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Preseason Power Rankings No. 12: Chicago Bears

Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall AP

The 2013 Bears scored the second-most points in franchise history (445). Only the 1985 Bears tallied more in regular season play, putting up 456 in their bulldozing of all non-Dan Marino-led competition in a 15-1 season.

But for all of their skill on offense, the 2013 Bears were overmatched on defense, surrendering 478 points, 57 points more than any previous Chicago club had given up.

Long before the Packers’ Randall Cobb sprinted through the Chicago secondary en route to the division-clinching touchdown in the regular season finale, the Bears’ defense was broken. Chicago surrendered at least 28 points in half of its games, including 54 to Philadelphia, 45 to Washington, 42 to St. Louis and 40 to Detroit. No team allowed more yards per play than the Bears, and no team was worse against the run.

In the offseason, the Bears set out to bolster that “D,” signing two of the best available defensive ends (Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen) and drafting defensive players with four of their first five picks. On offense, the Bears tried to build continuity. They re-committed to quarterback Jay Cutler, signing him to a seven-year contract worth up to $126.7 million in January. In May, they signed wide receiver Brandon Marshall to a four-year deal worth as much as $40 million.

These were logical moves for Chicago. For once, it was the offense didn’t need much work. Now, the focus turns to whether the defense can provide more resistance in head coach Marc Trestman’s second season on the job.

Strengths.

The Bears’ 2014 offense could be one of the best the franchise has ever fielded. Marshall (100 catches, 1,295 yards, 12 TDs in 2013) and fellow starting wideout Alshon Jeffery (89-1,421-7) were Pro Bowlers a season ago, as were tailback Matt Forte (1,933 combined rushing-receiving yards) and right guard Kyle Long.

Cutler — now in sixth season in Chicago — appears to have taken well to Trestman’s scheme. The strong-armed Cutler connected on 63.1 percent of his throws a season ago, his best completion percentage in six years. He’s quite capable of being the first Bears quarterback to make a Pro Bowl since Jim McMahon 29 years ago.

If Cutler gets an all-star nod, he’ll be aided by strength of his pass catching corps. Marshall and Jeffery form an outstanding tandem. Forte is one of the game’s best receivers out of the backfield. Tight end Martellus Bennett is solid, too.

In Trestman’s inaugural campaign, the Bears’ passing attempts rose nearly 20 percent, but total sacks were down more than 30 percent. Moreover, the club’s completion percentage was up more than five percent. In short, the 2013 Bears threw it more and threw it better — and their quarterbacks hit the ground less. That’s testament to Trestman’s scheme, but it also reflects well on the offensive line, which the club overhauled last year, drafting Long and right tackle Jordan Mills and signing left tackle Jermon Bushrod and left guard Matt Slauson.

The Bears can only hope their offseason D-line investment will pay similar dividends. And Allen, Houston and ex-Lions end Willie Young should strengthen a defense that got just 20 sacks from its front four a season ago.

Finally, in Robbie Gould, the Bears have one of the NFL’s most reliable kickers. He hit 26-of-29 field goals in 2013, including 9-of-11 from 40 yards and beyond.

Weaknesses.

Even with an upgraded defensive line, the Bears’ defense looms a major concern. The top player in the LB corps, Lance Briggs, will be 34 in November. Shea McClellin, the Bears’ 2012 first-round pick, could get reps at strong-side and middle linebacker in an attempt to jump-start his career. More is also needed from second-year pro Jon Bostic, whether at middle or outside linebacker.

The Bears’ secondary also looks shaky. Per Pro Football Focus grades, the club had two of the four worst starting safeties in 2013 (SS Major Wright, FS Chris Conte). Wright departed in free agency, and Conte comes off shoulder surgery. The Bears added four veterans and a draft pick at safety, which at least gives them some options as they try to craft a workable solution on the back end.

The Bears’ cornerback play should also be monitored. The club added some much-needed youth and depth in the draft, taking Kyle Fuller in Round One. Fuller, veterans Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman figure as the top three corners. If the 33-year-old Tillman stays healthy and returns to form, and if Fuller is a quick study, the Bears should be just fine at this key position. But if Tillman misses time, and if Fuller isn’t quite ready for prime time, the Bears could have a problem.

The worries don’t stop there. The Bears’ special teams are quite unsettled entering training camp. The club will have a new punter, holder, long-snapper, punt returner and kickoff returner. And backup quarterback could be a trouble spot after the departure of Josh McCown. Veterans Jimmy Clausen and Jordan Palmer and sixth-round rookie David Fales will vie to back up Cutler. Clausen and Palmer have generally struggled against NFL competition, but Trestman is masterful with quarterbacks.

Changes.

The defensive depth chart got a makeover. The Bears released defensive end Julius Peppers and didn’t bring back defensive tackle Henry Melton, defensive end Corey Wootton or linebacker James Anderson. The Bears’ most expensive free agent signings — Houston and Allen — are defensive ends, a nod to the premium that ready-made pass rushers command. To bolster the defensive tackle depth, the Bears turned to the draft, selecting Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton in the second and third rounds, respectively.

The Bears took a value shopping approach at safety. Free agent additions Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings, Danny McCray and Adrian Wilson are all slated to make less than $1 million in salary this season, per NFLPA records.

On offense, the changes were reserved to backup spots. McCown left to be the Buccaneers’ starter, while tailback Michael Bush and Earl Bennett were released. Rookie Ka’Deem Carey could help replace Bush, while former Washington wideout Josh Morgan was signed to bolster the WR depth.

The Bears underwent several major shakeups in the kicking game. Long-time star returner Devin Hester signed with Atlanta. Punter Adam Podlesh was released, and the club spent a draft pick on a potential replacement (Pat O’Donnell, Round Six). Then, late in the offseason, 16-year long-snapper Patrick Mannelly retired, adding another layer of uncertainty to the special teams.

Camp battles.

Here are the positions and players to watch:

— Safety: Ex-Giant Mundy might have the edge at strong safety, but Wilson is a wild card if he has something left after missing the 2013 season with an Achilles injury. Rookie Vereen is the biggest threat to the incumbent Conte at free safety.

— Cornerback: The progress of Fuller must be monitored. There are plenty of snaps to be had in this secondary if he’s up to it.

— Defensive tackle: Can Ferguson or Sutton push starters Jay Ratliff and Stephen Paea? If not, can the rookies at least prove capable rotation players?

— Linebacker: Will Bostic, McClellin and second-year outside linebacker Khaseem Greene step up their play? The Bears didn’t draft a linebacker and added only veteran backup Jordan Senn in free agency.

— Wide receiver: Morgan and second-year pro Marquess Wilson appear the favorites to replace Bennett as the third receiver.

— Running back: Carey and second-year pro Michael Ford will compete for the little work that won’t go to Forte, a true three-down back.

— Quarterback: Palmer, Clausen and Fales will compete for no more than two reserve roles. The question is, which of this trio most quickly applies Trestman’s lessons?

— Returner: Eric Weems is the most experienced option in the competition to return kickoffs and punts.

— Punter: O’Donnell will try to hold off veteran Tress Way.

— Long-snapper: First-year pro Brandon Hartson and CFL veteran Chad Rempel will battle it out.

Prospects.

The Bears must hang tough early. Six of their first nine games are on the road, including trips to visit the 49ers (Week Two), Falcons (Week Six), Patriots (Week Eight) and Packers (Week 10).

If Chicago can get through that nine-pack in decent order, there’s a real chance to close with gusto. From November 16 through December 21, the Bears play five home games and take just one road trip — Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. The Bears end their season at Minnesota — no picnic, yes, but not the worst draw ever.

It all looks fairly cut-and-dried with the Bears. If their defense is better, and if their offense hums along, they are serious contenders for a playoff spot. But if the defense remains a sieve, and if the offense regresses, they are vulnerable.

The Bears aren’t the youngest of teams. Tillman and Briggs don’t have many NFL years left. Cutler and Marshall aren’t kids, either, and Forte is approaching 2,000 career touches. There ought to be a real sense of urgency to get into the playoffs with an offense this talented. As Bears observers with any sense of history would tell you, scoring points traditionally hasn’t been a Chicago strength.

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Richard Sherman on Kaepernick: I was the open man

Richard Sherman AP

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was holding court after Thursday night’s meeting with the 49ers, just as he was the last time the two teams met.

That was in the NFC Championship Game, of course, and Sherman saw his profile grow with the way he crowed about his play to force an interception on a pass to Michael Crabtree on the 49ers’ final attempt to score. Things weren’t that dramatic this time as the Seahawks took control early on their way to a 19-3 win, but Sherman still had the chance to crow after the game.

Earlier this week, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said he wouldn’t shy away from throwing in Sherman’s direction and that he’d throw to whoever was open. Sherman had two interceptions during the game, leading to questions about both his growing history with the NFC West rivals.

“What history? I know no history,” Sherman said, via ESPN.com. “There was an opponent [Kaepernick] who said he would throw it to the open man. He didn’t care who was out there [in coverage]. I was the open man.”

Sherman and company will face the 49ers again in Seattle in Week 15 and he said the two sides know each other so well that it comes down to “will against will.” The Seahawks’ will won out on Thursday, dealing the 49ers’ playoff chances a big blow while putting another feather in Sherman’s cap in showdowns with the Niners.

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NFC playoff picture: Cowboys under pressure at the quarter pole

Tony Romo AP

With the Thanksgiving Day games in the books, the NFC playoff picture has gotten a shakeup.

First, let’s take a look at the winners:

— With their rout of Dallas, the Eagles (9-3) moved one game ahead of the Cowboys in the NFC East. For the moment, the Eagles are the No. 2 seed in the NFC, though they would lose their spot if Green Bay beats New England on Sunday.

— The Lions (8-4) have slid into the final wild-card spot after dispatching of Chicago.

— The Seahawks (8-4) moved up from No. 6 to No. 5 in the NFC after knocking off San Francisco. Why does this matter? The No. 5 seed is very likely to draw the NFC South winner in Round One.

Now, on to the losers:

— The Cowboys (8-4) fell from the No. 5 to the No. 7 seed on account of a good-but-not-great NFC record (5-4). This knocked them out of a three-way tiebreaker with Detroit and Seattle (see below).

— The 49ers (7-5) are now a game behind Seattle, Detroit and Dallas in the wild-card standings. With the defeat to the Seahawks, the Niners are now 1-3 in division play, with Seattle and Arizona having chances to sweep the season series in December.

— The Bears (5-7) are just about out of wild-card contention, though December home games against Dallas, New Orleans and Detroit will all have general NFC playoff ramifications.

Finally, let’s close with a few words on the Cowboys, who are suddenly quite vulnerable. Three of their final four games are on the road, with their lone home contest vs. AFC South-leading Indianapolis.

Dallas desperately needs to regain its footing with a win at Chicago next Thursday night. But can the Cowboys get it done? They are just 3-3 since upsetting Seattle in October, and they were outgained 464-267 by Philadelphia in the 33-10 loss on Thursday. The Bears’ offense isn’t exactly thriving at the moment, but it does have the skill-position talent to challenge Dallas.

Here’s a look at how the NFC’s playoff teams and primary playoff contenders would be seeded after Thursday’s games. The NFL’s tie-breaking rules and standings are referenced.

THE BIG SIX

1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2, .818). NFC West leader. Earn first-round bye, home-field advantage.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (9-3, .750). NFC East leader. Earn first-round bye.

3. Green Bay Packers (8-3, .727). NFC North leader. Host Lions in wild-card round.

4. Atlanta Falcons (4-7, .364). NFC South leader. NFC South’s top-seeded team on basis of head-to-head win vs. New Orleans. Host Seahawks in wild-card round.

5. Seattle Seahawks (8-4, .667). Wild card No. 1. Seeded ahead of Detroit on basis of better record in common games.

6. Detroit Lions (8-4, .667). Wild card No. 2. Seeded ahead of Dallas on basis of better conference record (6-2 vs. 5-4).

JUST MISSING

7. Dallas Cowboys (8-4, .667.).

8. San Francisco 49ers (7-5, .583).

THE REST OF THE NFC SOUTH

10. New Orleans Saints (4-7, .364).

13. Carolina Panthers (3-7-1, .318).

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-9, .182).

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49ers have a decision to make about Harbaugh

Harbaugh Getty Images

As 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh wraps up the fourth season of a five-year deal, it’s becoming more and more clear that he won’t be back in 2015.  The goal for the current campaign was to set aside the looming divorce and to focus on getting back to the Super Bowl and winning it.

Now that the season has begun the process of slipping away with a home loss to a Seahawks team the 49ers will visit in 16 days, the 49ers soon will have to implement their plan for resolving their relationship with Harbaugh.

If the many (and largely unrefuted) reports of persistent dysfunction between Harbaugh and the front office are true, and if it’s now clear that the season has begun the process of disintegrating, the 49ers must decide whether to keep Harbaugh through the next four weeks and try to trade the final year of his contract — or to part ways now, elevate Jim Tomsula to head coach, and hope that the switch will spur the 49ers to run the table and earn a berth in the postseason.  The notion of firing Harbaugh with games left seems beyond ludicrous on the surface, but only those inside the organization know the full extent of the four-year tug-of-war that has created a strong sense in league circles that the front office looks forward to the day he exits the building for good.

The frustrations that have lingered while the team has thrived could quickly rush to the surface, now that the season is starting to go off the rails.  Even though the 49ers remain two games above .500, 7-5 isn’t not good enough with the Eagles at 9-3, the Packers at 8-3, the Eagles at 8-4, the Lions at 8-4, the Cardinals at 9-2, and the Seahawks at 8-4.

Including that 49ers, that’s seven total teams vying for five playoff berths that will go to the NFC teams not assigned to the South division.  Currently, the 49ers sit seventh of seven.

While it would be shocking for the 49ers to make a change, it’s impossible to rule out anything in the aftermath of the kind of outcome that proves to the 49ers and everyone else that this isn’t the team it had been in 2011, 2012, and 2013.  If Tomsula is going to be considered for the head-coaching job in 2015 (and multiple league insiders believe he’ll have the inside track to succeed Harbaugh), why not give him a chance to get his feet wet now?

The only reason to stay the course would be to obtain draft picks from the Raiders or whoever else would be interested in making a run at Harbaugh.  Only those inside the organization know whether it’s gotten so bad that they’d prefer to let Harbaugh walk away now than to tread through troubled waters for the next month.

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York says performance “wasn’t acceptable”

Harbaugh Getty Images

If you thought the Thanksgiving night performance from the 49ers in their new stadium wasn’t good, you’re not alone.  The boss didn’t like it either.

This performance wasn’t acceptable,” 49ers CEO Jed York said on Twitter.  “I apologize for that.”

The statement comes at a time when, as noted earlier in the evening, the organization has been conspicuously quiet about the rampant reports suggesting that coach Jim Harbaugh’s time with the franchise will end after the current season concludes.  With the exception of a tweet from York aimed at early October reports that players have grown weary of Harbaugh’s ways, the team has said nothing about the lingering controversy.

York’s latest tweet speaks volumes.  With the team now at 7-5 and facing a trip to Seattle on December 14, the 49ers most likely won’t be going to the postseason.

Running the table could salvage things, but how can the 49ers win the final four games when they barely mustered three points at home in the biggest game of the year?

So, yes, the season is likely over.  And Harbaugh’s tenure is likely over.  Look for the latter angle to gather plenty of steam over the next 10 days, as the 49ers prepare to drive north to Oakland for a game against the Raiders, which could be Harbaugh’s employer by the time January ends.

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Seahawks overpower 49ers, roll to 19-3 victory

Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril AP

In a performance befitting defending Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks rolled to a decisive 19-3 victory over the 49ers on Thursday night at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

With the win, the Seahawks move to 8-4, placing them as the top wild-card in the NFC. The 49ers, meanwhile, tumbled to 7-5.

The Seahawks dominated the proceedings, leading from the end of the first quarter onward and never getting any real serious challenge for the 49ers, whose offense faltered in spectacular fashion. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed just 16-of-29 passes for 121 yards, and he was picked twice by cornerback Richard Sherman, ever a Niners nemesis. Seattle also blunted San Francisco’s ground game, allowing just 64 yards on 18 carries.

By contrast, the Seahawks were able to attack with the pass and the run. Quarterback Russell Wilson (15-of-22, 236 yards, one TD) had major success keeping plays alive with his feet. On several occasions, his persistence led to dump-offs to wide-open targets leading to big gains, most notably on a 63-yard second-quarter reception by tight end Tony Moeaki. On the play, Wilson spun away from a blitz and scrambled away from his pursuers.

Tailback Marshawn Lynch (20 carries, 104 yards) set the tone in the ground game for Seattle, with his long rush of 33 yards setting up one of the four field goals from Steven Hauschka.

The game’s lone touchdown came in the opening period, with Wilson hitting uncovered tailback Robert Turbin in the flat for a 13-yard touchdown. The drive was set up by Sherman’s first pick of Kaepernick on a throw wide of receiver Brandon Lloyd.

As it turns out, that was all Seattle needed. From there, the Seahawks added to their lead little by little against a rival rendered fangless in its biggest of the game of the season.

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49ers running out of time vs. Seattle

Marshawn Lynch, Aldon Smith AP

The 49ers are on the ropes.

A fourth field goal by the Seahawks’ Steven Hauschka gave Seattle a 19-3 lead with about 10 minutes left in regulation on Thursday night. Given the struggles of the 49ers’ offense, a 16-point deficit seems mountainous. San Francisco mustered just 115 yards on 38 plays through three quarters — an average of three yards per play.

The Seahawks began the third quarter with a field goal, though it could have been even worse for San Francisco, as an offensive pass interference penalty nullified a touchdown by wideout Paul Richardson. Seahawks tailback Marshawn Lynch made the drive’s key play, breaking a 33-yard rush.

The 49ers then got a field goal of their own, but it took 12 plays and nearly seven minutes to do so, not to mention two key penalties on Seattle, including a holding call on cornerback Richard Sherman.

Now, the 49ers need touchdowns — and fast.

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49ers struggle in first half, down two scores

Robert Turbin, Russell Wilson AP

After a first half in which they looked nothing like playoff contenders, the 49ers face a 13-0 halftime deficit vs. the Seahawks.

The 49ers’ offense had a first two quarters to forget. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick struggled with his accuracy, hitting on just 7-of-16 passes for 55 yards. He was picked once by Richard Sherman, setting up the game’s lone touchdown, a 13-yard Robert Turbin scoring catch. San Francisco’s ground game has sputtered, too, gaining just 23 yards on 10 carries.

The 49ers have also had issues stopping the pass. Quarterback Russell Wilson’s ability to extend the play has caused major problems for San Francisco. The Seahawks’ tailbacks and tight ends have done most of the damage in the passing game; their wideouts have just 28 of the club’s 163 receiving yards.

At 7-4, the Niners are right in the thick of the wild-card race. However, a loss Thursday night would drop them one game back in the NFC with four left to play.

UPDATE 10:29 p.m. ET: The 49ers’ woes continued to begin the third quarter, with the Seahawks adding a field goal on their first drive of the second half to go up 16-0.

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Russell Wilson giving 49ers’ defense fits in first half

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

Early in the second quarter of Thursday night’s matchup vs. Seattle, the 49ers got an object lesson in the dangers of blitzing Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

On a 3rd-and-9 play, Wilson spun away from onrushing 49ers defensive back Dontae Johnson, cut back to his right, avoided tackle attempts from Johnson and linebacker Chris Borland and flipped the ball out to tight end Tony Moeaki, who was wide open down the right sideline. Moeaki would rumble 63 yards down to the San Francisco 1, coming oh-so-close to scoring.

The 49ers would hold the Seahawks to just a field goal, with Seattle extending its lead to 10-0.

However, any momentum the Niners might have gotten from their goal-line defense was short lived. The offense again sputtered, and Wilson would lead another drive ending in a field goal, giving Seattle a 13-0 lead it holds with about four minutes left in the first half. On that drive, Wilson would again make a big play vs. the blitz, hitting tailback Robert Turbin for 34 yards after the Niners again blitzed but couldn’t get home.

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Seahawks capitalize on Sherman pick, score first vs. 49ers

Seattle Seahawks v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

The visiting Seahawks struck first in Thursday night’s pivotal matchup with San Francisco.

And one of their stars got the ball rolling.

Cornerback Richard Sherman’s interception set up Seattle in opposition territory, and the Seahawks’ offense took it from there, marching 45 yards on seven plays and tallying the game’s first points on tailback Robert Turbin’s 13-yard TD reception to take a 7-0 lead.

On the pick, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick targeted wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, but Sherman read it well and stepped in front of the throw.

Kaepernick has indicated he wouldn’t avoid Sherman, the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl cornerback. And indeed, he tried Sherman early on Thursday.

Score one for Sherman. And put a seven next to Seattle on the scoreboard.

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Michael Crabtree suffers injured ribs, returns to game

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers got an injury scare in the opening minute of Thursday night’s game at Seattle, but it appears it was just a scare.

Wide receiver Michael Crabtree was shaken up on the game’s second play, clutching at his chest and grabbing at left knee after being tackled on a five-yard reception. Though the club termed his return as questionable with injured ribs, Crabtree was soon back on the field.

However, that’s not all for 49ers injury news. Defensive end Ray McDonald (finger) is questionable to re-enter the contest, the team said.

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Sanchez gets Thanksgiving redemption

Sanchez AP

The butt fumble has yielded to an ass kicking.

Two years ago, the career of quarterback Mark Sanchez hit a nadir when his noggin slammed into the backside of guard Brandon Moore.  The accidental blast into Moore’s hind quarters resulted in a turnover, and the term “butt fumble” was born.

Fast forward to November 2014, where Sanchez has authored a stirring victory over the Cowboys in their own building.  The 33-10 final score — the second-worst Dallas loss on Thanksgiving — suggests that a significant gap exists between the two teams vying for supremacy in the NFC East.  It also will make some wonder whether that 8-3 start by Dallas will inevitably disintegrate into another Auld Lang Syne of 8-8.

For the day, Sanchez threw for under 300 yards for the first time while playing for the Eagles.  He had a career-high 202 yards in the first half, but the Eagles didn’t need him to throw much in the second two quarters, with the defense stifling the Dallas offense and running back LeSean McCoy moving the chains.

With the Seahawks and Cowboys due to visit Philly in the next two weeks and Nick Foles‘ collarbone possibly taking longer than 6-8 weeks to heal, it could be that Sanchez will remain the starter for the rest of the regular season and beyond, with the former Jet whose prospects nose dived after back to back AFC title-game appearances getting a chance to take the Eagles to the NFC championship, and possibly beyond.

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Amid rampant rumors and reports, 49ers front office silent about Harbaugh

Harbaugh Getty Images

As the 49ers move closer to the end of the 2014 season, the sense that coach Jim Harbaugh will be leaving the franchise continues to linger.

Through it all, the organization hasn’t done much to push back against the perception that Harbaugh won’t be back for 2015.  When the reports reached critical mass in early October, with some suggesting that the players wanted Jim to hit the road, Jack, owner Jed York offered up this via Twitter:  “Jim is my coach.  We are trying to win a [Super Bowl], not a personality or popularity contest.  Any more questions?”

While the quest to win a Super Bowl this year continues, with a showdown against the Seahawks starting later tonight, there has been nothing more from the organization to rebut the notion that, as soon as the season ends, the process of separating will commence.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports has reported that Harbaugh will be gone regardless of whether the team wins the Super Bowl.  Weeks later, that specific report hasn’t been rebutted or refuted by the team.

That’s caused some in the league to notice that Harbaugh hasn’t received the support he deserves in what apparently will be his final year.  Eventually, the question will be Harbaugh’s next move — which is expected to entail staying in the Bay Area or, at a minimum, on the West Coast.  It makes the Raiders (Oakland or L.A.) the most likely NFL landing spot for Harbaugh.

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With Ron Parker moving to safety, Chiefs look at cornerbacks

Lankster Getty Images

The season-ending illness to safety Eric Berry has prompted the Chiefs to move cornerback Ron Parker back to the position he maintained while Berry missed time due to an ankle injury.  Which means that the Chiefs need to beef up the depth chart not at the safety position, but at the cornerback position.

Toward that end, the Chiefs have worked out a trio of cornerbacks.  Per a league source, they’ve taken a look at Ellis Lankster (pictured), Johnny Patrick, and DeMarcus Van Dyke.

Parker’s play during Berry’s absence earned a starting cornerback job for him.  Philip Gaines, a third-round rookie from Rice, could be in line to replace Parker at starting cornerback.

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Eagles push lead to 20

McCoy AP

Barring a comeback that would become fodder for legends on par with Clint Longley and Leon Lett, the Eagles will be beating the Cowboys in their first Thanksgiving Day get-together since the Bounty Bowl in 1989.

Midway through the third quarter, the Eagles lead the Cowboys, 30-10.

Philly running back LeSean McCoy has 129 yards rushing on 17 carries, including a 38-yard run that pushing the margin to 20 points.

Down 23-7, Dallas had a chance to make things interesting after a McCoy fumble deep in the Eagles’ end of the field.  But Philly’s defense stiffened, culminating in a self-sack by Tony Romo aimed at keeping his fragile back in one piece.

There’s plenty of time left, but Dallas will have to find a way to triple its output of points in the next 20 minutes of clock time.  If that doesn’t happen, the Eagles will move to 9-3, the Cowboys will fall to 8-4, and the rematch will happen on December 14 on NBC.

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Seahawks may wait to work out new deal with Wilson

Wilson AP

After the Seahawks won the Super Bowl to cap quarterback Russell Wilson’s second NFL season, it became a given that Seattle would sign Wilson to a big-money contract as soon as he became eligible for a new deal, after the completion of the 2014 regular season.

With the Seahawks struggling (in comparison to last year) and with Wilson showing signs of regression, the Seahawks may decide to wait.

Per a league source, the team’s willingness to give Wilson a new deal will depend in large part on how the current season turns out.  Miss the playoffs or get eliminated early, and the Seahawks will be inclined to wait.  Return to the Super Bowl, and a new deal becomes more likely.

Whatever happens, the Seahawks will be sure to do that which is regarded as fair within the locker room.  They didn’t hesitate to pay cornerback Richard Sherman or safety Earl Thomas, cognizant of the importance of rewarding those who have helped contribute to the team’s success.

Wilson definitely has contributed, but the challenge becomes pegging his value if both player and team achieve a lot less than they did last year.

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