Emmanuel Sanders, Isaiah McKenzie to miss at least one game

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The Broncos sent a couple of their wide receivers for MRIs on Monday and the results showed that they’ll be down a pair of wideouts for at least one game.

Broncos coach Vance Joseph said during an appearance on Orange & Blue 760 that both Emmanuel Sanders and Isaiah McKenzie are out for this week’s game against the Chargers after suffering sprained ankles in Denver’s 23-10 loss to the Giants on Sunday night. Joseph said that both players are considered week-to-week from there.

Sanders is second on the team with 25 catches and 266 yards. His two receiving touchdowns are tied for the team high. McKenzie has one catch for no yards and has served as the team’s primary punt returner.

Cody Latimer was out on Sunday night with a knee injury while Demaryius Thomas played through an injury, so the Broncos may need to make a move to increase their options alongside Bennie Fowler and Jordan Taylor.

Golden Tate expected to miss a few weeks with shoulder injury

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The Lions are going to be without their No. 1 receiver for a while.

Detroit wide receiver Golden Tate suffered a shoulder injury and is likely to miss a few weeks, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. An MRI will reveal the full extent of the injury.

Tate is leading the Lions with 36 catches and 363 receiving yards.

The Lions have their bye this week, and it’s coming at a good time. Lions coach Jim Caldwell said today that the squad is so banged up after yesterday’s loss to the Saints that he’s not even sure how he’d field a team if they had to play a Thursday night game this week. After their Week Seven bye, the Lions play the Steelers on Sunday night in Week Eight.

Al Riveron stands by call, declines comment on his predecessors’ criticisms

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NFL head of officiating Al Riveron is standing by his decision to overturn a Jets touchdown and award the ball to the Patriots on Sunday, even as two of his predecessors in the job are saying he got it wrong.

Riveron told reporters today that Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins fumbled the ball before crossing the goal line, and then failed to control it again until after the ball had traveled across the goal line and out of bounds.

“By rule, he has to re-establish possession. He must regain control of the football again before he hits out of bounds,” Riveron said. “He has not regained control of the football before he hits out of bounds.”

Riveron added that he was relying on the same replays that the TV audience saw.

“Anything that we get in the command center we get directly from the TV feed,” Riveron said. “That’s what we base our decision on.”

Riveron acknowledged that former heads of officiating Dean Blandino and Mike Pereira have said publicly that he got the replay wrong, but he thinks he was correct and they were incorrect.

“I really have no comment on that, that’s really just their judgment,” Riveron said.

That won’t satisfy Jets fans, but Riveron’s mind is made up, and he says he got it right.

Teddy Bridgewater cleared to practice for first time in 14 months

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More than a year after suffering a career-threatening knee injury, Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater can return to the practice field.

Bridgewater was given medical clearance to return to practice today, according to multiple reports. Bridgewater is expected to be on the practice field this week.

It’s unclear when Bridgewater will be cleared for game action. It’s also unclear how much longer Sam Bradford will be out with a knee injury of his own, and what the Vikings’ quarterback depth chart will be when and if Bridgewater, Bradford and Case Keenum are all healthy at the same time.

But whatever questions remain, there’s undeniable good news for Bridgewater today. When Bridgewater suffered his injury in August of 2016, there was talk that it might end his career. It’s been a long rehabilitation process, but Bridgewater is now closer than ever to making a return.

Clay Matthews: “Almost ridiculous” the lack of injury luck we’ve had

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Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb called the news of quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ broken collarbone a “devastating” development after Sunday’s game in what could probably be used as a quick way to sum up the team’s overall reaction to the news.

There’s no scenario where a Rodgers injury would feel any different, but it may feel even worse right now because of all the other injuries the team is dealing with right now. Three starting offensive linemen — left tackle David Bakhtiari, right tackle Bryan Bulaga and left guard Lane Taylor — left Sunday’s loss and three starting defensive backs didn’t even suit up.

Cornerback Quinten Rollins joined Kevin King, Davon House and Morgan Burnett on the sideline before the game was out, leaving linebacker Clay Matthews to search for the right words to describe the current situation.

“Comical is not the right word, but it’s almost ridiculous because of the luck — the lack of luck — we’ve had,” Matthews said, via ESPN.com. “Over the years, it seems like we’ve been hit by the injury bug, this year more so than any. You can try and have a next-man-up mentality, but at the same time there’s only so many guys we can get in there.”

In most years, the Packers have had Rodgers on hand to help them navigate choppy injury waters. That won’t be the case in 2017, so it would be good for them if the tide started to turn in the other direction.

Sunday’s games had the two biggest NFL upsets of the last two years

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In the last two years, only two teams have lost games in which they were favored by more than 10 points. Both of those games were yesterday.

Sunday afternoon’s action in the NFL saw the Falcons, as 14-point favorites, lose 20-17 to the Dolphins. And on Sunday night the Broncos, as 13.5-point favorites, lost 23-10 to the Giants. Those are the two biggest upsets in the NFL in the last two years.

Overall, teams favored by more than 10 points are 19-2 in the last two years, including two such games in last season’s playoffs. Until yesterday, this season’s biggest upset came when the Panthers beat the Patriots as nine-point underdogs in Week Four.

So if yesterday’s NFL action seemed even crazier than usual, it wasn’t just your imagination. It really was an incredible day of upsets.

Martavis Bryant’s girlfriend appears to confirm he wants to be traded

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Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant has denied a report that he is unhappy as a Steeler and wants to be traded. But Bryant’s girlfriend appeared to confirm the report.

Deja Hiott, whom Bryant has identified as his girlfriend multiple times on social media, posted a tweet on Sunday night that responded to the report of Bryant wanting a trade and seemed to confirm that the report was accurate.

“Well. You guys should’ve seen it coming. Taking him off the field, not giving the ball or the chance to reach his full potential,” Hiott wrote, in a tweet she later deleted.

It’s hard to believe Hiott would write that on Twitter if Bryant hadn’t told her privately that that’s the way he feels. So while Bryant is saying publicly that he’s happy in Pittsburgh, there may be more going on than he’s willing to admit.

Andy Reid on passing on FG: I do what my gut says to do

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Chiefs coach Andy Reid opened himself up to second-guessing on Sunday afternoon when he opted to go for it on fourth-and-two from the Steelers’ 4-yard-line early in the fourth quarter.

The Chiefs were down 12-3 and many thought kicking a field goal to make it a one-score game would have been the prudent thing for the Chiefs to do. They called a pass to tight end Demetrius Harris instead and it was ruled incomplete after Harris and Steelers safety Sean Davis wrestled over the ball.

Reid said he didn’t think Harris had control of the ball when asked why he didn’t challenge that ruling.

After the game, Reid said “hindsight ends up being that you wish you would have kicked it” but that he felt the team hadn’t been close to scoring a touchdown to that point in the game when discussing his decision to go the other way.

“I don’t worry about the questions that will be asked afterwards; I do what my gut tells me to do,” Reid said, via the Kansas City Star. “I thought that was the right thing to do. Again, we hadn’t been down there or really moved the ball too much. If nothing else it backs them up and gives us an opportunity to come back and win the game. Which we did. We had an opportunity there to win the game. So these are the things I’m thinking about. I’m preaching to the team to stay aggressive without being stupid.”

The Chiefs forced a punt and scored a quick touchdown on their next drive to cut the score to 12-10, but Antonio Brown caught a pass off Phillip Gaines‘ helmet and turned it into a 51-yard touchdown that left the Chiefs with two scores to make up in a little more than three minutes. They couldn’t and there are no more unbeaten teams in the NFL as a result.

Aaron Rodgers injury may usher in a radical rules change, and other Week 6 thoughts

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The hit that broke Aaron Rodgers‘ collarbone on Sunday wasn’t illegal. Maybe it should be.

Vikings outside linebacker Anthony Barr hit Rodgers just after Rodgers released a pass, and the two of them tumbled to the turf with Barr on top of Rodgers. That rather ordinary hit broke Rodgers’ collarbone and dramatically affected the entire NFL season, possibly knocking Rodgers out until 2018 and in the process ending realistic Super Bowl hopes for the Packers.

I think it may be time for a radical rule change, one that makes hits like Barr’s illegal. It may be time for the NFL to consider dramatically expand the roughing the passer rules, and treat quarterbacks like kickers and punters: Basically, you can’t hit them at all once they’ve thrown a pass.

I know, I know, you’re going to tell me I’m soft and weak and ruining the game of football, and that we might as well just play flag football if we’re going to do that. And I’m here to tell you I’ve heard it all before.

I heard the same thing when the NFL changed the roughing the passer rules to prohibit low hits on quarterbacks after Tom Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2008: “How can defensive players possibly be expected to avoid those hits?” But defensive players adjusted, and it’s now unremarkable that those hits are penalized.

And I heard the same thing when the NFL implemented the horse-collar tackle rule: “How can any defensive player ever catch a runner from behind?” But defensive players adjusted, and now the horse-collar tackle rule has been adopted at every level of football and is completely noncontroversial.

I believe the same thing would happen if the NFL dramatically changed the roughing the passer rule. Yes, at first it would seem wrong to see defensive players penalized for putting a shoulder in a quarterback’s chest after he throws a pass. But defensive players would get used to it, coaches would get used to it, and fans would get used to it.

And it would make the game safer for the quarterbacks, the most important players on the field. Is it really a good thing for the NFL that Aaron Rodgers might miss the entire season? Are hits like Barr’s really so fundamental to football that we can’t outlaw them for the health of quarterbacks and the good of the sport? I don’t think so.

The NFL already protects quarterbacks far more than it did when I was growing up as a football fan in the 1980s. But the league can do more. Roughing the passer needs to be expanded.

Here are my other thoughts from Sunday:

Stop with the “system quarterback” stuff. As soon as Rodgers went down, the debate began about what the Packers should do: Should they just stick with backup Brett Hundley? Or should they sign a free agent? And of course the name of Colin Kaepernick came up, as it always does, followed by the debate about whether Kaepernick fits the Packers’ system.

Here’s the thing: The “system quarterback” stuff is B.S. Quarterbacks don’t need to fit a system. They need to be good football players. No quarterback on earth is capable of doing all the things Aaron Rodgers does in the Packers’ system, but there are talented quarterbacks who can come in and contribute, and their physical talents don’t have to match Rodgers’ talents perfectly. The Packers don’t need a quarterback who fits the system, they need a quarterback who’s a good football player.

Take a look at what Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson has done. The system he ran at Clemson was nothing at all like the system Houston coach Bill O’Brien runs. But Watson came in at halftime of Week One and has played so well since then that he’s a legitimate MVP candidate. It’s not that Watson fits O’Brien’s system, it’s that Watson is a terrific talent and can succeed in any system. The idea of a system fit is the most overrated part of evaluating how a quarterback will do on a given team.

Lions seeing the problem with overpaying Matthew Stafford. In Sunday’s loss to the Saints, Stafford had a 48 percent completion rate and five turnovers. When I wrote after the game that I saw that performance as evidence that Stafford shouldn’t be the highest-paid player in the NFL, I heard back from a lot of people that the problem isn’t Stafford but the players around him. I don’t disagree with that, but it’s part of the point: When you’re devoting a huge amount of salary cap space to one player, as the Lions are with Stafford, you have less money to devote to bolstering the rest of your roster. I believe the Lions would be better in the long run if they had a deeper roster — even if that had meant not extending Stafford this year, and risking losing him in free agency next year.

I am astonished by Adrian Peterson. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more wrong about a player on a new team than I was about Peterson yesterday. I thought he was totally washed up, done, not going to contribute a thing in Arizona after the Cardinals got him in a trade with the Saints. Instead, Peterson had his first 100-yard rushing game since 2015 and the Cardinals blew out the Buccaneers. I don’t expect Peterson to play that way every week, but he certainly looked like a good addition to the Cards’ offense yesterday.

The Falcons choked, again. The stakes were obviously nowhere near as big, but I thought the Falcons’ meltdown yesterday against the Dolphins was an even more improbable loss than their Super Bowl fiasco. Atlanta had a 17-0 halftime lead over a Miami team that had looked like the worst offense in the NFL this season — 17 points should have been more than enough to win. And then the Falcons proceeded to allow that lousy Dolphins offense to march down the field on four long scoring drives in the second half, with Jay Cutler throwing two touchdown passes and Cody Parkey kicking two field goals, and the Falcons didn’t score another point. Miami won 20-17. That second-half performance by the Falcons was as ugly as it gets.

Alberto Riveron needs to explain himself. Riveron, the NFL’s new head of officiating, overturned a Jets touchdown late in their loss to the Patriots. I think it was a terrible decision, and I want to hear Riveron answer for it. I’ve already heard the referee’s explanation — he said the Jets’ Austin Seferian-Jenkins fumbled and didn’t regain control until he was out of bounds — but the referee doesn’t make the final decision. Riveron does. And I believe that decision was in error because the ruling on the field was a touchdown, and there’s no replay angle that indisputably shows Seferian-Jenkins didn’t have control of the ball before he went out of bounds. Riveron talked to Peter King about the ruling, but his explanation was less than convincing. And if you don’t take my word for it, believe Riveron’s two predecessors, Dean Blandino and Mike Pereira, both of whom said on FOX that they thought Riveron got it wrong. When a game as big as Jets-Patriots turns on a call like that, Riveron needs to speak up.

Sunday Night wrap-up: Ben McAdoo gains by giving up control

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Before Sunday night, every button Ben McAdoo pushed this year was the wrong one.

For a night at least, his decisions turned out to be the right ones.

The Giants stunned the Broncos, winning 23-10 on the road to improve to 1-5 on the season.

That result of one game shouldn’t obscure the mess the Giants have become this year, but with some factors out of his control. McAdoo made the most of the decisions he could make Sunday.

Without his top three wide receivers because of injury, McAdoo walked into the game with a collection of guys with 19 NFL receptions between them, and an offensive line that has been a mess all year. So naturally, he let someone else call the plays (offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan), and shuffled his starting line again (his call this time), and the results followed.

They gained 266 yards (still under their 326.4-yard average), so it wasn’t an avalanche or anything, but they had set the bar pretty low this year and were still playing the best defense in the league.

While this may have been a perfect-storm night and the Broncos were caught unaware and with injuries of their own, it was a much-needed win for McAdoo. With an aging team with high expectations in a high-pressure market, it would have been easy for him to lose control of this team. And it’s far too soon to say he has control of it. He still has the same flawed offensive personnel, and he’s still 1-5 and facing a long season.

But going into this week, it was reasonable to argue that the head coaching job fit him as well as the jacket he wore to his introductory press conference. Letting his offensive coordinator call plays after hesitating to do so earlier this year might have been desperate, and it might have been forced on him from above. But at least it worked.

And now he’ll have Denver to fall back on, a night when everything seemed tailor-made for him.

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

1. Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas did what not that many star receivers could do — he put up stats against Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins. But they didn’t matter that much.

Thomas had six catches for 79 yards in the first half alone, and finished with 10 for 133. Early in the game, he was the one matchup Trevor Siemian could rely on, making plays that other big names such as Dez Bryant have not against “Jackrabbit.”

But Jenkins will certainly trade the stats for the pick-six just before halftime, and the forced fumble in the fourth quarter.

It’s hard to overstate his importance to the Giants defense, especially in light of the suspension of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie which left them without a slot corner.

They had to pay a premium to get him, but he’s shown he’s the kind of corner who can erase not just half a field, but the guys the other team counts on the most.

2. Back to that Giants offensive line.

Credit the Giants for putting Justin Pugh at right tackle, to replace the struggling Bobby Hart. That required moving John Jerry to left guard. They’re playing without their starting center (Weston Richburg) so things have been in flux.

But Pugh and right guard D.J. Fluker gave them something resembling a true strong side, and gave quarterback Eli Manning enough time to work.

Pugh’s in a contract year, and shuffling around might not help his market at a time when top guards are getting paid. It’s hard to argue with the results, however.

3. The Broncos have proven they can get by with defense.

But with their current injury situation, they might have to for a bit.

Thomas was in and out of the second half, and Emmanuel Sanders was lost in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. That’s leaves them short of playmakers, and they had trouble finishing up the game. Rookie Isaiah McKenzie was carted off late as well with a leg injury.

Their offensive issues don’t match the Giants, but they’ll still have to do some adjusting in the coming weeks.

4. Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul also had a huge game at a time when they needed it.

He’s been good-not-great this year, with 1.5 sacks in the first five. But he dropped Trevor Siemian three times, and was the kind of disruptive force they needed up front.

Like Jenkins, he’s expensive, so he should make plays like that. But at least he’s making them.

5. John Elway doesn’t whiff often (though he’s probably glad Brock Osweiler didn’t take him up on that “lowball” $16 million a year offer), but hindsight suggests he picked the wrong kicker in 2014.

The team that once employed Matt Prater chose Brandon McManus then, which is fine if you think kickers should be cheap and decent instead of expensive and better.

Since then, Prater is hitting 86.5 percent of his field goals and has hit 19-of-23 from 50 yards or longer.

McManus was an 81.5 percenter entering Sunday night’s game, and was 8-of-16 on 50-plus attempts. Then he missed a 35-yarder in the first quarter and had a 53-yarder blocked in the third.

The Broncos gave him a contract extension in September because he’s been generally good. But he’s now 5-of-10 in Denver this year, which is the place where it’s supposed to be easier to kick.

Report: Martavis Bryant unhappy in Pittsburgh, requests a trade


Talented but troubled Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant could be on the way out, if he gets his way.

Bryant has requested that the Steelers trade him, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. The report says the Steelers are well aware that Bryant is unhappy.

Although Bryant has played in all six games this year, he hasn’t had quite the impact the Steelers might have been hoping. Bryant has just 17 catches for 231 yards and one touchdown.

Bryant was suspended for the entire 2016 season for violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, which may make a lot of teams decide they’re not interested in trading for him. Although Bryant has shown a great deal of promise as a deep threat, teams considering trading fro Bryant will have to weigh the risks.

Adrian Peterson: This was the opportunity I’ve been waiting for


After being traded to the Cardinals this week, Adrian Peterson insisted he has “so much left” in the tank despite running on empty for his brief time in New Orleans.

He did his best to prove himself right on Sunday against the Buccaneers. Peterson ran 26 times for 134 yards and two touchdowns in the 38-33 Arizona victory and called it “satisfying” to perform at that level after hearing so much from “outside sources” about his decline.

I feel good. This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for. Once I got that call on Tuesday, I was rejuvenated,” Peterson said.

It was a Ponce de Leon day all around for the Cardinals as Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald also had big days for Arizona, leading coach Bruce Arians to say after the game that it was “a great day for old guys.” The 3-3 Cardinals will hope that the fountain keeps bubbling against the Rams next week.

Kaepernick hopes to invalidate the CBA through collusion grievance

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Free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick has filed a grievance against the NFL alleging collusion in relation to his ongoing unemployment. Eventually, we’ll explain what he needs to prove, and what he doesn’t need to prove, in order to show that collusion occurred. For now, let’s focus on what he wants to do.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Kaepernick wants to trigger termination of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Article 69, Section 2 of the CBA allows for the agreement to be terminated prematurely in the event of proof of collusion. Under Article 17, Section 16(c) of the CBA, termination can arise from only one incident of collusion involving only one player if there is clear and convincing evidence of a violation.

The ramifications would be enormous, and historical. Kaepernick could give all players a tremendous piece of leverage, moving up the expiration of the contract by more than three years and forcing the owners back to the bargaining table.

Former NFL player Sean Gilbert proposed, in connection with his effort to become the NFLPA’s executive director, the potential termination of the CBA in early 2015, based on collusion arising from the funding rule applicable to guaranteed contracts. Gilbert did not win, and the collusion case was never filed.

Union will support Colin Kaepernick’s grievance, but had no role in it

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The NFL players’ union says it will support Colin Kaepernick in his grievance against the NFL, but the union also says it had no role in it and didn’t even learn of it until it was reported in the media today.

In a statement issued this evening, the NFL Players Association said it plans to work with Kaepernick advisors.

“Our union has a duty to assist Mr. Kaepernick as we do all players and we will support him,” the statement said. “The NFLPA has been in regular contact with Mr. Kaepernick’s representatives for the past year about his options and our union agreed to follow the direction of his advisors throughout that time. We first learned through media reports today that Mr. Kaepernick filed a grievance claiming collusion through our arbitration system and is represented by his own counsel. We learned that the NFL was informed of his intention to file this grievance before today. We are scheduling a call with his advisors for early this week.”

It’s unclear why Kaepernick and his advisors did not inform the union about the grievance, but the union still seems to think it has a role in helping Kaepernick fight to get back on the field.

Mark Geragos confirms filing of Colin Kaepernick collusion grievance

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Attorney Mark Geragos, whose client list has included the likes of Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, Scott Peterson, and Chris Brown (pictured with Geragos), now represents Colin Kaepernick. Geragos confirmed on Sunday night that a grievance alleging collusion has been filed against the NFL.

“We can confirm that this morning we filed a grievance under the CBA on behalf of Colin Kaepernick,” Geragos said in a statement. “This was done only after pursuing every possible avenue with all NFL teams and their executives.

“If the NFL (as well as all professional sports leagues) is to remain a meritocracy, then principled and peaceful political protests — which the owners themselves made great theater imitating weeks ago — should not be punished and athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the Executive Branch of our government. Such a precedent threatens all patriotic Americans and harkens back to our darkest days as a nation. Protecting all athletes from such collusive conduct is what compelled Mr. Kaepernick to file his grievance.

“Colin Kaepernick’s goal has always been, and remains, to simply be treated fairly by the league he performed at the highest level for and to return to the football playing field.”

It’s unclear whether the grievance will help or hurt Kaepernick’s effort. On one hand, it could push the league to nudge a team to sign him. On the other hand, it could underscore the perception that Kaepernick brings baggage that outweighs his current talent level.