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Allen believes he’ll be back, and Davis doesn’t dismiss the idea

Mark Davis AP

At his season-ending press conference on Monday, Raiders coach Dennis Allen indicated he believed he would be back for a third season with the club.

Asked about Allen’s remarks and whether indeed he would return as coach in 2014, Raiders owner Mark Davis didn’t completely tip his hand, though Davis did pledge at least some short-term support for his head coach in an interview with Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News.

“My main thought is that Dennis has a contract that he signed two years ago,” Davis told Kawakami. “He’s fulfilled two years of it and [G.M.] Reggie [McKenzie] and I will sit down and talk, but yeah he’s the Raiders head coach right now.

“Really, the only people who’ve been replacing Dennis as head coach of the Raiders is the media. Am I correct? I’m still going by what I told you earlier, just let the process play itself out.”

Asked under what circumstances Allen might not be back, Allen told the Mercury News: “There’s always a scenario, you know that. I don’t know, what if John Madden decided he wanted to be a coach again?”

Davis declined to say whether he had talked to former Raiders coach Jon Gruden about a return to Oakland, with the owner telling the Mercury News he would never divulge any such discussions.

When Kawakami suggested that it appeared that Allen would return for a third season, Davis replied: “He is the coach of the Raiders right now, there’s no question about that.”

Davis told the Mercury News that he would likely meet with Allen next week.

Asked Monday if he had been told he would be back, Allen said: “I haven’t been told that I won’t. I wouldn’t say there’s been any guarantees made, but I’m moving forward in that direction. I fully anticipate and fully expect to be the coach of the football team, and that’s the way I’m moving forward.”

The Raiders have gone 4-12 in each of Allen’s first two seasons as head coach. However, they are in the midst of a rather drastic rebuilding process.

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McCown leaves with injury, Manziel stays on sideline

Washington Redskins v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Browns quarterback Josh McCown left Monday night’s game vs. the Ravens in the fourth quarter with an injury and was replaced by Austin Davis, who saw his first action with the Browns.

Inside First Energy Stadium, there were chants of “Johnny, Johnny” as trainers tended to McCown. Those were for Johnny Manziel, and those fans did not get their wish.

The Browns named Manziel the starter for the rest of the season two weeks ago, then Browns coach Mike Pettine demoted Manziel to No. 3 quarterback last week after Manziel reportedly lied about his latest appearance in a nightclub on social media.

During the broadcast, ESPN play by play man Mike Tirico said the Browns “put [Manziel] in timeout, if you will.”

Manziel had started the last two games, and in the two previous games he’d replaced McCown in the fourth quarter after McCown was injured. Monday night, it appeared McCown was clutching his right shoulder as he talked with trainers.

Davis threw an incompletion on a third and 9 play on his first snap. The Browns trail, 27-20.

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Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert out with concussion

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 30:  Justin Gilbert #21 of the Cleveland Browns returns a kickoff during the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 30, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

Justin Gilbert’s return to the lineup for the Cleveland Browns was cut short on Monday night.

Gilbert was ruled out after sustaining a concussion on a kickoff return in the third quarter. Gilbert took the Justin Tucker kick six yards deep in the end zone and returned it to the Browns 34-yard line before being tackled by Tucker along the sideline.

Gilbert’s helmet bounced off the turf and he was taken to the locker room for evaluation before being officially ruled out.

Gilbert started the game with Joe Haden out and Pierre Desir coming off a rough outing. Gilbert had been inactive for the Browns last game two weeks ago.

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Karlos Dansby pick-six of Matt Schaub gives Browns lead

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 30:  Matt Schaub #8 of the Baltimore Ravens looks to pass during the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 30, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Matt Schaub lost his starting job in Houston due to a stunning propensity to throw interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.

That trait seems to have followed Schaub to Baltimore.

Linebacker Karlos Dansby intercepted Schaub’s pass for Kamar Aiken and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown to give the Cleveland Browns a 20-17 lead over the Ravens on Monday night.

Dansby undercut the throw for Aiken and stayed inbounds up the sideline for the score to give Cleveland its first lead of the night.

Schaub is making his first start in place of Joe Flacco, who was lost for the season due to a torn ACL.

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Ravens, Browns trading scores

McCown AP

The Ravens have been in charge, but their lead over the Browns is only 17-10 in the second quarter.

After the Browns had a 14-play drive that ended in a field goal to cut their deficit to 10-3, the Ravens easily went right back down the field with a deep pass from Matt Schaub to Chris Givens and a touchdown pass from Schaub to rookie running back Buck Allen.

The Browns answered with another long drive capped by a Josh McCown touchdown pass to Marlon Moore to make it 17-10. McCown is 11-of-12 for 123 yards on the two drives that have resulted in points.

The fans inside First Energy Stadium serenaded the Browns with boos following Allen’s touchdown, but the Browns’ answer brought cheers.

The Ravens scored first on an 82-yard punt return by Kaelin Clay.

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Clay’s return gives Ravens early lead

John Harbaugh AP

The Browns and Ravens traded punts to start Monday’s game, and Ravens rookie Kaelin Clay took the one he caught 82 yards for a touchdown.

So, the Ravens lead, 7-0, in a game that probably won’t feature many explosive offensive plays. The Ravens got a 49-yard field goal from Justin Tucker later in the quarter to make it 10-0.

Clay was a sixth-round pick of the Buccaneers last spring out of Utah. He spent time on the Buccaneers and Lions practice squads before landing with the Ravens on Nov. 17

All of the Ravens’ still-healthy receivers are playing for jobs over the next six weeks, and Clay made a pretty strong impression with his return.

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Browns say CB Gilbert starting tonight

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

The Browns are listing second-year cornerback Justin Gilbert as a starter for Monday night’s game vs. the Ravens.

A first-round pick in 2014, Gilbert has been in coach Mike Pettine’s doghouse at various times in two seasons and has played little defense this season. With Joe Haden out and Pierre Desir having struggled in the Browns’ last game, the Browns made Desir inactive Monday and are listing Gilbert as a starter opposite Tramon Williams.

Gilbert was a healthy scratch for the Browns’ last game on Nov. 15.

The Browns are also starting John Hughes at defensive end in place of Randy Starks and rookie Cam Erving at guard in place of the injured Joel Bitonio.

Both teams are making quarterback changes. The Browns benched Johnny Manziel, though he’s active, and will start Josh McCown. Matt Schaub starts for the Ravens due to Joe Flacco’s torn ACL.

For the Ravens, defensive end Brent Urban is active and will make his NFL debut. A fourth-round pick in 2014, Urban spent last season on injured-reserve and last summer tore a bicep during training camp. He was activated earlier this month.

As expected, the Ravens are without offensive line starters Eugene Monroe and Kelechi Osemele. James Hurst is slated to start at tackle for Monroe and John Urschel should start at guard in place of Osemele.

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Cardinals lose Chris Johnson to fractured tibia

Chris Johnson, NaVorro Bowman AP

The impressive comeback season for Cardinals running back Chris Johnson has hit a bump in the road.

Johnson has suffered a fractured tibia, according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports. It’s not clear how much time Johnson will miss, but it’s likely a significant period of time.

That’s a big blow to the Cardinals: Johnson is fourth in the NFL with 814 rushing yards this season and has been a big part of the 9-2 Cardinals’ offense.

With Johnson out, David Johnson and Andre Ellington will split carries in Arizona’s backfield. Ellington, however, is dealing with a toe injury, and his prognosis is uncertain. So the depth in the Cardinals’ backfield may have just gone from a strength to a weakness.

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Patriots cut Chris Harper after costly muffed punt

Chris Harper, Cody Latimer AP

A muffed punt that turned the tide of the Patriots’ loss on Sunday night has cost Chris Harper his job.

Tom Curran of reports that Harper was cut today.

The Patriots appeared to be in total control of the game early in the fourth quarter on Sunday night: They had a 21-7 lead and had just forced the Broncos to punt. But Harper muffed the punt, the Broncos recovered, and four plays later they scored a touchdown. Denver went on to win the game in overtime.

An undrafted rookie receiver from Cal, Harper had played only sparingly this season. Patriots coach Bill Belichick isn’t particularly tolerant of fumbling even among good players, and among marginal players, a fumble is an easy way to lose your job in New England. Harper found that out the hard way today.

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Kubiak “real concerned” about the number of hits Osweiler has been taking

Brock Osweiler AP

Now that an injury to Peyton Manning has opened the door for quarterback Brock Osweiler, the Broncos don’t want the door to be slammed shut repeatedly on Osweiler’s leg.

Osweiler has taken plenty of hits in two games, and coach Gary Kubiak is concerned about it. How concerned?

“Real concerned,” Kubiak told reporters on Monday. “I think Brock has been sacked I want to say 11 times in his 10 quarters — maybe 10 times — so that’s way too many. Some of those are his that we’ve got to get corrected. A couple of those are protection issues, but [the Patriots] came after us, especially in the second half they came after us, blitzed us a little bit more and he’ll learn from that. Yes, protecting him and doing a better job—that’s important right now. It really is.”

It is because the physics are simple. The more hits a quarterback takes, the more likely he is to break. Or to sprain. Or to rupture. Or to lacerate.

Beyond the hits Osweiler is taking, Kubiak seems to have no concerns about the guy who has now started two career games.

“I think the No. 1 thing that’s impressed me is I think he understands exactly what he needs to do for the team to be successful,” Kubiak said. “What I mean by that — sometimes guys will get put in situations and they’ll try to do too much. I think he understands he’s on a good football team. If he’ll just do his job, handle the ball well, handle the team well, then our football team will have a chance to be successful. I’m really impressed with how he’s approached that. He’s very comfortable in his preparation, his work and obviously he’s confident in his abilities. I really think just understanding the situation he’s in and handling it might by the No. 1 thing.”

And so he continues to be the No. 1 quarterback indefinitely. Which definitely means he’ll be playing as long as he keeps doing those things.

And as long as nothing breaks, sprains, ruptures, or lacerates.

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Pagano: “Ridiculous” to think Luck won’t start once he’s healthy

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 29: Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts gets his team fired up before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts moved to 4-0 in games started by Matt Hasselbeck by beating the Buccaneers 25-12 on Sunday and Hasselbeck turned in another good performance to help lead the team to the victory.

Hasselbeck completed 26-of-42 passes for a season-high 315 yards and two touchdowns in a performance that was as good as the best that the team’s seen from Andrew Luck when Luck has been healthy this season. That performance and the team’s record in Hasselbeck’s starts may have some wondering whether the Colts will continue to roll with him when Luck has been cleared to return from kidney and abdominal injuries.

Coach Chuck Pagano shot down that notion on Monday. Pagano said, via Andrew Siciliano of NFL Media, that it is “ridiculous” to think that the team would leave Luck on the bench once he’s deemed healthy enough to play. There’s no word on when that might be beyond Luck saying he “definitely” expects to be back before the season is over.

Coming into this season, it would have seemed just as ridiculous to even entertain the thought but this year has not played out the way anyone was expecting in Indianapolis. Still, Luck is the player the Colts have built their franchise around and he’ll continue to be the centerpiece as long as he’s fit enough for action.

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Report: Manziel will be active for MNF

Johnny Manziel AP

Johnny Manziel pulled off the rare feat of getting named starter then demoted during the Browns’ bye week. With that demotion came a statement from Browns coach Mike Pettine that said Manziel would be the third quarterback for the Browns’ next game, which is Monday night vs. the Ravens.

Monday afternoon, Mary Kay Cabot of reported that Manziel will be active for the game. That’s interesting because Pettine specifically stated that Josh McCown would start and that Austin Davis would be the No. 2 quarterback, and Manziel being active leaves open the possibility that he could still be in the plans for the Ravens game.

The Browns generally make just two quarterbacks among their active 46 players.

Maybe the Browns went through their list of available players and gameplan and decided they had a spot for a third quarterback. Or, maybe, the punishment for Manziel’s latest social media appearance and being less than truthful about it was simply not starting and he’ll be available if needed or even in a special situation. It’s always something with Manziel, so stay tuned.

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Mike Mularkey says NFL admitted blown call against the Titans

Jack Del Rio, Mike Mularkey AP

In a season full of blown calls affecting high-profile games, there hasn’t been much public outrage about the blown call at the end of Sunday’s Raiders-Titans game, perhaps because that was a low-profile game.

But there was a blown call: According to Titans coach Mike Mularkey, the NFL has admitted that the defensive holding penalty against Titans cornerback B.W. Webb that kept alive the Raiders’ final drive was a poorly officiated play.

On the play in question, the Raiders were facing fourth-and-8 with 1:57 remaining, and a Derek Carr pass fell incomplete. If not for the penalty, the Titans would have taken over with a 21-17 lead and would’ve just had to kneel down three times to run out the clock and win the game. Instead, the penalty gave the Raiders a first down, and Oakland scored the game-winning touchdown two plays later.

After the game, Webb called it a “terrible call,” and Mularkey said, “I do not agree with it.” Apparently the league office doesn’t agree with it either.

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Report: Dont’a Hightower suffered sprained MCL

Dont'a Hightower, Ryan Fitzpatrick AP

Tight end Rob Gronkowski’s knee injury commanded the lion’s share of the attention coming out of Sunday night’s Patriots loss, but he wasn’t the only key member of the team to leave the contest with an injury.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower also departed early with a knee injury. Like Gronkowski, Hightower appears to have avoided a severe injury but may join the tight end on the sideline in the near future.

Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that Hightower suffered a sprained MCL. There’s no timetable given for how long he might be out, although such injuries typically keep a player out for at least a little while.

Before Hightower went out on Sunday night, Denver had 43 yards on 15 carries. Ronnie Hillman scored on a 19-yard run a couple of plays after he left the game and the Broncos would go on to put up 136 yards on 17 carries overall with Hightower out of the game. The Patriots were missing Jamie Collins at linebacker as well and it’s probably not a coincidence that the Broncos were able to run so well with those two missing from the lineup.

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Broncos will be without T.J. Ward, Sylvester Williams this week

T.J. Ward AP

They might not be Rob Gronkowski-level players, but the Broncos also left last night with some injuries that will take some key contributors out.

According to Mike Klis of KUSA, the Broncos will be without strong safety T.J. Ward and defensive tackle Sylvester Williamsfor a while” after they suffered high ankle sprains on the same play last night.

The two of them even shared a cart ride from the sidelines to the locker room, after being helped off following a first-quarter run.

“Got rolled with Sly on the same play, in the same area on the same tackle,” Ward said.

Missing two key pieces will force the Broncos to adjust, but they have put together a deep defense, and have been able to withstand the absence of pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware.

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Peyton Manning won’t be back “anytime soon”

Peyton Manning AP

After Sunday night’s unlikely win over the previously 10-0 Patriots, Broncos coach Gary Kubiak didn’t say that Peyton Manning will return to the lineup only when he’s “100 percent,” or words to that effect. Kubiak probably didn’t need to.

According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, Manning won’t be playing “anytime soon.”

Last week, the Broncos announced that Manning would miss at least two games due to the foot injury that has caused him to miss the last two. He’s still in a walking cast, and he is expected to wear it until at least Friday of this week.

Even after shedding the cast, Manning will still need to further rehab a partially-torn plantar fascia tendon. It’s a painful condition, and there’s no indication that rest and rehab will get Manning to the point where he can perform without limitation.

Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler is performing at a high level, making it easier to perform without Manning and harder to justify not rolling with Osweiler’s hot hand. While Manning remains determined to play again in 2015, he’s smart enough and sufficiently self-aware to understand what’s currently happening. And he apparently has no problem with it — even if at this point he’s trying to get healthy enough to play only in the event that Osweiler eventually isn’t.

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