Posts by National Football Post

Bengals’ message: Don’t lose your cool against the Steelers

CINCINNATI (AP) — Coach Marvin Lewis routinely shows his Bengals players video of egregious conduct from around the league as a way of trying to keep them in line. Exhibit A would be their game last December against the Steelers.

The Bengals were penalized 13 times for a club-record 173 yards during another

CINCINNATI (AP) — Coach Marvin Lewis routinely shows his Bengals players video of egregious conduct from around the league as a way of trying to keep them in line. Exhibit A would be their game last December against the Steelers.

The Bengals were penalized 13 times for a club-record 173 yards during another meltdown against Pittsburgh at Paul Brown Stadium. The Steelers overcame a 17-point deficit with the help of Cincinnati’s damaging penalties, finishing off a 23-20 victory that was their sixth in the row in the series .

Penalties have figured prominently in the streak, including penalties on Vontaze Burfict and Adam “Pacman” Jones that helped Pittsburgh pull out an 18-16 playoff victory in the 2015 season.

“We can’t have any dumb penalties, any outbursts, anything like that,” cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “We’ve got to stay focused. It’s Pittsburgh week. Everybody’s going to be hyped up, ramped up.”

The AFC North rivalry has big implications for a mid-October game. The Bengals (4-1) are off to their best start since 2015, when they won the division, and could put some distance between themselves and the Steelers (2-2-1) . A loss would essentially even things up. The teams end the season with a game at Heinz Field.

For the Bengals, it’s about keeping their cool when tensions escalate.

“Every game I’ve been in against the Steelers, there’s been some type of aggressive hits or something dirty going on,” said receiver Tyler Boyd, who has played against his hometown team three times. “You can’t go out and play scared. You can’t go play frightened. You’ve just got to go out and hit. It’s hit or be hit.”

The Monday night game last December included nine major penalties and led to two suspensions.

William Jackson got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty; Geno Atkins was flagged for roughing the passer; A.J. Green and Clayton Fejedelem got 15-yard facemask penalties; and George Iloka got an unnecessary roughness penalty for hitting Antonio Brown in the head. Iloka also got a one-game suspension that was reduced to a fine.

Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell and Brian Allen were flagged for unnecessary roughness. JuJu Smith-Schuster got a 15-yard penalty for a blindside hit on Burfict, and another penalty for standing over the linebacker and talking trash. Smith-Schuster also got a one-game suspension.

Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree says there’s a difference between this rivalry game and all the others.

“Cincinnati game: I hit you as hard as I can, you hit me as hard as you can, but we’re going to talk trash after the play,” Dupree said. “It’s a real-life fight out there.”

Both Lewis and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin talked to their teams after the game last December, trying to rein in the conduct. Some Bengals veterans are reinforcing the message that they can’t let their emotions lead to another loss.

“The vets are going to be able to remind the young players of it — just talk about keeping your composure in games like this, things they probably did in college and big games, too,” defensive end Carlos Dunlap said.

Lewis reminded his team of penalties this week. Cincinnati was able to overcome a 17-0 deficit and beat the Dolphins 27-17 on Sunday in part because of Miami’s penalties. The Bengals’ first touchdown drive was aided by Martrell Spaight’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and an unnecessary roughness penalty on T.J. McDonald.

“That’s what the ramifications are — you’re hurting our opportunity to win,” Lewis said. “You’re really putting a dagger in our opportunity to win.”

NO GIO AGAIN: Running back Giovani Bernard was held out of practice again Thursday as he recovers from a knee injury, an indication he won’t be ready for the Steelers game. Bernard also sat out the win over Miami, putting the onus on Joe Mixon. Tight end Tyler Kroft also missed a second straight day of practice with a foot injury. Jackson (knee), receiver John Ross (groin) and offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi (wrist) were limited.

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AP Sports Writer Will Graves contributed to this report.

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Steelers’ Brown: Lawsuits contain ‘false claims’

 

 

Pittsburgh Steelers star wide receiver Antonio Brown said Thursday that claims made against him in two lawsuits he's facing from an alleged incident in April are false.

 

Brown is accused of yelling at security and throwing items from off the balcony of a South Florida apartment. The lawsuits are for "damages in

 

 

Pittsburgh Steelers star wide receiver Antonio Brown said Thursday that claims made against him in two lawsuits he’s facing from an alleged incident in April are false.

 

Brown is accused of yelling at security and throwing items from off the balcony of a South Florida apartment. The lawsuits are for “damages in excess of $15,000,” according to ESPN.

 

Brown was not charged following the incident, according to police.

 

“It has now been made public that two lawsuits containing false claims have been filed against me,” Brown told reporters Thursday. “The facts will soon come out that prove my innocence. My focus will remain on football, and I will not let the cases serve as a distraction.”

 

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN the league is closely monitoring the situation. The league is not expected to launch a personal-conduct investigation into Brown, according to ESPN.

 

A Steelers spokesman said Tuesday the organization won’t comment on the situation.

 

One of the lawsuits against Brown, 30, was filed by Ophir Sternberg, who alleges that his 22-month-old boy was emotionally traumatized after several of the items thrown during the alleged incident landed near the boy and his grandfather at the pool at The Mansions at Acqualina in Sunny Isle Beach, Fla.

 

The child was “severely traumatized by the incident, crying for hours on end the day it occurred and was unable to sleep that night,” the lawsuit alleges, adding, “The falling objects included two very large vases, estimated to be over three feet each, as well as a large, heavy ottoman and other pieces of furniture.”

 

Brown is filing a motion to dismiss the complaint this week, according to ESPN.

 

Brown is also being sued by the unit’s landlord for damages and breaching the apartment agreement.

 

“The apartment was in shambles,” George A. Minski, the lawyer representing the condo owner, said, according to ESPN. “Mirrors were smashed, tables were destroyed, there were holes and damages to the walls. Countertops were lifted off the deck. The unit is furnished with leather couches and love seats, and there were burn holes and black magic markers. It looked like they had rumbled. We tried to resolve it amicably and it got nowhere so we filed a lawsuit.”

 

Brown has until Oct. 23 to respond to that lawsuit. Either suit can be settled at any time.

 

–Field Level Media

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Brees, Saints rest after a promising, memorable start

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees, perhaps only half joking, explains that fatherhood and having a son who is highly critical of his living room passing accuracy, is what has kept the Saints' record-setting quarterback sharp as he's approached his 40th birthday.

"My kids are what make me be better," Brees began, describing

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees, perhaps only half joking, explains that fatherhood and having a son who is highly critical of his living room passing accuracy, is what has kept the Saints’ record-setting quarterback sharp as he’s approached his 40th birthday.

“My kids are what make me be better,” Brees began, describing how his son, Callen, likes to make diving catches on the couch. “He always tells me I am not throwing it in the right place. … He wants like the outstretched catch on the corner of the couch. They are my toughest critics. They keep me honest.”

And accurate.

When Brees became the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing (now 72,103 and counting) during Monday night’s 43-19 victory over the Washington Redskins , he also posted the best single-game completion percentage of his career. He connected on 26 of 29 passes (89.7 percent) for 363 yards and three touchdowns — and still has not thrown an interception this season.

Yet this week, Brees is bound to find himself exposed to his heaviest dose of criticism all season; the Saints are on their bye, meaning more time to throw to the kids. He’ll return next week to a Saints squad riding a four-game winning streak, sitting atop the NFC South at 4-1 and looking to maintain one of the NFL’s best offenses while building on the recent improvement of a defense that got off to a shaky start.

There do not appear to be many problems to keep coach Sean Payton up at night during the week off. Certainly, his 39-year-old quarterback is the least of his worries.

“The thing that is inspiring the most is knowing what is most important to him and that common goal that we have relative to winning another championship,” Payton said of Brees.

When the Saints snapped a three-year playoff drought last season, Brees threw for his fewest yards in his 12 full seasons as a Saint: 4,334, which happened to be the fourth-highest total in the league in 2017. But that was because the Saints had one of the better running games in the NFL and used it effectively to protect leads. Brees was accurate as ever, setting the NFL single-season record for completion rate at 72 percent.

This season, he’s at 77.9 percent through five games. And with physical running back Mark Ingram opening the season on a four-game suspension, he has been throwing more, averaging 331 yards per game. That would put him on pace for his sixth 5,000-yard season.

Earlier this season, Brees eclipsed Brett Favre’s completions record of 6,300, and he is on pace to break Manning’s career touchdowns mark of 539 next season — although he’d have to outpace New England’s Tom Brady to take over first place all-time. Brady has 500 and Brees 499.

Payton raved recently about how in every game, Brees inevitably makes throws that demonstrate “great vision and anticipation,” in addition to still having the arm talent to deliver the ball where and when he sees fit.

With a healthy and fresh Ingram back now, Payton could start calling more run plays again. But that’s no given because of the emergence of some new players in the receiving corps. Free-agent acquisition Cameron Meredith had a team-high five receptions for 71 yards against Washington, including a 46-yarder on a deep route down the left side of the field. Rookie Tre’Quan Smith did more than catch the 62-yard touchdown pass on which Brees broke Peyton Manning’s previous record of 71,940 career yards. Smith also had a 35-yard touchdown catch and totaled 111 yards on three receptions.

“This kid can really help, can be a big part of our offense,” Brees said of Smith. “We’ve also got some other pieces as well. We’ve got Mark Ingram II back, Cameron Meredith is coming along, and so we feel like we have a lot of weapons and feel we have a lot of ways to spread the ball around and be really productive.”

If that’s the case, the Saints could be increasingly tough to beat over their final 11 games — and Brees’ yards passing record could be downright untouchable by the time he’s done. Manning needed 18 seasons to set the previous mark and his skills were in obvious decline because of health issues when he did it. Brees has yet to show signs of slowing down and says he wants to play as long as possible.

Every one of Brees’ teammates, from young receivers to veteran All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordon — sound awe-struck when they talk about their quarterback.

“I see the work he puts in. I see how meticulous he is at practice. You see his perseverance through any adversity,” Jordan said. “He has always stayed constant in the ups and downs of a football season. He is clearly the greatest of all time.”

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Texans try to limit Watson’s hits as they prepare for Bills

HOUSTON (AP) — Everyone agrees that Deshaun Watson took far too many hits last week against the Dallas Cowboys.

That doesn't mean Houston's quarterback is going to change the way he plays on Sunday when the Texans (2-3) host the Buffalo Bills (2-3).

Many of those hits against Dallas came on runs when

HOUSTON (AP) — Everyone agrees that Deshaun Watson took far too many hits last week against the Dallas Cowboys.

That doesn’t mean Houston’s quarterback is going to change the way he plays on Sunday when the Texans (2-3) host the Buffalo Bills (2-3).

Many of those hits against Dallas came on runs when he simply refused to slide, something that he won’t apologize for.

“If you put (me in) that same situation in overtime and it’s fourth-and-1 and we need a touchdown and the ball is in my hands, you’re going to want me to get in that end zone,” Watson said. “It’s a fine line. You’ve got to pick your spots and pick your situations.”

Coach Bill O’Brien doesn’t blame his young quarterback for trying to make plays, but is looking for ways to limit how many blows he takes. Many running quarterbacks have had their production — and careers — curtailed by getting hit too hard too often.

“Two of the plays where he took a hit where he was trying to score touchdowns,” O’Brien said. “So, very competitive guy and does a great job of moving. Sometimes the ball can come out a little bit quicker, sometimes the play can be better, but we’re all working hard to improve every area of the offense.”

The repeated hits from the Cowboys left Watson a bit banged-up this week, but he insisted that he’s fine and won’t be limited against Buffalo. He was asked if this was the sorest he’s ever been after a game.

“I’ve been sore plenty of times,” he said. “It’s part of the game, able to take some shots and just regroup and keep moving forward.”

Buffalo coach Sean McDermott said he spent some time with Watson before he was drafted last year and raved about him as a person and a player. He knows a key for his team Sunday will be finding a way to limit his dynamic plays.

“He’s a headache … the way he plays, he makes plays with his arm, he makes plays with his feet,” McDermott said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”

Some things to know about Buffalo’s trip to Houston on Sunday:

RUNNING GAME FOCUS

As the Bills try to bring rookie quarterback Josh Allen along, McDermott knows that improving his team’s running game will help the process.

“To me, they go hand in hand when you’re trying to be responsible with a young player, a young quarterback in particular, that some form of balance is important,” he said.

The Bills have struggled on offense so far and their 221.2 yards a game rank 31st. They’re averaging 121.8 yards passing a game, the lowest output in the league. Despite those numbers, McDermott is careful not to put too much pressure on Allen to turn things around by himself.

“I’ve been around young quarterbacks before, and to put too much on young quarterbacks’ shoulders… (and say): ‘Hey go out there and win the game.’ That’s a little bit unrealistic,” McDermott said. “So, we’ve got to make sure we put a good plan in place every week that gives us a chance to win and the quarterback a chance to develop, and also keep the quarterback upright as well.”

SACK RACE

Houston defensive end J.J. Watt looks to have put the last two injury-filled seasons behind him and is tied for first in the NFL with six sacks this year. Watt is tied with Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins and his young brother, Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt.

“It’s pretty wild when you go and you look at the sack sheet and you see our names next to each other,” Watt said. “We used to beat up on each other in backyard and now we get to see our names at the top of the NFL sack charts. So, it’s incredible and I’m lucky.”

COMING ALONG

The Texans have been impressed with the development of rookie WR Keke Coutee, who has played the last two games after sitting out the first three weeks with a hamstring injury. The fourth-round pick has 17 receptions for 160 yards and scored his first touchdown in Sunday’s overtime win against the Dallas Cowboys.

“He has great instincts, great ability to make plays on the ball, strong hands and he’s just a guy with a high football IQ,” Watson said. “So, whenever I see him one on one or in the zone coverage, get the ball in his area just like Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) and all of the other receivers and he’s going to make the play.”

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AP Sports Writer John Wawrow contributed to this report.

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Steelers WR Brown to fight civil lawsuits

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is planning to fight a pair of lawsuits filed against him stemming from an incident at a Florida apartment complex last spring.

Ophir Sternberg is seeking damages against Brown, claiming that objects thrown by Brown from the 14th floor of an apartment building came

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is planning to fight a pair of lawsuits filed against him stemming from an incident at a Florida apartment complex last spring.

Ophir Sternberg is seeking damages against Brown, claiming that objects thrown by Brown from the 14th floor of an apartment building came close to striking Sternberg’s father and Sternberg’s 22-month-old son in April. The lawsuit claims Sternberg’s son was “extremely traumatized” by the event.

A second lawsuit filed by the owner of the apartment building is seeking more than $15,000 in damages from Brown.

Brown told police that the incidents occurred after a gun and $80,000 were stolen from the apartment. Brown said in a statement on Thursday the lawsuits contained “false claims” against him.

“The facts will soon come out that prove my innocence,” Brown said. “My focus will remain on football and I will not let the cases serve as a distraction.”

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Dolphins’ injury-depleted line must try to block Bears’ Mack

MIAMI (AP) — Last week the Miami Dolphins resorted to eight-man pass protection, so desperate were they to slow an onslaught against quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

And now they have to block Khalil Mack.

That will be a daunting task when Miami faces the Chicago Bears on Sunday in a matchup of first-place teams

MIAMI (AP) — Last week the Miami Dolphins resorted to eight-man pass protection, so desperate were they to slow an onslaught against quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

And now they have to block Khalil Mack.

That will be a daunting task when Miami faces the Chicago Bears on Sunday in a matchup of first-place teams headed in opposite directions.

The Dolphins (3-2) are trying to patch up an injury-depleted offensive line and rebound from consecutive ugly losses. The Bears (3-1) are well-rested after a bye, riding a three-game winning streak and alone atop the NFC North for the first time since 2013.

Newcomer Mack has led the Bears into first place by dominating on defense. The two-time All-Pro end has five sacks and is tied for the NFL lead with four forced fumbles. He has at least one sack and forced fumble in each game. And the Dolphins might have to confront him without left tackle Laremy Tunsil, sidelined last week by a concussion.

Here are things to know about the first meeting between the teams since 2014:

CONTAINING KHALIL

No team this season has been able to keep Mack off the quarterback.

“He’s just playing at a different level than anybody that I’ve seen,” Miami coach Adam Gase said.

Now Mack faces a team staggered by season-ending injuries to two starters in the offensive line, followed by the loss of Tunsil. He was badly missed last week, when Tannehill was hit 11 times in the second half as the Dolphins blew a 17-point lead at Cincinnati. The Bengals’ pass rush was so overwhelming Miami had almost everyone on offense blocking, and even that didn’t work.

Mack is well aware a harried Tannehill committed two turnovers that were returned for touchdowns.

“You watch the film,” Mack said. “You also know that he’s a good athlete and he makes a lot of plays.”

But in each of the past two games, the Dolphins’ offense has scored only one touchdown and Tannehill has thrown for less than 200 yards.

“He’s getting hit too much,” Gase said. “I’ve got to find a way to get the ball out of his hands, get guys open quicker, or figure something else out.”

RIDING HIGH

The Bears’ most recent game, a 48-10 win over Tampa Bay, was their most lopsided victory in six years. A win over Miami would give Chicago its longest win streak since a six-game run in 2012.

“I just know our work’s not done,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “I’ve been in the situation. It’s good when you win. You want that feeling, but you want it to keep going. We were talking early, some of the older guys, about not getting complacent. You know, it’s been a long time since it’s been like this around here and we want it to stay this way.”

BUILDING BLOCK

Coming off a breakout game, the challenge for Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is to show it was no fluke.

Trubisky threw for six touchdowns — one shy of the NFL record held by Bears Hall of Famer Sid Luckman and seven others. It was the sort of performance the Bears envisioned when they traded up a spot to grab him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft.

Trubisky had never previously thrown for more than two touchdowns.

OVERSHADOWED DEFENSE

Lost in the Dolphins’ collapse at Cincinnati was a solid performance by the defense, including young linebackers Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker.

“We’re definitely moving in the right direction,” Baker said. “It’s exciting to see all of us making plays and playing well as a defense. You just have to constantly improve and the rest will handle itself.”

TUTELAGE

When Gase was the Bears’ offensive coordinator in 2015, among those who helped him prepare to become a head coach was Vic Fangio, who is still Chicago’s defensive coordinator.

“The amount of conversations we had in the year that I was there, it helped me grow a lot as to how I looked at things from an offensive perspective,” Gase said. “I really appreciated the amount of time that he would spend if I asked him a question about what he thought. He’s tough to go against.”

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AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman contributed to this report.

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49ers, Packers look to cut down on turnovers at Lambeau

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Turnovers just might be the most important statistic in football.

Just ask the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers.

The 49ers last week had a 33-10 edge in first downs against Arizona but still lost by 10 following five giveaways.

The Packers (2-2-1) almost doubled the Lions in total offense (521-264)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Turnovers just might be the most important statistic in football.

Just ask the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers.

The 49ers last week had a 33-10 edge in first downs against Arizona but still lost by 10 following five giveaways.

The Packers (2-2-1) almost doubled the Lions in total offense (521-264) and still lost 31-23 after coughing up three turnovers.

Guess what the Packers will be focusing on in practice as they prepare to host the 49ers at Lambeau Field on Monday night?

“Sometimes that ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t. But you have to create more opportunities,” coach Mike McCarthy said on Thursday. “We’ve created too many giveaway opportunities and we clearly don’t have enough takeaway opportunities.”

A team considered one of the top contenders in the NFC is off to a choppy start. Other than a 22-0 win over Buffalo, the Packers have alternated one bad half with one good one.

The first half has been the problem in three games, which has forced Green Bay to play catch-up. It worked in the season opener, when Aaron Rodgers tossed three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter for a 24-23 win over Chicago after falling behind 20-0.

But slow starts have doomed the Packers in losses at Washington and Detroit. Against the Lions last week, the Packers fell behind 24-0 at the half before losing 31-23.

“That’s not how you start games and expect to win, especially against a good opponent. We’ve got to start faster than that,” receiver Davante Adams said after the Detroit loss.

The 49ers (1-4) were sloppier, overshadowing the gaudy stats they put up on offense. They also failed to force a turnover.

“I think we’ve been close to winning. It’s not an excuse. We definitely should have won more games than we have,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We’ve got to find ways to not turn it over and get the ball in the end zone.”

Some other notes and things to watch:

BACKING KICKER

McCarthy offered a vote of confidence for Mason Crosby following the kicker’s awful game against Detroit, going 1 of 5 on field-goal attempts and missing his only extra-point try. Crosby was 10 of 11 on the year before last week, including two 52-yarders in Week 4 against Buffalo. He also missed an extra-point attempt in that game.

“He’s a proven, highly successful kicker, I still believe in him,” McCarthy said. “But he knows it – he has to make those kicks. … So hopefully we’ll learn from it and move on.”

NOT PRIME

The 49ers were expected to be an intriguing team based on a five-game winning streak to end last year with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. That earned them five prime-time games, starting with the trip to Green Bay.

But the Niners are a much less compelling draw with a losing record and Garoppolo out for the season with a knee injury. They already had a game on Oct. 21 against the Rams moved out of prime time and could lose another in December at Seattle as viewers are less interested in watching backup C.J. Beathard than Garoppolo.

“When things are good, you’re on top of the world, people praise you,” Beathard said. “When things are bad, they’ll bash you and you’ve just got to take both of those the same way and not even acknowledge anything on the outside.”

RODGERS’ KNEE

The two-time NFL MVP seems to be moving a little better each week after hurting his left knee in the first half of the season-opening win over the Bears. Rodgers, though, did say he took a shot to the knee early in the Lions game that might require him to keep wearing a brace.

He also had to play last week without injured receivers Randall Cobb (hamstring) and Geronimo Allison (concussion/hamstring). Allison did at least clear the concussion protocol this week.

The Packers will get a break after the 49ers game with a bye week.

OPEN SCREEN

Shorter is better for Beathard. The 49ers were able to exploit Arizona’s defense with screen passes, with Beathard going 11 for 14 for 130 yards and a TD on throws that didn’t cross the line of scrimmage. His 129.2 passer rating on those passes eclipsed his 60.3 rating on passes beyond the line of scrimmage.

“Screens are always hit or miss,” Shanahan said. “Sometimes, you catch them in blitzes. If you can get it off and no one sees the guy you’re screening to, there’s a lot of room to run.”

RUN DOWN

Aaron Jones might be the most explosive option out of the Packers’ crowded backfield, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. But he was limited to seven carries for 40 yards last week as Green Bay played catch-up against Detroit. Jamaal Williams starts the game and is good in pass protection, while Ty Montgomery is a receiving threat out of the backfield.

If the Packers can play with an early lead, they might be able to give the ball more to Jones to run and balance the offense.

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AP Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow contributed to this story.

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Familiar faces abound when Seahawks face Raiders in London

Marshawn Lynch and Bruce Irvin helped win a Super Bowl in Seattle before becoming stalwarts in Oakland.

Sebastian Janikowski rewrote the record book for the Raiders before booming long kicks for the Seahawks.

Seattle defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and Oakland offensive line coach Tom Cable spent the past few seasons doing the same job

Marshawn Lynch and Bruce Irvin helped win a Super Bowl in Seattle before becoming stalwarts in Oakland.

Sebastian Janikowski rewrote the record book for the Raiders before booming long kicks for the Seahawks.

Seattle defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and Oakland offensive line coach Tom Cable spent the past few seasons doing the same job with the other team.

When the Seahawks and Raiders kick off in London on Sunday, it will be a reunion of sorts — even though the game will be played several thousand miles from home.

“I’ve always enjoyed the most playing against the people I like the most. There’s guys on the club, coaches and all kinds of connections,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “There’s just connections across the board. It just makes it fun. If you’re competitive and you like competing against the best and your friends. I do. I just look forward to it.”

Both teams have more pressing issues than seeing old friends. The Seahawks (2-3) are already three games back in the NFC West and the Raiders (1-4) have struggled all season in the first year in Jon Gruden’s second stint as coach.

“I just don’t like to lose,” Gruden said. “I think we have work to do. There’s not enough time in the day to do it. I’m depressed. I’m tired. I want to win. I want to do better.”

Here are some other things to watch:

BEAST MODE

The Seahawks will finally get a chance to tackle Lynch, who starred for the team from 2010-15 and helped Seattle win a Super Bowl. Lynch was mostly off-limits at practice, although linebacker Bobby Wagner recalls getting scolded by Lynch for hitting him as a rookie and dislocating Lynch’s finger while trying to punch the ball out.

There will be no limits on contact Sunday.

“Never got the chance to tackle Marshawn,” Wagner said. “Talked a lot of trash. We finally get to go against each other. So it’s going to be fun.”

RUNNING AWAY

Any question about Seattle’s commitment to the run has been answered by the productivity of the last three weeks. The Seahawks have seen a running back rush for 100 yards in three straight games for the first time since late in the 2012 season. Chris Carson had 100-yard games against Dallas and Los Angeles, and Mike Davis had 101 yards against Arizona.

Most impressive was the 190 yards rushing against the Rams, when Seattle averaged 5.9 yards per carry. Even more shocking, the Seahawks got those yards on the ground without a single yard coming from quarterback Russell Wilson. For the first time in his career, Wilson didn’t have an official run play against the Rams.

“We made a big turn. It’s taken us longer than I would’ve wanted to get to this point, but we feel like we can play the game that we want to play and the style we want to play it regardless of where we’re going,” Carroll said. “We’ll find out, let’s go see if we can take it across the ocean and do it as well, but that’s really important to us.”

WEST COAST GOING EAST

The matchup between the Seahawks and Raiders is just the second in London between teams from the Pacific time zone. The Rams and Cardinals played last year in an NFC West game, with Los Angeles rolling to a 33-0 win. Take away that Los Angeles-Arizona matchup a year ago and teams from the Pacific area playing in London are 2-3 all-time. Both wins belong to San Francisco, beating Denver in 2010 and Jacksonville in 2013.

Both teams opted to spend part of the week at home, with the Seahawks leaving Wednesday and the Raiders on Thursday.

TARGETING

Doug Baldwin caught a dump-off pass from Wilson for a 1-yard gain on Seattle’s second offensive play against the Rams. It was the only target and only catch for Seattle’s leading receiver in each of the past four seasons. Baldwin has been bothered by issues with both knees early in the schedule. He missed most of training camp because of an unspecified issue with his left knee, then suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee in the season opener against Denver. Baldwin has just six catches for 42 yards and no TDs in the three games he’s played.

“It’s frustrating because I want to be more a part of it. I want to be part of the party, too,” Baldwin said.

FREQUENT VISITOR

Few players or coaches have been part of more games in London than Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson. He will coach his seventh game there, having gone 3-3 on previous trips with Tampa Bay (2009, ’11), Oakland (2014), Jacksonville (2015, ’16) and the Rams (2017).

“He leads the league in London trips, so he’s going to be my tour guide,” said Gruden, who added he doesn’t believe he’ll have much time for sightseeing.

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AP Sports Writer Tom Booth contributed to this report

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Titans coordinator facing off against his old team in Ravens

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Dean Pees' retirement from his old job as defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens sure didn't last very long. Not with Mike Vrabel pouncing on the chance to lure his former coach to work with him in Tennessee.

Now the NFL schedule is giving the defensive coordinator a chance

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Dean Pees’ retirement from his old job as defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens sure didn’t last very long. Not with Mike Vrabel pouncing on the chance to lure his former coach to work with him in Tennessee.

Now the NFL schedule is giving the defensive coordinator a chance to try and slow down his old team on Sunday.

“At some point in time when I do conclude my career,” Pees said, “it will be to me a unique situation and a unique opportunity I was given to work for two guys that are great coaches and were great players for me, and for me then to kind of give back and the fact that I kind of know them so well. We’re on the same page as far as how you do things and that kind of stuff, it all kind of came from the same school.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who played for Pees at Miami (Ohio), hired his former defensive coordinator in 2010 as linebackers coach before turning over the defense to Pees in 2012 — a year Baltimore won the Super Bowl. Pees held that job through last season before retiring after 45 years as a coach.

Vrabel, who played for Pees in New England, called Harbaugh and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome for permission to talk to the retired Pees once hired as the Titans head coach.

Safety Eric Weddle said it was tough to see Pees join the Titans.

“We were all happy for him, because we know how much he loves coaching,” Weddle said. “But he’s with them now. We appreciate what he did here, but we’re doing our thing now, and he’s doing his.”

The Ravens replaced Pees, 69, by promoting Don “Wink” Martindale. Vrabel hired Pees to replace Dick LeBeau in Tennessee.

“Replacing Dick LeBeau anywhere is not an easy thing to do, and I was very aware of that, but I felt like we needed a change,” Vrabel said. “And Dean has been everything that I had hoped for.”

Both the Ravens (3-2) and Titans (3-2) come into this game off disappointing road losses. Baltimore lost 12-9 in overtime in Cleveland, while the Titans fell 13-12 in Buffalo.

After kickoff, friendships are forgotten for at least three hours.

“Once the game starts, we’ll be trying to choke each other out,” Harbaugh joked.

Some things to know about the Ravens and Titans:

DEFENSIVE SHOWDOWN

Without Pees, the Ravens remain just as stingy, leading the NFL in scoring defense and with 34 tackles for loss. The Ravens haven’t allowed a touchdown in the second half of a game this season. Baltimore also is third in fewest yards allowed, four spots ahead of Pees’ Titans, with Tennessee third against the pass, just ahead of Baltimore. Tennessee leads the NFL in red zone defense.

The Titans hope to get back veteran linebacker Wesley Woodyard after missing a game with an injured shoulder, while Harbaugh hopes to get back defensive tackle Michael Pierce after missing a game with an injured foot.

JACKSON’S JAUNTS

Drafted 32nd overall, rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson gives opposing defenses something else to think about when he lines up behind center. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner ranks fourth on the team with 72 yards rushing and leads Baltimore with an average of 4.5 yards per carry. Jackson ran three times for 10 yards last week and threw an incomplete pass. He’s 1 for 5 through the air this season.

NEED MORE OFFENSE

The Titans are coming off their second game this season when they couldn’t score a touchdown. Luckily, Marcus Mariota and his elbow is off the injury report for the first time since being hurt in the season opener. But the Titans could be missing left tackle Taylor Lewan, who hurt his right foot in Buffalo. Mariota said it’s just a matter of execution and the Titans have to get better.

HEAVY WORKLOAD

Terrell Suggs was used for 66 of the 71 total snaps last week against the Browns, no small workload for a 16-year veteran who turned 36 on Thursday. Suggs is Baltimore’s career sacks leader with 129, including 3 1/2 this year. A rigorous training regimen has enabled him to maintain a degree of excellence, but Harbaugh acknowledged that 66 plays might be too much.

PAYBACK TIME

Odds are good that C.J. Mosley will get a chance to tackle his former Alabama teammate and current Titans running back Derrick Henry at least once, and the Ravens linebacker says he still owes Henry from last year. Henry converted a big third-down late in a Tennessee win with a big stiff arm, breaking loose from Mosley. “I have to make sure that this time I don’t let him get a big play,” Mosley said.

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AP Sports Writer Dave Ginsburg contributed to this report.

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Young Bengals trying to end Steelers’ domination of rivalry

CINCINNATI (AP) — Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick knows what it's like to think that victory is only a few seconds away, only to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers rally for another improbable win, and run off the field as thousands of their fans twirl towels in the stands.

Many of Kirkpatrick's teammates haven't been on

CINCINNATI (AP) — Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick knows what it’s like to think that victory is only a few seconds away, only to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers rally for another improbable win, and run off the field as thousands of their fans twirl towels in the stands.

Many of Kirkpatrick’s teammates haven’t been on the sideline for those blow-to-the-gut finishes, which might work to the Bengals’ advantage on Sunday as they revisit a rivalry that’s more of a horror story for Cincinnati.

The Bengals (4-1) have their youngest team in coach Marvin Lewis’ 16 seasons as they get ready to host the Steelers (2-2-1). Nineteen of them are in their first or second season — virtual newcomers to the one-sided series.

“It’s kind of good that some of these guys haven’t experienced it because we’re trying to go in with clear minds, clear everything,” Kirkpatrick said. “Just going out there and playing our game and not (remembering) nothing that happened two or three years ago, or last year.”

The Steelers know their history.

Pittsburgh has won six straight in the series , including an 18-16 victory in the first round of the 2015 playoffs that included an historic meltdown by the Bengals. The Steelers have won nine of 10 and 14 of 17 against their AFC North rival, getting the better of games that have often turned nasty.

“Yeah, you get amped up there,” Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree said. “It’s their house. They’re trying to be so tough.”

Some of the main figures in the most memorable games are gone. Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is back after sitting out the first four games on his latest NFL suspension, but cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones left after last season. Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is holding out.

“Many of the significant contributors don’t play for us (anymore), they don’t play for them,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

Some things to watch Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium:

LOPSIDED HISTORY

The Steelers are 24-8 against the Bengals since they hired Marvin Lewis as coach in 2003. They’re 15-2 at Paul Brown Stadium during that span, including playoff wins in the 2005 and 2015 seasons. During their current six-game winning streak against Cincinnati, the Steelers have overcome deficits of 17-3 and 17-0. They have two last-minute wins.

SHAZIER BACK

Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered a spinal injury at Paul Brown Stadium last Dec. 4 when he lowered his helmet and tackled receiver Josh Malone. Shazier was taken to a local hospital. Ten months later, he’s still recovering and it’s unclear whether he can ever play again. Shazier is on the sideline during games and is expected to be in Cincinnati with his teammates on Sunday.

BIG-PLAY BENGALS

Pittsburgh is known for its tenacious defense, but the Bengals have made some of the biggest plays this season. They’ve returned three turnovers for touchdowns, including an interception and a fumble in the fourth quarter of a 27-17 win over Miami on Sunday. The Bengals’ rotation on the line has kept them fresh for the endings of games.

“Guys were really, really getting after it, and it was fun to watch,” coordinator Teryl Austin said. “It makes the game easy to call when you know the guys are going to push the pocket back and get after the quarterback and harass the quarterback.”

ALIVE AND KICKING

A year after making the Pro Bowl for the first time, Steelers kicker Chris Boswell is struggling. He missed his third extra point of the season last week against Atlanta, matching his career high. It hasn’t been any easier for Boswell when it comes to field goals, where he is just 3 for 6. Still, Tomlin remains confident in Boswell, who signed a five-year contract before the season.

Boswell has never missed a kick against the Bengals, making all 11 extra-point tries and all 20 field goal attempts, including a pair of last-minute winners at Paul Brown Stadium.

“This guy has delivered for us a lot in the last few years, and I do not have amnesia in that regard,” Tomlin said. “He’s gotten me out of that stadium in Cincinnati a few times, and so I look forward to taking him to Cincinnati.”

CAMPAIGNING FOR CONNER

It could be Pittsburgh’s final game without Bell, who reportedly will end his standoff and sign a one-year franchise tag next week. Bell’s return could create an issue on how to split carries. James Conner has been solid while filling in. The second-year back is coming off a 185-yard from scrimmage, two-touchdown performance against Atlanta. Ben Roethlisberger believes Conner has done little to earn a demotion.

“I think James has done some amazing things and deserves to be on the football field,” Roethlisberger said. “We also know what Le’Veon is and what he brings to the table, so I guess we’ll cross that bridge if and when it happens.”

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AP Sports Writer Will Graves contributed to this report.

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Jets look to win back to back, while Colts try to end skid

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Broadway Joe will be in the building. So will the rest of the 1968 New York Jets, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the squad that won the franchise's only Super Bowl.

Nostalgia will be all around MetLife Stadium on Sunday, with rookie Sam Darnold and this year's Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Broadway Joe will be in the building. So will the rest of the 1968 New York Jets, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the squad that won the franchise’s only Super Bowl.

Nostalgia will be all around MetLife Stadium on Sunday, with rookie Sam Darnold and this year’s Jets team trying to set a much more modest goal against the Indianapolis Colts — not coincidentally, the franchise New York beat for that 1969 title while it was in Baltimore.

Coming off an impressive 34-16 victory over Denver last Sunday and with the likes of Joe Namath and Don Maynard watching, New York will look to win consecutive games for the first time since taking three straight in Weeks 3-5 last season — over a year ago.

“We’ve got a good team,” Darnold said. “It’s just about putting together the pieces. Obviously, we put some together this past Sunday. We’ve just got to build off of it and, for me personally, I’ve just got to stay consistent.”

The Jets (2-3) have struggled with that . They opened the season with a 48-17 romp at Denver and then had clunkers against Miami, Cleveland and Jacksonville before getting back in the win column last weekend.

“We have to grow up and find a way to string games together and get on winning streaks,” left tackle Kelvin Beachum said, “instead of losing streaks.”

That’s what Andrew Luck and the struggling Colts (1-4) will be looking to stop when they take the field.

Indianapolis has lost three in a row, is missing some key players such as wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle to injuries, and could see its season really spiral with another defeat. The Colts, however, aren’t thinking about that right now.

“I love that this team has no quit,” tight end Eric Ebron said. “I love the story that we’ll have and I say that because we’re very young, we’re all beat up, and what people don’t tend to realize is that you don’t stay beat up forever. You get healthy, you get guys back and then you start to establish a dominance.”

The Jets just want to prevent that turnaround from starting Sunday.

“We know our defense has their hands full, but it’s also going to be a dogfight for us too, because they have a great defense,” Darnold said. “We’re really looking forward to the challenge, though, knowing how great of a quarterback Andrew is.”

Here are other things to know as the Colts and Jets square off:

BIG DEAL

This will mark the first time the teams face each other since swinging their stunning trade in March that changed the top of the NFL draft.

The Jets acquired the No. 3 overall pick from the Colts to move up to take Darnold, giving them the franchise-type quarterback they have been searching for .

New York sent Indianapolis the No. 6 selection, which the Colts used to pick current starting left guard Quenton Nelson. The Jets also shipped two second-round picks this year — one with which Indianapolis took starting right guard Braden Smith; the other was used in a trade — along with a second-rounder next year.

FLYING CROWELL

Jets running back Isaiah Crowell leads the AFC with 390 yards rushing, and ranks third in the NFL behind only Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott (480) and Rams’ Todd Gurley (415).

Crowell soared up the list against Denver last Sunday when he set a franchise record with 219 yards rushing on just 15 carries. It also put the controversy from the previous weeks far behind him after he was fined $13,369 by the NFL and scolded by coach Todd Bowles for wiping his rear end with the football after scoring a touchdown at Cleveland in Week 3.

LOTS OF LUCK

Luck has thrown 121 passes in his last two games and leads the league with 245 attempts through five games .

Not bad for a guy who missed all last season with a shoulder injury, but the Colts might not want to keep their franchise QB back there throwing so much. After all, he’s on pace to throw 784 times this season, which would shatter Matthew Stafford’s single-season record of 727 for Detroit in 2012.

Colts coach Frank Reich attributes the high number to his team falling behind early in games, causing Luck and the offense to play catch-up through the air.

SLAUSON DONE

Colts right guard Matt Slauson got his NFL start with the Jets in 2009, but this weekend’s reunion plan has changed because of a back injury.

Slauson landed on season-ending injured reserve earlier this week after doctors diagnosed him with two broken vertebrae. Without Slauson, Smith could make his second straight start — this time at his more natural position. The rookie started last week at right tackle.

DEFENSIVE STRIDES

Indianapolis’ defense has made steady a progression under first-year coordinator Matt Eberflus. While the Colts are tied for third in the league with 17 sacks and have moved out of the bottom quadrant in yards allowed, they’re No. 23 in total defense.

Individually, there are more promising signs.

Rookie linebacker Darius Leonard leads the league with 54 tackles, even after missing last week’s game with a hamstring injury. Defensive end Margus Hunt leads the NFL with nine tackles for loss.

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AP Sports Writer Michael Marot contributed.

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Brees, Brady make history while rookie QBs make mark

While Drew Brees and Tom Brady continue making history, the rookie quarterbacks are making their mark.

Brees broke Peyton Manning's record for career passing yards on Monday night and Brady became the third quarterback to throw 500 touchdown passes last Thursday night. Brady is 40 TD passes away from passing Manning for first on the

While Drew Brees and Tom Brady continue making history, the rookie quarterbacks are making their mark.

Brees broke Peyton Manning’s record for career passing yards on Monday night and Brady became the third quarterback to throw 500 touchdown passes last Thursday night. Brady is 40 TD passes away from passing Manning for first on the career list. He also is one win away from becoming the first quarterback with 200 regular-season wins.

Arizona’s Josh Rosen, Buffalo’s Josh Allen, Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield and the New York Jets’ Sam Darnold did their part to prove the NFL should be in good hands in the future. Each player led his team to victory in Week 5, the first time since the merger that rookie QBs were 4-0 or better in a single week.

Here’s a look inside more numbers going into Week 6:

NO AUTOMATICS: Extra points haven’t been automatic since the NFL moved the conversion back 13 yards from the 2-yard line to the 15 in 2015. But kickers are missing even more attempts this season. Through five weeks, there have been 20 missed extra points. There were 17 in each of the previous two seasons at this point and 18 in 2015.

DESHAUN’S QUEST: Deshaun Watson can become the first quarterback to throw for 375 yards or more in four consecutive games when the Houston Texans host Buffalo. Ryan Fitzpatrick did it in the first three games this season. Brady and Hall of Famer Kurt Warner also had three-game streaks. Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles has done it in the past two games.

KIRK’S IMPACT: Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins is the first player in league history to complete at least 30 passes in four consecutive games. Adam Thielen is a recipient of many of those throws. He is the third player with at least 100 yards receiving in each of his team’s first five games to start a season.

GO-TO GUY: Zach Ertz has been Carson Wentz’s go-to receiver since the Eagles quarterback returned from knee surgery. Ertz has at least 10 catches for 100 yards in two straight games. Only four players have ever done it three consecutive weeks.

FREE FOOTBALL: At least one game has reached overtime in each of the first five weeks. That hadn’t happened before. The Browns have played in three OT games already, going 1-1-1.

GREATEST SHOW ON TURF: The Rams are the fifth team to score at least 30 points in each of their first five games to start a season in NFL history. The record is eight held by the 2000 Rams, 2013 Broncos and 2007 Patriots.

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Seahawks’ Dickson wants to turn heads in England

WATFORD, England (AP) — The Seattle Seahawks' Michael Dickson knows his unconventional punting style is likely to catch the eye of a few kicking enthusiasts in England.

Punts don't score points, though, so he believes the fans might be a bit more dazzled by placekicker Sebastian Janikowski.

"The drop kick is cool," Dickson

WATFORD, England (AP) — The Seattle Seahawks’ Michael Dickson knows his unconventional punting style is likely to catch the eye of a few kicking enthusiasts in England.

Punts don’t score points, though, so he believes the fans might be a bit more dazzled by placekicker Sebastian Janikowski.

“The drop kick is cool,” Dickson said. “You do that in rugby a lot. I don’t know if we’ll be doing it too much … so (Janikowski) hitting a few field goals will probably get the crowd pretty happy, I’d say.”

Dickson found himself in the spotlight on Sept. 17 when he tried a drop kick during a kickoff, and later an onside kick, in the Seahawks’ 24-17 loss to the Chicago Bears.

On Sunday, the rookie from Sydney by way of Texas will take his technique to London as the Seahawks face the Oakland Raiders in the first of three NFL games to be played at Wembley Stadium this season.

The drop kick may be much more common in rugby, but Dickson, who didn’t touch a football until 2014, never played the sport. Instead, he grew up playing Australian Rules Football, and as a defender, it was partly his responsibility to kick the ball away.

“I had a big kick when I was playing Aussie rules football, so I decided that I wanted to give (the NFL) a go one day,” Dickson said. “I didn’t really know about the college football process or anything and hadn’t really watched much American football. I just knew I liked it when I tried out and met an Australian punting coach, and it kind of just took off from there.”

Seattle liked Dickson enough to trade up with the Denver Broncos to draft him in the fifth round. He unseated Jon Ryan, the Seahawks’ punter for the last 10 seasons, and in Week 1 became the first NFL player to average more than 59.9 yards on six punts — including a 69-yarder in the third quarter of a 27-24 loss at Denver.

“Field position is enormously important to our style of play, and Michael kicking the ball deep, pinning them back, is important, but (so is) changing the field with some kicks that he’s capable of doing — not to mention the other things,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “The placement of the ball and the things like that … (are) a lot of really cool things that you don’t normally get from a punter, so we’re just trying to go with it and really understand how to better utilize him.”

A few of those cool things were unveiled against Chicago, with Seattle turning to Dickson rather than Janikowski to try to pin the Bears deep after they were penalized on a third-quarter extra point attempt.

Dickson, from the 50, kicked the ball after a bounce to the Bears 1-yard line, where it was returned to the 15 by Anthony Miller. It was the first drop kick since 2015, when the New England Patriots’ Nate Ebner, an Olympic rugby sevens player, tried it on a kickoff against the Philadelphia Eagles.

If that wasn’t enough, Dickson was called upon to try to drop kick an onside kick with 14 seconds remaining, but the Bears recovered it.

“It’s always a concern and it’s a little unpredictable where it can go, but in a way, you like that,” special teams coach Brian Schneider said. “The good thing is you can disguise it where you want it to go much easier than if it was a kicker.”

Dickson, who entered the week fourth in the league with 1,348 gross punting yards, downplayed the drop kicks, saying there are a number of factors that go into how and where he punts the ball.

Fittingly, the last thing he wants is to become predictable.

“Depending on what teams show what fronts they have and what personnel they have out there, you know, different kicks work for different teams,” Dickson said. “There is some room, but it’s not going to be an every week thing.”

NOTES: Carroll said the Seahawks decided upon a Thursday arrival in England after studying other teams’ previous routines. “We took full advantage of the Mercator route and in doing so, it was like a nine hours or something flight,” he said. “It worked out. It was great.” … Safety Kam Chancellor traveled with the team in a support role. Chancellor remains on the physically unable to perform list after injuring his neck last season and is unlikely to be cleared to resume his career. … LB K.J. Wright (knee) did not practice Thursday, but Carroll said TE Nick Vannett, who sat out Wednesday, is “fine.”

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Panthers’ Newton: Olsen’s return means ‘the band is back’

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is ecstatic to have Greg Olsen back on the football field.

And he wants Olsen to remain on the field, so much that Newton said he asked his spiritual grandmother Hattie-Lou Newton to pray for the tight end's continued health.

"That would be great," Olsen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is ecstatic to have Greg Olsen back on the football field.

And he wants Olsen to remain on the field, so much that Newton said he asked his spiritual grandmother Hattie-Lou Newton to pray for the tight end’s continued health.

“That would be great,” Olsen said with a laugh, “I can use all of the help I can get.”

The 33-year-old Olsen practiced Thursday and is expected to return to action Sunday against the Redskins after missing three games with a broken foot.

Olsen was one of the most durable players in the NFL during his first 10 seasons, never missing a game due to injury while playing in 158 consecutive games. But he’s missed 12 of the last 18 games since first fracturing his right foot in Week 2 of last season. He re-broke the same bone in Carolina’s season opener against the Cowboys and hasn’t played since.

That has left the three-time Pro Bowl selection frustrated and eager to get back on the field — although not enough to rush back from the injury.

“I wouldn’t be out there if I didn’t think I could help the team,” Olsen said. “Me being out there and not being able to move, that doesn’t do us any good. This isn’t about me just desperately wanting to play. I want to play and I expect to play like I am accustomed to.”

Coach Ron Rivera said barring any setbacks before Sunday there won’t be any restrictions on Olsen’s playing time.

Rivera said Olsen moved around well Thursday, and participated fully in practice. Like his teammates, Olsen hasn’t been able to go full speed yet this week because heavy rains the past two days in the Charlotte area have caused the fields to be wet and soggy.

Olsen brings yet another option in the passing game for Newton, who just got second-year wide receiver Curtis Samuel back from a minor heart procedure last week.

“The band is back,” Newton said with a wide smile.

Nobody knows what Olsen means to the Panthers more than Newton.

Olsen has always been his favorite target. He became the first tight end in NFL history to record three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons from 2014-16.

“He can’t (get injured) no more,” Newton said. “… His play-making ability on the field is just second to none. Having Greg back, keeping him healthy along with the talent that we already have, it presents a lot of problems for the opposing team.”

Newton said Olsen also helps him call out plays in the huddle, something that fans don’t always see.

The eighth-year quarterback said many calls in the NFL these days are simply too long and contain too much verbiage, and suggested some need to be simplified one-word phrases like “Panther,” or even “Tepper” or “Rivera,” referring to the surnames of the team’s owner and head coach.

“Greg is a very intellectual person that helps me out with play-calling,” Newton said. “I call him ‘the dictator’ in the huddle because I really have problems with calling plays — even in year eight. And he kind of helps me.”

Newton went on to say “calling a play shouldn’t be a paragraph. … I will be in the huddle and I’m already tired and I don’t have time to be saying this, that and the third. (It should be) ready, ready break. You only get so much time.”

Olsen downplayed Newton’s comments Thursday, saying the quarterback “exaggerated a little bit” in how much he helps him.

“Cam has it under control,” Olsen said. “… Sometimes in the heat of the battle I will help piece some things together. But I think Cam was just being generous.”

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Chiefs using motion, unique formations to create nightmares

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs break huddle and line up in a traditional formation: Patrick Mahomes settles under center, Kareem Hunt is in the backfield, tight end Travis Kelce joins wide receiver Sammy Watkins on the right side, and Tyreek Hill and Demarcus Robinson head to the left.

Then, from a

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs break huddle and line up in a traditional formation: Patrick Mahomes settles under center, Kareem Hunt is in the backfield, tight end Travis Kelce joins wide receiver Sammy Watkins on the right side, and Tyreek Hill and Demarcus Robinson head to the left.

Then, from a defensive perspective, all hell breaks loose.

Mahomes is suddenly dropping into the shotgun, careful he doesn’t run into Hunt, who has moved from the left side to the right. Hill has run all the way across the field and lined up on the right, just as Kelce has raced in the other direction to line up on the left.

The defense thought it had everyone covered. Now, mismatches abound as linebackers try to cover Kelce and safeties are forced to match up with the Chiefs’ speedy wide receivers.

That play against Pittsburgh a couple weeks ago wasn’t just a gimmick. That’s standard stuff in the Chiefs’ basic offense, a seemingly seamless melding of Andy Reid’s old-school West Coast system and the new-school spread offenses that have changed the college game.

“That play calling was something I’ve never seen before,” said Jacksonville safety Tashaun Gipson, whose top-ranked defense was torched in a 30-14 loss at Arrowhead Stadium last Sunday.

“I’ve played Andy Reid, and maybe it was the Browns or it was Jacksonville 2016, and he didn’t pull out all the stops,” Gipson said. “But this game plan, man, and I can’t say it enough — and again, I’m not trying to discredit any guys over there — but I’ve never seen a team do that to us consistently.”

In fact, Gipson said, “they had their way with us all game.”

They’ve had their way with just about everybody the first five weeks, piling up a franchise-record 175 points. Mahomes has already thrown for 1,513 yards, shattering the Chiefs mark for five games, and a 300-yard passing game at New England on Sunday would give him a team-record five straight.

Kansas City (5-0) has scored at least 30 points in each of its games.

“If you try to play zone coverage against them, they’ve got the guys to beat zone. They have the guys to beat man. So you have to pick your poison,” Gipson said. “We came here with all this hype, talking about how good we are as a defense, myself included, and we got drug out there. Straight drug.”

What the Chiefs are doing this season is hardly a flash-in-the-pan attack, though. It’s the culmination of years of tinkering, beginning with Brad Childress’ work as “spread game analyst” and incorporating bits of the college-style spread attack to what the Chiefs were doing last season.

But while Alex Smith could pull off run-pass options, or do things in the quarterback-run game, it wasn’t a perfect fit. That came when Mahomes took over as the starter this season.

Mahomes is a product of the Air Raid system, basically a spread offense on steroids. He is accustomed to a flood of targets all over the field, quickly identifying where the matchup problems give the offense an advantage, and delivering the ball so that his playmakers can make things happen.

Plus, Mahomes has the arm strength to make any throw on the field.

“He’s not afraid to let it loose,” Broncos offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “When you have the arm strength that he has, he can fit the ball into those small windows.”

Most of the time, though, the Chiefs are able to give him garage doors.

That’s because they have the personnel to make all those creative formations work. Kelce is athletic enough to line up anywhere on the field, Hunt has excellent hands for a running back, and Hill and Watkins have the speed to beat anyone in a one-on-one matchup.

So, for example, the Chiefs can line up without anyone in the backfield, forcing defenses to change their personnel and alignment. Then the motion games begin, and Kelce or Hill or someone else could end up in the backfield, creating confusion and mismatches.

“There’s not much we can do once we make our call and (Mahomes) comes out in his formation,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “Once he goes empty, he knows what he’s got. That makes it tough.”

Or downright impossible, it sometimes seems.

“Watching Andy for a long time, he always has some neat, cool things,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I don’t know where they come from. He’s in there looking up a lot of stuff because they do some unusual things. Sometimes I’m predicting it came from a high school team, maybe a college team. They know how to spread the field. They know how to run all those jet sweeps and do all the RPOs.”

Shanahan said the foundation remains the West Coast offense, and the Chiefs are still capable of beating teams with basic stuff. Just look at how they’ve put away games late in the fourth quarter, when they’ve leaned on Hunt and some old-fashioned, smash-mouth football.

But none of that catches people’s attention like the flashy stuff.

“Over these last four years or so, they’ve really added an element of the misdirection and stuff. It’s been an issue, not just because of the plays, but the people with the plays,” Shanahan said. “They have the speed at every angle to run those things and really put defenses in a bind.”

NOTES: SS Eric Berry (heel), FS Eric Murray (ankle) and OLBs Justin Houston (hamstring) and Tanoh Kpassagnon (ankle) remained out of practice Thursday. RB Spencer Ware was out for a personal matter.

___

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 886 Words

Colts search for balance against Darnold, Jets

 

 

Andrew Luck is an ideal model for young quarterbacks like Sam Darnold, but the Indianapolis Colts wouldn't mind adapting an offense similar to the one the New York Jets utilized last week.

 

A pair of teams looking to stay on the fringes of the AFC playoff race will square off Sunday afternoon

 

 

Andrew Luck is an ideal model for young quarterbacks like Sam Darnold, but the Indianapolis Colts wouldn’t mind adapting an offense similar to the one the New York Jets utilized last week.

 

A pair of teams looking to stay on the fringes of the AFC playoff race will square off Sunday afternoon when the Jets host the Colts.

 

The Jets snapped a three-game losing streak last Sunday, when they improved to 2-3 by beating the visiting Denver Broncos, 34-16. The Colts last played Oct. 4, when they fell to 1-4 with a 38-24 loss to the host New England Patriots. New York and Indianapolis are two of six sub-.500 teams in the AFC.

 

Darnold, the youngest starting quarterback in NFL history at age 21, tossed a season-high three touchdown passes against the Broncos but did so on just 22 attempts, one more than the career-low 21 attempts he had against the Detroit Lions in the season opener.

 

Darnold’s effectiveness was as much about maximizing big plays – he tossed touchdowns of 76 and 35 yards to Robby Anderson as well as a 20-yard touchdown to Terrelle Pryor Sr. – as it was the Jets (2-3) setting him up with a dominant running game.

 

Isaiah Crowell set a franchise record by rushing for 219 yards – 77 of which came on a second-quarter touchdown run – as the Jets racked up 323 yards on the ground, just 10 short of the team record.

 

“We got the running game going, then we were able to take some shots and suck them up a little bit,” Jets head coach Todd Bowles said.

 

The Colts are emphasizing a short passing game with Luck, who missed all of last season due to a shoulder injury. While Luck is averaging 9.1 yards per completion, which is more than three yards lower than his average in 2016, he is leading the NFL in both pass attempts (245) and completions (163) and averaging a career-high 298.2 yards per game.

 

Of course, if Luck is passing so much, that means the Colts aren’t running the ball. Indianapolis ranks last in the NFL with 20.2 rushing attempts per game. Leading rusher Jordan Wilkins has 44 fewer yards all season than Crowell did on Sunday.

 

Frank Reich, the rookie head coach and former NFL quarterback, knows better than anyone that Luck’s effectiveness will wane if the Colts can’t develop a running game.

 

“Early on in the season we can get away with it because there’s always the threat of the run,” Reich said. “But once you get further into the season and you are one of those teams that’s been determined ‘These guys can’t run the ball,’ then, as the season goes on, they pay less and less respect and the play action pass isn’t as effective and it just snowballs.”

 

The Colts will need to get their running game untracked Sunday, when two of Luck’s targets, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) and tight end Jack Doyle (hip), are expected to be sidelined again.

 

Crowell (ankle) was one of seven Jets who did not practice Wednesday, though he is expected to play Sunday. Cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson (quadriceps) and Buster Skrine (concussion) could miss the game.

 

The Colts lead the all-time regular season series, 41-28. Indianapolis won the most recent meeting between the teams on Dec. 5, 2016, when Luck was 22-of-28 with four touchdowns in a 41-10 win over the host Jets.

 

–Field Level Media

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Chargers see challenge ahead with trip to Browns

Chargers see challenge ahead with trip to Browns

Before the season started, most Los Angeles and Cleveland Browns fans probably would have checked off Sunday's game as a win for the Chargers.

And just studying quarterback Philip Rivers' sizzling start after the first five games, most would figure Los Angeles

Chargers see challenge ahead with trip to Browns

Before the season started, most Los Angeles and Cleveland Browns fans probably would have checked off Sunday’s game as a win for the Chargers.

And just studying quarterback Philip Rivers’ sizzling start after the first five games, most would figure Los Angeles would have huge advantage over Cleveland. Rivers already has thrown 13 touchdown passes (second in the NFL to Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes) and is completing more than 70 percent of his passes.

But these aren’t the Browns of recent years. Something happened along the way on the shores of Lake Erie, and that something, or someone, is Baker Mayfield, the top overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.

In Week 3, Mayfield became the primary quarterback for a team that had won one game in two seasons. Cleveland already has doubled that total, and heading into Sunday’s matchup with the 3-2 Chargers, the Browns (2-2-1) are undefeated at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Home-field advantage played a role in the Browns’ 12-9 win on Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens.

“We feed off the crowd’s energy, and our defense does as well,” Mayfield told reporters this week. “This needs to be a place that people fear coming to play. It needs to be so loud, they can’t communicate, and it needs to be a harsh place for an offense to come in.”

Since taking over the starting job after leading the Browns to a Week 3 win over the New York Jets, Mayfield has completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 838 yards and three touchdowns against three interceptions.

The Browns’ defense leads the NFL in takeaways with 15. Myles Garrett anchors the group with five sacks, and rookie Denzel Ward has three interceptions.

Rivers acknowledged the Chargers have a tough task ahead.

“We’re 3-2 and we have a tough Cleveland team this week who only gave up 12 points I guess in 70 minutes of football,” he said. “That’s going to be a tough challenge at their place.”

In his 15 years in the NFL, Rivers has seen just about everything, so it’s unlikely he will be too rattled by the Dawg Pound. The Chargers’ seventh-ranked offense averages 405 yards and 27.4 points per game.

The Chargers, coming off an impressive 26-10 win over the Oakland Raiders, enter a crucial two-game stretch before their bye week as they try to keep up with the undefeated Chiefs in the AFC West.

Los Angeles will be playing with heavy hearts after the death of longtime owner Alex Spanos. The 95-year-old Spanos, who bought the team in 1984, battled dementia for years before dying on Tuesday.

The Browns will be without starting wideout Rashard Higgins. Running back Dontrell Hilliard was elevated from the practice squad to help give special teams a boost.

The Chargers still do not have the services of defensive end Joey Bosa, although he is expected to take part in light practices this week. Right tackle Joe Barksdale, who suffered a knee injury in the season opener, also is expected to return to practice on a limited basis.

The Chargers defeated the Browns last season, 19-10.

–Field Level Media

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Rams, RB Gurley present big challenges for Broncos

 

 

Todd Gurley II is licking his chops in anticipation of Sunday's matchup with the Denver Broncos.

 

The Los Angeles running back is one of the best in the NFL, and although he hasn't topped 100 rushing yards in the last two games, that could change Sunday when the Rams visit the Broncos

 

 

Todd Gurley II is licking his chops in anticipation of Sunday’s matchup with the Denver Broncos.

 

The Los Angeles running back is one of the best in the NFL, and although he hasn’t topped 100 rushing yards in the last two games, that could change Sunday when the Rams visit the Broncos in Denver.

 

Los Angeles (5-0) has plenty of skill players to attack Denver’s porous defense, but with the forecast calling for temperatures in the 30s and possible snow, it could be prime conditions for running backs. That’s not ideal for a Broncos unit that allowed the New York Jets to rush for 323 yards last week.

 

Gurley, who has rushed for 415 yards and seven touchdowns, might carry a bigger load this week with receivers Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp dealing with concussions suffered in last Sunday’s win at Seattle. Cooks was cleared to go through the walkthrough on Wednesday and both are expected to play against Denver (2-3), coach Sean McVay said.

 

The only other player who didn’t take part in the full practice due to health was kicker Greg Zuerlein, who remains sidelined with a right groin injury. Six other players, including Gurley and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, didn’t practice but their absence was not related to injury.

 

Even if Cooks and Kupp are limited the Rams have receiver Robert Woods. Woods has 29 catches for 415 yards and three touchdowns and has rushed for 75 more yards this season. He is comfortable with the offense and quarterback Jared Goff and isn’t worried about how many targets he gets.

 

“Just play my game, really,” he told The Los Angeles Times of his mindset. “I know the ball will find me. Not do anything abnormal.”

 

The problem for the Broncos is opposing teams have found plenty of holes in their defense. Since keeping Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes in check for a half the defense has fallen apart. The Chiefs put together big drives to pull out a win in Denver, and the Jets racked up 512 yards of offense in a 34-16 win.

 

Three straight losses have questions swirling about head coach Vance Joseph’s job security and the future of defensive coordinator Joe Woods, especially after defensive end Derek Wolfe spoke frankly after the loss in New York.

 

“Something – something much deeper is happening here that I can’t even really understand,” he said. “Obviously, I’m pissed off. We come off a short week, we’re busting our ass, we’re playing hard, practicing hard, lifting hard, doing everything we can to be a good player.

 

“It’s the same (expletive) every week, I’m tired of talking about the same (expletive) the last two years.”

 

Things were expected to be different with Case Keenum taking over at quarterback but he has struggled since throwing three touchdown passes in the opener. He went three games without another TD before getting two against the Jets – one well after the game was out of reach.

 

A win against an undefeated Rams team might ease things for Denver. Los Angeles is a tough matchup when healthy but the Broncos are dealing with injuries.

 

Tackle Jared Veldheer (knee), cornerback Adam Jones (thigh) and safety Darian Stewart (foot) didn’t practice Wednesday and linebacker Brandon Marshall (knee) and tackle Garrett Bolles (right ankle) were limited.

 

Denver will be looking for some magic against the high-powered Rams offense.

 

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Joseph said after Wednesday’s practice. “It’s not our first challenge on defense versus an offense like that. We played Kansas City, very similar setup … but we’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be a nice challenge and no one has stopped them, so it’s our turn to see if we can.”

 

–Field Level Media

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Texans plan to attack Bills rookie QB Allen

Texans plan to attack Bills rookie QB Allen

The victory remains on the resume of their rookie quarterback Josh Allen, but what the Buffalo Bills managed with their running game last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans proved as instrumental to their win as anything Allen did during his continued development under center.

Texans plan to attack Bills rookie QB Allen

The victory remains on the resume of their rookie quarterback Josh Allen, but what the Buffalo Bills managed with their running game last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans proved as instrumental to their win as anything Allen did during his continued development under center.

The Bills rushed for a season-best 144 yards on a season-high 43 attempts in the 13-12 victory, alleviating some of the pressure that’s heaped upon Allen, who has been sacked a league-high 19 times for 151 yards. Running backs LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory combined for 38 attempts and 128 yards as Allen attempted 19 passes, his fewest as a starter, and was sacked only once.

“To me, they go hand-in-hand when you’re trying to be responsible with a young player, a young quarterback in particular, that some form of balance is important,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said of the running game. “Then you also look at what it takes to win the game when you put together a complete game plan.”

Allen has been a willing participant in the running game as well with 135 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

While headlines in Buffalo centered around McCoy possibly being available via trade, the Bills are looking to keep pace in the AFC East thanks in large part to their defense.

The expectation from the Houston Texans (2-3), hosts of the Bills (2-3) on Sunday at NRG Stadium, is Allen will continue to use his feet to complement his arm.

“Very strong arm, very smart guy; he’s got great enthusiasm about him,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said of Allen. “He’s really good with his feet – just because he’s a big guy (listed at 6-5 and 237 pounds) doesn’t mean he can’t move. He can move. He’s making a lot of plays with his feet, as well as his arm, can make all the throws. Very, very dangerous guy and a young player.”

Texans second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson continues to negotiate between his ability to scramble and the need to protect himself. While joining Hall of Famer Steve Young as the only quarterbacks to register at least 375 passing yards and 40 rushing yards three times, Watson absorbed 10 hits, some of the jarring variety, in the Texans’ 19-16 overtime victory over Dallas.

“It’s a fine line between trying to – I guess it’s the situation of the game,” Watson said. “Because it was early on in the game where we had those two opportunities to get in and I was trying to make it in, but if you put that same situation in overtime and it’s 4th-and-1 and we need a touchdown and the ball is in my hands, you’re going to kind of want me to get in that end zone. It’s a fine line. You’ve got to pick your spots and pick your situations, but those guys did a good job of being stingy and not letting me in (the end zone). They just took me out.”

–Field Level Media

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Seahawks, Raiders set for long trip to London

Seahawks, Raiders set for long trip to London

The Seattle Seahawks are used to traveling more miles than any other team in the NFL from their home in the Pacific Northwest.

But they're setting a new standard this week for Sunday's matchup with the Oakland Raiders at Wembley Stadium in

Seahawks, Raiders set for long trip to London

The Seattle Seahawks are used to traveling more miles than any other team in the NFL from their home in the Pacific Northwest.

But they’re setting a new standard this week for Sunday’s matchup with the Oakland Raiders at Wembley Stadium in London. The Seahawks estimate they’ll travel 4,801 miles to the game, their first overseas.

Linebacker Bobby Wagner was asked if he was excited.

“The flight, no. London, yes,” Wagner told The Seattle Times.

The Seahawks (2-3) left after practice Wednesday, while the Raiders (1-4) planned to travel Thursday.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll consulted with his former defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley, who made the London trip four straight years while the coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Carroll said Bradley stressed the importance of making sure the distractions didn’t become overwhelming.

“It was making sure that everyone was focused and not distracted by the trip and the event of being in a foreign country and all that kind of stuff,” Carroll said. “Just so there was a process of normal focus going into game time.”

Raiders coach Jon Gruden admitted he wasn’t excited about playing a home game in London.

Gruden said he once flew 14 hours back from Belarus after his son’s powerlifting championship and had vertigo for a month.

“I couldn’t even lay down, the house was spinning. I am hoping I don’t get vertigo,” Gruden said. “I’m not a great traveler. I’ll be honest with you, I hate it. I’m not good. I’m concerned.”

Sunday’s game will also feature the first matchup between Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch and his former team since he retired following the 2015 season.

Lynch came back last year to play for his hometown Raiders. He’s rushed for 331 yards this season, which ranks ninth in the NFL.

“He looks quicker. Looks stronger,” the Seahawks’ Wagner said. “It’s going to be a dope challenge if they give him the ball a lot … definitely know he’s going to want to run the ball against us, so got to be ready.”

Last week, in a 26-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Raiders decided to throw on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line instead of hand the ball to Lynch. Derek Carr’s pass was intercepted, leading Lynch to throw his helmet in frustration. It was reminiscent of the 2015 Super Bowl, when the Seahawks did nearly the same thing, with Russell Wilson picked off by New England’s Malcolm Butler to clinch the Patriots’ victory.

“It won’t be the last pass I call on first-and-goal either,” Gruden said. “Lynch is frustrated. I think I threw my visor and my headset, so I think he and I have a lot in common.”

But, as Gruden also noted: “We were down 20-3. It wasn’t the last play of the Super Bowl.”

Carroll said Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright, who has yet to make his season debut after knee surgery, won’t play. Raiders left guard Kelechi Osemele, who missed last week’s game with a knee injury, didn’t practice Wednesday and Gruden termed him “questionable.”

–Field Level Media

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Bengals, Steelers prepping for physical matchup

Bengals, Steelers prepping for physical matchup

The Cincinnati Bengals are flying high atop the AFC North as their nemesis arrives in town.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to deliver another dose of disappointment to their bitter rivals.

Pittsburgh (2-2-1) aims to post its seventh consecutive victory

Bengals, Steelers prepping for physical matchup

The Cincinnati Bengals are flying high atop the AFC North as their nemesis arrives in town.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to deliver another dose of disappointment to their bitter rivals.

Pittsburgh (2-2-1) aims to post its seventh consecutive victory over the Bengals when the teams meet on Sunday. The streak includes a memorable 2015 AFC Wild Card win when Cincinnati self-destructed in the final minutes.

The Bengals (4-1) have been clicking well this season and have won three games by double digits. The Steelers haven’t been as potent but are coming off their best performance — a 41-17 rout of the Atlanta Falcons.

But the records can be discarded when these two teams meet. The most recent meeting — last December — was especially tense as Pittsburgh rallied to a 23-20 victory during a contest in which the Bengals were flagged for a team-record 173 penalty yards.

The game also featured Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster leveling Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict with a vicious hit and then walking over him as he lay prone on the field.

“It’s AFC North football,” Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told reporters. “It’s one of those games that can get chippy at times. You hope it doesn’t. You hope it’s a good, hard-fought football game. We’ll do our best to put the past behind us and play it like it’s a normal football game.”

The Bengals, perhaps feeling too much hype toward the matchup in recent seasons, are playing things down this time around.

“We’re treating it like another week,” Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton said. “I feel like it gets blown up outside of here way more than it does in the building or the locker room. For us, we’re playing a division game. It’s important. We don’t need to make anything more of it than that.”

Receiver A.J. Green is carrying a grudge, though it has nothing to do with the Steelers.

Green doesn’t feel his team is getting the proper respect.

“Nobody gave us a chance when the season started,” Green said. “Why do they believe in us now? We’re going to continue to keep playing and keep playing for each other.”

The Bengals have been surprisingly good offensively and rank fourth in the NFL in scoring offense (30.6 points per game).

Dalton has passed for 1,445 yards and 12 touchdowns against seven interceptions with both Green (409 yards and five touchdowns on 26 receptions) and Tyler Boyd (30 receptions, 393 yards) having strong campaigns.

Defense end Geno Atkins’ six sacks ties him with Pittsburgh linebacker T.J. Watt and Houston defensive end J.J. Watt (brother of T.J) for the NFL lead.

The Steelers are averaging 28.6 points per game, and Roethlisberger has passed for 1,664 yards and 11 touchdowns against six interceptions. Antonio Brown has five touchdown receptions while hauling in 35 passes for 373 yards while Smith-Schuster has caught 35 passes for 450 yards.

Running back Le’Veon Bell continues to remain away from the team after refusing to sign his one-year, $14.54 million tender. Second-year back James Conner has rushed for 342 yards and five touchdowns and gained 110 in last week’s rout of the Falcons.

Regardless of who is on the field, it will again be an intense atmosphere inside Paul Brown Stadium.

“Rightfully so, it’s football,” Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey said. “Most games are like that. When you play in your division, things are a little bit more talked about because you play them again.

“I think it’s good, football’s about being physical.”

–Field Level Media

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Streaking Bears fresh off bye for matchup with Dolphins

Streaking Bears fresh off bye for matchup with Dolphins

The Chicago Bears, who are on a three-game win streak for the first time since 2013, are hoping that a bye week didn't cool them off entering their matchup against the host Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

When we last saw the

Streaking Bears fresh off bye for matchup with Dolphins

The Chicago Bears, who are on a three-game win streak for the first time since 2013, are hoping that a bye week didn’t cool them off entering their matchup against the host Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

When we last saw the Bears, they were beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-10. Chicago’s second-year quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, completed 19 of 26 passes for 354 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.

“Hopefully,” Trubisky said, “this is something I can look back on and say, ‘This is where it all started.'”

The Bears, who lead the NFC North with a 3-1 record, are obviously feeling good at the moment.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins (3-2) are down in the dumps after two straight defeats.

“Every loss hurts,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “When you put in 110 hours of work in a week and you get kicked in the (privates), it (angers) you.”

After getting off to a 3-0 start, the Dolphins have lost two straight road games, getting routed by the New England Patriots 38-7 and falling 27-17 to the Cincinnati Bengals.

In the latter game, the Dolphins led 17-0 late in the third quarter when the Bengals rattled off 27 consecutive points, including two defensive touchdowns on turnovers by Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

It’s enough to sour Miami’s mood.

“It’s definitely not the same as when we were 3-0,” Dolphins right tackle Ja’Wuan James said when asked about the environment inside the Miami locker room. “But, at the same time, I don’t see any guys wavering. Everyone is focused on (the Bears).”

One of Miami’s biggest problems right now is its offensive line, where two starters — guard Josh Sitton and center Daniel Kilgore — are out for the season due to injuries. In addition, starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil has a concussion and is unlikely to play this week.

To make matters worse for Dolphins blockers, next up is Chicago’s Khalil Mack, who is perhaps the best pass-rusher in the NFL.

In four games this season, he has 24 quarterback pressures, five sacks, four forced fumbles, two passes defensed, one interception, one fumble recovery and one touchdown.

He is also the first NFL player in 13 years to have a sack and a forced fumble in four straight games.

“You’re not going to slow (Mack) down,” Gase said.

Even so, Mack took a bit of a backseat last week to the 24-year-old Trubisky, who had thrown just nine total TD passes in his 15 previous NFL games.

New Bears coach Matt Nagy is an offensive guru, and he and general manager Ryan Pace added some weapons to the unit this year, including fast tight end Trey Burton and Allen Robinson, a big wide receiver with speed.

“I’ve been here for a while,” Bears staring guard Kyle Long said after the win over Tampa Bay. “It’s really great to sit here with a smile on my face. For the past five or six years, I’ve been saying, ‘We’re getting better.’

“But now you guys can see what I’ve been seeing (in practice). It feels good. The secret is out.”

–Field Level Media

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Seahawks-Raiders Preview Capsule

SEATTLE (2-3) vs. OAKLAND (1-4) at London

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

OPENING LINE - Pick-em.

RECORD VS. SPREAD - Seattle 2-2-1, Oakland 2-3

SERIES RECORD - Raiders lead 29-25

LAST MEETING - Seahawks beat Raiders 30-24, Nov. 2, 2014

LAST WEEK - Seahawks lost to Rams 33-31; Raiders lost to Chargers 26-10

SEATTLE (2-3) vs. OAKLAND (1-4) at London

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

OPENING LINE – Pick-em.

RECORD VS. SPREAD – Seattle 2-2-1, Oakland 2-3

SERIES RECORD – Raiders lead 29-25

LAST MEETING – Seahawks beat Raiders 30-24, Nov. 2, 2014

LAST WEEK – Seahawks lost to Rams 33-31; Raiders lost to Chargers 26-10

AP PRO32 RANKING – Seahawks No. 19, Raiders No. 31

SEAHAWKS OFFENSE – OVERALL (27), RUSH (8), PASS (27).

SEAHAWKS DEFENSE – OVERALL (13), RUSH (29), PASS (6).

RAIDERS OFFENSE – OVERALL (6), RUSH (24), PASS (6).

RAIDERS DEFENSE – OVERALL (30), RUSH (28), PASS (23).

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES – Teams have alternated wins in last eight meetings, with each team winning all four at home. … This meeting in London comes with Seahawks playing first international game in franchise history. Raiders playing fourth international game in last five seasons. Oakland lost to Miami in London in 2014 and split in Mexico City past two years, beating Houston, falling to New England. … Seattle’s Pete Carroll seeks 91st win with team to pass Mike Holmgren as winningest coach for franchise. … Seahawks QB Russell Wilson 25-6 after loss, best record of any QB since merger. … Seattle K Sebastian Janikowski spent 18 seasons with Raiders, holding franchise record for points (1,799), games (268). … Seahawks have had 100-yard rusher three straight games for first time since Marshawn Lynch did it in final four games in 2012. … Oakland’s Lynch ranks second in NFL with 832 yards rushing since Week 12 last year. … Raiders allowing 6.83 yards per pass, fourth worst since merger after five games. … Oakland has fewest QB pressures in league (29), tied for fewest sacks (6), tied for third-fewest takeaways (5). … Derek Carr’s eight INTs after five games are most for Raiders QB since Jim Plunkett had nine that span in 1982. … Fantasy tip: Raiders WR Amari Cooper has been frustrating for fantasy owners. He has two 100-yard games but four catches for 36 yards in other three combined.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 255 Words

Chargers-Browns Preview Capsule

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (3-2) at CLEVELAND (2-2-1)

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS

OPENING LINE — Chargers by 1

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Chargers 3-2, Browns 4-1

SERIES RECORD — Chargers lead 16-9-1

LAST MEETING — Chargers beat Browns 19-10, Dec. 3, 2017

LAST WEEK — Chargers beat Raiders 26-10; Browns beat Ravens 12-9, OT

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (3-2) at CLEVELAND (2-2-1)

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS

OPENING LINE — Chargers by 1

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Chargers 3-2, Browns 4-1

SERIES RECORD — Chargers lead 16-9-1

LAST MEETING — Chargers beat Browns 19-10, Dec. 3, 2017

LAST WEEK — Chargers beat Raiders 26-10; Browns beat Ravens 12-9, OT

AP PRO32 RANKING — Chargers No. 11, Browns No. 16

CHARGERS OFFENSE — OVERALL (7), RUSH (11t), PASS (13).

CHARGERS DEFENSE — OVERALL (15), RUSH (10), PASS (19).

BROWNS OFFENSE — OVERALL (16), RUSH (2), PASS (23).

BROWNS DEFENSE — OVERALL (27), RUSH (22), PASS (27).

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Chargers QB Philip Rivers passed for 339 yards and two TDs last week. … Rivers is off to one of best starts in 15-year career with 116.4 rating, 13 TD passes, two interceptions. … Rivers has made 198 consecutive starts, longest current active streak in league. … Rivers enters game with eighth-most yards passing (51,843) in league history. … Rookie S Derwin Jones tied for team lead with 31 tackles, leads Chargers with three sacks. … TE Antonio Gates needs five catches to pass Hall of Famer Art Monk (940) for 19th on career list. Gates has caught 88 career TD passes from Rivers — most ever by QB-TE tandem — and only behind Peyton Manning-Marvin Harrison combination (112) overall. … Chargers travel to London next week to play Tennessee. … Both teams have had kicking issues. Chargers lead league with four missed extra points, Browns tied for second with three. … Browns have been one of league’s most exciting teams, playing in three overtime games in five weeks. … Rookie QB Baker Mayfield passed for 342 yards in second career start last week. Mayfield’s charisma and confidence rubbing off on teammates starting to believe they can contend for playoff spot. … Browns WR Jarvis Landry has 429 career receptions, most by any player in first five seasons. He surpassed Larry Fitzgerald (426) last week. … Browns rookie DB Denzel Ward leads team with three interceptions, most by Cleveland player in first five weeks since 2001. … Ward was coted AFC special teams player of week after blocking field-goal attempt. … Browns have league-leading 15 takeaways, two more than entire 2017 season. … Browns will honor retired LT Joe Thomas by inducting his streak of 10,363 consecutive snaps into team’s ring of honor. Thomas never missed play in career before suffering season-ending triceps injury last season. … Browns haven’t won consecutive home games since Oct. 26, Nov. 2 in 2014. … Fantasy tip: Chargers RB Melvin Gordon has scored TD in four straight games.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 330 Words

Rams-Broncos Preview Capsule

L.A. RAMS (5-0) at DENVER (2-3)

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. EDT, Fox

OPENING LINE — Rams by 7

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Los Angeles 3-1-1, Denver 0-4-1

SERIES RECORD — Rams lead 8-5

LAST MEETING — Rams beat Broncos 22-7, Nov. 16, 2014

LAST WEEK — Rams beat Seahawks 33-31; Broncos lost to Jets

L.A. RAMS (5-0) at DENVER (2-3)

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. EDT, Fox

OPENING LINE — Rams by 7

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Los Angeles 3-1-1, Denver 0-4-1

SERIES RECORD — Rams lead 8-5

LAST MEETING — Rams beat Broncos 22-7, Nov. 16, 2014

LAST WEEK — Rams beat Seahawks 33-31; Broncos lost to Jets 34-16

AP PRO32 RANKING — Rams No. 1, Broncos No. 25

RAMS OFFENSE — OVERALL (1), RUSH (7), PASS (2)

RAMS DEFENSE — OVERALL (9), RUSH (5), PASS (15)

BRONCOS OFFENSE — OVERALL (13), RUSH (3), PASS (19)

BRONCOS DEFENSE — OVERALL (17), RUSH (8), PASS (20)

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — QB Jared Goff leads league with 1,727 yards passing and ranks second with 119.7 passer rating. In last month, Goff is averaging 374 yards per game. … Goff is 4-0 in last four games versus AFC teams with 12 TDs, one interception. … Coming off three-TD game, RB Todd Gurley leads league with seven TD runs, ranks second with 645 scrimmage yards. … WR Brandin Cooks had 98 receiving yards and TD against Broncos in 2016 while with Saints. … WR Cooper Kupp had six catches for 90 yards, TD last week. Cooks, Kupp were in concussion protocol after leaving last game with head injuries…. WR Robert Woods led team with 92 receiving yards in Week 5 and has 20 catches for 297 yards, three TDs in last three games. … DT Aaron Donald has three sacks in last two games. Since entering NFL in ’14, the 2017 Defensive Player of Year is only DT with 200 tackles (219) and 40 sacks (42). … DT Ndamukong Suh has sacks in last three games. … In five career games against Denver, CB Marcus Peters has three interceptions, eight pass breakups, forced fumble and fumble recovery, all with Kansas City. … Rams won last three games in series. Denver’s last win against Rams was in 2002. … Broncos QB Case Keenum coming off career-high 377-yard game against Jets. … Keenum’s seven interceptions match last year’s total with Vikings. … In two seasons with Rams, Keenum passed for 3,029 yards with 13 TDs, 12 interceptions in 16 games. Keenum threw for 280 yards and TD in only game against his former team, last November with Vikings. … Rookie RB Royce Freeman had TD in three of last four games but is averaging less than 10 carries per game. … RB Phillip Lindsay ranks second among rookies with 393 scrimmage yards. He’s averaging 11.4 carries per game. … WR Demaryius Thomas had five catches for 105 yards and TD last week. Thomas had TD catch in five of last seven home games. … WR Emmanuel Sanders has 303 yards, three TDs in last four games against NFC. … Rookie WR Courtland Sutton had first career TD catch last week. … LB Von Miller sackless last three weeks. Miller has seven sacks, four forced fumbles in last five games against NFC. … DE Derek Wolfe had first career interception in Week 5. Fantasy tip: Gurley, league’s rushing leader, gets to face Broncos run D that surrendered 323 rushing yards to Jets.

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Bears-Dolphins Capsule Preview

CHICAGO (3-1) at MIAMI (3-2)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

OPENING LINE - Dolphins by 1

RECORD VS. SPREAD - Chicago 3-1, Miami 3-2

SERIES RECORD - Dolphins lead 8-4

LAST MEETING - Dolphins won at Bears 27-24, Oct. 19, 2014

LAST WEEK — Dolphins lost at Bengals 27-17; Bears had bye, beat

CHICAGO (3-1) at MIAMI (3-2)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

OPENING LINE – Dolphins by 1

RECORD VS. SPREAD – Chicago 3-1, Miami 3-2

SERIES RECORD – Dolphins lead 8-4

LAST MEETING – Dolphins won at Bears 27-24, Oct. 19, 2014

LAST WEEK — Dolphins lost at Bengals 27-17; Bears had bye, beat Bucs 48-10 on Sept. 30

AP PRO32 RANKING – Bears No. 8, Dolphins No. 17

BEARS OFFENSE – OVERALL (24), RUSH (9), PASS (24).

BEARS DEFENSE – OVERALL (2), RUSH (1), PASS (9).

DOLPHINS OFFENSE – OVERALL (30), RUSH (22), PASS (28).

DOLPHINS DEFENSE – OVERALL (22), RUSH (20), PASS (20).

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES – Chicago owns sole possession of NFC North lead for first time since late in 2013. … Bears have won three straight, matching longest streak since 3-0 start in 2013. Another victory would give Chicago its longest run since winning six in row in 2012. … Bears have outscored opponents by 11.5 points per game, second best in NFL. … Bears have six-minute edge per game in time of possession. They’re plus-6 in turnovers, tied for second best. … Bears coming off most lopsided win since beating Jacksonville 41-3 on Oct. 7, 2012. Chicago also posted its highest point total since 51-20 romp over Tennessee on Nov. 4 that season. … QB Mitchell Trubisky threw for six touchdowns against Tampa Bay — one shy of NFL record held by Bears Hall of Famer Sid Luckman, seven others. Trubisky’s passer rating jumped from 77.8 to 101.6. … RB Tarik Cohen set career highs in yards receiving (121), yards from scrimmage (174) against Buccaneers. … LB Khalil Mack has five sacks, tied for NFL lead with four forced fumbles. He has at least one sack, forced fumble in each game. … Bears lead NFL with 4 1/2 sacks per game. … S Eddie Jackson has interceptions in past two games. … Bears WR Allen Robinson has 11 receptions for 237 yards, three TDs in two games against Miami while with Jacksonville. … Dolphins held Mack without sack when he and Raiders beat Miami 27-24 last year. … Dolphins rank third worst in yards and fifth worst in points. They have been outgained by 94 yards per game, which ranks third worst. … Miami has allowed 57 points in fourth quarter. … Miami is converting 31 percent of third downs, third worst in league. … Dolphins lead NFL with 10 interceptions. Xavien Howard leads team with three. They’re tied for second with 11 takeaways. … Miami LB Kiko Alonso ranks second in NFL with 50 tackles and also has two interceptions. … Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill threw for 277 yards, two scores in 2014 to beat Bears in his lone previous meeting. … Tannehill has passer rating of 126.6 in his past four home games. … Fantasy tip: Dolphins’ injury-depleted OL will be so concerned about Mack that it could free up LBs Danny Trevathan and Aaron Lynch, who have two sacks each.

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Steelers-Bengals Preview Capsule

PITTSBURGH (2-2-1) at CINCINNATI (4-1)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

OPENING LINE — Bengals by 2 ½

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Pittsburgh 2-3, Cincinnati 4-1

SERIES RECORD — Steelers lead 62-35

LAST MEETING — Steelers beat Bengals 23-20, Dec. 4, 2017

LAST WEEK — Steelers beat Falcons 41-17; Bengals beat Dolphins 27-17

AP

PITTSBURGH (2-2-1) at CINCINNATI (4-1)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

OPENING LINE — Bengals by 2 ½

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Pittsburgh 2-3, Cincinnati 4-1

SERIES RECORD — Steelers lead 62-35

LAST MEETING — Steelers beat Bengals 23-20, Dec. 4, 2017

LAST WEEK — Steelers beat Falcons 41-17; Bengals beat Dolphins 27-17

AP PRO32 RANKING — Steelers No. 12, Bengals No. 5

STEELERS OFFENSE — OVERALL (8), RUSH (27), PASS (4).

STEELERS DEFENSE — OVERALL (29), RUSH (15t), PASS (29).

BENGALS OFFENSE — OVERALL (17), RUSH (23), PASS (15).

BENGALS DEFENSE — OVERALL (25), RUSH (23), PASS (21).

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Steelers won last six in series, nine of 10 and 14 of 17. Bengals are 8-24 vs. Steelers under coach Marvin Lewis, including 2-15 at Paul Brown Stadium. … Steelers overcame 17-0 deficit to win last meeting in Cincinnati. Ryan Shazier hurt spinal cord in game. Teams combined for four penalties for unnecessary roughness, one for unsportsmanlike conduct, one for taunting, one for roughing the passer, and two 15-yard penalties for grabbing facemask. Cincinnati set club record with 173 yards in penalties. … QB Ben Roethlisberger is 24-4-1 in his native Ohio, including postseason. He’s 13-2 at Paul Brown Stadium with 23 TDs, 10 INTs. … Roethlisberger has three games with three TDs, tied for most in NFL. … RB James Conner ran for 110 yards and two TDs, had four catches for 75 yards in win over Atlanta. He joined Jim Brown as only players with two games in first five of season that included 100 yards rushing, 50 receiving and two TDs rushing. … LB T.J. Watt had three sacks vs. Falcons, is tied with brother DE J.J. Watt and Bengals DT Geno Atkins for NFL lead with six sacks. …WR Antonio Brown coming off first 100-yard game of season. Brown averaging 10.7 yards per catch, well below career average of 13.4 yards. … K Chris Boswell struggling after reaching Pro Bowl last season. Boswell just 3 for 6 on field goals and 14 of 17 on extra points. … Steelers ranked 29th in defense through five weeks. Team has finished worse than 20th in yards allowed just once since 1991 (21st in 2015). … DE Michael Johnson had 22-yard INT return for TD and DE Sam Hubbard had 19-yard fumble return for TD in win over Dolphins, first time two Bengals defensive linemen scored in same game. Bengals’ defense has three returns for TDs. … Bengals overcame 17-point deficit for eighth time in club history to beat Dolphins. … QB Andy Dalton is 3-11 vs. Steelers with 17 TDs, 13 INTs. … Dalton needs 171 yards passing to move ahead of Boomer Esiason for second on team career list. … WR A.J. Green has 62 receiving TDs, one shy of Carl Pickens for second on team list. … Fantasy tip: Conner looking for another big game against defense that has trouble covering multipurpose back. Miami’s Kenyan Drake had seven catches for 69 yards, including 22-yard TD, to go along with six runs for 46 yards.

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Chiefs-Patriots Preview Capsule

KANSAS CITY (5-0) at NEW ENGLAND (3-2)

Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

OPENING LINE - Patriots by 3

RECORD VS. SPREAD - Chiefs 5-0, Patriots 3-2

SERIES RECORD - Chiefs lead 18-14-3

LAST MEETING - Chiefs beat Patriots 42-27, Sept. 7, 2017

LAST WEEK - Chiefs beat Jaguars 30-14; Patriots beat Colts 38-24

KANSAS CITY (5-0) at NEW ENGLAND (3-2)

Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

OPENING LINE – Patriots by 3

RECORD VS. SPREAD – Chiefs 5-0, Patriots 3-2

SERIES RECORD – Chiefs lead 18-14-3

LAST MEETING – Chiefs beat Patriots 42-27, Sept. 7, 2017

LAST WEEK – Chiefs beat Jaguars 30-14; Patriots beat Colts 38-24

AP PRO32 RANKING – Chiefs No. 2, Patriots No. 4

CHIEFS OFFENSE – OVERALL (5), RUSH (11), PASS (11).

CHIEFS DEFENSE – OVERALL (32), RUSH (24), PASS (31).

PATRIOTS OFFENSE – OVERALL (22), RUSH (13), PASS (21).

PATRIOTS DEFENSE – OVERALL (16), RUSH (21), PASS (14).

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES – Chiefs are 7-10-2 in games played at New England (1-4 at Gillette Stadium including playoffs). … Chiefs have won last two regular-season meetings. … Patriots won lone playoff meeting between teams during 2015 season. … Chiefs coach Andy Reid needs one win to become ninth in NFL history with 200. … QB Patrick Mahomes needs one more 300-yard passing game for Chiefs-record five straight. … Mahomes has 14 TD passes against two interceptions, best ratio in NFL. … Mahomes has won each of his first six NFL starts. With win vs. New England, Mahomes would become sixth quarterback since 1970 to win each of his first seven career starts. … Chiefs are second in NFL in points per game (35.0) to Saints. … Kansas City has league-low three giveaways. … Chiefs TE Travis Kelce has three 100-yard receiving games this season. … Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt leads league with 422 touches since last fumble, which occurred on first career carry last season at New England. … Kansas City has scored league-leading 59 points in first quarters. … Patriots have outscored opponents 76-31 in two consecutive wins. … QB Tom Brady has NFL-record 199 career regular-season victories and can become first quarterback in league history to get 200 for his career. … Brady enters week tied with Adam Vinatieri for most career wins in regular season and playoffs combined with 226. … RB James White has touchdown catch in four of past five games. … Rookie RB Sony Michel has 100-plus scrimmage yards and TD in each of last two games. … TE Rob Gronkowski has four TD catches in his past seven games at home. … S Devin McCourty had 10 tackles and fumble return in last meeting. …. Fantasy tip: In 11 career road games, Hunt has 1,202 scrimmage yards (109.3 per game) and seven TDs.

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Jaguars-Cowboys Preview Capsule

JACKSONVILLE (3-2) at DALLAS (2-3)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

OPENING LINE — Jaguars by 2

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Jaguars 3-2, Cowboys 2-3

SERIES RECORD — Tied 3-3

LAST MEETING — Cowboys beat Jaguars 31-17, Nov. 9, 2014, in London

LAST WEEK — Jaguars lost to Chiefs 30-14; Cowboys lost to Texans

JACKSONVILLE (3-2) at DALLAS (2-3)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

OPENING LINE — Jaguars by 2

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Jaguars 3-2, Cowboys 2-3

SERIES RECORD — Tied 3-3

LAST MEETING — Cowboys beat Jaguars 31-17, Nov. 9, 2014, in London

LAST WEEK — Jaguars lost to Chiefs 30-14; Cowboys lost to Texans 19-16, OT

AP PRO32 RANKING — Jaguars No. 7; Cowboys No. 23

JAGUARS OFFENSE — OVERALL (9), RUSH (15), PASS (12)

JAGUARS DEFENSE — OVERALL (1), RUSH (14), PASS (1)

COWBOYS OFFENSE — OVERALL (28), RUSH (5), PASS (30)

COWBOYS DEFENSE — OVERALL (8), RUSH (11), PASS (12)

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Cowboys’ win in previous meeting was their first regular-season trip to London. … Jaguars won in only previous appearance at AT&T Stadium, 35-17 in 2010. … Cowboys trying to win first three of season for first time at 9-year-old AT&T Stadium. … Jaguars S Barry Church faces former team for first time, spent seven seasons with Cowboys. … Jaguars DE Calais Campbell and Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence tied for second in NFL with 14½ sacks last season. Lawrence has 5½, Campbell three this year. … Jaguars QB Blake Bortles had set career high in yards passing each of past two games: 430 against Chiefs after 388 vs. Jets. But he threw career-high four interceptions against Chiefs. Bortles has shot at being fifth in NFL history with at least 375 yards passing in three straight games. … T.J. Yeldon has already tied Jaguars record for receiving TDs by running back with three. Yeldon and Chargers’ Melvin Gordon are only backs with at least 250 yards rushing and three TDs. … WR Donte Moncrief has 185 yards receiving, TD in past two games. … Malik Jackson will play 100th career game, second in NFL among active DTs with 95 consecutive games. … According to SportRadar, DE Yannick Ngakoue tied for NFL lead with 12 QB hurries. … K Josh Lambo has made 19 consecutive FGs, one shy of franchise record. … Cowboys have second-fewest offensive touchdowns with seven. Titans and Bills have six. … RB Ezekiel Elliott averaging 154 yards from scrimmage per game in past three, with TD catch. … WR Allen Hurns spent first four seasons of career with Jaguars. He had first TD with Cowboys last week. … Lawrence had season-opening four-game sacks streak stopped against Texans. … LB Leighton Vander Esch had 18 tackles against Houston, according to Cowboys coaches, tying most for Dallas rookie since team started tracking in 1983. … Jaylon Smith is second to Vander Esch with 46 tackles, leads Dallas LBs with three sacks. … K Brett Maher has made all 11 FGs since missing first of career in opener, is tied for fourth in FGs made. … Fantasy tip: Bortles one of three in NFL with three games of at least 375 yards passing this season.

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Panthers-Redskins Preview Capsule

CAROLINA (3-1) at WASHINGTON (2-2)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

OPENING LINE — Redskins by 2

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Panthers 2-2, Redskins 2-2

SERIES RECORD — Redskins lead 7-6

LAST MEETING — Panthers beat Redskins 26-15, Dec. 19, 2016

LAST WEEK — Panthers beat Giants 33-31; Redskins lost to Saints 43-19

AP

CAROLINA (3-1) at WASHINGTON (2-2)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

OPENING LINE — Redskins by 2

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Panthers 2-2, Redskins 2-2

SERIES RECORD — Redskins lead 7-6

LAST MEETING — Panthers beat Redskins 26-15, Dec. 19, 2016

LAST WEEK — Panthers beat Giants 33-31; Redskins lost to Saints 43-19

AP PRO32 RANKING — Panthers No. 6, Redskins No. 18

PANTHERS OFFENSE — OVERALL (19), RUSH (1), PASS (25)

PANTHERS DEFENSE — OVERALL (20), RUSH (8T), PASS (26)

REDSKINS OFFENSE — OVERALL (21), RUSH (13T), PASS (20)

REDSKINS DEFENSE — OVERALL (5), RUSH (6), PASS (7)

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Panthers have won five in row against Redskins. … Carolina’s Cam Newton has run for 57 TDs in career, most by QB in NFL history. … RB Christian McCaffrey averaging league-best 130.3 yards from scrimmage. … TE Greg Olsen could return to action after breaking foot in season opener. … K Graham Gano won last week’s game with 63-yard field goal with 1 second remaining. Gano hasn’t missed kick this season (7 for 7 on field goals, 11 for 11 on PATs). … LB Thomas Davis is back after serving four-game suspension for violating league’s policy on performance enhancers. … DE Mario Addison has six sacks in his past seven road games. … S Mike Adams coming off two-pick game, his fourth multi-interception game since 2014, tied for most in NFL in that span. … Only eight teams are averaging fewer points than 20.8 per game put up by Washington this season. … Redskins QB Alex Smith’s passer rating of 92.9 is tied for 19th among QBs with at least 80 attempts this season. … No Washington WR has more than 13 receptions. RB Chris Thompson leads team with 26 catches. TE Jordan Reed ranks second with 15. … Thompson is one of three NFL RBs with at least 150 catches and 10 TD receptions since 2014. … WR Jamison Crowder has four TD catches in past five home games. … Rookie DL Daron Payne had forced fumble, sack last week. … Fantasy tip: Even if Carolina’s offense has been so-so, especially when passing, Newton always seems to fare well against Redskins, whose secondary looked terrible in Monday night’s loss to New Orleans. Newton is 4-0 with nine TDs and zero INTs for 115.4 passer rating vs. Washington, along with two rushing scores.

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Bills-Texans Preview Capsule

BUFFALO (2-3) at HOUSTON (2-3)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

OPENING LINE - Texans by 7 1/2

RECORD VS. SPREAD - Buffalo 2-3, Houston 1-4

SERIES RECORD - Series tied 4-4

LAST MEETING - Bills beat Texans 30-21, Dec. 6, 2015

LAST WEEK - Bills beat Titans 13-12; Texans beat Cowboys 19-16, OT

BUFFALO (2-3) at HOUSTON (2-3)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

OPENING LINE – Texans by 7 1/2

RECORD VS. SPREAD – Buffalo 2-3, Houston 1-4

SERIES RECORD – Series tied 4-4

LAST MEETING – Bills beat Texans 30-21, Dec. 6, 2015

LAST WEEK – Bills beat Titans 13-12; Texans beat Cowboys 19-16, OT

AP PRO32 RANKING – Bills No. 26, Texans No. 21

BILLS OFFENSE – OVERALL (31), RUSH (20), PASS (32).

BILLS DEFENSE – OVERALL (6), RUSH (12), PASS (11).

TEXANS OFFENSE – OVERALL (4), RUSH (10), PASS (7).

TEXANS DEFENSE – OVERALL (14), RUSH (9), PASS (18).

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES – … Bills rookie Josh Allen is one of two QBs in AFC with at least two rushing touchdowns and more than 700 yards passing (748). His three rushing TDs tied for lead among QBs. … RB LeSean McCoy has 365 yards of offense and two touchdowns in three career games against Houston. … TE Charles Clay has had at least 500 yards receiving in each of last five seasons. … LB Lorenzo Alexander had sack in only meeting against Texans while with Redskins. … DE Jerry Hughes has three tackles for losses, sack and forced fumble in past two games on road. … CB Tre’Davious White has defended four passes in past three games. … Rookie LB Tremaine Edmunds had eight tackles and forced fumble last week. He’s fourth among rookies with 38 tackles. … LB Matt Milano had 10 tackles and fumble recovery last week. … Rookie CB Taron Johnson had first career interception last week. … K Stephen Hauschka made 46-yard field goal to win game vs. Titans. … Houston has won last two games in OT after 0-3 start. … QB Deshaun Watson has thrown for 375 yards or more in three straight games. He’s only player in NFL history with 1,500 yards passing (1,621) and 200 yards rushing (201) through first five games. … RB Lamar Miller is expected to return after sitting out last week with chest injury. He had 141 yards of offense in last game against Buffalo while with Miami. … RB Alfred Blue had 73 yards receiving and 46 yards rushing last week in first start of season. … WR Will Fuller has six TD receptions in last eight home games. … Rookie WR Keke Coutee has 160 yards receiving in two games this season and scored first career touchdown vs. Dallas. … DE Jadeveon Clowney has 10 tackles for losses and 6 1/2 sacks in seven career games against AFC. He has six tackles for losses in last three games and ranks second in NFL with 43 tackles for losses since 2016. … DE J.J. Watt is tied for NFL lead with six sacks. Watt had 80-yard interception return for touchdown in last game against Bills in Houston. … CB Kareem Jackson had interception last week to give him franchise-record 15 in career. … Fantasy tip: Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins had nine catches for 151 yards against Dallas. He leads NFL with 594 yards receiving and has six games with 150 yards receiving or more since 2014.

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Buccaneers-Falcons Preview Capsule

TAMPA BAY (2-2) at ATLANTA (1-4)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

OPENING LINE — Falcons by 5

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Tampa Bay 2-2, Atlanta 1-4

SERIES RECORD — Falcons 25-24

LAST MEETING — Falcons beat Buccaneers 24-21, Dec. 18, 2017

LAST WEEK — Buccaneers had bye, lost 48-10 at Chicago on Sept.

TAMPA BAY (2-2) at ATLANTA (1-4)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

OPENING LINE — Falcons by 5

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Tampa Bay 2-2, Atlanta 1-4

SERIES RECORD — Falcons 25-24

LAST MEETING — Falcons beat Buccaneers 24-21, Dec. 18, 2017

LAST WEEK — Buccaneers had bye, lost 48-10 at Chicago on Sept. 30; Falcons lost to Steelers 41-17

AP PRO32 RANKING — Buccaneers No. 22, Falcons No. 27

BUCCANEERS OFFENSE — OVERALL (2), RUSH (T-13), PASS (1).

BUCCANEERS DEFENSE — OVERALL (31), RUSH (4), PASS (32).

FALCONS OFFENSE — OVERALL (13), RUSH (26), PASS (9).

FALCONS DEFENSE — OVERALL (28), RUSH (31), PASS (T-23).

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Falcons have won three straight in series. … Buccaneers (34.8 points allowed per game) and Falcons (32.6) are league’s worst scoring defenses. … In five career games against Atlanta, Jameis Winston has 12 TD passes, two interceptions. … RB Peyton Barber ran for two TDs in last game against Falcons but has not scored this season. … WR DeSean Jackson has more than 100 yards receiving in three of four games this season. Jackson and WR Mike Evans are two of four in NFL to average more than 100 yards and have at least three TD catches. Others are Minnesota’s Adam Thielen and New Orleans’ Michael Thomas. … Evans has 42 catches for 640 yards, six TDs, in last seven games against Falcons. … TE Cameron Brate has TD catch in two straight games. … DE Jason Pierre-Paul has four sacks in last three games. … Falcons have lost three straight for worst start in coach Dan Quinn’s four seasons. … After first three losses by combined 13 points, Falcons suffered blowout defeat last week at Pittsburgh. … Falcons’ defense already without S Keanu Neal, S Ricardo Allen and LB Deion Jones, and could be missing DT Grady Jarrett (ankle) for second straight week. … QB Matt Ryan has combined 793 yards passing, eight TDs, no interceptions in last two home games and now faces Bucs’ last-ranked pass defense. … WR Julio Jones had 12 catches for 253 yards, two TDs in last game against Tampa Bay, but has no TD catches this season. … Rookie WR Calvin Ridley leads NFL with six TD catches. … DE Takk McKinley has six sacks in last six home games. … Fantasy tip: Winston could be poised for big game against Falcons’ decimated defense. Falcons have allowed three TD passes in four straight games. Winston threw three TD passes with no interceptions in last meeting between teams.

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Colts-Jets Preview Capsule

INDIANAPOLIS (1-4) at NEW YORK JETS (2-3)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

OPENING LINE — Jets by 1½

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Indianapolis 2-3, New York 2-3

SERIES RECORD — Colts lead 42-31

LAST MEETING — Colts beat Jets 41-10, Dec. 5, 2016

LAST WEEK — Colts lost to Patriots 38-24; Jets beat

INDIANAPOLIS (1-4) at NEW YORK JETS (2-3)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

OPENING LINE — Jets by 1½

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Indianapolis 2-3, New York 2-3

SERIES RECORD — Colts lead 42-31

LAST MEETING — Colts beat Jets 41-10, Dec. 5, 2016

LAST WEEK — Colts lost to Patriots 38-24; Jets beat Broncos 34-16

AP PRO32 RANKING — Colts No. 29, Jets No. 24

COLTS OFFENSE — OVERALL (22t), RUSH (29), PASS (14).

COLTS DEFENSE — OVERALL (23), RUSH (18t), PASS (28).

JETS OFFENSE — OVERALL (26), RUSH (6), PASS (26).

JETS DEFENSE — OVERALL (19), RUSH (15t), PASS (17).

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Matchup of franchises that played in Super Bowl to cap 1968 season, Jets’ only trip and victory — with members from that squad being honored at halftime to celebrate 50th anniversary. … New York and Indianapolis pulled off trade few months ahead of draft, with Jets acquiring No. 3 overall pick from Colts to draft QB Sam Darnold. Indianapolis selected LG Quenton Nelson at No. 6. … Colts looking to snap three-game skid. … Indianapolis will try for third straight week to get win No. 300 since moving from Baltimore in 1984…. Colts have converted league-high 50.6 percent of third-down chances. … QB Andrew Luck has thrown at least one TD pass in 28 straight regular-season games, longest active streak in NFL, tied with Dave Krieg and Philip Rivers for 11th-longest streak in NFL history. He needs 17 completions to reach 1,750 for career. Luck has thrown 121 passes in last two games and leads league with 245 attempts through five games a record pace. … TE Eric Ebron caught nine passes last week vs. Patriots and set career highs with 105 yards receiving and two TDs. Ebron leads NFL TEs with five TD catches. … RB Nyheim Hines one of four rookies with at least 250 yards from scrimmage (263) and three TDs (3), joining Giants’ Saquon Barkley, Denver’s Royce Freeman and Atlanta’s Calvin Ridley. … WR T.Y. Hilton (chest/hamstring) and TE Jack Doyle (hip) expected to sit out vs. Jets. … Starting RG Matt Slauson placed on IR Monday with back injury. Rookie Braden Smith will replace Slauson, who spent first four NFL seasons (2009-12) with Jets. … Rookie LB Darius Leonard leads NFL with 54 total tackles and only player in NFL with at least 40 tackles and four sacks. … DT Margus Hunt leads NFL with nine tackles for loss. … K Adam Vinatieri needs three field goals from 40-49 yards to break Gary Anderson’s league record (161) from that distance. He needs 20 points to break Morten Andersen’s career scoring record (2,544) and is tied with ex-teammate Tom Brady for most total wins in NFL history (226). … Jets snapped three-game skid last week with victory in which Isaiah Crowell rushed for franchise-record 219 yards and TD on 15 carries. His 14.6-yard average was most by player with 15 or more attempts. … New York gained 323 yards on ground vs. Broncos, second-highest total in team history. … Crowell ranks first in AFC with 390 yards rushing and third in NFL, behind only Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott (480) and Rams’ Todd Gurley (415). … Rookie Darnold has seven TD passes and six INTs, but ranks fourth in NFL with 107.1 QB rating in third-down situations. He threw three TD passes last week of 20 yards or more, including 76-yarder to Robby Anderson. … WR Terrelle Pryor caught first TD pass for Jets last week. … DE Leonard Williams had two sacks vs. Denver and his three for season are more than he had all last year (2 1/2). … S Marcus Maye had 104-yard INT return on last play vs. Broncos, but was caught at 1 — longest INT return without TD in NFL history. … CBs Trumaine Johnson (quadriceps) and Buster Skrine (concussion) could miss game. … Fantasy Tip: Ebron could build on last week’s performance vs. Jets’ defense that has had issues in short passing game and could be without two major pieces in Johnson and Skrine.

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49ers-Packers Preview Capsule

SAN FRANCISCO (1-4) at GREEN BAY (2-2-1)

Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

OPENING LINE - Packers by 8

RECORD VS. SPREAD - 49ers 1-4, Packers 2-3

SERIES RECORD - Packers lead 35-30-1

LAST MEETING - Packers beat 49ers 17-3, Oct. 4, 2015

LAST WEEK - 49ers lost to Cardinals 28-18; Packers lost to

SAN FRANCISCO (1-4) at GREEN BAY (2-2-1)

Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

OPENING LINE – Packers by 8

RECORD VS. SPREAD – 49ers 1-4, Packers 2-3

SERIES RECORD – Packers lead 35-30-1

LAST MEETING – Packers beat 49ers 17-3, Oct. 4, 2015

LAST WEEK – 49ers lost to Cardinals 28-18; Packers lost to Lions 31-23

AP PRO32 RANKING – 49ers No. 32, Packers No. 14

49ERS OFFENSE – OVERALL (15), RUSH (4), PASS (22).

49ERS DEFENSE – OVERALL (11), RUSH (7), PASS (15).

PACKERS OFFENSE – OVERALL (10), RUSH (19), PASS (10).

PACKERS DEFENSE – OVERALL (4), RUSH (15t), PASS (2).

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES – First meeting for teams in Green Bay since 49ers beat Packers 23-20 in NFC wild-card game on Jan. 5, 2014. … 49ers’ first Monday night game since opening 2016 season with 28-0 win over Rams. … 49ers ran 92 offensive plays in loss last week to Arizona, most by team since 1970. Also had 33 first downs, most by team in game since getting 36 on Oct. 18, 1998 against Colts. … QB C.J. Beathard set career highs last week going 34 of 54 for 349 yards. … FB Kyle Juszczyk fifth among NFC FBs and RBs with 197 yards receiving. … George Kittle leads NFL TEs averaging 17.3 yards per reception. … WR Pierre Garcon averaging 129.5 yards receiving with two touchdowns in last two games vs. Packers. … SF defense fifth in NFL allowing 3.37 yards per carry on first down…. DL DeForest Buckner has 3 1/2 sacks over last five games. … CB Richard Sherman’s 32 INTs since 2011 are most by active player in that time. All came with Seattle. … Niners have one INT this season, three total takeaways, worst in league. Their minus-8 differential also NFL worst. … Packers coach Mike McCarthy was 49ers offensive coordinator in 2005. … QB Aaron Rodgers has 105.1 passer rating against NFC West since 2008, tops in NFL. … Rodgers has 36 games with three or more TD passes since 2012, second behind Saints’ Drew Brees (39). … RB Aaron Jones has rushing TD in two of past three home games. … WR Davante Adams tied for NFL lead for most TD catches since 2016 (26). … Rookie WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling had first career TD catch last week. … Packers’ defense third in NFL in forcing three-and-outs on 28.8 percent of drives. … LB Blake Martinez had two sacks last week, first career multi-sack game. … S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has three INTs and sack over past four games. … Fantasy tip: McCarthy says he still believes in Mason Crosby following kicker’s awful game against Detroit, going 1 of 5 on FG attempts and missing his only extra-point try. Crosby was 10 of 11 on year before last week, including two 52-yarders in Week 4 against Buffalo. He also missed extra-point attempt in that game.

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Patriots invest extra prep on recipe to slow Chiefs

Patriots invest extra prep on recipe to slow Chiefs

Bill Belichick did his patented best to downplay any excitement generated by a matchup his New England Patriots face Sunday night against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs in Foxborough, Mass.

Asked if the AFC showdown had a special feel to it,

Patriots invest extra prep on recipe to slow Chiefs

Bill Belichick did his patented best to downplay any excitement generated by a matchup his New England Patriots face Sunday night against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs in Foxborough, Mass.

Asked if the AFC showdown had a special feel to it, the Patriots coach deadpanned: “Feels like we’re playing Kansas City.”

With that, however, Belichick recognized the Chiefs’ potent offensive strengths, focusing on the entire ensemble rather than just the dazzling presence of Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City’s first-year starting quarterback.

“It’s really fortunate that we’ve had a couple of extra days to work on Kansas City,” said Belichick, whose Pats (3-2) are coming off a Thursday night victory over Indianapolis. “They give you a lot of problems with their scheme and the way they’re coached.”

Throw it all together, especially with the way Mahomes can throw it, and the Chiefs (5-0) are capable of burning opponents from just about anywhere on the field.

“You don’t want to give it all to ‘em in one play,” Belichick said.

With an extra day to spend on Mahomes, Belichick did come away impressed.

“He can throw it out of the stadium,” he said.

Added safety Devin McCourty: “It’s a team that doesn’t even need to get to second down a lot of times. You’ve got to force them to move the ball (gradually) downfield, but they can do that too.”

The last 10 quarterbacks with 10 career starts or fewer when pitted against New England went 0-10.

Such historic trends seem to have little bearing on Mahomes.

Kansas City became the first visitor at Denver in 56 games to rally from a deficit of 10 points or more and beat the Broncos, doing so in Week 4 on a Monday night. Also, during their torrid start, the Chiefs won in Pittsburgh for the first time since 1986. Last week, Mahomes ended a streak of 15 games in which Jacksonville had not allowed a 300-yard passer.

As good as Mahomes has been getting the Chiefs off to a fast start, his counterpart has a much more extensive list of achievements.

That happens to be Tom Brady, who will oppose a Kansas City defense ranked last in the NFL in yards allowed (461.8).

“He is one of the greatest quarterbacks, if not the greatest, to ever play,” Mahomes said. “I am going against their defense, but as a team we are going to go in and try to compete.”

Each team has allowed just six sacks, which is tied for first in the league.

Mahomes had not thrown an interception until last week, when he was picked twice by Jacksonville. The Patriots have an interception in all five games using schemes Belichick readily changes.

“He is the best at that,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid. “He mixes and matches.”

The Chiefs will be without starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who fractured his fibula and suffered torn ankle ligaments in the Jacksonville win. The secondary also remains thin, prompting Kansas City to work out wide receiver Marcus Kemp as an emergency safety, a position where veteran Eric Berry has yet to play because of an injured heel. Linebacker Justin Houston is also doubtful.

Running back Sony Michel (knee) and wide receiver Chris Hogan (thigh) were new additions this week to the Patriots list of nine who were limited in practice on Wednesday.

–Field Level Media

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Skidding Falcons looking to rebound vs. Bucs

Skidding Falcons looking to rebound vs. Bucs

The deck will hardly be stacked against quarterback Jameis Winston when he makes his first start of the season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the host Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

The reeling Falcons (1-4) have lost three straight and feature a defense

Skidding Falcons looking to rebound vs. Bucs

The deck will hardly be stacked against quarterback Jameis Winston when he makes his first start of the season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the host Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

The reeling Falcons (1-4) have lost three straight and feature a defense as bad as the Bucs (2-2).

Mercedes-Benz Stadium has hardly given the Falcons a big home advantage since it opened in downtown Atlanta last season. They lost three times at the site of this season’s Super Bowl last year while going 10-6 and are 6-5 overall after a 1-2 start this season.

One of Atlanta’s home victories a season ago did come against Tampa Bay, though, and the Falcons have beaten the Bucs three consecutive times overall.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, roughed up at Pittsburgh last Sunday, will be going against a Tampa Bay defense that gave up six touchdown passes to Mitch Trubisky.

Atlanta was considered a Super Bowl contender this season, while Tampa Bay seemed to be in a season of transition. But the Bucs won two of their first three games with Ryan Fitzpatrick filling in for the suspended Winston before being routed 48-10 by the Chicago Bears.

Winston returned in the second half at Chicago two weeks ago and has had extra time to get ready for the Falcons with the bye, which also allowed several Bucs to heal up.

“I felt great just to be back there with my teammates. I’ve just got to get back the feeling a little bit and be better,” Winston said. “The bye week came at a good time. We’ve just got to move forward and be better.”

“He needs to be playing, and he will unless he gets hurt,” said Bucs coach Dirk Koetter after turning the offense back over to Winston.

Atlanta, which has three defensive mainstays on IR and was without key defensive tackle Grady Jarrett against the Steelers, has given up an NFL-worst 163 points after last week’s 41-17 blowout in Pittsburgh. That’s an average of 32.6 per game, better only than the 34.8 average surrendered by Tampa Bay.

“By no stretch is our entire team decimated,” said coach Dan Quinn, who led the Falcons to the Super Bowl two seasons ago. “I stand by who we are and the talent we have to play well.”

The last time the Falcons started 1-4 was in 2013, when they finished 4-12 after going to the NFC Championship Game the season before under Mike Smith, now Tampa Bay’s beleaguered defensive coordinator.

“The sky is not falling,” Smith said of the Bucs’ struggles. “I can assure you, it felt like it was frickin’ crumpling on top of us when we walked off that field in Chicago. But that’s an anomaly.”

This will be the 50th meeting between the Falcons and Bucs, and the series between NFC South members couldn’t be closer. Atlanta has a 25-24 edge.

“We have to find a way to win (Sunday) and keep that mindset that small,” said Ryan, who was sacked six times in Pittsburgh and has yet to team up with star wide receiver Julio Jones for a TD this season. “That’s probably the best way I know how to do it.”

–Field Level Media

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Titans, Ravens meet in matchup of grinders

Titans, Ravens meet in matchup of grinders

The Baltimore Ravens visit the Tennessee Titans on Sunday and similarities between the two are difficult to ignore.

The Ravens and Titans both suffered bad road losses in Week 5.

Their offenses failed to a touchdown and lost on field

Titans, Ravens meet in matchup of grinders

The Baltimore Ravens visit the Tennessee Titans on Sunday and similarities between the two are difficult to ignore.

The Ravens and Titans both suffered bad road losses in Week 5.

Their offenses failed to a touchdown and lost on field goals in the final seconds, though the Ravens managed overtime in Cleveland.

Both teams are having trouble running the ball and were hurt Sunday by wide receiver drops.

The Ravens were averaging 33.5 points per game until their 12-9 loss in which Joe Flacco threw 56 passes, completing 29. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree has 24 receptions, but also has six drops, including one that would have been a touchdown in the final minute of regulation Sunday.

“You see him out here, catching, he’s got one of the surest pair of hands I’ve ever seen,” Flacco said regarding Crabtree’s drops. “It’s just about relaxing, letting the game come to you, not trying to do too much. I think it’s something that he’ll definitely get over.”

Meanwhile, the Ravens (3-2) are 25th in the NFL with 94.4 rushing yards per game.

“It’s one player away, or one little mistake away from big yards or a big gain or possibly a touchdown,” running back Alex Collins said. “That’s the most important thing, is that we just trust the game plan and trust the system and trust what our coaches have been teaching us.”

Big running plays could come Sunday when the Ravens face their former defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who now runs the Titans defense. His unit ranks seventh overall and tied for third in points allowed but is allowing 123.2 rushing yards per game (26th overall).

Tennessee’s offense will have to contend with a Ravens defense that leads the league in fewest points allowed (15.4 per game) and is third in fewest yards allowed (303.8 per game).

“I think across the board they’ve got players in every part of their defense,” Titans quarterback Marcus Mariotta said. “Whether it’s owning the line of scrimmage, causing havoc in the back end, they’ve done a great job.”

Mariota (14-of-26 passing for 129 yards and an interception) had a touchdown pass dropped by wide receiver Nick Williams in the fourth quarter Sunday. Williams was released Tuesday and Cameron Batson was promoted from the practice squad.

The Titans top two running backs – Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis — are averaging a combined 3.3 yards per carry. Mariota has rushed for 122 yards and a 5.5-yard average.

“I’d like to see him be able to extend plays just that are passes,” head coach Mike Vrabel said. “And [run] if it’s not there or he feels an edge or sees a seam, because sometimes those are the hardest one to defend as opposed to the ones that are designed. He always has that ability to extend the play and go off schedule.”

Tennessee is also looking for more production from its tight ends, who in the last four games have just four catches for 35 yards. Pro Bowl starter Delanie Walker was lost for the season in Week 1.

Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan (foot), safety Kenny Vaccaro (elbow) and linebacker Will Compton (hamstring) did not practice on Wednesday, and linebacker Wesley Woodyard (shoulder) was back on the practice field but limited.

Injured Ravens sitting out Wednesday included nose tackle Michael Pierce (foot) cornerbacks Brandon Carr (knee) and rookie Anthony Averett (hamstring), and defensive back Anthony Levine Sr. (hamstring).

–Field Level Media

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Ravens-Titans Preview Capsule

BALTIMORE (3-2) at TENNESSEE (3-2)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

OPENING LINE — Pick 'em.

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Baltimore 3-2, Tennessee 3-2

SERIES RECORD — Tied 11-11

LAST MEETING — Titans beat Ravens 23-20, Nov. 5, 2017

LAST WEEK — Ravens lost at Browns 12-9, OT; Titans lost at Bills 13-12

AP

BALTIMORE (3-2) at TENNESSEE (3-2)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

OPENING LINE — Pick ’em.

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Baltimore 3-2, Tennessee 3-2

SERIES RECORD — Tied 11-11

LAST MEETING — Titans beat Ravens 23-20, Nov. 5, 2017

LAST WEEK — Ravens lost at Browns 12-9, OT; Titans lost at Bills 13-12

AP PRO32 RANKING — Ravens No. 10, Titans No. 13

RAVENS OFFENSE — OVERALL (11), RUSH (25), PASS (8)

RAVENS DEFENSE — OVERALL (3), RUSH (5), PASS (4)

TITANS OFFENSE — OVERALL (29), RUSH (17), PASS (29)

TITANS DEFENSE — OVERALL (7), RUSH (26), PASS (3)

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Ravens playing third straight road game. Four of next five at home. … Baltimore leads NFL in scoring defense, allowing 15.4 points per game. Ravens have not yielded TD in second half. … Baltimore leads NFL with 34 tackles for loss, including 15 sacks. … Ravens’ run of 13 straight games scoring at least 20 points ended last week. … Ravens P Sam Koch has played in 197 straight games, longest streak in franchise history. CB Brandon Carr has 165 consecutive starts, longest active streak among NFL defensive players. … Baltimore at minus-1 turnover differential after leading league with plus-17 last season. … Ravens QB Joe Flacco has eight TD passes, three INTs. Last week was first game in 2018 without TD pass. … Baltimore top draft pick TE Hayden Hurst caught one pass for 7 yards last week in NFL debut. … Titans have won 12 of last 14 at home. … Titans will have only one home game after this until Dec. 2. … Tennessee has won two of past three in series. … Titans have allowed seven points in first quarter this season. … Titans lead NFL in red zone defense, allowing three TDs in 13 possessions for a 23.1 percent success rate by opponents. … Defensive coordinator Dean Pees had same job with Ravens between 2012-2017. … Titans QB Marcus Mariota has 100 or better passer rating in two of three career games at home vs. AFC North. Mariota one of four AFC QBs with 600 yards or more passing and at least 100 yards rushing this season. … Fantasy tip: Ravens rookie QB Lamar Jackson. He leads team with 4.5 yards per rush and Baltimore needs to add some spice to attack.

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Cardinals-Vikings Preview Capsule

ARIZONA (1-4) at MINNESOTA (2-2-1)

Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, Fox

OPENING LINE — Vikings by 11½

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Arizona 3-2, Minnesota 2-2-1

SERIES RECORD — Vikings lead 16-11

LAST MEETING — Vikings beat Cardinals 30-24, Nov. 20, 2016

LAST WEEK — Cardinals beat 49ers 28-12; Vikings beat Eagles 23-21

AP PRO32

ARIZONA (1-4) at MINNESOTA (2-2-1)

Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, Fox

OPENING LINE — Vikings by 11½

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Arizona 3-2, Minnesota 2-2-1

SERIES RECORD — Vikings lead 16-11

LAST MEETING — Vikings beat Cardinals 30-24, Nov. 20, 2016

LAST WEEK — Cardinals beat 49ers 28-12; Vikings beat Eagles 23-21

AP PRO32 RANKING — Cardinals No. 30, Vikings No. 9

CARDINALS OFFENSE — OVERALL (32), RUSH (32), PASS (31)

CARDINALS DEFENSE — OVERALL (24), RUSH (31), PASS (13)

VIKINGS OFFENSE — OVERALL (14), RUSH (31), PASS (3)

VIKINGS DEFENSE — OVERALL (21), RUSH (13), PASS (25)

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald plays in hometown for sixth time in 15-year career, with average of 87.4 receiving yards per game but no touchdowns. … Cardinals QB Josh Rosen coming off first career NFL victory. … Cardinals RB David Johnson has combined 53 touches, 283 yards from scrimmage and two TDs in two career games vs. Vikings. … Cardinals DE Chandler Jones has 13 tackles, four tackles for loss, three sacks, one forced fumble and TD return of blocked FG in two career games vs. Vikings. … Backup QB Sam Bradford is one of six players on Cardinals who’ve spent time with Vikings. … Vikings QB Kirk Cousins is first player in NFL history to complete at least 30 passes in four straight games. … Vikings WR Adam Thielen leads league in receptions (47) and is second in yards (589). He’s also first in third-down catches (14). … Thielen is third player in NFL history with five 100-yard games to start season, joining Charley Hennigan (seven games for Houston Oilers in 1961) and Bob Boyd (five games for Los Angeles Rams in 1954). … Minnesota DE Danielle Hunter has a sack in each of first five games. … Despite slipping significantly in yards and points allowed after leading NFL in both categories last season, Vikings’ defense is third in league on third downs with 29.6 percent conversion rate (16 of 54). … Fantasy tip: Vikings aiming for return of RB Dalvin Cook, who has missed two of last three games to hamstring injury. Cardinals have allowed league-most eight rushing TDs.

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Rookie QBs whine while Brady, Brees continue

While Drew Brees and Tom Brady continue making history, the rookie quarterbacks are making their mark.

Brees broke Peyton Manning's record for career passing yards on Monday night and Brady became the third quarterback to throw 500 touchdown passes last Thursday night. Brady is 40 TD passes away from passing Manning for first

While Drew Brees and Tom Brady continue making history, the rookie quarterbacks are making their mark.

Brees broke Peyton Manning’s record for career passing yards on Monday night and Brady became the third quarterback to throw 500 touchdown passes last Thursday night. Brady is 40 TD passes away from passing Manning for first on the career list. He also is one win away from becoming the first quarterback with 200 regular-season wins.

Arizona’s Josh Rosen, Buffalo’s Josh Allen, Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield and the New York Jets’ Sam Darnold did their part to prove the NFL should be in good hands in the future. Each player led his team to victory in Week 5, the first time since the merger that rookie QBs were 4-0 or better in a single week.

Here’s a look inside more numbers going into Week 6:

NO AUTOMATICS: Extra points haven’t been automatic since the NFL moved the conversion back 13 yards from the 2-yard line to the 15 in 2015. But kickers are missing even more attempts this season. Through five weeks, there have been 20 missed extra points. There were 17 in each of the previous two seasons at this point and 18 in 2015.

DESHAUN’S QUEST: Deshaun Watson can become the first quarterback to throw for 375 yards or more in four consecutive games when the Houston Texans host Buffalo. Ryan Fitzpatrick did it in the first three games this season. Brady and Hall of Famer Kurt Warner also had three-game streaks. Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles has done it in the past two games.

KIRK’S IMPACT: Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins is the first player in league history to complete at least 30 passes in four consecutive games. Adam Thielen is a recipient of many of those throws. He is the third player with at least 100 yards receiving in each of his team’s first five games to start a season.

GO-TO GUY: Zach Ertz has been Carson Wentz’s go-to receiver since the Eagles quarterback returned from knee surgery. Ertz has at least 10 catches for 100 yards in two straight games. Only four players have ever done it three consecutive weeks.

FREE FOOTBALL: At least one game has reached overtime in each of the first five weeks. That hadn’t happened before. The Browns have played in three OT games already, going 1-1-1.

GREATEST SHOW ON TURF: The Rams are the fifth team to score at least 30 points in each of their first five games to start a season in NFL history. The record is eight held by the 2000 Rams, 2013 Broncos and 2007 Patriots.

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Jaguars’ D ready to run with Cowboys, Prescott

Jaguars' D ready to run with Cowboys, Prescott

Even if Dallas wide receivers finally get on the same page as quarterback Dak Prescott, the elite Jacksonville secondary is waiting to put them through the shredder on Sunday in Arlington, Texas.

The Jaguars (3-2) have the NFL's No. 1-ranked pass defense,

Jaguars’ D ready to run with Cowboys, Prescott

Even if Dallas wide receivers finally get on the same page as quarterback Dak Prescott, the elite Jacksonville secondary is waiting to put them through the shredder on Sunday in Arlington, Texas.

The Jaguars (3-2) have the NFL’s No. 1-ranked pass defense, allowing just 191.0 yards per game and a league-low three touchdown passes in five games.

The Cowboys (2-3) rank 30th in the NFL in passing with 172.0 yards per game, and Prescott has thrown only three TD passes to his wide receivers.

“We’ve just got to get on the same page across the board and play to the standard that we’re capable of,” said Dallas receiver Allen Hurns, who played for Jacksonville from 2014-17.

Hurns, who tallied 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Jaguars in 2015, has eight catches for 84 yards and one score this season. The Cowboys’ leading receiver is Cole Beasley with 193 yards — tied for 79th in the NFL.

Prescott was just 6 for 16 for 80 yards with two interceptions when targeting his wide receivers during last week’s 19-16 overtime loss to Houston Texans. And that was against a banged-up secondary, not the elite unit that Jacksonville brings to AT&T Stadium.

Anchored by Pro Bowl cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, the Jaguars allow just 6.3 yards per pass attempt. Only the Baltimore Ravens are stingier, at 5.9 per attempt.

Two of the three TD passes they allowed this year were to Canton-bound Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, a game Jacksonville won 31-20 in Week 2. Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes entered last week’s game against the Jaguars with 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions; he left the Chiefs’ 30-14 win with 14 touchdowns and two picks.

“They’re a very confident group across the board on defense. They play as one,” Hurns said. “The main thing for us is we can’t get caught up in what they’re doing.”

One thing the Jaguars won’t be doing Sunday is handing off to Leonard Fournette, who is sidelined by a hamstring injury. Jacksonville signed 31-year-old free agent Jamaal Charles, a Texas native and former University of Texas standout, on Tuesday.

“You can still see some of the explosiveness and some of the cuts and the vision,” Jags quarterback Blake Bortles said of Charles. “We’re excited to have him and I’m excited to watch him play.”

Jacksonville cornerback D.J. Hayden (toe) and offensive tackle Josh Wells (groin) will not play Sunday, and Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee (hamstring) will miss his third straight game. Dallas pass-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence (shoulder) did not practice Wednesday, but his absence was regarded as precautionary.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Bills’ McDermott acknowledges McCoy rumors

NFL notebook: Bills' McDermott acknowledges McCoy rumors

Bills head coach Sean McDermott did not diffuse reports of trade interest from the Philadelphia Eagles in Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy on Wednesday.

"We're just looking forward to the Houston Texans," McDermott told reporters, a day after News 4 in Buffalo reported

NFL notebook: Bills’ McDermott acknowledges McCoy rumors

Bills head coach Sean McDermott did not diffuse reports of trade interest from the Philadelphia Eagles in Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy on Wednesday.

“We’re just looking forward to the Houston Texans,” McDermott told reporters, a day after News 4 in Buffalo reported the Eagles had interest in trading for the six-time Pro Bowl selection. “LeSean is one of our better players.

“We get calls all the time. Incoming calls happen all the time. [General manager] Brandon [Beane] and I talk a lot. I won’t get into any more detail than that.”

McCoy played the first six seasons of his career with the Eagles and is the leading rusher in franchise history. Philadelphia placed starting running back Jay Ajayi on injured reserve Monday due to a torn ACL.

–Colin Kaepernick is the face of a recently unveiled Nike campaign, but he’s taking steps to protect who can capitalize on his likeness going forward.

Kaepernick, whose new ad was released as part of the company’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” ad campaign, has filed for a trademark for a black-and-white image of his face and hair, according to ESPN.

The filing, made through Kaepernick’s company, Inked Flash, with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, claims the image would be used for various commercial items along with things such as classes and seminars and even TV and movies.

–Second-year running back James Conner deserves a significant role in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense even when Le’Veon Bell returns from his holdout, according to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

“I think James has done some amazing things and deserves to be on the field,” Roethlisberger told reporters. “We also know what Le’Veon is and what he brings to the table. I guess we’ll cross that bridge if and when it happens.”

Conner, a 2017 third-round pick, has 84 carries for 342 yards (4.1 average) and five scores, along with 22 grabs for 239 yards as a receiver.

–Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette is out for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, head coach Doug Marrone said.

Jamaal Charles, signed to a one-year deal on Tuesday, could fight his way into the game plan with a good showing this week. T.J. Yeldon will start for Jacksonville.

The absence was expected after Fournette aggravated his hamstring injury in Week 4 against the New York Jets. He also missed Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

–Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston (hamstring) appears unlikely to play this week against the New England Patriots while guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif’s broken leg is worse than initially believed.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid revealed that Duvernay-Tardif, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday but was expected to return later this season, now could miss the rest of 2018. Additional testing revealed that Duvernay-Tardif has a Maisonneuve fracture — an external rotation of the ankle that damages ligaments and creates a spiral fracture up the fibula — and needs surgery.

Chiefs VP of sports medicine and performance Rick Burkholder said Duvernay-Tardif will have surgery in Green Bay on Monday, after which the timeline for his return will become clearer.

–New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon is expected to make his season debut Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, but tight end Evan Engram will miss his third consecutive game with a knee injury.

Vernon suffered a high-ankle sprain in an Aug. 25 practice and hasn’t played since. He practiced on a limited basis all week and avoided the questionable designation for Thursday’s game.

Engram sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee in Week 3 and missed the last two games.

–Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson expects to play in Week 6 against the Buffalo Bills despite emerging from Sunday night’s overtime win over the Dallas Cowboys with an injured chest.

Watson was battered and bruised after taking several big hits against the Cowboys, and he’s considered day-to-day. He told reporters, “I feel good, I feel great,” and added that he will play against Buffalo “for sure.”

–Indianapolis Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle remain on a “week-to-week” basis, head coach Frank Reich said, suggesting both players are unlikely to suit up at the New York Jets on Sunday.

Hilton (chest and hamstring) and Doyle (hip) were two of a slew of Colts players who missed Thursday’s loss to the New England Patriots. Hilton got hurt in a Week 4 overtime loss to the Houston Texans, while Doyle hasn’t played since Week 2.

Reich also revealed that guard Matt Slauson’s injury, which landed him on injured reserve Tuesday, is to his back. According to the Indianapolis Star, Slauson broke two vertebrae early in the second half against the Patriots but didn’t realize it and kept playing, risking paralysis.

–Field Level Media

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Redskins on rebound as Panthers approach full strength

Redskins on rebound as Panthers approach full strength

The Carolina Panthers are coming off an uplifting finish to a game, something they hope will carry them for weeks to come.

The Washington Redskins are reeling after a lopsided loss, needing to rectify things in a hurry. The teams meet Sunday

Redskins on rebound as Panthers approach full strength

The Carolina Panthers are coming off an uplifting finish to a game, something they hope will carry them for weeks to come.

The Washington Redskins are reeling after a lopsided loss, needing to rectify things in a hurry. The teams meet Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field.

The Panthers won 33-31 on Graham Gano’s 63-yard field goal against the New York Giants. That dramatic outcome has the Panthers fired up for more good things.

“This team is going to keep growing, keep building, and the fact that we had this type of game was good for our morale going forward,” quarterback Cam Newton said. “We still need to build that type of steam of how to win football games.”

While the Redskins are dogged by injuries on a short week, it could be getting even better for the Panthers (3-1).

They have linebacker Thomas Davis back from a four-game, season-opening suspension and he’s expected to be in a starting role.

“He has got a different energy level than most players,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said of Davis. “It’s above the norm, even in practice.”

A 43-19 road loss Monday night at New Orleans means the Redskins have a shorter period of preparation for the Carolina game. It also put the team in a rather rotten mood.

“I think everybody in that locker room hopefully will say they need to play better,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.

Washington (2-2) plays three of its next four games at home. Gruden said the Redskins, despite their most-recent performance, don’t need to view the situation as doom and gloom.

“There’s a bright outlook,” he said. “We’re still right there. We have to get some things fixed. … We’re still in the thick of things and we will be for a while. ”

Gruden said quarterback Alex Smith needs to be more comfortable in the pocket and that stems from what’s going on around him. It might also be a byproduct of what happens when the Redskins have faced deficits.

“We have not been very good when we’ve gotten behind,” Gruden said.

The Panthers have the top rushing attack in the NFL with 154 rushing yards per game.

“We’re peaking in the right spots, but nothing is going to be given to us,” Newton said.

In four games against the Redskins, Newton has thrown for nine touchdowns without an interception.

Newton could have another offensive weapon back for his use with tight end Greg Olsen returning to practice following suffering a broken foot bone in the Sept. 9 opener.

“A lot of it will be based on how I feel,” Olsen said of the recovery. “How I feel will guide what I can and can’t do.”

Carolina expects to have center Ryan Kalil available after he left late in Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury. He was back for practice Wednesday.

The Redskins scrapped a regular practice Wednesday in favor of a walkthrough in the adjusted schedule for the week coming off a Monday night game. Running back Adrian Peterson (shoulder) said he plans to try to play through discomfort this week.

The Panthers have won their last five meetings with the Redskins, most recently in 2016. Two of those during this stretch have come on the road under Rivera. This marks only Carolina’s second road game of the seasons, suffering a loss last month at Atlanta in the first one.

The Panthers have already defeated NFC East Division teams Dallas and the New York Giants.

–Field Level Media

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Vikings take aim at Arizona, rookie QB Rosen

Vikings take aim at Arizona, rookie QB Rosen

The Minnesota Vikings righted the ship somewhat against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, avenging last year's NFC Championship Game loss and getting back to .500 at 2-2-1.

With only one road trip between now and Nov. 18, Minnesota has a great opportunity

Vikings take aim at Arizona, rookie QB Rosen

The Minnesota Vikings righted the ship somewhat against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, avenging last year’s NFC Championship Game loss and getting back to .500 at 2-2-1.

With only one road trip between now and Nov. 18, Minnesota has a great opportunity to put together a string of wins ahead of back-to-back NFC North showdowns in Weeks 11 (at Chicago) and 12 (vs. Green Bay).

First up will be a visit Sunday from the Arizona Cardinals, who bagged their first win last week over the San Francisco 49ers to move to 1-4.

The Cardinals have little time to celebrate, as they host the Broncos back in Glendale, Ariz., just four days after their trip to Minneapolis. The tight schedule could be particularly taxing for a defense that faced 98 plays in San Francisco.

“You’ll definitely feel different,” said safety Antoine Bethea, who racked up 13 tackles without missing a snap. “There’s a little bit of wear and tear. You’ve got to get in the cold tub, hot tub, do whatever you’ve got to do to get back right. It’s a six-day process.”

That unit will be charged with slowing down a surprisingly high-volume passing game, as the Vikings have leaned very heavily on $86 million man Kirk Cousins. Averaging 45.2 pass attempts per game, Cousins is on pace for 723 this season, well beyond his career high of 606.

Slinging it so often isn’t normal for a Mike Zimmer-coached team, but he doesn’t mind if it produces results.

“I don’t really care about statistics,” Zimmer said. “I just want to get wins. I don’t care how we do it. Obviously, I have a philosophy, but we have to do what we have to do to win football games.”

Running back Dalvin Cook remains limited by a hamstring injury and might not play Sunday.

While Zimmer hits the gas with Cousins, the Cardinals have been less aggressive with rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, who has 52 attempts in two starts, and the results have been inconsistent. After moving the ball well despite receiver drops in Week 4, Arizona gained more than 39 yards on just one drive last week, a 75-yard TD on its first play.

Rosen said he and the whole group need to execute better, as various players have taken turns short-circuiting the attack at different times.

“We have just sort of one-off mental mistakes everywhere,” Rosen said. “Me, linemen, receivers, running backs. …When you have eight or nine people making one mistake on separate plays, you almost just want to be like, ‘Alright guys, let’s all screw up this first play together and then play great from then on.'”

Entering his second road start, Rosen is embracing what should be a more hostile environment than the sparse Levi’s Stadium crowd he saw last week.

“I love people yelling and screaming at you,” he said. “…The quick silence of a tough third down in the red zone, those are pretty fun.”

Rosen’s top receiver, 15th-year veteran Larry Fitzgerald, is looking forward to the trip for a different reason. A Vikings ball boy in high school, Fitzgerald has never won or caught a touchdown at Minnesota in five games.

Fitzgerald (hamstring/back) joined tackles D.J. Humphries (knee) and Andre Smith (hamstring) and left guard Mike Iupati (shoulder) in missing Wednesday’s practice, but all should play Sunday, per head coach Steve Wilks.

For the Vikings, left tackle Riley Reiff (foot) and safety Andrew Sendejo (groin) were out, while Cook (hamstring) was limited after missing games in Week 3 and 5.

Zimmer was pleased with how Rashod Hill, who moved to the left side, and rookie Brian O’Neill, who came in on the right, played after Reiff was hurt on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

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Even at 5-0, LA Rams still determined to improve run defense

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Although the Los Angeles Rams have few areas of major concern after their impressive 5-0 start, Aaron Donald thinks their rushing defense is something that needs fixing on this smoothly running machine.

The All-Pro defensive tackle intends to make sure they repair it.

The Rams are a modest

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Although the Los Angeles Rams have few areas of major concern after their impressive 5-0 start, Aaron Donald thinks their rushing defense is something that needs fixing on this smoothly running machine.

The All-Pro defensive tackle intends to make sure they repair it.

The Rams are a modest 18th in the league in yards rushing allowed, giving up 106.8 per game — and a whopping 5.0 yards per carry, fourth-worst in the NFL. Last weekend, the Seahawks racked up 190 yards on the ground during the Rams’ 33-31 comeback victory in Seattle.

The Rams are headed to snowy Denver on Sunday for a date with the Broncos’ No. 3-ranked rushing offense, which has piled up 137 yards per game. To Donald, the job is clear.

“We need to stop the run,” Donald said Wednesday. “Don’t even worry about getting after the quarterback. Our main job this week is to stop the run. They’ve got a strong running game. If we do that, then we’ll get after the quarterback.”

The Seahawks gouged the Rams’ defensive front for 5.9 yards per carry, boosted by a handful of big plays that were aided by defensive mistakes. The Los Angeles Chargers also had major success on the ground against the Rams last month, rushing for 7.1 yards per carry.

The Rams have been comfortably ahead on the scoreboard for much of the season, limiting their opponents’ ability to use the run game. But Donald realizes the Rams can’t count on their high-octane offense to get them out of work in the defensive trenches.

It nearly cost the Rams in Seattle, but Los Angeles’ offense scored the game’s final nine points, and the defense shut out the Seahawks in the fourth quarter.

“I feel like it was more disappointing we gave up that many rushing yards and we gave up that many points,” Donald said. “As long as we found a way to win, you can have a game like that. We’ve just got to play better.”

Seattle right guard D.J. Fluker had sharp words for the Rams’ defense afterward, saying Los Angeles hadn’t “seen a team that’s played physical. They want to be pass-rushers. They haven’t seen a team go out there and actually take it to them every single play.”

Donald chuckled at the apparent criticism of him and Ndamukong Suh, two of the NFL’s most decorated defensive linemen.

“He said something smart? We’ll see him,” Donald said. “We’ll play them again.”

The Rams weren’t statistically great against the run last season, giving up 122.3 yards per game to rank 28th in the league. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ unit was strong in other areas during the Rams’ 11-5 regular season, but run defense remains an area ripe for improvement.

Those improvements have been a significant topic of conversation already this season. Coach Sean McVay’s staff is reminding the defensive front seven to stick with their gap assignments, although McVay identified at least one big Seahawks run in which the coaches put the players in a poor defensive scheme for the situation.

“What we’re encouraged about as you watch it as a staff are they’re very fixable things,” McVay said. “I think our players will respond the right way.”

Donald understands why Fluker and others might think the Rams would become complacent during their outstanding start. He intends to keep the Rams focused on the play-to-play responsibilities that add up to improved run defense.

“That’s all it is. Little mistakes,” Donald said. “Things that are going to get fixed, that’s fixed now. We’re itching to get back on that field to show the adjustments we had, and the way we’re supposed to play.”

NOTES: Receivers Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp are both on a path to play Sunday after leaving last weekend’s game early to enter the concussion protocol. Cooks and Kupp both participated in the Rams’ walk-through portion of practice Wednesday. “No setbacks or anything like that,” McVay said. “They’re progressing in the right direction.” … All-Pro K Greg Zuerlein probably won’t return from his groin injury this week, which means Cairo Santos will kick in Denver. Santos made both of his field goal attempts in Seattle, including the game-winner with 6:05 to play, but also missed an extra point. … The Rams are aware of the snow in the forecast for Denver this weekend, but McVay isn’t worried about his warm-weather team’s ability to handle it. “Out here in Southern California, unless we want to go to an ice rink, I don’t think we can mimic and emulate that,” McVay said.

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Chargers’ Rivers off to 1 of the best starts of his career

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Even though Philip Rivers is one of the elder statesmen among NFL quarterbacks, the Chargers' longtime signal-caller is off to one of the best starts of his 15-year career.

Rivers enters Sunday's game against Cleveland leading the AFC with a 116.4 passer rating. It is his highest after

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Even though Philip Rivers is one of the elder statesmen among NFL quarterbacks, the Chargers’ longtime signal-caller is off to one of the best starts of his 15-year career.

Rivers enters Sunday’s game against Cleveland leading the AFC with a 116.4 passer rating. It is his highest after five games since taking over as the Chargers’ starter in 2006.

His 13 touchdown passes equal 2013 for his best start and his 70.1 percent completion rate marks the fifth time he has completed 70 percent or more at this point of the season.

Rivers said on Wednesday he is not a big believer in momentum carrying over from one season to the next, but in a lot of ways he is seeing the offense pick up from where it left off in the second half of last year.

“I felt a steadiness with the group as we got in the back half of last year and it seems to have kind of carried over in a lot of ways,” Rivers said.

“I have not been great by any means this year, but we have been really balanced and have done some good things. We still have a ways to go, but we would like to keep it going.”

The Chargers (3-2) lost their first four games last season before winning nine of their final 12, including six of their final seven.

Coach Anthony Lynn said it is not just Rivers who is executing but the entire offense.

“We are not just throwing the ball all day. Teams are having to defense our running game, our passing game and our special plays,” Lynn said. “It is really a balanced attack, and I think this is what you get when you have a balanced attack.”

The one trait from last year which has definitely carried over is big plays — runs of 10 yards or more and receptions of 20 yards or more. Los Angeles was fourth in the league last year in that category, but was one of two teams in the top eight that didn’t make the playoffs.

The Chargers are third this season with 45 and have six touchdowns that have been for 20 yards or more. Running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler have one-third of the team’s receptions along with averaging 5.0 yards per carry.

Wide receiver Keenan Allen has not had a touchdown since Week 1 against Kansas City, but he has 15 receptions in the past two games and threw a key downfield block on Ekeler’s 44-yard touchdown against Oakland last week.

The offensive line has also done a good job of keeping Rivers upright. He has been sacked only six times, which is tied for lowest in the league among quarterbacks who have played in five games. The line is playing well despite starting tackles Russell Okung and Joe Barksdale missing last week’s game because of injuries.

Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said that he has noticed Rivers being very comfortable with his surrounding cast, which has also led to a surge in confidence.

“The natural inclination is to say he’s taking less risk. But he’s made some tremendous throws that you would say ‘Wow, that was kind of a risky throw’,” Whisenhunt said.

Rivers is one of the quicker quarterbacks in the league to get rid of the ball, but he will face a Browns defense that leads the league in pressuring the quarterback.

The Browns have been credited with 73 quarterback pressures — a sack, hurry or pass knocked down at the line of scrimmage — according to Sportradar after they were 31st in the league in that category last season.

Cleveland (2-2-1) also leads the league in takeaways with 15 while Rivers has thrown only two interceptions in 122 attempts for the lowest interception rate of his career (1.1 percent).

“(Defensive coordinator) Gregg Williams is very multiple and does a ton of different things. They are staying healthy and seem to be more comfortable in the scheme,” Rivers said.

Notes: Lynn said defensive end Joey Bosa would not travel with the team the next two weeks as he continues to rehab from a foot injury. The team is hopeful that the third-year defender can return after the Oct. 28 bye week. … Okung (groin) and Barksdale (knee) had limited participation in practice as Lynn said there is the possibility that both could be ready for Sunday. If both are unable to play, Sam Tevi would be the left tackle and Trent Scott would be at right tackle. … Kicker Caleb Sturgis, who has missed four extra points, was limited because of a quad injury.

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Beware of Browns: Snoop Dogg drops in on turnaround team

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Their days as a pitiful punching bag appear to be over for the Browns. They're swinging back, picking up wins and even attracting celebrities.

On Wednesday, superstar rapper Snoop Dogg pulled up in his tour bus and made a surprise visit to practice.

Bow wow!

But while the Browns

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Their days as a pitiful punching bag appear to be over for the Browns. They’re swinging back, picking up wins and even attracting celebrities.

On Wednesday, superstar rapper Snoop Dogg pulled up in his tour bus and made a surprise visit to practice.

Bow wow!

But while the Browns may have gone from being the NFL’s saddest team to one of this season’s biggest surprises, coach Hue Jackson warned his players that their fame can be fleeting.

Beware of Snoop Dogg and others.

“A lot of guys see him on the sideline, and his message was, ‘Man, you guys are doing some good things, some really good things.’ I thought that was great,” said Jackson, who has known the rapper since his days at USC. “At the same time, there are going to be a lot of people that want to come be on this wagon when the wagon gets rolling, and we are going to circle the wagon.

“I know that because I did not see any of these people the last two years. I am still the same guy. I still knew all of these people prior to this year. We are not going to get caught up in any of that. Our players won’t, and that is my message to them. We are going to work, and we are going to continue to get better and see where we are.”

Right now, the Browns believe they’re contenders.

And their 12-9 overtime win against a solid Baltimore team on Sunday has the rest of the league looking differently at the Browns (2-2-1), who became just the second team to lose all 16 games last season. They’ve been competitive against a tough schedule, played in three OT games, and if not for a couple of bad bounces and breaks, could be unbeaten.

“They were a scary team last year,” said Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, who will face the Browns on Sunday. “I know that they did not win a game, but you saw them on the come — you could see it coming. You knew that it was just a matter of time. They have done a good job. The personnel department and coaches, they have done a good job.”

And, of course, the Browns have Baker Mayfield.

The rookie quarterback has pumped life into Cleveland’s franchise and fan base. The only person not surprised by the Browns’ quick turnaround is the player most responsible for it happening

“I have known that the Browns were not bad since the second I stepped foot into this franchise,” said the No. 1 overall pick, whose confidence is spreading through Cleveland’s locker room like a flu bug.

“We had a special team from the get-go. We believe in this team that we have. Management has put together a great group of guys.”

Mayfield was talking a big game long before the Browns picked him. Back at the NFL Combine in February, Mayfield said he was the man to change Cleveland’s fortunes. If any player was going to turn around a team that went 1-31 over two years, it was him.

His opinion has changed.

“I said it back at the Combine when everybody said I was a short quarterback that could not do much, I said if anybody is going to do it, I believed in myself to do that,” he said. “That is something that I carry with me, and I hope our guys believed in themselves as well.”

If there was any lingering doubt about Mayfield, he may have changed some minds with his performance in his second career start — and first at home — against the Ravens. He passed for 342 yards against one of the league’s stingiest defenses, and in the closing minutes of OT, began a drive at his 5 and moved the Browns into position for rookie Greg Joseph’s game-winning field goal.

Big plays. Big player.

“Man, I mean just a winner,” said Browns safety Damarious Randall. “That’s something that he’s always been at Oklahoma and just somebody that can overcome a lot of things. Because he was a walk-on twice and he ended up being the Heisman Trophy winner, so just to have a guy like that you just know that he’s always going to try to put the team in position to win game. You’ve just got to love it.”

Randall knows what a good team looks like. He spent three seasons in Green Bay before coming to Cleveland in a trade.

When he arrived the Browns had reached a low point. They’re rising quickly.

“We feel like we’re a contender,” Randall said. “We feel like we’re one of the best teams up in the league.”

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Jets’ Darnold drawing some early comparisons to Colts’ Luck

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Sam Darnold remembers sitting at home in Southern California watching Andrew Luck sling the football all over the fields of the Pac-12 for Stanford.

The young quarterback was a freshman in high school in 2012, when Luck became the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft and the

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Sam Darnold remembers sitting at home in Southern California watching Andrew Luck sling the football all over the fields of the Pac-12 for Stanford.

The young quarterback was a freshman in high school in 2012, when Luck became the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft and the future of the franchise for the Indianapolis Colts.

More than six years later, Darnold is in the same spot with the New York Jets. And, now he’ll get a chance to face Luck on the same field Sunday.

“From watching him in the past, first of all he’s such a bright dude in general and you can see how he takes that to the football field,” Darnold said Wednesday. “So it’s really cool to be able to watch him play.”

While Luck is 29 and Darnold just 21, there are some comparisons when it comes to poise and calm under fire that are strong attributes of both quarterbacks.

They are also the respective faces of their franchises, and Darnold has seen Luck deal with that responsibility over the past few years.

“To see him get drafted and to see what he’s been able to do for the Colts and to see what he’s been able to do for that organization, yeah, he’s been banged up, but he’s a great player,” Darnold said.

“We know our defense has their hands full, but it’s also going to be a dogfight for us, too, because they have a great defense. We’re really looking forward to the challenge though, knowing how great of a quarterback Andrew is.”

Luck missed all of last season with a shoulder injury and has been thrust right back into running the pass-heavy offense of the Colts . The veteran threw 121 passes in a five-day span last week in losses to Houston and New England, appearing at times as though he never missed a beat.

The Colts quarterback is also known to be able to make plays with his feet while playing smartly — characteristics that have some comparing Darnold to Luck.

“Yeah, he definitely has more years of experience, but I can see it,” Darnold said. “He likes to extend plays, but at the same time he likes to just hang in there and deliver the ball on time and accurately. Yeah, I can see some similarities.”

Colts coach Frank Reich knows a lot about the quarterback position, having played in the NFL for 14 years — many of them as the backup to Jim Kelly in Buffalo.

He, too, sees some of the same things others have been saying about Darnold and Luck.

“It feels like to me a little bit of the same personality,” Reich told reporters during a conference call. “It’s not too big from the standpoint of not only intellectually, but just for lack of a better word ’emotionally.’ It’s not too big. The game’s not too big.

“And physically, being able to make the throws and some of the athleticism.”

Darnold didn’t necessarily model himself after Luck, but he saw plenty of the former Cardinal quarterback playing his USC Trojans while he was growing up.

“That was when (Jim) Harbaugh was doing his thing with Andrew,” Darnold said. “I got to watch him a lot and how they dominated for a little bit up there in the north. It was really fun to watch and really cool to see Andrew Luck dissect defenses at such a young age. It was really fun and kind of inspiring to me.”

Darnold has had an up-and-down first five games of his NFL career. He has seven touchdown passes and six interceptions, and his 55.7 percent completion rate and 77.2 quarterback rating rank near the bottom of the league.

But, both coach Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates have been happy with Darnold’s consistent progress during the early part of the season. In New York’s 34-16 win over Denver last Sunday , Darnold threw three TD passes, including a perfectly placed 76-yard TD toss to Robby Anderson that showed the young QB can stretch the field a little, too.

“I feel good every week,” Darnold said. “For me, especially at this position and at this high of a level, you’ve just got to really just stay the course.”

NOTES: RB Isaiah Crowell did not practice because of what Bowles said was a “sore” ankle. Crowell was selected as the AFC’s offensive player of the week after rushing for a franchise-record 219 yards last Sunday. … CB Trumaine Johnson (quadriceps), CB Buster Skrine (concussion), WR-KR Andre Roberts (elbow/foot), C Spencer Long (knee/finger), LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (foot) and WR Charone Peake (hamstring) also didn’t practice. Bowles ruled out Peake for the game against Indianapolis. … WR Terrelle Pryor (groin), S Marcus Maye (ankle/foot) and TE Neal Sterling (concussion) were all limited.

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Vikings CB Hughes turning heads in Minnesota

Vikings CB Hughes turning heads in Minnesota

Chicago Bears: Coming back from the bye and two weeks removed from Mitchell Trubisky's six-TD game, the Bears are planning to revive Jordan Howard after he played a diminished role in Week 4. Tarik Cohen had 20 touches to 11 for Howard against the Buccaneers. Howard

Vikings CB Hughes turning heads in Minnesota

Chicago Bears: Coming back from the bye and two weeks removed from Mitchell Trubisky’s six-TD game, the Bears are planning to revive Jordan Howard after he played a diminished role in Week 4. Tarik Cohen had 20 touches to 11 for Howard against the Buccaneers. Howard refused to speak to media after the game but said Wednesday, “I wasn’t frustrated, I was happy. We won.” Head coach Matt Nagy said the split role at running back isn’t going away. “Jordan understands what we’re trying to do as a team,” Nagy said. “And he also understands – and we’ve talked – that he has a major part of this offense. He has a big-time role. But if it’s an advantage to us to go a different direction for that game or for that play or that series, we’re going to do that.”

Detroit Lions: Offensive line coach Jeff Davidson is thrilled by the progress of rookie first-round pick Frank Ragnow, who hasn’t missed a snap in the first five games as a starter at left guard. Davidson said the trait that sets Ragnow, who played center at Arkansas, apart in the early going is a professional approach. “The big thing is just trying to find one thing to improve on each week going forward, knowing the cumulative effect for him is going to be good in the long haul,” Davidson said. “He’s actually gotten better in a lot of different areas. He is progressing in the way he goes about it, and it makes my job easier because it’s important to him. I think he’s becoming more comfortable with the position. I think there’s a confidence that goes with understanding the position – understanding the guys around him.”

Green Bay Packers: Cornerback Kevin King, who missed two games with a hamstring injury and returned to the field last week only to leave on a cart, is taking a little heat in the locker room for the mode of transport used for his injury at Detroit. King took a cleat to the face requiring stitches and — a motorized cart took him to the locker room where he was stitched up to return. “I was kind of skeptical about it at first,” King joked. “I’m like, ‘Can we just run over there?’ They were like, it’s only five minutes left. We were on the other side of the field. So drove us over there, got it stitched up. Actually never had stitches before. That was new, a new opportunity, I guess. Or a new experience.” King will practice Thursday with the Packers and be on the field against the 49ers on Monday night.

Minnesota Vikings: Rookie cornerback Mike Hughes turned in another productive outing Sunday at Philadelphia, logging all 59 snaps with the Vikings’ defense. Hughes, a first-round pick out of UCF, has played at least 50 snaps in three of the first five games. Hughes worked almost exclusively at the nickel position in Week 1 but has quickly evolved to an expanded role, bringing additional flexibility to a strong secondary. With Trae Waynes clearing concussion protocol on Wednesday, Hughes expects to be back in the slot this week. He allowed a 48-yard reception plus a touchdown pass to tight end Zach Ertz last week. “I still feel like I leave some plays out there I can make,” said Hughes, “but that’s why we get back to work every week, and hopefully I can make those plays.”

–Field Level Media

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Rams’ Cooks, Kupp on track for Sunday’s game

Rams' Cooks, Kupp on track for Sunday's game

Arizona Cardinals: In two weeks with Josh Rosen at the helm, Arizona's offense has been hot and cold, hitting on big plays but also struggling for lengthy stretches. Last week, the Cardinals didn't gain more than 39 yards on a drive after a 75-yard TD

Rams’ Cooks, Kupp on track for Sunday’s game

Arizona Cardinals: In two weeks with Josh Rosen at the helm, Arizona’s offense has been hot and cold, hitting on big plays but also struggling for lengthy stretches. Last week, the Cardinals didn’t gain more than 39 yards on a drive after a 75-yard TD on their first play. As Rosen sees it, there’s an element of bad luck involved in how the team’s mistakes have been so evenly distributed. “We have just sort of one-off mental mistakes everywhere,” he said. “… Some people make like one mistake, but when you have like eight or nine people making one mistake on separate plays, you almost want to be like, ‘Alright guys, let’s all screw up this first play together and then play great from now on.'”

Los Angeles Rams: After wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp each sustained concussions last week against the Seahawks, head coach Sean McVay is optimistic that neither player will miss Sunday’s game in Denver. Both players took part in Wednesday’s walkthrough as they move through the league’s concussion protocol. “Unless there’s any setbacks, as long as they continue to take steps in the right direction, we feel good about those guys being ready to go,” McVay said, adding that Wednesday practices are “more of a mental day” for players, so Cooks and Kupp didn’t miss too much.

San Francisco 49ers: The NFL thrust the 49ers into the spotlight on the 2018 schedule with five prime-time games, but that was before Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL and the team started 1-4. With the first of those looming Monday night, the league moved a Week 7 Sunday night meeting with the Rams out of the evening slot into the afternoon, the game in which the 49ers are scheduled to wear their throwbacks and honor the 1994 Super Bowl championship team. San Francisco has three other prime-time games later this year: Week 9 on Thursday night vs. Oakland, Week 10 on Monday night vs. the Giants and Week 13 on Sunday night at Seattle, a game that could also get flexed out.

Seattle Seahawks: Like most teams that play in London, the Seahawks will be arriving Wednesday night as they hope to give players extra time to acclimate to the new time zone. “There is some science to it,” head coach Pete Carroll said. “We’ll try to sleep on the way over and then keeping them up the day that we get there so that they can get a regular night’s sleep, a real healthy night’s sleep without going to sleep during the day — that’s one of the big issues.” The approach is different from that of their opponent, the Raiders, who will arrive Friday morning. Carroll also joked the Seahawks opted against crossing the pond by sea. “We’re not taking a boat,” he said with a laugh. “We’re flying.”

–Field Level Media

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