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Trump takes credit for NFL ratings slide, again

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 01: President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a stop at U.S. Bank Arena on December 1, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Trump took time off from selecting the cabinet for his incoming administration to celebrate his victory in the general election.  (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images) Getty Images

Thirty years after Donald Trump took on the NFL and lost, he has taken on the NFL and won. According to him.

Via SportsBusiness Daily, the President-Elect declared during his first public rally since the election that the NFL’s ratings dropped because of the election.

“[T]heir ratings were so far down,” Trump said at a rally in Cincinnati. “And you know what the reason was? Because this business is tougher than the NFL. . . . Their ratings were down 20, 21 percent, and it was because of us.”

It’s not much different than Trump’s comments from October, when he both claimed credit for the dip in ratings and blamed Colin Kaepernick for it. The broader point is that the incoming Commander-in-Chief has the platform to make his voice heard, the willingness to say whatever he wants, and a lingering resentment of a billionaire’s club that consistently refused him admission.

Whether it’s making light of the league’s approach to concussions or pointing out the ongoing ratings struggles or anything else, the man who sits on the American throne could become a thorn in the side of America’s most popular sport. While some individual owners enjoy a positive relationship with him, the NFL may need to do some collective kissing of the ring (or some other area of the anatomy) in order to ensure that the next four years won’t include repeated body blows to a sport that some believe is currently being moved in the general direction of the ropes.

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Jarvis Jones knows his immediate future is out of his control

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 6: Wide receiver Chris Moore #10 of the Baltimore Ravens is tackled by outside linebacker Jarvis Jones #95 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 6, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

It seemed apparent that Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones‘ days with the team were drawing nigh. But the former first-round pick may fade away even before his contract expires at the end of the season.

Via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he didn’t want to use a five-man rotation for four outside linebacker spots. And since starters James Harrison and Anthony Chickillo seem entrenched and second-year linebacker Bud Dupree is back, it could be down to Jones and Arthur Moats for the final spot in that rotation.

And unlike Jones, Moats has sacks this year (3.5 of them), along with a contract for 2017.

“Do my job,” Jones said Thursday. “That’s all I can do.”

Jones said he was going to be motivated by the fact the Steelers didn’t pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal. But that hasn’t translated into any tangible results this season (he has 5.0 sacks in four seasons), and he seems to realize it’s out of his control at this point.

“I’ll prepare the same way,” Jones said. “I don’t make those decisions. Coaches do.”

It seems like the Steelers may already have, and Jones’ career with the team that drafted him 17th overall may be slinking to its inevitable end.

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Kareem Jackson plans to appeal fine for unnecessary roughness

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 27:  Kareem Jackson #25 of the Houston Texans hits Dontrelle Inman #15 of the San Diego Chargers and is called for unnecessary roughness in the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium on November 27, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chargers put last Sunday’s game against the Texans away in the fourth quarter when quarterback Philip Rivers hit tight end Hunter Henry with a 12-yard touchdown pass that made the score 21-10 in a game the Chargers would ultimately win 21-13.

That touchdown was set up on the previous play when 15 yards were tacked on to a 25-yard gain by wide receiver Dontrelle Inman after officials called Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson for unnecessary roughness. Jackson came up to hit a stumbling Inman and their interaction ended with Inman’s helmet off.

Jackson said on Thursday that he’s been fined $24,309 for the infraction and that he plans to appeal the penalty.

“No, they didn’t explain it,” Jackson said, via the Houston Chronicle. “Didn’t say launching or anything.”

Jackson has been limited in practice by a hamstring injury both days this week, but appears on track to play against the Packers as the Texans try to remain on top in the AFC South.

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Mario Edwards worked out on grass Thursday

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. #97 of the Oakland Raiders looks on prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on September 3, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Raiders defensive end Mario Edwards hasn’t played in a game yet this season, but the team hasn’t given up hope that he’ll make it back from his hip injury in time to help the team.

Edwards took another step toward that return on Thursday when he worked out on grass for the first time in the rehab process. Edwards posted a video of that work on Instagram and General Manager Reggie McKenzie said “hopefully he’ll graduate” to the next step soon. If he does and the Raiders designate him to return, there will be a three-week window for Edwards to practice with the team before they have to decide on adding him to the active roster.

Edwards wasn’t initially expected to be out for this long, but McKenzie said that the team has been working with Edwards to ensure he doesn’t experience any other problems.

“It was just a slower process,” McKenzie said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “The one thing you want to be is asymptomatic, even if he’s just doing a little rehab with the trainers. But he wasn’t feeling right, whatever the little twinges of pain or whatever he had. We just scaled back from that particular rehab process. So it was all on him on how he felt. The injury is healed now.”

Edwards isn’t the only potential addition to the defense for the Raiders. Linebacker Aldon Smith is eligible to be reinstated from suspension, but McKenzie said Thursday that the team still hasn’t heard anything from the league on that front.

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Jets OC: “The sky’s the limit” for Christian Hackenberg

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 1: Christian Hackenberg #5 of the New York Jets throws a pass in the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on September 1, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Jets have floundered about at quarterback this season, the guy they spent a second-round pick on hasn’t been a factor at all.

But Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey objected to classifying rookie quarterback Christian Hackenberg as a “mystery,” and offered what amounts to the most vigorous defense to date of a guy who has become an afterthought behind Ryan Fitzpatrick and Bryce Petty.

“I don’t like that word,” Gailey said, via Daniel Popper of the New York Daily News. “I think he’s a developmental player at this point. There’s a lot of talent there. The sky’s the limit.”

The Jets are as curious about his potential as anyone, but since he’s third on the depth chart, he gets so few reps in practice that they can’t accurately measure his progress.

“He gets scout team reps and that’s what he gets,” Gailey said. “He gets the pre-practice individual throws. He’s learning every day about when to throw the ball, how to throw the ball. Up here it’s different than it is in college. He’s learning a great deal.

“To me, he’s gotten better every week. He understands the game better. He understands the defenses better. He understands protections better. That’s all a part of the growth process.”

And the Jets seem content to wait to see the growth at another time, rather than rolling him out in a lost season.

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Friday morning one-liners

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 13:   Melvin Gordon #28 of the San Diego Chargers runs the ball during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Qualcomm Stadium on November 13, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills WR Robert Woods believes he will play again this season.

The Dolphins defense is “inconsistent” according to defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.

TE Martellus Bennett is looking at an expanded role for the Patriots.

Former Jets teammates of the late Joe McKnight responded to news of his death.

Ravens LB Terrell Suggs has had some good fourth quarters this season.

Marvin Lewis coached against Doug Pederson when Pederson was a player and now he’ll coach against him when the Eagles play the Bengals.

The Browns chose CB Joe Haden as their team winner of the Ed Block Courage Award.

TE Ladarius Green has been working into the Steelers offense slowly.

The Texans are familiarizing themselves with the pistol looks used by the Packers.

The Colts need their wide receivers to win their battles on the outside.

LB Paul Posluszny has played well during another down season for the Jaguars.

Titans WR Rishard Matthews wrote about his path to the NFL.

Last Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs was a low point for the Broncos special teams units.

De’Anthony Thomas has found a home on special teams for the Chiefs.

Thursday was another full practice for Raiders QB Derek Carr.

Chargers RB Melvin Gordon and his blockers are shooting for an 1,000-yard season.

Said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett of a late scramble and slide by QB Dak Prescott on Thursday night, “I thought it was an amazing football play to do what he did. The awareness. He knew the situation. He didn’t want to throw the ball away to stop the clock. He captures the edge. Some how he has the wherewithal to stay to try to stay in bounds in this situation. Those plays happen fast.”

Giants coach Ben McAdoo will be close to his hometown this weekend, although he says it’s not on his mind.

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz shared his thoughts on the Eagles defense’s poor outing in Green Bay.

The Redskins offensive line has improved over the course of the season.

A breakdown of how Bears QB Matt Barkley fared in his first start for the team.

The Lions are evaluating their options at left guard.

Packers LB Clay Matthews got advice from Brian Cushing about playing inside linebacker.

P Jeff Locke had a rough Thursday night for the Vikings.

The Falcons won’t slow down their offense to give their defense more time to rest.

A look at how Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin has responded in his return from a torn ACL.

The Saints are well aware of how often the Lions have come back for wins this season.

Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy just wants to let his emotions out.

Said Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, “We’ve had mental errors in the past, but they are showing up at more inopportune times this year. It’s cost us a great deal.”

Rams QB Jared Goff is looking forward to being on the same field with Tom Brady.

DT Chris Jones impressed in his first game for the 49ers.

Seahawks S Earl Thomas stayed in Seattle with a hamstring injury last week, so he watched the game at Buffalo Wild Wings.

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Cam Newton dismisses Richard Sherman’s “karma” comment

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 27:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers looks on against the Oakland Raiders during their NFL game on November 27, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Well, it beats talking about the Panthers themselves, at least.

The controversy du jour for the defending NFC champions who have fallen to 4-7 started when Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said their fade was “karma” for Cam Newton wadding up a Seattle fan’s 12 flag after last year’s divisional playoff game in Charlotte.

So when asked about it Thursday, Newton answered with the seriousness that this story deserves.

“Where was the flag at? Was it at our house?” Newton asked rhetorically, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “Oh, OK. It’s irrelevant what he says right now. I have a lot of respect for Richard and I don’t think that has nothing to do with karma that another opposing team’s flag was in my stadium. Simple.”

Of course, Panthers coach Ron Rivera also saw the Sherman remarks for what they likely were, a shiny object in the middle of the week before a game that lacks the sizzle it had when the schedule was released.

“He knows that doing that could create a diversion more so than anything else,” Rivera said. “I don’t know if that’s got anything to do with karma as much as Richard Sherman’s a smart guy and just trying to create a little something.”

While their meeting on Sunday Night Football may not have playoff implications, it also doesn’t need extra spice. The two similarly built squads have played some epic games in recent years, with five of the six games they’ve played with Newton and quarterback decided by a touchdown or less.

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Brandin Cooks confirms frustration; “closed mouths don’t get fed”

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 16:  Brandin Cooks #10 of the New Orleans Saints catches the ball for a first down against the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 16, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks didn’t have a pass thrown his way in last week’s win against the Rams, which led to a report that Cooks has been frustrated by his role in the team’s offense.

Cooks confirmed as much on Thursday, calling football an emotional game and saying that sometimes you have to express those emotions because “closed mouths don’t get fed.” Cooks went on to say that his frustration is “not coming from a selfish standpoint.”

“It’s one of those things, as a competitor, I was frustrated. But at the same time, our offense was moving the ball and we won the game, so that was the bright side of it,” Cooks said, via ESPN.com. “I’m just thinking from a competition standpoint, I always want to help, I feel like, and I necessarily didn’t that game. I feel like from my mindset, when I touch the ball, things happen, and I just want to help my team in that way.”

Saints coach Sean Payton said he wasn’t concerned by any frustration because Cooks’ shutout was a result of coverages rather than the team’s desire to avoid throwing him the ball. Cooks said he got the same message from quarterback Drew Brees, although he added that he still wants “that opportunity to find a way even though I’m being double-covered” so there may still be a slight difference in the way the receiver believes things should work in the Saints offense.

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NFL re-evaluating Thursday night scheduling procedures

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 24:   Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys rushes the ball during the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium on November 24, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL says it is “fully committed” to the continuation of a slate of Thursday night games despite complaints about the short turnaround for teams playing the previous Sunday, but it does appear that they are open to changing one of the more onerous scheduling possibilities.

NFL vice president of football operations Troy Vincent told the Associated Press that the league is looking at their scheduling procedures in hopes of avoiding having teams play on Sunday night before traveling to play on Thursday. The Redskins were in that position on Thanksgiving with the added fun of playing on Thursday afternoon in Dallas.

“That’s tough, and we’ll have to look at that,” Vincent said. “Ideally, that’s not something that we would like to have.”

Redskins coach Jay Gruden complained about the schedule for his team last week and called rethinking the approach to scheduling a “no-brainer.”

“The recovery time for these players after a physical football game needs to be more than what we got. And then you throw a plane ride in on top of it, it makes it pretty difficult,” Gruden said. “It can be done because we did it. But I think the schedule maker should really look at that and not put somebody in that predicament again.”

Vincent said the league would like to have teams playing in the early afternoon slot on Sunday before playing on Thursday whether they are on the road or not for the second game.

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Report: Chargers ready to exercise L.A. option “barring a miracle”

Spanos Getty Images

The city of San Diego is running out of time if it wants to keep the Chargers, and may need to start drawing up Hail Marys. If it wants to keep the team, of course.

According to Jim Trotter of ESPN, the Chargers are expected to exercise the team’s option to move to Los Angeles “barring a miracle.”

Well, Festivus is right around the corner.

The deadline for Chargers owner Dean Spanos to apply to the league for relocation is Jan. 15, 2017, and since the team has shelved any stadium talks with the city for the rest of the season after a potential franchise-saving ballot measure failed badly (getting just 43 percent of the needed 66.7), that doesn’t leave the city very much time to come up with something if it wants the team to stay.

“Dean has said that he wants everyone to be able to focus on the remainder of the Chargers’ season, and so [he] won’t be making any final decisions until after the season is over,” said Chargers stadium point man Mark Fabiani. “That hasn’t changed.”

Of course, there’s still the matter of the Chargers cutting a deal with the Rams for the ability to share their new stadium in Inglewood, which is a solution that seems to please no one.

And this news also serves as a last-ditch signal to the city, that if it ever wants to see professional football beyond the three remaining home games this year, that now is the time to figure something out. That puts the onus on a local government which has been so far unwilling to bend over backward for the team, rather than the team itself.

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Mike Priefer thankful for substitute head coaching opportunity, hopeful for Mike Zimmer return

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 1: Minnesota Vikings interim head coach Mike Priefer shakes hands with Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett after the game on December 1, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Cowboys defeated the Vikings 17-15. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer had approximately 24 hours notice that he may be called upon for substitute head coaching duty for Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. General manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer elected to put Priefer in charge when it became necessary for Zimmer to miss the game following emergency eye surgery on Wednesday night.

Though Zimmer met with the team on Thursday morning after surgery, he stayed home to rest as Priefer was given control against the Cowboys.

“He wanted to be there, obviously. It was tough for him not to be there and he let the team know that,” Priefer said following the game Thursday night. ” … It was difficult for him to do but I’m proud of him that he stood up there and told the team what he had to tell them. I think he did the right thing. I know he’s stubborn and tough, but at the end of the day your eye, you could lose the use of your eye, that’s crazy. So I’m glad he stayed home and, again, I wish we could have done more and got him a victory.”

The Vikings lost 17-15 but had a chance to tie the game on a two-point conversion in the closing stages only to have Sam Bradford’s pass fly through the end zone and a missed roughing the passer penalty going uncalled.

Priefer said he spoke with Zimmer about logistics surrounding the game Thursday morning.

“I think you kind of hopefully have been preparing for your whole career,” Priefer said. “Learning, understanding the game. I appreciate what Rick and coach Zimmer did giving me this opportunity to help our football team win tonight. Obviously, I didn’t do my part. We didn’t get it done.”

Zimmer has a follow-up appointment on Friday with doctors but his status moving forward is not yet known. Priefer said he will be prepared to fill-in again should Zimmer need more time to recuperate. However, the Vikings will have 10 days before their next game, which could allow Zimmer the time needed to heal and return to work.

“I hope so. I hope I’m not needed in that capacity,” Priefer said. “Looks to me like I’ve got my work cut out for me with special teams but if Rick and coach Zimmer think we need another week for him to keep healing then obviously I would love to do it. I would be honored to do it.”

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Witten’s streak of 130 straight games with a catch snapped

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 20:   Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys runs after catching a pass during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at AT&T Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cowboys tight end Jason Witten did not catch a pass in Thursday night’s 17-15 win over the Vikings, ending Witten’s streak of 130 games with a reception.

Witten still made one of the game’s most important plays when he recovered the Vikings’ onside kick with 24 seconds left, sealing the Cowboys’ 11th straight victory.

The last time Witten didn’t catch a pass in game was Nov. 2, 2008 against the Giants. So, he had an impressive run.

Those records really don’t mean anything,” Witten told reporters after the game. “I still have a lot of confidence in my ability and feel I can play at a high level. A big part of that is making catches but it’s just one of those games. Those things happen. You go through it. It’s not on one particular situation. That’s just the way the game went.

“I’m thankful and excited to be 11-1, much more than having a catch.”

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Harrison Smith in walking boot, on crutches following loss to Cowboys

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 18:  Safety Harrison Smith #22 of the Minnesota Vikings warms up prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on August 18, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith has been dealing with an ankle injury the last few weeks. It appears as though the injury may have been exacerbated during Thursday night’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Via Tom Pelissero of USA Today, Smith had a walking boot on his left foot and was on crutches in the locker room after the game.

Smith has been listed on the injury report for the Vikings each of the last two weeks. Smith finished the game against Dallas with five tackles – including one tackle for loss – and a quarterback hit on Dak Prescott.

Smith has played in every game for Minnesota so far this season.

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Which sub-.500 team is most likely to make the playoffs?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 28:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers and  Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles talk after the game at Lincoln Financial Field on November 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the unluckiest of weeks begins in the NFL, which team down on its luck so far this season will be getting lucky in Week 17?

The PFT Live question of the day asks which team with a sub-.500 record is most likely to make it to the playoffs.

Cast a ballot, add a comment, and then tune in for Friday’s edition of PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio and NBCSN, with visits from Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry, former NFL head coach Eric Mangini, and Tom Curran of CSN New England.

The radio show begins at 6:00 a.m. ET, and the simulcast commences at 7:00 a.m. ET.

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Vikings score first, lead 3-0

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 1: Jarius Wright #17 of the Minnesota Vikings and Charles Johnson #12on field during pregame warmups before facing the Dallas Cowboys on December 1, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

A 48-yard field goal by Kai Forbath late in the first quarter has given the Vikings a 3-0 lead over the Cowboys in the first quarter.

The Vikings thought they’d recovered a fumble deep in Cowboys’ territory prior to the field goal drive, but it was overturned on review. A holding penalty on Alex Boone negated a third-down conversion run by Zach Line just prior to the field goal.

The Cowboys struggled to sustain offense on their first two drives, but Ezekiel Elliott got 29 yards on his first six carries.

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