Week 8

Yard Rush Pass
Denver 2635 876 1759
Kansas City 2511 672 1839
Pittsburgh 2506 532 1974
L.A. Chargers 2475 824 1651
Baltimore 2358 595 1763
Houston 2333 655 1678
New England 2287 738 1549
Oakland 2241 555 1686
Jacksonville 2226 620 1606
Indianapolis 2215 499 1716
Cleveland 2197 826 1371
Cincinnati 2113 539 1574
N.Y. Jets 2043 782 1261
Miami 1982 641 1341
Tennessee 1576 591 985
Buffalo 1335 597 738
DEFENSE
Yard Rush Pass
Baltimore 1625 497 1128
Jacksonville 1839 712 1127
Buffalo 1870 555 1315
Tennessee 2027 739 1288
Houston 2050 575 1475
L.A. Chargers 2146 581 1565
New England 2276 664 1612
Pittsburgh 2281 587 1694
N.Y. Jets 2286 652 1634
Indianapolis 2321 641 1680
Miami 2380 709 1671
Oakland 2391 791 1600
Cleveland 2439 829 1610
Cincinnati 2455 703 1752
Denver 2646 1037 1609
Kansas City 2809 767 2042
NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
OFFENSE
Yard Rush Pass
L.A. Rams 2786 926 1860
Green Bay 2526 622 1904
Atlanta 2384 516 1868
Minnesota 2347 524 1823
San Francisco 2291 855 1436
Tampa Bay 2241 399 1842
Philadelphia 2198 662 1536
New Orleans 2120 516 1604
N.Y. Giants 2090 525 1565
Seattle 1950 767 1183
Dallas 1917 885 1032
Chicago 1831 650 1181
Detroit 1826 486 1340
Carolina 1809 697 1112
Washington 1720 584 1136
Arizona 1545 452 1093
DEFENSE
Yard Rush Pass
Washington 1631 451 1180
Chicago 1719 417 1302
Carolina 1790 512 1278
Detroit 1839 729 1110
New Orleans 1845 357 1488
Dallas 1891 544 1347
Seattle 1960 724 1236
Green Bay 1970 699 1271
L.A. Rams 2064 594 1470
Philadelphia 2117 479 1638
N.Y. Giants 2148 730 1418
Minnesota 2158 557 1601
Tampa Bay 2200 421 1779
San Francisco 2263 589 1674
Atlanta 2503 728 1775
Arizona 2675 1038 1637
AVERAGE PER GAME
AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
OFFENSE
Yards Rush Pass
Kansas City 418.5 112.0 306.5
Pittsburgh 417.7 88.7 329.0
L.A. Chargers 412.5 137.3 275.2
Baltimore 393.0 99.2 293.8
Houston 388.8 109.2 279.7
New England 381.2 123.0 258.2
Denver 376.4 125.1 251.3
Oakland 373.5 92.5 281.0
Jacksonville 371.0 103.3 267.7
Indianapolis 369.2 83.2 286.0
Cleveland 366.2 137.7 228.5
Cincinnati 352.2 89.8 262.3
N.Y. Jets 340.5 130.3 210.2
Miami 330.3 106.8 223.5
Tennessee 262.7 98.5 164.2
Buffalo 222.5 99.5 123.0
DEFENSE
Yards Rush Pass
Baltimore 270.8 82.8 188.0
Jacksonville 306.5 118.7 187.8
Buffalo 311.7 92.5 219.2
Tennessee 337.8 123.2 214.7
Houston 341.7 95.8 245.8
L.A. Chargers 357.7 96.8 260.8
Denver 378.0 148.1 229.9
New England 379.3 110.7 268.7
Pittsburgh 380.2 97.8 282.3
N.Y. Jets 381.0 108.7 272.3
Indianapolis 386.8 106.8 280.0
Miami 396.7 118.2 278.5
Oakland 398.5 131.8 266.7
Cleveland 406.5 138.2 268.3
Cincinnati 409.2 117.2 292.0
Kansas City 468.2 127.8 340.3
NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
OFFENSE
Yards Rush Pass
L.A. Rams 464.3 154.3 310.0
Tampa Bay 448.2 79.8 368.4
New Orleans 424.0 103.2 320.8
Green Bay 421.0 103.7 317.3
Atlanta 397.3 86.0 311.3
Minnesota 391.2 87.3 303.8
San Francisco 381.8 142.5 239.3
Philadelphia 366.3 110.3 256.0
Chicago 366.2 130.0 236.2
Detroit 365.2 97.2 268.0
Carolina 361.8 139.4 222.4
N.Y. Giants 348.3 87.5 260.8
Washington 344.0 116.8 227.2
Seattle 325.0 127.8 197.2
Dallas 319.5 147.5 172.0
Arizona 220.7 64.6 156.1
DEFENSE
Yards Rush Pass
Dallas 315.2 90.7 224.5
Washington 326.2 90.2 236.0
Seattle 326.7 120.7 206.0
Green Bay 328.3 116.5 211.8
Chicago 343.8 83.4 260.4
L.A. Rams 344.0 99.0 245.0
Philadelphia 352.8 79.8 273.0
N.Y. Giants 358.0 121.7 236.3
Carolina 358.0 102.4 255.6
Minnesota 359.7 92.8 266.8
Detroit 367.8 145.8 222.0
New Orleans 369.0 71.4 297.6
San Francisco 377.2 98.2 279.0
Arizona 382.1 148.3 233.9
Atlanta 417.2 121.3 295.8
Tampa Bay 440.0 84.2 355.8

AP source: Broncos lose guard Max Garcia to knee injury

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Denver Broncos left guard Max Garcia is out for the season because of a torn knee ligament, a person with knowledge of the injury said.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because coach Vance Joseph was at practice and wouldn't be addressing the

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Denver Broncos left guard Max Garcia is out for the season because of a torn knee ligament, a person with knowledge of the injury said.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because coach Vance Joseph was at practice and wouldn’t be addressing the media until later. An MRI Friday revealed a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament.

Garcia apparently was injured during Thursday’s practice, although he finished the workout and wasn’t listed on the team’s injury report.

The Broncos (3-6) travel to Los Angeles on Sunday to face the Chargers (7-2). Denver already was down two starters on the offensive line after losing left guard Ronald Leary (Achilles) last month and center Matt Paradis (broken ankle) in the last game.

Now, Billy Turner will move over to left guard, between scuffling left tackle Garett Bolles, who leads the league in holding calls for the second straight season, and Connor McGovern, who will make his first start at center Sunday.

Second-year pro Elijah Wilksinson is also making his first NFL start, at right guard next to right tackle Jared Veldheer, who missed a month with a knee injury before returning to action in Denver’s last game, against Houston on Nov. 4.

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Eagles DT Jernigan could return vs. Saints

Eagles DT Jernigan could return vs. Saints

Eagles DT Jernigan could return vs. Saints

Philadelphia defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan could play for the first time this season on Sunday when the Eagles take on the New Orleans Saints.

“Still optimistic, we’ve got to get through today and tomorrow obviously with him and see where he’s at,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said before Friday’s practice. “It’s just a matter of day-by-day and getting through the practice and seeing where he’s at.”

Jernigan returned to practice last week for the first time since having surgery in April to repair a herniated disc in his back.

The Eagles must decide by Nov. 26 whether to activate Jernigan from the non-football injury list and add him to the 53-man roster. If they do not, he will not be allowed to play this season.

Jernigan, 26, tallied 29 tackles and 2.5 sacks and started 15 games in his first season in Philadelphia in 2017. He added two tackles during the postseason for the Super Bowl LII champions.

He spent the previous three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, who selected the Florida State product in the second round in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Pederson also said tight end Richard Rogers, who was also recently returned from injured reserve, is in the same boat as Jernigan.

Adding either or both would require the Eagles to make room on the roster. Cornerback Ronald Darby, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury recently, would be an obvious candidate.

Pederson was more confident in the return of right tackle Lane Johnson, who sat out last week with an MCL sprain, and cornerback Sidney Jones, who has missed three games with a hamstring injury.

“He’s a lot closer, he’s had a really good week of practice, feels a lot better health-wise,” Pederson said regarding Johnson’s status. “I would expect him to (play), yes.”

–Field Level Media

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When things go sour in the NFL, QBs often are changed

When things go sour, an NFL team's fan base often points to two people: the guy calling plays on the sideline, and the man behind center trying to execute them.

As we get deeper into the 2018 schedule, the futures of some coaches could be tied to how their quarterbacks have struggled —

When things go sour, an NFL team’s fan base often points to two people: the guy calling plays on the sideline, and the man behind center trying to execute them.

As we get deeper into the 2018 schedule, the futures of some coaches could be tied to how their quarterbacks have struggled — or outright flopped.

Doug Marrone and Blake Bortles in Jacksonville? Perhaps.

Vance Joseph and Case Keenum in Denver? Possibly.

John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco? Could be.

Then again, each of those coaches could keep their jobs and have new QBs in 2019. And we know Jon Gruden isn’t going anywhere in Oakland, though Derek Carr might head elsewhere.

Nor is Pat Shurmur, despite a discouraging first year in the Jersey Meadowlands, likely to leave the Big Apple. But the status of a 37-year-old Eli Manning is in more doubt.

It would be a surprise to see Adam Gase out in Miami. Considering how much he has been out of the lineup in his seven-year career, it would not be a stunner to see Ryan Tannehill depart the Dolphins.

Let’s take a look:

NEW YORK

Manning is not a washed-up has-been. His arm remains strong, his knowledge of the game is irreplaceable, and he has three enviable options in Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram.

What he doesn’t have is anyone who can block with any regularity. Manning is about as mobile as Shurmur, maybe less so, and when he doesn’t get the necessary time to set himself, he’s not likely to find a comfortable place to throw.

Yes, it’s time for the Giants to look for a replacement, but not necessarily someone to take over next year. How about finally improving perhaps the worst offensive line in the league and seeing what Manning can do behind it?

Otherwise, Carr could wind up an option as Gruden keeps wheeling and dealing.

DENVER

Keenum has another year to go on the deal he parlayed his best career season (in Minnesota) to get with QB-desperate Denver. Cutting him will cost a $10 million cap hit, so unless John Elway can work a trade for that prohibitive contract, Keenum figures to be back with the Broncos.

The cupboard is bare behind him, especially after Chad Kelly got himself arrested and then released. Plus, Keenum once again has had to learn a new offense, and he’s had some knee issues.

Elway could be enticed to add a veteran who has won a Super Bowl, as he did with Peyton Manning (did someone say Flacco?), but only if he can deal Keenum.

BALTIMORE

Flacco, who’s had a better (but not great) season than in recent years, is bothered by a hip injury. And his eventual replacement, Lamar Jackson, was chosen in the first round of April’s draft.

The massive contract Flacco earned after winning the 2012 championship as Super Bowl MVP was extended in 2016 and he is signed through 2021. But the Ravens can open up $10.5 million in salary cap space by releasing Flacco, 33, after the season, with a potential savings of $18.5 million if they designate him as cut after June 1, which would damage his value elsewhere.

He won’t command the same kind of money on the open market, but he will command attention for his strong arm, solid leadership, willingness to play hurt, and, well, a pedigree that rarely reaches free agency with a few good years left.

Gase in Miami certainly would like a QB who can get on the field regularly.

MIAMI

Brock Osweiler is the 19th starter since Dan Marino ended his Hall of Fame career. None has been a star, though Chad Pennington could have been had his shoulder not been so brittle.

Gase would seem to be tied to Tannehill, who has played in five games this year, none last season, because of injuries. When healthy, Tannehill helped get the Dolphins to the playoffs as a wild card in 2016, Gase’s first year in Miami. Then he was hurt for the postseason.

Gase has been something of a QB guru in other stops, so a young guy who can stay in the lineup might be appealing. Or maybe a 20-something needing a change of scenery such as Jameis Winston or Bortles.

TAMPA BAY

Perhaps the most puzzling case of all because Winston, the top pick in the 2015 draft, should be a slam dunk as the future. He isn’t.

Winston is due $20.9 million next season, the final year of his rookie deal. That’s way more than he is worth, and though the Bucs picked up his fifth-year option, they could release him in ’19 and not owe him anything; 2019 is guaranteed only in case of injury, which is why some speculate Winston may not play again this year.

He comes with lots of talent, but still lacks maturity. He has had off-field issues and was suspended for the first three games this season.

Do the Bucs want to start over at the position, knowing Winston’s potential remains sky high?

JACKSONVILLE

Convinced after coming oh-so-close to making the Super Bowl that Bortles could be their franchise guy, the Jaguars signed him to a three-year, $54 million contract that includes a $16 million salary in 2019. So there would be $16.5 million in dead money if he is cut.

And, like Keenum, the numbers for a trade likely are prohibitive.

But folks in Jacksonville believe, despite the current 3-6 mark, that the Jags are built to win soon. Maybe not with the struggling Bortles, however.

This history team boss Tom Coughlin has with Manning adds some intrigue, but a move for a veteran to replace Bortles might target someone younger and more mobile.

OAKLAND

Gruden has publicly backed Carr, but it’s difficult to gauge if that support is strong or even real. Given his maneuvers to redo the Raiders, it appears with Gruden no one is safe.

Gruden would love to find a Rich Gannon clone, maybe a Flacco or even a Nick Foles. And cutting Carr would create only $7.5 million in dead money, hardly prohibitive.

Then again, Gruden has three first-round selections in the 2019 draft. Using one on a quarterback makes a lot of sense.

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AP Pro Football Writers Josh Dubow and Arnie Stapleton, and Sports Writers Tom Canavan, Steven Wine, Mark Long, Fred Goodall and David Ginsburg contributed.

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How ‘Bout Them Cowboys? New book examines America’s Team

Gary Myers has covered Jerry Jones longer than any pro football writer, so it seemed logical and natural to write a book about the owner of the most valuable franchise in the world.

"How 'Bout Them Cowboys?" (Grand Central Publishing) is an in-depth look at America's Team, still the most popular in the

Gary Myers has covered Jerry Jones longer than any pro football writer, so it seemed logical and natural to write a book about the owner of the most valuable franchise in the world.

“How ‘Bout Them Cowboys?” (Grand Central Publishing) is an in-depth look at America’s Team, still the most popular in the NFL even though it hasn’t reached a Super Bowl in 23 years and isn’t likely to this season.

Myers was with the Dallas Morning News when Jones bought the team in 1989 and cleaned house. Now a radio host at WFAN in New York, Myers remembers it well — and tells it entertainingly and informatively in his book.

“I was taken aback when he got weepy —real tears — when he started talking about how he put himself at risk financially to buy the Cowboys in 1989,” Myers says. “He said he asked his doctor why recalling that period of his life made him so emotional and was told it was a traumatic experience for him. Even so, seeing this multi-billionaire in tears caught me by surprise, to say the least.”

There’s a lot in Myers’ book that could catch readers by surprise. Such as:

—Jones admits he’s still bitter about the circumstances that led to his divorce with Jimmy Johnson, who coached the Cowboys to the 1992 and ’93 NFL titles. And Myers reveals “Troy Aikman has still not forgiven Johnson for leaving him. A few years ago, they were having a beer together, when Aikman said to Johnson, ‘We could have been Brady and Belichick.'”

—The Hall of Fame party Jones threw for himself in Canton, Ohio in 2017 cost $8 million and included a two-hour concert by Justin Timberlake. One of the invited guests was Roger Goodell.

“I have a picture in my book of Jones having a drink with Goodell and Jon Bon Jovi at the party,” Myers says. “Five days later, Goodell called Jones to tell him he was suspending Ezekiel Elliott for six games. Jones is convinced Goodell showed up at the party knowing he was going to suspend Elliott (who was also at the party), but did not want to ruin Jones’ weekend. Instead, he ruined his season.”

Jones has said Goodell previously told him he would not suspend Elliott and to this day he feels betrayed. Goodell has emphatically said he did not tell Jones that.

There are dozens more such intriguing and often-unrevealed stories in “How ‘Bout Them Cowboys?” Myers had five hours of one-on-one interviews with Jones and, he jokes, actually got in at least seven questions.

ALABAMA REUNION

Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley cover most of a decade’s worth of leading receivers at Alabama. They’ll be on the field as players together for the first time when Cooper and the Dallas Cowboys visit the Atlanta Falcons and the veteran/rookie duo of Jones and Ridley.

Jones is a two-time All-Pro, Cooper made the Pro Bowl his first two seasons, and Ridley leads all rookies with 500 yards receiving. Oh, and they each won a national championship at Alabama. In fact, Ridley won two.

“A lot to like about them,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Certainly they were trained very well at Alabama, probably really good players going there, developed to become great players coming out of there. And they’ve definitely shown that at this level.”

Cooper wasn’t supposed to make this Alabama connection when the season started: Oakland wasn’t on Atlanta’s schedule. But the Cowboys traded next year’s first-round draft pick for him in hopes of having a new No. 1 receiver after letting Dez Bryant go in a cost-cutting move during the offseason.

“I’m cool with both of those guys,” Cooper said. “None of us played together, so none of us have been on the field together. So that’ll be really cool to go out there and be on the same field.”

CAM’S WINE

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said if wasn’t an NFL quarterback he’d want to be a sommelier. Newton has recently developed a love for wine— and cigars — although he said his recognition of most wines is “terrible.”

“I picked up a hobby that I really enjoy,” said Newton. “I think I’m on sauvignon blanc right now, really light wine, and a good mild smoke.”

Rudy Patino, who works as a food service provider for the Panthers, is a resident wine expert and Newton said he’s learned some things from him about the hobby.

“I feel like if I had a gift of a hidden talent, outside of playing an instrument, I would want to be a sommelier,” Newton said. “Those senses that you have. … For those who don’t know it, it’s being able to distinctively tell what type of wine it is, where it’s from and everything about wine by just the taste, the look and pretty much the feel of the wine. It’s just pretty cool to come across a person on a day-to-day basis that knows what they’re talking about. It’s just like playing football. It’s an ongoing thing that you have to constantly keep taking your nose and taste buds through.”

Newton said he if was to create his own wine he would call it “Boogie Down.”

“As in boogie down your esophagus,” Newton said with a smile.

BRITISH TRAINING

USA Football will lead the training of more than 1,000 football coaches across Britain in 2019. USA Football, a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the sport’s national governing body, will drive education for British American Football Coaches Association members, spanning school-based to adult programs.

British coaches will receive USA Football in-person training and online course work. More than 10,000 U.S. school districts and youth programs combined enrolled in USA Football-developed coach education this season, including nine of the country’s 10 largest school districts.

“Our sport’s community is truly a global family,” said BAFCA President Wayne Hill of Birmingham, England. “We love the game as much as Americans do, and teaming up with USA Football is a historic point for the sport here. Much like in the States, what’s taught and played today is not your father’s gridiron — it’s done a lot smarter, but is just as much fun. This partnership enables us to deliver a smarter, safer game for our athletes through coach education.”

Organized football is played on six continents spanning approximately 70 countries, a figure that has nearly doubled in the past 10 years.

GREEN EAGLES IN BIG EASY

The Philadelphia Eagles will be wearing their home green jerseys at New Orleans on Sunday. What’s that all about?

A bet.

In March, coaches Doug Pederson of the Super Bowl champion Eagles and Sean Payton of the Saints made the wager, which was revealed during the summer for the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Pederson has a much better golf game than Payton and finished 32nd at the tournament, while Payton was 77th. Pederson had offered strokes or points in the Modified Stableford scoring format, but Payton turned them down.

Payton made a $5,000 donation to Autism Challenge in Philadelphia as part of the bet.

“Well, it is our home jersey. It is our home color,” Pederson says. “And so we are excited to wear that. We’ve done it a lot this year on the road, wearing our home greens on the road. So you know it’s something that our guys enjoy.”

When Pederson made that bet, did Payton say the Saints would go with their color rush, or a white jersey?

“He didn’t say one way or the other,” Pederson adds. “I would imagine it would be the whites, but he did not say.”

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AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner, Schuyler Dixon and Rob Maaddi, and Sports Writers Brett Martel and Steve Reed contributed.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Ravens hope to take what Bengals’ defense keeps giving

Ravens hope to take what Bengals' defense keeps giving

The Cincinnati

Ravens hope to take what Bengals’ defense keeps giving

The Cincinnati Bengals are playing historically bad pass defense.

The Baltimore Ravens aren’t sure which one of their quarterbacks will try to take advantage of that when they host their AFC North rivals Sunday.

The Bengals rank last in the NFL in passing yards allowed and have yielded more than 500 total yards in each of their last three games, which had never been done before in the Super Bowl era.

They have allowed 158 points over the last four games, including a 51-14 drubbing at the hands of the New Orleans Saints last week.

That led Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis to fire defensive coordinator Teryl Austin this week and take over the defensive play calling himself.

Baltimore’s quarterback situation has been shaken up by injuries.

The Ravens rank ninth in the NFL in passing offense, but starting quarterback Joe Flacco might not be available because of a hip injury. Making matters cloudier is that rookie No. 1 draft choice Lamar Jackson, next in line behind Flacco, joined him on the sideline at practice Thursday because of illness.

That left just Robert Griffin III as a healthy quarterback. Griffin, who was out of the NFL last season, hasn’t started a game since 2016 when he was with the Cleveland Browns.

Ravens head coach Jim Harbaugh said Flacco could play Sunday even if he doesn’t practice, as long as he’s healthy enough by game time.

“He’s got experience. He’s a smart guy. He knows how to prepare,” Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg told the Baltimore Sun. “I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t play really well without any practice.”

Both teams are in desperate need of a win. Baltimore (4-5) is coming off a bye, and Cincinnati (5-4) has lost three of four.

The Bengals won the first meeting, 34-23, in Cincinnati in the second week of the season.

In that game, Flacco completed 32-of-55 passes for a season-high 376 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He was sacked four times and lost a fumble.

Jackson has seen limited action as a change of pace to Flacco’s traditional pocket passing. The rookie has completed 7 of 12 passes for 87 yards and one touchdown, and he has rushed for 139 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries.

In the first meeting, Jackson played six snaps – three at quarterback and three at wide receiver. He rushed two times for 6 yards.

“We know when Joe’s in there he’s going to stand in that pocket and try to do deep passes down the field and checkdowns,” Bengals linebacker Preston Brown told Cincinnati.com.

“That’s all you’ve really got to worry about: deep passes, checkdowns and crossing routes. But with Lamar in, you never know what you’re going to get,” Brown said.

Lewis said he has more on his mind than who winds up playing quarterback for the Ravens.

“Lamar is going to be a good, young player in the NFL,” Lewis told Cincinnati.com. “We spent a lot of time with Lamar (before the draft), but right now it’s about us, and that’s important.”

The Bengals have injury issues of their own. Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green, who had three touchdown catches in the first meeting, could miss his second consecutive game because of a toe injury. Running back Joe Mixon (knee) was limited in practice Thursday.

–Field Level Media

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Bears, Vikings to battle for NFC North control

Bears, Vikings to battle for NFC North control

Bears, Vikings to battle for NFC North control

Six years have passed since the Chicago Bears enjoyed first place this late in the season.

Now, Chicago (6-3) wants to stay there. But a tough test awaits Sunday night against the visiting Minnesota Vikings (5-3-1), who are looking to win their second straight NFC North title with a strong second half.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is busy as he plans for an opposing offense led by first-year Bears coach Matt Nagy.

“There’s no way you can practice every one of their plays — they’ve got 800 of them for every game,” Zimmer said in comments published by the Chicago Sun-Times.

Nagy replied with a tongue-in-cheek denial.

“It’s more like 750,” he joked, according to the Sun-Times.

The matchup pits strength against strength: Chicago’s offense against Minnesota’s defense.

Chicago ranks No. 5 in the NFL with 29.9 points per game thanks in large part to a significant improvement by quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in his second season.

Trubisky is the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after completing 23 of 30 passes for a career-high 355 yards and three touchdowns last week in a 34-22 win over Detroit.

Meanwhile, Minnesota’s defense ranks No. 5 in the NFL in fewest yards allowed. The Vikings have 20 sacks in their last five games, and defensive end Danielle Hunter is second in the league with 11 1/2 sacks this season.

“Danielle is a great athlete,” Zimmer told reporters this week. “Great length, strong, physical, but he’s improved on just being reactive. He just lets it rip now, and that’s what makes him good.”

Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson takes pride in his team’s tenacity on defense.

“TV-wise, it’s probably boring,” Richardson said in comments posted on the Vikings’ website. “Guys don’t want to sit there and watch an 8-7 game, but those games (are) fun for us.”

The opposite matchup also will be intriguing as the Vikings’ offense takes on the Bears’ defense.

Minnesota ranks 12th in the league with 374.3 total yards per game. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has steered the offense with 2,685 passing yards (seventh in the NFL) and a passer rating of 102.2 (ninth in the NFL). His top target, Adam Thielen, needs only 53 receiving yards to crack the 1,000-yard barrier on the season.

The Bears also have star power on defense in the form of pass-rushing linebacker Khalil Mack. He is coming off his second multi-sack performance of the season and has excelled in seven games this season with seven sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception returned for a touchdown.

Chicago is 4-1 at home. Minnesota is 2-1-1 on the road.

–Field Level Media

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Justin Tucker repeats as AP’s best kicker

Justin Tucker stunned everyone with a miss.

The Baltimore Ravens' two-time All-Pro kicker is so good that nobody could believe it when he sliced a game-tying extra point wide right in a 24-23 loss to the Saints last month.

It was Tucker's first career miss after nailing 222 straight.

Despite the shank, Tucker

Justin Tucker stunned everyone with a miss.

The Baltimore Ravens’ two-time All-Pro kicker is so good that nobody could believe it when he sliced a game-tying extra point wide right in a 24-23 loss to the Saints last month.

It was Tucker’s first career miss after nailing 222 straight.

Despite the shank, Tucker was voted the top player in the league at his position for the second straight year by a panel of 10 football writers for The Associated Press.

“With the best numbers in NFL history despite kicking in the Northeast and outdoors, is there any question Tucker tops this list?” said New York-based writer Barry Wilner.

Tucker, the most accurate kicker in league history at 90.1 percent, received 92 points in a 10-points-to-one-point system with six of 10 first-place votes.

The next three were the same as last year’s rankings. New England’s Stephen Gostkowski, Greg Zuerlein of the Los Angeles Rams and Indianapolis’ Adam Vinatieri finished in that order.

Gostkowski received 79 points, including one first-place vote, and appeared on every ballot along with Tucker and Vinatieri.

“Gostkowski is consistent, clutch and deadly accurate,” said New York-based Dennis Waszak Jr. “He replaced Adam Vinatieri in 2006 and the Patriots’ kicking game never missed a beat.”

Zuerlein, who received 63 points, has a powerful leg and is 26 of 45 (57.7 percent) from beyond 50 yards in his career, though the Rams don’t need to call him much any longer because they find the end zone quite often.

“‘Greg the Leg’ can deliver from long range with the best of them,” San Francisco-based Josh Dubow said.

Vinatieri set a pair of NFL records this season, surpassing Hall of Famer Morten Anderson for most points and most field goals. The GOAT turns 46 on Dec. 28 and is in his 13th season with Indianapolis after 10 years in New England, where he helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls by making game-winning kicks in the final seconds in two of the wins.

Vinatieri received 55 points and a first-place vote from Simmi Buttar.

“Doesn’t matter how old he is. He’s got the most points ever in NFL history. Case closed,” said Buttar, who is based in New York.

Wil Lutz finished fifth, one point behind Vinatieri. He is 19 of 20 on field goals for the Saints. Lutz got a pair of first-place votes.

“He’s come through when called upon for a field goal, and he’s limiting opponents in the return game by consistently sending kicks into the end zone,” Nashville-based Teresa Walker said.

Carolina’s Graham Gano was sixth with 39 points. Kansas City’s Harrison Butker was seventh with 35 points. Jason Myers of the New York Jets was eighth with 25 points. Buffalo’s Stephen Hauschka came in ninth with 22 points. San Francisco’s Robbie Gould edged Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell for 10th. Boswell is second behind Tucker on the all-time accuracy list at 87.7 percent.

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The rankings:

1. Justin Tucker, Ravens

2. Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots

3. Greg Zuerlein, Rams

4. Adam Vinatieri, Colts

5. Wil Lutz, Saints

6. Graham Gano, Panthers

7. Harrison Butker, Chiefs

8. Jason Myers, Jets

9. Stephen Hauschka, Bills

10. Robbie Gould, 49ers

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After huge 1st half, Packers go silent in loss to Seahawks

SEATTLE (AP) — Aaron Rodgers did what he liked for the first 30 minutes. He threw a pair of touchdowns, including a 54-yarder on the run to an unknown tight end for his first NFL catch. His passer rating was nearly perfect. Green Bay looked like it could score on every drive.

And

SEATTLE (AP) — Aaron Rodgers did what he liked for the first 30 minutes. He threw a pair of touchdowns, including a 54-yarder on the run to an unknown tight end for his first NFL catch. His passer rating was nearly perfect. Green Bay looked like it could score on every drive.

And then it almost completely stopped. Rodgers was unable to solve Seattle in the second half, and was left to watch Russell Wilson lead another late touchdown drive and send the Packers back home with a loss.

“It’s tough losing on the road. It’s tough losing by one possession,” Rodgers said. “Obviously I’m frustrated, and not just by the last throw, but some other stuff that we could have done better out there. I still believe we have a lot to play for.”

Green Bay’s road woes continued in a 27-24 loss to the Seahawks on Thursday night. The Packers (4-5-1) had leads of 14-3 and 21-17, only to see Wilson throw a 15-yard TD pass to Ed Dickson with 5:08 remaining to give Seattle the lead for good.

The Packers still had a chance to get out of Seattle with its first win here since 2008, yet their final possession lasted all of three plays. And it was the last pass by Rodgers that seemed to baffle everyone.

Facing third-and-2 at its own 33, Rodgers called a quick pass to the flat for Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Except the pass never got there. It hopped in front of the intended receiver, and instead of going for it on fourth down, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy opted to punt with more than 4 minutes remaining and the Packers still having one timeout.

The decision backfired. Green Bay never saw the ball again, instead forced to watch Wilson kneel three times to run out the clock.

Rodgers said the pass for Valdes-Scantling “stuck” in his hand and guessed he could make that throw 100 times and that wouldn’t happen again.

“We beat ourselves in the second half,” Rodgers said. “We kind of moved the ball at will in the first half.”

Green Bay’s problems went well beyond that one bad throw by Rodgers and the decision to punt. Rodgers was sacked five times, four of those in the second half. Twice in the third quarter Green Bay was forced to punt after drives stalled at midfield. The Packers were 3 of 11 on third downs, 2 of 7 in the second half. A week after Aaron Jones rushed for a career-high 145 yards, the Packers had just 48 yards rushing and Jones finished with 40.

Green Bay is 0-5 on the road this season and has lost seven straight road games dating to last year.

“I think it kind of went the way we thought it would go. When you’re playing in this environment, particularly when you’re on the road up here. There’s a high tendency for big-momentum plays, big swings, and I think that definitely held true,” McCarthy said. “They made more big plays than we did. … We’ve got to finish games better, especially in the fourth quarter, and especially on the road.”

Rodgers finished with 332 yards passing and his TD throw to Robert Tonyan in the first quarter, and his 57-yard strike to Davante Adams in the fourth quarter showed again the greatness of his arm. But Rodgers had 214 yards at halftime and Seattle was able to pressure Rodgers enough in the second half to disrupt Green Bay’s passing attack.

Injuries certainly didn’t help either. Green Bay was already down four starters before the first snaps with cornerback Kevin King, safety Kentrell Brice, linebacker Nick Perry and wide receiver Randall Cobb all out due to injuries. They lost two more in the first half when Bashaud Breeland — starting for King — aggravated a groin injury and Jimmy Graham injured his thumb. Graham had a 13-yard reception on Green Bay’s first offensive play in his return to Seattle, but that was his only catch.

Mike Daniels suffered a foot injury early in the second half and backup safety Raven Greene suffered an ankle injury. Neither returned. If there’s an upside to the loss, it’s Green Bay getting extra rest before facing Minnesota in a must-win game next week.

“We have a number of opportunities where our record would be very different right now, unfortunately, that’s the way it’s played out,” Clay Matthews said. “We’ve set ourselves up for a pretty good second half, we just have to get back to work. We have no other option. On to Minnesota after a couple days rest.”

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Potential classic on Monday night in Chiefs-Rams, now in LA

What some are calling the NFL's Game of the Year already has made huge headlines by being moved out of Mexico City because of poor playing conditions. Chiefs-Rams is back in Los Angeles, in prime time and, if it lives up to its billing, could be a wild, high-scoring affair.

Regardless of who

What some are calling the NFL’s Game of the Year already has made huge headlines by being moved out of Mexico City because of poor playing conditions. Chiefs-Rams is back in Los Angeles, in prime time and, if it lives up to its billing, could be a wild, high-scoring affair.

Regardless of who wins, both clubs figure to be in the Super Bowl mix. And because of the extracurriculars associated with Monday night’s meeting, perhaps it won’t be a fair measurement which is the superior team.

Who cares?

For a mid-November match, fans can’t ask for much better than a pair of 9-1 teams with powerhouse offenses and stars galore — leading MVP contenders Todd Gurley of Los Angeles and Patrick Mahomes of Kansas City for starters — going at it as the only show in town. No matter which town.

It’s the first meeting in NFL history this late in a season between two teams averaging 33 points per game.

“He’s made some plays that you sit back and you can’t help but just say, ‘Wow, what a great play,'” Rams coach Sean McVay says of Mahomes, who leads the NFL in yards passing (3,150). Rams QB Jared Goff is second (3,134).

Mahomes set a Chiefs record with an NFL-best 31st TD pass of the season last week. Len Dawson had held that KC record since 1964.

Gurley paces the NFL in scoring (108 points), yards rushing (988), carries (198), yards from scrimmage (1,390) and touchdowns (17). He has scored a touchdown in 13 consecutive games, extending his own franchise record.

“He is a heck of a player. A great player,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid says when asked how to slow Gurley. “You have to be disciplined. They’re a disciplined offense, so you have to be disciplined from a defensive standpoint. Then practice that way and then you go play.”

OK, guys, go play. Let America watch what could be a classic.

The weekend began Thursday night with Seattle’s 27-24 home victory over Green Bay. Russell Wilson threw for 225 yards and his 15-yard touchdown pass to Ed Dickson with 5:08 left was the difference. Seattle (5-5) snapped a two-game losing streak. Green Bay dropped to 4-5-1.

Off this week are New England (7-3), the New York Jets (3-7), Miami (5-5), Cleveland (3-6-1), San Francisco (2-8) and Buffalo (3-7).

MINNESOTA (5-3-1) at CHICAGO (6-3)

We soon will find out if the Bears are for real. They are on top of the NFC North, now face the defending division winners, then in a ridiculously short turnaround from Sunday night, they play the early Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit. They also have the Rams and Packers on the road in December.

Two of the NFL’s stingiest and most physical defenses should be main factors Sunday.

Minnesota has allowed an average of only 252.5 yards over last four games, winning three. It did so missing some starters. Safety Harrison Smith likes seeing the Bears: Smith has four interceptions and six passes defended in 10 career games vs. Chicago.

Chicago dropped 10 in a row against the NFC North before beating Detroit last Sunday. It leads the NFL with 16 interceptions, and ranks second with 24 takeaways.

HOUSTON (6-3) at WASHINGTON (6-3)

Two also-rans of 2017 now leading their divisions.

The Texans have won six in a row and come off a bye. Key personnel such as DE J.J. Watt and QB Deshaun Watson were injured last year and are now playing at peak efficiency.

If Watson gets time to throw — Houston has surrendered 30 sacks — DeAndre Hopkins will be the biggest challenge to cover. He has four games with 10-plus catches, 100-plus yards and a touchdown through the air. That’s most in the league since the start of 2017, and Hopkins has five TD catches over the past four games. .

Washington has showed some balance on offense, but the defense has been a major factor in its strong year. It has forced a turnover in 13 consecutive games, the NFL’s longest active streak.

TENNESSEE (5-4) at INDIANAPOLIS (4-5)

Suddenly, there’s a race in the AFC South, and the Colts could get even more involved with a fourth consecutive victory. But the Titans, coming off their best game by far in an upset of the Patriots, have won six straight within the division.

Of course, Andrew Luck was not in the lineup for any of those; Luck is 9-0 in starts against Tennessee.

“I’m aware of it,” Luck says. “But what’s happened has happened, and good, bad or ugly, it doesn’t really matter.”

The Titans have the league’s No. 1 scoring defense, allowing 16.8 points a game, and have yielded a league-low 16 touchdowns.

PHILADELPHIA (4-5) at NEW ORLEANS (8-1)

New Orleans looks like the NFL’s top team right now, and the Eagles don’t resemble their title-winning squad of last season.

Injuries are damaging Philly’s defense at a really bad time. A banged-up secondary takes on Drew Brees and his assortment of helpers. The Saints have scored at least 40 points in five games this season, the third team in NFL history to score 40 in five of the first nine. Brees is completing 77.1 percent of his passes, has thrown for 21 TDs with one interception, and has a 123.8 passer rating.

Michael Thomas is tied for the NFL lead with 78 catches, ranks second with 950 yards, while Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram form a formidable and versatile backfield.

PITTSBURGH (6-2-1) at JACKSONVILLE (3-6)

The Steelers will be wise to look forward and not back at their last encounter with the Jaguars. Jacksonville beat Pittsburgh twice last season, including a 45-42 playoff shocker at Heinz Field.

Thinking revenge would be foolish because the Steelers are on a roll. Well, so are the Jags: Pittsburgh has won five in a row, Jacksonville has dropped that many consecutively.

Steelers running back James Conner has not allowed the team to regret the contract impasse that has led to Le’Veon Bell sitting out the season. Conner is the eighth player in team history with at least 10 rushing touchdowns, leads the AFC in rushing, and is expected to play after being placed in concussion protocol following last week’s win over Carolina.

CINCINNATI (5-4) at BALTIMORE (4-5)

Cincinnati brings an historically leaky defense to Baltimore, which might be without regular quarterback Joe Flacco (hip). That would mean either first-round pick Lamar Jackson or veteran Robert Griffin III will try to further expose that Bengals unit.

The Bengals have won eight of the last 10 in the series, but they fired first-year defensive coordinator Teryl Austin after a 51-14 loss to the Saints, the second-most points allowed in franchise history. They became the first team in the Super Bowl era to give up 500 yards in three straight games and are on pace to give up an NFL-record 7,273 yards.

Head coach Marvin Lewis takes over defensive coordinator duties, too.

DALLAS (4-5) at ATLANTA (4-5)

The Falcons appeared ready to take a role in the playoff race with three successive wins. Then, they put forth a stinker at Cleveland.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys seemed headed toward irrelevance before they went into Philadelphia and outplayed the Super Bowl champions.

Dallas will want to run with Zeke Elliott, who’s second in the NFL in rushing behind Gurley after gaining 151 yards against the Eagles. Atlanta will want to throw: Matt Ryan has seven games with a QB rating over 100 and six games with more than 300 yards passing, while Julio Jones became the fastest player in NFL history with more than 10,000 yards receiving.

CAROLINA (6-3) at DETROIT (3-6)

Both teams would like to forget last week’s poor performances.

Carolina leads this infrequent series 6-2 and remains in good position in the wild-card race with a victory. Detroit needs an immediate turnaround to get into contention.

If this is close, expect Cam Newton and Co. to win. Since 2013, the Panthers are 26-14 in games decided by seven points or fewer. They have won five straight games decided by three or fewer.

Newton has thrown at least two TD passes in eight straight games, the longest streak in franchise history.

DENVER (3-6) at LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (7-2)

While the Rams grab the headlines in LA, the Chargers keep grabbing victories. They could get help in the AFC West if their neighbors knock off KC, too.

The Chargers are a league-best 13-3 since Week 9 of last season. Their six-game winning streak marks the 11th time since the merger they had a streak of six or more. Philip Rivers has thrown for two or more TDs in nine straight games. Only five quarterbacks in league history have a string of 10 or more games.

TAMPA BAY (3-6) at NEW YORK GIANTS (2-7)

Saturday’s Notre Dame-Syracuse matchup in the New York area figures to be more fun than this, although the Bucs usually pile up the yards in passing offense and the Giants come off a stirring Eli Manning-led comeback win.

Tampa has lost three in row and six of seven, while New York broke a five-game slide on Monday night. Bucs wideouts Mike Evans (13 catches for 217 yards and a TD in two games) and DeSean Jackson (five touchdowns in the last six games) have feasted on the Giants’ defense.

OAKLAND (1-8) at ARIZONA (2-7)

The lowest-ranked teams in the AP Pro32 face off with the Cardinals coming off a solid effort at Kansas City. The Raiders? They seem to have fallen into the Black Hole, outscored 54-9 in the last two games.

Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald needs eight receptions to surpass Jerry Rice for the most catches for one team.

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Packers-Seahawks Stats

Green Bay 14 7 0 3—24
Seattle 3 14 0 10—27
First Quarter

GB_A.Jones 8 run (Crosby kick), 13:46.

Sea_FG Janikowski 39, 6:00.

GB_Tonyan 54 pass from Rodgers (Crosby kick), 3:10.

Second Quarter

Sea_Baldwin 6 pass from Wilson (Janikowski kick), 8:03.

Green Bay 14 7 0 3—24
Seattle 3 14 0 10—27
First Quarter

GB_A.Jones 8 run (Crosby kick), 13:46.

Sea_FG Janikowski 39, 6:00.

GB_Tonyan 54 pass from Rodgers (Crosby kick), 3:10.

Second Quarter

Sea_Baldwin 6 pass from Wilson (Janikowski kick), 8:03.

Sea_C.Carson 1 run (Janikowski kick), 3:22.

GB_A.Jones 24 pass from Rodgers (Crosby kick), :44.

Fourth Quarter

Sea_FG Janikowski 43, 12:14.

GB_FG Crosby 36, 8:23.

Sea_E.Dickson 15 pass from Wilson (Janikowski kick), 5:08.

A_69,007.

___

GB Sea
First downs 14 23
Total Net Yards 359 378
Rushes-yards 13-48 35-173
Passing 311 205
Punt Returns 3-31 0-0
Kickoff Returns 1-20 2-47
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 21-30-0 21-31-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 5-21 3-20
Punts 6-47.3 4-52.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties-Yards 5-80 6-30
Time of Possession 25:42 34:18

___

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING_Green Bay, A.Jones 11-40, J.Williams 1-5, Rodgers 1-3. Seattle, C.Carson 17-83, Penny 8-46, M.Davis 4-26, Wilson 5-17, Lockett 1-1.

PASSING_Green Bay, Rodgers 21-30-0-332. Seattle, Wilson 21-31-0-225.

RECEIVING_Green Bay, D.Adams 10-166, A.Jones 5-63, Kendricks 2-12, Tonyan 1-54, St. Brown 1-16, Graham 1-13, Valdes-Scantling 1-8. Seattle, Baldwin 7-52, Lockett 5-71, D.Moore 4-57, M.Davis 2-24, Vannett 1-17, E.Dickson 1-15, Wilson 1-(minus 11).

MISSED FIELD GOALS_Green Bay, Crosby 47.

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Wilson caps Seattle’s rally past Green Bay for 27-24 win

SEATTLE (AP) — After a shaky beginning, Russell Wilson got hot in the fourth quarter and kept the Seattle Seahawks in the middle of the NFC playoff race.

Wilson threw for 225 yards and his 15-yard touchdown pass to Ed Dickson with 5:08 left was the difference in the Seahawks' 27-24 victory over

SEATTLE (AP) — After a shaky beginning, Russell Wilson got hot in the fourth quarter and kept the Seattle Seahawks in the middle of the NFC playoff race.

Wilson threw for 225 yards and his 15-yard touchdown pass to Ed Dickson with 5:08 left was the difference in the Seahawks’ 27-24 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night.

In a key matchup in the battle for the two NFC wild-card spots, Seattle (5-5) snapped a two-game losing streak by overcoming an early 14-3 deficit. Wilson was shaky at times early game, but was outstanding in the fourth quarter, capping the winning drive by recognizing a blitz and hitting Dickson quickly for his second TD pass of the night. Seattle still has not lost three straight games since the middle of the 2011 season.

Aaron Rodgers had a huge first half for Green Bay (4-5-1) and threw for 332 yards, but the Packers had just one scoring drive in the second half, helped by a 57-yard strike from Rodgers to Davante Adams. Rodgers threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first half, but never got the ball back after Green Bay punted with 4:20 left.

Seattle ran out the clock thanks to a pair of runs from Mike Davis.

Chris Carson rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown, overcoming the mistake of fumbling on the first play of the game and setting up Green Bay’s opening score. Tyler Lockett had two key receptions late in the fourth quarter and Doug Baldwin had his first TD catch of the season for Seattle.

Rodgers was 21-of-30 passing with 10 of those going to Adams for 166 yards receiving. Backup tight end Robert Tonyan had the first catch of his career go for a 54-yard touchdown to give Green Bay an early 14-3 lead. The Packers led 21-17 at halftime after Jones caught a 24-yard TD pass from Rodgers in the final minute of the half, but Green Bay’s offense was stymied in the second half.

The Packers gained just 114 yards in the second half, half coming on the one throw from Rodgers to Adams. That pass set up Mason Crosby’s 36-yard field goal with 8:23 left, but Wilson had one more answer.

Wilson hit Lockett on consecutive plays for 18 yards — to convert a third-down — and 34 yards to the Green Bay 16. Two plays later, facing another third-and-long, Wilson recognized the blitz and hit Dickson quickly over the middle to put Seattle in front.

That proved to be enough. On Green Bay’s next drive, Rodgers short-hopped a pass on third-and-2. Rather than going for it on fourth-down, Mike McCarthy opted to punt despite having just one time out. Seattle never gave the ball back.

INJURIES

Green Bay was down four starters with CB Kevin King, S Kentrell Brice, LB Nick Perry and WR Randall Cobb all out due to injuries. They lost two more in the first half when Bashaud Breeland — starting for King — aggravated a groin injury and Jimmy Graham injured his thumb. Graham had a 13-yard reception on Green Bay’s first offensive play in his return to Seattle, but that was his only catch.

Mike Daniels suffered a foot injury early in the second half and backup safety Raven Greene suffered an ankle injury. Neither returned.

UP NEXT

Packers: At Minnesota on Nov. 25.

Seahawks: At Carolina on Nov. 25.

___

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Giants seek rare win streak as Bucs visit

Giants seek rare win streak as Bucs visit

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Giants seek rare win streak as Bucs visit

There’s plenty of string to be played out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants, and they’ll use up another week of it Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Tampa Bay is 3-6, losers of six of the past seven. New York is 2-7, and it needed a fourth-quarter comeback to earn its second win Monday night at San Francisco. Both teams are a lot closer to being on the clock for next spring’s NFL draft than they are of being in any kind of playoff race.

However, even bad teams still have things for which to play. In the Buccaneers’ case, it’s another week of trying to save the job of embattled coach Dirk Koetter. For the Giants, it’s a chance to win consecutive games for the first time this year.

“The thing is, we got to keep getting better, and I think we have gotten better,” New York left tackle Nate Solder said. “This has got to be another (positive) week. We can’t stay stagnant, we can’t get worse. We got to keep continuing to improve.”

The Sunday contest has the potential of being a high-scoring game. Coming off a three-TD game Monday night, Giants quarterback Eli Manning gets an opportunity to pick on a Tampa Bay pass defense that has been a blinking green light all year. What’s more, the Buccaneers might not have their best linebacker, Lavonte David.

A knee injury kept David off the practice field both Wednesday and Thursday.

Tampa Bay has an explosive offense with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing to the likes of Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and emerging tight end O.J. Howard. However, the Buccaneers have been plagued by a failure to convert in the red zone and a league-worst minus-19 turnover ratio.

In a 16-3 home loss to the Washington Redskins last week, Tampa Bay accomplished the wondrous feat of gaining 501 yards yet managing just a field goal. Fitzpatrick completed 29 of 41 passes for 406 yards but mixed in two interceptions and a lost fumble.

“Turnovers are killing us right now,” Koetter said. “We’re last in the league with 13 in the last four games. Thirteen turnovers and no takeaways. That’s by far the No. 1 thing that’s hurting our team. We’ve talked about it many times.”

The game marks the return of Buccaneers defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to the Meadowlands. Pierre-Paul notched 58 1/2 sacks in eight years for New York before being traded to Tampa Bay in March.

He sent a message Thursday to Manning: “I’m coming, Eli. … The new rules, you’ve got to lay him down, so I’ll lay him down if I get there. … I know one thing, if (Manning) is hot, he’s on, he’s going to continue to be hot. We’ve got to get after them early.”

–Field Level Media

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Rams, Chiefs set to light up scoreboard in L.A.

Rams, Chiefs set to light up scoreboard in L.A.

Rams, Chiefs set to light up scoreboard in L.A.

The biggest storyline going into one of the biggest NFL clashes to date this season is that the game will actually be played in the United States.

Concerns over field conditions prompted league office to pull the matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs (sporting matching 9-1 records) out of Mexico City. The Rams now get a Monday night home game in what promises to be an offensive showcase.

“We were excited about the opportunity to play in Mexico City,” Rams coach Sean McVay said, “but I think it’s a great demonstration of the league’s consideration for our players.”

Defensive prowess will be measured in punts forced in a game featuring quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff, who rank 1-2 in the NFL in passing yards, and running backs Kareem Hunt (the reigning NFL rushing champion) and Todd Gurley (the current leader in rushing yards).

“You want to compete against these teams because they are going to be the teams that are there at the end of the season,” Mahomes said.

The competition has seemed alarmingly easy for Mahomes to solve thus far. The Chiefs’ only defeat came in a last-second loss at New England. Their first-year starting quarterback leads the NFL in passing yards (3,150) and touchdowns (31) while showing off improvisational skills that accentuate dangerous targets such as tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

“Opponents are going to present something that you have to work on and get answered there pretty quick during a game and make your adjustments,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “That normally goes on for a couple years (with a young quarterback). He has done a nice job of working through it.”

The 34.5 passes the Chiefs attempt on average could spell trouble for Mahomes if the Rams’ defense generates pressure against a battered Kansas City offensive front. One counter against Rams standout Aaron Donald and his teammates along the Los Angeles defensive front could be to get Hunt rolling since the Rams are allowing 5.2 yards per carry.

Gurley is averaging 98.8 yards rushing with 17 total touchdowns and will look to do plenty of running for the Rams, who practiced in Colorado Springs while expecting to play in the Mexico City altitude.

Goff has thrown for 3,134 yards and 22 touchdowns.

The matchup could also factor into Most Valuable Player voting, as well — though more than month remains in the regular season and both teams still face strong challenges in their pursuits to become top playoff seeds in their respective conferences.

Adding to the intrigue is the presence of Rams cornerback Marcus Peters, who played in Kansas City the three previous seasons and was Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2015 and first-team All-Pro in 2016.

“You don’t ignore the fact that this is his former team,” McVay said of Peters, whom the Rams acquired via a trade in the offseason, “and that naturally comes with some other feelings just based on the history and relationships that you have.”

Mahomes was listed with a foot injury on the Chiefs injury report but fully participated in practice. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) and linebacker Anthony Hitchens (ribs) should play.

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL suffered last week against Seattle. Another receiver, Josh Reynolds (knee) is expected to play.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Steelers actually secured Bell’s belongings

NFL notebook: Steelers actually secured Bell's belongings

NFL notebook: Steelers actually secured Bell’s belongings

Unable to lock up Le’Veon Bell to a new contract, the Pittsburgh Steelers are making sure they at least lock up his belongings. Even if it is a day too late.

A day after video surfaced showing Steelers players purportedly raiding their former teammate’s locker, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Thursday that most of Bell’s items were actually “packed up and placed in the back of team headquarters, with former teammates scoring a few pairs of cleats and not much more during Wednesday’s raid.”

Bell did not sign his $14.5 million tender before Tuesday’s deadline and will sit out the remainder of the season. On Wednesday, teammates reportedly removed Bell’s nameplate from his locker and treated themselves to numerous items in his locker, including cleats, CDs, shirts and a suit.

But center and team captain Maurkice Pouncey told Fowler that Bell’s items will likely be shipped directly to Bell, which is customary when a player is no longer with a team.

–Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins returned to practice and there’s a “pretty good chance” he will play against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night, coach Andy Reid said.

Watkins, who played with the Rams last season, missed last Sunday’s win against the Arizona Cardinals with a foot injury.

Watkins has 39 receptions for 515 yards and three touchdowns this season, including 100-yard games against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2 and the Denver Broncos in Week 8.

Linebacker Anthony Hitchens (ribs) also returned to practice. Center Mitch Morse (concussion) did not participate.

–Former Atlanta Falcons defensive end Tim Green, later a broadcaster for Fox Sports, was diagnosed with ALS.

“While the football field is far away, I find myself in a formidable struggle,” Green wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday. “For the past five years I’ve been coping with some neurological problems in my hands. At first the doctors thought the damage I’d done to my elbows in football was the culprit, so they operated to release the nerves, but the issue persisted and my voice began to weaken as well. That’s the only reason I’ve had to stop visiting schools to talk with kids. Finally, I was diagnosed with ALS.”

Green started 71 games in the NFL and retired in 1993. He worked for Fox and on Good Morning America, penned a book, “The Dark Side of the Game: My Life in the NFL,” and earned his law degree. Green was a two-time All-American at Syracuse and the 17th overall draft pick in 1986.

–The Indianapolis Colts signed former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Jalen Collins to their practice squad.

Collins, 25, has served multiple league suspensions since the Falcons drafted him in the second round out of LSU in 2015. Atlanta released him last November and he was suspended for the first 10 games in 2018. Collins has played in 24 games (eight starts) and registered 43 tackles and two interceptions.

In a corresponding move, the Colts released quarterback Phillip Walker from the practice squad.

–Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick, diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome before the start of the season, said he has regained feeling in his hands for the first time in months.

“It’s starting to come back in my hands a little bit here, which is good,” the four-time Pro Bowl player told the Dallas Morning News. “Now it’s more just numbness, no tingling, and it’s more in the tips.”

Frederick, 27, said he still has no sensation in his feet, but he remains optimistic about a full recovery. He has been with the Cowboys since they drafted him in the first round out of Wisconsin in 2013. He started all 80 regular season games and three playoff games in his first five seasons.

–Field Level Media

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Defensive adjustments have fueled recent surge by Vikings

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota's fumble gave Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions a fresh set of downs early in the fourth quarter two weeks ago, another opportunity to start climbing back into the game.

Though they held an 11-point lead, the Vikings had been unable to pull away. On the first play

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota’s fumble gave Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions a fresh set of downs early in the fourth quarter two weeks ago, another opportunity to start climbing back into the game.

Though they held an 11-point lead, the Vikings had been unable to pull away. On the first play after the change of possession, Stafford faked a handoff to Kerryon Johnson and rolled out to his right.

With a hard stop, Stafford pivoted and threw back to his left where Johnson was waiting for the screen pass with four blockers within 5 yards of him. Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson wasn’t fooled, though.

He kept his eyes on the running back the entire time, closing in to make the tackle for a 6-yard loss as soon as the ball was caught. Five plays later, with the Lions still in their own territory, defensive end Danielle Hunter scooped up a fumble and returned it for a victory-sealing touchdown.

When the Vikings beat the Lions 24-9 that afternoon, the most encouraging development entering their week off was the start-to-finish dominance by a defense that didn’t look like its usual self in the first quarter of the season. That rollout screen play that Johnson blew up went for big gains against the Vikings a few times earlier in the fall. Coach Mike Zimmer and his staff put plenty of work into adjusting the scheme and the calls after in light of the vulnerabilities that arose in September.

The Vikings allowed a season-low 209 yards to the Lions. Their next three lowest totals all came over the three previous games.

“There’s a lot of teams now that are playing a style of defense similar to us. Now, all these offenses are attacking these defenses pretty much the same way. So we’ve had to adjust and change coverages,” Zimmer said, adding: “Luckily, our players have been able to execute it.”

The 4-3 system that Zimmer largely used throughout his time as defensive coordinator for Dallas and Cincinnati gained fame by the novel use of the double A-gap blitz that send the inside linebackers as pass rushers on both sides of the center.

As more and more teams began to integrate that concept, the added exposure around the league gave opponents more opportunities to strategize about how to block it. Zimmer estimated that 10 or 12 other teams around the NFL now use a form of what his original base defense was.

As for the Double-A gap blitz, Zimmer has rarely called one of those this season. One alternative that has worked well has been to overload one side of the line and use a defensive back to rush like Harrison Smith or Mackensie Alexander, who had the only one of 10 sacks of Stafford what wasn’t from a defensive lineman.

“Everybody copies if you’ve been good,” Zimmer said, adding: “You see a gradual thing. I’ve had many coaches say they watch our blitz tape every week to see what we’re doing. That’s kind of how it starts.”

General manager Rick Spielman will often join Zimmer for his 5:30 a.m. film review of the previous game on Monday mornings, and this season he’s been witness to perhaps more scheming than usual.

“It’s pretty incredible to see how they evolve things and why they evolve it,” Spielman said.

The Vikings (5-3-1) play at Chicago (6-3) on Sunday night for control of the NFC North, and they’ll need the defense to keep this up.

“We’re recognizing the plays and understanding the downs and distances, getting to the ball, getting to the quarterback,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “We’re in great coverage. We’re aggressive. Once we call a blitz, we’re aggressive all the way around. We’re just being us. We’re finding our identity. We had it, but we were making errors in the beginning of the season and now we’re trying to minimize those.”

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Surging Saints brace for desperate Eagles

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — If the Philadelphia Eagles are to snap out of their Super Bowl hangover and re-establish a measure of credibility to their title defense, this would be the week to do it.

The Eagles (4-5) visit the Superdome on Sunday to take on the Saints (8-1), whose eight straight victories

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — If the Philadelphia Eagles are to snap out of their Super Bowl hangover and re-establish a measure of credibility to their title defense, this would be the week to do it.

The Eagles (4-5) visit the Superdome on Sunday to take on the Saints (8-1), whose eight straight victories represent the longest active winning streak in the NFL.

When the season began, the Eagles’ visit looked like one of the tougher games on New Orleans’ schedule. Now, odds makers are listing the surging Saints, who lead the NFL in scoring with 36.7 points per game, as favorites by more than a touchdown.

Still, the Saints sound wary of underestimating the team that upended the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl just nine months ago.

“They’re still a good team no matter what their record is,” Saints running back Alvin Kamara insisted. “They wouldn’t have won last year if they didn’t have the talent.”

Kamara’s take is no surprise to Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson, who asserted that when you’re the defending champs, “you get everybody’s best each week.”

Pederson even recalled pep-talks he gave his team last season in which he said, “Listen, if you want to be one of the best teams in the league, we have to beat the best. And I know teams are saying that about us, and we just haven’t lived up to how we’re capable of playing in a couple of situations this year.”

They need to start living up to their capabilities now. A loss in New Orleans, combined with a Washington win, would put the Eagles three games down in the NFC East with six games left.

That makes Philadelphia the more desperate team in this game, and in the NFL, a combination of talent and desperation can be dangerous.

“They are a prideful group. They know how to win,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “They have a ton of playmakers over there. We have our work cut out for us and we know what type of game it’s going to be. We know they’re coming in hungry for a win. Both teams have a lot to play for.”

Some other key story lines in the Eagles-Saints matchup:

SLOW STARTS

The Eagles have scored only 21 points in the first quarter, including 14 against the Giants after a turnover set up a short field. Pederson scripts the first 15 plays and they have often resulted in more negative yards than positive.

Pederson said he bases his script on watching film of the opponent and tries to avoid repeating play calls and giving away indicators. It’s not working.

“In the case of some of our struggles, it has just been our execution,” Pederson said. “How we start games, that’s where the urgency, I think, coaches, players, everybody involved really needs to sort of heighten, so that we can stay on the field and go down and score points.”

BREES APPRECIATION

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz didn’t have to spend a lot of time watching highlights of Brees throwing interceptions or getting sacked. Brees has one pick and he’s been sacked nine times, none in the past three games.

“He’s playing at an insane level right now,” Schwartz said. “Extremely accurate quarterback, smart, knows where to go with the ball. Still has good mobility, can buy time.”

It doesn’t help Philadelphia’s case that starting cornerback Ronald Darby went down with a torn ACL last week. Jalen Mills, the starter opposite Darby, has been limited by a foot injury. Starting nickel cornerback Sidney Jones has missed the past three games because of a hamstring injury. Also, starting safety Rodney McLeod already was lost for the season with a knee injury.

“We’ve got some young players that need to fill in and make their way in the league,” Schwartz said. “Our job as players and coaches is work to find a formula that works for the guys that we have.”

LINE ITEMS

The Saints enter the game without starting left tackle Terron Armstead, who left last week’s victory in Cincinnati with an unspecified shoulder injury. Coach Sean Payton declined to update Armstead’s condition this week, but he did not practice and reportedly could miss several weeks. Filling in is Jermon Bushrod, who was a first-year starter at left tackle on the Saints 2009 Super Bowl team. He left in free agency several years ago, only to return this season as a reserve.

“For him to step in, he’s ready for that,” Brees said. “We’re used to that and we’re ready to go.”

INGRAM’S INFLUENCE

The Saints are rushing for more than 140 yards per game since veteran running back Mark Ingram returned from a four-game suspension to start the season. His return has eased the workload on Alvin Kamara, leaving both players relatively fresh during games. In a 51-14 victory at Cincinnati last week, Ingram gained 104 yards on 13 carries to go with three catches for 58 yards, including a 28-yard TD.

“I feel like we’re getting in a groove,” Ingram said. “We have a great team, we have great players, and I just want to be on point so I can help us win.”

MARSHALL PLAN

The Saints have given 34-year-old free agent receiver Brandon Marshall a chance to join their prolific passing game . The 6-foot-5 Marshall has had eight 1,000-yard seasons, but he didn’t fit in with Seattle, which released him seven games into the season. Time will tell how he meshes with the record-setting Brees.

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AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this report.

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Steelers have reason to overlook Jaguars now

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Even if the memory is still fresh, the temptation is there for Pittsburgh to overlook the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Steelers might have been guilty of that in January in the AFC divisional playoffs. Mike Mitchell and Le'Veon Bell talked more about a rematch in the conference title game against

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Even if the memory is still fresh, the temptation is there for Pittsburgh to overlook the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Steelers might have been guilty of that in January in the AFC divisional playoffs. Mike Mitchell and Le’Veon Bell talked more about a rematch in the conference title game against New England than the Jaguars, who had beaten them soundly at home earlier in the year. The Jaguars beat them again, 45-42.

Never mind that both players are not gone, Mitchell signing with the Colts and Bell not signing his $14.5 million franchise tender and sitting out the season.

“Hopefully, people get the memo on that and respect these guys, because all they’ve done is kick our butt the last two times we’ve played them,” Steelers guard David DeCastro said. “I don’t know that there’s much to talk about, playing at their place. It’s going to be a tough game. They’re a really good defense, especially for us.”

But there is much to talk about.

The Steelers are soaring. After a sluggish start, they have won five straight games, including a 52-21 victory a week ago Thursday against the Carolina Panthers when Ben Roethlisberger had a perfect quarterbacking rating for the first time in nearly 11 years.

“They’re going to come in with a chip on their shoulder,” Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette said.

The Jaguars more closely resemble the team that went nine straight seasons without reaching the playoffs than a team that was one quarter away from beating New England and reaching its first Super Bowl.

From a 3-1 start, the Jaguars have lost five in a row. And while they still have the top-rated pass defense in the league, they looked bumbling at times last week in a 29-26 loss at Indianapolis thanks to busted coverages and confusion.

Jacksonville can’t afford another loss if it wants to return to the playoffs. And it can’t afford to live in the past, whether it’s the 30-9 victory at Heinz Field last year when it intercepted Roethlisberger five times and Fournette ran for 181 yards, or the postseason win.

“Our margin for error is zero,” Jacksonville defensive tackle Calais Campbell said. “But we have the ability to do something special. We have to bury the past and just look forward. With our team, our coaches and the way we prepare, I don’t see why we can’t make it happen.”

The Steelers are favored to win, just like the last two times. No one is talking about that on either side.

MOVING ON

The Steelers no longer have the absence of Bell hanging over them. He won’t play this season after declining to sign his one-year, $14.5 million franchise tag. They’ve managed just fine with second-year running back James Conner, second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage. His 10 rushing touchdowns are more than Bell ever had in a single season.

Conner’s rise put him in a bit of an awkward spot. He considers Bell a friend and wanted no part of the narrative that he and Bell would be at odds if Bell opted to return. Now that the possibility of them reuniting is out of the way, Conner feels free to just go about his business.

“I’m excited we’ve got more football to play,” Conner said. “I earn everything. Nothing was given to me. I’m going to be doing the same thing I’ve been doing every week.”

FOURNETTE FORGES AHEAD

One reason for the Jaguars’ sluggish start has been the absence of Fournette, not only a bruising runner but an explosive one. He broke off a 90-yard score last year against the Steelers in that 30-9 victory.

Fournette played parts of two games this year and had 20 carries. He returned last week and rushed 24 times and caught five passes.

“There no pitch count,” Fournette said, adding that his hamstring felt strong.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says the Jaguars’ turnover margin — minus 11 — is one reason for the 3-6 start. Another was the absence of Fournette.

“When you lose your feature runner, particularly one of his caliber, it affects you and it affects you in negative ways,” Tomlin said.

ON THE ROPES

The Jaguars are three games behind Houston in the AFC South and have lost to every team in the division, putting their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy.

“We put a lot of stuff in a lot of other people’s hands,” linebacker Tevin Smith said.

Quarterback Blake Bortles said Jacksonville needs a winning streak, but it has to start with one win first.

“We continue to let opportunities pass us by and eventually we’re going to have to change that and win a football game,” Bortles said. “That’s the only way to get hot and get a win streak going. You have to start with one. No better week to start than this week. … It’s a perfect game for us to get fired up.”

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AP Sports Writer Will Graves contributed.

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Cowboys C Frederick regains sensation in hands

Cowboys C Frederick regains sensation in hands

Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick,

Cowboys C Frederick regains sensation in hands

Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick, diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome before the start of the regular season, said he has regained feeling in his hands for the first time in months.

“It’s starting to come back in my hands a little bit here, which is good,” the four-time Pro Bowl selection told the Dallas Morning News. “Now it’s more just numbness, no tingling, and it’s more in the tips.”

Frederick said he still has no sensation in his feet, but he remains optimistic about a full recovery.

“I mean the fact there is some light at the end of the tunnel is definitely a positive,” Frederick said.

Frederick, 27, has been with the Cowboys since they drafted him in the first round out of Wisconsin in 2013. He started all 80 regular season games and three playoff games in his first five seasons.

Guillain-Barre syndrome is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack a network of nerves around the brain and spinal cord, according to the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

–Field Level Media

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Streaking Chargers face challenge hosting Broncos on Sunday

CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers offense have been sensational during their six-game winning streak. The veteran quarterback noted this week as they prepare for Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos that things can turn south quickly.

"We haven't won six in a row in a while, but

CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers offense have been sensational during their six-game winning streak. The veteran quarterback noted this week as they prepare for Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos that things can turn south quickly.

“We haven’t won six in a row in a while, but it can be a one-game losing streak just like that. So I think, again, it’s week to week,” Rivers said. “Again, now we’ve reset and get ready for the Broncos on Sunday.”

The Chargers (7-2) have one of the league’s most-balanced offenses. Rivers is third in the league with a 115.4 passer rating and running back Melvin Gordon is third in yards from scrimmage (1,033).

Rivers has been sacked only 12 times, third least among quarterbacks who have started nine or more games. But the Broncos have one of the NFL’s best pass-rushing duos in Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, who have combined for a league-high 17 sacks.

Miller, who has nine sacks this season, has sacked Rivers 15 times since entering the league as the second overall pick in 2011. That is the most by an active player against an active QB.

“I’m a big Philip Rivers fan. I feel like he’s always played great, but the difference this year is he doesn’t have as many interceptions,” Miller said. “He can make all the throws but he don’t take all the shots. He is still accurate as hell, the running game is lights out, and he has a pretty good team.”

Miller added that the biggest difference with the Chargers this season is they are relying more on the running game with Gordon and Austin Ekeler, which has allowed Rivers to take fewer risks.

Chubb, the fifth overall pick in last April’s draft, has 6 1-2 of his eight sacks over the past four games. Chubb said he got to meet Rivers last season at North Carolina State when he came in to talk to the team.

“He throws the ball out quick. It’s making sure that when I get there, I make sure I try to get the ball out,” Chubb said. “He’s kind of a bigger guy, he’s not going to try to move around too much. But a lot of guys slip off of him. If I get to him, just make sure I secure it and get the ball up.”

Rivers is tied for fourth in the league with 21 touchdown passes and has thrown two or more in nine straight games. Only five quarterbacks have done it in 10 or more straight games. He has thrown two or more TDs the past three times the Chargers have faced the Broncos.

Denver (3-6) is rested after having its bye last week, while the Chargers return to StubHub Center for the first time in six weeks. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said he sees a lot of similarities between this year’s Broncos and his team last year, which was 3-6 before winning six of its last seven.

“This team (Denver) has lost four of the six games to division leaders, and they were close games. So this is a good football team,” Lynn said. “So, you know, I think it’s a matter of time that this team gets going on a streak, but we’re just trying to prevent that from being this week.”

Here are other things to watch in the meeting of AFC West rivals:

GORDON’S STREAK

Gordon has five straight games of at least 120 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. Only four players in NFL history have done it in six straight games or more. Coincidentally, the last to do it was the Chargers’ LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006.

FREEMAN’S RETURN

Broncos RB Royce Freeman, who has missed the last two games due to an ankle injury, is likely to be back for this week. Freeman is part of a prolific rookie trio that also features RB Phillip Lindsay and WR Courtland Sutton. They have combined for 1,462 yards from scrimmage, sixth-most yards by a rookie trio through nine games since the 1970 merger.

CHALLENGING CORNERBACK

Broncos star Chris Harris Jr. is hardly being challenged by quarterbacks this season. In his last game, he locked down on Texans No. 1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins and was only thrown at twice. But he knows that will change Sunday.

“Against Rivers, I’m excited this week because he always gives me a chance. I know Rivers is going to let me play ball.”

CENTER OF ATTENTION

With Matt Paradis on IR with a broken right leg, Connor McGovern will get his first start at center Sunday after moving over from right guard. QB Case Keenum said losing Paradis puts a lot more on everyone’s plate.

“Everyone needs to step their game up,” Keenum said. “What’s great is that nobody has to be anybody but themselves. Everybody’s confident in what their ability is and everybody’s confident in what their job is. I think everybody is going to step up on the offensive line, including me, too. I definitely can help out with those guys.”

KEEP AN EYE ON

Chargers DE Joey Bosa is back practicing and could he see action. Bosa has missed the first 10 games due to a bone bruise to his left foot, but will be a game-time decision. The Chargers struggled with their pass rush early this season, yet have 15 sacks over the past four games.

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AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report.

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Vander Esch showing 1st-round talent as rookie for Cowboys

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Leighton Vander Esch said it almost felt weird to have the ball in his hands again on the first NFL interception for the Dallas Cowboys linebacker.

The rookie from Boise State who used to play every down — offense and defense — for his eight-man high school team never

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Leighton Vander Esch said it almost felt weird to have the ball in his hands again on the first NFL interception for the Dallas Cowboys linebacker.

The rookie from Boise State who used to play every down — offense and defense — for his eight-man high school team never said anything about it feeling strange to diagnose a screen pass before it was in the air, slip past a pair of blockers and make a critical open-field tackle for loss.

That defensive play of the game in a season-saving win at Philadelphia was a signature moment weeks in the making, through preparation and focus that Vander Esch said should be expected of any team’s first-round draft pick. At least that’s how he sees it.

“I’ve never really thought that I’ve been caught off-guard with anything,” said Vander Esch, taken 19th overall last spring . “I’m confident in my abilities and my athleticism, in my preparation. It’s going to put me in position to make plays on the field on game day.”

Vander Esch established a Cowboys rookie record with 19 tackles against the Eagles, according to the coaches’ count. He’s the first rookie Dallas linebacker with an interception since injured teammate and mentor Sean Lee had two in the same game eight years ago.

Barring a surge from Jaylon Smith, who figures to be his linebacking partner for years to come in Dallas, Vander Esch could become the first rookie to lead the Cowboys (4-5) in tackles since coaches starting tracking the stat in 1977.

Vander Esch has 96 through nine games going into Sunday’s trip to Atlanta (4-5), and Smith is second with 82.

“He’s going to be around here a long time,” Smith said. “He’s developing into a great player. He’s the best tackler on the team. I joke to him all the time. He’s finding ways to learn from his 96-inch arms.”

Smith, a first-round talent relegated to the second round in 2016 because of a knee injury in his final game at Notre Dame, watched as a rookie while recovering from the injury, so his second season was really his first.

Because of injuries to Anthony Hitchens and Lee, Smith had to play more than expected and struggled at times. More hamstring issues for Lee have forced the 6-foot-4 Vander Esch into essentially a full-time role — he and Smith played all 62 defensive snaps against the Eagles.

Vander Esch hasn’t struggled nearly as much, perhaps in part because he’s had Smith out there with him. And he’s had Lee in his ear on the sidelines — and in the meeting rooms all week. The Cowboys have raved about Lee’s preparation for years.

“He’s lucky to have a guy like Sean Lee in that room with him,” coach Jason Garrett said. “To see that example really each and every day in your room, up close, seeing how a guy like that does it, how he approaches it, I think that’s been really good for him.”

Apparently so.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him,” Vander Esch said. “He’s right there to give us tips and to be on us right as we come on the sideline after being on the field. I love the guy. I feel like I’ve known him for my whole life.”

Lee has already missed four games with separate hamstring injuries and likely won’t be back until the final month because of the second one. Injuries have defined his career, and several times brought the Dallas defense down with them.

Smith’s improvement in his first year without a foot brace that he needed because of nerve damage from the knee injury is part of the reason the Cowboys, ranked seventh in the NFL in total defense, are in their best shape in several years to survive without Lee.

The rapid rise of the Vander Esch is the other reason, and perhaps isn’t that surprising considering he went from tiny Riggins, Idaho, to a Boise State walk-on who developed fast enough through a redshirt year and three seasons to enter the draft early.

“For a guy as big as he is, the things that we saw from him on tape in college that led him to be really intriguing prospect, it is showing up,” passing game coordinator Kris Richard said. “And it’s translating into this league.”

Vander Esch has a signature play to show for it.

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