Chiefs plan to stand pat at quarterback, for now

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It’s Sunday Splash! time, and anyone and everyone who covers the NFL is trying to produce a Triple Lindy regarding Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

The better approach is to focus on the facts. And here they are, as of right now.

The Chiefs currently are expected to stand pat at quarterback, making Matt Moore the starter and promoting Kyle Shurmur (son of Giants coach Pat Shurmur) from the practice squad for next Sunday night’s game against the Packers. Kyle Shurmur gets the nod as opposed to a free agent because Shurmur knows the system.

Then there’s Chad Henne. He’s eligible to return after Week Eight. So it could be Moore versus the Packers and then Moore or Henne against the Vikings.

As to the rampant (and in some corners of the media confusing and internally contradictory) efforts to cobble a timetable for Mahomes’ return, a source with knowledge of the situation said that it’s all speculation. Mahomes’ return ultimately hinges on the natural healing process, rehab efforts, and subsequent MRI examinations.

The source emphasizd that any effort to state a clear timeline is “good for clicks and retweets,” but ultimately unreliable. The generic timeline for the injury suffered by Mahomes is 3-6 weeks. No one will know when Mahomes can return until more time passes. Anyone who is stating anything at this point regarding a specific return date “is just guessing.”

Still, the Chiefs may need to be ready to make a move, if the timeline ends up being at the high end of the range, if there’s an unexpected setback, and/or if Moore and/or Henne perform poorly. The problem is that the trade window closes in nine days.

So if there’s going to be a dramatic change in the intended approach that entails pursuing someone like Marcus Mariota, it needs to happen sooner than later. Otherwise, the the only options will be Moore, Henne, Shurmur, and any free agents that are or may become available.

Two of this week’s best bets look like no-brainers

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It’s Sunday morning. If you’re in a jurisdiction where sports wagering is now legal, you may be thinking about your NFL bets.

If you’re in a jurisdiction where it still isn’t, you may be doing the same thing.

And if you’re doing it right, you’re looking for as many opinions as you can before you make your own decisions. So consider the “best bets” from the joint #PFTPM/Chris Simms Unbuttoned Thursday podcast.

We each pick three games against the spread as the games about which we feel the most confident. This week, we picked two of the same teams.

I could tell you to watch the video to find out who those teams are, or I could just name them here for those of you who don’t want to watch the video. Given that someone inevitably will post a comment identifying the two teams, here they are.

Rams and 49ers.

If you appreciate the transparency that allows you to not watch the video, maybe there’s a way to show that appreciation. I’m not sure what it would be.

Unrelatedly, please watch the video.

Kelechi Osemele fine is the beginning, not the end, of his fight with Jets

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The battle lines were drawn on Friday. On Saturday, the situation officially turned ugly. It’s likely far from over.

When Jets offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele refused to practice on Saturday due to the contention that his shoulder won’t allow him to do so, the Jets fined him for conduct detrimental to the team. Osemele reportedly, and obviously, will file a grievance challenging the fine.

So where does it go from here?

Osemele is listed as doubtful for Monday night’s game against the Patriots, not out. If he refuses to suit up and play, that could result in another fine. If he refuses to practice on Wednesday, another fine. And so on it would go, until the Jets have fined him enough times to justify a suspension without pay for conduct detrimental to the team.

And then, after the suspension, he’ll have to choose whether to practice and play, with the threat of another suspension looming.

Although the Jets have been publicly silent since both Osemele and his agent went public on Friday, there are two potential explanations for what’s happening: (1) the Jets are brazenly and blatantly trying to force a player who has a legitimate injury to practice and to play; or (2) they’re not.

Let’s apply some common sense to the situation. Osemele was benched after the first three games of the season. That’s when the shoulder injury came to light. Team doctors think he can play. He has exercised his right to a second opinion. And the labor deal makes it clear that “[a] player shall have the right to follow the reasonable medical advice given to him by his second opinion physician with respect to diagnosis of injury, surgical and treatment decisions, and rehabilitation and treatment protocol,” after the player consults with the team physician and consider the team physician’s recommendation before making a final decision.

So if the Jets are digging in, it means that they’ve decided to ignore the collectively bargaining procedures for respecting the conflict between the first and second opinions, or there is no conflict. If there is no conflict, it means that, medically, Osemele can practice and play, but perhaps he doesn’t want to practice and play because he’d prefer to get surgery now because he wants to be healthy when the Jets cut him in the offseason and he hits the open market.

Then there’s the question of whether Osemele received Toradol shots that would allow him to play in the first three games of the season with a shoulder injury that the team didn’t disclose. If that’s true, the Jets would be facing discipline from the league for not disclosing the injury. As the Jets learned the hard way in 2009, when then-Vikings quarterback Brett Favre wouldn’t quit citing an undisclosed partial biceps tendon tear to excuse his poor performance down the stretch with the Jets in 2008, the league can and will impose significant financial penalties if injuries are hidden.

So if Osemele truly did get Toradol shots for an undisclosed shoulder injury, that’s something he needs to continue to talk about, over and over again, in order to get the Jets scrutinized for hiding his injury. If he doesn’t continue talking about it, maybe he didn’t get Toradol shots for his shoulder.

However it plays out, the fight is just getting started. Unless Osemele chooses to practice and to play, there surely will be more fines, and eventually there will be suspensions. An arbitrator eventually will work it all out. And at the core of the case will be whether the first opinion and the second opinion from the doctors who examined Osemele’s shoulder determined that he’s able to practice and to play.

Which brings all of this back to common sense, in light of the current climate of player safety. Either the Jets are ignoring the collectively-bargained medical rights of a truly injured player, or the player is taking advantage of the sensitivity to health and safety to pressure the Jets to put him on injured reserve so he can get his surgery now.

End-of-week #PFTPM podcasts will get you ready for Week Seven

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It’s Sunday morning. You want to get ready for Week Seven. You have plenty of choices on TV.

You also have plenty of choices that don’t require you to sit there and watch the screen you’ll be sitting there and watching from 1:00 p.m. ET until after 11:00 p.m. ET tonight.

Toward this end, we give you the latest editions of the #PFTPM podcast. On Friday, it was a visit from Panthers tight end Greg Olsen with your excellent questions and answers wrapped around it. On Thursday, the joint #PFTPM/Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast reviewed every game, with picks both straight up and against the spread.

Among other things, I’ve promised (at Simms’ behest) to wear a Kirk Cousins jersey next Thursday for the joint podcast (and possibly for PFT Live) if the Vikings somehow beat the Lions today in Detroit. However, I didn’t say whether it will be a Minnesota, Washington, or Michigan State version of the Cousins uniform.

It all can be heard below, or via the #PFTPM podcast feed.

Next two weekends will go a long way toward determining trades

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The window for making trades closes in nine days. Most teams will play two games between now and then. And the outcomes of those games will help determine who does, and who doesn’t, get active in the trade market, as sellers or as buyers.

For potential sellers, the next two games are of critical importance. The Broncos, for example, went from having a potential fire sale at 0-4 to looking like fringe AFC West contenders at 2-4 to looking even worse than they did when winless on Thursday night against the Chiefs. Now 2-5 with a game next week at the Colts, Denver could be 2-6 next Sunday afternoon, with 48 hours left to make a deal or two. Or three.

For some teams, the SELL! light already is on, or should be. Winless Miami, obviously, wants to trade current assets for future picks. Washington at 1-5 should have the same mindset, but dysfunctional teams continue to do dysfunctional things. 0-6 Cincinnati likely will be willing to move players, too, with A.J. Green at the top of the list. Ditto for the Falcons, who are 1-5 and are staring at a pair of likely home losses against the Rams and Seahawks and possibly an interim head coach in the next seven days.

Plenty of other teams with two or fewer wins could have as many as four wins by next Tuesday — or as many as six losses. Whether it’s the 2-4 Jaguars or the 2-4 Titans or the 2-4 Chargers or the 2-4 Giants or the 2-2-1 Lions or the 2-4 Bucs or the 2-3-1 Cardinals, the next two weekends will go a long way toward determining the players who are, and aren’t, in play for the trade deadline.

NFL fines Clay Matthews for criticizing officials via Twitter

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The NFL has an officiating problem. However, it doesn’t want any employees of its teams to point out the existence of the officiating problems.

Rams linebacker Clay Matthews, who was flagged for a roughing the passer penalty in Week Five that didn’t actually happen, has been fined $12,500 for criticizing the league’s officiating on Twitter, via Adam Schefter of ESPN.

“The storyline for the 2019 season continues to be the refs inability to make the accurate and correct calls week in and week out,” Matthews tweeted early Tuesday, after a Lions-Packers game that included multiple bad calls. “Al Riveron continues to blindly side with his refs and the current status quo. Something must change! Zero accountability.”

There may be zero accountability for the officials, but there’s now plenty of accountability for players who criticize them.

That’s not the way it used to be. At one point, the league office told PFT that players would be subject to fines only if the players make comments that attack the integrity of the officials. The NFL broke from that approach in 2016, when Washington cornerback Josh Norman received a $25,000 fine for saying in a post-game press conference regarding field judge Brad Freeman, “You suck.”

Said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy at the time, “I can’t recall the last time a player was fined.”

Now, two of them have been fined in one weekend, with Matthews joining Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.

The league’s position is that nothing has changed, and the league forwarded to PFT the following the policy entitled “Offenses Against Game Officials.”

Here’s what it says: “Sportsmanship and respect are at the core of our game. Showing genuine respect to teammates, opposing players, coaches, fans, and others involved in the game are important values and support our commitment to game integrity. This commitment to respect is particularly important in the context of our Game Officials. Public criticism of our Game Officials has long been unacceptable in any forum because it calls into question the integrity of, and public confidence in, our game. Public criticism of officiating or Game Officials by players or club employees is prohibited. . . . Violations may be subject to League accountability measures, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s), including for first offenses. In addition, a direct, personal attack on a specific Game Official(s) or statements that serve to impugn the integrity of a Game Official or officiating as a whole will result in more significant accountability measures.”

To summarize, officials make mistakes. And everyone points them out, including folks like NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent and employees of the NFL who work for NFL Media. But players face fines for doing so.

The league has an officiating problem. Heavy-handed tactics directed to players who react to the specific instances that reconfirm the officiating problem may not be the ideal way to solve it. Instead, it creates the impression that the NFL is trying to hide something.

C.J. Mosley questionable for Monday night

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The Jets’ top free-agent acquisition has played in only one game this year. He may be appearing in his second game on Monday night.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley officially is questionable for the Week Seven game against the Patriots, with a groin injury.

Mosley suffered the injury during a Week One loss to the Bills. The Jets were firmly in contol over the game before Mosley, who intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown, exited.

Also questionable for the Jets are center Ryan Kalil (shoulder), guard Alex Lewis (neck), defensive tackle Steve McLendon (hamstring), cornerback Darryl Roberts (ankle), receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring), and guard Brian Winters (shoulder, knee).

Six Jets players have the “doubtful” designation: defensive end Henry Anderson (shoulder), tackle Kelvin Beachum (ankle), running back Trenton Cannon (foot, ankle), running back Christopher Herndon (hamstring), linebacker Neville Hewitt (neck, knee), and guard Kelechi Osemele (shoulder).

LInebacker Albert McClellan has been ruled out for the game with a concussion.

Cardinals activate Patrick Peterson

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He missed the first six games of the season after getting caught taking a PED and a masking agent that failed (obviously) to conceal the PED. Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson is now back on the active roster.

Arizona activated Peterson in advance of Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.

The Cardinal created a roster spot by placing offensive lineman Brett Toth on the non-football injury list, with an illness.

As noted by Darren Urban of the team’s official website, the fact that the Cardinals made no other roster moves suggests that running back David Johnson (ankle) will be able to play. He’s listed as questionable for the game, but with running back D.J. Foster already out due to a hamstring injury, the Cardinals have only two healthy running backs on the roster: Johnson and Chase Edmonds.

Through six games this season, Johnson has 298 yards rushing and 315 yards receiving, and five total touchdowns.

Tom Brady attributes his ability to safely run QB sneaks to “pliability”

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On Thursday night, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes dislocated a kneecap while executing a quarterback sneak. The prior Thursday, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady ran multiple quarterback sneaks without incident.

So what does Brady do to avoid injury on a play like that?

“Pliability, man,” Brady told reporters on Saturday. “That’s what I work on every day.”

So was the Mahomes injury a freak thing?

“I mean, it’s football,” Brady said. “It’s a contact sport, so guys get hurt all the time. I think that’s the nature of a physical sport, whether it’s football or — you run around, it’s part of it. So, you’ve just got to do the best you can to try to avoid getting injured, but sometimes you can’t.”

When running a sneak, Brady has a simple strategy for gaining the needed yardage and avoiding injury.

“I’m just trying to get the first down,” Brady said. “If that’s what it’s got to be, I try to get as many yards as I can, so I try to go to the soft spot of the defense and — yeah, try to get as many as I can.”

Although the connection between pliability and health remains unclear, Brady has been able to play effectively into his 40s without getting injured. This year, with so many quarterbacks getting injured, Brady just keeps going.

Josh Gordon out for Monday night with knee, ankle injuries

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When the Patriots face the Jets on Monday night, they won’t have Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, or Josh Gordon.

Gordon has been ruled out of the Week Seven contest, with knee and ankle injuries.

Also out for the Patriots are tight end Matt LaCosse (knee) and tight end Ryan Izzo (concussion).

Questionable for Monday night are receiver Julian Edelman (chest), eceiver Phillip Dorsett (hamstring), receiver Gunner Olszewski (hamstring), running back Rex Burkhead (foot), and safety Patrick Chung (heel, chest). One or more of those players could be downgraded

The Patriots’ offense desperately needs a receiving target who constantly receives double coverage. Gordon is the closest thing they have to that.

That could soon change. The trade deadline is only 10 days away, and there’s a lingering sense that Bengals receiver A.J. Green is available, at the right price.

Urban Meyer “absolutely” would take Cowboys job

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Many coaches would never comment publicly about a job that is currently filled by someone else. Urban Meyer is not one of those coaches.

Appearing Friday on Colin Cowherd’s radio show, Meyer made it clear that he’s interested in the Cowboys job.

“That’s New York Yankees, that’s the Dallas Cowboys,” Meyer initially said regarding the question of whether Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley would or should want the job, via Jon Machota of TheAthletic.com. “That’s the one. Great city. They got Dak Prescott, Zeke Elliott. You got a loaded team. And I can’t speak for him obviously, I hate to even speculate because I don’t know him, that’s really not fair, but to me, that’s the one job in professional football that you say, ‘I got to go do that.'”

Regardless of whether Riley would want the job, it’s clear that Meyer would.

“Sure,” Meyer said. “Absolutely. Absolutely. That one? Yes.”

Of course, the job currently is filled. It belongs to Jason Garrett. And Cowboys ownership has done nothing to suggest that Garrett is in danger of losing it. (Other than, that is, not extending his contract, which expires after the current season.)

Making Meyer’s public pitch for the Cowboys job even more confusing is the fact that he supposedly left Ohio State because of an arachnoid cyst that, coupled with stress, was causing headaches.

While the Ohio State job surely entails a certain amount of stress, it’s nothing compared to coaching the team that continues to be at the epicenter of the NFL, even though 24 years have passed since they last appeared in a conference championship game.

Packers upgrade Geronimo Allison

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Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers may have another one of his receivers available on Sunday against the Raiders.

Green Bay has upgraded Geronimo Allison from doubtful to questionable, with a concussion and a chest injury.

Allison took a big hit in Monday night’s win over the Lions while in the process of trying to catch a pass. The flag thrown for the hit on a defenseless receiver was controversial, but as referee Clete Blakeman explained after the game, it’s a strict liability situation.

Receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling also has been listed as questionable, with ankle and knee injuries. Top wideout Davante Adams will miss his third straight game with a toe injury.

How would the schedule reflect a 17th game?

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With the NFL currently moving toward the potential addition of a 17th regular-season game, a question inevitably will arise for the league (if it hasn’t already) regarding the manner in which the league would identify one extra opponent for every team. A loyal PFT Live viewer from the UK has posed the question directly to us via email, and we’ve decided to take a crack at solving the looming problem.

Based on the current scheduling formula, there’s really only one fair way to do it.

The league crafted a perfect formula in 2002, when the Texans joined the league and the number of teams hit an even number of 32. Two conferences, four divisions each, four teams each. Each team plays: (1) the other three teams in its division twice; (2) all four teams from one of the other divisions in its conference, on a three-year rotating basis; (3) all four teams from one of the divisions in the other conference, on a four-year rotating basis; and (4) the teams from the other two divisions in its own conference that finished in the same position during the prior year.

This results in only two games per year being weighted to reflect the outcome of the prior season. In the AFC East, for example, the Patriots (first place in the AFC East last year) and the Jets (fourth place) play the same slate of games with the exception of two: the Patriots play the AFC South and AFC West champions from 2018, and the Jets play the last-place team from those two divisions.

The 17th game provides another opportunity to inject more parity into the schedule. With every team already playing all four teams from one division in the other conference, the 17th game would involve a team from one of the other three divisions in the other conference, based on where the teams finished in those divisions in the prior year.

For example, the four AFC East teams play the four NFC East teams this year. In a 17th game, the Patriots would play a team like the Rams (first place in the NFC West) and the Jets would play the Cardinals (fourth place).

Next year, when the four teams of the AFC East play the four teams of the NFC West, the 17th game would come from the NFC North. The next year, when the four AFC East teams play the four NFC South teams, the 17th game would come from the NFC East.

And with a 17-game schedule allowing teams to play eight true home games, eight true road games, and one neutral-site game, that 17th game that breaks from the current formula also should be the neutral-site game.

There’s another important business reason to make the 17th game an extra interconference matchup: With the first-place team in each division playing not one but two first-place teams from the other conference each year, the chances of a Super Bowl rematch in any given year would increase significantly.

In some years, the Super Bowl rematch would be played at a neutral site. Like Patriots-Rams could have been this year, if the NFL already had a 17-game season with the formula we’ve proposed. And that would be a great way to generate interest and excitement in other countries.

Jets silent amid Kelechi Osemele squabble

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This strange fight between the Jets and offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele continues. One side is talking, and the other isn’t.

Osemele insists he needs shoulder surgery. His agent has backed him up. The Jets, amid threats to discipline if he doesn’t return to practice despite the shoulder surgery, have said nothing.

It’s been killing me,” Osemele told reporters on Friday, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “I’m just trying to get this [surgery] done. I’ve done everything I can. I’ve been at work every day, waking up at five in the morning, doing all the rehab and the treatments. I’m like the last dude out of here at night. I’m doing everything I can. I’m working with my agent. We’re communicating with the team. There’s just not communication between the team and my doctor and my agent. It’s just been butting heads for whatever reason. Hopefully, it gets resolved soon.”

Agent Andrew Kessler echoed Osemele’s concern in a statement to the Associated Press:  “His symptoms dictate that he needs surgery. For the team to question the integrity of how he has told them he is physically feeling is disappointing to say the least. It is hardly putting a priority on player safety.”

The team, as noted by Mehta, has publicly said nothing.

Kessler separately told Connor Hughes of TheAthletic.com that Osemele received Toradol shots earlier this year, but that the dosage wasn’t effective to eliminate the pain.

Although Osemele, even if able to play, may have lost his starting job to Alex Lewis, the Jets wants him to be available to play through the balance of the season, and to get surgery in the offseason. Osemele, if he needs surgery either now or later, surely would prefer to get it now, so that he’s healthy once the season ends, the Jets release him, and he hits the open market.

Regardless of the motivations and agendas, it’s impossible for the Jets to get anyone to see it their way, if they are going to say nothing.

Tom Brady cameo in Paul Rudd comedy series makes a stir

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A new comedy series apparently finished what Ted 2 started.

And “apparently” is the key word.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, as noticed on Friday night by Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, makes a cameo in a new Netflix show starring Paul Rudd.

In a limited, out-of-context clip from Living With Yourself, Rudd’s character nervously pulls his vehicle up to a strip-mall massage parlor. As Rudd seems to decide to abort his plan to visit the Top Happy Spa, the door swings open.

Out walks Brady, looking quite refreshed. As Brady walks toward his chauffered SUV, Rudd gawks.

“First time?” Brady asks.

Rudd answers affirmatively. He then asks, “You?”

“Six,” Brady says with a smile.

The joke is obvious, but the scene’s connection to the broader story isn’t. The “Top Happy Spa” isn’t a front of illegal sexual activity; it’s a front for a cloning operation. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Brady didn’t realize that the scene would be a direct or indirect reference to the ongoing legal entanglements of Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Indeed, the cameo was in the works before January 2019. Per the source, when Brady initially approved the script, the “six” was a “five,” because it was written before the Patriots won their sixth Super Bowl championship in February.

Robinson’s article provides some background on the scene, from the show’s producer. Show creator Timothy Greenberg assumed Brady would cancel the cameo after the Kraft incident came to light. So if Brady didn’t realize the reference to the Kraft situation, maybe he should have.

Based on the editing of the scene, it’s possible that a “Top Happy Spa” sign was never visible to Brady when he filmed his scene. Watch the clip; the “Top Happy Spa” sign is seen atop the storefront at the strip mall, but Brady is simply shown exiting through a doorway that could have been anywhere.

Still, Greenberg thought he’d lose Brady for the cameo based on the Kraft situation. Brady either didn’t connect the dots or he did and he’s in damage control now that he’s realizing that it’s becoming news.

Either way, it’s safe to say that Brady will be asked about it by someone over the next week or so, especially with a game looming on Monday night in MetLife Stadium, and a horde of New York media credentialed to swarm him for comment.