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Making sense of the NFL playoff picture, with 16 games to go

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Here’s a look at the most likely playoff seeds in the AFC and NFC, heading into the final Sunday of the 2013 NFL season:

AFC
Home-field advantage: Denver, with a win on Sunday or a New England loss. New England would clinch home-field advantage with a win and a Denver loss.

2 seed: New England, with a win on Sunday or losses by the Bengals and Colts. Cincinnati and Indianapolis are both still in the hunt for the 2 seed but need help. Denver would fall to the 2 seed with a loss and a New England win.

3 seed: Cincinnati, assuming the favored teams win on Sunday. The Bengals could still move up to the 2 seed or drop to the 4 seed, and so could the Colts.

4 seed: Indianapolis, assuming the favored teams win on Sunday. The Colts could still move all the way up to the 2 seed, but they need to win and the Patriots and Bengals both need to lose.

5 seed: Kansas City has clinched the 5 seed. The Chiefs are the only playoff team with nothing to play for on Sunday.

6 seed: Miami, if all the favored teams win on Sunday. Baltimore needs to upset Cincinnati and needs either the Dolphins or Chargers to lose. San Diego needs to win and needs Baltimore and Miami both to lose. Pittsburgh needs to win while Miami, Baltimore and San Diego all lose. If Pittsburgh, Miami, Baltimore and San Diego all lose, the Ravens get the 6 seed.

NFC
Home-field advantage: Seattle, with a win on Sunday or a 49ers loss. Carolina can still earn home-field advantage with a win, a Seattle loss and a San Francisco win. San Francisco can still earn home-field advantage with a win and losses by both the Seahawks and the Panthers.

2 seed: Carolina clinches the NFC South and a first-round bye with a win or a New Orleans loss. New Orleans would clinch the NFC South and the 2 seed with a win and a Carolina loss. San Francisco would be the 2 seed with a win, a Seahawks loss and a Panthers win.

3 seed: Philadelphia clinches the 3 seed with a win on Sunday. If the Eagles lose, the 3 seed would either be the Bears (if they beat the Packers) or the Cowboys (if the Packers beat the Bears).

4 seed: Green Bay will be the 4 seed with a win at Chicago on Sunday, a win the Packers are now favored to get with Aaron Rodgers back. Chicago will be the 4 seed if it beats Green Bay and Philadelphia beats Dallas. The Cowboys will be the 4 seed if they beat the Eagles and the Bears beat the Packers.

5 seed: San Francisco will be the 5 seed with a win and a Seahawks win. If the 49ers win and the Seahawks lose, the Seahawks will be the 5 seed. If the 49ers lose and the Saints win, the Saints will be the 5 seed and the 49ers will be the 6 seed.

6 seed: New Orleans will be the 6 seed with a win and a 49ers win. If the Saints win and the 49ers lose to the Cardinals, the Saints will be the 5 seed and the 49ers will fall to the 6 seed. If the Cardinals beat the 49ers and the Saints lose to the Buccaneers, the Cardinals will be the 6 seed and the Saints will be out of the playoffs.

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NFL Films composer Sam Spence dies at 88

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On the eve of Super Bowl 50, the NFL has lost one of the men that helped tell the stories of the league’s history.

According to David Barron of the Houston Chronicle, NFL Films composer Sam Spence died Saturday at the age of 88 in Lewisville, Texas.

If you watched any work by NFL Films over the years, you’ve likely heard some of Spence’s music. “The Equalizer” has been the ringtone on my cell phone for as long as I’ve owned a mobile phone. “The Magnificent Eleven,” “The Over The Hill Gang,” and “The Ramblin’ Man from Gramblin'” are just a few more of his notable pieces written for NFL Films.

Steve and Ed Sabol brought NFL Films to life with their vision and knack for storytelling. John Facenda provided the narration and Spence’s scores tied the whole production together. The end result was revolutionary films that helped the NFL grow into the dominant force in American sports.

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Report: Ex-Lions receiver Titus Young arrested for assault, again

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 20:  Titus Young #16 of the Detroit Lions celebrate a second quarter touchdown while playing the Carolina Panthers at Ford Field on November 20, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

Former Detroit Lions receiver Titus Young has been arrested again.

According to TMZ Sports, Young was arrested after allegedly causing “serious bodily injury” to another man during a fight on January 30. The report states that Young has been charged with felony battery with serious bodily injury.

With Young already serving five years probation after pleading no contest to a felony battery charge in May 2015, Young will almost certainly be heading to jail this time around.

Young was arrested three times in the same week in 2013 for various incidents that included trying to break his own car out of the police impound. He was then arrested again in July 2014 for the altercation that led to his no contest plea in May.

Young had 81 receptions for 990 yards and 10 touchdowns in his two seasons with Detroit from 2011-12. However, issues within the team and legal issues led to his release in Feburary 2013.

 

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Report: Packers, naturally, will play in annual HOF Game

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Brett Favre is headed to Canton in August, and so are thousands of Packers fans.

So, it makes sense that the Packers will play in the Hall of Fame Game, the traditional start to the NFL’s preseason. Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Saturday night that Pro Football Hall of Fame officials have expressed their desire to have the Packers as one of the two teams to play in the Hall of Fame Game.

An official announcement should be coming soon, McGinn reported.

Having Favre and Packer Nation in town is great motivation to make sure the Fawcett Stadium renovations going on will be finished in time for overflow crowds on the first weekend of August.

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Boldin named Walter Payton Man of the Year

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49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award winner during Saturday night’s NFL Honors show.

The prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year award is Boldin’s first, but Boldin has been nominated four times by three different teams during his 13 NFL seasons.

The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award is the only league award that recognizes a player’s community service as well as playing excellence. As a part of the award, Boldin’s Q81 foundation will receive a $50,000 donation, courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.

“I’m beyond humbled to be selected as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year,” Boldin said in a statement. “I used to dream that I could play like Walter Payton when I was growing up, but he became even more of an inspiration to me as I learned about his legacy as a humanitarian. I commend the other 31 finalists throughout the National Football League who continue to use this platform to influence the lives of others in a positive way. May we continue to open our hearts and make an impact in our communities and throughout this world.”

Boldin’s foundation has been active in Phoenix, Baltimore, South Florida and the Bay Area awarding scholarships and opportunities to youth. Last fall, Boldin’s foundation awarded $10,000 academic scholarships to five students entering college and since its inception has awarded 13 four-year scholarships.

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Cam Newton adds MVP to Saturday night haul

Cam Newton AP

Early in Saturday night’s NFL Honors, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was named the Associated Press offensive player of the year.

That wasn’t the only award he wound up taking home before the night was out. As widely expected, Newton was also named the winner of the Most Valuable Player award. With Ron Rivera taking coach of the year honors, it was a good night for the Panthers although they’d gladly bump it down to the second-best night of the weekend with a victory over the Broncos in Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara on Sunday night.

Newton’s regular season — voting was done before the playoffs — included 35 passing touchdowns despite losing top receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the season due to a torn ACL, 10 rushing touchdowns and, of course, 15 wins in 16 tries as the Panthers raced to the top record in the league. While the Panthers got strong seasons from many players, everything on offense flowed through Newton and his play, which included just one inteception over the final eight games of the season, lifted the team well beyond most people’s expectations.

Newton was not a unanimous choice as Tom Brady and Carson Palmer each received one vote, but he was an overwhelming one.

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Ron Rivera named coach of the year

SAN JOSE, CA - FEBRUARY 04:  Head coach Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panther addresses the media during media availability prior to Super Bowl 50 at the San Jose Convention Center/ San Jose Marriott on February 4, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

When your team goes 15-1 and wins the NFC title, you’re going to be a pretty tough candidate to beat when it comes to being the choice for coach of the year.

Voters for the Associated Press didn’t overthink things. Panthers coach Ron Rivera has been named the winner of the award at Saturday night’s NFL Honors ceremony in San Francisco.

It’s the second time in three years that Rivera has won the prize, although it looked like his career might be heading in another direction when the Panthers started the 2014 season with a 3-8-1 record. The Panthers have gone 22-2 since then, however, and a win on Sunday would mean that Rivera won Super Bowls as both a player (the 1985 Bears) and coach on teams that lost just one game on their way to the title.

Rivera had 36.5 votes from the 50 voters. Chiefs coach Andy Reid finished second with six nods and Texans coach Bill O’Brien tied Vikings coach Mike Zimmer for third with two votes apiece. Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians and Patriots coach Bill Belichick also received votes.

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Wade Phillips lands award for top assistant coach

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The biggest reason why the Broncos will be playing for a Super Bowl title on Sunday is their defense.

On Saturday night, the man responsible for overseeing that defense was named the NFL’s top assistant coach of the year. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was honored for putting together a unit that allowed the fewest overall yards, yards per passing attempt and yards per rushing attempt during the 2015 season.

Phillips was out of the NFL in 2014 and his work with the Broncos likely has some teams wondering if they should have brought him onboard before Denver snapped him up for a second stint with the organization.

The man running the offense that Phillips will be tasked with stopping, Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula, finished third in the voting behind former Bengals offensive coordinator and current Browns head coach Hue Jackson.

It’s the second year that an award for an assistant coach has been part of the NFL’s pre-Super Bowl awards show. Todd Bowles won the inaugural award for his work as the Cardinals defensive coordinator and also parleyed those efforts into the Jets’ head coaching gig. Barring something very unexpected, Phillips won’t be a head coach in 2016 and that likely makes Broncos fans pretty happy.

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J.J. Watt named defensive player of the year for third time

J.J. Watt AP

The Associated Press defensive player of the year award won’t be going to a new home this year.

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt was the winner of the prize at the 2015 NFL Honors show and he has been named the winner again in 2016. It’s the third time Watt has been so honored in his five-year NFL career.

Former Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor is the only other three-time winner of the award. Given how much time is left in Watt’s career and how dominant he has been to this point, that tie for the most in league history may not last for long.

Watt led the NFL in sacks with 17.5 during a regular season that ended with the Texans winning the AFC South title. He now has 74.5 sacks for his career. Watt added 50 quarterback hits, 29 tackles for losses, eight passes defensed, 76 overall tackles and three forced fumbles during the season.

Watt got 37-of-50 votes for the award. Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was second with seven and Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly and cornerback Josh Norman finished in third and fourth places.

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Hall of Fame class features DeBartolo, Stabler, Favre, Greene, Dungy

File photo of Brett Favre in New Orleans Reuters

With the NFL celebrating its golden anniversary Super Bowl in the Golden State, the Pro Football Hall of Fame elected an eight-man class with a distinctly California vibe.

Former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler and Rams-Steelers-Panthers-49ers outside linebacker Kevin Greene were among the class that included first-ballot quarterback Brett Favre.

The other inductees included former Colts and Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy, Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison, Rams tackle Orlando Pace (who played his career in St. Louis), and Detroit and Washington guard Dick Stanfel (a San Francisco native).

That class came after a nearly nine-hour meeting, which featured both debates long and short. A committee of 46 selectors discussed DeBartolo’s merits for more than 50 minutes, while it took less than 10 seconds to discuss the election of Favre, so obvious was his Hall case.

Linking Dungy and Harrison also lends a special touch to this weekend’s festivities, considering the success they had with the Colts alongside quarterback Peyton Manning, who has a game to play tomorrow.

Candidates who made it to the final 10 but fell just short of induction included coach Don Coryell, running back Terrell Davis, tackle Joe Jacoby, safety John Lynch and quarterback Kurt Warner.

One of the most-debated players in this year’s group of 15 modern-era semifinalists was well-traveled wide receiver Terrell Owens, but he was part of the group reduced in the first cuts to 10. Kicker Morten Andersen, safety Steve Atwater, guard Alan Faneca and running back Edgerrin James were also in that group.

They’ll go back into the pool next year, along with an interesting group of potential first-time eligibles including running back LaDainian Tomlinson, defensive end Jason Taylor, quarterback Donovan McNabb, safety Brian Dawkins and wide receiver Hines Ward.

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Peters the easy pick as AP Defensive Rookie of the Year

KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 3:  Marcus Peters #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates after defending against a pass at Arrowhead Stadium during the second quarter of the game agains the Oakland Raiders on January 3, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters was named the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Saturday night.

The honor going to Peters is not a surprise. He tied for the NFL lead with eight interceptions and returned two of them for touchdowns for a Chiefs team that won 10 straight games to finish the regular season.

The Chiefs had just six interceptions as a team in 2014. Peters was available at No. 18 in last year’s draft because he’d been in trouble at the University of Washington, but he looks like he has staying power in the NFL.

Peters also had 26 pass breakups, 60 tackles and a forced fumble.

Rams running back Todd Gurley was voted the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.

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Eric Berry named comeback player of the year

Seattle Seahawks v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

After a journey that took him from chemotherapy to the Pro Bowl, Chiefs safety Eric Berry has been named the NFL’s comeback player of the year.

Berry, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 but made the Pro Bowl in 2015, received the comeback player award at tonight’s NFL Honors event in San Francisco.

The comeback player of the year honor, which was first awarded in 1963, has usually gone to a player coming back from an injury suffered on the field the previous season. But Berry is an even more inspirational choice than most, having come back from a Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis that ended his 2014 season. Despite undergoing chemotherapy in the offseason, Berry played all 16 games for the Chiefs in 2015, and played very well.

Upon receiving the award tonight, Berry thanked the medical professionals who helped nurse him back to health, and encouraged his fans to follow their dreams, as he’s continuing to follow his.

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Cam Newton snags offensive player of the year

Cam Newton AP

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton isn’t at the NFL Honors show in San Francisco on Saturday because he’s trying to win the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday, but he’s going to be going home with some hardware whether or not the Panthers can win the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.

Newton has been named the Associated Press offensive player of the year for his efforts during the 2015 season. His father is accepting the award on his behalf.

Newton turned in his best professional season while leading the Panthers to an NFL-best 15-1 record during the regular season. He completed 296-of-495 passes for 3,837 yards and added 636 rushing yards. He threw for 35 touchdowns and ran for 10 more as the centerpiece of the league’s highest-scoring offense.

The MVP award will be handed out later on Saturday evening and it will be a pretty big surprise if Newton’s father isn’t picking up another trophy for his son when the winner is announced.

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Gurley named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year

Todd Gurley, Eric Reid AP

The NFL Honors show is Saturday night, and lots of guys in tuxedos and fancy suits will be honored for what they did in helmets and shoulder pads through the fall.

One of the first big awards went to Rams running back Todd Gurley, who was named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. Gurley played in 13 games last fall and rushed for 1,106 yards, the NFL’s third-highest total.

He had 566 yards in his first four games, the most by any rookie in the Super Bowl era, and that’s made more impressive by the fact his debut was delayed because his final college season ended with Gurley suffering a torn ACL in Nov. 2014.

Gurley is just 21. He went to the Pro Bowl to cap his rookie year and figures to be back, assuming the Pro Bowl still exists.

Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston was honored as the Pepsi Offensive Rookie of the Year, an award voted by fans. The No. 1 pick in last year’s draft, Winston went to the Pro Bowl as an alternate after throwing for 4,042 yards and 22 touchdowns.

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Jim Irsay says Marvin Harrison in HOF, believes Tony Dungy is too

Marvin Harrison AP

Terrell Owens let us know that one wide receiver among the finalists for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame fell short of the votes needed for election on Saturday.

On his way into the NFL Honors show, Colts owner Jim Irsay let us know that another one did get the nod from electors. Irsay said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, that Marvin Harrison has been elected to the Hall in his third year of eligibility.

Harrison ranks third all-time in catches with 1,102, seventh all-time in receiving yards with 15,580 and fifth all-time in touchdowns with 128.

This summer’s induction ceremony may have even more Colts flavor as Irsay also said that he believes the team’s former coach Tony Dungy also got the votes needed to receive a yellow blazer and bust in Canton. Harrison and Dungy both earned Super Bowl rings with the Colts along with Peyton Manning, who will be trying for his second on Sunday in Super Bowl 50.

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Terrell Owens announces he didn’t get into Hall of Fame

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The official announcement about this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame class is coming shortly, but reports about who is in and who didn’t make the cut are starting to surface.

Among those that didn’t make the cut is Terrell Owens. The former 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills and Bengals wide receiver announced on Twitter that he was not elected after making the cut to 15 finalists under consideration by electors on Saturday.

“Unfortunately I did not make it. CONGRATS to the 2016 HOF CLASS. Thanks to ALL MY FANS for ur unwavering love & support. #ONLYGODCANJUDGEME,” Owens wrote on Twitter.

Owens was in his first year of eligibility in 2016. It’s hard to argue that Owens’ on-field production isn’t worth a slot in Canton, but Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News reports that his candidacy was discussed for more than 43 minutes during Saturday’s meeting and that suggests his habit of making waves in the locker room worked against him in this year’s final reckoning.

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