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Cardinals off to a good start, up early on Washington

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) AP

The Cardinals have been a frustrating lot this year, but on their opening drive against Washington, looked like the team people were expecting this year.

Cardinals running back David Johnson scored from a yard out for a 7-0 lead over Washington.

That capped a 15-play, 75-yard drive to open the game, which occupied nearly half the first quarter.

Johnson had 39 of those yards himself, as the Cards made a concerted effort to get it in his hands. They also found veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, extending his streak of games with at least one catch to 191. That broke a tie with Marvin Harrison and moved him into sole possession of third place on the all-time list.

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Jeff Fisher: I signed extension in the offseason

Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher watches from the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) AP

It feels like we’ve been talking about Rams coach Jeff Fisher getting a contract extension since the offseason before news broke on Sunday morning of agreement on a two-year extension, but it was actually old news.

Reports that Fisher signed the extension weeks ago were off by a bit as well. It was actually months ago. Fisher confirmed that he signed an extension with the team after the Rams fell to 4-8 in a 26-10 loss to the Patriots on Sunday afternoon.

“This was done well before the season started,” Fisher said.

The team’s performance this season could affect the team’s decision to see out even the first year of the extension, but the fact that the Rams have made it clear that they are looking at more than wins and losses suggests he remains on track for 2017 at this point.

Fisher, who now stands one loss away for tying Dan Reeves with the most of any coach, has four weeks to avoid 7-9 BS, although the Rams will have to win out for that to be a good thing.

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Sean Payton calls report of possible Brandin Cooks trade “garbage” and “false”

Detroit Lions free safety Glover Quin (27) tries to break up a pass intended for New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Bill Feig) AP

Before Sunday’s game against the Lions, Saints coach Sean Payton expressed his displeasure with the report regarding a possible offseason trade of receiver Brandin Cooks indirectly. After the game, Payton made his views known.

That’s garbage,” Payton told reporters, via Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate. “It’s a false report. It’s an agent picking up the phone and calling a reporter.”

If that’s what happened, it possibly happened at the behest of and/or with the knowledge of Cooks, who based on his remarks from this past week may want to play for a team that feeds him the ball more frequently.

Cooks had seven catches for 73 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Lions.

A first-round pick in 2014, Cooks is eligible for a new contract after the regular season ends.

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Bengals come alive, rout Eagles

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 4:  Tyler Eifert #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a pass over the defense of Rodney McLeod #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had a big game, and the Eagles could neither keep up nor keep the Bengals from marching up and down the field.

The Bengals won, 32-14, and scored the game’s first 29 points. Dalton threw a touchdown pass to Tyler Eifert late in the first half to make it 19-0 and another to Brandon LaFell on the first drive of the second as the Bengals put it out of reach.

Dalton threw for 332 yards as the Bengals won for the first time since Oct. 23.

The Bengals punted once all day, and they were up 29-7 when they did. The Eagles lost their third straight and fifth in their last six to fall to 5-7.

The Bengals improve to 4-7-1 and play at winless Cleveland next week. They’re mathematically still alive in the AFC North.

The Bengals ran up 412 yards of offense, more than making up for settling for field goals as they moved the ball early in the game. The home crowd gave struggling kicker Mike Nugent a sarcastic cheer when he opened the scoring with a 32-yard field goal.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz threw 60 passes. He completed 36 of them for 308 yards and was intercepted three times.

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Chiefs hold on for 29-28 win in Atlanta

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 28:  Defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches #99 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates a tackle in the fourth quarter of the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 28, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chiefs offense wasn’t on the field for several of the biggest plays of Sunday’s game against the Falcons and that worked out just fine for Kansas City.

Eric Berry returned an interception for a touchdown in the first half to put the Chiefs in the lead and he returned an interception on a two-point conversion for two more points late that put them back in the lead late in the fourth quarter. Alex Smith completed passes to Travis Kelce and Albert Wilson for first downs on the ensuing drive and the Falcons couldn’t stop the clock on what ended as a 29-28 Kansas City win.

Berry’s second big play came just after the Falcons erased what had been a 27-16 Chiefs lead on the back of two fourth quarter touchdowns. The second came on a five-yard pass to Aldrick Robinson as Julio Jones battled an apparent lower body injury on the sideline, but the attempt to extend the lead flopped when Berry jumped a route and took it to the house for the second time on the day. It’s the first time an interception has been returned for two points since the league began allowing it last year.

Wilson added another big play with a 55-yard run for a touchdown on a third quarter fake punt that caught the Falcons totally unaware. That was the biggest play from scrimmage for the Chiefs and Kelce’s 140 receiving yards provided much of the heavy lifting on offense for Kansas City on the day. Alex Smith completed 14 straight passes at one point and finished the day 21-of-25 for 270 yards.

Jones nearly matched Kelce as he caught seven passes for 113 yards before leaving the proceedings and the Falcons were able to roll up 418 yards overall, but three trips into the red zone that ended without points will sting as the Falcons consider their home loss. It drops them to 7-5 on the year and opens the door for the Buccaneers to join them on the top rung in the division if they win in San Diego later on Sunday.

The good news for the Falcons is that the Rams and 49ers are next on the schedule. The Chiefs will have a stiffer test in Week 14 when they host the Raiders in a Thursday night game that will weigh heavily in figuring out who wins the AFC West this year.

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Defense delivers as Broncos hold off Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 04:  Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs for yardage as  Shaquil Barrett #48 of the Denver Broncos pursues the play at EverBank Field on December 4, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos were bailed out Sunday by their defense. Again.

An interception return touchdown by Bradley Roby in the third quarter provided the Broncos’ only touchdown of the second half as they held off the Jaguars, 20-10.

The Broncos couldn’t generate any offense in the second half, keeping the door open for the Jaguars, but the Broncos got two late stops to seal it. Rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch only threw for 104 yards while subbing for the injured Trevor Siemian, but the Broncos just kept forcing punts and forcing Blake Bortles into turnovers.

Bortles was intercepted twice and also lost a fumble in the final two minutes with the score 17-10. It was his fifth multiple interception game of the season.

The Broncos won despite producing just 10 first downs and converting 1-of-13 third downs. The Jaguars ran 81 plays; the Broncos ran 54.

Roby’s interception return midway through the third quarter covered 51 yards and made it 17-3. A 22-yard run by Bortles early in the fourth quarter was the Jaguars’ only touchdown.

The Broncos are 8-4, and their final four games — at Tennessee, vs. New England, at Kansas City and vs. the Raiders — are all against fellow playoff contenders.

The Jaguars fall to 2-10.

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Lions play their best game of the season in win over Saints

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 04:  Eric Ebron #85 of the Detroit Lions is tackled by Jairus Byrd #31 of the New Orleans Saints druing the first half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 4, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

For the first 11 games of the season, the Lions won more than they lost, but always struggled. Not today in New Orleans.

Today the Lions controlled the game throughout, jumping out to an early 10-0 lead and never looking back as they beat the Saints.

This was the first game all season that the Lions didn’t trail in the fourth quarter: Until today, they had been losing at some point in the fourth quarter of all 11 games, although they managed to come from behind and win seven of them. Today they had a comfortable lead throughout the fourth quarter. The win improves the Lions’ record to 8-4 and makes clear that they’re the favorites to win the NFC North.

Lions receiver Golden Tate had an outstanding game against a weak Saints secondary, getting open repeatedly and finishing with over 100 yards, including a game-sealing 66-yard touchdown. Matthew Stafford had one of his best games of the season.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw three late interceptions that ended any hope the Saints might have had of winning. The Lions’ defense played better than expected, while the Saints’ offense was hampered by the loss of tight end Josh Hill to a leg injury.

The Saints, at 5-7, are probably out of playoff contention. But the Lions look like a playoff team. They have a two-game lead in the NFC North, with only four games to play.

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Titans, Browns won’t get to wear their non-conforming cleats

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Reggie Bush #22 of the Buffalo Bills wears special cleats in memory of former NFL player Joe McKnight prior to their NFL game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on December 4, 2016 in Oakland, California. McKnight was shot and killed in Terrytown, Louisiana on Thursday.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Titans and Browns have a post-Thanksgiving break, the last two byes of the season. That scheduling quirk also kept the players on both teams from joining in the wearing of cleats that deviate from the NFL’s normal uniform requirements.

According to the league, Titans and Browns players won’t be permitted to wear the clears at a later date. However, the players on both teams had their personalized cleats made. The cleats will be auctioned, and the causes reflected by the cleats will be promoted.

It’s still not the same as actually wearing the cleats. It would be nice if the NFL would reconsider that position and allow Titans and Browns players to wear their cleats next weekend. Based on the Week 13 games, during which the sky did not fall even though players wore cleats that deviated from the norm, there’s no harm in letting the two teams that missed out on it this week doing it next week.

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No Gronk is no problem as Patriots roll over Rams

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 04:  Chris Long #95 of the New England Patriots reacts after sacking Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams (not pictured) during the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots may have a tough time living life without tight end Rob Gronkowski at some point in the coming weeks, but they barely had to break a sweat to knock off the Rams on Sunday.

LeGarrette Blount and Chris Hogan scored touchdowns early, Stephen Gostkowski kept making field goals and the defense stonewalled pretty much everything that the Rams threw at them in a 26-10 victory. The win moves the Patriots to 10-2 on the season and the Dolphins’ loss to the Ravens puts them on the brink of another division title.

In a season filled with rancid offensive performances by Los Angeles, Sunday’s was among the worst. The only touchdown came with 1:15 left to play in a game that had long been decided in New England’s favor and it took the 66 yards they gained on that drive to push them over 100 total yards for the game. Before that, the Rams turned the ball over twice and allowed four sacks while sprinkling in dropped passes, holding penalties and another dud in the running game.

That’s probably not going to lead to many cheers for the news of Jeff Fisher’s contract extension, although punter Johnny Hekker might be a fan. He got to uncork a 76-yard boot to continue his impressive season as the only thing worth watching when the Rams have the ball.

The Patriots found success on the ground with Blount and through the air with Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell on their way to 402 yards and nearly 38 minutes of possession. There was never a moment when it felt like the outcome of the game was in doubt, largely because of how in command Tom Brady was on offense while Jared Goff was flailing his way to a 14-of-32 game on the other side.

The biggest negatives for the Patriots on the day were injuries to wide receiver Danny Amendola and cornerback Eric Rowe in the second half. Amendola hurt his ankle, Rowe hurt his hamstring and neither returned to action, although the lack of competition on the other side may have made discretion the wisest choice for the Patriots.

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Bears do enough to send 49ers to 11th straight loss

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) fumbles as he is tackled by Chicago Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks (96) and linebacker Leonard Floyd (94) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) AP

It was far from a thing of beauty for the Bears, but it beats losing.

A second-half surge helped the Bears to a 26-6 win over the 49ers, extending San Francisco’s losing streak to 11 games.

And perhaps to commemorate that first win of the season, the 49ers went back to the guy who started the opener, with Blaine Gabbert replacing Colin Kaepernick in the fourth quarter.

Kaepernick only completed one pass, and Gabbert wasn’t much better, and was sacked by Leonard Floyd for a safety late. But Kaepernick was sacked five times, which is a lot of the reason they couldn’t move the ball against the Bears.

The 49ers only managed 147 total yards.

By comparison, the Bears were a flying circus, with Jordan Howard running 32 times for 117 yards and three touchdowns, and quarterback Matt Barkley overcoming a slow start to finish 11-of-18 for 192 yards passing.

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Ravens throttle the Dolphins to improve to 7-5

Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, left, tackles Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill after losing his helmet in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) AP

For a pair of teams that are each 7-5, the Ravens and Dolphins couldn’t look any more different.

The Ravens dominated the Dolphins, beating them 38-6 to snap Miami’s six-game winning streak.

The thrashing was a thorough one, as they were up 24-0 at halftime and kept building.

And Baltimore did it almost exclusively through the air, as Joe Flacco threw for 381 yards and four touchdowns.

They only ran well late, but they didn’t really need to, as Flacco got into an early rhythm and that was enough to sustain them.

All the progress Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill had shown lately was not evident, as he was intercepted three times and never looked able to work them out of a hole.

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Falcons grab lead for a moment, Eric Berry grabs it back

Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) picks off a Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passed ball during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Atlanta. Berry scored on the play. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) AP

The Falcons briefly jumped back in the lead late in the fourth quarter of their game against the Chiefs and they did it without the help of wide receiver Julio Jones.

Jones has spent most of the day as Matt Ryan’s most popular target through the air, but he spent most of the go-ahead drive on the sidelines after suffering what appears to be some kind of injury to his leg, ankle or foot. Jones came on the field as a decoy on a couple of plays, but wasn’t moving well and wasn’t on the field when Aldrick Robinson put the Falcons up 28-27 on a five-yard touchdown catch.

That lead didn’t last for a full play, however. The Falcons went for two, but Chiefs safety Eric Berry intercepted Matt Ryan and returned the ball into the other end zone. That meant two points for Kansas City, giving them a 29-28 lead with the ball coming back to them with 4:32 left in the game.

Berry had an interception return for a touchdown earlier in the game and his two big plays may be the biggest reason why the Chiefs get a win if the score remains in their favor.

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Packers use longest drive of season to retake lead at Lambeau

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 04:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers drops back to pass in the first quarter against the Houston Texans at Lambeau Field on December 4, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s taking a while, but the Packers are finally beginning to exert themselves in the snow against the Texans.

A 12-play, 98-yard drive — the team’s longest of the season — has resulted in a touchdown and a 14-7 lead for Green Bay.

The scoring effort came after the Texans tied things up with a 10-play, 63-yard drive in the third quarter. The teams traded punts, and then the Packers moved from their own two to paydirt, with a 32-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to receiver Jordy Nelson.

After completing nine of his first 10 passes, Rodgers has completed only nine of his next 17. Still, it’s working for the Packers — who need to keep pace with the 7-4 Lions, who currently are up by 12 in New Orleans.

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Blaine Gabbert in for Colin Kaepernick with 49ers trailing

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 6: Blaine Gabbert #2 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after rushing for a 44-yard touchdown to tie the game in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 6, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The 49ers defeated the Bears 26-20 in overtime. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

When Colin Kaepernick took a knee at halftime, he was only down a point.

But since he hasn’t completed a pass since then, the 49ers have pulled him.

Backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert has entered the game for Kaepernick early in the fourth quarter with their team trailing 24-6.

Kaepernick was 1-of-5 for four yards, and it only took Gabbert two passes to surpass his output on the day. His first pass was an 18-yarder to Jeremy Kerley.

Of course, it’s not all Kaepernick’s fault, as he’s been sacked five times. And it’s unclear whether this is a sea change after Kaepernick has started the last seven games, or whether it’s a temporary situation.

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Bears blow open a 21-6 lead on the 49ers

Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) runs to ward the end zone for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) AP

If the weather’s going to make you run the ball almost exclusively, it helps to be good at it.

The Bears have opened up a 21-6 lead over the 49ers in some sketchy conditions in Chicago, blowing open a sloppy game.

Running back Jordan Howard has scored three touchdowns, with 20 carries for 88 yards so far.

The 49ers are now in position where they have to throw it to catch up, but they haven’t been very successful at it. Colin Kaeperinick is 1-of-5 passing for four (4!) yards, which has kept them in check even though Carlos Hyde’s having a good day on the ground himself (20 carries for 92 yards).

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