Bucs, Bears in 1st place? Who would have thunk it?

There is no way anyone outside of Tampa or Chicago would have predicted the Bucs and Bears would both be first-place teams when they square off in Week 4.

Sure, it’s still plenty early in the schedule. Yet there’s no denying both teams are ahead of schedule.

Although the Buccaneers (2-1) come off a 30-27 home loss to Pittsburgh last Monday night, their offense behind backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been dynamic. Fitzpatrick started the three games that starter Jameis Winston was suspended and made a strong argument for keeping the job. Fitz leads the NFL with 1,230 yards passing and is second with 11 TD passes. He’s the only player in league history to throw for 400-plus yards in three consecutive games.

Winston certainly has been impressed and promises not to make any waves.

“It’s about the team’s success. I’m not a selfish player, it’s about our team,” Winston said. “We’re out here doing big things, and we’ve got to continue doing that.”

Chicago (2-1) is doing big things on defense. The trade with Oakland for Khalil Mack has made a huge impact in the Windy City, making up for a mediocre offense.

Mack is tied for the league lead with four sacks, with at least one in each game, and leads the NFL with three forced fumbles.

“What he has done is completely elevated everybody else on defense,” coach Matt Nagy said. “When that happens, that’s rare, to have one guy affect a team like that.”

Week 4 began with Jared Goff throwing for 465 yards and five touchdowns and getting a perfect quarterback rating in a 38-31 victory over Minnesota. The Rams are 4-0, while the Vikings are 1-2-1 and haven’t won since opening day.

On byes are Carolina and Washington.

Baltimore (2-1) at Pittsburgh (1-1-1)

Classic NFL matchup, Part I.

The Steelers have won nine straight games on Sunday nights, twice over the Ravens. But Baltimore has a rekindled offense, with Joe Flacco off to a sizzling start, helped by a trio of new receivers. Newcomer Michael Crabtree leads the Ravens with 15 catches and needs six to reach 600 for his career.

Pittsburgh likely gets back top blocker David DeCastro for Ben Roethlisberger, whos is 21-3 in regular-season prime-time games at home, throwing for 55 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Roethlisberger has thrown a TD pass in 45 straight home games, the third-longest streak in NFL history.

If this comes down to kicking, Baltimore has a huge edge. The Ravens’ Justin Tucker has hit eight straight field goals from 50-plus yards and owns the best FG percentage (90.0) in NFL history. Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell has hit just one of four field goals; the three misses match his entire 2017 total.

Kansas City (3-0) at Denver (2-1), Monday night

Classic NFL matchup, Part II.

Another prime-time showcase worth watching, this is a series of streaks. The Chiefs have taken five straight following seven straight losses. The offense is a buzzsaw: Kansas City is the third NFL team to score 38 or more points in its first three games (2007 Patriots, who were 16-0; 1967 Colts, who went 11-1-2).

Patrick Mahomes has established an NFL record with 13 TDs through three games and zero interceptions to lead the league with a 137.4 passer rating. The second-year QB credits the depth of talent around him.

“Guys everywhere,” Mahomes said. “Knowing that I have those weapons, whenever someone has to get a break — we say if you’re tired, get a break, because I know I can trust the next guy coming in.”

The Chiefs can be scored on, though, and Denver had the NFL’s third-ranked rushing game with rookies Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay, the first undrafted player to eclipse 100 scrimmage yards in his first two NFL games.

Plus, linebacker Von Miller , tied for the league lead with four sacks, is a Chiefs nemesis: Miller has eight sacks, 11 tackles for loss against Kansas City.

Miami (3-0) at New England (1-2)

Classic NFL matchup, Part III.

Yes, the Patriots have so dominated the AFC East that we forget there are other teams in the division. This is the one team Tom Brady has fallen to the most, 10 times. Of course, he has beaten the Dolphins 21 times.

Indeed, the last time the Dolphins won at New England was 2008, when Brady was sidelined by a knee injury.

Miami already has seven interceptions; it had nine all of last season.

Meanwhile, the Patriots have struggled to find any consistency. They ranks 25th on offense — other than Rob Gronkowski, Brady has little comfort with any receivers — and 28th on defense. Bill Belichick was outcoached by his former defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia, last Sunday night.

But the Patriots have started slowly before and then become unstoppable.

Philadelphia (2-1) at Tennessee (2-1)

Philly likes playing AFC South squads: The Eagles have won seven straight games against them, the team’s longest active winning streak against any division.

This could come down to the running game, particularly if Titans QB Marcus Mariota still is struggling with a right elbow injury that has affected his grip. The Eagles rank first in run defense after finishing first last season and also lead the NFL in time of possession (36:03).

Cleveland (1-1-1) at Oakland (0-3)

There are good vibes by Lake Erie and bad ones in the Bay Area.

The Browns got their first win in 18 games by beating the Jets, and top overall draft choice Baker Mayfield led the way to take over as starting quarterback. Their defense has been relatively stout, led by the No. pick in the 2017 draft, Myles Garrett.

Oakland’s decision to trade its best player, Mack, and then the 0-3 start has worn thin any luster on Jon Gruden’s return. The Raiders are last in the NFL with three sacks, and tied for last with one takeaway. They have been outscored 37-3 in fourth quarters and are the second team in the last 20 years to start 0-3 when leading all three at halftime.

Detroit (1-2) at Dallas (1-2)

The Lions got off the schneid with that surprisingly dominant win against New England. They have the top-rated passing offense, but they also are a sieve against the run on defense.

With Dallas struggling so much throwing the ball, look for RB Ezekiel Elliott to be very busy in this one. Elliott is tied with the 49ers’ Matt Breida for the NFL rushing lead with 274 yards.

San Francisco (1-2) at Los Angeles Chargers (1-2)

Injuries probably have ruined the 49ers’ season. After giving Jimmy Garoppolo his big payday, they will be without him for the remainder of this year after he tore his ACL against KC. C.J. Beathard, who was in over his head last year in going 1-5, steps in.

The Chargers have won the past four meetings and have a dangerous offense behind QB Philip Rivers and a ramped-up running game. Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler form the only pair of running backs on the same team with 250 or more scrimmage yards this season.

Cincinnati (2-1) at Atlanta (1-2)

Injuries are beginning to ruin the Falcons’ season, too. They lost free safety Ricardo Allen with a torn Achilles tendon and he joins starters Keanu Neal (knee), a strong safety, and linebacker Deion Jones on the sidelines. Jones underwent foot surgery and is out until at least Nov. 18.

Plus, defensive ends Takkarist McKinley and Derrick Shelby are nursing groin injuries.

This is Cincinnati’s third road game already, and Atlanta’s third successive home game. The Bengals come in without starting RB Joe Mixon (knee), but are stunningly successful in the red zone. They have points on their last 29 times inside the 20-yard line (21 TDs, 8 FGs), the longest active streak in the NFL.

Buffalo (1-2) at Green Bay (1-1-1)

On a high after their stunning win at Minnesota as 16 ½-point underdogs, the Bills get another NFC North trip. Hey, it’s always good to do those in September.

Buffalo’s rookie quarterback Josh Allen wasn’t intimidated by Minnesota’s staunch and physical defense. Green Bay’s doesn’t come close to resembling that group, and standout runner LeSean McCoy (ribs) vows he will be back.

Aaron Rodgers figures to throw a bunch this week, with Davante Adams now his top target.

New York Jets (1-2) at Jacksonville (2-1)

Coming off a loss that easily could linger, and with safety Jamal Adams saying the Jets weren’t prepared for Mayfield when he replaced Tyrod Taylor in Cleveland’s victory, New York takes on ticked-off Jacksonville.

The Jets have won four straight in this series, but those games were mostly against weak Jaguars teams. After the Jags struggled so much vs. Tennessee, they could take it out on rookie Sam Darnold with a sack-happy defense. And Darnold displayed happy feet against the Browns.

New Orleans (2-1) at New York Giants (1-2)

If Eli Manning gets protection, the Giants are competitive. That happened in last week’s win at Houston, and the Saints have been disappointing defending the pass.

The excitement level ramps up in the running game as Giants rookie Saquon Barkley and the Saints’ Alvin Kamara, last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, face off. Also intriguing: Saints WR Michael Thomas leads the league with 38 catches and 398 yards receiving. His catch total is an NFL best in a team’s first three games. New York’s Odell Beckham Jr. has a respectable 24 receptions, even if that pales compared to Thomas.

Seattle (1-2) at Arizona (0-3)

Two teams with messed-up offenses, although the Seahawks look like an indomitable force compared to Arizona.

The Cardinals rank dead last in all offensive categories and have scored a total of 20 points. Now, rookie Josh Rosen will start, and while Seattle’s defense no longer has legion-like boom, it can be tricky and ranks eighth against the pass.

A win will tie Pete Carroll with Mike Holmgren for the most coaching victories in Seattle history (90).

Houston (0-3) at Indianapolis (1-2)

Houston probably is the most disappointing team in the NFL, having gotten back J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Deshaun Watson for injury, yet not winning at all. Indeed, the Texans’ last victory came in November 2017.

They rarely fare well with Indy, which has a 25-7 edge in the series. The Colts’ next win will be No. 300 since moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984.

Adam Vinatieri needs one field goal to break Morten Andersen’s NFL record (565). Vinatieri also needs three field-goal attempts to pass Gary Anderson (672) for second all-time, and one game played to pass George Blanda (340) for No. 4.

Can’t kick about that.

___

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

What to Look For – Week 15

PRESS RELEASE

​​​​​​WHAT TO LOOK FOR – WEEK 15

WORST TO FIRST: Entering Week 15, two teams have clinched division titles – the NFC West champion LOS ANGELES RAMS and the NFC South champion NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – and five additional teams can clinch their respective divisions this week: the CHICAGO

PRESS RELEASE

​​​​​​WHAT TO LOOK FOR – WEEK 15

WORST TO FIRST: Entering Week 15, two teams have clinched division titles – the NFC West champion LOS ANGELES RAMS and the NFC South champion NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – and five additional teams can clinch their respective divisions this week: the CHICAGO BEARS (9-4), DALLAS COWBOYS (8-5), HOUSTON TEXANS (9-4), KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-2), and NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (9-4).

For the 2018 NFL Playoff Scenarios for Week 15, click here.

As the league enters Week 15, there are 20 teams either in or within one game of a playoff spot, including 11 teams that did not advance to the postseason in 2017. Since the 12-team playoff format began in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

Two teams that finished in or tied for last place in their division in 2017 – Chicago (NFC North) and Houston (AFC South) – are currently in first place in their respective divisions this season. In 14 of the past 15 seasons, at least one team finished in first place in its division the season after finishing in last or tied for last place. Of the 46 teams in league history to go from “worst-to-first,” 23 of them have done so in the past 15 years (2003-17), including an NFL-record three such teams in 2005 and 2006.​

HISTORY IN KC: Kansas City quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES leads the NFL with 43 touchdown passes this season.

With three touchdown passes against the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime), Mahomes would tie DREW BREES (46 touchdown passes in 2011) for the fifth-most passing touchdowns in a single season in NFL history.

The players with the most touchdown passes in a single season in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

TOUCHDOWN PASSES

Peyton Manning#

Denver

2013

55

Tom Brady#

New England

2007

50

Peyton Manning#

Indianapolis

2004

49

Dan Marino^#

Miami

1984

48

Drew Brees

New Orleans

2011

46

 

 

 

 

Patrick Mahomes

Kansas City

2018

43*

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

#Named Associated Press Most Valuable Player

*Entering Week 15

 

HEY, ROOKIE: Denver rookie linebacker BRADLEY CHUBB leads all rookies and is tied for sixth in the NFL with 12 sacks this season.

With a sack against Cleveland on Saturday night (8:20 PM ET, NFL Network), Chubb would tie DWIGHT FREENEY (13 sacks in 2002) for the third-most sacks by a rookie in a single season since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic.​

The rookies with the most sacks in a single season since 1982:​​

PLAYER

TEAM

YEAR

SACKS

Jevon Kearse#

Tennessee

1999

14.5

Aldon Smith

San Francisco

2011

14

Dwight Freeney

Indianapolis

2002

13

 

 

 

 

Bradley Chubb

Denver

2018

12*

#Named Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year

*Entering Week 15

 

JULIO ON THE RISE: Atlanta wide receiver JULIO JONES leads the NFL with 1,429 receiving yards this season. In Week 13, Jones became the first player in NFL history to record at least 1,400 receiving yards in five consecutive seasons.

Jones, who had 1,593 receiving yards in 2014 and 1,871 receiving yards in 2015, needs 71 receiving yards on Sunday against Arizona (1:00 PM ET, FOX), to become the fifth player in NFL history with three career seasons with at least 1,500 receiving yards.

The players with the most career seasons with at least 1,500 receiving yards in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASONS WITH 1,500+ RECEIVING YARDS

Jerry Rice^

San Francisco

4

Antonio Brown

Pittsburgh

3

Marvin Harrison^

Indianapolis

3

Andre Johnson

Houston

3

 

 

 

Julio Jones

Atlanta

2*

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Has 1,429 receiving yards this season

 

STARS FROM SCRIMMAGE: Dallas running back EZEKIEL ELLIOTT leads the NFL with 1,262 rushing yards this season.

Elliott, who has 3,876 rushing yards and 1,134 receiving yards since entering the league in 2016, needs 124 rushing yards on Sunday at Indianapolis (1:00 PM ET, FOX) to become the fifth player in NFL history with at least 4,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in his first three seasons. ​

The players with at least 4,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in their first three seasons in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASONS

RUSHING YARDS

RECEIVING YARDS

Chris Johnson

Tennessee

2008-2010

4,598

1,008

LaDainian Tomlinson^

San Diego

2001-2003

4,564

1,581

Ottis Anderson

St. Louis Cardinals

1979-1981

4,333

1,003

Barry Sanders

Detroit

1989-1991

4,322

1,069

 

 

 

 

 

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas

2016-2018

3,876*

1,134*

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*In third season

 

BRILLIANT BARKLEY: New York Giants rookie running back SAQUON BARKLEY leads all rookies with 1,753 scrimmage yards and has 13 touchdowns (nine rushing, four receiving) this season.

With 147 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns on Sunday against Tennessee (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Barkley, can become the fifth rookie with at least 1,900 scrimmage yards and 15 touchdowns in a single season in NFL history. ​

The rookies with at least 1,900 scrimmage yards and 15 touchdowns in a single season in NFL history:​​

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

SCRIMMAGE YARDS

TOUCHDOWNS

Eric Dickerson^#

Los Angeles Rams

1983

2,212

20

Edgerrin James#

Indianapolis

1999

2,139

17

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas

2016

1,994

16

Billy Sims#

Detroit

1980

1,924

16

 

 

 

 

 

Saquon Barkley

New York Giants

2018

1,753*

13*

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

#Named Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year

*Entering Week 15

 

LIGHTS, KAMARA, ACTION: New Orleans running back ALVIN KAMARA ranks sixth in the NFL with 1,384 scrimmage yards this season.

Kamara, who had 1,554 scrimmage yards as a rookie in 2017, needs 83 receiving yards at Carolina on Monday Night Football (8:15 PM ET, ESPN), to join HERSCHEL WALKER (1986-87) as the only players in NFL history with at least 1,500 rushing and 1,500 receiving yards in their first two seasons in league history. ​

The players with at least 1,500 rushing and 1,500 receiving yards in their first two seasons in league history:​

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASONS

RUSHING YARDS

RECEIVING YARDS

Herschel Walker

Dallas

1986-87

1,628

1,552

 

 

 

 

 

Alvin Kamara

New Orleans

2017-18

1,521*

1,417*

*In second season

 

SUPERCAM: Carolina quarterback CAM NEWTON ranks third among NFL quarterbacks with 473 rushing yards this season. Newton has rushed for at least 500 rushing yards in six of his first seven seasons in the league.

With 27 rushing yards against New Orleans on Monday Night Football (8:15 PM ET, ESPN), Newton can become the first quarterback in NFL history with at least 500 rushing yards in seven seasons.​

The quarterbacks with the most seasons with at least 500 rushing yards in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM(S)

SEASONS WITH 500+ RUSHING YARDS

Randall Cunningham

Philadelphia

6

Cam Newton

Carolina

6*

Michael Vick

Atlanta, Philadelphia

6

*Has 473 rushing yards this season

Courtesy of NFL Communications

Read More 952 Words

Giants WR Beckham misses practice Wednesday

Giants WR Beckham misses practice Wednesday

Giants WR Beckham misses practice Wednesday

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. did not practice Wednesday due to the quadriceps strain that forced him to miss New York’s win over the Washington Redskins last week.

Beckham caught a touchdown pass and threw another against the Chicago Bears in the Giants’ overtime win in Week 13. New York won without him, 40-16, over the Redskins last Sunday when Beckham was ruled out due to the leg muscle issue.

“We’ll try and get him back as quickly as possible,” Shurmur said Wednesday on a conference call with Tennessee media. “He is feeling better each day. I don’t think he is going to practice today, but we’ll see as the week progresses.”

Beckham has 77 receptions for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns in 2018, a bounceback year from his injury-shortened 2017 season during which he played four games and recorded 25 catches due to an ankle injury.

–Field Level Media

Read More 91 Words

Bills’ RB McCoy misses practice Wednesday

Bills' RB McCoy misses practice Wednesday

Bills’ RB McCoy misses practice Wednesday

Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy won’t practice Wednesday and his status is uncertain for Sunday’s matchup against the Detroit Lions.

“We’ll just take it one day at a time right now,” said head coach Sean McDermott when asked if he expects McCoy will be able to practice this week.

McCoy hurt his hamstring in Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the New York Jets. The 30-year-old running back left the game after nine plays — he had one yard on two carries — on Buffalo’s opening drive and has struggled with leg muscle strains in recent seasons.

Chris Ivory served as the Bills’ primary ballcarrier and finished the game with 42 yards on 12 carries.

McDermott said Ivory will practice Wednesday, and also the team signed running back Keith Ford from the practice squad, indicating the Bills aren’t certain whether McCoy will see action Sunday.

“Keith, for a rookie, has worked extremely hard since Day 1. He continues to earn the right,” said McDermott.

–Field Level Media

Read More 109 Words

Flacco returns, Ravens stick with QB Jackson

Flacco returns, Ravens stick with QB Jackson

Baltimore Ravens

Flacco returns, Ravens stick with QB Jackson

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh announced Wednesday that quarterback Lamar Jackson will be the starter vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, with veteran starter Joe Flacco dressing as his backup.

“The starting quarterback will be Lamar (Jackson). Joe (Flacco) will be the No. 2 quarterback,” Harbaugh said Wednesday.

Jackson missed the final two plays of Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs after hurting his ankle but X-rays taken at the stadium postgame were negative.

“My brain, and my heart, and my experience says this is the way to go,” Harbaugh said.

Robert Griffin III was the backup and finished out the game as Flacco was inactive, but Harbaugh said afterward that Flacco was medically cleared from his hip injury and could have played.

Harbaugh has been cagey about his plans at quarterback once Flacco is healthy enough and prepared to play. He has repeatedly declined to answer questions about who will start moving forward, though he has not ruled out the possibility of Flacco and Jackson playing for stretches.

For his part, Flacco has been supportive of Jackson and said Wednesday he would embrace the role of backup. Flacco declined to delve further into his future plans, or what this decision means for him or the Ravens.

“I thought Lamar has done a great job,” Flacco said.

Sunday’s game will be the first time Flacco has ever dressed as the backup for an NFL game.

Jackson finished 13 of 24 for 147 yards and two scores while rushing 13 times for 71 yards in Sunday’s loss.

He is now 59 of 101 for 687 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions this season in four starts and other scattered snaps, while rushing 95 times for 475 yards and three scores on the ground.

However, Jackson has fumbled eight times (six as a rusher), including a strip-sack that set up the Chiefs for a would-be game-winning field goal late in regulation Sunday. Harrison Butker missed from 43 yards, leading to overtime.

–Field Level Media

Read More 269 Words

Broncos, Browns on playoff fringe ahead of matchup

Broncos, Browns on playoff fringe ahead of matchup

Broncos, Browns on playoff fringe ahead of matchup

The Denver Broncos were high on quarterback Baker Mayfield long before he was taken first overall in the NFL draft in April.

They plan to keep him from beating them on Saturday night.

Mayfield, the brash, outspoken Cleveland Browns rookie, visits Denver for a Week 15 showdown with both teams clinging to their slim postseason hopes. The Browns (5-7-1) are having their best season in years and are coming off a 26-20 win over Carolina.

The Broncos (6-7) had their three-game winning streak ended at San Francisco on Sunday in a game they desperately needed. Denver was feeling good after getting back to .500 and into the thick of the wild-card race, but as has been the case this season, it struggled against a young quarterback.

The Broncos have lost to rookies Sam Darnold (New York Jets), Nick Mullens (49ers) and second-year star Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City). They did they beat Josh Rosen of Arizona and Jeff Driskel of Cincinnati, and they have another chance against Mayfield on Saturday.

“He’s got a neat personality,” Denver coach Vance Joseph said after practice Tuesday. “It’s kind of a — it’s loose, but it’s tight. Very, very intelligent, but a very, very confident person.”

Mayfield could find success against a banged-up secondary that will be without Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who suffered a fractured left fibula against the Bengals on Dec. 2. Harris said he is improving, but he won’t be ready for Saturday.

Without him, and the status of Tramaine Brock (ribs) and Isaac Yiadom (separated right shoulder) in question, Denver is vulnerable on the back end. The Broncos signed rookie safety Trey Marshall off the practice squad Tuesday to add to the depth.

The Browns have the weapons to take advantage, with Mayfield showing plenty of poise and wide receiver Jarvis Landry running routes. They can mix things up with running back Nick Chubb.

The biggest turnaround for Cleveland has come after the firings of head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Gregg Williams is now the interim head coach, and Freddie Kitchens was promoted to offensive coordinator.

With Kitchens calling plays, Mayfield has thrown 11 touchdown passes in five games, and his quarterback rating is 114.4 compared to from 78.9 under Haley.

With the short week, both teams practiced Tuesday instead of having a regular day off. For Denver, linebacker Shaquil Barrett (hip), Harris, wide receiver Courtland Sutton (quadriceps), Yiadom and defensive tackle Derek Wolfe (concussion) did not practice.

Joseph said Sutton should play Saturday but didn’t have an update on Wolfe.

Tight end Orson Charles (ankle), tackle Austin Corbett (foot), defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (biceps), cornerback Denzel Ward (concussion) and center J.C. Tretter (ankle) did not practice for Cleveland. Tretter has been dealing with the ankle injury for two months but has battled through the last seven games. He is normally held out of practice to stay ready for games.

“From a guy who barely practices all week to have the game plan down and then fight through it on Sundays for everybody else, it is great to have,” Mayfield told The Cleveland Plain Dealer after Sunday’s game. “He is a very, very important piece out there to have to be able to make calls and direct guys the right way and lead.”

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Roethlisberger expects to start Sunday

NFL notebook: Roethlisberger expects to start Sunday

Pittsburgh

NFL notebook: Roethlisberger expects to start Sunday

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is banged up, but sore ribs won’t keep him out of action when the Steelers play host to the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Roethlisberger required a pain-killing injection to deal with a rib injury sustained in the second quarter last week in Pittsburgh’s loss to the Oakland Raiders. He returned to the game late in the fourth quarter.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Roethlisberger is dealing with bruised ribs. Roethlisberger said during his weekly radio spot on Tuesday that he required X-rays in the locker room, but the tests were inconclusive.

–The Minnesota Vikings fired first-year offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.

The move comes after the Vikings’ 21-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday, the team’s third defeat in its past four games. Minnesota has finished with fewer than 300 yards of total offense four times in the past five games.

Quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski has been elevated to interim offensive coordinator and will take over play-calling duties.

–Injured running back Melvin Gordon is not expected to be in uniform Thursday when the Los Angeles Chargers visit the Kansas City Chiefs, the NFL Network reported.

However, Gordon was officially limited in Tuesday’s practice, noteworthy progress considering he was unavailable entirely since the original knee injury.

NFL Network reported that Gordon and his primary backup, Austin Ekeler (neck, concussion), likely would miss the showdown at Arrowhead Stadium. Specifically, coach Anthony Lynn told the network that the team isn’t optimistic either player would suit up.

–The Titans placed right tackle Jack Conklin and tight end Jonnu Smith on injured reserve due to knee injuries. Both starters were hurt during Tennessee’s 30-9 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars last Thursday.

Veteran Dennis Kelly is expected to replace Conklin, and Anthony Firkser will step in for Smith.

–The Detroit Lions placed veteran defensive end Ziggy Ansah on injured reserve because of a shoulder injury. The team did the same with tight end Michael Roberts, who also has an injured shoulder.

To replace them on the roster, the Lions signed tight end Jerome Cunningham and offensive lineman Leo Koloamatangi from their practice squad.

Ansah, 29, has had a lost season while playing on the franchise tag. He hurt his shoulder after 19 snaps in Week 1 and did not play again until Week 9.

–The Los Angeles Rams placed running back Malcolm Brown and cornerback Dominique Hatfield on injured reserve.

Brown injured his collarbone earlier this month. Hatfield, primarily a special teams player, needs surgery after injuring his left ankle Sunday.

–The Philadelphia Eagles’ pursuit of a playoff spot grew more difficult when they placed running back Corey Clement (knee) and defensive end Josh Sweat (ankle) on injured reserve.

The Eagles signed running back Boston Scott and defensive end Daeshon Hall to fill the voids on the roster, and they added cornerback Josh Hawkins to the practice squad.

–Two years after tearing both patellar tendons on the same play, former Houston Texans offensive tackle Derek Newton is back in the NFL after signing a two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints.

Newton, 31, spent the entire 2017 season on the Texans’ physically unable to perform list and was released by Houston eight months ago after failing a physical. With the Saints, he replaces tackle Michael Ola, who went on injured reserve due to a high ankle sprain.

–The Buffalo Bills placed starting linebacker Matt Milano and rookie cornerback Taron Johnson on season-ending injured reserve. Milano had surgery Monday to repair a broken left fibula. Johnson had surgery last week for a shoulder injury that bothered him most of the season.

–The city of Oakland, Calif., filed a federal lawsuit against the Oakland Raiders, the NFL and all other teams in the league. Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker announced the suit, which alleges antitrust violations and breach of contract.

While the city does not demand that the Raiders be forced to remain in Oakland, the seven-count filing in district court does seek restitution in the form of lost revenue, remaining debt on renovations to the Oakland Coliseum, court costs and fees, plus punitive damages.

The Raiders received league approval to relocate to Las Vegas in March 2017. They are expected to begin playing in Las Vegas when a new stadium opens in 2020. The team still does not know where it will play in 2019.

–The NFL announced that the salary cap will rise to about $190 million in 2019, a jump from $177.2 million this season.

The league informed teams that the projected range is from $187 million to $191.1 million. That marks a 40 percent increase since the 2014 season ($133 million) and the sixth consecutive year the cap has climbed by at least $10 million.

–Field Level Media

Read More 718 Words

Eagles place RB Clement, DE Sweat on IR

Eagles place RB Clement, DE Sweat on IR

Eagles place RB Clement, DE Sweat on IR

The Philadelphia Eagles’ pursuit of a playoff spot grew more difficult Tuesday when they placed a pair of players on injured reserve, including running back Corey Clement.

Both Clement and defensive end Josh Sweat were injured Sunday in Philadelphia’s 29-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Clement hurt his knee, and Sweat sustained an ankle injury.

The Eagles announced that they signed running back Boston Scott and defensive end Daeshon Hall to fill the voids on the roster, and they signed cornerback Josh Hawkins to the practice squad.

Clement went from undrafted rookie to Super Bowl star last season, picking up 100 receiving yards and a touchdown grab in the title game. He has 259 yards and two touchdowns on 68 carries, along with 22 catches for 192 yards, in 11 games this season.

Sweat was a fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft and has one tackle in nine games as a rookie.

The New Orleans Saints drafted Scott in the sixth round this year but cut him just before the season opener. They signed him to their practice squad the following day.

Hall was a third-round pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2017. He played in one game last season before a knee injury ended his rookie campaign. He was cut before this season began.

The Eagles are 6-7 and two games behind the NFC East-leading Cowboys. The defending champs are still in the thick of the playoff race, however, tied with Carolina and the Washington Redskins, one-half game behind the Minnesota Vikings for the final playoff spot in the conference.

Philadelphia finishes the season with games against the Rams in Los Angeles this weekend, then at home against the Houston Texans and at the Redskins in Week 17.

–Field Level Media

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OL Newton returns to NFL with Saints

OL Newton returns to NFL with Saints

Two years after tearing both patellar

OL Newton returns to NFL with Saints

Two years after tearing both patellar tendons on the same play, former Houston Texans offensive tackle Derek Newton is back in the NFL after signing a two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday.

Newton, 31, suffered the devastating double injury while attempting to block All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller during a game against the Denver Broncos on Oct. 24, 2016.

He spent the entire 2017 season on the Texans’ physically unable to perform list and was released by Houston eight months ago after failing a physical.

The 6-foot-6, 315-pound Newton started 68 of his 82 games with the Texans from 2011-16 after being selected in the seventh round of the 2011 draft out of Arkansas State.

The Saints had a roster vacancy after placing tackle Michael Ola on injured reserve Tuesday with a high-ankle sprain suffered in Sunday’s win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

–Field Level Media

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Bills place LB Milano, CB Johnson on injured reserve

Bills place LB Milano, CB Johnson on injured reserve

Bills place LB Milano, CB Johnson on injured reserve

The Buffalo Bills placed starting linebacker Matt Milano and rookie cornerback Taron Johnson on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday.

Milano had surgery Monday to repair a broken left fibula, suffered in the final minutes of Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the New York Jets.

The second-year player finished the season with 78 tackles, three interceptions, three fumble recoveries and one sack.

Johnson, a fourth-rounder in 2018, had surgery last week for a shoulder injury that bothered him most of the season. He had 42 tackles and one interception in 11 games.

–Field Level Media

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Lions put Ansah (shoulder) on IR

Lions put Ansah (shoulder) on IR

Lions put Ansah (shoulder) on IR

An injury-plagued season is now an injury-shortened season for Ziggy Ansah.

The Detroit Lions on Tuesday announced they have placed the veteran defensive end on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. The team did the same with tight end Michael Roberts and his injured shoulder.

To replace them on the roster, the Lions signed tight end Jerome Cunningham and offensive lineman Leo Koloamatangi from their practice squad.

Ansah, 29, has had a lost season while playing on the franchise tag. He hurt his shoulder after 19 snaps in Week 1 and did not play again until Week 9, though he has been effective (four sacks, seven quarterback hits) during his seven games on the field. Ansah is scheduled to hit free agency in March.

Roberts, 24, has nine catches for 100 yards and three touchdowns in eight games this season, his second since being drafted in the fourth round in 2017 out of Toledo.

The Lions are 5-8 and in last place in the NFC North. They play at Buffalo this Sunday before closing out the season at home against Minnesota on Dec. 23 and at Green Bay on Dec. 30.

–Field Level Media

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NFL hikes salary cap to $190 million in 2019

NFL hikes salary cap to $190 million in 2019

NFL hikes salary cap to $190 million in 2019

The NFL announced Tuesday that the salary cap will rise to about $190 million in 2019, a jump from $177.2 million this season.

The league informed teams that the projected range is from $187.0 to $191.1 million.

That marks a 40-percent increase since the 2014 season ($133.0 million) and the sixth consecutive year the cap has climbed by at least $10 million.

“Total projected player costs, including benefits, will be more than $7.3 billion in 2019,” the league said in a statement.

The exact salary cap figure will be determined before free agency opens on March 13.

–Field Level Media

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Titans place RT Conklin, TE Smith on injured reserve

Titans place RT Conklin, TE Smith on injured reserve

Titans place RT Conklin, TE Smith on injured reserve

The Tennessee Titans placed right tackle Jack Conklin and tight end Jonnu Smith on injured reserve with knee injuries on Tuesday.

Both starters were injured during the Titans’ 30-9 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars last Thursday.

Smith, who took over for injured three-time Pro Bowl selection Delanie Walker, finishes his second NFL season with 20 catches for 258 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games.

Conklin, the Titans’ first-round pick (eighth overall) in 2016, was limited to nine games this season after starting all 16 games in each of his first two campaigns.

Veteran Dennis Kelly is expected to replace Conklin, and Anthony Firkser will step in for Smith. Tennessee also signed free agent offensive lineman Austin Pasztor and added tight end Cole Wick from the San Francisco 49ers’ practice squad.

With three games remaining, the Titans are one of four AFC teams tied at 7-6 and chasing a wild-card berth in the playoffs.

–Field Level Media

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Oakland sues Raiders, NFL over Vegas move

Oakland sues Raiders, NFL over Vegas move

Oakland sues Raiders, NFL over Vegas move

The city of Oakland, Calif., gave the Raiders a going-away present on Tuesday.

A federal lawsuit.

Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker announced the suit, which alleges antitrust violations and breach of contract, and names the Raiders, the NFL and every other team in the league.

While the city does not demand that the Raiders be forced to remain in Oakland, the seven-count filing in district court does seek restitution in the form of lost revenue, remaining debt on renovations to the Oakland Coliseum, court costs and fees, plus punitive damages.

“The City will seek a resolution for the maximum amount of damages available,” Parker said in a news release shortly before filing the lawsuit. “The lawsuit will not ask the court to prevent the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas or keep the team in Oakland.”

The Raiders received league approval to relocate to Las Vegas in March 2017. They are expected to begin playing in Las Vegas when a new stadium opens in 2020. The team still does not know where it will play in 2019.

One of the main cruxes of the city’s argument is that the NFL’s relocation policy is “skewed” in the favor of cities looking to get a team and biased against current host cities because each team shares a part of the moving team’s relocation fee.

The suit also alleges the NFL uses its relocation policy to in essence strong-arm host cities into ponying up money for a new stadium, threatening to move a team out of that city should the funds not be raised.

“Threats of relocation are a central part of the NFL’s practice of demanding public financing for new stadiums, which significantly increase team revenues and ticket prices,” Parker said in the statement.

“Further, each time an NFL club moves, all NFL teams share in a ‘relocation fee.’ In the last several years, the NFL defendants have shared approximately $1.47 billion in these fees. The Raiders alone have agreed to pay over $370 million to the other NFL defendants for their ‘yes’ vote on the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas.”

The city is seeking a jury trial but makes no specific monetary demand other than amounts to be determined at trial.

–Field Level Media

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Steelers’ Roethlisberger expects to play vs. Patriots

Steelers' Roethlisberger expects to play vs. Patriots

Steelers’ Roethlisberger expects to play vs. Patriots

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is banged up, but sore ribs won’t keep him from playing when the Steelers play host to the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Roethlisberger required a pain-killing injection to deal with a rib injury sustained in the second quarter last week in Pittsburgh’s loss to the Oakland Raiders. He returned to the game late in the fourth quarter.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Roethlisberger is dealing with bruised ribs.

Roethlisberger said during his weekly radio spot on Tuesday that he required X-rays in the locker room, but the tests were inconclusive. He said he was not confident he would be helping the team by returning but opted to play.

“Let’s see how this plays out,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday of what he told Tomlin to be allowed back in the game.

During the game, Tomlin conferred with the team’s medical staff, which told the coach and general manager Kevin Colbert that the antiquated X-ray machine produced results that couldn’t be read.

Roethlisberger said team doctors cleared him to play anyway, and his performance indicated he was fine. Roethlisberger wound up completing 25 of 29 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns.

Asked if there’s any reason to think he wouldn’t play against the Patriots, Roethlisberger said, “No, no, I don’t think so.”

The Steelers have lost three consecutive games and at 7-5-1 hold a slim lead over the 7-6 Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North.

–Field Level Media

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Rams place RB Brown, CB Hatfield on injured reserve

Rams place RB Brown, CB Hatfield on injured reserve

Rams place RB Brown, CB Hatfield on injured reserve

The Los Angeles Rams placed running back Malcolm Brown and cornerback Dominique Hatfield on injured reserve Tuesday.

Brown injured his collarbone during the NFC West champions’ 30-16 win at Detroit earlier this month. He has rushed for 514 yards in four seasons as Todd Gurley’s backup, including 43 carries for 212 yards and five catches for 52 yards and a touchdown in 2018.

Hatfield needs surgery after injuring his left ankle in Sunday’s 15-6 loss at Chicago. The second-year player and Los Angeles native saw most of his action on special teams this season.

The Rams also promoted rookie linebacker Trevon Young from the practice squad. Young, a sixth-round pick out of Louisville, has played in two games this season.

Los Angeles (11-2) hosts Philadelphia (6-7) on Sunday night.

–Field Level Media

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Mahomes’ jersey from Rams classic reportedly fetches $36K for charity

Mahomes' jersey from Rams classic reportedly fetches $36K for charity

Mahomes’ jersey from Rams classic reportedly fetches $36K for charity

Patrick Mahomes may have come out on the losing end in the Kansas Chiefs’ wild shootout with the Los Angeles Rams last month, but one move he made with some memorabilia from that game is certainly a winner.

The second-year quarterback and NFL Most Valuable Player contender sent the jersey he wore Nov. 19 in the 54-51 classic to auction, where it reportedly sold for $36,150. What’s more, according to The Action Network’s Darren Rovell, the proceeds are going to aid in California wildfire relief efforts.

Both the Rams and Chiefs honored first responders to the fires throughout the Week 11 Monday night game, with the Rams handing out more than 3,000 complimentary tickets to first responders. The two biggest November fires, the Camp Fire in Northern California and Woolsey Fire in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, are responsible for nearly 90 deaths and the loss of 100,000 structures.

Mahomes has taken the league by storm in his first season as a full-time starter. His 4,300 yards and 43 touchdowns lead the league, and he also tops the NFL in touchdown percentage (8.9) and yards per attempt (9.7).

The Chiefs are 11-2 and hold a two-game lead in the race for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. The biggest threat to Kansas City actually comes from its own division, as the Los Angeles Chargers sit at 10-3. The Chargers visit the Chiefs on Thursday night.

–Field Level Media

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Vikings fire OC DeFilippo

Vikings fire OC DeFilippo

The Minnesota Vikings fired first-year offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, the team announced Tuesday.

Vikings fire OC DeFilippo

The Minnesota Vikings fired first-year offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, the team announced Tuesday.

The move comes after the Vikings’ 21-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night, the team’s third defeat in its past four games. The Vikings finished the game with 276 yards of total offense, managing just 61 in the first half. It was the fourth time in the past five games that the Vikings have finished with less than 300 yards total offense.

Quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski has been elevated to interim offensive coordinator and will take over play-calling duties for the Vikings.

The Vikings entered November with a top-10 offense but have dropped to 17th after Monday night’s loss.

Head coach Mike Zimmer had been critical of DeFilippo’s play-calling recently, saying that the Vikings have not been committed enough to the running game. Running back Dalvin Cook rushed 13 times for 55 yards against the Seahawks, just the second time this season Cook has had more than 10 carries.

The Vikings (6-6-1) are vying for a wild-card spot and play host to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

The Vikings hired DeFilippo in February to replace Pat Shurmur, who left to become the head coach of the New York Giants.

DeFilippo spent two seasons as quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles and was previously offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Chargers RB Gordon unlikely vs. Chiefs

Report: Chargers RB Gordon unlikely vs. Chiefs

Report: Chargers RB Gordon unlikely vs. Chiefs

Injured running back Melvin Gordon is not expected to be in uniform Thursday when the Los Angeles Chargers visit the Kansas City Chiefs in a momentous AFC West matchup, the NFL Network reported.

Gordon sprained his medial collateral ligament on a hit by Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche in Week 13 and remains sidelined.

NFL Network reported Tuesday that Gordon and his primary backup, Austin Ekeler, would likely miss the showdown at Arrowhead Stadium.

Gordon has 802 rushing yards and 44 catches for 453 receiving yards and 13 total touchdowns on the season in 10 games played.

Ekeler (neck, concussion) would be replaced by rookies Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome if he’s also unable to return.

Chiefs running back Spencer Ware did not practice Monday due to a hamstring injury. Ware replaced Kareem Hunt, who was released by the Chiefs, as Kansas City’s top back two weeks ago.

Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (ankle) said he plans to play Thursday.

–Field Level Media

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Controversy surrounds Seahawks’ key FG block

Controversy surrounds Seahawks' key FG block

Controversy surrounds Seahawks’ key FG block

The Minnesota Vikings were deprived of three points Monday night when Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner apparently used illegal means to block a fourth-quarter field goal attempt.

Wagner put his hands on two teammates as he leaped over the offensive linemen en route to swatting down a 47-yard field goal try by Minnesota’s Dan Bailey.

Former NFL officiating chief Mike Pereira, now a TV analyst for FOX, tweeted, “Lots of talk about the Wagner block. The wording in the rule book is NEW this year and is clear. The new wording states, ‘May not place a hand or hands on a teammate or opponent in an attempt to jump through a gap to block an opponent’s kick or apparent kick.’ Case closed. Foul.”

Referee Brad Allen tossed a penalty flag on Wagner but subsequent changed his mind and said no foul had been committed.

Had the penalty been enforced, the Vikings could have chosen to take the three points, cutting their deficit to 6-3 with 5:46 remaining, or they could have taken a 15-yard gain on the fourth-and-9 play, giving them a first down at the Seattle 14-yard line.

Wagner didn’t admit to any wrongdoing after the game, which Seattle won 21-7.

“I tried to time it up; I got over it and made the block,” Wagner said, according to ESPN. “I’m an athlete, so I have just got to jump over people. It’s not that big of a deal.”

Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said, “You’re not supposed to be able to pull guys down, if that’s what they did. Quite honestly, I didn’t see it. I didn’t see what happened. I was told what happened.”

Bailey also didn’t see Wagner’s leverage move.

“Obviously I was kind of out there in the middle of it,” Bailey said, according to the Saint Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press. “From my understanding of that rule, he can jump over, he just can’t use leverage or whatever they call it. Sometimes that’s the way it goes.

“Obviously the most disappointing thing was not getting three points there. That would’ve really helped our team. Just have to try to knock the next one through.”

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll praised special teams coaches Brian Schneider and Larry Izzo for Wagner’s successful block.

“They came to me and said, ‘Hey look, we think we have something,'” he said. “That was a great find by those guys. …

“We practiced all week with Bobby jumping over the guys; never touched anybody. I don’t know what happened in the game, but that’s the way he was doing (it). He was able to clear the line of scrimmage without touching anybody, and that was the plan.

“Very few people could do that, but he had pulled it off beautifully during the week, and that’s what the officials called. But I know that there’s some controversy about that.”

–Field Level Media

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Seahawks stop Vikings in defensive struggle

Seahawks stop Vikings in defensive struggle

Chris Carson rushed for

Seahawks stop Vikings in defensive struggle

Chris Carson rushed for a touchdown and Justin Coleman returned a fumble 29 yards for a score, both in the final three minutes, as the Seattle Seahawks defeated the visiting Minnesota Vikings 21-7 Monday night.

Sebastian Janikowski kicked two field goals as the Seahawks (8-5) won their fourth in a row and extended their lead in the race for the NFC’s first wild card to 1 1/2 games over the Vikings (6-6-1). Minnesota lost for the third time in four games.

The Seahawks rushed for 214 yards, including a 40-yard scamper by quarterback Russell Wilson on Seattle’s lone touchdown drive. Carson’s 2-yard run with 2:53 remaining gave Seattle a 14-0 lead. Carson finished with a game-high 90 rushing yards on 22 attempts.

On the Vikings’ second play from scrimmage after Carson’s touchdown, Jacob Martin sacked Kirk Cousins and the ball popped loose. Coleman recovered it and racing down the sideline for a score.

Minnesota’s only touchdown came on a 6-yard pass from Cousins to Dalvin Cook with 1:10 left.

The Vikings had 276 yards of total offense — 2 more yards than the Seahawks’ total. Cousins completed 20 of 33 passes for 208 yards, and Cook rushed for 55 yards on 13 carries.

Wilson connected on 10 of 20 passes for 72 yards.

After Janikowski kicked his second field goal of the game, a 35-yarder to make it 6-0 with 13:22 remaining in the game, the Vikings used a 48-yard pass from Cousins to Stefon Diggs to finally reach the red zone.

Minnesota got a first down at Seattle’s 4-yard line. Latavius Murray rushed for 2 yards before Cousins’ pass toward the back corner of the end zone was long. Cook rushed for 1 yard on third down, setting up fourth-and-goal. Cousins’ pass over the middle for tight end Kyle Rudolph near the back of the end zone was knocked away by Seattle safety Bradley McDougald.

The Vikings attempted a field goal on their next possession, but Dan Bailey’s 47-yard try was blocked by Bobby Wagner.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Seahawks got a 37-yard field goal from Janikowski with 14:11 left in the second, capping a 13-play, 70-yard drive.

Seattle moved into the red zone again in the final two minutes of the first half but came up empty, as Minnesota linebacker Eric Kendricks intercepted a pass that Wilson was trying to throw away after losing his footing.

The Seahawks played without their top wide receiver, Doug Baldwin, who was sidelined due to a hip injury.

–Field Level Media

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