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Jerry Jones continues to insist he’s the right G.M. for the Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys v Detroit Lions Getty Images

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admits there is some “inadequacy” with the team’s personnel, but anyone who thinks that means Jones needs to hire a general manager is wrong.

That’s what Jones said on 105.3 The Fan, where he said it would make no sense for the Cowboys to hire a general manager because if the Cowboys hired a general manager, that person would still report to Jones.

“It’s often said, Why don’t I get someone to be the G.M.? Why don’t I get someone to pick the players?” Jones said. “Well, who in the world do you think that person, when they walk through the door and say, ‘We want to get this player, and we want to pay this player,’ what in the world do you think I’m going to do? I’m going to sit down, and I’m going to go through it, and I’m going to say, ‘Show me the player before I write the check. Show me the player. And let me see everything about the player.’ Well, rather than have that happen, I get involved in it and get to know everything there is to know about the players before they get through the door.”

Jones’s explanation, however, seems to miss the point: If Jones hired a general manager, the idea would be that Jones would put his trust in that general manager to make the right decisions, and not say, “Show me the player,” before allowing the general manager to make a signing.

But the reality is, it doesn’t matter what Jones’s reasons are. He bought the Cowboys because he thinks it’s fun to run a football team, and he’s going to continue to run the football team.

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Falcons start selling playoff tickets today

Matt Ryan, Drew Brees AP

The Falcons could still end their season with a loss and a top-10 draft pick.

But they’re selling playoff tickets today anyway.

The team announced that tickets for a potential wild card game would go on sale at noon.

Of course, there’s the small matter of beating the Panthers in next week’s loser-leaves-town match, but Falcons fans can still roll the dice.

Any tickets purchased through Ticketmaster will be immediately refunded if the Panthers win, while the team is offering 25 percent off the single game rate for the playoffs to season ticket holders if the postseason tickets are bought through the team website.

Season ticket holders are also offered a “no risk” option with no money down.

As popular as the NFL has become, teams are finding out that selling early playoff tickets can be tough. And with a 6-9 team that lives in a town which will host bowl games in the coming days, selling tickets to a potential thrashing by a better wild card team is not without its challenges.

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Eagles will roll with Mark Sanchez to close out season

Mark Sanchez AP

The Eagles are out of the playoff race , joining a short list of teams that won nine of their first 12 games before falling short of the postseason.

There have been plenty of reasons for the three-game losing streak that has pushed the Eagles out of contention, including five turnovers by Mark Sanchez that have continued a season-long issue with giveaways from the team’s quarterbacks. With Nick Foles still out with a broken collarbone and Sanchez headed for free agency, some may have wondered if the Eagles would give Matt Barkley a look in the season finale in hopes of starting the offseason evaluations at the position.

It’s not going to happen, according to coach Chip Kelly.

“Mark’s our quarterback,” Kelly said on 94WIP. “Again, I thought Mark played a really good game. He goes 37-of-50. He was 37-of-49 before that last pass [an interception by Bashaud Breeland]. I’m sure he wants that pass back, everybody wants that pass back, but I think Mark played a good game and we’ll continue to go with Mark.”

The turnover problems started with Foles and the two quarterbacks have 25 turnovers between them this season, leaving the Eagles with some things to sort out before the start of next season. They’ve also got issues to work on in the secondary after struggles there did a lot to take the 2014 season from promising to painful in Philadelphia.

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Marshawn has a very polite media availability

Lynch Getty Images

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has now completed the press conference trifecta.

From a media availability consisting mainly of “yeah” answers to one filled with “nope,” Lynch opted for good manners after Sunday night’s win over the Cardinals.

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times has posted the transcript of the session, with every question containing an expression of gratitude.

On his 79-yard touchdown run:  “Thank you.”

On how his stomach was feeling:  “Thanks for asking.”

On what he saw on the long touchdown run:  “Thanks for asking.”

Asked again about the touchdown run:  “Thanks for asking.”

“What’s that?” the reporter said.

“Thanks for asking.”

“Can you talk about the run?” the reporter said.

“I know.  I said, ‘Thank you for asking.’  I appreciate it.”

The “thank you” routine continued a bit longer before the reporters gave up.  Which clearly is what Lynch is trying to get them to do.  Eventually, they simply won’t try to ask him any questions at all.

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Packers had to adjust play calls with Aaron Rodgers ailing

Packers Buccaneers Football AP

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers battled the flu all week, so they knew he’d be somewhat less than 100 percent.

But when he strained a calf muscle early in yesterday’s win over the Buccaneers, they had to make some adjustments.

“He didn’t want to come out,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, via Wes Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “I was probably more affected by it than anybody with some of the play calls. Really, really a gritty performance by Aaron.”

With Rodgers unable to move as he’s accustomed or able to, the Packers used him in more pistol formations to keep him from having to move. But after the second series, Rodgers was largely untouched in the pocket, a testament to his offensive line and the punchlessness of the Buccaneers.

“The game plan that we had for it, we were able to stay with the majority of it,” McCarthy said. “Frankly, I probably struggled with it more than anybody and probably should have just cut him loose.”

Rodgers was able to do enough to keep the Bucs at bay, but getting him well before next week’s game for the division title against the Lions is another matter.

“It’s too early to give a 100 percent guarantee,” Rodgers said. “But it would definitely take a lot to hold me out of that game.”

Backup Matt Flynn popped up a few times and grabbed a helmet, but it was clear Rodgers wasn’t coming out, which is a good sign for this week.
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Bills still haven’t won in Oakland since 1966

Bills AP

My favorite fact of the last week came from Oakland, where the Bills hadn’t won since 1966.  Picked by everyone to end that streak in 2014, the Bills still haven’t won in Oakland since 1966.

Peter King of shares some of the details regarding the last time the Bills won in Oakland.

The 31-10 Buffalo win happened on Thanksgiving, with Jack Kemp at quarterback for the Bills and Tom Flores at quarterback for the Raiders.  Troy Aikman had been born three days earlier.  The Beatles convened that same day for the first recording session for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  The very first Super Bowl (which wasn’t even known as the Super Bowl at the time) was still 51 days away.

Here’s the box score of the game.  Buffalo desperately needed a repeat performance, 48 years later.  Now it’s time to wait until next year, both for a chance to play at Oakland (based on the schedule) and more importantly for a chance to break a playoff drought that has now reached one third of the 48-year failure to win in Oakland.

Based on the scheduling formula, the Bills won’t be playing the Raiders at all next year.  If they move in 2016, the Bills failure to win in Oakland could linger on a lot longer.

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Charles Woodson: Tony Sparano “made his case” to stick around

Buffalo Bills v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

The Raiders won for the third time under interim coach Tony Sparano on Sunday, knocking the Bills out of playoff contention and running their home winning streak to three games in front of an appreciative group of fans.

With Oakland on the road next week, it could have also been Sparano’s final home game in charge of the team. The Raiders are expected to look elsewhere for a permanent head coach, although Sparano can rest assured that his belief that he should be considered for the job is shared by several of his players.

Defensive tackle Antonio Smith said that Sparano has done “so many things to change the mindset of this team” and quarterback Derek Carr also threw some love in Sparano’s direction. Safety Charles Woodson, who said that he’d like to see his position coaches back with the team regardless of other moves, said he thinks Sparano made a strong impression.

“I think he’s done a strong job for us,” Woodson said, via “Of course I’m not privy to those decisions, but up until this point, he’s definitely made his case.”

The Raiders held onto Tom Cable after he finished a season well as an interim coach, but he went 13-19 over two seasons as the permanent coach and there are several other examples around the league of sticking with a successful fill-in only for things to go south down the road. How much that history or the players’ feelings will impact Raiders owner Mark Davis is unclear, but the Raiders have likely helped whatever chances Sparano has of keeping the job with their efforts in recent weeks.

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Russell Wilson deserves MVP consideration

Wilson Getty Images

Various debates have emerged in recent weeks regarding the looming MVP vote.  You know, the one that will be taken after the season and not announced until the night before the Super Bowl, when we no longer care very much about the MVP award.

From J.J. Watt to Aaron Rodgers to Tom Brady to DeMarco Murray to Tony Romo to Le’Veon Bell, different points and performances in the season have justifiably sparked discussion and/or fascination about the biggest individual prize in the NFL — even though the process for determining it remains flawed and far from perfect.

When it’s time for the clique of 50 Associated Press voters to cast one vote in a rules-are-there-ain’t-no-rules process that permits them to split votes if the spirit so moves them and that cries out for a Heisman-style system with more voters and a first-, second-, third-place ballot, Russell Wilson deserves consideration.

Wilson deserves consideration not just for what he has done all year long, but for what he did on Sunday night, in a game with enormous stakes.  The Cardinals, with a win, would have nailed down home field advantage throughout the entire postseason, given the site of the Super Bowl.  The Seahawks, with a win, would become a Week 17 home victory against the Rams away from winning the division and possibly seizing home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

In a rousing Seahawks victory, Wilson led the Seattle offense to a franchise record 596 total yards, accounting for 427 of them himself (339 passing, 88 rushing).  Wilson had a 55-yard run and an 80-yard touchdown pass in the same game.  He engineered an offense that put 35 points on one of the best defenses in the NFL.

For the year, Wilson now has 26 total touchdowns and only six turnovers.  He has thrown for 3,236 yards and added 842 on the ground.

It’s easy to dismiss Wilson as a glorified game manager, benefiting from a great defense and the presence of Marshawn Lynch, who perhaps deserves a little MVP consideration of his own.  It’s easy to do that, if you don’t watch the Seahawks play.

At a time when the league has caught up with mobile quarterbacks, no one can catch Wilson.  He buys time being the line of scrimmage, darting and spinning and accelerating away from defenders.  He finds the open man from the pocket and outside it.  And when he decides to run, run he does — at all times protecting himself from the kind of hits that have put other mobile quarterbacks on the sidelines.

There’s still a game to go, and the final playoff tree and season statistics should have a lot to do with the final vote.  For now, Wilson at least deserves a spot in the conversation.  A week from now, it’s possible he’ll deserve the prize itself.

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Dolphins owner says he never considered Jim Harbaugh (this time)

Baltimore Ravens v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross cleared the schedule for Miami reporters by declaring there would be no coaching search this year.

Of course, Ross has gone looking for coaches when he had one before, but as he retained Joe Philbin, he said that wasn’t the case this time.

I didn’t put out any feelers,” Ross said, via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. “I did not talk to Harbaugh.”

That would be soon-to-be available Jim Harbaugh, whom Ross once wooed while Tony Sparano was still under contract.

But the Ross stood firm behind Philbin, saying he like the direction of his team even before yesterday’s comeback win.

“I believe in this team, I believe in the coach, we are building something,” Ross said. “I have looked at the whole situation, as I have been looking at it all year. I think the coach has a year on his contract, we are bringing him back and, you know, what else can I tell you? I think we are building something great here. He is the right guy for this team, and we are building something.”

Of course, even as Ross made it clear he was keeping Philbin, that comes with conditions.

“Patience is a virtue, you know,” Ross said, “but I’m expecting big things next year, I’ll tell you that.”

Leaving things as they are is a hard lesson for owners to learn, but Ross is taking an important step, by refusing to play with the shiniest toy of the offseason.

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Roddy White to Keenan Lewis: We just woke up out of the grave

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

After the final gun in Sunday’s 30-14 Falcons win eliminated his team from playoff contention, Saints linebacker Junior Galette said it felt like “a funeral” in the locker room.

It was an interesting choice of words. During the week leading up to the game, Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis said that the team planned on sending the Falcons to their funeral, a bit of trash talk that the Falcons didn’t answer when meeting with the media. They saved their response for the field and the postgame meetings with reporters instead.

Wide receivers Roddy White and Harry Douglas both pointed out that Lewis had to come out of the game to get an IV at one point, with Douglas saying that you “can’t send us to a funeral you’re not showing up for.”

“If you’re going to go out there and be talking about funerals and arranging funerals and bringing in flowers and doing all that stuff, you’ve got to finish the game,” White said, via “Unfortunately, he didn’t even play the whole game. … Today, at [3:48 p.m.], we just woke up out the grave. So right now, we’re going to get ready for next week.”

For his part, Lewis tipped his cap to Atlanta and said they deserved to move on to a Week 17 date with the Panthers that will decide the race for the NFC South crown. That means there will be another funeral with the Falcons trying to again send the wreath rather than receive it,.

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Monday morning one-liners

Khalil Mack, Sio Moore AP

RB Fred Jackson set a new personal best for single-season receiving yards as the Bills lost in Oakland.

Dolphins players were happy to hear that coach Joe Philbin will return in 2015.

WR Danny Amendola stepped up with Julian Edelman out of the Patriots lineup.

Said Jets G Willie Colon of coach Rex Ryan, “I honestly wanted to win for him more than anybody.”

Current members of the Ravens who once played for the Texans didn’t get the homecoming they wanted.

The Bengals will play for the AFC North title next week regardless of what happens on Monday night.

WR Josh Gordon’s quiet return to the Browns continued in Sunday’s loss.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin called a taunting call against CB William Gay “ridiculous,” but Gay said he respects anything the officials call.

K Randy Bullock had a big day as the Texans knocked off the Ravens.

The Colts didn’t look ready for the playoffs in Dallas on Sunday.

If Marqise Lee has five catches in Week 17, the Jaguars will be the first team with three rookies that caught at least  40 passes.

The Titans feel G Chance Warmack has improved this season.

Is the Broncos defensive line the best in team history?

The Chiefs haven’t authored a strong finish to this season.

Raiders LB Khalil Mack is closing his rookie season on a high note.

Saturday’s big Chargers comeback was fueled by the defense.

Said Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray of his injured left hand, “It affected me a little bit, it was hurting throughout the game. But I made my mind up a long time ago that I was going to play. I was happy to be out there and happy to do whatever I can to help this team win and it’s awesome with the win.”

Giants WR Rueben Randle had his best game of the year.

How much have the Eagles missed WR DeSean Jackson this season?

The Redskins Defense has started picking up more turnovers.

QB Jimmy Clausen’s fire on the field was appreciated by the Bears.

The Lions were sloppy on Sunday, but they survived.

Sacks just kept on coming for the Packers.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t pleased with his defense’s play on Sunday.

Falcons KR Devin Hester took a moment to offer an official a shoulder rub during Sunday’s win.

RB Jonathan Stewart came up with a big game for the Panthers.

A frame-by-frame look at what officials ruled was a crucial fumble by Saints TE Jimmy Graham.

The Buccaneers Offense was hard to find in a 20-3 loss to the Packers.

Cardinals defenders had one sack Sunday night after picking up seven in their first meeting with the Seahawks.

The Rams were left to lament their mistakes after losing to the Giants.

49ers T Anthony Davis tried to get under Chargers LB Manti Te’o’s skin on Saturday.

TE Luke Willson had a breakout game as the Seahawks romped in Arizona.

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Tom Coughlin wants Odell Beckham Jr. to “tone it down”

New York Giants v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

With the way rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is piling up catches and yards and touchdowns, you’d think it would be hard to find fault with him.

But Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he was almost glad Beckham was penalized for taunting an opponent with his ball spin, hoping it taught him a lesson after the Rams turned the field position into a field goal.

He finally got flagged for his celebration,” Coughlin said, via Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News. “That was an issue, because here we are kicking off from the 20-yard line and they got the ball with great field [position]. I said something to him when it happened. When he was called for it, I said something to him. . . .

“He will tone it down, he will. He did.”

While it’s easy to paint Coughlin as the grumpy old man who wants the kids to get off his lawn, the bigger question might be with the call.

Yes Beckham spun the ball, and it was in the area near Rams defenders. But it sure didn’t look like an act of aggression, rather a kid who’s on a hot streak enjoying his hot streak.

“I spun the ball in front of me. But it is something that was a penalty,” Beckham said. “That’s just being young and trying to learn the rules and what you can and can’t do. I didn’t know that that was a penalty.”

Coughlin might be the only one who can curb Beckham’s celebrations, because for the last three months, opponents haven’t been able to.

He had eight catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns yesterday, giving him 79 catches for 1,120 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s had at least 90 receiving yards in eight straight games.

Not bad for a whippersnapper.

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Seahawks praise Marshawn Lynch after “one of the best runs ever”

Marshawn Lynch, Justin Britt, Earl Thomas AP

Marshawn Lynch may be hearing from the league this week about the way that he chose to put an exclamation point on his 79-yard touchdown run against the Cardinals on Sunday night, but his Seahawks teammates were a bit more concerned about the journey to the end zone than the grab of the nether regions that punctuated his arrival at his destination.

Coach Pete Carroll called the run, which saw Lynch go through and around the Cardinals Defense before tip-toeing down the sideline and then exploding into top gear, as good as any he can remember seeing and defensive end Michael Bennett also put it in the top spot in his own personal memory bank.

“Twenty years from now we’ll go back and we’ll say that was one of the best runs ever in the National Football League,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said, via the team’s website. “And in football period. From little league all the way up. You’ll probably never see anything like that ever again. And if you do, it’ll probably come from Marshawn.”

Cornerback Richard Sherman called Lynch a “bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, continue to say bad, man” and promoted Lynch as an MVP candidate with Sunday night’s run making up most of his case. That candidacy probably isn’t going to go anywhere, but the Seahawks stand a much better chance of having another Super Bowl MVP in their organization thanks to Lynch’s exploits on Sunday night.

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Buccaneers move closer to clinching the top pick in 2015 Draft

01102da90eb68a718688e686ac79b920 Getty Images

If the Buccaneers want to focus on drafting a quarterback to fix their mess, they’re close to having the opportunity to take any one they want.

With a week to play, the 2-13 Bucs are close to clinching the top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

A loss next week to the Saints should seal the deal, as playing in the NFC South gives them a lower strength of schedule number than the teams they’re nearest in the standings, and that’s how selection order ties are broken.

The Titans are in the second slot at the moment, and those two cleared some distance as the other teams at the bottom won cosmetic games.

As it stands today, the Jaguars would pick third, the Jets fourth and the Raiders fifth, followed by Washington, the Bears, Falcons, Vikings and Saints.

Of course, if the Falcons beat the Panthers next week and take the NFC South title, they’d fall all the way to 21st (or lower, depending on how they do in the playoffs).

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Julio Jones shows what a “stud” he is during comeback

Julio Jones, Pierre Warren AP

It might not have been as dramatic as a car wreck, but Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones was playing through some pain too.

But it was hard to tell by the way he played.

Jones was a last-minute decision to play as he came off an oblique injury, but had seven catches for 107 yards as the Falcons beat the Saints 30-14 to set up next week’s win-and-in playoff game with the Panthers.

“You can’t say enough about what Julio did today,” quarterback Matt Ryan said, via Vaughn McClure of “Obviously, he’s been hurting the last couple of weeks and for him to gut it out and play the way he did today, I think that speaks volumes about his great toughness but also showcases what a stud he is. When he’s out there, he’s making plays that a lot of other people aren’t capable of making, So, obviously when he’s on the field, that’s a big deal for us.”

Jones said he’s still not what he’d describe as fully well, but he knew he needed to be out there.

“I felt OK,” Jones said. “I know I needed to be out there with my teammates. I missed last week. Before the game, I went out and ran around. I felt pretty good: Not 100 percent, but it was good enough to go out there and get the `W.'”

“Yeah, I’ll be OK. Just keep getting treatment. They’ve been doing a great job here with me. And I’ve got to keep going.”

He has one more week to go, meaning that pain will be the furthest thing from his mind next week.

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Johnny Manziel doesn’t leave much tape, but wants to be the guy in Cleveland

Cleveland Browns v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel hurt his hamstring early in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers, knocking him out of the game and possibly dropping the curtain on his rookie season a week earlier than expected.

Coach Mike Pettine said that Manziel’s availability will be determined this week, but a negative prognosis will only make quarterback decisions more difficult for the Browns. The team was reportedly already planning to evaluate all options at the position and they’ll have less than six full quarters of Manziel’s work (and just 51 offensive snaps over two starts) to use as part of their evaluation if he doesn’t play against the Ravens in Week 17.

Manziel said after Sunday’s game that he felt more comfortable running the offense against Carolina than he had against Cincinnati and sounded like he was looking past Week 17 to the offseason when he said that he plans to show the Browns that he wants to be the man in charge of the offense.

“And that’s what I want to do and that’s what I want to be for this organization so for me, if anything, this has motivated me more to head into this offseason,” Manziel said, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “We had a better team than we have had here in years past, and we need to capitalize on these guys that we have coming back next year and the talent that we do have on this roster that our coaching staff and our management has put on this team. So if anything it makes me more hungry to work in this offseason and get with these guys and stay on top of this stuff and come back next year and come out and try to have some success early in the season and sustain that through a season.”

It’s a long way from September 2015, which makes looking into the crystal ball a dicey enterprise. What seems clear, though, is that Manziel hasn’t convinced anyone that he can be the man for the Browns and that will keep the intrigue dialed up in Cleveland this offseason.

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