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Derek Carr’s performance throws MVP race open

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 8: Quarterback Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders is sacked by defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches #99 of the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium during the first quarter of the game on December 8, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images) Getty Images

Recently, the PFT Live question of the day focused on the MVP through 12 weeks of the season. And the winner was Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.

Now? Not.

With a 17-for-41 performance for only 117 yards (an average of a paltry 2.85 yards per attempt) in his team’s biggest game of the year to date, Carr will win the MVP award only if he chases last night’s debacle with stellar performances — and only if the other primary candidates collapse.

Benefiting from Carr’s backfire are Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and maybe even Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. For now, the race feels wide open, with Brady and Prescott arguably the closest thing to favorites.

Regardless, Thursday night confirmed that it can change quickly. At this point, it’s as much a process of elimination as it is confirmation, with the avoidance of a disastrous performance even more important than putting together a strong one.

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Doug Whaley on Tyrod Taylor: We will look at the entire season

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills looks to pass 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

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s future in Buffalo has been a frequent topic of conversation this week.

When Bills coach Rex Ryan discussed Taylor’s play and future with the team on Monday, he said “let’s just let this play out” before correcting course a bit on Wednesday and calling Taylor, who has seen his numbers decline in several key areas from last season, an “outstanding quarterback.” Taylor faced his own questions on that front on Wednesday and cut the session with reporters short after saying criticism of his play “doesn’t affect me emotionally or physically.”

It was General Manager Doug Whaley’s turn on Friday. During an appearance on WGR 550, Whaley’s response sounded a lot like Ryan’s initial comment about taking everything into consideration.

“You got to look at the whole season,” Whaley said, via ESPN.com. “He’s got four more games to write this chapter. And then after this season, like everybody on the team, we’re going to do the evaluation, and we’ll go from there. But this season is one of those things where he’s done some things really good to get us to six wins. But just like everybody on the team, there are some plays that he wishes he could do over.”

The Bills have to make a decision about whether to give Taylor more than $30 million over the next two seasons early in the next league year, which makes the evaluation of where he is a crucial one for the franchise. They also need to confirm that Ryan and Whaley will be the ones making that evaluation, something that the next four weeks are also likely to impact.

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Derek Carr wont blame pinky finger for performance

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 08:  Quarterback Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders walks off the field after the Raiders failed to make a first down during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 8, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Derek Carr wasn’t going to blame the weather, and he wasn’t going to blame his messed-up finger.

Mostly, he blamed himself, which seems like the most accurate thing about his night.

The Raiders quarterback turned in one of his worst games as a pro in last night’s loss to the Chiefs, at a time when many were touting him as an MVP candidate. Carr was a dreadful 17-of-41 passing for 117 yards, with no touchdowns. He didn’t throw a pick either, but that 49.1 passer rating was indicative of his night.

It was definitely a bad night, no way of getting around that,” Carr said, via Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com. “I hate to have a bad night coming on this one, out of all the games we’ve had. Obviously, we didn’t do enough.

“I feel very responsible for that because of being the leader of the offense and the team. I feel sick to my stomach when we put something like that out there on film. It hurts, I can promise you that. I put too much time into this to go do something like that.”

Carr is still feeling the effects of the dislocated right (throwing) pinky finger, which couldn’t have helped in frigid conditions, but he didn’t want to use that as an excuse.

“It definitely wasn’t the finger’s fault,” Carr said. “Everything about tonight was unusual, to be honest. To have our defense step up for us and make plays, and for us to go out there and not execute, do things we don’t do. . . . That’s why it’s frustrating. That why I promise you I’m not worried.

“We played awful. It wasn’t good enough, but I’m not worried because I know the guys in the locker room. I’m not worried one bit, but it just sucks. We have to take it. We have to take the punch, but I’m not worried. I think we’re going to bounce back.”

If they’re going to, they’re going to have to have Carr return to the way he was playing, in practically every other game this season.

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Friday morning one-liners

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 24:   Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys warms up on the field prior to the game against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium on November 24, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills could have wide receivers Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins on the field at the same time for the first time since Week Two.

Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph isn’t happy with how his unit played last weekend.

Patriots TE Martellus Bennett promised a better outing than he had last week.

C Nick Mangold may have played his final snap for the Jets.

Ravens TE Dennis Pitta expects the Patriots to pay a lot of attention to him.

The Bengals are moving T Cedric Ogbuehi back to the left side.

Browns G John Greco may need foot surgery.

The Steelers may not have DT Javon Hargrave this weekend.

The Texans hope to do a better job in run defense against the Colts.

Colts LB Trent Cole wasn’t sure he’d play again after his back injury.

The Jaguars kick coverage will need to be good against the Vikings.

Resting during the bye week helped Titans RB DeMarco Murray’s toe injury.

Run defense will be big for the Broncos this weekend.

Chiefs RB Charcandrick West wore a t-shirt honoring the late Joe McKnight under his jersey on Thursday night.

Thursday night was a bad time for Raiders QB Derek Carr’s hot streak to end.

A strong season has erased some doubts about Chargers CB Casey Hayward.

It’s time for Cowboys TE Jason Witten to start a new catch streak.

The Giants will have to come up with a way to deal with DE Jason Pierre-Paul’s absence.

An upgrade at wide receiver is needed for the Eagles.

Said Redskins DL A.J. Francis of picking No. 69, “I chose 69 because I wore 96 in college, and 96 was taken here. Everywhere I’ve been, when 96 was taken I got 69. Also because I’m big and nasty. That’s why I wear 69. That’s the truth.”

The Bears like the way RB Jordan Howard has progressed over his rookie season.

Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter wants better production in the red zone.

Sunday brings a chance for Packers RB Christine Michael to see his former Seahawks teammates.

The Vikings look forward to having PR Marcus Sherels back in the lineup.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn cited CB Robert Alford’s speed when discussing reasons for his contract extension.

A look at what the future might hold for some of the older members of the Panthers.

FB John Kuhn has found a role in the Saints’ running and passing games.

Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter won’t try to downplay the importance of this Sunday’s game.

Some of Cardinals RB David Johnson’s predecessors evaluated his performance this season.

Rams CB Trumaine Johnson was a big Monopoly fan during college.

49ers coach Chip Kelly said the York family were “godsends” for their response to his father’s death.

Snow is on Seahawks QB Russell Wilson’s mind with a trip to Green Bay coming this weekend.

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Kiko Alonso dealing with hamstring issue along with broken thumb

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 13:   Antonio Gates #85 of the San Diego Chargers drops a pass as  Kiko Alonso #47 of the Miami Dolphins defends during the first half of a game at Qualcomm Stadium on November 13, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

Kiko Alonso had thumb surgery this week, but that might not be the thing that keeps him off the field this week against the Cardinals.

According to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins linebacker is also dealing with a hamstring strain which might be the thing that knocks him out.

He initially tweaked the hamstring in practice last week and aggravated it during the Ravens game, the same one in which he broke his thumb. And because of that, he isn’t sure he’ll be able to go this week.

“Right now, I don’t know,” Alonso said. “We’re going to day by day. Today I felt good. We’ll see.”

Alonso said a decision on whether he can play or not will be made him coaches, medical staff and himself. He’s wearing a large cast, but still has use of four fingers on his hand. But the hamstring might make that a moot point.

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Lane Johnson feels guilty for letting Eagles down with suspension

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 13: Tackle Lane Johnson #65 of the Philadelphia Eagles watches play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers October 13, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Eagles won 31 - 20. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) Getty Images

When Lane Johnson’s 10-game PED suspension began, they had just lost their first game to fall to 3-1. Since he’s been gone, they’re 2-6, and he feels responsible for his part in it.

The Eagles right tackle has two more weeks before he can be reinstated, and he said he’s ready to come back for the final two games.

Via Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News, Johnson said he felt he deserved blame for the team’s slide, since his second suspension cost him and them more than half of a season.

I’ve let this whole organization down not once, but twice,” Johnson said. “And I’ve had a long time to ponder on it and look myself in the mirror.”

Johnson returned home to Oklahoma during the suspension, but said he’s planning to return to Philadelphia next week. He can’t go back to the team facility until Dec. 19, in advance of their short-week game against the Giants.

In his absence, the Eagles started rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and then had to move left guard Allen Barbre there after Vaitai was injured.

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Travis Kelce: Marquette King told me I don’t have any rhythm

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) celebrates a catch during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) AP

Tyreek Hill’s punt return touchdown was one of the biggest plays of Thursday night’s Chiefs victory and it was one that Hill’s teammate Travis Kelce celebrated in a pretty specific manner.

The Chiefs tight end did his rendition of the dance that Raiders punter Marquette King breaks out after pinning the opposition deep with a kick in front of the originator himself. King appeared to say something to Kelce as he walked past and Kelce shared what King said with NFL Network after the game.

“He told me I didn’t have any rhythm,” Kelce said. “I told him, ‘Trust me, wait until I get in the end zone again and I’ll show you some rhythm.”

King had a different take on his message for Kelce. He referenced Kelce’s foray into reality television, writing that “I told him I don’t need a reality show to find a girl lol…”

There would be no trip to the end zone for Kelce on Thursday night, but his five catches for 101 yards were a big help to the Kansas City cause.

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Steelers players want to help pay Ramon Foster’s fine

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 6:  Markus Wheaton #11 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a second quarter touchdown with teammate Ramon Foster #73 during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field on December 6, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers guard Ramon Foster wasn’t penalized for pulling Giants linebacker Kelvin Sheppard off of running back Le’Veon Bell in last Sunday’s victory, but he did hear from the league this week.

Members of the team told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com that Foster has been fined $9,115 for his actions, which came after Sheppard appeared to grab and twist Bell’s facemask at the end of a play. Those teammates told Fowler that they’d like to chip in to help Foster pay the league and Bell said that he appreciates what the team’s linemen are willing to do for him.

“I’m glad I got my guys,” Bell said. “I call them my goons up front. They are down to ride with me whenever.”

It’s not clear if Bell will have Foster helping him against the Bills this weekend. Foster missed practice on Wednesday for what the team said were reasons not related to injury and was out Thursday with a chest injury given as the reason.

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Osemele’s illness struck Thursday morning

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Quarterback Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders reacts after turning over the ball to the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth 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

In a game that didn’t feature all that many surprises, perhaps the biggest came 90 minutes before kickoff.

Raiders guard Kelechi Osemele, the man viewed by many as the catalyst for the resurgence of the team, appeared on the inactive list, with an illness. After the game, coach Jack Del Rio explained that Osemele was treated at a local hospital on Thursday morning.

By all appearances, no one was treated to the information that Osemele was ill. As learned a year ago when Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen was a surprise scratch prior to a game against the Chiefs (coincidentally), the NFL requires any team who has a player with an injury or illness that could impact his ability to play after the filing of the final injury report to announce the injury or illness to the local media (including the Associated Press) and the network televising the game. The information also must be given to the other team’s P.R. director and the NFL.

The Raiders, as best PFT can tell, didn’t disclose that information to all required parties. The league likely will say it’s looking into the situation, and then we’ll likely never hear anything more about it — in large because the league in most cases (most, not all . . . #DeflateGate) doesn’t like to make it known to the world at large that there may be shenanigans when it comes to inside information that could be valuable to those who would use inside information in order to gain financial value via the primary industry of the Raiders’ potential new home.

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Hue Jackson: I want to know more about RG3

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 11: Robert Griffin III #10 of the Cleveland Browns warms up as head coach Hue Jackson looks on prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on September 11, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Browns 29-10. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Browns will give quarterback Robert Griffin III his second start of the season against the Bengals this Sunday, a point they would have liked to reach in the second week of the regular season.

A broken bone in Griffin’s left shoulder got in the way of that plan and left Griffin on injured reserve for the last 11 games. The Browns have lost all 11 of those games in addition to the one Griffin started in Week One, leaving them at the top of the draft with their pick and not too far behind with the one the Eagles traded them to move up for Carson Wentz this year.

Many suspect the Browns would like to land a player who can be their franchise quarterback with those selections, although coach Hue Jackson said on Thursday that he still believes Griffin, who is signed for 2017, has a chance be that player.

“The fact that we’re putting him out there says that,” Jackson said, via Cleveland.com. “I want to know more. I’ve only seen him really play for not even a full game. The more information, the more time I get an opportunity to evaluate him, the better it’s going to be. I will say it again, I am not expecting for everything to go perfect. It’s not. I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on anybody. It’s his second game in a little over maybe two years so hopefully it’ll go right, but if it doesn’t that’s OK, too. We have to go get him to play and hopefully play well, but we all understand the situation that he’s in. I think he is up to the challenge.”

It seems unlikely that the Browns would put all their eggs in the Griffin basket based on what would be five games if he starts the rest of the the year, but there’s no reason for them not to explore every option available to them at this point in time.

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Justin Tuck: Giants need someone who will “light a fire under people”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  Justin Tuck #91 of the New York Giants reacts after he recorded a sack against the New England Patriots during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Giants won 21-17.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Giants make a push for their first postseason appearance since winning Super Bowl XLVI, a key member of a pair of championship teams in New York believes the Giants are lacking one key ingredient to winning their third NFL title in a decade.

“Just from being in that locker room before, I think one thing they’re truly missing is that guy or those guys that can light a fire under people,” Tuck told Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News. “They’re talented. I know the players on that roster. It’s a super-talented group of guys. I don’t know, maybe they need a wake-up call? I don’t know if that’s the right word. It’s something off where I don’t feel like this team is headed in the right direction for this season.

“Normally when Giants teams are in contention, they tend to get better and more together as the season goes on,” Tuck explained. “Maybe a couple losses wouldn’t be a bad thing for them. I’m speculating. I don’t know this. I’m going from the perspective of being an outsider, but everybody gets all caught up with going into the playoffs with a hot record or high seed. I never wanted to be the top seed. I wanted to be the guy that was overlooked and playing hot at the time.”

Both times the Giants won the Super Bowl with Tuck on the team they were overlooked, running the table as the No. 5 seed in 2007 and the No. 4 seed four years later. In 2008, as the No. 1 team in the NFC, they had a one-and-done playoff experience, losing at home to the Eagles, 23-11.

It’s hard not to regard Tuck’s words as a shot at quarterback Eli Manning, a guy who never has been wired to be demonstrative or demanding like his older brother, Peyton.

“I hate to use the word ‘leader,’ because there are guys that lead in certain aspects on that football team, but every team [I was on] could point to a guy or couple guys . . .  and I don’t know if I see that right now,” Tuck said.

Tuck seems to hope that he’ll provide the spark, from outside the building.

“If I have to be the bad guy, so be it,” he said.

Currently, the Giants are on track to once again be forced to try to get to the Super Bowl the hard way. Even if they finish the sweep of the Cowboys on Sunday night, they’ll need to make up two games with three to play. Which means that they’ll be hitting the road in the wild-card round, heading to a place like, say, Tampa.

Of course, Tampa is where the 2007 Super Bowl run began, followed by trips to Dallas and then to Green Bay. It could play out that same way for the Giants in 2016 — possibly culminating in a third Super Bowl rendezvous with the Patriots.

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Dolphins Laremy Tunsil “hurting bad” with shoulder injury

FILE -  In this Friday, Aug. 19, 2016 file photo, Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil takes instructions on the sideline in the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. With three starters hurt, the Miami Dolphins will likely have a patchwork offensive line when they try for their sixth consecutive win Sunday against the 49ers. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, File) AP

Miami Dolphins rookie guard Laremy Tunsil is trying to stay on the field despite significant pain from a shoulder injury.

I mean, I’m hurting,” Tunsil said Thursday,via Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post. “I’m hurting bad, but you know I’m going to fight through it. I’m going to give it all I’ve got.

The injury forced Tunsil to miss the Dolphins game against the San Francisco 49ers two weeks ago. He returned to play on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens and managed to play all 62 offensive snaps despite the injury.

“At the end of the day, I’m here to help the team any way I can,” Tunsil said. “We’re trying to win games. We’re trying to get to the playoff spot, so whatever I can do, I’m going to help.”

Tunsil has started 10 games for Miami this season.

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Raiders get early turnover, big defensive stand

Khalil Mack, Sio Moore AP

It’s cold in Kansas City, and Thursday night’s Chiefs-Raiders game is off to a strange start.

After a puzzling challenge by the Chiefs and then an automatic turnover review two plays later, the Raiders kept the ball — the original call was a catch and fumble by Amari Cooper — and then got a 44-yard field goal from Sebastian Janikowski to take 3-0 lead.

The Chiefs came right back, getting a 39-yard pass to Chris Conley to move into Raiders’ territory, but then turned the ball over on downs following two rather lame and predictable runs right into the middle on third and fourth downs.

The Raiders went three and out to open the game, but Chiefs rookie Tyreek Hill fumbled the ensuing punt and Raiders backup linebacker James Cowser recovered at the Chiefs’ 38-yard line.

Janikowski has not missed from under 45 yards this season.

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Jordan Reed thinks he can deal with the pain, play Sunday

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 10: Tight end Jordan Reed #86 of the Washington Redskins reacts to a play against the Green Bay Packers in the first quarter during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at FedExField on January 10, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Redskins tight end Jordan Reed was again a limited practice participant Thursday, and after practice Reed told reporters he’s “optimistic” about his chances of playing Sunday at Philadelphia.

Reed suffered an AC joint separation in his left shoulder at Dallas on Thanksgiving. Though he returned and finished the game, he didn’t play last week.

Reed, who shares the team lead with 59 receptions, told reporters he’s feeling better and hopes he’ll get the go-ahead to play Sunday as the Redskins need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

It’s painful but something I can deal with,” Reed said.

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Rams have no comment on report of dysfunction

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 11:  Head coach Jeff Fisher of the St. Louis Rams stands on the sidelines during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 11, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Thursday began with a bit of a bombshell from Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com regarding the extent of the dysfunction in the Rams organization. Recent comments from coach Jeff Fisher deemed critical of the team’s personnel function became the catalyst for anonymous quotes from an unnamed Rams source criticizing Fisher for an apparent effort to shift blame.

The Rams have no comment regarding the report, pointing out that Fisher likely would address the situation at his next press conference. It’s scheduled for Friday at approximately 3:30 p.m. ET.

Fisher, who faced repeated questions last week regarding Eric Dickerson’s relentless effort to get Fisher fired, surely will be pressed for his reaction to the news that someone in the organization criticized him without attaching a name to it.

“It pissed me off because I knew it was meant as a shot,” the unnamed Rams source told Breer regarding Fisher’s apparent attempt to shirk blame for the quality of the roster. “You see it under that umbrella — ‘We need to do a better job in personnel.’ OK, but you want everyone to think that you have full control. You can’t have it both ways, and it can’t always be the talent. Look at the roster, 2012 to now. In ’12, Jeff did a masterful job with what he was given. But we’ve gotten more talent, and we’ve gotten worse.”

There can be little doubt that Fisher wanted, and acquired, full control in 2012. After Fisher picked the Rams over the Dolphins, he told Michael Silver (then of Yahoo! Sports) that Fisher wanted to be able to run the show.

“At the end of the day I wanted the ability to have final say, with a General Manager I could build something with,” Fisher said.

So, basically, all roads lead back to Fisher, both as to coaching and as to personnel. If there’s a problem with coaching, it’s ultimately on him. If there’s a problem with personnel, it’s ultimately on him.

On Friday, it’ll be interesting to see how questions from reporters about these realities ultimately are answered.

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