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Garrett says Romo won’t play in Hall of Fame game

Romo AP

For the Hall of Fame game, seeing starters play usually is a blink-and-you-missed-it proposition.  As to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, you may be able to miss him without blinking.

Coach Jason Garrett told 105.3 The Fan on Friday that Romo may not make the usual starting-quarterback cameo in the extra preseason game that the Cowboys will play against the Dolphins.

Which, of course, will make a meaningless preseason game even more meaningless.

“It’s one of those deals where I suppose he could play five plays or whatever, but we might lean to no plays,’’ Garrett said. “But the clock starts on our [first-teamers] in Week Two of the preseason.  So that’s not going to be Tony’s game.’’

Based on the front end of the answer, Romo may play a little bit.  Based on the back end of the answer, he won’t be playing at all.  Which makes sense, given that Romo had offseason surgery to remove a cyst from his back, causing him to miss the offseason program and to be limited in training camp, so far.

Backup Kyle Orton also apparently won’t play.

“That’s going to be a Nick Stephens game and an Alex Tanney game,” Garrett said.

Which, unless Tanney will be doing his trick shots during the game, could make this year’s Hall of Fame game a bit lame.

But millions will still tune in to watch it because:  (1) it’s football; (2) it’s not baseball; and (3) it’s on TV.

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Seahawks take advantage, up 10-0 on Panthers

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton throws before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear) AP

Well, Cam Newton is back on the field. But he’s in a hole, already.

The reigning MVP has returned to the field after his one-play benching, but he’s in a 10-0 hole at Seattle.

The Panthers started Derek Anderson for what was termed a coaches decision, but after he threw an interception that led to a quick field goal, the Seahawks have stretched their lead to 10-0 on Thomas Rawls‘ touchdown run.

Whether or not we get a clear explanation for what Newton did to get benched for a down remains to be seen, but the Panthers generally struggle offensively when they can’t play from ahead, which could make this one fascinating for a number of reasons.

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Blake Bortles: This season is “the biggest nightmare possible”

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 04:   Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars passes against the Denver Broncos at EverBank Field on December 4, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles‘ bad 2016 season may have hit a new low on Sunday.

Bortles was intercepted twice by the Broncos and lost a fumble in a 20-10 loss that saw him complete 19-of-42 passes to register the lowest quarterback rating of his career. One of the interceptions was returned for a touchdown, making it three times in the last four weeks that a defense has done that against the Jags.

Bortles has now thrown 15 interceptions and lost four fumbles for the 2-10 Jaguars in a season fit for a horror movie.

“It’s the biggest nightmare possible,” Bortles said after Sunday’s 20-10 loss to Denver in which he committed three turnovers. “But what are you going to do about it? You can’t sit there in a corner and pout. You can’t blame people. You can’t feel sorry for yourself because I think all that’s going to do is affect the way I play.”

Bortles has been dealing with a shoulder injury, but said that wasn’t the cause of his problems. The issues have appeared more mechanical and Bortles has brought in outside help during the season in an attempt to get back on track. It hasn’t worked and it feels like there’s a pretty good chance that it’s going to be up to a new coaching staff to correct them come 2017.

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Jay Gruden not happy after latest loss

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 04:  Head coach Jay Gruden of the Washington Redskins watches warm ups prior to a game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

Two weeks ago tonight, Washington obliterated Green Bay to move to 6-3-1. Since then, Washington has lost at Dallas and now at Arizona and coach Jay Gruden isn’t happy about it.

Via Mike Jones of the Washington Post, Gruden could be heard yelling at the team after the 31-23 loss to the Cardinals. Gruden specifically was complaining that the team hadn’t given its all during the week.

The loss, which has dropped Washington to 6-5-1, will make it harder to get back to the postseason. Paraphrasing Jim Mora’s epic rant from 15 years ago, Gruden told reporters, “There’s no talk about the playoffs. We’re just trying to win the next game.”

The next game will be at Philadelphia, followed by a home game againt the Panthers, a trip to Chicago, and a regular-season finale vs. the Giants.

 

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Derek Anderson starts instead of Cam Newton

Carolina Panthers v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The first surprise for the Panthers Sunday night came on the first snap.

Derek Anderson started at quarterback in place of reigning MVP Cam Newton, and promptly threw an interception on the first play of the game.

According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, Newton is healthy and it was a coaches decision.

That may have to do with their ability to protect him, as their offensive line has been scrambled by injuries, and they have a center making his first NFL start among the other switches.

Still, it’s a surprise, as Newton is ostensibly healthy.

UPDATE 8:45 p.m. ET: Newton returned to the field for the second series, which makes this an apparent benching.

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Chip Kelly doesn’t commit to Colin Kaepernick next week

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 04:  Mitch Unrein #98 of the Chicago Bears attempts to sack Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers, but is held back by  Daniel Kilgore #67 in the third quarter at Soldier Field on December 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

The 49ers benched quarterback Colin Kaepernick on Sunday. It’s unclear whether he’ll remain on the bench next Sunday against the Jets.

“We haven’t had any discussions about it,” coach Chip Kelly told reporters after the loss in Chicago regarding whether Kaepernick will return in Week 14. “It was my decision to make and made a move to see if we can get a spark and to see where we were. At that point of time of the game we were down a couple of scores and obviously we got throw it to see if we can get a spark for the team. There are no permanent decisions.”

Still, it sounds as if Kaepernick will be back, given Kelly’s explanation for making the change.

“I thought we needed a spark on offense and needed to get something going, give Blaine [Gabbert] a shot at throwing,” Kelly said. “Knew we were going to be throwing every down, so give Blaine a shot. That was it, nothing more.”

Kaepernick said he was “surprised” to be benched, and he sidestepped the question of whether he believes he’ll play next week.

“That’s not my decision,” Kaepernick said. “My feelings on it really don’t matter at this point. I’m just going to do everything I can to make sure I’m prepared.”

The 49ers have now lost 11 games in a row, following a Week One win over the Rams. The visit from the Jets, who’ll be crossing the country on a short week, could be their best chance to avoid matching the 2001 Panthers, who won in Week One and then lost 15 in a row.

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Apparently overdue for a decision on his status, Aldon Smith is ready to go

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 13:  Aldon Smith #99 of the Oakland Raiders looks on during the second half of their NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at O.co Coliseum on September 13, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Raiders and defensive end Aldon Smith continue to be at the mercy of Commissioner Roger Goodell, even at a time when Goodell seems to be in violation of the relevant terms of the substance-abuse policy.

For a player who is banished from the league with the ability to apply for reinstatement after one year, the policy itself says nothing about the timetable for making a decision. However, Appendix B to the policy provides in part as follows: “All individuals involved in the process will take steps to enable the Commissioner to render a decision within 60 days of the receipt of the application [for reinstatement].”

Curiously, the policy doesn’t expressly state that a decision will be or shall be made within 60 days after application. Instead, it only requires the persons responsible for setting the table for the Commissioner’s decision to enable him to do so within 60 days after the application.

Aldon Smith applied for reinstatement on October 3. The 60-day deadline (if it’s really a deadline) came and went on Friday, with no decision made. As a result, a source with knowledge of the process tells PFT that a decision is expected soon.

Complicating matters for Smith and the Raiders is the fact that they play on Thursday night, in Kansas City. Smith will be ready to suit up and play, if he’s given the green light to return, a source tells PFT.

Whenever the decision is made, the Commissioner will make it in his “sole discretion.” Given the language of Appendix B, it seems that the decision should have been made already. At a minimum, the league should address whether it believes the 60-day provision requires a decision within that window.

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The Cowboys are going to the playoffs

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 24:   Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates with Gavin Escobar #89 after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium on November 24, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

This year’s playoff field has its first entrant.

The Cowboys didn’t play on Sunday, but they have booked a ticket to the postseason. Their win over the Vikings on Thursday night gave them routes into the playoffs with losses by either the Buccaneers or the Redskins.

Tampa rallied to win in San Diego, but the Redskins couldn’t do the same in Arizona. That makes the loss of a divisional rival even sweeter than it might have been under other circumstances.

Another divisional rival lost on Sunday when the Giants saw their six-game winning streak end in Pittsburgh. That means the Cowboys can clinch the divisional crown if they beat the Giants next Sunday night.

It would also give them payback for their only loss of the 2016 season and push them a little closer to the No. 1 seed in the conference, so there’s still plenty to play for with a playoff trip already assured.

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Bucs rally to beat Chargers, move to 7-5

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Melvin Ingram #54 of the San Diego Chargers chases Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the pocket during the first half of a game  at Qualcomm Stadium on December 4, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Buccaneers dominated the fourth quarter Sunday and scored an important victory over the Chargers, 28-21.

After trailing 14-10 at halftime, the Buccaneers took their first lead on a Lavonte David interception return in the third quarter, then scored the only 11 points of the fourth quarter. Safety Keith Tandy had an interception in the end zone with 3:04 left, and the Bucs successfully killed the clock to lock up their fourth straight win.

At 7-5, the Bucs are now tied with the Falcons atop the AFC South. The teams split their season series.

The Bucs took the lead for good with 9:01 left when Jameis Winston hit tight end Cameron Brate on a 12-yard touchdown. Winston found Mike Evans, who otherwise had a quiet day, for a two-point conversion to make it 28-21.

The Chargers only got the ball one more time and got into Tampa Bay territory before Tandy’s interception.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers followed David’s touchdown by throwing a 40-yard pass to Tyrell Williams for a touchdown to put the Chargers back in the lead, 21-17. It seemed the stage was set for a wild finish, but the Bucs made the biggest plays from there.

The Chargers fall to 5-7 and are probably going to miss the playoffs. All of the Chargers’ games seem to come down to the final minutes, but this time the Bucs delivered in the end.

Winston threw for 280 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Rivers threw for 225 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

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Julio Jones “OK” after lower body injury

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04:  Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons is tackled by Derrick Johnson #56 of the Kansas City Chiefs at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones was in and out of the game during the final quarter of Sunday’s 29-28 loss to the Chiefs while getting attention from trainers for what appeared to be a leg injury.

When Jones was in the game, he wasn’t moving with his usual ease and served as a decoy after playing a major role on offense in the first three quarters of the game. Falcons coach Dan Quinn called it a lower body injury after the game and Jones said he’d be fine for their Week 14 trip to Los Angeles.

“It’s football,” Jones said, via ESPN.com. “You’re going to get banged up. You’re going to get little nagging injuries here and there from the game. I’m OK. I’ll be good to go.”

The Falcons also had left tackle Jake Matthews and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu depart with injuries during the game. Updates on Matthews’ knee and Sanu’s groin are expected when Quinn meets with the media on Monday.

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Cardinals outlast Washington in a wild one, win 31-23

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs for a touchdown as Washington Redskins cornerback Kendall Fuller (38) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) AP

The Cardinals still aren’t .500, but showed signs Sunday that they’re still going to be a tough out for the rest of their schedule.

Led by running back David Johnson’s 175 yards from scrimmage, the Cardinals held off Washington at home for a 31-23 win, moving their record to 5-6-1 and showing they still have some degree of a pulse.

Of course, they need help, but they showed they can be a dangerous team down the stretch.

The game went back and forth in the second half, with Washington taking the lead twice. But each time, the Cards answered, with Carson Palmer’s 42-yard touchdown to J.J. Nelson providing the final margin, and Patrick Peterson’s interception of Kirk Cousins sealing the win.

Palmer finished with an even 300 yards passing and three touchdowns, and Larry Fitzgerald caught 10 passes to move into third on the all-time receptions list.

Washington fell to 6-5-1, leaving them on the fringes of the Wild Card chase, but trailing the 7-5 Buccaneers for the final spot at the moment.

And while they turned the ball over more than they’re accustomed to, the fact they made multiple runs on the road suggests they’re far from finished.

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Steelers stifle Giants offense to move to 7-5

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 04:  William Gay #22 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a defensive stop with James Harrison #92 in the first half during the game against the New York Giants at Heinz Field on December 4, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants came into Pittsburgh with a six-game winning streak despite some sputtering performances from their offense in recent weeks, but they couldn’t overcome the unit again this week.

The Steelers intercepted Eli Manning twice, sacked him twice and held the Giants to 234 yards of offense in a 24-14 win that moved them to 7-5 on the season. That’s the same record that the Ravens have after beating the Dolphins on Sunday and leaves things tightly knotted at the top of the AFC North with four games left to play.

Lawrence Timmons had the first interception of the game, thwarting a Giants scoring chance and setting the Steelers up for their first touchdown after a long return into Giants territory. Antonio Brown scored that touchdown on a fairly quiet day that saw tight end Ladarius Green lead the team in receiving yards.

Green caught six passes for 110 yards and a touchdown to fill exactly the role that the Steelers had in mind when they signed Green this offseason. Injuries kept him out of the lineup for the first half, but it looks like he’ll be a major part of the offense down the stretch.

Le’Veon Bell chipped in 182 total yards and Ben Roethlisberger completed 24-of-36 passes for 289 yards. Both players turned the ball over in the second half to give the Giants some hope of climbing back into the game, but their offensive ineptitude proved to be too deeply seated for the team to muster much fight as the game wound down.

They’ll need to find their footing this week because a loss to the Cowboys next Sunday will end any hope of contending for the division title while several other teams remain in the hunt for Wild Card spots in the NFC. The Steelers will be in Buffalo and Cincinnati the next two weeks before returning home for a matchup with those Ravens in Week 16.

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Mike Zimmer’s follow-up appointments will determine his status for Week 14

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 1: Head coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings looks on during the game against the Los Angeles Rams on September 1, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Rams 27-25. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer missed Thursday night’s home game againt the Cowboys. It’s still not known whether he will be available for next Sunday’s visit to Jacksonville.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Zimmer’s recent procedure to repair a detached retina ended in a “good result.” However, follow-up appointments with his physicians will determine whether he’ll be able to coach on Sunday, December 11.

The first question is whether he’ll be able to coach in the game at Jacksonville. The second question is how he’ll get to Jacksonville.

It’s “all to be determined,” the source said, with Zimmer flying to Jacksonville in a pressurized cabin (which could negatively affect the healing of his eye), in a non-pressurized cabin, or by car. Driving would be a major ordeal, with a trip of nearly 1,500 miles each way from Minneapolis to Jacksonville.

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Raiders surge late to beat the Bills, improve to 10-2

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Amari Cooper #89 of the Oakland Raiders dives into the end zone for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills during their NFL game at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on December 4, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

If a team is judged by how it bounces back from adversity, this Raiders team may be something special.

After falling behind 24-9 midway through the third quarter today against the Bills, the Raiders turned things around with a late-game surge that saw them score four touchdowns in 12 minutes and turn what looked like an ugly loss into an easy win.

With the victory over the Bills, the Raiders improved to 10-2 on the season, tied for the best record in the AFC. Not many people would have predicted before the season that the Raiders would be in contention for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, but that’s exactly where Oakland is.

On a good day for the Raiders on both sides of the ball, the best player on the field may have been Khalil Mack, the pass rusher who first hit Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor to force an interception to set up a Raiders touchdown, then on the next possession knocked the ball out of Taylor’s hand and recovered the fumble, clinching the win. Mack is perhaps the most talented of the very good nucleus of young players the Raiders have acquired in the last few years.

The Raiders also have a talented quarterback in Derek Carr and talented receivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabrtee, each of whom caught touchdown passes from Carr. Latavius Murray scored two rushing touchdowns on a day when the Raiders got a complete team effort.

The Bills got solid work from LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee in the running game, but otherwise it was a rough day. The loss drops them to 6-6, and realistically it’s hard to see Buffalo making the playoffs. Rex Ryan may not have much of a future with this team.

Jack Del Rio’s squad, however, has a bright future. This is a team that can contend for a Super Bowl.

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Kirk Cousins warms up, Washington takes lead over Cards

Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) AP

The league’s top defense held Kirk Cousins in check for a half, but he’s back to November form now.

The Washington quarterback has rushed for a touchdown and thrown another in the third quarter, leading his team to a 20-17 lead over the Cardinals despite a turnover.

Cousins threw for just 89 yards in the first half, but things have loosened up since then, as the lead has bounced back and forth three times already in the second half.

The Cards took advantage of a sack-strip fumble forced by Calais Campbell, and Carson Palmer hit Michael Floyd to reclaim the lead briefly, before Cousins hit Jamison Crowder for a 26-yard touchdown.

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Chargers, Bucs trading touchdowns

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 04: Vernon Hargreaves #28 and Noah Spence #57 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chase Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers out of bounds on a short run during the first half of a game at Qualcomm Stadium on December 4, 2016 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Buccaneers took their first lead of the game after Lavonte David returned an interception for a touchdown with 4:25 left in the third quarter.

The Chargers came right back, with Philip Rivers throwing a 40-yard pass to Tyrell Williams to put the Chargers back in the lead, 21-17.

That drive covered 75 yards in five plays in under three minutes. So, the stage is set for a wild finish.

Both teams need the game badly. The Chargers are 5-6. The Bucs are 6-5 and can catch the Falcons in the NFC South standings with a win.

In the first half Chargers running back Melvin Gordon scored his 10th rushing touchdown of the season. Gordon is over 100 total yards for the game.

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