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Vikings knock off Bears in overtime thriller

Adrian Peterson, Tim Jennings AP

Overcoming a 10-point second-half deficit and shaking off the disappointment of a game-winning field goal nullified by penalty, the Vikings slugged their way to a 23-20 overtime victory against the Bears on Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis.

The Vikings got a huge game from Adrian Peterson, who racked up 211 rushing yards on 35 carries and became the fifth back in NFL history to need just seven seasons to reach 10,000 rushing yards for his career. The Vikings also received a strong performance in relief from quarterback Matt Cassel, who stepped in after Christian Ponder suffered a second-quarter concussion.

The Bears had a chance to win the game in overtime, but Robbie Gould’s 47-yard field goal faded wide right. In a curious move, Gould was sent out to attempt the kick on second down.

The Vikings, led by 30 rushing yards on four carries from Peterson, would capitalize on the Gould miss, marching into range for Blair Walsh’s 34-yard game-winner with 1:43 left.

Walsh appeared to have won the game for Minnesota earlier in overtime when he connected on a 39-yard field goal, but Vikings tight end Rhett Ellison was penalized for a 15-yard facemask penalty. After the foul, Peterson would lose three yards. Then, on fourth down, Walsh missed a 57-yard attempt wide left.

However, the Bears could not capitalize, which was the story of their last-ever game at Mall of America Field.

The Bears seemed poised to put away Minnesota (3-8-1) after wide receiver Alshon Jeffery hauled in third-quarter touchdowns of 80 and 46 yards to give Chicago a 20-10 lead. Jeffery, who’s become a key part of the Bears’ offense in his second NFL season, set a franchise record with 249 yards receiving on 12 catches.

The Vikings, though, would fight back, with Cassel hitting Greg Jennings for an eight-yard TD with 7:41 in regulation to cut the Bears’ lead to 20-17.

The Vikings then had a chance to take the lead after Bears guard Kyle Long fumbled a reception of a deflected pass, giving Minnesota the ball deep in Chicago territory. However, Ellison couldn’t haul in a potential TD pass, and Bears linebacker Khaseem Greene made the interception, returning it to midfield with a little less than five minutes left.

The Bears could not run out the clock, and a punt pinned Minnesota at its nine-yard line with less than three minutes left. Then, on the second snap after the two-minute warning, Cassel made a pivotal play, hitting Jerome Simpson for 20 yards on 4th-and-11. With new life, the Vikings marched all the way to the Chicago 12 before Walsh’s 30-yard field goal tied the game at 20 with 20 seconds left.

The Bears would have one more shot to win the game, but Gould’s 66-yard kick fell short. Vikings wideout Cordarrelle Patterson received the ball, but there would be no “Iron Bowl” miracle, as Patterson was brought down at the Minnesota 22.

The defeat leaves the Bears at 6-6 and with considerable work to do to catch and pass Detroit in the NFC North race. The Lions (7-5) have the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Bears after sweeping Chicago; if the teams tie for the division title, the Lions will have the edge.

The Bears’ wild-card hopes also took a major hit. The Bears are now 3-6 in NFC games, and their weak conference record could compromise them from a wild-card tiebreaker standpoint.

In another fine performance, Bears quarterback Josh McCown completed 23-of-36 passes for 355 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. Once again, though, the Bears’ defense had a tough outing, allowing 496 yards on 86 plays and not quite getting enough stops.

Cassel completed 23-of-36 passes for 280 yards with two TDs and one pick for Minnesota, which has shown improved form in back-to-back games against NFC North foes. After tying the Packers, they finished the deal against the Bears, who desperately needed a win but couldn’t get it.

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Tom Brady practices Wednesday, knee is “feeling good”

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 04:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots gestures during the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots didn’t file an injury report on Wednesday, because they don’t play until Monday. But they practice they did, and quarterback Tom Brady was able to participate despite a knee injury that has been limiting his practice time in recent weeks.

“I’m feeling good, so it was good to be out there,” Brady told reporters on Thursday. “I always enjoy being out there at practice. I’d much rather be practicing than getting treatment. It was good to be out there. It was a productive day and we’ve got to have a productive week, too.”

They need to have a productive week because they face the Ravens, and Brady agrees with the assessment that they currently have the best defense in the NFL.

“They’re the first-rated defense in the league so no one has done a better job over the course of the season than them,” Brady said. “I think they do things really well in a lot of areas, so they’re good in first-down defense, good in third-down defense, third-and-short, good on the goal line, good in the red area. They contest every yard, so I think that’s the mark of a good defense. They don’t give you anything easy. You have to earn it. I think they do a good mix with their scheme and also with their personnel, so we’re prepared for a 60-minute game. That’s what we’re practicing for.”

The Patriots have struggled at times with the Ravens in the playoffs, but New England holds an all-time edge of 7-1 in the regular season. To lock down the No. 1 seed in the postseason (which could entail a return visit from the Ravens with higher stakes), the Patriots need a Monday night win.

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Roethlisberger: Ladarius Green is a weapon for us

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 04:  Ladarius Green #89 of the Pittsburgh Steelers cannot come up with a pass while being defended by Eli Apple #24 of the New York Giants in the second half during the game at Heinz Field on December 4, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tight end Ladarius Green’s time with the Steelers got off to a bad start as offseason ankle surgery kept him from getting on the field in training camp and during the first half of the season.

Green was signed in hopes that he would help fill the role left vacant by Heath Miller’s retirement, but the team had to look in other directions while Green recovered. While that wasn’t the plan, the Steelers survived to remain in the mix for the division title and Green finally made it into a game in Week 10.

Recent results have shown Green was worth the wait. He has nine catches for 177 yards and a touchdown in the last two games, giving the Steelers another valuable piece in the passing game. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said that touchdown came on a play the team had yet to practice with Green, which he takes as a sign that their chemistry is heading in the right direction.

“For me to call it and him to execute it flawlessly speaks volumes for the work he has put in mentally,” Roethlisberger said, via the team’s website. “To not get that rep physically, but mentally be ready to do it, able to do it, be the actor, the fake block and then make the play. That is just awesome on his part. … I have all of the faith in the world in him and what he can do. He is a weapon for us.”

With Martavis Bryant suspended, Markus Wheaton on injured reserve and Sammie Coates dealing with a hand injury, the Steelers have had a hard time finding consistent complements to Antonio Brown this season. Green has shown signs of changing that the last two weeks and more of the same will serve the Steelers well as they push for the playoffs.

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Brian Robison on NFL officiating: Something needs to be done

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 6:  Brian Robison #96 of the Minnesota Vikings runs on to the field on November 6, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

After the Vikings lost on Thursday night in part because of a controversial no-call on a hit to Sam Bradford, Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said, “I’m sick and tired of the reffing in this league.”

A week later, Robison has calmed down a bit. But he said this morning on PFT Live that he’s still convinced that the NFL simply must do something to improve the officiating.

“A lot of people thought I was just commenting on that one particular play, which in the heat of the moment I kind of was, but my comments were on the league as a whole,” Robison said. “I’ve seen it on tape, different things and there’s no calls. I don’t know what needs to be done, but I feel like something needs to be done.”

Robison thinks the league might be able to give the on-field officials more help with another official who’s monitoring the game on television, beyond the replay reviews the league already has.

“The game moves very fast, and sometimes you have to have the right angle in order to be able to see it. A lot of times we get told, ‘I didn’t see it,'” Robison said. “It’s something that needs to be looked into in the offseason.”

Robison says he isn’t sure whether he will be fined by the league for his criticism of the officials.

“I haven’t yet. We may find out today. I think normally the league sends it out on Thursday,” Robison said.

If the NFL fines Robison, that would be the wrong move. It’s one thing to fine players who call out individual officials by name, or question officials’ integrity. But all Robison is saying is that across the board, the league should prioritize improving officiating. It’s hard to disagree with that.

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Ezekiel Elliott investigation still “active and ongoing”

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 1: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys carries the ball during pregame warmups before facing the Minnesota Vikings on December 1, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

In the never-ending NFL news cycle, stories bubble up before being pushed to a rear burner, forgotten until the next time the lid begins to softly rattle against the rim of the pot.

For Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, the simmering continues when it comes to his pending domestic violence investigation. The NFL tells PFT that the investigation is “active and ongoing.”

The league continues to explore five alleged incidents in six July days involving Elliott and a former girlfriend. As part of the probe, the NFL also has considered an alleged incident from February. That becomes ominous not because Elliott could separately be punished for it (because it happened before he was drafted by Dallas, he can’t be) but because it could be used as an aggravating factor in the determination of the punishment to be imposed for whatever happened in July.

Put simply, the February incident has no relevance if nothing is going to be done about the July incidents.

But there’s a possibility that the February incident could help the league resolve an apparent credibility contest regarding the things that did or didn’t occur in July. If the claims made about Elliott regarding February can be independently corroborated, the league may be more likely to conclude that the alleged victim is telling the truth about July, too.

With no jury and no beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard of proof criminal charges were not filed against Elliott), the league essentially can do whatever it wants. And with the test being whether it’s more likely than not that the misconduct happened, the NFL can find a violation simply by coming to the conclusion that the alleged victim is telling something closer to the truth than Elliott is.

The NFL also can take as much time as it wants to resolve the case, and with only four weeks left in the regular season, it seems unlikely that anything will happen until the offseason, at the earliest. Whether other players on other teams would get the same consideration doesn’t matter; the Cowboys have proven to be the cure for the league’s ratings woes, so it makes little sense to rush to judgment regarding a running back who has emerged as one of the most important pieces of a possible championship team.

Right or wrong, it doesn’t matter. The league knows it gains nothing by moving too quickly, especially since the process already has lasted this long.

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Washington shuts first-rounder down for the year in hopes of healthy 2017

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 18: Wide receiver Josh Doctson #18 of the Washington Redskins misses a catch against cornerback Morris Claiborne #24 of the Dallas Cowboys in the second half at FedExField on September 18, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Some injuries on the offensive line necessitated Washington using its designated for return from IR spot on center Kory Lichtensteiger, but it also came with the recognition that first-round pick Josh Doctson needs more time.

By preparing to activate Lichtensteiger, the team pulled the plug on the rookie wide receiver, who played just two games this season because of a lingering Achilles injury.

It is disappointing for all of us,” coach Jay Gruden said, via the team’s official website. “You know, we had high hopes for him coming out of TCU and the talent that he has and he’s disappointed but these things happen. There’s been a lot – if you look around the league, there’s a lot of first-rounders that didn’t get up and running this year for whatever reason and a lot of draft picks. So he’s just one of the guys that we have to take good care of.

“We have to make sure we get to the bottom of his injury and hopefully this gives his mental state of mind some peace that he can go out and rehab it and get it well for OTAs.”

The 22nd overall pick, Doctson was placed on IR in October, with hopes that time would help him return to the field. But when center Spencer Long suffered a concussion last week, the reality was they couldn’t wait for what might be a luxury, when more pressing needs existed.

And with the team’s top two wideouts potential free agents (DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon), they’re potentially going to need Doctson at 100 percent next year.

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Terrell Suggs has healthy respect for that guy at QB for the Patriots

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10:  Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens sacks Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots during the first quarter of the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoffs game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

The man they call T-Sizzle is apparently unwilling to say the name of the guy he’s playing against Monday night.

Via Jamison Hensley of, Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs expressed the appropriate respect for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, but at no point in an interview yesterday did he actually use the words “Tom Brady.”

When asked about Tom Brady becoming the winningest quarterback in league history last week, he replied: “He’s pretty good. Like I said, wins are wins and numbers are numbers. Numbers don’t lie. He’s pretty good.”

Asked if he didn’t want to talk about Tom Brady, he replied: “I’m like Marshawn Lynch. I know why I’m here. It’s a big game this week. We’re playing a good team. It’s going to be fun.”

Asked if he wasn’t going to say Tom Brady’s name, Suggs said: “I mean, it’s going to be fun. We’re going to have fun. It’s going to be an interesting game. We accept the challenge.”

Suggs has taken to referring to Brady as the “quarterback from New England” or “the pretty boy from up north” in recent years. But he understands the place the Patriots occupy in the football world.

“I mean, how many Super Bowls do they got? They got, like, four or five and played in, like, six or seven,” Suggs said. “You can’t do nothing but respect that. Wins are wins and championships are championships.”

Even if you won’t say Tom Brady.

Tom Brady. Tom Brady. Tom Brady.

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PFT’s Week 14 picks

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 13:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers emerges from the tunnel before their game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Bank of America Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tie, apparently, is the operative word this week in the NFL. As in Cam Newton didn’t have one. And as in the PFT picks competition does.

With MDS prevailing 4-3 in a whopping seven disagreements, it’s all knotted up with four weeks left.

For the week, MDS generated an 11-4 record, and I was 10-5.

This week, the tie will be broken based on the outcome of the game involving the guy who didn’t wear a tie. For all takes and predictions, scroll baby scroll.

Raiders at Chiefs

MDS’s take: This is one of the best Thursday night games we’ve ever had, as the winner will have the inside track in the AFC West and perhaps even home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. I think the Raiders will just freeze, baby, on a cold night in Kansas City, and the Chiefs will win a defensive struggle.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 17, Raiders 13.

Florio’s take: It’s tempting to look at Oakland’s record and assume that 10-2 will become 11-2, especially since the Raiders play so well away from home and have become an NFL darling with their best year by far since 2002. But the Chiefs have an opportunity to swipe the division, given their 26-10 win over the Raiders from October. It will be cold and it will be loud and the Chiefs have an opportunity to position themselves to make a Super Bowl run.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 24, Raiders 21.

Steelers at Bills

MDS’s take: The Bills’ running attack gives them the chance to play a ball-control offense and beat the Steelers on the ground. But I see the Steelers getting a couple big plays from Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown and winning a close one.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 24, Bills 23.

Florio’s take: The Steelers are surging and the Bills are shell-shocked after last Sunday’s 24-9 lead quickly became a 38-24 loss. The only question now is who’ll stay and who’ll go after the Bills once again fail to make it to the playoffs.

Florio’s pick: Steelers 30, Bills 20.

Broncos at Titans

MDS’s take: The Titans’ surprisingly good offense against the Broncos’ unsurprisingly great defense will be a lot of fun to see. I think the Broncos’ offense will struggle and Marcus Mariota will do just enough with his arm and his legs to win a close game.

MDS’s pick: Titans 14, Broncos 13.

Florio’s take: If the Titans only could handle the teams in their division, they’d be a lock for the postseason. As it stands, they’ll need another signature win to even have a shot at the postseason. With an extra week to get ready and with the Broncos struggling (relative to 2015), give the home team the edge.

Florio’s pick: Titans 24, Broncos 17.

Washington at Eagles

MDS’s take: The Eagles are cratering down the stretch after showing a lot of promise early on. Washington needs a win here, and will get one.

MDS’s pick: Washington 27, Eagles 20.

Florio’s take: Seasons of promise for both teams have disintegrated, but Washington still has hope. And more talent. And a chance to still make it to the playoffs.

Florio’s pick: Washington 27, Eagles 23.

Cardinals at Dolphins

MDS’s take: A week ago I would have said the Dolphins were the much better team here, but the Cardinals turned in a good performance last week while the Dolphins turned in a miserable game. Still, I think the Dolphins have more to play for and should bounce back.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 24, Cardinals 20.

Florio’s take: It may not be easy for the Dolphins to forget what happened in Baltimore. But the Cardinals just don’t have the horses this year, and the Dolphins continue to have an unlikely window of opportunity to get to the postseason.

Florio’s pick: Dolphins 27, Cardinals 23.

Chargers at Panthers

MDS’s take: The Panthers looked terrible on Sunday night and I’m tempted to declare that they’ve written off the season. But I have a feeling Ron Rivera will have his team focused for a much better game this week, and they’ll pull out a win at home.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 28, Chargers 21.

Florio’s take: Philip Rivers returns to North Carolina, the state where he played college football. (Hopefully, he’ll pick his bolo tie.) That reality coupled with pride and a desire to save Mike McCoy’s job could be the difference in this one, especially with the Panthers simply playing out the string in the hopes of a reset to 0-0.

Florio’s pick: Chargers 27, Panthers 20.

Bengals at Browns

MDS’s take: With each passing week it gets harder to justify picking the Browns to win. They appear to be holding a one-way ticket to 0-16.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 30, Browns 17.

Florio’s take: If the Browns don’t win this one, they may not win at all this season. The Bengals bounced back against the Eagles, and the Bengals realize the stakes involved: The last thing they want to do is to be the first team to lose to the Browns since the 49ers nearly one year ago to the day.

Florio’s pick: Bengals 26, Browns 17.

Bears at Lions

MDS’s take: This is one of those games where a Lions choke isn’t out of the question: It’s a game they should win, but the Lions aren’t a team with a great track record of winning the games they should win. And yet I have a feeling that they’ll manage to pull this game out, even if I also have a feeling it’s going to be closer than expected.

MDS’s pick: Lions 20, Bears 17.

Florio’s take: The biggest mystery about this game is how did the Bears beat the Lions when they met the first time?

Florio’s pick:  Lions 30, Bears 20.

Texans at Colts

MDS’s take: After falling behind the Texans early in the season, the Colts now look like the team that should win the AFC South. They’ll take a big step in that direction on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Colts 31, Texans 21.

Florio’s take: The Texans historically don’t play well in Indianapolis. More recently, the Texans haven’t been playing well anywhere. In the quest to lose at home in the wild-card round or get blown out in the divisional round, the Colts have the edge. Hooray?

Florio’s pick: Colts 24, Texans 20.

Vikings at Jaguars

MDS’s take: The Vikings have struggled mightily after getting off to a hot start, but playing the Jaguars should cure what ails them.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 20, Jaguars 10.

Florio’s take: If the Vikings can’t beat the Jaguars, the Vikings have no business being in the playoffs. Then again, the Vikings arguably already have no business being in the playoffs.

Florio’s pick: Vikings 27, Jaguars 17.

Jets at 49ers

MDS’s take: This might be the ugliest game of the year. Both teams looked terrible last week, but the 49ers at least still seem to be trying to win, while the Jets are openly talking about planning for next year. That gives the 49ers the advantage this week.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 24, Jets 10.

Florio’s take: The only important question regarding this one is whether there will be more people on and around the field than there are in the stands.

Florio’s pick: 49ers 13, Jets 9.

Saints at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: The Saints were still in the NFC South race until they laid an egg against the Lions last week. The Buccaneers are now fighting for a playoff spot, and they’ll get a big win on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 24, Saints 17.

Florio’s take: At a time when the Raiders are the best they’ve been since making it to the Super Bowl in 2002, the Buccaneers are the best they’ve been since they won the Super Bowl in 2002.

Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 31, Saints 27.

Falcons at Rams

MDS’s take: The Falcons’ defense isn’t very good, and it could cost them the division. But the Jared Goff-led Rams offense won’t be able to take advantage.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 24, Rams 14.

Florio’s take: “We don’t make excuses, [insert latest excuse].”

Florio’s pick: Falcons 28, Rams 17.

Seahawks at Packers

MDS’s take: This is the most intriguing game of the week to me. Is Aaron Rodgers all the way back and ready to attack a Seahawks secondary that’s missing Earl Thomas? Can the Packers’ defense slow down Thomas Rawls and a good Seahawks running game? I think this will be a higher-scoring game than most expect, with the Seahawks coming out on top.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 34, Packers 31.

Florio’s take: Green Bay’s last two wins were, in hindsight, not very impressive. The Eagles have slumped to 2-7, and the Packers didn’t exactly steamroll an overmatched Texans team. The Seahawks have the pass rush to overcome the absence of safety Earl Thomas, and the offense to take pressure away from the defense.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 24, Packers 20.

Cowboys at Giants

MDS’s take: The injury to Jason Pierre-Paul will hit the Giants hard, and the Cowboys’ offense should have a big night as they march toward clinching home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 30, Giants 20.

Florio’s take: Yes, the Giants beat the Cowboys in Week One. But the Cowboys have gotten a lot better since then, and they realize the importance of not giving the Giants an opening to swipe the division.

Florio’s pick: Cowboys 20, Giants 17.

Ravens at Patriots

MDS’s take: The Patriots’ offense will slip without Rob Gronkowski, but I see New England’s defense doing a good job against Joe Flacco in a hard-fought and close game.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 20, Ravens 17.

Florio’s take: The Ravens give the Patriots fits in New England in the postseason. During the regular season, the Pats know how to take care of their rivals from Baltimore.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 24, Ravens 21.

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RG3 will start this Sunday

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 27:  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Cleveland Browns looks on during warmups prior to the game against the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 27, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

Browns coach Hue Jackson said on Wednesday that he wanted to see how Robert Griffin III did in practice this week before making his decision about who will start at quarterback.

By the time Thursday rolled around, Jackson had seen enough to make the call. The Browns announced on Thursday morning that Griffin will be in the starting lineup against the Bengals this Sunday.

It will be Griffin’s second start of the season. He started the season opener for Cleveland, but has missed the last 11 games after breaking a bone in his left shoulder during that loss to the Eagles. He resumed practicing over the last few weeks and will now return to the lineup with hopes of leading the team to their first victory of the season.

He’ll also be trying to prove his worth as a starter after losing his job in Washington to Kirk Cousins in 2015 and landing in Cleveland as a free agent this offseason. He’s under contract with the Browns for next season, so a good close to the year could put him ahead in the battle for the job in 2017.

Griffin’s injury history and the play of the Browns’ offensive line are among the reasons why that’s a hard bet to make, but Griffin will get his chance to prove otherwise starting on Sunday.

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Travis Swanson is in the concussion protocol

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 09: Quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions calls the play behind teammate center Travis Swanson during an NFL game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Ford Field on October 9, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Lions will try to take another step toward a NFC North title when they host the Bears on Sunday, but they may have to do it without starting center Travis Swanson.

Swanson was out of practice on Wednesday because of a concussion, which means he’ll need to proceed through the league’s concussion protocol in the next few days if he’s going to be cleared to play against Chicago.

It’s not clear when Swanson suffered the injury or reported symptoms. He played every snap for the Lions in their Week 13 victory over the Saints and has started all 12 games for Detroit this season.

Rookie Graham Glasgow competed with Swanson for the job over the summer and would be the likeliest replacement if Swanson can’t go. Glasgow has been starting at left guard, so moving over a spot would probably mean a return to the lineup for 2015 first-round pick Laken Tomlinson.

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Robert Alford signs four-year extension with Falcons

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Robert Alford #23 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts after a pass against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 26, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

You can scratch cornerback Robert Alford from the list of free agents hitting the market in the offseason.

The team announced that Alford has signed a contract extension with the Falcons that will keep him in Atlanta beyond the 2016 season. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that it is a four-year deal with $21 million in guarantees and up to $38 million in total money.

Alford joined the Falcons as a second-round pick in 2013 and is in the final year of his rookie contract. Alford has started every game he’s played for Atlanta over the last three seasons and has returned interceptions for touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. He has nine interceptions overall over his four years with the team.

Alford was one of two cornerbacks that the Falcons took early in the 2013 draft. First-round pick Desmond Trufant is on injured reserve at the moment, but is under contract for next season and an extension for him would lock the duo in as front-line members of the Falcons for some time.

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Dysfunction descends on Rams front office

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 16:  NFL GM Les Snead and NFL head coach Jeff Fisher attend The 2014 ESPYS at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on July 16, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images) Getty Images

“I don’t make excuses, but there’s a lot of dysfunction in the organization right now.”

That’s probably not an excuse that we’ll be hearing from Rams coach Jeff Fisher after his team’s next loss, in large part because one of his recent non-excuse excuses took the dysfunction to a new level.

Albert Breer of has harvested quotes from unnamed Rams sources that underscore the problems flowing from Fisher’s recent effort to attribute the franchise’s struggles to shortcomings in personnel.

“It pissed me off because I knew it was meant as a shot,” one unnamed Rams source told Breer. “You see it under that umbrella — ‘We need to do a better job in personnel.’ OK, but you want everyone to think that you have full control. You can’t have it both ways, and it can’t always be the talent. Look at the roster, 2012 to now. In ’12, Jeff did a masterful job with what he was given. But we’ve gotten more talent, and we’ve gotten worse.”

Said Fisher on Tuesday: “I look at this as being my responsibility, the win-loss record. We need to do a better job from a personnel standpoint. We’ve had some unfortunate things take place with some high picks in Stedman Bailey and Tre Mason and those kinds of things you don’t anticipate.”

Coupled with Fisher, who has a two-year contract extension, claiming he didn’t know that G.M. Les Snead also had received a contract extension, Fisher’s comments create the impression that Fisher isn’t really running the show, and that he’s at the mercy of those who actually have the power that Fisher doesn’t.

Said another Rams source to Breer: “It’s always good to have healthy tension between the coach and GM, but that shouldn’t hurt the team or cause finger-pointing. Over five years, [Tuesday] was the first time you saw public comments. That should never happen. . . . The organization has given them a long leash. And given that they’ve had time, they have to win, and they have to be able to work together.”

Many will think they have no choice but to work together because they each have two-year contracts beyond 2016. But given that the extensions were in place well before the season began (and in light of the belief that they cover only one year), the changed circumstances arising from a bad season and a worse situation within the organization could still prompt owner Stan Kroenke to press the reset button — especially if Kroenke is worried that he’ll be unable to sell an ideal amount of premium products for the new stadium in Inglewood if the team persists with a power structure that: (1) isn’t getting along; and (2) isn’t having nearly enough success.

The next question becomes whether and to what extent the anonymous quotes given to Breer will cause even more problems in the building, especially once Fisher begins connecting the dots in an effort to figure out who’s been blabbing. Chances are that the comments weren’t recklessly given to Breer after a couple of beers but that the leak was engineered to provoke a reaction from a guy who is absent-mindedly meandering toward a cliff.

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Brock Osweiler says he’s ready for a “must win” game vs. Colts

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 04:  Brock Osweiler #17 of the Houston Texans drops back to pass during the first half of a game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on December 4, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler knows just how important Sunday’s game against the Colts is, with the two teams at 6-6 and part of a three-way tie atop the AFC South.

“This game Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis, this is the biggest game of our season,” Osweiler said. “I’m viewing our season right now as a one-game season and it’s a one game that we must win. I think our entire football team understands that. There’s great urgency in this building right now and it reflected at today’s practice. No doubt about it, we understand as a team how important Sunday is and you can expect our best effort come Sunday.”

Osweiler stands by his claim that the Texans’ offense is close to exploding, although he acknowledges he has to get better.

“I always believe that I can play better,” he said. “I’m striving for perfection every single week and so there’s nobody that’s ever going to judge themselves harder than my own self.”

If Osweiler can’t help the Texans win on Sunday, plenty of people will be judging him harshly. The AFC South is ripe for the taking, and if the Texans don’t take it, it’s because Osweiler hasn’t performed up to expectations.

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Richard Sherman can’t resist backing Ron Rivera on Cam Newton benching

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 21:  Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks high fives cornerback Richard Sherman #25 prior to the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 21, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

It wasn’t karma that got Cam Newton last week, it was the dress code.

And Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman obviously couldn’t resist getting in one last dig at the Panthers quarterback, saying he thought coach Ron Rivera did the right thing benching him for the first series (which lasted one play) for not wearing a tie on the team flight to Seattle.

“You’ve got accountability,” Sherman said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. “You’ve got to hold everybody accountable the same. When you start treating guys different it’s a slippery slope.”

That’s effectively the message Rivera was sending, trying to bury it yesterday by saying he didn’t want to create “chaos” by not applying the rules equitably.

Of course, it’s easier for Sherman to have a more relaxed take on it, since Seahawks coach Pete Carroll apparently has a more relaxed set of rules about fashion.

“There’s not a ton of them,” Sherman said of Carroll’s rules. “For one-day trips, it’s more formal. You wear polo shirts or jeans or something nicer. Very ambiguous but nicer. But put your shoes on — he doesn’t like me wearing my Uggs. For two-day trips it’s more casual because it’s obviously going to be a time change and a longer flight, so he allows us to wear kind of whatever you put on.”

Sherman also said Carroll “doesn’t go back there and check” to see what guys are wearing.

“If you are asking have we ever run into anything like that? We haven’t,” Sherman said. “Pete is a pretty cool guy. Don’t be disrespectful and most guys respect the things he says and are pretty good about that.”

That may be the biggest issue some have with Rivera’s rules. The application of the rule is fine and just and fair, but the rule itself seems dated considering Newton’s travel day outfit was about the most conservative thing he’s worn all season.

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Nick Mangold getting second opinion on ankle

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 15:  Nick Mangold of New York Jets talks to the media during the NFL Launch of the Play 60 scheme at the Black Prince Community Hub on July 15, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images) Getty Images

Nick Mangold finally got back on the field Monday, but he didn’t last long. So he’s going to find out why.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Jets center Nick Mangold is flying to Charlotte today to see noted foot and ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson.

Mangold had been out since Week Seven with a right ankle injury (the longest stretch of injury absence in his career) but came back to start Monday against the Colts.

The Jets might decide to shut him down, depending on what Anderson tells him today. If so, Wesley Johnson will likely fill in for him again.

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Vic Fangio calls report he could be out “irresponsible”

Vic Fangio AP

The Bears have had a bad season and that leads to speculation about offseason changes as the year winds down, including a report from Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Tribune this week that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio could be on his way out as part of “a massive overhaul” that wouldn’t include the departure of head coach John Fox.

Fox said on Wednesday that he is “very, very pleased with our staff” and that he and Fangio get along well, something that the defensive coordinator echoed as well. Fox has a defensive background, but Fangio said they “pretty much do what I see fit to do 98 percent of the time” while taking a steam shovel to Mulligan’s overall report.

“It gives you guys a bad name,” Fangio said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “He’s one of your colleagues, and irresponsible reporting doesn’t shine well for all of you, and that’s too bad because … I enjoy talking to you guys.”

The Bears are allowing fewer points and yards per game than they were last season, which hasn’t been enough for the Bears to avoid a 3-9 record. Even with that record, it is hard to look at the team and say the defense is the area most in need of a new approach come the 2017 season.

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