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Mike McCarthy: Rodgers looks ready to play, starter announcement on Friday

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers hasn’t gotten medically cleared to return to the Packers lineup yet, but he passed coach Mike McCarthy’s eye test on Thursday.

McCarthy told reporters that Rodgers looked both sharp and ready to play while taking part in practice on Thursday. McCarthy said, via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that he would have a conversation with Rodgers on Friday and then make an announcement about who will start against the Steelers this weekend.

The lack of medical clearance remains a large obstacle, as does the fact that Matt Flynn was taking the reps with the first team, but this is still the most positive report from McCarthy about Rodgers since Rodgers resumed practicing. That makes this week’s announcement as the starter a little bit more intriguing than it has been the last few weeks, although, again, there’s still plenty of reason to believe that Rodgers will miss another week.

In other Green Bay injury news worth keeping an eye on, running back Eddie Lacy did not practice for the second straight day. Lacy sprained his ankle two weeks ago, but played last week and did well enough to be named the NFC offensive player of the week.

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Philbin decision is expected by tomorrow

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And just as I hit “publish” on the last item regarding Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, some new information has surfaced regarding the situation.

Per a league source with knowledge of the situation, owner Stephen Ross is now expected to make a decision on Philbin’s job status by Monday. The prior thinking was that Ross would be doing a lot of thinking over the next couple of days.

Despite the absence of any obvious internal candidates, one of the big factors will be a desire by the owner to demonstrate to key players that he’s committed to improving the situation. Which is an ominous sign for Philbin.

Making a move now also gives the team a head start on finding a new coach for 2016, which will make it easier for executive V.P. of football operations Mike Tannenbaum to make the best possible hire. Speaking of Tannenbaum, he’s surely livid about the outcome of the last two games, losses by a combined score of 68-28 to Rex Ryan, who worked for Tannenbaum in New York, and now the Jets, who fired Tannenbaum after the 2012 season.

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Saints get some needed defensive help back on field tonight

Jairus Byrd, Terrance Williams AP

The Saints are going to get some guys they really need back on the field tonight.

Oh, and also Drew Brees.

In addition to getting their starting quarterback back on the field for tonight’s game against the Cowboys, the Saints are getting some guys they’ve been missing on defense.

Safety Jairus Byrd, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Keenan Lewis are all active, giving them some more bodies on the side of the ball which has been the biggest issue for them this season.

The Saints deactivated guard Jahri Evans, quarterback Garrett Grayson, defensive tackle Kaleb Eulls, defensive end Obum Gwacham, wide receiver Joe Morgan, defensive back Kyle Wilson, and recent trade acquisition/tight end Michael Hoomanawanui tonight.

For the Cowboys, running back Christine Michael is active, and could play a role tonight. He was inactive for the first three weeks after being acquired in trade from the Seahawks.

With starting guard Ronald Leary healthy again, the Cowboys deactivated rookie guard La’El Collins, along with quarterback Matt Cassel, defensive lineman Ryan Russell, wide receivers Dez Bryant and Lucky Whitehead, tight end Geoff Swaim and defensive end Randy Gregory.

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Browns jump offsides, Chargers win on next try

Philip Rivers AP

Rookie Chargers kicker Josh Lambo pushed a 39-yard field goal try to the right as time expired Sunday, and the Browns and Chargers appeared headed for overtime.

But there was a flag. The Browns were offside — cornerback Tramon Williams was called for it — and Lambo got another try from five yards closer.

Final: Chargers 30, Browns 27.

The teams combined for 31 points in a wild second half. Trailing by eight, the Browns put together an impressive drive with Josh McCown — he played his best game in a Browns’ uniform — and tied the game with 2:09 left on a 1-yard pass to Gary Barnidge and a two-point conversion pass to Taylor Gabriel.

But the Browns gave up too many big plays throughout the day, and Philip Rivers drove the Chargers to set up the winning field goal tries. Rivers passed for 358 yards and three touchdowns.

We just made too many mistakes,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said.

It was a difficult way to lose, even by Browns’ standards.

The Browns have spent a lot of money on their defense but have given up 102 points through four games. Neither team played much defense Sunday, though the Chargers sacked McCown four times. The Chargers had just one sack through their first three games.

McCown and the Browns kept moving and kept answering Sunday, though. McCown completed 32-of-41 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns.

Five Chargers caught at least three passes from Rivers, who completed 23-of-38. His touchdown passes went to Ladarius Green, John Phillips and Keenan Allen.

The Chargers snap a two-game skid and improve to 2-2 on the season. They host the Steelers next week on Monday Night Football.

The Browns drop to 1-3 and are at Baltimore next week.

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Broncos improve to 4-0 with late Brandon McManus field goal

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 4:  Linebacker Shane Ray #56 of the Denver Broncos sacks quarterback Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Minnesota Vikings during a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 4, 2015 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos pass rush caused problems for Teddy Bridgewater all day on Sunday, so it was fitting that it forced the turnover that allowed Denver to escape with a 23-20 win.

T.J. Ward stripped Bridgewater of the ball as the Vikings tried to rally back after Brandon McManus’s field goal put the Broncos ahead late in the fourth quarter. It was the seventh sack of the day for the Broncos defense and it gave them a win on a day when they blew a 10-point lead in the final 15 minutes.

Bridgewater completed 13-of-15 passes in the second half and Adrian Peterson went 48 yards for a touchdown on a fourth-and-one in the fourth quarter as the Vikings erased that Broncos lead to tie the game at 20 with 5:11 left to play. Peyton Manning completed a couple of passes to help the Broncos get in position for McManus’s third field goal of the day, but that wasn’t enough to make the day a great one for the Broncos quarterback.

Manning threw a pair of interceptions that the Vikings turned into 10 points and was 17-of-27 for 213 yards overall. Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson combined for 146 yards on 22 carries, although almost half of them came on Hillman’s 72-yard touchdown run in the first half. It was another unimpressive offensive performance all things considered, but the Broncos remain undefeated thanks in large part to the defense that Wade Phillips has put together in his first year back in Denver.

Peterson’s big run was the only moment that he had a major impact on the game and Bridgewater’s hot run in the second half came at the price of many hits and constant pressure in the pocket. That he stood up to it well enough to bring the team back reflects well, but the early struggles were enough to send the Vikings to 2-2 on the year.

At some point, one would guess that the Broncos’ middling offensive production will catch up with them. At this point, though, they remain undefeated with a trip to Oakland and a chance to take firm control of the AFC West coming up next weekend.

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Rams ride defense and Todd Gurley to win at Arizona

Todd Gurley, Deone Bucannon

The Rams already had a great defense, and some good running backs.

But now they have an available quarterback and a potential star in Todd Gurley, and things might be different.

The Rams were able to keep the Cardinals offense in check, and had enough of their own for a change, beating Arizona 24-22 on the road.

Gurley had 146 yards on 19 carries, and showed presence of mind staying bounds to keep the clock rolling as he was salting away the game.

But the story was the Rams defense, which has played well in the past but seemed to be at a different gear Sunday as they improved to 2-2.

The Cardinals were averaging 42.0 points per game in winning their first three, but didn’t approach that. The Rams sacked Carson Palmer four times and picked him off once, keeping him off balance throughout the day.

In addition to three lost Cardinals fumbles, they routinely stalled in the red zone, settling for field goals too many times, with three of them from inside 30 yards (i.e. shorter than extra points). They didn’t find the end zone until the fourth quarter, by which point the Rams had built enough of a lead.

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Next couple of days will determine Philbin’s fate

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After Sunday’s 27-14 loss to the Jets in London, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said he’s not worried about his job. He probably should be.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, there will be a lot of thinking done over the next couple of days regarding Philbin’s future.

Philbin, who was hired in 2012, currently is signed through 2016. So the buyout wouldn’t be a major obstacle. The question of his replacement could be.

There’s no obvious candidate to take his place currently on the staff. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor have been criticized relentlessly during the team’s 1-3 start, and the staff otherwise contains no assistant head coach or other name that jumps off the page as an interim head coach who could turn the team around.

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Kaepernick struggles as 49ers fall to Packers

Colin Kaepernick AP

Colin Kaepernick is just not the star quarterback he once looked like he was becoming. Nothing shows that more clearly than his performances against the Packers.

In his three previous starts against the Packers, Kaepernick torched Green Bay’s defense both on the ground and through the air, and those games were a big part of what made Kaepernick appear to be a budding star. But today against the Packers, Kaepernick struggled all day long as Green Bay won, 17-3. The win improves the Packers’ record to 4-0 and drops the 49ers to 1-3.

The 49ers’ first seven offensive possessions ended with six punts and a field goal. On the eighth possession, Kaepernick finally got the 49ers down the field with a couple of big passes, but that possession ended when Kaepernick got sacked on a fourth down. Overall, Kaepernick was sacked six times on the day. He also threw an interception and fumbled once.

Kaepernick’s sacks are a growing problem. He tries too hard to rely on his legs to bail him out when he’s under pressure, and he needs to get better at getting rid of the ball in a hurry when the pressure is coming. Some of the fault lies with the 49ers’ offensive line, but most of the fault lies with Kaepernick. He’s just not good enough at feeling the rush and reacting to it.

The bad game by the 49ers’ offense wasted a big day by the 49ers’ defense. Aaron Rodgers made some good throws — he is Aaron Rodgers, after all — but for the most part the 49ers did a good job of holding him in check, and the Packers had to punt five times. San Francisco linebacker Aaron Lynch had a particularly big day, with two sacks, two quarterback hits and three tackles for loss.

That defense won’t be enough to win until the offense can start putting more than three points on the board. And that won’t happen until Kaepernick gets better.

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Demaryius Thomas questionable to return after neck injury

Demaryius Thomas AP

The Broncos have added to their lead over the Vikings in the third quarter, but they’ve also lost their top wide receiver.

Demaryius Thomas left the game with a neck injury after taking a hard hit from Vikings safety Harrison Smith. Thomas’s return is being called questionable by the Broncos.

Thomas is Denver’s leading receiver on the day with eight catches for 78 yards, although it was a big play to Emmanuel Sanders that set up the second Broncos touchdown of the day. Sanders picked up 40 yards on a catch to move the ball inside the Minnesota 10-yard-line and then added a few more when Xavier Rhodes brought him down with a horse collar tackle.

Manning hit Owen Daniels for a one-yard score four plays later, expanding the Denver lead to 20-10. As of now, it looks like they’ll have to make it stand up without Thomas’s help.

UPDATE 6:57 p.m. ET: Thomas returned to the game in the fourth quarter, although the second pass thrown his way was intercepted by Smith. The Vikings trail 20-17 and have the ball with nine minutes to play.

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Rams take advantage of yet another turnover, lead Cards 17-9

David Johnson, Alec Ogletree, Mark Barron

The Cardinals are being uncharacteristically loose with the ball, and the Rams are making them pay for it.

Rams quarterback Nick Foles just Stedman Bailey in the corner of the end zone for a 17-9 lead over the Cardinals.

The score came after they forced a Larry Fitzgerald fumble, which was the third fumble lost of the day for Arizona.

On the last one, safety Rodney McLeod put his shoulder on the ball as Fitzgerald turned upfield with a reception. Rookie David Johnson has also put it on the ground twice, which is why the Cardinals have tried to ease him into the rotation despite his skill.

The Rams scored after two of them, and are making enough plays to stay out front on the road.

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Texans get blown out; Shorts gets hurt on final play

Denver Broncos v Houston Texans Getty Images

The Texans trailed 42-0 Sunday when Bill O’Brien benched quarterback Ryan Mallett and replaced him with Brian Hoyer.

It was a change O’Brien said he made because at that point something had to change. The Texans showed up flat and got run off the field. As for what might be coming next with the quarterbacks, O’Brien said he’s not sure what will happen with any area of the team.

I’ll have to look at the film,” O’Brien said.

It will be a difficult watch.

The Falcons won the game, 48-21. The Texans scored when the game was long decided, and wide receiver Cecil Shorts suffered a shoulder injury on the final play of the game.

The Falcons used two early turnovers to blow the game open, but the Falcons did just about whatever they wanted to do throughout. Devonta Freeman ran for three touchdowns for the second consecutive game, and the Falcons had Matt Ryan out of the game before the third quarter was over.

The 4-0 Falcons changed quarterbacks because it was a laugher. The Texans changed quarterbacks because they’re searching for answers.

The Texans slip to 1-3 and host the Colts Thursday.

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Peyton throws late pick, Vikings draw within three at half

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 4:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos drops back to pass against the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter of a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 4, 2015 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) Getty Images

The first half was a slog for the Vikings offense for the first 19-plus minutes, but a late mistake by Peyton Manning allowed the Vikings to head to the half with some momentum.

Anthony Barr stepped in front of a pass intended for Andre Caldwell and returned it into Denver territory to give Teddy Bridgewater a chance to put some points on the board before halftime. Bridgewater’s day had been a shaky one to that point, but he hit Mike Wallace on consecutive plays with a touchdown coming on the second to cut the Denver lead to 13-10 after two quarters.

Bridgewater was sacked three times and pressured many others during the first half, but he was able to make enough plays to keep possession of the ball for nearly 20 minutes. Adrian Peterson never got on track, running 10 times for 28 yards, which put more pressure on Bridgewater to carry the offensive load. He finished the half 14-of-26 for 138 yards and made some nice connections with rookie Stefon Diggs in Diggs’s NFL debut.

Manning’s interception ended a shaky half for him as well. He was sacked twice while moving the Broncos to two field goals and got to stand and watch as Ronnie Hillman sprinted 72 yards for the only Broncos touchdown of the half. They’ll need to sustain their drives a bit longer in the second half and hold onto the ball when they do have it if they’re going to avoid asking too much of their defense down the stretch on Sunday.

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Rex: I’m proud of how Bills played on Sunday

ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 04:  Head Coach Rex Ryan of the Buffalo Bills watches warm-ups before the game against the New York Giants at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 4, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Rex Ryan’s Bills fell to 2-2 on the season in a 24-10 home loss to the Giants that was marked by a staggering number of penalties against Buffalo.

The Bills were flagged for 17 accepted penalties over the course of the contest, which is even more than they committed in a Week Two loss to the Patriots that was also marked by repeated losses of composure by Ryan’s club. There were false starts, personal fouls and everything in between over the course of the afternoon, but Ryan wasn’t dismayed by the apparent lack of discipline.

“I’m proud of the way this team played,” Ryan said in his postgame press conference. “Can we play a lot smarter? Absolutely. But I’ll take a team that’ll fight over a team that will sit back and take it every day of the week and bring on the next team. Give me a team that’s got some fight and will compete to the very end right, wrong or indifferent no matter how good the officiating is or whatever.”

Ryan said that reporters were free to write what they want, but that “the real deal” wasn’t that the Bills are an undisciplined team. Defensive tackle Kyle Williams said, via Mike Rodak of, that the Giants were doing things to provoke the Bills and that the officials are “looking for things, whether they’re legitimate or not” because of Buffalo’s reputation for drawing flags so far this season.

The Bills found plenty of other ways to hurt themselves on Sunday, but their inability to stop committing penalties was a killer to their chances of improving to 3-1. Ryan said the problem can be fixed and it will need to if his team is going to be known for anything other than putting up a fight this season.

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Bears lose starting center Will Montgomery to broken fibula

Will Montgomery AP

The Bears won their first game today, but lost their starting center.

Bears coach John Fox said at his post-game press conference that Will Montgomery has suffered a broken fibula. Although Fox did not say how long Montgomery is out, he will presumably miss significant time, and possibly the rest of the season.

The Bears moved guard Matt Slauson to center for the rest of the game after Montgomery went down. It is unknown whether Slauson will stay at center going forward, or if the Bears will juggle their line elsewhere.

Bears safety Antrel Rolle left the game with an ankle injury but said afterward that nothing was broken and he did not think the injury was severe.

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Chargers WR Malcom Floyd out with concussion

Malcolm Floyd, James Dockery AP

The Chargers have announced that wide receiver Malcom Floyd will not return to Sunday’s game vs. the Browns due to a concussion.

Floyd appeared woozy after taking a shot from Browns linebacker Nate Orchard in the second quarter. Floyd, 34, has a concussion history and has hinted that this could be his final season.

The Chargers are down to three available wide receivers — Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson and Dontrelle Inman — with Floyd out. The team made Jacoby Jones inactive for Sunday’s game.

The Browns got a field goal late in the second quarter to tie the game, 13-13, at halftime.

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Janoris Jenkins doing his best David Tyree, as Rams lead Cards

New York Giants v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

They have a pretty high standard for acrobatic catches with the head at University of Phoenix Stadium.

So while nothing today will match Giants wide receiver David Tyree in the Super Bowl, Janoris Jenkins at least added another chapter to that particular book.

The Rams cornerback just picked off Carson Palmer in the end zone, as the Rams are out to a lead over the undefeated Cardinals.

Jenkins was reaching back and pinned the ball against his head as he was falling, as Palmer was taking a shot downfield for John Brown.

The Rams got an early touchdown pass from Nick Foles to Tavon Austin, and tacked on a field goal after Jenkins’ pick.

The Cardinals have adjusted their game plan for the Rams’ pass-rush, working two and three-tight end sets and throwing short passes to get the ball out quickly, but they haven’t been able to get to the end zone yet.

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DeMarco Murray not happy with his role

Bashaud Breeland, DeMarco Murray AP

Last year after four games, DeMarco Murray had 99 carries for 534 yards. This year through four games, Murray has 29 carries for 47 yards.

After Sunday’s loss in Washington, Murray was asked if he’s getting enough touches.

No, I’m not,” Murray said, via Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I don’t think I am.”

Berman notes that Murray said he knew what he signed up for in Philadelphia, where the plan going in was to spread the opportunities among multiple running backs. Still, Murray expected more.

“I knew I was going to be the lead guy,” Murray said. “I knew [Darren] Sproles and [Ryan] Mathews, two great guys. I knew this offense, a lot of guys touch the ball.”

So will he take it up with the coaching staff?

“I don’t need to go to anyone,” Murray said. “It is what it is.”

He now doesn’t need to go to anyone. Because everyone now knows he’s not happy.

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Bengals run through, past Chiefs

Jeremy Hill AP

The Chiefs managed seven field goals Sunday afternoon.

They didn’t much manage to slow down the Bengals.

Twice in six days the Chiefs have played unbeaten teams and haven’t been good enough to keep up. Andy Dalton was sharp again Sunday for the Bengals and Jeremy Hill ran for three touchdowns in a 36-21 Bengals win.

Yep. The Chiefs managed only those seven Cairo Santos field goals.

Hill had just 40 yards on nine carries but he scored the game’s first touchdown, its last and one in between. Giovani Bernard again led the Bengals with 62 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown of his own.

Dalton was 17-of-24 for 321 yards and a touchdown to Brandon Tate. He completed passes to six different receivers and wasn’t sacked.

The Bengals sacked Alex Smith five times. Smith threw for 386 yards but the Chiefs couldn’t find the end zone. They were 0-for-3 in the red zone.

At 4-0, the Bengals lead the AFC North by two games and it must feel like more given the injuries the Steelers and Ravens are battling. The Bengals host the Seahawks next week.

The Chiefs lost their third straight to slip to 1-3. They host the Bears next week.

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Colts in first place after overtime win over Jaguars

Adam Vinatieri, Pat McAfee AP

The Indianapolis Colts aren’t pretty, but they are all alone in first place in the AFC South.

The Colts made a statement today, and that statement is that they’re the best team in a bad division. With an injured Andrew Luck out and the Colts led by 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck, Indianapolis needed overtime but managed to win, 16-13.

Jaguars kicker Jason Myers missed two potentially game-winning field goals, one wide right at the end of the fourth quarter and one wide left in overtime. That second miss set up the Colts to drive down the field, with a long Frank Gore run doing the damage and setting up Adam Vinatieri for the game-winning chip shot.

The win improves the Colts’ record to 2-2 and drops the Jaguars to 1-3. With the Texans also dropping to 1-3 today and the 1-2 Titans off, the Colts are a first-place team.

Jacksonville got a solid game from quarterback Blake Bortles (28-for-49 for 298 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions) and from rookie running back T.J. Yeldon (22 carries for 105 yards). But that wasn’t enough.

Instead, the Colts, who have dominated the division of late, remain on top. These Colts aren’t as good as they were the last few years, but they’re still good enough in the AFC South.

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Giants outlast Bills to improve to 2-2

ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 04:   Rueben Randle #82 of the New York Giants celebrates a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 4, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills came off of last week’s big win against the Dolphins feeling pretty good about themselves, but no one in Buffalo will be feeling too good about the Bills this week.

After being outplayed by the Giants in the first half, the Bills shot themselves in the foot over and over again in the second half to eliminate any chance of coming out with their third win of the season. That had been the Giants’ fate in the first two weeks of the season, but they were the cleaner team on Sunday and that left them with a 24-10 victory.

The Bills committed 17 penalties over the course of the game, including a chopblock by Richie Incognito that wiped out a touchdown that would have drawn them within seven points in the final minute of the game. There will be quibbles with some of the calls, but the Bills lost control of their emotions at multiple times during the game to pick up dead ball fouls that just handed yards to the Giants. It’s not the first time we’ve seen that happen to a Rex Ryan team and not the first time it had a lot to do with costing his team a game.

Eli Manning threw his first interception of the season in the fourth quarter as the Bills were trying to get back into the game, but that wound up being another wasted chance for the Bills. They also missed a 30-yard field goal and got stopped on four plays inside the 10-yard-line during the second half.

Perhaps the biggest misses were the tackles that the Bills whiffed on to turn a short pass into a 51-yard Rashad Jennings touchdown. That came just after they’d cut the score to 16-10 in the fourth quarter and gave the Giants breathing room that they’d use to improve to 2-2.

It was an impressive defensive outing for the Giants, who slowed down a Bills attack that put a lot of points on the board in the first three weeks of the season. The fourth quarter skewed the final numbers, but the Bills were stuck in the mud for most of the first three quarters thanks to the Giants defense.

The win makes their chances of contending in the NFC East look a lot better than they did after those two season-opening losses. They still need to find a way to put teams away for good as both the Redskins and Bills hung around a lot longer than they deserved to in the last two weeks, but a visit from the 49ers next week is followed by games against the Eagles and Cowboys that offer the Giants a chance to take control in their division.

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Seahawks downgrade Marshawn Lynch to out

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptc2ntdjogezztc5zdq5ndq4ownjnja4ztk5ndi4mzu2 AP

The kid who played college football in Michigan will have a chance to shine against Michigan’s only NFL team.

Via Curtis Crabtree of KJR and PFT, the Seahawks have downgraded running back Marshawn Lynch to out with a hamstring injury. The move means that undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls, who transferred from Michigan to Central Michigan, will have a chance to build on last week’s 104-yard performance on Monday night.

Also out for the game against the Lions is defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. Which means that Jordan Hill, who looked very good last week against Chicago, will have plenty of chances to perform well.

Lynch, who played sparingly in Week Three, has only 128 rushing yards on the season.

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