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Big defensive plays save the day for 9-0 Kansas City

Sean Smith, Marcus Cooper, T.J. Graham AP

On Sunday afternoon, the Bills outgained the visiting Chiefs 470-210. The Chiefs’ offense didn’t manage a single touchdown, and it converted just 3-of-13 third downs.

Nevertheless, the Chiefs prevailed 24-14, running their record to 9-0.

Here was a case of big plays tilting the game in one team’s favor. The Chiefs made several of them on defense, scoring on Sean Smith’s 100-yard third-quarter interception return and Tamba Hali’s 11-yard fourth-quarter fumble return. Earlier in the contest, a Kendrick Lewis interception set up a Chiefs field goal.

By the numbers, the Chiefs’ defense has had better days. Buffalo rushed for 241 yards on 38 carries. Also, Tuel connected with Marquise Goodwin on a 59-yard TD pass early in the game.

In the end, though, the Chiefs’ defense won the battles it needed to win for Kansas City to stay undefeated. Yes, the Chiefs were probably fortunate to face the Bills in Tuel’s first NFL start; after a nice start, Tuel completed just 18-of-39 passes for 229 yards.

Still, there’s something to be said for teams that make plays when they are there to be made. The Chiefs did it Sunday, and they won the game. For today, at least, that outweighs the ugliness of some elements of the box score.

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Giants can’t hold onto first place in the NFC East

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 29: Quarterback Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants scrambles under pressure from defensive end Jason Hatcher #97 of the Washington Redskins in the third quarter at FedExField on November 29, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said this week that “it’s a lot of fun” coaching a team that’s in first place.

Coughlin’s team is still in first place after Sunday’s game, but they have company and we’re guessing he’ll be having a lot less fun when the question comes up this week. The Redskins jumped out to a 20-0 lead and held on after two late Giants touchdowns for a 20-14 win that pulls them even with the Giants at 5-6.

If the season ended today, Washington would win the crown based on a better division record. They have two games left against the Cowboys and one against the Eagles, however, and the Giants still have a chance to even their record at 3-3 when they face the Eagles in Week 17.

There’s a lot of football to play between now and then, but the Redskins know they are going to the playoffs if they win their remaining games.

The Giants could have said the same coming into the game, but they continue to make it hard to know what to expect from them on any given Sunday. Two weeks after nearly beating the Patriots, they laid a complete egg for three quarters of the game as the home team did just enough to pull ahead by three scores. Eli Manning finally found some success in the fourth with touchdown passes to Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham, but Steve Spagnuolo’s defense couldn’t stop Jordan Reed and Alfred Morris from getting first downs that left the Giants with a few seconds and no timeouts for a last-ditch attempt at pulling out the win.

That effort wasn’t helped by punt returner Dwayne Harris’s decision to field a Redskins punt over his shoulder on his goal-line, costing the team yards to use in their attempt to pull off a miracle. There were other blunders by the Giants, who turned the ball over on three interceptions that could be blamed on both Manning and his receivers. The last came in the end zone on what looked like an underwhelming effort by Randle to break on a ball picked off by Quinton Dunbar.

Kirk Cousins wasn’t picked off at all and finished the day 20-of-29 for 302 yards and a touchdown to help his team rebound from last week’s licking against the Panthers. He had a lot of success throwing to Reed, whose eight catches for 98 yards included several drive-extenders, and played the mistake-free football that Washington needs from him. He’ll try for another round of it next Monday night against a Cowboys team that will be coming to town fresh off the latest Tony Romo injury.

Ryan Kerrigan spearheaded the defensive effort with two sacks and a batted ball that almost turned into a fourth Manning interception. The Giants will need to sort things out on an offensive line that ended the day down three starters in time for their MetLife bragging rights game against the Jets next Sunday. If they can’t Week 13 might end with them out of first place altogether.

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Colts come back to beat Buccaneers, continue their roll

Gerald McCoy, Matt Hasselbeck AP

The Colts would clearly prefer to have Andrew Luck under center.

But they’re certainly making the best of things with his backup on the field.

The Colts pulled away for a 25-12 win over the Buccaneers, improving to 6-5 on the season.

But perhaps as importantly, they’re 4-0 in games started by 40-year-old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who has kept them alive and atop the AFC South standings, tied with the Texans.

Hasselbeck completed 26-of-42 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns, playing the kind of clean game they needed while Luck’s out with a lacerated kidney.

The Buccaneers squandered some early momentum and continued signs of progress by quarterback Jameis Winston, who threw for 235 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.

The Buccaneers fell to 5-6 on the season, a disappointing follow-up to wins over the Eagles and Cowboys.

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Raiders come back to beat Titans, who lose yet again at home

Seth Roberts AP

When it rains on the Titans, it pours. Especially in Nashville.

Playing in a driving rainstorm in the second half, the Titans were working on an impressive comeback before Marcus Mariota threw an interception to Raiders safety Nate Allen, allowing the Raiders to escape with a 24-21 win.

The win helped the Raiders improve to 5-6, but it was mostly another Titans loss at home. They’ve now dropped 11 straight at Nissan Stadium.

Mariota threw a pair of interceptions, overshadowing the work he did getting his team back into the lead after falling into a 17-6 hole in the third quarter. Until the Titans figure out a running game (44 yards on the day), it’s going to be hard for Mariota to do enough to make them valid.

And while it wasn’t a work of art, it was an excellent performance for Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner to Seth Roberts (his second) with 1:27 left.

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After rough start, Chiefs come alive to beat the Bills

Ronald Darby, Chris Conley AP

For the Chiefs, today’s game against the Bills was a lot like the 2015 season: A rough start and a great turnaround.

The Chiefs fell behind 16-0 today and looked like they were in serious trouble. But quarterback Alex Smith came alive and led a tremendous turnaround in what turned out to be a 30-22 Chiefs win.

Now Kansas City is on a five-game winning streak after starting the season 1-5. The Chiefs looked like their season was lost just a couple months ago, and now they look like they’re on their way to the playoffs.

Smith finished the game 19-for-30 for 255 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Spencer Ware, the Chiefs’ third-string running back who’s now a starter because of injuries to Jamaal Charles and Charcandrick West, topped 100 yards and ran hard all day.

The Bills were off to a fantastic start with Sammy Watkins having 158 receiving yards in the first half, but he didn’t catch any passes in the second half. The Chiefs’ defense deserves a lot of credit for the way it came back in the second half.

And the Chiefs deserve a lot of credit for the way they’ve turned their season around. They’re now AFC contenders.

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Hurns taken to hospital after concussion

Allen Hurns, Darius Butler AP

Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns was taken off the field via stretcher in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game vs. the Chargers and taken to a local hospital.

The team announced that Hurns suffered a concussion and was taken to the hospital for further evaluation.

Hurns hit his head on the turf while diving to make a catch. The game was stopped for several minutes while medical staff attended to Hurns. He flashed a thumbs up to the crowd as the stretcher left the field.

Hurns caught 4 passes for 42 yards in the game.

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Giants trying to rally late in Washington

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 29: Wide receiver Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants looks on before a game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on November 29, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

For three quarters of Sunday’s game, the Giants offense only seemed to be helping the Redskins’ chances of winning but the fourth quarter is playing out differently.

Odell Beckham made a diving catch of a 21-yard throw from Eli Manning in the end zone to cut Washington’s lead to 20-14 with just under five minutes left to play in the game. Beckham’s score came about five minutes after Manning and Rueben Randle hooked up on a 40-yard touchdown for the first Giants points of the game.

The Randle score came on fourth-and-16 after a Chris Baker sack that looked like it would be one of the final nails in the Giants’ coffin. The Beckham score came a few plays after Manning hit tight end Will Tye for 28 yards to convert another fourth down and the late escapes have put the Giants in position for a shot at one that would make the NFC East crown all but theirs.

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Dolphins on wrong side of rout in Meadowlands

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 29:  Chris Ivory #33 of the New York Jets carries the ball in the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins on November 29, 2015 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The last time the Dolphins met the Jets, they fired their head coach after a lopsided loss.

Dan Campbell might want to make sure his luggage is on the flight home to Miami because the Dolphins are on the wrong end of the whipping stick again this Sunday. Chris Ivory ran through the Dolphins defense for a 31-yard touchdown with 9:29 left to play in the game and the Jets are on their way to a comfortable win with a comfortable 35-7 lead.

Ivory’s score was the first rushing touchdown of the game for the Jets, who have gotten their other four scores on Ryan Fitzpatrick touchdown passes. The Dolphins briefly looked like they had some life left in them when they cut the lead to 21-7 in the third quarter, but Fitzpatrick hit Brandon Marshall to cap a 10-play, 79-yard drive five minutes later to put the Jets back up three scores.

It is four scores now and the Jets are on their way to snapping a two-game losing streak.

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Vikings strengthen their playoff position with win in Atlanta

In a battle of two NFC playoff contenders, the Vikings looked like they’re postseason-ready, while the Falcons looked like they have some problems.

The Vikings’ 20-10 victory showed that Minnesota has a good defense and running game, a formula to win late in the season just the way Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wants. And the Falcons’ loss showed that Matt Ryan throws into coverage far too often for a quarterback who’s been in the NFL as long as he has.

Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson topped 100 yards for the NFL-high sixth time this year, giving him a total of 48 100-yard games in his career, the most among active players. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater didn’t have many big plays, but he was efficient as a passer and got rid of the ball quickly. It was a solid effort from the Vikings’ offense.

And it was a spectacular effort from the Vikings’ defense, which took advantage of some poor decisions by Ryan.The Falcons missed running back Devonta Freeman, although Tevin Coleman filled in well enough with 18 carries for 110 yards. The downside for Coleman is that his fumbling problems continued; Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr made a great play to chase Coleman down and knock the ball out of his hands at the end of a long run.

Overall, the Vikings looked like a team that can win games in the playoffs. Minnesota is 8-3 and in first place in the NFC North.

The Falcons, on the other hand, looked like a team that will struggle to make the playoffs. Although they’re still in prime position to earn a wild card berth at 6-5, the Falcons are stumbling down the stretch. If this was a playoff preview, only the Vikings looked like they belong.

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Texans win fourth straight, blow out Saints 24-6

J.J. Watt, Drew Brees AP

There might not have been a more disappointing team in the NFL over the first half than the Texans.

But it appears they’ve corrected course, and are back in line with what people expected of them this season.

The Texans kept the shackles on the Saints offense, pulling away for a 24-6 win.

It’s their fourth straight win, and keeps them atop the AFC South at 6-5.

Brian Hoyer threw for a pair of touchdowns and Alfred Blue ran for 77 yards and a score as the Texans played a methodical game, keeping the pressure on the Saints all day on both sides of the ball. They held the ball for 36:23, it just felt like more than that.

And while you can make jokes about the AFC South (it’s easy, trust us), the Texans are playing well enough to be legitimate playoff contenders regardless of address.

For the Saints, it continued a miserable season, as they’ve now lost three in a row to drop to 4-7 after a brief moment of competence in which they won three straight.

For a team that used to be able to count on a high-powered offense, the Saints managed 268 yards. And while some of that can be attributed to the Texans defense, the Saints clearly have multiple issues.

Quarterback Drew Brees topped the 3,000-yard passing yard mark, but he also failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in what seems like forever. The streak was actually just 45 games, but his failure to get into the end zone sums up a season of frustration.

Firing defensive coordinator Rob Ryan didn’t fix their leaky defense, as they allowed the Texans to move the ball consistently.

With the undefeated Panthers heading to their building next week, the Saints are left to only be a spoiler and play for pride, such that they’re able to do either of those things.

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League: Keenum case not closed, but there will be no discipline

Case Keenum AP

The Case Keenum case is closed. Unless it isn’t.

As it relates to the question of whether anyone will be disciplined for last week’s incident involving Rams quarterback Case Keenum, the league has confirmed to PFT that no one else will be disciplined, either. However, the NFL contends that the case has not been closed.

“The review continues with the union to see what can be learned to ensure protocols are followed by all involved,” the NFL told PFT via email. “This includes players, officials, the ATC and team medical staff.”

In future cases, discipline could indeed be imposed if/when a player with an apparent concussion is not promptly removed from play. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the unique confluence of events in this case contributed to the decision to not take action against anyone involved.

So, basically, the league is taking the position that it was nobody’s fault. The better view could be to determine based on the outcome that it was everybody’s fault. While an argument could be made that it’s not fair to make everyone responsible, that would be the most effective way to prevent something like this from happening again.

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Eifert suffers stinger with Bengals routing Rams

Indianapolis Colts v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert suffered a stinger in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Rams.

The team announced that Eifert is doubtful to return. Even if he’s not seriously injured, the Bengals are up 31-7.

Eifert caught his 12th touchdown pass of the season in the second quarter, the most in the NFL.

He was limited to just one game last season by an elbow injury. His return and success have played a major role in the Bengals’ 8-2 start.

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Bruce Irvin in, Cary Williams out for Seahawks

498681178 Getty Images

The Seahawks listed linebacker Bruce Irvin as doubtful on their final injury report of the week as a result of the knee injury that kept him out of the lineup that week, but he is evidently feeling better than predicted on Sunday.

Irvin is on the 46-man roster for Sunday’s game against the Steelers despite the MCL sprain that made him unlikely to play 48 hours ago. He’ll be part of the effort to slow down Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the Steelers offense, but cornerback Cary Williams will not be involved.

Williams is a healthy scratch on Sunday, something that doesn’t come as a total surprise since he was benched during last week’s victory over the 49ers. Deshawn Shead replaced him last week and Jeremy Lane is active for the first time this season to give Seattle another option.

Running back Marshawn Lynch as ruled out after abdominal surgery last week. Wide receiver Paul Richardson, cornerback Tye Smith, linebacker Eric Pinkins, center Drew Nowak and offensive lineman Kristjan Sokoli round out the inactives.

For the Steelers, linebacker Ryan Shazier is active after being listed as questionable on Friday because of a knee issue. Quarterback Michael Vick, wide receiver Sammie Coates, cornerback Doran Grant, running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, linebacker Anthony Chickillo, tackle Byron Stingily and defensive end L.T. Walton are inactive.



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Dalton hot, Bengals rolling

A.J. Green, Neiko Thorpe AP

The Rams can’t score — and can’t stop Andy Dalton, either.

The Bengals lead, 31-7, and Dalton has thrown 3 touchdown passes. His second of the day to A.J. Green early in the third quarter made it a three-score game.

Green has touchdowns of 10 and 18 yards. It’s the eighth multiple-touchdown game of Green’s career.

Dalton’s other touchdown pass went to Tyler Eifert. The Bengals made it 31-7 on an interception return by Leon Hall.

The 8-2 Bengals have lost two straight. The 4-6 Rams look to be headed to their fourth-straight loss.

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Raiders up 17-6 on a rainy day in Nashville

Latavius Murray, Avery Williamson

The conditions aren’t conducive for offense in Nashville.

And while the Titans might not be either, the Raiders are doing enough to creep to a little margin.

The Raiders opened the second half with a solid-looking touchdown drive, with Derek Carr hitting Seth Roberts for a touchdown and a 17-6 lead.

The Raiders have outgained the Titans 286-132 at the moment, with Carr throwing for 238 of them, and Amari Cooper with 99 of those yards himself.

With steady rains beginning to hammer down, that might be enough offense for them, especially since the Titans only ran for 7 yards in the first half.

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Jets open up 14-0 lead on two Fitzpatrick touchdown passes

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 29:  Brandon Marshall #15 of the New York Jets makes the catch for the touchdown as  Brent Grimes #21 of the Miami Dolphins defends on November 29, 2015 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

In their last four losses, the Jets have managed just one touchdown in the first half of their games.

Sunday’s start was a much more pleasant one. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a touchdown pass in both quarters and the defense kept the Dolphins from generating any positive momentum on the way to a 14-0 halftime lead on their home field.

Miami, which lost center Mike Pouncey and wide receiver Rishard Matthews to injuries in the first half, has 81 yards through the first two quarters of the game. Just eight of those yards have come on the ground and Ryan Tannehill threw an interception in the red zone to destroy their best scoring opportunity of the first half. It’s the kind of performance we’ve been accustomed to seeing from Miami in recent weeks, but a welcome change of form for a Jets defense that’s sprung some leaks of late.

The same is true of the offensive performance. Fitzpatrick is 15-of-26 for 173 yards and has had a lot of success throwing to Brandon Marshall, who has gotten the better of Brent Grimes all day. Marshall caught one touchdown and rookie Devin Smith, who caught flak from Todd Bowles after big drops last week, caught the other with eight seconds to play in the half.

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