Saints “still optimistic” about Jimmy Graham’s availability

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The Saints travel to Detroit for a game with the Lions this Sunday and they aren’t ready to say whether they’ll have tight end Jimmy Graham in the lineup.

Last Sunday, word out of New Orleans was that Graham would miss two or three games as a result of a shoulder injury he suffered against the Buccaneers in Week Five. The Saints were on their bye week at the time, so there were no practice reports to gauge where Graham might be in his recovery.

Graham missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday, leading coach Sean Payton to say, via Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, that the team is “still optimistic” about Graham’s chances of playing. Graham is certainly experienced enough in and important enough to the team’s offense to play even if he isn’t able to fully practice during the week, but that might not be the most prudent course of action if it means playing with a limited Graham for multiple weeks instead of going without him for just one game.

Josh Hill, Benjamin Watson and Tom Crabtree are the other tight ends on New Orleans’s active roster, although they could fill the hole left by Graham by throwing to Marques Colston and other wideouts more often.

Saints add TE Tom Crabtree, put S Jairus Byrd on injured reserve

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With injuries a potential concern at tight end, the Saints added to their ranks at the position on Tuesday, signing Tom Crabtree, according to the NFL’s transactions.

The 28-year-old Crabtree played in seven games for Tampa Bay in 2013, catching four passes for 21 yards and a touchdown. This followed a three-season stint with Green Bay (2010-2012). Overall, Crabtree has caught 22 passes for 323 yards and five TDs in 53 regular season contests.

The Saints’ top tight end, Jimmy Graham, suffered a shoulder injury in Sunday’s win vs. Tampa Bay, but the injury is regarded as minor. What’s more, the Saints have their bye in Week Six, giving Graham extra time to heal before New Orleans returns to action on October 19 at Detroit.

However, even if Graham doesn’t miss any games, the Saints might want to manage his practice reps. The same could go for backup tight end Benjamin Watson, who has been dealing with a groin injury since Week Four. Crabtree’s addition gives the Saints four tight ends, with second-year pro Josh Hill another reserve option.

Crabtree takes the roster spot that belonged to free safety Jairus Byrd, who was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday. Byrd suffered a torn lateral meniscus last week.

Sunday night wrap-up: DeMarco Murray leads Cowboys rout

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DeMarco Murray needs to hang onto the football.

Because the Cowboys season hangs in the balance.

The NFL’s leading rusher gave a clear picture of his importance to the Cowboys offense, as they hung a 38-17 win over the Saints.

Murray ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns, but his biggest role might simply be making opponents defend Dallas differently.

If you commit eight to the box as the Saints were eventually forced to do, that means single-covering receivers downfield.

And with Tony Romo looking well, that means there are going to be guys open. Wide receiver Terrance Williams was the prime beneficiary early, but there were plenty of other options.

Single-covering a star like Dez Bryant for too long is asking for trouble, as the Saints found out in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.

But the way Murray was running the ball, it’s hard to come up with a viable alternative.

He’s had some problems with fumbling (three this year already), but as long as his grip is secure, the Cowboys can contend in the NFC East.

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

1. Two years ago, the Saints were the worst defense in the history of the NFL.

Last year, they improved to fourth in the league in yards allowed.

Everything new is old again.

Rob Ryan was able to put lipstick on a pig last year, using emotion and blitzing to cover up the fact he didn’t have very many good football players.

Now that the blitzes aren’t getting home as often, that reality is setting back in.

In addition to not having nearly enough pass-rush, the Saints can’t tackle very well. They have some impact players at safety, but they don’t have enough players in their front seven to consistently stop good offenses.

2. Of course, part of the reason the Saints looked so bad and the Cowboys looked so stout up front was the recent emphasis on drafting offensive linemen.

Three of their five starters were drafted in the first round within the last four years, giving them a stable base to build on for years to come. They’ve already locked up left tackle Tyron Smith to a long-term extension, and 30-year-old right tackle Doug Free is the graybeard of the group.

But being willing to use first-rounders on Travis Frederick and Zack Martin (instead of, say, Johnny Manziel) takes a certain persistence and patience the Cowboys aren’t necessarily known for.

OK, it’s probably putting too fine a point on it to give Jerry Jones credit for doing something he’d probably prefer not doing, but they have a lot of good linemen, for whatever reason.

3. The Saints needed a fourth-quarter touchdown to Josh Hill to protect an incredible streak.

Quarterback Drew Brees and coach Sean Payton have never been held without a touchdown in a game since they linked up in 2006.

Granted, they’re much better in their own building than they are anywhere else, but their ability to read off the same page of music has kept the Saints competitive for an extended stretch.

4. That being said, Sean Payton is a football coach.

And football coaches, as an industry, overcomplicate things.

On fourth down in the fourth quarter when the Cowboys were doing their dead level best to cough up a lead, the Saints tried the most obvious fake punt ever in the history of ever.

On a team with so many offensive weapons, they elected to put the potential pass of the game in the hands of punter Thomas Morstead.

As I tell my kids about a dozen times a day: “It doesn’t have to be that hard.”

But Payton, like my kids, probably won’t realize it until it’s too late.

5. They might have benched him last week, but the Cowboys could ill afford to lose cornerback Morris Claiborne for any extended amount of time.

Even though they gave his starting job to Orlando Scandrick (probably rightfully so), Claiborne was still going to play plenty of snaps.

Now, they’re scrambling for a solid third option behind Brandon Carr and Scandrick.

They’re not deep enough or good enough in the secondary to sustain those kind of losses.

Of course, that might also explain why they were willing to take him back after he went AWOL last week, also.

Coupled with the quad injury to linebacker Bruce Carter that kept him from finishing the game, the Cowboys took a pair of hits at a time when enough other guys were coming back to make their defense almost competitive.

Saints rolling the inoffensive Vikings early

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As if the Vikings didn’t have enough problems, they’re getting their doors blown off at New Orleans.

The Saints sandwiched a pair of touchdown drives around a lonely Vikings three-and-out, for a quick 13-0 lead.

The Vikings were being outgained 162-2 at that point, with Matt Cassel throwing two incomplete passes and Mat Asiata gaining all their yards on one rush.

Meanwhile, the Saints are as sharp as expected offensively.

Drew Brees is a perfect 9-of-9 passing for 108 yards, hitting Josh Hill for a touchdown to go with Pierre Thomas’ scoring run.

Saints cut Seahawks’ lead in half

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It took more than three quarters, but the Saints are on the scoreboard in Saturday’s divisional playoff game in Seattle.

Khiry Robinson’s one-yard TD run off right end gave the Saints their first points of the game with 13:11 left in regulation.

Then, Mark Ingram scored a two-point conversion off the left side, cutting Seattle’s lead to 16-8.

Trailing 16-0 late in the third quarter, the Saints’ passing game finally kicked it into gear, with quarterback Drew Brees connecting with backup tight end Josh Hill on a 23-yard reception and with wideout Marques Colston on a 25-yard catch on back-to-back plays.

Both teams were held scoreless in the third quarter. However, by quarter’s end, the Saints’ offense finally started to resemble the highly regarded attack it has long been.

And then came New Orleans’ hard-earned first points of the game — a game that’s gotten a little more interesting.

Saints continue rebound from Bountygate

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The NFL wanted to make an example out of the Saints.  The Saints have instead become an example for how an organization can overcome adversity, regardless of its source or legitimacy.

The first road playoff win in Saints franchise history would have been significant regardless of when it happened.  That it happened one year after the league office delivered a potentially crippling blow to the team makes it even more impressive.

Apart from coach Sean Payton being suspended for a year, the NFL stripped the Saints of a pair of second-round draft picks.  And while rules technically were broken, the 22-page, single-spaced ruling from former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturning all player discipline carried a subtle-but-potent rebuke of his successor for addressing a cultural issue in the NFL not by giving everyone a fair chance to adapt to a new reality but by hammering the one team out of 32 that happened to be caught with a hand in the bounty jar.

Publicly, Saints have at all times taken the high road during the first season after Payton’s suspension.  Privately, the franchise surely took extra satisfaction in Saturday night’s win, especially since it was witnessed by Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was sitting with the Eagles.

It wasn’t just the bounty scandal that plagued the organization in 2012.  The defense was among the worst in league history under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, prompting Payton as his first order of business upon returning to dump Spagnulo and the 4-3 defense and switch to the 3-4.

It worked, even with several starters landing on injured reserve throughout the season — defensive end Kenyon Coleman, cornerback Jabari Greer, cornerback Patrick Robinson, linebacker Will Smith, safety Kenny Vaccaro, and linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

Meanwhile, no-name undrafted players have stepped up for the Saints this year, from running back Khiry Robinson (who chipped in 45 rushing yards on eight carries on Saturday) to tight end Josh Hill (who appeared in 14 regular-season games with three starts) to guard Tim Lelito (who appeared in all 16 regular-season games with two starts) to defensive end Glenn Foster (12 games) to defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker, who was discovered via a local tryout.

While the Saints, with a late-season win over the Rams in St. Louis, would have wrapped up the No. 2 seed and a divisional-round playoff game at home, the team known for winning at the Superdome and struggling elsewhere can now craft the opposite narrative.  They’ll get a chance in six days to do just that with a return trip to Seattle, where guys like Richard Sherman surely will be sweating a bit beneath their bravado.

Week 16 early inactives

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

Dolphins at Bills

Dolphins: RB Mike Gillislee, QB Pat Devlin, CB Chris Owens, CB Jalil Brown, G Danny Watkins, G David Arkin, DL A.J. Francis

Bills: QB E.J. Manuel, WR Stevie Johnson, S Aaron Williams, RB Ronnie Wingo, CB Brandon Smith, OL Mark Asper, OL Antoine McClain

Saints at Panthers

Saints: QB Ryan Griffin, S Rafael Bush, RB Travaris Cadet, LB Keyunta Dawson, WR Nick Toon, TE Josh Hill, DE Tom Johnson

Panthers: RB Jonathan Stewart, WR Tavarres King, WR Marvin McNutt, CB Josh Norman, LB Dan Connor, OL Travis Bond, DE Wes Horton

Browns at Jets

Browns: G John Greco, TE Jordan Cameron, TE Andre Smith, QB Alex Tanney, OL Martin Wallace, OL Reid Fragel

Jets: QB David Garrard, TE Chris Pantale, DB Ellis Lankster, LB Jermaine Cunningham, G Will Campbell, T Ben Ijalana, T Oday Aboushi

Vikings at Bengals

Vikings: CB Xavier Rhodes, QB Josh Freeman, DE Justin Trattou, T Mike Remmers, WR Rodney Smith, DT Chase Baker, RB Matt Asiata

Bengals: CB Terence Newman, RB Rex Burkhead, DT Devon Still, WR Ryan Whalen, LB James Harrison, WR Dane Sanzenbacher, T Dennis Roland

Broncos at Texans

Broncos: DE Derek Wolfe, WR Wes Welker, CB Kayvon Webster, QB Zac Dysert, RB C.J. Anderson, OL Chris Kuper, DL Sione Fua

Texans: QB Case Keenum, WR DeVier Posey, S Jawanza Starling, OG Alex Kupper, OT Andre Gardner, OG Cody White, TE Garrett Graham

Titans at Jaguars

Titans: QB Tyler Wilson, WR Kenny Britt, CB Khalid Wooten, LB Zavier Gooden, C/G Kevin Matthews, T David Stewart, DE Lavar Edwards

Jaguars: QB Ricky Stanzi, RB Delone Carter, LB Geno Hayes, C Patrick Lewis, TE Allen Reisner, DE Gerald Rivers, DT Roy Miller

Colts at Chiefs

Colts: G Hugh Thornton, G Joe Reitz, T Jeff Linkenbach, DT Ricky Jean Francois, DT Montori Hughes, S Sergio Brown, LB Daniel Adongo

Chiefs: LB Justin Houston, T Branden Albert, QB Tyler Bray, C Eric Kush, DL Jaye Howard, LB Nico Johnson, OL Rishaw Johnson

Buccaneers at Rams

Buccaneers: DE Da’Quan Bowers, G Carl Nicks, S Mark Barron, FB Lonnie Pryor, LB Danny Lansanah, G Patrick Omameh, DT Matthew Masifilo

Rams: WR Tavon Austin, RB Daryl Richardson,DB Quinton Pointer, G Harvey Dahl, G Brandon Washington, DT Matt Conrath, T Mike Person

Cowboys at Redskins

Cowboys: LB Sean Lee, WR Dwayne Harris, S Jakar Hamilton, CB Morris Claiborne, LB Martez Wilson, LB Ernie Sims, T Darrion Weems

Redskins: QB Robert Griffin III, S Bacarri Rambo, CB Chase Minnifield, LB Brandon Jenkins, OL Josh LeRibeus, C J.D. Walton

Week 16 injury report roundup

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Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Sunday.

Dolphins at Bills

Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas (ankle) is questionable, but Miami appears set to have all their defensive backs available after losing several to injury last weekend. Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel (knee) is out and wide receiver Stevie Johnson won’t play as he attends to matters in California after his mother’s death. Safety Aaron Williams (ribs) has also been ruled out by Buffalo.

Saints at Panthers

Both sides are pretty healthy heading into their clash for the NFC South. Safety Rafael Bush (ankle) is doubtful to be in the Saints’ lineup while linebacker Keyunta Dawson (calf) and tight end Josh Hill (hamstring) are questionable. Running back Jonathan Stewart (knee) is out and the Panthers’ injury report is otherwise made up of players expected to be in the lineup on Sunday.

Vikings at Bengals

The Vikings ruled out cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) and it’s doubtful that tight end John Carlson (concussion) will play on Sunday. Running back Adrian Peterson (groin, foot) is expected to play despite a questionable tag with Toby Gerhart (hamstring) looking set to return to the lineup as well. It’s doubtful that Bengals cornerback Terence Newman (knee) will play and defensive end Carlos Dunlap, linebacker James Harrison and offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth are all questionable after suffering a concussion.

Broncos at Texans

The Broncos may not have wide receiver Wes Welker (concussion) back before the playoffs, but cornerback Champ Bailey (foot) plans to give it a go this week. Cornerback Kayvon Webster (thumb) and defensive end Derek Wolfe (illness) are both out for Denver as well. Quarterback Case Keenum (right thumb) and wide receiver DeVier Posey (ankle) are both out for the Texans. Tight end Garrett Graham (hamstring) is questionable and 15 players are listed as probable.

Titans at Jaguars

Defensive tackle Mike Martin (ankle) and tackle David Stewart (shoulder) are both questionable for the Titans. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring) has the same designation with the Jaguars while wide receiver Jeremy Ebert (ankle) has been ruled out.

Colts at Chiefs

No one’s been ruled out by the Colts, but safety Sergio Brown (groin), defensive tackle Montori Hughes (knee), defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois (foot), tackle Jeff Linkenbach (quadricep) and guard Joe Reitz (concussion) are all listed as doubtful. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (shoulder) is questionable after limited participation in Friday’s practice. Tackle Branden Albert (knee) and linebacker Justin Houston (elbow) are questionable to return to the lineup for the Chiefs. Wide receiver Dexter McCluster (ankle) is probable after missing last week’s game.

Browns at Jets

Browns cornerback Joe Haden (hip) will be a game-time decision, but tight end Jordan Cameron (concussion) and guard John Greco (knee) won’t be in the lineup. The Jets list 13 players as probable on their injury report. We’ll see if that’s a lucky number come Sunday.

Buccaneers at Rams

The Bucs won’t get guard Carl Nicks (MRSA) back this season and defensive end Da’Quan Bowers (knee) has been ruled out as well. Safety Mark Barron (hamstring) is questionable. Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin (ankle) missed practice all week, landing him a questionable designation.

Cowboys at Redskins

It will be another week without linebacker Sean Lee (neck) for the Cowboys. Cornerback Morris Claiborne (hamstring) said he’s out this week, although the Cowboys listed him as doubtful, and wide receiver Dwayne Harris (hamstring) will also miss the game. Wide receiver Terrance Williams (hamstring) is questionable for Dallas. There are just three players on the Redskins injury report. Fullback Darrel Young (hamstring) is questionable and the only one whose status is in doubt.

Giants at Lions

The Giants have ruled out running back Peyton Hillis (concussion), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) and safety Cooper Taylor (hamstring). Guard James Brewer (ankle) is questionable, guard David Diehl (knee) is doubtful and Eli Manning is looking forward to a less injury-prone offensive line next year. The Lions won’t have tight end Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) and cornerback Darius Slay (knee) is doubtful. Cornerback Chris Houston (toe), wide receiver Calvin Johnson (knee), linebacker DeAndre Levy (foot) and cornerback Rashean Mathis (illness) are all questionable for the home team.

Cardinals at Seahawks

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (concussion) and quarterback Carson Palmer (elbow, ankle) are both questionable for the Cardinals, who are unlikely to have safety Rashad Johnson (ankle). Wide receiver Percy Harvin (hip), guard J.R. Sweezy (concussion) and linebacker K.J. Wright (foot) are out for the Seahawks, whose injury report is otherwise made up of probable players.

Patriots at Ravens

The Patriots ruled out wide receiver Josh Boyce (ankle) and listed Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) and Aaron Dobson (foot) as questionable. Tackle Nate Solder is also questionable after his second concussion in as many weeks. Quarterback Joe Flacco (knee), running back Ray Rice (thigh) and linebacker Elvis Dumervil (ankle) are all listed as questionable for the Ravens. Cornerback Asa Jackson (thigh) is doubtful.

Steelers at Packers

The Steelers have eight players on their injury report and all are probable. The Packers would love to be in such a situation. Alas, they’ve already ruled out quarterback Aaron Rodgers (collarbone). Tight end Brandon Bostick (foot) is also out.

Raiders at Chargers 

It looks like the Raiders will have running back Darren McFadden (knee, ankle) back in the lineup, but running back Jeremy Stewart (ankle, knee) remains out. Linebacker Miles Burris (ankle) and defensive tackle Vance Walker (concussion) are both questionable. Chargers running back Le’Ron McClain (hamstring) and wide receiver Eddie Royal (toe) are also questionable.

Bears at Eagles

The Bears are hopeful that linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) can make it back after seven games on the sideline. Safeties Colt Anderson (knee) and Kurt Coleman (hamstring) were both ruled out for the Eagles, but cornerback Brandon Boykin (concussion) is probable to help the secondary contend with Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.

Tavon Austin out, Janoris Jenkins in for Rams

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As Mike Florio reported earlier on Sunday, the Rams won’t have wide receiver Tavon Austin in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Saints.

Austin didn’t practice all week because of an ankle injury and the team confirmed that he’d miss the game when they released their list of inactive players. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins wasn’t on it, though. Jenkins missed practice this week because of a back injury and, like Austin, was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report.

Running back Daryl Richardson, defensive back Quinton Pointer, guard Harvey Dahl, guard Brandon Washington, tackle Mike Person and defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo are also inactive for St. Louis.

The Saints have no unexpected surprises on their inactive list. They’ll play without quarterback Ryan Griffin, safety Rafael Bush, cornerback Trevin Wade, linebacker Keyunta Dawson, defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker, wide receiver Nick Toon and tight end Josh Hill.

Week 15 injury report roundup

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Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Sunday.

Redskins at Falcons

The Redskins listed tight end Jordan Reed (concussion) as questionable, although he didn’t practice all week. The Falcons ruled out safety Thomas DeCoud (concussion) and safety Zeke Motta (hand) is questionable. Tight end Tony Gonzalez (toe), linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (shoulder) and wide receiver Roddy White (knee) are also questionable and all are expected to play.

Bears at Browns

The Bears have a two man injury report this week. Quarterback Jay Cutler (ankle) will play and linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) won’t. Guard John Greco (knee), running back Willis McGahee (concussion, knee) and tight end Andre Smith (calf) are out for Cleveland, who also listed 13 probable players on Friday the 13th. Quarterback Brandon Weeden (concussion) is among them and is expected to back up Jason Campbell.

Texans at Colts

The Texans will be making late calls on the availability of tight end Garrett Graham (hamstring) and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (ankle), but the rest of the team is healthy enough to play. Indianapolis ruled out running back Stanley Havili (knee), defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois (foot), tackle Jeff Linkenbach (quadricep), center Samson Satele (elbow) and cornerback Gregory Toler (groin) and listed wide receiver LaVon Brazill (foot) as questionable.

Bills at Jaguars

Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso is questionable after tweaking his knee in practice on Friday. Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts (groin) earned the same designation while running back Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring) and safety Jonathan Cyprien (thigh) are doubtful to play this weekend.

Patriots at Dolphins

Patriots wide receiver Aaron Dobson (foot) practiced Friday and is one of nine questionable New England players. Safety Reshad Jones (groin) and cornerback Jamar Taylor (hamstring) are questionable for the date with Tom Brady.

Eagles at Vikings

Eagles cornerback Cary Williams (hamstring) is probable after coming down with an injury during practice. Linebacker Najee Goode (hamstring) and safety Earl Wolff (knee) are questionable. The fate of running backs Adrian Peterson (foot) and Toby Gerhart (hamstring) remains uncertain, but tight end John Carlson (concussion) and cornerback Josh Robinson (chest) are out for the Vikings. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) and guard Brandon Fusco (knee) probably are.

Seahawks at Giants

The Seahawks have ruled out cornerback Brandon Browner (groin) and wide receiver Percy Harvin (hip) again this week. Linebacker K.J. Wright (feet) will join them on the sideline. The Giants have grown accustomed to playing without cornerback Corey Webster (ankle) and it looks like they’ll do the same regarding defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder).

49ers at Buccaneers

49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree (ankle) is probable, while cornerback Tarell Brown (ribs), guard Mike Iupati (knee), wide receiver Mario Manningham (knee), and tight end Vance McDonald (ankle) are all questionable. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson (hamstring) leads a list of eight probable players for a healthy Buccaneers team.

Jets at Panthers

The Jets are hoping cornerback Antonio Cromartie gets clearance after last week’s concussion, but they are otherwise healthy. So are the Panthers, outside of ruling out running back Jonathan Stewart (knee).

Chiefs at Raiders

The Chiefs will be without tackle Branden Albert (knee), tight end Anthony Fasano (concussion, knee) and linebacker Justin Houston (elbow) again this week. Punt returner Dexter McCluster (foot) missed practice Thursday and Friday and has been listed as questionable. Wide receiver Denarius Moore (shoulder) has improved to questionable for the Raiders, but running backs Darren McFadden (ankle) and Jeremy Stewart (ankle, knee) are both out again this week. Safety Tyvon Branch (ankle) and defensive talker Vance Walker (concussion) are both doubtful to play.

Packers at Cowboys

The Packers won’t have quarterback Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) and the Cowboys won’t have linebacker Sean Lee (neck). Linebacker Bruce Carter and wide receiver Dwayne Harris, who both have hamstring injuries, are also out for the Cowboys. Cornerback Morris Claiborne is questionable with his own hamstring injury. Green Bay should have running back Eddie Lacy (ankle) after listing him as probable.

Saints at Rams

Tackle Terron Armstead (nose), defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (back), safety Rafael Bush (ankle), linebacker Keyunta Dawson (calf), defensive end Glenn Foster (knee) and tight end Josh Hill (hamstring) are questionable for the Saints and make up the entirety of the injury report. Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin (ankle) and cornerback Janoris Jenkins (back) are both questionable after missing practice all week.

Cardinals at Titans

The Cardinals listed wide receiver Michael Floyd (ankle) and quarterback Carson Palmer (right elbow) as questionable, but both are expected to play. The same can’t be said for tight end Rob Housler (groin), who is listed as doubtful. Linebacker Akeem Ayers (groin) and cornerback Alterraun Verner (groin) are questionable for Tennessee.

Bengals at Steelers

The Bengals ruled out cornerback Terence Newman (knee), but they don’t have any other big concerns on their injury report. Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel (foot) will miss another game and defensive tackle Steve McLendon (ankle) is questionable.

Jets roller coaster continues with 26-20 win over Saints

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Anyone who can figure out the Jets might want to apply for a job sorting out the messes in Washington or the Middle East because they are pretty confounding to the rest of us.

A week after barely competing in a 49-9 loss to the Bengals, the Jets rallied from an early 14-6 hole and knocked off the Saints to improve to 5-4 on the season. The 26-20 win continues the Jets’ run of alternating wins and losses, a formula that’s maddening but also keeps a team in the Wild Card hunt well past the point that many thought they’d be starting to make a list of head coaching candidates to replace Rex Ryan.

Seven games remain, but it is hard to see Ryan going anywhere. The team veers wildly in performance from one week to another, but the good version features a defense that made Drew Brees look ordinary for most of Sunday and plays hard enough on offense to make up for the fact that there’s very little talent at skill positions other than running back. The Jets lost Jeremy Kerley on Sunday, causing their passing offense to pretty much disappear,  but Chris Ivory ran for 139 yards and a touchdown and the Jets avoided turnovers all afternoon.

The Saints got plenty of time with the ball in the second half, but scored just two field goals as they failed time and again on key downs. Facing third-and-inches early in the fourth quarter, Sean Payton opted for a pass to fullback Jed Collins that fell incomplete and an end around to tight end Josh Hill that was blown up in the backfield by Jets defensive end Quinton Coples. Coples then thwarted the Saints’ last stand as he broke through and forced Brees to throw incomplete on 4th-and-19 with just over a minute to play.

Shortly before the Saints failed on the two short yardage plays, they got a gift call from referee Clete Blakeman who called a personal foul on Jets safety Josh Bush for a form tackle around Brees’ waist as Brees delivered a pass. The call was actually for diving at Brees’ knees, which suggests Blackman’s loved ones buy him an anatomy book for the holidays because Bush was as close to Brees’ knees as one’s elbow is to his…

The call thankfully had no bearing on the outcome, but the NFL’s attempt to make the game safer only cheapens it if players are penalized for wrapping up even star quarterbacks with perfectly legal hits that should be on the league’s teaching videos.

It will be a bit before we find out if the Jets can actually string together a winning streak because of the bye week, but a spot in the playoff chase is theirs for the taking if they can win in Buffalo in a couple of weeks. That would be two weeks from now, so that might mean the good Jets show up once again.