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Thursday morning one-liners

Stevie Johnson AP

Bills WR Stevie Johnson could be at a crossroads.

The Dolphins are turning over every stone for CB help.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski wouldn’t talk to reporters, but he seemed in good spirits yesterday.

The Jets were the only New York team to host TE Eric Ebron on a visit.

The Ravens open the season with three division games, including two in a five-day span.

The Bengals are apparently ready for prime time.

Browns NT Phil Taylor is still in the dark as to whether the team will use the fifth-year option on him.

The Steelers are still a prime time fixture, with five night games.

The Texans will get a chance to see former QB Matt Schaub on Sept. 14.

The Colts’ first-round draft pick is already on the roster, and hoping to prove himself worthy.

The Jaguars open with four of their first six games on the road.

The Titans need CB help, according to one expert.

Broncos QB Peyton Manning would make a good gym teacher.

The TE crop in this year’s draft could yield some benefits for the Chiefs.

The Raiders have the league’s toughest schedule by the numbers.

Chargers QB Philip Rivers knows his team will have a tough December.

The Cowboys have one easy option decision to make, and one tougher one.

The Giants are working to develop a Green Bay vibe with their offense.

The Eagles hosted Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

The Redskins are still a prime time draw, with three national appearances.

The Bears figure to draft competition for their third WR spot.

New Lions WR Golden Tate is learning to communicate with QB Matthew Stafford.

The Packers come out of their bye week with four home games in five weeks.

The Vikings will play five open-air games in the final two months of the season.

The Falcons are putting an increased emphasis on run defense.

Former Panthers CB Captain Munnerlyn took a friendly shot at his old teammate DeAngelo Williams.

Saints C Tim Lelito hopes to take the next step this season.

The Buccaneers need more from their defensive line.

The Cardinals got stuck with the early bye week.

Sometimes it’s hard to see a plan with the way the Rams have handled WRs.

The schedule gives 49ers LB NaVorro Bowman a chance to make most of the division games.

Seahawks CB Richard Sherman was part of a discussion on race at Harvard.

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Herschel Walker says he could still play in the NFL, doesn’t rule out teaming up with Trump

Herschel Getty Images

Herschel Walker is 52.  The trade that sent him to Minnesota for a truckload of players and draft picks turns 25 this year.  And Walker says he can still play in the NFL.

That’s what he told Jarrett Bell of USA Today.  But at least Herschel’s delusions of grandeur are, well, somewhat reasonable.

I couldn’t take every snap,” Walker told Bell.  “But running backs nowadays don’t play every down.  Now they send in the choir section. . . .  Physically, I can still do it.”

Walker may have learned how to talk big from the man who once owned his rights with the USFL’s New Jersey Generals.  And Walker said that Donald Trump would be good for the Buffalo Bills and the NFL.

“He would be a great owner, and a credible owner,” Walker said of Trump.  “He may rub some people the wrong way, but you can’t argue with his success as a businessman,” Walker said. “You want an owner with some flair. He knows how to promote.”

Walker’s connection to Trump extends to The Celebrity Apprentice, where Walker was a contestant in 2009.  Walker could end up being Trump’s NFL apprentice; Walker didn’t rule out joining Trump, if Trump buys the Bills.

First, Trump needs to buy the Bills.  Before Trump can buy the Bills, Trump needs to make an offer for the Bills.  Before Trump makes an offer for the Bills, Trump needs to quit talking about making an offer for the Bills and, you know, make an offer for the Bills.

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Ryan Clady: We should be able to make it back to the Super Bowl

Ryan Clady AP

The Broncos advanced to the Super Bowl last season, but left tackle Ryan Clady didn’t get much of a chance to share in the fun.

Clady missed the final 14 regular season games and all of the playoffs with a Lisfranc injury to his left foot, leaving him to serve as spectator and cheerleader as Denver advanced through the AFC. Clady’s expected to be back at speed in time for the regular season and he’s balancing his regret for missing last year with the belief that there’s a pretty good chance that the Broncos can repeat as AFC champs.

“It was definitely tough, not being able to control what was going on out there. It was probably one of the hardest games I have ever watched,” Clady said, via the Denver Post. “It’s part of the game. Injuries happen. … But barring injuries we should have an awesome team, and we should be able to make it back to the Super Bowl.”

Clady joins John Fox, John Elway and other Broncos who have set the bar for the 2014 season at a high level after losing to the Seahawks and grabbing big names in free agency to spruce up the defense. Anything less than a title will be seen as a major disappointment in Denver and there’s plenty of time for them to keep hearing that before the games even start.

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Jacobs family says they’re doing “everything we can” to keep Bills in Buffalo

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There are several reasons why Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs has risen to the top of the list of potential buyers of the Buffalo Bills, running from his Buffalo roots through his current involvement in the sports world and his company Delaware North’s involvement in concessions at several NFL stadiums.

Jacobs released a statement saying that he wouldn’t sell the Bruins to bid on the Bills, an issue raised by the NFL’s ban on owning teams in different sports that play in different cities. It is a rule that Rams owner Stan Kroenke got around by transferring Denver NBA and NHL teams to family members and Jacobs’ son is a principal at Delaware North that could play a similar role if there’s a desire to make a bid.

Jeremy Jacobs Jr. wouldn’t say whether or not there would be a bid, but did say they have spoken with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and others about their interest in keeping the team in Buffalo.

“We are using our resources, our contacts, our relationships to do everything we can to ensure the Bills stay in Buffalo,” Jacobs Jr. said, via the Buffalo News.

There are also gaming interests shunned by the NFL held by the Jacobs family that would need to be dealt with, but, like the cross-sport ownership, they probably can be if the Jacobs’ are motivated to do more than use their contacts and relationships to keep the team where it is.

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Congratulations, your team is going to the Super Bowl

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OK, so you’ve had a night to sleep on your favorite team’s NFL schedule.

And no matter how you feel about it, you probably don’t feel as good as the fine folks who cover your team for ESPN.

The worldwide leader asked its fleet of beat writers to count up wins and losses for each team after last night’s schedule release.

And they came up with a record of 290-222. Which is neat, except mathematically impossible by 34 games, unless they’ve figured out how to let both teams win on Monday Night Football.

No division was more optimistic than the NFC West, which will apparently feature three 12-4 teams (the Seahawks, 49ers and Cardinals).

Granted, the writers operated independently of one another, and it’s an assignment which was given to them by someone else.

But it just goes to show how pointless it is to try to predict wins and losses in April, before the NFL Draft, before injuries hit, before rosters are picked.

Besides, when I picked them, the league went 222-290.

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No grand prize winner in Rams schedule contest

Tennessee Titans v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

The St. Louis Rams were willing to pay a cold, hard $100,000 in cash if someone could correctly guess every aspect of their 2014 schedule before the lineup was officially released on Wednesday evening.

Much like Warren Buffett’s $1 billion contest to correctly predict the outcome of every NCAA Tournament game, the Rams contest also went by the wayside without a grand prize winner.

However, not everyone will walk away empty-handed.

Per a team release, two fans from Jefferson City, Mo. tied for second place and will be offered season tickets for the entirety of the 2014 season.

The contest required fans to pick all 16 games and the bye week in order. It also stipulated that entrants needed to correctly pick the day on which all games will be played.

Four entries had streaks of four consecutive weeks correctly predicted. Only one entry was able to correctly guess as many eight games correct in the week those games will actually be played.

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Nevada sports book makes Eagles biggest favorites of Week One

Chicago Bears v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

About an hour after the regular season schedule was released Wednesday night, the LVH Las Vegas Hotel and Casino had already installed favorites and underdogs for the opening week games.

Jacksonville is the biggest Week One underdog on the LVH SuperBook board. The Eagles are 11-point favorites over the visiting Jaguars in the season opener for both clubs.

No other club is favored by more than a touchdown, and only the Broncos and Bears are favored by more than six points. Denver is a seven-point favorite vs. Indianapolis, while Chicago is a 6.5-point favorite vs. Buffalo.

All but three home teams are favored in Week One. The only home underdogs are the Cowboys (vs. the 49ers), the Buccaneers (vs. the Panthers) and the Dolphins (vs. the Patriots).

Finally, the Seahawks are five-point favorites vs. Green Bay in the opening game of the regular season.

Here are the LVH’s Week One lines:

Thursday, September 4

Green Bay at Seattle (-5)

Sunday, September 7

New Orleans at Atlanta (-2)

Cincinnati at Baltimore (-2.5)

Buffalo at Chicago (-6.5)

Washington at Houston (-2.5)

Tennessee at Kansas City (-5.5)

New England (-3.5) at Miami

Oakland at N.Y. Jets (-4.5)

Jacksonville at Philadelphia (-11)

Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-5)

Minnesota at St. Louis (-5)

San Francisco (-3.5) at Dallas

Carolina (-2.5) at Tampa Bay

Indianapolis at Denver (-7)

Monday, September 8

N.Y. Giants at Detroit (-4)

San Diego at Arizona (-3.5)

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Marcus Trufant set to retire after signing deal with Seahawks

St. Louis Rams v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Cornerback Marcus Trufant is set to retire as a member of the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday after spending the entirety of his 10-year career with his hometown franchise.

The team announced Wednesday that Trufant had re-signed with the team with the intention of announcing his retirement at an 11 a.m. PT press conference on Thursday.

Trufant grew up in nearby Tacoma, Wash. and attended Washington State University. He was selected by the Seahawks with the 11th overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft and played the next 10 seasons with the Seahawks. Trufant was selected to the Pro Bowl and was named a first-team All-Pro in 2007. He racked up 85 tackles and seven interceptions that season for Seattle in his best season as a professional.

The Seahawks made the playoffs seven of Trufant’s 10 seasons on the roster and won the NFC West five times with an appearance in Super Bowl XL in 2005.

Trufant spent time in training camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season before being released. He finishes his career with 644 tackles, 21 interceptions, five forced fumbles and two touchdowns.

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Packers-Saints provide this year’s World Series alternative

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Before 2010, the NFL avoided scheduling Sunday night games on the days reserved for the World Series.  That year, the league decided to challenge baseball directly.

In every year since then, the NFL has scheduled a Sunday night game against the World Series.  This year, the Packers visit the Saints for the Sunday night of Week Eight, against what likely will be Game Four of the World Series.

Then, the next night, the Redskins face the Cowboys in Dallas on Monday Night Football.  The game will be played against what likely will be Game Five of the Fall Classic, which has in recent years taken a back seat to the Boys of Fall.

It’s too bad Mark Cuban never bought a baseball team.

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Rams have a shot at a good start

Tavon Austin AP

In our Week 17 analysis, we mentioned the need for the Rams and Cardinals to stand up to the NFC West’s power duo of Seattle and San Francisco if they are to compete for playoff spots.

Moreover, it would behoove the Rams and Cardinals to start well, too.

For the Rams, a 3-0 record headed into their Week Four bye isn’t an impossible dream. To begin their season, the Rams have home games against Minnesota (Week One) and Dallas (Week Three) and a road trip to Tampa Bay (Week Two). These opponents aren’t pushovers, but they are teams the Rams can defeat on their best. With games at Philadelphia (Week Five) and vs. Seattle and San Francisco (Weeks Six and Seven) right after the bye, St. Louis needs to sock away some early victories.

The Cardinals, like the Rams, get their bye in Week Four. And like St. Louis, Arizona has two home games before the break. The bad news? One of those home games is against San Francisco in Week Three. The Monday-night Week One opener vs. San Diego could be tricky. So could the trip to face the Giants in New Jersey six days later. Then, after the bye, the Cardinals travel to Denver in Week Five.

Many teams’ preseason plans have been ruined by less-than-ideal starts. It’s no different than a bad break in the Kentucky Derby. Sure, talented closers can win after early stumbles, but getting good position right off the bat is preferable.

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Week Nine brings 16th Brady-Manning matchup

Peyton Manning, Tom Brady AP

Death, taxes and Peyton Manning facing off against Tom Brady.

Whether Manning has been with the Colts or the Broncos, annual games against Patriots teams quarterbacked by Tom Brady have been all but certainties since 2001 and, assuming everyone’s healthy, 2014 won’t be any different. The Broncos will travel to New England in Week Nine for a late afternoon matchup at Gillette Stadium.

The Broncos won the last game between the two teams last January in the AFC Championship Game as Manning threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns to send the Broncos. Denver wasn’t so lucky in the regular season meeting with New England when they blew a 24-0 halftime lead and lost 34-31 on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal in overtime.

Brady’s teams have won 10 of the 15 previous meetings with Manning’s clubs and most have been entertaining matchups. With Darrelle Revis, DeMarcus Ware added to the rivalry and Aqib Talib switching sides, this year’s has a good chance of measuring up.

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Collin Klein heads to Canada

Klein Getty Images

Vince Young may not want to go to Canada to continue his football career.  Ditto for Tim Tebow.

Collin Klein has no such qualms.

The former Kansas State star, who was undrafted and overlooked by the NFL last season, has signed a two-year deal with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes.

He joins former NFL receiver Chad Johnson, who signed with the Alouettes last week.

Klein was invited last year to the Texans’ rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, the Texans liked Klein — but not enough to sign him to the 90-man offseason roster.  He has refused to consider playing other positions.  The CFL will give him a chance to show that he can play quarterback at the professional level.

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Chris Johnson returns to Tennessee in Week 15

Chris Johnson AP

Wednesday night’s schedule release told us the dates and times of games during the 2014 regular season, but we already knew which games would be road contests because of the system the NFL uses to decide opponents from year to year.

Because of that, we knew that running back Chris Johnson would face his former teammates at some point this season. And now we know that the game will come in Week 15 when the Jets travel to Nashville for a 4:05 date with the Titans.

By that point in the year, we’ll have a pretty good idea if the Jets’ decision to sign Johnson paid off handsomely or not. If it did, there’s a pretty good chance that the meeting will have playoff implications for the Jets and the Titans could also find themselves in the mix for a playoff spot if things break right in Ken Whisenhunt’s first year as head coach,

The Titans beat the Jets 38-13 at LP Field in Week Four last season. It wasn’t that game that convinced the Jets to sign Johnson as he was held to 21 yards on 15 carries while Jake Locker threw three touchdown passes before leaving with an injury.

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Bears, Cowboys play on back to back Thursdays

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When the NFL decided to expand the post-Week One Thursday night package to 14 games and to play three games on Thanksgiving, a potential competitive disadvantage was created.  With 17 total short-week games, two teams potentially would be playing twice on a Sunday and then on a Thursday.

The NFL avoided that problem by scheduling two of the teams that will play on Thanksgiving to play on the following Thursday.

The Cowboys, who host the Eagles on Thanksgiving, and the Bears, who travel to Detroit on Thanksgiving, will play in Chicago on the following Thursday.

Some players complain about playing Thursday games after playing on Sunday.  Others like it, citing a less intense week of work before the Thursday game and a mini-bye on the back end.  For the Cowboys and Bears, their mini-bye will be delayed by a week, which is more fair than expecting two of the NFL teams to twice play a pair of games with only three days of rest.

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Week 17 matchups: Raiders hoping to be in on the drama this time

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Getty Images

As per recent custom, the NFL has scheduled 16 divisional games for the final Sunday of the 2014 regular season.

Here is the entire slate of Week 17 games to be played on December 28, with a quick initial take on each of the contests. The NFL will “flex” one of these games to be televised on NBC on the final Sunday of 2014:

1 p.m. Eastern games

Carolina at Atlanta — The Panthers swept this series a season ago.

Cleveland at Baltimore — The Browns haven’t won a season finale since 2009.

Dallas at Washington — The Cowboys have played for the NFC East title in regular season game No. 256 in each of the last three seasons.

Indianapolis at Tennessee — The Titans hope to play beyond the final regular season game for the first time since 2008.

Detroit at Green Bay — The teams haven’t met in Green Bay in a season finale since 2011. Does the term “The Matt Flynn Game” mean anything to you?

Jacksonville at Houston — The Jaguars have lost their last seven Week 17 road games dating back to 2005.

San Diego at Kansas City — These teams played two competitive, enjoyable games a season ago.

N.Y. Jets at Miami —  Both teams are clearly under pressure to pick it up in 2014. This seems like it will be an interesting matchup no matter the circumstances.

Chicago at Minnesota — Don’t forget — the Metrodome is gone, and these teams are meeting outdoors in Minneapolis on the last Sunday in December. Snow game? Yes — yes, please.

Buffalo at New England — The Patriots have been quite skilled at taking care of business before Week 17 commences.

Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants — The Giants finish at home for the fourth straight year. They are 3-0 in those season finales.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh — This figures to be a bear of a game for the Bengals no matter the circumstances. Cincinnati faltered in its trip to Heinz Field a season ago.

New Orleans at Tampa Bay — The Buccaneers have lost six straight to New Orleans.

4:25 p.m. Eastern games

Oakland at Denver — If the Raiders are in striking range of a playoff spot, their offseason plan will have been a success. But if they are playing out the string once again . . .

Arizona at San Francisco — This is the kind of game the Cardinals will need to win to break through in the ultratough NFC West.

St. Louis at Seattle — This is the kind of game the Rams will need to win to break through in the ultratough NFC West.

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