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Kelly, Sanchez have differing assessments of the quarterback

Kelly Getty Images

Former top-five draft pick Mark Sanchez has found a new opportunity in Philadelphia, stepping into the starting job after Nick Foles snapped a collarbone.  So how is the once and future (perhaps) Sanchize doing?

It depends on who you ask.

The player gives himself a tough assessment, pointing to six turnovers in three games under center.  Sanchez had two interceptions and two lost fumbles in a blowout loss to the Packers on Sunday.

“Whether you’ve been out of the league for 10 years and you suddenly come back, it doesn’t matter,” Sanchez said, via Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News.  “You’ve got to take care of the ball.”

Coach Chip Kelly was far more forgiving.

“I think he’s done a good job,” Kelly said, via Bowen.  “He played a half a game against the Texans, hadn’t played before that since the preseason. . . .  Then he had the Carolina game and the Green Bay game.  I thought, obviously, from not playing — he missed an entire year, a year ago — with the shoulder injury . . . I thought for the time we’ve had him, half the Texans game and the two games since then, I think he’s done a nice job.”

Of course, what else is Kelly going to say?  He needs Sanchez to hold down the fort until Foles can play.  After all, the alternative is Matt Barkley, who to date has proven to be immune to the dulcet tones of the league’s latest quarterback whisperer.

So the goal will be to have Sanchez keep it together pending Foles’ return, and to hope that the Eagles can finish strong and nail down a playoff berth.  Which makes 2014 in Philly a lot like 2013 in Green Bay, when Aaron Rodgers returned from a broken collarbone just in time to save a spot in the postseason field.

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Sio Moore apologizes for celebration

raiderscelebrate AP

Raiders linebackers Sio Moore and Khalil Mack committed one of the bonehead plays of the season on Thursday night when they forced their team to burn a timeout — at a time when the clock was running and the Chiefs were trying a last-minute comeback — because their celebration of a sack carried on too long.

It ended up not hurting the Raiders, who stopped the Chiefs on fourth down on the next play. But Moore acknowledged afterward that he screwed up.

“I was so caught in the moment, that was an error I’ve got to make sure I clean up,” Moore said. “In another situation, in all seriousness, that can make the difference, and I’ve got to understand that. I do apologize for putting the guys in that situation because that could come up in another situation later. I can’t let my emotions get the best of me.”

Raiders coach Tony Sparano said he didn’t chew out his players for their lapse in judgment, but he will address it with the team.

“I’m going to let them enjoy this right now, but eventually we’ve got to talk about that, have a little conversation about that,” Sparano said after the game. “At that point I had to do something to stop the clock. It’s just two young players who have got to learn. I love their energy and their passion, but that’s something they’ve got to learn from.”

It had been more than a year since the Raiders won a game, so it’s not surprising that they were eager to celebrate. But next time, they really ought to wait until the game is over.

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Rex Ryan: Jets improved “in a zillion ways” in three weeks

Steelers Jets Football AP

We now know how to quantify the difference Michael Vick has made since taking over at quarterback for the Jets.

Three weeks ago, the Geno Smith era ended with three interceptions in the first quarter against the Bills, a disastrous 43-23 loss.

And as they prepare to play the Bills Monday night in Detroit, Jets coach Rex Ryan is confident his team is better now.

In a zillion ways,” Ryan said, via Seth Walder of the New York Daily News. “Almost every way.

“I know we’re a better team, so I don’t care about if anybody else writes it or knows it.”

The switch to Vick has certainly given them a spark, and he hasn’t turned the ball over the last two weeks.
Of course, a zillion is an imaginary number, so maybe it’s the perfect way to describe what’s happening there.
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Revis calls Megatron a man among boys

revismegatron AP

Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis will do battle with Lions receiver Calvin Johnson on Sunday in one of the league’s premiere individual matchups. Revis says he expects to have a big challenge on his hands.

“He’s a man amongst boys out there. You see it all the time. The dude’s 6-foot-6, 230 pounds. And he runs a 4.3. That’s pretty freakish,” Revis said. “It’s like an alternate [universe] receiver that you want. So if you can create him on the video game, that’s basically what he is. . . . I have a lot of respect for him. I feel like our defense has a lot of respect for him. He has a lot of respect around the league as well.”

Revis has faced Johnson twice. The first time, in a 2010 Lions-Jets game, Revis was outstanding and Johnson finished with just one catch for 13 yards in a Jets win. The second time, in a 2013 Lions-Buccaneers game, Johnson got the better of the matchup and finished with seven catches for 115 yards (although Revis left that game early with an injury and not all of those yards were on him).

The Lions’ offense has struggled for much of this season, even after Johnson returned from his high ankle sprain. Johnson winning his individual matchup with Revis would go a long way toward the Lions pulling an upset in New England.

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No guarantee Bills will be ready to host a game next week

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As the snow continued to pile up this week, it became clear that the Bills weren’t going to be able to play at home Sunday.

But with this week’s game with the Jets moved to Detroit on Monday night, the next question will be whether Ralph Wilson Stadium will be cleared by next Sunday.

Bills president Russ Brandon said there’s a chance the stadium might not be dug out by the Nov. 30 date with the Browns.

“It’s going to be a full-on effort by our stadium operations crew and everyone involved here at One Bills Drive to get the facility ready for next week,” he said. “There’s an enormous amount of snow to be removed and there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Earlier this week, Bills officials said they could normally remove a foot of snow in three days. With snow creeping up on the goalpost crossbar in one windswept end of the stadium, that creates the possibility for more weather drama next week.

At the very least, the Bills might have to find another place to practice next week, since there’s been nothing normal about their preparations this week. They haven’t worked out as a team since their game against the Dolphins eight days ago.

“That’s something that’s also in play,” Brandon said. “Not only with preparation for this game and playing this game, but obviously what may be in play for next week. That could be a potential to go off site and practice somewhere if our facility is just not operational.”

The first step will be getting themselves out of the snow drifts today, as try to take care of the business at hand.

 

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Ben Tate has no expectations for role with Vikings

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Running back Ben Tate’s arrival in Minnesota was precipitated by a couple of weeks of discussion about Tate’s role in the Cleveland offense.

Tate signed with the Browns as a free agent during the offseason with the expectation that he’d be the starting running back after several years as the No. 2 man in Houston. Rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell got in the way of that, though, and Tate made it clear that things weren’t playing out the way he hoped before he was waived.

On Thursday, though, Tate said he never said he was upset with the situation in Cleveland. He did say that he’d be “lying” if he said he was satisfied, however, and that raises the question of how happy he’ll be in Minnesota with offensive coordinator Norv Turner saying that Jerick McKinnon is the team’s top back. Tate said he was still getting his bearings and had no thoughts about what role he should be playing with the Vikings.

“I don’t have a certain expectation or a certain this or that,” Tate said, via ESPN.com. “I’m just trying to learn the playbook and give it 100 percent and try to do whatever I can to help this team win.”

Expectations are probably limited all around. The Vikings like McKinnon and could just see Tate as insurance for the rest of the year with both McKinnon and Matt Asiata banged up. They could also be open to Tate as part of the answer to how they move their backfield into 2015 should they part ways with Adrian Peterson, so there’s plenty of role defining to do before Tate can elide whether he’s satisfied with it.

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Tamba Hali: No excuses, Raiders wanted it more

Alex Smith AP

After the Chiefs beat the Seahawks last weekend, a lot of people looked at their upcoming schedule and jumped to the conclusion that their Week 13 game against the Broncos would be played with the lead in the AFC West on the line.

The Chiefs were playing the Raiders and there wasn’t much chance that they’d be putting an end to their 16-game losing streak, which would leave the Chiefs with eight wins and a chance to move ahead of a Broncos team that’s looked out of sorts for the last few weeks. Things didn’t worked out that way, of course, as the Raiders won 24-20 on Thursday night. The Chiefs will now need help from the Dolphins to enter next week with the same record as Denver and the Chargers could have the same 7-4 record if they hold off the Rams this Sunday.

Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali said after the game that looking ahead wasn’t the reason why the Chiefs lost. It wasn’t the quick turnaround after the win over Seattle or a rainy night on the road, either.

“You can sit here and make excuses,” Hali said, via ESPN.com. “But they played better than us and wanted it more than we wanted it. Yes, it was draining, but this is the type of business we’re in. You have to turn it around and muster the same type of energy.”

The Chiefs have five games left, which means plenty of chances to make this loss a distant memory come the end of the regular season. If they can’t take advantage, that lack of energy on Thursday night will be a big part of the downfall of their playoff chances.

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Ben McAdoo defends Giants play-calling down the stretch

Arizona Cardinals v New York Giants Getty Images

The Giants raised a lot of eyebrows when they ran three straight fades from the 4-yard line last week, but offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo wasn’t backing down.

I’m not going to stand here and apologize for the play-calling,” McAdoo said, via Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News. “I have faith in the perimeter players to go up and make the plays one on one.

“I would take those matchups any day. I took them last week and I’d take them again this week.”

McAdoo pointed out that Eli Manning checked out of a pair of runs during that series. And none of them were the five interceptions which were probably a bigger deal. But nothing about the Giants Offense has been consistent this year, McAdoo’s first with the team.

“We took a step back,” McAdoo said. “Unfortunately, those [turnovers] happened in bunches on Sunday. We need to clean those up. . . . When it’s decision making, we need to eliminate those.”

The Giants have only looked like a smooth offense for about a three-week stretch, but otherwise have looked like an old dog learning new tricks. Whether they can fetch anything out of the last six weeks remains to be seen.

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Bill O’Brien: No setback for Arian Foster

Arian Foster, Troy Polamalu AP

Texans running back Arian Foster was able to practice in a limited fashion on Wednesday, raising hope that he’d be back in the lineup this weekend after missing the team’s Week 11 victory against the Browns with a groin injury.

Foster wasn’t able to practice on Thursday, however, and that led to questions for coach Bill O’Brien about whether Foster’s injury was getting worse as kickoff drew closer. Coach Bill O’Brien said that wasn’t the case and that the Texans would just have to wait and see how Foster’s groin is feeling come Sunday.

“No setback,” O’Brien said, via the Houston Chronicle. “From one day to the next we’ll see how he’s doing. I’m sure we’ll have to make a decision on game day. It’s just something we have to wait out and see if gets better.”

The Texans called Foster a game-time decision last week as well, but wound up ruling him out on Saturday after he missed the entire week of practices. They’ll make an official determination on Friday’s injury report and the trajectory of this week suggests it may be Alfred Blue in the top spot in the backfield against the Bengals.

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Patriots welcome back “hard worker” LeGarrette Blount

Bill Belichick, LeGarrette Blount AP

The Patriots were glad to see LeGarrette Blount back Thursday, even if they weren’t sure at first who he was.

Blount drew some laughs on his first day at practice by wearing a jersey with the number 60, which nearly fit because of the size he brings to their backfield.

“That’s a funny one, huh?” not-small man Vince Wilfork said, via Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. “I didn’t know if he was a new offensive lineman or new long snapper or what, but it’s good to see him back here. He knows how we do things around here. He’s helped us in the past. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off.”

Where he left off with the Patriots was with a four-touchdown game against the Colts in the playoffs last year, and they’re thinking he might be called on for more bad-weather duty, even with Jonas Gray becoming a sudden star last week.

“It’s exciting, more so for me just having another guy in the locker room that works well with everybody,” running back Shane Vereen said. “We know he’s a hard worker. We know what he can do on the field, so to have another guy in the backfield is cool.”

The Steelers might disagree with the “hard worker” part after he walked out on them last week, but the Patriots are welcoming the big man back with open arms.

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Justin Tuck: Thursday night was a special moment

Sio Moore, Khalif Barnes AP

Near the end of the Raiders’ 24-20 victory over the Chiefs on Thursday night, Raiders linebackers Sio Moore and Khalil Mack celebrated a sack in such extended fashion that they nearly got a penalty for being offside.

Defensive end Justin Tuck called a timeout, bailing out his teammates and leaving the Chiefs with a fourth down they wouldn’t convert. That meant the Raiders could truly and fully celebrate their victory. It was a heads-up moment for the veteran Tuck, but after the game it sounded like he would have a hard time blaming Moore and Mack from acting like they’d never been there before because the win was special even to a player with a pair of Super Bowl rings.

“I’ve played in a lot of big games and a lot of emotional games, but that was something special. That was something I’ll never forget. That’s because this team has stuck together, we’re a band of brothers,” Tuck said, via the team’s website. “No matter what our record says, this is one of the closest teams I’ve played with and it’s a family. I know how big that monkey was on a lot of guys’ backs. This team hadn’t won a game in 16 games, and it gets old. It’s hard to come in here every Wednesday and put that behind you and get back to work, but we did that and we beat a good football team tonight. We’ve been close all year in a lot of situations, but today we finished it. It was a special moment.”

Special moments are worth celebrating and the Raiders earned an especially big one given the length of their losing streak heading into the game. Next time they’ll just have to remember to wait to do that celebrating once they are in the locker room, but, as they say, you learn something new every day.

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Adrian Peterson: “I won’t ever use a switch again”

adrianpeterson AP

Whether Adrian Peterson changes teams this offseason remains to be seen.

But Peterson said he’s a changed man, regardless.

The Vikings running back, in his first interview since his indictment on child abuse charges and his subsequent suspension for the rest of this season, told Tom Pelissero of USA Today that he knows he can’t discipline his children the way he had in the past.

I won’t ever use a switch again,” Peterson said. “There’s different situations where a child needs to be disciplined as far as timeout, taking their toys away, making them take a nap. There’s so many different ways to discipline your kids.”

While he’s been painted as the worst kind of person after pictures emerged of the welts on his 4-year-old son’s legs from the tree branch he used to whip him, Peterson insisted the remorse he feels is real, and he hopes to repair the relationship with his son.

“No one knows how I felt when I turned my child around after spanking him and seeing what I had left on his leg,” Peterson said. “No one knows that Dad sat there and apologized to him, hugged him and told him that I didn’t mean to do this to you and how sorry I was.

“I love my son. I love my kids, my family. Like I said after I took the misdemeanor plea, I take full responsibility for my actions. I regret the situation. I love my son more than any one of you could even imagine.”

When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent the suspension letter to Peterson, he mentioned Peterson’s failure to show “meaningful remorse.”

Peterson denied that.

“Ultimately, I know I’ll have my opportunity to sit down with Roger face to face, and I’ll be able to say a lot of the same things that I’ve said to you,” Peterson said. “Don’t say that I’m not remorseful, because in my statement, I showed that I was remorseful. I regretted everything that took place. I love my child, more than anyone could ever imagine.”

It is hard to imagine, based on the photos we’ve all seen, and the descriptions of the injuries we’ve all read. And that makes Peterson’s growth as a father and a person will be a tougher climb than getting back on an NFL field.

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Pete Carroll says league admitted to missing two P-I calls last week against Chiefs

Seattle Seahawks v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks fans have heard this one before. Incorrect calls by a referee crew led by Bill Leavy may have cost the Seahawks a chance at victory last week against the Kansas City Chiefs.

According to Jim Corbett of USA Today, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino informed the Seahawks and head coach Pete Carroll that Leavy’s crew erred in rulings on two potential pass interference calls in Sunday’s 24-20 loss to the Chiefs.

The most glaring one was a fourth-and-goal from the Kansas City 2-yard line with 7:11 left to play. Baldwin ran a corner route from the left slot and was run into and bumped off his route by cornerback Sean Smith. Baldwin threw his hands up begging for a call that wouldn’t come.

Per Carroll, the league said a penalty should have been called on the play.

“The interpretation was it definitely played a factor in (Baldwin’s) route and it should have been called,” Carroll said. “There’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to live with it. That’s just part of the game.”

So instead of a first-and-goal opportunity from the 1-yard line while trailing by four, the Seahawks turned the ball over on downs and were never able to score the touchdown needed to overcome the deficit.

A win over Kansas City would have kept Seattle two games behind the division leading Arizona Cardinals with both matchups against the Cardinals still yet to play. Instead, the Seahawks are now three games back and have little margin for error in their efforts to return to the postseason to defend last year’s Super Bowl title.

Leavy was the head referee for Super Bowl XL when the Seahawks lost 21-10 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Leavy later admitted to reporters in Seattle on a training camp visit that his crew had made incorrect calls against the Seahawks in that game as well.

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AFC playoff picture: Raiders do the Broncos a big favor

Derek Carr, Latavius Murray, Eric Berry, Allen Bailey AP

So how much damage did the Chiefs do to their playoff hopes by losing at formerly winless Oakland on Thursday night?

That remains to be seen. But here’s what we know: by falling to Oakland, Kansas City (7-4) drops from No. 5 to No. 6 in the AFC standings. The Chiefs also missed a chance to take a half-game lead on Denver (7-3) in the AFC West.

And it’s the Broncos who might have been the biggest winners Thursday night. If they defeat Miami on Sunday and win at Kansas City to close out November, they will be ever-closer to seizing control of the AFC West. In this scenario, the Broncos would essentially have a three-game lead over the Chiefs with four to play owing to the season sweep of Kansas City. The Broncos also have a chance to sweep the Chargers on December 14. (And if Denver can’t do the job, a tough schedule might prove too much for San Diego.)

So how can we finish this by cheering up Chiefs fans? Well, the Chiefs still have a good AFC record (5-3). They also have head-to-head tiebreakers over the Patriots, Dolphins and Bills. Moreover, the Chiefs can sweep San Diego with a win vs. the Chargers in the season finale. The Chiefs will also get a shot at the Steelers in Pittsburgh in Week 16.

Now, the bad news.

The Chiefs are going to be underdogs against the Broncos, and they will not be favored at NFC-leading Arizona the following week. It’s quite possible the Chiefs could lose both games to fall to 7-6 before a rematch with the Raiders on December 14.

Assuming the Chiefs win that one — perhaps dangerous, but we’ll live on the edge — they would be 8-6 entering the Pittsburgh-San Diego stretch to close the season. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, they would need to win both to get into the dance for the second straight season.

Look, the Raiders were probably due to beat someone this season. And on Thursday night, they got Kansas City where it hurts.

And in the process, they shook up the AFC West and wild-card races something fierce.

Here’s a look at how the AFC’s top 12 playoff contenders stack up after Thursday night. The NFL’s standings and tiebreaking rules are enclosed as resources, as are team-by-team schedules.

THE BIG SIX

1. New England Patriots (8-2, .800). AFC East leader. Earns first-round bye, home-field advantage.

2. Denver Broncos (7-3, .700). AFC West leader. Earns first-round bye.

3. Cincinnati Bengals (6-3-1, .650). AFC North leader. Host Chiefs in wild-card game.

4. Indianapolis Colts (6-4, .600). AFC South leader. Host Steelers in wild-card game.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4, .636). Wild card No. 1. Hold No. 5 seed on basis of superior AFC record (6-3) to Chiefs (5-3).

6. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4, .636). Wild card No. 2.

JUST MISSING

7. Miami Dolphins (6-4, .600). Hold No. 7 seed on basis of superior AFC record (5-2) to Chargers (5-3) and Ravens (3-4).

8. San Diego Chargers (6-4, .600).

9. Baltimore Ravens (6-4, .600). Seeded ahead of Cleveland on basis of head-to-head win in Week Three. The teams meet again in Baltimore on December 28.

10. Cleveland Browns. (6-4, .600).

11. Houston Texans (5-5, .500). Seeded ahead of the Bills on basis of Week Four victory over Buffalo.

12. Buffalo Bills (5-5, .500).

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Raiders snap 16-game losing streak with 24-20 win over Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders 16-game losing streak is over.

Derek Carr orchestrated a 17-play, 80-yard drive that lasted over seven minutes with Carr connecting with James Jones for a 9-yard touchdown as the Raiders earned a 24-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.

The Raiders put a notch into the win column for the first time since Nov. 17, 2013 when Oakland picked up a 28-23 victory over the Houston Texans.

The 2008 Detroit Lions 0-16 mark will not be equaled by the 2014 Raiders.

The Raiders appeared to be set to blow a chance at victory after jumping out to a 17-3 lead. Latavius Murray scored the first two rushing touchdowns the Chiefs Defense had allowed all season in the first half before exiting with a concussion. Murray scored on runs of 11 and 90 yards for Oakland to take a 14-0 lead.

A 40-yard Sebastian Janikoski field goal gave the Raiders a 17-3 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter before the Chiefs began to rally.

Kansas City outscored the Raiders 17-0 since the latter stages of the third quarter to take a 20-17 lead early in the fourth.

Alex Smith connected with Anthony Fasano for a 19-yard touchdown pass on a blown coverage by the Raiders for Kansas City’s first touchdown of the night.

The Chiefs scored again on their following possession as Smith dumped a pass across the middle to Jamaal Charles, who sliced through the Raiders Defense for a 30-yard touchdown to tie the game at 17-17 with 12:20 left to play. After a Raiders three-and-out, the Chiefs moved inside the Raiders 10-yard line but had to settle for a 25-yard Cairo Santos field goal to give Kansas City their first lead of the night.

But the Raiders responded with their biggest drive of the season. Carr converted a fourth-and-1 with a quarterback sneak and a pass interference call against Ron Parker helped keep the drive alive before the touchdown pass to Jones with 1:42 left to play.

Smith’s fourth down pass to Frankie Hammond fell incomplete to give the Raiders their first victory in 368 days.

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