Browns coach Jackson flags Bucs coach for taunting remarks

CLEVELAND (AP) — Browns coach Hue Jackson is “disappointed” Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter felt quarterback Baker Mayfield was taunting after being struck in the helmet by Tampa Bay’s Jordan Whitehead.

Mayfield was hit while sliding in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. The blow was initially penalized and then waved off by referee Shawn Hochuli, who incorrectly announced Mayfield “was still a runner and therefore is allowed to be hit in the head.”

On Thursday, Koetter said Mayfield “taunted our guy, so then they threw the second flag.”

Jackson was bothered by Koetter’s remarks, saying Friday, “the biggest thing that happened was the quarterback got hit in the head. Taunting? Does that really matter? I mean, really? That, to me, made no sense.”

Earlier this week, a person familiar with NFL discipline told The Associated Press that Whitehead will likely be fined. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league announces fines on Saturday.


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Report: Chiefs sign DE Harris, release Ivie

Report: Chiefs sign DE Harris, release Ivie

The Kansas City Chiefs signed defensive end Demone Harris off the

Report: Chiefs sign DE Harris, release Ivie

The Kansas City Chiefs signed defensive end Demone Harris off the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad Thursday, NFL Network reported.

To create room on the roster, defensive tackle Joey Ivie was released.

Harris has just three games of NFL experience, playing one game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season and two for them in 2018. The 23-year old, who was undrafted out of Buffalo, was on the Buccaneers’ practice squad earlier this season before the Ravens added him to their practice squad on Oct. 22

Ivie, 24, played in five games with the Chiefs this season, seeing action on 27 snaps this past Monday against the Los Angeles Chargers. He was a seventh-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2017 out of Florida.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Garrett says Rudolph used racial slur prior to melee

Report: Garrett says Rudolph used racial slur prior to melee

Report: Garrett says Rudolph used racial slur prior to melee

Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett alleged in his appeal hearing that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph used a racial slur prior to last week’s melee, ESPN reported Thursday.

Rudolph denied the accusation by Garrett, who was appealing his indefinite suspension by the NFL at a hearing with league-appointed officer James Thrash.

“Mason vehemently denies the report of being accused of using a racial slur during the incident Thursday night in Cleveland,” the Steelers said in a statement. “He will not discuss this accusation any further and his focus remains on preparation for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.”

Rudolph told reporters on Wednesday that he didn’t say anything to provoke Garrett before Garrett removed the quarterback’s helmet and struck him on the top of his unprotected head in the closing seconds of last Thursday night’s game.

Rudolph’s attorney Timothy M. Younger responded to ESPN after the allegations were reported.

“According to ESPN, in his appeal, Myles Garrett falsely asserted that Mason Rudolph uttered a racial slur toward him, prior to swinging a helmet at Mason’s uncovered head, in a desperate attempt to mitigate his suspension. This is a lie. This false allegation was never asserted by Garrett in the aftermath of the game, never suggested prior to the hearing, and conspicuously absent in the apology published by the Browns and adopted by Garrett,” Younger said.

“The malicious use of this wild and unfounded allegation is an assault on Mason’s integrity which is far worse than the physical assault witnessed on Thursday. This is reckless and shameful. We will have no further comment.”

Garrett, 23, was in New York on Wednesday to appeal his suspension. ESPN reported the meeting lasted less than two hours. His suspension as it stands will cover at least the rest of this season, including the playoffs should the Browns qualify.

The incident started after Rudolph dumped off a short pass. After getting knocked down, Rudolph appeared to grab at Garrett’s helmet before Garrett ripped off Rudolph’s helmet and, with Steelers’ offensive linemen attempting to intervene, hit the quarterback in the head with it.

Rudolph, who missed time earlier this season with a concussion after being knocked unconscious by Earl Thomas of the Baltimore Ravens, was not injured.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Patriots WR Sanu facing multi-week absence

Report: Patriots WR Sanu facing multi-week absence

Report: Patriots WR Sanu facing multi-week absence

New England Patriots wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is nursing an ankle injury that could sideline him for a few games, according to a published report Thursday.

Tom E. Curran of reported that Sanu could be out “for a couple of weeks” unless the ankle injury that sidelined him for Wednesday’s practice improves at a rapid rate.

Sanu appeared to get injured on a punt return in New England’s 17-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

Sanu has 14 receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown in three games with the Patriots, who acquired him from the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 23 for a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

The 30-year-old had 33 catches for 313 yards and a score in seven games this season with the Falcons. He caught 225 passes for 2,507 yards and 14 touchdowns in 53 games (52 starts) during his time in Atlanta. He also played four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals and has 391 career receptions for 4,408 yards and 26 TDs.

–Field Level Media

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Browns’ Randall confirms death threats following hit

Browns' Randall confirms death threats following hit

Cleveland Browns safety

Browns’ Randall confirms death threats following hit

Cleveland Browns safety Damarious Randall said he received death threats following his helmet-to-helmet hit last week on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson.

Randall was ejected from Cleveland’s 21-7 win over Pittsburgh last Thursday after his hit left Johnson with a concussion and bleeding from an ear.

“How is it, from the standpoint, after the hit … I get so many death threats, so many people calling me names, people saying, ‘Oh, I hope you get hurt, I’m going to kill you, this and that,'” the 27-year-old Randall told “And it’s OK for fans to do it to us, but then when we say something back, it’s a problem, we get in trouble. I just never understood that.”

Randall, who apologized for the hit on Instagram after the game, dismissed the notion that the backlash could have been amplified after defensive end Myles Garrett hit Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph in the head with his helmet.

“It shouldn’t matter,” Randall said. “At the end of the day, the NFL is a brotherhood; nobody goes out there to hurt anybody. We’re all in it, this is an entertainment-based business. At the end of the day, we are entertainers. The last thing I need to be doing is watching my back for fans and stuff talking crazy. I know most of them aren’t even about that life, because I done really been in that life. … I know most of them ain’t even close to that life.

“It’s just funny to me how they blurt out and just say crazy, off-the-wall stuff, but just like the situation with one of my former teammates (safety Jermaine Whitehead). He lost his job behind something like that, but it’s OK for them to openly say stuff like that. I find that so crazy to me.”

The Browns released Whitehead on Nov. 4, one day after he posted a series of threatening remarks on social media following the team’s 24-19 loss in Denver.

“Imma kill you b—- … that’s on blood,” Whitehead wrote to one Twitter user.

“Don’t get shot at lil b—- … can you whoop my a– … f— football … let me know when you need the address,” he tweeted to another.

Whitehead apologized the following day.

–Field Level Media

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Bengals CB Phillips designated to return from IR

Bengals CB Phillips designated to return from IR

Bengals CB Phillips designated to return from IR

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darius Phillips was designated to return from injured reserve and was set to join practice Thursday.

Phillips sustained a knee injury in Cincinnati’s 21-17 loss to Buffalo on Sept. 22. He was placed on injured reserve four days later.

The 24-year-old collected 22 tackles and a forced fumble in 15 games (one start) during his rookie season in 2018. He recorded his first career interception against the Bills before he was injured.

Phillips was the second of two possible players that the team may designate for return from injured reserve. The first was wide receiver John Ross III, who returned Nov. 13.

Ross was sidelined with a shoulder injury sustained during the Bengals’ 27-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 30. He is eligible to return to game action Dec. 8 against the Cleveland Browns.

–Field Level Media

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Shanahan, 49ers aim to get home-field edge vs. Packers

Shanahan, 49ers aim to get home-field edge vs. Packers

Shanahan, 49ers aim to get home-field edge vs. Packers

The Green Bay Packers will visit the San Francisco 49ers in a game that could wind up deciding home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

If that’s not enough, the connections between these two rising powers run deep.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who is a month shy of his 40th birthday, and Packers coach Matt LaFleur, a week past his 40th birthday, are close friends who worked together on staffs in Houston, Washington and Atlanta.

“Matt and I spent a lot of time together,” Shanahan said. “We were pretty good friends, too. We challenged the heck out of each other. We had a lot of good, hard arguments and I think we both made each other better through it all.”

LaFleur and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh were roommates while on the coaching staff at Central Michigan in 2004.

“Robert, he’s one of my closest friends in life,” LaFleur said.

Meanwhile, LaFleur’s brother, Mike LaFleur, is the 49ers’ passing game coordinator.

Shanahan and Matt LaFleur are among the frontrunners for NFL Coach of the Year honors. Shanahan entered this season on shaky ground, having gone 10-22 in his first two seasons, but is 9-1 this season behind an 8-0 start.

In his first season, LaFleur has the Packers (8-2) in position to snap a two-year playoff drought and is one win away from being the Packers’ first rookie coach to post a nine-win season.

“I feel like we see it so much alike,” LaFleur said. “That’s a byproduct of working with somebody for so long and having a lot of conversations about it. I feel like he’s taught me how to see the game.”

Shanahan and LaFleur are offensive-minded head coaches. The starting point for both teams is the running game.

The 49ers have a deep backfield led by big-play Matt Breida and veteran Tevin Coleman. The Packers have the one-two punch of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, both of whom are averaging more than five yards per carry over the past six weeks. Both teams even use a fullback — a rarity in today’s NFL.

The big difference offensively is at quarterback, with Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers having a sizable edge over counterpart Jimmy Garoppolo. Rodgers, a two-time MVP, is 10th in the league with a 102.7 passer rating and has 17 touchdowns with only two interceptions. Garoppolo is 13th with a passer rating of 97.7 and has 18 touchdown passes, but his 10 interceptions rank tied for fourth-most in the league.

The 49ers have the sizeable edge on defense, though. They are tied for the league lead with 39 sacks. Arik Armstead (eight), Nick Bosa (seven), Dee Ford (6.5) and DeForest Buckner (five) give the 49ers the only quartet of players with five-plus sacks. That group fuels a defense that ranks second in defensive passer rating (72.3) and fourth in interceptions (11).

“They’ve had a number of sacks, which is obviously helping not only their overall yardage but the back end as well, because the back end knows the ball’s got to come out at a certain time,” Rodgers said. “There’s not any holes on this defense. It’s solid from the front seven to the back end as well. They’re playing really well together. It’s going to be a really good test for us.”

Green Bay is coming off its bye and didn’t have anyone out of practice on Wednesday due to injuries. San Francisco, on the other hand, was without tight end George Kittle, receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel, running back Matt Breida and defensive end Dee Ford, among others.

–Field Level Media

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Haskins, Redskins look to generate offense vs. Lions

Haskins, Redskins look to generate offense vs. Lions

Dwayne Haskins threw the

Haskins, Redskins look to generate offense vs. Lions

Dwayne Haskins threw the first two touchdown passes of his career last weekend. The next step for the Washington Redskins rookie quarterback is to collect his first win as a starter.

Haskins will make his third consecutive start when the Redskins host the reeling Detroit Lions on Sunday.

Haskins connected with running back Derrius Guice and tight end Jeremy Sprinkle for fourth-quarter scores after Washington fell behind 34-3 to the New York Jets. Haskins, who was picked off once, finished with 214 passing yards in the 34-17 defeat.

The solid finish gives Haskins a little boost as the Redskins (1-9) try to win a home game after dropping their first five this season.

“From this point, it’s just trying to figure out what needs to be corrected and then just executing at a high level every time I get the opportunity,” he said.

Haskins has been handed the starting job for the rest of the season by interim coach Bill Callahan. The Ohio State product passed for just 144 yards in a 24-9 loss at Buffalo earlier this month.

The punchless Redskins have scored 17 or fewer points in each of their past eight games.

“We’ve just got to be accountable,” Haskins said. “We’ve got to look deep inside ourselves and try to figure out what needs to be fixed and make a change.”

The return of Guice gives the offense a little more hope. The rookie second-round draft pick came off injured reserve last week after recovering from a knee injury and rushed for 24 yards on seven attempts to go along with his 45-yard touchdown reception.

Rookie receiver Terry McLaurin caught a 41-yard pass from Haskins, but veteran Adrian Peterson was held to 25 rushing yards after gaining 108 on the ground at Buffalo.

“They have three really good young players, but I really wouldn’t forget about Adrian Peterson,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “You see those guys that have that longevity, that sort of ability to keep going. It’s so impressive from a coaching standpoint. I would say that he’s so dangerous for us right now.”

Patricia expects to see Haskins roll out more often to buy time.

“They’re learning his skill set and what he does well, so probably more of the read-option type plays so they can get him out into space, a little bit more movement plays,” he said. “He’s a really good athlete. He’s one of those quarterbacks that’s not going to extend the play to run, he’s definitely going to try to extend the play to throw the ball. He’s got a huge arm.”

The Lions’ big-armed quarterback is on the sidelines. Matthew Stafford has missed the past two games due to a back injury, and he is unlikely to play on Sunday.

“We’re still in the same ballpark week by week as far as that goes,” Patricia said.

Detroit (3-6-1) has lost three straight and six of its past seven. Stafford’s backup, Jeff Driskel, passed for 209 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 51 yards and a score in a 35-27 loss to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday.

Rookie running back Bo Scarbrough played well in his NFL debut, gaining 55 yards on 14 carries and scoring a touchdown.

However, Detroit’s defense has been a big disappointment. The Lions are allowing 27.2 points per game, which ranks 27th in the league.

The Lions will be facing an offense that has produced the fewest points (12.5 per game), but Haskins is optimistic that will improve.

“As a person who really prides himself on positive energy, I know that if I bring my best game to practice every day, to meetings and to the game, eventually things will change, things will turn around,” he said. “Right now, we’re losing, but I don’t plan on losing for long.”

–Field Level Media

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Rested Seahawks hope to have Lockett at Philadelphia

Rested Seahawks hope to have Lockett at Philadelphia


Rested Seahawks hope to have Lockett at Philadelphia

The Seattle Seahawks’ bye week couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Seahawks got a break after an emotional 27-24 overtime victory against previously undefeated San Francisco on Monday Night Football, in which leading receiver Tyler Lockett suffered a leg contusion that caused him to spend two nights in a Bay Area hospital.

Seattle (8-2) hopes to have Lockett, who was officially limited at Wednesday’s practice, back when it travels to face the Philadelphia Eagles (5-5) on Sunday.

“He’s doing better. We’ll know later in the week his status,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We’re hoping, planning on him being able to play, but he has to show us, so we’ll see.”

Lockett, who has turned into the go-to receiver for quarterback Russell Wilson following Doug Baldwin’s offseason retirement, was hurt late in the fourth quarter against the 49ers and didn’t appear in overtime. The contusion caused severe swelling, which led to the extended hospital stay.

“They wanted to take an extra day to just ensure that he was fine and all that. He really is on the road to recovery now. He’s past that. That was just the initial concern,” Carroll said. “We were very fortunate that he was at a great place and they took great care of him and all that, and everything worked out fine. Now he’s on the road back, and we’re optimistic about it, but he’s still going to have to do it. The extra days are absolutely helping us.”

The Seahawks are riding a three-game winning streak and are 5-0 on the road this season. Seven of their eight victories have been by a touchdown or less, including consecutive overtime wins.

“I think the great thing about this game for our football team was just the resilience,” Wilson said after the San Francisco game. “We’ve had it all year. We’ve been, I think, the toughest team just in terms of resilience all year, in my opinion. Just how we stay encouraged, how we stay focused, how we keep having the faith and believe something great is going to happen.”

The Eagles haven’t shown the same resiliency, although their injuries have been more numerous.

They were without their leading rusher, Jordan Howard, and two best receivers, DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery, for last weekend’s 17-10 loss to New England, in which the Patriots scored the game’s final 17 points.

In addition, All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson suffered a concussion and left the game following the Eagles’ lone touchdown drive. All five of New England’s sacks came after Johnson was out.

“It affects you in a few ways,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said of the injuries. “We still game-plan the same. You always miss players. But this is football. You have to coach up the guys you have.”

Jackson is out for the season after abdominal surgery. Howard (shoulder) hadn’t yet been cleared for contact when the Eagles began practicing this week, and Jeffery (ankle) was also limited. Johnson remains in the league’s concussion protocol, and wideout Nelson Agholor (knee) joined him in sitting Wednesday.

Without much help, Carson Wentz completed only half of his pass attempts and lost a fumble against the Patriots.

“It’s not about one guy,” Pederson said in defense of his quarterback. “It takes 11 on offense. So we have to do better up front in protection, obviously, the backs have to do a better job there as well, and then our skill guys have to get open. So there is a combination of a lot of things that we can all take away from this game.”

–Field Level Media

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Allen, Panthers try to rebound at Saints

Allen, Panthers try to rebound at Saints

Allen, Panthers try to rebound at Saints

The New Orleans Saints bounced back quite well from a loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Now the Carolina Panthers will try to do the same thing.

The Saints (8-2) saw their six-game winning streak end in a 26-9 home loss to the Falcons two weeks ago. Last week, they went to Tampa Bay and won, 34-17.

The Panthers (5-5) absorbed a 29-3 home loss to the Falcons last Sunday and they visit New Orleans this Sunday, desperately needing a win to stay relevant in the NFC South.

These teams will meet again in the regular-season finale, but a Saints victory Sunday would give them a four-game lead on Carolina and a leg up on the tiebreaker with five games to play.

The Panthers could make the remainder of the season more interesting if they can sweep the head-to-head meetings.

In order to do so they’re going to have to bounce back like the Saints did.

“We know what type of team we are,” Saints cornerback P.J. Williams said. “We know (the Falcons game) wasn’t us, so we knew we were going to bounce back in a big way.”

Against the Falcons, the Saints didn’t score a touchdown, rushed for a season-low 52 yards and had Drew Brees sacked six times. Against the Buccaneers, the Saints rushed for 109 yards against what had been the NFL’s top run defense, and Brees threw three touchdowns and wasn’t sacked.

The offensive line made a big difference. Left tackle Terron Armstead was healthy after battling the flu the whole Falcons week. Nick Easton made his first start of the season against Tampa Bay in place of left guard Andrus Peat, who suffered a broken arm against the Falcons.

“That Atlanta game was not what we’re about and something we weren’t proud of at all,” tackle Ryan Ramczyk said. “It was uncharacteristic, but we’re going to get on this roll and keep going and playing our game.”

The Panthers hope to play their best brand of football this week, but they are trending in the wrong direction, having lost three of their last four after a four-game winning streak.

Running back Christian McCaffrey is having an MVP-quality season, but that hasn’t been enough to slow the slide. He has passed 1,000 rushing yards and is on pace to accumulate 2,522 yards from scrimmage, which would be an NFL record.

The Panthers’ offensive line, which has featured seven different starters this season, struggled against Atlanta.

“It’s kind of tough for that group to build a little bit of cohesiveness when they don’t have an opportunity to work together as often as you would like,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said.

Kyle Allen, who was sacked five times and hit 10 times against Atlanta, threw four interceptions. One came in the end zone and two others came inside the 5, against a defense that had just two interceptions all season.

Allen has been sacked three or more times in six games this season, including four straight. Though he was pressured, Allen attributed the interceptions to “poor decision-making.”

“Turnovers are not going to give us any chance to win,” he said. “So, my decision-making has to be better.”

In Allen’s first four games this season after replacing injured Cam Newton, he threw seven touchdown passes and had no interceptions. In the last four games, he has thrown three touchdowns and nine interceptions.

–Field Level Media

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Steelers look to get back to business at Cincinnati

Steelers look to get back to business at Cincinnati

Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph

Steelers look to get back to business at Cincinnati

Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph is hoping for a much less eventful time on the football field when the Steelers visit the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Rudolph is attempting to move on from the Nov. 14 incident in which he was conked on the head with his own helmet by Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett.

The skirmish led to an indefinite suspension for Garrett, a three-game suspension for Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and a one-game penalty for Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi. Plenty of Browns felt Rudolph was the instigator and also should have been disciplined.

Rudolph addressed the situation Wednesday and said he lost his cool.

“For my involvement last week, there’s no acceptable excuse,” Rudolph told reporters. “The bottom line is I should have done a better job keeping my composure in that situation. And it falls short of what I believe it means to be a Pittsburgh Steeler and member of the NFL.”

Rudolph and the Steelers (5-5) will look to get back on track after the 21-7 loss to Cleveland halted a four-game winning streak.

Pittsburgh finishes the regular season with four of six games on the road, with downtrodden Cincinnati (0-10) first on the slate.

Rudolph completed a stellar 24 of 28 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns when Pittsburgh notched a 27-3 home win over the Bengals on Sept. 30.

Top target JuJu Smith-Schuster is expected to miss the rematch due to a concussion and knee injury. The team leader with 38 receptions and 524 yards has just eight catches for 81 yards over the past three games.

The running back situation is also dicey with James Conner (team-best 390 rushing yards) re-injuring his shoulder against the Browns.

Benny Snell, who has 118 rushing yards, returned to practice Wednesday after missing three games with a knee injury. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is interested in seeing the rookie fourth-round pick receive a lot of work.

“We’ll get him on the field and see what he looks like,” Tomlin told reporters. “Not only in terms of his health, but a young guy like him who has missed a block of time, we’ll be focused on his ability to execute and execute in great detail. And so he’s got a two-pronged thing he has to answer — not only health but game readiness from a detail and knowledge standpoint, which is a reasonable process for a young guy.”

The Bengals haven’t seen seven-time Pro Bowl wideout A.J. Green (ankle) on the field this season, and coach Zac Taylor isn’t expecting it to happen this Sunday either after Green was unable to practice on Wednesday.

“Not impossible, but it is difficult with any player, especially a player that hasn’t played in a long time,” Taylor told reporters. “You want to make sure they get the reps and get a feel for the game plan.”

Cincinnati recently benched veteran quarterback Andy Dalton in favor of rookie Ryan Finley, and the passing attack is suffering.

Finley, a fourth-round pick, has completed just 47.5 percent of his passes for 282 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in two starts. His longest pass play gained only 24 yards.

Finley was just 13 of 31 for 115 yards and a pick last week in Cincinnati’s 17-10 setback to the Oakland Raiders. Leading receiver Tyler Boyd (58 receptions, 598 yards) had just one catch for 0 yards and expressed his dissatisfaction about being targeted a season-low three times.

“I feel like I’m the go-to guy with A.J. down,” Boyd told reporters. “I felt like my targets were not where they should have been. I feel that I’m a game-changer and I could have utilized my talents in any way to move the chains, and nothing was coming my way.”

Taylor was peppered with questions about Finley’s status, including whether his starting position was safe.

“I know everyone wants to nitpick his last performance, but I continue to see growth from him, and everyone around him needs to step up and do a better job as well,” Taylor said. “A lot of things get pointed at the quarterback. We kind of said the same things about Andy as the season was going. Everyone else has to do their job as well.”

Pittsburgh has won its past nine meetings with Cincinnati, including a January 2016 playoff game.

–Field Level Media

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Season could be on line for Jaguars, Titans

Season could be on line for Jaguars, Titans

Season could be on line for Jaguars, Titans

The Tennessee Titans are trying to build on a streak in which they have won three of their past four games, while the Jacksonville Jaguars are desperately looking for a turnaround after being smacked around in back-to-back setbacks.

The two AFC South teams battle on Sunday in Nashville, Tenn., with the Jaguars (4-6) looking to halt a five-game losing streak in Music City when they clash with the Titans (5-5).

Both squads could badly use a win with the division race being jumbled. The co-leading Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans — both with 6-4 records — play each other on Thursday night.

No matter the Thursday night result, Tennessee’s positioning would improve with a win over the Jaguars.

“This is the NFL, right? It’s a tough, tough league, and every week is huge, especially late in the year,” Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said at a press conference. “So we have to play our best football here down the stretch, and it starts this week with Jacksonville.”

Tannehill has fueled Tennessee’s improved play since replacing Marcus Mariota. His promotion kickstarted the 3-1 stretch and he has guided three game-winning drives, including a 35-32 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 10 before the team’s bye.

Tannehill has thrown eight touchdown passes over the four-game stretch and twice topped 300 yards passing.

“Just trying to go out and play good football,” Tannehill said. “We’ve got good players on this team and good weapons on the outside, so just trying to distribute the football and throw it to the open guy. … I think we’ve done a decent job at certain times of executing and being an efficient offense, and that’s what we’ll look to do.”

Standout runner Derrick Henry (832 yards, eight touchdowns) racked up a season-best 188 rushing yards against the Chiefs. The former Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama is likely salivating to see the Jaguars on the schedule based on two prime reasons.

The first is that Jacksonville has allowed an average of 240 rushing yards over the past two games — 216 in a 26-3 loss to the Texans and 264 in a 33-13 defeat to the Colts.

Secondly, Henry rushed for a career-best 238 yards and four touchdowns in a 30-9 home rout of the Jaguars last December. Among the highlights was an exhilarating 99-yard scoring run on the Thursday night television stage.

Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone has been working overtime to shore up the run deficiencies, including adjusting Wednesday’s practice schedule to focus on tackling. The Jaguars rank 29th in stopping the run at 134.6 yards per game.

“Tennessee is not a team that you just go in there and stop a couple of plays and they just stop running the ball,” defensive tackle Abry Jones told reporters. “They have a great workhorse back there who deserves to get the ball down-in and down-out.

“It’s a mentality to make sure we’re going to take away the run game from them and if they think they can get it back, we have to keep taking it from them.”

The Jacksonville defense bottled up Henry and his offensive teammates pretty well earlier this season while posting a 20-7 home victory. The Jaguars limited Henry to 44 yards on 17 carries and harassed Mariota repeatedly while posting nine sacks.

Jacksonville won that contest with rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew running the show. Veteran Nick Foles returned from a broken clavicle last Sunday and completed 33 of 47 passes for 296 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against the Colts.

Foles sees time running out on the Jaguars if they can’t immediately improve from the last two games when they were outscored by a combined 59-16.

“We’re going through our journey right now. Everyone wants you just to arrive at the end goal, but that’s not how this thing works,” Foles told reporters. “We’re in that tough time. This is where you get tested. … That’s where we’re at right now.

“This is where your culture is built. This is where you establish so many things — in these trials. We’re figuring out who we are as a culture.”

The Titans hope to have a key defender back as tackle Jurrell Casey (shoulder) returned to practice Wednesday after missing the previous two games.

Tennessee has won four of the past five overall meetings.

–Field Level Media

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Falcons hope to maintain sudden hot streak vs. Bucs

Falcons hope to maintain sudden hot streak vs. Bucs

Falcons hope to maintain sudden hot streak vs. Bucs

In routing the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints and then the Carolina Panthers on the road the past two weeks, the Atlanta Falcons earned every bit of praise they garnered for 26-9 and 29-3 wins in which their defense didn’t allowed a touchdown.

They’ve also brought to mind a question: Where was this performance when the team was stumbling to a 1-7 start and putting head coach Dan Quinn’s job in jeopardy?

“If we keep playing the way we are as a defense, offense and special teams put together, that’s the team we believe we can be,” Atlanta safety Ricardo Allen said. “I know we’ve got something we can do. I know who we have. We just have to put it out there and not talk about it.”

Atlanta will try to continue this sudden streak of excellence Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town, attempting to salvage the remains of a once-promising season that has fallen off the rails.

Both teams enter with 3-7 records, but the Falcons have the splashier resume, based on what they’ve done the past two games. The consecutive division routs mark the first time since 2009 that they’ve allowed fewer than 10 points in back-to-back games.

“Just watching the New Orleans film, when they beat them in New Orleans, it was a different group of guys,” Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said of the Atlanta defense. “Same guys, but it was a different group of guys. There seems to be more energy, especially defensively up front for them. Their coverage and their pass rush is syncing well right now.”

The Buccaneers’ offense is explosive on paper, but very mistake-prone. Five years into his NFL career, quarterback Jameis Winston continues to mix wonderful throws with mind-boggling mistakes.

Winston has tossed a league-high 18 interceptions this year, including four last week in a 34-17 home loss to New Orleans. Some were of the fluky variety, but the fact remains he’s already matched a career high in that department, and he has added 11 fumbles (four lost).

Of course, Winston isn’t completely to blame for the performance of his offensive line, which has allowed 36 sacks. That’s already a career high and the most absorbed by any player this season.

“It’s a combination — bad blocking and not getting open,” Arians said. “He’s done a good job in the last three weeks of throwing the ball away. Some of it was on him, trying to make plays early in the season, and he’s finally adjusted to getting rid of the ball.”

With neither team contending for a playoff spot, individual feats will be a compelling reason to watch this game. Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans needs just 7 yards for the sixth 1,000-yard season of his six-year career, while Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones is 118 yards from his sixth straight 1,000-yard year and seventh overall.

The contest may also carry a bit more meaning for a couple of Falcons assistant coaches. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and secondary coach Raheem Morris were Buccaneers head coaches earlier this decade.

Atlanta had several key players miss Wednesday’s practice, including quarterback Matt Ryan (ankle), Devonta Freeman (foot), tight end Austin Hooper (knee) and defensive end Takkarist McKinley (shoulder). Ryan is expected to play, while the others’ status will be decided late in the week.

Jason Pierre-Paul (knee) missed Wednesday’s practice for the Bucs, but Winston was a full participant despite tweaking his ankle last week.

–Field Level Media

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Allen, Bills wary of battered Broncos

Allen, Bills wary of battered Broncos


Allen, Bills wary of battered Broncos

Josh Allen is the reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week, but the Buffalo Bills quarterback isn’t resting easy despite playing a team with a losing record Sunday.

“I don’t think their record shows how good they are,” Allen said of the Denver Broncos on Wednesday. “They’ve lost a couple of games by less than one score. Their defense is pretty dang good.”

The Broncos are on track for a third straight losing season, after previously going without two in a row since 1971-72. But despite a 3-7 record, Denver has been in almost every game, with four losses decided by a single play in the final minute.

The latest was last week’s 27-23 loss at Minnesota, in which the Broncos blew a 20-point halftime lead and couldn’t score on three plays from the 4-yard line in the final seconds.

With the playoffs a distant dream, Denver will need to focus on building for the future.

“I know we do have some stuff growing, and we’re building,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “We’re understanding the defense, understanding what the new guys that we brought in (can contribute), building that chemistry, so it’s something that definitely we can build on for next year. But like I said, I’m just focusing on the week to week. Every week is a challenge, a great challenge for me, and I have to be able to play good for us to win.”

Quarterback Brandon Allen will make his third career start Sunday in Buffalo, where the Broncos haven’t won since 2007. Allen has played well since taking over for the injured Joe Flacco, and he will be the starter for the foreseeable future.

Rookie Drew Lock, who has been on injured reserve since the start of the season, won’t be activated this week and may stay on IR for the rest of the season, although he began practicing last week. Lock could have been put on the active roster after fullback Andy Janovich’s season-ending right elbow injury, but the team signed tight end Orson Charles on Tuesday.

Denver is dealing with plenty of injuries on offense, but it does have a formidable defense that could give Josh Allen some trouble. The Broncos rank fourth in total defense (310.8 yards per game), fifth in pass defense (210.3) and tied for seventh in scoring defense (19.7 points per game) in the NFL.

Buffalo will try to stop the likes of linebacker Von Miller and defensive lineman Shelby Harris, who had three sacks last week, without right tackle Ty Nsekhe, who injured his ankle last Sunday in a 37-20 win at Miami.

The Bills are also dealing with injuries on their defense. Safety Siran Neal is in the concussion protocol, and defensive lineman Jerry Hughes is battling a nagging groin injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday.

Hughes was able to play against the Dolphins despite the injury flaring up in the preparation for the Week 11 game. Head coach Sean McDermott didn’t rule anyone out of Sunday’s game other than Nsekhe, who is considered week to week.

In addition to Janovich’s injury, Broncos offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James (knee) and tight end Jeff Heuerman (knee) are questionable for the Sunday game.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Browns’ Garrett states case in appeal

NFL notebook: Browns' Garrett states case in appeal

NFL notebook: Browns’ Garrett states case in appeal

Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett on Wednesday appealed his suspension for his on-field conduct last Thursday, when he took Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet and hit Rudolph in the head, stating in his hearing that precedent doesn’t support his indefinite ban, ESPN reported.

Citing a source, ESPN’s Dan Graziano said Garrett and representatives from the players union argued in an appeal hearing in New York that a player involved in a similar incident in 2013 received only a three-game suspension.

In the hearing, Graziano reported, Garrett and his team likened the action to what happened in a 2013 preseason game when Antonio Smith of the Houston Texans swung his helmet at offensive lineman Richie Incognito, who then played for the Miami Dolphins.

A ruling on Garrett’s appeal — and on the appeal of Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey’s suspension — will come later this week, the NFL announced. The league announced that Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi’s one-game suspension, for hitting Rudolph after the play, was upheld.

–Rudolph, meanwhile, read a prepared statement to reporters, stating his regret the way he handled the on-field altercation with Garrett last week.

“I have no ill will toward Myles Garrett. Great respect for his ability as a player. And I know that if Myles could go back, he would handle the situation differently,” said Rudolph, 24.

–New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell appeared to suggest that he’s being unfairly targeted by the NFL and its drug-testing policy.

“I done had 5 ‘random’ HGH blood test in 10 weeks,” Bell wrote on Twitter. “@NFL I’m not doing another after today, whatever y’all lookin for it obviously ain’t there & I’m not about to keep allowing y’all to stick me with those dirty (expletive) needles … find the players who really do that HGH BS & get off me.”

Bell received a two-game suspension in 2014 after he was charged with marijuana possession and a DUI. He also was handed a four-game ban for missing a test in 2016.

–Tight end George Kittle (knee, ankle), wideouts Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) and Deebo Samuel (shoulder) and left tackle Joe Staley (finger) were among several key San Francisco 49ers who missed practice.

Also absent were running back Matt Breida (ankle), kicker Robbie Gould (quad) and defensive end Dee Ford (hamstring), who is expected to miss at least a game or two.

Coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters he expects most of those players’ statuses to be decided late in the week.

–Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill is considered day-to-day with a hamstring injury, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

Hill sustained his injury early in the first quarter of Kansas City’s 24-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday in Mexico City. The Chiefs are now on a bye week, and the 25-year-old receiver could return to action when the team faces the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 1.

–Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, a full participant at practice, says his injured hip is feeling better, and he is considered day-to-day in advance of Chicago’s Sunday home game against the New York Giants.

Trubisky sustained a right hip pointer injury near the end of the second quarter of Chicago’s 17-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night. Coach Matt Nagy pulled him in the fourth quarter in favor of Chase Daniel.

–The Miami Dolphins placed two-time Pro Bowl selection Reshad Jones and fellow safety Bobby McCain on injured reserve, ending their seasons.

Jones and McCain sustained shoulder injuries in Miami’s 37-20 loss to Buffalo on Sunday.

–Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is listed as questionable for Thursday night’s AFC South showdown against the host Houston Texans.

Hilton has been sidelined for three games with a calf injury that he sustained in a practice.

–Browns tight end David Njoku has been designated to return from injured reserve and has started practicing, the team announced.

Njoku has been sidelined for eight games with a wrist injury sustained in Cleveland’s 23-3 victory over the Jets on Sept. 16.

–Though the Detroit Lions at 3-6-1 are basically done for the season, injured quarterback Matthew Stafford isn’t ready to call it quits.

For any doubters wondering why Stafford would even consider playing the rest of the season, the QB had a simple answer.

“Because this is what I do,” Stafford said on the team’s website. “… This is what I love to do. I love playing football.”

–Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith is making strides toward an NFL comeback, 12 months after a gruesome leg injury put his career in jeopardy.

“I’ve really tried to transition into working on some football stuff,” Smith recently said on the Redskins’ podcast, “The Alex Smith Report.”

Smith sustained a broken fibula and tibia in his right leg against the Houston Texans on Nov. 18, 2018, that required 17 surgeries. He also had to fight off an infection.

–Field Level Media

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Raiders aim to bolster playoff odds against Jets

Raiders aim to bolster playoff odds against Jets

Raiders aim to bolster playoff odds against Jets

Two teams playing their best football of the season will put winning streaks on the line Sunday when the Oakland Raiders visit the New York Jets.

In a historic rivalry in which little or nothing has been at stake in their last 10 meetings, the Raiders (6-4) have a chance to move into a tie for first place in the AFC West with the idle Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) with a fourth straight win.

Standing in the way are the Jets (3-7), who have won two in a row and have six wins in 10 games against the Raiders since they met in the 2003 playoffs.

Ten regular-season meetings in 16 years is rare for teams not in the same division, but it’s commonplace for the two former American Football League powers, who will be seeing each other for a remarkable 47th time in the last 60 years.

For the 11th straight time, the game features at least one team with a losing record. Such also was the case in December 2006, when the Jets earned an AFC wild-card berth with a 23-3 home win over a Raider team that finished 2-14.

That’s the last time — until this week — that a Raiders-Jets game had late-season significance.

It’s Oakland’s improbable run at a playoff spot after a rugged early travel schedule that allows this meeting to impact the playoff race.

The Raiders have reached the postseason only once since 2002 — a year in which they beat the Jets in an AFC wild-card game en route to the Super Bowl. But they enter Week 12 this season not only in the thick of the division, but tied for the fifth-best record in the entire AFC.

Oakland’s three-game winning streak has come at home against teams all unlikely to make the playoffs — Detroit, the Los Angeles Chargers and Cincinnati — and five of their six remaining opponents have records of .500 or worse.

Such is the reward when the first half of your season has included a 49-day span between home games, a stretch that included a trip to London to face Chicago as well as matchups with Minnesota, Indianapolis, Green Bay and Houston.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden borrowed from former Oakland boss Al Davis when, for the second week in a row, he warned that his club’s focus must be on this week, not December or January.

“There’s an old saying around here: ‘Just win, baby,'” Gruden reminded reporters. “We’ve fought our hearts out to put ourselves in a 6-4 position. That doesn’t mean anything. We’ve got a lot of respect for the Jets and a lot of work to do.”

The game features a matchup of quarterbacks Derek Carr and Sam Darnold, each of whom has silenced doubters of late.

Carr has just one interception in his last four games, a stretch in which he’s thrown 120 passes. He complemented one TD pass with a TD run in last week’s 17-10 win over Cincinnati.

Darnold, meanwhile, came up big in last Sunday’s 34-17 victory at Washington, throwing for season-best four touchdowns with just one interception. He has nine touchdowns (including one rushing) in his last four games, with just two interceptions in his last three.

Like the Raiders, the Jets have hit a soft patch in the schedule. Coming off games against Jacksonville, Miami, the Giants and Washington, the Jets get Cincinnati and Miami after the Raiders.

Darnold noted after the Washington game that the New York offense is gaining momentum and has a chance to pick up even more steam.

“As an offense as a whole, it’s just another stepping stone in the right direction,” he told reporters. “So that’s how we’re going to look at it.”

–Field Level Media

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Giants visit Bears hoping to stop 6-game skid

Giants visit Bears hoping to stop 6-game skid

Two teams going nowhere meet

Giants visit Bears hoping to stop 6-game skid

Two teams going nowhere meet at Soldier Field at noon Sunday.

The Chicago Bears and New York Giants have combined for one victory since the end of September, with the G-Men coming off their bye in the throes of a six-game losing streak, and Chicago having dropped five of six.

That was somewhat expected of the 2-8 Giants, especially after they ditched veteran quarterback Eli Manning as the starter for rookie Daniel Jones in Week 3. But the Bears had Super Bowl aspirations on the heels of a 12-4 turnaround in 2018. However, a 4-6 start has all but dashed those hopes.

The Bears’ demise has left many wondering how 2018 Coach of the Year Matt Nagy, the offensive play-caller, has lost his magic from one year to the next, and how quarterback Mitch Trubisky has regressed from the player who showed great promise last year.

After last week’s hip pointer sidelined him for the final few minutes in Sunday night’s loss, Trubisky’s status was characterized as day-to-day Wednesday, but he practiced in full.

The Giants’ slump has increased the heat on head coach Pat Shurmur, but his work with Jones, the 2019 sixth overall draft pick, has been encouraging lately. The QB has tossed nine touchdown passes and just one interception in his last three games.

Shurmur’s job security could wind up being tied to Jones’ maturation, and the coach acknowledged the importance of that relationship.

“It’s primary,” Shurmur said. “When the game’s over, they ask many people what happened in the game; but they always ask the head coach and the quarterback. It has to be a really strong relationship.”

Jones, though, has been plagued by fumbles, including 10 in his last four games. He has lost nine of his 13 fumbles and thrown eight picks as well.

Giants running back Saquon Barkley’s performance has dipped much like Trubisky’s, although injuries and a porous offensive line are at least partly to blame for the talented runner who set numerous records as a rookie.

While Jones has shown the potential to lead his franchise forward down the road, Trubisky’s demise has left the Bears with a bleak future at the most important position.

The second overall pick in 2017 has struggled throwing the ball, but he has also been reluctant to use his legs as a weapon. After Trubisky ran 68 times for 421 yards (6.2 average) and three touchdowns last season, he has just 15 rushing attempts for 58 yards (3.9 average) with no touchdowns this year. He has already been sacked 23 times after taking just 24 sacks in 14 starts last year.

Nagy has been a staunch supporter of Trubisky, though that has not manifested itself in the coach’s conservative play-calling.

“The last two weeks, he has without a doubt gotten a lot better,” Nagy said of Trubisky, who has thrown for 363 yards, four touchdowns and an interception over that span. “Decision-making, throws … has been a lot better.”

In the Sunday night prime-time debacle, a 17-7 loss to the Rams, Trubisky completed 24 of 43 passes for 190 yards with one TD, one interception and a 65.1 passer rating.

–Field Level Media

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Injured Lions QB Stafford not ready to shut it down

Injured Lions QB Stafford not ready to shut it down

Injured Lions QB Stafford not ready to shut it down

Though the Detroit Lions are basically done for the season, injured quarterback Matthew Stafford isn’t ready to call it quits.

With their playoff hopes dwindling with each passing week, the 3-6-1 Lions do have hope when they go on the road to face the 1-9 Washington Redskins on Sunday. But they’ll likely do it without Stafford, who sat out practice again Wednesday and whose status is considered week to week with fractured bones in his back.

For any doubters wondering why Stafford would even consider playing the rest of the season, the QB had a simple answer.

“Because this is what I do,” Stafford said Wednesday on the team’s website. “… This is what I love to do. I love playing football. I appreciate all the hard work that all the guys in this locker room and in this organization put into going out there and trying to win games on Sunday and I love being a part of that.”

Before sitting out the Nov. 10 game at the Chicago Bears, Stafford had started 136 consecutive games — the sixth-longest streak for a quarterback in NFL history.

Though Stafford practiced before the Bears game, a recent scan of his back showed problems that have kept him from practicing the last two weeks.

Backup Jeff Driskel started against the Bears and was back under center Sunday against the Cowboys.

“It’s tough for me to sit there without the pads on and not be able to impact the game on the field the way I’m used to doing,” Stafford said. “That’s driving me to get back out there, and whenever we all deem it’s the right time for me to get back out there, I’ll be out there.”

Shutting him down hasn’t been discussed, but Lions coach Matt Patricia said Wednesday that Stafford’s status could change as the final weeks of the regular season approach.

“For us, it’s probably, maybe a different conversation as you get closer toward the end of the season,” Patricia said. “Right now, where we’re at, we’re just focused on this week and just worried about kind of everything that affects us for this week.”

The 31-year-old Stafford has completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 2,499 yards, 19 touchdowns and five interceptions in eight games this season.

–Field Level Media

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Browns trying to stack wins as Dolphins visit

Browns trying to stack wins as Dolphins visit

Browns trying to stack wins as Dolphins visit

The Cleveland Browns have reached the soft part of their schedule riding a two-game winning streak, and their playoff hopes remain alive as they prepare to host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Four of the final six games for the Browns (4-6) are against teams with a combined five wins: Miami, the Arizona Cardinals, and two against the winless Cincinnati Bengals.

Further, the Browns are 2-0 in their division with games remaining against the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, both of whom they’ve beaten. While chasing down the Ravens in the division is unlikely, a wild-card spot is attainable for the Browns, currently the 10th seed in the AFC.

But the big question for the Browns is, can they put aside the distractions to string together quality games and take care of business against inferior competition?

Their first challenge comes in the form of the Dolphins (2-8), who had won two straight before Sunday’s loss to the Bills.

The Browns are heavy favorites and are playing their third straight home game, but they’ve lost their best pass-rusher, Myles Garrett, indefinitely (pending appeal) after his infamous meltdown last week against Pittsburgh.

And the Dolphins, despite their lack of talent, play disciplined football. That’s a stark contrast to the Browns, who are third in the league in penalties assessed (87) and No. 1 in penalty yardage assessed (822), nearly twice as much as the league-low Dolphins (444).

Miami also leads the league in fewest penalties assessed (55).

But in every other way, all signs point to the Browns being able to dominate the Dolphins.

Behind running back Nick Chubb, the Browns are 12th in the NFL at 121.9 yards rushing per game and fifth in yards per carry (4.92); the Dolphins average 148.3 rushing yards allowed, second worst in the league behind only the hapless Bengals.

Chubb is third in the league with 1,011 rushing yards.

Further, the Dolphins have allowed 42 sacks — tied for most in the NFL — and their offensive line ranks worst in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. The Browns sport a stingy pass defense, allowing 216.8 yards through the air, good for sixth best in the league.

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (1,687 yards, eight TDs, eight INTs), while an able leader in terms of guile, grit and determination, comes in with a quarterback rating of 79.9, third worst among qualified passers.

The worst quarterback rating belongs to Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (76.8), but he has a streak of three games without throwing an interception against five touchdown passes. His rating in those three games is 95.2.

Further, Mayfield’s completion percentage has been in the mid-to-high 60s in three of his past four games.

Mayfield’s favorite targets so far are the dynamic wide receiving duo of Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. Landry has 49 receptions to Beckham’s 48; Landry has 695 yards to Beckham’s 692.

For the season, Mayfield has 11 TD passes against 12 INTs.

Miami placed starting safeties Bobby McCain (shoulder) and Reshad Jones (ribs) on injured reserve on Wednesday, though no others missed practice. Fitzpatrick was limited with right (throwing) shoulder and forearm issues, but he is still expected to play Sunday.

For the Browns, defensive end Olivier Vernon (knee) and safety Eric Murray (knee) did not practice Wednesday. Vernon was hurt late in a Week 9 loss at Denver and has not played since.

–Field Level Media

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Kittle, Sanders, Samuel among 49ers missing practice

Kittle, Sanders, Samuel among 49ers missing practice

Kittle, Sanders, Samuel among 49ers missing practice

Tight end George Kittle (knee, ankle), wideouts Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) and Deebo Samuel (shoulder) and left tackle Joe Staley (finger) were among several key San Francisco 49ers who missed Wednesday’s practice.

Also absent were running back Matt Breida (ankle), kicker Robbie Gould (quad) and defensive end Dee Ford (hamstring), who is expected to miss at least a game or two.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters he expects most of those players’ statuses to be decided late in the week, potentially during pregame warmups for Sunday night’s home game against the Green Bay Packers.

Kittle has missed the last two games since getting hurt Oct. 31 at Arizona, while Breida missed this last week’s contest.

Sanders was injured Nov. 11 against Seattle, leaving the game and not returning, but he played through the pain on Sunday in a rematch with the Cardinals.

Samuel was hurt Sunday, though he posted eight catches for a career-high 134 yards in the game.

Staley had finger surgery last week, just a game after his return from a fractured leg, and was expected to potentially miss multiple weeks.

Gould has missed two games, being replaced by undrafted rookie Chase McLaughlin.

Ford left Sunday’s game in the first half and could miss significant time, according to reports. He has 6.5 sacks this season.

–Field Level Media

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Brady, Prescott center stage as Cowboys visit Patriots

Brady, Prescott center stage as Cowboys visit Patriots

A pair

Brady, Prescott center stage as Cowboys visit Patriots

A pair of teams with lofty aspirations will meet when the New England Patriots host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon.

New England (9-1), which is tied for the best record in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, is aiming to build upon its perfect 4-0 mark at home this season.

The Patriots are coming off a 17-10 road win over the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

Meanwhile, Dallas (6-4) also sits in first place in its division, but only a game separates the club from second-place Philadelphia. The Cowboys are looking for back-to-back victories after a 35-27 road win against the Detroit Lions last week.

All eyes will be on a high-profile quarterback showdown between New England’s Tom Brady and Dallas’ Dak Prescott.

Brady has completed 63.7 percent of his passes this season for 2,752 yards, 14 touchdowns and five interceptions. He ranks second all-time in passing touchdowns with 531 — only eight shy of Peyton Manning’s record 539.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, a former NFL quarterback, did not hesitate to describe Brady’s greatness.

“You can make an argument that he’s the best player that ever walked,” Garrett said. “What he’s done throughout his career, the productivity, his ability to win with a lot of different teams and a lot of different guys a lot of different ways, he’s just been remarkable.”

At 26 years old, Prescott’s career is far less decorated, but he has been at least as good as Brady as of late. Prescott has completed 67.7 percent of his passes for a league-high 3,221 yards, 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and he is the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 444 yards and three touchdowns against the Lions. Wide receiver Amari Cooper went through a full practice on Wednesday and is expected to be full strength Sunday.

Another storyline in the matchup involves Cowboys defensive end Michael Bennett, who will return to New England for the first time since the Patriots traded him to Dallas on Oct. 25 in exchange for a conditional 2021 seventh-round draft pick. Bennett has three sacks in his first three games with the Cowboys and almost certainly will be eager to stand out against his former team.

“It’s never personal in the NFL. It’s always business,” Bennett said Wednesday. “I’m at the point now where I don’t have to prove myself. You go out there, you play as hard as you can, simply not for yourself but for your teammates every single time I go out there. It’s not really about me. It’s really about the guys lined up that are lined up next to me.”

New England’s offense could get a boost with the return of left tackle Isaiah Wynn, who was activated this week from the injured reserve list. Wynn has been out since Week 3 and is expected to stabilize an offensive line that has struggled at times. Brady has been critical of the group’s performance, but offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels doesn’t view Brady’s push for perfection as a negative.

“I’ve been with Tom a long time. I appreciate his competitive spirit, his desire to be perfect in everything he does, and with everything our unit does,” McDaniels said. “I don’t ever take that as a negative. I understand he wants to go out there and do what we all do, which is to put a lot of points on the board every week.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has spent this week scouting Dallas on film. He also appreciates the Cowboys’ place in NFL history.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Cowboys organization, the history there, what they’ve created,” Belichick said. “Obviously, they’re probably the premier franchise in all of pro sports. That’s no accident. That didn’t happen overnight.

“What Jerry (Jones) and Stephen (Jones) and the rest of the organization have put together there, and the history going back to Coach (Tom) Landry and Coach (Jimmy) Johnson, those are standards that I’d say all of us in the profession aspire to look up to and aspire to meet the levels of success that they have achieved.”

–Field Level Media

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