Five teams can clinch playoff berths in Week 15

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Three teams have booked passage to the playoffs and five more can join them before Week 15 comes to an end.

Two of those teams play in the AFC East. Per the NFL, both the Patriots and Bills will wrap up playoff spots if they win this weekend. The Patriots will be in Cincinnati and the Bills will play in Pittsburgh on Sunday night. The Patriots can also clinch a playoff spot with a tie.

In the NFC, the 49ers, Packers and Seahawks can also secure their spots in the postseason. The 49ers have the most straightforward path as they just need to beat or tie the Falcons. They can also get in if they lose with a Rams loss or tie as well losses by both the Vikings and Packers.

A Rams loss is part of the formula for the Packers and Seahawks as well. A Packers win and a Rams loss or tie would get Green Bay into the playoffs. If the Packers tie and the Rams lose to the Cowboys, the Packers would also get in.

The Seahawks have a variety of paths to the playoffs if they beat the Panthers. A Vikings loss and a Rams loss or tie along with that win would be enough for Seattle to qualify. Other scenarios involving ties would also provide a path to the postseason for the Seahawks, but those are the clearest paths for this weekend.

The Ravens have already clinched a playoff spot, but they can wrap up other things this week. Beating the Jets on Thursday night will make them the AFC North champs. They’d also get the division title if the Steelers lose to the Bills on Sunday night.

Baltimore can also clinch a first-round bye with a win and losses by either the Patriots or the Chiefs. Should the Ravens win and both those teams lose, the Ravens would sew up the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Week 15 power rankings

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1. Ravens (11-2; last week No. 1): The best evidence of a great team is the ability to win when not playing at their best (and to shotgun a beer while doing it).

2. 49ers (11-2; No. 4): Giving up 46 points is cause for concern, but when able to score 48 it doesn’t ultimately matter.

3. Saints (10-3; No. 3): Sean Payton immediately apply for trademark protection on “worry about your meat.”

4. Seahawks (10-3; No. 2): They may not be the best team in the league, but they’re capable of beating whichever team it is.

5. Chiefs (9-4; No. 8): Who better to challenge the Ravens than the team that has beaten them in each of the last two regular seasons?

6. Packers (10-3; No. 7): The wins are lackluster, but they just keep winning.

7. Patriots (10-3; No. 5): Apparently, they were “on to Cincinnati” a week too early.

8. Vikings (9-4; No. 10): The table is set . . . for Kirk Cousins to vomit all over it.

9. Titans (8-5; No. 12): Forget about a wild card; the Titans are suddenly in great position to win the division.

10. Steelers (8-5; No. 11): The whole continues to be much greater than the sum of the parts.

11. Rams (8-5; No. 13): Did they wait too long to put Todd Gurley‘s knee at risk?

12. Bills (9-4; No. 9): A playoff berth could hinge on a Week 17 win against the Jets.

13. Texans (8-5; No. 6): A signature win over the Patriots, followed by the kind of showing that will get Cal McNair thinking about putting his signature on multiple pink slips.

14. Bears (7-6; No. 15): The chances of making it to the 2019 playoffs are slim, but there’s real hope for 2020.

15. Buccaneers (6-7; No. 18): They’re going to achieve just enough to give Jameis Winston a chance to underachieve again in 2020.

16. Eagles (6-7; No. 20): If they suffer many more injuries, it could be time to bring back Vince Papale.

17. Browns (6-7; No. 19): Even when they win, it feels like they lose.

18. Cowboys (6-7; No. 14): Does the fairytale include getting the Rams at the worst possible time?

19. Broncos (5-8; No. 22): Drew Lock may be in the process of saving John Elway.

20. Raiders (6-7; No. 16): A divorce three years in the making finally arrives on Sunday.

21. Colts (6-7; No. 17): Remember those “they’re better off without Andrew Luck” takes?

22. Chargers (5-8; No. 24): Maybe Austin Ekeler will be the guy holding out next year.

23. Jets (5-8; No. 23): Sam Darnold is to Mitch Trubisky as Lamar Jackson is to Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.

24. Falcons (4-9; No. 26): Could Dan Quinn be saving his job?

25. Panthers (5-8; No. 21): Another year, another second-half collapse.

26. Jaguars (4-9; No. 25): They’re 9-20 over the past two years, which is bad news for anyone currently employed on the coaching staff or in the front office.

27. Washington (3-10; No. 27): If this were any other team, there would be reason for optimism.

28. Lions (3-9-1; No. 28): The only question left is whether ownership will clean house.

29. Dolphins (3-10; No. 29): Should they be mad that they got screwed out of a win, or grateful that they picked up a loss without having to tank for it?

30. Cardinals (3-9-1; No. 30): Kyler Murray has lost 300 percent more games as an NFL rookie than he lost in his college and high-school careers, combined.

31. Bengals (1-12; No. 31): Are we sure the Patriots weren’t filming the Bengals sideline in search of bloopers?

32. Giants (2-10; No. 32): Finito.

Bill Belichick claims no knowledge of, no involvement in Spygate 2

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Patriots coach Bill Belichick reiterated on Tuesday morning that he has nothing to do with the incident at Sunday’s Bengals game in which a Patriots videographer was caught filming the field from the press box in violation of league rules.

“Yeah I’m really focused on getting ready for the Bengals here,” Belichick said on Tuesday morning, via NFL.com. “I just think all that’s being handled internally or however it’s being handled. I don’t know. Again, I have no involvement in this and no knowledge of it. I really don’t have any idea what exactly is going on. I can tell you that we’ve never, as a coaching staff, and I’ve personally have never used any video footage at all of anything that those production people have done, other than what’s shown on public television or something like that. We don’t have anything to do with what they do so I really don’t have much knowledge of the situation at all.”

The Patriots admit that the video crew they sent to Sunday’s Bengals game violated league rules, but they say it was unintentional and that the video crew was filming content for the team’s website, not anything related to the football operations or coaching staff.

In 2007, the Patriots were caught filming the Jets in violation of league rules, and they were docked a first-round draft pick. Belichick has said that since that incident, the Patriots have always been very mindful of the league’s rules about what is allowed when taping at games. But someone didn’t get the memo at the Bengals game, and if the report that the Patriots’ videographer was focused on the Bengals’ sideline for eight minutes proves true, that sounds suspiciously like what the Patriots were already punished for in Spygate.

Belichick insists this is not the same thing. If the NFL doesn’t buy that, a stiff punishment for the Patriots is likely.

Report: Patriots video focuses on Bengals sideline for eight minutes

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Whether and to what extent the Patriots will face punishment for Spygate 2 depends in large part on what the video shot by a crew ostensibly filming an in-house documentary feature contains.

Paul Dehner Jr. of TheAthletic.com reports, citing unnamed sources who have seen the video, that “it shows about eight minutes of footage focusing on recording the Bengals’ sideline,” and that it includes “a direct view of the sideline as players run on and off the field and coaches make signals for plays.”

Dehner also reports that the Patriots representative who had the camera captured the images in plain sight, sitting directly in front of a Bengals representative.

The Patriots have admitted that their production crew “inappropriately filmed the field from the press box,” but the team insists that the violation was unintentional and that there was no intention to use the footage for any purpose other than the “Do Your Job” item on the duties of an advance scout.

If the video shows what Dehner says it shows, the NFL can’t properly close the book on this one until it explores fully and completely any and all electronic or other communications between the members of the video crew and others in the organization. Like the text message that became so relevant to #DeflateGate, texts, emails, and/or phone records will show that the video crew had no connection whatsoever to the football operations, or otherwise.

Saquon Barkley: Giants find ways to lose

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Giants running back Saquon Barkley offered a blunt assessment of his 2-11 team after Monday night’s loss to the Eagles.

“We’re a team that finds a way to lose a lot of games,” Barkley said, via NJ.com. “That’s what we are as of right now, yes. That’s our team. We’re just an inconsistent football team. We find ways to lose games.”

Barkley, whom the Giants drafted second overall last year with the idea that he’d be a major piece of a contending team, sounds beaten down by the fact that the Giants are 7-22 since he arrived. He wants to win, and the Giants aren’t winning.

“When is that going to happen?” Barkley said. “I have no idea. . . . It doesn’t sit well with me.”

Barkley’s numbers are significantly down from last year, and the Giants’ offense appears incapable of making much use of his talents. It’s easy to see why he’s frustrated.

Derrick Henry’s leg would “have to be halfway off” for him to stop playing

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Titans running back Derrick Henry has been a regular on the team’s injury report in recent weeks with a hamstring issue listed as the reason for his presence and head coach Mike Vrabel has talked about the need to balance rest with practice participation each week.

Henry continued to show why the team is doing everything in its power to keep him in the lineup against the Raiders in Week 14. He ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns, including a third quarter score that helped the Titans go from a 21-21 tie to a 42-21 win.

Henry was clearly favoring the hamstring while posting those numbers and he said things will have to get much worse befre he considers coming out of the lineup.

“Ain’t no quittin’ in me,” Henry said, via the team’s website. “My leg is going to have to be halfway off for me to stop. I am going to go out there and help my team win games and play through it.”

Given the way things looked against the Raiders, Henry probably won’t be doing much on the field this week in order to make sure all is well for an implication-filled game against the Texans this weekend.

NFC playoff picture: The 49ers get back on top

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There was no change to the six teams in playoff position in the NFC during Week 14, but there was a change to the way they stack up.

The 49ers are back in the top seed by virtue of beating the Saints while the Seahawks stumbled to a loss in Los Angeles. The Packers beat Washington, which bumped them past the Saints into the No. 2 spot as well.

Week 15 brings two games between NFC teams still in the playoff hunt. One sees the Rams visit Dallas to face the Cowboys in a game that both teams could really use with the regular season close to the end. The other has the Bears trying to muddle up the NFC North race against the Packers.

Here’s a look at the overall playoff picture in the NFC:

LEADERS
1. 49ers (11-2) They went 2-1 over a tough patch of the schedule and can clinch a playoff berth in Week 15, but the division may hang in the balance through Week 17’s game against the Seahawks.

2. Packers (10-3) Their win over Washington wasn’t pretty, but style points won’t help them get a first-round bye.

3. Saints (10-3) With the NFC South wrapped up, seeding is their top priority and the wild loss to the 49ers was a hit on that front.

4. Cowboys (6-7) They keep losing, but remain on top of the NFC East for at least one more week.

5. Seahawks (10-3) Winning out would get them the NFC West title and the quest starts in Carolina this Sunday.

6. Vikings (9-4) Their odds of moving up from the No. 6 slot aren’t great, so the Vikings can concentrate on nailing that down.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
7. Rams (8-5) They’ve looked a lot better the last two weeks, but did the switch flip too late?

8. Bears (7-6) If the Bears don’t beat the Packers, there won’t be any more playoff hope in Chicago.

9. Eagles (6-7) The Eagles showed resilience against the Giants on Monday night and will try to patch together a roster to keep it rolling against Washington.

ELIMINATED
10. Buccaneers (6-7) Sunday’s win was their third in a row, so the Bucs are at least going down swinging.

11. Panthers (5-8) Firing Ron Rivera didn’t halt their losing streak.

12. Falcons (4-9) They’ll have plenty of NFC teams rooting for them in Santa Clara this weekend.

13. Lions (3-9-1) Matt Patricia says the Lions are better than their record, which is likely to be an unpopular opinion.

14. Cardinals (3-9-1) A six-game losing streak has soured most of the early good feelings about the Cardinals.

15. Washington (3-10) Ten losses is too many to win even the 2019 NFC East.

16. Giants (2-11) Eli Manning‘s return sparked the Giants for 30 minutes, but they lost for the ninth straight time all the same.

Carson Wentz told offense to “keep believing” down 17-3

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When the Eagles left the field in Philadelphia at halftime on Monday night, they trailed 17-3 and there wasn’t much reason to think they could rally back.

The team was on a three-game losing streak and it seemed like players were leaving with injuries every few minutes, so there would be little reason to fault anyone for losing their faith in the team. Belief was the subject of quarterback Carson Wentz‘s message to the offense before they tried to mount a comeback.

“Just keep believing. Keep believing and it’s time to make a decision how this is going to define us tonight,” Wentz said in his postgame press conference. “Obviously, we knew it was not our first half. That was a rough one and that was an ugly one. We just said, ‘Keep believing and keep staying together.’ Defense was going to take care of their piece, which they did. And we were able to do enough offensively to get this win.”

As Wentz predicted, the defense did its piece and Wentz guided the Eagles to 20 points after halftime, including game-tying and game-winning touchdown passes to tight end Zach Ertz. He did that without right tackle Lane Johnson and with the offense down to one wide receiver, which led to Wentz seeing “routes I’ve never even read before in those situations.”

Improbably, it all worked out and the Eagles got a much-needed victory to kick off their final quarter of the regular season.

Zach Ertz caps Eagles rally with overtime TD in 23-17 win over Giants

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Zach Ertz caught a game-tying touchdown late in regulation and the game-winning touchdown in overtime as the Philadelphia Eagles rallied from a 14-point deficit to grab a 23-17 victory over the New York Giants on Monday night.

Despite being down to just one healthy receiver by the end of the game, the Eagles managed to mount an 85-yard scoring drive to even the game in the fourth quarter and a 75-yard drive to win it in overtime to remain tied with the Dallas Cowboys for the lead in the NFC East race at 6-7 on the year.

Ertz was left completely uncovered by the Giants secondary on the final play as Carson Wentz zipped a two-yard touchdown pass to him in the back of the end zone for the victory. Wentz finished the night completing 33 of 50 passes for 325 yards and the two touchdowns to Ertz.

The Eagles lost wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and right tackle Lane Johnson to injuries earlier in the night. The Jeffery injury left the team with just two healthy receivers in J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward for a significant portion of the game. Arcega-Whiteside then asked out of the game in overtime due to an injury that left him unable to play as well. The Eagles were down to just Ward, tight ends Ertz, Dallas Goedert and Joshua Perkins, and running backs Miles Sanders and Boston Scott.

Eli Manning delivered an inspired first half performance in his first start Week 2 with a pair of touchdown passes to Darius Slayton helping build a 17-3 halftime lead. However, the Giants were completely incapable of moving the ball after the break as the Eagles scrapped their way back into the mix. New York was out-gained by a 302-29 margin after halftime as the Eagles fought back into the game.

Scott scored on a 2-yard run with 1:28 left in the third quarter to close the gap to 17-10. Philadelphia then capitalized on a chance to even the game with a lengthy drive in the fourth quarter that saw Doug Pederson elect to go for a fourth-and-1 at the Eagles’ own 29-yard line with 4:54 left to play. Wentz converted on a quarterback sneak after failing in an almost identical scenario earlier in the night to keep the drive alive.

A big third down catch from Arcega-Whiteside and 28-yard strike to Goedert pushed the Eagles inside the red zone with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Ertz tying the game up with 1:56 left to play. The Giants quickly went three-and-out while burning just 20 seconds off the clock to give Philadelphia a chance to win it in regulation. However, the Eagles would be unable to do so and the game went to the extra session.

Manning completed 15 of 30 passes on the night for 203 yards and two touchdowns. However, the loss drops him under the .500 mark for his career as a starter at 116-117. Slayton was responsible for 154 yards and two touchdowns on five catches for the Giants. New York managed just one first down in the second half and was 0 of 6 on third down after the break.

Patriots admit video crew violated league policy, say it was unintentional

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The Patriots have admitted that a video crew they sent to Sunday’s Bengals-Browns game violated league policy by filming the field from the press box. But the team says it was a mistake, not an attempt to cheat.

In a statement issued Monday night, the Patriots indicated the filming was done for content on the team’s website, independently of the team’s football operations, and that there was no intention of gaining a competitive advantage over the Bengals, the Patriots’ next opponent.

“On Sunday, Dec. 8, the content team sent a three-person video crew to the Bengals-Browns game at FirstEnergy Stadium in order to capture one part of a longer feature on the Patriots scouting department, in this case a Patriots pro personnel scout while he was working in the press box,” the statement from the team said. “While we sought and were granted credentialed access from the Cleveland Browns for the video crew, our failure to inform the Bengals and the League was an unintended oversight. In addition to filming the scout, the production crew — without specific knowledge of League rules — inappropriately filmed the field from the press box. The sole purpose of the filming twas to provide an illustration of an advance scout at work on the road. There was no intention of using the footage for any other purpose. We understand and acknowledge that our video crew, which included independent contractors who shot the video, unknowingly violated a league policy by filming the field and sideline from the press box.”

Because of their history, the Patriots may not get the benefit of the doubt. In 2007, the Patriots were docked a first-round draft pick after they were caught taping the Jets’ coaches’ signals. This violation could result in more league discipline.

Report: Odell Beckham told other players “come get me” in October

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Remember the vague possibility that the Browns could have traded receiver Odell Beckham Jr. before the October 29 deadline? Beckham apparently wanted it to be more than a vague possibility.

Sunday’s report from Jay Glazer of FOX indicating that Beckham has told other players and coaches to “come get me” didn’t specify time frames or teams. Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports reports that Beckham made those comments to opposing players during “at least” one game in October.

In October, the Browns played the 49ers, Seahawks, and Patriots. San Francisco tried to trade for Beckham last year, and Beckham has spoken publicly about his admiration for the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady, going over the top in his press conference during the week before facing New England. Both traded for receivers before the 2019 deadline.

Still, the question posed here a month ago tomorrow still stands — and if anything it’s more pressing: Where will Beckham play in 2020?

Increasingly, it feels like he won’t be playing in Cleveland.

Bill Belichick says he has nothing to do with taping at Bengals game

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Patriots coach Bill Belichick says he was not involved in the issue that arose on Sunday when a Bengals employee reported to NFL Security that a Patriots employee appeared to be filming the Bengals’ coaches.

The incident took place during the Bengals-Browns game and raised questions about whether the Patriots were taping the Bengals’ signals in preparation for the teams facing each other this week. But the Patriots say the videographer was filming a Patriots scout for a feature on the Patriots’ website and that the football staff had nothing to do with it. On WEEI today, Belichick said he had no involvement in the taping.

“Yeah I heard about this. You know, evidently this is our production people on the TV show that were there. We have nothing to do with anything they produce,” Belichick said. “I’ve never even seen their tapes. This is something we had 100 percent nothing to do with.”

The Bengals have said the NFL is investigating the matter. The league has made no comment.

Lamar Jackson lands on Ravens injury report

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The Ravens issued an estimated injury report for Monday’s practice because they didn’t hold a full practice session and their estimation regarding quarterback Lamar Jackson is likely to catch some attention.

The team estimated that Jackson would have been limited if they had been on the field. A quadricep issue is cited as the reason why Jackson wouldn’t have done everything in practice. Reporters at the light workout said that Jackson arrived on the field at the end of the portion open to the media.

Jackson showed no sign of injury and played every offensive snap during Sunday’s win over the Bills. His status should gain some clarity when the Ravens get back to on-field preparations for the Jets on Tuesday.

Tight end Mark Andrews (knee) was listed as out of practice after leaving Sunday’s game and left tackle Ronnie Stanley is in the concussion protocol. Linebacker Chris Board (concussion) and safety Anthony Levine (ankle) also would have missed a real practice.

Defensive tackle Jihad Ward (elbow) was listed as limited alongside Jackson.

Bengals say NFL is investigating the Patriots over “incident” at Sunday’s game

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The Bengals say that the league office is investigating after a Patriots employee was seen filming at the Bengals’ game on Sunday.

Toward the end of an otherwise mundane press conference today, Bengals coach Zac Taylor was asked this question by a reporter: “Rumors are out there that the Patriots had a videographer up in the Bengals’ press box area working with the advance scout who was taping video of the Bengals’ sideline. Do you have any reaction to that?”

Taylor answered, “I’m aware that there was an incident but the league is investigating it, so I’ve got no comment.”

Asked if the Patriots’ videographer was doing something outside the normal practices of team scouts, Taylor answered, “I don’t have anything to say about it.”

Asked if he could confirm that the Patriots did have someone in the press box during the Bengals’ game on Sunday, Taylor answered, “I’ve got no comment.”

The Bengals gave Albert Breer a statement saying, “We are aware of the incident, and we are aware it is being investigated by NFL Security. We will have no further comment.”

For their part, the Patriots put out word to multiple reporters that the videographer they sent to Sunday’s Bengals-Browns game was simply shooting one of the regular “Do Your Job” documentary videos that the team features on its website. This episode will be about what an advance scout does while preparing for an upcoming opponent.

The incident will obviously bring comparisons to Spygate, the 2007 controversy over the Patriots taping the Jets’ signals. That resulted in the Patriots being docked a first-round draft pick. It’s hard to believe the Patriots, who are heavily favored to beat the Bengals on Sunday, would risk such a serious sanction by doing something similar to a team they should beat easily, but this is a situation that will undoubtedly raise eyebrows around the NFL this week.

Kitchens: Baker Mayfield shouldn’t address other players’ injuries

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Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield raised eyebrows around the league on Sunday when he said that wide receiver Odell Beckham‘s sports hernia injury “wasn’t handled right in our training room” after Beckham got hurt this summer.

Mayfield posted an apology on Twitter a short time later that said he wasn’t intending to throw the team’s medical staff under the bus with his initial comment. Mayfield also wrote that he doesn’t know “all the facts” of Beckham’s injury, which is why head coach Freddie Kitchens made it clear that the quarterback shouldn’t be talking about the injuries of others.

“I’ve talked to Baker about it this morning,” Kitchens said at his Monday press conference. “Just like he stated last night, he understands we don’t want him addressing other players injuries — in that manner, especially.”

Kitchens was also asked whether he thinks the injury has been handled correctly this season.

“Odell and our training staff have done a tremendous job of getting Odell to the game each and every week up to this point,” Kitchens said. “For that, they’ve done a good job.”

There was a report on Sunday that Beckham will have surgery after the season and Mayfield’s original comments suggested it was on the table this summer, but Kitchens wouldn’t comment about whether surgery has been discussed. He did say there’s been no thought to shutting Beckham down and that he believes Beckham is well enough to help the team each week.