Baker Mayfield an overwhelming favorite to start in Week Four

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After last night’s first-win-in-635 days for the Browns, coach Hue Jackson said that he needs to watch the tape before picking a starting quarterback for Week Four at Oakland. On PFT Live, Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy said he doesn’t need to watch the tape.

Neither do the folks at Bovada.

Bovada has installed Baker Mayfield as a -10,000 favorite to start in week four. Basically, it’s a one-in-100 shot that he won’t. The odds for Tyrod Taylor starting are +5000, or 50-1.

So if you want to make an easy hundred, go get $10,000 and bet it on Baker starting. And then hope Mayfield doesn’t trip over a curb or anything between now and next Sunday.

Texans now have NFL’s longest winless streak

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As everyone with even a casual interest in the NFL is aware by now, the Browns ended a 635-day winless streak on Thursday night with their 21-17 win over the Jets.

With the Browns off the hook, the honor of holding the league’s longest winless streak now rests with the Texans.

Houston beat the Cardinals 31-21 on November 19 behind two D'Onta Foreman touchdown runs and two Tom Savage touchdown passes and then closed out the 2017 season with six straight losses. They lost their first two games this season and the streak sits at 306 days as of Friday.

They can end that streak against the 0-2 Giants at home on Sunday. If they do, the results of the Raiders, Seahawks, Cardinals, Bills and Lions will determine who is at the bottom of the barrel.

Aaron Rodgers to practice tomorrow, with an eye toward playing again

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The Packers are hoping last week’s schedule offers the same results as last week.

Via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said quarterback Aaron Rodgers would practice tomorrow, in hopes of playing Sunday against Washington.

That’s the goal,” McCarthy said. “He’s done a ton of work with the strength staff and the training staff. Hopefully he’ll get out there tomorrow and have similar work [to last Saturday] and we roll right into the game.”

Rodgers’ hasn’t practiced this week because of the left knee injury suffered in the opener, and said there’s some concern it could get worse.

But they’re doing everything they can to keep him on the field, having seen firsthand last season and in the second quarter of the Bears game what happens when he’s not there.

Dan Bailey: “Easy decision” to join Vikings

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The Vikings have a new kicker. And he’s a pretty good kicker. And he was attracted to Minnesota by the fact that he’s playing for a pretty good team.

“At this point in my career . . . I wanted to, if it was possible, I wanted to somewhere that had an opportunity to win and be a part of an organization that’s right there and right on the brink of having a lot of success,” Bailey told reporters on Thursday, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “So obviously when this situation came up it fit the bill perfectly. And then I can’t complain on eight games a year inside, so that was a plus as well. So just the ‘win now’ mentality, the guys in the locker room have been great, it’s a really great locker room. So it was kind of an easy decision.”

It’s also an easy mindset for a kicker to realize what his job is.

“It’s very black and white,” Bailey said. “Your kicks either go in or they don’t. I’ve always tried to hold myself to the highest standards that I can.”

Bailey has lived up to those standards during his NFL career, becoming the second most accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history. He’ll get his first chance to make kicks with the Vikings on Sunday, at home against the Bills.

49ers expect Richard Sherman to play, Marquise Goodwin a game-time call

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49ers cornerback Richard Sherman did not practice on Thursday due to what was listed as a heel injury, but it does not appear to be something that will keep him from playing against the Chiefs this weekend.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan was on KNBR Friday morning and said that the team is planning to have Sherman available as they try to slow down Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and the rest of the Chiefs offense.

“I expect him to be out there,” Shanahan said, via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “He didn’t practice yesterday; he’s had some wear and tear on his heel … We’re taking it smart with him.”

There’s less certainty about wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. Goodwin missed last Sunday’s game with a quad injury and Shanahan said he’s trending toward a game-time decision for this weekend’s matchup.

Dante Pettis, Pierre Garçon and Trent Taylor have led the 49ers in snaps at wide receiver over the first two games. Goodwin did not catch a pass before getting hurt in the opener.

Cowboys remain the most valuable NFL franchise

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If they gave out Lombardi Trophies for franchise value, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones would need a bigger trophy case.

For the 12th straight year, the folks at Forbes have named the Cowboys the most valuable franchise in the NFL. For 2018, the Cowboys have increased in value by four percent, to a whopping $5 billion.

The Patriots come in second at $3.8 billion, followed by the Giants at $3.3 billion, the Rams at $3.2 billion, and Washington at $3.1 billion. (Imagine what Dan Snyder’s team would be worth if fans actually showed up for the games.)

Of course, there’s really no way to know a team’s true value without putting it up for sale and letting the open market bid on it. That doesn’t happen very often, and there really aren’t many people who can afford to purchase an NFL franchise when it is available to be bought.

Even without a For Sale sign in the front yard, it’s always difficult to put a dollar value on a privately-owned business. Of all NFL teams, only the Packers can be properly valued because only the Packers are publicly owned.

Report: Rob Gronkowski’s ankle not a concern for Sunday

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Tight end Rob Gronkowski popped up on the Patriots injury report Thursday as a limited participant due to an ankle issue and midweek additions to the injury report can sometimes be a bad sign for a player’s availability over the weekend.

Gronkowski’s case does not appear to fall into that category. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that there is no serious concern about the tight end’s availability for Sunday night’s game against the Lions or his health in general.

Per the report, Gronkowski’s limited participation was due to a decision to take it easy as he prepares for this weekend’s game.

Friday will bring another update on Gronkowski’s practice status and any designation on the team’s official injury report.

Baker Mayfield will be the Browns’ 30th starting quarterback since 1999

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Officially, the Browns have not named Baker Mayfield their new starting quarterback. Realistically, everyone knows Mayfield will start next week after taking over for an injured Tyrod Taylor on Thursday night and leading Cleveland to its first win since 2016.

When Mayfield does become the starter officially, he’ll be the 30th starting quarterback for the Browns since they re-entered the league in 1999.

Here’s the full list of Browns quarterbacks since they re-entered the NFL in 1999: Tim Couch, Ty Detmer, Doug Pederson, Spergon Wynn, Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Ken Dorsey, Brady Quinn, Bruce Gradkowski, Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Brandon Weeden, Thaddeus Lewis, Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Connor Shaw, Josh McCown, Austin Davis, Robert Griffin III, Cody Kessler, DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan, Tyrod Taylor.

Over the same period of time, the Patriots have had only five starting quarterbacks: Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady, as well as Matt Cassel in the year Brady missed with a knee injury, and Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett during Brady’s four-game Deflategate suspension. Time will tell if the 23-year-old Mayfield can hold the starting job long enough that he’s still Cleveland’s starter when the 41-year-old Brady is done in New England.

Odell Beckham Jr. wants to help more, but isn’t unhappy

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Rarely does anything good come of it when a star player asks for the ball more often, and Odell Beckham Jr. knows that.

It’s just that in watching the Giants struggle to score early this season, Beckham has a hunch there’s more he could do to help.

“I’m a shooter. So if I don’t get to shoot, you kind of feel useless, no matter what you’re doing,” Beckham told Kimberley Martin of Yahoo Sports. “Even when I’m out there decoying and distracting defenses and drawing coverages, there’s still that part of you that wants to get your shot up.”

He is possessed of enough self-awareness to know what that sounds like, because star receivers are all high-maintenance, of course, and only worried about their own numbers.

“Yeah,” he said with a grin, “’Cause you already know I’m a prima donna, diva, all that good stuff.”

It’s not that the Giants aren’t trying to get the ball to Beckham. He was targeted 15 times in the opener against the Jaguars, and nine times last week against the Cowboys. He has 15 catches for 162 yards, and those numbers aren’t bad, but they’re not dominant, and not in line with the contract the Giants just gave him.

“I just feel like I can do more,” he said. “I could be used more. I want to do more. I feel like that’s why they kept me here.”

So when he’s asking for more of a role, it’s not him being selfish, it’s a recognition that he’s their player best-able to make a difference. And he’s right.

Mike Wallace on Le’Veon Bell: They make you the villain when you want what you earned

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Former Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace can sympathize with Le'Veon Bell, who has lost support in Pittsburgh while he continues to stay away from the team in a contract dispute.

Wallace wrote on Twitter that Bell is taking criticism merely for asking for his fair-market value.

“It’s crazy how they will make you out to be the villain when you want what you’ve earned,” Wallace wrote.

Wallace never played with Bell, but he did experience a similar situation in Pittsburgh. Wallace held out through the entire preseason in 2012, his last season with the Steelers. The next year he signed as a free agent with the Dolphins and was criticized in some quarters as greedy.

When several fans begged to differ with Wallace, he said in follow-up tweets that fans can’t understand the risk-reward calculations that NFL players make with their careers.

“You would never understand unless you were in it,” Wallace wrote. “Me personally I’ve seen this game chew people up and leave them with nothing so when u have that small window to maximize u have to do it.”

Wallace made about $4.5 million in his four years with the Steelers and has made more than $50 million since leaving.

Leonard Floyd no longer playing with club on his hand

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Bears linebacker Leonard Floyd broke his right hand in a preseason game against the Broncos and he’s worn a club to protect it in the first two games of the regular season.

He won’t have to wear it against the the Cardinals in Sunday’s road game, however. Head coach Matt Nagy said that Floyd will be wearing a flexible hand brace this week and is “getting a little bit closer to where he needs to be.”

Floyd has five tackles and a fumble recovery in the first two games and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said any assessment of his play thus far has to take into account his physical condition.

“I think in light of the circumstances that he’s played with, with one hand, he’s done fine,” Fangio said, via the Chicago Tribune. “To come to any conclusions about his play over the first two games would be not very prudent.”

The Bears have a league-high 10 sacks in the first two weeks. A healthier Floyd could help them add to that total.

DeVante Parker now OK with not playing in Week Two

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The Dolphins went without wide receiver DeVante Parker in their Week Two victory over the Jets despite signs during the week that he was ready to play after recovering from a broken finger.

After the game, Parker said he wasn’t OK with not playing and that he had not heard from head coach Adam Gase about why he was left inactive for the game. That conversation happened at some point this week and it left Parker playing a different tune on Thursday.

“He told me he didn’t want to hurt it [more],” Parker said, via the Miami Herald. “Get an extra couple days to make sure the hands get enough rest. I was OK with that.”

Parker added that the finger “actually does” feel much better than it did last week, but that he hasn’t been told whether he’s playing this weekend against the Raiders or not. The Herald reports that Parker is expected to make his 2018 debut.

Friday morning one-liners

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Bills WR Kelvin Benjamin wants to see the team get off to a fast start against the Vikings.

Dolphins DE Charles Harris feels he is improving quickly.

Cyrus Jones is getting his second chance in the Patriots secondary.

Said Jets WR Jermaine Kearse, “I think we’ve just got a lot of growing up to do, in terms of being able to handle a lead and being able to be composed when adversity hits. It’s frustrating because it’s something that we’ve been dealing with, and it’s something we’ve got to continue to really push the pedal on.”

First downs haven’t been a bright spot for the Ravens offense.

The Bengals have gone young in their linebacking corps.

Baker Mayfield may have overshadowed their play, but the Browns defense deserved accolades on Thursday night.

Steelers CB Joe Haden‘s hamstring injury has improved.

Texans LB Whitney Mercilus is still knocking off rust after last year’s injury.

Sunday’s game will reunite Colts T Joe Haeg with college teammate Carson Wentz.

Jaguars WR Keelan Cole‘s acrobatic catch from last Sunday is still drawing praise.

The Titans defense is looking for better results against the run.

Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas is striving for consistency.

The Chiefs special teams are off to a good start this season.

G Forrest Lamp is still trying to work his way into the Chargers lineup.

Communication is a focus for Raiders QB Derek Carr and WR Amari Cooper.

LB Sean Lee said he’ll be in the Cowboys lineup this weekend.

Giants WR Odell Beckham isn’t sure about the randomness of the league’s drug testing.

QB Nick Foles is moving back to the Eagles bench this week.

There’s a stretch of tough opposing quarterbacks ahead for Washington.

How will the Bears get their running game going?

The Lions will need to come up with a plan for slowing Rob Gronkowski on Sunday night.

LB Oren Burks could get into the Packers lineup this week.

Taking stock of the Vikings running game.

The Falcons are looking for more pass rush from their defensive line.

A look at the Panthers’ plans in the secondary.

The Saints are LB Darnell Sankey‘s eighth team in three years.

The Buccaneers are getting healthier on defense.

Khalil Mack looms as an obstacle to the Cardinals this weekend.

Increased attention from defenses hasn’t hurt Rams RB Todd Gurley.

Young 49ers receivers have a lot of learning to do.

CB Shaquill Griffin has stepped up for the Seahawks this season.

49ers backed away from initial interest in Josh Gordon

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The Browns might have obviously preferred trading Josh Gordon out of their conference (so he doesn’t impact their playoff run), and the 49ers were initially interested in a deal for the talented-but-high-maintenance wide receiver.

But 49ers General Manager John Lynch said during a radio interview on KNBR that they ultimately decided Gordon would have been more trouble than he was worth.

“I think in that situation, like any situation, if there’s a chance to improve your team, you always look into it,” Lynch said, via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “But in certain situations, particularly when you have knowledge of a player, you sit back and you weigh it. Sometimes it’s intriguing. But then, . . .  particularly when you have knowledge of someone, the more you look into it: You know what — we’re going to stay away from that.”

The 49ers have some background on Gordon, since coach Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in Cleveland in 2014. Also, 49ers special team coordinator Richard Hightower and assistants Mike McDaniel and Jeff Hafley were on that staff. That was the season in which Gordon was suspended 10 games and had a DUI arrest, and was suspended for another game later in the season for missing a practice.

“They were with him in Cleveland, and so they knew the player very well,” Lynch said. “Obviously, [he’s] an unbelievable talent. Obviously, had a lot of issues. So you try to weigh that, and you kind of have to say, ‘OK, what’s it worth, number one? Number two, is it something . . . we’ve got a really good thing in our building in terms of the guys and the type of guys we’ve got in here. And do you want to mess with that? . . .

“I understand that people get frustrated and sometimes feel like, ‘Why aren’t we getting every player that’s out there?’ But when you look at what we’ve done in two years in terms of just completely overturning the roster, we’ve been very active. And I can promise everybody out there that any chance we can have to improve our team, we’ll look into it.”

And the longer they looked, the less interested they became.

Falcons safety Damontae Kazee remorseful for hit on Cam Newton

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Falcons safety Damontae Kazee didn’t want to say much about the fine he’ll surely be getting today, but he’s smart enough to know one’s coming.

After last week’s egregious helmet-to-helmet hit on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Kazee’s also responsible enough to apologize for the dangerous shot.

“I was playing too fast in the game and trying to make a play and overplayed it,” Kazee said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I apologize for him and for hitting him like that, but I didn’t do it on purpose. I was just trying to make a play, that’s all.”

Kazee was immediately ejected for the hit, which left the Falcons thin since he was replacing injured starter Keanu Neal.

“I have to learn when to take my shot and not take my shot,” Kazee said. “When he was sliding, I was already in the air. I tried to lean over to the left and nicked him with my face mask. I apologized for the hit and everything. . . .

“I’m trying to learn to keep my head up when I’m tackling now. It’s a new rule. I have to adjust to that.”

Of course, launching yourself isn’t a new rule, so he can’t blame all of it on the refs. But if he and other defensive players learn that they can’t take the same shots at quarterbacks, the league’s emphasis will be worth it.