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Alshon Jeffery: Brandon Marshall and I are the NFL’s Top 2 receivers

Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall AP

Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery says he and Brandon Marshall are the best pair of receivers in football.

“I’m not the type of person that brags a lot about anything, but I feel that last year, what we did, we were at the top of the list as the two best receivers,” Jeffery told Sporting News. “But that was last year. This year we have to set our goal and try our best to do the same thing we did last year, if not better.”

Jeffery may not want to brag, but he doesn’t hesitate to say that he and Marshall have set very high goals for themselves.

“We motivate each other,” Jeffery said. “We compete against each other and we’ve got the same goals. We both want to win the Super Bowl and we want greatness.”

With Marshall now signed for the next four years, locking up Jeffery may be the Bears’ biggest offseason priority next year. The Bears would love to have both Marshall and Jeffery in Chicago as a great pair of receivers playing together for years to come.

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49ers send Alex Boone to IR, sign Trindon Holliday

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Alex Boone got a late start on the 2014 season thanks to a holdout that kept him out of training camp and his year is coming to an early end as well.

Boone won’t play in the team’s final game of the year after being placed on injured reserve because of a knee problem. There’s no indication that the injury will force Boone to miss any offseason work, so he should be back on the field in the spring to play out the final year of the contract he reworked before reporting to work with the 49ers this season.

Boone made 14 starts this year and was named as a Pro Bowl alternate. The 49ers also placed safety Ray Ventrone on injured reserve with a groin injury.

To fill the open roster spots, the 49ers signed kick returner Trindon Holliday and cornerback Cameron Fuller. Holliday spent the summer with the Giants before eventually being released off of injured reserve and played one game with the Buccaneers before getting his walking papers in November. Fuller was promoted from the practice squad.

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Eugene Monroe unlikely to play on Sunday

San Francisco 49ers v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

It looks like the Ravens will be without both of their starting offensive tackles against the Browns on Sunday.

The team listed left tackle Eugene Monroe as doubtful to play in the regular season finale because of an ankle injury that left him in a walking boot after last Sunday’s loss to the Texans. That designation is used for players that have a 25 percent chance of playing and, as you’d expect, most players given that tag wind up inactive on Sunday.

The Ravens placed right tackle Rick Wagner on injured reserve with a foot injury early in the week, so they’re looking at a lot of shuffling up front. James Hurst played in place of both tackles last week and the Ravens has him at left tackle with Marshal Yanda at right tackle and John Urschel at right guard at one point. That could be the alignment again this weekend, although left guard Kelechi Osemele has also played some tackle.

Baltimore will open the day with a shot at a Wild Card spot in the AFC. They need to beat the Browns and have the Chargers lose to claim that berth.

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Cards could get Warner, but only by cutting him

Warner Getty Images

It remains unlikely that former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner will return to the team after five years away.  And it wouldn’t be easy for them to get him, if he perhaps decided while under the influence of egg nog to expose his noggin to further physical contact.

But it wouldn’t be impossible.  Sure, it’s too late for the Cardinals to reinstate Warner from the reserve/retired list.  But there’s a way to make it happen.

Per a league source, the Cardinals could release Warner from the reserve/retired list and then re-sign him.  However, Warner would first pass through waivers, which would allow any other team to disrupt the arrangement by making a claim for his contract.

That’s precisely what happened 12 years ago, when Deion Sanders wanted to unretire and climb aboard the Oakland bandwagon.  After Washington released Sanders from the reserve/retired list, the Chargers (coached at the time by former Washington coach Marty Schottenheimer, whose arrival prompted Sanders to quit in the first place) claimed Sanders on waivers, short-circuiting Deion’s desire to help the Raiders win a Super Bowl.

Any other team could do the same thing to the Cardinals, if they were to release Warner’s rights.  The Rams and coach Jeff Fisher could be inclined to do it, especially after that 8-8 remark from Bruce Arians a couple of weeks ago.

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Arians announces Lindley will start Sunday, doesn’t rule out Stanton for playoffs

Ryan Lindley AP

The Cardinals are turning back to Ryan Lindley at quarterback.

Lindley, not rookie Logan Thomas, will get the start Sunday at San Francisco, head coach Bruce Arians said Friday, per Darren Urban of AzCardinals.com.

Thomas did not practice well on Wednesday, opening the door for Lindley to get a second consecutive start, Arians indicated, according to the club’s website. Lindley struggled mightily in the Cardinals’ Week 16 loss to Seattle.

In other Cardinals QB news, Arians is optimistic Drew Stanton will be available for the postseason, according to AzCardinals.com. Stanton recently had surgery to combat an infection in his knee, which has seemingly clouded his status going forward.

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DeMarco Murray good to go for Sunday

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Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray was out of commission because of an illness on Christmas, but he was back to work on Boxing Day.

Murray participated in practice on Friday and drew a probable tag on the injury report, leaving him in line to play against Washington in the regular season finale. The Cowboys have locked up the NFC East title and will likely wind up as the third seed, but they can grab a first-round bye with the right combination of results.

Owner Jerry Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan that the possibility was enough for the Cowboys to go all out with Murray and everyone else healthy enough to play.

“It would be a catastrophe if we walked up there and, for whatever the reason, of our own volition, of our own decision making, pulled back a little bit and then had a chance to get that first-round bye,” Jones said, via the team’s website.

Assuming Jason Garrett sticks to the plan laid out by the guy signing the checks, Murray should end Sunday as the Cowboys’ new leader in single-season rushing yards. He’s 29 yards behind Emmitt Smith, who ran for 1,773 yards in 1995.

Right tackle Doug Free is doubtful to play with the ankle injury that kept him out last week. Jermey Parnell will likely start again.

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Bears extend Roberto Garza through 2015

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The Bears found something to like about the 2014 season.

The team announced Friday that they have signed center Roberto Garza to a one-year contract extension. Garza signed a one-year deal to return to the Bears before the start of the season and the team’s obviously been pleased with the work he’s done on the field this season.

Next year will be Garza’s 15th in the NFL and his 11th with the Bears. He has started all but five of the team’s games since the start of the 2006 season and will join kicker Robbie Gould as the longest-tenured members of the organization if linebacker Lance Briggs and cornerback Charles Tillman both leave the team.

Garza will be turning 36 next year, so the Bears should probably have an eye out this offseason for a player who can follow Garza in the middle of the line.

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Robert Griffin III practices, expected to play against Cowboys

Robert Griffin III AP

Washington won’t be adding to the list of backups or backup-to-the-backup quarterbacks starting this weekend.

According to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, Griffin was able to practice Friday with no soreness in his right shoulder, per coach Jay Gruden.

Griffin was limited Wednesday, but is now expected to be ready to start in Sunday’s finale against the Cowboys.

“The big thing was we wanted to make sure he didn’t have a lot of pain when he threw and he didn’t today, so that’s the great thing,” Gruden said. “He looked good, made all the throws today. I think everything’s all systems go with him.”

He should also have protection, as left tackle Trent Williams practiced in a limited role after missing the previous two practices with a shoulder injury. He’s listed as questionable, but said he expects to play as well.

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Mike McCarthy: No concerns about Aaron Rodgers

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Backup quarterbacks are going to be starting in several games with playoff implications this weekend, but the matchup between the Lions and Packers won’t be one of them.

Matthew Stafford has no injury issues for the Lions and any worries about Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’s calf have disappeared along with the cookies left for Santa Claus. Rodgers practiced again for the Packers on Friday and drew a probable listing on the injury report that sounded like a definite when coach Mike McCarthy addressed the quarterback’s status.

“I don’t have any concerns today based on conversations with Aaron and how he’s feeling,” McCarthy said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Tomorrow a big indicator, just watching him move around and do different things. I don’t have high concern.”

There aren’t any real injury concerns for the Packers headed into their NFC North title game with the Lions. Cornerback Davon House is out with a shoulder injury for the third straight game and the team’s been targeting the postseason for his return to the lineup. Everyone else is probable or not listed on the injury report at all.

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Given his history, Stanton’s infection creates heightened concern

Stanton Getty Images

The news that Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton has an infection in his injured knee creates serious short-term problems for the team — and long-term problems for Stanton.

NBC Sports Medicine Analyst Mike Ryan points out that, given Stanton’s history, the infection could become a significant problem.  The infection, per Ryan, could damage an ACL graft Stanton received a decade ago.  Combined with a potential impact on the articular cartilage, the infection could lead to joint instability and accelerated joint arthritis.

Then there’s the possibility that the infection could spread, creating a potentially serious health situation for Stanton.

Regardless of what happens going forward, it would be a surprise if Stanton plays again this season.  Making it a major surprise if the Cardinals get beyond the wild-card round.

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Browns name Connor Shaw their Week 17 starter

Cleveland Browns v Detroit Lions 8-9-2014 Getty Images

Connor Shaw is a roster move away from his first NFL start.

Browns coach Mike Pettine announced Friday that Shaw will start the season finale against the Ravens on Sunday. That decision is the expected one with Brian Hoyer out of practice all week with shoulder and bicep issues and Johnny Manziel on injured reserve, but the Browns still have to formally add Shaw to their 53-man roster from the practice squad to put him in the lineup.

Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that a deal with Shaw is in place to make that happen, so the Browns can concentrate on getting Shaw ready for Sunday. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said that he thinks Shaw will do well, although he allows that no one was expecting the rookie to play this soon.

“Connor’s going to get some experience that we really weren’t counting on,” Shanahan said.

The Ravens stand to benefit if Shaw doesn’t do as well as Shanahan thinks he will, although a win isn’t enough to get them into the postseason. They need the Chiefs to beat the Chargers and Kansas City will also be going with a backup in Week 17.

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Julio Jones, Steven Jackson questionable for Sunday

Bradley McDougald, Steven Jackson AP

Two of the Falcons’ key skill-position players will be officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s NFC South title game at Carolina.

Wide receiver Julio Jones (hip) and tailback Steven Jackson (quadriceps) are both technically 50-50 shots to play against the Panthers, per the club’s official Twitter feed.

Jones was practicing on Friday, per Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. However, Jackson was not working out for a third straight day. Still, Jackson has yet to be ruled out despite not practicing all week.

The Falcons (6-9) will capture the NFC South for the first time since 2012 with a victory against the Panthers (6-8-1).

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Brian Hoyer not practicing, looks unlikely to go Sunday

Hoyer AP

It looks like the cavalcade of backup quarterbacks starting in Week 17 is going to include Connor Shaw.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer still isn’t practicing because of shoulder and biceps injuries.

That makes it appear extremely unlikely that he’d be able to go in Sunday’s finale.

That would leave Shaw backed up by Tyler Thigpen, who was signed this week when Rex Grossman said no thanks.

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It’s too late for a Kurt Warner comeback

Warner Getty Images

With the Super Bowl Hosting Curse finally destroying the Cardinals’ chance of becoming the first team to play in a Roman-numeralized (probably not a word) football game in their own stadium, there’s even more bad news for a team that apparently will have to enter the postseason with Ryan Lindley and Logan Thomas at quarterback:  Kurt Warner is not an option.

Warner isn’t an option, even if he wants to be.  By league rule, the deadline for reinstatement of players on the reserve/retired list came expired on November 28.

Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ official website recently reported that Warner remains on Arizona’s reserve/retired list.  Which means that he can’t in 2015.

Warner admitted that he considered unretiring to join the Cardinals after Drew Stanton suffered a knee injury during a December 11 win over the Rams.

“It amazed me I thought about it as much as I actually thought about it,” Warner said on December 14.

There’s a possible path through the maze, if Warner would decide to try to put a cherry atop one of the most memorable stories in NFL history by riding back in from the sunset to save the season.  The theory has been posed to the league office; for now, it can’t happen, even if Warner would want it to.

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Alex Smith out Sunday due to lacerated spleen

Alex Smith AP

The Chargers need a win at Arrowhead Stadium in order to return to the playoffs for the second straight season and they learned Friday that they won’t have to beat a Chiefs team quarterbacked by Alex Smith.

Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder announced that Smith has a lacerated spleen and will not play in Week 17, leaving the Chiefs with Chase Daniel as their starting quarterback. Burkholder said that Smith, who was able to practice earlier this week, doesn’t need surgery to repair the injury, which occurred in last weekend’s loss to the Steelers, but that the injury could get worse if he were to take a shot in the wrong place against San Diego this weekend.

“It wasn’t until after I dressed and adrenaline wore off that I noticed anything. I didn’t relate it to a hit,” Smith said.

It’s the second straight year that Daniel will start against the Chargers in Week 17, although last year’s start came with Smith resting in advance of the playoff opener. Daniel was 21-of-30 for 200 yards and a touchdown in that game, but the Chiefs lost 27-24 in overtime and the Chargers moved on to the postseason.

San Diego would certainly like the same outcome this time, while the Chiefs need a win to keep their faint playoff hopes alive. If they were to win and get the help they need elsewhere, Daniel would likely be the playoff starter as Burkholder said Smith’s injury typically takes six weeks to heal.

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Calvin Johnson, Joique Bell present at practice

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The Lions had nearly perfect on-field attendance for their third major practice in preparation for Sunday’s NFC North title game at Green Bay.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, defensive tackle Nick Fairley (knee) was the only Lions player not present at Friday’s workout. Fairley has missed the last seven games with his injury and seems all but certain to miss the season finale as well.

However, while Fairley is likely out, taiback Joique Bell (Achilles) and wide receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle) look set to play Sunday with their ailments. Bell went through a full practice Thursday, while Johnson was limited.

The Lions’ final injury report will be released later Friday.

The Lions will win the NFC North with a victory or a tie vs. the Packers. Both clubs have 11-4 records. For the moment, Detroit holds the head-to-head tiebreaker on account of its Week Three win vs. Green Bay.

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