Rookie QB Allen shines as Bills stun Vikings

Rookie QB Allen shines as Bills stun Vikings

Rookie quarterback Josh Allen ran for two touchdowns and threw for another to lead the Buffalo Bills in a 27-6 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Allen was 15 of 22 passing for 196 yards, with a 26-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jason Croom and no interceptions. He also rushed for 39 yards and two scores for Buffalo (1-2).

After two missed kicks cost Minnesota (1-1-1) a win in Green Bay last week, the Vikings didn’t even get close enough to attempt a field goal until the fourth quarter against the Bills.

Buffalo’s defense, which had allowed 75 points through the first six quarters of the season but only nine over the last six, pressured Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins into three turnovers.

Coming off a 425-yard effort in Green Bay, Cousins completed 40 of 55 passes for 296 yards and 4-yard touchdown to Kyle Rudolph with 2:59 remaining. The late score avoided the Vikings’ first home shutout since 1962.

Chris Ivory totaled 126 yards (56 rushing, 70 receiving) for the Bills, who were without Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy (ribs).

Vikings starter Dalvin Cook (hamstring) also did not play, and Minnesota abandoned the run after falling behind early, finishing with 14 yards.

Bills linebacker Matt Milano had an interception, fumble recovery and a sack.

Buffalo shocked Minnesota by scoring 17 points in the first 10 minutes and led 27-0 at halftime, a stark contrast for a Bills team that had been outscored 54-3 in the opening half of its first two losses.

The Vikings possessed the ball for just nine minutes and gained 46 yards in the first half. They did not cross midfield until their second drive of the third quarter started in Buffalo territory following a special teams penalty.

Cousins fumbled in his own territory on consecutive drives in the first quarter leading to 10 Buffalo points. The turnovers, forced by Buffalo pass rushers Trent Murphy and Jerry Hughes, set up Croom’s touchdown catch and a 30-yard field goal from Stephen Hauschka, who also hit from 50 yards later in the half.

Allen capped a 75-yard opening drive with a 10-yard rushing touchdown, giving the Bills their first lead of the season, and scored on a 1-yard plunge on fourth down to put Buffalo up 24-0 three minutes into the second quarter.

–Field Level Media

Bears’ Nagy named top coach by AP panel

Bears' Nagy named top coach by AP panel

First-year Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy received

Bears’ Nagy named top coach by AP panel

First-year Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy received seven of 10 possible first place votes among a panel of 10 Associated Press football writers asked to name the NFL coach doing the best job this season.

Nagy, who was previously the Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator, finished ahead of Pete Carroll.

In his first year at the helm, Nagy has guided the Bears to a 9-4 record and is on the verge of clinching a playoff berth. The Bears hadn’t won nine games in a season since going 10-6 in 2012 and haven’t been to the playoffs since 2010.

A win in Chicago against Green Bay on Sunday or a loss by the Minnesota Vikings will clinch a playoff spot for the NFC North leading Bears.

Carroll’s Seahawks can also clinch this week despite a defense decimated by injuries and departures. Carroll didn’t receive any first-place votes; Bill Belichick (New England Patriots, 2 votes) and Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts, 1) were the other coaches picked.

Belichick finished in ninth place despite the two No. 1 votes.

–Field Level Media

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Saints QB Brees tops all players in Pro Bowl fan vote

Saints QB Brees tops all players in Pro Bowl fan vote

Saints QB Brees tops all players in Pro Bowl fan vote

Amid a growing group of young star players around the league, 39-year-old New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees finished the fan ballot portion of Pro Bowl voting with more votes than anyone.

The NFL announced the results on Friday from fan voting, which ended a day earlier. The 11-time Pro Bowl passer Brees got 1,270,631 votes to top all players, ahead of second-place Patrick Mahomes (1,197,370 votes), the second-year Kansas City Chiefs QB who has thrown 45 touchdown passes in 14 games in his first season as a starter.

Rounding out the top five was New York Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley (987,562 votes), plus a pair of Los Angeles Rams teammates — running back Todd Gurley (957,052) and quarterback Jared Goff (838,561).

Seven of the top 10 players receiving votes have three seasons or fewer of NFL experience.

The fan vote is merely one factor deciding the Pro Bowl rosters, as the league’s players and coaches also get the opportunity to make selections — with their voting done on Friday. The final Pro Bowl rosters will be revealed on Tuesday, Dec. 18 on NFL Network.

The Pro Bowl will take place on Jan. 27 on Orlando.

NFL PRO BOWL — TOP-10 VOTE-GETTERS, FAN VOTE

1. Saints QB Drew Brees, 1,270,631

2. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, 1,197,370

3. Giants RB Saquon Barkley, 987,562

4. Rams RB Todd Gurley, 957,052

5. Rams QB Jared Goff, 838,561

6. Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott, 827,888

7. Steelers RB James Conner, 817,495

8. Steelers WR Antonio Brown, 778,630

9. Saints RB Alvin Kamara, 776,846

10. Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill, 753,981

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Steelers expecting RB Conner back for Pats

NFL notebook: Steelers expecting RB Conner back for Pats

Steelers

NFL notebook: Steelers expecting RB Conner back for Pats

Steelers running back James Conner practiced on a limited basis Friday and is expected to return to the Pittsburgh lineup for a key AFC affair with the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Conner was seen walking without a limp after Thursday’s practice and declared himself ready to roll, but the Steelers will officially list him as questionable.

The renewal of the Steelers-Patriots rivalry is a headliner of Week 15 as Pittsburgh slides into the game on a three-game losing streak, holding a narrow lead over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North and at risk of being thrust into a dogfight with numerous teams for the final spot in the AFC playoffs with another loss.

Conner has 1,376 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns.

–Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Zack Martin will miss a game for the first time in his career Sunday, bringing to end a streak of 77 straight regular-season starts.

A Pro Bowl selection each of his first four seasons and a two-time first-team All-Pro, Martin was ruled out against the Colts because of a knee injury.

Rookie Connor Williams will start in Martin’s place.

–New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans as he recovers from an ailing quadriceps, coach Pat Shurmur announced.

Beckham, originally injured in Week 12 against Philadelphia, missed last Sunday’s victory over the Redskins because of the injury.

Beckham has 77 receptions for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games this season.

–Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller was to undergo surgery for a fractured wrist Friday and is likely to miss time, NFL Network reported.

Fuller played with the injury in Thursday’s 29-28 loss to the Chargers.

While a recovery window will reportedly be established once the surgery is performed, it typically takes six weeks for a complete recovery from a wrist fracture. That would stretch to the AFC championship game or even the Super Bowl.

–Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was downgraded to doubtful for his team’s game against the Rams on the official injury report because of a stress fracture in his back.

Head coach Doug Pederson said that Wentz will need up to three months for a complete recovery. The team is measuring whether Wentz could do significant damage by playing in a game with the injury.

–Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin was a practice participant for the second straight day and is expected to be available when the team visits the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

Baldwin missed Monday night’s win over the Minnesota Vikings due to a hip injury. The Seahawks listed him as questionable for the game against San Francisco.

–The New York Jets are placing leading rusher Isaiah Crowell on injured reserve with a toe injury, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Coach Todd Bowles said Elijah McGuire (158 yards) and rookie Trenton Cannon (80) will get heavy work in the backfield in an effort to make up for Crowell’s production (685 yards, six touchdowns).

–The NFL indefinitely suspended Oakland Raiders receiver Martavis Bryant for violating his reinstatement terms stemming from a previous ban under the league’s substance abuse policy.

The 27-year-old reportedly violated the NFL’s substance abuse policy during the offseason but played through appeal. He was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season and the entire 2016 season because of positive drug tests while he was with the Steelers.

–Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was fined $26,739 for lowering his head to initiate contact Sunday against Philadelphia defensive back Corey Graham, Elliott’s second fine in four weeks.

–First-year Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy received seven of 10 possible first place votes among a panel of 10 Associated Press football writers asked to name the NFL coach doing the best job this season.

–The Jacksonville Jaguars signed kicker Kai Forbath in case Josh Lambo (right groin injury) is unable to kick Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

–New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees finished first in the fan ballot portion of Pro Bowl voting with 1,270,631 votes. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (1,197,370 votes) was second.

–Field Level Media

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Redskins coach Gruden not worried about future

Redskins coach Gruden not worried about future

Redskins coach Gruden not worried about future

The Washington Redskins’ hopes for a playoff berth are hanging by a thread, but head coach Jay Gruden is not feeling the pressure regarding his future with the organization.

In an interview with ESPN, Gruden on Friday said, “It doesn’t weigh on me at all. My key works; I come in and work. … I understand it. You’re fine, you’re fine, you’re fine and then you’re not fine. I’ll wait to get final word when the season is over.”

After four straight losses (including an embarrassing 40-16 drubbing by the New York Giants on Sunday) and dropping five of their last six games, the Redskins are 6-7 as they prepare for this Sunday’s game against the Jaguars in Jacksonville.

The longest-tenured Redskins coach under Dan Snyder’s ownership since the team was bought in 1999, Gruden is five years into his contract, and Washington has not made the playoffs since the 2015 season, when it lost to the Green Bay Packers in the wild-card round.

“It’s not my job to judge [my performance],” said Gruden, who will sit down with Snyder after the season as a coach with two years left on his contract. “It’s my job to coach the guys I’ve got. There’s only one judge and he’s the one that has all the money. He’s the one that writes the checks. It’s up to him.”

The Redskins have struggled for various reasons this season, most notably on offense, where they will start their fourth quarterback of 2018 on Sunday. Seventeen of their players are on injured reserve, and that includes five starters on offense led by quarterback Alex Smith.

Maybe Gruden is not too concerned because the two-year contract extension he received after the 2016 season includes a combined $10 million in fully guaranteed money.

“He has always been supportive,” Gruden said of Snyder. “Never been negative. He gets very upset after losses, as we all do. But he’s been very supportive and has tried to do everything he can to help.”

–Field Level Media

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Chargers’ Allen could miss time with hip pointer

Chargers' Allen could miss time with hip pointer

Chargers’ Allen could miss time with hip pointer

The bad news for Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen? He could miss some time with a hip pointer suffered in Thursday night’s win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

The good news, however, is that Allen’s diagnosis did not include any structural damage in the hip, and if he is sidelined, it shouldn’t be for long, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Allen has 88 catches for 1,074 yards for the Chargers, who moved into a tie with the Chiefs atop the AFC West Division at 11-3 with their 29-28 win. He landed hard in the end zone as he came within fingertips of making a highlight reel touchdown catch in the second quarter.

The Chargers don’t play again until Dec. 22, a Saturday night game in Los Angeles against Baltimore, before closing the regular season Dec. 30 at Denver.

In six NFL seasons, all with the Chargers, Allen has 411 catches for 5,084 yards and 28 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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Eagles rule out QB Wentz (back) for Sunday

Eagles rule out QB Wentz (back) for Sunday

Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz will

Eagles rule out QB Wentz (back) for Sunday

Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz will not play Sunday night against the Los Angeles Rams because of a back injury, the Eagles confirmed Saturday.

Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles will make his third start of the season in place of Wentz, who had been listed as doubtful after an exam earlier this week revealed a stress fracture. Coach Doug Pederson said the injury could take up to three months to heal.

Foles, who started the Eagles’ first two games as Wentz completed his rehabilitation from a knee injury, has completed 54 of 82 passes for 451 yards with one touchdown and one interception this season.

Foles played for the Rams when they were still based in St. Louis in 2015, posting a 4-7 record with 2,052 passing yards, seven TDs and 10 picks.

Wentz likely will finish this season with a 5-6 record. He has completed a career-high 69.6 percent of his passes for 3,074 yards with 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Philadelphia (6-7) still has a slim chance at a wild-card playoff berth heading into the prime-time contest at Los Angeles (11-2).

–Field Level Media

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RB Conner downgraded to doubtful for Steelers

RB Conner downgraded to doubtful for Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers running

RB Conner downgraded to doubtful for Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner was downgraded to doubtful on the injury report on Saturday, the team announced.

That means he’s unlikely to play against New England on Sunday in a key AFC matchup for both teams.

Conner was limited in practice Friday as he continues to recover from a sprained ankle. Without him, the Steelers lost at Oakland last week. Even before Conner went down, Pittsburgh has struggled to find balance on offense of late, particularly the last three games.

The Steelers-Patriots game is a headliner of Week 15 as Pittsburgh slides into the game on a three-game losing streak, holding a narrow lead over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North and at risk of being thrust into a dogfight with numerous teams for the final spot in the AFC playoffs with another loss.

The Patriots are in the running for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, which would assure home-field advantage through the conference championship game, after the Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

Conner has 1,376 yards from scrimmage for the Steelers in 2018. He became the team’s No. 1 running back amid the holdout of All-Pro LeVeon Bell, who did not report to the team this season.

–Field Level Media

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Seahawks WR Baldwin expected to play versus 49ers

Seahawks WR Baldwin expected to play versus 49ers

Seattle Seahawks receiver

Seahawks WR Baldwin expected to play versus 49ers

Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin was a practice participant for the second straight day on Friday and is expected to be available when the team visits the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

Baldwin missed Monday night’s win over the Minnesota Vikings due to a hip injury. The Seahawks listed him as questionable for the game against San Francisco.

Meanwhile, linebacker K.J. Wright (knee), running back Rashaad Penny (knee) and safety Maurice Alexander (concussion) were ruled out of the contest. Guard D.J. Fluker (hamstring) is doubtful.

Baldwin has dealt with numerous injuries this season — knee, groin, elbow, hip — but has missed just three of Seattle’s 13 games. He had 37 catches for 388 yards and two touchdowns.

“Doug did really well,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Friday’s workout. “He practiced, made it through it today. He did fine. It looks like he’s playing.”

Wright will miss his fifth straight game. He has played in just three contests this season.

“We’re going to leave him home so that he can really work hard on it so next week he can have a chance to practice on Wednesday and we’ll just take it one day at a time and see how he goes,” Carroll told reporters. “He’s optimistic about it and we are, but we really won’t know until the end of next week where he is.”

Penny was injured against the Vikings.

“He came out of the game last week with a sore knee and it didn’t respond quickly enough to get back for this week, so we’re going to leave him (in Seattle) so he can get treated over the weekend,” Carroll said. “After about Tuesday or Wednesday, we’ll know a little bit more. We’ll let you know next week.”

Defensive tackle Jarran Reed (oblique) and safety Bradley McDougald (knee) were listed as questionable, and Carroll expects both to play.

–Field Level Media

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Watson-Hopkins connection rallies Texans over Jets

Watson-Hopkins connection rallies Texans over Jets

DeAndre Hopkins

Watson-Hopkins connection rallies Texans over Jets

DeAndre Hopkins caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson with 2:15 remaining as the Houston Texans inched closer to clinching the AFC South Division title with a 29-22 victory over the New York Jets on Saturday at East Rutherford, N.J.

On first down, Watson ran a play fake and connected with Hopkins along the left sideline. Hopkins turned around and made the catch while getting by New York cornerback Morris Claiborne.

A week after a season-low 36 receiving yards in a 24-21 loss to Indianapolis, Hopkins finished with 10 catches and a season-high 170 yards. He also caught a 45-yard TD in the second quarter.

After Hopkins gave the Texans a 26-22 lead, Houston’s defense stopped Jets quarterback Sam Darnold from getting his second career game-winning drive. Jonathan Joseph broke up a long pass to Robby Anderson on first down, and two plays later, J.J. Watt sacked Darnold on third-and-seven.

Darnold actually had another chance at a game-winning drive when the Jets gained possession with 54 seconds left following Ka’imi Fairbairn’s fifth field goal, but Jadeveon Clowney sacked Darnold for an 8-yard loss. The game ended when Darnold’s pass to Elijah McGuire on fourth-and-18 fell 2 yards shy.

The Texans (10-4) won for the 10th time in 11 games and can clinch their division if Indianapolis or Tennessee lose on Sunday.

Watson overcame being sacked six times and completed 22 of 28 passes for 294 yards. Fairbairn kicked field goals of 41, 32 and 53 yards in the first half before adding a 49-yarder early in the second half and a 40-yarder with 54 seconds remaining.

Darnold completed 24 of 38 passes for 253 yards. He threw a 5-yard touchdown to Anderson and a 13-yard TD to Andre Roberts and engineered a third touchdown drive culminating in McGuire’s 2-yard run with five minutes remaining.

Jason Myers made a 26-yard field goal in the first quarter but also missed two extra points as the Jets (4-10) lost for the seventh time in eight games.

The Texans built a 16-3 lead in the second quarter on two field goals by Fairbairn and Hopkins’ diving touchdown catch, which occurred two plays after Watt forced a fumble. The Jets were within 16-9 by halftime on Anderson’s grab with 30 seconds left and then made it 16-15 on Roberts’ TD with 8:44 left in the third.

Following Fairbairn’s fourth field goal, the Jets took their only lead at 22-19 when McGuire barreled into the end zone.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Jets place RB Crowell on IR

Report: Jets place RB Crowell on IR

Report: Jets place RB Crowell on IR

The New York Jets had already ruled out leading rusher Isaiah Crowell for Saturday’s home game against the Houston Texans, but now it appears he’s done for the season.

The team is placing Crowell on injured reserve with a toe injury, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Saturday’s absence will be the first of Crowell’s career after playing in 77 consecutive games. He has 685 yards and six touchdowns this season.

Crowell set a franchise record with 219 rushing yards against the Denver Broncos earlier this season but has topped 50 just once over the past eight games.

Coach Todd Bowles said Elijah McGuire (158 yards) and rookie Trenton Cannon (80) will get heavy work in the backfield.

Leading receiver Quincy Enunwa will also miss Saturday’s game with an ankle injury.

Enunwa has a team-best 38 receptions but hasn’t recorded a 100-yard game this season. His 449 yards are second to Robby Anderson’s 492.

–Field Level Media

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Eagles downgrade QB Wentz to doubtful vs. Rams

Eagles downgrade QB Wentz to doubtful vs. Rams

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was downgraded

Eagles downgrade QB Wentz to doubtful vs. Rams

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was downgraded to doubtful on the official injury report released after 4 p.m. ET on Friday a stress fracture in his back.

Earlier in the day, head coach Doug Pederson announced Wentz would be listed as questionable for Sunday’s game despite never taking the practice field this week.

Wentz, who was on the field lightly jogging the past two days, is expected to give way to Nick Foles at quarterback when the Eagles visit the Rams on Sunday.

Heavily frustrated with the media during a question and answer session Friday, Pederson said that Wentz will need up to three months for a complete recovery. The team is measuring whether Wentz could do significant damage by playing in a game with the injury.

“He has a stress injury that evolved over time and it won’t require surgery,” Pederson said.

NFL players have taken the field with known back injuries, especially the compression fracture known as transverse process. That injury is considered less serious.

“If we put him out there, there has to be 100 percent that there is no risk of anything further,” Pederson said.

Foles, who was Super Bowl MVP with the Eagles in February, started the first two games this season and went 1-1 while Wentz was recovering from knee surgery.

–Field Level Media

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Pats, Steelers moving on from last week’s stunners

Pats, Steelers moving on from last week's stunners

Pats, Steelers moving on from last week’s stunners

Clashes between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers are usually high-stakes affairs. When the two longtime AFC heavyweights meet Sunday at Heinz Field, there’s another angle this time.

Both teams are rankled coming off losses last week.

The Patriots (9-4) fell at Miami 34-33 when the Dolphins lateraled and weaved for 69 yards on the final play.

The Steelers (7-5-1) fell at Oakland 24-21 when kicker Chris Boswell’s plant foot slipped and he shanked a tying 40-yard field goal attempt with five seconds left. It was their third straight loss.

“We’re licking our wounds as we should when you’re unsuccessful in this business,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. “We’re excited about an opportunity to compete and get this negative taste out of our mouth, as I am sure New England is.”

Both teams lead their divisions, but only the Patriots have some clinching scenarios this week.

Per the NFL, New England clinches the AFC East with a win and a Miami loss or tie, or a tie plus a Miami loss. It clinches a playoff spot with a win plus a Tennessee loss or tie; or a tie plus a Baltimore loss, a Tennessee loss and an Indianapolis loss or tie.

“We’ve got a big challenge this week with Pittsburgh,” Patriots center David Andrews said. “We’ve got … to get this ship corrected.”

Turning the page is critical, New England quarterback Tom Brady said.

“We get back to work,” Brady said. “If (the Dolphins) didn’t make that play at the end, we’d do the same thing. It’s disappointing when we lose games. I think we all realize we could have done a better job in certain areas. I wish I could have done a better job on certain plays, but that’s football. We’ll just get back to work this week and try to go beat Pittsburgh.”

Maybe it’s the overall matchup or the chance to share the field with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but Brady has been stellar over the years against Pittsburgh, with 40 touchdown passes and four interceptions.

Roethlisberger missed most of the second half against Oakland, because of bruised ribs suffered on a sack in the first half. He said Wednesday he is good to go.

The three-game losing streak, which followed six straight wins, weighs on the Steelers.

“It’s very frustrating,” Roethlisberger said. “You want to win them all, but you understand you can’t. We can only control this week. We have had opportunities. We just for whatever reason haven’t found a way to do it. I don’t think it’s from a lack of sense of urgency. It could be lack of execution, lack of one thing here or there. We understand what it takes to get it done. We just have to do it.”

On Miami’s winning play, New England installed tight end Rob Gronkowski in the defensive backfield in anticipation of a Hail Mary pass, but the Steelers will be more concerned about his play on offense.

Asked if he was aware of a successful strategy to neutralize Gronkowski, Tomlin quipped, “We haven’t been a part of it. We’re looking to be.”

Pittsburgh is holding tryouts for kickers this week, although Boswell is also being given a chance to retain his job after missing 6-of-10 field goal attempts and five extra points this season.

Pittsburgh’s biggest injury concern is with running back James Conner, who missed the Oakland game. His status was downgraded to doubtful on Saturday.

New England as of Wednesday had no players out or limited at practice.

–Field Level Media

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Titans, Giants pin hopes on running backs

Titans, Giants pin hopes on running backs

Titans, Giants pin hopes on running backs

Entering Week 15, multiple things need to happen for the New York Giants to make the NFC playoffs. Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans, the Giants’ upcoming opponent, stand among a quartet of 7-6 teams vying for the last AFC wild-card spot.

The Titans hope to enhance their chances at reaching the playoffs for the second straight season while also officially eliminating the Giants (5-8) from contention Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.

The Giants are showing signs of life, having won four of their past five games following a dreadful 1-7 start. There is a remote possibility they can advance to the postseason if six scenarios go their way.

First, the Giants cannot lose any of their final three games, and then they need help.

The Giants need the Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1), Philadelphia Eagles (6-7), Washington Redskins (6-7) and Carolina Panthers (6-7) to lose twice and the Green Bay Packers (5-7-1) to lose once.

In the AFC, the Titans, the Baltimore Ravens, the Miami Dolphins and the Indianapolis Colts are all 7-6. Baltimore owns the four-way tiebreaker entering this week.

To attain the second AFC wild card, the Titans need to win out (including the regular-season finale against the Colts), get a loss by the Dolphins and have either Baltimore or the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1) lose once.

The Titans remain alive in the AFC South race, though they must win out and the Houston Texans (9-4) must lose twice. Coincidentally, the Texans are visiting the New York Jets on Saturday.

Both the Titans and the Giants are coming off blowout wins aided by dynamic production from their lead running backs.

In a 30-9 blowout of the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 6, Tennessee’s Derrick Henry raced for a 99-yard touchdown to tie Tony Dorsett for the longest run from scrimmage in NFL history. Henry also set the franchise’s single-game rushing record with 238 yards on 17 carries, breaking the previous mark of 228 set by Chris Johnson in 2009.

“You’ve got to stop him like you do Adrian Peterson or any marquee, downhill, hard running back,” Giants coach Pat Shurmur said.

Last week, Giants rookie Saquon Barkley highlighted a career-best 170-yard showing with a 78-yard TD run in a 40-16 win over Washington. He became the first Giants rookie to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards and set a team record for rookies with 13 total touchdowns.

“We better be ready to play defense,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “This is a much-improved (Giants) team. When they’ve lost, they’ve lost close games. When they’ve won, they looked like they won them pretty convincingly. That game (against the Redskins) was over about the middle of the second quarter.”

Barkley is third in the league with 1,124 rushing yards, trailing only the Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott (1,262) and the Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley II (1,203). The Giants are averaging 31.4 points in their past five games, and Barkley has amassed 605 rushing yards in those contests.

“We’re starting to figure out that, kind of this offense runs through him,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. “When we’re running the ball well, it just sets up everything else.”

The New York offense will continue to be centered around Barkley, especially if Odell Beckham Jr. sits out again. The star wide receiver missed last week’s game with a quadriceps injury, and he was limited in practice Wednesday. Beckham’s status likely will not be known until Friday or Saturday.

The Titans will be missing two starters Sunday, right tackle Jack Conklin and tight end Jonnu Smith. Both players landed on injured reserve Tuesday due to knee injuries.

–Field Level Media

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Lions impressed by tame Allen, Bills’ rebuild

Lions impressed by tame Allen, Bills' rebuild

Josh Allen

Lions impressed by tame Allen, Bills’ rebuild

Josh Allen hasn’t led the Buffalo Bills to a victory the last two weeks, but he’s emerged as a team leader.

The rookie quarterback, taken with the seventh overall pick in the draft, has impressed his coaches and teammates by taking ownership of the offense. He’ll make his fourth consecutive start since recovering from an elbow injury when the Bills host the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

The Bills (4-9) are 1-2 over the last three games but they’ve all been close. They defeated Jacksonville by three points before losing to division foes Miami and the New York Jets by four points apiece.

The veterans view him differently since he returned as the No. 1 quarterback.

“Josh is a leader,” head coach Sean McDermott told the team’s website and other media members. “That’s a little bit different for a rookie to be the leader, but the position he plays and the way that he’s played and earned their respect, he’s the leader on the offense. The goal is to have one leader in every position room, but that’s not always realistic.”

Allen has not stood out in the passing game but is putting pressure on opponents with his feet.

Allen has completed only 52.4 percent of his throws this season but rates as one of the NFL’s leading rushers over the past three games. He gained 99 yards and scored a touchdown against the Jaguars, dented the Dolphins for 135 rushing yards, and scampered for 101 yards and a touchdown against the Jets.

“That’s a weapon for us in that regard but we still have to run our offense,” McDermott said. “When you get too heavy into that bucket, that becomes unhealthy.”

Allen’s running threat could be even more essential on Sunday if top running back LeSean McCoy can’t play. McCoy is dealing with a hamstring injury and missed practice on Wednesday. Chris Ivory will step in as the starter if McCoy is inactive.

Facing a mobile quarterback is something that concerns Lions head coach Matt Patricia.

“We’re just looking at someone that has been very explosive, very dynamic as a player that’s really given this offense a whole different element that you have to try to defend against,” he said. “We’re going to have our work cut out for us there.”

Patricia is also impressed that Allen doesn’t try to force the action.

“He’s not trying to win the game on every play, he’s just trying to control and manage the game,” he said.

The Lions (5-8) have lost five of their last seven games but defeated Arizona 17-3 last weekend. They’re still in the running for a wild-card berth, trailing Minnesota — which currently holds the final playoff spot — by 1 1/2 games.

They have a major concern at quarterback. Matthew Stafford is dealing with a back injury and was limited in practice on Wednesday.

The Lions are banged up on both sides of the ball. Top pass rusher Ziggy Ansah (shoulder) was placed on injured reserve. Another defensive lineman, Da’Shawn Hand (knee), will sit out on Sunday. Top running back Kerryon Johnson (knee) could miss his fourth straight game on Sunday, while offensive tackle Rick Wagner is in the league’s concussion protocol.

Bills placekicker Steven Hauschka, who missed Wednesday’s practice with a hip injury, is questionable to play.

–Field Level Media

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Journeyman Johnson charged with reviving Redskins at Jacksonville

Journeyman Johnson charged with reviving Redskins at Jacksonville

Journeyman Johnson charged with reviving Redskins at Jacksonville

While the Washington Redskins maintain playoff hopes despite a month-long stumble, the Jacksonville Jaguars are left hoping to salvage something out of a season far below expectations.

On a four-game losing streak since the season-ending leg injury to quarterback Alex Smith, the Redskins will head to Jacksonville on Sunday in the midst of a freefall. The losing streak has come after 6-3 start to the season that spurred thoughts of an NFC East title.

Not only did Smith suffer a broken fibula and tibia when he was sacked against the Houston Texans, his replacement, Colt McCoy, saw his season end with a broken fibula in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 3.

It means that the Redskins’ playoff hopes will now rest on the passing and running skills of Josh Johnson, who made his first NFL appearance in five years last weekend against the New York Giants, throwing for 195 yards and a touchdown in a 40-16 defeat.

Johnson’s performance, as a replacement for an ineffective Mark Sanchez, earned him the starting nod from head coach Jay Gruden.

“I’m excited that we’re playing against this talented defense and I’m excited that we’re playing against these talented (cornerbacks), this pass rush, these linebackers,” Johnson said of the matchup with the Jaguars. “It’s a great test and I wouldn’t have it any other way than to get an opportunity to go against somebody where you have to earn it and you have to prove that you deserve to be on this field.”

Johnson, who has spent time with 13 NFL franchises, but has only played in a game with four teams, showed his mobility Sunday when he ran for a touchdown in an otherwise forgettable game for the Redskins. He admits he mostly got to know the names of his newest teammates by playing video games the past two weeks.

It leaves the Jaguars defense with two runners to account for. Johnson’s lack of on-field time over the last five years could mean a busy day for Washington veteran running back Adrian Peterson.

Except the 33-year old Peterson has rushed for just 47.5 yards per game over the Redskins’ last six contests. Peterson did have 98 yards rushing – thanks to a 90-yard TD burst – on Dec. 3 against the Eagles.

Like the Redskins, the Jaguars (4-9) have moved on to a new quarterback, but their decision was not injury-based. Cody Kessler has started each of the last two games for the Jaguars, going 1-1, as a replacement for an ineffective Blake Bortles.

Kessler threw for 240 yards and a touchdown on Thursday, Dec. 6 against the Tennessee Titans, but the Jaguars fell 30-9. Jacksonville picked up a 6-0 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 2 when Kessler threw for just 150 yards.

Through all of their troubles, the Jaguars’ defense has remained strong, holding two opponents under 10 points and seven opponents to 20 points or less. Yet the loss to the Titans was a different story.

The play that will follow the Jaguars long after this season has ended will be the 99-yard touchdown run from the Titans’ Derrick Henry against the Titans. Henry rushed for four touchdowns and a Titans-record 238 yards.

“We’ll respond,” Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell said, according to jaguars.com. “The biggest thing is to keep going, keep pushing. … It’s a situation no one wants to be in, knowing you’re going home when the season’s over. That’s tough. It sucks, but we have to find a way to push and win some ballgames to end the season. You always want to end on a good note, something that can give you some momentum going into the offseason.”

The Redskins do have the 14th best scoring defense in the NFL at 22.8 points per game, but during their four-game losing streak, each opponent has scored more than that average. And the tepid Giants did have a 34-0 lead at halftime last week, although Sanchez’s troubles moving the ball did not help the situation.

Redskins players who did not participate in practice Wednesday: offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom (knee/ankle), cornerback Adonis Anderson (hamstring), wide receiver Josh Doctson (concussion protocol), quarterback McCoy (fibula), tight end Jordan Reed (ankle/foot), tackle Ty Nsekhe (knee) and defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis (shin); Limited in practice: wide receiver Jamison Crowder (knee/ankle), linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton (shoulder), running back Peterson (shoulder), center Chase Roullier (knee), tackle Morgan Moses (ankle) and tackle Trent Williams (thumb/wrist).

Jaguars players who did not participate in practice Wednesday: wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. (quadriceps), offensive lineman Jeremy Parnell (knee) and linebacker Leon Jacobs (quadriceps).

–Field Level Media

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Chiefs S Berry returns, plays only first half

Chiefs S Berry returns, plays only first half

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric

Chiefs S Berry returns, plays only first half

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry made an abbreviated return to action Thursday night.

The five-time Pro Bowl performer played the first half of the Chiefs’ 29-28 defeat to the Los Angeles Chargers but sat out the second half as part of team’s previously scripted plan.

Berry, 29, had been out all season with a right Achilles tendon issue after missing all but the season opener last year due to a torn left Achilles tendon.

With Berry on the field for the first two quarters — and notching a team-high six tackles — the Chiefs charged to a 14-7 halftime lead. Without Berry on the field after the break, the Chargers rallied for three touchdowns, the last two in the final four minutes.

Los Angeles won the game on a touchdown and two-point conversion with four seconds to play, both on throws from Philip Rivers to Mike Williams.

Berry said postgame of the strategy of playing him only the first half, “We just wanted to be smart about the whole situation. We came in with a plan, and we just stuck with it. We didn’t want to push it past that, so we just stayed true to that.

“That was between me and (coach Andy Reid). We just talked about it and felt I was good where I was at.”

Reid said of Berry’s performance, “I thought he did OK. There were a couple he’d want back, but I thought he did good. He hasn’t played, he hasn’t had pads on since training camp. That was only for a couple of days. It was kind of expected (that we would take it) nice and slow. We didn’t expect him to play the whole game.

“He had his reps in that first half, and we just kind of backed off. We were going to see how he felt as we went. He gave us some good snaps.”

Berry was officially listed as questionable pregame after practicing on a limited basis all week.

A three-time first-team All-Pro in just five full seasons on the field, Berry has 14 career interceptions and 440 tackles.

–Field Level Media

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Jury issues $25M verdict against former Cowboys DT, club

Jury issues $25M verdict against former Cowboys DT, club

A defunct Dallas

Jury issues $25M verdict against former Cowboys DT, club

A defunct Dallas nightclub and former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent will share responsibility for a $25 million award in the death of his teammate and best friend, Jerry Brown, six years ago.

Brown, 25, was killed Dec. 8, 2012, in Irving, Texas, when the Mercedes-Benz that Brent was driving flipped over. Brent was driving 110 miles per hour in a 45 mph zone at the time of the accident. He had a blood-alcohol content of 0.18 percent, or more than twice the legal limit.

The jury placed 48 percent of the blame on Brent and the other 48 percent on Beamers, the former club where Brent had been drinking that night. Brown was found to have the remaining 4 percent of the blame because he got in the car with Brent and didn’t use his seat belt.

Brown’s mother, Stacey Jackson, will receive the money on behalf of his estate. She said some of the payout will go to a nonprofit organization she started in her son’s name.

Jackson and the estate had asked for an award of as much as $95 million, primarily from the club.

Attorneys for the club said in court during their arguments that Brent was not drunk when he left the establishment. The crash occurred six minutes later.

The civil verdict puts an end to legal proceedings in the case. In a 2014 criminal trial, Brent was convicted of intoxication manslaughter and received a 10-year suspended prison sentence.

He now is a scouting intern for the Cowboys.

–Field Level Media

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Eagles QB Wentz officially questionable vs. Rams

Eagles QB Wentz officially questionable vs. Rams

Carson Wentz is officially listed as questionable with

Eagles QB Wentz officially questionable vs. Rams

Carson Wentz is officially listed as questionable with a stress fracture in his back despite not taking the practice field with the Philadelphia Eagles this week.

Wentz, who was on the field lightly jogging the past two days, is expected to give way to Nick Foles at quarterback when the Eagles visit the Rams on Sunday.

Head coach Doug Pederson said Friday that Wentz will need up to three months for a complete recovery. The team is measuring whether Wentz could do significant damage by playing in a game with the injury.

“He has a stress injury that evolved over time and it won’t require surgery,” Pederson said.

NFL players have taken the field with known back injuries, especially the compression fracture known as transverse process.

“If we put him out there, there has to be 100 percent that there is no risk of anything further,” Pederson said.

Foles, who was Super Bowl MVP with the Eagles in February, started the first two games this season and went 1-1 while Wentz was recovering from knee surgery.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Saints release TE Swoope

Report: Saints release TE Swoope

The

Report: Saints release TE Swoope

The New Orleans Saints released tight end Erik Swoope on Thursday, one day after claiming him off waivers from the Indianapolis Colts, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported.

Swoope, 26, was waived by the Colts on Tuesday for the second time this season. He had eight catches for 87 yards and three touchdowns in seven games for Indianapolis this season, having spent part of the year on the practice squad and missing several games due to injury.

The Saints did not immediately confirm the transaction, but Swoope did not practice on Thursday, according to NOLA.com. The team listed him as a non-participant because of a knee injury.

–Field Level Media

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Saints await Panthers with home-field edge in mind

Saints await Panthers with home-field edge in mind

Saints await Panthers with home-field edge in mind

The New Orleans Saints have accomplished one of their goals. There is much more to achieve for the NFC South champions.

They’ll have to do some of this additional work against the Carolina Panthers.

The teams will meet twice across the final three weeks of the regular season, including Monday night at Bank of America Stadium.

“Obviously, we’re playing for a lot right now,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “Teams start out the season, they talk about winning their division.”

The Saints (11-2) have clinched NFC South titles in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history. They’re in line to hold home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs depending on what happens the next few games.

“You’re hopefully improving each week and making the corrections,” Payton said. “For us, it’s still week-to-week.”

The Panthers (6-7) are trying to return to the playoffs for the second year in a row as a wild-card entry. With a five-game losing streak, the list of concerns has grown substantially, but they’ve insisted that there’s a reasonable way to be playing into January.

“We’re in a position where we’re done with the cliche sayings,” quarterback Cam Newton said. “It just comes down to us doing our job. That’s pretty much what it is.”

Barely more than a month ago, it looked like this December stretch that included a couple of games with the Saints would constitute a divisional showdown. That was before the skid struck the Panthers.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera has stressed that not all is lost and there’s a chance to turn things around.

“All you need is a chance,” he said.

That’s clearly the outlook that has been circulating among the Panthers since last weekend’s loss at Cleveland.

“We’re going to continue to play hard and continue to stick together,” defensive end Julius Peppers said. “We are going to keep trying to get it right. … Our focus is going to (be on the Saints). There is really nowhere else to turn to. It’s the next game.”

It’s a prime-time game, something players said is worth savoring. It was a Thursday night outing at Pittsburgh that went awry and started Carolina’s five-game slump.

The Saints won all three matchups last season with Carolina, including a playoff encounter.

After the end of the 2017 season, the Panthers made coaching personnel changes on offense and brought in Norv Turner as the coordinator. Less than two weeks ago, two defensive assistants were fired and Rivera took over the primary defensive play-calling duties.

Through all this, Carolina players say they’re the ones accountable.

“We had high expectations for the season and unfortunately it hasn’t been going our way,” safety Mike Adams said. “At the end of the day, the only people we can blame are ourselves. We’re put in great positions to make plays and we just haven’t been making them.”

New Orleans had about six slow quarters on offense before a productive second half at Tampa Bay in the divisional-clinching victory last Sunday.

“It was important for us to get our momentum going and get back to what we’re doing,” Saints running back Mark Ingram said.

The Panthers have played only one of their past five games at home, falling to Seattle in that outing.

New Orleans holds a league-best 6-1 road mark heading into its final regular-season game away from home. The Saints close at home against Pittsburgh and Carolina in the bid for the top mark in the NFC.

–Field Level Media

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