Steelers will play without T.J. Watt, Marcus Gilbert this week

AP

The Steelers have ruled out starters on each side of the ball ahead of Sunday’s game against the Bears.

Linebacker T.J. Watt hurt his groin in last Sunday’s victory over the Vikings, but didn’t practice on Thursday or Friday before being ruled out by the team. Watt was replaced by Anthony Chickillo last week and Chickillo started in place of Bud Dupree in the opener, although there’s also a chance that his absence could open the door for James Harrison to get some playing time.

The Steelers will also be without right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who missed practice all week because of a hamstring injury and an illness. Gilbert will likely be replaced by Chris Hubbard, who stepped in for both Gilbert and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva at points in last Sunday’s win.

Defensive end Stephon Tuitt is questionable to play. Tuitt hurt his biceps in Week One and didn’t play last week.

Evan Engram out of concussion protocol, cleared to play

AP

Giants rookie tight end Evan Engram went through a limited practice Friday after being cleared from concussion protocol. He will play Sunday.

Engram has eight catches for 93 yards and a touchdown this season.

The Giants did rule out right tackle Bobby Hart (ankle), middle linebacker B.J. Goodson (shin) and backup linebacker J.T. Thomas (groin).

Justin Pugh will start at right tackle after moving there from left guard during last week’s game. Hart played only two snaps before re-injuring his ankle. Brett Jones will start at left guard.

Calvin Munson will replace Goodson at middle linebacker for a second consecutive week.

The Giants list cornerback Janoris Jenkins (ankle) as questionable. He was limited in practice Friday.

Broncos list Garett Bolles, Bennie Fowler as questionable

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The Broncos list left tackle Garett Bolles as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Bills. The first-round pick has a lower left leg bruise that initially looked worse than what it turned out to be.

“He is obviously getting better fast,” coach Vance Joseph said. “He is traveling to the game, so he is questionable.”

Bolles missed Wednesday’s practice but returned on a limited basis Thursday.

“If he’s ready to play physically, you’re OK, but the mental reps that he missed on Wednesday is a concern,” Joseph said.

Wide receiver Bennie Fowler remains in concussion protocol. The Broncos him him as questionable. The Broncos have ruled out quarterback Paxton Lynch and cornerback Brendan Langley.

Browns promote Jordan Leslie

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The Browns promoted wide receiver Jordan Leslie from the practice squad. They waived wide receiver Reggie Davis in a corresponding move.

Cleveland placed wide receiver Corey Coleman on injured reserve earlier this week with a broken hand, and wide receiver Sammie Coates is doubtful with a hamstring injury.

Leslie led the Browns with two receiving touchdowns in the preseason, making nine receptions for 93 yards. He was signed to the practice squad Tuesday and spent time on the Browns’ practice squad in 2016.

Davis, a rookie, joined the Browns via waivers from Atlanta during final roster cuts. He was inactive the first two games.
 

Brent Grimes, Gerald McCoy questionable, Chris Baker doubtful, Kwon Alexander out for Bucs

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The Buccaneers won’t have middle linebacker Kwon Alexander on Sunday, presenting an even bigger challenge in trying to stop Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. Alexander missed practice all week with a hamstring injury that limited him to 40 snaps last week.

Rookie Kendell Beckwith moved from his strongside spot Sunday after Alexander left. Adarius Glanton moved into the strongside spot.

Adding to the Bucs’ injury concerns, defensive tackle Chris Baker and defensive end Jacquies Smith are doubtful with the flu. Clinton McDonald would start for Baker.

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (ankle) had his first full practice of the week Friday and is questionable. Cornerback Brent Grimes (shoulder) also is questionable after being limited in practice all week.

Linebacker Devante Bond (knee) and guard Kevin Pamphile (illness) are questionable.

 
 
 

Colts add Matt Jones to active roster

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Running back Matt Jones‘ first stay on the Colts’ active roster lasted less than a week, but came back to their practice squad and will get some more time on the main roster this weekend.

The Colts announced on Friday that they have promoted Jones and waived guard Ian Silberman.

Jones was summoned because of the shoulder injury that Marlon Mack suffered during practice this week. Mack has been ruled out, which leaves Frank Gore, Robert Turbin and Jones as the team’s backfield options against the Browns.

The Colts also ruled out center Ryan Kelly, cornerback Quincy Wilson, linebacker Anthony Walker and, of course, quarterback Andrew Luck. They hope to have cornerback Vontae Davis in the lineup for the first time this season, but he looms as a game-time decision.

Lions rule Jarrad Davis and Tavon Wilson out for Falcons game

AP

The Lions are down a pair of starting defensive players for Sunday’s game against the Falcons.

Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions listed linebacker Jarrad Davis and safety Tavon Wilson out this week, along with running back Dwayne Washington.

Center Travis Swanson is listed as questionable, but they’ll miss Davis against a high-powered offense.

Davis, their first-round pick, left last week’s game with the Giants with a concussion. He was injured when he was pushed in the back by wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., sending him into a collision.

Corey Graham’s consecutive game streak will end at 159

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Eagles coach Doug Pederson said that safety Corey Graham would be a game-time decision when he met with the media on Friday morning, but Pederson was either misinformed or trying some misdirection with the Giants.

The Eagles released their official injury report for Sunday’s NFC East matchup and Graham has been ruled out for the game due to a hamstring injury. It’s a rare thing for Graham to be ruled out of action as he has played in 159 straight games since missing time during his rookie season with the Bears in 2007.

Pederson also said defensive back Jaylen Watkins would be a Sunday decision, but, like Graham, Watkins has been ruled out well ahead of time because of his hamstring. Cornerback Ronald Darby will miss another game with an ankle injury, so the Eagles will be short in the secondary.

They’ll be even shorter if safety Rodney McLeod, who is also hampered by a hamstring, can’t play. McLeod was listed as questionable on Friday.

NFL Network’s Thursday night ratings are up over last year

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The NFL’s television ratings have been a mixed bag early this season, but the league-owned network is getting good news.

For the second week in a row, NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football ratings are up significantly from NFL Network’s games last season: Last night’s Rams-49ers game had 7.4 million viewers, while last week’s Texans-Bengals game had 8.1 million viewers. Last year, the four Thursday night games that were only on NFL Network averaged 6.1 million viewers.

NFL Network is also getting strong ratings for its programming around Thursday Night Football. Last Thursday the five-most shows on cable TV were the Thursday night game, the two NFL Network programs airing after the game and the two NFL Network programs airing before the game.

Two games aren’t enough to draw any sweeping conclusions about Thursday Night Football, but after perhaps the most entertaining Thursday night game ever, the league has to think Thursdays are heading in the right direction.

Falcons without right tackle Ryan Schraeder this week

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The Falcons are going to be without a starting tackle and their best pass-rusher for this week’s battle of undefeateds against the Lions.

Via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com, Falcons right tackle Ryan Schraeder has been ruled out this week because of a concussion.

That leaves trade acquisition Ty Sambrailo to start against the Lions. He was acquired from the Broncos on Sept. 1 for a fifth-round pick.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he hopes Schrader will be able to return next week.

The Falcons had previous ruled out pass-rusher Vic Beasley Jr. (hamstring) and defensive end Courtney Upshaw (ankle) with injuries sustained in Sunday night’s win over the Packers. That creates an opportunity for first-rounder Takkarist McKinley to play a bigger role this week.

Ryan Kalil will miss another game

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The Panthers will be rolling with one member of the Kalil family again this week.

Center Ryan Kalil has been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Saints after missing practice all week with a neck injury. Kalil was a late scratch last week and coach Ron Rivera said that replacement Tyler Larsen should benefit from having extended time with the first team this week.

“The reps that he got, that’s always a good thing,” Rivera said, via the team’s website. “It helps him develop a comfort level with the quarterback, and the quarterback gets comfortable with him. It also helps the guards get used to hearing the line calls from him. That stuff is important.”

Linebacker Jeremy Cash has also been ruled out and quarterback Cam Newton is listed as questionable after a week of limited practices designed to rest his shoulder and ankle, but the team doesn’t seem to have any doubt that he’ll be in the lineup come Sunday.

Rob Gronkowski says he’s ready to go after groin injury

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The Patriots finished last Sunday’s victory over the Saints without the help of tight end Rob Gronkowski due to a groin injury, but it looks like they’ll be starting this Sunday’s game with him on the field.

Gronkowski was on the field for Wednesday’s practice, but wound up listed as a non-participant in the session. He was limited on Thursday and told reporters on Friday that all is well heading into the matchup with the Texans.

“Yeah I’m good to go. I’m ready,” Gronkowski said, via Doug Kyed of NESN.

The Patriots have not released their full injury report yet, but it looks like they’ll have a shot of getting wide receiver Danny Amendola and linebacker Dont'a Hightower back in action as both players have practiced this week. It looks less promising for running back Rex Burkhead, who missed a third straight day on Friday with injured ribs.

Offensive pass interference may be a sudden point of emphasis

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So why did officials kill the 49ers’ final drive with a tacky-tack offensive pass interference call on Thursday night? It’s possibly a result of the periodic reminders that the league office provides to game officials.

As one source explained it to PFT, the league routinely sends clips and memos to game officials pointing out missed calls from the prior week. This often leads to an overreaction, with the officials suddenly paying unreasonable attention to dynamics that previously had been policed less zealously.

With several questionable offensive pass interference calls on Sunday and continuing to Thursday, it’s possible that the league decided that too many offensive pass interference calls were missed in Week One, prompting the league office to emphasize offensive pass interference moving forward. Which resulted in the flag that effectively ended the 49ers’ comeback against the Rams.

Tyler Eifert, John Ross out for Bengals this week

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Tight end Tyler Eifert will miss the 28th game of his NFL career this weekend.

The Bengals have ruled Eifert out with a back injury, which means he’ll miss their first game under newly promoted offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Eifert had four catches for 46 yards over the first two weeks of the year and has now missed 27 of the last 50 games overall.

Lazor will also be without the services of wide receiver John Ross. Ross made his debut last Thursday against the Texans after missing the opener with a knee injury and is back down with a knee problem this week. Geoff Hobson of the team’s website reports that Ross is believed to be getting an MRI and the results of that test will likely determine how long he’ll be out this time around.

Right guard Trey Hopkins rounds out the list of Bengals ruled out for Sunday with a knee injury. It’s the second straight game that Hopkins will miss.

Sam Bradford out again this week

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Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford got in limited practices on Wednesday and Thursday, raising hopes that he’d be able to return to the lineup against the Buccaneers this week.

Friday’s developments have doused those hopes. According to multiple reports from Minnesota, Bradford did not practice as the team wrapped up the week of preparation for Tampa. That makes it little surprise to hear a report from Dan Graziano of ESPN that Bradford is expected to miss a second straight game.

Per Graziano, Bradford’s left knee did not respond as hoped to his two days of practice. Graziano’s colleague Chris Mortensen reports that Bradford wants a second opinion on the injury from Dr. James Andrews, who did the surgeries after both of Bradford’s torn ACLs.

Bradford was described as day-to-day by coach Mike Zimmer earlier this week and Zimmer is scheduled to speak to the media later on Friday.

Case Keenum, who has had success against the Buccaneers in the past, is in line to start for the second straight week.

UPDATE 1:37 p.m. ET: Zimmer confirmed Bradford is out this weekend.