FANTASY PLAYS: Burning questions for NFL Week 10

A look at some key fantasy football questions for Week 10:

WHICH UNDER THE RADAR PLAYERS HAVE THE BEST CHANCE FOR A BIG GAME THIS WEEK?

Several Washington players — quarterback Alex Smith, running back Adrian Peterson, wide receiver Maurice Harris and tight end Vernon Davis — all have the potential to post big numbers this week against the Buccaneers.

The Bucs are top 6 or better in fantasy points allowed to each of the main offensive positions. Smith isn’t a prototypical fantasy quarterback but the Bucs have given up multiple TDs to the position in six straight games.

Look for Smith to connect often with Harris, who is coming off of a career-best performance with 10 catches for 124 yards receiving last week. With WR Paul Richardson out for the rest of the season and Jamison Crowder’s status for Week 10 unclear, Harris should be heavily targeted and has an especially good matchup against a Buccaneers defense that has been torched by fellow slot receivers this season. If Crowder plays, Harris can still be productive on the outside.

Even with the injuries to Washington’s offensive line, Peterson should bounce back from his 16-yard performance in Week 9. Tampa Bay has allowed five TDs to running backs over the past two weeks.

He’s expected to play, but tight end Jordan Reed has been limited in practices due to a back injury. He also hasn’t scored a TD since Week 1 or recorded more than 43 receiving yards in five straight games. Davis caught five passes for 62 yards in Week 9 and has a favorable matchup against Tampa Bay, which has allowed the second most receiving yards to TEs.

Another QB to consider is Andy Dalton. He takes on the Saints, who’ve allowed an average of 354 passing yards to QBs over the past three weeks.

Dalton will be without his top receiver A.J. Green, but John Ross has been practicing in full this week and has an opportunity for a big game against the Saints, who have given up the most fantasy points per game (FPPG) to WRs.

At running back, if Seattle’s Chris Carson is either limited or out again in Week 10, Mike Davis has an opportunity for a big game. He faces the Rams, who’ve allowed two TDs to RBs and at least 101 rushing yards in each of their last two games.

Saints TE Ben Watson has scored TDs in two of his last three games and takes on the Bengals, who have allowed the second most FPPG to the position.

HOW MUCH OF A FANTASY IMPACT WILL DEZ BRYANT HAVE WITH NEW ORLEANS?

Let’s face it, Bryant’s skills had already been eroding for the past few seasons. It’s not fair to expect too much from Bryant this season. Name recognition has put him back on the fantasy horizon. Asking a wideout who hasn’t played a live NFL game since last December to step in, learn a new system and be fantasy productive right away is a bit much. Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, Watson and Alvin Kamara will all easily get more targets on a weekly basis. We all know that QB Drew Brees already loves to spread the ball around.

CAN 49ERS QB NICK MULLENS BUILD UPON LAST WEEK’S PERFORMANCE AND IS HE STARTABLE IN WEEK 10?

Mullens has what appears to be a very good matchup in Week 10, however the 1-7 Giants have held opposing QBs to just one passing TD in each of the past two weeks. While WR Marquise Goodwin and TE George Kittle provide Mullens with potential TD makers, WR Pierre Garcon, his most targeted receiver last week, has been limited this week (knee) and his progress should be monitored. Mullens is definitely startable in two QB leagues, but he’s a riskier play in other formats. He has a bye in Week 11, but if he’s granted another start in Week 12, he’ll take on the Buccaneers, and they’ve given up the most FPPG to QBs entering Week 10.

WHICH COLTS TIGHT END HAS MORE FANTASY VALUE FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON, JACK DOYLE OR ERIC EBRON?

It depends on your league’s scoring format. Both have value, but in point-per-reception scoring leagues, Doyle will likely out-produce Ebron. With Doyle missing five games, QB Andrew Luck targeted Ebron 15 times in the red zone, tied for the fourth most in the NFL. However, Doyle averaged just over seven targets in the three games he’s played this season. In those same three games, Ebron averaged just four targets.

WHICH RUNNING BACKS HAVE UPSIDE BASED ON THEIR REST-OF-THE-SEASON OUTLOOK?

Cardinals running back David Johnson is an excellent buy-low candidate. Four of his last seven opponents are in the top 10 in FPPG allowed to opposing running backs.

Bears running back Jordan Howard has quietly had a productive season. His 3.5 yards per carry is underwhelming, but he’s scored five TDs through his first eight games. He is seventh in the league with 20 red zone rushing attempts, and with an average of just under 16 carries per game, Howard is a major part of the Bears offensive scheme and will continue to have ample opportunities to be fantasy relevant.

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For more Week 10 fantasy tips and insights, please visit RotoExperts: https://rotoexperts.com

Mullens set for sequel as 49ers host Giants

Mullens set for sequel as 49ers host Giants

The San

Mullens set for sequel as 49ers host Giants

The San Francisco 49ers will seek to take advantage of a one-win team for the second week in a row when they host the New York Giants on Monday night in Santa Clara, Calif.

The 49ers, who were a one-win team themselves when they hosted the Oakland Raiders in a nationally televised game last Thursday, rode the impressive NFL debut of quarterback Nick Mullens to a 34-3 romp over their San Francisco Bay Area rival.

Mullens will get a second start in place of C.J. Beathard, this time based on his 262-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Raiders rather than the thumb and wrist injuries that held Beathard out of the Oakland game.

Mullens began the week with a simple request of the media: Stop gushing over his NFL debut so that he could focus on Game 2.

“I’m done reflecting on it,” the Southern Mississippi product said Tuesday. “But it was a very cool moment. I tried to give it everything I had, and when your work pays off, it’s exciting.”

The 49ers (2-7) faced the Giants (1-7) in a similar situation at about this time last year, ending a season-opening, nine-game losing streak with a 31-21 home win over a New York team that had brought a 1-7 record to town.

Beathard was the starting quarterback in that game.

Eli Manning will once again lead the Giants, but this time he’ll have a much more talented supporting cast featuring rookie running back Saquon Barkley and star wideout Odell Beckham Jr., who was injured at the time of last year’s meeting.

Giants coach Pat Shurmur had a week to contemplate a quarterback change with his team having been on a bye after Manning was intercepted twice and sacked seven times in a 20-13 loss at Washington in Week 8.

However, the coach short-circuited any talk this week about a quarterback controversy when he announced Tuesday that Manning would retain his starting role.

“I explained to him that he’s going to start on Monday,” Shurmur said of a conversation he had with Manning. “I also explained to Eli that everybody needs to play better as we go through this. It’s important that we’re not ‘almost’ in these games and we do what we have to do to get it over the top and win football games. We’ll just take it from there.”

The Giants have lost five in a row, although their two road losses during the stretch were by just two points at Carolina and by three points at Atlanta.

The 49ers had lost six in a row, including at home by 10 points to Arizona and by 29 points to the Los Angeles Rams, before the win over Oakland.

–Field Level Media

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Rising Chargers square off with reeling Raiders

Rising Chargers square off with reeling Raiders

Two longtime AFC West rivals

Rising Chargers square off with reeling Raiders

Two longtime AFC West rivals headed full speed in opposite directions meet Sunday afternoon when the surging Los Angeles Chargers (6-2) visit the tail-spinning Oakland Raiders (1-7).

The clubs met in Week 5 in Los Angeles, with the Chargers forcing two critical turnovers en route to a 26-10 victory that was their third straight over the Raiders.

The win began a four-game run of allowing fewer than 20 points by the Los Angeles defense. The Chargers are coming off a 25-17 win at Seattle last week.

The Chargers are tied for 12th in the NFL in points allowed at 22.5 per game.

Los Angeles scored just three touchdowns in the earlier win over Oakland, two of which were set up by turnovers.

The Chargers recovered a Martavis Bryant fumble in the second quarter, then needed just six plays to cover 48 yards, a drive culminating in a Melvin Gordon 1-yard run and a 17-3 lead 1:39 before halftime.

The Raiders threatened to cut into a 20-3 deficit late in the third period before Derek Carr threw an interception to Melvin Ingram in the end zone.

The Chargers then went 96 yards in eight plays for Philip Rivers’ 13-yard, game-clinching TD pass to Virgil Green with 9:42 left in the game.

Los Angeles’ Caleb Sturgis connected on two field goals but missed one of his three PAT attempts. After not connecting on two of three PATs and his only field goal attempt in the win at Seattle, he was released by the Chargers, who have promoted Michael Badgley off the practice squad.

“We feel like we gave (Sturgis) a fair shot,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said to reporters this week. “We stayed with him as long as we could. It just came down to performance.”

The Raiders haven’t recovered from the loss to the Chargers, limited to three points in two of their next three games, a 27-3 loss to Seattle in London and a 34-3 shellacking at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers in a nationally televised game last Thursday.

Things have gone so far south for the Raiders, coach Jon Gruden made a simple goal for his team this week: Do better than in the San Francisco debacle.

“I just want to see some improvement,” he said. “I want guys to continue to work hard and develop. I’d like some guys to get healthy so we can be all we can be.”

–Field Level Media

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Ailing Redskins limp into Tampa Bay

Ailing Redskins limp into Tampa Bay

The Washington Redskins

Ailing Redskins limp into Tampa Bay

The Washington Redskins travel to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday as a first-place team dealing with a rash of injuries and a struggling offense.

The NFC East-leading Redskins (5-3) were shellacked 38-14 by the Atlanta Falcons at home last Sunday. On Monday, they put three offensive starters on season-ending injured reserve: outside receiver Paul Richardson (shoulder) and guards Brandon Scherff (torn pectoral muscle) and Shawn Lauvau (torn ACL).

In addition, left tackle Trent Williams (thumb), and third-down back Chris Thompson (rib/knee) are probably out at least another week, and the status of wide receiver Jamison Crowder (ankle) and starting tackle Morgan Moses (knee) is uncertain for Sunday.

“The big thing I think is on the road, crowd noise, against a good D-line. I think those things, all the calls, all the communication that has to take place — run, pass, third down,” quarterback Alex Smith said regarding the challenge of integrating new players on offense. “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.”

The Redskins’ offense hasn’t topped the 20-point mark in the past three games. Washington is 25th in the NFL with an average of 343.9 yards gained per game despite ranking 10th in rushing.

While injuries have hindered the passing game, Smith has struggled as well, producing a passer rating of 89.8 that would be his lowest since 2013. While Tampa Bay’s Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the NFL with 9.75 yards per attempt, Smith is 28th at 6.81.

Smith should improve those numbers Sunday’s against the NFL’s 29th-ranked defense, which is giving up 414.3 yards and an NFL-worst 34.4 points per game.

The Redskins have been front-runners thus far, never trailing in their victories nor leading in their defeats.

“Yeah, you can probably count on one hand how many comeback wins we’ve had since I’ve been here, and that’s something that we have to do a better job of and just keep grinding,” fifth-year Washington head coach Jay Gruden said. “It’s just a mindset really.”

The Buccaneers (3-5) remain on the fringes of the playoff race.

Fitzpatrick earned another start after he completed 24 of 40 passes for 243 yards and four touchdowns last week against the Carolina Panthers. He rallied the Buccaneers from a 35-7 deficit to make it 35-28 in the fourth quarter, but threw costly interceptions in the first and fourth quarters in a game Tampa Bay wound up losing 42-28.

Despite the Redskins’ dud last week vs. Atlanta, Washington’s defense is still ranked 10th in the NFL, allowing 343.5 yards per game, and just 89.4 on the ground, resulting in 21.5 points per game.

“You look at all of it and they look pretty darn good to me,” Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter said of the Redskins’ defense. “Again, the score is the score from last week’s game, but these guys look really good on defense to me. I think they are top 10 in the league in like five defensive categories.”

Tampa Bay is generating 446.8 yards per game (2nd in the NFL). But leading rusher Peyton Barber is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry, so the burden Sunday will fall to Fitzpatrick and his receiving corps, including Mike Evans and former Redskin DeSean Jackson.

Jackson has averaged just 50 yards over the past four games, three of them losses, but he said he was frustrated with the team’s recent results and not his role.

“It’s just knowing what’s in this locker room, knowing the players we have all across the board, and knowing how talented it can be,” Jackson told reporters. “It did show early on. That’s the frustration.”

Evans (knee), Barber (ankle) and tackle Demar Dotson (knee/shoulder) were limited in practice Thursday, while defensive end Vinny Curry (ankle), running back Ronald Jones (hamstring) and cornerback M.J. Stewart (foot) sat out.

–Field Level Media

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QB injuries shape Bills-Jets matchup

QB injuries shape Bills-Jets matchup

Rookie quarterbacks Sam

QB injuries shape Bills-Jets matchup

Rookie quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Josh Allen figure to be AFC East rivals in the coming years. However, their first NFL matchup is likely on hold.

Darnold, the third overall pick in the 2018 draft, and Allen, the No. 7 selection, are both uncertain to play Sunday when the New York Jets (3-6) host the Buffalo Bills (2-7).

Allen is nearing a return from a strained elbow that has sidelined him for three games but was only a limited practice participant for the Bills on Wednesday and Thursday.

Darnold will not start Sunday after he was unable to practice Wednesday and Thursday while wearing walking boot to protect a strained foot he sustained last week in New York’s 13-6 loss at Miami.

“Obviously, I want to be out there with the guys,” said Darnold, who might be active against Buffalo as a backup. “I want to go out there and play. Hopefully, if I’m able to go out there and play Sunday, I will. If not, I’m just going to treat it as another learning experience. When adversity hits, it’s up to me to respond. That’s all I can worry about.”

Darnold has faced adversity on the field during the Jets’ three-game losing streak, throwing seven interceptions and only two touchdown passes. For the season, he ranks near the bottom of the league with a 55 percent completion rate, 68.3 passer rating and 14 interceptions.

The Jets will start 39-year-old quarterback Josh McCown, who went 5-8 as the team’s starter last season, completing 67.3 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions for a passer rating of 94.5.

Both the Jets and Bills enter bye weeks after the Sunday game, offering additional time for the ailing quarterbacks to rest their injuries.

“We don’t want to rush things,” Darnold said. “That’s one thing we don’t want to do. I’m eager to get back out there on the field with my guys, but at the same time, I’ve got to take care of my body, first and foremost.”

Allen is listed as day-to-day and has not yet been able to fully participate in practice. He just started throwing again last Friday.

“We’re still taking it precautiously,” Allen said. “Anytime it’s your throwing arm, your throwing shoulder, throwing elbow, whatever it is, you never want to push it too hard because you don’t want to feel any discomfort or pain or whatever it is in there. I’m just taking it day by day, throw by throw, really.”

The Bills likely would turn to embattled second-year quarterback Nathan Peterman again if Allen can’t play. Veteran Derek Anderson, who started the first two games Allen missed, remains in the NFL concussion protocol for a second week.

Peterman threw three more interceptions Sunday in a 41-9 loss to the Chicago Bears. He’s been intercepted seven times in 81 attempts this season. For his career, Peterman has thrown 12 interceptions in 130 attempts and has a passer rating of 32.5.

Regardless of who starts at quarterback, the Bills’ offense has struggled, scoring just two touchdowns during a four-game losing streak. Buffalo’s 96 points scored are a franchise low through nine games and the fewest in the league.

“I’m frustrated just like our fans are frustrated,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “When you put in the amount of time that we put in, to get the results we’ve gotten, on that side of the ball in particular, leaves you frustrated, leaves you empty-handed.”

–Field Level Media

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Chiefs’ Mahomes eyes milestone vs. Cardinals

Chiefs' Mahomes eyes milestone vs. Cardinals

The number Len Dawson

Chiefs’ Mahomes eyes milestone vs. Cardinals

The number Len Dawson wore is retired after he played 14 seasons in Kansas City, led the AFL in passer rating five times and was named MVP of Super Bowl IV after he paced the Chiefs to victory.

Now, with Kansas City off to an 8-1 start, first-year starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes is about to break one of Dawson’s most hallowed franchise records. Mahomes needs one more touchdown pass to tie the single-season mark, 30, Dawson set in 1964 as the Chiefs enter a Sunday home game against the Arizona Cardinals (2-6).

More than 50 years later, football is played differently. Mahomes is on the forefront of engineering more of the spread tendencies that first grew popular in the college game.

Yet Mahomes is also aware of Chiefs lore and the esteem for Dawson, a Pro Football Hall of Fame selection as both a player and broadcaster.

“Len had a ton of success in the NFL and was kind of ahead of his time,” Mahomes said. “Throwing all those touchdowns, I think the record has stood for a very long time. It would be awesome to pass that, but hopefully we can just keep building and getting more and more wins.”

A sweep of NFC West rival San Francisco represents Arizona’s only victories.

“You can let (point) spreads and all these things, ‘trap game,’ all these terms that pop up and things that happen come into it,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “If you can honestly focus on the process and discipline yourself to do that … you are not going to let distractions get in the way.”

Mahomes has been sensational at deflecting attention. He leads NFL passers with 2,901 yards while recording eight consecutive 300-yard games and posting a league-best touchdown-to-interception ratio of plus-22.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, are struggling behind their own first-year starter, Josh Rosen.

Not all the blame can be pinned on the rookie quarterback, who fired two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to rally Arizona past the 49ers on Oct. 28 in the Cardinals’ first game after promoting Byron Leftwich to offensive coordinator.

Arizona, returning from an off week, is keeping an eye on a potential milestone. Veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald needs 33 yards to pass Terrell Owens into second place on the all-time list for receiving yardage. Fitzgerald has 15,902 career yards after posting eight catches for 102 yards against the 49ers.

“I’ve got to just keep giving credit to Byron, just the way he’s trying to spread the ball around,” Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks said. “He’s trying to find creative ways to get all those guys open, but most importantly, trying to target our top guys. Larry had a phenomenal game (against San Francisco), and hopefully he can top it.”

Rosen is completing fewer than 60 percent of his attempts and has more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five). Still, Arizona released former starter Sam Bradford on Nov. 3 during its off week.

Offensive guard Justin Pugh (hand) could return for the Cardinals. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) is new to the Chiefs’ injury list.

–Field Level Media

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XTECH shouldering its way into locker rooms on all levels

EAST HANOVER, N.J. (AP) — At 43, Baylor coach Matt Rhule is far removed from a playing career. That doesn't mean he won't run the gauntlet with his guys to prove a point.

When Rhule was helping turn around the program at Temple, he already had many of his players outfitted with XTECH

EAST HANOVER, N.J. (AP) — At 43, Baylor coach Matt Rhule is far removed from a playing career. That doesn’t mean he won’t run the gauntlet with his guys to prove a point.

When Rhule was helping turn around the program at Temple, he already had many of his players outfitted with XTECH shoulder pads, a revolutionary protective device that is gaining traction on all levels of football.

“I even wore the XTECH pads and went through bull-in-the-ring while I was at Temple,” he recalls, “and I can tell you that the next day I felt less sore than I should have felt.”

That’s the refrain from many a player, including NFL stars such as Khalil Mack, Matt Ryan, Odell Beckham Jr., and Andrew Luck — who missed an entire season because of shoulder issues.

“I had a unique history after being at the New York Giants where several players wore the XTECH pads ,” says Rhule, who left Temple for Baylor in 2016. “Then Muhammad Wilkerson, who played for me at Temple, was a proponent of the pads. I had a chance to see them work firsthand. When we went to Temple, we put them on several guys, and they all had positive reviews. Shoulder injuries went down. Upon coming to Baylor, we had a chance to implement the same thing. We’ve watched our occurrence of injuries and postseason surgeries come down subsequently.

“The pads have been shown to work at a high level, and we have had tremendous personal success with them. The vast majority of our players have enjoyed the pads and appreciated the commitment to their health and welfare. I’ve even had other coaches reach out to me over the years to ask about them.”

That seems to be the reaction from high schools — famed Mater Dei in Santa Ana, California, originally bought three sets and now the entire team is wearing XTECH — to college, where company co-founder Bob Broderick says close to 500 schools across all levels have players suiting up in the pads, with virtually the entire Washington State roster using them.

Dozens of players at the likes of Michigan, Penn State, Syracuse, Mississippi and Notre Dame use the pads.

As for the pros — the NFL does not survey shoulder pads as it does helmets — Patriots running back James White, in the midst of the finest season of his five-year career, says: “I like that the pads are light and give me a lot of range to move my arms. But at the same time, they give me all the protection my shoulders need. I’ve always given thought to my shoulder pads because as a person who runs and catches the football, I feel like you should have the right pads to help you get your job done.”

XTECH has been on the job for six years, though the work staff is small: 11 full-timers, seven part-timers. That could be increased as Broderick and co-founder Ted Monica break into the European market; there are distribution deals in place for January to expand in Germany, Switzerland and the UK. Also next year, XTECH will make available its first five-padded girdle; most states require all high school football players to wear a five-padded girdle.

Their Cover-2 Program works with NFL teams, current and former coaches and players to buy pads and donate them back to their high schools. Zach Ertz, Melvin Gordon and the McCourty brothers have done so, and the Giants donated equipment to the New York Police Department’s football squad.

Monica has worked in the football equipment world for nearly 38 years. He custom designs every pad, which Broderick says are the only pads made entirely in the United States.

What makes those pads stand out?

The patented design features the only dual-cantilever system on the market, an adjustable three-piece body system that allows each pad to fit the player’s body at the proper angle while creating a natural channel for the AC joint to sit in. On the performance side, a three-point swivel system allows for enhanced range of motion, and air flow occurs into the front and back to work in conjunction with uniforms, allowing for maximum ventilation.

Additionally, XTECH uses XRD Technology, which is well known in the military space and is the foam XTECH uses in the entire pad. XRD, a division of Rogers Corporation, has a multi-year exclusive partnership with XTECH for American football. Monica calls it “smart foam,” which is water resistant as well as highly protective and durable.

The majority of the shoulder pad industry uses foam from China and an “air management” system which was developed in the 1970s. Think of a pillow and every time you hit it air goes out the side, and it compresses down and is therefore less protective for the subsequent hit.

According to many of the players using XTech’s pads, that’s never been a concern.

Recent company addition Brooks Barnard is the vice president of sales and left Under Armour after 12 years overseeing its high school properties to join XTECH. He was attracted by XTech’s implementing “an idea that was disruptive and challenged a predictable way of thinking.”

“As I spent time in locker rooms across the country, I noticed the XTECH brand growing in popularity with elite athletes as their choice of pads to wear on Friday nights,” he says. “The design of XTECH naturally captures your attention and automatically engages any football mind. It was evident that XTECH was sought by top players at the NFL and NCAA level and a groundswell was happening at the high school level. Several of the nationally ranked programs in the country already had players in XTECH and I witnessed first-hand what top recruits were saying about the pad.”

If anyone needs a reliable shoulder pad, naturally it is Luck. The first overall selection in the 2012 draft and the Colts’ franchise QB since then never suited up in 2017. He’s back now and having a strong season despite a general dearth of talent around him.

Luck is intrigued by technology, but his reasons for switching to XTECH appear simpler.

“Just a little lighter,” Luck says. “Been wearing the same shoulder pads and thought I’d try a new one out. It didn’t come from a place that I need something different, I need more protection. It was just some new technology that our equipment managers came to me about and it’s worked well so far.”

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

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

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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.”

___

For more NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/NFL and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Eagles hitting stride, look to corral sliding Cowboys

Eagles hitting stride, look to corral sliding Cowboys

The Philadelphia

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

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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

Read More 551 Words

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.”

Read More 298 Words

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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