Rodgers-Brady a spicy prime-time matchup in NFL’s Week 9

NEW YORK (AP) — Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady. Green Bay vs. New England. Talk about one spicy prime-time matchup.

Sure, the Packers are hovering around the .500 mark and the Patriots don’t appear as invincible as they sometimes — well, often — are. But the matchup between these two quarterbacks features lots of wins, even more touchdown tosses — and plenty of mutual admiration.

“I love watching him play,” Brady said of Rodgers. “To see him up close is great. I watch him play whenever he’s out there. I study a lot of the Packers’ offense, I study Aaron as a player and he just does an incredible job.”

The two will meet for just the second time in their careers, when the Packers (3-3-1) and Patriots (6-2) square off Sunday night.

Rodgers and the Packers won the only other showdown, 26-21 at Green Bay, in 2014.

“I loved going to Lambeau Field and playing him four years ago,” Brady said. “It’ll be great to play him at home this time. I’m really looking forward to it.”

The weekend began Thursday night with the San Francisco 49ers’ 34-3 victory over the Oakland Raiders in a lopsided Battle of the Bay. Nick Mullens threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns for the most productive NFL debut since the merger for the 49ers (2-7). The Raiders are 1-7.

Off are: Indianapolis (3-5), Arizona (2-6), New York Giants (1-7), Jacksonville (3-5), Philadelphia (4-4), Cincinnati (5-3).

Football fans will have to wait until Sunday night for the Packers and Patriots to kick off, but they could be treated to plenty of passing.

Rodgers (24 of 38 for 368 yards, two touchdowns) and Brady (22 of 35 for 245 yards, two TDs) combined for 613 yards passing the last time they faced each other. Rodgers (103.6) and Brady (97.6) also rank first and third, respectively, in NFL history in career passer rating.

“I enjoy competing against great players,” Rodgers said, “and obviously Tom is right at the top.”

LOS ANGELES RAMS (8-0) at NEW ORLEANS (6-1)

The Rams put their undefeated mark — the only team in the NFL yet to lose — on the line in a game that features the squads with the NFC’s best records.

Los Angeles boasts the No. 2 overall offense with the top-ranked running game in the league, led by the versatile and electric Todd Gurley. But the Saints have the No. 1 run defense in the NFL, so something’s got to give, right?

One thing the Rams have working in their favor: quarterback Jared Goff has won his past seven starts on the road with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions in that span.

Meanwhile, Drew Brees has been sensational at home lately, with 1,045 yards passing with eight TDs and no INTs in his last three games at the Superdome.

PITTSBURGH (4-2-1) at BALTIMORE (4-4)

Joe Flacco and the Ravens won the first meeting this season, 26-14 on Sept. 30, and Baltimore will try to complete its first series sweep since 2015.

That game, by the way, was the last Ben Roethlisberger and the surging Steelers have lost.

Big Ben & Co. are looking for their fourth straight victory, and that’s despite all the drama — will he show up or not? — surrounding the still absent Le’Veon Bell. James Conner has done just fine in his place, though, rushing for 599 yards and nine touchdowns this season.

It might be tougher sledding this week, though, as the Steelers face a Ravens defense that ranks No. 1 overall in the NFL and is allowing a league-low 17.1 points and 293.8 yards per game.

KANSAS CITY (7-1) at CLEVELAND (2-5-1)

Just what the struggling Browns need: a matchup against the team that has the best record in the AFC as well as the NFL’s most potent offense.

The Chiefs average a league-high 36.3 points per game and Patrick Mahomes has been putting up eye-popping numbers. He has a league-leading 26 TD passes, just four shy of the franchise record set by Len Dawson in 1964, and has thrown for 300 yards or more in a Chiefs-record seven straight games. Mahomes also leads the NFL in yards passing (2,526) and TD-to-INT rate (plus-20).

The Browns are coming off another turbulent week following the firings of coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will make his debut as the Browns’ interim coach against Kansas City’s Andy Reid, who is 6-0 in his career against Cleveland.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (5-2) at SEATTLE (4-3)

Philip Rivers and the Chargers are well-rested after their bye-week break, looking to keep things going after a solid start to the season.

Rivers will start in his 200th straight game, becoming just the 10th player since the merger in 1970 with such a streak. And, he has shown little signs of slowing. Rivers is tied for third in the NFL with 17 touchdown passes.

He’ll face a Seahawks team that has won four of five and begins a stretch of six of nine games at home to close the regular season. Russell Wilson has 11 TD throws and no interceptions in his last five home games, and will look to build off last week’s performance when he became the first player in franchise history to post a perfect quarterback rating.

HOUSTON (5-3) at DENVER (3-5)

Hey, that guy looks familiar, huh?

Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas will make his debut with the Broncos on Sunday against the team with which he spent his first eight-plus NFL seasons before being traded to the Texans on Tuesday. He’ll be counted on by Houston right away to replace the injured Will Fuller and keep the DeShaun Watson-led offense humming.

The Broncos will also try to change the Texans’ fortunes. Houston is the fifth team since the 1970 merger to win five consecutive games following an 0-3 start.

TAMPA BAY (3-4) at CAROLINA (5-2)

Fitzmagic is back. Again.

Ryan Fitzpatrick will start at quarterback for the Buccaneers — who rank No. 1 in the NFL in total offense — in place of the benched Jameis Winston. He’ll look to recapture some of the success he had during his four-game stint as the starter at the beginning of the season. The 35-year-old Fitzpatrick threw for over 400 yards in each of the first three games, and had 11 touchdowns in that span with four interceptions before giving way to Winston.

While the Buccaneers have instability at the quarterback spot, Cam Newton is firmly entrenched as the guy in Carolina and has the Panthers looking for their 10th straight home win with him under center. Newton has 17 combined touchdowns and just four interceptions this season.

NEW YORK JETS (3-5) at MIAMI (4-4)

Sam Darnold faces the Dolphins for the second time, looking for a much better outing than the one he had in Week 2 when New York lost 20-12. The rookie threw for 334 yards — still a personal best — but also had two interceptions.

This also begins a three-game stretch in which New York takes on AFC East opponents.

The Jets will see a different face running the offense on the other side, with Brock Osweiler getting the start for the Dolphins in place of the injured Ryan Tannehill. Osweiler has played well with six touchdown throws and three interceptions in his three starts, during which Miami is 1-2.

ATLANTA (3-4) at WASHINGTON (5-2)

The ageless Adrian Peterson and the Redskins will try to go two games up on Philadelphia in the NFC East. They’ll have to get past the Falcons first, though, and Atlanta has won each of the last five meetings.

Peterson, by the way, rushed for 149 yards and a TD last week against the Giants. He has some past success when facing Atlanta, with 442 yards from scrimmage and three TDs in three games against the Falcons.

Despite the Falcons’ mediocre record, Matt Ryan is off to a solid start and leads the NFL with 333.6 yards passing a game. Julio Jones, his favorite target, needs 134 yards receiving in his 102nd game to become the fastest to 10,000 in a career.

DETROIT (3-4) at MINNESOTA (4-3-1)

Adam Thielen comes into this one with his sights set on the end zone — as usual.

The Vikings wide receiver is tied with former Lions star Calvin Johnson (2012) with eight straight games of 100 or more yards receiving, the longest streak in NFL history.

To get the record, he’ll have to do it against Matt Patricia’s fourth-ranked passing defense.

Speaking of Patricia, this is his first NFC North road test. The Lions have mostly fared well against division opponents overall, going 21-10 since the start of the 2013 season — the best of the NFC North teams.

CHICAGO (4-3) at BUFFALO (2-6)

The Bears stopped a two-game skid last week by manhandling the Jets. Even more impressive was the way Mitchell Trubisky rebounded from a so-so first half in that game.

The second-year QB failed to throw for 300 or more yards after three straight while finishing with 222, but he had two touchdown passes and no interceptions. He has 13 TDs in his last four games, the most in that type of span for Chicago since Sid Luckman in 1947.

The Bills are turning back to turnover-prone Nathan Peterman, who’s starting with rookie Josh Allen ruled out with a sprained elbow and Derek Anderson dealing with a concussion. Peterman, who lost his starting gig midway through the season opener, has thrown 10 interceptions in just 84 career attempts.

TENNESSEE (3-4) at DALLAS (3-4)

Amari Cooper makes his Cowboys debut after being acquired from Oakland on Tuesday, giving Dak Prescott a new No. 1 wide receiver.

He comes just in time to boost a passing game that ranks a lowly 29th in the NFL. Dallas made another change during its bye-week break by firing offensive line coach Paul Alexander and promoting former Cowboys lineman Marc Colombo.

Maybe the shake-ups will help energize the Cowboys, who are looking to improve to 4-0 at home.

The Titans are looking to change their luck a bit, too. They have lost three in a row, but two of those defeats were by one point each.

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Patriots sign offensive lineman Matt Tobin to 53-man roster

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The Patriots have signed offensive lineman Matt Tobin to the 53-man roster.

Tobin practiced with the team on Wednesday. He takes the place of Brian Schwenke, who was placed on injured reserve. The move comes a day after the Patriots signed linebacker Albert McClellan and defensive back Obi Melifonwu

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The Patriots have signed offensive lineman Matt Tobin to the 53-man roster.

Tobin practiced with the team on Wednesday. He takes the place of Brian Schwenke, who was placed on injured reserve. The move comes a day after the Patriots signed linebacker Albert McClellan and defensive back Obi Melifonwu and released offensive lineman Cole Croston and defensive lineman Geneo Grissom.

Tobin played four seasons in Philadelphia from 2013 to 2016 and spent 2017 in Seattle. He was inactive for the 49ers for two games this season before being released on Sept. 19.

Tobin was originally signed by the Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2013. He was traded from Philadelphia to Seattle last August.

He has appeared 57 games with 21 starts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not that multipurpose lead backs are a new thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AP Sports Writer John Wawrow contributed.

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Falcons bolster pass rush by adding veteran Bruce Irvin

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons made a move to bolster their lackluster pass rush by agreeing to a one-year deal with defensive end Bruce Irvin on Wednesday, reuniting the veteran with coach Dan Quinn.

Irvin, cut by the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, became a free agent after clearing waivers on

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons made a move to bolster their lackluster pass rush by agreeing to a one-year deal with defensive end Bruce Irvin on Wednesday, reuniting the veteran with coach Dan Quinn.

Irvin, cut by the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, became a free agent after clearing waivers on Tuesday with $3.8 million remaining on his contract. The Falcons play at Cleveland on Sunday.

Irvin, 31, is an Atlanta native. He celebrated his return home by posting on his Twitter account “Man it’s time! You can’t put a price on the chance for me to play for my people and city! It’s bigger than money!”

Irvin was expected to arrive in Atlanta on Wednesday night and join practice on Thursday. Quinn said Irvin will play against Cleveland.

The Falcons rank 27th in the league with 17 sacks. Takk McKinley has a team-leading 5½ sacks, but Vic Beasley has only one. Beasley led the league with 15½ sacks in 2016.

The Falcons hope Irvin adds new punch to the pass rush.

“He’s definitely a big addition to our team,” said defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who has three sacks. “As a player and as a person, we know the personality he plays with matches what we want to portray or have up front, that dog mentality. We’re ready to go hunt.”

Quinn said the homecoming and the chance to play in a familiar scheme were motivating factors for Irvin.

“It’s pretty rare you get to play in your home city,” Quinn said. “He recognized that might be a special moment for him and he really is challenged.”

Quinn said Irvin also is motivated to show he can be a successful pass-rushing end after being waived by the Raiders.

“He really is ready to prove it,” Quinn said, adding often a player’s “most memorable competitive moments are in prove-it times, so I love it he feels he’s got some things to prove and really wants to play well. That’s what we talked about.”

The Falcons’ defense had more good news on Wednesday. Linebacker Deion Jones, who has been on injured reserve since suffering a foot injury in the season-opening loss at Philadelphia, returned to practice. He is not eligible to return until next week’s game against Dallas and has not been placed on the active roster.

“It’s going to be awesome,” said Beasley of Jones’ return. “We’ve been waiting on him to come back. He’s a definite leader on the defensive side of the ball and not just the defense, on this team. There are a lot of guys who look up to him.”

Quinn said Jones’ snaps in practice will be watched closely this week. He said he has no timetable on Jones being cleared for a game.

The Falcons (4-4) have won three straight despite losing starting safeties Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal to season-ending injuries. Starting guards Andy Levitre and Brando Fusco and running back Devonta Freeman also are on IR.

Irvin played with Seattle when Quinn was the team’s defensive coordinator.

Irvin had three sacks with Oakland, but played only nine snaps in a 34-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night.

Irvin (6-3, 250) played four seasons with Seattle before joining the Raiders in 2016. He had eight sacks as a rookie in 2012 and matched that career high with Oakland in 2017.

He set a career high with six forced fumbles in 2016. His 11 forced fumbles since the start of the 2016 season are the most in the NFL in that span.

For his career, Irvin has 40 sacks and 15 forced fumbles.

Oakland was expected to enter the season with Irvin and Khalil Mack leading the defense as bookend pass rushers.

Instead, Mack was traded to Chicago a week before the season for a package of draft picks following a lengthy holdout. The Raiders rank last in the league with seven sacks.

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

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Sam Darnold could be headed for the sideline this week — and maybe longer.

The New York Jets rookie quarterback has a strained right foot, coach Todd Bowles announced Wednesday, leaving Darnold's status for the team's game Sunday against Buffalo in doubt.

"It's just adversity," Darnold said after

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Sam Darnold could be headed for the sideline this week — and maybe longer.

The New York Jets rookie quarterback has a strained right foot, coach Todd Bowles announced Wednesday, leaving Darnold’s status for the team’s game Sunday against Buffalo in doubt.

“It’s just adversity,” Darnold said after practice. “You’ve just got to deal with it, get better as soon as possible, get back on the field as soon as possible.”

Bowles said it was too early to rule out Darnold for the game, and clarified that the injury was a strain — not a sprain, contrary to published reports.

“They’ve got him listed as day to day,” Bowles said.

Darnold was surprisingly wearing a boot on his foot at the start of practice Wednesday, and watched in sweats and a green Jets cap as McCown and Davis Webb, currently on the practice squad, threw passes in individual drills.

“Obviously, I want to be out there with the guys,” Darnold said. “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 how to respond. That’s all I can worry about.”

Darnold was injured during the Jets’ 13-6 loss at Miami last Sunday , possibly on a fourth-quarter sack by Cameron Wake in which the quarterback came up limping. He took a few other big hits, so he was uncertain as to when the injury occurred.

Darnold finished the game, and said he was “a little dinged up,” but didn’t indicate he had any serious issues.

“Yeah, I feel fine,” Darnold said Monday. “Some bumps and some bruises, but everything is good.”

Bowles said Monday that Darnold had not expressed to him that he was “dinged up.” Bowles typically speaks to the team’s trainers later in the afternoon on the day after games.

“I mean, it was kind of in the midst of the action,” Darnold explained Wednesday. “Sometimes, you get hurt or nicked around and things just kind of happen. I just thought I was fine coming out of the game and went through protocol and that’s just kind of how it went. Went through some of the tests and something was obviously a little different than usual.”

Darnold dealt with a broken foot in high school that sidelined him for most of his junior season. He said this is not close to as serious an injury.

“Like any injury, I’m just going to go about protocol and do exactly what the trainers do and be in here as much as possible and get better,” he said.

If Darnold is unable to start, 39-year-old backup Josh McCown would take his place. McCown was the starter last season, but hasn’t taken a snap this year as Darnold won the job out of training camp — beating out both McCown and Teddy Bridgewater.

“When you’re in a backup role, you just go in and do your job,” McCown said. “That’s the main thing. We’ll prepare as if — like I do every week — I’m going to be the starter and we’ll go from there.”

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

The No. 3 overall draft pick in April has thrown for 1,934 yards and 11 touchdowns, but his 55.0 percent completion rate and 68.3 quarterback rating rank at the bottom of the league. In his past three games, Darnold has thrown two TD pass and seven interceptions.

The struggles had some fans and media wondering if perhaps Darnold would benefit from sitting a game or two.

Now, it appears he and the Jets might not have a choice.

New York has its bye-week break after the game Sunday against Buffalo, and then doesn’t play again until Nov. 25, when the Jets take on New England. That could give Darnold a few weeks to rest and heal the foot without missing much time.

“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.”

NOTES: WRs Robby Anderson (ankle) and Quincy Enunwa (ankle), TE Neal Sterling (concussion), S Terrence Brooks (illness), C Spencer Long (knee/finger) and NT Steve McLendon didn’t practice. … LBs Frankie Luvu (neck) and Kevin Pierre-Louis (foot), CB Trumaine Johnson (quadriceps) and LG James Carpenter (shoulder) were limited. … The Jets re-signed RB De’Angelo Henderson to their practice squad. A spot was vacated when Cleveland signed CB Juston Burris off the practice squad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Browns lose defensive starters Kirksey, Gaines to injuries

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — The losses are piling up for the Browns — in the standings, and on the sideline.

On Wednesday, two defensive starters were added to the stack.

Cleveland placed linebacker Christian Kirksey and cornerback E.J. Gaines on injured reserve, ending their seasons with seven games remaining and putting further strain

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — The losses are piling up for the Browns — in the standings, and on the sideline.

On Wednesday, two defensive starters were added to the stack.

Cleveland placed linebacker Christian Kirksey and cornerback E.J. Gaines on injured reserve, ending their seasons with seven games remaining and putting further strain on a unit lacking quality depth and experience.

“Those two guys, they really set a precedent for what we wanted to do as a team, as a defense,” said cornerback T.J. Carrie. “And, of course, they’ll still be here sparingly in and out throughout the week, but it’s a lot different when they were on the field fighting with you, blood, sweat and tears with you, through the trenches.

“We’re going to definitely miss that. Those are two players that we can’t replace.”

One of the team’s captains, Kirksey injured his left hamstring in the second quarter Sunday as the Browns (2-6-1) lost their fourth straight game, 37-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Gaines sustained his second concussion in three weeks when he took a knee to the helmet while trying to make a tackle in the first quarter.

The loss of Kirksey is especially damaging because he’s one of the team’s leaders. The fifth-year pro has played on the weak side and in the middle this season, making 43 tackles and two interceptions.

“Kirko is kind of the heart and soul of the defense, heart and soul of the team in the locker room, on the field, just how he goes about his business,” said linebacker Joe Schobert, a 2017 Pro Bowler who returned to practice after missing three games with a hamstring injury. “It’s the next-man-up mentality, but there’s things that you’re going to miss.”

Schobert’s return will help ease the loss of Kirksey, and the Browns are expected to have defensive back Damarious Randall for Sunday’s game against Atlanta after he missed last week’s game with a groin injury.

Linebacker Jamie Collins (ankle) and rookie cornerback Denzel Ward (hip) were limited in practice, but interim coach Gregg Williams expects both back on the field Thursday.

Randall, who has played cornerback and free safety, felt he was healthy enough to play last week, but Williams kept him out so he would have the versatile defensive back for multiple games. Randall’s absence became magnified when Ward and Gaines went down on the Chiefs’ opening drive, forcing Williams to adjust his game plan against the NFL’s most electrifying offense and play seldom-used reserves Denzel Rice and Tavierre Thomas.

“It’s very hard,” Carrie said of losing two key players. “It changes the game plan. It changes a lot of things because you can only give practice reps to so many guys, and so you get guys that come in and they’re athletes, but it’s hard when you don’t know the schematics of the little details that we put in for that game.”

And, as luck would have it, the banged-up Browns will have to deal with a talented Atlanta team that has overcome its own injury issues and reeled off three straight wins.

Schobert’s return is vital to Cleveland’s defense as he’s the one responsible for calling out Williams’ pre-snap schemes and getting his teammates organized — an on-field coach.

After missing three weeks, getting back on the field will be a welcomed change for Schobert, who had played every defensive snap since the start of the 2017 season until he got hurt on Oct. 21 at Tampa Bay.

“It is just different. It is weird,” Schobert said of being inactive. “Especially with a hamstring. You just walk around on the sideline feeling good and watching people on the field thinking you can be out there — wishing you could be out there. You just have to kind of suck it up and take it into your own role however you can help a team in that aspect.

“That is what I was doing. Just kind of jumped right into more of a coaching aspect, trying to keep myself involved that way. I think it helped.”

NOTES: Rookie LT Desmond Harrison was limited in practice after missing last week’s game with an undisclosed illness. Greg Robinson stepped in and played well in his first start for Cleveland. Williams hasn’t decided who he’ll play against the Falcons. “What we will do is every day is an interview and both of them are taking reps,” he said. “By the end of the week, we will make what is best and it is good — the fact that you have depth. Guys can compete and get ready to roll.” … The Browns signed DB Juston Burris to the active roster off the Jets’ practice squad. A fourth-round pick in 2016, he appeared in 34 games for New York.

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Joseph says Broncos, bitter Thomas need to move on

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Vance Joseph says the Broncos and former Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas both need to just move on from their recent breakup.

Thomas said in a radio interview Monday, a day after his successful homecoming in a 19-17 Texans win in Denver, that he was misled by the Broncos

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Vance Joseph says the Broncos and former Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas both need to just move on from their recent breakup.

Thomas said in a radio interview Monday, a day after his successful homecoming in a 19-17 Texans win in Denver, that he was misled by the Broncos about the possibility of a trade, was asked to surrender snaps to the team’s rookie receivers and was heartbroken over not being named a captain this year.

Joseph said Wednesday he had “great respect for D.T.,” was “disappointed with how he recalls the conversations going,” and “we’ve got to move on.”

“He’s got to move on. We’ve got to move on,” Joseph said. “He’s no longer a Bronco and I can’t spend any time worrying about that. But as far as reading that stuff, I’m disappointed it was presented that way, I really am.”

Thomas aired his frustrations during an interview with former Broncos Rod Smith and Ray Crockett on Orange & Blue 760-AM in Denver, a Broncos broadcast partner.

Thomas said the day before he was traded, Joseph told him the trade talk wasn’t true.

“I said, ‘How is that not true? My agent called me today and said (general manager John) Elway wanted a fifth-round pick for me.’ So, are we telling stories to each other now? I thought we were going to be men about this,” Thomas said.

In his first comments about Thomas’ criticisms, Joseph said, “I’m disappointed with how he recalls the conversations going.”

“It was obviously a week and a half where the rumors and gossip were flowing, and we talked about the rumors and gossip — until something happened, we all had to focus on doing our jobs and winning football games,” Joseph said. “From my end, that was discussed.”

Thomas also complained in the interview that he wasn’t named a captain this year, something he’d been three times before, and suggested there were some shenanigans in the vote counting: “I go to a meeting room and it’s like every player came to me and were like, ‘How are you not a captain? We picked you.’ … It was heartbreaking.”

Free agent quarterback Case Keenum and longtime center Matt Paradis were named offensive captains this year, and Joseph said Thomas never conveyed his disappointment over his exclusion.

“No, no. And our players vote for the captains,” Joseph said. “They vote for the guys they see fit, who they want to lead their football team. So, I’m not sure where that came from or who discussed that with D.T. But again, I have great respect for him. The players vote for the captains. They voted for who they thought were the best guys to lead their football team. And that’s it.”

Thomas also said in his interview that new wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni told him he’d have to surrender playing time so the Broncos could give more snaps to rookie receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton. He also said he was the only veteran receiver who was told this.

Thomas added, “I don’t understand that because I’ve never cried about getting the ball. I didn’t get (upset) about nothing … it just hurt me. I’m emotional. I’m empty. I’m empty still.”

Thomas caught three passes for 61 yards in the Texans’ win Sunday in Denver, where the Broncos honored their former receiver with a video tribute before the game and by putting a giant “Thank you” on the 10-story-high banner of Thomas outside their stadium.

“We have great respect for D.T.,” Joseph said. “He was a great player here and we honored him on Sunday. We didn’t win the game; he won the game. I think it’s a little frustration on his part, but I’m disappointed in how it came out because I don’t recall it being discussed that way. And that’s OK. The last point: we’ve got to move on.”

Notes: Paradis underwent surgery Wednesday to repair his right leg, which he broke Sunday. … The players were given a four-day furlough for their bye week after an indoor practice Wednesday.

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Dolphins’ Tannehill out again, eyeing Week 12 return

Dolphins' Tannehill out again, eyeing Week 12 return

Miami

Dolphins’ Tannehill out again, eyeing Week 12 return

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will miss his fifth straight game on Sunday at the Green Bay Packers, head coach Adam Gase confirmed Wednesday.

With the Dolphins taking their bye in Week 11, Gase said the goal is to have Tannehill, who has battled weakness and discomfort in his right (throwing) shoulder, ready for a Week 12 trip to the Indianapolis Colts.

“We haven’t had the jump that he was looking for, so that’s why we’re kind of taking a step back,” Gase told reporters. “We have time now, now that we made the decision of him not playing this week.”

Tannehill has taken part in individual drills at practice without throwing, instead going through a throwing motion without a ball. Asked if the quarterback has made significant progress since he was first ruled out before an Oct. 14 game against the Chicago Bears, Gase said he was unsure.

“It’s hard for me to say, because I think [Tannehill is] tired of me asking him,” Gase said. “So I just quit asking him. I just know they’ll come to me if they feel like he’s had a big improvement.”

Brock Osweiler will make his fifth consecutive start. He’s thrown for 1,034 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions in five games. The Dolphins have gone 2-2 in Tannehill’s absence to sit at 5-4, a half-game out of the AFC’s second wild-card spot.

Elsewhere, starting offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James each took part in individual drills on Wednesday after leaving Sunday’s game against the New York Jets with knee injuries.

Gase was noncommittal on their statuses for Sunday’s game, noting that neither player was able to do much in team drills.

–Field Level Media

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Cowboys LB Lee sidelined four to six weeks

Cowboys LB Lee sidelined four to six weeks

Cowboys LB Lee sidelined four to six weeks

Dallas Cowboys standout linebacker Sean Lee will reportedly be sidelined four to six weeks after injuring his left hamstring during Monday night’s loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Lee pulled up while chasing Titans tight end Jonnu Smith on a pass play.

“We anticipate him to be out for a little bit, no question about that,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett told reporters without getting specific about how much time Lee would miss.

Lee missed three games with a pulled hamstring earlier this season. The 32-year-old has 27 tackles in five games this season.

Rookie first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch will move back into the starting lineup. The first-round pick ranks second on the team with 63 tackles in eight games (three starts).

Also, Cowboys offensive guard Connor Williams will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and miss Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Garrett said the belief is Williams’ recovery will be a “short-term thing.” A timetable will be pinpointed after Williams undergoes the procedure.

Williams, a rookie, has started all eight games and hasn’t missed an offensive snap. The second-round pick suffered the injury during Monday’s game against the Titans. He reported additional knee soreness to team trainers on Tuesday.

Either Adam Redmond or Xavier Su’a-Filo will replace Williams in the starting lineup.

–Field Level Media

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Jaguars RB Fournette practicing, on track for Sunday

Jaguars RB Fournette practicing, on track for Sunday

Jacksonville

Jaguars RB Fournette practicing, on track for Sunday

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette appears ready for a return to the field after practicing Wednesday, the team’s first full session since its bye week.

Fournette has not played since Week 4 because of a hamstring injury and has only appeared in two games this season, rushing for 71 yards on 20 carries. After aggravating the injury on multiple occasions, he has remained out as the team tries to avoid any future setbacks. He participated in individual drills Monday.

Also practicing on Wednesday was quarterback Blake Bortles, who is battling a left (non-throwing) shoulder injury sustained in the fourth quarter of the team’s Week 8 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in London.

“It’s just banged up,” Bortles told reporters Wednesday. “No different than anybody else getting a nick or a bruise or whatever.”

Cornerbacks A.J. Bouye (calf), who sat out the game in London, and Quenton Meeks (knee) missed practice on Wednesday.

The Jaguars (3-5), who are on a four-game losing streak, return to action Sunday against the Colts in Indianapolis.

Jacksonville traded for Carlos Hyde while Fournette was out and also has T.J. Yeldon available in the backfield. Yeldon leads the team with 334 rushing yards on 81 carries.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Jets’ Darnold has foot sprain, out Sunday

Report: Jets' Darnold has foot sprain, out Sunday

Report: Jets’ Darnold has foot sprain, out Sunday

New York Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold has a significant right foot sprain and will miss Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, according to a New York Daily News report on Wednesday.

The report adds that the team hopes Darnold will return in Week 12 against the New England Patriots, after the Jets’ bye, but is not overly optimistic.

Darnold sat out Wednesday’s practice, observing in street clothes with a walking boot on his right foot. It was his first missed practice since a brief holdout during training camp, before he signed his rookie contract.

It’s unclear when Darnold was injured, but he told reporters on Monday that he felt “fine” despite taking a number of big hits in Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins. Miami totaled four sacks and seven QB hits on Darnold, forcing him into four interceptions, including three in the fourth quarter.

“Some bumps and some bruises, but everything is good,” Darnold said.

Head coach Todd Bowles told reporters on a Monday conference call he wasn’t aware of any injury to the rookie.

Darnold, who has started every game this season, finished Sunday’s game in Miami 21 of 39 for 229 yards, no touchdowns and the four picks. His rating (31.8) was a career low, and his total of 14 interceptions this season leads the NFL by four.

Overall, Darnold has passed for 1,934 yards and 11 touchdowns but has completed just 55 percent of his throws.

If Darnold is out, 39-year-old Josh McCown would make his first start of the season. McCown threw for 2,926 yards, 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 13 starts in 2017 before breaking his hand late in the season.

–Field Level Media

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WR Bryant to join Saints on one-year deal

WR Bryant to join Saints on one-year deal

Former

WR Bryant to join Saints on one-year deal

Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant agreed to a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints, according to multiple reports.

He won’t have to wait long for a chance to show his old team what he has left.

The Saints (7-1, 1st in NFC South) play Dallas (3-5) on Nov. 29.

Bryant will sign the deal on Thursday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

A tweet by the NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport announcing the deal was shared by Bryant with the hashtag #ThrowuptheX, a reference to his celebration move.

Bryant, who turned 30 on Sunday, has been a free agent since he was released by Dallas in April. He has visited several teams, including a workout with the Cleveland Browns in August. When Bryant worked out with the Browns, he briefly negotiated with the team but never came to terms.

Bryant took part in a workout with the Saints on Tuesday.

Bryant, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, has 7,459 receiving yards and 73 touchdowns in his career. Last season, he notched 69 catches for 838 yards and six touchdowns in his eighth NFL year, all with the Cowboys.

Not long after his release from Dallas, Bryant turned down a three-year contract offer from the Baltimore Ravens, according to several media outlets. He intended to sign a one-year contract this season, then work on a longer-term deal starting next season, the reports said.

–Field Level Media

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Eagles expect Sproles, Johnson back vs. Cowboys

Eagles expect Sproles, Johnson back vs. Cowboys

Eagles expect Sproles, Johnson back vs. Cowboys

Philadelphia running back Darren Sproles could be back on the field for the first time since Week 1 when the Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.

Sproles, who will retire after the season, had five carries for 10 yards and four catches for 22 yards in an 18-12 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 but has been sidelined by an injured hamstring since.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday that Sproles is ready to rejoin practice and should be in the lineup Sunday night.

Pederson also said right tackle Lane Johnson is expected to play, despite sustaining a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee during a Week 8 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.

Johnson went down in the first half against the Jaguars and was carted to the locker room. He did not return.

Philadelphia had its bye week after the London game, giving Johnson and Sproles extra time to get healthy.

The team also lost cornerback Jalen Mills to a foot injury against the Jaguars and say he’ll be re-evaluated later this week to determine whether he can play.

-Field Level Media

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Darren Sproles back at practice for the Eagles

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Darren Sproles returned to practice Wednesday for the Philadelphia Eagles after missing seven games because of a hamstring injury.

The veteran running back is expected to play Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys, according to coach Doug Pederson. The Eagles have the NFL's 18th-ranked rushing offense after finishing third last

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Darren Sproles returned to practice Wednesday for the Philadelphia Eagles after missing seven games because of a hamstring injury.

The veteran running back is expected to play Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys, according to coach Doug Pederson. The Eagles have the NFL’s 18th-ranked rushing offense after finishing third last season when they won the Super Bowl. They lost starter Jay Ajayi to a season-ending knee injury last month.

Wendell Smallwood leads the team with 257 yards rushing and has a 4.3 average per carry. Corey Clement has 167 yards but only a 3.3 average. Undrafted rookie Josh Adams had a breakout game in a win over Jacksonville in London, running for 61 yards on nine carries.

“We’ve got to make sure as this week goes that he’s healthy 100 percent and that he feels great,” Pederson said of Sproles. “Again, we’re going to just mix him in. I think we’re a different team from Week 1 to now. Obviously, we don’t have Jay, but Corey has done a great job, Wendell, and now the emergence of Josh. He’s kind of stepped up his game and he’s played well, particularly this last game, and now we get Darren back.

“I can’t tell you that we’re going to feature Darren. I can’t tell you that we’re going to feature Josh or any of those guys, but Darren is going to be a big part of the game.”

Sproles also would return punts. DeAndre Carter handled those duties during Sproles’ absence but was released on Tuesday.

Philadelphia (4-4) already boosted its offense during the bye week by acquiring wide receiver Golden Tate from Detroit. Tate spent time last week at the practice facility getting familiar with the offense while the rest of the team was away.

“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,” Pederson said. “But he’s been awesome, been in here every day.”

Carson Wentz couldn’t get wait to throw passes to his new target. Tate joins Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews and tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert to give Philadelphia another option.

“Adding a piece like that is exciting, a guy with big play ability that Golden brings,” Wentz said. “You see him make highlight plays all the time, just the things he can do after the catch is exciting. He fits in really well with this culture.”

Wentz should have his best blocker back this week. Right tackle Lane Johnson wants to play despite a strained MCL in his left knee. He was injured on the opening series against Jacksonville and was expected to miss significant time.

“Lane is a tough guy,” Pederson said. “In his mind, I think he would want to play, and our expectation is that he does play. But at the same time, I say that, and then I say I don’t want to put somebody out there that might be less than 100 percent, too. We’ll get him ready. We’ll get all our guys ready, like we do each week. The expectation would be that he plays.”

Notes: CBs Jalen Mills (foot) and Sidney Jones (hamstring) didn’t practice and seem unlikely to play Sunday. S Corey Graham (hamstring) returned to the field after missing the past three games. DT Tim Jernigan is also practicing, but probably needs more time after offseason back surgery.

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Miami’s Tannehill to miss Packers game with shoulder injury

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been ruled out of Sunday's game at Green Bay because of a throwing shoulder injury, and replacement Brock Osweiler will make his fifth consecutive start.

The Dolphins have a bye next week, which means Tannehill won't be back until Week 12 at the

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been ruled out of Sunday’s game at Green Bay because of a throwing shoulder injury, and replacement Brock Osweiler will make his fifth consecutive start.

The Dolphins have a bye next week, which means Tannehill won’t be back until Week 12 at the earliest. Coach Adam Gase said the goal is for Tannehill to return for the Indianapolis game Nov. 25.

Miami is 5-4 overall, and 2-2 with Osweiler starting.

Tannehill is throwing but hasn’t participated fully in practice in more than a month. The Packers game will be the 25th he has missed out of the past 30 because of injuries.

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Browns place LB Kirksey, CB Gaines on IR

Browns place LB Kirksey, CB Gaines on IR

The Cleveland Browns placed linebacker Christian Kirksey and defensive back E.J. Gaines on injured reserve, leaving the defense shorthanded entering Week 10.

Kirksey injured his hamstring in the second half of Sunday's game against the Chiefs and has had multiple injuries this

Browns place LB Kirksey, CB Gaines on IR

The Cleveland Browns placed linebacker Christian Kirksey and defensive back E.J. Gaines on injured reserve, leaving the defense shorthanded entering Week 10.

Kirksey injured his hamstring in the second half of Sunday’s game against the Chiefs and has had multiple injuries this season. Gaines sustained his second concussion in less than a month. The Browns are also likely to be without rookie cornerback Denzel Ward, who was injured Sunday.

Cleveland signed Juston Burris to the 53-man roster off the Jets’ practice squad. Burris was a fourth-round pick in 2016.

Kirksey was starting in place of leading tackler Joe Schobert.

–Field Level Media

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Falcons sign DE Irvin

Falcons sign DE Irvin

Defensive end Bruce Irvin landed on his feet and reunited with his former defensive coordinator one day after clearing waivers.

Irvin signed with the Atlanta Falcons, joining head coach Dan Quinn, who coordinated the Seahawks' defense when both were in Seattle.

Irvin cleared

Falcons sign DE Irvin

Defensive end Bruce Irvin landed on his feet and reunited with his former defensive coordinator one day after clearing waivers.

Irvin signed with the Atlanta Falcons, joining head coach Dan Quinn, who coordinated the Seahawks’ defense when both were in Seattle.

Irvin cleared waivers and became an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday.

Irvin had $3.8 million left on his contract with the Oakland Raiders when he was waived.

The Seahawks drafted Irvin in the first round in 2012. The 31-year-old signed a $37 million deal as a free agent to leave Seattle and join the Raiders.

Atlanta’s defense is beset by injuries, but the Falcons won at Washington last week to improve to 4-4.

–Field Level Media

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Panthers-Steelers Preview Capsule

CAROLINA (6-2) at PITTSBURGH (5-2-1)

Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network

OPENING LINE — Steelers by 7 1/2

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Carolina 4-2-1, Pittsburgh 5-3

SERIES RECORD — Steelers lead 5-1

LAST MEETING — Steelers beat Panthers 37-19, Sept. 21, 2014

LAST WEEK — Panthers beat Buccaneers 42-28; Steelers beat Ravens 23-16

CAROLINA (6-2) at PITTSBURGH (5-2-1)

Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network

OPENING LINE — Steelers by 7 1/2

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Carolina 4-2-1, Pittsburgh 5-3

SERIES RECORD — Steelers lead 5-1

LAST MEETING — Steelers beat Panthers 37-19, Sept. 21, 2014

LAST WEEK — Panthers beat Buccaneers 42-28; Steelers beat Ravens 23-16

AP PRO32 RANKING — Panthers No. 5, Steelers No. 7

PANTHERS OFFENSE — OVERALL (13), RUSH (2), PASS (22).

PANTHERS DEFENSE — OVERALL (11), RUSH (8), PASS (19).

STEELERS OFFENSE — OVERALL (4), RUSH (6), PASS (4).

STEELERS DEFENSE — OVERALL (12), RUSH (11), PASS (21).

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Pittsburgh has won each of last five meetings. .. Steelers are 3-0 against Carolina all-time at Heinz Field. … Panthers new owner David Tepper is Pittsburgh native and former minority owner of Steelers. … Panthers scored franchise-record 35 first-half points vs. Tampa Bay last week. … Panthers have scored 99 points in last nine quarters. … Carolina has allowed 12 sacks, second fewest through eight games in franchise history. … QB Cam Newton needs one TD rushing for eighth straight season with at least five TDs rushing. … Newton has thrown at least two TDs in seven straight games. … RB Christian McCaffrey has four TDs in last two weeks and had 157 yards from scrimmage last week. … TE Greg Olsen needs 145 yards receiving to pass Jackie Smith (7,918) for seventh all-time among tight ends. Olsen has TD catch in three straight games… LB Luke Kuechly had 14 tackles in last meeting. … DE Mario Addison had three sacks last week vs. Bucs. … Pittsburgh has won four straight since 1-2-1 start to take lead in AFC North. … Steelers WR Antonio Brown had TD reception in six straight games, tied for second-longest streak in team history. … Brown’s nine TD receptions franchise record for most in first eight games of season. … Pittsburgh 17-5 at home against NFC under Mike Tomlin. … Steelers have won six straight games in November. … Pittsburgh has won four consecutive Thursday night games. … Steelers RB James Conner first player in team history with 1,000 total yards, 10 TDs in first eight games. … Pittsburgh LB T.J. Watt’s seven sacks rank fourth in NFL. … Steelers’ defense allowing 275.3 yards per game. Team allowed 420.5 yards per contest during first four games. … Pittsburgh third in league in fewest sacks allowed (11) and has surrendered just two over last four weeks. … Fantasy tip: Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster is thriving as secondary option behind Brown. Smith-Schuster already with 53 receptions this season, needs six to surpass season total from rookie year in 2017.

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Browns place starters Kirksey, Gaines on injured reserve

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — The Cleveland Browns lost two defensive starters after placing linebacker Christian Kirksey and cornerback E.J. Gaines on injured reserve.

One of the team's captains, Kirksey hurt his hamstring in the second quarter of Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Gaines was also hurt, sustaining his second concussion in

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — The Cleveland Browns lost two defensive starters after placing linebacker Christian Kirksey and cornerback E.J. Gaines on injured reserve.

One of the team’s captains, Kirksey hurt his hamstring in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Gaines was also hurt, sustaining his second concussion in three weeks.

The losses will make things even tougher on a Cleveland defense already stretched thin. Pro Bowl linebacker Joe Schobert missed the past three games with a hamstring injury, rookie cornerback Denzel Ward hurt his hip against the Chiefs and cornerback Terrance Mitchell broke his arm earlier this season.

Kirksey made 43 tackles and two interceptions in seven starts.

Gaines, who signed with Cleveland as a free agent in March, moved into the starting lineup after Mitchell went down. He made one interception.

The Browns signed defensive back Juston Burris to the active roster off the New York Jets’ practice squad.

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Falcons sign veteran defensive end Bruce Irvin

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons have signed defensive end Bruce Irvin to a one-year deal, reuniting the veteran with coach Dan Quinn.

Irvin, cut by the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, became a free agent after clearing waivers on Tuesday with $3.8 million remaining on his contract. His signing was announced

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons have signed defensive end Bruce Irvin to a one-year deal, reuniting the veteran with coach Dan Quinn.

Irvin, cut by the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, became a free agent after clearing waivers on Tuesday with $3.8 million remaining on his contract. His signing was announced Wednesday by the Falcons, who did not release terms of the deal.

The 31-year-old Irvin is an Atlanta native. He celebrated his return home by posting on his Twitter account “Man it’s time! You can’t put a price on the chance for me to play for my people and city! It’s bigger than money!”

Irvin played two seasons with Seattle when Quinn was the team’s defensive coordinator.

The Falcons rank 14th in the league with 17 sacks. Irvin had three sacks with Oakland but recently had been on the field only in the te am’s nickel defense.

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