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Giants can’t hold onto first place in the NFC East

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 29: Quarterback Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants scrambles under pressure from defensive end Jason Hatcher #97 of the Washington Redskins in the third quarter at FedExField on November 29, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said this week that “it’s a lot of fun” coaching a team that’s in first place.

Coughlin’s team is still in first place after Sunday’s game, but they have company and we’re guessing he’ll be having a lot less fun when the question comes up this week. The Redskins jumped out to a 20-0 lead and held on after two late Giants touchdowns for a 20-14 win that pulls them even with the Giants at 5-6.

If the season ended today, Washington would win the crown based on a better division record. They have two games left against the Cowboys and one against the Eagles, however, and the Giants still have a chance to even their record at 3-3 when they face the Eagles in Week 17.

There’s a lot of football to play between now and then, but the Redskins know they are going to the playoffs if they win their remaining games.

The Giants could have said the same coming into the game, but they continue to make it hard to know what to expect from them on any given Sunday. Two weeks after nearly beating the Patriots, they laid a complete egg for three quarters of the game as the home team did just enough to pull ahead by three scores. Eli Manning finally found some success in the fourth with touchdown passes to Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham, but Steve Spagnuolo’s defense couldn’t stop Jordan Reed and Alfred Morris from getting first downs that left the Giants with a few seconds and no timeouts for a last-ditch attempt at pulling out the win.

That effort wasn’t helped by punt returner Dwayne Harris’s decision to field a Redskins punt over his shoulder on his goal-line, costing the team yards to use in their attempt to pull off a miracle. There were other blunders by the Giants, who turned the ball over on three interceptions that could be blamed on both Manning and his receivers. The last came in the end zone on what looked like an underwhelming effort by Randle to break on a ball picked off by Quinton Dunbar.

Kirk Cousins wasn’t picked off at all and finished the day 20-of-29 for 302 yards and a touchdown to help his team rebound from last week’s licking against the Panthers. He had a lot of success throwing to Reed, whose eight catches for 98 yards included several drive-extenders, and played the mistake-free football that Washington needs from him. He’ll try for another round of it next Monday night against a Cowboys team that will be coming to town fresh off the latest Tony Romo injury. It’s a game Washington should win, although they haven’t proven to be much any more consistent than the Giants this season.

Ryan Kerrigan spearheaded the defensive effort with two sacks and a batted ball that almost turned into a fourth Manning interception. The Giants will need to sort things out on an offensive line that ended the day down three starters in time for their MetLife bragging rights game against the Jets next Sunday. If they can’t Week 13 might end with them out of first place altogether.

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After rough start, Chiefs come alive to beat the Bills

Ronald Darby, Chris Conley AP

For the Chiefs, today’s game against the Bills was a lot like the 2015 season: A rough start and a great turnaround.

The Chiefs fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter today and looked like they were in serious trouble. But quarterback Alex Smith came alive and led a tremendous turnaround in what turned out to be a 30-22 Chiefs win.

Now Kansas City is on a five-game winning streak after starting the season 1-5. The Chiefs looked like their season was lost just a couple months ago, and now they look like they’re on their way to the playoffs.

Smith finished the game 19-for-30 for 255 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Spencer Ware, the Chiefs’ third-string running back who’s now a starter because of injuries to Jamaal Charles and Charcandrick West, topped 100 yards and ran hard all day.

The Bills were off to a fantastic start with Sammy Watkins having 158 receiving yards in the first half, but he didn’t catch any passes in the second half. The Chiefs’ defense deserves a lot of credit for the way it came back in the second half.

And the Chiefs deserve a lot of credit for the way they’ve turned their season around. They’re now AFC contenders.

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Hurns taken to hospital after concussion

Allen Hurns, Darius Butler AP

Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns was taken off the field via stretcher in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game vs. the Chargers and taken to a local hospital.

The team announced that Hurns suffered a concussion and was taken to the hospital for further evaluation.

Hurns hit his head on the turf while diving to make a catch. The game was stopped for several minutes while medical staff attended to Hurns. He flashed a thumbs up to the crowd as the stretcher left the field.

Hurns caught 4 passes for 42 yards in the game.

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Vikings strengthen their playoff position with win in Atlanta

In a battle of two NFC playoff contenders, the Vikings looked like they’re postseason-ready, while the Falcons looked like they have some problems.

The Vikings’ 20-10 victory showed that Minnesota has a good defense and running game, a formula to win late in the season just the way Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wants. And the Falcons’ loss showed that Matt Ryan throws into coverage far too often for a quarterback who’s been in the NFL as long as he has.

Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson topped 100 yards for the NFL-high sixth time this year, giving him a total of 48 100-yard games in his career, the most among active players. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater didn’t have many big plays, but he was efficient as a passer and got rid of the ball quickly. It was a solid effort from the Vikings’ offense.

And it was a spectacular effort from the Vikings’ defense, which took advantage of some poor decisions by Ryan.The Falcons missed running back Devonta Freeman, although Tevin Coleman filled in well enough with 18 carries for 110 yards. The downside for Coleman is that his fumbling problems continued; Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr made a great play to chase Coleman down and knock the ball out of his hands at the end of a long run.

Overall, the Vikings looked like a team that can win games in the playoffs. Minnesota is 8-3 and in first place in the NFC North.

The Falcons, on the other hand, looked like a team that will struggle to make the playoffs. Although they’re still in prime position to earn a wild card berth at 6-5, the Falcons are stumbling down the stretch. If this was a playoff preview, only the Vikings looked like they belong.

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Kirk Cousins sneak puts Giants in 17-0 halftime hole

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 29: Wide receiver DeSean Jackson #11 of the Washington Redskins celebrates with quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins after scoring a second quarter touchdown against the New York Giants at FedExField on November 29, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants came into Sunday with a chance to take a commanding lead in the NFC East, but there’s a good chance things are going to remain tight a little while longer.

The Redskins lead 17-0 at halftime after a Kirk Cousins quarterback sneak with 1:45 to play in the second quarter. Cousins appeared to have his second touchdown pass of the game on third down, but replay showed that Jamison Crowder’s knee was down just short of the end zone. Jay Gruden elected to go for it rather than take the field goal and Cousins was able to get just enough of the ball across the plane.

The Giants would get the ball again, but their offense continued to struggle and they punted after picking up one first down. With Geoff Schwartz lost to a broken leg, the Giants have backups across the interior of the line and the entire group has looked out of sorts through the first 30 minutes of the game.

The first two drives ended with interceptions off of the hands of Giants receivers and Eli Manning is 10-of-22 for 91 yards in the game. They’ve added just 32 yards on 10 rushes, so the issues run across the board offensively for the Giants thus far.

Cousins hit DeSean Jackson for a 63-yard touchdown and is 12-of-18 for 207 yards overall against a secondary that got Prince Amukamara back at corner while losing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the first half. He also hooked up with Matt Jones for a 45-yard gain to set up the second score, so big plays and a tight defense have the Redskins two quarters away from a share of first place with five weeks left to play.

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Sammy Watkins having a big day in Kansas City

Tyrod Taylor, Jaye Howard AP

At times this year, the Bills have failed to make the most of receiver Sammy Watkins’s talents. That’s not the case today in Kansas City.

Just 14 minutes into the first quarter, Watkins already has 90 receiving yards, and the Bills are off to a 10-0 lead.

On the Bills’ opening possession, Watkins had a 48-yard catch that helped set up a field goal. Later in the first quarter, Watkins caught a 28-yard touchdown pass.

Tyrod Taylor is throwing the ball well and the Bills’ defense is taking care of the Chiefs’ offense, and through the first quarter it’s all Buffalo.

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Mike Pouncey carted to locker room in first quarter

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 04:   Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins awaits the snap from Mike Pouncey #51 of the Miami Dolphins during the game against New York Jets at Wembley Stadium on October 4, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins may be without their starting center for the rest of the day at the Meadowlands.

Mike Pouncey took a cart to the locker room in the first quarter of the game after suffering a right foot injury. He was getting the foot checked out on the sideline after Miami’s second offensive possession of the game and took the ride back to the locker room during the ensuing Jets drive.

His return is called questionable, although CBS reported during the game that Pouncey could put no weight on the foot. Jamil Douglas will likely take over in the middle of the offensive line.

That Jets drive started when cornerback Marcus Williams intercepted Ryan Tannehill inside the Jets’ 10-yard-line. Williams started Sunday’s game in place of Darrelle Revis, who is out with a concussion. It ended with a touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall for a 7-0 lead.

The Dolphins also suffered an injury at wide receiver on their first drive when Rishard Matthews took a hard hit to the ribs from safety Calvin Pryor while trying to grab a pass thrown behind him by Tannehill. He’s also termed questionable to return.

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Week 12 early inactives

Ryan Tannehill, Mario Williams AP

Every week we bring you all the inactives from the early games in one post, constantly updated with the latest information. Check back often to see the full list as it becomes available.

Vikings at Falcons

Vikings: S Harrison Smith, CB Trae WaynesQB Taylor Heinicke, LB Edmond Robinson, C Nick Easton, OT Jeremiah Sirles, DE Justin Trattou

Falcons: K Matt Bryant, RB Devonta Freeman, WR Leonard Hankerson, CB Phillip Adams, C James Stone, T Bryce Harris, DE Malliciah Goodman

Rams at Bengals

Rams: T Andrew Donnal, CB Trumaine Johnson, DE Robert Quinn, T Isaiah Battle, DE Ethan Westbrooks, QB Case Keenum, K Greg Zuerlein

Bengals: WR Mario Alford, LB Paul Dawson, TE C.J. Uzomah, DT Marcus Hardison, DT Pat Sims, DE Margus Hunt, T Cedric Ogbuehi

Saints at Texans

Saints: LB Dannel Ellerbe, LB David Hawthorne, CB Damian Swann, QB Garrett Grayson, DT Kaleb Eulls, G Mike McGlynn, DE Phillip Hunt

Texans: QB Brandon Weeden, WR Jaelen Strong, S Rahim Moore, CB A.J. Bouye, G Oday Aboushi, TE Garrett Graham, DT Jeoffrey Pagan

Buccaneers at Colts

Buccaneers: DE George Johnson, S Keith Tandy, QB Ryan Griffin, WR Donteea Dye, DE Kourtnei Brown, G Ali Marpet, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Colts: QB Andrew Luck, T Anthony Castonzo, WR Phillip Dorsett, G Todd Herremans, LB Bjoern Werner, S Mike Adams, LB Sio Moore

Chargers at Jaguars

Chargers: G D.J. Fluker, S Adrian Phillips, CB Greg Ducre, LB Kavell Conner, DT Damion Square, T King Dunlap, LB Cordarro Law

Jaguars: LB Dan Skuta, RB Bernard Pierce, WR Neal Sterling, S Craig Loston, OL Luke Bowanko, RB Joe Banyard, DT Michael Bennett

Bills at Chiefs

Bills: WR Marcus Easley, DE Mario Williams, G John Miller, QB Josh Johnson, OL Cyrus Kouandjio, DT Kyle Williams, OL Ryan Groy

Chiefs: DE Allen Bailey, LB Dee Ford, WR De’Anthony Thomas, G Ben Grubbs, DL David King, QB Aaron Murray, RB Charcandrick West

Dolphins at Jets

Dolphins: T Ju’Wuan James, TE Brandon Williams, LB Chris McCain, TE Jake Stoneburner, WR Matt Hazel, T Ulrick John, LB James-Michael Johnson

Jets: CB Darrelle Revis, QB Bryce Petty, OL Ben Ijalana, S Dion Bailey, OL Dakota Dozier, WR Kenbrell Thompkins, DL Josh Martin

Raiders at Titans

Raiders: LB Neiron Ball, CB Keith McGill, RB Taiwan Jones, C Rodney Hudson, OL Khalif Barnes, WR Rod Streater, TE Gabe Holmes

Titans: RB Dexter McCluster, DT Al Woods, CB Cody Riggs, G Jeremiah Poutasi, WR Andrew Turzilli, LB Derrick Morgan, DT Mike Martin

Giants at Redskins

Giants: C Weston Richburg, G Justin Pugh, TE Larry Donnell, WR Geremy Davis, S Cooper Taylor, CB Leon McFadden, DE George Selvie

Redskins: S Trenton Robinson, QB Robert Griffin III, CB Deshazor Everett, LB Keenan Robinson, DE Frank Kearse, G Arie Kouandjio, TE Je’Ron Hamm

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Vikings passing game still not complementing Adrian Peterson

Mike Wallace, Cordarrelle Patterson AP

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer recently went out of his way to express appreciation to running back Adrian Peterson. Zimmer’s gesture may have been influenced by the reality that the team’s passing game is giving him little for which to be thankful.

With plenty of talent and potential, the performance simply hasn’t been there. Rookie Stefon Diggs has cooled off considerably after a four-game hot start to his career, and last year’s flavor-of-the-moment Charles Johnson has become a forgotten man, with three total catches since Week Three.

Then there’s former first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson, who has been relegated primarily to kick-return duties. On NFL Network’s GameDay Morning, Michael Irvin said he was asked in the offseason by coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner to work with Patterson on running intermediate routes — and the importance of wanting the ball more than the defense in that territory.

Meanwhile, this year’s high-profile veteran arrival, Mike Wallace, has been a major disappointment. Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune takes a close look at what currently is the worst year of Wallace’s career. Among other things, Souhan points out that quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has overthrown Wallace eight times this year, which means either that Bridgewater is missing Wallace or Wallace isn’t doing enough to go get the ball.

Regardless, with Wallace making $9.9 million this year and due to make $11.5 million in 2016, it’s looking like Wallace, barring a dramatic pay cut, will be one and done in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

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Dolphins have an internal disconnect over Tannehill

Tony Romo, Ryan Tannehill AP

As the Dolphins prepare to search for a permanent replacement for coach Joe Philbin, it’s becoming clear that the most important aspect of the interview process will consist of laying out a plan for making the performance of quarterback Ryan Tannehill match his perceived potential.

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald explains that a disconnect currently exists between the front office and the coaching staff. The folks in suits believe Tannehill is one of the best quarterbacks in the league; the guys in headsets treat Tannehill like a run-of-the-mill game manager.

“What I’ve told Ryan is, ‘I don’t need Superman,'” interim coach Dan Campbell recently told Salguero. “I just want to make sure my message to him is don’t try to be someone you’re not. Just manage the game for us. Make the throws that are there, which he will.”

Salguero points out that offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has limited Tannehill’s options for changing the play at the line of scrimmage, restricted to a menu of alternatives given to Tannehill before each play.

Supposedly, the mental shackles come from a desire to see Tannehill play fast. The front office, however, apparently prefers to see him play well enough to justify the thinking that he lands somewhere between No. 8 and No. 15 among all NFL quarterbacks.

The contract given to Tannehill earlier this year speaks volumes about the front office’s view of Tannehill. The failure of the current coaching staff to trust him to try to win games instead of to not lose them says plenty about whether the current coaching staff will be coaching him next year.

And so for 2016 the big question becomes whether there’s a potential head coach who genuinely wants to coach Tannehill, and who has a compelling plan for getting the most out of him. The biggest challenge for the coaching staff could be figuring out how to distinguish the candidates who truly want Tannehill from those who simply want the job and who’ll say whatever they have to say to get it.

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Report: Rams won’t be penalized for Keenum concussion debacle

Case Keenum AP

Last Sunday’s early games included a troubling moment in which Rams quarterback Case Keenum obviously had sustained a head injury but somehow wasn’t taken off the field. The NFL has now determined that nothing will be taken from the Rams.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Rams won’t be penalized for mishandling the concussion protocol.

There’s no explanation provided regarding why the Rams won’t be punished. A trainer went onto the field to check Keenum, but the trainer didn’t remove Keenum for an official concussion evaluation.

Ultimately, the NFL may have decided that, with the ATC spotter now having the absolute ability to stop the game, the bulk of the blame should rest with the person whose primary job is to look for potential head injuries and to ensure that those players are out of the game.

The fact that the league thereafter convened a conference call with all head athletic trainers suggests that the NFL will be expecting more from the teams going forward. The lack of punishment for the Rams implies that the previous procedures weren’t sufficiently clear to justify punishing the Rams in this case.

So, basically, the situation that unfolded on Sunday in Baltimore perhaps was less about the team not following the rules and more about the NFL still not having sufficiently clear rules in place.

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Report: Charcandrick West will not play today

Charcandrick West AP

Chiefs running back Charcandrick West won’t be able to go today against the Bills.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that West, though listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, will not play. The Chiefs are expected to have tight end Travis Kelce, who is also questionable with an ankle injury.

West is the Chiefs’ leading rusher, having emerged as the starter after Jamaal Charles was lost for the season. Without West, Spencer Ware will get the start at running back.

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Gruden advises patience with Manziel

manziel-johnny101715-getty-ftrjpg_1iltxbxi5cy0z1konw7fwtauff Getty Images

Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel partied (and lied) his way out of the starting job in Cleveland over the balance of the season, but former NFL coach Jon Gruden doesn’t believe it should mean the end of Manziel’s time with the Browns.

“If he wants to be a great quarterback and realize his potential, let this be the day he gets awakened,” Gruden told Mary Kay Cabot of on Saturday. Gruden will call Monday night’s Ravens-Browns game for ESPN.

Some would say that Manziel should have been awakened by now, after a disastrous end to his rookie season and a 10-week offseason stay in rehab. Gruden is hopeful that this time will be the time that Manziel realizes he needs to grow up.

“He’s a young kid,” Gruden said of Manziel, who is still 22. “He should still be at Texas A&M. Sometimes you have to remember that.”

Gruden specifically remembers another young quarterback with a penchant for partying. His number was retired by the Packers two nights ago.

“We traded for a guy when I first got to Green Bay that Atlanta said was a little bit of a hell raiser and it turned out OK for us,” Gruden said of Brett Favre. “You know what I mean?”

Ultimately, Favre could be the best guy to get through to Manziel. Like Manziel, Favre spent time in rehab early in his career. Favre overcame an addiction to painkillers, which forced him to find a way to play for years without pharmaceutical intervention.

If Gruden really wants to help Manziel, Gruden should connect Manziel and Favre. And Manziel would be wise to listen to anything Favre has to say.

“He’s a polarizing guy,” said Gruden regarding Manziel. “You love him. You don’t like him. Everybody has their own feeling, but deep down, I know there’s a good person in there, a lot of talent, and somebody is going to tap into it. I believe that.”

Listening to what Gruden has to say, it’s hard not to wonder whether Browns owner Jimmy Haslam will try to hire Gruden to do what he did with Manziel earlier this year on a full-time basis, as the head coach of the team.

“We went straight at it,” Gruden said regarding his time spent working with Manziel. “We were right out in the open. One day I think we played golf. We talked about some deep and philosophical things. It was very unusual for me, but I care about him. I care about his family. I want to see him realize his potential.”

To realize that potential, Manziel has to overcome his demons once and for all, mature into a guy who obsesses over the details of being an NFL quarterback, and find a way to gain — and to retain — the trust of an NFL team. If he does the first two, the last one will follow.

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Harrison Smith, Trae Waynes out for Vikings on Sunday

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The Vikings will be shorthanded in their effort to keep Julio Jones under control on Sunday.

Safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Trae Waynes have been downgraded to out by the Vikings. Both had been listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report. Smith has a knee injury, and Waynes has an ankle problem.

Ben Goessling of reports that Antone Exum will make his first start in place of Smith, getting the nod over Robert Blanton.

The good news for the Vikings is that defensive end Everson Griffen, who also had been listed as questionable, has not been scratched. Griffen has both a hip and shoulder issue.

The 7-3 Vikings and the 6-4 Falcons get together in the Georgia Dome on Sunday, in a key game for NFC playoff positioning. Minnesota currently leads the NFC North by a half game over the Packers, and the Falcons are holding one of the two wild-card spots.

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Giants can take an overwhelming lead in the NFC East on Sunday

Tom Coughlin AP

We don’t often say this about a 5-5 team, but if the Giants can win on Sunday, they’ve all but locked up their division.

Two of the Giants’ NFC East division rivals had disasters on Thanksgiving, and it’s now hard to imagine either the Eagles or the Cowboys making a run at the division title. That leaves Sunday’s opponent, Washington, as the only team left to challenge the Giants.

At the moment, the Giants are a game ahead of 4-6 Washington, and the Giants already beat Washington once this season. A win for the Giants would result in a two-game lead, plus the head-to-head tiebreaker, with just five games to play. The Giants would have to totally collapse to lose the division at that point.

So it’s easy to see why Washington coach Jay Gruden is calling tomorrow a one-game season. He knows that if his team loses, the NFC East race is effectively over.

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