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Harvin will wear No. 16 in New York, but will anyone buy his jersey?

Testaverde AP

At some point on Monday, Jets receiver Percy Harvin will get his first taste of the New York media.  He already has gotten his new number.

Via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Jets have announced that Harvin will wear No. 16.

Inevitably, jerseys with that name and number will be available to buy at the team’s official online store.  But with Harvin on his third chance and some in the league believing that Harvin’s temperament and attitude and fighting with teammates make him unfit for the privilege of playing in the NFL, there’s a sense that the Jets will cut and run if Harvin’s behavior doesn’t change.  So why would anyone invest in a jersey that Harvin may not be wearing for very long?

The better approach may be to dust off the old Brad Smith or Vinny Testaverde jerseys and change the name plate.  Or just rip the name plate off.  Because it’s likely at this point — with Harvin due to make $10 million in 2015 and the Jets able to avoid a two-round upgrade in the draft pick the Seahawks will get by dumping him — that this is a nine-games-at-most experiment.

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Injuries mounting rapidly for Chargers defense

Kansas City Chiefs v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

The Chargers took a five-game winning streak into Sunday’s game against the Chiefs, but they weren’t able to extend their run any further.

Kansas City took a 23-20 decision, leaving the Chargers to make a quick turnaround to start preparing for Thursday night’s game against the Broncos. They’ll be doing it with a defense that’s been thinned out by injuries.

Linebackers Manti Te’o and Jerry Attaochu and cornerback Jason Verrett were all inactive, defensive tackle Kwame Geathers is on season-ending injured reserve and linebacker Melvin Ingram is on injured reserve with the designation to return, leaving the team shorthanded from the start. Cornerback Brandon Flowers left with a concussion during the game and the team saw several other players shuffle in and out with less severe aches and pains over the course of the afternoon.

Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego reports Verrett is expected to be out again on Thursday and Flowers is going to have a hard time getting cleared so quickly, which would leave the Chargers quite vulnerable to the Denver passing attack.

“Next man up” is a popular and sensible response to the injuries that impact every team, but at some point you run out of next guys. The Chargers are closer to that point than they’d like to be at the moment.

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Gruden has three potential quarterback options for next Monday night

Griffin Getty Images

When Washington, fresh from its second win of the season, heads to Dallas with the goal of hanging a second loss on the Cowboys, there’s a chance coach Jay Gruden won’t be confined to two possible quarterback options.

As explained by Rich Tandler of CSNWashington.com, Gruden’s selection may come from a list of threeKirk Cousins, Colt McCoy, or Robert Griffin III.

Griffin dislocated his ankle five weeks ago.  Per Tandler, Griffin worked out on the field prior to Sunday, with drop-backs and full-speed bootlegs.  (You know, the stuff Griffin did on the field during pregame workouts in the 2013 preseason, before he returned too soon from his torn ACL.)  Griffin has not yet received medical clearance to play.

“You would like to have your decision made as soon as possible,” Gruden said of preparations for next Monday night.  “Now, you throw Robert into the mix. Robert has a chance to practice on Wednesday and we have to see where he is.  See where he is health-wise, and from there I will make a decision from watching the tape of what I’m going to do.”

Given Griffin’s struggles last year when he clearly wasn’t fully recovered following reconstructive knee surgery, some close to Griffin will be nudging him to wait until he’s clearly 100 percent.  But Griffin surely will be hoping to play in his return to Texas — especially after last year’s homecoming didn’t go as well as his first one.

As a rookie, Griffin had a memorable Thanksgiving Day performance in Dallas, with four touchdown passes and 303 yards passing in a 38-31 victory over the Cowboys.  Last year, he had two turnovers, no touchdowns, and a completion percentage under 50 percent in a 31-16 loss there.

If Griffin doesn’t get clearance, Gruden could decide to go with McCoy over Cousins.  Which would make sense; McCoy led the team to a win on Sunday.  Cousins, after some early success, has looked like anything but a viable starting quarterback for which Washington could get a first-round pick in trade.

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Jimmy Graham returns for the Saints, allegedly

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

For all the time spent last week wondering if Jimmy Graham would play or not, it turned out to not matter.

Graham was able to return from a shoulder injury ahead of schedule, but didn’t do much. He was targeted twice, but didn’t catch a single pass in the Saints’ loss to the Lions.

According to Mike Triplett of ESPN.com, Graham didn’t talk to reporters after the game while getting treatment. Coach Sean Payton would said that “there was a handful of plays tagged for” his Pro Bowl tight end.

But Payton also noted that he didn’t get many snaps in the red zone, which figured to be the easiest way to blend him back in.

“He was in the nickel, some of the third down, some of the red zone,” Payton said. “We kind of did the same thing a year ago [when Graham returned from a plantar fasciitis injury] against Buffalo. We kind of had a set plan in place for him, and the challenge is just making sure you’re ready if you’re not playing on a more frequent basis.”

Getting Graham back on the stat sheet will be crucial for the 2-4 Saints, as their division is still wide open, being led by the 3-3-1 Panthers.

Somebody has to win it and go to the playoffs, and getting Graham back on track seems as likely as the Panthers fixing their entire defense.

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Panthers defense suddenly can’t stop anyone

Randall Cobb, Thomas Davis AP

It wasn’t that long ago that the Panthers were a team defined by their defense.

But that side of the ball is dragging them down now.

Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review points out the sordid facts about a terrible defense, which has allowed at least 37 points in four of their last five games.

They’ve given up 195 points through seven games, after giving up just 241 all of last season.

“We can’t keep sitting around and waiting on things to happen,” linebacker Thomas Davis said. “As a defense, we’ve got to go out and make things happen. Until we do that, this outcome is going to continue to be like this.”

Quarterbacks in particular are having a field day against their soft secondary,

The last five quarterbacks they’ve played (Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler, Andy Dalton and Aaron Rodgers) have completed 76.5 percent of their passes (124-of-162 for 1,390 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions), for a passer rating of 116.0.

That’s ridiculous, but somewhat predictable.

The Panthers had an odd cast of defensive backs last year, but they also had Greg Hardy getting 15.0 sacks to make the job of coverage easier. Without that pressure, players are being exposed (notably but not limited to safety Roman Harper and safety-turned-nickel corner Charles Godfrey).

Now, with Hardy awaiting trial on domestic violence charges and on the commissioner’s exempt list — and the money he’s soaking up unavailable to buy reinforcements — the Panthers aren’t stopping anybody.

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Aaron Rodgers says Packers offense is “getting closer”

Carolina Panthers v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

A few weeks ago, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers showed off his spelling ability in order to tell panicky fans that they should relax when it comes to the team’s offense.

That advice has proven sound over the last few weeks and Sunday’s game against the Panthers was no exception. The Packers rolled to a 38-17 win that saw five different players score touchdowns and Rodgers throw just three incompletions while hooking up with nine different receivers over the course of the afternoon. After the game, Rodgers was asked how play like this compares to his 2011 MVP season and showed that his advice about a relaxed response to the offense’s performance isn’t just a reaction to the negative.

“I think we’re getting closer,” Rodgers said, via ESPN Wisconsin. “I’ve been through a lot of games, tough games, wins, losses, solid performances, poor performances. You’ve got to learn from everything. There were stretches in that [2011] season where I was playing really, really well. And we’re kind of in a stretch right now where we’re playing pretty well.”

The Packers have scored 145 points over the last four weeks while winning each game, something that makes “pretty well” a rather understated description of their performance of late. Rodgers may not want to crow about it, but the offense is on a roll in Green Bay and there’s not much reason to think it will stop in New Orleans next weekend.

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Kyle Long sends criticism back at Bears fans

Dolphins Bears Football AP

The Bears have plenty of problems at the moment, as evidenced by their third straight home loss yesterday, this one to the Dolphins.

That loss made for a heated locker room, with wide receiver Brandon Marshall calling out the entire roster.

But Bears guard Kyle Long decided to take out his frustrations on a group of people who had nothing to do with the result, after getting booed as they came off the field at halftime trailing 14-0.

I don’t know if upset is the word I would use,” Long said, via Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com. “As somebody that is blood, sweat and tears in this locker room like the other guys, the coaches, the trainers, the staff and the equipment guys, to be getting booed at home when you’re walking off the field down two possessions is unacceptable — especially when there is not a lot of noise being made on third down [when Miami had the ball], period.”

As Geno Smith could tell you, taking out your frustrations on the paying customers is rarely the best idea.
Long seemed to realize that a moment late, and took to Twitter afterward to try to clarify.
Wasn’t just running around blaming the fans,” he wrote. “I was asked about it and I said what I said. I wish we were making great plays all the time too”
At least Bears tight end Martellus Bennett had a better perspective on it.
“If I go see a bad movie, I boo,” Bennett said. “It’s an entertainment business. We are all entertainers. If you go to a bad show, most people boo. I think they had the right to do that. If I want to boo at fans, I can boo at fans, or whoever it may be. They pay for their tickets, and the show wasn’t up to their liking.
“If I go to a movie, I walk out if I don’t like the movie. Like Transformers 3 — it was terrible. I didn’t stay for the whole film and walked out.”
As another Chicago icon, Roger Ebert might have said, the Bears deserved the thumbs down last night — if not the fingers up.
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Earl Thomas: Refs need to stay out of it and let us dominate

St. Louis Rams v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Seahawks had several special teams breakdowns against the Rams on Sunday, their offense was a non-factor until they were already down 18 points and their defense let the Rams go 80 yards in four minutes in the fourth quarter to slow down Seattle’s comeback attempt.

Despite all of that, safety Earl Thomas thinks something else is to blame for the team’s second straight loss. Thomas looked in the direction of the officials, who ruled that the Rams should retain possession after a late fumble by Rams running back Tre Mason on a play that the Seahawks felt was judged incorrectly. The ruling on the field was that the Rams recovered and NFL officiating head Dean Blandino explained that all angles were reviewed and there was no clear visual evidence of who came up with the ball.

“Player coming out of pile w/loose ball is not a clear recovery. Need video evidence of him gaining possession. Play was reviewed in NY,” Blandino wrote on Twitter.

Thomas saw something more nefarious at play, however, and said that the team is “battling the officials” in addition to the opposing team right now.

“Yeah. At least give us a shot. But you know what? I’m not surprised with the referees this season. If you really look at some plays, we’re playing more than our opponents. We’re playing the referees too. I don’t care what anybody is saying. Something is wrong. That needs to be brought up,” Thomas said, via the Seattle Times. “It’s kind of crazy how football is turning out now. You give a guy, just because he wears a white and black shirt, he has authority of the game. Man, they need to stay out of it — that’s my key — and let us dominate.”

If the Seahawks were truly dominating the Rams on Sunday, there wouldn’t have been a place for the officials to impact the outcome of the game. For the second straight week, though, the Seahawks struggled for stretches in all areas of the game and that explains the 28-26 loss a lot more easily than the ruling on a disputed fumble recovery or anything else.

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49ers center Daniel Kilgore breaks leg, season likely over

Daniel Kilgore AP

Along with being caught on the tracks as the train of football history rolled over them, the 49ers left last night with another injured starter.

According to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, center Daniel Kilgore suffered a fractured left leg, which will likely end his season.

“It was upper ankle,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Looks like it might be a break.”

Kilgore already had a cast on his leg after the game, and needed help getting on the team bus. He was scheduled to fly home with the team.

“It’s always tragic to lose a player,” quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. “I don’t know exactly what it is right now. Hopefully, it’s not something that is season-ending.”

The injury forced them to scramble last night, but help could be on the way.

Third-round draft pick Marcus Martin just finished his first week of practice after a preseason knee injury, and with a bye week coming up, could be in the lineup when they return Nov. 2 against the Rams.

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Broncos couldn’t help getting caught up in the moment

Peyton Manning AP

Because he’s so focused on the process, Peyton Manning’s Broncos teammates knew not to expect a big fuss last night when he broke the league’s all-time touchdown record.

But they also knew what it meant.

You kind of just know you’re part of something big,” Broncos tight end and former Colts teammate Jacob Tamme said, via Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. “You know someday you’re going to reflect on it, think about it, but in the moment he wants to win games and we want to win games. But someday, yes, it’s going to be a good story.”

Even for defensive players, who were about to take the field again, it was hard to ignore.

“I wasn’t really paying attention, I don’t get to see him really, we’re looking at our sheets, talking about what we’re going to do on the next play, things like that,” linebacker Von Miller said. “But we were looking at our stuff, and all of a sudden it was like a concert, all the phones were up all over the stadium, you could feel it. We knew it was going to happen. And you had to watch.”

And those are the guys with ringside seats, so imagine what the fans in the stands felt.

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Jerry Jones thinks Sunday was the best game of Tony Romo’s career

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Last week, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that he thought quarterback Tony Romo was playing the best football of his career and Sunday’s 31-21 win over the Giants gave the owner no reason to turn off his well-worn hyperbole switch.

Romo threw three touchdowns, including a strike to Terrance Williams that saw Romo scramble to avoid the rush before making a pinpoint throw, and completed 17-of-23 passes for 279 yards after taking a painkilling injection before the game to deal with rib and ankle problems. Romo didn’t throw an incompletion in the second half and Jones had more praise for the quarterback after the team’s sixth straight win.

“I’d have to say that may be [the] best game I’ve ever seen Tony Romo play,” Jones said, via ESPNDallas.com. “That was an outstanding game. He was pinpointing the ball, making the kind of plays and protecting the ball.”

If it was the best game of Romo’s career, a big chunk of the credit should go to wide receiver Dez Bryant for helping to make it possible. Bryant caught seven of Romo’s nine second half completions with five of them going for first downs and two setting the Cowboys up just outside the end zone for touchdowns that put the game firmly in Dallas’ pocket.

The commitment to and emergence of the running game this season has taken the pressure off of Romo to do everything for the Cowboys offense. That’s worked out to a balanced, efficient and versatile offensive attack, six straight wins and a more credible stream of hot air than we’ve been used to hearing from Jones in recent years.

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Doug Baldwin: Harvin trade made for an emotional roller coaster

Doug Baldwin, Alec Ogletree AP

Neither Pete Carroll nor Russell Wilson was willing to talk much about the departure of wide receiver Percy Harvin in the wake of Sunday’s loss to the Rams, but one of the players that Harvin reportedly had problems with during his time in Seattle was more willing to speak his mind.

Wide receiver Doug Baldwin admitted that he did have a physical altercation with Harvin earlier this year and suggested the other reports of backstage drama were correct, although he downplayed the significance of the moment as the byproduct of spending so much time together. Baldwin also said that he thought the timing of the trade threw the team off stride regarding their preparation for Sunday.

“Obviously the shock of the transaction and what took place there made for a bit of an emotional roller coaster. When something that drastic happens, right before we get on the bus [to go to the airport for the trip], there is going to be an emotional impact. I felt we handled it to the best of our ability, but I think it might have been a factor in some way,” Baldwin said, via ESPN.com. “There’s obviously a lot of things that went on this week that affected the team in numerous ways. As a competitor, you don’t want to admit those things. But as a human, it is human nature. It took us a little while to get on track. I’m just proud we responded the way we did and fought until the very end.”

The Seahawks outscored the Rams 20-7 in the second half, but that wasn’t enough to overcome the 18-point hole that St. Louis dug for them in the first half. While we can’t be sure, Seattle should avoid the emotional roller coaster this week as they prepare to face the Panthers and halt their losing streak at two games.

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Jeff Fisher on fake punt: We were having a hard time stopping Russell Wilson

Benjamin Cunningham AP

Rams coach Jeff Fisher has never shied away from fake punts and other such trickery, but punter Johnny Hekker was still surprised to hear that the coach wanted him to throw the ball from his own 18-yard line with just under three minutes to play in Sunday’s game against the Seahawks.

Hekker said his response was to ask if the coach was serious before heading onto the field to throw a pass to Benny Cunningham, who said he thought the team would have cut him if he didn’t reel in the pass. We’ll never have to find out because Cunningham did catch the ball and the Rams did hold on for the 28-26 victory. After the game, Fisher explained that he didn’t think his defense would have been able to stop Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who accounted for more than 400 yards of offense, before Seattle moved back into the lead.

“You guys saw the flow of the game, we were having a hard time stopping Russell,” Fisher said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There was too much time left on the clock right there, and I didn’t want to give the ball back to them. I thought it was our best chance to get a first down.”

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the team was prepared for Fisher to pull some stuff out of his hat, but that they didn’t think the fake would come in that situation. He called it a “very gutsy” call, which sounds about right for a decision that would have left Fisher to be hoisted up by his own mustache for handing the Seahawks a win if things had backfired.

As he said, though, Fisher thought his team would lose if they gave the Seahawks the ball with a conventional punt so he chose to go out fighting.

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Darnell Dockett teases Raiders fans with sign

Darnell Dockett AP

Though the winless Raiders showed some spark in Sunday’s game vs. Arizona, they couldn’t quite keep up with the NFC West-leading Cardinals, who secured a 24-13 victory in Oakland.

And as the Cardinals took care of business against the Raiders, injured Arizona defensive tackle Darnell Dockett wrote a message visible to Oakland fans facing the Cards’ sldeline.

Via a photo posted on Twitter by Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ website, Dockett wrote “WORST TEAM IN NFL 0-6” on a white dry-erase board.

In a devilish touch, the “0” had a smiley face in it.

After the game, Dockett, via his verified Twitter account, explained his message this way: “Raiders fans threw coins and ice at us, called us every name in the book. That’s what made me write the sign.”

In any event, the Cardinals got out with a win, improving their record to 5-1. The Raiders, on the other hand, are already approaching the doorstep of a 12th straight season without a postseason bid.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Oakland has picked up its play after an embarrassing Week Four defeat in London. Still, the Raiders opened seven-point underdogs for next Sunday’s game in Cleveland. They are assured of being underdogs in the bulk of their final 10 games of the season, with the Dec. 21 home matchup with Buffalo perhaps their best chance at being favored.

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Sunday night wrap-up: Broncos can play defense too

Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

Peyton Manning got to have his moment in the first half.

But beyond the greatest touchdown-thrower in the history of the NFL, the Broncos are also building a defense that might give him a chance to add some more hardware to his trophy case as well.

While the night will be remembered for Manning breaking Brett Favre’s record for career touchdown passes, it was also a staunch defense that helped the Broncos to a 42-17 win over the 49ers.

A pass-rush that was augmented by the addition of DeMarcus Ware and the return of Von Miller has energized a group that pestered the 49ers throughout the night.

Both had sacks in the first half, extending their own personal streaks. The team combined to sack 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick six times on the night, with Ware getting three of them.

Ware’s second of the night moved him into 15th place on the all-time list, with Hall of Famers Derrick Thomas and Rickey Jackson easily within his grasp this year.

It also marked five straight games with at least one sack for Miller, the third time in his career he’s had such a hot streak.

But the Broncos did a solid job against the 49ers across the board. Frank Gore was limited to 20 yards on nine carries (only partially because the score was out of hand early), and the pass coverage was good throughout the night. Cornerback Aqib Talib gets the money and the attention, but fellow cornerback Chris Harris might be playing as well or better this year.

The night belonged to Manning, but having some balance on the other side of the ball might help him have a shot at another title.

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1.The 49ers have problems, which go beyond the coach-front office drama which has threatened to obscure their season.

They’re simply running out of parts on defense, playing with a skeleton crew that was without a pair of Pro Bowl inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, pass-rushing threat Aldon Smith and several others.

Manning was going to get his record regardless, but the 49ers don’t have the personnel remaining to play the kind of defense they’ve become accustomed to.

Getting Smith back — perhaps sooner rather than later — will mean a great deal, but there’s more wrong with this defense than one man can fix.

2. Manning is the quarterback, but John Fox is still the coach, so you know all that dangerous throwing stuff makes him nervous.

So it must have pleased him to see running back Ronnie Hillman run for a pair of scores (thankfully after Manning broke the record).

Hillman has shown himself to be more than just a change-of-pace back, running with good power inside. With Montee Ball on the shelf with a groin injury, he’s going to get plenty of chances, and he made the most of them Sunday.

3. The 49ers have been able to withstand offensive line injuries, but this next-man-up thing is getting ridiculous.

Losing center Daniel Kilgore to an apparent broken leg/ankle (trainers don’t break out the air cast for no reason) in the third quarter was a blow. His replacement, rookie Dillon Farrell, limped off the game in the fourth quarter, but he was able to return.

They drafted Southern Cal center Marcus Martin in the third round this year, and clearly hope he could develop there for the long term. But they had just developed Kilgore to replace Jonathan Goodwin, and gave him a contract extension.

They were able to get through without right tackle Anthony Davis since they had Jonathan Martin on hand, but with Mike Iupati out with a concussion, they’re stretched thin. Martin had to go in at guard, when Looney shifted inside to be the third center of the night during Farrell’s absence.

4. The Broncos sent out a collection of quotes from many of the quarterbacks Manning passed tonight, one of whom has some unfinished business.

“Congratulations, Peyton on your touchdown record, a great achievement,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. “We’ll see you in a few weeks.”

The Broncos go to New England on Nov. 2.

Brady has a meager 372 career passing touchdowns.

5. As impressive as Manning’s record-setting performance was, watching the reactions on the sidelines before and after the record tell you plenty about him as well.

When he finally broke the record in the second quarter, his teammates gleefully played monkey-in-the-middle with the ball, leaving Manning looking flustered for a moment before they let him have it back.

He’s the resident prankster, but the fact they were willing to mess with him a bit speaks to the respect they have for him.

But his reaction to the record-tying touchdown might have been the perfect Manning moment.

While others were celebrating, Manning was on the sideline studying photos of the 49ers defense, trying to find his next advantage.

It’s the kind of work he’s always put in, and much of the reason he was able to break the record.

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