Why not Ben Roethlisberger for MVP?

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It’s become fashionable to make the case for Steelers receiver Antonio Brown to be named the NFL’s MVP for 2017. And with plenty of short-list candidates either injured or potentially disqualifying themselves with bad late-season performances, maybe Brown — who has been unstoppable over the past four weeks — should get some consideration.

But his candidacy defies history. No receiver has been named NFL MVP, ever. When Lions receiver Calvin Johnson racked up a single-season record 1,964 receiving yards in 2012, his name never came up for the award — and he didn’t even get a single vote.

When Patriots receiver Randy Moss set the single-season touchdown reception record in 2007 with 23, he also didn’t get a vote, primarily because the quarterback who threw all of those passes (and more) got 49 of them. (Brett Favre got the other vote.)

Jerry Rice, the greatest receiver of all time, never received serious consideration for MVP. Not in 1987, when John Elway won the award despite a then-record 22 touchdown receptions from Rice. Not in 1995, when Rice had a career-high 122 catches and 1,848 receiving yards. (Favre won it then.) Not in any season of the best career any pass catcher ever has had.

One of the reasons for the historical slighting of receivers has been the traditional use of the MVP award to acknowledge the best quarterback on the best team. Since 2007, a quarterback has won the game every year but one. Several running backs (including Adrian Peterson) have won the award over the years, along with two defensive players (Alan Page in 1971 and Lawrence Taylor in 1986) and a kicker (yes, a kicker) in 1983 (Mark Moseley).

Since Taylor became the league’s MVP in 1986, however, it’s been a quarterback and running back award only, with a quarterback winning or sharing the honor 24 times and a running back winning or sharing it seven times.

That said, it’s rare that a receiver even gets mentioned as an MVP candidate, so Brown already has defied tradition, and for good reason. He’s clearly the best receiver in the game, with 99 catches and 1,509 yards in 13 games. That puts him on pace for 121 receptions and 1,857 yards.

If he continues the pace that he has established for the last four contests (9.75 catches per game, 156.75 yards per game), he’ll finish with 128 catches and 1,979 receiving yards — and that would break Johnson’s five-year-old record.

So, yes, Brown quite possibly will have a strong case for serious MVP consideration. But so does running back Le'Veon Bell, and so should quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

While Roethlisberger is on pace for no single-season NFL records, why shouldn’t the guy who distributes the ball in one of the best offenses in the NFL be getting talked about for what essentially has become a quarterback award? It’s simply odd that, with Brown (and to a lesser extent Bell) being mentioned for  MVP recognition, Roethlisberger’s name never comes up.

It should. And, at least for this specific publication, it is. But since I don’t (and probably never will) have one of the 50 votes for the Associated Press postseason awards, what I think will continue to not matter to anyone except me.

Bills’ Tyrod Taylor to start, Nathan Peterman in concussion protocol, Cordy Glenn to IR

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Tyrod Taylor is back as the Bills’ starting quarterback, but he won’t have Nathan Peterman backing him up or Cordy Glenn protecting his blind side.

Bills coach Sean McDermott announced today that Taylor will start on Sunday against the Dolphins. Taylor missed last week’s game with a knee injury. In that game Peterman started but left with a concussion, and McDermott announced that Peterman is still in the league’s concussion protocol. That means Joe Webb will serve as Taylor’s backup.

And Glenn, the starting left tackle, is out for the season with a foot injury. The Bills are expecting Glenn to be back for the offseason program.

“We have placed Cordy Glenn on IR,” McDermott said. “Somewhat of a frustrating year and he will have a procedure done on his foot in the near future.”

The 7-6 Bills would currently own the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC. After Sunday’s home finale with the Dolphins they finish the season at New England and at Miami.

Russell Wilson: Aaron Donald best defensive player I’ve seen

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It doesn’t hurt that the Seahawks are playing the Rams this week.

But Russell Wilson made it clear the respect he had for their defense, specifically defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

Though he’s seen plenty of good ones, Wilson said that Donald was different than the rest.

“When I think about Aaron Donald, he’s probably in my opinion, the best defensive player I’ve ever played against in terms of actually playing in a game against,” Wilson said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. “That’s a pretty big statement; I’ve played against some really good guys. I think back to my rookie year and my second year when I played against guys like [49ers linebackers Navarro] Bowman and [Patrick] Willis and all of those guys are in my head, the top guys I’ve ever played.

“I think about a guy like Aaron Donald, he’s definitely there too as well, so I have tremendous respect for how he plays the game. He’s really, really tough, he’s really quick, and he’s pretty special. You look forward to those matchups just because those are things that you’ll remember and those are the things that you’ll tell your kids one day ‘I played against this guy,’ and those are fun things. He’s definitely one of those guys that will probably be a Hall of Famer no doubt.”

Wilson has displayed his respect previously, exchanging jerseys with Donald after their meeting in October.

Donald has four sacks in seven games against Wilson, but has the ability to impact games in ways that transcend the stat sheet.

And while he started slowly this year after skipping training camp, Donald has seven sacks in the last eight games, and hopes to continue that against Wilson with the NFC West title on the line.

Bills don’t necessarily have a big edge in cold weather

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The Bills won a Bills game in Bills conditions last week.

But while beating the Colts in a blizzard was visually appealing, and seemed to fit with the narrative established about a team that plays in some of the worst weather in the league, it’s not exactly a trend.

Nick Veronica of the Buffalo News actually used facts to dash some cold water (which promptly froze) on the notion that the Bills are somehow better in bad weather, and that the conditions in Western New York work to their advantage.

Including playoff games, the Bills have an all-time winning percentage of .549 in home games when the temperature is 40 degrees or above. The percentage is .541 in home games at 40 or lower.

But their .524 winning percentage in home games at 30 degrees or lower is nearly identical to their road record at 30 or lower (.521). The same is true in games at 20 or lower (despite smaller sample sizes), with a 4-1 record at home (.800) and a 5-2 record on the road (.714) at extremely cold temperatures.

So while it may look cool (and it did), the Bills aren’t necessarily any better at home because of the conditions they’re used to.

Adrian Peterson: I look forward to another season in 2018

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The Cardinals haven’t made a formal announcement of running back Adrian Peterson‘s move to injured reserve, but Peterson has confirmed that his season is over.

Peterson gave a statement to Josina Anderson of ESPN after learning he will not be returning to action after going for further medical opinions on his injured neck. In addition to thanking the Cardinals for acquiring him from the Saints and giving him a chance to run as a lead back, Peterson also touched on his plans for the future.

“The good news is my neck injury doesn’t require surgery, but I’m told by Dr. Robert Watkins that the best thing for me is just more rest than the length of the season. Obviously, I’m disappointed about going on IR when my body is still able to produce but I look forward to returning completely healthy for another season in 2018. I’m grateful for the opportunity that the Arizona Cardinals have given me to show that I can still contribute on an NFL team.”

Peterson signed a two-year contract with the Saints, so the Cardinals can keep him around if they are so inclined. That may not be their choice as long as David Johnson is set to make a full recovery from the wrist injury that ended his season in the first week of the year, which would leave Peterson in a similar position to the one he was in after the Vikings released him in the offseason.

It took him a long time to find work before landing with the Saints and a cooler market could signal the end of Peterson’s time as an NFL player.

Josh Gordon explains what he meant by Browns “disadvantages”

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After losing to the Packers in overtime last Sunday, Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon took a swipe at Packers cornerback Damarious Randall on Twitter by writing that Randall “couldn’t hold my jock strap on my worst day.”

Gordon’s post also seemed to take a shot at his own team by mentioning “several of our disadvantages” in reference to the Browns. Gordon explained on Thursday that he wasn’t being critical of any specific teammates, but meant it as a comment on where the team stands at this point of the season.

“The fact that the team’s 0-13, we’re playing behind the 8-ball,” Gordon said, via Cleveland.com. “We have inherent disadvantages. That’s all I meant by that, a struggling team, young team, we’ve got work to get done and a lot of room to improve. I know that. Everybody knows that that watches us play. We’re almost there, but unfortunately we haven’t gotten to that point yet.”

Coach Hue Jackson said he didn’t want Gordon to air his feelings on social media this week, but quarterback DeShone Kizer, who some may have thought was a target of Gordon’s comment, said he didn’t feel upset about anything Gordon wrote.

“He chose to go about it the way he did,” Kizer said. “I’m going to support him through it. I just try to make sure that as we continue to move forward and as he continues to work his way into this offense, that this offense doesn’t look disadvantaged at any point in time.”

That may be a bridge too far for the 2017 season, but eyes in Cleveland have already started turning toward creating a few advantages next time around.

Friday morning one-liners

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Celebrating DT Kyle Williamscareer with the Bills.

Dolphins QB Jay Cutler is coming off his best game of the year.

DE Trey Flowers hopes to be in the Patriots lineup on Sunday.

The Jets just wanted to take their ball and go home last weekend.

The Ravens hope to do a better job on Josh Gordon than they did on Antonio Brown.

Checking in on Bengals CB William Jackson’s development.

Browns WR Josh Gordon thinks officials missed a pass interference call early in last Sunday’s loss.

Steelers WR Darrius Heyward-Bey likes the comic book movies.

The Texans expect a physical game from the Jaguars.

CB Quincy Wilson was among the young Colts who got a lot of playing time on Thursday night.

Jaguars CB A.J. Bouye is thinking about a win, not his past with the Texans.

T Taylor Lewan was back on the practice field for the Titans.

WR Cody Latimer had a big role in Thursday’s Broncos win.

WR Albert Wilson is a key offensive piece for the Chiefs.

The Chargers thinks CB Casey Hayward will be healthy enough to play on Sunday.

Will the Raiders stick with offensive coordinator Todd Downing?

Cowboys T La'el Collins is preparing to face Khalil Mack.

Musing about what the Giants gain from having CB Eli Apple around.

Will the Eagles need another miracle at the Meadowlands this weekend?

The downward trend for the Redskins will cost some people their jobs.

Are the Bears on the right track?

A win over the Bears won’t make it any easier to believe in the Lions.

The Packers used to play with Julius Peppers, but they’ll have to stop him this weekend.

The Vikings are testing their tight end depth this week.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn reminisced about Tommy Nobis after Nobis’ death.

Tyler Larsen has proven to be a useful part of the Panthers offensive line.

Saints WR Michael Thomas will wear a visor after getting poked in the eye.

How hot is the seat under Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter?

C A.Q. Shipley has been the constant on the Cardinals offensive line.

Rams CB Trumaine Johnson said he won’t let his mouth get the team in trouble anymore.

Can 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo put some life into Levi’s Stadium?

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is preparing to face the best defensive player he’s lined up against in Aaron Donald.

Jerome Felton ready to retire, unless someone needs him soon

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If Jerome Felton doesn’t get a call in the next few weeks, he’s going to call it a career.

The veteran fullback told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he was retiring after this season, one way or another.

He isn’t on a roster at the moment, which makes the process easier, but he said he’d be receptive if a team needed a lead-blocker down the stretch. But otherwise, he’s done.

“I guess if I were to get a call over the next few weeks I would answer, but this will be my last year regardless,” Felton said. “I had a good run. I’m happy with how my career has went. I played a long time, but times are changing for fullbacks. I’m not going to just hang around waiting for a call. That’s not my mentality.”

The 31-year-old Felton played nine seasons, and went to the Pro Bowl blocking for Adrian Peterson in 2012, when Peterson ran for 2,097. He also played for the Bills the last two seasons, but wasn’t re-signed as a free agent. He’s also spent time with the Lions, Colts, and Panthers.

“That would be my best memory football-wise,” Felton said of 2012. “We made the playoffs and I made the Pro Bowl, and Adrian and I were friends and we really worked well together.

“But also blocking for LeSean [McCoy of the Bills] for two years is a great memory. I think he’s a future Hall of Famer. I will tell my grandkids that I blocked for two of the best running backs to play the game.”

Felton has since earned an MBA from the University of Miami and is looking at business opportunities.

John Dorsey: “Total objective” in 2018 is winning AFC North

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The Browns opted for a long-term rebuild when they made Sashi Brown the head of their personnel department a couple of years ago, but pulled the plug on that effort last week by firing Brown.

General Manager John Dorsey isn’t planning a similar time frame for the turnaround he was hired to oversee shortly after Brown was dispatched. During an appearance on WKNR 850 on Thursday, Dorsey cited his optimism as the reason for his high expectations for next season.

“I believe we have to be competitive in the AFC North and my total objective going into the ’18 season is to win the AFC North,” Dorsey said via Cleveland.com. “Anything else to me is unacceptable.”

Dorsey said in the same radio appearance that Brown and the rest of the group making personnel decisions didn’t bring in “real players” over the last couple of years. That’s something Dorsey will have to remedy if the team is going to come close to realizing that objective.

He’ll have the loads of cap space and deep surplus of draft picks Brown left behind to put toward that effort. Should those assets pay off as Dorsey hopes, the 2018 executive of the year vote won’t be a suspenseful one although Time Magazine’s Man of the Year choice might be more difficult.

Carson Wentz wants to stay informed, even while “loopy”

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Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz still wants to help. Even if he doesn’t remember it.

Via Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News, Wentz used FaceTime to join his teammates in the daily quarterback room Wednesday, despite the fact he had just gotten out of ACL surgery and may have still been under the effects of anesthesia.

“It’s obviously disappointing, but the surgery went well, from what I heard and what he said,” backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld said. “He was feeling pretty loopy after the anesthesia, . . .  He was just ordering a burger and talking about, he was trying to figure out some of the new plays we put in.”

While they doubtless appreciated the gesture, Sudfeld said he asked Wentz, “are you sure you want to know right now?”

Wentz won’t be running any of those plays until next year, but the fact he wanted to stay in touch with the guys from his hospital bed in Pittsburgh is at least good for the camaraderie.

Josh McCown asked to be a player-coach this weekend

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When the 2016 season was nearing an end, Browns coach Hue Jackson said that quarterback Josh McCown could have a spot on the team’s coaching staff in 2017 if he didn’t continue playing.

McCown did continue playing by signing with the Jets, but he’s going to get some coaching experience as well. McCown is on injured reserve after breaking his left hand last week and Jets coach Todd Bowles said that the veteran will be on the sideline as a “player-coach” after asking for that responsibility.

Bowles said the team was thinking about asking him to serve in such a capacity and that he shares Jackson’s belief that McCown is well-suited to a move to coaching.

“Yes, I can see that in him,” Bowles said at his Thursday press conference. “If that’s what he wants to do, I can see him being an excellent coach when he’s done playing. … He has a feel for people, the way he sees the game, the way he relates to people is very important, and he can put all that together.”

McCown, who turns 39 in July, said after his injury that he doesn’t know what’s next for him, but he played well enough this season that there’s likely to be interest in him as a player if that’s what he wants to do. If not, it still seems likely he’ll be remaining around the game.

Colts approaching NFL record they’d rather avoid

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The Colts probably can’t catch the Browns for the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t have something to play for.

With last night’s come-from-ahead loss to the Broncos, the Colts are approaching NFL history.

They’ve taken the lead into halftime nine times this season, and seven times they’ve lost those games. Via Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star, that’s one game away from an NFL record.

Five of those seven times, it’s happened in the fourth quarter, and coach Chuck Pagano has referred to it as a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Thursday, the Colts turned a 10-0 lead in the second quarter and a 10-7 halftime lead into a 25-13 loss — a remarkable 18-3 second-half giveback that came at the hands of Broncos backup quarterback Brock Osweiler.

That means it was the fifth time this season they’ve blown double-digit leads, three of those at home. They’ve been outscored 223-91 in the second half this year.

The Colts still have two chances to avoid history (or embrace it), next Saturday at Baltimore before their finale at home against the Texans.

Robert Woods, Andrew Whitworth on track to play

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The Rams badly need a win in Seattle in order to preserve their ability to win the division, given the one-game lead over the Seahawks and that one game the Seahawks won in L.A. earlier this year. And with the game approaching, it’s looking like two key pieces of the offense will indeed be good to go.

Coach Sean McVay addressed on Thursday the status of receiver Robert Woods, who suffered a shoulder injury last month, and tackle Andrew Whitworth, who suffered an ankle injury last week.

“He’s good,” McVay told reporters regarding Woods. “He was out there moving around today and he seems like he’s going to be good to go for the game, so it’s good to have Robert back out there for us.”

Whitworth, who has been an important addition to a previously moribund offense, also should be able to play.

“He should be,” McVay said, explaining that they’ve used a relaxed practice schedule with the lineman who is older than his coach. “We trust that he kind of knows his body pretty well, so been able to defer to him and he feels like he’s going to be good to go.”

The Seahawks beat the Rams 16-10 more than two months ago. Seattle’s defense has changed significantly since then due to injuries, but its offense has improved as well. And the stakes are high for both teams, since the loser could end up being in danger of not making the playoffs.

Brock Osweiler felt like a kid having fun in win over Colts

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Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler had one of the best games of his career on Thursday night, entering to replace an injured Trevor Siemian and leading Denver to a win in Indianapolis.

After the game, Osweiler described it as one of the most fun outings of his career.

“I was a little kid having fun tonight,” Osweiler said. “That’s really what it was. You guys all know — I’ve been on a little bit of a roller-coaster ride for the last two years. Just to go out there, “Thursday Night Football” with my teammates who I love, I was just having fun. I was going to lay it all out there. We always talk about around our building, you never know when it’s going to be your last play, your last game in this business. So just enjoy every moment, and that’s really what I was doing tonight.”

Osweiler finished the game completing 12 of 17 passes for 194 yards, with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a career-high passer rating of 147.7. Osweiler, who will be a free agent this offseason, wants to prove he can compete for a starting job somewhere, and Thursday night’s game helped that cause.

Eli Apple fined by Giants for tweeting during game

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It’s been a rough year for New York Giants cornerback Eli Apple.

Apple was fined an undisclosed amount by the Giants for tweeting during last Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com.

Apple was inactive for the game and not in uniform. However, tweeting from the sidelines, or in the immediate aftermath of games, is prohibited by the league.

“I wasn’t confused. It was just a mistake by me,” Apple said Thursday.

Apple hasn’t played in over a month as he’s been inactive for the Giants’ last four games. While the policy against tweeting is a league rule, the Giants fining him takes care of the matter and he won’t be fined by the league as well.

Giants interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo had expressed his disappointment in Apple’s decision.

Apple’s mother had brain surgery in November. He’s had trouble getting on the field at times this season, especially recently. The tweeting incident doesn’t help either, especially after Apple reportedly threatened to walk out of team headquarters as coaches and teammates questioned his effort at times. He also denied having conversations with safety Landon Collins after Collins said he had a sit down with Apple to tell him the team needed him.

It’s been a rocky sophomore season in the New York for Apple, but he says he’s still committed to the Giants and accepts his situation with the team.

“Of course. I’m blessed to be where I am right now,” Apple said. “I appreciate everything being here, alive. Football is something I love to do. It’s a blessing. You don’t want to take it for granted. I definitely want to be here, to be honest.”