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NFL morning after: Jerry Rice or Calvin Johnson?

Calvin Johnson AP

Ask me who the best receiver in NFL history is, and my answer is Jerry Rice, and no active receiver is close. So please understand that I’m not suggesting that Calvin Johnson has had a better career than Jerry Rice.

But I want to ask a different question: Has anyone — even the immortal Jerry Rice– ever played the wide receiver position better than Calvin Johnson is playing it right now?

With all due respect to Rice, I believe the answer to that question is no. The level of play Megatron has achieved over the last few years exceeds that of any wide receiver in the history of the game, even including Jerry Rice at his best.

From the start of the 2011 season through yesterday’s insane 14-catch, 329-yard game against the Cowboys, Johnson has 4,466 receiving yards. Over the best 2.5-season stretch of Rice’s career (the second half of 1993 and all of 1994 and 1995), he had 4,102 receiving yards. Johnson had 1,964 receiving yards last year, breaking Rice’s NFL single-season record. Johnson now has topped 200 yards six times in his last 27 games, counting the playoffs. Rice topped 200 yards five times in 332 career games, counting the playoffs.

But I don’t want to go too far down the statistical comparisons because there are a lot of respects in which the stats don’t tell the story. Johnson’s numbers are inflated by the fact that he’s playing in a better passing era than Rice was, and also by the fact that the Lions are a worse team than Rice’s 49ers were, which means they’re throwing late in games a lot more than Rice’s 49ers were. The flip side of that is, Rice was catching passes from Hall of Famers (Joe Montana early in his career, Steve Young starting in 1991) and had excellent teammates like John Taylor, Ricky Watters and Brent Jones preventing the defense from putting everything into stopping him. Johnson is catching passes from Matthew Stafford, who’s a promising young quarterback but nowhere near the type of passer that Montana and Young were, and this year’s arrival of Reggie Bush marks the first time Johnson has ever had a top-flight talent playing with him on the Lions’ offense.

So aside from stats, what makes me say Johnson is playing better football now than Rice ever did? It mostly comes down to their physical differences. The 6-foot-5, 236-pound Johnson makes plays that the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Rice did not. Rice was a genius for running perfect routes and getting open, but Johnson is so physically imposing that he makes plays even when he’s not open. The catches like Johnson’s 50-yard touchdown last week against the Bengals, when Stafford launched the ball deep into the end zone and Johnson went up and grabbed it despite being surrounded by three Bengals, are the plays that no one else at the wide receiver position has made.

And games like Johnson’s performance on Sunday are the games that no one else at the wide receiver position has had. How can Johnson, the guy every defensive coordinator in the NFL knows he has to stop, catch 87.5 percent of the passes thrown to him for 20.6 yards per attempt, as he did on Sunday? The answer is that he’s playing the wide receiver position right now better than anyone has ever played it.

Johnson was my favorite player in any of Sunday’s games. Here are some other thoughts:

Hard-luck player of the week: Reed Doughty. Doughty, a Washington safety, grew up in the Denver suburbs, and so he bought 40 tickets for friends and family to Sunday’s game against the Broncos. It should have been a great “local boy makes good” moment for him, except that he suffered a concussion last week and ended up not playing against the Broncos and not even making the trip to Denver. I hope his friends and family enjoyed the game anyway.

The Jaguars aren’t just bad, they’re historically bad. After Sunday’s 42-10 loss to the 49ers, the Jaguars are 0-8, and they’re getting blown out, week in and week out, like no team since the 1944 franchise that merged the Cardinals and Steelers because players were scarce during World War II. I thought before the season that the Jaguars were the worst team in the league, but they’re even worse than I thought they’d be. I figured they’d be your run-of-the-mill lousy 3-13 team. In reality, your run-of-the-mill lousy 3-13 team would be a double-digit favorite over these Jaguars.

Best block of the day belonged to Larry Warford. A rookie guard for the Lions, Warford got out in front of running back Joique Bell on a screen pass and planted Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee into the turf. It was a textbook example of the right way for an offensive lineman to play a screen pass.

It’s amazing that the Patriots keep winning. There comes a point when no team can withstand the loss of too many good players, and the Patriots seem like they should have reached that point. They lost Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Danny Woodhead and Aaron Hernandez before the season. They’ve lost Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork to season-ending injuries. Aqib Talib was out Sunday. Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola have missed most of the year. You just can’t lose that many good players. And yet New England is 6-2 after Sunday’s win over the Dolphins. Bill Belichick is a coaching genius.

What happened to Chip Kelly, offensive genius? I know the Eagles have had injuries to both first-string quarterback Michael Vick and second-string quarterback Nick Foles, but shouldn’t an offensive innovator like Kelly be able to manufacture some points anyway? Here’s how every single Eagles offensive drive has ended in the last two weeks: punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, missed field goal, punt, punt, field goal, interception, interception, interception, interception, interception, punt, punt, punt, fumble, downs, punt, punt, punt, downs, interception. Yes, in the last two weeks the Eagles have had 15 punts, five interceptions (on five consecutive drives), one lost fumble, one missed field goal and one made field goal. And the one made field goal came on a drive that started in field goal range. If you were flipping back and forth between the Lions and the Eagles on Sunday, you got to see Megatron playing the receiver position at its best, and the Eagles playing offense at its worst.

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Colts alter routine as they prep for London trip

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 03:  Head coach Chuck Pagano of the Indianapolis Colts talks to his players during the game against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts held what was basically a walkthrough Tuesday, normally a day off for players.

It’s not a normal week, though, as the Colts play the Jaguars in London Sunday. This marks the fourth straight year the Jaguars will play a home game in London, but the experience is new to the Colts.

“The theme is to keep the main thing the main thing, and that’s preparation, prepare, do everything, try to keep things as normal as possible from a preparation and practice standpoint,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said, per the team’s official transcript. “You have to make a few adjustments here and there, but at the end of the day it’s focus and mindset on one thing and one thing only, and that is getting win No. 2.”

The Colts, who rallied to beat the Chargers last Sunday, will fly to London Thursday evening and practice after arriving Friday morning. Pagano said the team kept things light Tuesday but felt that using the day to begin prepping for the Jaguars was necessary given the circumstances.

“We are just coming off a really physical and mental-draining game, as you know,” he said. “We had really good, long meetings, [an] introduction to Jacksonville. We will amp it up tomorrow. We will amp it up Thursday.”

Sunday’s game kicks off at 9:30 a.m. ET.

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Cardinals try out several punters and long snappers

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 11:  Punter Drew Butler #2 of the Arizona Cardinals walks off the field following the NFL game against the New England Patriots at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Patriots defeated the Cardinals 23-21.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals will be adding a long snapper this week. They also plan to add a punter, too.

Per a league source, the Cardinals worked out Tim Masthay, Michael Palardy, and Ryan Quigley on Tuesday. Whoever gets the job will serve as the short-term solution while Drew Butler (pictured) recovers from an Achilles injury.

With Kameron Canady released, the Cardinals also tried out long snappers Tyler Ott and Aaron Brewer.

The next punter could have a chance to give Butler the boot; he is averaging a career-low 40.3 yards per punt in 2016, along with a career-low 33.7-yard net.

Butler will still serve as the holder. Botch field-goal attempts fueled by bad snaps have marred both of Arizona’s losses in 2016.

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Lions bring back Aaron Dobson

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01:  Aaron Dobson #17 of the New England Patriots looks on during warm ups prior to Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s not quite the full-blown 54-man roster trick, because receiver Aaron Dobson still isn’t a vested veteran and must pass through waivers. Still, Dobson is emerging as the early bottom-of-roster option in Detroit for player who is cut in order to create a roster spot for a position of need and then re-signed the following week.

That’s precisely what the Lions have done with Dobson, waiving him last week and bringing him back this week.

A second-round pick of the Patriots in 2013, Dobson was cut by the Patriots as the 2016 rosters reduced to 53.

Some teams will cut a vested veteran last in a given week, allowing a practice-squad player to be promoted for game day. Then, the vested veteran will be resigned the following week, getting full pay for both weeks.

Per a league source, the Lions also kicked tires on Tuesday on four other players: defensive end Quinton Coples, linebacker Bjoern Werner, and tight ends Justice Cunningham and Adrien Robinson. None were signed.

Copies and Werner are former first-round picks who currently are looking for their next NFL opportunities. The Lions have a need at pass rusher, given the ankle injury suffered in Week Two by Ziggy Ansah.

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Bears signing defensive lineman C.J. Wilson

CJWilson Getty Images

The Bears are signing defensive tackle C.J. Wilson, his agents announced on Twitter.

Wilson, 29, spent time with the Raiders and Lions last season. He was released by the Saints in August.

He’s a veteran of 78 career games and 19 starts, and he’ll have a chance to contribute immediately on a Bears defense that’s dealing with multiple injury issues.

Wilson was part of a Bears tryout Tuesday that included running back Joique Bell, tackles Clay DeBord, Colin Kelly, and Arturo Uzdavinis, guard Austin Shepherd and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga. The Bears signed Bell to the active roster and signed Kelly to the practice squad.

The Packers selected Wilson in the seventh round of the 2010 draft and he played his first four seasons in Green Bay. He has 6.5 career sacks.

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Collins says he’ll rest for now, surgery decision will come later

La'el Collins AP

Cowboys guard La’El Collins told reporters Tuesday that he plans to rest his injured toe for two weeks before a decision is made on whether he needs surgery.

Collins has torn ligaments in his right big toe. He was placed on injured reserve Monday, but he’ll eligible to return in eight weeks if he’s healed and up to speed. Collins is wearing a protective boot and undergoing treatment in hopes the injury will heal without surgery.

There had been conflicting reports on whether or not surgery would be necessary, and also whether an eventual decision would be dictated by how much pain Collins could tolerate or if the injury would heal in time for a return this season.

Ronald Leary will move into the starting lineup at left guard.

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Panthers sign Michael Griffin

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 28:  Free safety Michael Griffin #33 of the Tennessee Titans in action during the preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on August 28, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Panthers have made a veteran addition to their secondary.

The team announced Tuesday that they have signed former Titans safety Michael Griffin. Griffin was released by the Titans in February and signed with the Vikings in March, but didn’t make Minnesota’s roster coming out of the preseason.

Griffin, a 2007 first-round pick, played 141 games for the Titans over nine years with the organization. He was a two-time Pro Bowler during his run in Tennessee, but his play had slipped by the end of his time with the team.

He’ll join Kurt Coleman, Tre Boston and Colin Jones in Carolina with Dean Marlowe on injured reserve and Marcus Ball getting waived to make room for Griffin.

The Panthers also confirmed the signing of defensive tackle Kyle Love, who will help fill in for the injured Vernon Butler, and announced that defensive end Ryan Delaire is headed to injured reserve with a knee injury.

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Get to know Zachary Orr

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 11: Linebacker Zach Orr #54 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates in the first half of the Buffalo Bills vs. the Baltimore Ravens game at M&T Bank Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Ravens have one new first-year starter in 2016: Linebacker Zachary Orr. The undrafted free agent from North Texas in 2014 has made the most of the assignment, leading the team in tackles and notching the game-clinching interception to seal Sunday’s win at Jacksonville.

Orr joined PFT Live on Tuesday to discuss his team’s performance to date, the moment when he realized he belongs on the field with the rest of the Baltimore defense, and the strong temptation to keep running with the ball after he picked it off, in an effort to score a touchdown in a game the Ravens led by only two points.

Get to know him now, because based on the way he’s playing you’ll be hearing his name a lot more frequently throughout the rest of the season, and beyond.

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Cardinals dump Kameron Canaday two days after botched snap

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25:  Head Coach Bruce Arians of the Arizona Cardinals watches his team warm up before the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on September 25, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians made no attempt to hide his anger about long snapper Kameron Canaday launching a snap too high for holder Drew Butler to corral on a field goal attempt during last Sunday’s 33-18 loss to the previously winless Bills.

“Grow the hell up,” Arians said, via the Associated Press. “It has nothing to do with anything but what’s between his ears.”

The Bills returned the botched snap for a touchdown and the Cardinals will have a new player doing the snapping when they host the Rams in Week Four. The team announced Tuesday that they have waived Canaday.

The 1-2 Cardinals made a few other roster moves. They waived 2016 fifth-round pick Marqui Christian after the safety was inactive for the first three games of the season and placed tight end Troy Niklas on injured reserve due to a wrist injury.

Arizona promoted tight end Ifeanyi Momah from the practice squad, leaving them with two open roster spots. One will likely go to a punter as Butler has ankle and Achilles issues that will keep him from punting this week, although he is able to serve as a holder.

Assuming, of course, the new Cardinals snapper is able to get the ball to him.

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MNF ratings hit all-time low

gettyimages-90902414-1024x576 Getty Images

More than 80 million watched the presidential debate on Monday night. For every 10 debate viewers, one watched Monday Night Football.

Via Richard Deitsch of SI.com, only 8.047 million watched the Falcons-Saints game. Based on numbers published Monday by SportsBusiness Daily, that’s the smallest total TV viewership in the 46-year history of the franchise.

Given the intense interest in the presidential campaign and shrinking prime-time viewership in eight of nine evening games played this year (relative to the same slots in 2015), it’s mildly surprising the total audience wasn’t even lower than that.

The NFL will try to rebound in Week Four, with the NFL Network-only broadcast of Dolphins-Bengals on Thursday night, Chiefs-Steelers on Sunday night, and Giants-Vikings on Monday night.

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Report: Bears putting Kyle Fuller on IR

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 01:   Kyle Fuller #23 of the Chicago Bears carries the football ahead of  Stefon Diggs #14 of the Minnesota Vikings after making an interception in the second quarter at Soldier Field on November 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

The injury hits keep on coming for the Bears.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that cornerback Kyle Fuller is headed to injured reserve. Fuller has not played in the first three weeks of the season after having his knee scoped in August and will now miss at least the next eight games while on I.R.

The Bears already have cornerback Brandon Boykin and linebacker Lamarr Houston on injured reserve while defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, linebacker Danny Trevathan and cornerback Bryce Callahan missed Monday night’s game with injuries. Linebacker Pernell McPhee is on the PUP list and not eligible to join the team at practice or in games until after Week Six.

On the offensive side, quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Jeremy Langford are both injured while projected center Hroniss Grasu went on injured reserve before the season started.

Once Callahan is cleared to return, he’ll join Tracy Porter, Cre’von LeBlanc, Deiondre Harris, Sherrick McManis and Jacoby Glenn as active members of an underwhelming cornerback corps in Chicago.

The Bears are reportedly signing former Lions running back Joique Bell. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports that the team is also waiving linebacker Jonathan Anderson and tight end Greg Scruggs with linebacker John Timu getting bumped up from the practice squad.

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Redskins sign John Sullivan, place Kory Lichtensteiger on IR

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 13:  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins celebrates with  Kory Lichtensteiger #78 of the Washington Redskins after Lichtensteiger recovered a fumble against the Dallas Cowboys on October 13, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The word early on Tuesday was that Redskins center Kory Lichtensteiger might be headed to injured reserve due to a calf injury that coach Jay Gruden initially called “moderate” and that’s exactly what’s come to pass later in the day.

Lichtensteiger has been placed on injured reserve and the Redskins have announced the signing of former Vikings center John Sullivan. Sullivan worked out for the team earlier in the day.

Sullivan was a six-year starter for the Vikings before missing all of last season with a back injury. He will join Spencer Long as options for the Redskins with Lichtensteiger out of the lineup. The team will also be waiting to see if left guard Shawn Lauvao will be able to play after he hurt his ankle in the victory over the Giants.

The Redskins also officially placed safety DeAngelo Hall on injured reserve Tuesday because of a torn ACL. Defensive lineman Vinston Painter was signed off the practice squad to fill the open roster spot.

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Bills release kickoff specialist

ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 28:  Jordan Gay #4 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before the preseason game againt the Detroit Lions at Ralph Wilson Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills released kickoff specialist Jordan Gay on Tuesday.

No corresponding roster move was announced. The move was probably made to create a roster spot for later in the week when the Bills know more about the status of some of their injured players.

Gay had been with the Bills since 2014. He handled the kickoffs in two games this season.

The Bills also made two practice squad moves, adding wide receiver Ed Eagan and center Terran Vaughn to their practice squad and cutting linebacker Carlos Fields and safety Damian Parms.

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Branden Albert likely to be a game-time decision Thursday

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 29:   Branden Albert #76 of the Miami Dolphins in action against the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 29, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins may be down to their third-string center against the Bengals on Thursday night, which would make the loss of another starting offensive lineman a tough pill to swallow.

It’s one they will have to be prepared for, though. Left tackle Branden Albert missed the team’s walkthrough practice on Tuesday because of an ankle injury and coach Adam Gase said that a call on Albert’s status for the game will likely go down to the wire.

“It looks better today than it did yesterday, so that’s encouraging to us,” Gase said, via ESPN.com. “When you got a veteran guy like that who knows how to get his body right fast, he’s a very tough guy. So we’ll just see how it plays out. I don’t know. I probably won’t know until [Thursday].”

If Albert can’t go, the team could move right guard Jermon Bushrod to left tackle, a position he’s played in the past, or they could push left guard Larmey Tunsil outside.

Center Anthony Steen has a high-ankle sprain and Mike Pouncey still isn’t practicing due to his hip injury. Tight end Jordan Cameron and running back Arian Foster have already been ruled out and two starting linebackers — Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins — didn’t practice.

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Bears sign running back Joique Bell

Wild Card Playoffs - Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

As if they didn’t have enough other problems, the Bears found themselves thin in the backfield with the injury to Jeremy Langford.

They found a familiar face to fill the gap, signing former Lions running back Joique Bell, according to Joique Bell’s social media.

The 30-year-old Bell had worked out for the Lions lately, but has a chance at a more immediate role with the Bears.

Langford is expected to miss four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain suffered Sunday night against the Cowboys. That left rookie Jordan Howard as the primary back, since Ka’Deem Carey was out with a hamstring injury.

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Giants sign a cornerback with two ailing

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 01: D.J. Foster #27 of the New England Patriots runs in for a touchdown in front of Michael Hunter #39 of the New York Giants during a preseason game at MetLife Stadium on September 1, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants aren’t sure whether running back Shane Vereen will miss the rest of the regular season as a result of a triceps injury, but they still went ahead and put him on injured reserve Tuesday.

While Vereen’s situation can be revisited after at least six weeks on the list, the move opened a roster spot now and the Giants used it for some insurance against a pair of other injuries. The team announced that they have added cornerback Michael Hunter to the active roster.

Hunter spent most of last week on the team’s roster before being dispatched on Saturday in favor of safety Andrew Adams, who had a crucial personal foul in their 29-27 loss to the Redskins. Hunter’s back because Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple both left that game with injuries that could leave them unavailable for this week’s game against the Vikings. Hunter was also with the team in the preseason.

In the even the Giants need more help at corner, they could promote Steelers 2015 fourth-round pick Doran Grant from the practice squad after also signing him on Tuesday.

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