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Tuesday morning one-liners

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 04:  Matt Barkley #12 of the Chicago Bears looks for a receiver against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field on December 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the 49ers 26-6.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills coach Rex Ryan said he wasn’t sure how much the team’s game plan changed with TE Charles Clay missing the game in Oakland.

Will future Dolphins opponents target their tight ends heavily after Dennis Pitta’s big day?

The Patriots defense has shown signs of improvement the last two weeks.

Said Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson, “Guys gotta play harder. We’re not going to start pointing the finger. We played like s–t.”

Is Ravens QB Joe Flacco elite … when it comes to buying Christmas trees?

T Jake Fisher got extended time in the Bengals lineup in Week 13.

Browns G Jonathan Cooper believes he’ll make the most of a starting opportunity.

The Steelers defense has been a strength in recent weeks.

Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins had some issues hanging onto the ball in Green Bay.

TE Dwayne Allen had a big Monday night for the Colts.

The Jaguars turn the ball over too much and don’t make enough big plays on offense.

CB Jason McCourty wants to see more chemistry in the secondary.

Donald Stephenson is back at right tackle for the Broncos.

The Chiefs expect it to be cold for Thursday night’s game.

The Raiders are doing well in Pro Bowl voting.

A look at the Chargers’ fourth quarter issues.

Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne remains hopeful about a return to the field this year.

LT Ereck Flowers has been a liability for the Giants of late.

A call for the Eagles to put TE Zach Ertz on the bench.

It’s desperation time for the Redskins.

Bears coach John Fox thinks QB Matt Barkley is more confident now.

The Lions liked the “productive paranoia” of last week’s practices.

The Packers are comfortable when Randall Cobb is returning punts.

Will RB Adrian Peterson be back on the field for the Vikings this season?

Bad marks for Falcons QB Matt Ryan’s efforts against the Chiefs.

The Panthers got some time off after their extended road trip.

Saints DE Cameron Jordan said he played through an MCL sprain this year.

The Buccaneers are thin at receiver.

Will the Cardinals make a change at punter?

A strong finish would be a good thing for Rams coach Jeff Fisher.

Pride’s about the only thing left for the 49ers to play for this season.

S Earl Thomas‘ injury may raise the pressure on the Seahawks offense.

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Ben McAdoo on Victor Cruz: Inconsistency makes it hard to involve everyone

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 06:  Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants in action against the Philadelphia Eagles during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 6, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

After he went untargeted in Sunday’s loss to the Steelers, Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz said he’s going to “talk to somebody” to get an answer about why the ball never came his way.

During a Monday appearance on NFL Network, Cruz was more specific about who he planned to talk to about the situation and said he would have a conversation with head coach Ben McAdoo. McAdoo said he welcomes such a chat and pointed to the team’s overall ineffectiveness on offense as a reason why a receiver going without a look is an issue for the second straight week.

“When you have been as inconsistent as we have on offense, it’s a challenge,” McAdoo said in a conference call. “Victor, like everybody else, including myself, wants to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. So my door is always open for any of these guys that want to come in and have a conversation.”

After Sterling Shepard was shut out in Week 12, Giants quarterback Eli Manning apologized to the wideout. It doesn’t sound like Cruz should expect something similar.

During an appearance on WFAN Monday, Manning said there were plays that had Cruz as a lead option but that he wound up going elsewhere when the play unfurled. That suggests Cruz isn’t getting open, which is a reminder that the questions we ask don’t always come with the answers we want.

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RG3: I’m here to help Browns beyond the next four weeks

FILE - In this Sept. 11, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III runs the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles in Philadelphia. Griffin moved closer to playing again this season as the team designated him for return from injured reserve. The team officially made the move Wednesday, nov. 23, 2016, giving the Browns 21 days to activate him to the roster.(Winslow Townson/File) AP

Browns coach Hue Jackson said he isn’t ready to publicly name a starter for this weekend’s game against the Bengals, but most speculation about who will get the nod is centered on Robert Griffin III.

Griffin has been practicing for a little while and is expected to be formally restored to the 53-man roster this week so that he can make his second start of the season. His first resulted in the broken bone in his left shoulder that landed him on injured reserve, which leaves him eager to “give the team as much of a spark as I possibly can.”

Griffin said Monday that he is in the dark about Jackson’s plans for this week, but that he wants to be part of them beyond the end of this season regardless of the choice for Week 14.

“I don’t know, coach could wait until Sunday,” Griffin said, via Cleveland.com. “That’s why he’s got the HC on his hat and we all trust him in this locker room. I trust him, and it’s just a matter of do they feel I’m ready to play or do they feel like I need to take some more time. So whatever their decision is, I’ll be OK with it because I’m here to be a Cleveland Brown. I’m here to help this team, not just these last four weeks but into the future.”

Griffin knows that future isn’t guaranteed and admitted that “the world could end tomorrow” while discussing the uncertainty of what’s ahead. He was waxing philosophical at that moment, but playing behind the 2016 Browns offensive line has felt that way on more than one occasion.

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Eli on Odell: He needs to kill officials with kindness

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) stands on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Don Wright) AP

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham proposed that referee Terry McAulay and his crew be banned from ever working games played by the Giants after Sunday’s loss to the Steelers, which you probably won’t be surprised to learn was not the approach head coach Ben McAdoo endorsed on Monday.

McAdoo seemed to agree with Beckham that Sunday’s crew missed some calls on the Steelers, who still wound up with 12 accepted penalties against them to four for the Giants, but said he planned to use the usual avenue of requesting clarification from the league office about them.

“I would say that I thought there were a few times yesterday where he may have been interfered with,” McAdoo said on a conference call. “But that’s part of the process. We’re going to send it in to New York and to the officials, and let them take a look at it, and get some feedback from it, some clarification.”

While the Giants are trying to get more information from the league, Beckham’s quarterback offered his thoughts on another avenue that the wideout might take. Eli Manning believes a spoonful of sugar would be a good route.

“He’s got to be careful. With officials, you want to kill them with kindness,” Manning said with Mike Francesa on WFAN, via Tom Rock of Newsday. “He’s gotta learn to be a good guy and warm up to those guys to get some calls.”

We’ll see if Beckham decides to use a smile as an umbrella the next time he feels caught in an officiating storm.

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Texans waive Charles James a day after costly slip

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 04:  Charles James II #31 of the Houston Texans warms up before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on December 4, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans lost to the Packers 21-13 in Green Bay on Sunday and one of the biggest plays for the Packers came when Aaron Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Nelson was wide open on the play because cornerback Charles James slipped on the snowy Lambeau Field turf. James had gone shirtless during pregame warmups, but the elements proved too much for him on that play.

It turned out to be one of his final ones with the Texans. The Texans waived James on Monday, ending a run with the team that started in 2015. James played in all 12 games for Houston this season and had 18 tackles.

The Texans claimed cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz, who was waived by the Steelers over the weekend after seeing action in five games for Pittsburgh earlier this season.

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Bruce Arians says he isn’t thinking about retiring

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 04:  Head coach Bruce Arians of the Arizona Cardinals looks at his play chart while standing on the sideline during the second quarter against the Washington Redskins at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s been a rough season for the Cardinals on the field and for their coach Bruce Arians off of it as he’s had a couple of health scares that have sent him to the hospital.

That has apparently led some people to think that Arians will consider retirement when the year comes to an end. Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports reported over the weekend that “many coaches who know” Arians believe that will be the case, but Arians said otherwise on Monday.

Arians said there “couldn’t be anything further from the truth” during an appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 and brushed off the report by saying that he doesn’t “have that many friends” to talk to about his future plans.

“[General manager Steve Keim] and I are talking a lot about, you know, what pieces do we need to start looking at, getting guys signed up for future contracts, and looking forward to finishing this year and damn sure coaching next year,” Arians said.

Arians did say he believes the stress of the job has contributed to his health issues, but it doesn’t sound like the stress level is going to push him to find another way to spend his days.

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Titans place Kevin Dodd on injured reserve

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 06:  Kevin Dodd #93 of the Tennessee Titans pulls down  Melvin Gordon #28 of the San Diego Chargers during the first half at Qualcomm Stadium on November 6, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Titans are getting back on the field after their bye week, but rookie linebacker Kevin Dodd won’t be joining them.

Dodd, a second-round pick in April, is headed to injured reserve. He had foot surgery in the offseason and coach Mike Mularkey said that he may need a second surgery after struggling to get past the injury over the course of the season.

“He’s had a hard time practicing with it and it’s affected his performance,” Mularkey said, via the team’s website. “I know he is disappointed. It’s a conversation we had this morning. He never really felt like he could play like he wanted to play at the level he wanted to play. He has a great future here. We are going to help him get that thing right and come back here stronger than ever.”

Dodd played 179 snaps on defense, so they won’t need to replace a mainstay of their defense. The team promoted linebacker Justin Staples from the practice squad to move the roster back to 53 players.

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Trevor Siemian out of walking boot

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 27:  Trevor Siemian #13 of the Denver Broncos in action against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 27, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos had Paxton Lynch at quarterback against the Jaguars in Week 13 because Trevor Siemian spent last week in a protective boot after injuring his foot and their offense had trouble moving the ball during the 20-10 win.

Denver had just 206 total yards with Lynch at the controls, but they may have Siemian back in the lineup for their Week 14 game against the Titans. Coach Gary Kubiak said on Monday that Siemian is out of the boot and making progress in terms of getting back on the field.

“I know he’s doing a lot better,” Kubiak said, via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post.

The foot issue is the third injury that Siemian has dealt with this year, leaving Kubiak to say that the quarterback has to learn how to stay healthy. Based on how the offense looked in Jacksonville, the Broncos should hope that’s a lesson Siemian grasps quickly.

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Julio Jones has turf toe, Jake Matthews dealing with knee sprain

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04:  Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons fails to pull in  this reception against Marcus Peters #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons saw three offensive players get hurt on their way to a 29-28 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday, which meant head coach Dan Quinn had some injury updates to deliver at his Monday press conference.

Quinn said on Sunday that wide receiver Julio Jones was dealing with a lower body injury when he was in and out of the game in the final minutes, but offered a bit more specificity on Monday. Jones has a turf toe injury that Quinn said the team does not believe will be a long-term issue, which fits with Jones saying he was OK after the game.

Left tackle Jake Matthews left the game with what Quinn called a knee sprain on Monday. Quinn said that Matthews will not practice on Wednesday, but they hope he can go on Thursday and play against the Rams in Week 14.

Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu will also miss practice on Wednesday after injuring his groin, but, like Matthews, the team isn’t ruling him out of anything beyond that.

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Leonard Fournette entering the draft

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 12:  Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers runs the ball during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on November 12, 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 38-10.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Getty Images

Running back Leonard Fournette’s days as a college football player will come to an end after LSU plays in the Citrus Bowl against Louisville.

Fournette announced his intention to enter the 2017 draft with a statement on Monday, although it would be hard to find anyone who thought that the running back would return to Baton Rouge for another season. Fournette ran for 2,987 yards and scored 33 touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Tigers and has added 843 more yards and another score this season.

The numbers for 2016 have been down because of an ankle injury that’s bothered Fournette for much of the season and kept him from playing in four games, but there’s no indication that it should be an issue for him once it comes time to start his professional career.

That should keep him in the mix as a high first round pick, although there’s plenty to play out between now and draft day.

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Rex Ryan on Tyrod Taylor: Let’s just let this play out

Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) runs for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) AP

Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor got off to a good start on Sunday against the Raiders by completing 8-of-9 passes for 102 yards in the first quarter, but the next three quarters weren’t so hot.

He was 10-of-26 for 89 yards and turned the ball over twice while the Bills went from being up 15 points to losing by 14 points when time ran out on the game. It also pushed the clock on their playoff chances much closer to zero, which means it is almost time to start looking ahead to the offseason.

A decision on Taylor’s future will be a big part of that offseason. He’s due $27.5 million in guaranteed money if he’s on the team on the fourth day of the 2017 league year, which is a lot of money for a player who hasn’t taken clear steps forward in his second season running the Buffalo offense. Coach Rex Ryan was asked after the game whether Taylor is falling short of where the team wants him to be.

“Look, let’s just let this play out,” Ryan said, via NewYorkUpstate.com. “We feel pretty comfortable with Tyrod. There’s a lot of factors that go into everything. … I’m not going to go into a list of them. You guys can figure it out.”

Injuries to others on the offense are likely on the list that Ryan opted not to share, but it’s hard to pin things on outside factors when you’re deciding about a major investment on a player. That call is on the horizon for the Bills and Taylor’s play isn’t making it easy for them to say yes.

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Doug Pederson: “Not everybody” played hard on Sunday

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 4:  Head Coach Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles calls a play during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Eagles lost for the third straight week on Sunday and the margin of victory for their opponents has gotten steadily larger over that streak, which isn’t a trend that coach Doug Pederson would surely like to stop as soon as possible.

His chances of making that happen will increase if he can get everyone on the roster giving their maximum effort on a weekly basis. Pederson said that wasn’t the case when he was asked if everyone was playing hard in their 32-14 loss to the Bengals.

“Not everybody. Not everybody, and that’s the accountability that I talk about,” Pederson said in his Monday press conference. “You know, I hold coaches accountable for that. I hold myself accountable for that because it all starts with me and I pride myself each week to make sure the guys are ready to go. But at the same time, it comes down to a mentality by each individual player. You know, this is a business where we have to be ready to go every single weekend because every team in the league — I mean, there’s some teams that are better than others, obviously — but for the most part, anything can happen each weekend.”

Pederson said at another point that he didn’t see any quit in the team, but that may matter less than the fact that some engines never turned over in the first place. Pederson said he doesn’t have any doubts about his job security and that “it’s been 100 percent support on everything” from owner Jeffrey Lurie and General Manager Howie Roseman, but there’s no quicker way for that to change than losing games with lackluster effort from the roster.

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AFC playoff picture: Divisional races remain tight outside of the East

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Defensive tackle Stacy McGee #92 of the Oakland Raiders stops running back Spencer Ware #32 of the Kansas City Chiefs for a loss of two yards in the second quarter on October 16, 2016 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.  The Chiefs won 26-10.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Barring an epic flop, the Patriots are going to win the AFC East for the 14th time in the last 16 seasons.

There isn’t anything close to that much clarity in any of the other divisions in the AFC. The Raiders currently hold the top seed in the conference, but they are just a game up on the Chiefs with a Thursday matchup at Arrowhead Stadium looming as a major factor in deciding the AFC West.

Neither of the other divisions have a team with even that slim a lead heading into the final four weeks of the season. The Ravens and Steelers are both 7-5 with a Christmas Day game on the schedule while the Texans’ three-game losing streak leaves them with a 6-6 record. The Titans have the same mark and the Colts made it a three-way dance by beating the Jets on Monday night.

In other words, there’s a lot to sort out in the AFC.

LEADERS
1. Raiders (10-2): More late heroics have Oakland on top, but it will be fleeting if they can’t win in Kansas City.

2. Patriots (10-2): The Patriots could end Week 14 with both a division title and a first-round bye.

3. Ravens (7-5): Four home wins in the last five weeks have righted the ship in Baltimore, but they’re closing out the year by going on the road three of the next four weeks.

4. Texans (6-6): Houston will be hosting the Super Bowl, but the Texans need to find themselves in a hurry if they’re going to have any shot of playing in it.

5. Chiefs (9-3): A win on Thursday gives them a big tiebreaker advantage with a season sweep of the Raiders.

6. Broncos (8-4): They survived in Jacksonville and will be in the playoffs if they win out, although that’s a big if with the Titans, Patriots, Raiders and Chiefs left on the schedule.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
7. Dolphins (7-5): Their winning streak and their time in playoff position ended in Baltimore, so Miami will need some help from others to climb the ladder again.

8. Steelers (7-5): Three straight double-digit wins have the arrow pointed up for Pittsburgh.

9. Colts (6-6): After beating the Jets, they’re in position to make a run at the division crown.

10. Titans (6-6): A bye week offered some rest for Tennessee ahead of their final playoff push.

11. Bills (6-6): Blowing a 15-point lead in the final 24 minutes might have been the last gasp for Buffalo’s playoff aspirations.

12. Chargers (5-7): It was a long shot before they lost a home game to the Bucs.

13. Bengals (4-7-1): They looked better on Sunday than they have in weeks, but that has more to do with draft positioning than the playoff race at this point.

14. Jets (3-9): They were mathematically eliminated on Monday night.

15: Jaguars (2-10): When your quarterback calls the year “the biggest nightmare possible,” there’s not much left to say.

16: Browns (0-12): Four chances left to avoid a winless season in Cleveland.

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Kapri Bibbs dealing with a high ankle sprain

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 04:   Kapri Bibbs #35 of the Denver Broncos runs for yardage against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on December 4, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos offense didn’t do much in Sunday’s 20-10 victory over the Jaguars, producing just 206 yards while playing without starting quarterback Trevor Siemian.

It looked for a while like running back Kapri Bibbs might provide some spark as he put up 37 rushing yards on the team’s lone touchdown drive of the day, but Bibbs’ afternoon ended a short time later thanks to an ankle injury. After the game, Bibbs, who ran five times for 49 yards overall, was in a walking boot and said he suffered a high ankle sprain.

“It was going to be a real good day,” Bibbs said, via the Denver Post. “I can bring a lot to this team. I can help this team a lot and that’s all I want to do.”

The Broncos will surely be doing more tests on Bibbs’ ankle, but such injuries typically mean missed time for players. If that’s the case, the Broncos may need to look for help with Devontae Booker and Juwan Thompson as the only other running backs on the roster.

One option could be Justin Forsett. The veteran was dropped by the Lions on Friday and played for Broncos coach Gary Kubiak in both Houston and Baltimore.

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Rex Ryan: It just snowballed on us

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the Buffalo Bills looks on from the sidelines against the Oakland Raiders during their NFL game at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on December 4, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills were up 24-9 against the Raiders after running back Mike Gillislee ran for a touchdown with nine minutes to go in the third quarter, but any thoughts that they’d win the game and rally to move back into the mix for a playoff spot soon disappeared.

The Raiders would draw within one point before the quarter was over and they’d tack on 15 more points in the fourth quarter on their way to a 38-24 victory. Everything unraveled at once for the Bills as the offense went three-and-out three times while the Raiders were driving for touchdowns and two fourth quarter turnovers sealed the deal for Buffalo.

Cornerback Corey Graham said he was in “shock” as things fell apart for a team that’s now 6-6 and looking at the longest of playoff shots.

“Well, it hasn’t happened a whole lot in my career, but it has happened before,” coach Rex Ryan said, via the Buffalo News. “Sometimes you feel that momentum shift and it just snowballed on us. Sometimes, I think we lose confidence. You can’t ever have that happen to you.”

Things may not play out like that very often for the Bills, but the story of Buffalo’s season has been one of finding a way to lose when matched with tougher competition. That’s not so different from the path they took to 8-8 in 2015, which leaves the team with an obvious area for improvement next season.

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