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

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

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

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

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

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

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Report: Dont’a Hightower suffered sprained MCL

Dont'a Hightower, Ryan Fitzpatrick AP

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

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

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

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

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Minor knee strain for Rob Gronkowski

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 23:  Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots reacts after missing a catch during the third quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on November 23, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

The early word was that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski avoided a serious injury when he hurt his knee in Denver on Sunday night and further tests have done nothing to change that outlook.

PFT has learned, via a league source, that the Patriots star suffered a minor knee strain. The time frame for his return is expected to be a week or two.

While playing without Gronkowski for any amount of time is a negative for the Patriots offense, this qualifies as good news given how dire the injury appeared to be when Gronkowski first went down on Sunday night. The reactions of Gronkowski and other members of the Patriots gave the impression that it might be a long time before Gronkowski would be back on the field, so a couple of weeks is far easier to swallow for a team that has their sights set on the Super Bowl.

Scott Chandler could see a larger role while Gronkowski heals up and the Patriots will hope to get wide receiver Danny Amendola back in time to face the Eagles in Week 13 as well.

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Report: Marcus Williams sprained MCL filling in for Revis

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 29:  Marcus Williams #20 of the New York Jets intercepts a pass intended for Kenny Stills #10 of the Miami Dolphins on November 29, 2015 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets cornerback Marcus Williams got bumped up to the starting lineup for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins with Darrelle Revis out with a concussion, but the Jets may have to look elsewhere if Revis isn’t cleared in time to play in Week 13.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that Williams suffered a sprained MCL in the victory over Miami, leaving his status as “week-to-week” for a return to the lineup.

Williams had an interception of Ryan Tannehill early in the victory, which gives him a team-high five for the season. Those interceptions have come in less than 250 defensive snaps, so the Jets will be without a playmaker in their secondary as long as Williams is out of the lineup.

With or without Revis and Williams, the Jets secondary should have its hands full next Sunday. Odell Beckham will be lined up across from them and the Giants have not been shy about feeding their most dynamic offensive player this season. That habit is unlikely to change with the Giants in serious need of a win in the battle for MetLife Stadium bragging rights.

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Tom Coughlin expects Geoff Schwartz to be placed on injured reserve

Odell Beckham Jr. AP

After guard Geoff Schwartz left Sunday’s game with a leg injury, the Giants initially said that he would be able to return to the game before updating his status to say that he would miss the rest of the game after fracturing his leg.

Given the point we’re at in the season, it sounded like a season-ending injury but Schwartz held out hope on Twitter that he would be able to return to the team this season. Coach Tom Coughlin didn’t sound anywhere near as hopeful when he spoke to the media on Monday, however. While the coach didn’t rule anything out, he said he’s preparing to lose Schwartz for the rest of the year.

“No, but it’s not good,” Coughlin said, via Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News. “He has a fracture above the plate on his leg. I’m sure he’ll have to be put on IR.”

Schwartz started at left guard Sunday as the Giants covered for the absence of Justin Pugh by flipping Schwartz to that side and starting John Jerry at right guard. Bobby Hart entered the game after Schwartz’s injury.

The Giants were also starting Dallas Reynolds at center in place of Weston Richburg, which could leave the Giants with a lot of patchwork to do against the Jets this week. Coughlin says he hopes to have at least one of them back this week, but that he doesn’t “have any evidence” that will be the case at this point.

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Dan Campbell: Firing Lazor was my decision

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 22: Interim head coach Dan Campbell of the Miami Dolphins looks on during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Sun Life Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Dallas defeated Miami 24-14. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

During his appearance on PFT Live Monday, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald said that the decision to fire offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was made by interim head coach Dan Campbell and not executive vice president for football operations Mike Tannenbaum or anyone else in the front office.

Campbell said the same thing during his Monday press conference while discussing Lazor’s departure from the team. Campbell called it 100 percent his decision and that it came after he shared his feeling with Tannenbaum and team owner Stephen Ross. Campbell pointed to the team’s lack of balance offensively — 61 called passes in Sunday’s loss to the Jets and nine runs — as the reason why he wanted to make a change.

“We have to find a way to become a more physical offense,” Campbell said, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “We need more of a physical presence. How ever we establish that, that’s what I’m looking for. I don’t think we scare anybody in the AFC East and that bothers me. We need to find a way, even if it is two yards and a cloud of dust. … I am a more run-oriented person. I want to be more balanced. I like a more balanced approach.”

Campbell certainly isn’t the first to point out the lack of balance on offense for the Dolphins, but, then, you’d have to be blind not to pick it up. Excluding penalties that resulted in no official play, the Dolphins have dropped back to pass more than twice as often as they’ve run the ball this season and those numbers weren’t much closer during the 2014 season under Lazor either.

New offensive coordinator Zac Taylor said Monday he’s on board and that the team will “streamline what we do” to create more balance on offense moving forward. If the results aren’t any better, the end of the season will likely bring more changes to the coaching staff in Miami.

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Report: Bills lose Alex Carrington for rest of season

<> of the New England Patriots of the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on November 23, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Getty Images

The Bills came into Sunday’s game with injury issues on their defensive line and it appears they only got worse during their 30-22 loss to the Chiefs.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that defensive end Alex Carrington tore his quad tendon and will have surgery on Monday to repair the injury. Per the report, Carrington’s season is over.

Carrington started in Kansas City because Mario Williams missed the game with a foot injury he suffered in the team’s Week 11 loss to the Patriots. Defensive tackle Kyle Williams also announced last week that he will have knee surgery and miss the rest of the season, so the Bills will need to dig a bit deeper on the depth chart for help up front on defense over the final five weeks.

Carrington was a third-round pick of the Bills in 2010 and played for the Rams in 2014 before returning to the Bills as a free agent during the offseason.

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Dwayne Harris: We took win for granted

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 29: Wide receiver Dwayne Harris #17 of the New York Giants carries the ball against linebacker Preston Smith #94 of the Washington Redskins in the third quarter at FedExField on November 29, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham said after Sunday’s loss that there was “no explanation” for the lack of fight that his team showed during the first three quarters of a game that could have given them a comfortable lead in the NFC East.

One of his fellow wideouts has some explanation, although it’s not one that Beckham or anyone else in the organization should be happy to hear. Dwayne Harris said he thinks that the team’s lack of fire was caused by overlooking the challenge that the Redskins presented after beating them the last five times they played.

“I think we were ready to play but we probably took this team a little bit for granted because … I don’t know,” Harris said, via “I don’t know everyone else’s mindset but we came out slow. I think everyone was ready to play but we came out too slow.”

Every season brings several results that make it clear that no NFL team can afford to go into a game expecting that they can just go through the motions and get a victory. The Giants should know that better than anyone given how many times they’ve dropped games to mediocre or worse competition in the Tom Coughlin era, to say nothing of the times they’ve stepped up to win games as underdogs.

It’s not a mistake that they should make again over the final five weeks, but making it once might have been enough to dash their hopes of winning a division title.

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PFT Live: Brian Hoyer, Kurt Coleman, Dolphins talk with Armando Salguero

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 29: Brian Hoyer #7 of the Houston Texans motions while playing against the New Orleans Saints in the second quarter on November 29, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans got quarterback Brian Hoyer back in the lineup on Sunday and kept their winning streak going with a 24-6 thumping of the Saints that moved them to 6-5 and kept them even with the Colts in the AFC South.

On Monday’s PFT Live, Mike Florio will talk to Hoyer about the victory over the Saints and everything that has fallen into place for the team during their four-game winning streak. A defense that’s allowed just 35 points in that span is at the top of the list, but we’ll find out about the offense as well during Hoyer’s visit.

Panthers safety Kurt Coleman will also drop by the show to discuss the even longer winning streak that the Panthers are on. Coleman had an interception return for a touchdown in the team’s Thanksgiving victory over the Cowboys, which is one of the things that we’ll talk about on Monday.

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald will be on hand as well to discuss the team’s decision to fire offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. They’ve already fired their head coach and defensive coordinator so we’ll ask Salguero whose head will be the next to role in a dismal season in Miami.

As always, we also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app.

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Panthers sign Cortland Finnegan

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28:  Cortland Finnegan #24 of the Miami Dolphins returns a fumble 50 yards to score a touchdown during the NFL match between the Oakland Raiders and the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium on September 28, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Panthers have added veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan for the stretch run.

Finnegan worked out for the team last week and the Panthers announced Monday that they have signed him to their 53-man roster. Finnegan played for Miami last season, but has been out of the NFL since the Dolphins released him in the offseason.

That departure did not come as much of a surprise as Finnegan’s play in 2014 showed the same signs of decline that he exhibited in St. Louis during the two previous years. Finnegan seemed to agree that the game had passed him by because he said he was retiring after getting dropped by the Dolphins, but there’s nothing like interest from undefeated teams (the Patriots also worked him out recently) to make you think twice.

Carolina has been stretched a bit thin at corner the last two weeks with Charles Tillman out of the lineup and Colin Jones has struggled in the slot with Bene’ Benwikere moving outside to take over for Tillman, who is expected to miss more time. They’ll hope for more from Finnegan as they try to continue the league’s longest current winning streak.

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Chris Johnson, Andre Ellington having MRIs after injuries

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 29:  Chris Johnson #23 of the Arizona Cardinals is hit by Ian Williams #93 of the San Francisco 49ers at the line of scrimmage during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on November 29, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals squeaked out a 19-13 victory over the 49ers when Carson Palmer rambled into the end zone for a touchdown and spike that gave his teammates a good laugh.

It might be easier to leave the running to the players who are on the team for their ability in that area, but the Cardinals were running low on options in Sunday’s game. Both Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington left the game with injuries that General Manager Steve Keim said will have them in the MRI tube Monday.

Appearing on Arizona Sports 98.7, Keim said that Johnson suffered a bone bruise to his knee and that Ellington is dealing with a toe injury. He termed both players as “day-to-day” pending the results of the MRIs.

The Cardinals will be in St. Louis next weekend and rookie David Johnson will get the call if neither back is able to get back on the field in time to face the Rams.

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Aaron Rodgers: We’ve got to buckle down our preparation

498896000 Getty Images

The Packers practiced on Sunday for the first time since their Thanksgiving loss to the Bears, which was their fourth loss in five weeks.

That losing skid has led to plenty of discussions about what’s going wrong in Green Bay, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. On Sunday, quarterback Aaron Rodgers pointed to the way the team is preparing for games as a place where they need to improve if they’re going to put themselves back on a winning track.

“It goes back to what you’re doing in your spare time and what you’re doing with your time in the facility,” Rodgers said, via “Being a pro is all about making sure you’re as ready as possible by the time the game hits. I think that’s the important thing for guys to remember here, especially young guys. We’re 15 games into the season, counting preseason. That’s a long grind for those guys, especially the rookies. This is the time where they really got to get through that wall, and the vets — the vets have had some [missed assignments] as well. So we’ve got to buckle down our preparation and make sure we’re ready to play.”

The team’s preparation was a topic of conversation on Thanksgiving with Cris Collinsworth of NBC saying during the game that the Packers had a players-only meeting recently that was centered on Rodgers’ issues with the team’s preparation. Rodgers said that there wasn’t a meeting and suggested something was conveyed incorrectly to the NBC crew before the game, but the message he’s delivering to his team is clear whatever the venue he’s using to express it.

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Richard Sherman mocks idea that he struggles with smaller receivers

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 29:  Cornerback Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks makes an interception against the Pittsburgh Steelers at CenturyLink Field on November 29, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Steelers piled up 480 passing yards in Seattle on Sunday afternoon, but Antonio Brown wasn’t the big reason why they had so much success through the air.

Markus Wheaton went off for 201 yards on nine catches and Brown’s 51 receiving yards were also less than DeAngelo Williams and Martavis Bryant had on a day when Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman helped keep Brown from dominating the stat sheet. After the game, Sherman aimed his fire at those who predicted he’d have a hard time doing that against the shorter Steelers wideout.

“I don’t guard small receivers well, so I don’t know what I did,” Sherman said, via the Seattle Times. “But that’s not what I do. I’m not very good at guarding small receivers. That’s my biggest weakness. So I don’t know what I did. I don’t guard small receivers well, so obviously he just dropped a bunch of balls. … You see people who have never played the game, who have never coached the game, who have never even stepped foot on the field, talk about how you’re not good against smaller receivers. You can’t call that. You don’t have enough knowledge. You don’t have enough intimate details. You don’t even know the game. You have a very low football IQ. It’s tough to take those people serious, but we went out there and executed today.”

Sherman had his first interception of the season in the game on a deep ball intended for Brown that fell softly into Sherman’s arms after a bout of hand fighting ended with Brown on the ground. There were three other interceptions along the way to help the Seahawks’ cause, but the rest of the secondary will need to do better in the future against receivers of all sizes because giving up 480 yards through the air is a pretty good recipe for disaster most weeks.

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Monday morning one-liners

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 29: Jeremy Maclin #19 of the Kansas City Chiefs begins to move to the fans in the end zone after a touchdown reception at Arrowhead Stadium during the second quarter of the game against the Buffalo Bills on November 29, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills’ decision not to send a lot of pressure on defense didn’t work out for them.

Dolphins coach Dan Campbell said the team’s offense is “anemic right now.”

Said Patriots CB Logan Ryan, “We know our offense is always going to give us a chance. We know our kicker is the best in the game. We had another shot, we weren’t able to execute. As a defense, we’re going to take that on the chin. It’s probably going to make us even better.”

Jets WR Devin Smith rebounded from a poor Week 11 with a touchdown catch in Sunday’s win.

The Ravens look back at the last time they played without QB Joe Flacco.

Bengals RB Jeremy Hill showed flashes of his rookie year production in Sunday’s win.

Pride is the biggest thing on the line for the Browns on Monday night.

Steelers players didn’t take issue with the team’s unsuccessful fake field goal.

The Texans defense continues to play at a high level.

DL Kendall Langford got his Colts teammates fired up at halftime.

Jaguars QB Blake Bortles was penalized twice for throwing passes once he was past the line of scrimmage.

The Titans fell short on offense against the Raiders.

Snow provided good footing for the Broncos run game.

WR Jeremy Maclin has had a positive impact on the Chiefs offense.

CB David Amerson earned praise from his Raiders teammates.

Chargers TE Antonio Gates had two touchdowns a week after a poor showing.

Sunday’s Giants loss kept the Cowboys breathing in the NFC East race.

Said Giants coach Tom Coughlin, “I just didn’t think we played well or we slept-walked, whatever the word is. We just didn’t function very well early on.”

Any discussion of the disappointing Eagles season has to start with the roster.

QB Kirk Cousins’s “You like that!” has caught on with his Redskins teammates.

Their first-round pick hasn’t played, but the rest of the Bears rookie class has done well.

Lions WR Calvin Johnson is closing in on another 1,000-yard season.

The Packers hope to have C Corey Linsley and WR Jared Abbrederis back this week.

Vikings LB Anthony Barr had a strong performance in Sunday’s win.

All eyes are on QB Matt Ryan after another Falcons loss.

Panthers QB Cam Newton checked out LeBron James while the team was off this weekend.

Dispatching defensive coordinator Rob Ryan didn’t lead to a better outing for the Saints.

RB Doug Martin wasn’t a big part of the Buccaneers’ offensive game plan in the second half.

The Cardinals don’t mind winning ugly.

Said Rams DT Michael Brockers, “It’s frustrating to see. You work every day, you work hard every day to come out and try to get a victory. And it doesn’t happen. Yeah, it’s frustrating. Right now, it’s a bad time to be a Ram.”

Counting down 12 reasons why the 49ers season has been such a disappointment.

Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin came up big on third down.

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Dashon Goldson: We go as far as Kirk Cousins takes us

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 29: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins drops back to throw while tackle Trent Williams #71 of the Washington Redskins blocks defensive tackle Jay Bromley #96 of the New York Giants in the fourth quarter at FedExField on November 29, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

It has been a season of peaks and valleys for Kirk Cousins with Sunday bringing perhaps the highest point of the year.

Cousins was 20-of-29 for 302 yards in a 20-14 win over the Giants that lifted the Redskins into first place in the NFC East. Cousins threw for one touchdown and ran for another during the contest, which saw the Redskins jump out to a 20-0 lead and hold on in the face of a late Giants rally. Cousins’s 28-yard strike to tight end Jordan Reed for a key first down had a lot to do with that and the impact of the quarterback’s confidence was a topic of conversation among his teammates after the game.

“This team is going to win with him,” Goldson said, via the Washington Post. “We only go as far as he takes us. I just wanted him to understand that. As a quarterback, he’s got to be a leader, a little more vocal and take charge in what’s going on on the offensive side and as a team. Period.”

The peaks of Cousins’s season will make for some interesting contract decisions in Washington at the end of the season, especially if he can steer the team into the playoffs over the next five weeks. The schedule, starting with next Monday’s home game against Dallas, makes that look like a real possibility and it would look even better if Cousins can level out the rollercoaster the team has been on this season.

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