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Jets’ Jace Amaro sets his sights on Rookie of the Year

jaceamaro AP

New Jets tight end Jace Amaro was the 49th player chose in the NFL draft, but he thinks he can show this year that he’s better than everyone chosen before him. And after him.

“The goal is to win the Rookie of the Year [award] and be the best offensive player you can be, and if you don’t have that mindset, then you’re not really in this for the right reasons,” Amaro said, via Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post.

Amaro has spent a lot of time studying Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski and thinks he can be the same kind of player.

“Those two guys are ones that I sat with my position coach [in college] and watched hours and hours of tape on in 2013,” Amaro said. “That really helped me develop my game, to really understand how they release [off the line of scrimmage] and use their size.”

If Amaro can be anything close to the kind of player that Graham and Gronkowski are, the Jets will be very happy. And a lot of teams will be wishing they hadn’t passed on him in the draft.

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Seahawks offense finally wakes up, now up 14-3

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

Marshawn Lynch is obviously feeling better.

The Seahawks running back, who missed exactly the first quarter with what was reported as an upset stomach, has now upset the Cardinals fans.

His touchdown run has given the Seahawks a commanding 14-3 lead, on a night which doesn’t seem to favor the Cardinals ever scoring that many.

The Seahawks scored the game’s first (and looked like possibly only) touchdown when Russell Wilson hit tight end Luke Willson for an 80-yard strike earlier in the second.

It was a surprising play for a number of reasons, including Willson’s ability to run away from the Cardinals secondary.

But the Seahawks Defense has put the clamps on Ryan Lindley, making a comeback look unlikely.

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Cardinals jump out to big 3-0 lead on Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

Points are so overrated.

The Seahawks and Cardinals are whaling on each other thus far in this one, and the Cardinals might have just taken a decisive 3-0 lead with a second-quarter field goal.

Cards sub quarterback Ryan Lindley is off to a rough start, hitting 4-of-10 passes for 39 yards. But he managed to scratch together enough short passes and Seahawks penalties to get Chandler Catanzaro in position for a short field goal.

That’s been enough so far, because the Cardinals Defense is doing its part.

Other than a 55-yard scramble by Russell Wilson, the Seahawks haven’t put together much offense.

Marshawn Lynch’s upset stomach miraculously cured itself at the end of the first quarter, but he hasn’t contributed anything to the stat sheet yet.

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Report: Harbaugh decision will be “swift”

Harbaugh Getty Images

No one still knows what 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh’s future will be.  Answers apparently will be coming soon after the regular season ends.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported during the Sunday pregame show that a “swift” decision will come after the regular season ends regarding Harbaugh’s future.  The options are fairly limited in number:  (1) keep him for 2015, the final year of his contract; (2) extend his contract beyond 2015; (3) trade him; or (4) fire him.

The most likely options are No. 3 and No. 4.  It has been widely reported that the 49ers will try to trade Harbaugh, and for good reason; in February, they nearly sent him to Cleveland for a pair of third-round picks.

But it won’t be easy to accomplish a trade quickly.  To move Harbaugh, another team must fire its current coach, comply with the Rooney Rule by interviewing at least one minority candidate, negotiate a deal with the 49ers, and negotiate a deal with Harbaugh.  That only happens within 24-48 hours after the season ends if plenty of winking and nodding happens before then.  Which means that the minority-candidate interview will make a mockery of the Rooney Rule.

So if a swift decision is truly coming, it could be that the 49ers simply fire Harbaugh, get nothing for him, and possibly watch him drive up the Bay to coach the Raiders.

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Marshawn Lynch misses early work with upset stomach

Marshawn Getty Images

The Seahawks may be thinking about life without Marshawn Lynch after this season.

They got a sneak preview tonight.

Lynch wasn’t on the field for the start of the game, with what the Seahawks called an “upset stomach.”

In his place, Robert Turbin got the start and ran four times for 22 yards.

The Seahawks opening drive stalled at midfield, and it remains to be seen how much of a role Lynch is going to play.

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Cardinals won’t release Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald Getty Images

When Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill hired G.M. Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians, no one expected them to face so much adversity due to injury — or to have so much success with a collection of next men up.

Next year, they also could be dealing with a salary-cap problem.

Receiver Larry Fitzgerald has a cap number of $23.6 million for 2015.  It’s widely believed he’ll be cut.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, he won’t be.

He could be traded, he could restructure his deal, or he could elect to negotiate an extension.  But he won’t be released — even if it means carrying $23.6 million in cap space.

Few players other than quarterbacks have cap numbers even approaching $20 million.  For Fitzgerald, who remains a solid player but no longer dominant, that’s a huge commitment.  The Cardinals are willing to make it, if necessary.

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Bills eliminated from playoff contention with loss at Oakland

marcusthigpen AP

A promising season for the Bills has come to a disappointing end, as a loss in Oakland today has eliminated Buffalo from playoff contention.

The Raiders came out playing hard and surprised the Bills, winning 26-24.

Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr showed again that he’s a promising prospect, if not yet a great quarterback. He had his ups and his downs against a very good Bills Defense, but late in the fourth quarter, after the Bills inexplicably punted, Carr marched the Raiders down the field on a long drive that ended with a game-sealing touchdown pass to Jamize Olawale.

The win means the Raiders will not earn the first overall pick in the draft, but most Oakland fans are probably OK with that. The franchise quarterback of the future in Oakland isn’t Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota, it’s Carr.

For the Bills, who fall to 8-7, tough questions about the quarterback position will have to be answered this offseason: If Kyle Orton and EJ Manuel aren’t the right men for the job, who is?

The Bills have a good roster but no franchise quarterback. The Raiders don’t have a good roster, but in Carr, they seem to have a quarterback they’ll be able to win with in the future.

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Raiola could be facing a suspension after Sunday stomp

Raiola Getty Images

When the Lions head to Lambeau Field for the NFC North championship game next week, they possibly won’t have veteran center Dominic Raiola.

Raiola is facing discipline in the wake of his stomp on the leg of Bears defensive lineman Ego Ferguson.  That discipline could include a suspension.

“I want to emphasize that our number one goal and priority is protecting our players from unnecessary risk,” NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent told PFT on Sunday afternoon.  “Actions or techniques that may result in harm or injury are unacceptable.  This will be reviewed and appropriate discipline will be applied to these actions and any potential playing rule violations.”

Vincent declined comment on potential discipline for Raiola.  The player’s history will potentially work against him.  Last month, Raiola was fined $10,000 for clubbing Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore in the head.  Raiola escaped discipline for firing into Moore’s knees during a kneel-down snap to end the game.

Some believe the stakes of the game will be a factor in any decision to suspend Raiola.  Per a league source, that won’t matter.

Look for a decision to come by the middle of the week.  Raiola then will have immediate appeal rights, if he’s indeed suspended for Sunday’s game.

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Giants help Tom Coughlin’s cause with third straight win

Eli Manning AP

The two best arguments to use in favor of Tom Coughlin returning as Giants head coach for another season are that the team’s players still play hard for him and that the offense installed this season will be a strong unit with a year of experience under its belt.

Sunday brought support for both notions. The Giants may have been playing too hard for Coughlin, as evidenced by their excessive penalties and two ejections, but they certainly weren’t rolling over with their coach’s fate for 2015 publicly unaddressed. And their offense put up a great performance against a Rams Defense that hadn’t allowed a touchdown in its last three games.

The Giants won 37-27 as Eli Manning completed 25-of-32 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns. Two of the scores went to Odell Beckham, who became the first rookie in NFL history to post at least 130 receiving yards and a touchdown in three straight games during his first pro season. Beckham had eight catches for 148 yards overall and the prospect of teaming him with a healthy Victor Cruz in 2015 is a pretty good reason not to rock the boat on offense for the Giants.

Rookie running back Andre Williams chipped in with 110 yards to add to the reasons for positive thoughts about the future on the offensive side of the ball for the Giants. Recent signs for Coughlin’s future with the team have been encouraging and this win shouldn’t do anything to swing the pendulum the other way.

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Cowboys rout Colts, win NFC East

Tony Romo AP

After an agonizing five-season absence, the Cowboys are back in the playoffs — and as division champions to boot.

Led by a spectacular performance by quarterback Tony Romo, the Cowboys rolled to a 42-7 victory over Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Romo was splendidly efficient, completing 18-of-20 passes for 218 yards with four TD passes, three of which came in the first half as Dallas quickly burst clear of sloppy Indianapolis, which committed eight penalties and three turnovers.

With the win, the Cowboys (11-4) clinched the NFC East title. They are guaranteed of hosting at least one playoff game. They will be the only NFC East club in the postseason, as Philadelphia has now been eliminated from playoff contention.

The Cowboys made short work of the Colts (10-5), who saw their faint chances at a first-round bye go completely by the wayside. The Cowboys never trailed, scoring on their first drive and never looking back.

The game was decided in about a 15-minute span in the first half. After Dallas had taken a 7-0 lead about eight minutes into the game, Indianapolis tried a fake punt on its own end of the field. The play looked it would lead to a first down, but rookie defensive back Dewey McDonald dropped a pass from punter Pat McAfee.

On the next snap, Romo threw his second TD pass, hitting Dez Bryant from 19 yards out to make it 14-0.

And from there, Dallas poured it on. A minute into the second quarter, Romo threw another TD, connecting with Colt Beasley on a 24-yard score. And when tailback DeMarco Murray plunged in from a yard out later in the period, Dallas had a 28-0 lead.

Incredibly, the Colts’ first points didn’t come until about five minutes were left in regulation. By then, quarterback Andrew Luck had been pulled from the game as the AFC South champs looked ahead to January. And for as poorly as they played, the Colts will be one of 12 teams with a chance to win the Super Bowl.

So too will Dallas. And with Romo in sharp form and their defense holding up its end of the bargain, the Cowboys look like real contenders.

It’s enough to make 90s kids dust off their Apex One and Starter Dallas jackets. On Sunday afternoon, the Cowboys were back. And the NFC East, finally, is theirs once again.

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Twelve fans injured by indirect lightning strikes at Bucs game

Buccaneers Lightning Strike AP

A total of 12 people were injured, though it appears none were directly struck by lightning outside today’s Buccaneers-Packers game.

According to WFLA in Tampa, a dozen fans outside Raymond James Stadium were injured by an indirect lightning strike.

Tampa Fire Rescue got a call at 4:11 p.m., right after the Bucs lost a 20-3 decision to the Packers. First responders included crews who were already at the stadium.

Seven patients were taken the St. Joseph’s hospital in stable condition, and four or five more were headed there on their own.

Some of the injured were knocked to the ground when the lightning struck nearby.

Given the large amount of people in a large open space, it’s likely fortunate the injuries weren’t worse.

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Drew Stanton inactive on Sunday night

Cliff Avril, Drew Stanton AP

The Cardinals confirmed that Ryan Lindley was going to start at quarterback no matter what they decided to do with Drew Stanton on Sunday night.

Stanton hurt his knee in the Week 15 victory over the Rams and was able to get in a limited practice during the week, which was enough for Cardinals coach Bruce Arians to leave the door open to Stanton serving as Lindley’s backup against the Seahawks.

That door’s been closed. Stanton is one of seven inactive Cardinals for the NFC West clash, leaving rookie Logan Thomas as the No. 2 behind Lindley. Wide receiver Brittan Golden, safety Chris Clemons, guard Jonathan Cooper, defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu, guard Anthony Steen and defensive end Kareem Martin are also out for Sunday night.

The Seahawks knew they would be without left tackle Russell Okung this week and expected to be without center Max Unger after listing him as doubtful. Both men are inactive along with tight end Tony Moeaki, wide receiver Kevin Norwood, defensive end Demarcus Dobbs, wide receiver Chris Matthews and defensive tackle Travian Robertson.

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Odell Beckham adds to his highlight reel

Janoris Jenkinsm, Janoris Jenkins AP

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham was in the spotlight often during the first half of Sunday’s game, usually because he and members of the Rams were jawing and taunting one another during a chippy and flag-filled first half.

Beckham remains in the spotlight in the second half, but the reasons are football-related this time. Beckham hauled in an 80-yard touchdown catch to continue his remarkable rookie season. Beckham’s score pushed the Giants to a 34-20 lead through three quarters and pushed him over 90 receiving yards for the eighth straight game. If Beckham closes out the year by topping 90 again next week, he’ll tie an NFL record.

He can put that record alongside the one that makes him the first player to catch 75 passes in his first 11 NFL games. Beckham, who went over 1,000 receiving yards for the year on Sunday, also caught a touchdown in the first half to give him 11 on the season.

It’s not enough to save the Giants season, but Beckham’s exploits certainly make it easier for Giants fans to look toward 2015 on the heels of a third straight season in the NFL wilderness.

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Down 35-0, Colts pull Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck AP

Trailing 35-0 late in the third quarter against the Cowboys, the Colts removed quarterback Andrew Luck from the lineup, replacing him with backup Matt Hasselbeck.

Before departing the game, Luck completed 15-of-22 passes for 109 yards. He was picked twice.

Hasselbeck figures to close this one out, and he could very well see action in the Week 17 finale vs. Tennessee. The Colts (10-4) are all but assured of losing to the Cowboys, which will take Indianapolis out of contention for a first-round bye. Hence, resting Luck next week wouldn’t be completely out of left field.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, are just about set to clinch the NFC East.

Party on, Dallas-Fort Worth. The home team is home free.

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Preliminary diagnosis is Achilles tear for Willie Young

Young Getty Images

The initial news isn’t good for Bears defensive end Willie Young.  Per a league source, the preliminary evaluation indicates that Young suffered a torn Achilles tendon during Sunday’s loss to the Lions.

An MRI will be performed in the morning.

Young, who spent four years with the Lions before joining Chicago, produced 10 sacks this season.  He had a total of six in four prior NFL seasons.

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Raiola claims stomp was inadvertent

Raiola Getty Images

During Sunday’s win over the Bears at Soldier Field, Lions center Dominic Raiola stomped on the ankle of Bears defensive lineman Ego Ferguson.  After the game, Raiola claimed it was an accident.

I know what my intentions were,” Raiola said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.  “We’re out there trying to score a touchdown.  I’m not going to put myself in position to get a 15-yarder, come on now.  I knew I was stumbling.  Me and [guard Rob Sims] had a combination block.  I remember exactly what happened.  Stumbling through.  If I intentionally step on him, that puts me in danger of getting hurt so let’s put that to rest.  He accepted the apology, we move on.”

But Ferguson didn’t accept the apology.  Which makes sense, given the indisputable visual evidence.

“You all saw the play; I don’t have to explain that,” Ferguson told reporters, via Birkett.  “I felt like what needs to stay in between the lines needs to stay in between the lines. . . .  We all saw the play.  You can’t take back what happened with that play, do you know what I mean?  You saw the play.”

As to the apology, Ferguson said, “None of that matters.”

The entire case will matter to the league office.  We’ll have more on this topic during NBC’s Football Night in America, which gets rolling at 7:00 p.m. ET.

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