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Found 35 results

  1. Ben Roethlisberger: I hope we don’t run Le’Veon Bell into the ground Posted by Josh Alper on December 2, 2014, 2:23 PM EST Getty Images The Steelers cut running back LeGarrette Blount two weeks ago, a day after giving Le’Veon Bell 33 carries in a Monday night victory over the Titans. Bell played on all but three snaps in that game and all but seven against the Jets the prior week, an upward trend that continued against the Saints. Bell had 21 more carries last Sunday and added eight catches while playing on 88 of the team’s 90 offensive snaps in a 35-32 loss. On Tuesday, coach Mike Tomlin said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that he wasn’t worried about over working Bell because Bell has the “pedigree” for the job. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn’t disagree with Bell’s ability to handle the job, but admitted to more concern than Tomlin “I don’t know of a running back since I’ve been here that has been able to basically play every single snap,” Roethlisberger said on 93.7 The Fan.  “I think that speaks volumes for his conditioning and the work that he has put in.  But you do have to be careful.  I hope we don’t run him into the ground, if you will.  It’s that stretch of the year where everyone is going to give it everything they have and I know he probably wants to be in there every single play because that’s the kind of player he is.” As Roethlisberger noted, it’s that stretch of the year when teams fighting for playoff spots are going to lean on their best players. The Steelers are in such a fight and Bell’s usage and production make it clear he’s one of their biggest threats, so we’ll find out how he holds up under a heavy workload in the next four weeks.   http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/12/02/ben-roethlisberger-i-hope-we-dont-run-leveon-bell-into-the-ground/  
  2. Roethlisberger is confident hand will be fine Posted by Mike Florio on December 1, 2014, 8:32 AM EST Getty Images Stealers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger banged his throwing hand against the arm of Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton during Sunday’s loss, and it was clear that, at least for a while, the hand was bothering Ben. He shook it and flexed it and his index finger wobbled as he tried to make selections from the menu of plays on his left wrist.  He handed off for the next five plays, initially using his left hand to deliver the ball to the tailback. But it appears for now that the injury won’t affect Roethlisberger’s ability to play next Sunday at Cincinnati. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Roethlisberger was confident as of Sunday night that he’ll be fine.  Also as of Sunday night, it was unclear whether the team would be ordering any testing of the hand. “I am sure every quarterback has that happen every game,” Roethlisberger said, via Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, of an injury that caused him to react in a way that few quarterbacks ever do during games.  “Does it hurt?  Yeah.  Did it affect my throwing?  No.” Like other injuries, it could be that it gets worse after a night of sleep.  And it could be that Roethlisberger ends up on the injury report this week.  And it could be that it will be something to keep an eye on as the first of two showdowns with the Bengals approaches.   http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/12/01/roethlisberger-is-confident-hand-will-be-fine/
  3. Blandino on Bucs’ 12-man penalty: We should get it right on the field Posted by Michael David Smith on December 1, 2014, 12:22 PM EST AP The NFL’s head of officiating says Marvin Lewis’s non-challenge challenge wasn’t necessary on Sunday because the replay official was going to order a review anyway. But Dean Blandino acknowledges that the officials on the field screwed up on a key play in Sunday’s Bengals-Buccaneers game. Lewis threw his red challenge flag to get the referee’s attention after the Bucs got into range for a potentially game-winning field goal on a play on which they had 12 players on the field. That challenge came with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter, which meant any replay review would have to come from the replay assistant, not from a coach. Blandino said on NFL Network that the replay assistant was about to buzz the referee to inform him to review the previous play, and that the ref would have gotten it right even if Lewis hadn’t thrown his challenge flag. Still, Blandino admits that he’s not happy that the seven officials on the field failed to recognize what Lewis recognized, which is that the Bucs had 12 players on the field. When it was pointed out to Blandino on NFL Network that the right call was made, Blandino said, “Eventually, yeah.” But he quickly added that he doesn’t want to have to rely on replay for something as fundamental as whether the correct number of players were on the field. “We should get that right on the field the first time,” Blandino said. “But we got it right eventually on replay.” Lewis wanted to make sure they’d get it right on replay, even if that meant he had to throw the flag when he’s not supposed to.     http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/12/01/blandino-on-bucs-12-man-penalty-we-should-get-it-right-on-the-field/  
  4. NFL morning after: Marvin Lewis shows NFL needs new replay rules Posted by Michael David Smith on December 1, 2014, 6:15 AM EST AP In the final minute on Sunday in Tampa Bay, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis did something he wasn’t supposed to do. Something that probably saved the game for his team. Lewis threw the red challenge flag. Coaches’ replay challenges, as those of you able to keep up with the NFL’s convoluted replay rules know, are only permitted in the first 28 minutes of each half. In the final two minutes of each half (and in overtime), replay reviews are initiated by the replay assistant, who pages the referee on the field if there’s a close call that needs to be reviewed. But after the Buccaneers completed a long pass to get into position to kick a game-winning field goal, Lewis threw his challenge flag anyway, in violation of the rules. Lewis, it turns out, had noticed something that the officials on the field didn’t: The Bucs had 12 players on the field on the play in question. Lewis wanted to be sure the referee would review the replay, so he threw his challenge flag just to delay the game, even though he knew that he couldn’t initiate a challenge. Lewis figured that even if he couldn’t officially challenge, he could draw attention to the fact that the play needed to be reviewed. Sure enough, the play was reviewed, the Bucs were assessed a 12-on-the-field penalty that knocked them out of field goal range, and the Bengals held on to win the game. Lewis acknowledged after the game that under NFL rules, he’s not supposed to throw the challenge flag in that situation. But he said he knew the officials had missed a big penalty on the Bucs and had to do something to draw the referee’s attention to it. “I couldn’t challenge it — I should have just called timeout and made them look at it,” Lewis said. “But obviously, that’s a big, big miss.” NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino said after the game that the replay official was on top of it and the play would have been reviewed regardless of Lewis throwing the flag. And maybe Blandino is right. But that doesn’t change the fact that the NFL’s rule is dumb: Coaches should be allowed to challenge a bad call at any time. At this year’s NFL meeting, Patriots coach Bill Belichick made a proposal to do exactly that: Belichick wanted to change the rule so that everything is reviewable. All sorts of penalties that currently aren’t reviewable — from holding to personal fouls to pass interference — would be reviewable under Belichick’s proposal, and coaches would be allowed to challenge in the last two minutes of each half, just as they can challenge in the first 28. It’s important to remember that Belichick’s proposal would not increase the number of replay delays. Coaches would still be limited to two challenges per game, with a third challenge allowed if the first two were successful. It would just eliminate the arbitrary limits on the types of calls that can be challenged, and the times during the game when a coach can challenge. Belichick was voted down, but his proposal was a smart one. As Lewis showed, sometimes a coach knows the officials missed a potential game-changing penalty, and at those times, the coach ought to have the opportunity to initiate a replay review. The NFL should remove all of the limits on what coaches can challenge and just make the rule that coaches can challenge whatever they want, whenever they want. If a replay shows indisputable visual evidence that the call on the field was wrong, and if a coach thinks it was big enough mistake that it’s worth using up one of his challenges, he should have that opportunity.   All of a sudden, the Bengals are overwhelming favorites in the AFC North. All season, the AFC North has looked like the NFL’s most competitive division, with no clear favorite. But after the Bengals won to improve to 8-3-1 on Sunday, while the other three teams in the division all lost to drop to 7-5, it’s undeniable that the Bengals are the favorites. Thanks in part to a heads-up use of the challenge flag by Marvin Lewis.   http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/12/01/nfl-morning-after-marvin-lewis-shows-nfl-needs-new-replay-rules/  
  5. Week 12 “Three and Out”   Posted by Mike Florio on November 22, 2014, 1:10 PM EST   With only six Sundays left in the season, things are getting more and more interesting for the teams in contention.  And, for some of the teams not in contention, more and more dysfunctional. Speaking of dysfunctional, PFT continues to produce every Saturday a three-questions-per-game look at every contest to be played on every Sunday.  There’s one less Sunday game this week, with Jets-Bills moved to Monday.  But with only two teams on byes, there will be plenty of stuff going on in the twelfth Sunday of 2014.   Bengals at Texans 1.  Which Andy Dalton will show up? Good question.  Two weeks ago, it was Andy Dalton 2.0.  Last Sunday, it was Andy Dalton 2.0. Having a healthy and productive receiver A.J. Green helped; Green generated 127 receiving yards against the Saints.  Rookie running back Jeremy Hill added 152 on the ground.  Now, running back Gio Bernard has recovered from a hip injury.  So Dalton has weapons. Of course, the Texans have a fairly potent weapon in defensive end J.J. Watt.  If he can make Dalton uncomfortable, we may see more of the guy who failed in Cleveland two weeks ago — and less of the guy who beat the Saints in their own building. 2.  Are the Texans a legitimate contender? Only one game behind the Colts, Houston has a pair of encounters remaining against Jacksonville and a visit from the Titans.  That should get Houston to eight wins.  Standing between eight and 11 are the Bengals, Colts, and Ravens. The test starts Sunday.  Beat the Bengals, and nine games should be a sure thing — 10 games will be a strong possibility. 3.  With Gio Bernard healthy, how much will we see Jeremy Hill? With Bernard injured, Hill gained more than 360 yards in three games.  Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson says that has resulted in Hill earning more time once Bernard returns on Sunday. While the Hill-Bernard rotation could drive fantasy owners crazy down the stretch, it could help the Bengals hold off the other three teams in the AFC North.   http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/11/22/week-12-three-and-out/  
  6. Could Gruden be one and done in Washington?   Posted by Mike Florio on November 20, 2014, 8:39 AM EST Getty Images   The ongoing dysfunction in D.C. (dysfunction completely unrelated to the government, surprisingly) seems to be getting worse, not better.  From Robert Griffin III’s way-too-smiley Bill Belichick homage to coach Jay Gruden acknowledging he went too far by calling out his quarterback for calling out teammates and for playing poorly, the stuff playing out in the public eye suggests that plenty of fireworks are flying behind the scenes. The biggest question percolating behind the scenes relates to the future status of Griffin, and Gruden. As to Griffin, it’s becoming more clear that the franchise will be inclined not to pick up the fifth-year option on its erstwhile franchise quarterback.  Based on current cap numbers, the team would be committing $18.4 million to Griffin for 2016.  Currently, he’s not anywhere close to being an $18.4 million quarterback. But with Washington already on the hook for $3.2 million in fully guaranteed base salary for 2015 under the final year of his rookie contract, it won’t be a surprise if Griffin remains on the roster — just as Jake Locker did in Tennessee and Christian Ponder did in Minnesota after their respective fifth-year options weren’t exercised earlier this year.  A trade is possible, but a release makes a lot less sense, given that Griffin will be paid next year whether he’s on the team or not. As to the coach, a one-and-done arrangement would seem stunning on the surface.  But it would be the fourth straight year and the fifth time in six seasons that an NFL coach loses his job after one year. In 2013, the Browns gave Rob Chudzinski the heave-ho after one year.  In 2012, the Jaguars fired Mike Mularkey after one season.  In 2011, the Raiders ran off Hue Jackson following one season as the non-interim coach.  The Seahawks fired Jim Mora after the 2009 season, his only year as head coach. It also happened to former Dolphins coach Cam Cameron in 2007. Other one-and-out coaches since 1980 include Art Shell (Raiders, 2006), Al Groh (Jets, 2000), Ray Rhodes (Green Bay, 1999), Joe Bugel (Raiders, 1997), Pete Carroll (Jets, 1994), Richie Petitbon (Washington, 1993), Rod Rust (Patriots, 1990), and Les Steckel (Vikings, 1984). And it has happened in Washington under owner Daniel Snyder.  In 2001, Snyder gave the keys to Marty Schottenheimer.  After only one season, Snyder kicked Schottenheimer out of the front seat.  And out of the car. With the franchise no better, and arguably even worse, than it was in 2013 under Mike Shanahan and in light of the glaring disconnect between Griffin and Gruden, Snyder could decide to extend the streak of NFL coaches fired after one year to four years.     http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/11/20/could-gruden-be-one-and-done-in-washington/
  7. Giovani Bernard back to practice for Bengals Posted by Josh Alper on November 19, 2014, 2:26 PM EST Getty Images The Bengals backfield took a step closer to getting whole on Wednesday. Giovani Bernard was back at practice for the team after missing the last three games with hip and collarbone injuries. While Bernard has been out of practice and was ruled out ahead of last weekend’s game, he warmed up with the team on Sunday and appears to be on track to return to the lineup against the Texans. Jeremy Hill has handled the workload on the ground while Bernard’s been out of the lineup and picked up 361 yards on 63 carries. That kind of production tends to earn you more work in the future so the time will likely be divided differently than it was before Bernard was injured. Coley Harvey of ESPN.com reports that right tackle Andre Smith also returned to practice. Smith has missed two games with an ankle injury he aggravated after returning to practice last week. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict didn’t practice and may be looking at another week on the sideline as he recovers from knee surgery.     http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/11/19/giovani-bernard-back-to-practice-for-bengals/  
  8. Week 11 “Three and Out” Posted by Mike Florio on November 15, 2014, 3:21 PM EST   As the postseason looms, scrums have developed in each conference for those six seats at the playoff table.  Sunday’s games will go a long way toward determining who gets in — and where they’re seeded. So here’s a look at every Sunday game for Week 11, with three questions and answers for each one. No matter how ready you are for the games, you’ll learn at least something you didn’t already know if you keep reading. For example, did you know that the duckbill platypus can store as many as six hundred worms in the pouches of its cheeks? To learn more stuff that has slightly more relevance to football, keep going.     Bengals at Saints   1.  Can Andy Dalton 2.0 rebound? At this point no one knows.  Primarily because no one can understand why Dalton played so poorly in prime time against the Browns. Dalton was inaccurate throughout the evening, completing only 10 of 33 passes for 86 yards, with three interceptions.  His passer rating was an abysmal 2.0. And that was at home, where noise isn’t an issue.  In New Orleans, it’ll be harder for Dalton to do everything that a quarterback does.  Which doesn’t bode well for him or the Bengals, unless they’ve figured out what went wrong against Cleveland — and fixed it.   2.  Why are the Bengals practicing in the cold? Currently starting a three-game road trip, they play at New Orleans, at Houston, and at Tampa.  Nevertheless, they were out in the elements on Thursday.  The last four games of the season — Pittsburgh, at Cleveland, Denver, at Pittsburgh — could each feature temperatures like the 23 degrees they endured on Thursday. “I think one more time in it I think our guys will know what it’s about,” offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said.  “For the young guys it’s maybe different for them, but the veterans they know it, they know [the cold is] around the corner and it’s coming.”   3.  Will Mark Ingram continue to carry the load for the Saints? He’d surely like to, given that he’s in a contract year.  But eventually Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas will return from injury, and Ingram will apparently see his touches reduced. “It’s hot topic: philosophically when the backs are healthy, is he going to go back to rotating all three runners or keep giving Mark the ball?  I get it,” coach Sean Payton said this week. But that doesn’t mean the Saints will ignore what Ingram is accomplishing in a contract year. “Obviously we pay close attention to what Mark is doing right now,” Payton said.  “He’s doing real well. Shoot a year ago, there were a ton of people [asking] for his head, including a few of you here.” Now, the folks who were asking for Ingram’s head are arguing that the Saints should keep him around.   http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/11/15/week-11-three-and-out/  
  9. Carson Palmer knew immediately he had torn his ACL Posted by Darin Gantt on November 10, 2014, 2:47 PM EST AP Because he’s rehabbed a previous devastating knee injury, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has a frame of reference. So while the team waited a day to confirm the news of his torn ACL via an MRI, he didn’t need it. Palmer told reporters today that he “felt a pop,” and knew immediately his season was over as he was being carted off yesterday. The 34-year-old quarterback also admitted the frustration of losing a chance to lead a team to the playoffs, as the Cardinals are 8-1 and could control home field advantage all the way to the Super Bowl if they keep it up. He said the “toughest part is that I’m having more fun now than I’ve ever had in my career,” and that this was the best team he had been a part of. Palmer said he “cried like a baby,” last night, the first time he had wept since learning the news of the death of former teammate Chris Henry. But at the same time, he’s also aware of the business implications of what happened to him yesterday. Though he just signed a three-year contract extension with the team last week, he also knows this injury could compromise that. “I’m going to play football again. I hope it is here,” he said. “I just know how this business works. The team will do what is best for them. They should. Hope I’m part of it.” Having been around so long, that awareness of the uncertainty has to hurt as much as his knee at the moment.     http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/11/10/carson-palmer-knew-immediately-he-had-torn-his-acl/  
  10. Jeremy Hill’s big day helps Bengals beat the Jaguars Posted by Michael David Smith on November 2, 2014, 4:18 PM EST AP   Bengals running back Giovani Bernard was out, and backup running back Jeremy Hill stepped up. Hill, a rookie who got the start today against the Jaguars, had an outstanding game and led the way as Cincinnati won 33-23. Hill gained 154 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns, a one-yard run in the third quarter and a 60-yard run in the fourth quarter that pretty well put the game away. The Jaguars stayed competitive into the fourth quarter and actually looked like they were going to make a game of it late, but the Jaguars’ last-gasp effort to come back ended with Blake Bortles throwing an interception into the end zone. That interception was a big mistake, but Bortles did show off a strong arm at times and completed 20 of 31 passes for 220 yards, with two touchdowns. Jacksonville also got a good game out of running back Denard Robinson, who had 17 carries for 94 yards and showed that he belongs as a starting running back in the NFL. But Hill was the best running back on the field, which was particularly important because Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was nothing special, completing 19 of 31 passes for 233 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Dalton’s targets on his touchdown passes were Mohamed Sanu and the returning A.J. Green, who caught only three passes but did look good after missing time with a toe injury. The win improes the Bengals to 5-2-1 and keeps them in good shape in the AFC playoff race. For the 1-8 Jaguars, it’s time to play out the string, and hope players like Robinson and Bortles can develop into something resembling a good team. The Jaguars are far from that right now.     http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/11/02/jeremy-hills-big-day-helps-bengals-beat-the-jaguars/  
  11. Week Nine “Three and Out” Posted by Mike Florio on November 1, 2014, 12:15 AM EDT   It’s the 13th anniversary of PFT.  What better way to celebrate than to bang out three questions and answers for each of the 11 games to be played on Sunday? OK, there are probably better ways to celebrate.  If West Virginia beats TCU today, the celebration may or may not include the deliberate ignition of an elongated piece of stuffed rec room furniture. So before I’m charged with arson, I should probably publish what could be the last “Three and Out” feature for 3-5 years.   Jaguars at Bengals 1.  How much will A.J. Green play? The smart play would be to take it easy.  For starters, the Bengals are playing the Jaguars, a team with one win.  Also, Mohamed Sanu continues to develop nicely, becoming much more than a complement to Green.  Then there’s the fact that the Bengals face the Browns on a short week.  Cincinnati will need Green to be ready to play the whole game on Thursday night. But Green isn’t wired to hold himself back.  If he’s able to go, he’s going to go, fully and completely. Regardless, don’t expect Green to be as dominant as he’s been in past years.  He has said he won’t be 100 percent all year long, due to the sprained toe that caused him to miss three games. 2.  What happened to Toby Gerhart? He started the first five games of the season, averaging 2.3, 1.1, 3.6, 3.2, and 2.3 yards per carry.  An injury knocked Gerhart out for two weeks, which first gave Storm Johnson and then gave Denard Robinson a chance to take over the job. Robinson made a very strong case in Week Seven.  But then, with Gerhart healthy and the Jaguars supposedly planning to split reps between Robinson and Gerhart, Gerhart got only four carries for 10 yards.  Robinson gained more than 100 again. To date, Gerhart has 52 carries for 133 yards, which averages out to 2.6 yards per carry.  In contrast, Robinson has 88 carries for 395 yards, an average of 4.5 yards per attempt. 3.  Can Cincy afford to keep their weapons? Eventually, probably not.  Green remains eligible for a new contract, and he’ll make $10.176 million in 2015.  After next season, Green, Sanu, and Marvin Jones will each become free agents.  Also in the pipeline will be tight end Tyler Eifert (a first-round pick in 2013) and running back Gio Bernard (a second-round pick in 2013). The Bengals will have some tough decisions to make — and former Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden may be in position to lure one or more of those guys to Washington.     http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/11/01/week-nine-three-and-out/
  12. A.J. Green vows to play this week, but Mohamed Sanu has him covered Posted by Darin Gantt on October 27, 2014, 7:49 AM EDT Getty Images The Bengals were able to withstand a game without their leading receiver yesterday, but that should be changing soon. Wideout A.J. Green replied “yes” when pressed on his availability for next week’s game against the Jaguars, after missing yesterday’s win over the Ravens. “I’ll practice this week and see how it goes, but I think I’ll be fine,” Green said, via Richard Skinner of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I was at 40 percent last week and I feel about 80 percent today. I haven’t had any soreness after I’ve worked out.” Of course, they can almost afford to give him time to recover from his toe injury, considering the way Mohamed Sanu is playing. Sanu had five catches for a career-high 125 yards and added 27 yards rushing on two carries. It was his second 100-yard receiving game in three weeks, and is on pace for more than 1,000 yards. “It’s been what we expected really from Mo when we took Mo [in the draft],” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “He and Marvin [Jones] have always jockeyed for position. He’s got it back and he’s taking advantage of the whole thing. It’s great.” Sanu set up Andy Dalton’s game-winning touchdown run with a 53-yard reception, had a 48-yarder to set up their first touchdown of the game, and added a 26-yard reverse. Coupled with his ability to throw the ball, he’s become a multipurpose threat for the Bengals which should serve them well whenever Green returns.     http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/27/a-j-green-vows-to-play-this-week-but-mohamed-sanu-has-him-covered/  
  13. NFL morning after: Keep the early kickoffs coming Posted by Michael David Smith on October 27, 2014, 6:25 AM EDT     I loved watching football first thing in the morning on Sunday. I hope this becomes a regular thing. The NFL’s decision to have kick off Sunday’s game in London at 1:30 p.m. local time — which is 9:30 a.m. Eastern time — was brilliant. It created an NFL Sunday that lasted more than 12 hours, and gave fans a chance to have some football with their coffee (or an early-morning beer, if you prefer). I’m already on my couch non-stop from noon to night. Why not make it morning to night? I’ve spent most of my life in the Midwest, but I lived in California for four years, and I always felt like those of us on the West Coast were in on a little secret that the rest of America didn’t realize: There’s nothing better than watching football first thing in the morning. Those 10 a.m. kickoffs every Sunday are great for viewers in the Pacific time zone, and the 9:30 a.m. kickoff this Sunday was great for viewers in the Eastern time zone. Granted, there are probably more than a few fans on the West Coast who didn’t much like the idea that they were either getting up by 6:30 or missing the game, but you can’t please everybody. There are also plenty of East Coast viewers who don’t like the Sunday, Monday and Thursday night games going late when they have work or school early the next morning. The early-Sunday time slot won’t please every audience, but it pleases enough fans that the NFL should keep it up. The league is serious about establishing a permanent presence in London. Some American fans don’t like the NFL’s overseas experiment, but we’re just going to have to get used to hearing both “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Save the Queen” before games. That ship has sailed, and it’s docked permanently on the other side of the Atlantic. The only question is what’s the best way to go about putting the NFL in London, and I think the best way is to keep up the early games. The NFL is always looking to maximize its TV exposure and revenue, and so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the league eventually create a separate TV package with early-morning London games. If the NFL puts four to eight games a year in London at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, you can bet every network would be interested in airing those games, and willing to pay the league a pretty penny for the privilege. American football in London is in our future. And so are early-Sunday wakeup calls. I like it. Here are my other thoughts: The Lions appear playoff bound. As for the London game itself, Detroit sleepwalked through the first half and fell behind 21-0, then outscored Atlanta 22-0 in the second half to pull out a last-second win. The Lions haven’t even played particularly well this year, but they’re 6-2 and should get a lot healthier after the bye week, with Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, starting right tackle LaAdrian Waddle, the top three tight ends on their depth chart and rookie linebacker Kyle Van Noy all slated to return after missing Sunday’s game. Combine the improving health of the roster and a second-half schedule that includes some games they should win (including home games against the Dolphins, Buccaneers, Bears and Vikings) and it’s easy to see the Lions in the playoffs. A silly statement from Quinton Coples. In response to the academic scandal at his alma mater, North Carolina, Coples blamed the whole controversy on “bad media.” That’s preposterous. The university’s own report, which detailed more than 3,000 students getting credit for sham classes, was far more damning than anything the media have said about the mess at North Carolina. What we need is more media scrutiny on the joke that is the state of academics at big-time football and basketball schools. Statements like that from Coples show how many athletes just don’t get it. A gutsy, and correct, call killed the Ravens. The offensive pass interference penalty against Baltimore receiver Steve Smith that negated what appeared to be a game-winning touchdown was a gutsy call by the official: A lot of officials keep their flags in their pockets in those situations. But it was absolutely the right call. Smith pushed off to get himself open, and it deserved to be called back. The normally hot-headed Smith seemed to realize it was the right call because he was calm, cool and collected as he walked off the field, and didn’t complain about the flag. Matt Schaub’s debut was very Raider-like. When you’re a terrible team like the Raiders, things just seem to go against you. So it was when Schaub came on the field and promptly threw an interception as part of a weird fake field goal attempt. Schaub just doesn’t look right mentally — he looked jittery and nervous as he threw that pass, just as he often did last year in Houston. Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie traded away a draft pick for the privilege of assuming Schaub’s $8 million salary this year. I’m surprised Raiders owner Mark Davis hasn’t fired McKenzie for that. Anthony Barr is incredible. Barr, the Vikings’ rookie outside linebacker, gave Minnesota an overtime win by forcing a fumble, picking it up and racing 27 yards for a touchdown. For all the hype Jadeveon Clowney had entering the draft, and with all due respect to Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack, I’m starting to think the Vikings got the best defensive player of the bunch when they drafted Barr. Does anyone want to win the NFC South? It’s the worst division in the NFL by far, with no one having a winning record. My money’s on the Panthers winning the division with a 7-8-1 record. I guess Tom Brady’s not washed up yet. Brady’s stats in the four games since that debacle in Kansas City had everyone saying New England was finished are 100-for-144 for 1,268 yards, with 14 touchdowns and no interceptions. It doesn’t get much better than that.     http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/27/nfl-morning-after-keep-the-early-kickoffs-coming/
  14. Bengals trying to teach Vontaze Burfict to play safer (so he can play) Posted by Darin Gantt on October 23, 2014, 5:30 AM EDT AP The Bengals are obviously better on defense when Vontaze Burfict is on the field. But they might want him to play differently in the future, in hopes of actually staying there more often. Burfict’s reckless, head-first style has resulted in him finishing one game this year, between a concussion, last week’s “cervical strain” and other vaguely diagnoses “head injuries.” “He does us no good sitting on the sideline after five snaps every week,”  Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said, via Coley Harvey of ESPN.com. “It does us no good. It does us more harm than good. So he’s got to learn how to do [tackle better] for him and the team and everybody involved.” Of course, trying to teach an adult NFL player to do things differently at this stage in his career might be difficult. “I tell him to keep his face up,” Guenther said. “I tell him that he’s my quarterback. Like you need to tell a quarterback to slide and to not get hit, I tell him to keep his head up so he can stay in the game. When he starts the game and he comes out, it affects everything. It affects me, it affects the unit, it affects the linebacking crew. . . . “I’ve said this a million times: He’s my quarterback on the field,” Guenther said of Burfict. “I communicate with him, ‘Hey, tell the corner this.’ And he knows exactly what I’m thinking. Being his [former] position coach, I’ve trained the guy. It’s easier when you have a guy that you’ve trained who can understand that these are the ins and outs of what I’m thinking about. He settles the group down when he’s playing. He brings energy.” They have other injuries at linebacker which complicate things as well, but when he leaves the game, it puts the formation-setting responsibilities on backup Vincent Rey. Guenther’s point is a valid one, and they do need to re-train Burfict to keep him on the field. But much like Marvin Lewis’s tone-deaf remarks about concussions, it almost sounds like the Bengals are as worried about having a valuable employee available to play as much as they are about Burfict’s health and welfare.   http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/23/bengals-trying-to-teach-vontaze-burfict-to-play-safer-so-he-can-play/  
  15. With three home games in 12 days, Bengals are facing blackouts Posted by Mike Florio on October 21, 2014, 1:57 PM EDT     The Bengals, who have qualified for the playoffs in three straight years, have had trouble selling tickets this year.  In the midst of an 0-2-1 slump, the Bengals face arguably their biggest box-office test of the season; they’ve got three home games in a 12-day span. “We still have tickets available for each of the three games and are working hard to sell as many as we can and get the games on TV,” Bengals ticket sales manager Andrew Brown said. On Sunday, the Bengals host the Ravens.  The following Sunday, the Bengals host the Jaguars.  Four days later, the Browns come to town for a Thursday night game. The Bengals decided before the season to reduce their non-premium ticket threshold to 85 percent to ensure that the games will be televised locally, but they’re still facing the possibility of one or more blackouts. No NFL games have been blacked out on local TV yet this year.  Last month, the FCC voted to end government support for the blackout rule.  The league and the broadcast networks still have the ability to privately agree not to televise the games, if they aren’t sold out within 72 hours before kickoff. If/when the NFL continues to black out games, Congress could intensify efforts to force the NFL to permit all games to be televised in the local market, regardless of the amount of tickets sold.     http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/21/bengals-facing-three-home-games-in-12-days/  
  16. No practice for A.J. Green, no decision for Sunday Posted by Josh Alper on October 22, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT AP The Bengals are 0-2-1 in their last three games and getting wide receiver A.J. Green back in the lineup would be a good way to increase the chances that their winless streak ends at three games. Green said Tuesday that his injured toe feels better, but it wasn’t feeling well enough for him to practice with the team on Wednesday. Geoff Hobson of the team’s website reports that Green worked on a rehab field while his teammates went through their first practice ahead of Sunday’s crucial matchup with the Ravens in Cincinnati. Coach Marvin Lewis said before practice that Green wouldn’t play until he is “significantly healed,” but left the door open for Green to play even if he couldn’t go the distance. “It’s hard for me to put a guy out there Sunday that I don’t think can last a full game,” Lewis said. “If we have A.J. for part of the game doing certain things, that would be great. I think we could operate offensively … I guess we’ll cross that bridge when the time comes.” Given the importance of this game to the Bengals, 20 plays with Green sounds a lot better than zero plays with Green but it will likely still be a few days before we know if that’s a possibility.     http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/22/no-practice-for-a-j-green-no-decision-for-sunday/  
  17. A.J. Green says his status is still “up in the air” Posted by Mike Florio on October 21, 2014, 8:54 AM EDT Getty Images Last week, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis described the status of A.J. Green as “up in the air.”  While Lewis expressed more optimism on Monday, Green has repeated the same assessment provided previously by Lewis. “It’s still up in the air,” Green told NFL Network on Tuesday morning, “but it definitely feels better.  We’ll see about this week.” One thing we won’t see is a fully healthy A.J. Green until 2015, at the earliest. “It’s probably not gonna be 100 percent, but I hope it’s just manageable,” Green said.  “I can get through the season and play at a high level.” So what about this weekend, against the Ravens? “I hope so, man.  It’s still up in the air, and we’ll see,” Green said. The Bengals need him.  After starting 3-0, the Bengals are 0-2-1.   http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/21/a-j-green-says-his-status-is-still-up-in-the-air/  
  18. A Week Eight look at the state of the playoff race Posted by Michael David Smith on October 21, 2014, 12:14 PM EDT     Is Week Eight too early to talk about the NFL playoff race? Probably. But we’ll do it anyway.   AFC West: First place in the division is on the line Thursday night, when the 5-2 Chargers visit the 5-1 Broncos. The Broncos are currently the favorites in the division, but the Chargers could change that with a road win. Denver also owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Indianapolis, which may turn out to make a difference in home-field advantage in the playoffs. AFC South: The 5-2 Colts already have a two-game lead and a head-to-head tiebreaker edge over the second-place 3-4 Texans. It will be a big surprise if Indianapolis doesn’t win this division. AFC East: The 5-2 Patriots have a one-game lead over the second-place Bills, and have beaten the Bills head to head. New England will likely win this division for the 12th time in the 14 seasons since Tom Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe in 2001. AFC North: The 5-2 Ravens lead the 3-2-1 Bengals and 4-3 Steelers in a division that could turn out to be a three-way race. (Any thoughts that the 3-3 Browns could make it a four-way race probably went out the window with Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars.) AFC wild card: The second-place teams in the AFC West and AFC North (currently the Chargers and Bengals) would appear to be the most likely wild-card contenders, and the third-place teams in those divisions (Chiefs and Steelers) may be contenders as well. The Bills and Dolphins are also in the mix, while the Texans may be contenders solely because they still get four games against their terrible division rivals, the Titans and Jaguars. Best guess seeds: 1. Denver, 2. Indianapolis, 3. Patriots, 4. Ravens, 5. Chargers, 6. Bengals.   NFC West: The 5-1 Cardinals have a game and a half lead over the 4-3 49ers and a two-game lead over the 3-3 Seahawks, and the Cardinals are also the only team in the division that hasn’t lost a game within the division yet. It sounds crazy to say, but the Cardinals may now be the division favorites. NFC East: At 6-1, the Cowboys have the best record in the NFL. Dallas meets 5-1 Philadelphia twice late in the season (on Thanksgiving in Dallas and December 14 in Philadelphia), and those look like the games that will decide the NFC East, with the team that doesn’t win the division having a good chance at a wild card. NFC North: The 5-2 Lions and 5-2 Packers are tied atop the division, with the Lions currently owning the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to a win at Ford Field. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Week 17 rematch in Green Bay decide the division winner, with the second-place team having a good chance at a wild card. NFC South: Well, someone has to win this division. It might turn out to be a team with a losing record, maybe the Panthers at 7-8-1 or the Saints at 7-9, but someone will win it. NFC wild card: You’d think that if the Cardinals end up winning the West that the Seahawks and 49ers would be wild card favorites, but the schedules for the NFC North second-place team and the NFC East second-place team may turn out to be more favorable. It wouldn’t be surprising to see both of last year’s NFC Championship Game participants on the outside looking in come playoff time. Best guess seeds: 1. Dallas, 2. Arizona, 3. Green Bay, 4. Carolina, 5. Philadelphia, 6. Detroit.     http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/21/a-week-eight-look-at-the-state-of-the-playoff-race/  
  19. Hue Jackson says getting shut out falls on him Posted by Josh Alper on October 21, 2014, 6:59 AM EDT AP The Bengals gained 135 yards on offense against the Colts last Sunday, the franchise’s lowest total in a game contested by the first string since the perfect storm that pitted a Bengals team quarterbacked by Akili Smith against the 2000 Ravens defense. When you’re in the same sentence as that kind of futility, things have gone very wrong. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said Monday that the blame for the offense’s inability to block, run or throw in the 27-0 loss should fall on his shoulders. “All those things you just mentioned falls at my responsibility, making sure that we’re on top of everything, and honestly I don’t think I did a very good job of that,” Jackson said, via Paul Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Jackson said that the offensive showing was not “who we are,” but Dehner points out that the losing effort was both extreme and in line with other performances this season. The offense has sparkled in games against poor defenses from Tennessee and Carolina, but they settled for field goals for much of the day against the Ravens and did almost nothing on offense against the Patriots until the game was out of hand. The Ravens, Patriots and Colts are the best defenses that Cincinnati has faced this season, so it appears that part of who the Bengals are is a team that has a hard time getting in the end zone against good defenses. Plenty of teams are in that group, of course, but recent playoff memories don’t provide much solace about the offense’s ability to step it up against the toughest opposition. A strong outing against Baltimore in Week Eight would provide some contrary evidence for a team trying to win for the first time since September.     http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/21/hue-jackson-says-getting-shut-out-falls-on-him/  
  20. Vontaze Burfict latest injury is a “cervical strain” Posted by Darin Gantt on October 19, 2014, 6:50 PM EDT AP Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict has finished exactly one game this year with a collection of head injuries. Sunday, it was the thing that attaches his head to the rest of his body. According to Coley Harvey of ESPN.com, Burfict was diagnosed with what coach Marvin Lewis called a “cervical strain.” That’s a pretty ambiguous term, in the absence of any other information, and it could mean a case of whiplash, or something else. Burfict was injured when he dropped his head into Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, putting the crown of his helmet into Luck’s chest. Burfict suffered a concussion in the opener, played the next week and got another. Then he missed three weeks before returning for last week’s tie against the Panthers. He left that game with a “head injury” but returned. “You always are worried when your teammate gets a couple of concussions and then a stinger [like Sunday],” cornerback Terence Newman said. “You don’t know if that’s related or whatnot, but he’s a great football player so anytime you lose him, it’s definitely heartbreaking. But he’s got a long career ahead of him and he has to just be smart.” Of course, the media is making his problem worse, so we can only apologize in advance if he misses any more time.   http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/19/vontaze-burfict-latest-injury-is-a-cervical-strain/  
  21. Terence Newman: We were flat-out embarrassed Posted by Josh Alper on October 20, 2014, 9:27 AM EDT AP The Bengals opened October with a 3-0 record and people wondering whether they might wind up as the top team in the AFC. Three weeks into the month, people are wondering very different things about the team. After Sunday’s 27-0 thrashing at the hands of the Colts, the Bengals are now 0-2-1 this month and cornerback Terence Newman didn’t pull any punches when assessing his team’s performance. “It’s not how we play football. You guys know that. It’s embarrassing,” Newman said, via the team’s website. “We flat-out got embarrassed today. There’s nothing else I can say about it.” Injuries to players like A.J. Green and Vontaze Burfict have clearly paid a role in the change of fortunes for the Bengals, but neither Newman nor his teammates used that as an excuse for the team’s struggles. Instead, they talked about getting back to basics and believing in one another as they try to stop the bleeding. They’ll get that chance against the Ravens at home next Sunday and a win there would make things look a little better once November gets underway. Based on what we’ve seen the last three weeks, though, there’s a lot of work that has to get done before anyone will be expecting that result from Cincinnati.     http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/20/terence-newman-we-were-flat-out-embarrassed/  
  22. Colts shut down, shut out the Bengals 27-0 Posted by Darin Gantt on October 19, 2014, 4:13 PM EDT AP The Colts have become known for winning by coming back, and passing their way to victory. Sunday, it looked like they could play defense with anyone in the league. They beat the injury plagued Bengals 27-0, allowing just 135 yards. The Bengals didn’t get their first first down until the last minute of the first half, and only had eight of them for the game. They were playing without star receiver A.J. Green, but they looked nothing like the team that scored 37 in a tie against Carolina last week. They also lost linebacker Vontaze Burfict to a neck injury during the game, and were again exposed as ordinary on defense if he’s not out there. The Colts ran for 171 yards, and Andrew Luck threw for an efficient 344 yards and two touchdowns, which was plenty.     http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/19/colts-shut-down-shut-out-the-bengals-27-0/  
  23. Week Seven “Three and Out” Posted by Mike Florio on October 18, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT   Well, I guess I’ve got no choice but to keep doing it.  More of you are reading this new feature (which is nice), and hardly anyone is complaining (which is even nicer — and incredibly rare). And so here’s the Week Seven “Three and Out,” a contrived set of three questions and answers for each of the Sunday games. “Where’s the Monday game?” someone invariably will ask in the comments.  It’s not there; this covers Sunday games only. This week features another 13 Sunday games.  Which means 39 questions and answers for me to write and you to read.  I’ve taken care of my end of the bargain.  You’re up.   Bengals at Colts 1. When will A.J. Green play again? No one seems to know. Questionable for Week Six with a sprained toe, Green is doubtful for Sunday’s game at Indianapolis — a downgrade in status even though he hasn’t practiced or played. On Friday, coach Marvin Lewis said that the “time is up in the air” regarding a potential return from the injury. Maybe it’s just me, but these toes injuries seem to linger longer than they used to. It’s probably the media. 2. Should Vontaze Burfict have his head on a swivel? Probably. As NFLPA president Eric Winston said on Friday’s PFT Live, opponents will be keeping their eyes on the Bengals linebacker after he decided to treat pro football like pro wrestling twice against the Panthers.  Winston was candid regarding his reaction to Burfict trying to twist the ankles of his teammates; Winston said he would have gone after Burfict. Players from other teams could try to do it preemptively, hoping to put Burfict on the sidelines before Burfict can do it to a player from the other team. 3. Will Colts keep trying onside kicks? After successfully recovering three of them this year, yes they will. Coach Chuck Pagano said in the wake of the most recent recovery — a soccer dribble onto which the man who kicked it fell after 10 yards — that the Colts won’t stop taking advantage of opportunities to keep possession. “Based on how they lineup and how they adjust, it’s kind of just we’re going to take whatever they give us,” Pagano said. “They’ve got to make a decision on how they adjust. We’ll keep playing with it and try to find a way to steal a play here and there.”     http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/18/week-seven-three-and-out/
  24. A.J. Green not working out Friday Posted by Mike Wilkening on October 17, 2014, 11:49 AM EDT AP The Bengals’ go-to receiver remains on the mend with a toe injury. Wide receiver A.J. Green wasn’t seen working out with the club on Friday, Coley Harvey of ESPN.com reported this morning. Green, who missed the Bengals’ Week Six tie vs. Carolina, did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. Were Green to miss a full practice for a third straight day, his status for Sunday’s matchup at Indianapolis would seem in serious doubt. If Green sits out yet another game, Brandon Tate will likely start opposite Mohamed Sanu, who’s the lead receiver in Green’s absence. With Green out against Carolina, Sanu was targeted on about a third of Andy Dalton’s 43 passes. The Bengals also have Dane Sanzenbacher, James Wright, Greg Little and Cobi Hamilton at receiver.   http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/17/a-j-green-not-working-out-friday/  
  25. Vontaze Burfict to appeal his leg-twisting fine Posted by Darin Gantt on October 16, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT Getty Images For a guy who probably got off light with a $25,000 fine, Vontaze Burfict might be pushing his luck. According to Adam Caplan of ESPN, the Bengals linebacker will appeal his $25,000 fine for throwing the WWE stepover-toe-hold on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and tight end Greg Olsen last week. Burfict has already been told he’s considered a repeat offender, and has a pair of $21,000 fines for illegal hits on his resume already. His next such penalty is going to get him called to the principal’s office in New York, but there’s no indication fines have modified his behavior. He leads the team in penalties this year, even though he’s only played one full game.     http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/16/vontaze-burfict-to-appeal-his-leg-twisting-fine/  
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