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Adrian Peterson listed as questionable, expected to play

File photo of Minnesota Vikings Adrian Peterson after a season-ending loss to the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay Reuters

Officially, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Bengals. But all indications are that he’s good to go.

Peterson himself told reporters today that he expects to play on Sunday, and coach Leslie Frazier said he thinks Peterson is good to go as well. For all the fears about a serious injury when Peterson was carted off the field two weeks ago against the Ravens, he’s going to end up missing just one game.

That’s good news for the Vikings, who have been playing their best football recently despite being long since eliminated from playoff contention. In the last three weeks the Vikings have beaten two teams that are currently leading their divisions (the Bears and Eagles) and nearly beaten the defending champion Ravens, who are themselves fighting for their playoff lives. Now the Vikings will have their best player back as they try to play spoiler to the Bengals this week and the Lions next week.

Peterson, meanwhile, will attempt to catch Eagles running back LeSean McCoy for the NFL rushing lead. McCoy currently leads Peterson by 122 yards. If Peterson can catch McCoy, he’ll become the first player since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 and 2007 to lead the league in rushing two years in a row.

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Lions suspend C.J. Mosley, send him home from London

lionsmosley AP

A day before the Lions play the Falcons in London, one player is being sent home.

The Lions have announced that defensive tackle C.J. Mosley has been suspended for two weeks for conduct detrimental to the team and a violation of the team rules. The team did not say which rule Mosley violated. Mosley is on the way home and will not attend Sunday’s game at Wembley Stadium.

Mosley is a backup who has played in every game this year and recorded 2.5 sacks. Without him, starters Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh will likely get more snaps than usual.

To take Mosley’s spot on the active roster, safety Jerome Couplin has been signed from the Lions’ practice squad.

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Report: Shonn Greene arrested after alleged handicapped parking incident

Shonn Greene AP

Titans tailback Shonn Greene is reportedly facing several charges after an incident in which he allegedly drove away as he was to be cited for parking in a handicapped spot.

According to Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean, Greene was arrested Friday night and charged with reckless driving and declining an order to stop. He was also cited for the handicapped parking violation, as well as having a suspended or revoked driver’s license.

The alleged incident occurred Friday in Franklin, Tennessee, which is about 20 miles south of Nashville. According to the Tennessean, police said they were unable to stop Greene initially. The Titans were contacted, and Greene was eventually booked and released last night after he turned himself into police, per the newspaper.

“This is not the type of behavior we expect from any member of our organization,” the Titans said Saturday of Greene’s arrest, according to the Tennessean. “We will continue to gather additional information as it becomes available and handle the matter internally.”

The 29-year-old Greene ranks second on the Titans in rushing yards (190) and carries (44). He was listed as probable on the club’s Friday injury report with an ankle ailment.

Greene is in his second season with the Titans, who host Houston on Sunday.

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Week Eight “Three and Out”

Hogan AP

The dilemma has been resolved.  For now.

The “Three and Out” series will continue, with three questions and answers for each of the Sunday games, every Sunday until no more Sundays remain in the 2014 regular season.

Then, the dilemma will resurface in 2015.  Assuming I — and you — don’t completely forget about this feature by then.

Lions at Falcons

1.  Why are they playing this one so early?

That’s the question ESPN and CBS will be asking, as the audiences for their pregame shows, already diluted by the Internet, become even more undermined by an actual game.  But there are only so many places on the pizzas into which cheese can be crammed, and the NFL is hoping to fill up the crust of your morning with football.

On a day that usually features a large cluster of games from 1:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. ET, the shifting of a game to 9:30 a.m. ET lets everyone focus on one game before a bunch of them get started.  And it showcases the London game, giving it a spot by itself on the Wembley Stadium stage.

Of course, Lions and Falcons fans living in California may not appreciate it.  If enough people in every time zone tune in, look for more early-morning London games in the future.

2.  Do the Lions really need Calvin Johnson?

Not at a cap number in excess of $20 million for next year; that reality continues to hover over the franchise.  The bloated Ndamukong Suh contract will result in the second overall pick in the 2010 draft leaving in free agency.  Johnson’s big-dollar deal could still prompt the Lions to cut him as early as next year.

The more they win without him and the longer his ankle injury lingers, the more likely the Lions will be to devote those cap dollars to other positions on the roster.

G.M. Martin Mayhew declined to comment on Johnson’s future this week. Mayhew also opted not to declare Johnson will retire as a Lion. At this point, it would be a surprise if he does.

3.  Is there hope for the Falcons?

Technically, yes. Despite being 2-5, the Falcons are only one win behind the first-place Panthers. And the Falcons still play Carolina twice.

But something’s wrong. The Falcons haven’t won in more than a month, a rollicking 56-14 Thursday night trouncing of the Buccaneers. Injuries on the offensive line and a subpar defense have left the Falcons searching desperately for answers — and even more desperately for a win. Against the 5-2 Lions on Sunday, that may not happen.

At least they won’t have to use the silent count in front of their “home” fans in London.

Seahawks at Panthers

1.  Are the Seahawks divided?

They’re apparently divided on the question of whether there’s a divide.  Quarterback Russell Wilson insists all is well, but what else is going to say?  Coach Pete Carroll and company managed to hide some serious dysfunction during receiver Percy Harvin’s time with the team.  Folks who know the truth continue to be programmed to say nothing, with Carroll having a Belichickian degree of influence over current and former players who won’t break ranks for fear of incurring the Wrath of Pete.

Something clearly isn’t right, or Harvin would still be there.  While Harvin reportedly was far from a model citizen, there’s no smoking gun that points a major incident that became the last straw.  Otherwise, players wouldn’t have been so shocked by the news that Harvin had been dumped onto the Jets.

While there’s cause for concern if, as it appears, some players resent Wilson, this team found a way to easily win the Super Bowl despite whatever was happening in 2013.  It shouldn’t be an issue this year, unless the losses continue to pile up.

Pile up they may.  Through six games, Seattle already has lost as many as it lost in 19 games a season ago.

2.  How much do the Panthers miss Greg Hardy?

A lot.  Ranked 27th in yardage allowed and 29th in scoring, the Panthers aren’t close to what they were defensively in 2013.  They’ve still mustered 15 sacks through seven games, but that’s a far cry from the 60-sack mark of a year ago.

As Hardy heads toward a trial date next month on domestic violence charges, an acquittal should result in immediate reinstatement, which will be very good news for a Panthers team that somehow finds itself in first place despite a sluggish 3-3-1 record.

3.  Should Russell Wilson have his head on a swivel?

With all the talk about internal strife, the Seahawks quarterback needs to be concerned about external forces that intend him harm.  The Panthers definitely do, if Wilson decides to tuck the ball and run.

“He’s pretty much like a running back back there with the way he can scramble. So we’ve just got to plaster him and, in some cases, take a shot,” Carolina defensive end Wes Horton said this week.

It’s easy to say.  It’s not easy to do.  Fast, agile, and elusive, Wilson has a knack for running away from and around guys, protecting himself by getting out of bounds or sliding or instinctively positioning himself in a way to absorb a hit without it being the kind of big hit that could cause an injury.

Ravens at Bengals

1.  What’s wrong with the Bengals?

From three straight wins to three straight games without one, the easy explanation is that the Bengals miss receiver A.J. Green, who has missed the last two with a toe injury and who was fully neutralized by Pats cornerback Darrelle Revis in Week Five.  Apart from his production, the threat of Green getting behind a defense opens up the rest of the offense.  Without that potential for a big play, it’s a lot harder to find an opening underneath.

The defense under new coordinator Paul Guenther also has been exposed.  Over the last three weeks, Cincinnati has allowed 43, 37, and 27.  That’s an average of 35.6 points allowed per game.

A loss to Baltimore will equalize the head-to-head tiebreaker (which only matters if Baltimore plays someone to a tie this year, given Cincinnati’s tie with the Panthers).  Far more importantly, it will put the Bengals two-and-a-half games behind the Ravens.

2.  Is Andy Dalton earning his contract?

The media and the fans tend to adopt narratives early in the season and then forget about them.  For the Bengals’ freshly-minted almost-franchise quarterback, conventional wisdom supported the notion that Dalton was indeed justifying the team’s investment in him.  Averaging 8.6 yards per attempt, Dalton was on his way to becoming one of the best young-ish quarterbacks in the league.

In the last three games, Dalton’s average-per-attempt has plunged to 6.2, with a paltry 3.3 yards per attempt during a shutout loss to the Colts.  While the absence of A.J. Green surely is a factor, true franchise quarterbacks generate yards and points and wins regardless of who the receivers are.  Dalton has shown that he’s still not ready for that title.

3.  Why are the Ravens more productive on offense this year?

It partially comes from an emphasis on generating points early in games.  It’s one of the specific situations on which the Ravens focus in practice each week.

“That has been something we’ve done through training camp, and we do it usually about once a week,” coach John Harbaugh said this week. “We have a first drive of the game. It’s nothing elaborate. It’s just a drill.”

The drill is working.  Quarterback Joe Flacco has six first-quarter touchdown passes in 2014.  Last season, he had a total of four.

Dolphins at Jaguars

1.  Is Peyton Manning a Dolphins fan?

At least for this week, he should be.  With 10 interceptions in five games and with nine to play, Blake Bortles is on pace to tie Peyton Manning’s rookie interception record of 28.

Manning, who is keenly aware of pretty much everything (including scoreboard operation), knows about the record — he mentioned it during a preseason visit to PFT on NBCSN.  If Bortles keeps throwing at least two per game, Manning won’t have to mention it any longer.

2.  Will Denard Robinson ever do more than be a tailback?

Quite possibly.  Appearing on Thursday’s PFT Live, Robinson said that he’s currently focusing on getting more comfortable at the running back position.  Once he does, he could be doing more in the offense, including playing a little quarterback.

Robinson is getting closer to reaching the right comfort level at running back.  He carried the ball 22 times for 127 yards on Sunday against the Browns.  In all of 2013, Robinson had a total of 20 carries.

Maybe, in time, he’ll be throwing a periodic pass or two along with it.

3.  How has Ryan Tannehill improved so quickly?

When Bill Lazor arrived as offensive coordinator, the thinking was that Tannehill would have to adapt to the new offense.  Lazor eventually decided to adapt the offense to Tannehill.

Deep throws, for example, aren’t one of Tannehill’s strengths.  So the Dolphins only dial up a pass of 20 or more yards once in ever 12 snaps.

With a 2-1 record since coach Joe Philbin bizarrely answered a different question when asked if Tannehill is still the starter, Tannehill has shown that he’s the right guy for the job — at least for now.

Rams at Chiefs

1.  What have they done with Zac Stacy?

Stacy started the year as the starting running back in St. Louis.  But with Benny Cunningham performing well and rookie Tre Mason making a bit of a splash, Stacy participated in only one play during last Sunday’s win over the Seahawks.  And he didn’t touch the ball at all.

It was just a weird situation,” Stacy said this week. “Right now, we’re doing a rotation with me, Tre, and Benny — and we’re going with the hot hand.  I’m just staying positive, I’ll keep working, and whenever my opportunity is called just take advantage of it.”

For the year, Stacy remains the leading rusher, with 240 yards.  Cunningham has 136 and Mason has 125.  But Mason had 85 against the Seahawks, which qualifies him as having the hottest hand, as of right now.

2.  Is Austin Davis the next Tom Brady or Kurt Warner?

Brady?  No.  Warner?  Probably no.

The comparison came from Brett Favre, who emerges via satellite from Mississippi with the frequency of Punxsutawney Phil to spout off a wide variety of opinions about a sport that he doesn’t follow very closely.  His point was that Davis, who became “the guy” in St. Louis after the first “the guy” looked awful in Week One while trying to replace “the guy” with the torn ACL.  The biggest comparison to Warner is that Shaun Hill was supposed to be Warner, 15 years after a preseason ACL tear for Trent Green opened the door for the former Arena League grocery-bagger.

Davis doesn’t have the same compelling back story as Warner.  Sure, Davis was a walk-on at Southern Miss and became the starter as a redshirt freshman and set 15 school game and single-season records (breaking some of Favre’s records) and eventually broke most if not all of Favre’s school records and went undrafted in 2012 and bounced around the league a little before returning to St. Louis for good (for now) when Sam Bradford tore his ACL for the first time last October.

It’s an intriguing tale, but the Rams are still 2-4.  They’ll need more than multiple special-teams tricks and gimmicks to get into the playoff hunt, and Davis has a long way to go until he’s lighting things up the way Brady and Warner did en route to Super Bowl titles in seasons they found themselves unexpectedly under center.

3.  Is Alex Smith reflecting much on his most recent game against the Rams?

He says he’s not.  But how can’t he be?  It was a concussion in November 2012 against St. Louis that opened the door for Colin Kaepernick and closed the book on Smith’s career in San Francisco.

I haven’t given it that much thought,” Smith said this week. “Certainly I recognize when we go over the personnel, some of these guys. I remember the game. I remember it well. But I haven’t really thought about the what-ifs.”

There’s no way of knowing whether Smith would still be the starter in San Francisco but for that concussion.  The 49ers presumably didn’t trade up in the second round of the 2011 draft for a guy they planned to park on the bench for four years.  Still, that Rams game from nearly two years ago provided the impetus for change, and Smith’s new surroundings have him facing the Rams for the first time with his new team.

Bears at Patriots

1.  Who will Darrelle Revis cover?

The obvious candidate is receiver Brandon Marshall.  But receiver Alshon Jeffery can be just as problematic, and tight end Martellus Bennett needs to be accounted for.  Without a clear-cut dominant option, Revis could move around and other confuse quarterback Jay Cutler and/or coach Marc Trestman, who fears the NFL has begun to catch up with his offense.  Which doesn’t bode well against a head coach who already has detected all the tendencies and trends — and who will keep the Bears from doing whatever it is that they do best.

Which as of right now isn’t all that much.

2.  Who’s the leader in Chicago?

No one, at least for now.  And the Bears desperately need someone to emerge.

They’ve got plenty of guys who lead by example; they need someone who can lead by words.

Quarterback Jay Cutler can’t or won’t or doesn’t care enough to even consider it.  Receiver Brandon Marshall has tried, but it’s unclear whether anyone will follow him.  Coach Marc Trestman possibly lacks the personality to command a locker room, which is one of the most important traits of any NFL head coach.

Adversity possibly will cause a vocal leader to emerge.  If it doesn’t, the Bears are destined to continue to float through their schedule, underachieving and unable to change it.

3.  Will Brandon Marshall continue to sound off?

Probably.  First, because that’s his way.  Second, because Trestman has given Marshall and everyone else a license to pop off after games.  Trestman says he needs to be “accepting” and “non-judgmental” when players speak in the heat of the moment.

Wonder if he’ll feel that way when someone says, “Our coach stinks and he should go back to Canada”?

Bills at Jets

1.  What will Percy Harvin’s role be?

It won’t be extensive; coach Rex Ryan says it’s unrealistic to think Harvin will be ready to participate in 50 snaps.  But even though it will be difficult for him to absorb the Jets’ version of the West Coast offense on the fly, it will be easy for the Jets to find ways to get the ball in Harvin’s hands and allow his skills to take over.

From kickoff returns to fly/jet sweeps to bubble screens to maybe even a periodic “go” route, Harvin can tilt the field in his new team’s direction without spending much time traversing the learning curve.

2.  Who in the hell is Chris Hogan?

If you don’t know, you should.  The former Penn State lacrosse player opted to give football a try on a lark, attempted to go to Syracuse and play for current Bills coach Doug Marrone as a graduate student, and ended up at Monmouth due to NCAA transfer rules.  Hogan now plays for Marrone, and Hogan has played his way into the No. 3 receiver role in the Buffalo offense.

Hogan, you may recall, was dubbed 7-11 by Reggie Bush during Hard Knocks in 2012, when Hogan and Bush played for the Dolphins.  After landing in Buffalo last year as a special-teams contributor, Hogan has earned his playing time.

“I always tell the players that you’ve got to put yourself in a position where the coaches have to play you because that’s how well you’re playing,” Marrone said this week. “I think Chris has done that.”

He made an even stronger case for more playing time with a leaping 28-yard grab that put the ball on the Minnesota two, one play before the game-winning touchdown pass from Kyle Orton to Sammy Watkins.

3.  Can the Jets’ offensive line handle the Buffalo defensive front?

Maybe not, which will make it harder for Harvin or anyone else on the New York offense to do anything.

“The two [defensive tackles] we’re going against are the best two in the league, next to [Ndamukong] Suh and [Nick] Fairley, hands down,” Jets guard Willie Colon said this week. “They’re game-wreckers, especially Kyle Williams. He’s been doing it so long. He’s definitely a guy you’ve got to scout for.  The other guy inside [Marcel Dareus] is doing a great job. Both of them are explosive, they’re making plays. They definitely give you a little bit of nightmares at night.”

The Jets’ blockers may have some nightmares at day, too.  From about 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.  Whether the Jets can do anything positive with the ball on a consistent basis will hinge on whether the line can slow down the defensive tackles — and defensive ends — who make up perhaps the best overall defensive line in the league.

Vikings at Buccaneers

1.  Will the 1-6 Bucs have a fire sale?

Coach Lovie Smith insists they won’t.  At one level, it makes sense.  With no one seeming to want to win the NFC South, the Bucs are still alive to make it to the postseason.

But Smith needs players who fit his defense, and stockpiling some picks would make plenty of sense.  The decision to unload cornerback Darrelle Revis in the offseason shows that no one is safe.  The question is whether Smith and G.M. Jason Licht are comfortable giving up players who can help them win now in return for assets that can help them win later.

2.  How’s Teddy Bridgewater doing?

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner sees some good and some bad in the rookie.

He’s a lot like our offense,” Turner said. “He’s a work in progress, and there’s going to be things we like, things where we see he’s growing, and there’s going to be things where you shake your head a little bit.”

Bridgewater showed plenty of progress in his first start against the Falcons, but Bridgewater has lost two in a row since returning from an ankle injury.  He has plenty of time to develop, but the Vikings will want to see a lot more progress before the end of the season.

3.  Is Everson Griffen earning his money?

When the Vikings decided to let Jared Allen leave via free agency and to sign youngster Everson Griffen to a $42 million contract, plenty of league insiders and observers were shocked.  But the Vikings were steadfast in their belief that the investment would generate a significant return.  So far, so good.

Griffin is second in the league with seven sacks, thanks to three against the Bills in Week Seven.

I’m all about proving people wrong,” Griffen said. “No matter what, you’re always going to have haters. … What you want to do is prove them wrong and show them you can be the guy that they gave a huge contract to and you can live up to everything.”

He’s also living up to his billing as a pass-rush specialist with his own “Sack Daddy” dance: “I slide to the left, I slide to the right, and I do a couple of swirls of my arms and I flex.”

Texans at Titans

1.  What’s wrong with Brian Cushing?

The tape from Monday night’s loss to the Steelers shows a guy who can’t run.  And he can’t run because his surgically-repaired knee is still bothering him. So he’ll take at least a game off, maybe more.

Sure, coach Bill O’Brien denies that Cushing needs rest and lists him as questionable in order to keep the Titans guessing.

But no guesswork is needed; given Cushing’s ability to run on that balky knee, no benefit is derived from making the Titans think they may be facing him.

2.  Why switch to Zach Mettenberger now?

The Titans need to know what they have in the rookie sixth-rounder, so that they’ll know whether to look for a new quarterback in 2015.  Destined to have a top 10 (or maybe a top five) pick in the draft, the Titans could try to find a franchise quarterback in Round One, if they don’t think Mettenberger will be the answer.

With Tennessee as a practical matter out of the running for a playoff berth, it makes sense to start the process of evaluating Mettenberger now.  Waiting until December could result in only a partial look at Mettenberger’s abilities.  The Titans need to see what he does not only in those first few games when the opposing defenses don’t have much film but also after enough tape has been generated to give defensive coordinators more insight into what the rookie does well, what he doesn’t do well, and how he reacts when the things he does well are taken away.

3.  Why hasn’t Ryan Fitzpatrick been benched?

Fitzpatrick actually isn’t playing all that poorly.  He’s averaging a career-high 8.0 yards per attempt, which means he’s moving the ball well when he throws it.  But Fitzpatrick also has eight turnovers in the last five games, which makes it hard to parlayn the ability to move the ball into a movement of the scoreboard.

It’s too early to throw in the towel on the Texans’ season, and it’s also too early to assume Ryan Mallett or rookie Tom Savage are ready.  At some point, though, the Texans need to know what they have in Mallett (who’ll be a free agent after the season) and Savage.  Especially if the wheels continue the process of coming off, and if the Texans earn another position high in the draft.

Eagles at Cardinals

1.  Are the Cardinals relying too much on Andre Ellington?

Possibly.  A year ago, they handled him with care.  Now, he’s becoming the workhorse, with coach Bruce Arians believing Ellington can withstand 30 touches per game.

He’s very unique,” quarterback Carson Palmer said this week. “There isn’t another guy in the league like him. He’s got that ability in the pass game and the run game, the ability to go the distance, the ability to run between the tackles. He does a lot for us and he can do it all.”

Last week, Ellington had 30 touches, with 24 rushing attempts and six receptions.  For the year, he’s averaging 21.6 per game.

Look for that average to keep going up, as long as Ellington can stay healthy.

2.  Does the bye week help the Eagles’ chances?

Typically, having extra time to rest up and prepare for a game doesn’t hurt.  Eagles coach Chip Kelly traditionally has parlayed in-season bye weeks into victory.  Undefeated at Oregon after a regular-season bye and 1-0 at the NFL level (the Eagles but the Cardinals after a bye in 2013), the Eagles have a very real edge when it comes to self-scouting and game-planning.

3.  How will Larry Fitzgerald’s “champagne problem” resolve itself?

The veteran receiver applied that label to his relative lack of targets and catches as he further downplays the idea that he’s being phased out of the Arizona offense.  But the decreased production points directly to a looming divorce; with a cap number of $23.8 million in 2015 and an additional shell-game restructuring likely not practical, Fitzgerald will have to take less to stay.

Which means Fitzgerald likely will be cut.  Which gives him a chance to join Tom Brady in New England or Payton Manning in Denver or to go home to Minnesota.

Raiders at Browns

1.  Is Brian Hoyer on a short leash?

It’s not yet short, but it’s definitely shorter than it would have been if the Browns hadn’t lost to the Jaguars last Sunday.  Hoyer looked sluggish and inaccurate.  Ultimately, he was ineffective, prompting coach Mike Petting to admit that he’d considered using Johnny Manziel at one point.

The Browns eventually have to decide who their starter will be in 2015.  If Hoyer performs against the Raiders the way he played against the Jaguars, the decision for next year gets a lot easier.

And the chances of the decision being implemented in 2014 become a lot greater.

2.  How big of a deal would it be to lose to the Raiders?

It would be a pretty big deal.  If the Browns follow last week’s 24-6 loss to the previously 0-6 Jaguars with a loss to the currently 0-6 Raiders, Cleveland will become the first to lose to winless teams on consecutive weekends in Week Seven or later.

And that would likely result in the donning of a Ryan Pontbriand jersey and the direction of strong words at the building that presumably had shed its prior moniker.

3.  Could the Raiders go 0-16?

The schedule gets no softer any time soon.  The only team in the final 10 currently under .500 is the Rams, who could be a lot better by the time the Raiders visit St. Louis on November 30.

After Sunday’s trip to the 3-3 Browns, it’s time to face the 3-3 Seahawks, the 6-1 Broncos, the 5-3 Chargers, the 3-3 Chiefs, the Rams, the 4-3 49ers, the Chiefs again, the 4-3 Bills, and the Broncos again.

And, yes, seven of the remaining 10 games come against teams that made it to the playoffs in 2013.

So, yes, 0-16 is more than a remote possibility.

Colts at Steelers

1.  Who steps up for Reggie Wayne?

With the veteran out due to an elbow injury, Hakeem Nicks becomes the obvious candidate to get more work.  A former first-round pick who’s in his  Second Annual Contract Year, Nicks has a very high opinion of himself.  It’s now his chance to persuade everyone else to share that view.

But Nicks has only 17 catches in seven games, generating a mere 141 yards.  As a result, he could be pushed by rookie Donte Moncrief, who actually was on the field for more snaps last week than Nicks.

2.  Are the Steelers getting any healthier?

Yes, gradually.  The best news comes from linebacker Ryan Shazier’s looming return after a Week Three knee injury.  He’s listed as probable for Sunday’s game, which means it’s virtually certain he’ll play.

While cornerback Ike Taylor isn’t ready to play, he practiced this week after suffering a broken forearm in that same game.  The Steelers need all the help they can get as they try to avoid sliding back under .500 and losing a second home game in their last three.

3.  Can the Colts’ defense pitch another shutout?

Probably not.  Although it’s tempting to assume that a team’s most recent performances will continue indefinitely, that 27-0 victory over the Bengals in Indy doesn’t mean the ’85 Bears will be rolling into Pittsburgh.  The Steelers average 28 points per game at home.  Even though their offense has been maligned by the likes of Snoop Dogg and Joe Banner, they know how to score points at home, and score points they will.

The only question is whether they’ll score enough.

Packers at Saints

1.  Will this finally be a good Sunday night game?

Hopefully.  The last two games between the Packers and Saints have entailed high scoring and excitement.  The Packers won 28-27 in 2012, and the 2011 season began with an excellent 42-34 game at Lambeau Field, which the Packers won by stuffing then-rookie Mark Ingram at the goal line.

The Saints haven’t lost at home under coach Sean Payton since 2011, and they’ve won 13 straight home prime-time games.  So this one has the potential to be a good one — regardless of whether the Saints ultimately can continue their run of success at home.

2.  Are the Saints still alive in the NFC South?

Absolutely.  Despite being only 2-4, the Saints have six home games left, and they’re only one game behind the Panthers in the loss column.  Holding serve at home coupled with a road win or two would easily win the division no one seems to want to.  And the guaranteed home game that goes with winning the division could allow the Saints to do what the 7-9 Seahawks did to the Saints in the 2010 postseason.

3.  Should Aaron Rodgers be considered for a second MVP award?

Without question.  He has led the Packers to four straight wins, and he’s thrown 18 touchdown passes against only one interception.  While his final numbers may not be as good as 2011 (the year he won the MVP award), he’s performing at a high level once again — and most importantly the Packers are having yet another special season in a year that started off looking like anything but.

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Bucs, Gerald McCoy agree to seven-year contract

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

In a disappointing year for the Buccaneers, they’ve just accomplished one thing: They’ve locked up their best player for a long time.

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and the Bucs have come to an agreement on a long-term contract extension. The deal was first reported by Jay Glazer of FOX Sports.

According to Glazer it’s a seven-year deal worth close to $100 million. We’re working on getting the details of how the contract is structured and how much of that money is guaranteed.

The third overall pick of the 2010 NFL draft, McCoy has been an excellent player in Tampa. The Bucs hope he’ll be a building block for Lovie Smith’s defense for years to come.

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Raiders to activate D.J. Hayden

DJ Hayden AP

Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden finally appears ready to play.

The 12th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Hayden played in eight games as a rookie, starting two. But he has spent all of this season on the physically unable to perform list with a broken foot. Now Hayden will be activated today and play tomorrow against the Browns, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Hayden has had plenty of bad luck with injuries: He suffered a severe injury during his senior year at Houston in 2012 when he took a hard hit to the chest during practice, tearing the interior vena cava in his heart. Last year he was placed on injured reserve midway through the season after suffering a groin injury in practice.

Now Hayden is ready to hit the field. That’s good news in Oakland, as the winless Raiders could use a boost.

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LaAdrian Waddle: Don’t blame Lions for me playing with a concussion

waddle AP

Lions right tackle LaAdrian Waddle says that even though he played after suffering a concussion on Sunday, the Lions shouldn’t be taking any criticism.

Waddle says he kept it to himself that he had taken a hard hit on a fourth-quarter extra point, and he doesn’t think the medical staff or coaches had any way of knowing that he had a concussion when he returned to the game for the team’s final kneeldown.

“I mean, I didn’t talk to anybody until after the game, so what else are they supposed to do?” Waddle said, via the Detroit Free Press. “They didn’t know anything till after the game.”

Waddle demonstrated a major problem with the NFL’s concussion protocol: If a player doesn’t tell the medical staff that he took a hard hit to the head, there’s a good chance he won’t get checked out. The Chargers’ medical staff missed a player displaying obvious concussion symptoms on Thursday night, while Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles said he felt concussion symptoms on Sunday but avoided having to get checked out.

Until players become vigilant about alerting doctors when they have a concussion, there’s only so much the doctors can do.

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Murray says durability comes from offseason workouts with Witten

murraywitten AP

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is on pace to break the NFL record for carries in a season, and so far he’s shown no signs of slowing down. Murray says tight end Jason Witten deserves a lot of the credit for that.

Murray told the Star-Telegram that Witten pushed him through offseason workouts that have them both in better shape and ready to withstand the rigors of a 16-game season.

“It helped a lot, obviously with the stamina aspect just building a good armor for your body so you can take some hits and take the pounding of a long season,” Murray said. “He’s done it for a long time, and he’s someone who has had a lot of success in this league, and he knows what to do to take care of your body in season and out of season, so it helped a lot, and I have to thank him, and we’re still working together.”

Witten said he taught Murray this offseason that working hard in the spring is the best way to remain healthy during the fall. Murray said he’s never been in better shape than he is now, thanks to Witten pushing him through a workout routine.

“Witten is the big dog, and I can’t tell him no,” Murray said. “It was understood, hey, let’s get some work in, and we did it.”

The Cowboys are benefiting from that work now.

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Mayhew mum on Megatron’s future

Johnson AP

When the Lions became infatuated with pass-catchers in the top 10 of the draft, the future of receiver Calvin Johnson instantly became cloudy.  With a contract carrying cap numbers that surpasses $20 million in 2015, the Lions will have tough decisions to make about Johnson’s future in 2015 and possibly beyond.

An item exploring that point earlier this month made some Lions fans more than a little nervous.

With the team winning while Johnson isn’t playing, it becomes easier to justify putting a salary squeeze on Johnson, who could choose to take less to stay — especially if his agent realizes that, even with the Lions paying Johnson less, it’ll still be more than what another team would pay.

Meeting this week with reporters, the man who ultimately approved the backloaded ball-and-chain contract wouldn’t address what could or will happen in the offseason.

You’re asking me a hypothetical question,” Mayhew said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

While the specific question Mayhew was being asked didn’t appear in print, it’s not hypothetical to ask whether the Lions can justify devoting so much cap space to a player who can’t play on a consistent basis.  Last year, Johnson missed three games due to a knee injury and was hampered by it in multiple others.  This year, a sprained ankle has kept him from even approaching the level of play that earned his current deal.

“I don’t have any expectations,” Mayhew said regarding whether Johnson will finish his career in Detroit.  “I’m just getting ready to play the Atlanta Falcons and try to get to 6-2.”

At this point, the expectation should be that, without major salary slashing in 2015 or 2016, Johnson won’t retire as a Lion.  Unless it’s on a one-day contract after he plays for another team or two.

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Chargers now admit Jahleel Addae had a concussion

addae AP

During Thursday night’s game against the Broncos, Chargers safety Jahleel Addae appeared to be suffering from the symptoms of a concussion. At one point he looked disoriented and seemed to go into a convulsion while remaining on his feet, but he stayed in the game while fans on social media questioned why he was still playing while displaying such obvious distress.

Now the Chargers have admitted that Addae had a concussion.

After the game, Addae said he was evaluated on the sideline and had only suffered a stinger, but on Friday night the Chargers acknowledged that Addae did, in fact, have a concussion. The Chargers say he was cleared on the sideline during the game but diagnosed with additional tests on Friday.

It’s troubling that Addae kept playing and troubling that fans watching on TV could see something was wrong with him but the Chargers’ medical staff couldn’t. The Chargers have a history of allowing players to stay on the field when they’ve been concussed: Chargers guard Kris Dielman was staggering around on the field in 2011 but wasn’t immediately taken out of the game. His concussion turned out to be so severe that he never played again.

Chargers coach Mike McCoy became defensive when asked about Addae on Friday, telling reporters, “I was at the game. I was watching the game. I was there. I was watching it.” The Chargers’ medical staff should have been watching Addae more closely. He had no business continuing to play.

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Lions shorthanded at tight end, but it may not change offense much

Detroit Lions Training Camp Getty Images

The Lions have five tight ends on their roster, but they could very well have just two available for Sunday’s game against the Falcons in London.

Two Lions tight ends — Joseph Fauria and Eric Ebron — have been ruled out for Sunday. Another tight end, Brandon Pettigrew, is doubtful because of a foot injury. This could leave Detroit with just newly signed Kellen Davis and recently promoted Jordan Thompson at tight end against Atlanta.

At first glance, this seems like a potential problem for the Detroit offense. After all, Thompson is entering just his second game on the Lions’ active roster, while Davis joined Detroit just this week.

However, the Lions have experience carrying just two active tight ends. In fact, they’ve done it the last four games with Fauria on the mend with an ankle injury.

And a look at formation data logged by the NFL suggests the Lions’ offense can probably fare just fine with just two tight ends in the club’s final game before its Nov. 2 bye.

Through seven games, the Lions have used two or more tight ends on 23.9 percent of their plays from scrimmage (110-of-461). They have deployed at least two tight ends on 28.6 percent of first downs and 28.3 percent of second downs.

On third down, however, the Lions have utilized two tight ends or more on just 7-of-102 plays (6.9 percent). On fourth downs, they have trotted out two tight ends on 2-of-4 snaps.

On average, the Lions are running about 66 plays. And if their typical tight end usage continues, they’ll have Davis and Thompson on the field together about 16 times.

Whenever the Lions return to closer to full strength at tight end, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi may be afforded more schematic flexibility. But the Lions have shown they can manage even with less-than-ideal circumstances at this key position.

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Steelers hand kickoff return duties to LeGarrette Blount

LeGarrette Blount, Thomas DeCoud, Luke Kuechly AP

The Steelers have been miserable running back kickoffs this season, averaging just 17.5 yards a return. As a result, they’ve made a change on the special teams depth chart.

Dri Archer, who has been the primary return man so far this year, is being replaced with running back LeGarrette Blount. Archer is a 5-foot-8, 173-pound rookie with great speed, but he’s frequently been taken down by the first person to reach him on kickoff coverage. The Steelers hope the six-foot, 250-pound Blount will be able to break some tackles and break some long returns.

Things didn’t work out as well as they wanted before, so they switched it up,” Blount said. “I’m excited about it. It’s going to be fun. We’re hoping that we can get everything done the way that we want to get it done, and we hope that we can be effective with it so we can keep it going.”

Steelers special teams coach Danny Smith said he’s still a big believer in Archer’s skills, even though it’s been disappointing that Archer’s longest return this season was just 23 yards.

Blount did a good job returning kickoffs in New England last year, averaging 29.1 yards. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said kickoff returns are something “we have to get better at,” and he’s hoping Blount is the man to make that happen.

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Week Eight skill-position injury report — final

Giovani Bernard AP

Here are the skill-position players in Sunday games listed on the final Week Eight injury report. Key fantasy starters are bolded. Inactives are announced 90 minutes before kickoff.

The final injury report for Monday night’s Washington-Dallas game will be released Saturday.

Sunday’s Lions-Falcons matchup will start at 9:30 a.m. ET, so set your lineups — and alarms — accordingly.

Byes: 49ers, Giants.

OUT

Bills RB Fred Jackson (groin).

Browns WR Rodney Smith (hamstring).

Cardinals TE Troy Niklas (ankle).

Chiefs WR Donnie Avery (groin).

Colts WR Reggie Wayne (elbow).

Eagles WR Brad Smith (groin).

Lions TE Eric Ebron (hamstring).

Lions TE Joseph Fauria (ankle).

Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle).

Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh).

Panthers WR Corey Brown (concussion).

Raiders WR Vincent Brown (hamstring).

Ravens TE Owen Daniels (knee).

Saints RB Khiry Robinson (forearm).

Saints RB Pierre Thomas (rib, shoulder).

Seahawks RB Derrick Coleman (foot).

Seahawks TE Zach Miller (ankle).

Seahawks WR Bryan Walters (concussion).

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen, groin).

DOUBTFUL

Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe).

Bills WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring).

Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle).

Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew (foot).

Titans TE Taylor Thompson (knee).

QUESTIONABLE

Bills WR Marcus Easley (knee).

Buccaneers QB Josh McCown (right thumb).

Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson (rib).

Chiefs WR Junior Hemingway (hamstring).

Colts RB Trent Richardson (hamstring).

Colts TE Jack Doyle (knee).

Eagles RB Darren Sproles (knee).

Falcons WR Harry Douglas (foot).

Jets WR Greg Salas (ankle, wrist).

Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle).

Panthers RB Chris Ogbonnaya (groin).

Patriots RB Shane Vereen (illness).

Patriots WR Matt Slater (shoulder).

Raiders RB Marcel Reece (quadricep).

Saints TE Jimmy Graham (shoulder).

PROBABLE

Bears TE Martellus Bennett (hamstring).

Bears WR Chris Williams (illness).

Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (ribs).

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (groin).

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (foot).

Cardinals WR John Brown (ankle).

Chiefs RB Cyrus Gray (hand).

Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (ribs).

Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee).

Dolphins TE Dion Sims (neck).

Eagles RB Chris Polk (hamstring).

Falcons WR Julio Jones (ankle).

Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart (foot).

Jets RB Bilal Powell (foot).

Jets RB Chris Johnson (ankle).

Jets WR Eric Decker (hamstring).

Lions RB Theo Riddick (hamstring).

Packers RB James Starks (ankle).

Patriots QB Tom Brady (ankle).

Rams PK Greg Zuerlein (illness).

Rams RB Benny Cunningham (knee).

Rams WR Kenny Britt (ankle).

Ravens WR Steve Smith (not injury related).

Seahawks Marshawn Lynch (not injury related).

Seahawks RB Robert Turbin (shoulder).

Seahawks TE Luke Willson (groin).

Titans QB Jake Locker (right hand).

Titans RB Shonn Greene (hamstring).

Vikings TE Chase Ford (foot).

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NFLPA says NFL won’t cooperate with its Ray Rice investigation

Ray Rice Press Conference Getty Images

The NFL Players Association has begun its own investigation into the Ray Rice case. The NFL apparently thinks that’s one investigation too many.

According to the NFLPA, the NFL isn’t cooperating with the NFLPA investigation, which is being conducted simultaneously with both the league-sanctioned investigation by former FBI Director Robert Mueller and Rice’s appeal of his indefinite suspension.

Richard Craig Smith, the attorney leading the investigation for the union, told the Associated Press that the NFL has not provided documents and witnesses and the Ravens have refused to cooperate at all. In the NFLPA’s view, that calls into question the NFL’s public statements that it favors transparency on the Rice matter.

The NFL hasn’t commented and hasn’t committed to assisting in the NFLPA’s investigation.

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Ryan Shazier probable for Sunday vs. Colts

Dennis Pitta, Ryan Shazier AP

One of the Steelers’ defensive starters is set to return.

Rookie left inside linebacker Ryan Shazier (sprained MCL) is probable for Sunday’s game vs. Indianapolis, according to the injury report.He has practiced fully in each of the last two days.

The Steelers’ first-round pick in May, Shazier has missed the last four games, with Sean Spence taking his place in the lineup. An Ohio State product, Shazier has recorded 20 combined tackles in his three starts. In his first two games, Shazier played 124-of-138 defensive snaps for Pittsburgh, per Pro Football Focus. He suffered his injury in the Steelers’ Week Three win at Carolina.

The 6-1, 237-pound Shazier posted the best vertical jump (42 inches) and broad jump (10 feet, 10 inches) among linebackers at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. At 22, he is one of the building blocks for a defense in transition.

While Shazier looks ready to return, starting nose tackle Steve McLendon (shoulder) and right cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm) remain out for the 4-3 Steelers.

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Week Eight injury report roundup

Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Sunday. So, without further delay, the injury report roundup for Week Eight of the 2014 season.

Lions vs. Falcons (in London)

The Lions listed running back Reggie Bush (ankle) and tight end Brandon Pettigrew (foot) as doubtful, but there’s still a chance for wide receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle, questionable). No such chance remains for tight ends Eric Ebron (hamstring) or Joseph Fauria (ankle). The Falcons hope to get wide receiver Harry Douglas (foot, questionable) back in the lineup and also listed defensive tackle Jordan Babineaux (foot) as questionable.

Seahawks at Panthers

Seattle will cross the country without running back Derrick Coleman (foot), defensive tackle Jordan Hill (ankle), cornerback Byron Maxwell (calf), tight end Zach Miller (ankle), center Max Unger (foot), linebacker Bobby Wagner (toe) or wide receiver Bryan Walters (concussion). Everyone else on their injury report is probable. The Panthers raise the Seahawks one on the number of players ruled out. Cornerback Bene’ Benwikere (ankle), linebacker Chase Blackburn (knee), wide receiver Corey Brown (concussion), guard Amini Silatolu (calf), guard Trai Turner (knee), running back Fozzy Whittaker (thigh) and running back DeAngelo Williams (ankle) are all going to miss the game. Running back Chris Ogbonnaya (groin) and Jason Williams (hip) are both questionable.

Ravens at Bengals

Owen Daniels (knee) is out after having arthroscopic surgery, leaving the Ravens without their top two tight ends. Left tackle Eugene Monroe (knee) and left guard Kelechi Osemele (back) should return to the lineup after being listed as probable. Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (toe) is doubtful after missing practice all week and defensive tackle Brandon Thompson (knee) is questionable. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict (neck) is probable.

Dolphins at Jaguars

The Dolphins are waiting to see what linebacker Koa Misi (ankle, questionable) can do, but they don’t think defensive back Jimmy Wilson (hamstring, doubtful) will be able to play. The Jags have issues on defense with cornerback Alan Ball (biceps) and defensive end Andre Branch (groin) ruled out and cornerback Dwayne Gratz (hip, questionable). The offense should have running back Toby Gerhart (foot, probable) back.

Rams at Chiefs 

The Rams could be short at cornerback with Janoris Jenkins (knee) and Trumaine Johnson (knee) both questionable. Cornerback Brandon McGee (foot) has already been ruled out, as has center Tim Barnes (shoulder). The Chiefs hope to get safety Eric Berry (ankle, questionable) back in the lineup. Wide receiver Donnie Avery (groin) and cornerback Christopher Owens (knee) will both miss the game.

Bears at Patriots

The Bears are unlikely to have linebackers Jon Bostic (back, doubtful) and Lance Briggs (ribs, doubtful), but cornerback Kyle Fuller (hand/hip) is probable. Right tackle Jordan Mills (foot, questionable) trended in the wrong direction as the week played out. The Patriots won’t have defensive end Chandler Jones (hip) and they listed running back Shane Vereen (illness) questionable after he missed Friday’s practice. As always, several other Pats, including concussed offensive linemen Dan Connolly and Bryan Stork, are questionable.

Bills at Jets

Bills running back Fred Jackson (knee) was officially ruled out and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring) is doubtful. The team hopes safety Aaron Williams (neck, questionable) can play and they have no worries about wide receiver Sammy Watkins (groin, probable). The Jets are 1-6, but they’re pretty healthy. Linebacker Trevor Reilly (knee) and wide receiver Greg Salas (ankle, wrist) are questionable and the only players on the injury report listed as anything but probable.

Vikings at Buccaneers

Vikings center John Sullivan (concussion) is probable, but the team will wait to make a call on guard Vlad Ducasse (knee). Linebacker Gerald Hodges (hamstring) is doubtful and tight end Kyle Rudolph (abdomen/groin) remains out. The Bucs return from their bye week with linebacker Jonathan Casillas (hamstring), tackle Anthony Collins (knee), safety Dashon Goldson (ankle), wide receiver Vincent Jackson (rib), quarterback Josh McCown (right thumb) and safety Keith Tandy (hamstring) questionable to play on Sunday.

Texans at Titans

Questionable linebackers are all the rage in Houston. Jadeveon Clowney (knee), Brian Cushing (knee), Brooks Reed (groin) and John Simon (ankle) all got that designation with Cushing looking the least likely to play come Sunday. Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh (knee) and tight end Taylor Thompson (knee) are doubtful and linebacker Quentin Groves (ankle) is questionable. Quarterback Jake Locker (thumb) is probable, but he’ll just be holding a clipboard if all goes well for Tennessee.

Eagles at Cardinals

Center Jason Kelce (hernia), linebacker Mychal Kendricks (calf) and running back Darren Sproles (knee) are all questionable. It’s a surprising positive for Kelce and a negative for Kendricks, who the team hoped would be returning this weekend. Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (knee, questionable) has a chance to play, which is a bit of a positive surprise as well given the initial timeline for his injury.

Raiders at Browns 

The Raiders ruled out tight end David Ausberry (foot), wide receiver Vincent Brown (hamstring), cornerback Keith McGill (groin), defensive end LaMarr Woodley (biceps) and safety Usama Young (knee). Another four players — guard Khalif Barnes (quadricep), running back Marcel Reece (quadricep), cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee) and defensive end Justin Tuck (knee) — are questionable. It looks like the Browns should have defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (ankle, probable) back in the lineup, but defensive end Phil Taylor (knee) remains out. Safety Jim Leonhard (ankle) and defensive end Billy Winn (quadricep) are both questionable.

Colts at Steelers

Wide receiver Reggie Wayne (elbow) is out for the Colts, while tight end Jack Doyle (knee) and running back Trent Richardson (hamstring) are questionable. Defensive tackle Steve McLendon (shoulder), cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm) and safety Shamarko Thomas (hamstring) are out for Pittsburgh, but it looks like linebacker Ryan Shazier (knee, probable) should return to the lineup. Tackle Marcus Gilbert (concussion) is questionable.

Packers at Saints

The Packers will be without defensive end Datone Jones (ankle) and cornerback Sam Shields (knee) is unlikely to play after being listed as doubtful. Safety Morgan Burnett (calf) is questionable and the Packers, who like to check every box) listed running back James Starks (ankle) as probable. Center Jonathan Goodwin (knee, ankle), linebacker Kyle Knox (ankle) and running backs Khiry Robinson (forearm) and Pierre Thomas (rib, shoulder) are all out for New Orleans. They have the same number of questionable players, with decisions pending on defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (concussion), tight end Jimmy Graham (shoulder), linebacker Ramon Humber (ankle) and cornerback Keenan Lewis (knee, shoulder).

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