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Goodell: Playoff expansion to be discussed at next owners meeting

Goodell AP

An expanded NFL playoff field is probably inevitable, even if it’s not imminent.

But don’t tell that to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Goodell told Bob Glauber of Newsday that owners would discuss the proposal at their May 20 meeting in Atlanta, with a vote possible.

Of course, even the owners involved aren’t sure it can be fast-tracked for the 2014 season, with Giants president John Mara saying this week he wasn’t sure there was time to implement such a plan for the coming season.

Then there’s also the matter of getting the players to sign off.

Mara noted “my guess is that it’s going to pass at some point,” and that’s probably the right approach to take. Even if some believe the NFL risks oversaturation by fiddling with a good product, the move to 14 teams looks like something that’s happening, and the only real discussion is the when.

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Report: Bucs would seriously consider Manziel at No. 7

Manziel Getty Images

Since the draft should be today but won’t be today because the NFL moved it to two weeks from today, we’ll spend today and the next 13 tomorrows wondering what will happen when draft day finally is today.

The guy about which everyone wonders the most is quarterback Johnny Manziel.  Though some continue to insist Manziel won’t be taken in round one, we’d be shocked if he’s on the board when Thursday night ends.

We won’t be shocked if Manziel hears his name called in the top 10.  The latest team to join the list of potential top-10 teams that could take Manziel is the Buccaneers.

Ed Werder of ESPN reports that the Buccaneers would “seriously consider” taking Manziel, if he’s on the board at No. 7.  The Bucs see Manziel as being “very unique,” having a “good arm and accuracy,” and generally being a “great athlete.”

That all may be true, but we can’t help but “seriously consider” whether the Bucs would like to see someone cut the line in front of the Buccaneers and take Manziel, pushing down the board a player the Bucs actually prefer.  There’s otherwise no reason to let it be known that the Bucs would take Manziel.

But since we’ve got two more weeks to go, get ready for more smokescreens and obfuscations (hey, watch your mouth) before the time comes to pick the players.

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Spurrier thinks the Texans “have to” take Clowney

Steve Spurrier AP

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier says the Houston Texans have only one option with the first overall pick in the NFL draft: Select former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

“Yeah, I think you have to,” Spurrier said when asked by Dan Patrick if the Texans should take Clowney.

Spurrier said if there was a franchise quarterback like Andrew Luck in this draft, it might be a different story. But Spurrier doesn’t believe any of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft is that kind of elite talent, and as a result he says CLowney is the clear choice.

“He’s a really good football player, and obviously pass rushing is what he does best,” Spurrier said. “He’s a pass rusher like nobody I think I’ve ever seen in college football.”

Spurrier has been candid about Clowney not always having the best work ethic, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s no question about who the most talented player in this draft is. That’s Clowney.

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Sherman changes his tune about Crabtree rant

Sherman AP

In the aftermath of Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s on-field tirade against 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree after the NFC title game, Sherman vowed to stop belittling other players.

Now, Sherman is singing a different tune.

In January, in an item that he wrote for TheMMQB.com, Sherman suggested that he’d be turning a new leaf when it comes to verbally tearing opponents a new orifice.

“No one has ever made himself great by showing how small someone else is,” Sherman wrote at the time.  “That’s not mine.  It belongs to Irvin Himmel.  Somebody tweeted it at me after the NFC Championship Game.  If I could pass a lesson on to the kids it would be this:  Don’t attack anybody.  I shouldn’t have attacked Michael Crabtree the way I did.  You don’t have to put anybody else down to make yourself bigger.”

On Wednesday, Sherman expressed no remorse for his verbal assault on Crabtree.

I don’t regret anything,” Sherman said during a panel discussion at Harvard Business School, via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe.  “People said I had no class.  What is class in sports?  What exactly is it?  Do I say great game and go cookie cutter?  No.  I don’t think he played a great game. . . .  If it was Larry [Fitzgerald], and the same situation happened, I wouldn’t have said a thing.  Because I respect Larry.”

So which is it, Richard?  Have you learned not to put someone else down?  Or would you — and will you — do it again, to Crabtree and others whom you deem to be unworthy of your respect?

Often inappropriately, Sherman has been called many things in recent months.  One thing he can’t currently be called is consistent.

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Bernie Kosar: Concussions cost me a broadcasting job

Bernie Kosar, Rick Sponaugle AP

Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar says concussions suffered during his NFL career have caused him to develop a speech problem, which in turn led to his dismissal as the color commentator for Browns preseason games.

“I was informed yesterday by the Cleveland Browns and WKYC that I have been replaced as a 2014 preseason game day color commentator,” Kosar said in a statement, via Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I believe that this decision stems from my slurred speech impairment, which is a direct result of the many concussions I received while playing in the NFL.”

Kosar’s slurred speech was noticeable when he was hired for the job, however, which raises the question of why he would get fired for it now if the Browns and WKYC didn’t have any problem with his speech at the time they hired him. It seems much more likely that Kosar’s unprofessional comments during a preseason game last year, and the DUI Kosar got a month later, caused the Browns and WKYC to conclude that he’s not someone they want representing them.

But Kosar believes he’s the right person for the job.

“I would hope that WKYC would reconsider utilizing my in-game talents and overlook my concussion-induced impairment,” Kosar said.

That’s probably not going to happen. But Kosar’s comments will, if nothing else, cause the lawyers for the Browns and the NFL to take notice: At a time when concussion litigation is a major concern in pro football, this is a prominent former player claiming that concussions are costing him the opportunity to make a living now that his playing days are over.

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Colts get the bye-week short straw this year

Luck Getty Images

One of the many areas for potential pissing and moaning about the perceived unfairness of the schedule comes from the bye weeks.  Specifically, from the teams that have to play multiple other teams who had two weeks to prepare for the game.

This year, the bye week short straw goes to the Colts, who face three different teams after those teams had bye weeks.

Specifically, the Colts face the Giants after their Week Eight bye, the Patriots after their Week 10 bye, and the Jaguars after their Week 11 bye.  The good news/bad news for the Colts is that they also have a Week 10 bye, which means that the Pats won’t have an advantage when it comes to preparation.  Of course, this means that the Colts won’t get two weeks to prepare for a team that has only one week to get ready to face the Colts.

The Colts have a fourth situation in which an opponent has extra time to get ready.  Ten days before their Week 17 game at Tennessee, the Titans play on a Thursday night.

Other teams with multiple post-bye opponents include the Patriots (Bengals and Colts), the Chargers (Chiefs and Raiders in consecutive weeks), the Packers (Dolphins and Bears), the Bears (Packers and Vikings in consecutive weeks), the Vikings (Panthers and Buccaneers), the Buccaneers (Redskins and Falcons), the Saints (Ravens and Steelers), and the Cardinals (Broncos and Eagles).

With eight teams facing two teams each after byes and the Colts facing three, that leaves 10 teams who’ll play the full season without facing a team that had two weeks to get ready.  They are the Jets, Bengals, Steelers, Jaguars, Texans, Cowboys, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks, and 49ers.

Yes, the Seahawks and the 49ers, regarded by many as the best two teams in the NFL, won’t have to face a team that had a week to prepare until, at the earliest, the divisional round of the playoffs.  If/when (when) they both make it that far.

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Richard Sherman: Seahawks deal will be sign of respect

Seattle Seahawks v Houston Texans Getty Images

The Seahawks and cornerback Richard Sherman are talking about a contract that will keep Sherman in Seattle for the long term.

Mike Florio of PFT reported earlier this week that the goal is to get a deal done before the draft gets underway in two weeks, but that the two sides have yet to reach a consensus on any terms at this point in the negotiations. Albert Breer of NFL Network spoke to Sherman on Wednesday and asked him if his goal was to become the highest paid cornerback in football and the man who has loudly proclaimed his superiority to other corners in the league said the value of the deal would be a sign of respect.

“Whatever they feel I am due. I will take it as respect,” Sherman said. “It’s all about respect in this game and the only way people show respect is the dollars. We’ll see what happens.”

Darrelle Revis got $12 million for this season from the Patriots and Aqib Talib got $26 million in guaranteed money (although some is guaranteed for injury only), which sets the bar Sherman would need to clear to become the best-paid corner in football. Franchising Sherman for the 2015 season would lead to a salary close to what Revis got in New England, which raises the likelihood that he’ll wind up being very well respected if he and the Seahawks can agree on a deal this offseason.

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Stevie Johnson: The goal is the playoffs, and that’s it

Stevie_Johnson_Bills_Contract_No_More_Celebrations Getty Images

The Bills still haven’t made the postseason in the 21st Century, having last reached the playoffs at the end of the 1999 season, when they lost in the Music City Miracle. But Bills receiver Stevie Johnson thinks this is the season it can happen.

Johnson told the Buffalo News that he doesn’t have any personal goals for 2014, but he does want to do everything he can to help his team play into January of 2015.

“Playoffs,” Johnson said. “Playoffs and that’s it. All those personal goals, they don’t really mean nothing. Last year was kind of frustrating, but when I look back on it, it was a good thing. The whole individual stats and stuff is out the window. It’s just playoffs now. It’s winning.”

Winning has been an elusive goal for the Bills, who have finished 6-10 three years in a row. Johnson bouncing back from his disappointing 2013 season would go a long way toward getting the Bills where they want to go.

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NFL wary of putting Seahawks home games in prime-time due to recent blowouts

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks will host the Green Bay Packers on Thursday, Sept. 4 for the kickoff of the 2014 NFL season. However, it’s the only time this year the defending Super Bowl champions will be at home for a nationally televised prime-time game.

The Seahawks have four prime-time games on their schedule this season. But after the season opener against the Packers, Seattle has to play on the road for their remaining three nationally televised games. The Washington Redskins host the Seahawks on Monday Night Football in Week 5. The Seahawks play in San Francisco against the 49ers on Thanksgiving night in Week 13, and will travel to face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday Night Football in Week 16. The latter two games will be televised on NBC.

According to a league source, the NFL was wary of putting Seahawks home games on in prime-time due to their track record of blowouts in nationally televised games played in Seattle the last several seasons.

The last three times Seattle has hosted a prime-time match-up, the games have been extremely uncompetitive. The Seahawks hammered the divisional-rival 49ers 42-13 and 29-3 in Sunday night games the last two seasons. They also beat the New Orleans Saints 34-7 on Monday night in December.

In addition, Seattle beat the Philadelphia Eagles 31-14 at home on Thursday night in 2011. The only close game played against the Seahawks in prime-time in Seattle the last three seasons was the 14-12 loss by the Packers in September 2012 that ended on a somewhat memorable play.

While Seattle fans surely enjoyed those outcomes, games that appeared to be highly competitive prior to kickoff quickly turned into duds to a national audience.

The Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles all host three prime-time games in 2014. Fifteen more teams host two prime-time games. The defending champion Seahawks only get one at home.

The Seahawks will still get plenty of national exposure, as defending champions should, with four scheduled nationally televised games. However, beyond the first game of the entire 2014 NFL schedule, they won’t get a chance to host one inside the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field.

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Seahawks executive Scot McCloughan resigning to tend to personal matters

San Francisco 49ers 2009 Headshots

The Seattle Seahawks are losing a key member of their front office staff.

A source confirmed to PFT that Seahawks’ senior personnel executive Scot McCloughan is resigning from his position in order to tend to personal matters that require his attention. The move was first reported by Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com.

McCloughan joined the Seahawks in 2010 in a supporting role to general manager John Schneider. McCloughan had previously been the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers before stepping down following the 2009 season. McCloughan’s departure from San Francisco was also to tend to a “private personal matter.”

McCloughan has been a key figure in building the rosters of both of the NFC West’s powerhouse teams.

McCloughan drafted Dashon Goldson, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Joe Staley and Patrick Willis during his time with the 49ers as GM and VP of football operations. He then helped identify key players for Seattle such as Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson, K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner that allowed Seattle to win their first Super Bowl in February.

It’s a big blow to the Seahawks personnel department. McCloughan intends to build his own independent scouting service to work from home so he can be around his family.

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Week 16 features Saturday doubleheader

Saturday

Officially, Week 16 launches with a Thursday night game in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars will host the Titans.  But the real action gets rolling on Saturday, when the league brings back the concept of the late-season Saturday doubleheader.

One game starts in the late afternoon, and the other kicks off on Saturday night.

The broadcast antitrust exemption prevents the NFL from broadcasting Friday and Saturday games from early September through early December.  By late December, Fridays and Saturdays are fair game.

On December 20, the 49ers host the Chargers and the Redskins host the Eagles.  Kickoff times are 4:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network and 8:15 p.m. ET on CBS, with an NFLN simulcast.

It’s a mini-flex concept; the league will select the better of the two games for the national broadcast audience.  Ultimately, the decision will hinge on how well the teams are doing after 15 regular-season weekends.

For now, the showdown between DeSean Jackson’s new team and his old team appears to be the more intriguing game.  That could change by late December.

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Raiders have a tough road in 2014

RaidersFans Getty Images

Now that the Raiders’ official schedule has been released, maybe fans and players will temper expectations that were increased by a run on veteran free agents.

Regardless of the dates and times for the games, it was known that the Raiders would play three games against the Super Bowl XLVIII teams, five games against conference finalists from 2013, nine games against 2013 playoff teams, and 12 against teams with non-losing records from a year ago.

The specific configuration of games makes it even worse.  If that’s possible.

Three of the first four games will involve 10:00 a.m. local time kickoffs, with a Week One game at the Jets, a Week Three game at the Patriots, and a Week Four “home” game against the Dolphins in London.  Week Two features a visit from the Texans, who were 2-14 last year but who are expected to be considerably better in 2014.

Then comes the bye.  And then comes the boom.

Chargers.  Cardinals.  At Browns.  At Seahawks.  Broncos.  At Chargers.  Chiefs.  At Rams.  49ers.  At Chiefs.  Bills.  At Broncos.

For a team with a coach and G.M. widely believed to be on the hot seat, maybe owner Mark Davis should consider how difficult this season will be before making a final assessment.

Given this slate of games, anything better than 5-11 should be regarded as a major accomplishment.

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Sunday night is still football night

SNF

Yes, the NFL plays prime-time games three nights per week.  Yes, there is no football night like Sunday night.

This year’s schedule on NBC starts with the Packers at the Seahawks on Thursday, September 4, in a rematch of the 2012 “Fail Mary” game.  Week One continues on Sunday night, as Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning hosts the team with which he spent 14 seasons, the Colts.

In Week Two, the Field of Jeans gets properly christened on Sunday night, with the Bears visiting the 49ers for the first game in their new stadium.

In Week Three, the Steelers travel to Carolina for a once-every-four-years game against the Panthers, a surprise playoff team in 2013.

In Week Four, the Saints return to Dallas for a game against the Cowboys.

In Week Five, the Bengals visit the Patriots, as Cincinnati tries to pile up enough wins to get to the playoffs for a fourth straight season.

For Week Six, the Giants travel to Philadelphia for one of the league’s most underrated rivalries.

Week Seven?  Jim Harbaugh gets a chance to “evaluate” Peyton Manning in person as the 49ers travel to Denver.

In Week Eight, the Packers visit the Saints.  Which means that Packers will twice play in prime time in stadiums where it’s virtually impossible to hear — and to win.

Week Nine has the Ravens at Pittsburgh for a rematch of perhaps the most intense rivalry in football; Week 10 has Bears at Packers for the oldest rivalry in football.

In Week 11, the Patriots travel to Indianapolis, where Andrew Luck has replaced Peyton Manning in the regular matchups with Tom Brady.

For Week 12, the Cowboys face the Giants in New Jersey.

Week 13 takes Peyton Manning back to Arrowhead Stadium to face the Chiefs, three days after the Seahawks square off against the 49ers on NBC for Thanksgiving night.

In Week 14, the Patriots travel to the Chargers

Week 15 has the Cowboys at the Eagles, and Week 16 sees the Seahawks at Arizona.

The Week 17 game won’t be determined until after Week 16 ends.

Flexible scheduling applies from Week 11 through Week 16, with a new twist this year.  From Week Five through Week 10, two total games can be flexed by the league, if an unexpected injury or other development results in a game becoming far less compelling.

For now, it all looks very compelling.  And I’m not just saying that because of our NBC connection.  But that helps.

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Steelers-Ravens kicks off the CBS-NFLN Thursday night slate

Tomlin AP

The NFL has two reasons to assign great games to the Thursday night package to be simulcast on CBS and NFL Network.  First, great games deliver major audiences on broadcast TV.  Second, the package lasts only one year; great games will create great ratings and in turn more money for the games in 2015 and beyond.

The games may not all be great on paper, but the seven-game CBS-NFLN Thursday night slate features divisional games exclusively.

The new venture launches with a renewal of one of the NFL’s best rivalries:  Steelers at Ravens.  Multiple cameras surely will be trained to Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, who may want to consider coaching that game from the press box after last year’s walkabout into the field of play.

For Week Three, the new-look Buccaneers visit the suddenly desperate Falcons in a key early-season NFC South game.  This one could be an unexpectedly good game.

For Week Four, the Giants travel to D.C.  With a pair of major markets, the ratings should be very strong, even if the game isn’t.

In Week Five, the divisional trend continues, as the Vikings visit the Packers.  Again, not a sizzler but a potentially potent contest, especially if the Vikings get off to a strong start it could be intriguing.

In Week Six, it’s the Colts at the Texans.  Yes, the 2-14 Texans.  But they can’t be as bad this year, can they?

In Week Seven, it’s Jets-Patriots.  We’ll see how much the gap has closed between the two teams.

And for the last of the CBS-NFLN Thursday night games, the Chargers visit the Broncos.  San Diego won in Denver on a Thursday night last year.

Every division is covered by the seven-week package with the exception of the best one:  The NFC West.  So while the slate of games is solid, it’s hard to call all of them marquee games.

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DeSean Jackson returns to Philly in Week Three

Oakland Raiders vs Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson thinks there’s going to be “something special” about the team’s two games against his former team this season and now we know when we should have our popcorn ready.

The Redskins will travel to Philadelphia to face the Eagles in Week Three. It will be a 1 p.m. start on FOX on September 21 and we’d expect Eagles fans to have a loud response for Jackson’s return that afternoon.

The rematch will come in Week 16 when the Eagles travel to Washington for a Saturday afternoon date that will be televised on CBS and NFL Network. That’s one of four games the Redskins will play at a time other than Sunday afternoon. They will host the Giants on the Thursday after their first meeting with the Eagles and then get a long break before hosting the Seahawks on Monday night in Week Five.

The Redskins will be on Monday night again in Week Eight when they head to Dallas for a renewal of their rivalry with the Cowboys. Those two teams will close the season, which may give Washington a good shot at the NFC East title given Dallas’ three-year streak of missing out on a division crown with a Week 17 loss.

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