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Marrone confirms Manuel to start this week

Baltimore Ravens v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Bills hope to stop their revolving door at quarterback this week, with the return of rookie E.J. Manuel.

Bills coach Doug Marrone confirmed this morning that Manuel would start against the Steelers, which seemed apparent when he made it through a pair of practices with no complaints this week.

He’s done a very good job,” Marrone said of his preparation, via the team’s official website. “It was a challenge for him not being out there for four weeks. So we worked very hard on the mental aspect and the preparation aspect. He did a great job of that. He came out there this week and had a good week of practice. So we’re excited about putting him back out there on the field.”

Manuel will be wearing some degree of knee brace, Marrone said, and they expect the Steelers to throw the kitchen sink at him.

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John Harbaugh likes Steve Smith’s fire, on and off the field

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith (89) runs as Jacksonville Jaguars strong safety Johnathan Cyprien (37) makes the tackle after a reception during the second half of an NFL football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton) AP

Not only was Ravens coach John Harbaugh caught in the middle of the conversation between Steve Smith and Jaguars rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey, it’s clear that’s where he wanted to be.

Harbaugh said he enjoyed seeing his veteran wide receiver send a little back Ramsey’s way in the post-game.

I got caught in the middle of that,” Harbaugh said, via Edward Lee of the Baltimore Sun. “It was kind of fun, it was fun. I thought Steve Smith had a heck of a game. If that’s how he responds to whatever challenge put before him out there, I’m for it. I’m for that happening every week. I thought he responded quite well.”

Smith had just logged his best game of the year, with a team-high eight catches for 87 yards, so a little jawing back and forth (in person and on Twitter, where Smith eviscerated the kid) from a 37-year-old coming off a torn Achilles was a good sign.

“He’s looked good to me from Day 1,” Harbaugh said. “I saw a bunch of plays made yesterday, I saw a lot of competitive fire, and he was critical for us. He made some huge chunk plays when we needed him the most. So I haven’t had any concerns about Steve at all really, all year. I’m sure glad he’s on our side, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he plays this week.”

And he’s probably also looking forward to the next clash with some poor corner, which you know is inevitable.

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Drew Brees on 0-3 start: At some point it turns

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. The Falcons won 45-32. (AP Photo/Bill Feig) AP

The Saints kept Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones in check on Monday night as Jones had just one catch for 16 yards.

There wasn’t much other good news for them to report, however. The Falcons ran wild on the ground, avoided turnovers and benefitted from three by the Saints in a 45-32 win that dropped the Saints to 0-3 on the season. The issues that plagued them in the Superdome on Monday were similar to the ones that dogged them in the first two weeks, but quarterback Drew Brees didn’t sound like he expects the same issues to plague the team all season.

“We’re not saying it’s easy, but at some point it turns,” Brees said after the game. “We don’t know when that’s going to be. Hope it’s this week. That’s why you go out and get the type of guys that we have in the locker room. You don’t get guys that are going to turn on one another or cash in if times get tough. You go out and get tough, competitive guys that love the game of football, love to compete, love to play for one another. Look at any team throughout the course of a year, any team that has gone on and done great things. There are moments of adversity. There are moments and times where it would have been easy to throw it in or not approach it in a positive way and I feel like we have the right type of guys to turn this thing around and when we do, look out.”

This is the fourth time that a Saints team with Brees at quarterback has started 0-3 and none of the previous teams have made the playoffs or finished with a winning record, so how much things will turn is a matter for some debate because they probably need to go at least 9-4 the rest of the way to advance to the postseason. The Saints team we’ve seen for the first three weeks hasn’t looked good enough to reel off that kind of record.

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La’el Collins has surgery on his big toe, but they think he can come back

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 23:   Ronald Leary #65 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts in the second quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on November 23, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys are going to have to get by without their Sgt. Hulka for the next few months but there’s a chance they could get him back.

According to Ed Werder of ESPN, Cowboys left guard La’El Collins is having surgery to repair the ligament damage to his right big toe suffered Monday. They’ve already placed him on injured reserve, but the team is holding out hope he can return later in the year.

(This is also where not putting Tony Romo on IR helps them, since you can only bring back one player per year from that list).

While an injury to any starter is bad, the Cowboys are covered at this spot.

Guard Ronald Leary will take over at left guard, returning to the spot he started ever game in 2013 and 2014. He asked to be traded this offseason, but the Cowboys refused to give him away, and are now glad they didn’t.

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Greg Hardy caught with cocaine, claims it’s not his

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 15: Greg Hardy #76 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on November 15, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

Former Cowboys and Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was arrested on Sunday after police found cocaine during a traffic stop.

Hardy was pulled over for failing to use a turn signal, police asked to search him, and he agreed, police say. When they looked in his wallet, they found 0.7 grams of cocaine.

The police report says that Hardy told the officer that he didn’t know what the substance was. Hardy said that the night before, he had passed his wallet around a party because he was paying for everyone, and someone must have put the cocaine in his wallet at the time.

Hardy was booked into jail in Richardson, Texas, and released on $5,000 bond.

Once among the best pass rushers in the NFL, Hardy was benched for 15 games by the Panthers in 2014 as a result of a domestic violence accusation. Although charges were later dropped, the NFL suspended Hardy for the start of the 2015 season. He finished 2015 playing for the Cowboys but has generated no interest as a free agent this year. His career is now likely over.

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Tom Brady: No football benefit to missing time, but Italy was nice

New England Patriots fans cheer about a sign referring to quarterbacks Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo, neither of who were dressed for the game against the Houston Texans, during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) AP

The Patriots are 3-0 without Tom Brady, and with a week to go before he comes back, he’s already trying to manage expectations — lest people expect him to be Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett, for heaven’s sake.

I don’t think there is any benefit to watching the team play these games from a football standpoint, because it takes time to get the timing and the practice reps,” Brady said during his weekly interview on Westwood One Radio (via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com).  “I’m trying to do the best I can to stay in shape and to keep the timing, and to really stay football ready. I’m hoping our team has a great week of preparation and can get to 4-0, and then I’ll have an opportunity to be back next Monday, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to be ready to go for that week.

“It’s a big week for me, and it’s a big week for our team. Every week is a big week in the NFL, but not having been out there for four weeks, there is a lot of makeup time I’m going to need and the chance to be on the field with my teammates to see what kind of rhythm I can find in a short week of practice.”

Of course, we think having 16 years of experience will somehow allow him to manage a month off, but Brady said he’s not the kind of player who can roll out of bed and be back to form.

“I don’t think you can,” he said. “I do admire some guys, like [Patriots receiver] Danny Amendola. He didn’t practice at all in training camp and he goes out there and the first week of the year [and] has a great game. The second week of the year, he has two touchdown catches. I’ve played with a lot of teammates who have been off for extended periods of time and it looks like they’re flipping the switch, but I think for me, that’s not the way I really prepare. I like to take every rep in practice. I like to practice every day.

“I’ve been able to be very healthy over the course of my career, and I think that has really helped me, and I’m going to need to find that rhythm back. It’s going to take some work and some time. Like I said before, that’s some uncharted territory, too.”

Brady said he was “in a good place,” and last week that was Italy, on a vacation with his wife, Gisele Bundchen.

“I’ve never had an opportunity in September,” he said. “Hopefully I don’t have one for a very, very long time.”

While it’s Brady, and of course he’ll start, the sterling play of his backup and their ability to win with a third string likely makes him a little more eager to get back, and show people what they’ve missed.

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Jaguars get early London game, just as they wanted

JACKSONVILLE, FL - AUGUST 28: Head coach Gus Bradley of the Jacksonville Jaguars claps during the second half of the preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals at EverBank Field on August 28, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jaguars play the Colts in London on Sunday. It’s the earliest England trip for the Jaguars in their four years of playing a home game overseas, and that’s exactly what they wanted.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Jaguars requested to play in the earliest London game this year because they traditionally have performed better after playing there.

In 2013, the Jaguars started 0-8, capped with a 42-10 loss to the 49ers at Wembley Stadium. After London and the ensuing bye, the Jags went 4-1.

The next year, the Jaguars went 1-9 through England (capped by a 31-17 loss to the Cowboys), and 2-3 after that.

In 2015, the Jaguars went 1-5 before going to London, finally won there (34-31 over the Bills), and then went 3-3 after returning.

This year, the Jaguars are 0-3 as they prepare to face the 1-2 Colts. After the bye, Jacksonville has three potentially winnable games at Chicago, vs. the Raiders, and at Tennessee. The schedule after that includes two games against the Texans and back-to-back home games against the Broncos and Vikings.

Coach Gus Bradley arguably needs that annual London lift more than ever, given the team’s overall record during his tenure (12-39) and multiple comments from owner Shad Khan indicating that more is expected in 2016.

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Vernon Butler to miss several weeks with high-ankle sprain

NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 20:  Vernon Butler #92 of the Carolina Panthers is blocked by Jeremiah Poutasi #73 of the Tennessee Titans during the second half at Nissan Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) Getty Images

Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Vernon Butler will miss time after suffering a high-ankle sprain in Sunday’s 22-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

According to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, Butler had a cast on his injured right foot in the team’s locker room on Monday. Butler was injured when linebacker Thomas Davis fell into Butler’s leg while making a tackle on Vikings’ running back Jerick McKinnon.

The injury is expected to keep Butler out for several weeks.

Butler had played on 44 percent of Carolina’s defensive snaps over the first two games while serving in a reserve role. He had just 10 snaps against Minnesota before leaving with an injury. Butler has recorded three tackles, a sack and a pass defended through three games.

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Seahawks first-round pick Germain Ifedi could make debut this week

Seahawks first-round pick Germain Ifedi speaks to the media following rookie mini-camp practice on May 6, 2016. (photo by Curtis Crabtree / ProFootballTalk.com)

A high-ankle sprain has forced Seahawks first-round pick Germain Ifedi to miss Seattle’s first three games against the Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers.

But Ifedi could finally make his regular season debut this Sunday against the New York Jets.

“He’s doing quite well,” head coach Pete Carroll said on Monday. “He’s really excited about coming back. He was really close last week, you wouldn’t know that there was anything wrong with him at this point.”

Ifedi returned to limited participation in practice on Friday for the first time since suffering the injury in the Wednesday practice before the season opener with Miami. J’Marcus Webb has started the first three games of the season in Ifedi’s place at right guard. Carroll said that once Ifedi is ready to go, he’ll jump right back in the starting lineup.

“He worked really hard today and he’ll take a light day tomorrow, then he’ll get after it and practice with us on Wednesday,” Carroll said. “I think that gives him a chance to get right back in there, if he can put together a day after today. It’s really a day-to-day thing and see how he responds to the work. Today was a really big indicator that he’s in good shape and ready to go.”

Ifedi’s return would be welcomed by Seattle, but it also would create some question marks. The Seahawks have to face one of the best defensive lines in the league in the Jets and they have a quarterback in Russell Wilson with a sprained right ankle and sprained MCL in his left knee. Jets head coach Todd Bowles loves to bring pressure as well. Seattle feels strongly about Ifedi’s potential, but it wouldn’t be the easiest first test this weekend.

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Freeman, Coleman run wild as Falcons overwhelm Saints

Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Deion Jones (45) intercepts a pass from New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, not pictured, and returns it for a touchdown, in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Bill Feig) AP

The Falcons scored touchdowns on five straight possessions, then turned to their defense to seal a wild, 45-32 win over the Saints Monday night.

Tevin Coleman ran for three touchdowns and rookie linebacker Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter as the Falcons blew it open.

For as good as Coleman was it was his Falcons backfield mate, Devonta Freeman who led everyone with 152 rushing yards. Freeman also caught a 13-yard touchdown pass, and Coleman produced 47 receiving yards and 42 rushing yards.

The Falcons move to 2-1 and are alone atop the NFC South. The Saints fall to 0-3.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for 376 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Coby Fleener scored his first Saints touchdown and had seven catches for 109 yards, but a depleted Saints defense just couldn’t get off the field and couldn’t get Freeman down.

The Falcons racked up 217 rushing yards and didn’t commit a turnover.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns. Julio Jones had one catch, but Ryan and the Falcons were in charge of the game with the exception of the first 10 minutes.

The Saints moved the ball all night and outgained the Falcons but never seemed to recover from an early misplayed punt by R.J. Harris that turned into Coleman’s first touchdown and, even after rallying, couldn’t recover from the interception return by Jones that made it a 20-point game.

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Rookie linebacker returns interception for touchdown, puts Falcons up by 20

Drew Brees AP

Falcons rookie linebacker Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, squashing a Saints rally and putting the Falcons up, 45-25.

Drew Brees had been moving the Saints, who’d finally kept the Falcons out of the end zone and were driving to make it a one-score game.

Jones is a New Orleans native, making his touchdown extra sweet.

On the ESPN broadcast, analyst Jon Gruden said Brees was fooled by the coverage, thought he was seeing man-to-man coverage and ended up chasing Jones to no avail. Brees was intercepted for the first time in 305 passes.

Tevin Coleman has three rushing touchdowns for the Falcons, who have been dominant when they’ve had the ball.

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Coleman, Falcons running Saints off the field

Tevin Coleman,Brennen Beyer AP

Falcons running back Tevin Coleman has three rushing touchdowns and the Falcons are routing the defenseless Saints, 35-17, in the third quarter.

Coleman had two career rushing touchdowns before tonight’s game.

The Falcons have scored on five straight possessions. It was 14-14 in the second quarter.

Drew Brees has two touchdown passes for the Saints, who have only scored via a 57-yard Wil Lutz field goal since early in the second quarter.

Julio Jones doesn’t have a catch but the Falcons still have an 18-point lead.

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Falcons scoring at will, hold 28-17 halftime lead

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes in the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) AP

A week after a strong showing on the road against the Giants, the bad Saints defense has returned.

The Saints have provided little resistance against Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and the Falcons. The Falcons lead the Saints, 28-17, at halftime.

A 4-yard shovel pass to Justin Hardy gave the Falcons a two-touchdown lead with 28 seconds left in the first half. The Falcons went 94 yards in eight plays and scored for the fourth consecutive possession.

Saints kicker Wil Lutz hit a 57-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.

Tevin Coleman’s second rushing touchdown of the game capped a 75-yard scoring drive to make it 21-14. Freeman had 61 yards rushing and 13-yard touchdown catch with more than five minutes left in the second quarter.

Drew Brees has thrown a pair of touchdowns for the Saints. Rookie Michael Thomas caught his first NFL touchdown pass to tie the game at 14, but the Falcons marched right back down the field.

The Saints are missing some key people defensively, and they’re playing like it.

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As expected, Falcons and Saints off to hot start

New Orleans Saints tight end Coby Fleener (82) celebrates his touchdown reception in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Bill Feig) AP

The Saints got the ball first Monday night, and they drove for a touchdown.

The Falcons punted after their first possession, but R.J. Harris didn’t field it cleanly and Falcons linebacker LaRoy Reynolds recovered it at the Saints’ 11-yard line.

Three plays later, Tevin Coleman scored from 2 yards out to tie the game.

The Saints had marched 75 yards in 11 plays on the opening drive and scored on a 2-yard pass from Drew Brees to Coby Fleener, who caught his first touchdown with the Saints.

Brees was 5-of-5 for 46 yards on the first drive. It might take a bunch of points to win this one.

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Pete Carroll says Russell Wilson will practice Wednesday

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks walks on the sidelines with his knee wrapped after coming out of the game in the second half against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on September 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has a left knee injury, to go with his right ankle injury. But it apparently won’t cause him to miss a beat.

“We’re planning on practicing him on Wednesday,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters regarding Wilson on Monday. Asked whether Wilson will be limited in practice, Carroll said, “We’ll see.”

Carroll initially said he expects Wilson to play on Sunday, with this caveat: “It’s really early to say because he hasn’t done anything other than just convince me of that thought, he’s done a very good job so far.”

Given the manner in which Wilson’s knee bent while being sacked against the 49ers, it’s amazing that practicing or playing is even a possibility. Carroll said earlier in the day that Wilson has an MCL sprain, of undisclosed degree.

“[H]e’s remarkably well off for having a play like that,” Carroll said. “He looks very good, very upbeat and positive about feeling like he’s going to be fine. It was just all positive.”

Carroll added that Wilson is “still working on his ankle a little bit,” and the coach was unable to say when the knee will heal.

The challenge for Wilson becomes avoiding new injuries while Wilson has limited mobility due to the two injuries he currently had. With a makeshift. work-in-progress offensive line, that will be easier said than done.

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Saints, Falcons players link hands in pregame show of unity

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 27:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints leaves the field following a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 27, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  New Orleans defeated Jacksonville 38-27. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

All players from the Falcons and Saints stood for the singing of the national anthem Monday night, then they left the sidelines and headed towards midfield.

After the national anthem, players and coaches from both teams formed a circle around the 50-yard line and held hands for a show of unity and moment of reflection. Some bowed their heads, and after a few seconds the teams returned to their respective sidelines.

ESPN cameras followed the players and the circle, and play-by-play man Sean McDonough seemed to know it was coming. McDonough said players from both teams had discussed it and decided to go with a show of unity in light of last week’s police shootings and various demonstrations that have been going on around the NFL.

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