The Panthers have the clearest path to the playoffs: If they beat the Saints on Sunday, they win the NFC South. The Panthers can also win the NFC South even if they lose, as long as the Falcons lose to the Buccaneers. And the Panthers can clinch a playoff spot even if they lose and the Falcons win, as long as the Seahawks lose or both the Cardinals and Packers lose.

The Patriots also have a fairly clear path to the playoffs: If the Patriots win and the Jets lose, the Patriots win the AFC East. The Patriots can also clinch a playoff berth even if the Jets win, as long as the Patriots win and either the Chiefs or Steelers lose.

The Bengals need more help: Cincinnati can’t clinch the AFC North this week, but the Bengals can clinch a playoff berth with a win, a Texans loss, a Colts loss and either a Jets loss or both a Broncos win and a Chiefs loss.

Bottom line: The Panthers will probably get their playoff ticket punched this weekend, the Patriots need a little help and the Bengals need a lot of help.

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Seahawks sign Chase Coffman, drop Drew Nowak

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 23:  Chase Coffman #86 of the Tennessee Titans leaps over Kemal Ishmael #36 of the Atlanta Falcons in the second half of a preseason game at the Georgia Dome on August 23, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jimmy Graham is done for the season after tearing the patellar tendon in his knee, leaving the Seahawks in need of some more depth at tight end for the final five weeks of the regular season and what they hope will be more football in the postseason.

They acquired that depth on Tuesday by signing Chase Coffman as a free agent. Coffman entered the NFL as a third-round pick of the Bengals in 2009 and has also spent time with the Buccaneers, Falcons and Titans over the course of his career. He had four catches for 42 yards in one appearance for the Titans this season, but has been out of the league since being released at the end of October.

Luke Willson tops the depth chart at tight end with Graham out of the lineup and the Seahawks also have Cooper Helfet on the roster.

To make room for Coffman, the Seahawks released center Drew Nowak. Nowak opened the season as the team’s starter at center and made seven starts up front before giving way to Patrick Lewis. Nowak’s standing dropped to the point that he was inactive the last three weeks and the Seahawks will continue to use Lemuel Jeanpierre as Lewis’s backup.

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Chip Kelly to Eagles players: I’m here as long as they’ll have me

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 08:  Head coach Chip Kelly of the Philadelphia Eagles talks with players during warm-ups prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys on November 8, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

While addressing rumors linking him to a departure from the Eagles, Chip Kelly said Monday that he was “totally committed” to remaining the coach in Philadelphia.

Kelly also said that he didn’t feel a need to directly address the chatter with the team’s players because “a lot of times we just chuckle and laugh” about them. Kelly reversed course on that Tuesday, however.

Running back Kenjon Barner said that Kelly told the team “as long as they have me here, I’m here” during a morning meeting. Barner added that he thought it was a good thing for Kelly to put any worries in the locker room at ease.

“I think giving the younger players some confidence and some reassurance is good,” Barner said, via “I’m sure there were some young players [that were wondering about Kelly leaving]. It’s only human nature. You hear certain things, of course, you’re going to question certain things. Chip did kind of put that all to rest today during the meeting just by reassuring everybody.”

As plenty of other people have mentioned in the last few days, coaches have been known to say one thing and then do something different when it comes to speculation linking them to other jobs. For now, though, Kelly remains adamant that the only place he sees himself in 2016 is the City of Brotherly Love.

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Pats, Gronk say he has bone bruise, is “week-to-week”

Rob Gronkowski AP

The Patriots and tight end Rob Gronkowski issued a joint statement Tuesday afternoon regarding the knee injury Gronkowski suffered during the Patriots’ first loss of the season last Sunday in Denver.

The statement said Gronkowski has a bone bruise/sprain in his right knee and will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis. No timetable for his return was offered, and the statement said any timetable reported “prior to that final determination would be speculative.”

So, Bill Belichick really doesn’t want a bunch of questions about Gronkowski’s knee.

With Julian Edelman out indefinitely and Danny Amendola having missed last week’s game, Tom Brady and the Patriots clearly need Gronkowski in the lineup. The 10-1 Patriots host the reeling Eagles this week before playing at the Texans Dec. 13.

Gronkowski has 57 catches for 931 yards and 9 touchdowns this season.

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Cardinals give Chris Johnson IR/return designation

Chris Johnson, NaVorro Bowman AP

The Cardinals placed running back Chris Johnson on injured-reserve/designated for return Tuesday, two days after Johnson suffered a fractured tibia.

The IR/return designation means Johnson must miss a minimum of eight weeks. He’d be eligible to return only if the Cardinals make the Super Bowl.

Johnson would be eligible to return to practice in six weeks, so if he’s progressing and the Cardinals are still playing the team could try to have him ready for the Super Bowl.

His loss is a significant one. Johnson is fourth in the NFL with 814 rushing yards this season and has been a big part of the 9-2 Cardinals’ offense.

The injury is also a potentially expensive one for Johnson, 30, who signed with the Cardinals during training camp. He had a $2 million incentive that would have been reached had he run for 1,300 yards and made the Pro Bowl.

With Andre Ellington dealing with a toe injury, rookie David Johnson is likely the No. 1 back, at least for now. Stepfan Taylor was already on the active roster, and Kerwynn Williams was promoted from the practice squad after Johnson was moved off the active roster Tuesday.

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Broncos bring back Josh Bush

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 17:   Josh Bush #20 of the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium on September 17, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos saw safety T.J. Ward go down with an ankle sprain in their victory over the Patriots and he’s expected to miss some time, which likely led to a roster move they announced on Tuesday afternoon.

Denver signed safety Josh Bush to the 53-man roster and released tight end Richard Gordon. If Bush does play in place of Ward this week, it wouldn’t be the first time.

Bush opened the season with the Broncos and played 17 defensive snaps in the season opener when Ward was serving a one-game suspension. He spent two more weeks with the team before getting released and spent a week on the Bills’ roster a bit later in the year. Bush also played two games for the Broncos in 2014 and played in 35 games for the Jets from 2012-2014.

Gordon saw action in one game for the Broncos this year and has been inactive the last four weeks as Owen Daniels, Vernon Davis and Virgil Green have gotten the playing time at tight end.

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Dolphins cut C.J. Mosley, sign Patriots practice squader

C.J.Mosley, Earl Mitchell, A.J. Francis AP

The Dolphins were running out of healthy defensive tackles, so they cut one of the injured ones.

Via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins waived defensive tackle C.J. Mosley, who was dealing with a calf injury. To fill his roster spot, they signed defensive tackle Robert Thomas off the Patriots’ practice squad.

Mosley signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins in June, reuniting with his former Lions teammate Ndamukong Suh.

Prior to bringing in Thomas, Suh was their only healthy defensive tackle, since Jordan Phillips (shoulder) and Earl Mitchell (calf) are ailing.

The Dolphins also brought back center Jacques McClendon, giving them some depth there after Mike Pouncey’s foot injury. They released linebacker James Michael Johnson for that roster spot.

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Report: Morelli’s crew reassigned to Eagles-Patriots game

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 04:  Referee Pete Morelli shields his eyes from the sun during the first half of the NFC Wild Card Playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium on January 4, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots fans are getting upset. Or, as the case may be, more upset.

In confirming the PFT report that referee Pete Morelli’s crew has been removed from Sunday night’s game between the Colts and Steelers, the Associated Press also reports that Morelli and crew have been reassigned to the game between the Eagles and Patriots.

The move comes at a time when plenty of Patriots fans have become convinced that the NFL and/or the referees are out to get the Patriots, presumably for #DeflateGate. Fueling the theory is, among other things, a regional Sports Illustrated cover featuring Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler throwing a pass in the foreground — and Patriots defensive lineman Dominique Easley being blatantly held in the background.

Then there’s Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski agreeing with the assessment that he’s being targeted for offensive pass interference penalties.

The burgeoning belief overlooks the fact that the Patriots won 10 games to start the season. But maybe that’s the genius of it.

Regardless, if the reaction will be that dramatic after the team’s first loss in 11 games, it’ll be a lot worse if they lose in the postseason.

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Cam Newton: We won’t be “lured in” by talk of undefeated season

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 26:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after a play against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 26, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Panthers are the last team with a chance to go undefeated this season, but a 16-0 record was a topic that coach Ron Rivera didn’t feel much like discussing after they improved to 11-0 on Thanksgiving.

Rivera said last week that thinking about going 16-0 means “you are not focusing on the details” that have contributed to Carolina’s strong start to the season. That message seems to be resonating with his quarterback.

Cam Newton said Tuesday, via Steve Reed of the Associated Press, that the team won’t be “lured in” by talk of an undefeated season, calling it “ink for the media” that isn’t of concern to Panthers players.

We don’t use any ink in these parts, but we’re willing to take a look at Carolina’s chances of running the table all the same. They play at New Orleans, face Atlanta twice, take a trip to Jersey to face the Giants and close with a home game against Tampa in Week 17. It’s neither an underwhelming schedule nor one larded with creampuffs, leaving the Panthers with a decent chance at getting through unscathed if they keep playing at the level they’ve been at through the first three months of the year.

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Patriots signing Damaris Johnson to fill return job

New York Jets v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Patriots showed no patience with the last returner to make a mistake, so the new guy better know where the bar is set.

According to Mike Reiss of, the Patriots are signing receiver/return man Damaris Johnson.

He’ll replace Chris Harper, whose muffed punt Sunday night turned the tide against the Broncos and cost him his job Monday.

Johnson, who entered the league as an undrafted rookie from Tulsa, spent two seasons with the Eagles and last year with the Texans. He hasn’t been able to find work this year, but has averaged 25.1 yards per kickoff return and 9.5 yards per punt return.

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