Category Archives: NFL

Steelers to play starters with shot at No. 1-2 seed

The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up at least the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs by defeating the Houston Texans on Monday.

Pittsburgh will have a bye to the divisional round of the tournament and can still earn the No. 1 seed by defeating the Cleveland Browns and by having the New Jets beat the New England Patriots.

But Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he won’t let the fact the No. 1 seed in the AFC is still in play factor into his decision-making on who he will dress for the Browns game.

“I’m undecided as I stand here right now,” Tomlin said Tuesday afternoon at his weekly news conference. “It’s obvious those discussions are in play. We’ll do what’s best for us short-term and long, and we won’t look back.”

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The Steelers-Browns game kicks off at 1 p.m., the same time the Patriots-Jets game starts.

There is a scenario where Tomlin and his staff can watch the scoreboard to see if there is a chance the Patriots could be upset, but that would require Tomlin to play his starters for at least one half and perhaps more if that game is close.

“We have no control over that,” Tomlin said. “We better take care of the business in our stadium. We better focus on the challenges in our stadium and take care of the business that’s in our control. That will be my mentality as we prepare this week and as we walk into the stadium.”

Regardless of whether Tomlin decides to sit or play his stars, the Steelers have an oportunity to go undefeated in the AFC North for the first time since the 2008 season.

Tomlin said there were no significant injuries to come out of the Houston match. He did not have an update on wide receiver Antonio Brown, but he did rule him out for the Browns game.

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Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch out for season due to neck injury

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch suffered a neck injury during Sunday’s match versus the Philadelphia Eagles and will not return.

Vander Esch recorded three tackles before exiting, raising his season total to 54.

Injuries were a topic surrounding Vander Esch entering the 2018 NFL draft. He was limited to just six games as a redshirt sophomore at Boise State as he dealt with a concussion and a neck injury.

His agent told the Idaho Press his client passed all medical checks during the predraft process.

Dallas was impressed enough by his film and skill set that it took him with the 19th overall pick. He went on to record 140 tackles, two interceptions and seven pass breakups as a rookie en route to the Pro Bowl. He was also voted second-team All-Pro.

Vander Esch was the first to make contact with the opposing ball carrier on 15.1 percent of his defensive snaps in 2018.

That put him well ahead of his peers, as no other off-ball linebacker with at least 400 defensive snaps finished above 12.6 percent.

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He wound up playing all 18 games (including the postseason) in his first year as a pro, though he missed the start of organized team activities in May this year with a pelvis injury. 

Vander Esch was, however, ready for the regular season.

Losing him for any period of time would be a blow to the middle of the defense. The linebacking corps still features the likes of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, though the Cowboys will have a hard time replacing Vander Esch.

For his part, Vander Esch has made it clear he plans on playing “12 years” in the NFL and “not four”, indicating he’s totally fine with how the Cowboys are approaching the situation.

In his stead, veteran linebackers Sean Lee and Joe Thomas have taken up the mantle on the weakside.

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RB Chris Carson´s hip injury might end his season

Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson suffered a hip injury in the second quarter of Sunday’s game versus the Arizona Cardinals, and his playing status for the rest of the season is now in jeopardy.

After the 27-13 loss, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll confirmed Carson will miss Week 17’s pivotal clash versus the San Francisco 49ers. Carson underwent additional testing, and team doctors informed Carroll the injury appeared to be season-ending, per ESPN’s Brady Henderson. Carson had eight carries for 40 yards before exiting. 

Carson took over as the starting running back in 2018 and proceeded to run for 1,151 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games. He ended 12th in DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement) among running backs with at least 100 carries, per Football Outsiders.

Through 14 matches in 2019, Carson had 1,190 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

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Outside of selecting DK Metcalf in the second round of the draft, the Seahawks did little to upgrade the offense, largely due to the fact they didn’t have much salary-cap space with which to make significant additions.

Seattle also lost Mike Davis, the team’s second-leading rusher during last season, after he signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Chicago Bears.

Carson’s injury comes two weeks after Rashaad Penny suffered a season-ending torn ACL.

C.J. Prosise injured his arm Sunday night as well and will miss Week 17, leaving rookie Travis Homer as the last active option. 

Carroll was asked how the Seahawks will rally, given all the attrition.

“We are going to figure out a way,” he said. “We are going to use all of the same tools that we use all the time mentally to make sure we can be disciplined about it and turn the focus on the next challenge. Our guys do a remarkable job of doing that. So people who question their ability to do it can’t believe when we do it. We’ll try to show you and prove it.

“The 49ers look awesome. They’re playing great football. They had a great win last week. It will be as great of a test as we could play. I’m disappointed we didn’t go into [the 49ers game] with momentum, but we’re going to re-create it here during the week.”

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Jaguars fire Tom Coughlin

The Jacksonville Jaguars have informed the firing of executive vice president Tom Coughlin, just two days after the NFL Players Association went public with a breathtaking number of grievances filed against the team’s front office since the former coach’s hiring.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan explained the decision Wednesday, claiming that he had been planning to part ways with Coughlin after the season, but reconsidered and decided to make the change immediately. Given what the NFLPA was claiming, it’s hard to blame him for changing the timeline.

In its letter, the NFLPA stated a combative relationship with Coughlin’s front office over the Jaguars’ insistence, to the point of $700,000 in fines against former Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., that injured players rehab with the team during the offseason.

That was a clear violation of the league’s collective bargaining agreement.

The conduct of Coughlin’s front office was reportedly so toxic that more than 25 percent of player grievances filed in the past two years have been against the Jaguars.

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The letter finished with an ominous warning: “You as players may want to consider this when you have an option to select your next club.” Essentially, the players union was warning players against signing with a specific organization, a move rarely seen in today’s game.

Coughlin has gained a reputation over the years as one of the NFL’s harshest taskmasters, and it appeared that his desire to control players was great enough to ignore their CBA-backed rights.

That approach predictably made him unpopular in the Jacksonville locker room, to the point that Fowler and former Jaguars star cornerback Jalen Ramsey took victory laps on Twitter after the NFLPA went public with Coughlin’s conduct.

Coughlin is now 73 years old and was unpopular enough on his last team that the NFLPA felt the need to swing its full might against his tenure.

Any team that wants to bring him on in any kind of executive role is going to have to publicly explain the decision, and any player on that team would have the upper hand if he went public with a grievance.

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Giants place TE Evan Engram on Injured reserve

The Giants entered training camp excited about their collection of offensive ballhandlers that included Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Evan Engram. But when Engram was placed on injured reserve today, it not only ended his season, it guaranteed that the team will not play one match this year with all four of them on the field at the same time.

Engram, the third-year tight end, missed the previous five matches with a foot injury. He at one point seemed close to returning to the field, but the injury didn’t sufficiently improve, and the Giants decided he would not be well enough to return to the field this season.

Wide receiver David Sills was signed off the practice squad to take Engram’s place on the roster.

Tackle Nate Wozniak was signed to the practice squad. Engram, the Giants’ first-round draft choice in 2017, played in eight games, one year after injuries limited him to 11 games. He caught 44 passes for 467 yards and three touchdowns.

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In the Giants’ season opener in Dallas, Engram ended with career-high totals of 11 receptions for 116 yards, including a one-yard touchdown. Two weeks later, in the team’s first win at Tampa Bay, he caught six passes for 113 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown on a throw from Daniel Jones that was the longest by a tight end in Giants history.

Engram missed the Oct. 10 Thursday night game in New England with a knee injury, returned to play in the next three games, but hurt his foot versus Dallas on Nov. 4.

Sills, 6-3 and 211 pounds, has spent the entire season on the Giants’ practice squad. He has not played in an NFL regular-season game, but is now eligible to debut on Sunday, when the Giants will be in Washington.

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Chiefs claim Terrell Suggs after losing Alex Okafor

Terrell Suggs, the all-time sack leader in Ravens history, was claimed by the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday, according to multiple reports. Suggs was released Friday by the Arizona Cardinals.

The Chiefs have already clinched the AFC West, but one of their pass rushers, Alex Okafor, suffered a reported pectoral tear Sunday.

It remains to be seen if Suggs will report to the Chiefs, however. Suggs was angling for a return to the Ravens where he spent his first 16 NFL seasons, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

If he played for the Chiefs, Suggs could potentially go ahead his former team (again) in the playoffs. With the NFL’s best record (12-2), the Ravens have the league’s lowest waiver claim, meaning every other team had a chance Monday to claim Suggs before Baltimore.

ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported that the Ravens did not submit a claim for Suggs, but could have signed him as a free agent if no other team did.

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Suggs is one of the greatest defensive players in Ravens history and holds the franchise record with 132 ½ sacks. 

He was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2003, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 and helped the Ravens acquire a Super Bowl in 2012.

Although Suggs often talked about wanting to end his career in Baltimore, the 37-year-old outside linebacker chose to sign with the Cardinals during free agency, even though he said the Ravens made a push to bring him back.

Suggs went to college at Arizona State and said one of the factors in signing with the Cardinals was an opportunity to return home.

If Suggs elects not to report to Kansas City, speculation would likely continue about a possible reunion with the Ravens. Baltimore outside linebacker Matthew Judon endorsed Suggs’ return on social media after he was released.

The Ravens have won 10 straight matches and the defense has improved as the season has progressed. Judon is the leader of Baltimore’s pass rush, having his best season with a career-high 8 ½ sacks. Tyus Bowser (five sacks) is also having a career year, including a strip sack of New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold last Thursday night.

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Ravens QB Lamar Jackson breaks Michael Vick´s single season rushing yards record

Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson just broke the NFL’s all-time season rushing record for a quarterback, set by Michael Vick back in 2006.

Jackson entered Thursday’s game versus the New York Jets with 1,017 rushing yards — 22 behind Vick’s total of 1,039. Vick achieved his total with fewer attempts (but in more games) that season than Jackson had had in 2019.

Jackson — wearing white sleeves and a white glove — reached the 1,000-yard mark last week versus the Buffalo Bills, joining Vick as the only other QB to reach quadruple digits on the ground in a single season.

Then Jackson broke Vick’s all-time mark with a five-yard red-zone run in the first quarter versus the Jets that set up a Mark Ingram touchdown run on the next play.

Vick’s mark was once thought to be unbreakable in a passing-heavy era where running quarterbacks sometimes have been asked to throw more and run less. But with the Ravens, Jackson has been given carte blanche to run and throw with a scheme that perfectly accentuates his skills.

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And it’s a big reason why Jackson appears to be one of the runaway MVP favorites in December.

With three more games left, Jackson could even approach the 1,300-yard mark with a few more big performances with his legs and land somewhere in the league’s top 10 rushers this season.

Vick achieved his record — breaking Bobby Douglass’ mark of 968, set in 1972 — with a mere 123 rushes in 16 games back in 2016. It took Jackson 154 carries to earn the season record, but he did so in the Ravens’ 14th game of this season.

Jackson still has some work to do to catch Vick’s career rushing total of 6,109 yards on the ground. Jackson is less than one-third of the way toward that mark. But through 30 NFL games (21 starts), Jackson is averaging close to 60 rush yards per game.

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Eagles lose WR Alshon Jeffery for season due to foot injury

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery will miss the rest of the season with what coach Doug Pederson called a “significant” foot injury, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

NFL Network first reported that Jeffery would miss the rest of the season.

Jeffery was taken to the locker room on a cart during the second quarter of Monday’s 23-17 victory over the New York Giants. He was not contacted on the play, but left the field limping before throwing his helmet down and entering the medical tent. He then sat in the front seat of a cart that headed down the tunnel.

The injury left Carson Wentz with just two active receivers for the rest of the game: JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward. With Nelson Agholor still dealing with a knee injury, the Eagles are expected to make a move at receiver in the near future.

They have three receivers on their practice squad, including Marken Michel, the brother of Sony Michel who had a strong offseason for the Eagles.

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This late in the season it’s difficult to bring in somebody from outside who hasn’t been in this offense either in training camp or during the season.

“We definitely have a couple guys on practice squad if we have to make a move,” Pederson said. “Obviously, we could look outside the building if we need to. But we’re going to work through that today and try to get something in place here pretty quick. We’re back on the field (Tuesday).”

Jeffery finished the season with 43 catches for 430 yards and four touchdowns. Eagles offensive lineman Lane Johnson, meanwhile, is week-to-week with an ankle injury, Pederson said. 

Halapoulivaati Vaitai substituted him at right tackle Monday and appears to be the leading candidate for the job moving forward.

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49ers C Weston Richburg out for year

The San Francisco 49ers suffered a big blow on Sunday when center Weston Richburg left in the third quarter of their victory over the New Orleans Saints with a leg injury.

Test results on Monday confirmed bad news. Head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters that Richburg suffered a torn patella tendon and will miss the rest of the regular season and playoffs.

The 49ers are also looking at key defensive players missing time for the stretch run of the season.

While it sounds like Sherman and Ford could be back for the playoffs — especially if the 49ers earn a first-round bye — losing Richburg is a setback for the league’s fourth-ranked offense and second-ranked running game. But a bye is no guarantee with games versus the Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Rams and a key Week 17 clash with the Seattle Seahawks that could determine the NFC West champion remaining.

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Richburgh, meanwhile, will need surgery and rehab before he returns.

A six-year NFL veteran, Richburg has anchored San Francisco’s interior line for two seasons.

Ben Garland finished Sunday’s game in place of Richburg and is expected to take over at center in his place.

Garland took first-team reps during training camp as Richburg recovered from offseason surgery. He drew positive reviews from his teammates on Sunday, including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

The 49ers had 339 total yards to the Saints’ 265 at the time of Richburg’s injury, but they trailed 30-28. 

Center Weston Richburg was carted off the field with an injury to his right knee and ankle. Richburg’s right leg got caught on guard Mike Person’s left leg, causing the center’s leg to awkwardly bend as he went to the ground.  The 49ers signed Richburg to a five-year contract in March 2018. 

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49ers improve 11-2 with road win over Saints

The Saints scored a go-ahead touchdown with 53 seconds remaining, the fourth lead change of the day, and had the 49ers on the ropes with a fourth-and-two with 39 seconds remaining.

But New Orleans missed on two two-point conversions, including one after their final touchdown, and the 49ers kicked the game-winning field goal on the final play.

Jimmy Garoppolo hit George Kittle on for a 39-yard gain on that fourth-and-two play, with C.J. Gardner-Johnson missing a tackle that would have ended the game. Marcus Williams added a facemask penalty at the end of the play. It set up San Francisco in field goal range.

Robbie Gould kicked a 30-yarder as time expired to give the 49ers a 48-46 victory in the game of the season in the NFL.

The teams combined for 94 points and 981 yards. The Saints punted once, threw an incompletion on a fake punt that they thought they should have gotten defensive holding and Alvin Kamara lost a fumble. The 49ers punted three times and Garoppolo threw an interception.

The 49ers, who lost a 20-17 heartbreaker to the Ravens on the final play last week, moved to 11-2. The Saints fell to 10-3.

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Tre’Quan Smith scored on an 18-yard pass from Drew Brees with 53 seconds left in what looked like it was going to be the game-winner, but Garoppolo and Gould had the last say.

Garoppolo finished 26-of-35 for 349 yards with four touchdowns and the interception. Brees went 29-of-40 for 349 yards and five touchdowns.

The 49ers picked up a key victory, in terms of their quest to win the NFC West and, potentially, gain home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The Seattle Seahawks entered the day with a 10-2 record but currently are listed atop the NFC West standings because of their head-to-head victory over the 49ers on Nov. 11.

The 49ers can clinch a playoff spot Sunday night with a Los Angeles Rams loss or tie against Seattle. They can take over the top spot in the NFC West — and best record in the NFC — with a Rams victory.

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