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PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 4: Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson passes against the Washington Redskins during their NFL NFC wildcard playoff game Reuters

The Seattle Seahawks were the most dominant team in the NFL over the final month of last season. They scored 50 points in consecutive weeks against Arizona and Buffalo and threw in a 42-13 beating of the division rival San Francisco 49ers for good measure. They fell 31 seconds shy of a trip to the NFC Championship game and look to take another step forward toward a second Super Bowl this fall.

Their secondary is as good as any team in football and Russell Wilson has given the Seahawks a quarterback they believe can take them to a championship. The Seahawks added some key veterans on defense to patch some minor holes and brought in Percy Harvin in a trade from Minnesota to add another dimension to an offense that hit its stride late last season.

Expectations are high in Seattle. It’s a position the franchise hasn’t been in very often. Can they deliver?

Strengths.

Seattle’s secondary was arguably the best in the NFL last year. Cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas were both named first-team All-Pro. Cornerback Brandon Browner and strong safety Kam Chancellor were both Pro Bowl selections as well in 2011 and continued to play at a high level last season. With the addition of Antoine Winfield to play the nickel role and Walter Thurmond finally healthy after two injury-plagued seasons, they could be even better this year.

Last year, the Seahawks entered training camp with three quarterbacks vying to be the team’s starter. Russell Wilson was the long-shot, third-round rookie that was “competing” for the job but realistically didn’t appear to have a shot to start over free agent addition Matt Flynn. But Wilson proved he was the best option in training camp and won the job. He never looked back. After some early growing pains, Wilson became incredibly efficient as the Seahawks starter. He completed 67-percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions over the final eight games of the regular season. He also had four rushing scores over that span. Coincidentally (or maybe not) there is no quarterback competition this year in Seattle.

The Seahawks’ receiving corps gelled together well by the end of last season with Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin all contributing to Seattle’s offensive explosion over the last half of the year. Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin provided a strong one-two punch for the Seahawks backfield as well. With the acquisition of Harvin from Minnesota and the selection of running back Christine Michael in the second round of the draft, both positions should be even more dangerous this season.

Weaknesses.

Behind starter Zach Miller – who will be the highest paid tight end in the league this season – the Seahawks have mostly unproven talent at the tight end position. Anthony McCoy tore his Achilles during OTAs and will miss the upcoming season. Seattle will need either fifth-round draft pick Luke Willson or 2012 undrafted free agent Sean McGrath to become a trustworthy second option.

It seems odd to say a team that rushed for nearly 2,600 yards as a team last season (third in the NFL) has concerns along the offensive line but it is an area of concern for the Seahawks. Both guard positions are unsettled. Right tackle Breno Giacomini was among the most penalized players in the league last season and depth at tackle behind Giacomini and left tackle Russell Okung is somewhat suspect.

Changes.

The Seahawks made some sizable additions to their roster over the offseason. The trade for Percy Harvin brings a versatile weapon to add to an offense that really hit stride the second half of last season. Defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett were added to try and bolster a pass rush that was inconsistent last season. Cornerback Antoine Winfield signed after nine years in Minnesota to assume the nickel cornerback role after Marcus Trufant was picked on last season.

Seattle has seen significant turnover at the defensive tackle position. Alan Branch signed with the Buffalo Bills after spending the last two years with the Seahawks and Jason Jones signed with the Detroit Lions. Seattle brought in Tony McDaniel from Miami and drafted Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams to add to their interior line depth. Linebacker Leroy Hill was also not extended an offer after being arrested again in January. Trufant also has moved on signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Camp battles.

Backup quarterback. No, seriously. The Seahawks signed Brady Quinn and re-signed Tarvaris Jackson after he was released by the Buffalo Bills. The Seahawks will likely only carry one additional quarterback on the roster so Quinn and Jackson will have to battle for the job. Signs seem to point toward Jackson winning the job. Jackson was signed after Seattle saw Quinn in offseason workouts. Combined with his season as a starter in Seattle in 2011 and his familiarity with the team, he’s likely the favorite to win the job.

Outside linebacker will be a focus for the Seahawks as well. Seattle is converting Bruce Irvin to outside linebacker in a move that could indicate the Seahawks will have more of a 3-4 feel than previously seen. Irvin and Mike Morgan have worked as the rush linebackers in offseason workouts but Irvin was serve a four-game suspension to start the season. Meanwhile, Malcolm Smith has taken the majority of the first team work in Seattle’s more traditional base defensive looks and would appear the be the starter at that spot. How the Seahawks mix and match the groupings of players under new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will be something to keep an eye on.

Seattle also has several options at guard. James Carpenter is expected to be ready to go after knee surgery and will battle with Paul McQuistan at left guard. On the right side, John Moffitt and J.R. Sweezy will continue their battle for the starting job. If Carpenter settles back in on the left side, McQuistan could also move to the right side adding to the logjam there.

Prospects.

The Seattle Seahawks enter the 2013 season with perhaps more expectations placed upon them than any season in their 37-year franchise history. They were the most dominant team in the league over the final month of last season and won their first road playoff game since 1983. A tough division slate stands in their way and road trips to Houston, Indianapolis and Atlanta will be difficult tests as well as the Seahawks attempt to dethrone the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West. The Seahawks hope the additions of Harvin, Avril, Bennett and Winfield allow them to knock off the 49ers and take the next step toward getting back to the Super Bowl for the second time in team history.

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Justin Tuck: Giants need someone who will “light a fire under people”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  Justin Tuck #91 of the New York Giants reacts after he recorded a sack against the New England Patriots during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Giants won 21-17.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Giants make a push for their first postseason appearance since winning Super Bowl XLVI, a key member of a pair of championship teams in New York believes the Giants are lacking one key ingredient to winning their third NFL title in a decade.

“Just from being in that locker room before, I think one thing they’re truly missing is that guy or those guys that can light a fire under people,” Tuck told Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News. “They’re talented. I know the players on that roster. It’s a super-talented group of guys. I don’t know, maybe they need a wake-up call? I don’t know if that’s the right word. It’s something off where I don’t feel like this team is headed in the right direction for this season.

“Normally when Giants teams are in contention, they tend to get better and more together as the season goes on,” Tuck explained. “Maybe a couple losses wouldn’t be a bad thing for them. I’m speculating. I don’t know this. I’m going from the perspective of being an outsider, but everybody gets all caught up with going into the playoffs with a hot record or high seed. I never wanted to be the top seed. I wanted to be the guy that was overlooked and playing hot at the time.”

Both times the Giants won the Super Bowl with Tuck on the team they were overlooked, running the table as the No. 5 seed in 2007 and the No. 4 seed four years later. In 2008, as the No. 1 team in the NFC, they had a one-and-done playoff experience, losing at home to the Eagles, 23-11.

It’s hard not to regard Tuck’s words as a shot at quarterback Eli Manning, a guy who never has been wired to be demonstrative or demanding like his older brother, Peyton.

“I hate to use the word ‘leader,’ because there are guys that lead in certain aspects on that football team, but every team [I was on] could point to a guy or couple guys . . .  and I don’t know if I see that right now,” Tuck said.

Tuck seems to hope that he’ll provide the spark, from outside the building.

“If I have to be the bad guy, so be it,” he said.

Currently, the Giants are on track to once again be forced to try to get to the Super Bowl the hard way. Even if they finish the sweep of the Cowboys on Sunday night, they’ll need to make up two games with three to play. Which means that they’ll be hitting the road in the wild-card round, heading to a place like, say, Tampa.

Of course, Tampa is where the 2007 Super Bowl run began, followed by trips to Dallas and then to Green Bay. It could play out that same way for the Giants in 2016 — possibly culminating in a third Super Bowl rendezvous with the Patriots.

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Dolphins Laremy Tunsil “hurting bad” with shoulder injury

FILE -  In this Friday, Aug. 19, 2016 file photo, Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil takes instructions on the sideline in the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. With three starters hurt, the Miami Dolphins will likely have a patchwork offensive line when they try for their sixth consecutive win Sunday against the 49ers. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, File) AP

Miami Dolphins rookie guard Laremy Tunsil is trying to stay on the field despite significant pain from a shoulder injury.

I mean, I’m hurting,” Tunsil said Thursday,via Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post. “I’m hurting bad, but you know I’m going to fight through it. I’m going to give it all I’ve got.

The injury forced Tunsil to miss the Dolphins game against the San Francisco 49ers two weeks ago. He returned to play on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens and managed to play all 62 offensive snaps despite the injury.

“At the end of the day, I’m here to help the team any way I can,” Tunsil said. “We’re trying to win games. We’re trying to get to the playoff spot, so whatever I can do, I’m going to help.”

Tunsil has started 10 games for Miami this season.

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Derrick Johnson suffers ruptured Achilles tendon

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 08:  Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson #56 of the Kansas City Chiefs is helped off the field after an injury during the game against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium on December 8, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Chiefs Coach Andy Reid told reporters after Thursday night’s 21-13 win over the Raiders that Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon and is done for the season.

It’s a sad deal,” Reid said.

Johnson, 34, has played his entire career with the Chiefs and will be missed on and off the field. A first-round pick in 2005, Johnson was named to the Pro Bowl last season for the fourth time and had started every game this season and last season.

Johnson suffered the injury in the second quarter of Thursday night’s game. He seemed to know immediately that something was wrong, tossing his helmet as he awaited attention from the team’s medical staff.

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Thursday Night Football recap: Chiefs get big plays from Hill, hang on late

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 8: Wide receiver Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs breaks beyond the Oakland Raiders last line of defense en route to a punt return touchdown at Arrowhead Stadium during the second quarter of the game on December 8, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images) Getty Images

Two touchdowns by dynamic rookie Tyreek Hill and a dominant defensive effort helped the Chiefs score a 21-13 win over the Raiders Thursday night.

Both teams are now 10-3, and since the Chiefs have swept the season series they have the inside track towards winning the AFC West and also a first-round playoff bye.

The Chiefs never allowed Raiders quarterback Derek Carr to get comfortable in cold conditions, and the Raiders mounted just two significant drives all night. They scored on the first one, late in the first half, but turned the ball over on downs with two minutes left in the game and didn’t get it back.

The Raiders got just three points out of two Chiefs turnovers early in the second half, and that was the story of the night. The Chiefs made the few big plays in the game — on both sides of the ball — while the Raiders kept coming up a play or a step short.

The Chiefs scored all their points in a span of 8:26 in the second quarter. Hill got the game’s first touchdown on a 36-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith early in the second quarter, then returned a punt 78 yards that made it 21-3.

Carr was 17-of-41 passing for 117 yards, and the Chiefs’ defense kept answering the call. The Raiders were 5-of-18 in trying to convert third downs, 1-of-3 on fourth down and finished with 244 total yards on 73 offensive plays.

The Raiders had a six-game win streak snapped and fell from No. 1 to No. 5 in the AFC projected playoff standings. The Chiefs won despite turning the ball over three times because of Hill’s big plays and their defense.

The Raiders got 15 yards or fewer on four of their six possessions in the second half. They got their only second-half points after moving only four yards early in the third quarter after a T.J. Carrie interception.

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith threw for 202 yards in the first half and finished with 264. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce had his fourth straight game over 100 receiving yards, and backup running back Charcandrick West ran for the Chiefs’ other touchdown.

The Raiders played without guard Kelechi Osemele, a late scratch due to illness, and outside of Latavius Murray running 22 times for 103 yards they never established much of anything offensively. With a little over nine minutes left Carr threw the ball deep on third down, and Amari Cooper was wide open. It wasn’t clear if Cooper lost the ball in the lights or just didn’t catch it after getting behind the defense.

It was that kind of night for the Raiders, and Hill’s big plays left them chasing, unsuccessfully, for the game’s last three quarters.

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Raiders’ defense holding up its end of the deal

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 8: Wide receiver Amari Cooper #89 of the Oakland Raiders is tackled on a reception attempt by strong safety Eric Berry #29 of the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium during the first quarter of the game on December 8, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Raiders started the third quarter by forcing two turnovers, and they feel they should be closer than they are.

Two turnovers only led to three points, and the Chiefs lead midway through the third quarter, 21-13. Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 33-yard field goal after a T.J. Carrie interception to start the second half.

Raiders All-World linebacker Khalil Mack had a strip-sack of Alex Smith on the next possession, but the Raiders couldn’t generate any offense off of it. On the second field goal try it appeared there was a bad snap. By the time Raiders punter Marquette King gathered it, he was forced to try to run and he ended up going nowhere.

The Chiefs led, 21-3, midway through the second quarter. The Raiders closed it to 21-10 late in the second quarter on a Latavius Murray touchdown run.

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More big plays from Tyreek Hill spark Chiefs to lead

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 8: Wide receiver Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs catches a pass on his way to a touchdown in front of cornerback David Amerson #29 of the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium during the second quarter of the game on December 8, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Raiders showed some life late in the first half, and it’s a good thing they did. Thursday night’s game was on the verge of getting really ugly.

The Chiefs dominated for much of the first half, and at halftime they hold a 21-10 lead. The Raiders trimmed the lead on a Latavius Murray touchdown run with 14 seconds left in the half.

A 36-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith to Tyreek Hill early in the second quarter gave the Chiefs a 7-3 lead. After a quick stop the Chiefs drove again with big passes to Travis Kelce and Chris Conley to set up a Charcandrick West touchdown run and make it 14-3.

Hill had a 78-yard punt return to make it 21-3. It was the ninth touchdown the speedy rookie has posted this season.

Smith was over 200 yards passing a little over 20 minutes into the game. Midway through the second quarter the Raiders had 35 yards of offense, and three Chiefs receivers had more than 35 receiving yards.

At halftime, Smith has 202 passing yards vs. just 77 for his counterpart, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Hill has three catches for 53 yards in addition to his punt return.

Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson left in the second quarter with what the team announced as an Achilles injury. He won’t return.

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Chiefs dominating, hold 14-3 lead

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 27:  Wide receiver Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates after returning a kickoff for a touchdown in the third quarter of the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 27, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

A 36-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith to Tyreek Hill early in the second quarter gave the Chiefs a 7-3 lead on the Raiders. After a quick stop the Chiefs drove again with big passes to Travis Kelce and Chris Conley to set up a Charcandrick West touchdown run and make it 14-3.

Smith is over 200 yards passing a little over 20 minutes into the game.

Hill’s touchdown capped a five-play, 70-yard touchdown drive for the Chiefs, who are dominating the yardage and time of possession. Hill has eight total touchdowns this season.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is off to a 3-of-9 start for 10 yards.

The 10-2 Raiders have won six straight. Dating back to last season, the 9-3 Chiefs have won eight straight AFC West games.

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Raiders get early turnover, big defensive stand

Khalil Mack, Sio Moore AP

It’s cold in Kansas City, and Thursday night’s Chiefs-Raiders game is off to a strange start.

After a puzzling challenge by the Chiefs and then an automatic turnover review two plays later, the Raiders kept the ball — the original call was a catch and fumble by Amari Cooper — and then got a 44-yard field goal from Sebastian Janikowski to take 3-0 lead.

The Chiefs came right back, getting a 39-yard pass to Chris Conley to move into Raiders’ territory, but then turned the ball over on downs following two rather lame and predictable runs right into the middle on third and fourth downs.

The Raiders went three and out to open the game, but Chiefs rookie Tyreek Hill fumbled the ensuing punt and Raiders backup linebacker James Cowser recovered at the Chiefs’ 38-yard line.

Janikowski has not missed from under 45 yards this season.

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Kelechi Osemele won’t play due to illness

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele #70 of the Oakland Raiders blocks against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second quarter on October 16, 2016 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.  The Chiefs won 26-10.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Raiders guard Kelechi Osemele will not play Thursday night at Kansas City due to an illness.

Osemele, who’s in his first year with the Raiders after signing as a free agent last March, has been a key player for one of the league’s best offensive lines. He had been listed on the injury report as questionable due to a knee injury, not an illnes.

Osemele has not missed a game this season. Jon Feliciano, a second-year player, is listed as the No. 2 left guard on the Raiders’ unofficial depth chart, but the team is listing Vadal Alexander as the unofficial starter in his place.

The Raiders had previously ruled safety Karl Joseph, outside linebacker Shilique Calhoun and defensive tackle Stacy McGee as out due to injuries.

The Chiefs are healthy and have no injury-related inactives. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin returns, as expected, from a three-game absence.

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Jordan Reed thinks he can deal with the pain, play Sunday

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 10: Tight end Jordan Reed #86 of the Washington Redskins reacts to a play against the Green Bay Packers in the first quarter during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at FedExField on January 10, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Redskins tight end Jordan Reed was again a limited practice participant Thursday, and after practice Reed told reporters he’s “optimistic” about his chances of playing Sunday at Philadelphia.

Reed suffered an AC joint separation in his left shoulder at Dallas on Thanksgiving. Though he returned and finished the game, he didn’t play last week.

Reed, who shares the team lead with 59 receptions, told reporters he’s feeling better and hopes he’ll get the go-ahead to play Sunday as the Redskins need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

It’s painful but something I can deal with,” Reed said.

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Rams have no comment on report of dysfunction

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 11:  Head coach Jeff Fisher of the St. Louis Rams stands on the sidelines during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 11, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Thursday began with a bit of a bombshell from Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com regarding the extent of the dysfunction in the Rams organization. Recent comments from coach Jeff Fisher deemed critical of the team’s personnel function became the catalyst for anonymous quotes from an unnamed Rams source criticizing Fisher for an apparent effort to shift blame.

The Rams have no comment regarding the report, pointing out that Fisher likely would address the situation at his next press conference. It’s scheduled for Friday at approximately 3:30 p.m. ET.

Fisher, who faced repeated questions last week regarding Eric Dickerson’s relentless effort to get Fisher fired, surely will be pressed for his reaction to the news that someone in the organization criticized him without attaching a name to it.

“It pissed me off because I knew it was meant as a shot,” the unnamed Rams source told Breer regarding Fisher’s apparent attempt to shirk blame for the quality of the roster. “You see it under that umbrella — ‘We need to do a better job in personnel.’ OK, but you want everyone to think that you have full control. You can’t have it both ways, and it can’t always be the talent. Look at the roster, 2012 to now. In ’12, Jeff did a masterful job with what he was given. But we’ve gotten more talent, and we’ve gotten worse.”

There can be little doubt that Fisher wanted, and acquired, full control in 2012. After Fisher picked the Rams over the Dolphins, he told Michael Silver (then of Yahoo! Sports) that Fisher wanted to be able to run the show.

“At the end of the day I wanted the ability to have final say, with a General Manager I could build something with,” Fisher said.

So, basically, all roads lead back to Fisher, both as to coaching and as to personnel. If there’s a problem with coaching, it’s ultimately on him. If there’s a problem with personnel, it’s ultimately on him.

On Friday, it’ll be interesting to see how questions from reporters about these realities ultimately are answered.

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Cam Newton: I’m not above the law

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 27:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders during their NFL game on November 27, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cam Newton doesn’t mind taking the criticism, he’s used to that.

But what the Panthers quarterback couldn’t handle were reports that his benching in Seattle Sunday night was related to something more nefarious than not wearing a tie on the team’s flight from San Jose to Seattle.

I violated the wardrobe [policy] and that’s it,” Newton said, via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. “You don’t have to dig into certain stories that [I] violated curfew, was out at a club, somebody was caught in the room.”

For his part, Newton has owned the fact he broke Ron Rivera’s ties-on-a-plane policy, and hasn’t rebelled against his coach’s punishment. Rivera has said throughout that he was simply being consistent in his enforcement of his dress code, whether it was the reigning MVP or a special teamer.

And Newton seems to understand that.

“That’s just a warning for everybody,” Newton said. “And at no point in time or even still do I think I’m above the law. I never thought that. I’m not that type of player. A lot of people might think that from the outside looking in. It doesn’t bother me because they don’t know me.

“For anybody’s who’s ever known me or was on my team, they would know this situation could have been prevented because of my decision.”

With a little luck, that should put a bow on TieGate for the Panthers, who have knot quite reached their goals this season.

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Report: Patriots signing Griff Whalen

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 13:  Griff Whalen #83 reacts with  Antonio Gates #85 of the San Diego Chargers after Gates' touchdown against the Miami Dolphins during the first half of a game  at Qualcomm Stadium on November 13, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola is out with a high-ankle sprain and the hope is that he’ll be well enough to rejoin the team for the postseason, but his absence at present may have spurred a roster move on Thursday.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team is signing wide receiver Griff Whalen after he worked out for the team. According to a report from ESPN, former Packers wideout Jared Abbrederis also worked out.

Whalen caught two passes in eight appearances for the Chargers earlier this season. He spent the previous three years with the Colts and caught 45 passes, although Patriots fans may remember him best for his role on the snapper on the Colts’ ill-fated swinging gate fake punt from last season.

Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan are the healthy Patriots wideouts at the moment with both Edelman and Hogan absent from the injury report this week after making frequent appearances over the course of the season.

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Brandon Marshall: Pain pills mask my memory of 3-TD game

SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Wide receiver Brandon Marshall #15 of the Chicago Bears celebrates after a touchdown during the third quarter of their game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

In 2014, Brandon Marshall had a three-touchdown game against the 49ers. As Marshall and the Jets prepare to play the 49ers on Sunday, he was asked what he remembers about that game. The answer? Not much.

That’s because, Marshall says, he was using so many painkillers to play through an ankle injury that he was in a fog mentally, even as he was able to perform well physically.

“I don’t really remember much about that game because I worked really hard to get back from a high ankle — well, I don’t want to go there. Um, well, I’ll say it: I took a couple pain pills. I took a couple pain pills that masked the pain. I really wasn’t supposed to play. I came back from a high ankle within 10 days. I was supposed to be out four to six weeks. I don’t really remember much about that game. I just remember catching those balls and that was pretty much it,” Marshall said.

With the NFL facing a lawsuit related to painkillers, that’s the type of story that the league would prefer not to hear. It’s also the kind of story that raises questions about why the league is so adamant that players not use marijuana, when many players view it as a safer way to manage pain than the painkillers that team doctors prescribe.

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Eric Berry moves toward another payday

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04:  Eric Berry #29 of the Kansas City Chiefs walks off the field after their 29-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  Berry returned an interception from a failed two-point conversion for two points and the go-ahead score.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Eric Berry’s big year is laying the foundation for another big payday.

The Chiefs safety, to whom the team applied the franchise tag after his prior contract expired, didn’t sign a long-term deal before July 15. It means that the Chiefs soon will have to decide whether to apply the tag to Berry again, or to sign Berry to a long-term deal.

The tag won’t be cheap. At $10.806 million for 2016, Berry will be owed a 20-percent raise under the tag for 2017. That’s $12.96 million for one season at the safety position, nearly $500,000 more per year than safety Tyrann Mathieu is getting under his top-of-the-market deal.

It becomes even harder to negotiate a long-term deal, since Berry can force his way to the market in 2018, unless the Chiefs plan to give him the quarterback version of the franchise tag to keep him in place for another year.

Berry, who turns 28 later this month, showed on Sunday how important he is to the Chiefs defense. Apart from his contributions on the field, his leadership and personal story of overcoming serious adversity make him even more valuable.

The challenge becomes attaching the right value to his contract, and ultimately finding a way to bridge the gap between what he wants and what the Chiefs will pay.

Here’s the simple reality: If the Chiefs won’t pay him what he wants, someone else possibly will. Like, for example, the team in his home state of Georgia that Berry singlehandedly defeated with a pick six and a game-winning pick two.

Berry gets another chance to demonstrate his value to the Chiefs tonight, in a prime-time matchup with the Raiders. Which only happens to have the AFC West crown essentially hanging in the balance.

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