Being a G.M. something Marvin Lewis “would listen to”

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There’s been plenty of speculation this season about Bengals coach Marvin Lewis moving on from the job he’s held for the last 15 years and Sunday morning brought a report from Adam Schefter of ESPN that Lewis is indeed planning on leaving the organization at the end of the season.

Could a move to the front office be next up for Lewis? It’s something that’s been talked about for several years given his heavy involvement in personnel decisions in Cincinnati over the years and it appears to be something that Lewis is open to doing in 2018 and beyond.

Lewis told Ian Rapoport of NFL Media that becoming a General Manager is “something I would listen to.” It does not seem a front office role is in the cards with the Bengals and the only current opening is with the Giants, although there will be more movement around the league once the regular season comes to an end.

There will also be coaching changes around the league and Lewis could wind up as a candidate for one or more of those jobs while the Bengals move on to their first new coach in a long time.

NFL will investigate Jerry Richardson allegations

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As of Friday, the NFL had no comment about the allegations of workplace misconduct against Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. As of Sunday, the NFL does.

“The league will conduct the investigation,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy tells PFT.

Note the language; not “an” investigation. “The” investigation. Which means that the investigation that the Panthers were planning to investigate will be placed on hold, perhaps permanently.

It’s the right thing for the league to do. The alleged conduct falls under the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. Issues of consistency compel the league to handle this situation the same way it would handle allegations against anyone else — players, coaches, executives, etc.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the league will retain an outside law firm to conduct the investigation.

However it plays out, this one will be watched very closely by the NFL and everyone connected to it. The first step will be to gather the facts, and to determine whether and to what extent the allegations can be corroborated. Once that information is harvested, it will become easier for the league to make decisions about what should be done.

For now, the right thing is being done. The Panthers should not be investigating the team’s owner, especially since a league investigation was inevitable. If anything, the team investigation would have been a dry run that, intentionally or not, could have shaped the evidence and prepared the witnesses for the looming arrival of the league’s investigators.

Which could be why the Panthers wanted to do the investigation in the first place.

Will Bill Belichick hear the Steelers radio broadcast tonight?

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I joked earlier on Twitter about the absence of any reports that someone had pulled a fire alarm at the Patriots Pittsburgh-area hotel early Sunday morning. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette responded with a joke of his own: “Yeah, that did not happen but wait until Belichick hears Myron in his headset this evening.”

For those of a certain (reduced) age, “Myron” was Myron Cope, the legendary Steelers broadcaster who was a fixture on the team’s radio network, and who created the Terrible Towel. Bouchette’s reference to Patriots coach Bill Belichick hearing the Steelers radio network is a reference to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s complaint from September 2015 regarding the headsets in New England featuring the Patriots radio broadcast of the Week One game between the two teams.

“We were listening to the Patriots radio broadcast for the majority of the first half on our headsets, coach to coach,” Tomlin said. He added that it’s “always the case” that the Steelers have trouble with their in-stadium communications when they play in New England.

The Steelers’ official website chimed in, declaring that “[t]his is the kind of stuff that happens to the visiting team in Gillette Stadium all the time.” (The article vaguely accusing the Patriots of cheating is still live on the Steelers’ official website.)

It quickly became clear that communications issues happen routinely and throughout the league. Four days later, Tomlin declared the matter over.

The Patriots returned to Pittsburgh during the 2016 regular season, beating the Steelers in October. There were no reports of Myron Cope, Tunch Ilkin, Bill Hillgrove, Jack Fleming, or Bob Prince being heard in the New England headsets. It was one of the five losses that the Steelers have had in their last six games against the Patriots, with Tom Brady throwing 22 touchdown passes and no interceptions — and with the Patriots averaging 33.6 points per game.

Report: Marvin Lewis to leave Bengals after season

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After 15 seasons in Cincinnati, Marvin Lewis is moving on.

Lewis will leave the Bengals after this season, ESPN reported this morning.

That’s no surprise: Lewis did a good job turning the Bengals around early in his tenure in Cincinnati, but more recently he has struggled, with two straight losing seasons. And Lewis still hasn’t won a playoff game.

But the ESPN report suggested that it’s more Lewis who wants to move on from the Bengals than the Bengals who want to move on from Lewis. One sticking point, according to the report, is that Lewis believes his assistants have been “treated unfairly financially.” Bengals owner Mike Brown has been accused of pinching pennies in the past, and the report indicates that Lewis and the coaching staff are sick of it.

It’s unclear whether Lewis could coach anywhere else in 2018, or who the Bengals may hire. But it looks like for the first time since Dick LeBeau was fired after the 2002 season, Cincinnati is looking for a new head coach.

Sunday morning one-liners

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Bills QB Tyrod Taylor had a good day the last time he faced the Dolphins.

A look at how the Dolphins have played in past cold weather games.

Can the Patriots stop Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell from making plays in the passing game?

What can the Jets expect from QB Bryce Petty?

The numbers forecast good things for the Ravens pass rush on Sunday.

RB Jarveon Williams is joining the Bengals for Sunday’s game.

The Browns think DE Myles Garrett is due for a big game.

Defensive pressure will be vital to the Steelers’ chances against the Patriots.

The Texans brought DT Chunky Clements back to the practice squad.

Young players are seeing more time for the Colts.

Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis hopes to make his second playoff appearance.

Has the Titans defense overachieved this season?

An argument that the Broncos have done their quarterbacks wrong this season.

RB Kareem Hunt set the Chiefs’ rookie rushing record on Saturday night.

Chargers CB Casey Hayward was on the wrong end of a Tyreek Hill peace sign.

QB Derek Carr is taking the blame for a sluggish Raiders offense.

Cowboys offensive linemen were popular with Pro Bowl voters.

Rookie RB Wayne Gallman has been seeing more time for the Giants.

The Eagles will find out if their offense skips a beat with QB Nick Foles.

The Redskins have K Dustin Hopkins back in the lineup.

Bears coach John Fox stayed conservative on Saturday.

RB Theo Riddick looks like the top player in the Lions backfield.

QB Aaron Rodgers returns at a moment when the Packers run game is showing life.

The influence of Vikings coach Mike Zimmer can still be seen on the Bengals defense.

The Falcons will wear a sticker honoring Tommy Nobis on their helmets.

A few questions about the Panthers’ internal investigation of team owner Jerry Richardson.

The Saints can’t overlook the Jets as they try to achieve their postseason goals.

The Buccaneers will be shorthanded on defense for Monday’s game.

Accuracy has been an issue for Cardinals QB Blaine Gabbert.

Containing Russell Wilson will be essential to the Rams’ hopes of winning on Sunday.

The 49ers have to shuffle the deck at cornerback this weekend.

Sunday’s matchup with the Rams is the biggest Seahawks regular season game in a while.

Anthony Barr still hearing it about hit that injured Aaron Rodgers

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Nine weeks after breaking his collarbone, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is back. Nine weeks after applying the hit that broke Rodgers’ collarbone, Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr is still hearing about it.

Via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Barr said Friday that he’s still getting nasty messages on Twitter, wishing injury upon him in retaliation for the injury he caused to Rodgers.

“I don’t feel it’s going to stop,” Barr said. “So it kind of is what it is.”

“I actually just got one right here,’’ Barr added while speaking to Tomasson. “It says, ‘I hope you tear your ACL.'” (Barr also has received at least one old-school letter via the U.S. mail, in which the unknown author expresses a hope that Barr experiences a Darryl Stingley-style injury in the looming rematch.)

For anyone who knows Twitter, the venom isn’t surprising. For anyone who knows football, the belief that Barr did anything wrong is. The hit was clean and legal — and actually welcomed by Rodgers.

Go back and watch the play. He held the ball longer than he needed to, throwing it at the last possible instant in order to allow tight end Martellus Bennett to get in better position to convert the catch into a longer gain. (Bennett dropped the pass.) Rodgers knew he’d be hit, and he surely assumed he’d get up and keep going.

It’s another example of the importance of quarterbacks minimizing the contact they absorb. Whether running down the field or scrambling behind the line or holding the ball a little bit longer as a defender approaches, quarterbacks who hope to keep playing need to find ways to take as few hits as possible, because any hit can be the one that knocks a guy out for weeks, months, or the season.

Of course, none of this will convince salty Packers fans to quit blaming Barr for the injury. The truth, however, is that Rodgers has himself to blame for unloading the ball to Bennett at the moment Barr was ready to unload on Rodgers.

Get ready for Week 15 without turning on the TV

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Sure, you could spend your morning planted on the couch and staring at the TV like a less responsive Bill Belichick in order to get ready for Week 15. Or you can get ready while getting things done.

If you choose the latter, check out the Friday edition of the PFT PM podcast, with a full Week 15 preview that will get you in the right mindset for the clashes to come on one of the biggest Sundays of the year.

Click below to listen, which you can do from your cell phone device. Or you can download it onto your cell phone device from wherever podcasts can be downloaded.

Philip Rivers: We kind of fell apart

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Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw seven interceptions in the first nine games of the season, which contributed to a 3-6 start that left the team on the outside of the playoff race.

Rivers didn’t throw an interception in the next four games, however, and the Chargers won them all to move into a tie for first place in the AFC West heading into Saturday night’s game against the Chiefs. That’s when, per head coach Anthony Lynn, things “reverted back” to the early part of the year.

Rivers threw three interceptions, just as he did in a Week Three loss to Kansas City, and the Chargers made a slew of other mistakes in a 30-13 loss that robbed them of control of their playoff fate.

“We kind of fell apart in a sense, I guess,” Rivers said, via the team’s website. “We’ve just got to execute. Again, just what we talked about during the last four games, not turning the ball over and getting takeaways, we were the opposite of that today. We turned the ball over too many times in this environment.”

The Chargers have winnable games against the Jets and Raiders to close out the season, but they’ll still need help from others if they’re going to keep playing into 2018.

Can the Eagles go without Wentz?

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Usually, when a contending team loses a franchise quarterback on the MVP short list, it’s time to start thinking about next year. For the Eagles, however, an inexplicable confidence has emerged regarding the ability of the team to keep winning without the guy regarded as the biggest reason for all of their wins in 2017.

Carson Wentz is gone, and Nick Foles re-enters. Immediately after last Sunday’s win over the Rams, safety Malcolm Jenkins aggressively set the narrative within the locker room that nothing changes. Foles echoed that message himself, displaying something between confidence and delusion by calling himself a “gunslinger” and proclaiming that the offense will be no different with Foles under center.

While that may indeed be the case, why are so many assuming it automatically will happen? Yes, as center Jason Kelce pointed out this week, Foles has a pair of cleats in the Hall of Fame, thanks to his seven-TDs-no-picks performance against Oakland in 2013, which prompted then-coach Chip Kelly to be peppered with so many questions about Foles’ status that Kelly eventually declared Foles to be the guy for the next 1,000 years.

Four years later, he’s the guy again, by necessity. And maybe against the Giants today, the Raiders on Christmas night, and the Cowboys on New Year’s Eve the Eagles will be fine. But whatever Foles did in the season 2013 prompted the Eagles to dump Foles for Sam Bradford, and Foles had a rough couple of years with the Rams and the Chiefs.

Would we shrug like this if Tom Brady tore his ACL and Brian Hoyer took over? If Ben Roethsliberger pops an Achilles and Landry Jones gets the nod? If Drew Brees goes down and yields to whoever it is that backs up Drew Brees?

We wouldn’t. But yet the narrative in many circles seems to be that the Eagles won’t miss a beat with Foles in for Wentz.

Not in this circle. The Eagles were Wentz’s team. And although they managed to hang on and beat the Rams with Foles replacing Wentz, the Giants, Raiders, and Cowboys will each have time to prepare for Foles. And they’ll see not only what he did well in 2013, but what he didn’t do well in 2014, 2015, and 2016. And they’ll be much more ready to face him than the Rams were.

Marcus Peters makes splash in return to Chiefs lineup

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The Chiefs took a big step toward a division title on Saturday night with a 30-13 victory over the Chargers that featured a much bigger contribution from cornerback Marcus Peters than they got in their last two games.

Peters was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct in a 38-31 loss to the Jets two weeks ago and his response to it led the Chiefs to suspend him for last week’s win over the Raiders. Peters made it back into the lineup on Saturday and helped turn the game in his team’s direction in the second half.

With the Chiefs up 17-13, Peters picked off a deep shot intended for wide receiver Tyrell Williams and returned it 62 yards to the Chargers’ 6-yard-line. A field goal followed a few plays later and the Chiefs added three more points after Peters forced a fumble on the next Chargers possession. He added a second interception of Philip Rivers near the end of the fourth quarter to seal the win.

“Definitely not surprised,” quarterback Alex Smith said of Peters’ performance, via ESPN.com. “Not to say I knew but definitely not surprised. He’s such a competitor on top of the kind of player he is. He’s got amazing ability … such great feel for the game.”

Peters’ play this season wasn’t up the same standard he set in his first two years and the Chiefs secondary was a problem in general as the team went from 5-0 to 6-6. Saturday was much better for Peters and the last two weeks have been good for the unit overall, which presents a couple of reasons for optimism with the playoffs rapidly approaching.

JuJu Smith-Schuster expected to be in Steelers lineup

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Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster didn’t play for the Steelers last Sunday because he was serving a one-game suspension and his expected return to the lineup against the Patriots hit a snag this week.

Smith-Schuster appeared on the injury report on Thursday with a hamstring injury that limited his participation in practice. He was limited in practice on Friday as well, which led to a questionable tag on the final injury report of the week.

According to multiple reports, Smith-Schuster will be in the lineup as the Steelers try for a home win that would greatly increase their chances of landing the first overall seed in the AFC playoffs.

The Steelers also listed cornerback Joe Haden as questionable after missing the last four games with a fractured fibula. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports the team believes he can play after watching him practice this week, but pregame work on the field will ultimately determine his status.

Slay sees greatness in Trubisky, with one caveat

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Good news, Bears fans: Lions cornerback Darius Slay thinks your rookie quarterback is the real deal. Bad news, Bears fans: Slay thinks Trubisky should permanently avoid throwing in the direction of Detroit’s top cover corner.

“He’s learning,” Slay said of Mitchell Trubisky after the 20-10 win by the Lions over Chicago, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “He’s a great one. He’s going to get better. And I can see it in him. He’s got the drive to keep working, and he believes in himself and the team do, so if the team’s behind his back, he’ll be alright. But he needs to learn his lesson, though. Ain’t too many times he’s going to throw over to 23.”

23 got a pair of interceptions against Trubisky during Saturday’s game, only six days after the Bears below out the Bengals in Cincinnati. So what happened?

“Last week, I think they ran the ball pretty good on Cincinnati,” Slay said. “They can’t run the ball on us, so he had to throw the ball. Our goal was to make him beat us and we knew he couldn’t do that.”

He couldn’t, and he didn’t. As a result, the Lions moved to 8-6, and they are very much alive in the NFC playoff chase.

Kyle Rudolph upgraded to questionable, expected to play

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The Vikings listed tight end Kyle Rudolph as doubtful on Friday’s final injury report of the week, which left Rudolph unlikely to play against the Bengals due to an ankle injury.

Rudolph missed practice all week, so the only surprise seemed to be that the team opted against ruling him out. It looks like it’s a good thing that they avoided doing that.

The Vikings upgraded Rudolph to questionable on Saturday and Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that he is now expected to be in the lineup against Cincinnati. Rudolph ranks second on the team in catches and leads in receiving touchdowns with seven, so his presence will be a welcome one for Case Keenum.

Left tackle Riley Reiff remains doubtful to play on his own ankle injury, but it appears he’ll be the only starter missing on offense.

Bill Belichick may have an “issue” with Tom Brady’s personal trainer

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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady attributes his ability to throw the ball as well as ever at age 40 to his training habits, and has specifically credited trainer Alex Guerrero with helping him continue to improve at an age when most athletes are retired. But not everyone in New England is sold on Guerrero.

That’s the word from Adam Schefter of ESPN, who said on WEEI that he has heard on multiple occasions this season that Patriots coach Bill Belichick has some type of issue with Guerrero.

“I’ve heard whispers about that sort of thing, as well. There’s some sort of issue,” Schefter said. “I truly do not know the extent of it. I don’t know how long it has been brewing or the history of it. Clearly, there’s something there, but I don’t know what to make of it. . . . I just know that the Guerrero thing has been an issue at some point this season. It has come up. It is not the first time it has been brought to my attention.”

Schefter didn’t present this as a firm report of a problem in the locker room, but it’s an indication that Brady and Belichick, despite all their success together, may not be entirely on the same page.

Guerrero has reportedly stopped traveling with the team to road games, which he had done in the past. Belichick may want to distance the team from a trainer who’s not part of the team’s strength and conditioning staff, and that wouldn’t be particularly surprising. NFL coaches would almost always prefer that players take direction from the team’s training staff, rather than their own personal trainers, and even if Brady has had undeniable success with Guerrero, that doesn’t mean Belichick is buying in to the TB12 Method.

Chiefs take command of AFC West race with 30-13 win over Chargers

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The Kansas City Chiefs took advantage of just about every mistake made by the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday night.

And the Chargers made many mistakes.

The Chiefs scored 13 points off L.A. turnovers and 10 more points on drives following Chargers’ special teams mistakes in earning a 30-13 victory to take control of the AFC West race with two weeks remaining in the regular season.

Kareem Hunt rushed for 155 yards with a rushing touchdown and receiving touchdown and Marcus Peters intercepted Philip Rivers twice in leading the Chiefs. Alex Smith was also incredibly efficient with just seven incompletions on 30 attempts and 231 yards passing with two touchdowns.

Rivers was intercepted three times in total with Ron Parker getting the third interception of the night. Parker also recovered a fumble from Chargers running back Austin Ekeler as well.

The Chargers were unable to recover a muffed punt by the Chiefs despite having several opportunities to recover the loose ball. Kansas City would drive 82 yards before getting on the board with a 31-yard Harrison Butker field goal late in the first quarter. Ekeler had a chance to down another Chargers punt inside the 5-yard line only to have his momentum carry him into the end zone for a touchback. Four plays later, Smith hit Tyreek Hill for a 64-yard touchdown to give the Chiefs a 10-0 lead.

Melvin Gordon scored on a 2-yard touchdown and Rivers hit Antonio Gates for a 10-yard touchdown, but it was too little to overcome the errors and turnovers.

Two more Butker field goals and a 5-yard touchdown run by Hunt all come off turnovers to close out the game for the Chiefs.

Gordon finished with 78 yards on 19 carries for the Chargers and added 91 yards on six receptions as well to lead the way in both categories for Los Angeles.