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Sam Baker, Akeem Dent ruled out for Falcons

Sam Acho, Sam Baker AP

The Falcons won’t be at full strength when they welcome the Jets to the Georgia Dome on Monday night.

The team has ruled out left tackle Sam Baker and linebacker Akeem Dent for the game. Baker missed the Week Three loss to the Dolphins with a knee injury and then aggravated it in his return to the field against the Patriots last Sunday night. The injury obviously hasn’t made much progress since then, so the Falcons will go with Lamar Holmes, who recently lost the starting right tackle job to Jeremy Trueblood, at left tackle on Monday.

Dent left the Patriots game with an ankle injury and hasn’t practiced this week. He’ll be replaced by Omar Gaither in a linebacking corps already without Sean Weatherspoon.

Wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White were both limited participants in practice and both are expected to play. Running back Steven Jackson didn’t practice and is expected to miss another game and return after the Week Six bye, but coach Mike Smith said Thursday that Jackson hasn’t been ruled out of the lineup yet.

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Kuechly explains his unlikely deep coverage of Dez

Dez Bryant, Luke Kuechly AP

Panthers cornerback Josh Norman has gotten plenty of praise for shutting down Dallas receiver Dez Bryant. But Norman had a little help. Specifically, Norman got help at one key moment during which Bryant was wide open down the field.

The help came in the form of linebacker Luke Kuechly, who supplemented his two-pick performance by somehow breaking up what would have ben an easy touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Bryant.

“We were playing in [zone] coverage and the play got extended and I saw him kind of turn it up so I just chased him down there and I figured if no one’s on him, I better cover him,” Kuechly said on Friday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. “So I just tried to do my best, tried to run down there with him and luckily I was able to get close enough to him where I could bump him out of bounds.”

The film from the game demonstrates what a great play Kuechly made. Lined up to the right of the center, Kuechly picked up Bryant running a drag route underneath the zone coverage. Then, as Romo was flushed out of the pocket toward Kuechly’s left, Bryant sprinted up the field.

Kuechly hesitated for an instant with the question of whether to contain Romo or cover Bryant. Kuechly  then took off, taking an angle and closing the gap quickly on Bryant,  hitting him just as he was catching the ball inside the five and preventing a touchdown that would have cut Carolina’s 10-0 lead to 10-7.

With plenty of games still to play, it will be hard for any other NFC defender to keep Kuechly from getting “player of the week” honors. And while the honor likely will go to Kuechly based on his pair of interceptions, his handling of Bryant at a key moment in the game should receive just as much attention.

For more from Kuechly’s visit to PFT Live, visit or download the PFT Live “best of” podcast at iTunes.

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Vikings passing game still not complementing Adrian Peterson

Mike Wallace, Cordarrelle Patterson AP

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer recently went out of his way to express appreciation to running back Adrian Peterson. Zimmer’s gesture may have been influenced by the reality that the team’s passing game is giving him little for which to be thankful.

With plenty of talent and potential, the performance simply hasn’t been there. Rookie Stefon Diggs has cooled off considerably after a four-game hot start to his career, and last year’s flavor-of-the-moment Charles Johnson has become a forgotten man, with three total catches since Week Three.

Then there’s former first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson, who has been relegated primarily to kick-return duties. On NFL Network’s GameDay Morning, Michael Irvin said he was asked in the offseason by coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner to work with Patterson on running intermediate routes — and the importance of wanting the ball more than the defense in that territory.

Meanwhile, this year’s high-profile veteran arrival, Mike Wallace, has been a major disappointment. Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune takes a close look at what currently is the worst year of Wallace’s career. Among other things, Souhan points out that quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has overthrown Wallace eight times this year, which means either that Bridgewater is missing Wallace or Wallace isn’t doing enough to go get the ball.

Regardless, with Wallace making $9.9 million this year and due to make $11.5 million in 2016, it’s looking like Wallace, barring a dramatic pay cut, will be one and done in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

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Cardinals expected to have Michael Floyd in lineup

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 26:  Wide receiver Michael Floyd #15 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts after scoring a three-yard touchdown against linebacker Zach Orr #54 of the Baltimore Ravens in the second quarter of the NFL game at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 26, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Nils Nilsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals bring a four-game winning streak into Sunday’s game against the 49ers and it looks like they’ll have a full complement of receivers helping them in the effort to make it five in a row.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Cardinals are expected to have Michael Floyd back in the lineup. Floyd missed last Sunday’s victory over the Bengals with a hamstring injury and was listed as questionable on Friday after a week of limited participation in practice.

Assuming Floyd is active and playing his usual role on offense, the Cardinals would be healthier at wideout than they’ve been in several weeks. John Brown missed one game with a hamstring injury and spent another on the sideline in uniform when the team made him active before deciding not to play him against the Seahawks in Week 10.

The injuries at receiver haven’t stopped the Cardinals from putting up more than 30 points a game in each of their last three games, so the outlook for the unit will be strong with everyone back in action.

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Sunday morning one-liners

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 4:  Geno Atkins #97 of the Cincinnati Bengals sacks Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs during the third quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on October 4, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills need to keep bringing the heat on defense.

Dolphins DT Ndamukong Suh has become more vocal as the season has unfolded.

Said Patriots CB Devin McCourty of LB Jerod Mayo, “He’s out there running full speed in practice all day. I think mostly, he’s just happy to be out there playing. You can tell that from his play, his approach, how happy he is just to be out here running around.”

Faster starts to games would benefit the Jets.

FB Kyle Juszczyk has had some good moments for the Ravens this year.

Bengals DT Geno Atkins will face inexperienced Rams linemen on Sunday.

The Browns defense will be dealing with a Ravens offense studded with backups.

Stopping Russell Wilson is a Steelers defensive priority on Sunday.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien thinks the Saints have “some weapons in the backfield” in Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller.

The Colts will start the league’s oldest quarterback this week while facing the league’s youngest.

Jaguars TE Julius Thomas hopes his injury problems are behind him.

The Titans elevated LB Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil from the practice squad.

The Broncos have a long history with the Patriots.

Former Chiefs QB Len Dawson found a long second career as a broadcaster.

Raiders QB Derek Carr is navigating his way through growing pains in his second season.

The long-term impact on Chargers G D.J. Fluker after four concussions in three years is unclear.

Forecasting the Cowboys futures of cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Byron Jones.

Giants S Landon Collins will spend Sunday on the field where his idol Sean Taylor once played.

Ten conclusions to draw from the Eagles season.

RB Matt Jones needs to hold onto the ball to maintain a role on offense for the Redskins.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s first season with the Bears has gone well.

The last three weeks have improved the look of things around the Lions organization.

A look at Packers QB Aaron Rodgers’s accuracy this season.

A banged-up Vikings secondary has to deal with Julio Jones this weekend.

The Falcons bring the league’s stingiest run defense into Sunday’s date with Adrian Peterson.

There are plenty of big personalities in the Panthers locker room.

Saints CB Delvin Breaux has been prepping for Sunday’s matchup with DeAndre Hopkins.

Sunday’s game will continue a long history for Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith and Colts QB Matt Hasselbeck.

The Cardinals insist they aren’t overlooking the 49ers.

The Rams will try to stop their bleeding against the Bengals.

It’s been many years since the 49ers were 10-point underdogs at home.

A cold won’t stop Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls from taking the field.

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Dolphins have an internal disconnect over Tannehill

Tony Romo, Ryan Tannehill AP

As the Dolphins prepare to search for a permanent replacement for coach Joe Philbin, it’s becoming clear that the most important aspect of the interview process will consist of laying out a plan for making the performance of quarterback Ryan Tannehill match his perceived potential.

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald explains that a disconnect currently exists between the front office and the coaching staff. The folks in suits believe Tannehill is one of the best quarterbacks in the league; the guys in headsets treat Tannehill like a run-of-the-mill game manager.

“What I’ve told Ryan is, ‘I don’t need Superman,'” interim coach Dan Campbell recently told Salguero. “I just want to make sure my message to him is don’t try to be someone you’re not. Just manage the game for us. Make the throws that are there, which he will.”

Salguero points out that offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has limited Tannehill’s options for changing the play at the line of scrimmage, restricted to a menu of alternatives given to Tannehill before each play.

Supposedly, the mental shackles come from a desire to see Tannehill play fast. The front office, however, apparently prefers to see him play well enough to justify the thinking that he lands somewhere between No. 8 and No. 15 among all NFL quarterbacks.

The contract given to Tannehill earlier this year speaks volumes about the front office’s view of Tannehill. The failure of the current coaching staff to trust him to try to win games instead of to not lose them says plenty about whether the current coaching staff will be coaching him next year.

And so for 2016 the big question becomes whether there’s a potential head coach who genuinely wants to coach Tannehill, and who has a compelling plan for getting the most out of him. The biggest challenge for the coaching staff could be figuring out how to distinguish the candidates who truly want Tannehill from those who simply want the job and who’ll say whatever they have to say to get it.

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Saints first-rounder Andrus Peat will start at left guard today

Andrus Peat AP

Saints first-rounder Andrus Peat has finally cracked the starting lineup, even if he had to change positions to do it.

According to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, Peat is going to get the start at left guard today against the Texans.

The 13th overall pick had a pair of fill-in starts at tackle for an injured Terron Armstead earlier this year, but then had to miss three weeks.

The Saints have struggled to protect Drew Brees effectively this season, and putting the 6-foot-7, 313-pound rookie in front of him could help — if Brees can see over him.

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Could Doug Marrone be a head coach again in 2016?

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwiwmta5ntuxymmzzdyxodlmytvknde2zwq1zwqwywzl AP

As the list of candidates to fill the looming NFL head-coaching vacancies begins to be compiled, a name that largely has been forgotten has once again become front and center: Former Bills coach Doug Marrone.

Some have Marrone not just as a fringe candidate in a season that may have more vacancies than “A” list candidates, but as a no-brainer. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media rattled off Marrone’s name earlier today not as a possibility but as a given, along with Patriots coach Josh McDaniels and Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

The obvious response is this: Why didn’t Marrone get hired last year, after opting to leave the Bills with full pay for 2015 following the change in ownership? As one source with knowledge of the dynamics recently explained it to PFT, Marrone arrived on the scene as a potential candidate a little too unexpectedly for teams to scrap their existing plans.

This year, Marrone (the offensive line coach and assistant head coach-offense in Jacksonville) is a known candidate. The resurgence (relatively speaking) of the Jaguars won’t hurt his cause.

The bigger boost for Marrone will come from his work with the Bills. He took the team to a 9-7 record in 2014. This year, the 5-4 Bills may have a hard time matching that performance despite having better talent.

Also helping Marrone will be the simple fact that there may be too many vacancies and not enough truly qualified coaches to take the jobs. Some have pegged the number of potential total openings at a whopping 14.

While the actual number surely will be much lower, there still may not be enough clear candidates for those jobs. And if an owner is looking for one of the rarest of former head coaches who wasn’t fired but chose to leave, Marrone could indeed be on the short list, somewhere.

Or in multiple somewheres.

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Howie Roseman could be on the rise again in Philly

Howie Roseman AP

After Eagles coach Chip Kelly put together a second straight 10-win season, Kelly made a run at G.M. Howie Roseman. It was bizarre and it was ugly and it ultimately was painted as a win-win by Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie.

Now that Kelly could be closing in on losing his job (voluntarily or otherwise) in Philly, Roseman could be winning, again.

While Lurie opted in January to find a way to keep Kelly and Roseman around in a way that would allow them to coexist (a process that included physically moving the new executive V.P. of football operations out of the football operations location), it was clear that Kelly was now fully in charge of the team. Which means that Kelly is fully responsible for what has happened this season. Which means that Roseman necessarily has no responsibility for what has happened this season.

Which means that Roseman could be poised to seize a level of control over the team that he has never previously enjoyed.

So as Kelly’s future continues to be the focus in Philly, the second rise of Roseman can’t be overlooked. Unless Lurie decides to hit the reset button or pursue a head coach who will want to keep Roseman away from the football operation the same way Kelly has, Roseman will be back in the mix.

Given how the franchise has performed with Roseman exiled from the football operations, perhaps the only easy answer in Philly is that Roseman should be involved once again in football operations. Regardless, there’s a chance that, in roughly a month, Roseman won’t just have a hand in the search for the next coach.

Lurie could decide to let Roseman run the show.

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Report: Rams won’t be penalized for Keenum concussion debacle

Case Keenum AP

Last Sunday’s early games included a troubling moment in which Rams quarterback Case Keenum obviously had sustained a head injury but somehow wasn’t taken off the field. The NFL has now determined that nothing will be taken from the Rams.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Rams won’t be penalized for mishandling the concussion protocol.

There’s no explanation provided regarding why the Rams won’t be punished. A trainer went onto the field to check Keenum, but the trainer didn’t remove Keenum for an official concussion evaluation.

Ultimately, the NFL may have decided that, with the ATC spotter now having the absolute ability to stop the game, the bulk of the blame should rest with the person whose primary job is to look for potential head injuries and to ensure that those players are out of the game.

The fact that the league thereafter convened a conference call with all head athletic trainers suggests that the NFL will be expecting more from the teams going forward. The lack of punishment for the Rams implies that the previous procedures weren’t sufficiently clear to justify punishing the Rams in this case.

So, basically, the situation that unfolded on Sunday in Baltimore perhaps was less about the team not following the rules and more about the NFL still not having sufficiently clear rules in place.

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Jeremy Lane is officially back, and could start today

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptzmyzu2otlkmtqxyzi3njuwodg3njuzytqxyzq2nwix AP

Super Bowl XLIX was a bad day for the Seahawks. It was a worse day for Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane, who suffered a badly broken arm — and who will be reminded of it every time he looks at the long, conspicuous scar on the inside of his left forearm.

It got even worse for Lane, who also tore an ACL on a play that started with an interception of Tom Brady and ended with the Patriots picking on Lane’s replacement, Tharold Simon, throughout the rest of the game.

Lane is now officially back, activated Saturday from the Physically Unable to Perform list. As explained by John Boyle of the team’s official website, Lane actually could start on Sunday against the Steelers.

Coach Pete Carroll wouldn’t say this week whether Cary Williams would continue in the Legion of Boom’s Ringo Starr role. Benched last week for Deshawn Shead, it could be Williams, Shead, or Lane getting the first rep against the Steelers on Sunday.

Regardless of who gets the job, Carroll thinks the process will make all of them better.

It should bring out the best in everybody,” Carroll said. “That’s the whole idea. Everybody’s got to feel it to find their best. Feel the pressure of it, and the stress, and the competitive point of it.”

The loser in the roster short-straw competition was running back Bryce Brown, who was cut again by the Seahawks when Lane joined the active roster.

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Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews expected to play

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 08:   Jarvis Landry #14 of the Miami Dolphins is tackled by Nigel Bradham #53 of the Buffalo Bills during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins added Rishard Matthews to their injury report on Saturday with an illness, which meant that both of their leading pass catchers were now questionable to face the Jets on Sunday afternoon.

Jarvis Landry was already on the list because of a knee injury that kept him from practicing twice during the week. Coach Dan Campbell said Friday that part of the reason for Landry’s limited workload at practice was to make sure he was ready to go for the game and reports on Sunday are that the plan worked out in Miami’s favor.

According to multiple reports, Landry is expected to play against the Jets. Those same reports have Matthews set to be in the lineup as well, giving Ryan Tannehill a full complement of targets to use against a Jets defense that will be playing without cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Wide receiver isn’t the only position well represented on Miami’s injury report. Chris McCain is doubtful and Koa Misi, Jelani Jenkins, Kelvin Sheppard and Spencer Paysinger are all questionable, leaving a few decisions at linebacker to sort out before kickoff.

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Giants rule out Weston Richburg

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13:  Weston Richburg #70 of the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

On Friday, the Giants ruled out left guard Justin Pugh and listed center Weston Richburg as doubtful in a move that proved to be wishful thinking on Saturday.

Richburg did not travel with the team to Washington for Sunday’s game against the Redskins and will miss his first game of the season. Richburg hurt his ankle in Week 10 and didn’t make enough progress over the bye week to get back on the field.

Dallas Reynolds will start in Richburg’s place at center. John Jerry started in Pugh’s place when Pugh missed the Week 10 loss to the Patriots and should start again this Sunday, although Adam Schefter of ESPN reports it will be at right guard with Geoff Schwartz flipping to the other side of the offensive line.

In addition to downgrading Richburg, the Giants also had one of their injured players make an unusual trip in the other direction on the injury report. Linebacker Mark Herzlich was ruled out on Friday because of a quad injury, but his status was shifted to questionable on Saturday so he may make it into the lineup after all.

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Joe Haden won’t play on Monday night

SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 04:  Joe Haden #23 of the Cleveland Browns looks on prior to the start of the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on October 4, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) Getty Images

Among the things that have gone wrong in Cleveland this season have been a series of injuries to cornerback Joe Haden.

Haden has missed five games already this season and he’ll miss a sixth on Monday night against the Ravens. Haden suffered a concussion in Week Eight and has not been able to make progress through the league’s concussion protocol.

“There is a written test and computer test and that right now is the obstacle,” coach Mike Pettine said, via

Wide receivers Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins are also out because of concussions. Defensive lineman Randy Starks has been ruled out due to a knee injury. Guard Joel Bitonio and linebacker Nate Orchard are questionable with Orchard landing on the injury report for the first time on Saturday.

The Ravens have plenty of injury issues of their own and don’t expect to have the left side of their offensive line in Cleveland. Left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele are both doubtful to play on an offense that won’t have quarterback Joe Flacco or running back Justin Forsett after they suffered season-ending injuries last Sunday.

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Report: Charcandrick West will not play today

Charcandrick West AP

Chiefs running back Charcandrick West won’t be able to go today against the Bills.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that West, though listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, will not play. The Chiefs are expected to have tight end Travis Kelce, who is also questionable with an ankle injury.

West is the Chiefs’ leading rusher, having emerged as the starter after Jamaal Charles was lost for the season. Without West, Spencer Ware will get the start at running back.

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Gruden advises patience with Manziel

manziel-johnny101715-getty-ftrjpg_1iltxbxi5cy0z1konw7fwtauff Getty Images

Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel partied (and lied) his way out of the starting job in Cleveland over the balance of the season, but former NFL coach Jon Gruden doesn’t believe it should mean the end of Manziel’s time with the Browns.

“If he wants to be a great quarterback and realize his potential, let this be the day he gets awakened,” Gruden told Mary Kay Cabot of on Saturday. Gruden will call Monday night’s Ravens-Browns game for ESPN.

Some would say that Manziel should have been awakened by now, after a disastrous end to his rookie season and a 10-week offseason stay in rehab. Gruden is hopeful that this time will be the time that Manziel realizes he needs to grow up.

“He’s a young kid,” Gruden said of Manziel, who is still 22. “He should still be at Texas A&M. Sometimes you have to remember that.”

Gruden specifically remembers another young quarterback with a penchant for partying. His number was retired by the Packers two nights ago.

“We traded for a guy when I first got to Green Bay that Atlanta said was a little bit of a hell raiser and it turned out OK for us,” Gruden said of Brett Favre. “You know what I mean?”

Ultimately, Favre could be the best guy to get through to Manziel. Like Manziel, Favre spent time in rehab early in his career. Favre overcame an addiction to painkillers, which forced him to find a way to play for years without pharmaceutical intervention.

If Gruden really wants to help Manziel, Gruden should connect Manziel and Favre. And Manziel would be wise to listen to anything Favre has to say.

“He’s a polarizing guy,” said Gruden regarding Manziel. “You love him. You don’t like him. Everybody has their own feeling, but deep down, I know there’s a good person in there, a lot of talent, and somebody is going to tap into it. I believe that.”

Listening to what Gruden has to say, it’s hard not to wonder whether Browns owner Jimmy Haslam will try to hire Gruden to do what he did with Manziel earlier this year on a full-time basis, as the head coach of the team.

“We went straight at it,” Gruden said regarding his time spent working with Manziel. “We were right out in the open. One day I think we played golf. We talked about some deep and philosophical things. It was very unusual for me, but I care about him. I care about his family. I want to see him realize his potential.”

To realize that potential, Manziel has to overcome his demons once and for all, mature into a guy who obsesses over the details of being an NFL quarterback, and find a way to gain — and to retain — the trust of an NFL team. If he does the first two, the last one will follow.

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