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Von Miller named AFC defensive player of the month

FILE- In this Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, file photo, Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller celebrates after a win over the Indianapolis Colts in an NFL football game in Denver.  The Broncos' star pass rusher has four sacks already, including the game-sealing strip of Andrew Luck that was reminiscent of his mammoth hits in the Super Bowl when he snatched the football and the Lombardi Trophy from Cam Newton's grasp. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney, File) AP

It might not be a Super Bowl MVP or a giant contract, but Von Miller keeps stacking up the honors.

The Broncos outside linebacker was named AFC defensive player of the month, after another strong start to the season.

Miller has a league-high five sacks in the Broncos’ first three games.

But four of those sacks have come in fourth quarters, adding to his reputation as a game-changer.

Of course, that was pretty well established already, and the reason the Broncos gave him a six-year, $114.5 million contract this offseason.

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Matt Ryan named NFC offensive player of the month

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 23: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons runs out on the field prior to the game against the Cleveland Browns at Georgia Dome on November 23, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

There are still questions about whether the Falcons have enough defense to contend in the NFC South.

But their offense is back on track, thanks to quarterback Matt Ryan.

Ryan was named NFC offensive player of the month for September, a strong bounce-back month for a team that collapsed after a 5-0 start in 2015.

Ryan completed 73-of-103 passes in September, for 970 yards, seven touchdowns, and just one interception. His 119.0 rating is highest among all NFC quarterbacks.

Things will get tougher for them as they host the Panthers this weekend, but Ryan has been on a bit of a roll leading the Falcons to back-to-back wins over the Raiders and Saints.

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LeGarrette Blount named AFC offensive player of the month

New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount rushes for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) AP

In August, there was some reason to wonder if LeGarrette Blount was even going to make the Patriots’ roster.

Today, it’s hard to imagine where they’d be without him.

The veteran running back was named AFC offensive player of the month for September, a reward for the league’s leading rusher.

Blount has topped 100 yards the last two games, helping to fill in the cracks for a team playing without its starting quarterback (Tom Brady) and with an injured backup (Jimmy Garoppolo). His work’s a lot of the reason they can play a rookie (Jacoby Brissett) on a short week’s preparation and still be 3-0.

He has 75 carries for 295 yards and four touchdowns so far this season.

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Osweiler: J.J. Watt absence changes nothing for offense

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 11: Brock Osweiler #17 of the Houston Texans calls an audible against the Chicago Bears in the second half at NRG Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Houston, Texas. Texans won 23 to 14. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

With Texans defensive end J.J. Watt on injured reserve and gone for at least eight weeks, the obvious reaction has become that the team’s offense needs to do more. The new leader of the Houston offense doesn’t necessarily agree with that.

“I don’t think anything changes offensively now that the news of J.J. going on IR has come out,” Brock Osweiler told reporters on Wednesday. “Bottom line, we need to score points. We need to score a lot of them. We knew that whether he was put on IR or not. There’s been a great focus on that. I think Monday in practice we came out, we had a really good day. I think today was a little bit better and I hope that the rest of the week keeps getting better and better because we know we need to do our part offensively. I think the defense has done a tremendous job this year through the first three games. Now it’s time for the offense to step up as a unit, finish drives, score points, protect the football and do our part of the deal.”

He’s right; the offense needs to keep doing what it’s been doing. If it tries to do even more, it just won’t work, in the same way it didn’t work last Thursday.

That shutout loss to the Patriots was only Osweiler’s 10th career start. Osweiler addressed the question of whether his big-picture lack of experience should be a factor in the assessment of his performance.

“I don’t think — in fact, I know for a fact — I don’t use my lack of starts as an excuse for anything,” Osweiler said. “I expect myself to play at an extremely high level. I have great confidence in my abilities and what I can do and I have great confidence in the teammates around me to help me do my job. I’m never going to use my lack of starts for an excuse or say ‘I’ll figure it out eventually’ or anything like that. Bottom line, I expect to play at an extremely high level and an extremely high level right now.”

The Texans will need it. An impaired defense puts more pressure on an offense, giving the offense less desirable field position and fewer turnovers.

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Vontaze Burfict raring to go on Thursday night

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 09:  Vontaze Burfict #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals reacts in the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bengals cornerback Adam Jones said after last Sunday’s loss to the Broncos that part of the reason that the team is not panicking about a 1-2 start is that tight end Tyler Eifert and linebacker Vontaze Burfict are returning to the lineup.

It looks like the wait for Eifert will extend at least another week after he was listed as doubtful to play against the Dolphins on Thursday night, but the wait for Burfict is coming to an end.

On Sirius XM NFL Radio Thursday morning, coach Marvin Lewis said that Burfict is “raring to go” after serving a three-game suspension and will be in the lineup against Miami. Lewis said he wasn’t sure how much Burfict will play after three weeks off and a short week leading into this game, but that he “raises the level” of everyone on the team so they’ll probably be looking for as many spots to get him in as they can.

When Burfict is in the game, people will be paying close attention to how he conducts himself after serving a suspension for a series of hits that the league felt violated the rules governing player safety. Should Burfict not be able to avoid those hits, a longer suspension and the Bengals will have to think about looking elsewhere for a player who can raise their level without crossing the line.

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After argument with mechanic, Mike Tolbert pays tab in change

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 03:  Mike Tolbert #35 of the Carolina Panthers is introduced during their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert felt like he was being shortchanged by a local auto shop.

So when he paid them, he did it in change.

According to David Newton of ESPN.com, Tolbert resolved a squabble with a mechanic by paying his $3,900 bill in coins.

“They was upset,” Tolbert said. “If you had to count basically four grand in coins you’d be upset too, but they got what they asked for.”

The situation began with a dispute over some work Tolbert wanted done on a classic car. He and Motion Lab Tuning went back and forth at each other on social media, with Tolbert claiming he was quoted a 10-day repair and a certain price, only to be billed a higher amount two months later when the work wasn’t completed. He referred to them as “crooks” on his Instagram account.

That caused the shop to reply on Facebook, saying Tolbert wanted them to do the work for free, calling him “a real scumbag that doesn’t want to pay his bills.”

Tolbert said he initially tried to write a check, but the owner wouldn’t accept it.

“So what kind of respectable establishment won’t take a check?” Tolbert said. “They said they won’t take my check, it wasn’t going to clear the bank. I was like, ‘Whew! You’re throwing shots. So I’ve got one for you.’

“So I went to the bank and got $3,900 in coins. It was pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters … everything. I didn’t care one bit. I took a truck load of it and put it right there where he wanted it, and got my truck towed back to my buddy’s shop.”

The moral of the story is: Don’t nickel-and-dime Mike Tolbert, unless you want the same kind of treatment in return.

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Chargers left tackle King Dunlap has migraine, not concussion

kingdunlap AP

Chargers coach Mike McCoy knew what it sounded like, so he acted quickly to head off any speculation.

According to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Chargers left tackle King Dunlap’s absence from practice was described as his “being treated for migraines.”

This is not linked to concussions,” McCoy said. “It’s migraines.”

The question was reasonable, as Dunlap has some history of head injuries (at least four documented since 2012).

He was a late scratch last week against the Colts with what the team termed “an illness,” after being on and off the practice field, which raised questions about his status. The Chargers termed him day-to-day last week.

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Eli Manning unfazed by past struggles against Vikings

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants drops back to pass against the Washington Redskins during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 25, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

If you remove the other teams in the NFC East from the equation, Giants quarterback Eli Manning has faced the Vikings more often than any other team in the league.

Those outings have generally not gone well for Manning. He has a career passer rating of 54.8 in seven starts against Minnesota with five touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Five of those interceptions have been brought back for touchdowns, so there have been quite a few horrors for Manning against the team he’ll be facing next Monday night.

Manning wasn’t interested in answering questions about those past games on Wednesday, saying “only the next one” matters before making a labored attempt at humor when asked if the Vikings have his number.

“I don’t think, ah, I don’t think anybody has my phone number on the Vikings,” Manning said, via the New York Post. “Maybe Linval [Joseph], I’m not sure. I’m trying to think if I have anybody’s number. Maybe somebody, I’m sure. Bradford! I think I got Sam Bradford’s number. He’s got my number. I can’t think of anybody else’s off hand. I’ll look in my phone and get back to you on that one.”

This Vikings defense should make it tough for Manning to break with the past. They’ve forced nine turnovers through three games while the Giants have given the ball away seven times, a set of numbers that probably don’t make Manning chuckle as much as his other number routine.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Bills are totally fine with not seeing Tom Brady this week.

The Dolphins have ruled out four starters for tonight’s game.

Wait, wasn’t this the four-game stretch in which the Patriots were being punished?

Jets coach Todd Bowles isn’t concerned about CB Darrelle Revis‘ ankle.

Former Ravens G Kelechi Osemele said he was never particularly close to a return in free agency.

The Bengals have gotten used to adjusting on the fly on defense.

Browns CB Joe Haden was limited in practice and may not play this week.

Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell figures to get plenty of work as a pass-catcher upon his return.

No J.J. Watt could mean more double-teams for Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney.

Not a single F’ing Colts fan has complained about their announcer’s on-air slip.

The Jaguars are trying to get LB Myles Jack on the field more often.

Titans QB Marcus Mariota hasn’t faced J.J. Watt yet, and he won’t this year.

The Broncos are on the verge of a milestone for owner Pat Bowlen.

Chiefs CB Marcus Peters had a good week, except for getting the flu.

Raiders WR Michael Crabtree has become a steadying presence.

The Chargers injury report is kind of a horror novel.

The Cowboys think they’re deep enough at WR to survive the absence of Dez Bryant.

Giants QB Eli Manning deadpanned his way through a question about the Vikings having his number.

Eagles QB Carson Wentz, still accurate during the bye week.

Washington wants to run more than the team has shown so far this season.

The Bears’ problem on defense isn’t complicated (and that’s the problem).

The Lions are still missing two key defensive pieces.

The Packers have plenty to work on during the bye week.

Vikings LT T.J. Clemmings is making strides.

The Falcons are making the time-share backfield work.

The Panthers were only missing RB Jonathan Stewart and DT Vernon Butler in practice yesterday.

Saints S Kenny Vaccaro expects to play this week.

The Buccaneers want to give QB Jameis Winston more help with their run game.

The Cardinals need to be able to trust their leaders to bring along young players.

The Rams have shown some ability to make big plays.

49ers coach Chip Kelly said it’s Colin Kaepernick’s play, not his health, that’s keeping him out of the lineup.

Seahawks OL coach Tom Cable said his group just needs to grow.

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Eric Decker will “probably” have MRI on injured shoulder

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 15:   Eric Decker #87 of the New York Jets is brought down by  Kevon Seymore #29 of the Buffalo Bills
 during the second half at New Era Field on September 15, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets may need to add a receiver to the roster ahead of Sunday’s game against the Seahawks.

Eric Decker was held out of practice on Wednesday due to a shoulder injury. Decker has been dealing with the issue for a little while and aggravated it against the Chiefs last Sunday, leading coach Todd Bowles to say that the wideout will “probably” have an MRI to assess the extent of the injury.

Decker was able to play last week without a lot of practice time, leaving Bowles to hold off on making a call about his chances of playing this week.

“Not sure yet,” Bowles said in comments distributed by the team. “Anybody that doesn’t practice, I’m concerned about. He came back last week without practicing, so we just have to wait and see.”

If Decker is down, the Jets will be short on wideouts because rookie Jalin Marshall will be out a couple of weeks with a shoulder injury of his own. The Jets have Quincy Enunwa and rookies Robby Anderson and Charone Peake behind Brandon Marshall and Decker, leaving Bowles to say that they may have to make a roster move to round out the group.

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Washington thinking about sitting Josh Doctson to get him healthy

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) breaks up a pass intended for Washington Redskins wide receiver Josh Doctson (18) in the end zone during the second half of an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) AP

Washington rookie wide receiver Josh Doctson is still bothered by a lingering injury, and coach Jay Gruden admitted he was “very” concerned about it and may have to shut Doctson down for a few weeks.

“We’ve had all of the tests, and there is really nothing there that we should be concerned about from a long-term problem,” Gruden said, via John Keim of ESPN.com. “It’s just, he is dealing with some pain. We don’t know why it is, but we have to try and figure out what it is and get it fixed.

“It could be a possibility or a time that we put him down for a couple more weeks or a couple more days like we’re taking him off today, probably sit him down tomorrow and see if that helps a little bit.”

Their first-rounder didn’t play last week, after feeling something in his left foot during pregame warmups. He didn’t practice yesterday.

Doctson initially injured his foot during OTAs in May, and didn’t practice again until the start of the regular season, citing Achilles soreness. He played the first two games, catching one pass for 57 yards.

“We keep thinking he’s getting better, and he keeps teasing us running out there, making a great catch and looking good,” Gruden said, “and then the next day he gets sore. . . .

“This is new to everybody, and the key is to get him healthy. We are not trying to rush him. We are just trying to see how he feels each day. If he can go, he goes, and if not, he doesn’t. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”

Washington’s fortunate to have a deep enough receiving corps to survive it, but Doctson’s status has become something they constantly have to monitor, which has to be frustrating for any team.

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Aqib Talib says he’s “a lot more mature” than his Tampa Bay days

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 25:  Aqib Talib #21 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 29-17 at Paul Brown Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib has made plenty of plays in his career.

But when he was in Tampa Bay, he made mostly headlines, and the wrong kind.

Older now, he said fans who remember him there will see a different person than the ones the Buccaneers gave away for pennies on the dollar in 2012.

“The biggest thing that changed is I’m 30 years old now,” Talib said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “A lot older. A lot more mature. A lot more professional, I would say. It’s simply football. It means a lot to just be accomplishing goals and in football to be a Super Bowl champ, to tie Deion Sanders for interceptions for touchdowns. Man, it’s a blessing to be successful in the game that I love.”

The reference to Sanders was in regards to tying the legendary cornerback for fourth on the all-time interceptions returned for touchdowns list with his Week Two pick-six aganst the Colts. It was his ninth, tying him with Sanders and Hall of Famers Aeneas Williams and Ken Houston. The record is 12 by Rod Woodson, while Charles Woodson and Darren Sharper have 11 each. That’s the kind of company Talib keeps on the field. But the Bucs remember a different player.

The 2012 season included a suspension for what he claims was Adderall, which was sort of a final straw which led the Bucs to trade him and a seventh-round pick to the Patriots for a fourth-rounder. That came after he hit a teammate at the rookie symposium, swung his helmet at a teammate, assaulted a taxi driver, and was involved in a fight with his sister’s boyfriend which included a gun being pulled.

“I would tell my younger self to start early, man,” Talib said. “Don’t wait until Year 4 or Year 5 to start watching the film and start really being a professional football player. Just start early, and who knows where I could be today if I would’ve started early.”

Of course, for all his maturity, there’s still the small matter of being shot in the leg this offseason at a Dallas nightclub, though there were no charges and no league punishment for that one (since nobody’s talking).

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Ben Roethlisberger impressed by “phenomenal player” Marcus Peters

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 06:  Marcus Peters #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs warms up prior to playing the Kansas City Chiefs in their NFL game at O.co Coliseum on December 6, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

It may only be Marcus Peters‘ second season in the NFL, but he’s already made an impression on Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger will face Peters for the first time this Sunday. Even though the Steelers faced the Kansas City Chiefs last year, Roethlisberger didn’t play due to injury. Landry Jones started instead for the Steelers.

Nevertheless, Peters has left a mark on Big Ben.

He catches every ball that is thrown his way. What a phenomenal player,” Roethlisberger said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star.

“Offensive guys always make fun of defensive players — they play defense because they can’t catch. Well, he can catch everything. It hits him in the hands, he catches it. It bounces in the air, he catches it.

“The way that he reads routes, the way that he jumps routes, it just seems like he almost has the team’s offensive playbook.”

Peters is coming off AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors after intercepting Ryan Fitzpatrick twice last Sunday against the New York Jets. He’s already compiled 12 career interceptions and 33 passes defended in 19 career games with the Chiefs.

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Seahawks waive Terrence Magee to clear space for C.J. Spiller

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 13: Terrence Magee #30 of the Baltimore Ravens warms up against the New Orleans Saints during a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium on August 13, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the addition of former New Orleans Saints running back C.J. Spiller on Thursday evening, the Seattle Seahawks needed to free up a roster spot.

To do so, they waived running back Terrence Magee.

Magee was signed from Seattle’s practice squad to their 53-man roster on Saturday with Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise both unable to play against the San Francisco 49ers.

Magee played limited snaps in the game and rushed for 12 yards on three carries.

Rawls is expected to miss several weeks with a cracked fibula. Prosise has a cracked bone in his wrist that has kept him from playing the last two weeks and will take several more weeks to fully heal.

Spiller’s addition gives Seattle an immediate option as a third-down back to pair with Christine Michael until the rest of their running backs can get back to full strength.

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President Obama elaborates on NFL anthem protests

President Barack Obama pauses during a break in taping of a CNN town hall meeting with CNN news anchor Jake Tapper, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, in Fort Lee, Va., with members of the military community. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) AP

During a Presidential Town Hall that aired Wednesday night on CNN, President Barack Obama faced a variety of questions from service members and their families. One member of the armed services asked a pointed question about the ongoing anthem protests happening during football games.

“Mr. President,” said First Lieutenant James Sutter, “we honor those who have given deep meaning to the phrase ‘home of the brave’ by making the ultimate sacrifice for the land of the free.  Lately, some players in the NFL have been choosing to take a knee during the national anthem, a time which I believe should be reserved to respect our service members.  As Commander-in-Chief, how do you feel about those NFL players choosing this typically respected time to voice their opinions?”

“As I’ve said before, I believe that us honoring our flag and our anthem is part of what binds us together as a nation,” President Obama said. “And I think that for me, for my family, for those who work in the White House, we recognize what it means to us, but also what it means to the men and women who are fighting on our behalf. But I’m also always trying to remind folks that part of what makes this country special is that we respect people’s rights to have a different opinion and to make different decisions about how they want to express their concerns. And the test of our fidelity to our Constitution, to freedom of speech, to our Bill of Rights is not when it’s easy, but when it’s hard. We fight sometimes so that people can do things that we disagree with, but that’s what freedom means in this country.

“My hope would be that as this debate surfaces, we’re always reminding ourselves that in a democracy like ours, there are gonna be a lot of folks who do stuff that we just don’t agree with. But as long as they’re doing it within the law, then we can voice our opinion objecting to it, but it’s also their right.

“And I think that it’s also important for us to recognize that sometimes out of these controversies we start getting into a conversation, and I want everybody to listen to each other. So I want Mr. Kaepernick and others who are on a knee, I want them to listen to the pain that that may cause somebody who for example had a spouse or a child who was killed in combat and why it hurts them to see somebody not standing. But I also want people to think about the pain that he may be expressing about somebody who’s lost a loved one that they think was unfairly shot.

“And one of the things I always say about American democracy is that it can be frustrating but it’s the best system we got. The only way that we make it work is to see each other, listen to each other, try to be respectful of each other, not just go into separate corners. And I do hope that anybody who’s trying to express any political view of any sort understands that they do so under the blanket of protection of our men and women in uniform, and that that appreciation of that sacrifice is never lost.”

It sounds good in theory, but it’s hardly an accurate reflection of modern political discourse, where middle grounds are never acknowledged, and where so many people have a hardened belief that their view is correct and anyone who disagrees with them is stupid, corrupt, and/or un-American.

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