Eagles hitting stride, look to corral sliding Cowboys

Eagles hitting stride, look to corral sliding Cowboys

The Philadelphia Eagles attempt to move back above .500 when they host the rival Dallas Cowboys Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles moved to 4-4 with a 24-18 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in London followed by their bye week. The Cowboys fell to 3-5 following a 28-14 home loss to the Tennessee Titans on Monday night.

Philadelphia, the defending Super Bowl champions, will likely receive a boost with the return of right tackle Lane Johnson. Johnson has struggled with a high ankle and MCL sprain.

The Eagles will also feature a new addition, wide receiver Golden Tate, who was acquired before the trade deadline from the Detroit Lion for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

“I’m going to tell you, he’s been in here every day,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “He and (wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer) and (offensive coordinator) Mike Groh, even myself, we’ve kind of tackled him every single day. Trying to get him caught up to just our terminology, the way we call things, how we line up. But he’s been awesome, been in here every day.”

The Eagles are 1-0 in the NFC East with a win over the New York Giants. They’ll try and continue the divisional momentum with a victory over the Cowboys.

“This rivalry, it’s an exciting rivalry,” Pederson said. “It’s two really great franchises, obviously, great teams. It’s always exciting, Dallas week. There’s a lot of energy. It’s an NFC East opponent, something that we talk about all the time. I go back to my days when I was here as a player, obviously, and playing the Cowboys and what it meant to obviously this city and our fans. So, I expect all our fans to be rocking the Linc Sunday night.”

The reeling Cowboys, who have dropped two games in a row, will be without left guard Connor Williams as he undergoes arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.

In the 14-point loss to the Titans, quarterback Dak Prescott was 21 of 31 for 243 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Prescott was also sacked five times.

Despite some struggles through the first eight games, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he’s confident in his young quarterback.

“His arrow is up,” Jones told ESPN.com of Prescott. “His arrow is up physically. It’s up mentally. Having seen him and know his consciousness to protect the ball is one of his virtues and I think I’m going to go with that.”

This will be the second game for wide receiver Amari Cooper in a Cowboys uniform. Cooper was traded from the Oakland Raiders to the Cowboys for a first-round draft pick before the trade deadline. Cooper had five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown against the Titans.

The Cowboys’ offense was shut out in the second half against the Titans, now making this game even more crucial against the Eagles.

“I very candidly didn’t see this coming,” Jones told reporters. “I thought we would be sitting here with a positive result. This is a surprise to me and is a setback.”

–Field Level Media

NFL television ratings see increase for most packages

After years of declines, NFL television ratings are showing modest gains.

Three of the league's television partners have shown increases after the first nine week of the season while one remains flat. That is welcome news after ratings decreased 9.7 percent last season and 8 percent in 2016.

"I'm glad the league has

After years of declines, NFL television ratings are showing modest gains.

Three of the league’s television partners have shown increases after the first nine week of the season while one remains flat. That is welcome news after ratings decreased 9.7 percent last season and 8 percent in 2016.

“I’m glad the league has turned the corner. The top teams are very exciting and there are plenty of high-scoring games,” said Neil Pilson, the former president of CBS Sports who now runs his own sports television consulting company.

Pilson said a major ratings driver has been the emergence of young quarterbacks like the Rams’ Jared Goff, Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and Bears’ Mitchell Trubisky. That has created a buzz not only with their teams but throughout the league.

Another factor is that player protests against social and racial injustice during the national anthem have not been a major storyline this season. Pilson noted that “a few of those folks who said they were going to stop watching I don’t know how many did.”

NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” package has shown the biggest improvement with an eight percent increase from last season. It is averaging 19.7 million viewers, compared to 18.3 million last season.

This past Sunday’s game between the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots averaged a league-high 23.7 million, and was the largest prime-time audience on any network since ABC aired the Academy Awards in March. NBC has seen increases all but one week compared to last season.

“We’re looking forward to the second half of our schedule, which features many crucial divisional matchups, the Thanksgiving night game, plus the Week 17 flex game. We expect ‘Sunday Night Football’ to finish atop the prime-time rankings yet again,” NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus said in a statement.

ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” is averaging 11.418 million, which is up three percent (11.135 million). Pilson has been critical of scheduling for Thursday and Monday nights in past seasons, but he said the league has made improvements in those areas. ESPN will have one of the marquee games of the season on Nov. 19 when Kansas City faces the Los Angeles Rams in Mexico City.

“For years I thought that they were burying those two nights but they have improved dramatically,” he said.

CBS’ Sunday afternoon games are averaging 15.713 million viewers, which is up one percent from last season (15.528 million). This past Sunday’s slate of five games, which was headlined by Pittsburgh at Baltimore, had a 10.0 household rating, which was up 23 percent from the same week last season.

CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, whose network has Super Bowl 53, has been pleased with advertising sales for the rest of the season and the Feb. 3 game in Atlanta.

“There are a number of very good stories. Kansas City is a team of national interest, Mahomes has become a legit star and a lot of the big teams — including New Orleans, Pittsburgh and New England — are playing very well,” he said.

Fox’s Sunday afternoon coverage is averaging more viewers than CBS at 17.299 million, but this is a decrease of less than one percent from last season (17.414 million).

The only package that has sharply declined is Thursday Night Football. It is averaging 12.522 million viewers in its first season on Fox, which is down from the 14.134 million on CBS last season. Fox though is hopeful that the numbers can rebound over the next month, which includes Green Bay at Seattle (Nov. 15), New Orleans at Dallas (Nov. 29) and the Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City (Dec. 13).

Pilson and McManus both think the league’s overall improvements could carry through the second half. That’s even better news for McManus, as he sees a number of potential Super Bowl matchups that would bode well for CBS.

“I’m encouraged. There are a lot of good storylines that will carry throughout the next couple months,” he said. “With so much going on that is negative people are looking for an escape and football provides that for a lot of people.”

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Follow Joe Reedy at www.twitter.com/joereedy

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Bryant practices with Saints, asserts he’s ‘not a bad guy.’

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Dez Bryant wasn't about to declare himself a changed man just because he'd changed teams.

At age 30, the ninth-year NFL veteran receiver said he is comfortable with who he always has been and hopes he'll fit in with the New Orleans Saints, a team on a seven-game winning

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Dez Bryant wasn’t about to declare himself a changed man just because he’d changed teams.

At age 30, the ninth-year NFL veteran receiver said he is comfortable with who he always has been and hopes he’ll fit in with the New Orleans Saints, a team on a seven-game winning streak that looks like it’s all-in to contend for a Super Bowl this season.

“I’m always going to be me, you know, who I am. I’m not a bad guy. I’ve always been a good guy,” Bryant said after his first practice with New Orleans on Thursday afternoon. “You can ask my teammates — my ex-teammates — how I am. I love the locker room. It’s like family. Every locker room that I’ve been in — from middle school, high school, college, to the pros — it’s always been like a family.”

Bryant was reticent when asked to go into detail about interest shown in him by other clubs. He is known to have met with Cleveland and Baltimore before his workout with New Orleans this week earned him a spot on a Saints offense that currently ranks seventh in the NFL and is led by the NFL’s all-time leader in completions and yards passing.

“Who wouldn’t want to play with Drew Brees,” said Bryant, who caught passes from Brees at practice on Thursday. “Not taking away from nobody else, but you got a guy like Drew Brees, like I said, you got a guy like Michael Thomas, (Ben) Watson, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram. You got those types of guys.”

Bryant spent his first eight NFL seasons with Dallas and in 2017 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.

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 with two years left on his five-year, $70 million contract.

Saints players sounded eager to see how Bryant might help.

Thomas, who is New Orleans’ leading receiver, said he has been following Bryant’s career.

“He’s definitely one of those guys you have to watch if you’re playing the receiver position,” Thomas said. “He’s a guy who’s done some great things at the position, so you just have to respect it and pick his brain. I asked him a lot of questions, and it’s just cool to play with a guy like that.”

Saints coach Sean Payton said Thursday that Bryant would be taking the spot on the active roster vacated by receiver Cameron Meredith, a free-agent signing last offseason who is coming back from a major knee injury, and who went on injured reserve after he and the club agreed he’d benefit from undergoing an arthroscopic cleanup on that same knee.

“He kept having the swelling week in and week out and he really was pushing through it,” Payton said.

Receiver Ted Ginn Jr. also is on injured reserve and cannot come back until the final few weeks of the regular season, if he’s ready by then.

It’s not clear how soon Bryant will have a regular role in New Orleans’ offense. Payton said Bryant is perhaps five pounds heavier than his ideal playing weight, which would be common among players who did not go through a training camp.

But Payton added, “we felt like he did a number of things that we liked in the workout.”

The signing sets the stage for Bryant to play in Dallas when the Saints visit the Cowboys for a Thursday night game on Nov. 29.

“I am going to be excited. I’ll get to see all the Cowboys fans. You know I still love those guys. I love my ex-teammates. They’re my family,” Bryant said. “But I’m here on a new chapter. It’s going to be fun, but I’m the opponent now.”

Bryant said he is “not at all” bitter about his departure from the Cowboys, adding, “That chapter’s closed. That’s something I had to accept. I accepted that and moved on.”

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WR Bryant excited after first practice with Saints

WR Bryant excited after first practice with Saints

Dez

WR Bryant excited after first practice with Saints

Dez Bryant participated in his first practice as a member of the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, and he was adamant about one thing.

He says he has nothing to prove after the way his stint with the Dallas Cowboys ended.

“Not at all, not at all. That chapter’s closed, that’s something I had to accept. I accepted that and moved on,” Bryant told reporters. “I’m here with the New Orleans Saints. I’m a (member of the) Saints now, I’m excited about that and I’m looking forward to moving on with these guys.”

Bryant agreed to terms with the Saints on Wednesday. He is signed through the rest of the season and will make $600,000.

He will be wearing No. 88 after taking the roster spot vacated by fellow wide receiver Cam Meredith.

Meredith was placed on injured reserve and will undergo knee surgery, coach Sean Payton said. He had nine receptions for 114 yards and one touchdown this year.

Meredith, 26, missed the 2017 season with a knee injury and was signed away from the Chicago Bears as a restricted free agent in the offseason. Meredith signed a two-year, $10 million deal.

The Saints were interested in Bryant, a three-time Pro Bowler, because they have had issues with their receiver group this season.

Star wideout Michael Thomas has 70 receptions, but none of the other receivers has more than 12. The team also sustained a blow when receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (knee) went on injured reserve three weeks ago.

Bryant, 30, had 69 catches for Dallas last season before the two sides had an acrimonious split. He was unable to land a new gig prior to the season or during the first half of the campaign.

Bryant insisted he will have no trouble fitting in with the Saints (7-1), who have been one of the top teams in the NFL this season.

“I’m always gonna be me, you know, who I am. I’m not a bad guy. I’ve always been a good guy,” Bryant said. “You can ask my teammates — my ex-teammates — how I am. I love the locker room. It’s like family. Every locker room that I’ve been in from middle school, high school, college to the pros, it’s always been like a family.

“You have a natural bond. It’s more than just being in the locker room, it’s outside of it, too.”

Bryant is looking forward to working with Saints star quarterback Drew Brees. He said Brees’ presence was a big factor in why he was excited about New Orleans’ interest in his services.

“For one, who wouldn’t want to play with Drew Brees?” Bryant said. “Not taking away from nobody else, but you got a guy like Drew Brees. You got a guy like Michael Thomas, (Benjamin) Watson, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, you got those types of guys — little baby GOATs around here.”

Looming is a return to Dallas. The Saints visit the Cowboys on Nov. 29 on a Thursday night, and Bryant isn’t yet ready to process what his emotional state will be that night.

“You know I honestly don’t know. I don’t know, but I am gonna be excited,” Bryant said. “I’ll get to see all the Cowboys fans. You know I still love those guys. I love my ex-teammates, they’re my family.

“But I’m here on a new chapter. It’s gonna be fun, but I’m the opponent now.”

–Field Level Media

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Roethlisberger, Steelers stampede Panthers

Roethlisberger, Steelers stampede Panthers

Ben Roethlisberger threw touchdown tosses to five different

Roethlisberger, Steelers stampede Panthers

Ben Roethlisberger threw touchdown tosses to five different teammates Thursday, and the Pittsburgh Steelers rolled over the visiting Carolina Panthers 52-21 for their fifth consecutive win.

Roethlisberger threw for 328 yards on 22-of-25 passing for Pittsburgh (6-2-1). Antonio Brown made six catches for 96 yards and a touchdown.

Christian McCaffrey ran for a touchdown, added two scoring receptions and piled up 138 total yards for Carolina (6-3). Cam Newton passed for 193 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, and he was sacked five times.

The Steelers turned the game into a rout in the first half despite Carolina scoring first.

McCaffrey accounted for 60 of the 75 yards on the Panthers’ opening drive, and he scored on a 20-yard pass from Newton.

Pittsburgh answered with one play — Roethlisberger’s 75-yard throw to JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 7-7 tie at 10:18.

Thirteen seconds later, T.J. Watt chased Newton into the end zone, and the quarterback heaved the ball out of desperation. Vince Williams picked it off and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 Steelers lead.

James Conner’s 2-yard touchdown run boosted the lead to 21-7 late in the first quarter. Chris Boswell’s season-long 50-yard field goal at 9:46 of the second quarter made it 24-7.

McCaffrey’s second touchdown catch, for 25 yards, cut it to 24-14, but Roethlisberger hit Brown for a 53-yard scoring pass with 3:08 left in the first half to make it 31-14.

The Steelers kept it going in the third, with Roethlisberger finding Vance McDonald in the back of the end zone from 12 yards out to push it to 38-14.

Carolina safety Eric Reid got ejected for hitting Roethlisberger in the head at the end of a season-long, 17-yard run with 1:15 left in the third. Two plays later, Roethlisberger threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jesse James to make it 45-14.

Pittsburgh’s Roosevelt Nix knocked the ball loose from return man Curtis Samuel on the ensuing kickoff, and Anthony Chickillo recovered at the Panthers 7. That set up rookie Jaylen Samuels’ first career touchdown, a 6-yard catch, on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 52-14.

McCaffrey punched it in from 2 yards out to make it 52-21 with 5:35 to go.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: QB McCown to start for Jets

NFL notebook: QB McCown to start for Jets

New

NFL notebook: QB McCown to start for Jets

New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown will start on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, coach Todd Bowles said Thursday.

It will be the first start of the season for the 16-year veteran. McCown, 39, started 13 games for the Jets last season.

Starter Sam Darnold sustained a right foot injury last week in a loss to the Miami Dolphins that has limited him in practice. Bowles said, however, that Darnold could dress and back up McCown.

Darnold will regain the starting role once he is healthy, Bowles said.

–Dez Bryant participated in his first practice as a member of the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, and he was adamant about one thing.

He says he has nothing to prove after the way his stint with the Dallas Cowboys ended.

“Not at all, not at all. That chapter’s closed, that’s something I had to accept. I accepted that and moved on,” Bryant told reporters. “I’m here with the New Orleans Saints. I’m a (member of the) Saints now, I’m excited about that and I’m looking forward to moving on with these guys.”

–The Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts has started a review of a state legal principle that wiped out the murder conviction of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez after his suicide. Hernandez was convicted on April 15, 2015, of the 2013 death of semipro football player Odin Lloyd in North Attleborough, Mass.

The justices heard arguments from prosecutors as to why convictions shouldn’t be erased if those found guilty die before an appellate court has reviewed facts of the trial. The Supreme Judicial Court is expected to take several months to issue a decision.

–The Los Angeles Rams expressed condolences over the mass shooting that killed 12 people at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Wednesday night.

Rams coach Sean McVay said Thursday that a moment of silence would be held prior to Sunday’s home game against the Seattle Seahawks.

–Wally Triplett, a Detroit Lions running back who was the first African-American to be drafted and play in the NFL in a regular-season game, has died at 92.

“Wally is one of the true trailblazers in American sports history,” the Lions said in a news release announcing his death. “He resides among the great men who helped reshape the game as they faced the challenges of segregation and discrimination.”

As a rookie, Triplett set a team record at the time for the longest run from scrimmage with an 80-yard touchdown at Green Bay on Oct. 30, 1949. A year later, he set a league single-game record with 294 yards on four kickoff returns, including a 97-yard touchdown. The record for his total yardage that day lasted for 44 years and is still No. 3 in NFL history. His kickoff return average of 73.5 yards that day remains an NFL single-game record.

–Eagles running back Darren Sproles, set to return from a hamstring injury for the first time since Week 1, was sidelined during practice by another hamstring injury.

Philadelphia expected Sproles back in the lineup, primarily as a kick returner, for Sunday’s game against the Cowboys. Sproles has been idle since injuring his hamstring in the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons.

–Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was reportedly cited for driving in excess of 100 mph at 10 a.m.

CBS-TV (KDKA) in Pittsburgh reported police responding to a nearby bank robbery caught Brown going over 100 mph in a 45 mph zone. Brown is not a suspect in the bank robbery.

–Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam plans to yield to a general manager in the team’s search for a new head coach for the first time.

General manager John Dorsey, hired in December 2017, will lead the search for Hue Jackson’s replacement with Haslam and his wife, Dee, signing off on the finalists. Jackson was fired Oct. 29.

–Field Level Media

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Take 5: Mariota under a microscope in Week 10

Take 5: Mariota under a microscope in Week 10

Take 5: Mariota under a microscope in Week 10

Like the quarterback chosen before him in the 2015 draft (Jameis Winston), Marcus Mariota is in limbo midway through Year 4.

The Tennessee Titans appear committed through his fifth-year option, but Mariota has yet to prove he deserves an extension, which teams prefer to negotiate at least a year before a quarterback hits free agency. That leaves half a season to build his case, or else enter 2019 in complete uncertainty.

Coming off his most promising outing this year, Mariota must continue his progress in a rematch of last year’s divisional playoff game against the New England Patriots.

1. Can Mariota turn a corner?

Between injuries (seven games missed, at least one each year), scheme changes (three in four years) and wildly inconsistent numbers, Mariota remains a mystery through 49 games. Even his performance this season — career-low 5.0 adjusted net yards per attempt — could be deceiving, as he’s battled a nerve issue in his throwing hand since Week 1.

Mariota ditched the two-fingered glove Monday, suggesting his grip is normal again, and promptly starred in a win that night at Dallas. Most promising was his effectiveness throwing downfield from a muddy pocket, including several third-down conversions in which he had to move or take a hit before delivering into a tight window.

Those plays stood out because of their rarity. Mariota has always used his mobility much more as an escape hatch than as a weapon to extend plays and attack downfield. He regularly drops his eyes and tucks the ball amid pressure rather than sliding or stepping up while looking to throw. This often creates sacks in bunches, like this year’s drubbing at Baltimore or January’s playoff loss in Foxborough.

Despite a middling pass rush, the Patriots sacked Mariota eight times that night, and Tennessee right tackle Jack Conklin’s torn ACL wasn’t the key reason. Aware of the QB’s discomfort in the pocket, New England rushed to contain Mariota, working through blockers rather than rushing upfield. He obliged by dropping his eyes and running into sacks, something he still did on occasion Monday in Dallas, despite significant progress.

The Patriots employed the “mush rush” to great effect Sunday against Aaron Rodgers, as well as timely blitzes that sprung free rushers. Expect similar tactics in Nashville. They’ll also spy Mariota at times (third downs, red zone) and could threaten the edge if Conklin (concussion) is out.

Mariota must show he’s made strides since the Foxborough debacle. Now fully healthy, he’s throwing the ball more precisely and has had time to mesh with coordinator Matt LaFleur. Another performance like the one in Dallas would rightfully create optimism about his long-term future in Tennessee.

2. Eagles’ pass rush is due for breakthrough

The Super Bowl champs have regressed in a few areas this year, but pass rush is not one of them. The team’s middling sack total (22) can mostly be attributed to bad luck.

Fletcher Cox has already matched his 2017 total with 17 QB hits (third in NFL), but has just four sacks. Michael Bennett has 3.5 sacks on 16 hits (tied for fourth), and Chris Long has just three sacks despite 10 hits. Even Derek Barnett had 2.5 QB sacks on 10 hits before going on injured reserve.

History tells us players typically turn just under half of their QB hits into sacks, and the pendulum will swing the other way. Cox has been downright dominant against both run and pass this season, and he’d be in the Defensive Player of the Year discussion with a tad more luck. Bennett remains springy and explosive despite approaching his 33rd birthday, and Long (already 33) remains dangerous due to technique and effort.

Barnett’s injury was a blow, and Brandon Graham (1.5 sacks, five QB hits) has cooled in a contract year, but the group is still producing. Improved secondary play could be enough to swing the tide.

That improvement could come Sunday night against a Cowboys attack that still lacks weapons even with Amari Cooper. Given Dallas’ health concerns up front — Connor Williams will join Travis Frederick on the sideline; Tyron Smith and Zack Martin have played through injuries — the Eagles’ D-line should have chances to cash in.

3. Have the Rams made progress off the edge?

Los Angeles paid a hefty price (third- and fifth-round picks) hoping Dante Fowler Jr. would fix its lagging edge rush. But Fowler barely made a peep on a season-high 44 snaps in New Orleans on Sunday, as Aaron Donald (four QB hits) was the only Ram to even breathe on Drew Brees.

That doesn’t mean Fowler isn’t the answer. The Saints’ tackles are the NFL’s best in protection, and he should fare better Sunday against the Seahawks’ improving but still exploitable O-line. Playing at home and with a lead could also work wonders.

But the Rams showed in New Orleans they still have concerns. Even while rushing Fowler into a major role immediately, they kept Ndamukong Suh out of position as a wide-9 end on the other side in passing situations.

Suh shined from that alignment early this season, mashing through tackles with brute strength, but opponents have countered. Many have since neutralized him by quick-setting to halt his momentum early, knowing he’s too big to dip and rip around the corner.

After discouraging results in New Orleans, that edge-rush duo will get a better litmus test against the Seahawks.

4. Packers must key on Dolphins’ screen game

Adam Gase is a master of the wideout screen, which should be Green Bay’s top defensive priority on Sunday.

Even with Ryan Tannehill, Gase often takes decisions out of his quarterback’s hands on third downs by calling tunnel screens. Thanks to Miami’s shifty receivers and athletic offensive tackles, the ploy works plenty, and it also limits turnover risks in long-yardage situations.

With Brock Osweiler starting against Mike Pettine’s elaborate blitzing defense, Gase could lean even more heavily on the tactic. That said, its effectiveness could be compromised if tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James, both battling knee injuries, are hobbled or out.

Either way, expect Gase to feature the fake-screen-and-go, with which the Patriots nailed the Packers for a 55-yard score last week. The Dolphins have several permutations of this concept, so Pettine must prepare his aggressive young secondary for many variations.

5. How will the Saints use Dez Bryant?

Bryant’s role will be limited — if he even plays — on Sunday in Cincinnati. He also will learn quickly, like Adrian Peterson last year, that Sean Payton won’t force-feed an aging former Pro Bowler.

But Payton could weaponize Bryant in Marques Colston’s old role, maximizing the 30-year-old’s strengths while hiding his declining speed and agility.

Payton and Brees attack the seams with deadly precision, and Colston made a living beating smaller corners, safeties and linebackers upfield out of the slot.

Bryant could have similar results inside, especially with so many other weapons to draw attention. He has always excelled on back-shoulder throws, using his body to box out defenders and make contested grabs. Such throws are even harder to defend out of the slot, and Brees delivers them as well as any NFL QB.

–David DeChant, Field Level Media

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Prosecutors seek reinstatement of Hernandez murder conviction

Prosecutors seek reinstatement of Hernandez murder conviction

The Supreme

Prosecutors seek reinstatement of Hernandez murder conviction

The Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts has started a review of a state legal principle that wiped out the murder conviction of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez after his suicide.

On Thursday, the justices heard arguments from prosecutors as to why convictions shouldn’t be erased if those found guilty die before an appellate court has reviewed facts of the trial.

Hernandez was convicted on April 15, 2015 of the 2013 death of semipro football player Odin Lloyd in North Attleborough, Mass.

The 27-year-old Hernandez was found dead in his prison cell on April 19, 2017, with his death ruled a suicide. He had been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The state’s highest court in 2016 refused to change the legal rule in connection with another case, but the Hernandez prosecutors have taken up the cause. Attorney General Maura Healey is supporting the effort of Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III, who is seeking to have Hernandez’s conviction reinstated.

“The current practice … does not consider the interest of the other parties who have an interest in the outcome,” said Quinn, per the Boston Globe, before arguing the case Thursday. He said victims’ relatives, jurors and the public have interest in such cases.

After the hearing Thursday, Quinn told reporters this about the Hernandez case: “He goes through a full trial, a jury who speaks for the public convicts him and because he dies, in this case commits suicide, the whole thing is wiped out like it never happened? It’s not fair or just and should be changed.”

The Supreme Judicial Court is expected to take several months to issue a decision.

The Patriots selected Hernandez in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He teamed with Rob Gronkowski to form a formidable tight end duo and before the 2012 season, New England signed Hernandez to a five-year, $41 million contract extension that would have expired in 2018.

The team released him the day of his arrest in the Lloyd case.

–Field Level Media

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Seahawks attempt to deal Rams division defeat

Seahawks attempt to deal Rams division defeat

Seahawks attempt to deal Rams division defeat

Undefeated no more, the Los Angeles Rams are unbeaten on the NFC West portion of the schedule and it took a bit of bravado, or perhaps faith, to keep it that way.

The Rams will play host to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at the Los Angeles Coliseum in a rematch of a Week 5 game in the Pacific Northwest when the visitor’s used a last-second change of heart to pull off the victory.

The Rams were going to punt on fourth down, clinging to a 33-31 lead with 1:39 remaining. The Seahawks called a timeout to stop the clock, and in the interim the Rams sent their offense back on the field. Jared Goff earned a first down on a quarterback sneak and the Rams were able to run out the clock.

Heading into Sunday’s game between the top two teams in the division, that late quarterback sneak resonates for both teams.

For the Rams (8-1), the rallying cry was their determination to come together and do whatever needs to be done to win a game. For the Seahawks (4-4), they head to Los Angeles this weekend knowing that one of the top teams in the NFL needed a daring play to finish them off.

Adding to the Seahawks’ sense of confidence this week, even after a home defeat to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, is that all four of their defeats have come in close games.

“We’ve figured out how we want to play,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. “We know who we are. We have a real sense for that. That’s very helpful. That’s an accomplishment in itself. Now we have to find a way to get the wins. You look at every game that we didn’t win has been a game we had a chance to win a football game at the end or doing something to really be in charge of it. So it’s close.”

The Rams, though, figure to be highly motivated after losing their first game of the season Sunday at New Orleans. And they are returning home where they have averaged 34 points per game.

“We are disappointed that we lost, but we are going to fix it,” Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald said, according to nfl.com. “We aren’t panicking, we aren’t worried about anything, we are going to make the corrections and fix it and be better.”

A Rams victory would nearly seal the NFC West for the second consecutive season. The Rams would have a five-game lead in the division, needing one more victory to clinch it, and would own the tiebreaker against the Seahawks.

One area for the Rams’ defense to improve is with the big play. The Rams have given up the most passing plays in the NFL of 40 yards or more (11) and the fourth most passing plays of 30 yards or more (34).

The Seahawks, though, are 26th in the NFL in offense with 339.9 yards per game. While the Rams are third in the league with 33.2 points per game, the Seahawks are 17th at 23.5.

Rams cornerback Aqib Talib, whose absence has resulted in big plays from opponents, reported progress with his ankle injury, but still figures to be a few weeks away from returning. Kick returner Pharoh Cooper is eligible to return this week from an ankle injury, but still might be another week away from coming back.

Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin (knee) could be ready to face the Rams, while running back Chris Carson (hip) could also play this weekend. Neither participated in practice Wednesday. Seahawks starting right guard D.J. Fluker (calf) also did not practice Wednesday.

–Field Level Media

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Rams, other LA teams express condolences over shootings

Rams, other LA teams express condolences over shootings

Rams, other LA teams express condolences over shootings

The Los Angeles Rams expressed condolences over the mass shooting that killed 12 people at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Wednesday night.

Rams coach Sean McVay said Thursday that a moment of silence will be held prior to Sunday’s home game against the Seattle Seahawks.

The Rams practice in Thousand Oaks at California Lutheran University, which is located less than five miles away from the shooting site. Many players, coaches and staff members live in the area.

“The Los Angeles Rams organization is heartbroken by the horrific shooting that took place last night in our community of Thousand Oaks,” the Rams said in a statement on Thursday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and our entire community.”

McVay said the Rams held a team meeting to discuss the situation.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and the victims that were affected by this terrible act that took place in our area,” McVay said. “It always gives you a perspective on — sometimes, I know, me, personally — you get upset about losing a game or whatever and it kind of brings you back down and you really realize what’s important in life and sometimes you take some of these things for granted.”

Rams quarterback Jared Goff was one of the many players who expressed their thoughts on social media.

“Heartbroken for our community. Thinking about everyone involved as well as friends and family of the victims. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers” Goff wrote on Twitter.

Punter Johnny Hekker expressed his concern for the victims and pledged to help affected families.

“Praying comfort and healing to those affected by this senseless shooting. Thank you to the first responders who put their lives on the line to protect and serve us every day,” Hekker said on Twitter.

“Thousand Oaks is my home; I will do everything in my power to help those in need of support.”

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Rams, other LA teams, express condolences over shootings

Rams, other LA teams, express condolences over shootings

Rams, other LA teams, express condolences over shootings

The Los Angeles Rams expressed condolences over the mass shooting that killed 12 people at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Wednesday night.

The Rams practice in Thousand Oaks at California Lutheran University. Many players, coaches and staff members live in the area.

“The Los Angeles Rams organization is heartbroken by the horrific shooting that took place last night in our community of Thousand Oaks,” the Rams said in a statement on Thursday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and our entire community.”

Rams quarterback Jared Goff was one of the many players who expressed their thoughts on social media.

“Heartbroken for our community. Thinking about everyone involved as well as friends and family of the victims. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers” Goff wrote on Twitter.

Punter Johnny Hekker expressed his concern for the victims and pledged to help affected families.

“Praying comfort and healing to those affected by this senseless shooting. Thank you to the first responders who put their lives on the line to protect and serve us every day,” Hekker said on Twitter.

“Thousand Oaks is my home; I will do everything in my power to help those in need of support.”

Read More 176 Words

McCown to start at QB Sunday for Jets

McCown to start at QB Sunday for Jets

Josh McCown

McCown to start at QB Sunday for Jets

Josh McCown will start at quarterback on Sunday for the New York Jets, head coach Todd Bowles said Thursday.

It will be the first start of the season for the 16-year veteran. McCown, 39, started 13 games for the Jets last season.

Starter Sam Darnold suffered a foot injury last week in a loss to Miami that has limited him in practice. Bowles said, however, that Darnold could dress and back up McCown.

If Darnold is ruled out, the Jets will activate Davis Webb from the practice squad for the game against Buffalo.

Darnold has struggled during the Jets’ three-game losing streak. He’s completed 52 of 110 passes (47.3 percent) for 588 yards and thrown two touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has been sacked eight times.

–Field Level Media

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Jaguars in must-win mode at Indianapolis

Jaguars in must-win mode at Indianapolis

Mired

Jaguars in must-win mode at Indianapolis

Mired in a four-game losing streak, the Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t shying away from the magnitude of Sunday’s trip to face the Indianapolis Colts.

“It’s a thousand percent must-win,” linebacker Myles Jack said. “We can’t lose another game.”

Despite a 3-1 start, the Jaguars sit tied with the Colts at 3-5, 2 1/2 games behind AFC South-leading Houston. Indianapolis and Jacksonville both enter off a bye, but the Colts have won their last two games by a combined 46 points.

“We’re in this 1-0 mode, and just get this one right here,” Indy head coach Frank Reich said. “As we get closer down the road, maybe [the division race] comes into play.”

Despite a spate of injuries and offensive struggles, the Jaguars also believe they can make a run.

“We know we still have a chance,” quarterback Blake Bortles said. “We have to play really well for the whole second half of the season.”

Central to that pursuit will be running back Leonard Fournette, who appears to finally be over his hamstring injury. Fournette has just 71 rushing yards in parts of two games this season and hasn’t played since Week 4.

“I know everyone is fired up to have him back in the lineup,” Bortles said. “I know I am excited to watch him run. I know guys are excited to block for him and see him go.

“…Not having him has made us change some of the things we do.”

Fournette had just 57 yards on 20 carries in one game against Indianapolis last season, but the Jaguars won the season series by a combined score of 57-10. Jacksonville totaled 14 sacks, including 10 in the first meeting.

But pressure will be harder to come by Sunday, as the Colts have allowed just 10 sacks (second best in the NFL) and none since Oct. 4. The Jaguars’ talented pass rush, meanwhile, ranks 25th with a modest 19 sacks.

But quarterback Andrew Luck is not taking Jacksonville’s defense lightly.

“They have really good players all over,” Luck said. “They’ve got guys who can cover, they’ve got really, really good linebackers, they’ve got a really stout, strong defensive line and they play the system really well.”

Luck also praised cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who said Luck was not “that good” in an interview with GQ this offseason.

“Ramsey’s a stud,” Luck said. “He’s physically very gifted. I think he plays football very smart and sharply, if you will. So we know whoever’s over there — if he goes with T.Y. [Hilton], if he doesn’t — that it’s tough work all day long.”

Hilton’s production has been modest (26 catches, 353 yards, four TDs), as Luck has hit 11 different players for scores, already a single-season franchise record and tied for second-most in NFL history. But Hilton doesn’t care as long as the offense is clicking.

“They’re doing a great job of keeping everybody involved, everybody going, and keeping the defense off balance,” Hilton said.

Colts safeties Clayton Geathers (knee) and Mike Mitchell (calf) were the most notable players to miss Wednesday’s practice.

The Jaguars could be without cornerbacks A.J. Bouye (calf) and Quenton Meeks (knee). Bortles is practicing in full despite a left shoulder issue.

–Field Level Media

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NFL trailblazer Triplett dies at 92

NFL trailblazer Triplett dies at 92

Wally Triplett, a Detroit Lions running back who

NFL trailblazer Triplett dies at 92

Wally Triplett, a Detroit Lions running back who was the first African-American to be drafted and play in the NFL in a regular-season game, has died at 92.

“Wally is one of the true trailblazers in American sports history,” the Lions said in a news release announcing his death. “He resides among the great men who helped reshape the game as they faced the challenges of segregation and discrimination.

“His contributions date back to his days at Penn State as the Nittany Lions’ first African-American starter and varsity letter-winner, highlighted by his appearance in the first integrated Cotton Bowl. Wally’s legacy also reaches beyond breaking color barriers, having served in the United States Army during the Korean War.

“We fondly reflect on his great achievements and send our heartfelt condolences to the Triplett family.”

The Lions selected Triplett in the 19th round of the 1949 NFL Draft and played for the Lions in 1949 and 1950. While two other black players were taken before him in that draft, he was the first to play in the regular season.

As a rookie, he set a team record at the time for the longest run from scrimmage with an 80-yard touchdown at Green Bay on Oct. 30, 1949.

A year later, on Oct. 29, 1950, he set a league single-game record with 294 yards on four kickoff returns, including a 97-yard touchdown. The record for his total yardage that day lasted for 44 years and is still No. 3 in NFL history. His kickoff return average of 73.5 yards that day remains an NFL single-game record.

Just a little more than two weeks later, on Nov. 15, 1950, he was assigned to the 594th Field Artillery Battalion after being drafted into the U.S. Army. He served two years during the Korean War and later returned to the NFL to play with the Chicago Cardinals in 1952-53.

A native of LaMott, Pa., Triplett was inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame in 2018.

In his NFL career, he returned 18 kickoffs for 664 yards — an average of 36.9 yards per return. He also gained 496 yards from scrimmage.

–Field Level Media

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Giants QB Manning running out of chances

Giants QB Manning running out of chances

The New York Giants are back from a bye, which means questions

Giants QB Manning running out of chances

The New York Giants are back from a bye, which means questions about Eli Manning’s future once again are percolating.

The Giants are saddled with a 1-7 record after five consecutive losses, and New York coach Pat Shurmur refused to guarantee that Manning’s starting quarterback job is safe past Monday night’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.

“You worry about this week. We got the 49ers,” Manning told reporters. “I got a job to do, and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”

The embattled Manning continues to deflect questions about his future. As for feeling any urgency, Manning says he does.

Not for himself but for the team.

“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.”

The stagnant offense has scored 20 or fewer points in six of eight games, including the past three.

The Giants rank 27th in scoring offense (18.8 points per game) and 20th in total offense (353.2 yards per game) and Manning is aware many opportunities have been squandered.

“I think it’s just scoring more points in the red zone,” Manning said. “I feel like we’re moving the ball well. I feel like we’ve made improvements between the first four games, and the second four games. Getting yards and moving the ball, and getting down there, and being a little bit more explosive. Now, we need to translate that into more touchdowns.”

The 37-year-old Manning has completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 2,377 yards, but has just eight touchdown passes. He has been intercepted six times — five coming in the past four games.

The rise in turnovers prompted Shurmur to consider making a move and installing rookie Kyle Lauletta. But he weighed the situation and decided to stick with Manning.

“I also explained to Eli that everybody needs to play better and as we go through this, it’s important that we’re not ‘almost’ in these games, we do what we have to do to get it over the top and win football games,” Shurmur told reporters. “We’ll just take it from there. But I spoke to the team about that, and then I also spoke to Eli about that specifically.”

Perhaps Lauletta’s recent arrest for attempting to elude police and nearly striking an officer in an area of heavy traffic bought Manning some extra time.

But the veteran does have empathy for the mistake made by Lauletta.

“I understand it’s a tough, tough situation.” Manning said of Lauletta. “Just try to support him, and knowing that this will get forgotten about. It could be a lot worse. It’ll kind of be water under the bridge in a little bit.”

–Field Level Media

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Packers home to face Dolphins, start playoff push

Packers home to face Dolphins, start playoff push

The Green

Packers home to face Dolphins, start playoff push

The Green Bay Packers return home to face the Miami Dolphins, teetering on the brink of their playoff lives.

“I just feel like we have to play better, consistently, 60 minutes, try to eliminate some of the lulls we’ve been having,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “We have to play with confidence and play up to the level we’re capable of playing.”

The Packers are in the middle of a stretch of four road games in a span of five weeks. Losses at the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots left the Packers at 3-4-1. They trail Chicago (5-3) and Minnesota (5-3-1) in the NFC North and are in 10th place in the NFC. After this week, it’s back on the road to face the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday before a showdown with the Vikings.

“It’s always good to be at home,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “You have to take care of your homefield advantage That’s something that’s a great part of our focus this week. Really, the benefits of being at home is the repetition, particularly when you get to the end of the week. You’ve got to make sure you take advantage of that. To play in front of your home crowd, that’s something that we’ve always enjoyed. We also know what’s coming after it, too.”

The Dolphins (5-4) are in the thick of the playoff chase, even with their muddled quarterback situation. Coach Adam Gase announced that Brock Osweiler will make his fifth consecutive start in place of Ryan Tannehill (shoulder). Osweiler is 2-2 in his four starts but he failed to get the offense into the end zone in last week’s 13-6 win over the Jets.

“Obviously, as an offense, you want to score a lot more,” Osweiler said. “We understand that we’ve underachieved in some football games, but we’re working very hard to get that cleaned up so that we can score more touchdowns and we can score more points. This offense has very lofty goals. We set the standard very high for what we’re trying to accomplish every week and sometimes you’re not going to accomplish that. But I can promise you, it’s not from a lack of work ethic.”

Against the Jets, the kickoff temperature was 87. It will be hovering around freezing for Sunday at Lambeau Field.

“For me, it’s 3 hours,” Gase said. “You’ve got heated benches, you’ve got everything under the sun to keep you warm. The thing is, I’m just going off of my experience, I’ve been up there when it’s really cold with a nice, strong breeze. That’s when I’d be like, ‘You feel this. There’s a difference here.’ That’s what I think they really have an advantage and those guys really understand what an advantage that is for them.”

–Field Level Media

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Panthers can’t recover from early deficit in blowout loss

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Carolina Panthers fell behind early and never recovered.

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense used an early surge and a first-quarter defensive touchdown to jump out to a big lead as the Steelers pounded the Panthers 52-21 on Thursday night for their fifth straight victory.

"I tell you what,

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Carolina Panthers fell behind early and never recovered.

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense used an early surge and a first-quarter defensive touchdown to jump out to a big lead as the Steelers pounded the Panthers 52-21 on Thursday night for their fifth straight victory.

“I tell you what, it sure enough was a humbling piece of pie,” Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said. “It was a learning experience for a lot of guys. If we are as good as we expect us to be, we have to find a way to win games in a hostile environment.”

The Panthers (6-3) saw their three-game winning streak come to an abrupt halt in a city where they’ve never won. Carolina fell to 0-4 all-time in Pittsburgh and was never really in it after the Steelers scored 21 points in the game’s first 11 minutes.

“We had a lot of our noses bleeding early on and we just have to stop it,” Newton said. “We need to find ways to keep things going in our favor. We just got outplayed today.”

Newton’s showdown with Roethlisberger also never materialized.

Roethlisberger finished 22 of 25 passes for 328 yards with five touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. The Steelers, who punted for the first time with 9:34 to play, were 8 of 9 on third down with Roethlisberger in the game.

Newton completed 23 of 29 passes for 193 yards and a pair of flips to Christian McCaffrey that the second-year running back turned into scores.

The Steelers sacked Newton five times and rarely let him get comfortable as the Panthers’ offensive line struggled against the pass rush. Entering Thursday’s game, Carolina allowed just 12 sacks, second-fewest through eight games in franchise history.

The biggest rush came on the 11th snap of the game when Newton threw off his back foot out of the Carolina end zone while trying to avoid getting sacked. Pittsburgh linebacker Vince Williams raced under the floater and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown to give the Steelers a 14-7 lead they never came close to relinquishing.

“I was just trying to throw the ball away,” Newton said. “When you’re getting slung around, you can’t really control the accuracy. I hit the ground, I looked up and it was an interception.”

The Panthers scored 99 points in their last nine quarters entering Thursday’s game. That included a franchise-record 35 first-half point outburst during a 14-point win against Tampa Bay last week.

MCaffrey finished with 138 yards of total offense and accounted for all three Carolina scores, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

“This league is hard, this league will humble you real fast,” Carolina TE Greg Olsen said. “Hopefully, that’s the lesson we get out of tonight. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We found out tonight that we have some work to do to be in that upper echelon right now.”

The Steelers’ 52 points are tied for the most ever allowed by the Panthers in franchise history. The last time it happened came during a 52-9 loss, Dec. 24, 2000, against Oakland.

The Steelers, who scored on seven of their first eight drives, held a 17-point halftime lead and increased the advantage to 38-14 on the opening series of the second half.

Roethlisberger’s fourth touchdown pass came two plays after Carolina safety Eric Reid was ejected for an unnecessary hit to the head while Roethlisberger slid for a first down.

“It was a bang-bang play,” Reid said. “He was scrambling and I’m trying to do my job and tackle the person carrying the ball. I understand the NFL is trying to protect quarterbacks, but when they’re running the ball they’re running backs.”

The hit sparked a brief fracas with members of the Steelers’ offensive line, but ended with Roethlisberger and Reid sharing a fist bump and a tap on the helmet after the play.

“I told him that I didn’t intend to hurt him by any means,” Reid said. “I was just trying to do my job, and he said “no hard feelings.”

The Panthers plan to take the extended weekend to regroup for a road game at Detroit on Nov. 18. Carolina is 6-2 all-time against Detroit.

“When you get put behind the eight ball that kind of deters you from the given game plan,” Newton said. “The guys in the locker room seem to have a grasp on what’s at stake. We know we’re capable of being a deep contender playoff team.”

___

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

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Roethlisberger throws for 5 TDs, Steelers rip Panthers 52-21

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't playing like a team missing Le'Veon Bell.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 328 yards and five touchdowns, James Conner ran for 65 yards and a score before leaving late with a possible concussion and the Steelers pounded the Carolina Panthers 52-21 on Thursday night for their fifth

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t playing like a team missing Le’Veon Bell.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 328 yards and five touchdowns, James Conner ran for 65 yards and a score before leaving late with a possible concussion and the Steelers pounded the Carolina Panthers 52-21 on Thursday night for their fifth straight victory.

Antonio Brown added eight receptions for 96 yards — including a 53-yard touchdown in the second quarter — to cap an eventful day that began with the star wide receiver being cited for reckless driving after police clocked Brown’s Porsche driving over 100 mph down a busy highway in the northern city suburbs.

While Bell — a three-time Pro Bowl running back who still hasn’t signed his one-year franchise tender — tweeted his thoughts as he watched on television, the Steelers (6-2-1) rolled on without him. Bell has until next Tuesday to sign a contract if he wants to play this season. His teammates have long since tired of talking about Bell’s status and at this point, the AFC North leaders appear to be doing just fine on their own.

Carolina not so much.

The Panthers (6-3) saw their three-game winning streak come to an abrupt halt in a city where they’ve never won. Carolina fell to 0-4 all-time in Pittsburgh and was never really in it after the Steelers scored 21 points in the game’s first 11 minutes.

Cam Newton completed 23 of 29 for 193 yards and a pair of flips to Christian McCaffrey that the second-year running back turned into scores but Newton’s showdown with Roethlisberger never materialized. The Steelers sacked Newton five times and rarely let him get comfortable.

Newton didn’t help matters when he threw off his back foot out of the Carolina end zone while trying to avoid getting sacked in the first quarter. Pittsburgh linebacker Vince Williams raced under the floater and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown to give the Steelers a 14-7 lead they never came close to relinquishing.

McCaffrey finished with 138 yards total offense (77 yards rushing, 61 yards receiving) and accounted for all three Panther scores but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Pittsburgh’s 52 points matched the most ever surrendered by the Panthers in franchise history. Carolina allowed the same total in a 52-9 loss to Oakland on Dec. 24, 2000.

The Steelers held the 36-year-old Roethlisberger out of practice during the short week in an effort to keep him fresh. Roethlisberger responded with one of the finest performances of his career, completing 22 of 25 passes while spreading the ball to nine different players on his way to a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3.

Roethlisberger’s first pass turned into a 75-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster on Pittsburgh’s first offensive snap and his last came on a 6-yard toss to rookie Jaylen Samuels on the first play of the fourth quarter.

In between he did a little bit of everything. Roethlisberger even showed off his legs, scrambling for 18 yards in the third quarter on a play that ended with Carolina safety Eric Reid getting ejected for targeting after Reid appeared to dive at Roethlisberger’s head as the quarterback attempted to slide.

Reed, signed by Carolina in September six months after filing a grievance alleging collusion by the NFL to prevent teams from signing him because of his participation in racial injustice protests during the national anthem alongside former San Francisco 49ers teammate Colin Kaepernick, went out to shake Roethlisberger’s hand as a peace offering before making his way to the Carolina locker room.

UP NEXT

Panthers: Travel to Detroit on Nov. 18 to take on the Lions. Carolina is 6-2 all-time against Detroit.

Steelers: Visit Jacksonville on Nov. 18. The Jaguars beat Pittsburgh twice on the road last season, including a 45-42 upset in the divisional round of the playoffs.

___

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

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Here comes Who Dey vs. Who Dat. Say what?

Here comes Who Dey vs. Who Dat.

Say what?

The Who Dat folks from New Orleans go head-on with the Who Dey fans in Cincinnati on Sunday. And don't ask which group first came up with its catchy phrase and odd rendering of the English language.

"Who Dey? I don't understand. I'm baffled,"

Here comes Who Dey vs. Who Dat.

Say what?

The Who Dat folks from New Orleans go head-on with the Who Dey fans in Cincinnati on Sunday. And don’t ask which group first came up with its catchy phrase and odd rendering of the English language.

“Who Dey? I don’t understand. I’m baffled,” says Saints running back Mark Ingram. “It’s like, did they copy us? Or not? I don’t know. Who Dat! Who Dat! Who Dat! …”

What anyone might ask is whether the Saints (7-1), coming off three huge victories, including handing the Rams their first loss, are ripe for a letdown. Drew Brees and company face Philadelphia next week.

“They’re going to be hungry coming off the bye week,” Ingram says of the Bengals. “They have playoff aspirations. They have aspirations of winning their division. So every game is important to them just like it is to us. So we’re going up there in foreign territory, hostile territory, and we’ve got to go make it happen. We’re a good team. We respect them but we’re always worried about this building, this team, what we need to do to put ourselves in position to have success.”

It might be difficult for New Orleans to find a way to lose this one, though. In the past three games, the Bengals (5-3) have given up 481 yards to Pittsburgh, then 551 to Kansas City and 576 to Tampa Bay.

Granted, those are three of the NFL’s top attacks. The Saints are up there, too, so if Cincinnati gives up 500 yards Sunday, it will become the first team to allow 500 in three consecutive games.

“We’re underachieving right now,” defensive end Carlos Dunlap admits. “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.”

Right now, the eliteness is in the Big Easy

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

The weekend began Thursday night with Pittsburgh’s 52-21 home victory over Carolina. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 328 yards and five touchdowns to help the Steelers (6-2-1) win their fifth straight. The Panthers (6-3) had won three in a row.

Off this week are Minnesota (5-3-1), Denver (3-6), Baltimore (4-5) and Houston (6-3).

Dallas (3-5) at Philadelphia (4-4)

For the Cowboys to stay real in the NFC East, they need a quick reversal of fortune. With four of those five losses coming on the road, a visit to the Linc isn’t all that enticing.

These teams meet on “Sunday Night Football” for the 10th consecutive season and 12th time overall. Dallas must find a passing game somewhere, and spring Ezekiel Elliott for some big plays, but the blocking unit has declined significantly.

The defending Super Bowl champion Eagles are 17-5 at home under coach Doug Pederson. Carson Wentz has thrown at least one TD with no more than one interception in 21 straight games, tied with Matt Ryan for the longest streak in NFL history. He has a new target in Golden Tate. The wideout was obtained from Detroit, for which he had eight catches for 132 yards and two TDs vs. the Cowboys on Sept. 30.

Seattle (4-4) at Los Angeles Rams (8-1)

Coming off their first defeat, the Rams will remember they struggled to win 33-31 at Seattle last month. A victory would give LA a 4½-game edge in the NFC West and pretty much shut it down.

Both teams boast potent ground games, with the big star being LA’s Todd Gurley. The Rams are No. 1 in the NFL with Gurley at 868 yards rushing; he also has 12 TD runs; he has scored in 12 consecutive games, the longest regular-season streak in team history.

The Seahawks are tops in rushing since Week 3 with 159.8 yards per game after concentrating more on the ground game following an 0-2 start.

Arizona (2-6) at Kansas City (8-1)

The Cardinals are 0-4-1 at Kansas City, and this isn’t exactly the best time to be visiting. Arizona has the NFL’s worst offense and ranks 31st in pass defense. All the Chiefs do, with Patrick Mahomes, Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, is score, score and score some more.

But Cardinals star receiver Larry Fitzgerald could make some history. Fitzgerald needs 33 yards receiving to pass Terrell Owens (15,934) for second in NFL history. Fitz needs 14 receptions to pass Jerry Rice (San Francisco, 1,281) for the NFL record for receptions with one team.

Detroit (3-5) at Chicago (5-3)

A very lopsided series recently in favor of Detroit, which has won nine of 10. Indeed, Chicago hasn’t won an NFC North game in its past 10 attempts.

But the Lions allowed 10 sacks — yes, 10 — to Minnesota last week, and Chicago has an even better defense than the Vikings.

The Bears also are decently balanced and rank fifth in scoring. Still, their calling card is on D, and they scored twice that way against Buffalo: Eddie Jackson’s 65-yard fumble recovery and Leonard Floyd’s 19-yard interception return.

Washington (5-3) at Tampa Bay (3-5)

The Redskins were routed at home by Atlanta last weekend and lost three key players, including both starting guards. Adrian Peterson has three consecutive 100-yard rushing games against Tampa Bay, including last year with the Cardinals. Can he find room to roam behind a makeshift offensive line?

Tampa sure can pass and sure can score, but it often falls so far behind that it can’t catch up. The Bucs have been outscored 103-27 in the first half of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s past three starts, all losses.

Still, Fitzpatrick has three games with four or more TD passes, the most in the NFC this season, and has been much better than erstwhile starter Jameis Winston.

New England (7-2) at Tennessee (4-4)

Here we go again: New England is on a roll as Tom Brady makes everyone around him better.

The Patriots have won six straight (seven in a row overall against Tennessee). Brady will play in his 300th game, including postseason, and will join Brett Favre (326) as the only NFL quarterbacks to appear in 300 games. Brady needs three TD passes to tie Peyton Manning (579) for the most in NFL history, also including playoffs.

Tennessee comes off a solid victory at Dallas and coach Mike Vrabel had his biggest playing days in New England, where he won three titles.

“We’ve just gotten ourselves to the surface where there’s a little bit of air, a little bit of water,” Vrabel says. “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.”

Atlanta (4-4) at Cleveland (2-6-1)

Injuries seemed to ruin the Falcons’ season, yet here they are at .500 and with six games upcoming against teams currently owning losing records. Matt Ryan is having an outstanding year, even while overshadowed in the NFC South by Brees and Cam Newton.

With 13 yards receiving Sunday, Julio Jones will reach 10,000 in his career and become the fastest player to reach that milestone (104 games).

The Browns have dropped four straight, and are 0-1 under interim coach Gregg Williams. But their .786 winning percentage (11-3) against the Falcons is the team’s highest against any opponent.

Los Angeles Chargers (6-2) at Oakland (1-7)

Another guy not getting enough recognition for a superb passing season is Philip Rivers while Patrick Mahomes grabs the AFC West headlines. Playing the woeful Raiders shouldn’t hurt Rivers’ resume: He has completed 75 of 100 passes for 994 yards, six TDs and no INTs in his past three outings vs. Oakland for a 126.0 rating.

Plus, the Chargers have won five straight for their best record at the season’s midpoint since 2006.

Meanwhile, the Raiders are such a mess that they have been outscored 55-3 over the past five quarters and are allowing a 113.9 passer rating, on pace for the worst in franchise history.

Miami (5-4) at Green Bay (3-4-1)

Somehow, the Dolphins are a wild-card contender despite being outgained by 704 yards and outscored by 38 points. Much of that can be attributed to the past three road games, in which they were outscored 107-47.

On the bright side, Miami ranks first with 15 interceptions, including four last week against the Jets.

Aaron Rodgers, of course, doesn’t throw picks. Rodgers has thrown 15 touchdowns to one interception, leading the league with a 0.3 percent interception percentage. And RB Aaron Jones leads the NFL at 6.03 yards per carry.

Jacksonville (3-5) at Indianapolis (3-5)

Two 3-5 marks that look much different. Jacksonville has dropped four in a row and is among the most disappointing clubs in football. Indy is giving a decent accounting of itself despite a lack of talent.

There’s plenty of skill at quarterback, however. Andrew Luck, who missed 2017 with a shoulder injury, is back in fine form and has not been sacked in his past 154 pass attempts dating to the second offensive play against New England on Oct. 4. It’s the longest stretch of his pro career.

Colts K Adam Vinatieri will be honored for breaking the NFL’s career scoring record two weeks ago at Oakland. Vinatieri needs one win to tie George Blanda (209) for most regular-season wins in league history.

Buffalo (2-6) at New York Jets (3-6)

With all that record scoring throughout the league, this could be an 8-5 snoozer.

Sam Darnold has regressed behind center for the Jets and now has a foot injury. But let’s be fair: Darnold has very little help, especially with versatile RB Bilal Powell on IR. Last year’s starter, veteran QB Josh McCown, steps in.

As for Buffalo, well, maybe getting rid of Tyrod Taylor wasn’t such a wise move.

New York Giants (1-7) at San Francisco (2-7), Monday night

This isn’t likely to be as much of a sleep-inducer as Bills-Jets. At least a national TV audience gets to watch Saquon Barkley, the most dynamic rookie to hit New York since Odell Beckham Jr. — and without all the baggage.

San Francisco has its own intriguing story after rookie QB Nick Mullens tore up Bay Area rival Oakland last week. Mullens joined Hall of Famers Jim Kelly and Fran Tarkenton as the only players with at least 250 yards passing, three TDs and no INTs in his career debut.

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AP Sports Writer Joe Kay and Brett Martel contributed to this report.

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Rams CB Marcus Peters to Saints coach Payton: “Keep talking”

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Cornerback Marcus Peters criticized himself for playing poorly when his Los Angeles Rams lost at New Orleans last weekend.

That doesn't mean Saints coach Sean Payton can say anything about it, however.

Peters reacted sharply in the Rams' locker room Thursday when asked about postgame comments by Payton

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Cornerback Marcus Peters criticized himself for playing poorly when his Los Angeles Rams lost at New Orleans last weekend.

That doesn’t mean Saints coach Sean Payton can say anything about it, however.

Peters reacted sharply in the Rams’ locker room Thursday when asked about postgame comments by Payton in which the veteran coach said the Saints liked the matchup of receiver Michael Thomas going against Peters, a former Pro Bowl selection. Peters also claimed Payton said something to him or his teammates during New Orleans’ 45-35 victory.

“Tell Sean Payton to keep talking that (expletive),” Peters said. “We’re going to see him soon. You feel me?”

New Orleans sent the Rams (8-1) to their first defeat of the season with a 487-yard offensive game last Sunday.

Thomas caught 12 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown, none bigger than the 72-yard touchdown catch on which he burned past Peters to seal the win. All told, Thomas made six catches when Peters was in coverage on him.

“They were going to travel Marcus to him, and that was fine by us,” Payton said afterward. “We thought we really liked that matchup, a lot.”

Peters repeatedly blamed himself for having a bad game, and he refused to echo defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ claim that he had put together a poor scheme that didn’t help Peters.

After a few seconds to think about it Thursday, Peters had more to say about Payton.

“Yeah, because I liked what he was saying on the sidelines, too,” Peters said. “So tell him, keep talking that (expletive), and I hope he sees me soon. And then we’re going to have a nice little bowl of gumbo together.”

Peters didn’t elaborate on what Payton said on the sideline, but that delicious dinner date is a distinct possibility for January.

The Saints (7-1) and the Rams are the only one-loss teams in the NFC, putting both on track for first-round postseason byes if they can maintain their outstanding starts.

Los Angeles hosts the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

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Frustrated WR Jackson not giving up on Bucs playoff hopes

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — DeSean Jackson's frustration grows by the loss.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have dropped five of six games following a 2-0 start, and the veteran receiver doesn't want anyone to buy the notion that all it'll take to make him happy is to catch more passes Sunday against the Washington

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — DeSean Jackson’s frustration grows by the loss.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have dropped five of six games following a 2-0 start, and the veteran receiver doesn’t want anyone to buy the notion that all it’ll take to make him happy is to catch more passes Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

The Bucs (3-5) haven’t made the playoffs since 2007, and the only way to change that trend is to start winning.

Jackson, who signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent in 2017 after spending the previous three seasons with the Redskins, thinks he can make a difference. He fielded questions this week for the first time since he reportedly asked to be traded last month.

“Whatever them conversations were, they were between us,” Jackson, when asked if he approached general manager Jason Licht before the Oct. 30 NFL trade deadline.

“It’s over and done with now, and I’m looking forward,” the five-time 1,000-yard receiver added. “We’ve got eight games left to continue to try our best to get in the playoffs and win here.”

The 11th-year pro has rebounded from a subpar debut with Tampa Bay a year ago to average 22.4 yards per reception in 2018.

But since beginning the season with consecutive 100-yard performances, that included TD catches of 58 and 75 yards in victories over New Orleans and Philadelphia, the 31-year-old’s production has curtailed.

Through eight games, Jackson has 28 catches for 626 yards and four touchdowns, including a 60-yard scoring reception against Cincinnati that gave him the most TDs of 60-plus yards (24) in NFL history.

At the risk of sounding selfish, Jackson concedes he would like to be more involved in the offense. He began his career in Philadelphia, where he had three 1,000-yard seasons in six years. He had two in three seasons with the Redskins.

“It’s just knowing what’s in this locker room, knowing the players we have all across the board. … That’s been more of the frustration for me,” Jackson said. “It’s not individual. It’s more (about) accomplishing what we all want to accomplish.”

The NFC East-leading Redskins (5-3) are coming off a lopsided loss to Atlanta that snapped a three-game winning streak.

Bouncing back on the road doesn’t figure to be easy after losing three starters — receiver Paul Richardson and guards Brandon Scherff and Shawn Lauvao — to season-ending injuries against the Falcons.

Alex Smith is coming off throwing for a season-best 306 yards last week, and coach Jay Gruden is counting on leading rusher Adrian Peterson’s skill and experience to help him to adjust to changes of the offensive line and continue to be productive.

“He just goes through his reads like he normally would. It doesn’t matter who’s blocking for him — at guard, center, tackle, tight end, fullback … or receiver,” Gruden said. “He’s just going to go through his progressions and make his cuts and do what he does.”

Some things to know about the Redskins and Buccaneers:

NICE TO MEET YOU

After placing Scherff and Lauvao on injured reserve Monday because they need season-ending surgeries, and with left tackle Trent Williams recovering from an operation on his right thumb, the Redskins are putting together a makeshift offensive line. They signed three unemployed linemen — tackle Austin Howard, along with guards Jonathan Cooper and Luke Bowanko — and at least one is expected to start Sunday.

“The big thing, I think, is on the road, crowd noise, against a good D-line,” Smith said. “I think those things, all the calls, all the communication that has to take place — run, pass, third down — all the different looks, the thousands and thousands of reps that we’ve had — you try to condense into a few days to get ready.”

FITZMAGIC

Ryan Fitzpatrick will make his sixth start of the season at quarterback for the Bucs, who benched Jameis Winston after a road loss to Cincinnati two weeks ago. Tampa Bay has been outscored 103-27 in the first half of Fitzpatrick’s past three starts — all losses.

Like Smith, Fitzpatrick is in his 14th season. Smith was the first pick in the 2005 draft. Fitzpatrick was a seventh-round pick, No. 250 overall.

“He was 249 picks before I was,” Fitzpatrick said, “but we’re both still here.”

CAN PETERSON BOUNCE BACK?

Peterson entered this week fifth in the league in rushing with 604 yards at age 33, but he is coming off a poor game: He only ran nine times for 17 yards in the loss to Atlanta. Things might not be easy with a reconstructed O-line.

“I always say: The play looked great in practice when you draw it up and you run through it at practice. But when you’ve got guys coming at 100 mph, things change,” Peterson said.

NO COMEBACKS YET

The Redskins have not managed to win a game in which they’ve trailed this season. And during Gruden’s 4½ years in Washington, the team only has 15 come-from-behind victories; only five clubs have fewer in that span.

“That’s something that we have got to do a better job of,” Gruden said.

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