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Bills have interest in DeSean Jackson, at the right price

DeSean Jackson AP

Add the Bills to the list of teams interested in free agent receiver DeSean Jackson. But only if he can be had at the right price.

The Bills are one of the teams that will consider signing Jackson, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. However, Tim Graham of the Buffalo News cautions that the Bills will go into the Jackson sweepstakes with a predetermined price, and the Bills won’t get into a bidding war.

Buffalo is in good enough cap shape that the Bills could afford Jackson even at the $10.5 million he was due under his contract with the Eagles. But just because the Bills can afford it doesn’t mean they’re willing to spend it.

With Jackson’s first visit already lined up for Washington, it’s entirely possible that Daniel Snyder will open his wallet and make an offer that keeps Jackson from even considering a budget-minded team like Buffalo.

On the field, Jackson would be an interesting addition to a receiving corps that includes Stevie Johnson and a trio of talented youngsters, Robert Woods, T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin. Whether Jackson makes sense on the salary ledger remains to be seen.

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Cardinals leaning toward starting Logan Thomas in Week 17

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Cardinals have started three different quarterbacks this season and it looks like they will make it four when they face the 49ers in Week 17.

Coach Bruce Arians said Monday that the team is leaning toward starting rookie Logan Thomas in the regular season finale, although Thomas’s work in practice could send things in another direction. Ryan Lindley started against the Seahawks on Sunday night and played about as well as you’d expect someone with no touchdowns and seven interceptions in his NFL career to perform. Lindley was 18-of-44 for 216 yards and an interception in the 35-6 loss.

Thomas saw some mop-up duty on Sunday and also played in a 41-20 loss to the Broncos earlier this season, when he completed 1-of-8 passes. That one completion was an 81-yard touchdown to running back Andre Ellington on a pass that Thomas squeezed through defenders for Ellington to catch and do the rest of the work.

The fourth-round pick was one of the rawest prospects in the draft this year, but has the kind of big arm that Bruce Arians likes to deploy in his downfield passing game. Given how poorly Lindley played and the uncertainty about Drew Stanton’s ability to return to the playoffs, it makes sense for the Cardinals to get Thomas some game work to give themselves at least the possibility of another option when the postseason gets underway.

Arians added that he expects Stanton to practice some this week and hopes he’ll be available for the playoffs. If he can’t, we’ll get one of the unlikeliest starters in recent postseason history whether Thomas or Lindley gets the call.

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Sen’Derrick Marks: Pro Bowl balloting is BS if I don’t make it

Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

Jaguars defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks guaranteed himself a $600,000 bonus with a sack of Charlie Whitehurst last Thursday night and it seems he’d like to spend some of that cash in Arizona.

Marks thinks he should be heading to the Pro Bowl after the season, but will need some help from the league’s players and coaches in order to make it to Glendale when the selections are announced on Tuesday night. Marks ranked 13th among defensive tackles in the now-concluded fan voting and he thinks his omission would uncover a flaw in the system.

“If it happens that way, then I say that the whole Pro Bowl voting and balloting is all BS,” Marks said, via Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. “How do you look at it? Do you look at it as a guy that plays good on a good team or a guy that plays good on what you consider a team that doesn’t have the record? I thought it was supposed to be the guy who plays the best at that position that year. That’s what I thought it was. If it comes out that way, it wouldn’t bother me. It wouldn’t stop the way I play. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all.”

Marks has had a very strong season and is definitely worthy of Pro Bowl consideration. The problem is that there are enough good candidates that leaving out any particular one falls well short of a flaw in the system. Marcell Dareus, Aaron Donald, Sheldon Richardson (listed as a tackle for Pro Bowl purposes, as is teammate Muhammad Wilkerson), Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy and Kyle Williams are just a few of the worthy choices for spots, which makes it hard to believe that anyone is going to outraged if they made it with Marks left on the outside.

The good news for Marks is that McCoy is on injured reserve and is just one of several players who could make it and cede their spot to someone who doesn’t make it so Marks could get into the game even if he doesn’t get to enjoy the gift of a trip to Arizona for Christmas.

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Jets bringing Charley Casserly in as a consultant

charleycasserly Getty Images

In what can only be interpreted as an ominous sign, Jets owner Woody Johnson is bringing in an extra set of eyes.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Johnson is preparing to hire former Texans and Redskins General Manager Charley Casserly as a consultant.

This comes with the proviso “in the event the organization decides to make any changes, per league sources.”

The list of people who hired consultants to help them not make changes has to be a short one, but so far, there’s been no word of imminent firings.

I mean, we’ve all assumed coach Rex Ryan is a goner for months, and it seems he has as well. But the status of G.M. John Idzik has been up in the air (literally and figuratively).

Casserly might not have covered himself in glory at his last stop in charge, but his connections from his days as an executive and a television analyst gives Johnson a resource in the event he’s making changes.

Which by hiring a consultant, it seems he’s about to.

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Gruden says winning is the only way to evaluate a quarterback

grudenrg3 AP

Washington coach Jay Gruden says quarterback Robert Griffin III was successful on Saturday for one simple reason: He won.

“That is the No. 1 factor, and that is it,” Gruden said, via ESPN. “Obviously you look at the production and all that stuff, and what he could’ve done maybe, but winning football games is the only thing that matters to me for a quarterback. And it doesn’t matter if they go 12-for-24 for 80 yards and we win, or if they go 28-for-35 for 400 [yards] and we lose, you’d rather have the 12-for-24. The ability to manage a game, stay away from the big turnovers and get the W is all that counts.”

Obviously, at the end of the day all any team cares about is winning. How you win doesn’t matter. Whether you win does.

But to suggest that “the only thing that matters” in evaluating a quarterback is whether he won or not is, frankly, ridiculous.

The Packers and Lions are tied at 11-4. Does anyone really think Matthew Stafford is as good as Aaron Rodgers? The Seahawks and Cardinals are also tied at 11-4. Does anyone believe having the combination of Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley at quarterback is as good as having Russell Wilson?

Derek Anderson is 2-0 as a starting quarterback this season. Is Gruden going to try to acquire Derek Anderson in the offseason on the theory that he just finds a way to win? Or does Gruden grasp that you have to go further in evaluating a quarterback, and that if you look beyond Anderson’s win-loss record also look at who he played, you realize that going 2-0 in two starts against the Buccaneers isn’t so impressive?

Judging quarterbacks by whether they win on a week-to-week basis is as silly as judging a quarterback’s career by his Super Bowl rings. Was Trent Dilfer a better quarterback than Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and Fran Tarkenton? Was Jim Plunkett better than Brett Favre and Peyton Manning? But as silly as judging a quarterback that way is, people do it.

Gruden has complained that his words get twisted, and perhaps he didn’t really mean that all he evaluates a quarterback on is winning and losing. Maybe what Gruden meant is that he wants a quarterback who is smart enough to do things that don’t always translate to impressive stats — things like managing the clock well, or knowing when to throw the ball away or take a sack when nothing is open. If that’s the case, that’s a reasonable proposition.

But it’s not reasonable to say that winning is the only way to evaluate a quarterback.

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Bills to release Mike Williams from injured reserve

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

If a team wants to pick up a veteran wideout heading into Week 17, they can add Mike Williams to their roster.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports, via agent Hadley Engelhard, that the Bills will release Williams from injured reserve. Williams was waived-injured earlier this month with a calf injury and reverted to injured reserve when he passed through waivers unclaimed.

Williams is eligible to be signed by a team now and he’ll remain eligible to be signed at any point should the season end without him finding a new team. That gives him a leg up on the impending free agents around the league, although his 2014 season may not have too many people lining up to give him a job. Williams was an occasional healthy scratch while playing in nine games and catching eight passes.

That’s not the return the Bills were hoping for when they dealt a sixth-round pick to Tampa to acquire Williams before the season. The move reunited Williams with his college coach Doug Marrone, although the feelings may not have been all that warm after Williams quit the Syracuse team in 2009 ahead of a possible suspension for violating team rules.

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Titans have become the NFL’s biggest slump-busters

Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

Maybe it’s their Southern address, but the Tennessee Titans are the most hospitable team in the league, perhaps in league history.

Bless their hearts.

As first mentioned by Peter King of MMQB.com, and extrapolated by Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com, the Titans have done something unprecedented this season.

It’s not that they’ve they lost nine in a row (that’s been done before), it’s who they’ve done it against.

Every team that has beaten the Titans during this streak was coming off at least one loss, and collectively, those opponents had lost 24 straight games prior to welcoming the Titans to their worlds.

The longest previous streak of teams losing to teams coming off a loss was six, achieved most recently in 2010 by the Bengals and the Titans.

They’re likely to extend their record this week, since the Colts are coming off a beating by the Cowboys, and the Titans don’t have much of a chance against anyone.

But at least they’re generous.

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Robbie Gould questions benching of Jay Cutler

Gould Getty Images

Earlier this year, Bears coach Marc Trestman said it’s important to be “accepting” and “non-judgmental” of players who speak their mind. I wonder if he feels that way about the kicker, too?

Robbie Gould, who has missed several games due to injury, has opened up about the decision to bench starting quarterback Jay Cutler for veteran journeyman (which may be an overstatement) Jimmy Clausen.

“I honestly don’t even know what the message is, to be honest with you,” Gould said Monday on WSCR’s The Spiegel and Mannelly Show. “I just think it’s been a long season. [Trestman started Clausen] to provide a spark for the team, is what he told us, and I wish Jay was out there playing.

“[Trestma] did address the team the next day and talked about what happened. He made a decision that he thought was best for the team. And listen, we lost again. That’s the bottom line. We’re in the business of winning football games and production, and we got to produce, and we got to win.

“I feel really bad for Jay. We’re you’re having a tough season like this, he’s not the guy to be the scapegoat or the guy to blame. There’s a lot of guys you can put that blame on.

“You could bench the whole team. It’s not like anybody’s really played fantastic or great. We’re 5-10 now. It’s not like Jay’s the problem. Jay’s not the issue.”

One of the issues is that plenty of players and staff members have been complaining. That’s not something Gould is used to.

“This whole season’s not the Bear way,” Gould said. “Pointing fingers, things getting out of the locker room — that’s not the Chicago Bear way. I think for me, being around the organization for 10 years, seeing guys like Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs who most likely have played or walked through the tunnel for the last time, it’s tough. Because we weren’t taught this way under Lovie [Smith]. We weren’t taught to do these sorts of things. We always stayed together, as close as we could.”

There’s a certain irony in Gould’s comments, since he has now become the latest player to behave in a way other than the Bear way, by talking openly about Trestman’s handling of the team. It underscores the need for change in Chicago, and significant change is likely only one game away.

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Joe Philbin won’t address fate of his assistants

Minnesota Vikings v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

A day after getting a vote of confidence from his boss, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin didn’t give one to his employees.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told reporters yesterday that Philbin was safe for 2015, but Philbin didn’t offer the same courtesy to his staffers today.

According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Philbin refused to address to fate of his coordinators.

When asked follow-up questions, he fell back on the old coaching standby of focusing on the present.

“Again, I’m concerned about the New York Jets,” he said.

While it’s entirely possible they won’t make any changes, it won’t make his assistants sleep any better for the next week, while Philibin knows where he’ll be.

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Antonio Brown is two catches away from the second-most ever

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

Steelers receiver Antonio Brown is having an extraordinary season.

Brown has 122 catches through 15 games, which is tied for fourth place in NFL history. If Brown catches at least two passes in Sunday’s regular-season finale, he’ll have 124 this year, which would give him sole possession the second-most in any season, ever. (Herman Moore and Wes Welker are currently tied for No. 2, with 123 catches.)

Marvin Harrison’s NFL record of 143 catches in a season is safe — Brown isn’t going to catch 21 passes on Sunday — but Brown will almost certainly be in second place all-time when Sunday night’s game against the Bengals is over.

Brown leads the league by a whopping 22 catches over second-place Julio Jones, who has 100 catches this year. Brown is also leading the league in receiving yards, with 1,570. And he’s third in the league in touchdown catches with 12. (Dez Bryant has 14 touchdowns and Jordy Nelson has 13.)

It’s been an incredible season for Brown, who has established himself as perhaps the best wide receiver in the NFL.

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PFT Live: Dolphins talk with Armando Salguero, Bengals talk with Paul Dehner

Joe Philbin AP

The Dolphins took themselves out of the coaching change speculation after Sunday’s 37-35 victory over the Vikings when owner Stephen Ross announced that Joe Philbin would return for the 2015 season.

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald will join Mike Florio on Monday’s edition of PFT Live to discuss that decision, including whether Ross would have made the same announcement had the Dolphins not blocked a punt through the end zone with less than a minute to play. They’ll also discuss the possibility that Philbin gets an extension before kicking off the final year of his current contract.

Paul Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer will also drop by the show to help us preview Monday night’s meeting between the Bengals and the Broncos. The Bengals can book passage to the playoffs with a victory, but they’ll be playing for the AFC North title in Week 17 either way and we’ll see if Dehner thinks that will impact their approach at all.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Week 17 playoff scenarios

Cam Newton, Paul Worrilow AP

The Patriots, Broncos, Colts and Cowboys have all clinched their divisions. The Steelers, Seahawks, Cardinals, Lions and Packers have all clinched playoff berths. That’s what we know now.

What we don’t know is who the other three playoff teams will be. And we don’t know any team’s playoff seed. Here are the NFL’s official playoff scenarios for the remaining 17 games of this season:

AFC

CLINCHED:
New England – AFC East and a first-round bye
Denver – AFC West
Indianapolis – AFC South
Pittsburgh – playoff berth

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (vs. Buffalo)

IF DENVER DEFEATS CINCINNATI

New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:

1) NE win OR

2) NE tie + DEN loss or tie OR

3) DEN loss

IF CINCINNATI DEFEATS DENVER

New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs

DENVER BRONCOS (at Cincinnati; vs. Oakland)

IF DENVER DEFEATS CINCINNATI

Denver clinches a first-round bye

Denver clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:

1) DEN win + NE loss or tie OR

2) DEN tie + NE loss

IF CINCINNATI DEFEATS DENVER

Denver clinches a first-round bye with:

1) DEN win or tie OR

2) CIN loss OR

3) CIN tie + IND win

CINCINNATI BENGALS (vs. Denver; at Pittsburgh)

IF DENVER DEFEATS CINCINNATI

Cincinnati clinches AFC North with:

1) CIN win

Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot with:

1) CIN tie OR

2) BAL loss or tie OR

3) SD loss

IF CINCINNATI DEFEATS DENVER

Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot

Cincinnati clinches AFC North with:

1) CIN win or tie

Cincinnati clinches a first-round bye with:

1) CIN win + DEN loss or tie OR

2) CIN tie + DEN loss + IND loss or tie

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (vs. Cincinnati)

IF DENVER DEFEATS CINCINNATI

Pittsburgh clinches AFC North with:

1) PIT win or tie

IF CINCINNATI DEFEATS DENVER

Pittsburgh clinches AFC North with:

1) PIT win

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (at Kansas City)

IF DENVER DEFEATS CINCINNATI

San Diego clinches a playoff spot with:

1) SD win OR

2) SD tie + CIN loss OR

3) SD tie + BAL loss or tie

IF CINCINNATI DEFEATS DENVER

San Diego clinches a playoff spot with:

1) SD win OR

2) SD tie + BAL loss or tie

BALTIMORE RAVENS (vs. Cleveland)

IF DENVER DEFEATS CINCINNATI

Baltimore clinches a playoff spot with:

1) BAL win + CIN loss OR

2) BAL win + SD loss or tie OR

3) BAL tie + SD loss

IF CINCINNATI DEFEATS DENVER

Baltimore clinches a playoff spot with:

1) BAL win + SD loss or tie OR

2) BAL tie + SD loss

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (vs. San Diego)

Kansas City clinches a playoff spot with:

1) KC win + BAL loss + HOU loss or tie

HOUSTON TEXANS (vs. Jacksonville)

Houston clinches a playoff spot with:

1) HOU win + BAL loss + SD loss

NFC

CLINCHED:
Arizona Cardinals – playoff berth
Seattle Seahawks – playoff berth
Detroit Lions – playoff berth
Green Bay Packers – playoff berth
Dallas Cowboys – NFC East

DALLAS COWBOYS (at Washington)

Dallas clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) DAL win + ARI loss or tie + DET/GB tie

Dallas clinches a first-round bye with:

1) DAL win + SEA loss or tie + ARI loss or tie OR

2) DAL win + DET/GB tie OR

3) DAL tie + SEA loss + ARI loss OR

4) DAL tie + SEA tie + ARI loss or tie + DET/GB does not end in a tie

DETROIT LIONS (at Green Bay)

Detroit clinches NFC North with:

1) DET win or tie

Detroit clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) DET win + SEA loss or tie + ARI loss or tie OR

2) DET tie + SEA loss + ARI loss + DAL loss or tie

Detroit clinches a first-round bye with:

1) DET win OR

2) DET tie + DAL loss or tie OR

3) DET tie + SEA loss + ARI loss

GREEN BAY PACKERS (vs. Detroit)

Green Bay clinches NFC North and a first-round bye with:

1) GB win

Green Bay clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) GB win + SEA loss or tie

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (vs. St. Louis)

Seattle clinches NFC West with:

1) SEA win OR

2) SEA tie + ARI loss or tie OR

3) ARI loss

Seattle clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) SEA win + DET/GB game does not end in a tie OR

2) SEA win + DAL loss or tie OR

3) SEA tie + ARI loss or tie + DAL loss or tie + GB/DET tie

Seattle clinches a first-round bye with:

1) SEA win OR

2) SEA tie + ARI loss or tie + DAL loss OR

3) SEA tie + ARI loss or tie + GB/DET tie

ARIZONA CARDINALS (at San Francisco)

Arizona clinches NFC West with:

1) ARI win + SEA loss or tie OR

2) ARI tie + SEA loss

Arizona clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) ARI win + SEA loss or tie + GB loss or tie OR

2) ARI tie + SEA loss + DAL loss or tie + GB/DET tie

Arizona clinches a first-round bye with:

1) ARI win + SEA loss or tie OR

2) ARI tie + SEA loss + DAL loss or tie OR

3) ARI tie + SEA loss + GB/DET tie

CAROLINA PANTHERS (at Atlanta)

Carolina clinches NFC South with:

1) CAR win or tie

ATLANTA FALCONS (vs. Carolina)

Atlanta clinches NFC South with:

1) ATL win

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Marc Trestman: We’ll talk about whether Jimmy Clausen starts again

Jimmy Clausen AP

The Bears lost 20-14 to the Lions on Sunday in quarterback Jimmy Clausen’s first start with the team, leaving them with just one more week until a dismal season can be put to rest.

Clausen went 22-of-39 for 181 yards, two touchdowns and an interception during the contest, which marked his first start since his rookie year with the Panthers in 2010. On Monday, coach Marc Trestman wasn’t ready to say whether Clausen will have a shorter wait before his next start.

“We’ll talk about it today,” Trestman said on WBBM Newsradio 780. “I thought he had a good performance. He needed some help. He didn’t get it — had a few drops along the way, had a couple missed assignments up front in the running game, where we could’ve had a little bit more yardage. But I thought he handled himself [well], for two practices and having not played [much] for four years. It was certainly a good performance.”

Based on that final assessment, it would seem likely that Clausen will be back in the lineup against the Vikings in Week 17. The issues that caused Trestman to turn away from Jay Cutler aren’t going to disappear in a week and Trestman said he has no regrets about the change, so going back to Cutler would be odd. Giving rookie David Fales some playing time might be an idea, but the Bears didn’t even dress him against the Lions and that points toward a visit from Clausen after Santa Claus visits this week.

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Cards have accounted for big Fitzgerald number, want to keep him

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

Not only do the Cardinals intend to keep Larry Fitzgerald next season, they want to keep him much longer than that.

Following up on our report last night that the Cards are prepared to carry the veteran wide receiver next year even with his $23.6 million cap hit, Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim said he hopes it’s a much longer-range relationship.

We have to make good business decisions,” Keim told Arizona Sports 98.7, via Darren Urban of the team’s official website. “I don’t think it’s any secret that we said all along that it is our intent to have Larry Fitzgerald retire a Cardinal. I don’t want to get into it too deep, but with planning purposes and financially, from a cap standpoint and all those sort of things, we have Larry’s [cap] number already baked into our numbers.

“Now, any kind of business decisions moving forward, renegotiations with Larry and that sort of thing, we’ve had ongoing talks with [agent] Eugene Parker and we will continue to have ongoing talks. But again, the best I can tell you is that it is our intent to keep Larry and make sure he stays a Cardinal the rest of his career.”

Fitzgerald has the Cards in a unique position here. If they’re intent on not releasing him, he can sit tight on the big number by refusing to take a pay cut or restructure.

Of course, if there’s something in it for him (such as straight cash, homey) to do a longer deal, then Keim may get his wish.

But one thing’s for sure. Saying he hopes to keep Fitzgerald a Cardinal for life will be easier said than done for Keim this offseason.

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Falcons start selling playoff tickets today

Matt Ryan, Drew Brees AP

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

But they’re selling playoff tickets today anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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Eagles will roll with Mark Sanchez to close out season

Mark Sanchez AP

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

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

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

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

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

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