Take 5: Can Belichick slow Chiefs’ offense?

Take 5: Can Belichick slow Chiefs’ offense?

Bad Blake Bortles turned Week 5’s best game into a dud. Luckily, the NFL schedule brings another AFC showdown this week, this time in prime time when the Kansas City Chiefs visit the New England Patriots on Sunday.

No one will confuse the Patriots’ defense with the Jacksonville Jaguars’, but it’s a unit that is quietly much improved — 13th in yards per play (5.5) and eighth in yards per pass (6.1), up from 31st (5.7) and 20th (6.4), respectively, in 2017 — and we know Bill Belichick is one of the best at preparing for a specific opponent. But can he limit Andy Reid’s attack with his signature approach?

1. What will be the focus of Belichick’s defense?

The Patriots’ coach is known for game plans centered on taking away the opponent’s top threat.

But that’s hardly simple against the Chiefs, because Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are each so dangerous and unique. Complicating matters, both men often align in the slot (especially in empty sets) and attack vertically, making them more difficult to bracket with dedicated double-teams than an X receiver who lines up wide.

To combat both threats, expect Belichick to employ plenty of three-man rushes, which would open up a number of possible wrinkles. With eight in coverage, the Patriots could assign dedicated double-teams to both Hill and Kelce while still keeping a center field safety and playing man coverage elsewhere (Stephon Gilmore likely will follow former Bills teammate Sammy Watkins, as the two have similar body types).

Dropping eight also would give Belichick freedom to deploy a lurker — a free defender who simply reads the quarterback’s eyes — or a QB spy, or both on the same play at times. These tactics would help clog the middle of the field against Reid’s wealth of crossing routes while keeping a watch on Patrick Mahomes to limit his movement outside the pocket.

2. Containing Mahomes is more important than sacking him

A three-man rush wouldn’t hamstring the Patriots much anyway, as their pass rush (3.5 percent sack rate, 32nd in NFL) shouldn’t threaten the Chiefs’ O-line (3.4 percent sack rate allowed, second).

Instead, Belichick will be more focused on preventing Mahomes’ opportunities to escape, which a three-man contain rush is built to do. The Patriots also could employ stunts and twists with three rushers to flush Mahomes in the direction they want, with a QB spy waiting to close him down as he leaves the pocket.

New England’s dedication to coverage will open up lanes for Kareem Hunt — just as Denver’s did two weeks ago — but Belichick could mitigate the damage somewhat by employing “Bear” fronts, which place defensive linemen over the center and both guards. Belichick often uses this approach, which plays like a 5-2 front (five DLs, two LBs) or a 5-1 in nickel and dime, because it prevents double teams against his stoutest run defenders and can render zone runs — which the Chiefs favor — fruitless.

Even if most of these tactics work, Kansas City’s overwhelming offensive firepower will be enough to move the ball regularly against a famously bend-don’t-break defense. New England will look to win on third down and especially in the red zone, where Hill becomes a less dangerous receiver (and more of a gadget player) because of his tiny frame and less space in which his speed can stretch the defense.

Tom Brady & Co. should carve up the Chiefs’ last-place D, so New England’s defense simply must win a few battles rather than the war.

3. Cincinnati must protect to dispatch Pittsburgh

The Steelers have bullied the Bengals of late, winning the past six meetings, nine of the past 10 and 14 of the past 17 (including playoffs). Perhaps more surprising, Pittsburgh hasn’t allowed more than 21 points to Cincinnati in the past 18 meetings.

Cincinnati’s offense should break the latter streak if it can avoid what short-circuited the Atlanta Falcons in Pittsburgh: poor pass protection (six sacks, 13 QB hits).

Keeping clean pockets is especially important with Andy Dalton, whose inability to handle pressure has always been his biggest weakness.

The Bengals’ reconfigured O-line has been a major part of the team’s 4-1 start. Cordy Glenn rarely wows, but it’s often easy to forget he’s out there (a good thing for a left tackle). Longtime left guard Clint Boling has steadied some in pass protection this year, and Trey Hopkins has held up fine in the absence of first-round center Billy Price, who could return from a foot injury this week.

The right side, however, is more exploitable. Despite mostly steady play, right guard Alex Redmond and right tackle Bobby Hart have each been susceptible to bull rushes this season, with Redmond accumulating four holding calls and Hart racking up 5.5 sacks allowed plus two holds.

That could be trouble against Stephon Tuitt, whose burst and power routinely get him near quarterbacks, and T.J. Watt, who is tied for the NFL sack lead (six) and plays with a springy explosiveness. (Bengals fans probably hold a grudge against Tuitt for ruining Cincy’s 2015 season when he intercepted Dalton and the QB broke his thumb tackling the big man.)

Even without Tyler Eifert (ankle), Dalton has the weapons to carve up Pittsburgh’s leaky back end if given time. That’s the top priority as the Bengals seek a breakthrough against the Steelers.

4. Promising signs for Seattle’s offense

Brian Schottenheimer was hardly an inspiring hire as the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator, and early returns (including 0-for-10 on third downs in Week 4) were mostly discouraging. But glimpses of optimism have shined through, most obviously Sunday in a 31-point performance against the Los Angeles Rams.

Pete Carroll clearly wanted to return to the run-centric approach that defined the offense early in Russell Wilson’s career. The Seahawks have 105 runs over the past three weeks, but they aren’t just running into a brick wall over and over.

Schottenheimer has kept them efficient with a variety of man- and zone-blocking concepts and a ton of zone-read elements to occupy backside defenders. On Sunday alone, Seattle showed an option for Wilson to keep the ball on 19 of 32 runs, including Mike Davis’ 6-yard touchdown. The same tactic also produced Davis’ 20-yard score at Arizona and Chris Carson’s 5-yarder vs. Dallas.

More important, Schottenheimer has ramped up the play-action passing, one of Wilson’s greatest strengths. Against L.A., Wilson went 9 of 11 for 172 yards and three touchdowns off play-action. Two of those scores came on designer deep shots, one on a sluggo (slant-and-go) and another on a Yankee concept (deep crosser underneath a deep post).

Such designs are a great fit for Wilson, featuring his excellent deep accuracy and forcing him to deliver on time rather than hold the ball and burden his offensive line. Tyler Lockett’s speed and Wilson’s mobility make such plays particularly dangerous, like on a Week 1 design in which Wilson rolled right by design and threw all the way back left to Lockett for a 51-yard score.

The Seahawks probably remain too run-heavy — it’s a myth that you must run it well and/or often for play-action to work; just ask Jay Gruden — but Schottenheimer is building effectively off of the run-based identity.

Facing an Oakland Raiders defense that has been porous against run and pass, Seattle’s offense could be in for its most productive game yet, with friendly matchups against the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Chargers to follow.

5. Which Titans offense will we see vs. Baltimore?

Blaine Gabbert and a limited Marcus Mariota prevented us from seeing the full scope of new coordinator Matt LaFleur’s offense until Week 4 against the Philadelphia Eagles, when Mariota erupted for 344 passing yards and two scores (one INT), including the game-winner to Corey Davis in overtime.

That performance was particularly encouraging because of the Titans’ aggressiveness opening up the playbook. LaFleur, who has worked under both Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan the last two years, dialed up a number of downfield route designs out of condensed formations, using stack releases to free receivers and give Mariota defined reads and throws.

But last week’s flop in Buffalo was equally discouraging. Perhaps thinking they wouldn’t need many points to win, the Titans returned to a far more conservative approach and looked stuck in mud, totaling 221 total yards and just 129 through the air.

Setting aside a nice off-schedule play on Nick Williams’ brutal dropped touchdown, Mariota did little to inspire confidence. He often looked unsettled in the pocket, threw with spotty accuracy and, most worrisome, struggled to read the field against Sean McDermott’s zone-heavy defense.

That has quietly been a major recurring concern for Mariota, who should be much more comfortable reading defenses in his fourth year as a starter, and such issues could be exacerbated against the Ravens on Sunday. Under coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, Baltimore’s defense is as complex as any in the league, employing a wide variety of zone exchanges and blitzes to break down protections and fool quarterbacks.

LaFleur can help Mariota by bringing back the aggression from Week 4 and dictating to the defense with downfield designs, many of which feature extra protection built in. But it might not be enough if the former No. 2 overall pick doesn’t make significant strides on his own.

–David DeChant, Field Level Media

Vikings RB Cook to miss third straight game

Vikings RB Cook to miss third straight game

Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook will miss third straight game with a hamstring injury when the Vikings face the New York Jets on Sunday.

Cook appeared to be making progress when he was a full practice participant on Wednesday. But he missed

Vikings RB Cook to miss third straight game

Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook will miss third straight game with a hamstring injury when the Vikings face the New York Jets on Sunday.

Cook appeared to be making progress when he was a full practice participant on Wednesday. But he missed the past two days and was declared as out on Friday’s injury report.

Cook has just 98 yards on 36 carries this season while dealing with the bothersome hamstring.

“It makes it difficult because you never really know,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told reporters of Cook’s situation. “He comes out and he says, ‘Hey, I’m good to go.’ And it’s just kind of how it goes. You have to have versatility in your game plan.”

Latavius Murray will start in Cook’s place.

Murray racked up a career-high 155 yards on 24 carries in last Sunday’s win over the Arizona Cardinals.

“He’s a guy that needs carries and the physicality of things,” Zimmer said. “I like Latavius and the way he approaches the game, and typically he’s not a one-carry-every-quarter guy, he’s a guy that needs to get the football some.”

Minnesota also ruled out offensive tackle Riley Reiff (foot), safety Andrew Sendejo (groin) and defensive end Everson Griffen (mental health).

Defensive tackle Linval Joseph (ankle, knee, shoulder) is listed as questionable.

–Field Level Media

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WR Hilton slated to return for Colts

WR Hilton slated to return for Colts

The Indianapolis Colts ruled out five players for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills, while it appears top receiver T.Y. Hilton is set to return after a two-game absence.

Hilton was no longer listed on the injury report after being a full participant

WR Hilton slated to return for Colts

The Indianapolis Colts ruled out five players for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, while it appears top receiver T.Y. Hilton is set to return after a two-game absence.

Hilton was no longer listed on the injury report after being a full participant in Friday’s practice. He has been ailing with chest and hamstring injuries since being hurt in the Week 4 loss to the Houston Texans.

Hilton has 21 receptions for 294 yards and two touchdowns in four games this season.

Listed as out by the Colts are defensive lineman Denico Autry (hamstring), tight end Jack Doyle (hip), safety Clayton Geathers (concussion, neck), receiver Ryan Grant (ankle) and running back Robert Turbin (shoulder).

Doyle will be missing his fourth straight contest while Autry and Geathers are missing their second in a row.

Indianapolis listed cornerbacks Arthur Maulet (hip) and Chris Milton (hamstring), as well as tight end Erik Swoope (knee) as questionable.

Linebacker Darius Leonard (ankle) didn’t practice Friday but is expected to play. He leads the AFC with 62 tackles.

–Field Level Media

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Browns trade RB Hyde to Jaguars

Browns trade RB Hyde to Jaguars

The Cleveland Browns have traded running back Carlos Hyde to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a fifth-round draft pick, the Browns confirmed Friday.

Hyde can help the Jaguars to replace the yards lost with the injury to No. 1 running back Leonard Fournette, who has

Browns trade RB Hyde to Jaguars

The Cleveland Browns have traded running back Carlos Hyde to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a fifth-round draft pick, the Browns confirmed Friday.

Hyde can help the Jaguars to replace the yards lost with the injury to No. 1 running back Leonard Fournette, who has missed much of the young season with a hamstring injury. He has played in just parts of two games and gained 71 yards on 20 carries.

Fournette’s backup, T.J. Yeldon, also has been fighting injuries. The Jaguars also lost Corey Grant with a foot injury.

A product of Ohio State, Hyde was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The Browns signed him to a three-year, $15 million contract in the offseason.

In six games (five starts) with the Browns, Hyde carried the ball 114 times for 382 yards and scored five touchdowns and added six receptions for 29 yards.

The trade should mean more playing time for rookie Nick Chubb, a second-round draft pick this year by Cleveland. Chubb, who played college football at Georgia, has carried the ball 16 times for the Browns and gained 173 yards, an average of 10.8 yards per carry.

–Field Level Media

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Raiders RB Lynch out at least a month

Raiders RB Lynch out at least a month

Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch is expected to miss at least a month due to a groin injury, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday.

Lynch underwent an MRI exam earlier this week. The Raiders may place the 32-year-old on injured

Raiders RB Lynch out at least a month

Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch is expected to miss at least a month due to a groin injury, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday.

Lynch underwent an MRI exam earlier this week. The Raiders may place the 32-year-old on injured reserve.

Lynch was injured during last Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Lynch has rushed for 376 yards and three touchdowns this season.

Doug Martin will receive a heavier workload in Lynch’s absence. He has rushed for 99 yards on 27 carries.

The Raiders (1-5) have a bye this week.

–Field Level Media

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Redskins RB Peterson questionable for Cowboys

Redskins RB Peterson questionable for Cowboys

The Washington Redskins listed running back Adrian Peterson as questionable with a shoulder injury on Friday, but he is expected to play against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Peterson said he feels much better than he did last week, when he labored through pregame

Redskins RB Peterson questionable for Cowboys

The Washington Redskins listed running back Adrian Peterson as questionable with a shoulder injury on Friday, but he is expected to play against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Peterson said he feels much better than he did last week, when he labored through pregame preparations and rushed for 97 yards on 17 carries against the Carolina Panthers.

Peterson, who has rushed for 339 yards on the season, also is bothered by a tender ankle.

Washington ruled out Jamison Crowder (ankle) for the contest. Fellow receiver Paul Richardson (shoulder, knee) and safety Troy Apke (hamstring) were listed as doubtful.

“He’s getting his knee checked out and still dealing with his shoulder,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden told reporters of Richardson. “So, we’re trying to get him some rest, see if he can do anything.”

Cornerbacks Quinton Dunbar (shin) and Danny Johnson (forearm), guard Shawn Lauvao (calf) and running back Chris Thompson (rib, knee) are listed as questionable.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: With RB Fournette out, Jaguars acquire Hyde

NFL notebook: With RB Fournette out, Jaguars acquire Hyde

With starting running back Leonard Fournette ruled out for his third straight game and limited to just 20 carries this season, the Jacksonville Jaguars have acquired Carlos Hyde from the Cleveland Browns for a fifth-round draft pick.

Fournette suffered a hamstring

NFL notebook: With RB Fournette out, Jaguars acquire Hyde

With starting running back Leonard Fournette ruled out for his third straight game and limited to just 20 carries this season, the Jacksonville Jaguars have acquired Carlos Hyde from the Cleveland Browns for a fifth-round draft pick.

Fournette suffered a hamstring injury in the season opener against the New York Giants and missed the next two games. He aggravated it in Week 4 when he returned to play against the New York Jets. Fournette’s backup, T.J. Yeldon, also has been fighting injuries and the Jaguars lost Corey Grant with a foot injury.

A product of Ohio State, Hyde was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The Browns signed him to a three-year, $15 million contract in the offseason. In six games (five starts) with the Browns, Hyde carried the ball 114 times for 382 yards and scored five touchdowns and added six receptions for 29 yards.

The trade should mean more playing time for rookie Nick Chubb, a second-round draft pick this year by Cleveland. Chubb, who played college football at Georgia, has carried the ball 16 times for the Browns and gained 173 yards, an average of 10.8 yards per carry.

–Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch is expected to miss at least a month due to a groin injury, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

Lynch underwent an MRI exam earlier this week after suffering the injury last Sunday during a loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The Raiders may place the 32-year-old on injured reserve.

Lynch has rushed for 376 yards and three touchdowns this season for the Raiders (1-5). Doug Martin will receive a heavier workload in Lynch’s absence. He has rushed for 99 yards on 27 carries.

–Odell Beckham Jr. said he is ready to do his part to get the New York Giants back on a winning path, but the outspoken wide receiver said he can’t do it alone.

“I’m ready to talk about the Atlanta Falcons,” Beckham said. “I think we’re 1-5 and we need to start winning games. “Everybody needs to do more. I need to play better. I can’t say that I’ve had my best games. I can’t say I’ve done enough. … We win games together, we lose games together.”

With the Giants at 1-5 entering Monday night’s game in Atlanta, Beckham put himself on the spot by flinging arrows at teammates and the offense in general in a wide-ranging ESPN interview last week. Beckham’s critique drew the ire of ownership, and John Mara said publicly he needs “less talk, more play” from the newly minted Beckham. On Friday, Beckham said he has not yet talked to Mara and did not confirm he was fined by the team as ESPN reported this week.

–The Arizona Cardinals fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and promoted quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich to the play-caller position.

The move comes hours after a 45-10 loss to the Denver Broncos on Thursday night, which dropped the Cardinals to 1-6 on the season. The Cardinals are 31st in the league in scoring at 13.1 points per game this season. They were limited to 223 total yards against the Broncos and haven’t had more than 269 yards in a game this season.

Leftwich, a former first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, joined the Cardinals as an intern in 2016 under former coach Bruce Arians. He takes up the task of guiding rookie quarterback Josh Rosen and turning the offense around. Rosen had a season-worst five turnovers on Thursday night. His 1.9 QBR on Thursday is the second-worst by any quarterback this season, surpassed only by Bills QB Nathan Peterman’s lowly 1.1 rating in Week 1.

–Rookie running back Royce Freeman sprained his ankle in the Denver Broncos’ Thursday night rout of the Cardinals, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Freeman, who has started every game for the Broncos this season, left the 45-10 victory after carrying the ball 13 times for 37 yards and a touchdown. He reportedly could miss some time, but the Broncos don’t play again until Oct. 28 vs. the Kansas City Chiefs.

Freeman, 22, was drafted by the Broncos in the third round of the 2018 draft, 71st overall. The rookie has rushed 71 times for 309 yards and four touchdowns through his first seven games.

–Field Level Media

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Jets’ Myers kicked way through ‘long road’ into record books

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Jason Myers kept jogging onto the field to kick one field goal after another.

Once, twice, six times.

By the time he went out to boot his seventh last Sunday, the New York Jets kicker wasn't sure how many he had against Denver.

Myers just knew there were

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Jason Myers kept jogging onto the field to kick one field goal after another.

Once, twice, six times.

By the time he went out to boot his seventh last Sunday, the New York Jets kicker wasn’t sure how many he had against Denver.

Myers just knew there were lots of them.

“Someone goes, ‘Man, how many was that?'” a smiling Myers recalled Friday. “I started counting and I lost count.”

Totally understandable, of course. That’ll happen when you make a franchise-record seven field goals, the second-most in NFL history. Myers was one shy of the eight by Tennessee’s Rob Bironas in 2007. His 24 total points — seven field goals and three extra points — were just two short of Bironas’ mark for the most in league history by a player who didn’t score a touchdown.

“It’s fun to get all that work in,” Myers said. “I didn’t even know where they were from until after the game. But, yeah, it was fun.”

Myers got things started with a 30-yarder in the first quarter. He had a 48-yarder in the second and closed the opening half with a 32-yard kick.

His 37-yarder in the third quarter gave him four.

Then came the fourth quarter, when he made field goals of 45, 37 and 45 yards to help lift the Jets to a 42-34 victory. The Jets’ offense ranks last in the NFL in red-zone efficiency and scored just one touchdown in six opportunities against the Colts, but Myers was there to give them a boost with his busy leg.

Myers was also selected the AFC’s special teams player of the week for his performance.

“That was really out of the ordinary,” long snapper Thomas Hennessy said. “I think in the fourth quarter, we had three or something, so I definitely knew that we were approaching an amount that is not normal.”

Myers’ path to the Jets’ record books has also been unusual, with plenty of twists and turns.

Just two months ago, he didn’t know if he’d have a job in the NFL after being cut by Seattle. Today, he leads NFL kickers with 63 points and 16 field goals, and is tied with Kansas City’s Harrison Butker for the most touchbacks with 32.

“I think the progression of Jason’s career is just awesome and it’s an awesome testament that the guy stuck through it all like that,” Jets special teams coordinator Brant Boyer said. “To see success happen for him, I think it’s really cool because he’s such a great kid and he’s a hard worker. Just seeing him come in and have success, I was proud as hell of him.”

The 27-year-old San Diego native grew up playing football, soccer and baseball at Mater Dei Catholic High School, but his success as a kicker had him focused on the gridiron for college. The offers weren’t flooding his mailbox, though.

“I was a late bloomer,” he said with a shrug.

He considered going to junior college before Marist College — on the other side of the country, tucked in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York — came calling.

So, Myers traded the sun of southern California for the chilly northeast.

“I came out for an official visit and I loved the campus, loved everything,” said Myers, who kicked four seasons for the Red Foxes.

The NFL was still a long way off, though, especially after going undrafted and unsigned in 2013. Myers went to the Arena Football League the following year and had stints with Arizona and San Jose.

“I was there just for a hot second,” Myers said. “It was good. It helped me keep kicking.”

His big NFL break came in March 2015, when Jacksonville signed him to a free-agent deal. Five months later, the Jaguars traded Josh Scobee to Pittsburgh — making Myers their kicker.

He led the league with 12 field-goal attempts of more than 50 yards, and for the most made with seven. His 80 percent touchback rate made him a reliable asset to Jacksonville’s special teams unit.

But that all changed when he missed three long field goals in Week 6 last season against the Rams. He was released and had a few workouts with teams, but remained unemployed until Seattle signed him a few days after the regular season ended.

He lost a camp competition in Seattle to Sebastian Janikowski and was again without an NFL gig for a few days until the Jets claimed him off waivers.

Myers hopped on a red-eye flight to New Jersey, got off the plane, headed to the Jets’ facility and immediately linked up with Hennessy and punter Lachlan Edwards on the practice field. Myers proceeded to boot 20 consecutive field goals.

“And he hit one from like 63 (yards) or something,” Hennessy recalled. “His focus was amazing, especially since there was so much going on at that point. It was impressive.”

Two days after his first practice with the Jets, Myers was kicking for them in the team’s third preseason game — on his way to securing the job with New York.

“If I would’ve sat back and thought about how fast everything moved that week, I think I probably would’ve not been able to do as well as I did,” he said. “I just kind of kept rolling and took it day by day.”

And one kick at time. All the way to a spot in Jets history.

“I’ve definitely taken the long road,” he said. “It was a little tougher, but it kind of helps me be who I am — mentally tough — and I don’t take all that stuff the wrong way. It just kind of helps build my character, who I am. I kind of use it as a positive and keep building off it.”

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AP Source: Raiders RB Lynch to miss month with groin injury

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch will miss at least a month because of a groin injury.

A person familiar with the injury said Friday that an MRI this week determined the severity of the injury. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not made

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch will miss at least a month because of a groin injury.

A person familiar with the injury said Friday that an MRI this week determined the severity of the injury. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not made any announcement. NFL Network first reported the diagnosis.

Lynch was hurt last week in Oakland’s 27-3 loss to Seattle in London. The Raiders (1-5) are off this week and will play again on Oct. 28 at home against Indianapolis. Oakland could choose to place Lynch on injured reserve, which would require him to miss at least eight weeks.

The 32-year-old Lynch has been one of the few bright spots for the Raiders this season. He ranks 12th in the league with 376 yards rushing, averaging 4.2 yards per carry with three touchdowns. Lynch ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing since Week 12 last season.

Lynch’s best game came in Oakland’s only win when he ran for 130 yards last month against Cleveland when he showed off the power that earned him the nickname Beast Mode. Lynch came out of retirement last season in order to join the hometown Raiders before they move to Las Vegas in 2020. He is in the final year of his contract.

With Lynch sidelined, the struggling Raiders will likely turn to Doug Martin and Jalen Richard to carry the bulk of the load at running back. Martin was signed to be the main backup to Lynch this season but has been unproductive so far. He has 27 carries for 99 yards and four catches for 5 yards this season. He is averaging just 3.0 yards per carry since the start of the 2016 season.

Richard is more of a receiving back, ranking second on the team with 31 catches for 253 yards. Richard has carried the ball 11 times for 32 yards this year and has never had more than nine carries in a game in his three seasons in the NFL.

The only other halfback on the roster is DeAndre Washington, who injured his knee in training camp and has not been active yet despite being healthy the past few weeks. Washington has rushed for 620 yards on 144 carries in two seasons in the NFL. His most productive game came as a rookie in 2016 when he ran for 99 yards and a TD on 12 carries against the Colts on Christmas Eve.

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Dolphins’ Wake might return against Lions; Riddick out

MIAMI (AP) — Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake is on a course to return Sunday against Detroit from a knee injury that sidelined him the past two weeks.

Wake is listed as questionable but took full part in practice Friday. He coyly declined to say whether he expected to play but added,

MIAMI (AP) — Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake is on a course to return Sunday against Detroit from a knee injury that sidelined him the past two weeks.

Wake is listed as questionable but took full part in practice Friday. He coyly declined to say whether he expected to play but added, “It’ll be Christmas morning on Sunday.”

The return of Wake would be timely because Miami defensive ends Charles Harris (calf) and Jonathan Woodard (concussion) were ruled out.

Lions running back Theo Riddick, who has 23 catches this season, was ruled with a knee injury. That could mean more snaps for rookie Kerryon Johnson, especially on third down.

Miami cornerback Bobby McCain is questionable but took full part in practice and is expected to return from a knee injury.

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Saints scratch Peat vs. Ravens, hope Ginn plays this season

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Saints coach Sean Payton says there is a "very realistic" possibility of injured receiver Ted Ginn Jr. playing again this season.

Meanwhile, New Orleans has ruled out left guard Andrus Peat and listed right guard Larry Warford as questionable for Sunday's game at Baltimore.

Peat has missed practice this

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Saints coach Sean Payton says there is a “very realistic” possibility of injured receiver Ted Ginn Jr. playing again this season.

Meanwhile, New Orleans has ruled out left guard Andrus Peat and listed right guard Larry Warford as questionable for Sunday’s game at Baltimore.

Peat has missed practice this week with a head injury, while Warford has been hampered by back soreness.

Ginn was placed on injured reserve on Thursday because of a nagging knee injury that Payton says will require arthroscopic surgery. Under NFL rules, teams may bring up to two players back to the active roster after they have spent at least eight weeks on injured reserve.

If Ginn recovers on schedule, he’d be eligible to play again in Week 15. That means he’d be able to play in up to three regular season games plus any playoff games, should the NFC South-leading Saints qualify for the postseason.

Ginn has played in four games this season, catching 12 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns.

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Jaguars acquire RB Hyde from Browns in trade for draft pick

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars traded for Cleveland running back Carlos Hyde on Friday, adding a proven starter while Leonard Fournette progresses slowly from a strained right hamstring.

The Browns (2-3-1) will get a 2019 fifth-round draft pick from the Jaguars in exchange for Hyde, who has 382 yards rushing and

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars traded for Cleveland running back Carlos Hyde on Friday, adding a proven starter while Leonard Fournette progresses slowly from a strained right hamstring.

The Browns (2-3-1) will get a 2019 fifth-round draft pick from the Jaguars in exchange for Hyde, who has 382 yards rushing and five touchdowns in his first season in Cleveland. Hyde signed a three-year, $15.25 million contract in March.

The Jaguars (3-3) were willing to take on the financial commitment because leading rusher T.J. Yeldon will become a free agent at the end of this season. So will third-stringer Corey Grant, who was placed on injured reserve last week because of a foot injury. The Jaguars signed veteran Jamaal Charles to a one-year contract to replace Grant.

Fournette was ruled out for Sunday’s game against Houston. It will be the fifth game he’s missed this season because of the nagging injury.

Cleveland had seemed pleased with Hyde, but his departure clears the way for rookie Nick Chubb to be the team’s primary back. He’s averaging nearly 10 yards per carry.

Browns general manager John Dorsey continues to revamp the team’s roster and add picks. In addition to their own picks in the first six rounds, the Browns acquired a third-rounder from New England, Jacksonville’s fifth-rounder, another fifth-rounder from New England and a seventh-rounder from Jacksonville.

The NFL trading deadline is Oct. 30.

The Jaguars built their offense around Fournette, a bruising runner and the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft. He tried to return after missing two games earlier this season but re-injured his hamstring and has been sidelined since. Yeldon, meanwhile, is dealing with foot and ankle injuries.

Making Jacksonville’s offense even more stagnant, the team is without its top two left tackles, its top two tight ends and its leading receiver from 2017.

The 28-year-old Hyde was off to an impressive start in Cleveland. But he was taking playing time away from Chubb, who scored on two long touchdown runs at Oakland on Sept. 30 and enters Sunday’s game averaging 10.8 yards on 16 carries. Also, running back Duke Johnson had gone from being a dual threat to mainly a receiver. He’s had just 19 carries this season.

Earlier this week, Browns coach Hue Jackson said it was vital to get Chubb more touches. Chubb had only three carries for 25 yards last week in a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

“We need to get him more chances,” Jackson said. “But I think sometimes the game changes, you get behind and you need Duke Johnson out there because that is what he does well — catch the ball and run it. I think that is what you were seeing yesterday. As these games get a little closer, they do not get too far away and we can get up whatever that is, we do need to give Nick Chubb more carries.”

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Broncos reverse the script, can they keep it up?

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos will try to replicate their energy and emotion from their 45-10 blowout of the Arizona Cardinals so they don't fall into the same morass they did the last time they ran up the score on an overwhelmed opponent.

They walloped the Dallas Cowboys 42-17 in Week

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos will try to replicate their energy and emotion from their 45-10 blowout of the Arizona Cardinals so they don’t fall into the same morass they did the last time they ran up the score on an overwhelmed opponent.

They walloped the Dallas Cowboys 42-17 in Week 2 last season.

They then won just five of their next 20 games, suffering through a franchise-worst eight-game skid last year and a four-game losing streak this season that had general manager John Elway reprising his “soft” label for a deficient defense and spurring fans to call for coach Vance Joseph’s job.

Then, on a short week, the Broncos (3-4) backed up Von Miller’s smack talk and outclassed the Cardinals (1-6) just as their superstar linebacker had promised, flipping the script maybe on what had been a soured season.

Miller’s message was actually directed at his own shaken team in hopes of restoring its swagger.

“It’s not even like me,” Miller said, “But I thought it was the best thing to do to get my teammates going.”

Miller first asked if his teammates had his back.

“We said, ‘Yeah, we got you. Go ahead and say it,'” said cornerback Bradley Roby. “When he put it out there, it put confidence in this team and I think it brought the best out of us.”

It sure brought the best out of Roby, a former first-round pick who had struggled in his first season as a starter opposite star Chris Harris Jr ., who had a pick-6 Thursday night along with linebacker Todd Davis .

Roby gave up three long touchdowns against the Jets two weeks ago, then failed to follow protocol for a sick day the next morning.

Against the Cardinals, Roby broke up four passes and recorded his first interception of the season.

“He really played well yesterday,” Joseph said. “For this defense to work, the corners have to play well. Chris has played well the entire season.”

Another former first-rounder who was also struggling, left tackle Garett Bolles, played his best game against Arizona and wasn’t whistled for any flags after drawing an NFL-high six holding calls going in.

Roby and Bolles hadn’t been benched like right guard Connor McGovern was last week because the Broncos lack depth at cornerback and tackle. So, Joseph was left to let Roby and Bolles work out their difficulties in the glare of the game.

“I thought Bolles played one of his best games of the year,” Joseph said, praising Bolles’ work blocking pass rusher Chandler Jones.

The Broncos have a long weekend now to relish their slump-busting victory before getting ready for their rematch with the Chiefs , who rallied for a 27-23 victory in Denver three weeks ago.

“Like Coach Joseph said, in this league, when you lose you feel like you’re never going to win again and when you win, you feel like you’re never going to lose again,” receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. “It’s one of those situations we can build off.

“Obviously, you all heard about Von’s ‘We’re going to kick their’ you-know-the-word. We went out and did it and it feels good,” said Sanders, who both threw and caught a TD pass against Arizona . “Now we got 10 or 11 days until we go out to Kansas City. We’ll just sit back, watch some football over the weekend feeling confident in yourself. Hopefully, we can keep building off this.”

As for Miller, he doesn’t anticipate issuing a similar warning next week when the Broncos visit Arrowhead.

“Honestly, it wasn’t even for the Cardinals; it was for my teammates,” said Miller, who collected two strip sacks of rookie Josh Rosen. “It was just to put us in that mentality, no backing down now. I think we have a great football team. We have great leadership. We have a great GM, great owner, great coaches, and we have great players.

“I just thought what we were missing is the confidence part of it.”

That’s been restored in a big way.

Notes: Joseph said RB Royce Freeman (ankle) and WR/PR DaeSean Hamilton (knee) were day to day but S Darian Stewart (neck), who sustained his third stinger in three weeks, may be out a while. … Joseph said CB Adam Jones (thigh) should return this week and OLB Shane Ray (ankle) and RT Jared Veldheer (knee) are day to day.

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Bears’ Khalil Mack practices but questionable for Patriots

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Bears linebacker Khalil Mack must wait until just before game time to learn if he gets a chance to rush New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at Soldier Field.

Mack played through an ankle injury in Chicago's last game, a 31-28 loss to Miami. On Friday, he practiced

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Bears linebacker Khalil Mack must wait until just before game time to learn if he gets a chance to rush New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at Soldier Field.

Mack played through an ankle injury in Chicago’s last game, a 31-28 loss to Miami. On Friday, he practiced for the first time this week, although on a limited basis. Bears coach Matt Nagy says he thought Mack “moved around pretty good.”

Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday. Nagy says team medical personnel will monitor how he bounces back from Friday’s practice.

Mack has played in 70 straight games and has never missed a start.

“That’s just who he is,” the coach said.

Ultimately, the decision will depend on Mack and the medical evaluations.

“When we get to the time when we’ve got to make a decision, then we’ll go with what we feel is best for him and best for the team,” Nagy said.

Mack has five sacks, and last week was held without a sack for the first time this season. He didn’t comment Friday on his injury, but wants to see the Bears defense bounce back from its worst game of the year when they face the Patriots.

“They’re very explosive,” Mack said. “They’ve got weapons over the top. They’ve got some good backs. And so it’s going to be a challenge.”

Mack called last week’s overtime loss and 31 points allowed “difficult to handle.”

Wide receiver Allen Robinson II practiced Friday on a limited basis after missing Thursday’s practice because of a groin injury. He is questionable.

Cornerback Bryce Callahan is also questionable after missing Friday’s practice because of an ankle injury from Thursday’s practice. Cornerback Marcus Cooper (hamstring) is doubtful. Cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) and guard Eric Kush (neck) were removed from the injury list and are expected to play.

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Bengals, Chiefs could be missing key players to injuries

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs could be without several starters on their already porous defenses when they meet Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Bengals ruled out first-round pick Darqueze Dennard, their best slot cornerback, with a shoulder injury Friday. They also ruled out linebacker Nick

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs could be without several starters on their already porous defenses when they meet Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Bengals ruled out first-round pick Darqueze Dennard, their best slot cornerback, with a shoulder injury Friday. They also ruled out linebacker Nick Vigil with a knee injury and listed safety Shawn Williams as questionable with a concussion

Running back Giovani Bernard (knee), tight end Tyler Kroft (foot) and center Billy Price (foot) are also out for Cincinnati.

The Chiefs are expected to be without Eric Berry (heel) and Justin Houston (hamstring), who are both listed as doubtful. Pass rusher Tanoh Kpassagnon was limited in practice Friday with an ankle injury, while safety Eric Murray was also questionable with an ankle injury.

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Jaguars trade draft pick to Browns for running back Hyde

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars traded for Cleveland running back Carlos Hyde on Friday, adding a proven starter while Leonard Fournette progresses slowly from a strained right hamstring.

The Browns (2-3-1) will get a 2019 fifth-round draft pick from the Jaguars in exchange for Hyde, who has 382 yards rushing and

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars traded for Cleveland running back Carlos Hyde on Friday, adding a proven starter while Leonard Fournette progresses slowly from a strained right hamstring.

The Browns (2-3-1) will get a 2019 fifth-round draft pick from the Jaguars in exchange for Hyde, who has 382 yards rushing and five touchdowns in his first season in Cleveland. Hyde signed a three-year, $15.25 million contract in March.

The Jaguars (3-3) were willing to take on the financial commitment because leading rusher T.J. Yeldon will become a free agent at the end of this season. So will third-stringer Corey Grant, who was placed on injured reserve last week because of a foot injury. The Jaguars signed veteran Jamaal Charles to a one-year contract to replace Grant.

Fournette was ruled out for Sunday’s game against Houston. It will be the fifth game he’s missed this season because of the nagging injury.

Cleveland had seemed pleased with Hyde, but his departure clears the way for rookie Nick Chubb to be the team’s primary back. He’s averaging nearly 10 yards per carry.

Browns general manager John Dorsey continues to revamp the team’s roster and add picks. In addition to their own picks in the first six rounds, the Browns acquired a third-rounder from New England, Jacksonville’s fifth-rounder, another fifth-rounder from New England and a seventh-rounder from Jacksonville.

The Jaguars built their offense around Fournette, a bruising runner and the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft. He tried to return after missing two games earlier this season but re-injured his hamstring and has been sidelined since. Yeldon, meanwhile, is dealing with foot and ankle injuries.

Making Jacksonville’s offense even more stagnant, the team is without its top two left tackles, its top two tight ends and its leading receiver from 2017.

The 28-year-old Hyde was off to an impressive start in Cleveland. But he was taking playing time away from Chubb, who scored on two long touchdown runs at Oakland on Sept. 30 and enters Sunday’s game averaging 10.8 yards on 16 carries. Also, running back Duke Johnson had gone from being a dual threat to mainly a receiver. He’s had just 19 carries this season.

Earlier this week, Browns coach Hue Jackson said it was vital to get Chubb more touches. Chubb had only three carries for 25 yards last week in a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

“We need to get him more chances,” Jackson said. “But I think sometimes the game changes, you get behind and you need Duke Johnson out there because that is what he does well — catch the ball and run it. I think that is what you were seeing yesterday. As these games get a little closer, they do not get too far away and we can get up whatever that is, we do need to give Nick Chubb more carries.”

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Report: Rihanna backed players, turned down SB LIII halftime

Report: Rihanna backed players, turned down SB LIII halftime

Superstar singer Rihanna turned down an invitation to perform at the 2019 Super Bowl in solidarity with protesting NFL players, according to multiple reports.

"The NFL and CBS really wanted Rihanna to be next year's performer in Atlanta," a source told

Report: Rihanna backed players, turned down SB LIII halftime

Superstar singer Rihanna turned down an invitation to perform at the 2019 Super Bowl in solidarity with protesting NFL players, according to multiple reports.

“The NFL and CBS really wanted Rihanna to be next year’s performer in Atlanta,” a source told US Weekly, which first reported the news. “They offered it to her, but she said no because of the kneeling controversy. She doesn’t agree with the NFL’s stance.”

Rihanna, who reportedly has an album and tour in the works, declined on principle despite the potential exposure, according to another source.

“The offer and exposure would have been great for Rihanna as she’s planning a new album and tour but she stuck to what’s right in her eyes,” a person close to the singer reportedly told Entertainment Weekly.

Rolling Stone said it had independently confirmed the news on Friday morning.

Fellow singer Pink, who performed the national anthem before Super Bowl LII in February, was also reportedly considered, but never reached an agreement.

Maroon 5, fronted by Adam Levine, was reportedly offered the job and accepted, though no formal announcement has been made.

Super Bowl LIII will take place in Atlanta on Feb. 3.

–Field Level Media

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Jaguars RB Fournette to miss third straight game

Jaguars RB Fournette to miss third straight game

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette will miss his third consecutive game with a hamstring injury after being ruled out of Sunday's game against the Houston Texans.

Fournette suffered the injury in the season opener against the New York Giants and missed

Jaguars RB Fournette to miss third straight game

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette will miss his third consecutive game with a hamstring injury after being ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans.

Fournette suffered the injury in the season opener against the New York Giants and missed the next two games. He aggravated it in Week 4 when he returned to play against the New York Jets.

Fournette has just 71 yards on 20 carries this season. T.J. Yeldon (299) again will be the main ball carrier.

Standout defensive Calais Campbell was listed as questionable on Jacksonville’s Friday injury report due to an ankle injury.

Campbell has four sacks in six games this season. He posted a career-best 14.5 last season.

Cornerback D.J. Hayden (toe) and tight end James O’Shaughnessy (hip) also will sit out the contest. Cornerback Tre Herndon (hamstring) and offensive lineman Will Richardson Jr. (knee) are listed as questionable.

–Field Level Media

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Browns’ Garrett complains about officiating after bad calls

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Browns defensive end Myles Garrett flagged NFL officials, saying he's tired of bad calls going against Cleveland.

Garrett spoke out on Friday and said he doesn't care if he gets fined by the league for his comments because "something needs to be said."

He was particularly upset about a

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Browns defensive end Myles Garrett flagged NFL officials, saying he’s tired of bad calls going against Cleveland.

Garrett spoke out on Friday and said he doesn’t care if he gets fined by the league for his comments because “something needs to be said.”

He was particularly upset about a non-call last week against the Los Angeles Chargers, whose left tackle Russell Okung clearly moved before the snap to block Garrett. The play was allowed to continue and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw a touchdown pass.

Garrett argued that not only should Okung have been penalized, but if he had continued rushing he may have sacked Rivers or forced a fumble.

Garrett also pointed to a fumble that was whistled dead on Oct. 30 at Oakland. The Browns stripped Raiders quarterback David Carr, recovered the ball and were running for a TD. But officials ruled Carr was in the grasp.

NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron later acknowledged the call was wrong.

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Jets’ secondary will be down a few key players vs. Vikings

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — New York Jets cornerback Buster Skrine and safety Marcus Maye are out for the team's game against the Minnesota Vikings with injuries, and cornerback Trumaine Johnson is doubtful to play.

The Jets will have to face a Vikings offense on Sunday that includes wide receiver Adam Thielen, who

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — New York Jets cornerback Buster Skrine and safety Marcus Maye are out for the team’s game against the Minnesota Vikings with injuries, and cornerback Trumaine Johnson is doubtful to play.

The Jets will have to face a Vikings offense on Sunday that includes wide receiver Adam Thielen, who leads the NFL in receptions and yards receiving.

Skrine has a concussion that has caused him to miss most of the last two games. Maye is dealing with a broken right thumb. Meanwhile, Johnson — the Jets’ top free-agent signing — will likely miss his third straight game with a quadriceps injury.

New York could also be short-handed at wide receiver, with Quincy Enunwa having been previously ruled out with a sprained ankle and Terrelle Pryor doubtful with a groin injury.

Linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (foot) is doubtful, and running back Isaiah Crowell (foot) is questionable.

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Chargers duo Rivers, Gates back in London 10 years later

Ten years after their first trip to London, Los Angeles Chargers veterans Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates are keen to see how much the British audience has learned about the American version of football.

Rivers and Gates took part in the second regular-season game played at Wembley back in 2008, when the NFL

Ten years after their first trip to London, Los Angeles Chargers veterans Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates are keen to see how much the British audience has learned about the American version of football.

Rivers and Gates took part in the second regular-season game played at Wembley back in 2008, when the NFL was still a bit of a curiosity and large parts of the crowd didn’t quite understand the sport.

“I remember like if it was yesterday,” Gates said. “The ball would be punted in the air and the crowd would be making noise. We were like, ‘what are you making noise about?’ But it was just their way. They’re used to watching soccer, and the chants and things of that nature. It was foreign to us, just like we were foreign to them.

“And now I think over the years, they’ve learned to grasp a little bit more a better concept of the game of American football. Most people understand it now here.”

That was the goal behind the NFL’s decision to stage annual games in London — to grow the interest and understanding of the game overseas. When the Chargers (4-2) host the Tennessee Titans (3-3) at Wembley on Sunday, it will be the 23rd game played in London since 2007.

“I’m interested to see again the atmosphere in the stadium,” Rivers said. “Last week, I hear it was an unbelievable crowd for Oakland and Seattle. I remember there being a great crowd 10 years. I just remember so many different jerseys from so many different teams represented. The energy was in there. A long pass, or a ball getting kicked, all those things got the crowd going pretty good.”

The Chargers arrived in London on Friday morning after spending the week in Cleveland following a win over the Browns, a move aimed to shorten the trip and make it easier to adjust to the time difference.

It also helped the players bond while spending that time together, coach Anthony Lynn said.

“We did have a team-building activity and 100 percent participation. And I thought the guys liked it a lot,” Lynn said. “I left it up to my sports psychologists. The coaches get the hell out of the room and let the players talk and do their own thing. But everyone says it went really well.”

The shorter flight didn’t completely help Rivers stave off the jet lag.

“Today was one of those days where I don’t think anything could help. It got to the point where that third, fourth cup of coffee wasn’t working at all,” the quarterback said after finishing a training session in North London at 8 a.m. California time. “But it’s not bad. I think if we can push through and get to 8, 9 o’clock tonight, we should be OK.”

Running back Melvin Gordon was limited in the practice session, but Lynn said it was mainly a precaution after the long trip.

“He was just sore. Long plane ride. Probably didn’t drink enough water,” Lynn said. “We were being extra cautious with him.”

For those European fans who have really studied the game since the Chargers’ last visit, Rivers did have some disappointing news. The Alabama native won’t be wearing his famous bolo tie after the game, although he does plan on sporting his traditional cowboy boots.

“I did not bring the bolo tie. I’ve got the cowboy boots,” Rivers said. “I always make sure to have those with me on game day. The same boots I probably wore here in 2008, I’ve had them for that long. They’re almost like slippers now.”

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