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Bills coach: QB Allen will regain starting job when healthy

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott says rookie quarterback Josh Allen will reclaim the starting job should he be healthy when the team returns from its bye week off.

McDermott made the announcement Monday, a day after journeyman backup Matt Barkley threw two touchdowns in a 41-10 win at the New

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott says rookie quarterback Josh Allen will reclaim the starting job should he be healthy when the team returns from its bye week off.

McDermott made the announcement Monday, a day after journeyman backup Matt Barkley threw two touchdowns in a 41-10 win at the New York Jets. As well as Barkley played in his first start in two years and two weeks after signing with Buffalo, McDermott stressed Allen is the starter and his continued development is important.

Buffalo is 3-7, and is off until hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 25.

Allen has a 2-3 record and missed the past four games since spraining his right throwing elbow. The first-round draft pick began testing his arm on Nov. 2, and spent all of last week practicing on a limited basis. He wasn’t ruled out from playing against the Jets until Saturday.

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Bills RB McCoy breaks silence by saying he’s frustrated

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy ended his near two-week silence by saying he wanted to keep his frustrations to himself in what's been a miserable season.

"I was just upset how everything's been going, 2-7," McCoy said Friday, referring to the Bills' record. "That's frustrating. I want to win

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy ended his near two-week silence by saying he wanted to keep his frustrations to himself in what’s been a miserable season.

“I was just upset how everything’s been going, 2-7,” McCoy said Friday, referring to the Bills’ record. “That’s frustrating. I want to win games, so I just kind of took that approach. Just kind of upset. But my mindset is just try to get better.”

The comments were the first from McCoy since a 25-6 loss against New England on Oct. 29. He’s ducked interview requests ever since, including canceling his weekly news conferences each of the past two Wednesdays after combining for 23 yards rushing on 22 carries over two games.

“There’s plays to be made and we’re not making them. Got to play smarter. Got to play better. Simple as that,” McCoy said. “Can’t complain or pout about it. Just got to find ways to win games and make it happen.”

What bothers him even more is that at 30 , McCoy is beginning to realize he’s running out of time to achieve various objectives. They include winning a championship and establishing himself as one of the NFL’s premier running backs by becoming just the 17th player to reach 12,000 career yards rushing.

“Oh, it’ll take a little longer than I expect now,” said McCoy, whose 267 yards rushing this season have upped his career total to 10,359.

“The urgency is up. I want to win now. I want to add on to my legacy of course, a chance to get a ring. And those things are on my mind,” McCoy said. “So the frustration about losing, all them things, every player has a clock.”

In getting off to the worst start of a season in his 10-year career, McCoy hasn’t reached the end zone since scoring twice in a 24-17 win over Miami on Dec. 17. And he hasn’t topped 100 yards since finishing with 156 on a snow-covered field in a 13-7 overtime win against Indianapolis on Dec. 10.

At the rate the Bills’ anemic offense is producing in having scored an NFL-worst 96 points, McCoy wasn’t making any promises when the droughts might end with Buffalo preparing to play at the New York Jets on Sunday.

“I don’t have the answers, why and when, but I just look forward to getting there,” he said. “Just got to find a way to do it.”

McCoy didn’t want his frustrations to be interpreted as him being unhappy to still be in Buffalo after the NFL’s trading deadline passed on Oct. 30. And he’s pleased to hear general manager Brandon Beane say McCoy remains in the team’s plans through the final year of his contract next season.

“They’ve been good to me. I’m a loyal person, and I’m happy here,” said McCoy, in his fourth season in Buffalo since being acquired in a trade with Philadelphia. “I think sometimes people get that mixed up with the frustrations of losing. But for me to be in their plans, I like the way that sounds.”

Beane told The Associated Press this week he maintains his confidence in McCoy’s ability.

“We don’t see a guy who’s a declining player. We see a guy who’s still playing well, and he’s one of the better players at his position in the league,” Beane said. “He is working hard. He’s trying to be the best he can. And he’s going to continue to do that. And if he wasn’t, then we probably would’ve moved on.”

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Say his name: Rookie WR Valdes-Scantling on rise for Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Packers receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling turned to Twitter to give a tutorial about how to pronounce his first name.

Get it straight: It's "mar-QUEZ" and not "mar-KEZ."

"It happens all the time," Valdes-Scantling said this week about the mispronunciation. "So there is no 'k' in my name."

Keep making highlight-reel plays

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Packers receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling turned to Twitter to give a tutorial about how to pronounce his first name.

Get it straight: It’s “mar-QUEZ” and not “mar-KEZ.”

“It happens all the time,” Valdes-Scantling said this week about the mispronunciation. “So there is no ‘k’ in my name.”

Keep making highlight-reel plays and announcers will catch on soon enough and get it right.

The fifth-round selection out of South Florida is about to get more consistent playing time after Geronimo Allison went on injured reserve this week. Green Bay hosts the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

This is quite the impression that Valdes-Scantling has left the last few weeks, with breakaway speed and a 6-foot-4 frame that allow him to snare jump balls.

“The biggest thing is just him gaining the trust of (quarterback Aaron Rodgers) as fast as he has,” veteran wideout Randall Cobb said. “It’s really impressive that Aaron wants to come to him in certain situations. He’s making those plays for him.”

To the tune of 17 catches for 358 yards and two scores so far for Valdes-Scantling, plus a team-high 21.1 yards per catch. He has touchdown catches in two of his last four games, with 100 yards receiving in each of the other two games during that span.

The production increase is in part due to helping fill in for Allison and Cobb while each player missed a few games with hamstring injuries. Cobb is questionable again for the Dolphins game because of hamstring trouble.

That leaves more opportunities for Valdes-Scantling to be the second receiver behind Davante Adams.

The process of gaining Rodgers’ trust, though, isn’t easy. It requires more than just making catches.

“It’s not going to happen in one day. You’ve got to learn the plays, you’ve got to know the plays,” Valdes-Scantling said. “He’s going to quiz you in practice, so you’ve just got to know all those things. It just happens over time.”

Proof of the payoff came late in the third quarter of last week’s loss at New England, with the game tied at 17. Deep in Packers territory, Rodgers rolled right, where he quickly found two defenders trying to close in on him for a sack.

The two-time NFL MVP threw a high pass that traveled about 30 yards to Valdes-Scantling at around the 36. The rookie adjusted near the sideline to the throw while on the run. With a defender a couple steps behind him, Valdes-Scantling turned and jumped high for the catch .

He’s the breakout contributor of the three receivers taken by the Packers in the draft.

Fourth-rounder J’Mon Moore has just one catch for 10 yards. Sixth-rounder Equanimeous St. Brown has seven catches for 143 yards, and moves up in the depth chart behind Valdes-Scantling.

“At the end of the day, (Valdes-Scantling) has been given some opportunities, probably more than we all anticipated due to the injury, and he’s just delivered,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “So you can see with the success and the production he’s had, his confidence grows more and more each week.”

NOTES: RT Bryan Bulaga (knee) and LB Blake Martinez (ankle) are also questionable for Sunday. CB Kevin King (hamstring) is out, as expected. … S Kentrell Brice (knee) and DL Mike Daniels (shoulder) were dropped from the injury report.

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Beckham Jr. hopeful Giants can run the table

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Call Odell Beckham Jr. the eternal optimist.

When the New York Giants' flashy wide receiver was asked Friday what he hoped his 1-7 team would do for the remainder of the season, Beckham didn't pull any punches.

"I think the goal is to win eight games, go 9-7 and go

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Call Odell Beckham Jr. the eternal optimist.

When the New York Giants’ flashy wide receiver was asked Friday what he hoped his 1-7 team would do for the remainder of the season, Beckham didn’t pull any punches.

“I think the goal is to win eight games, go 9-7 and go to the playoffs,” Beckham said.

Even though no NFL team has ever pulled off such a comeback?

“It’s not an easy task,” Beckham added. “But that’s the goal. We want to win every game and I want to do everything I can to help that. The Giants have been there before, gone 9-7 and got into the playoffs. Anything is possible. It’s not impossible to win eight games. It wasn’t impossible to lose seven. Anything can happen.”

Beckham remained upbeat as his team prepared to face the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, California on Monday night. He was certain his team is ready to turn it around, albeit in miraculous fashion — provided the Giants do a better job of scoring touchdowns.

“We’ve lost a lot of close games that we just didn’t pull through,” Beckham said. “We know what situations we’re in when we are in those close games. We just haven’t found a way to pull them through. It’s easy to sit up here and be like we want to win eight games knowing that it’s very tough to do. You just got to pull it all together now.

“I know we’re not in a very good situation, but you just got to make the most out of that.”

Beckham signed a five-year, $95 million contract, with approximately $65 million guaranteed, during training camp in August, so he’s the new face of the franchise moving forward. He was asked if he felt he had any pressure to be the one who kick-starts the offense.

“Not any more than I ever have,” said Beckham, who has caught 61 passes for 785 yards and two touchdowns this season. “Hopefully I can start catching some of these things and start taking them to the crib, making bigger plays. I put more on myself. Whatever happens is what’s going to happen, but I know that my mentality is not going to be to quit. I’m not going to be out there not trying to go hard every play. Any chance that I get, that’s just always how I’m going to be.”

Beckham was also asked if the Giants could eliminate some problems in scoring touchdowns once they get inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

“I think that any chance I get, and all of us get a chance to take something to the house, it’s time to go,” he said. “There’s no more holding back, playing it safe, or waiting for the next play, because you don’t know if you’re going to have a next play, and that’s just the mentality we have to take. Any chance I get now, and I catch one of these slants, there’s no motion wasted. It’s just got to be somebody has got to come catch me. You trust your training, you trust your speed — somebody has got to come catch me. I’m trying as much as I can to make these plays, explosive plays, and we all need to do that.”

Fellow wideout Sterling Shepard also recognizes his team’s struggles in the red zone.

“Explosive plays are always good themselves, but if you can take them all the way, then that obviously is better for the team,” said Shepard, who has 40 receptions for 542 yards and two touchdowns. “You just take them as they come and some of them will pop, some of them won’t, but an explosive play all around is good for the team. I think it’s we’re just not being assignment sound. I feel like one guy is always off or two guys off when we get into the red zone, and that can kill your chances of scoring.”

Beckham Jr. is befuddled why the Giants aren’t scoring more.

“Not to say that the opportunities haven’t been there, but they’ve been limited,” he noted.

But Beckham feels the tide is about to turn for him personally.

“I don’t know, but towards the back end of the season, I feel like I do better,” Beckham said. “As the season goes on, people’s bodies start to break down. I really try to maintain and I really try to be better than I was in Week 1 or Week 10. I feel a lot stronger going in towards the back end of the season. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. Now, it’s just time to do that.”

NOTES: Coming off a bye, the Giants had a full team at practice Friday. WR Jawill Davis (concussion), who had been out, returned to practice, so he will more than likely be the Giants’ main return option on punts and kickoffs Monday. Starting LB Alec Ogletree (hamstring) returned to practice, as did OT Chad Wheeler (ankle). . Olivier Vernon said that there was no difference in preparing to face 49ers QB Nick Mullens, who will be making the second start of his pro career. “We have to disrupt him and make him feel uncomfortable,” Vernon said. “There’s not a whole lot of film to watch on him, so we just have to have the mindset to get after him and get him out of a comfort zone.”

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NFL fines Titans safety for celebrating on Cowboys’ logo

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The NFL has fined Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard $10,026 for celebrating his end-zone interception on the Dallas Cowboys star logo at midfield.

Byard said Friday the fine was actually worth it as the interception helped change momentum by denying the Cowboys a possible touchdown. The Titans outscored the Cowboys 28-7

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The NFL has fined Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard $10,026 for celebrating his end-zone interception on the Dallas Cowboys star logo at midfield.

Byard said Friday the fine was actually worth it as the interception helped change momentum by denying the Cowboys a possible touchdown. The Titans outscored the Cowboys 28-7 after the interception en route to a 28-14 victory Monday night.

“I actually kind of expected it to be more with all the crazy fines that are going on in the league right now,” Byard said. “I expected it to be more than $10,000. But I feel like it was worth it. I kind of knew it was coming, but I didn’t know the amount. … It was a momentum changer. If it was $10,000 it was worth it, because I’ll make that up on the back end.”

The 2017 All-Pro safety copied what Terrell Owens did 18 years ago in a win over the Cowboys in old Texas Stadium. The interception was the second this season for Byard and his 10th since the start of the 2017 season, tying him for the most in the NFL in that span.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel talked with Byard after the game and again Tuesday. Vrabel also talked to the rest of the team Wednesday to make sure they understand what is expected of them when celebrating.

“That’s not what we want as an organization, and that’s not what I want as a head coach,” Vrabel said. “I want our guys to play as hard as they possibly can for each other, between the whistle, and as physical and aggressive and as clean as they possibly can.”

Vrabel said he wants players to celebrate with a teammate.

“Find somebody else in a Titans uniform. Find a coach, and celebrate with them,” Vrabel said. “But we don’t need to do that. It’s not what we want to do. … That’s not what I want, and if that’s what they want, then we see it very differently.”

Notes: The Titans (4-4) will be without right tackle Jack Conklin (concussion protocol) against the New England Patriots (7-2) on Sunday. The Patriots eliminated Tennessee from the postseason in January. … WR Tajae Sharpe (ankle) told reporters in the locker room he will play. LB Derrick Morgan (shoulder), WR Taywan Taylor (left foot) and S Dane Cruikshank (knee) did not practice. DL Bennie Logan (knee) practiced Friday after being limited Thursday. LBs Daren Bates (illness) and Will Compton (hamstring) practiced.

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Bills QB Matt Barkley in the mix to start against Jets

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott is backing off his previous commitment of having Nathan Peterman start against the New York Jets if rookie Josh Allen isn't cleared to play.

And that puts Matt Barkley in the mix to start Sunday.

McDermott reversed course Friday after he ruled out Derek Anderson

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott is backing off his previous commitment of having Nathan Peterman start against the New York Jets if rookie Josh Allen isn’t cleared to play.

And that puts Matt Barkley in the mix to start Sunday.

McDermott reversed course Friday after he ruled out Derek Anderson and said Allen’s status remains uncertain four weeks since spraining his right throwing elbow. Asked of the possibility of Peterman starting, McDermott sidestepped the question by saying he preferred to keep the focus on Allen.

That’s a switch from Monday, when McDermott said Peterman would start if Allen and Anderson couldn’t play.

Allen is listed as questionable on Buffalo’s injury report.

A person familiar with situation told The Associated Press that Barkley is being considered ahead of Peterman, but a final decision hasn’t yet been made. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because McDermott did not reveal the team’s plans.

Peterman has thrown seven interceptions in four appearances this season, including three in a 41-9 loss to Chicago last weekend.

The Bills signed Barkley on Oct. 30. He is on his sixth team in six seasons, and hasn’t appeared in a regular-season game since 2016, when he started six games with the Chicago Bears. Barkley was cut by the Cincinnati Bengals in September after hurting his knee in a preseason game.

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Vikings’ Harrison Smith voted top NFL safety by AP panel

/NEW YORK (AP) — Harrison Smith has been making his mark for years with big hits and clutch interceptions for the Minnesota Vikings.

As a key piece of one of the NFL's top defenses, the playmaking safety was voted the top player in the league at his position by a panel of 10 football writers

/NEW YORK (AP) — Harrison Smith has been making his mark for years with big hits and clutch interceptions for the Minnesota Vikings.

As a key piece of one of the NFL’s top defenses, the playmaking safety was voted the top player in the league at his position by a panel of 10 football writers for The Associated Press.

“The independent analysts at Pro Football Focus rated Smith’s performance in 2017 the highest by any player at any position in the league,” Minneapolis-based AP writer Dave Campbell said. “This year, the three-time Pro Bowl pick has three interceptions and three sacks in nine games. No player in the NFL hit both of those marks over the entire 2017 season.

“With Earl Thomas out for the year, it’s easy to see Smith as the top safety in the league.”

The AP voters overwhelmingly agreed. Smith received 97 points in a 10-points-to-one-point system, garnering eight of 10 first-place votes. He finished second on one ballot and third on the other to easily outdistance the New York Giants’ Landon Collins, who had 69 points.

“Not only is Smith the clear leader at this position, particularly with his skills in coverage,” said New York-based writer Barry Wilner, “but he’s probably Minnesota’s most valuable defensive player.”

That’s saying a lot, particularly with a team that includes defensive end Danielle Hunter, who leads the NFL with 11½ sacks.

“Smith is an elite pass defender who can bat away a throw or pick off a pass on one play, then sack the QB on the next,” Washington-based Howard Fendrich said.

Smith finished second in last year’s voting, with Thomas winning. The injured Seahawks star, who’s out for the season with a broken left leg, had 59 points — and received one first-place vote, from Bay Area-based Josh Dubow — to finish third this year.

“Thomas is still the benchmark at safety despite a season-ending injury,” Dubow said.

There were 28 players who received at least one vote, but Smith and Collins were the only safeties to appear on all 10 ballots.

Collins jumped up two spots after finishing fourth last year. He doesn’t have any interceptions yet this season, but has firmly established himself as one of the best at his position.

“Yeah, he’s on a team with one win (entering Week 10), but Collins is strong tackler and pass defender,” New York-based Simmi Buttar said.

Tennessee’s Kevin Byard is fourth with 54 points, but received the other first-place vote from Nashville-based Teresa M. Walker.

“Byard is just getting better with every game,” Walker said, “and he was pretty good in 2017 when he was an All-Pro who tied for the league lead with eight interceptions and led the NFL with 10 takeaways.”

Byard has two interceptions this season, and caused quite a stir with his star turn on his most recent pick. After intercepting Dak Prescott’s pass Monday night in Tennessee’s 28-14 victory at Dallas, Byard ran to the 50-yard line at AT&T Stadium and danced with his teammates on the Cowboys’ star logo.

“He should’ve left the Cowboys star stomp to Terrell Owens,” said Philadelphia-based Rob Maaddi. “But Byard is a ball magnet and no longer an unknown around the league, even to Deion Sanders.”

Sanders and Byard got into a Twitter feud in the offseason about who the league’s top safety is. Prime Time picked Tyrann Mathieu, who didn’t finish in the AP’s top 10.

New England’s Devin McCourty was fifth with 38 points, and has been a model of consistency for Bill Belichick’s defense.

“Anyone who can stick so long (nine years) on a revolving door that is the Patriots’ defense is a special performer,” Wilner said.

McCourty was followed by Washington’s D.J. Swearinger, who had 36 points.

“Swearinger does everything well, from coverage to run support to rushing the passer,” said Dubow, who had him ranked second on his ballot.

The Jets’ Jamal Adams (24 points), Los Angeles Chargers rookie Derwin James (21), Baltimore’s Eric Weddle (20) and Kansas City’s Eric Berry (19) rounded out the top 10.

Berry appeared on six ballots despite having not played since last year’s season opener.

“He might be No. 1 if he had played a down this season,” Fendrich said. “If he recovers enough from the heel injury that has kept him out for every game so far, he could be a big factor in the playoffs for the Chiefs.”

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The rankings:

1. Harrison Smith, Vikings

2. Landon Collins, Giants

3. Earl Thomas, Seahawks

4. Kevin Byard, Titans

5. Devin McCourty, Patriots

6. D.J. Swearinger, Redskins

7. Jamal Adams, Jets

8. Derwin James, Chargers

9. Eric Weddle, Ravens

10. Eric Berry, Chiefs

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Halfway to NFL awards: decisions and lots of candidates

By the time every NFL team has played eight games, there are some heavily established favorites for The Associated Press NFL awards that are handed out on Super Bowl eve.

Not this year.

MVP? Lots of candidates — and not just quarterbacks.

Coach of the Year? Nearly every division has a contender.

Comeback Player? Some

By the time every NFL team has played eight games, there are some heavily established favorites for The Associated Press NFL awards that are handed out on Super Bowl eve.

Not this year.

MVP? Lots of candidates — and not just quarterbacks.

Coach of the Year? Nearly every division has a contender.

Comeback Player? Some likely Hall of Famers are in the mix there.

So the AP polled a few of the 50 voters for the awards, including genuine Hall of Famer James Lofton. The theme was clear: There isn’t much clarity as we head into the final eight weeks of the schedule.

MVP

This honor has gone to a quarterback the past five seasons and 10 of 11. Two running backs, Adrian Peterson in 2012 and LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006, broke through the QB domination in the past dozen years.

Lofton and some others select Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“So good you just can’t take your eyes off of him,” the CBS analyst says.

“Maybe this opinion changes next week, given the stellar competition that includes (Todd) Gurley and (Drew) Brees,” adds USA Today’s Jarrett Bell. “Maybe not, as the kid keeps showing up. A first-year starter as quarterback? Hey, Mahomes is like the new Kurt Warner.”

Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News opts for Brees. Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk prefers Gurley.

Don’t forget about Tom Brady, Adam Thielen or Philip Rivers, and perhaps even a defensive force such as J.J. Watt.

COACH

Another wide-open field headed by, according to Jenny Vrentas of Monday Morning Quarterback, Kansas City’s Andy Reid.

“I selected Andy Reid … for his ability to seamlessly transition from Alex Smith to Mahomes,” Vrentas explains. “He’s been so invested in Mahomes’ development that he sits with him on the bench in between offensive series, going over what they see and how they’ll attack the opponent next. Reid has demonstrated an ability to keep his offense fresh and tailored to his players, updating his West Coast system with spread concepts pulled from the college ranks.”

Bob Glauber of Newsday points to last year’s winner, Sean McVay of the Rams.

“He’s one of the brightest minds in the game, and at 32, is proving not only to be a brilliant play caller, but an exceptional leader as well,” Glauber says.

Not far behind in our little poll: the Saints’ Sean Payton, the Texans’ Bill O’Brien, the Bears’ Matt Nagy, and the Chargers’ Anthony Lynn, whose team “plays a road game every week,” Lofton notes.

COMEBACK PLAYER

Rarely has there been such an impressive group vying for an award no one really wants to win considering the implications of a comeback.

From Watt to Peterson to Aaron Rodgers, from Andrew Luck to Carson Wentz to Deshaun Watson, from Odell Beckham Jr. to Richard Sherman — WOW!

“It’s either Andrew Luck or Watt,” says Williams, “but Watt has returned to being one of the best at his position. He is playing at an All-Pro and Pro Bowl level. Luck is not one of the top-five quarterbacks in the NFL and maybe not in the top 10.”

Eric Adelson of Yahoo Sports goes for the Colts quarterback.

“Can’t imagine the frustration he’s faced,” Adelson says. “A pro’s pro.”

Vrentas picks Watt.

“The surgery Watt had last October to put his leg back together after a tibial plateau fracture was so complicated that the surgeons couldn’t even be certain that it would work, and that his leg would be able to bear the full weight of his body while running full speed,” she explains. “Watt, who has nine sacks in nine games, was undeterred. He wasn’t back to full strength in the season opener but has steadily gotten better each week, a scary thought for opponents.”

OFFENSIVE PLAYER

Another free-for-all, with Gurley, Mahomes, Thielen, Brees, Michael Thomas and James Conner getting consideration.

“Before it’s done, he could wind up as MVP,” Bell says of Gurley, his choice in this category. “Ditto for Brees. Running backs don’t get the same love as quarterbacks in the pass-centric environment of the NFL. But if Gurley breaks LaDainian Tomlinson’s single-season TD record and the Rams keep winning big, people will have to take notice. Then again, Brees has a few records and has never been MVP.”

Domowitch, a Brees supporter for MVP, puts Mahomes here. So does Williams.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER

This category could be a two-horse race between a pair of thoroughbreds previously honored with the award: Aaron Donald and Watt.

“Now that’s a man who don’t need no stinking training camp,” Bell says of Donald.

Eric Adelson of Yahoo Sports prefers Donald, as well.

“A game wrecker on every down,” Adelson says.

Adds Glauber: “Donald is a disruptive force in the middle and already has 10 sacks. The only problem for him — and the Rams — is that teams will often go to great lengths to shut him down. Thus, the constant double teams he has to fight through.”

Lofton likes what Khalil Mack has done in Chicago: “Mack turned the Bears from pretenders to contenders.” But this train could be a runaway for Donald and Mack.

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE

No contest.

“He’s the only good thing going for an awful Giants team,” Glauber says of Giants RB Saquon Barkley. “Until the Giants figure out their quarterback situation, he’ll be wasted in this offense.”

But not lost in the awards prognostications.

“On pace for more than 2,000 total yards — on a bad team,” Adelson notes.

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE

Chargers safety Derwin James has gotten lots of love, but there’s no runaway leader.

“Darius Leonard and Denzel Ward make this an interesting race for the award down the stretch,” Williams says.

Glauber leans to Leonard: “Halfway through the season, he not only led all NFL rookies with 88 tackles, he led all NFL players in that category. He also has four sacks and three forced fumbles and has already won defensive rookie of the week honors twice.”

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Seahawks’ Moore trying to move past loss to Chargers

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — David Moore tried his best not to let the final pass in Seattle's loss to the Los Angeles Chargers last week bother him for long.

It's not easy when it's a throw that could have potentially tied the game and forced overtime, but instead bounced off Moore's shoulder and fell incomplete

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — David Moore tried his best not to let the final pass in Seattle’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers last week bother him for long.

It’s not easy when it’s a throw that could have potentially tied the game and forced overtime, but instead bounced off Moore’s shoulder and fell incomplete on the final play of Seattle’s 25-17 loss.

It was shown on seemingly every TV broadcast playing highlights of the game , and while it would have been an exceptionally difficult catch after getting tipped by a Chargers defensive back, Moore wishes he could have made the grab.

“I tried to stay away from it,” Moore said on Thursday. “After a while, I’d say Monday after meetings, I tried to watch it and then I was like, ‘It’s over with now. I’m on to (the Rams).'”

The incompletion was the most difficult moment the second-year wide receiver has faced since becoming part of Seattle’s wide receiver rotation. The Seahawks had an untimed down from the 6-yard line needing a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to force overtime.

Quarterback Russell Wilson stepped up away from the pass rush and Moore had flashed open running across the back of the end zone.

Wilson zipped his pass in Moore’s direction, but just a couple of yards away from finding the receiver’s hands, the ball was tipped by the Chargers’ Jahleel Addae. The tip slightly changed the trajectory of the pass and it started severely wobbling offline. Moore was unable to adjust his hands in time and the ball thudded off his shoulder pads and to the turf.

“I (saw) it get tipped. I saw the dude come across and I tried to adjust to it but it was a little bit too late,” Moore said. “It was a fastball coming in hot, getting touched, it’s kind of hard to get your hands where it needs to be after that.”

Moore said he spent time Sunday night wondering if there are even drills to mimic having a pass change as that one did so close to the receiver.

“It’s a really tough catch. He’s tracking the ball, he sees it coming and all of a sudden the ball takes kind of a strange turn,” Seattle offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “He was really dejected, really upset. Got a chance to talk to him after the game, said a lot of things still had to happen. That wasn’t the reason we won or lost that game, but it was a very difficult play.”

Moore’s development has been one of the big stories of the season for Seattle. His progression from an unknown seventh-round pick in 2017 to becoming the Seahawks’ No. 3 receiver was so rapid Seattle felt comfortable releasing veteran Brandon Marshall last week to open a roster spot.

While it wasn’t a dropped pass, the final play is the first major adversity Moore has faced this season. He was emotional after the game, but said the moment was quickly put in perspective.

“At first I took it kind of hard, but then I had Doug (Baldwin) and Tyler (Lockett) and all the brothers and stuff, and all the coaches tell me stuff like this happens all the time,” Moore said.

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Mullens to share stage with Manning when 49ers host Giants

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Nick Mullens remembers getting the phone call from Archie Manning inviting him to the prestigious Manning Passing Academy two summers ago.

Mullens savored the chance to take part in the four-day clinic run by Archie and his two NFL quarterback sons, Eli and Peyton. Mullens especially relished the opportunity to

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Nick Mullens remembers getting the phone call from Archie Manning inviting him to the prestigious Manning Passing Academy two summers ago.

Mullens savored the chance to take part in the four-day clinic run by Archie and his two NFL quarterback sons, Eli and Peyton. Mullens especially relished the opportunity to watch Eli Manning take part in some of the drills.

“To see how he moves in the pocket, he has very quick feet and is just very smooth,” Mullens said. “I definitely remember just sitting there and watching him throw. I took that all in.”

Mullens now will get another chance to see Manning up close when he makes his second career start for the San Francisco 49ers (2-7) on Monday night against Manning and the New York Giants (1-7).

Mullens is coming off a scintillating debut, completing 16 of 22 passes for 262 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 151.9 passer rating in a 34-3 victory over the Oakland Raiders. That’s the highest rating since the merger for a player in his debut with at least 20 attempts.

Things might not be as easy now that the Giants have an idea of what Mullens can do.

“I think they’re going to be like, ‘Oh crap. This guy is good,'” running back Matt Breida said. “I think they’ll put more people back there to cover because of the throws he made and can do.”

While Mullens is just getting started, Manning is nearing the end of his career as he plays his 15th season for a team that is struggling mightily. New York has lost five straight games and the questions are mounting about how much longer the two-time Super Bowl MVP Manning has as quarterback.

“I think there’s urgency to get things going, for sure,” Manning said. “We got to get some wins. We got to get going, and everybody wants it. The team needs it, for the morale and for just the hard work and everything we put in. Just need to reap the benefits of the work, and feel good about what we’re doing.”

Here are some other things to watch:

SPLENDID SAQUON

Rookie Saquon Barkley has been a rare bright spot for the struggling Giants, topping 100 yards from scrimmage in seven of his first eight games. Barkley has been a bit hit and miss with 16 runs for negative yards, tied for fifth worst in the league, and 11 plays that gained at least 20, which is tied for second most among running backs. Barkley is just the ninth player to gain at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage in the first eight games of his rookie season.

“I’m not one of those guys that says, let me see my stats, let me see how much I ran for this or that. I just play,” he said. “I’m not going to stand here and lie, I am very active on social media, so there’s fan pages of me and I can go on Instagram or even on my explore page and they just happen to pop up. I’ve seen predictions of what I’m capable of doing, but it means nothing to me.”

PRESSURE POINT

The struggling pass rush for the 49ers broke through in a big way last week with eight sacks against Oakland. Cassius Marsh led the way with a career-best 2 ½, and Dekoda Watson had 1 1/2 in his first game after coming off IR. San Francisco had eight sacks in a game only once in the previous two decades, doing it against the Rams in 2009.

KITTLE’S CATCHES

San Francisco tight end George Kittle has been a big-play threat all season. He had a 71-yard catch and run last week against the Raiders, making him the first tight end since Rich Caster in 1972 to have two 70-yard catches in the same season. Kittle ranks second among all tight ends with 692 yards receiving and is second to Barkley among all players with 496 yards after the catch.

STRUGGLING FRANCHISES

Twenty-eight years after these franchises met in the best matchup in “Monday Night Football” history, they now play in one of the worst. Back in 1990, the 49ers beat the Giants 7-3 in a matchup of 10-1 teams that provided the highest winning percentage ever for a Monday night game played after Halloween. The teams come into this meeting with a combined winning percentage of .176, the second lowest for a Monday night game played Nov. 1 or later. The lowest combined winning percentage is .167 for a matchup of the New York Jets (3-9) and the Chargers (1-11) in 1975 that featured Hall of Fame QBs Joe Namath and Dan Fouts.

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Larry Fitzgerald closing in on yards receiving milestone

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Larry Fitzgerald is closing in on another milestone, and it's an impressive one.

The 35-year-old receiver needs to catch just 33 yards worth of passes Sunday at Kansas City to move past Hall of Famer Terrell Owens into second place on the NFL's all-time yards receiving list.

As usual, Fitzgerald brushed

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Larry Fitzgerald is closing in on another milestone, and it’s an impressive one.

The 35-year-old receiver needs to catch just 33 yards worth of passes Sunday at Kansas City to move past Hall of Famer Terrell Owens into second place on the NFL’s all-time yards receiving list.

As usual, Fitzgerald brushed aside talk of the milestone in his weekly meeting with the media Thursday.

“Honestly, I don’t really think about it,” he said.

Modesty aside, there’s no doubt that Fitzgerald is very aware of his place among the greats in the game.

Halfway through his 15th season, Fitzgerald has 15,902 yards receiving, behind Owens’ 15,934 and Jerry Rice’s phenomenal 22,895.

Fitzgerald needs 58 catches to pass Tony Gonzalez for second on the NFL career receptions list. Fitzgerald has 1,268 catches to Gonzalez’s 1,325 and Rice’s 1,549.

Fitzgerald also is closing in on Rice’s record for receptions with one team. Fitzgerald, who has spent his entire career with the Cardinals, needs 14 receptions to pass the 1,281 catches Rice had with the San Francisco 49ers.

There are numbers that Fitzgerald will talk about with pride, and that’s what he’s accomplished in the postseason.

He has 942 yards receiving in nine postseason games, most of any player in his first nine playoff contests. His three 150-yard playoff receiving games are most in NFL history. His five 100-yard games are tied for third all-time, behind Michael Irvin and Rice. Fitzgerald is tied for third in postseason TD receptions (10), behind John Stallworth and Rice. And Fitzgerald did it in only nine games.

Fitzgerald’s performance in Arizona’s surprise run to the Super Bowl in the 2008 season shattered NFL records for yards receiving (546), receptions (30) and touchdowns (7).

In Arizona’s divisional game against Green Bay in 2015, Fitzgerald caught eight passes for 176 yards, including the two biggest plays of overtime. He is the only player in NFL history to average at least 100 yards receiving and a touchdown in every postseason game.

“I think every player wants to be at their best in the biggest moments,” Fitzgerald said. “I think my numbers in the playoffs say that I’m a guy who steps up in the bigger moments. I think that’s something you look at the greats in history, the Jerry Rices and the Michael Jordans and the Kobe Bryants, the Reggie Jacksons of the world, those guys , when their teams needed them the most, they were able to find something to make a difference in the games.”

But Fitzgerald may never appear in the playoffs again.

The Cardinals limp into Kansas City at 2-6 and Fitzgerald repeated Thursday that he hasn’t decided whether this is his last season. It’s hard to imagine him ever playing for another team.

Fitzgerald has been conspicuously absent from the statistics as the Arizona offense sputtered through seven games, leading to the firing of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. With Byron Leftwich as the new coordinator, Fitzgerald had his best game of the year in the team’s 18-15 victory over San Francisco two weekends ago, catching eight passes for 102 yards and a touchdown, just his second of the season.

Notes: S Budda Baker, a critical component of Arizona’s defense, did not practice Thursday due to a foot injury. He was not on the injury report Wednesday. He was the only player who did not practice on Thursday.

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Steelers RT Gilbert out for 3rd straight week

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert will miss his third straight game while dealing with a knee injury.

The Steelers made Gilbert inactive for Thursday night's game against Carolina. Matt Feiler will start in place of Gilbert.

Pittsburgh will also be without reserve nose tackle Dan McCullers, who is dealing with an

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert will miss his third straight game while dealing with a knee injury.

The Steelers made Gilbert inactive for Thursday night’s game against Carolina. Matt Feiler will start in place of Gilbert.

Pittsburgh will also be without reserve nose tackle Dan McCullers, who is dealing with an ankle injury. Quarterback Mason Rudolph, wide receiver Justin Hunter, safety Marcus Allen, cornerback Brian Allen and offensive lineman Zach Banner are also inactive for the Steelers.

The Panthers will be without wide receiver Torrey Smith, who will sit out a third straight week due to a knee injury. Jarius Wright will start in place of Smith.

Carolina center Ryan Kalil will play despite skipping practice on Tuesday with an ankle injury.

Cornerback Josh Hawkins, running back Cameron Artis-Payne, linebacker Andre Smith, guard Brendan Mahon, defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. and defensive end Marquis Haynes are also inactive for the Panthers.

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Mayfield hopes NFL officials find consistency on helmet hits

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Baker Mayfield has become the NFL's unwanted poster boy for helmet-to-helmet hits.

Twice this season, Cleveland's rookie quarterback has been struck in the head by tacklers during games and both times the officials failed to call a penalty for the obvious infractions.

Mayfield's trying not to take oversights personally.

"They just

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Baker Mayfield has become the NFL’s unwanted poster boy for helmet-to-helmet hits.

Twice this season, Cleveland’s rookie quarterback has been struck in the head by tacklers during games and both times the officials failed to call a penalty for the obvious infractions.

Mayfield’s trying not to take oversights personally.

“They just have to find their consistency,” he said of the erratic calls. “With every ref it’s different — how they see it, how they’re seeing the plays, momentum with the whistle, when it’s blown, stuff like that. So as they continue to try to enforce the same rule, I think the consistency will grow. But right now, that’s why you’re seeing some confusion.”

On Oct. 21 at Tampa Bay, Mayfield slid after a 35-yard run and was drilled from the side by Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead, who wasn’t flagged but was fined $26,739 fine by the NFL, which acknowledged days after the hit that it should have been a penalty.

Last week, Kansas City safety Ron Parker delivered a glancing blow with his helmet to Mayfield while the quarterback was being wrapped up by defensive tackle Chris Jones. Again, no penalty was called, but Mayfield was forced to leave the game after an independent medical observer called the officials and requested the QB undergo a concussion evaluation.

Mayfield passed the test and was allowed to return three plays later. He fought to stay in the game.

“Yeah. I guess that is the new rule,” he said. “I have to come off the field for a checkup.”

Parker could be fined by the league, which announces its weekly punishments on Saturday.

Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, joked that Parker’s hit fortunately didn’t do any damage.

“It would be more frustrating if it hurt,” Mayfield said. “I was more frustrated they took me out of the game, to be honest with you. But they’re protecting me. They’re doing their job. So ultimately what can I complain about?”

Mayfield has sympathy for the officials, who are doing what they can to protect players — especially quarterbacks — while presiding over a game that’s moving very fast. Mayfield smiled when asked if the officiating was as uneven when he played in college at Oklahoma.

“No,” he said, grinning. “I had a bunch of friends out there, so it was good.”

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FANTASY PLAYS: Players to start and sit in NFL Week 10

Like winter, fantasy football playoffs loom. Successful fantasy owners shouldn't go into victory formation yet, as one bad week or unfortunate injury can change the complexion of the whole season.

Those still pushing for a postseason berth should pull out all the stops without fear. Week 10 brings opportunity for players who have otherwise been

Like winter, fantasy football playoffs loom. Successful fantasy owners shouldn’t go into victory formation yet, as one bad week or unfortunate injury can change the complexion of the whole season.

Those still pushing for a postseason berth should pull out all the stops without fear. Week 10 brings opportunity for players who have otherwise been disappointments along with a rookie or two who should be used to exploit favorable matchups.

START: Jordan Howard, RB, Bears: With four touchdowns in his last three games, Howard is showing signs of finally breaking out of his season-long funk. Howard is no longer a component in the Chicago passing game, but he’s averaged 19 touches per game over the past three weeks. Now he faces a Lions run defense that gives up 5.1 yards per carry and is ranked 27th in stopping the run. He’s still a long way from the RB1 many envisioned he’d be on draft day, but Howard will fit in most fantasy lineups as a solid RB2 this Sunday.

SIT: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: Yes, him. Gronkowski hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1 and has exceeded better than 70 receiving yards just twice after tagging the Texans for 123 yards in the regular season opener. He missed last Sunday’s win against the Packers and is questionable for Sunday’s game versus the Titans. There are good streaming options available at tight end (Chris Herndon of the Jets, for example) but the days of Gronkowski as a must-start fantasy beast appear to be reaching their end.

START: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Packers: Since joining the starting lineup, Valdes-Scantling is averaging just over nine targets per game and has a pair of 100-yard outings to go along with two touchdowns. Green Bay’s pass, pass and pass again mindset makes the rookie a strong WR2 who continues to gain the trust of Aaron Rodgers. He’ll keep building his rapport with Rodgers at the expense of a Miami defense that is 25th in receiving yards allowed and 29th in yards per catch allowed. Valdes-Scantling has averaged 21.1 yards per catch, as seven of his 17 receptions have been for 20 yards or longer.

SIT: Derek Carr, QB, Raiders: The optimism about Carr following a strong performance against the Colts was critically shattered after a near-lifeless effort against the 49ers. Things will not get better for Carr, who must contend with a Chargers defense that is a solid 12th in net passing yards allowed and is tied for sixth with 10 interceptions. While Carr has 10 touchdown passes this season, keep in mind that seven of those came in two games. Los Angeles held him to just 14 fantasy points when the two teams met in Week 5.

START: Michael Gallup, WR, Cowboys: Dak Prescott has gotten the rookie wideout more involved over the past two games, with 11 of his 28 targets this season coming in that span. He’s responded well, catching six passes for 132 yards and a touchdown and will continue his upward trend going against a suspect Eagles pass defense that is 20th in net passing yards allowed. Gallup has shown he doesn’t need a lot of targets to make an impact, which makes him an intriguing WR3/flex option.

SIT: Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions: Even with Golden Tate no longer in the lineup, Golladay was a non-factor in last week’s loss to the Vikings, catching just three passes for 46 yards on four targets. Things don’t get easier for Golladay, who faces a Bears defense that is ninth in fewest net passing yards and is second only to the Dolphins with 14 interceptions. Golladay should see more targets after having a mere seven in his last three games combined, but there’s little to feel good about playing him, especially in a PPR format.

START: Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans: He’s starting to round into shape and comes off his second game of better than 20 fantasy points with a great chance at a third against the Patriots. New England is 28th in net passing yards allowed and have given up 19 touchdown passes and must deal with Mariota’s running ability. While he’d be a gamble in standard leagues, Mariota is a good play in deeper leagues. There’s a good chance he steps his game up and turns this contest into a high-scoring affair.

SIT: Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions: Stafford hasn’t recorded a game of better than 20 fantasy points since Week 4 and after being sacked 10 times by the Vikings last week, his body will go through another brutal afternoon against the Bears, who have 24 sacks along with 14 interceptions. Chicago is ninth in fewest net passing yards, and if the Lions fall behind early, Stafford had better brace for a long afternoon of uncomfortable meetings with Chicago’s withering pass rush.

START: Aaron Jones, RB, Packers: Sooner or later, the Packers will catch on to giving Jones more than 12-14 carries per game. Sunday would be a good time to do so, as Green Bay gets a Miami defense ranked 31st against the run and allows a healthy 4.6 yards per carry, which bodes well for Jones’ six yards per attempt. Yes, there is some disappointment in Jones after his fumble against the Patriots, but there’s a great rebound opportunity awaiting any fantasy owner willing to use him as an RB2.

SIT: Wendell Smallwood, RB, Eagles: In fact, avoiding Eagles running backs altogether is a sound move. The backfield by committee style is a fantasy killer, one whose level of pain is increased by facing a Cowboys run defense that is seventh in fewest yards allowed and gives up a mere 3.6 yards per carry.

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Rivers rolling, Carr stalling entering Chargers-Raiders game

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Derek Carr had appeared to pass Philip Rivers in the pecking order of AFC West quarterbacks two years ago. He put together a season worthy of MVP consideration while Rivers led the NFL in interceptions on the way to a last-place finish.

Carr looked like one of the NFL's up-and-coming stars,

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Derek Carr had appeared to pass Philip Rivers in the pecking order of AFC West quarterbacks two years ago. He put together a season worthy of MVP consideration while Rivers led the NFL in interceptions on the way to a last-place finish.

Carr looked like one of the NFL’s up-and-coming stars, while Rivers seemed to be on the downside of a career that started in 2004.

The script has flipped heading into Sunday’s meeting between Rivers’ Los Angeles Chargers (6-2) and Carr’s Oakland Raiders (1-7). Rivers is playing as well as he has at any point in his 15-year career, while Carr is struggling to find his way in coach Jon Gruden’s offense.

“Obviously quarterbacks get way too much credit and way too much blame already, but I think we don’t give enough credit to guys who have played that long,” Carr said. “I’ll say it this way, the hardest part mentally going through a season is the days leading up to the game. Sunday is fun, man. You cut it loose and you give it everything you have. Having to recover, ice tub, wake up early to get treatment, the lift, to lift heavy when everything hurts, that’s when those guys don’t get enough credit.

“Here I am at five years, I’m fine. I’m good. I’ll keep doing this and I’m good. But, those guys that are in their 15th, 20th season, we don’t give them enough credit to mentally be that strong. It’s awesome.”

Rivers has career highs in yards per attempt (9.1) and passer rating (116.5), and is on pace for a career-high 38 touchdown passes while leading the Chargers to five straight wins.

The Chargers have strengthened their offensive line, have a potent running threat in Melvin Gordon, have plenty of outside targets with Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams, and a strong defense.

That has all taken pressure off Rivers to carry too much of the load.

“These last almost 20 games or so, we’ve had good balance,” Rivers said. “Leaning on one another offensively and defensively taking care of the ball — all of those things are important. So we’ve done a nice job of it so far.”

Here are some other things to watch:

GORDON’S RUN

Melvin Gordon has rushed for 407 yards and scored five touchdowns in his last four games. He also has three 100-yard games in three of his past four, the first time that has happened in his career. The only game when Gordon did not go over the century mark was Week 5 against the Raiders; he had just 58 yards on 19 carries. The Raiders are last in the league in rushing defense, but Gordon knows he has a tough test ahead.

“They played me pretty tough last time we went up against them. It is never easy since they are a rival. As a group the offensive line is hitting on all cylinders. We hope to keep getting stronger.”

PRESSURE POINT

The Raiders have struggled to generate any sort of pass pressure all season after trading away Khalil Mack. Oakland ranks last in the NFL with seven sacks and last with 35 QB pressures, according to SportRadar, 28 fewer pressures than the next-lowest team. Fixing that will only get harder after the team released top pass rusher Bruce Irvin last week. That puts more pressure on a trio of rookies — P.J. Hall, Arden Key and Maurice Hurst — that has three sacks this season.

“We put a lot on their plate and that’s because they’re the future of this team,” teammate Frostee Rucker said. “They have to come along and play.”

KINGS OF PICKS

The Chargers have seven interceptions during their five-game winning streak and have 189 yards in returns, which leads the league. Second-year cornerback Desmond King has three of the interceptions and returned one 42 yards for a touchdown last week at Seattle to put the Chargers up by two scores.

MISSING WIDEOUTS

Oakland has struggled to get any production from wideouts in recent weeks. Since the start of Week 5, Oakland ranks last in the NFL with 37 catches and 428 yards receiving from wide receivers. Amari Cooper had one catch for 10 yards in two games in that span before being traded to Dallas. Seth Roberts leads Oakland’s pass catchers with 12 receptions over those four games, while Martavis Bryant has the most yards with 138.

NEW KICKER (AGAIN)

The Chargers have become the Bermuda Triangle for placekickers. Michael Badgley is the team’s sixth since the start of last season and moved into the role fulltime this week after Caleb Sturgis was released on Monday. Badgley made all three of his field goals and seven extra points in the two games he kicked when Sturgis had a quadriceps injury.

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AP Sports Writer Joe Reedy contributed to this report

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Mahomes, Rosen to face off when Chiefs welcome Cardinals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Patrick Mahomes Reunion Tour rolls on Sunday when the young, record-setting quarterback leads the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs against the Arizona Cardinals at Arrowhead Stadium.

Last week, Mahomes shredded the Cleveland Browns while outplaying their rookie quarterback, Baker Mayfield. The two met when Mahomes was being recruited to Texas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Patrick Mahomes Reunion Tour rolls on Sunday when the young, record-setting quarterback leads the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs against the Arizona Cardinals at Arrowhead Stadium.

Last week, Mahomes shredded the Cleveland Browns while outplaying their rookie quarterback, Baker Mayfield. The two met when Mahomes was being recruited to Texas Tech and Mayfield helped to serve as his host, and their relationship continued even when Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma.

This week, Mahomes gets to reminiscence about his time working at Peyton Manning’s football camp with his old roommate, Josh Rosen — now the quarterback on whom the Cardinals are pinning their future.

“I’ve met him a couple times, been out to California and met him,” Mahomes said. “He throws a beautiful ball. It’s always a really tight spiral. I know he’ll have a lot of success.”

It’s going to be tough to top the success Mahomes is having.

The Chiefs’ first-year starter is setting benchmarks just about every time he steps on the field, and the next one might be consecutive 300-yard passing games. Mahomes has eight straight to match Andrew Luck from the 2014 season, and he’s shown no signs of slowing down.

“I thought he was pretty good,” Rosen said, reflecting on those days working camp together. “We weren’t really throwing, we were mostly just coaching the kids. So we didn’t get to really throw too much, but I liked him as a dude. We got along really well.”

Rosen hasn’t seen a whole lot of Mahomes with the Chiefs (8-1) this week, either, because he’s spent all his time focusing on the defense. But Cardinals coach Steve Wilks has seen enough to know that stopping him may be impossible, and slowing him down is nearly as difficult.

That goes for the entirety of the Kansas City offense.

“One thing we talked about all week is really trying to limit those big plays, understanding exactly who they’re trying to target,” Wilks said. “This is a very explosive offense. Going against Andy Reid for several years in different places, going all the way back to the Eagles, this is part of his M.O. So, we’ve got to try to limit the big plays as much as possible.”

The Cardinals (2-6) have struggled much of the season, particularly on offense. But they’re coming off an uplifting, fourth-quarter comeback victory over San Francisco that was capped by Rosen’s touchdown strike to Christian Kirk in the final minute.

“You can let point spreads and all these things — ‘trap game’ — and all these terms that pop up and things that happen come into it,” Reid said of perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Chiefs this week. “But if you can honestly focus on the process and discipline yourself to do that, that normally takes care of things. … You’re not going to let distractions get in the way.”

As the Chiefs and Cardinals prepare to meet Sunday, here are some interesting notes:

GETTING HEALTHIER

Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen is expected to play after returning from injured reserve, where he’d been since breaking his leg in training camp. The Chiefs also could have top pass rusher Justin Houston back from a hamstring injury that has sidelined him the past four games.

ROSEN AND REID

Rosen’s father, noted physician Dr. Charles Rosen, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and the youngster was an avid fan of Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles growing up.

“I used to have an Eagles shirt when I was a kid that said, ‘Our coach will eat yours.’ I was a huge Andy Reid fan,” Rosen said. “Him and Mike Vick and the DeSean Jackson days were very fun to watch.

FITZGERALD’S NUMBERS

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been climbing into the upper reaches of the NFL’s career receiving marks, and he is closing in on a couple very high rungs.

Fitzgerald has 15,902 yards receiving, and he needs 33 more to pass Terrell Owens for second place behind Jerry Rice on the career list. Fitzgerald also needs 58 catches to pass former Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez for second behind Rice in career receptions.

Fitzgerald had eight catches for 102 yards and a TD in last week’s 18-15 win over San Francisco.

PERFECTION, ALMOST

Reid was asked this week how often his creative plays are executed properly — when all 11 guys do exactly what they are supposed to do. And his answer was quite candid.

“I’d probably give you 85 percent of the time,” Reid said. “Now, they can get beat and that would bring it down a little bit, but mostly guys will attempt to do the right thing. It amazes me how they can digest all this and in a split-second know — there’s 200 plays on that sheet, and you have to figure it out like that, and these guys do it.”

MAKE WAY, LEN

Mahomes already has thrown 29 touchdown passes, which means he needs just two more to pass Len Dawson’s franchise record. The Hall of Famer set one of the Chiefs’ longest-standing records in 1964, an era in which passing generally took a back seat to running the ball.

“It would be awesome,” Mahomes said, “because Len had a lot of success in the NFL and was kind of ahead of his time, throwing all those touchdowns. It would be awesome to pass that.”

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Giants tight end Engram trying to overcome dropped passes

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Evan Engram understands that he has all the tools to be a top tight end in the NFL.

The New York Giants' second-year player, the team's first-round selection in 2017, has the size, speed and the drive to be a star.

There's only one problem. Engram has a propensity of

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Evan Engram understands that he has all the tools to be a top tight end in the NFL.

The New York Giants’ second-year player, the team’s first-round selection in 2017, has the size, speed and the drive to be a star.

There’s only one problem. Engram has a propensity of dropping passes, especially in clutch situations.

Engram caught 64 passes for 722 yards and six touchdowns last season. Engram also dropped 11 passes and vowed in the offseason to work on rectifying that problem.

Now, in his second season, Engram has caught 17 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns, but he has also dropped three passes.

“It’s pretty tough,” Engram said Thursday before the team practiced in preparation for facing the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.

“It’s not where I want to be. I have to put some of these plays behind me and keep working on getting better and staying positive.”

Engram’s problems are also magnified because the Giants have a 1-7 record for the second straight season.

“We just have to go out and get a win,” Engram said. “We have to get some of the bad tastes out of our mouths. It’s going to feel good to get out there on the big stage Monday night.”

The Giants are coming off their bye week, which should make the beleaguered team feel a little better.

“I think it’s important to put the bad things behind me,” Engram said. “A couple of those drops are catches that I can make in my sleep. I just want to go out there and give us enough an opportunity to win the game Monday night.”

Engram was the first rookie tight end to lead the Giants in receptions. His six touchdown catches were a franchise record for a rookie tight end in 2017.

So the potential is there. He just has to make sure to hold on to the ball, something that coach Pat Shurmur also realizes.

“Evan is a pass-catching tight end,” Shurmur said. “I think we all realize that. But it’s important that he catches the ball. He’s had a couple of drops. But he works at it. He has worked all along at catching the ball. He does a lot of drills, a lot of extra work. He works hard at catching the ball. He always puts the drop behind him and continues to work hard at trying to catch the ball.”

Quarterback Eli Manning recognizes Engram’s passion for improving.

“Evan works hard and wants to do everything right,” said Manning, who will remain the team’s starter for the time being. “He puts in a lot of work. He’s too good of a player and an athlete to let the little things bother him.”

Manning knows that the Giants have had their difficulties scoring touchdowns this season.

“I feel like we’re moving the ball well,” Manning said. “We’re getting yards and moving the ball down the field. We just need that to translate into scoring touchdowns. It always comes down to execution. We have to avoid the negative plays. We just have to execute better in the red zone.”

Manning did not want to talk about whether Monday night’s game against the Niners might be his last as a starter this season.

“I’m worried about this week,” he said. “I have a job to do right now. We’re just going to try to go out there and get the win this time. Sure, there’s a sense of urgency. We all need to get going. We need to improve. We need to score some points. I feel like we’re close. We just have to get back on track, keep improving and play some football.”

The improvement might have to begin with the second-year tight end.

“I watch film of other tight ends,” Engram said. “There are a lot of athletic tight ends in the league, so I try to pick up plays that can make me more effective. I love watching (Kansas City TE) Travis Kelce. He’s so polished and smooth as a tight end. It’s fun watching him. I always try to steal things from him.”

So Engram took the practice field Thursday with the idea that the dropped passes, 14 over his first 1½ seasons, are a thing of the past.

“I think we all strive for perfection,” Engram said. “I just have to put it (the dropped passes) behind me. I understand that it’s part of the game and it’s something that makes you work harder.”

NOTES: Shurmur continued to hint that newly acquired OG Jamon Brown might start Monday night, just a week after being claimed on waivers from the Los Angeles Rams. “We’re putting him in there and getting him ready like he’s going to start,” Shurmur said of Brown. “He’s a big man, a really big man (6-foot-4 and 340 pounds). He was a starter on a team that won more than 10 games last year. He’s a really fast learner.” … Standout safety Landon Collins did not want to comment on a report that said the Giants were either going to place the franchise tag on him for next season or work on a long-term contract. “There has been no talk about that,” Collins said. “When we get to that, we get to that. If something happens, I’ll let you know.” … Manning said that he spoke with QB Kyle Lauletta about his arrest last week for motor vehicle violations in Weehawken, N.J. “It’s a tough situation for him,” Manning said. “I’m trying to support him. This whole thing will be forgotten about and will be water under the bridge very shortly.”

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History on the line: Porous Bengals try to stop Saints

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Steelers piled up 481 yards against Cincinnati's historically bad defense.

The Chiefs and the Buccaneers each went well over 500 yards the next two weeks, putting the Bengals on the cusp of NFL history.

No defense has allowed three straight 500-yard games. In order to avoid the ignominy, the Bengals (5-3)

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Steelers piled up 481 yards against Cincinnati’s historically bad defense.

The Chiefs and the Buccaneers each went well over 500 yards the next two weeks, putting the Bengals on the cusp of NFL history.

No defense has allowed three straight 500-yard games. In order to avoid the ignominy, the Bengals (5-3) are going to have to stop an offense that’s been lighting it up.

Hello, Drew Brees.

The Saints (7-1) have won seven straight and are coming off a 45-35 win that sent the Rams to their first loss. New Orleans piled up 487 yards behind Brees, who leads the NFL in completion rate (76.3 percent) and passer rating (120.6). He’s been sacked a league-low nine times.

If the Bengals fail to get a hand on him, it could be history .

“They go as Brees goes,” defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. “We’ve got to find a way to slow down that future Hall of Famer.”

The biggest challenge for the Saints will be keeping the momentum in their only road game during a four-week span. They return home to play the Eagles and Falcons the next two weeks.

Although the Bengals have given up the most yards in the NFL, the defense has scored four touchdowns on interception and fumble returns, playing a big factor in three of their wins.

The Saints can’t afford to get off to a bad start that gives the Bengals the advantage. Also, it would help if the Saints tidied up their defense a bit.

While the Bengals are historically bad — on pace to give up more than 7,000 yards — the Saints are also struggling on defense. They rank 25th overall, including second-worst in pass defense. They’ve been among the worst at stopping opponents inside the 20-yard line. The Rams overcame an 18-point halftime deficit and tied it 35-35 in the fourth quarter.

New Orleans would like fewer shootouts in the second half of the season.

“There’s a ton of things we have to improve on and we need to improve on, or it’s going to hurt us later,” coach Sean Payton said.

Some things to watch Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium:

THE NEW GUY

New Orleans signed former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant on Wednesday . It’s unclear what role — if any — he’ll play this week as he tries to learn the offense. Deep threat Ted Ginn Jr. is hurt, and the Saints hope Bryant can add another dimension to the offense once he gets acclimated.

“I look forward to building a rapport with him,” Brees said. “I look forward to getting him involved in this offense and just become a complement to all the guys that we already have.”

THOMAS’ TIME

While Bryant’s arrival gets attention, Michael Thomas remains the Saints’ biggest threat. He set a franchise record last week with 211 yards receiving, including his 72-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. With half the season still remaining, Thomas has 70 catches for 880 yards and five TDs.

BIGGEST BLEMISH

The Saints’ most glaring problems on defense have come near the goal line. New Orleans’ opponents have scored touchdowns on 20 of 28 drives (71.4 percent). That ranks 28th out of 32 teams in defensive red zone efficiency.

“You can’t find any team having success later in the season with the numbers that we currently have,” Payton said. “We’ve got to find a way to improve that.”

The Bengals lead the league in scoring touchdowns once they get inside the 20-yard line, reaching the end zone on 20 of their 26 such possessions. They’ve scored touchdowns on eight of their past nine trips inside the 20.

“We’ve had some really good schemes,” Andy Dalton said. “At the end of the day, our guys have made the plays.”

OH THAT HISTORY

No NFL team has given up three straight 500-yard games. The 1963 Jets gave up three 500-yard games within a four-game span — 510 to the Chargers, 505 to the Raiders, 317 to the Broncos and 528 to the Chargers again. In its past three games, Cincinnati has allowed 481 to the Steelers, 551 to the Chiefs and 576 to the Buccaneers.

“We’re underachieving right now,” Dunlap said. “We’re playing well enough to win some games, which is why we’re 5-3. If we work on the negatives, we can be that elite defense and that elite team.”

MISSING GREEN

A.J. Green caught a 13-yard touchdown pass with 7 seconds left for a win in Atlanta. He had two catches that moved the Bengals into range for their winning field goal against Tampa Bay before they headed into their bye last week. He also hurt a toe on his right foot on the final catch and is sidelined indefinitely, costing Cincinnati its most dependable receiver.

“It is a huge impact,” Payton said. “He is someone that commands a ton of coverage respect.”

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AP Sports Writers Brett Martel in Metairie, Louisiana, and Joe Reedy in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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Texans shake off terrible start with 6-game winning streak

HOUSTON (AP) — Ask Jadeveon Clowney how the Houston Texans turned around their season by winning six straight games after an 0-3 start and the hulking defensive end breaks into song.

"Started from the bottom now we're here," he bellows. "Started from the bottom now the whole team here."

While the 2013 Drake tune is

HOUSTON (AP) — Ask Jadeveon Clowney how the Houston Texans turned around their season by winning six straight games after an 0-3 start and the hulking defensive end breaks into song.

“Started from the bottom now we’re here,” he bellows. “Started from the bottom now the whole team here.”

While the 2013 Drake tune is a little old to be the team’s anthem, the sentiment of the song couldn’t be more fitting for these Texans.

They occupied the basement of the AFC South after opening the season with losses to New England, Tennessee and the New York Giants by a combined 13 points. After falling into such a big hole early, the Texans were written off by many as headed to a lost season.

Everyone insists that such a defeatist sentiment never took hold within the team, with the struggles galvanizing them to get on track and prove the doubters wrong.

“Don’t quit. Everyone keeps fighting. Everyone keeps believing,” quarterback Deshaun Watson said. “Everyone keeps fighting to the very, very end. That is what we do. Regardless of the situation or the adversity, we are always going to keep fighting. That is how we feel.”

Houston is the second team in NFL history to win six in a row after opening 0-3, the first since the Giants in 1970. The winning streak has the Texans in first place in their division and in good position to compete for their third AFC South title in the last four seasons.

A big reason for Houston’s turnaround has been the play of Watson and defensive end J.J. Watt. Both have started each game this year after having their 2017 seasons cut short by major injuries. Watson tore a knee ligament in practice after appearing in seven games in 2017. Watt played just eight games in the previous two years because of back surgeries and a broken leg.

Watt is tied for third in the NFL with nine sacks and his four forced fumbles are tied for most in the league.

“I know he probably doesn’t want to talk about it too much, but I’ve never seen anything like it,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “To come back from what he’s been able to come back from, some really serious injuries, and to be able to play at the level that he’s playing at, it just says all you need to know about him and how much he cares about the team and how much he wants to help this organization win.”

Watson, the 12th overall pick in last year’s draft, has thrown for 2,389 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions despite being slowed by lung and rib injuries. O’Brien said his diligence in coming to the facility every day after his injury last season to study film and talk to coaches has helped Watson take a step forward this year.

“He’s grown a lot,” O’Brien said. “He’s just an awesome guy to work with. He cares about studying, he cares about putting time in to prepare for each game. I think he’s learned a lot about NFL defenses. He’s had a lot thrown at him defensively this year, whether it’s third-down defenses, red-area defenses. He’s improved every week.”

Watson has been helped by the stellar play of receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who is No. 3 in the NFL with 894 yards receiving and whose seven touchdowns are tied for second. The Texans hope that new addition Demaryius Thomas, acquired in a trade with Denver last Tuesday, will make more of an impact after the break with some time to learn the offense.

Hopkins, who has five touchdowns in the last four games, said despite this strong stretch the Texans are approaching things the same way they did when they were desperate for a victory.

“We’ve got the same mentality, and that’s win,” he said. “That’s why we go to practice and that’s why we wake up every day. It’s the same mentality we had when we were 0-3. Nothing’s changed.”

They know that if they let up, their season will end prematurely, just as it did when they went 4-12 in 2017.

O’Brien let out a slight chuckle when asked if 0-3 feels like forever ago.

“It’s not a really long time ago,” he said. “I think our players understand that, and I think the difference between 0-3 and where we are now is not a big difference. We’re just making some more plays, we’re coaching some things better. I think our guys have to — and they do — understand that every week is going to be difficult.”

First up is a trip to Washington on Nov. 18 before a Monday night matchup with Tennessee on Nov. 26 in the first of three straight home games when a win would be key in moving closer to taking their division.

“It’s just important to note that we haven’t been blowing anybody out,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “I don’t think we are a complacent group of guys. We’ve been in some fist fights, some real close ballgames, so it’s not like everything is cookie cutter and everything is going all good for us.”

“We still have things we can improve on and work on, so I think that’s what’s going to keep us pushing forward.”

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Linebackers are paying price for NFL’s video-game numbers

DENVER (AP) — With the NFL's volcanic offenses, can't-hit-them-too-hard rules and bewildered officials, linebackers today aren't the snarling 250-pound thumpers who used to just give running backs fits.

"Now we have to cover well, too," Denver's Brandon Marshall said. "We still have to tackle well. So, you can't be real light and only playing pass

DENVER (AP) — With the NFL’s volcanic offenses, can’t-hit-them-too-hard rules and bewildered officials, linebackers today aren’t the snarling 250-pound thumpers who used to just give running backs fits.

“Now we have to cover well, too,” Denver’s Brandon Marshall said. “We still have to tackle well. So, you can’t be real light and only playing pass or too heavy and only playing run. You’ve got to be able to do all of it, man.”

Which means finding a sweet spot on the scale so they can run like a gazelle and still hit like a truck.

Today’s inside linebackers not only need to have the stamina to go sideline to sideline, but they also require:

—sufficient strength to shed 320-pound linemen;

—enough vigor to cover towering tight ends;

—ample speed to keep up with receivers no longer timid about going over the middle;

—enough recognition and quickness to keep up with shifty running backs and ever-more-mobile quarterbacks.

It’s also handy to have a thick skin, knowing linebackers will bear the brunt of fans’ frustrations as offenses pick apart apparently defenseless units at a record-setting pace.

Sounds impossible.

“It almost is,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “It almost is.”

“It’s definitely very difficult,” Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr said. “You have tight ends that provide mismatches, you’ve got running backs that are great receivers. You’re asked to be in a lot of positions. But that’s what we get paid to do. So, we’ve got figure out a way to do it and do it well.”

As do the officials, whom Joseph said are allowing illegal blocks with the run-pass option rage that has seeped from the college game and is prominently featured in places such as Kansas City, Philadelphia and Seattle.

Take the Broncos’ loss to the Chiefs in Week 8.

Linemen aren’t allowed to block more than a yard from the line of scrimmage on a pass play. But the Chiefs’ guards and center got a few yards downfield several times, causing Denver’s linebackers to instinctively commit to the run — only to see quarterback Patrick Mahomes pull the ball back from running back Kareem Hunt’s belly and zip it to wide-open tight end Travis Kelce.

“It’s the league we’re in,” Joseph said. “Those guys blocking up front don’t know the ball is being thrown. They’re blocking zone, so absolutely it’s an issue. We have to fix this issue in this league, unless it’s going to be college football.

“It’s tough for the linebackers to play both, and you see it on tape. Todd Davis is having hell trying to fit his gap and chase the guy in the flat. When you see Kelce in the flat over there with no one around him, (Davis is) playing his run gap because the guard and center are four and five yards down the field.”

Joseph added, “That’s an issue. It’s a leaguewide issue and it’s a Chiefs issue. Everyone is running these plays, so we have to figure out a way to officiate this better to help the game.”

Marshall isn’t so sure the league’s competition committee will do anything about it, though, saying more points equals more eyeballs.

“They’re not going to change it,” he said.

So it’s the linebackers who are changing.

Davis, the Broncos’ leading tackler, said he’s dropped his weight to 233 and “I do a lot more training with DBs and corners. I add that on to what I already did in the weight room and running and conditioning. But now I have to be ready for everything in the pass game, as well.”

The linebackers who are modifying their bodies and games are embracing the challenge.

“It’s the NFL,” Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. “There’s great players at every position.”

Including linebacker.

“I love it,” Davis said. “It’s on us to play well and it’s on us to set the tempo and be great for our team. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Marshall said linebackers ultimately benefit from the ever-increasing challenges brought on by the RPO trend, faster rushers, bigger tight ends and plucky receivers.

“It’s made me a better player,” Marshall said. “It’s also made me more valuable.”

“I think that’s why teams put a premium on athletic ‘backers,” Marshall said. “Because we have to be out there to cover the Kelces and the Gronks and the Dion Lewises and the James Whites of the world. And then we’ve got to be able to tackle (Todd) Gurley. That’s just how it is.”

Defenses are employing more defensive backs, as many as seven, to combat the RPO trend.

“I think schematically we have to adjust as far as personnel and put faster athletes, better athletes at cover linebacker positions to nullify some of this stuff,” Joseph said. “Because right now it’s almost impossible physically.”

Joseph thinks he has an antidote in Su’a Cravens, and the 6-foot-1, 220-pound safety from USC who’s used as a dime linebacker certainly agrees.

“The way the rules are, they handicap defenses. We’re basically on the field to get in the way, we’re not supposed to stop the offense,” Cravens said. “Defense is already hard enough. They’re making it harder.

“So, with guys like me, I think it’s an opportunity for us to showcase what we can do because they’re making it hard for traditional linebackers who are heavy-handed, heavy-footed. They’re ready to be physical at the line of scrimmage and they can’t do that anymore.”

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AP Pro Football Writers Teresa M. Walker and Dave Campbell contributed

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Chiefs using screen plays in creative new ways on offense

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes had been shredding the Patriots defense all night with his incredible arm strength and downfield precision in a back-and-forth shootout last month when it looked as if the Chiefs quarterback might be finally corralled by a well-timed blitz.

With a deft flip of his wrist, Mahomes instead tossed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes had been shredding the Patriots defense all night with his incredible arm strength and downfield precision in a back-and-forth shootout last month when it looked as if the Chiefs quarterback might be finally corralled by a well-timed blitz.

With a deft flip of his wrist, Mahomes instead tossed a soft screen pass to Kareem Hunt out of the backfield, and he raced up the field as the Patriots were forced to chase him.

The timing was perfect. The execution was spot-on.

It was just one of dozens of examples through the first nine games this season of coach Andy Reid using the screen pass to impressive effect.

Whether it’s Hunt out of the backfield, Tyreek Hill or Sammy Watkins on a bubble screen or even tight end Travis Kelce catching a short pass behind the defense, the Chiefs may use their myriad variations of the screen better than any other team.

“You are really just taking a blocking scheme and moving it out into space,” Reid explained. “Our backs are good with it, quarterback gives them an opportunity and the big guys get out and run.”

The intricate timing plays are fun for just about everybody.

Mahomes likes them because the throws are fairly easy and often lead to big gains. Hunt and fellow running back Spencer Ware like them because they can use their talent in space. And even the offensive linemen like them because they often get to plow through smaller defensive backs, rather than tangle with big defensive tackles as they would do on a traditional running play.

Oh, and the Chiefs’ fans like them for obvious reasons.

Screen passes are hardly new in the NFL, and indeed, they have been part of Reid’s basic West Coast offense since he was learning the scheme from its originator, Bill Walsh.

But with so many playmakers at his disposal, and a quarterback who is finally capable of executing the variety of plays, Reid has taken the old-school notion of screen passes to another level.

They might incorporate elements of the run-pass option, a relatively new development that has swept through the NFL.

Or they might call for guys to line up in unique spots, such as running backs split wide or a wide receiver in the backfield. Or they might call for exotic blocking schemes.

“It’s a timing thing. We have to be in sync with our offensive line,” Ware said. “Our releases are a big part of it — how we escape. The downfield ball with Tyreek, Sammy, Travis and Mahomes throwing it opens it up for us. Then when you have Kareem running how he’s running, they come up and play the run and it’s like, ‘No, it’s not a run, it’s a pass. You’d better get back.’ That gives us some cushion.”

Such screen plays often look simple, but are in fact quite difficult to execute.

Mahomes has to read the defense correctly in the seconds before a snap. The designated target needs to be on the same page. And as Hunt explained, “there’s just a lot of timing involved.”

“Yeah,” Mahomes added, “but with how well Coach Reid explains it, everything goes off each other. I think we had a screen and it went off a shovel pass to Kareem the week before, things like that, where we build on top of each other every single week. We are never set in our ways.”

That’s another reason the Chiefs’ screen passes are so difficult to defend: They may run a play to one target one week, giving the next opponent film to review, then run the play to a different target out of the exact same formation the following week.

Good luck trying to stop that.

“Asking these guys to go against faster players, for your offensive linemen to go against these defensive backs and block them in space, that’s tough to do,” Reid said.

“We’re fortunate our backs do a nice job of this. They help set up the defense so you can run fast. There’s nothing worse than watching a screen, you get out there and the offensive linemen are out there trying to dance a little bit.

“A back can take care of you with that,” Reid concluded. “As long as you know where he’s at, he’s going to kind of force the issue downhill, good things can happen.”

Notes: Strong safety Eric Berry (heel), OL Cam Erving (illness), LB Anthony Hitchens (ribs), WR Sammy Watkins (foot) and C Mitch Morse (concussion) remained out of practice Thursday. … Special teams coach Dave Toub dismissed a couple of recent missed PATs, saying Thursday that “nobody is harder on himself” than PK Harrison Butker. Toub said snaps have been part of the problem, “and again, it’s a 33-yard field goal. It’s not a chip-shot like it used to be.”

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Super Bowl 53 Odds: Updated for Week 10

Key takeaways from week 9:

  • Saints replace the Chiefs, joining the Rams and Patriots as the top three spots
  • 49ers have the lowest odds at 2000/1
  • Biggest jump: Atlanta Falcons (+31.8%)
  • Biggest drop: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills (-100%)
  • No change: Chiefs, Texans, Colts, Dolphins, Cardinals, Giants (0%)

Key takeaways from week 9:

  • Saints replace the Chiefs, joining the Rams and Patriots as the top three spots
  • 49ers have the lowest odds at 2000/1
  • Biggest jump: Atlanta Falcons (+31.8%)
  • Biggest drop: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills (-100%)
  • No change: Chiefs, Texans, Colts, Dolphins, Cardinals, Giants (0%)

Super Bowl 53 Odds


Martin is a data analyst that has been applauded for his ability to make the complex simple. He grew up on a farm in northern Vermont and spent his summers helping his mom lead llama treks at Smugglers’ Notch Resort.

Martin graduated from University of Vermont with a degree in Mathematics. After graduation he left Vermont to work for an educational nonprofit called City Year for two years, and followed that up by attending the data science immersive program at Galvanize in Denver. He is an avid Green Bay Packer fan, and spends his free time playing football and soccer.

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Ballin’ on a Budget Week 10 Picks

Welcome to Week 10 of the NFL season as we have been on a roll with this column lately. Luck never seems to last long in the sports betting world, but we will ride this wave as long as we can. Since we went 3-0 on point spreads/underdog game picks last week, we're

Welcome to Week 10 of the NFL season as we have been on a roll with this column lately. Luck never seems to last long in the sports betting world, but we will ride this wave as long as we can. Since we went 3-0 on point spreads/underdog game picks last week, we’re going back to that well heavily today. We’re going to have four point spread picks with one over/under kicker. There are some interesting lines out there this week, so let’s get to it.

Panthers +4 at Steelers (-115)

Both these teams are red hot and this should be one of the best games of the week. For once, we get a really good Thursday Night game. On a short week, both teams are going to be tired and it might be a little sloppier than we’ve seen from Carolina and Pittsburgh the last several weeks. The nod probably goes to Pittsburgh, because they’re at home, but when it’s two really good teams, you have to take the side getting four points.

We’ll be hoping for a Steelers three-point win or even the Panthers to pull this one out on the road and keep their hot play going. Either of those will win us some money, so we won’t be picky. The bet: $3 for total payout of $5.61.

Redskins +135 over Buccaneers

One week after picking against the Redskins when they were home favorites, we’re turning the tables and picking them to win straight up as road dogs this week. Washington was embarrassed by Atlanta in D.C. a week ago and to keep pace with the Eagles, this is a game they have to win. Jameis and Tampa have looked terrible as of late and there’s no reason to think that ends this week.

Look for Washington to get back on track and rather than betting on them +3 with a -115 payout, just go for it and bet them straight up to win at +135 payout. It’s much better value and you have to like their chances of winning outright. The bet: $5 for total payout of $11.75.

Cardinals +17 at Chiefs (-110)

No matter how one-sided the match up, I just can’t bring myself to believe that an NFL team can’t cover a three-score spread. We had this same feeling when we bet the Bills +17 against the Vikings earlier in the season. Somehow, the Bills won that game outright, the biggest upset statistically in a few decades. That ain’t happening with the Cardinals, but Arizona’s defense is nothing to scoff at.

While Kansas City has been blowing most teams out of the water, this feels a lot more like a 10-point game, because the Cardinals are going to try and control the clock and keep the ball out of Patrick Mahomes’ hands. If a team can’t cover a 17-point spread, we deserve to lose the bet anyway, so let’s roll with it. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.60.

Seahawks +10 at Rams (-110)

Both these teams lost last week and Seattle is now on the brink of falling out of playoff contention. With L.A. losing home field throughout the playoffs for the time being based on their loss to the Saints, each of these teams is going to be playing desperate. Expect the Rams to win this game, but it should be much closer than the spread indicates.

Certainly, Seattle plays much better at home (where they pushed a +3 spread against the Rams earlier this season), but they’ve shown they can hang offensively when they need to. With two opponents so familiar with each other, it’s hard to bet against the team getting 10 points. Betting with the team getting points seems to be the theme this week, but that’s just how the spreads have played out. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.60.

Saints-Bengals OVER 54 (-115)

This very well could be an overreaction on my part to the Saints and Rams shattering my under pick last week (it was 60, the teams combined for 80). However, this really does seem like a solid bet. With A.J. Green out, the Bengals offense will be less dynamic, but as long as they get Joe Mixon in space, that will open up passing lanes for Andy Dalton to hit Tyler Boyd and others.

New Orleans should certainly be seen as the favorite in this game and we will be in good shape if they open up an early lead, because that will force Cincinnati to play catch up. That’s what happened to the Rams last week and we saw the end result there. Here’s to righting that wrong and taking the over this week instead of the under when it comes to the Saints. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.40.

As we do every week, let’s calculate our dream scenario where we go 5-for-5. We’ve been on a hot streak, so never say never. In that case, a $20 parlay would make us $598.95. We’ll keep dreaming of that, but I’m sure you’d all be fine going 3-for-5 every week as we’ve been doing all season long. Happy betting and we will check in after this weekend’s games.

Jacob Kornhauser is a sports reporter in Southern Oregon covering all sports, including Oregon and Oregon State athletics. He has been a national baseball writer for Bleacher Report and Rant Sports and has written two baseball books. He also specializes in sports betting analysis. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri Journalism School.

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Saints sign ex-Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Dez Bryant has found a new team, agreeing to join the already prolific offense of the surging New Orleans Saints.

The former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, who has been looking for an NFL home since becoming a free agent in April, will now have a chance to catch passes from one

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Dez Bryant has found a new team, agreeing to join the already prolific offense of the surging New Orleans Saints.

The former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, who has been looking for an NFL home since becoming a free agent in April, will now have a chance to catch passes from one of the most prolific quarterbacks in NFL history in New Orleans’ Drew Brees.

“There is certainly a skillset that he has that is going to be beneficial. So I look forward to getting to work with him. I look forward to building a rapport with him. I look forward to getting him involved in this offense and just become a complement to all the guys that we already have,” Brees said. “He’ll be a great addition.”

The 30-year-old Bryant and the Saints agreed to contract terms on Wednesday, and it remains unclear to what extent Bryant will play when New Orleans visits Cincinnati on Sunday.

Bryant spent his first eight years in the NFL with Dallas and last season caught 69 passes for 838 yards and six touchdowns, including a 50-yard scoring play, for the Cowboys.

However, his professional reputation has been marred at times by public confrontations with coaches and teammates during games and practices.

Veteran Saints tight end Ben Watson said players in New Orleans’ locker room must guard against pre-judging Bryant based on superficial observations from old television clips without knowing all the facts or how Bryant has evolved personally since.

“I don’t know Dez. I wasn’t in the locker room with him in Dallas. I don’t know all the dynamics,” Watson said. “I also don’t know what’s transpired with him personally since that situation. So the great thing about a locker room, I think, is we take guys in and we say, ‘Hey, what are you like now?'”

Seeking salary cap relief, the Cowboys released Bryant after last season with two years remaining on the receiver’s five-year, $70 million contract.

Last season was Bryant’s best since he caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and 16 TDs in 2014, which at the time was his third consecutive season with at least 1,200 yards receiving. He signed his last Cowboys contract right after that, but has not approached that level of production since — a central reason Dallas released him in April.

“What matters is, what are we going to do for the next eight games?” said Watson, who played for the Patriots when running back Corey Dillon arrived with a reputation as a malcontent from Cincinnati in 2004 and helped New England win a Super Bowl.

Watson was still with the Patriots in 2007 when they added another perceived malcontent in receiver Randy Moss, who caught 23 of Tom Brady’s NFL-record 50 TD passes that season.

“People change over time and there are certain factors you just don’t know about. So we just move forward,” Watson said. “If somebody’s new, you have a clean slate and you embrace that person because now they’re your teammate.”

Bryant was among several receivers to work out for the Saints on Tuesday. He’d previously met with Cleveland and Baltimore.

New Orleans (7-1), which has won seven straight and leads the NFC South, didn’t necessarily need another receiver.

Led by the record-setting Brees, the Saints rank seventh on offense overall, averaging 402.2 yards per game, and seventh in passing, averaging 289.9 yards. At the same time, New Orleans is without deep threat Ted Ginn Jr., who is currently on injured reserve and won’t be eligible to return until the final few weeks of the season, if he’s ready by then.

The Saints also have yet to receive consistent production from Cameron Meredith, a former Chicago receiving leader who was acquired in free agency, but who also is trying to come back from major knee surgery that wiped out his 2017 season.

Bryant’s return to the NFL with the Saints means he could play against his former club in a few weeks. The Saints play at Dallas on Nov. 29.

“They’re getting a great receiver. He goes up and attacks the ball better than I’ve seen anyone,” Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot said. “He’s definitely a special player and I’m glad he got picked up and I’m glad something worked out for him.”

Added Cowboys coach Jason Garrett: “I’m happy he has an opportunity to go play and finish the right way, it will be a great environment for him to go out and make an impact.”

New Orleans also has two games remaining against division rival Carolina (6-2).

“The nice thing is we don’t play them until December, so we will get an opportunity to see what they are doing with him,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said shortly after hearing about Bryant’s agreement with the Saints. “He’s a good player. He’s a guy that has shown he can go up and get the football.”

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AP Sports Writer Schuyler Dixon in Dallas and Steve Reed in Charlotte, North Carolina, contributed.

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Titans’ Butler struggling, now a target in pass defense

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler knows why he has struggled so much that opposing quarterbacks keep picking on him.

"Just got to be more detailed and more disciplined on those little things," Butler said Wednesday. "I threw that last eight weeks behind me, and I got a whole 'nother eight weeks to

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler knows why he has struggled so much that opposing quarterbacks keep picking on him.

“Just got to be more detailed and more disciplined on those little things,” Butler said Wednesday. “I threw that last eight weeks behind me, and I got a whole ‘nother eight weeks to try to make up for it.”

Butler has to do something.

The Titans have allowed the fewest touchdowns in the NFL with 14. Yet, Butler has been the weak link: He has allowed the most touchdown passes (seven) and most yards receiving (618) of any cornerback in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. The Dallas Cowboys scored both of their TDs at Butler’s expense Monday night in Tennessee’s 28-14 victory.

Butler is the cornerback that New England benched during the Super Bowl last February when the Patriots lost to Philadelphia. He then signed a five-year deal worth more than $60 million with $30 million guaranteed with the Titans in March.

He started the first five games this season. Over the past three, the Titans have started Adoree Jackson alongside Logan Ryan with Butler as the third cornerback.

With Butler on the field, Dak Prescott hit Amari Cooper for a 4-yard touchdown pass with his receiver creating space from Butler by running right before cutting back toward the left pylon. Butler appeared to look back at Prescott and left Allen Hurns wide open for a 23-yard TD pass.

Butler plays aggressively, which he said is hard to balance at times.

“Just got to work my way around it and just make plays and play football and do what I’ve been doing my whole career,” Butler said. “Just got to hold up.”

His next challenge comes Sunday against his former team when Tom Brady and the Patriots (7-2) visit the Titans (4-4). The Titans have been coaching Butler on his issues, and coach Mike Vrabel said Butler needs to have his eyes on the receiver in man coverage and not Brady.

“Malcolm knows that, and we’ve talked about that, and we continue to practice it, we continue to coach it and we try to show it to him,” Vrabel said. “When he does that, it’s pretty good, it’s competitive. He challenges the receivers. When you look back at the quarterback, your man has a tendency to go in another direction.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick still has not said why he benched Butler wouldn’t discuss the cornerback specifically on Wednesday when asked what Butler is doing differently. Instead, the coach talked about the Titans’ defense, which leads the NFL in fewest points allowed per game.

“That’s our challenge as an offense is we’re playing 11 guys, we’re playing their coaching staff and the schemes they put up against us,” Belichick said. “And, right now, they’re playing better defense than anybody in the league. So, we’ll see how we do. I don’t know. It will be tough, I know that

Patriots receiver Julian Edelman said Butler is a cornerback who’s strong at playing the ball in the air. Edelman also has a lot of respect for a man he called a “heart player,” whose progress from being undrafted out of South Alabama to now is proof of the cornerback’s hard work.

“He’s gotten beat a couple of times, but that goes with the nature of his game,” Edelman said. “He’s a real aggressive player that competes, plays the ball well through your hands. He’s long, (strong) upper body. He’s got that ability to make up speed with the ball in the air while looking back. A lot of corners can’t do that. I got a lot of respect for Malcolm.”

Notes: The Titans held a walk-through practice Wednesday. RT Jack Conklin (concussion protocol) did not practice along with WR Taywan Taylor, whose left foot was in a walking boot in the locker room; LB Daren Bates (illness); and S Dane Cruikshank (knee). LB Derrick Morgan (shoulder) and WR Tajae Sharpe (right ankle) were limited.

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AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower contributed to this report from Foxborough, Massachusetts.

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Tyrell Williams emerges as deep threat for Chargers

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers have proven during the first half of the season that they have plenty of weapons on offense. One who has emerged is Tyrell Williams, who has become a deep threat during the past month.

Going into Sunday's game at Oakland, the fourth-year wide receiver has four

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers have proven during the first half of the season that they have plenty of weapons on offense. One who has emerged is Tyrell Williams, who has become a deep threat during the past month.

Going into Sunday’s game at Oakland, the fourth-year wide receiver has four touchdowns and is averaging 28.8 yards per catch over the past three games.

“He’s become a complete receiver. His receiving skills, he’s just taken them to another level,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said.

With Keenan Allen still drawing double teams, Williams continues to benefit from single coverage. Five of his receptions during the past three games have gone for 20 yards or more, including a 75-yarder against Tennessee on Oct. 21. He is tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (five), second in yardage (451) and third in receptions (22) during the first half of the season.

“I think it’s really just been seeing what the defense does, when to take shots, being able to get over the top and trusting my ability to go up and get the ball or run past the defense,” said Williams, whose 20.5 yards per reception average is third in the league.

Philip Rivers also hasn’t been afraid to go to Williams on consecutive plays if the matchup is favorable. Williams caught both passes on a two-play, 89-yard drive midway through the second quarter of the Oct. 14 game at Cleveland, including a 45-yard touchdown where he got leverage over cornerback Damarious Randall.

While Williams has made his biggest impact on downfield plays, he has also shown his improvement in other areas. Late in the first quarter of last Sunday’s game at Seattle, Williams made a diving grab on a back shoulder fade for a 14-yard touchdown while being covered by Tre Flowers.

Williams said catching back shoulder passes and route running were two things that he placed added emphasis on improving this past offseason.

“My first few years, I was always just looking to get the ball down the field. I wasn’t really prepared for back-shoulders,” he said. “It was kind of a timing thing and getting used to that, but now I’ve kind of figured out how to be running fast but still be prepared for that back-shoulder stuff.”

Los Angeles (6-2) has won five straight for the first time since 2014 and will face a Raiders defense that is 24th against the pass. Williams had three receptions for 66 yards in the first meeting on Oct. 14, which the Chargers won 26-10. One of the catches was for 48 yards.

“Hopefully that stays the same and they don’t switch it up. It’s nice to get single coverage and Keenan still being able to go for 100 like he did, to be firing on all cylinders,” he said.

Notes: Defensive end Joey Bosa did not do any team drills, meaning he’s unlikely to play in his first game of the season this week. … Lynn has left open the possibility that LB Kyzir White could return later in the season. White was placed on injured reserve Saturday due to a knee injury.

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Bills’ McCoy not talking as production keeps dropping

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The more LeSean McCoy's production drops, the less the Buffalo Bills running back wants to talk about it.

"Don't worry about me, I'll be all right," McCoy said following practice Wednesday before excusing himself by saying he had to go lift weights. "I ain't ducking you, honest. I'm trying to

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The more LeSean McCoy’s production drops, the less the Buffalo Bills running back wants to talk about it.

“Don’t worry about me, I’ll be all right,” McCoy said following practice Wednesday before excusing himself by saying he had to go lift weights. “I ain’t ducking you, honest. I’m trying to get myself together.”

And off he went. McCoy returned to the locker room briefly about 45 minutes later, before exiting yet again upon seeing a large group of reporters gathered at his stall.

Whatever frustrations McCoy has while enduring the worst start to a season in his 10-year career, or concerns he might have about an offense not producing at an alarmingly anemic rate, he’d prefer to keep to himself as Buffalo (2-7) prepares to play at the New York Jets (3-6) on Sunday.

McCoy hasn’t formally addressed the media since acknowledging he’s never been through as bad of a stretch as this in his life, following a 25-6 loss to New England on Oct. 29. After gaining 12 yards on his first carry against the Patriots, McCoy combined for just 1 more yard on his final 11 attempts of the game.

“I’ve had bad games, but this, the flow of the season and everything, is bad,” he said.

Things got worse Sunday, when McCoy managed 10 yards on 10 carries in a 41-9 loss to Chicago.

“He’s’ too talented for that,” fullback Patrick DiMarco said. “He’s a guy that can change a game and take over a game. He knows that. We know that. Upstairs they know that. We’ve got to get him going.”

One issue is he’s part of a patchwork offense that’s scored just 96 points, topped 300 yards net offense twice and has no continuity at quarterback . McCoy’s also had off-field distractions amid allegations of abusing his son — which he’s denied — stemming from a lawsuit filed by his ex-girlfriend.

And age could be catching up to McCoy, who turned 30 in July.

Coach Sean McDermott doesn’t buy it and blames McCoy’s struggles on the entire offense.

“There’s been some opportunities to hit some holes that weren’t hit, and there’s been some opportunities where the seam was there, and we didn’t get the movement we needed,” McDermott said. “It’s been really a combination, but we’ve got to give him more opportunities to make more big plays for us.”

A year after topping 1,100 yards rushing for the sixth time, the NFL’s 2013 rushing leader is barely on pace to break 500.

He’s managed 267 yards rushing and has yet to score in essentially seven games this season. McCoy missed one game due to a rib injury, and was limited to playing two snaps before sustaining a concussion in a 37-5 loss at Indianapolis three weeks ago.

McCoy hasn’t scored since having a touchdown rushing and receiving in a 24-17 win over Miami on Dec. 17. And he hasn’t topped 100 yards since finishing with 156 on a snow-covered field in a 13-7 overtime win against Indianapolis on Dec. 10.

The recent swoon in production spans the NFL trading deadline on Oct. 30, and amid speculation McCoy might have been dealt because he has one year left on his contract, or that he was open to leaving a rebuilding team in order to play for a contender.

General manager Brandon Beane dismissed the narratives by saying McCoy’s silence stems from mere frustration.

“I can tell you, LeSean is very happy here. He’s frustrated just like I am, just like a lot of guys on our offense,” Beane told The Associated Press. “He’s a winner. He’s a competitor. And he’s not happy with our whole offense. He thinks he can do better.”

And Beane has such confidence in McCoy, he sees no reason why the running back won’t be back next season.

“We don’t see a guy who’s a declining player. We see a guy who’s still playing well, and he’s one of the better players at his position in the league,” Beane said. “He is working hard. He’s trying to be the best he can. And he’s going to continue to do that. And if he wasn’t, then we probably would’ve moved on.”

NOTES: McDermott wasn’t prepared to identify which quarterback will start against the Jets. Rookie Josh Allen, who has missed three games with a sprained right throwing elbow, practiced on a limited basis, while Derek Anderson remains in the concussion protocol. … Buffalo shuffled its practice squad by signing WR Cam Phillips and CB Xavier Coleman and releasing WR Hunter Sharp. … On Tuesday, the Bills cut starting CB Phillip Gaines and promoted CB Levi Wallace from the practice squad.

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NFL’s running renaissance highlighted by Gurley’s MVP look

Ezekiel Elliott likes to give Todd Gurley credit for the NFL's running renaissance because the Los Angeles Rams star ended an unprecedented two-year drought of backs taken in the first round of the draft.

With MVP-type numbers on a team looking like a Super Bowl contender, Gurley is the best example why it's a good

Ezekiel Elliott likes to give Todd Gurley credit for the NFL’s running renaissance because the Los Angeles Rams star ended an unprecedented two-year drought of backs taken in the first round of the draft.

With MVP-type numbers on a team looking like a Super Bowl contender, Gurley is the best example why it’s a good time to be a running back not many years after the position seemed undervalued in what is still considered a passing league.

“Definitely it’s starting to re-emerge,” said Elliott, who was the NFL rushing leader as a rookie in 2016 with the Dallas Cowboys. “He was the first one in that draft and then as the years went on, more backs started to get picked and they’ve all been doing well. I wouldn’t take all the credit, but I think it’s just a new age of backs.”

And an age of young backs. Gurley went 10th overall to the Rams when they were in St. Louis, followed five picks later by Melvin Gordon to the Chargers when they were still in San Diego. Now both backs are in LA.

Elliott was the first of two straight rookies to win the rushing title, followed by Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt last season. Among the top 10 rushers this season, eight are 25 or younger.

That’s still not getting to New York Giants rookie Saquon Barkley , the No. 2 overall pick and highest back taken since Reggie Bush went second in 2006.

“I guess I kind of did start the first-round thing again,” Gurley said. “But those guys are great players. They put themselves in great positions to be where they are at today, and you see why they are having success in the NFL.”

Elliott got a top-four thing going when the Cowboys drafted the Ohio State star fourth overall in 2016. Now there have been three straight years with a back taken at least that high: Leonard Fournette fourth out of LSU the year in 2017, then Barkley from Penn State this year.

The other top 10 running back over the past three drafts also illustrates one reason runners could be in vogue: their ability as pass catchers. Carolina took Christian McCaffrey eighth overall out of Stanford last year, even with the perception he might be a third-down back.

Now McCaffrey has a respectable 111 carries for the playoff-contending Panthers while ranking fourth among running backs with 49 catches.

“A lot of times teams that had a feature back, he was considered the first- and second-down guy, and then they put in a little scatback to be the third-down receiver,” said Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane, who had a hand in drafting McCaffrey while with Carolina. “Well, now, you’re getting these guys that can do it all.”

Hunt and Barkley have made it back-to-back seasons for rookies to start their careers with six or more straight games of at least 100 scrimmage yards. Barkley’s run ended there, but now he’s at seven of his first eight games despite another miserable season for the Giants (1-7).

Hunt started his career with seven straight last year — the first rookie to do that since Kevin Jones for Detroit in 2004.

Not that multipurpose lead backs are a new thing.

“I don’t think anyone’s ever matched how Marshall Faulk produced in the passing game, and that seems like 8 million years ago,” Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said of a back who was the 2000 NFL MVP in the middle of three straight years with at least 1,300 yards rushing and 800 receiving.

Oh, and Faulk was the second overall pick in 1994.

“I just think of these guys have been doing this stuff in this league for years,” Linehan said. “I think people probably targeted them because they’re the best with the ball in their hands.”

Gurley is well on his way to his first rushing title with 868 yards; leads the NFL with 16 touchdowns, including 12 rushing; and has a chance Sunday against Seattle to become just the fourth player with at least one TD in each of the first 10 games. The others are all Hall of Famers.

The former Georgia standout has a 162-yard lead over James Conner, the replacement for Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh when Bell decided to stay away from the Steelers rather than play under the franchise tag.

Conner’s emergence also shows the depth of the 2017 class — even with Fournette missing all but two games with a hamstring injury after rushing for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie for a team that reached the AFC championship game.

The second-year group has two of the NFL’s top three rushers in Conner and Hunt, who have almost 1,400 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns between them, while Hunt has another six receiving TDs.

The versatility of 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara helps quarterback Drew Brees in one of the NFL’s best offenses in New Orleans. Dalvin Cook (Minnesota) and Joe Mixon (Cincinnati) are expected to play leading roles in their respective run games.

And forget for a moment about the draft. Another second-year player, Matt Breida in San Francisco, is ninth in the NFL with 531 yards rushing after going undrafted. Denver rookie Phillip Lindsay is sixth at 591 after not getting selected.

“A lot of times there’s a lot of backs in the draft,” Washington coach Jay Gruden said. “You might be able to get one that’s close in the second round, but you won’t get that left tackle who’s a star in the second round or that defensive lineman or that outside ‘backer or that corner.”

There’s a different kind of renaissance with the Redskins: an “old” guy leading the way. Adrian Peterson, the 33-year-old three-time league rushing champ, has helped Washington to the NFC East lead by ranking fifth with 604 yards.

“I don’t think that position’s ever been devalued,” Gruden said. “I think you look at what Zeke’s done and you look at some of the other young running backs, Le’Veon Bell, and what type of impact they can have on your football team.

“We’re learning that right now firsthand with Adrian Peterson. Even though we didn’t draft him, obviously, but the impact these backs can have on your football as far as running game, controlling the clock and then the play-actions. It’s big time.”

It’s been big at draft time recently as well.

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AP Sports Writer John Wawrow contributed.

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Safety Jones says he and Dolphins are ‘on the same page’

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Reshad Jones is expressing no regrets and offering no explanation.

The Miami Dolphins safety mysteriously took himself out of last week's win over the New York Jets and watched the second half from the sideline. In the aftermath, coach Adam Gase said communication problems between defensive coordinator Matt Burke and players

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Reshad Jones is expressing no regrets and offering no explanation.

The Miami Dolphins safety mysteriously took himself out of last week’s win over the New York Jets and watched the second half from the sideline. In the aftermath, coach Adam Gase said communication problems between defensive coordinator Matt Burke and players needed to be addressed.

On Wednesday, Jones declined to say why he was a spectator for much of the game, but he may have been unhappy with the Dolphins’ plan to rotate safeties against the Jets. He came out after only 10 snaps.

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Floundering Jaguars take ‘must-win’ approach against Colts

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars used their bye week to ponder the team's precarious position.

Mired in a four-game losing streak and being 0-2 in the AFC South, they came to this conclusion: They must win at division rival Indianapolis (3-5) on Sunday.

It's essentially a playoff atmosphere for Jacksonville (3-5) in early

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars used their bye week to ponder the team’s precarious position.

Mired in a four-game losing streak and being 0-2 in the AFC South, they came to this conclusion: They must win at division rival Indianapolis (3-5) on Sunday.

It’s essentially a playoff atmosphere for Jacksonville (3-5) in early November.

“This is a thousand percent a must-win,” linebacker Myles Jack said Wednesday. “No. 1, it’s a conference game that we’ve got to win. And then we’re on a four-game losing streak, so we can’t lose another game.”

NFL teams are usually reluctant to put too much emphasis on any one game, especially in the middle of the season. But for the Jaguars, who openly talked about having Super Bowl aspirations , they understand another loss or two likely would end their dwindling playoff hopes.

“We put ourselves in this situation,” quarterback Blake Bortles said. “We created this small margin for error by not winning football games. We’ve put ourselves here. We know we still got a chance and we’ve got to play really well for the whole second half of the season to go where we want to go.”

The Jags are counting on running back Leonard Fournette’s return making a significant difference.

Fournette missed six of the last seven games with a strained right hamstring. He practiced in full for the first time in more than a month Monday and did the same Wednesday.

Jacksonville built its offense around Fournette and hasn’t been nearly as physical or effective without him. The team signed Jamaal Charles for a week and then traded for Carlos Hyde in hopes of filling the void, but neither move paid dividends.

Coach Doug Marrone said he lost faith in his offensive line in London, specifically in short-yardage situations, but has since stopped short of proclaiming Fournette the team’s savior.

Players, though, believe Fournette’s return could be a turning point.

“I know everybody’s fired up to have him back in the lineup,” Bortles said. “I know I’m excited to watch him run. I know guys are excited to block for him and kind of see him go. We got so used to him doing his thing last year and watching that and do everything off of that. Not having him has made us change some of the things we do, but to be able to have him back and healthy and ready to go is exciting.”

Marrone evaluated coaches, players and schemes during the bye week, but decided not to make any wholesale changes. He tweaked the schedule significantly, mostly so guys wouldn’t feel like things were the same after the break.

“It’s just kind of like the atmosphere is a little tighter,” Jack said. “Obviously, everybody is — I wouldn’t say desperate — but we just need (a victory). It’s a must-win week. As the weeks go on, it just gets worse and worse. Hopefully this is the week we change it.”

With the sense of urgency on the rise, the Jaguars have started to unravel.

There was a locker room scuffle last month following a loss to Houston, a players-only meeting the next day and then a run-in with London police over an unsettled nightclub tab.

They have eight games left to save the season. It starts with a “must-win game” against the Colts, who have won two in a row.

“I don’t think you can look at it as a whole eight games — ‘we’ve got to win eight games in a row or six out of the eight,'” Bortles said. “Obviously, playing Indy is a division game, and that’s an important one.

“It’s kind of like Doug talked about all week and all last week: you’ve got to win one to get it rolling. It’s all anyone’s really focused on right now.”

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With weak offense, Gruden’s Redskins can’t mount comebacks

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Coach Jay Gruden's Washington Redskins have established a pattern: When they get a lead, they win; when they trail, they lose.

The Redskins (5-3) are the only one of the NFL's 32 teams that both has managed to avoid a single loss after holding a lead AND also has failed to

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Coach Jay Gruden’s Washington Redskins have established a pattern: When they get a lead, they win; when they trail, they lose.

The Redskins (5-3) are the only one of the NFL’s 32 teams that both has managed to avoid a single loss after holding a lead AND also has failed to come back to win a game after trailing.

The first is good, of course. The latter could prove to be truly problematic as the season progresses if the offense overseen by Gruden and carried out by quarterback Alex Smith continues to be as ineffective as it’s been.

“I don’t think we’re probably even aware” of Washington’s inability to erase a deficit this season, Smith said Wednesday, then added: “Certainly we’ve been in a lot of games that have been back-and-forth.”

That last assertion is not accurate. Not at all.

During each of the Redskins’ eight games this season, whichever team scored first not only won — it never fell behind. Not even once.

In last week’s 38-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, Washington was down 14-0 early, cut that to 14-7, then never got closer.

“It’s just a mindset really: You’re never out of it until the final gun. We’ve just got to keep playing. I don’t think guys played less hard because we got down. We just didn’t make enough plays to come back,” Gruden said. “That’s something we need to figure out: a way to put our players in position to, A, get the ball back when were on defense and, B, get the ball in the end zone at a decent rate on offense.”

Heading into the NFC East leaders’ game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5) on Sunday, the Redskins are putting up a mere 20 points and 343.9 yards per game, which both rank 25th. No team below them in either of those two categories has a record above .500.

The Bucs, in contrast, rank No. 7 in points at 28.6, and No. 2 in yards at 446.8.

It’s the defense that’s been Tampa Bay’s downfall while losing five of its past six games — worst in the league in points, allowing an average of 34.4, and third-worst in passing yardage, at 307.1.

An inability to mount a comeback is typically the mark of a bad club.

Currently, the only teams other than Washington without an erase-a-deficit victory this season are the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars, who are both 3-5.

Over the previous four complete seasons, the only two teams to go an entire campaign without even one such win were the 2017 Cleveland Browns of 0-16 infamy and the 2017 New York Giants, who were 3-13.

During Gruden’s 4½ years in charge of Washington, it owns 15 victories in games in which it trailed, which is just the 27th-best total in the NFL. The teams with fewer? The Browns (9), Jaguars (10), Giants (13), Chicago Bears (13) and Indianapolis Colts (14).

“You can probably count on one hand how many comeback wins we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Gruden said, exaggerating a bit. “That’s something that we have got to do a better job of.”

Notes: At the portion of Wednesday’s practice open to the media, two of the three offensive linemen signed off the street Monday lined up with the starting unit, with Jon Cooper at left guard and Austin Howard at right tackle. Morgan Moses, the regular RT, worked by himself on a separate field, wearing a big brace on the right knee he injured against Atlanta, although he could be ready to play instead of Howard by Sunday. … The other linemen were Ty Nsekhe at LT, Chase Roullier at C, Tony Bergstrom at RG.

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Chiefs becoming must-watch show with Mahomes under center

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — There are times that Dolphins coach Adam Gase hears about a cool play that happened somewhere else in the NFL, or something unique that a rival might be doing, and he makes a note to himself to check it out once his day-to-day work is complete.

Then there are times

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — There are times that Dolphins coach Adam Gase hears about a cool play that happened somewhere else in the NFL, or something unique that a rival might be doing, and he makes a note to himself to check it out once his day-to-day work is complete.

Then there are times he flips on the TV for pure entertainment.

“Sometimes,” Gase said, “when you watch Kansas City, you sit back and watch because it just seems like they’re out there playing 7-on-7. It’s impressive to watch.”

Patrick Mahomes and Co. has certainly captured the attention of the league.

The Chiefs lead the NFL in scoring at more than 36 points per game. They have its reigning rushing champion in Kareem Hunt, the league’s fastest wide receiver in Tyreek Hill, the most versatile tight end in Travis Kelce and plenty of depth behind all of them.

Then there’s Mahomes, who can break Andrew Luck’s single-season NFL record with his ninth straight 300-yard passing game Sunday against Arizona. The first-year starter has thrown 29 touchdown passes, two shy of Len Dawson’s 54-year-old franchise record, and he leads the league in most meaningful statistical categories: yards, TD passes, touchdown-to-interception ratio.

“He’s a baller, like I’ve been saying,” said Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson, who spent last season with the Chiefs. “He thinks he can make every throw. He has a great group of guys around him to do good things with the football. I’m not surprised at all.”

Wilson has reason to watch Kansas City, considering he has so many friends still on the roster. But it still speaks volumes that in the midst of his own preparation he finds time to tune in.

Then again, it’s hard for his coach to complain when Gase is doing the same thing.

Alex Smith also has plenty of friends on the Chiefs, including Mahomes, who stepped into his job when Kansas City traded him to the Redskins last offseason. The veteran Smith helped to mentor the Texas Tech standout when he was a wide-eyed rookie, and he takes pride in the young quarterback’s success.

When the Chiefs rallied in the fourth quarter for a Monday night win at Denver earlier in the season, and Mahomes took on a starring role in primetime, Smith was watching from his home near Washington, D.C.

“I mean, record-setting start for them, for him, for the offense — lighting the world on fire right now,” Smith said. “Fun to watch, obviously a ton of friends on that team, including Pat, and to see what they are doing is crazy. They are on fire right now.”

That game against Denver was the most-watched Monday night game that didn’t involve the Cowboys since Week 16 of the 2016 season. When the Chiefs played the Patriots on Sunday night a few weeks ago, it earned a 12.3 rating and 21.1 million viewers for NBC, an increase of 31 percent from last year.

In the Kansas City market, about half the TVs are tuned into the Chiefs whenever they are playing.

“It’s been a lot of fun, frankly, for me and I think everybody who is a Chiefs fan to see all the interest in the Chiefs,” team owner Clark Hunt said.

“That’s a credit to the success we’ve had. That interest is not only here locally but it’s really nationally. It seems like everybody who went to Texas Tech is all of a sudden now a Chiefs fan, which is great.

“You mentioned the TV ratings — the ratings were among the highest in a number of years for that Patriots game on Sunday night. Our local ratings are also higher than they’ve been in many, many years,” Hunt added. “Our local ratings are always very good, but clearly Andy (Reid), Patrick and the offense and the victories that we’re getting has taken that to a higher level.”

The Chiefs will get plenty of more exposure this season, too.

After facing the lowly Cardinals on Sunday, the Chiefs head to Mexico City to face the high-flying Los Angeles Rams on Monday night. They also have a Thursday night showdown with the surging Los Angeles Chargers and a Sunday night trip to Seattle two days before Christmas.

Regardless of whether anyone tunes in, Mahomes plans to keep the party going.

“Just being able to learn every day from Coach Reid, be able to get out here with all these guys, we literally have fun every single day,” he said. “We love coming to work and getting to just play this game that we’ve loved since we were little kids and winning a lot of games.”

Notes: Safety Eric Berry (heel), LB Anthony Hitchens (ribs), C Mitch Morse (concussion), WR Sammy Watkins (foot) and OL Cam Erving (illness) did not practice Wednesday. … FS Daniel Sorensen could make his season debut Sunday. He was activated from IR this week after breaking his leg in training camp.

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AP Sports Writers Howard Fendrich and Steven Wine contributed to this report.

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Jets’ Darnold has injured foot, could miss game vs. Bills

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — New York Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold has a boot on his right foot and is not practicing, leaving his status for the team's game Sunday against Buffalo in doubt.

Darnold was injured during the Jets' 13-6 loss at Miami last Sunday but finished the game. He said Monday that

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — New York Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold has a boot on his right foot and is not practicing, leaving his status for the team’s game Sunday against Buffalo in doubt.

Darnold was injured during the Jets’ 13-6 loss at Miami last Sunday but finished the game. He said Monday that he felt fine other than some bumps and bruises.

Coach Todd Bowles is scheduled to meet with the media after practice later Wednesday.

If Darnold is unable to start, 39-year-old backup Josh McCown would take his place. McCown was the starter last season but hasn’t taken a snap this year.

Darnold has struggled during the Jets’ three-game losing streak, and he leads the NFL with 14 interceptions.

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Panthers and Steelers test their mettle in prime time

Two teams headed for January football, the Panthers and Steelers, get to test their mettle on Thursday night. It should be a good one in prime time.

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, who's 1-1 in Super Bowls, isn't admitting any postseason thoughts are in the minds of his players or himself. But he has to like

Two teams headed for January football, the Panthers and Steelers, get to test their mettle on Thursday night. It should be a good one in prime time.

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, who’s 1-1 in Super Bowls, isn’t admitting any postseason thoughts are in the minds of his players or himself. But he has to like how the Steelers have performed in four straight victories.

“I’m not trying to look for specific areas, I just try to challenge these guys to get better every day,” Tomlin says.

“That’s what we’re focused on. I think that if we do that daily that will give us a chance to produce consistent performances that are on the rise. Not only in the second quarter (of the season) but as we continue through this journey.”

That journey has Carolina (6-2), ranked fifth in the AP Pro32, at No. 7 Pittsburgh. The Steelers (5-2-1) are a 5½-point favorite in the week’s best matchup.

The Panthers have won three straight and five of six. They are particularly strong running the ball, though Pittsburgh is stingy in that area on defense.

Carolina trails New Orleans by one game in the NFC South and leads the wild-card chase. Pittsburgh has a half-game lead in the AFC North over Cincinnati.

This could come down to the final play, which would be a treat to begin Week 10.

STEELERS, 33-31

KNOCKOUT POOL: Pro Picks is on a roll, and the Bears kept it going. This time, we’ll buy into underachieving (or under skilled perhaps) GREEN BAY.

No. 20 Dallas (plus 6 1-2) at No. 11 Philadelphia

Yes, it’s a bitter-rivalry game. But Eagles come off a bye, Cowboys off a poor showing.

BEST BET: EAGLES, 27-16

No. 1 New Orleans (minus 4 1-2) at No. 12 Cincinnati

With Eagles up next, Saints could stumble here. They won’t.

SAINTS, 31-23

No. 13 Seattle (plus 10) at No. 4 Los Angeles Rams

That’s a lot of points for a game that many Seahawks fans will attend.

RAMS, 30-23

No. 29 Arizona (plus 16 1-2) at No. 2 (tie) Kansas City

Pro Picks rarely is afraid to lay so many points. So …

CHIEFS 40, CARDINALS 22

No. 22 Detroit (plus 6 1-2) at No. 10 Chicago

First of two meetings in less than three weeks.

BEARS, 22-14

No. 15 Washington (plus 3) at No. 25 Tampa Bay

Redskins’ record could plummet with all those O-line injuries.

BUCCANEERS, 33-31

No. 2 (tie) New England (minus 6 1-2) at No. 17 Tennessee

Brady has Patriots in their usual fine November form.

PATRIOTS, 31-19

No. 14 Atlanta (minus 4) at No. 27 Cleveland

Are the injury-ravaged Falcons in midst of a turnaround?

FALCONS, 26-20

No. 6 Los Angeles Chargers (minus 10) at No. 32 Oakland

We ask once again: Have Raiders given up?

CHARGERS, 33-16

No. 19 Miami (plus 10) at No. 16 Green Bay

Dolphins have better record, Packers have much better team.

PACKERS, 34-20

No. 21 Jacksonville (plus 3) at No. 23 Indianapolis

Could there be a worse matchup this weekend? Well, see below.

JAGUARS, 21-20

No. 31 Buffalo (plus 7) at No. 26 New York Jets

Could there be a worse matchup? Well, see Monday night.

JETS, 8-5

No. 30 New York Giants (plus 3 1-2) at No. 28 San Francisco, Monday night

The worst matchup. And in prime time.

UPSET SPECIAL: GIANTS, 19-13

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2018 RECORD:

Last Week: Against spread (9-4). Straight up (9-4)

Season Totals: Against spread (65-62-4). Straight up: (90-42-2)

Best Bet: 3-6 against spread, 7-2 straight up

Upset special: 6-3 against spread, 5-3-1 straight up

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FANTASY PLAYS: Finding low-owned players in daily leagues

The Rams and Saints again showed the value of stacking lineups in daily fantasy football contests as they erupted Sunday for 80 total points and more than 280 fantasy points in point-per-reception leagues.

Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp all cracked the 20-point threshold and a few savvy

The Rams and Saints again showed the value of stacking lineups in daily fantasy football contests as they erupted Sunday for 80 total points and more than 280 fantasy points in point-per-reception leagues.

Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp all cracked the 20-point threshold and a few savvy owners were able to fit in combinations of these players into their lineups.

With a high anticipated game total a lot of the ownership went to Todd Gurley (26 percent owned) and Goff (17 percent owned) leaving much lower ownership on Brees (6 percent owned) in daily tournaments. With a back and forth game, it ended up being Brees stacked with Thomas and Kamara vaulting DFS players up the leaderboards.

Game stacking is important but equally important is trying to find ways to identify low ownership in games with high expected totals, allowing you to separate yourself from the field. Brees out-produced Goff at the same price and lower ownership, which provided the separation necessary to win. This week, there are a few spots where high potential upside can be found at reduced ownership or pricing.

CHIEFS-CARDINALS

Kansas City has the highest implied team total on the slate with 33 points expected at home against the Arizona Cardinals. The Chiefs are averaging 36.3 points per game on the season and rank within the top 5 in the NFL in both total offense and passing yards per game. Patrick Mahomes has carried only modest ownership (10 percent) in DFS contests and has been producing the most lately when paired with RB Kareem Hunt and TE Travis Kelce, who now has double digit fantasy points in every game since Week 1.

With so much emphasis in the fantasy community on recent results, fantasy owners are likely to overlook Tyreek Hill, who was just 5 percent owned in DFS contests last week compared to 30 percent ownership on Hunt and 17 percent on Kelce. DailyRoto’s DFS ownership projections expect that to continue and it leaves Hill as a contrarian tournament target who has double digit fantasy performances in eight of nine weeks this season and two 40-plus point games. Pairing up Mahomes with Hill offers high upside and lower ownership this week.

SAINTS-BENGALS

New Orleans also has a high team total this week and Brees, Thomas and Kamara will be popular plays after going off in the last game. While their projections will be strong again this week, DailyRoto projections suggest that pivoting to RB Mark Ingram can save salary and be a contrarian tournament target. Ingram’s $6,800 FanDuel price and $4,500 DraftKings price are among the lowest they have been over the last four seasons.

Since his return in Week 5, Ingram has still played on roughly 50 percent of the Saints offensive snaps, receiving an average of 12.5 carries and 2.5 targets per game. This role is comparable to his role down the stretch in the 2017 offense that saw Ingram put up 15-plus fantasy points in five separate games from Week 10 through the end of the regular season.

The biggest concern for Ingram isn’t Kamara but perhaps Taysom Hill’s role in the red zone, where he has seen nine opportunities and can eat into some of Ingram’s goal line work. Despite this, Ingram projects as a solid RB value this week and one that should be low owned. In additional to providing leverage against popular Saints players, Ingram also is the same price as RB Dion Lewis, who DailyRoto projects as one of the highest owned players on the slate.

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AP source: Saints sign ex-Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — A person familiar with the situation says free-agent Dez Bryant and the Saints have agreed on contract terms that will add the former Dallas Cowboys star to one of the NFL's top offenses in New Orleans.

The person spoke to The Associated Press Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the roster

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — A person familiar with the situation says free-agent Dez Bryant and the Saints have agreed on contract terms that will add the former Dallas Cowboys star to one of the NFL’s top offenses in New Orleans.

The person spoke to The Associated Press Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the roster move has not been announced.

The 30-year-old Bryant spent his first eight years in the NFL with Dallas and last season caught 69 passes for 838 yards and six touchdowns, including a 50-yard scoring play, for the Cowboys.

However, his professional reputation has been marred at times by public confrontations with coaches and teammates during games and practices.

Seeking salary cap relief, the Cowboys released Bryant after last season with two years remaining on the receiver’s five-year, $70 million contract.

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Surging Newton, Panthers face red-hot Steelers

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Cam Newton spent a portion of the summer studying Ben Roethlisberger and working out alongside Antonio Brown, something the Carolina Panthers quarterback did out of a mix of curiosity and respect.

Newton found himself enamored of Roethlisberger's footwork — "The play is never over for Big Ben" — and Brown's relentlessness.

"He's

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Cam Newton spent a portion of the summer studying Ben Roethlisberger and working out alongside Antonio Brown, something the Carolina Panthers quarterback did out of a mix of curiosity and respect.

Newton found himself enamored of Roethlisberger’s footwork — “The play is never over for Big Ben” — and Brown’s relentlessness.

“He’s literally like a nocturnal beast,” Newton said of Brown. “I thought I was bad. … We had late workouts. I’m talking like 10 p.m-.ish. It was like our second or third one of the day. Whenever he feels the urge to work, he works and I respect it.”

Newton will get an up-close look at Roethlisberger, Brown and the rest of the Steelers (5-2-1) when the Panthers (6-2) make a rare trip to Pittsburgh. Maybe it’s the workouts with Brown. Maybe it’s the rapport he’s developed with offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Maybe it’s the emergence of running back Christian McCaffrey. Whatever it is, Newton is in the midst of his finest season since winning league MVP in 2015.

Maybe that’s why Roethlisberger just laughed when asked if there’s any wisdom he might pass along to Newton.

“I do not need to give him advice,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s Superman.”

A Man of Steel who could be a handful for a resilient Pittsburgh defense. The Steelers were a hot mess during the first month of the season but have figured out things during their four-game winning streak. Pittsburgh is allowing just 275.5 yards per game over the last month. That’s from a combination of the rapid cohesion of a revamped secondary and spending less time on the field thanks to an offense starting to hog the ball behind second-year running back James Conner.

Still, the Panthers present their own unique challenge. Carolina might be the NFL’s closest approximation to a throwback. The Panthers have run for at least 121 yards in seven of eight games, with Newton serving as the catalyst. At 29 he’s on pace for a career high in rushing attempts, a mixture of Turner’s creative play calling and Newton’s pragmatic approach to when he tucks the ball and takes off. While he’s still happy to deliver a shot now and then, he’s more likely to slide before getting hit.

Pittsburgh, fourth in the league in sacks, is determined to make sure Newton doesn’t get loose.

“There’s no way he can duck 10 bullets,” Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward said. “If everybody is shooting their shot, someone is bound to hit. That’s got to be group effort. … It’s a heck of a test.”

Some things to watch for as Pittsburgh looks to extend its hot streak while Carolina searches for the franchise’s first win in the Steel City:

LE’VEON WHO?

Wayward Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is nearing the end of his months-long standoff with the club. He has until Nov. 13 to report and sign his one-year franchise tender if he wants to make sure he accrues the service time necessary to hit the open market next spring. After some initial angst, Bell’s teammates have moved on. Conner is thriving in Bell’s absence. He’s second in the league in total yards and is the first player in team history to have 10 total touchdowns through eight games.

“James Conner has been rolling and bulldozing people,” Brown said.

GIMME THAT

Carolina is winning the turnover battle. The Panthers have been even or positive in turnovers in seven of eight games and are 6-1 in those games. They are 5-0 when winning the turnover battle outright.

Carolina is fourth in the league in turnover differential with a plus-8, sixth in points off turnovers (51), seventh in total takeaways (15), and tied for fourth in interceptions (11) behind speedy rookie cornerback Donte Jackson, who has four picks.

Since 2015, Carolina leads the NFL with 102 takeaways and is second with 62 interceptions.

FEISTY FEILER

Pittsburgh right tackle Matt Feiler will likely make his third straight start in place of injured Marcus Gilbert. An undrafted free agent, Feiler is thriving while opening up holes for Conner and helping keep Roethlisberger clean. Roethlisberger has been sacked twice during Pittsburgh’s winning streak. Feiler’s success isn’t exactly unprecedented. Three members of Pittsburgh’s current starting offensive line — Feiler, left guard Ramon Foster and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva — all went undrafted.

“It’s how we’re built,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “It’s what we expect, and (Feiler) is just the latest example of a guy that is meeting that expectation like we talked about. He’s capable, so it’s understandable to expect those types of performances from him.”

STOPPING ADDISON

Future Hall of Famer Julius Peppers may have more name power, but Mario Addison has been the more productive defensive end for Carolina. Addison leads the team with 7 ½ sacks, including a sack trifecta last week against Tampa Bay.

Over the past 38 games, Addison has 28 sacks.

“I’m a pretty strong guy,” said the 6-foor-3, 260-pound Addison. “People underestimate me because I look kind of small, but I pack a punch. By the time they miss and my hands get on the inside of them, I’m running them back and they’re like ‘Dang, this guy’s stronger than I thought.'”

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AP Sports Writer Steve Reed contributed to this report.

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NFL Week 10: Over and Under Best Bets

This NFL season, with sports betting expected to be a more common and accepted practice, we're making a point to look beyond point spreads and analyze often-neglected totals. As part of that approach, we're offering up our favorite bet over and favorite under each week. 

Over and Under Best Bets

Over of

This NFL season, with sports betting expected to be a more common and accepted practice, we’re making a point to look beyond point spreads and analyze often-neglected totals. As part of that approach, we’re offering up our favorite bet over and favorite under each week. 

Over and Under Best Bets

Over of the week: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams

Total: 51.5

In their last meeting, the Seahawks and Rams combined for 64 points. Seattle has since scored 55 points in two road games, while Los Angeles is coming off a 45-35 loss to the New Orleans Saints. 

These teams should push the 60-point plateau when they meet Sunday in L.A.

Sure, both teams still have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball, but Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is hungry and should pounce on a still-vulnerable defense when backed into somewhat of a corner in Week 10. Meanwhile, the Rams have scored at least 29 points in eight of their nine games this season. 

Seattle is beatable on the ground. The Rams have Todd Gurley. L.A. is struggling in pass defense. Seattle has Wilson. It’s simply a bad matchup for those riding the under. 

Predicted score: Rams 33, Seahawks 30

Under of the week: Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders

Total: 50.5

The Raiders have allowed 76 points to the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers in the last two weeks, which might explain why this total is above 50. But I’d expect somewhat of a correction with Oakland hosting a more familiar opponent Sunday. 

The Chargers managed “just” 26 points in a home victory over the Raiders earlier this season. They may be a little more tired for this road matchup after a big Week 10 victory in Seattle, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they scored 26 or fewer again here. 

But even if that doesn’t happen, is there any reason to think the Raiders can suddenly score points? They’ve been held to 10 or fewer in three of their last four games, and this Los Angeles defense is a lot stronger than the Colts D on which they scored 28 a couple weeks ago. 

This might not even hit 40, let alone 50. 

Predicted score: Chargers 26, Raiders 13

Good luck, we’re all counting on you. 

Previous results
Last week: 2-0
2018 season: 12-6

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL since 2007 and is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America, despite the fact he actually lives in Canada. The Toronto-based sports journalist’s work can also be seen at Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Awful Announcing and The Guardian. He can be found on Twitter @brad_gagnon

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Jerry Jones: Cowboys ‘not in anything’ without improved play

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Even if the Dallas Cowboys were better than 3-5, Jerry Jones says he would have plenty of cause for concern based on what he saw in a damaging loss to Tennessee.

And the normally upbeat owner and general manager doesn't care to discuss the NFC East standings, even though the Cowboys

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Even if the Dallas Cowboys were better than 3-5, Jerry Jones says he would have plenty of cause for concern based on what he saw in a damaging loss to Tennessee.

And the normally upbeat owner and general manager doesn’t care to discuss the NFC East standings, even though the Cowboys can pull even with defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia by getting their first road win of the season at the Eagles on Sunday.

“We’re not in anything if we don’t play better,” Jones said after a 28-14 loss to the Titans that looked like it could be a blowout win for Dallas midway through the first quarter. “What I recognize is not so much the three wins and five losses but the way we lost this game and the way we played in the game.

“We’ve got to play better. Our record could be better than it is right now, and we’d still be in trouble.”

The Cowboys traded for a new No. 1 receiver in Amari Cooper and fired offensive line coach Paul Alexander during a surprisingly busy open week. The changes looked good early, with Cooper scoring the first Dallas touchdown and star running back Ezekiel Elliott having 75 yards from scrimmage in the first quarter.

Everything changed with Dak Prescott’s throw to Cooper in double coverage in the end zone with a 7-0 lead. Kevin Byard intercepted, Tennessee drove 80 yards in 15 plays for the tie and the Titans never trailed again.

Now the Cowboys are looking at a second straight year of missing the playoffs since the remarkable rookie seasons for Prescott and Elliott, who powered Dallas to an NFC-best 13 wins before a divisional round loss to Green Bay.

Since a franchise-record 11-game winning streak for an 11-1 record two years ago, the Cowboys are 14-15, including the loss to the Packers.

Jones was peppered with questions about Garrett’s job security after the loss to the Titans, at one point flatly saying he wouldn’t fire him during the season. Anything less than a 6-2 finish would leave Garrett with three winning seasons, and two playoff appearances, in eight full seasons.

“I don’t know how to articulate my patience or lack thereof, and I’m not trying to be smart,” Jones said. “I just don’t have an assessment of my patience right now.”

Prescott committed his first two turnovers at home this season in Dallas’ first loss at AT&T Stadium. The interception was the game-changer. A fumble while trying to churn for yardage on a sack at his 40-yard line set up Tennessee’s go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter.

While it’s realistic to expect Prescott and Cooper to need time to work together and an offensive line to adjust to an in-season coaching change, the Cowboys are running out of it.

“As coach Garrett said, we’ve got a decision to make,” said Prescott, who threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns. “We’ve got to buckle down, lock arms and be together more than ever. Not let anything break us apart.”

Garrett revealed a possible crack Tuesday. A few weeks after strongly backing Scott Linehan when asked if he still had faith in his offensive coordinator, Garrett had a different tone when asked if he envisioned a scenario where he took over play-calling.

“Right now, Scott Linehan is going to call the plays on offense,” Garrett, who called plays early in his tenure as head coach, said after the Cowboys had just 109 yards total offense in a scoreless second half against the Titans.

If the Cowboys lose to the Eagles, not much else will matter, other than the question of Garrett’s future beyond this season. Jones declined several chances to address that issue.

“I think we realize we have eight games to go, we’ve got a long way to go in this season,” Jones said. “We want to play better than we played tonight, so I certainly think each individual and coach and front office person is going to have to do better, including me.”

NOTES: Garrett said rookie LG Connor Williams came out of the Titans game with a knee injury that could require arthroscopic surgery. Any possible line shuffling would appear to be confined to Williams’ spot and center, where Joe Looney has filled in all season with four-time Pro Bowler Travis Frederick battling a nerve disorder. The likely candidate to join the group is backup center Adam Redmond, who has done some work in practice at guard in practice. … Garrett indicated LB Sean Lee will have another extended absence after re-injuring a hamstring. Lee missed three games earlier this year with the same injury.

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Roethlisberger skips practice, but expects to face Panthers

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sat out practice on Tuesday to give his broken left index finger a rest but he is expected to play on Thursday night when Carolina visits Heinz Field.

Roethlisberger said the finger was "fine" after he threw the ball 47 times in last Sunday's victory over Baltimore.

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sat out practice on Tuesday to give his broken left index finger a rest but he is expected to play on Thursday night when Carolina visits Heinz Field.

Roethlisberger said the finger was “fine” after he threw the ball 47 times in last Sunday’s victory over Baltimore.

He did leave the game briefly in the third quarter after getting the wind knocked out of him, but he returned after missing just one snap.

The 36-year-old is on pace to top 5,000 yards passing for the first time in his career. He came close in 2014 when he tied Drew Brees for the league lead with 4,952. Roethlisberger said reaching the 5,000-yard plateau “is still a pretty big deal” but he is keeping his focus on the team.

The Steelers (5-2-1) have ripped off four straight wins to climb into first in the AFC North. The short week means they won’t have much time to prepare for the surging Panthers (6-2), which might not be a bad thing. Roethlisberger expects to rely a little more heavily on the no-huddle offense, a setup in which he thrives.

“We’ve been doing it for a while,” Roethlisberger said. “We know it. We know it pretty well. We did it really well in Baltimore, really well, and just being able to pick up the pace and the tempo.”

The Steelers often turn to the no-huddle in an effort to snap them out of a funk early in games, but Roethlisberger isn’t using it as a method of trying to get the ball downfield.

While he’s on track to set a career high in yards, his production has dipped a bit during Pittsburgh’s winning streak. He’s gone over 300 yards just once in Pittsburgh’s past five games after going over 330 yards in each of the first three weeks.

An improved defense has helped. Roethlisberger lit up scoreboards early because the Steelers were trying to keep up with opponents who had little trouble getting to the end zone.

That’s not happening much anymore. Now that Roethlisberger isn’t tasked with trying to play catch up, the Steelers have taken a more balanced approach.

Second-year running back James Conner is second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage and Roethlisberger is content to keep throwing the ball underneath to move the chains and keep Pittsburgh’s defense off the field. And just like that, Pittsburgh’s sluggish 1-2-1 start has become a distant memory.

“There was no panic in this room early in the season,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s why we got a good chuckle out of (the media) panicking and the outside world panicking, but for us it was just a matter of playing the next week.”

NOTES: Right tackle Marcus Gilbert (knee) did not practice and is unlikely to play, meaning Matt Feiler will make his third straight start. … NT Daniel McCullers (ankle) also did not practice. … WR Antonio Brown (coach’s decision) and WR Ryan Switzer (ankle) were limited. … WR James Washington (knee) was a full participant.

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Titans now face Patriots on short week after snapping skid

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee's three-game skid is over, and the Titans are back to .500 after a big road victory.

But before they can catch their breath, the Titans have a short week before they host the surging New England Patriots in what will be Tennessee's lone home game in November.

Coach Mike Vrabel

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s three-game skid is over, and the Titans are back to .500 after a big road victory.

But before they can catch their breath, the Titans have a short week before they host the surging New England Patriots in what will be Tennessee’s lone home game in November.

Coach Mike Vrabel understands the challenge — and opportunity — the Titans have going against his old coach, Bill Belichick.

“We’ve just gotten ourselves to the surface where there’s a little bit of air, a little bit of water,” Vrabel said Tuesday. “You’re kind of taking a little bit of both in and you can’t survive there for long. But you can survive there for a few minutes. And so we got to make the next decision to see if we can get our heads completely above water.”

The Titans (4-4) still trail the Houston Texans (6-3) inside the AFC South, but their 28-14 victory in Dallas on Monday night put Tennessee into the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC for now. The Titans shook off a horrific start with two fumbles by Marcus Mariota on their first two drives to turn score a season-high in points after managing just 31 points all of October.

Vrabel credited the Titans with shaking off that start. Tennessee turned two turnovers into 14 points, came up with five sacks and held Ezekiel Elliott to just 61 yards rushing.

Offensively, the young Titans showed serious signs of progress in offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur’s scheme.

They converted 11 of 14 attempts on third down for a 78.6 percent rate that was the best in the NFL this season and tied for the league’s highest in the past three years. The Titans tied up the game at 7-7 with the franchise’s longest drive since Dec. 9, 2012, using up 8 minutes, 55 seconds.

Tennessee scored touchdowns on four of five trips inside the Dallas 20 against a Cowboys defense that came in as the NFL’s second stingiest in the red zone. Mariota also completed passes to nine different receivers and had a season-high 119.9 passer rating throwing for 240 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 32 more yards and another score.

“I hope it’s that guys are understanding where they fit, what they need to do to get open and understand when they get open, Marcus is going to try to get them the ball,” Vrabel said of the Titans’ offense.

Left tackle Taylor Lewan, who spoke about the Titans deserving respect after a 3-1 start, said he is just relieved to win a game and get back to .500.

“I’ll definitely keep my (expletive) mouth shut from now on about that kind of stuff,” Lewan said. “Daddy learned his lesson.”

Cornerback Logan Ryan said the Titans knew they were in a must-win situation in Dallas and that one win in the NFL can turn things around.

“It was a huge win,” Ryan said after the game. “Now we know we’ve got a tough test next week, and we will be ready.”

The Titans host the Patriots (7-2) on Sunday before heading back on the road to Indianapolis and Houston. The Patriots routed Tennessee 35-14 in an AFC divisional game last January. Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk fired Mike Mularkey after that game and chose Vrabel to take this franchise further.

“We have to just get our players as ready as we can for the game,” Vrabel said.

Notes: Vrabel made it clear he didn’t like safety Kevin Byard celebrating his interception by running to the star at midfield and posing like Terrell Owens 18 years ago. The coach said he plans to talk again with the safety and the Titans on Wednesday, and Vrabel said he wants them to celebrate with each other.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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

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Mullens announces he’s 49ers’ starting QB

 

 

Nick Mullens will start for the San Francisco 49ers when they host the New York Giants on Monday night.

 

That's according to Mullens, who announced the news himself to reporters Tuesday after practice. He said coach Kyle Shanahan told him he was the starter, and Mullens took the reps with the first

 

 

Nick Mullens will start for the San Francisco 49ers when they host the New York Giants on Monday night.

 

That’s according to Mullens, who announced the news himself to reporters Tuesday after practice. He said coach Kyle Shanahan told him he was the starter, and Mullens took the reps with the first team.

 

Mullens made his NFL debut last Thursday and led the 49ers (2-7) to a 34-3 win over the Oakland Raiders. He completed 16 of 22 passes for 262 with three touchdowns, and he didn’t turn the ball over.

 

The 23-year-old product of Southern Miss started last week when C.J. Beathard — himself a substitute for starter Jimmy Garoppolo, who is out for the season — couldn’t grip the ball because of an injury to his throwing hand.

 

Beathard, taken by the 49ers in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, was 0-5 as a starter this season and is 1-9 for his career.

 

–Field Level Media

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Saints on top of latest Pro32 poll; KC, Pats tied for 2nd

NEW YORK (AP) — Who Dat on top of the latest AP Pro32 rankings?

Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints knocked off the Los Angeles Rams 45-35 on Sunday, handing them their first loss of the season.

The Saints jumped three spots to No. 1 in the latest AP Pro32 poll .

NEW YORK (AP) — Who Dat on top of the latest AP Pro32 rankings?

Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints knocked off the Los Angeles Rams 45-35 on Sunday, handing them their first loss of the season.

The Saints jumped three spots to No. 1 in the latest AP Pro32 poll . They received seven of 12 first-place votes and 377 points in balloting Tuesday by media members who regularly cover the NFL.

“Beat the Rams big time,” Fox Sports’ John Czarnecki said.

The Kansas City Chiefs and the surging New England Patriots are tied for No. 2. The Patriots, who have won six in a row, got two first-place votes and the Chiefs received the remaining three, giving both teams 364 points.

“Andy Reid has been a terrific coach for so many years, but Patrick Mahomes’ brilliance allows Reid’s true play-calling talents shine through like never before,” Newsday’s Bob Glauber said of the Chiefs.

The Rams fell from the top spot to No. 4. They will look to get back to their winning ways when they host NFC West rival Seattle on Sunday.

“Although they couldn’t stop Drew Brees when it counted, the Rams are still in very good shape to secure an NFC playoff bye,” said Ira Kaufman of Fox 13 in Tampa, Florida.

The Carolina Panthers and the LA Chargers followed at No. 5 and No. 6. The teams flipped spots from the previous poll.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, who open Week 10 when they host the Panthers on Thursday night, remained at No. 7.

The Minnesota Vikings and Houston Texans each moved up a spot to No. 8 and No. 9 as they enter their bye weeks. The Texans have won six in a row after a 0-3 start.

And the Chicago Bears climbed five spots to round out the top 10 after their 41-9 rout of the woeful Buffalo Bills.

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

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Developing young QBs in NFL a tricky balancing act

NEW YORK (AP) — Start them right away? Ease 'em in? Have them sit a whole season?

When it comes to developing young quarterbacks in the NFL, it all depends on who you talk to.

Some teams think it's best to throw rookie QBs into the fire to learn on the job. Others prefer to

NEW YORK (AP) — Start them right away? Ease ’em in? Have them sit a whole season?

When it comes to developing young quarterbacks in the NFL, it all depends on who you talk to.

Some teams think it’s best to throw rookie QBs into the fire to learn on the job. Others prefer to gradually work them into the offense. Some say it’s more beneficial to have them grab a cap and clipboard and take it all in from the sideline.

“I think every position is the same,” Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates said. “If someone can’t handle it mentally, then you don’t want to put them on the field, because naturally they’ll play slower and be thinking instead of reacting.”

Sam Darnold clearly passed that test for New York, and the No. 3 overall pick in April was under center to start the season.

“If a player shows the athletic ability, the talent and has the mental capacity to handle a gameplan and go into a game and be successful,” Bates said, “then he’s ready to play.”

That doesn’t mean things have necessarily gone smoothly for the former USC star.

Darnold’s 14 interceptions lead the league and have contributed to the Jets’ 3-6 start. So have his 55.0 percent completion rate and 68.3 quarterback rating, which also rank among the worst in the league.

Still, some point to these early struggles as crucial building blocks for the future.

“I’m going to continue to learn,” Darnold said Sunday after a 13-6 loss at Miami in which he threw four INTs. “There’s always lessons to be learned.”

Of the 32 quarterbacks currently listed as starters for their teams, 12 were under center in Week 1 of their first season.

On the flipside, some veteran superstar QBs waited a while before they got their chances.

Aaron Rodgers was stuck behind Brett Favre in Green Bay before finally starting in his fourth season. Philip Rivers didn’t start with the Chargers until his third year, when Drew Brees went to New Orleans. Even Brees didn’t get his first NFL start until his second season.

Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Alex Smith weren’t Day 1 starters, either.

“In an ideal world, it gets to be like Drew, who had a chance to watch a little, or Tom Brady and Aaron,” said former quarterback Rich Gannon, the 2002 NFL MVP and now an analyst for CBS Sports and SiriusXM NFL Radio.

Patrick Mahomes sat behind Smith in Kansas City until Week 17 as a rookie last year, and now is a leading MVP candidate as one of the NFL’s top gunslinger s with a league-leading 29 TD passes for the 8-1 Chiefs.

“We knew that Patrick was very talented, but any time that an NFL team goes with a young quarterback, usually it’s a very challenging endeavor,” Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said. “Sometimes it takes time, several years, but as we’ve seen, Andy (Reid) had Patrick ready to go Week 1.”

Gannon thinks the Chiefs provide the perfect blueprint.

“Mahomes had a chance to watch a master of his domain for a year,” he said. “Alex Smith knew that system inside and out, has great huddle command and leadership skills. Maybe he doesn’t throw it like Mahomes does, but this is a guy who was willing to share and help him for that year, and we’re seeing the fruits of it now.

“That’s the best situation you can have.”

Again, that depends on who you ask.

In the past three drafts, 11 quarterbacks were taken in the first round — including Darnold, Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield, Buffalo’s Josh Allen, Arizona’s Josh Rosen and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson this year.

Jackson is the only one to not yet start at least one game. Baltimore has Joe Flacco leading the huddle, but Jackson has still been used in the offense and is the Ravens’ second-leading rusher.

The Browns wanted to have Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick this year, sit and learn behind Tyrod Taylor. But like most plans in Cleveland, it backfired.

Taylor got hurt in Week 3 and Mayfield was thrust into the lineup, helping the Browns rally to beat the Jets in a nationally televised game and end a 19-game winless streak. Mayfield has shown poise and promise, but lacks playmakers and is dealing with a coaching change after Hue Jackson was fired.

In Buffalo, the Bills weren’t anticipating Allen starting in the second week. They were taking what coach Sean McDermott called a “calculated” approach. But after AJ McCarron was traded before the season opener and Nathan Peterman bombed in Week 1, McDermott was left with no choice but to turn to Allen.

The rookie has been dealing with a sprained right elbow , and is uncertain to play Sunday against the Jets.

“When you draft a quarterback like we did, there’s a part of it where you have to say, ‘Hey, he’s going to play either A, B, or C — early, middle, or late or next year.'” McDermott said. “You have to be OK with all of that.”

The initial plan in Arizona was to have Rosen learn behind Sam Bradford. All that changed when the veteran was ineffective and benched in favor of the No. 10 overall pick.

Rosen took his lumps with some turnover-filled performances. Then, Mike McCoy was fired as the Cardinals’ offensive coordinator and Bradford was later cut — leaving the job to Rosen.

“His demeanor allows him to have success,” new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said. “Quarterbacking in this league is hard and when things go bad, this kid tends to be fine.”

But, some say too many adverse situations could end up having long-term deleterious effects on a young player.

“When you put them in before they’re ready, they also get hurt: Josh Allen, Josh Rosen,” Gannon said. “The speed of the game is way too fast for them. … Or they have a bad experience, like what wound up happening with (the Jets’) Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith, or going back to Ryan Leaf (with the Chargers). They play right away before they are physically or mentally ready or maturity-level ready. They get benched and booed and maybe run out of town, the coach gets fired, and then the next thing, they’re on their third or fourth team. They think he will be a savior and he’s not ready to play.

“How is that being responsible from a coach and ownership standpoint? It’s doing a tremendous disservice.”

Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston and Tennessee’ Marcus Mariota started right away after being the top two picks in 2015, but the jury’s still out on both.

For those who preach patience, 25 of the 32 current QBs started a game at some point in their rookie season. And, several held on to the job from there.

Quarterbacks such as the Rams’ Jared Goff (No. 1 in 2016) and the Bears’ Mitchell Trubisky (No. 2 in 2017) started and struggled as rookies, but benefited from changes in coaching staffs and philosophies and took leaps in their second seasons.

So, who’s right?

Well, all of the above.

“There’s certainly valuable experience when you stand and watch,” McDermott said. “But we all know there’s no substitute for the experience when you’re actually behind the wheel. There’s a lot of value to that.”

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AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner and AP Sports Writers Bob Baum, David Ginsburg, Dave Skretta, John Wawrow and Tom Withers contributed.

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

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Report: Former Vikings DT Floyd suing Dr. James Andrews

 

 

Former Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd plans to file suit against Dr. James Andrews over what the 27-year-old claims was a knee surgery gone wrong.

 

Floyd, according to multiple reports, will file the $180 million lawsuit in Florida on Tuesday against Dr. Andrews, the Andrews Institute for Orthopedic Surgery and others,

 

 

Former Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd plans to file suit against Dr. James Andrews over what the 27-year-old claims was a knee surgery gone wrong.

 

Floyd, according to multiple reports, will file the $180 million lawsuit in Florida on Tuesday against Dr. Andrews, the Andrews Institute for Orthopedic Surgery and others, claiming a 2016 routine arthroscopic procedure turned into a career-ending operation.

 

Floyd’s attorney, Brad Sohn, said the suit will outline the failure of those being named in the court documents, including Andrews, his anesthesiologist, two surgery assistants and the hospital where the operation took place.

 

Sohn said Floyd was expecting a scope of his knee in 2016 with a recovery time of no more than one month.

 

Once on the operating table, doctors determined Floyd needed microfracture knee surgery, Sohn described in interviews with multiple outlets.

 

When surgical assistants administered a pain blocker, muscle tissue and nerves around the knee were paralyzed, Floyd claims.

 

Sohn told ESPN.com the $180 million figure is based on projected career earnings.

 

Floyd, the 23rd overall pick in 2013, was placed on the Non-Football Injury List by the Minnesota Vikings. By rule, teams are not required to pay the full salary — $6.757 million in Floyd’s case — for players on NFI.

 

Floyd has field a grievance against the NFL Players Association, but not the Vikings.

 

–Field Level Media

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FANTASY PLAYS: Immediate and future pickups for Week 10

The Vikings, Broncos, Texans and Ravens being off in Week 10 means there are plenty of bye week players to replace in lineups.

You'll be without the likes of Adam Thielen, Kirk Cousins, Phillip Lindsay, Emmanuel Sanders, DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson this week. Work the waiver wire aggressively and with a forward-looking focus.

RUNNING

The Vikings, Broncos, Texans and Ravens being off in Week 10 means there are plenty of bye week players to replace in lineups.

You’ll be without the likes of Adam Thielen, Kirk Cousins, Phillip Lindsay, Emmanuel Sanders, DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson this week. Work the waiver wire aggressively and with a forward-looking focus.

RUNNING BACKS

DUKE JOHNSON JR., Browns (49.6 percent owned): He was cut in some very competitive leagues recently, but a coaching overhaul in Cleveland has led to Johnson quickly regaining fantasy relevance. Johnson caught nine passes for 78 yards on Sunday, and with the Browns lacking a quality second wideout he should remain in the flow going forward. Make him a top waiver priority or be willing to spend handsomely if your league uses a free agent acquisition budget. If you need RB help in a point-per-reception format, don’t hesitate to spend 50 to 60 percent of your budget.

MIKE DAVIS, Seahawks (18.5): He totaled 107 yards from scrimmage and caught seven passes on Sunday as Chris Carson could not make it out of the early stages of the game. Carson is already looking iffy this week with hip and groin problems and he has been a consistent injury concern. Davis is clearly preferred by the Seattle coaching staff over Rashaad Penny and faces the league’s worst run defense (the Rams) in Week 10.

JOSH ADAMS (3.0): We advised picking him up last week but he was only added in 2.5 percent of leagues. Many owners passed on him because Adams was on a bye week. Don’t overlook players who have byes, when you can get the jump on passive league mates. Adams may start for the Eagles coming off the bye.

WIDE RECEIVERS

MARQUES VALDES-SCANTLING (20.8): Not enough owners paid attention to injury news late last week, which indicated Geronimo Allison would likely be out with a groin injury, boosting Valdes-Scantling’s outlook again. Now Allison may be done for the season and Randall Cobb is oft-injured and only had 24 receiving yards last week. The rookie has either reached 100 yards or scored in his last four games and has quickly risen to fantasy WR3 status.

ADAM HUMPHRIES, Buccaneers (2.8): In the past, he had flashed some potential to be a decent fantasy player, then totally defied expectations in Week 9 with eight catches for 82 yards and two TD receptions. He used to be more of a Jameis Winston favorite, but Ryan Fitzpatrick can use him as a reliable option from the slot.

JOHN ROSS, Bengals (8.1): Ross has started to practice as he anticipates a potential return from a groin injury, and with A.J. Green possibly missing two games or more with a toe problem, Ross becomes a viable waiver target because of increased opportunity. Tyler Boyd may get extra defensive attention during Green’s absence, and Ross will likely be more targeted more frequently. His big-play promise is no secret to seasoned fantasy players.

TIGHT ENDS

C.J. UZOMAH, Bengals (18.2): He has disappointed since becoming the clear No. 1 at his position in Cincinnati because of injuries, but Uzomah also still has some lingering appeal because of the Green injury. Andy Dalton will always consider his tight ends when inside the 10-yard line, and Uzomah has some TD potential while Green is out.

JEFF HEUERMAN, Broncos (7.9): Here’s a guy on a bye that you need to add now if TE is a desperation need. Heuerman immediately stepped into the Demaryius Thomas void left by the WR’s departure, catching 10 passes for 83 yards and a TD in a career performance. While his statistical ceiling may not be as high as those numbers indicate going forward, you have to take a waiver chance on the improved production possibly lasting more than one game.

QUARTERBACK

LAMAR JACKSON, Ravens (1.5): This is a forward-looking waiver move where you possibly can get ahead of the rest of the league, as Baltimore is on a bye. Joe Flacco has four TD passes in his past five games and 398 passing yards with one TD and two interceptions in his last two outings. There could be a QB change coming in Baltimore soon. Jackson looked like an erratic passer in the preseason, but his rushing and playmaking skills point to some tantalizing fantasy possibilities if he gets inserted into the Ravens guiding role.

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For more waiver and Week 10 advice, visit RotoExperts: https://rotoexperts.com

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Week 11 Schedule Changes

PRESS RELEASE

WEEK 11 (NOVEMBER 18) SCHEDULE CHANGES:
 
VIKINGS-BEARS MOVES TO 8:20 PM ET ON NBC,
 
EAGLES-SAINTS TO 4:25 PM ET (FOX) & STEELERS-JAGUARS TO 1 PM ET (CBS)

PRESS RELEASE

WEEK 11 (NOVEMBER 18) SCHEDULE CHANGES:
 
VIKINGS-BEARS MOVES TO 8:20 PM ET ON NBC,
 
EAGLES-SAINTS TO 4:25 PM ET (FOX) & STEELERS-JAGUARS TO 1 PM ET (CBS)
 
The NFL announced today the following schedule changes for Week 11 on Sunday, November 18.
The Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears game will move from 1 PM ET on FOX to 8:20 PM ET on NBC.
The Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints game moves from 1 PM ET on FOX to 4:25 PM ET on FOX.
The Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars game originally scheduled at 8:20 PM ET on NBC will move to CBS at 1 PM ET.
The following is the final Week 11 NFL schedule (all times ET):
 
Thursday, November 15
Green Bay at Seattle
8:20 PM
FOX/NFLN/Amazon
 
Sunday, November 18
Dallas at Atlanta
1:00 PM
FOX
Cincinnati at Baltimore
1:00 PM
CBS
Carolina at Detroit ­
1:00 PM
FOX
Tennessee at Indianapolis
1:00 PM
CBS
Pittsburgh at Jacksonville
1:00 PM
CBS
Tampa Bay at New York Giants
1:00 PM
FOX
Houston at Washington
1:00 PM
CBS
Oakland at Arizona
4:05 PM
CBS
Denver at Los Angeles Chargers
4:05 PM
CBS
Philadelphia at New Orleans
4:25 PM
FOX
Minnesota at Chicago
8:20 PM
NBC
 
 
 
Monday, November 19
Kansas City at Los Angeles Rams (Mexico City)
8:15 PM
ESPN

 

Courtesy of NFL Communications

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NFL Week 9 Stat Recap Table: QB, RB and WR

Six straight wins for the Houston Texans. New Orleans ruins the the Rams perfect season. Tom Brady and the Patriots prove to be too much for Aaron Rodgers.

Notable Performances

  • Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees all tossed for 300+ yards and 3+ touchdowns
  • Michael Thomas made 12 receptions for 211

Six straight wins for the Houston Texans. New Orleans ruins the the Rams perfect season. Tom Brady and the Patriots prove to be too much for Aaron Rodgers.

Notable Performances

  • Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees all tossed for 300+ yards and 3+ touchdowns
  • Michael Thomas made 12 receptions for 211 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Travis Kelce, Adam Humphries, and OJ Howard all caught for 2 touchdowns
  • Melvin Gordon and James Conner both rush for 100+ yards
  • 5 Players with 2 rushing touchdowns


Martin is a data analyst that has been applauded for his ability to make the complex simple. He grew up on a farm in northern Vermont and spent his summers helping his mom lead llama treks at Smugglers’ Notch Resort.

Martin graduated from University of Vermont with a degree in Mathematics. After graduation he left Vermont to work for an educational nonprofit called City Year for two years, and followed that up by attending the data science immersive program at Galvanize in Denver. He is an avid Green Bay Packer fan, and spends his free time playing football and soccer.

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Ballin’ on a Budget Week 9 Results

Maybe I should stick to straight game picks and ditch the over/unders. We went 3-2 again this week, getting all three game picks right, including two road underdogs. However, we went 0-2 on over/unders and neither of them were particularly close. Luckily, the payouts on those road dog picks are higher, so we

Maybe I should stick to straight game picks and ditch the over/unders. We went 3-2 again this week, getting all three game picks right, including two road underdogs. However, we went 0-2 on over/unders and neither of them were particularly close. Luckily, the payouts on those road dog picks are higher, so we continue to build our stash. Certainly, 3-2 every week ain’t bad, but we’re still waiting for that big payout on a 5-0 week.

LOSS: Dolphins-Jets OVER 45 points (-110): Dolphins 13, Jets 6.

As soon as I read on Sunday morning about these teams being worried about field conditions in Miami, I knew we were in trouble. Poor field conditions never make scoring easier. Sam Darnold threw four interceptions, stopping multiple Jets drives in their tracks. A Dolphins defense that just allowed 42 points to the Texans magically showed up and balled out.

Field goals killed us as they always do with overs, but even if those field goals turned into touchdowns, we would likely still be doomed. There’s no way around it, this one wasn’t even close and that was due to a combination of factors. The win: $0.

LOSS: Saints-Rams UNDER 60 points (-110): Saints 45, Rams 35.

Ouch. Let’s just acknowledge that 60 points is an insane over/under number in NFL betting and the Saints and Rams still shattered it. Despite each team having a high-powered offense, I thought the solid rush defenses for each would limit scoring. Instead, what I said I feared in last week’s column came true: this game became a shootout.

L.A. was down big early and stormed back to tie it before New Orleans scored the last 10 points of the game to seal the win. This was one of, if not the best game of the year so far, it’s just a shame it had to come at our expense. The win: $0.

WIN: Steelers -3 vs. Ravens (-120): Steelers 23, Ravens 16.

Even without Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh is starting to hit its stride. Despite it being a one-score game in the end, the Steelers really controlled this game from the start. The defense is showing signs of life and this is not a team you want to mess with right now. Meanwhile, the Ravens are in a free fall, now losers of three straight games.

We knew getting a line that was under a field goal gave us a chance to win and Pittsburgh went one step further and covered for us. It was just the first of many solid picks we had on point spread and money line this week. The win: $5.50.

WIN: Falcons over Redskins (+110): Falcons 38, Redskins 14.

I was very high on Atlanta going into this match up, but even I did not foresee this flat-out domination by the Falcons. They bullied Washington from the opening kick and did whatever they wanted on offense. We picked this “upset” based on the Falcons having far more talent. That doesn’t always equal a win, but it sure did today.

When the lines came out at the beginning of the week, this one immediately stuck out as one to put some money down on. I’m glad we were wise enough to do it and reap the benefits. Total win: $10.50.

WIN: Texans over Broncos (+120): Texans 19, Broncos 17.

Just barely, Houston was able to hold off Denver for its fifth straight win and it won us some money in the process. The Texans are really starting to roll with the defense and offense seemingly each making strides each week. What should be scary to opposing teams is the fact this Texans team can win different styles of games: low-scoring affairs and shootouts.

Sunday afternoon was the former and Houston showed enough grit to pull it out in a very tough road environment. The Texans are starting to emerge as the clear best team in the AFC South and if they win a couple more, they might emerge as one of the best teams in the entire AFC. I wouldn’t bet against the Steelers, Patriots, or Chiefs right now, but we’re not talking about season-long bets here. All we’re talking about is our piggy bank continuing to grow week by week. Total win: $11.

PIGGY BANK: $201.88 (12.2% return on investment)

PICK PERCENTAGE: 59.5% (25-17-3)

Jacob Kornhauser is a sports reporter in Southern Oregon covering all sports, including Oregon and Oregon State athletics. He has been a national baseball writer for Bleacher Report and Rant Sports and has written two baseball books. He also specializes in sports betting analysis. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri Journalism School.

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Seahawks sit at .500 after step back from winning formula

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — The Seattle Seahawks figured out just how easy it is to get off track.

After successfully resetting its roster and figuring out a style and method for winning in the first half of the season, Seattle took a major step backward in a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Seahawks

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — The Seattle Seahawks figured out just how easy it is to get off track.

After successfully resetting its roster and figuring out a style and method for winning in the first half of the season, Seattle took a major step backward in a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Seahawks had built a winning formula on running the ball, avoiding mistakes on offense and stopping the run on defense. Now, Seattle has to prove it can beat a quality opponent when the script doesn’t play out perfectly.

“We’ve found ourselves in most of the games we didn’t win right there at the end, so close to getting it done,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “I’m hoping the second half of the season will allow us to finish those games and get the wins that we want and turn this season into a really positive year for us.”

The 25-17 loss to the Chargers revealed how quickly the Seahawks can lose the style of play that led them to win four of the previous five games. They sit at 4-4, facing a challenging three-game stretch that starts this week with the Los Angeles Rams.

“I’ve never looked at this like it’s a rebuilding year. (GM) John (Schneider) and I didn’t look at this like that. We saw the opportunities to fill the spots and we thought we could keep moving and going,” Carroll said. “There’s always going to be some growing time and we saw that the first two weeks of the season. As far as expectations, our expectations are higher and that’s why we’re disappointed that we’re not in better shape than we are right now.”

Seattle still had a chance to force overtime against the Chargers until Russell Wilson’s pass for David Moore at the back of the end zone was tipped slightly and fell incomplete on the final play.

The Seahawks issues started long before that pass hit the turf.

Seattle did not stop the run, giving up 7.3 yards per carry to the Chargers and letting Melvin Gordon run for 113 yards and a touchdown.

It did not avoid offensive mistakes. Wilson was sacked four times, with several of those his fault for not getting the ball out or trusting the protection. He also made a critical turnover, throwing an interception that was returned 42 yards for a touchdown by Desmond King in the fourth quarter.

And Seattle’s own run game was spotty. The Seahawks finished with 154 yards rushing, but starter Chris Carson didn’t play the final 2 ½ quarters due to a lingering hip injury. After scoring a touchdown on their opening possession, the Seahawks got just three points out of the next nine drives.

The end result was too much reliance on Wilson for a fourth-quarter rally. While Wilson nearly pulled it off, the Seahawks fell to 5-6 at home over the past two seasons and have lost the last five games when Wilson has attempted 30 or more passes dating to last season.

Carroll was uncertain the status of Carson or strong safety Bradley McDougald for Sunday’s game against the NFC West-leading Rams. Carroll said Carson’s hip was a lingering problem coming out of last week’s victory over Detroit, and a light week of practice wasn’t enough for Carson to handle the load early against the Chargers. Carson had just eight carries, leaving Mike Davis as the primary back. Davis had 15 carries for 62 yards.

McDougald didn’t play in the second half with a knee injury that Carroll said was “pretty sore” on Monday. McDougald will likely be a very limited participant in practice this week, but Carroll said he was pleased with the performance of backup Delano Hill stepping in for McDougald, who has been one of Seattle’s top defensive players this season.

NOTES: Carroll said G D.J. Fluker (calf) appeared to be OK. Fluker didn’t play late in the game due to the injury and was replaced by C Joey Hunt playing out of position. … Carroll declined to comment on any speculation about a reunion with DE/LB Bruce Irvin, who was released by Oakland. Irvin spent his first four seasons in Seattle and the Seahawks could use a boost in the pass rush. “I’d prefer not to comment on that right now if you don’t mind. Let’s wait and see what happens,” Carroll said.

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