AROUND THE NFL

Rules are made to be broken – and the NFL will delay their Week 16 Sunday night “flex” option, presumably at the behest of NBC.  John Sigler of USA Today:

 

The NFL’s schedule is largely written in stone, but the ability to flex certain games into more prominent time slots is one of its better features. Per a report from The Atheltic’s Katherine Terrell, the NFL’s Week 16 kickoff between the New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans is under consideration for a move into the limelight. But a decision won’t be made just yet.

 

According to NFL rules, there is a 12-day window to decide whether a game will get flexed into a different time slot — except in Week 17, when that decision is made within just six days. However, in this case all parties involved (the NFL and the broadcast partners) agreed to reach a decision in six days rather than the full 12-day allotment. That’s obviously not great for fans who have to adjust their travel plans on such short notice, but that’s showbiz.

 

So why are they taking this approach? It probably hinges on whether the Titans can maintain their spot in the crowded AFC playoff race with a win over the AFC South rival Houston Texans this week. If Tennessee keeps up their four-game winning streak and knocks off the Texans, they would be in position to win their division with another victory over the Saints the following week.

 

With a loss, the Titans would be on the outside looking in for a wild-card spot. Tennessee would essentially be playing for their season when the Saints visit a week later, which would make for terrific drama from the broadcaster’s perspective. But at this stage, it’s tough to say which direction things go. Which is probably how the NFL wants it — increased curiosity means more fans tuning into Sunday’s Titans-Texans game.

 

The decision on whether this game should be promoted to a late-afternoon spot or get highlighted on “Sunday Night Football” could also hinge on the results of other matchups this week. Week 16’s Sunday night headliner features the Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears; the Bears must win this week against the Green Bay Packers to keep their hopes of earning a wild-card seed alive. That afternoon, a game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles could decide the winner of the NFC East. An NFC West matchup with the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks is also on hand, so the NFL and its broadcast partners won’t lack for options.

 

Many fans were surprised when the NFL chose not to flex last Sunday’s game between the Saints and San Francisco 49ers, but The Athletic’s Jeff Duncan reports that it wasn’t an option. Fox protected that game from being flexed out of the noon CT time slot it had chosen.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

Are the Cowboys and Urban Meyer circling towards a deal? Will Brinson of CBSSports.com:

 

No one loves a meandering interview answer quite like Jerry Jones. The Cowboys owner and general manager is always willing to walk himself back into a circle when doing radio interviews, and oftentimes he ends up in an interesting place, as was the case when Jerry appeared on 105.3 the Fan in Dallas on Tuesday.

 

Asked about a report from Jane Slater of the NFL Network that he and his son/Cowboys VP Stephen Jones met with former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer for a look at the Cowboys gig, Jones was emphatic they had not met with him. But before hosts R.J. Ochoa and Shan Shariff could ask a follow-up question, Jones managed to let the world know that he was absolutely not snuffing out any interest in Meyer for the future.

 

“That’s not correct. I can confirm that it is absolutely not correct. We have not met with any coach,” Jones said. “Not met with any, specifically, why in answering that question, I don’t want to imply we wouldn’t in a way that would diminish the credibility of a coach — or a player — that’s you’re asking about.

 

“Normally when somebody says ‘have you met with such and such’ or ‘are you interested in such and such’ and you say ‘I have not’ the implication is you’re not interested. That shouldn’t be brought forward either.

 

“The facts are we just have not talked to any coach … potential coach in the NFL.”

 

Man do I love semantics in this business. Jerry can flatly deny that he and Stephen have not met with any coach and be 100 percent truthful. However, it’s entirely possible that any member of the Jones family TALKED to Urban in recent weeks without it constituting a meeting and without it constituting anything related to a coaching inquiry. Or perhaps someone with the Jones family spoke to Urban’s agent or someone from Urban’s camp. Meyer came out and mentioned how attractive the position was previously.

 

There’s no question — zero doubt — Jason Garrett is on the hot seat. If Urban is interested in returning to coaching, it’s highly likely his camp would do its due diligence on the Cowboys situation. You just put the vibe out and see what happens. Even if it’s under the guise of talking about Ohio State players Urban previously coached for draft purposes, it wouldn’t be a hard sell.

 

And, if you go back and listen to Slater’s report from before Dallas’ Week 14 game, it’s clear there was no reported meeting.

 

“There is a very real interest in Urban Meyer,” Slater reported before the Cowboys’ loss to the Bears in Week 14. “In fact, I was told Stephen Jones has talked to him very recently.”

 

More important to the discussion here, outside of Jerry’s discussion of a meeting specifically, is the way in which he wrapped up the answer to the question. After very distinctly saying there had been no meeting, Jones made it abundantly clear with his continued answer that he was not snuffing out any interest in meeting with Meyer in the future, or in meeting with any coach in the future.

 

That should set off alarm bells in everyone’s head: he has finally prepared himself to move on from Jason Garrett in the event the Cowboys don’t win the Super Bowl this year. Jerry is like the optimistic fantasy football owner who still believed he could make the playoffs at 5-6 (guilty as charged btw). He knows a win over the Eagles in Week 16 likely puts the Cowboys in the playoffs and from there anything can happen.

 

Jerry’s dream scenario involves the Cowboys limping into the playoffs, getting hot and Garrett hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for all the world to see. There’s nothing Jerry would love more than to give his boy a 10-year contract extension for winning the Super Bowl with a seven-win division champion. It’s why he won’t fire him during the season.

 

But if/when it doesn’t happen, you better believe those meetings will start to be real.

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

The best guess seems to be one more week of ELI MANNING. But QB DANIEL JONES is on the practice field.  Matt Lombardo of NJ.com:

 

Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones returned to practice in a limited role Wednesday, 10 days removed from suffering a high-ankle sprain, and sounds like he’s ready to return to game action, as well.

 

“I hope so,” Jones said, when asked if he’ll be able to play Sunday. “I feel good. I’m healing quickly. I just have to keep doing what I’m told to do in the training room and get back there as quickly as I Can. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better over the course of the last week.”

 

Head coach Pat Shurmur said after practice that Jones’ mobility is such a key component of the rookie’s skill-set, that the ability to run and cut will play a role in when he’ll return to action.

 

“I was able to do that today,” Jones said. “I know it’s different in a game, where you’re moving at a different speed, but hopefully I’m able to progress.”

 

Jones’ rapid recovery from an injury that kept running back Saquon Barkley sidelined for three weeks could present a power struggle over who actually starts Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium; Jones or 38-year-old veteran Eli Manning, who has just three games remaining on his contract with the Giants.

 

“Yeah,” Shurmur said Wednesday, when asked if he has final say over whether Jones or Manning starts. “More or less, if he’s not healthy to start, he probably won’t be the backup.”

 

While it might ultimately be Shurmur’s decision, it is easy to wonder if owners John Mara and Steve Tisch would prefer to have Manning start at least one more game in front of the home crowd, and give him a chance to improve his career record from 116-117 back to an even .500.

 

Buy Giants gear for the holidays: Fanatics, NFL Shop, Lids, Champs Sports, Dick’s Sporting Goods

 

Manning is going about his business this week preparing to start, even if the conversations about his future are taking place around him.

 

“It’s still too many what ifs,” Manning said. “My focus remains getting ready to play.”

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

The win over the Giants cost the Eagles the services of WR ALSHON JEFFREY.  Mike Kaye of NJAdvanceMedia.com:

 

Alshon Jeffery’s season is over.

 

He suffered a season-ending foot injury during the first half of the Eagles’ Week 14 win over the Giants on Monday, according to NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo. While the exact injury is currently being determined, Garafolo reports Jeffery will not return this season.

 

@MikeGarafolo

 · Dec 10, 2019

Alshon Jeffery has an injury that’s more significant than Lane Johnson, who is “week to week,” per Doug Pederson. Sounds like that could be it for Jeffery for the #Eagles this season.

 

@MikeGarafolo

Not exactly a surprise but source with knowledge of #Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery’s injury status says his season is over. They’re still gathering opinions about what exactly is wrong with his foot but he’s done for the year.

 

Jeffery battled a calf injury during the first 10 games of the season, missing three full games and the majority of the Week 2 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. The new ailment was unrelated to Jeffery’s previous calf injury.

 

In 10 games, Jeffery produced just 43 catches for 490 yards and four receiving touchdowns. He also contributed a two-yard rushing touchdown on a lateral throw from quarterback Carson Wentz.

 

With Jeffery shut down for the rest of the year, the Eagles only have three wide receivers left on the 53-man roster: Nelson Agholor, Greg Ward and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Agholor is dealing with a knee injury that sidelined him for the Week 14 win over the Giants. The Eagles only dressed three wide receivers for the game but tight end Josh Perkins was able to fill the void when Jeffery went down in the second quarter.

 

Moving forward, the Eagles not only have to account for Jeffery’s absence but Agholor’s injury status as well. While Perkins, Arcega-Whiteside and Ward stepped up in the win against the Giants, the Eagles can’t afford to house just three healthy wide receivers on the roster down the stretch. The Eagles would be smart to sign at least two wide receivers to add to the depth chart.

 

With Jeffery headed to injured reserve, the Eagles could use his spot to promote a wide receiver from the practice squad. The Eagles have three wide receivers on the practice squad and all three have spent significant time in the Philadelphia system. Marken Michel and Marcus Green offer speed, while Rob Davis offers size at the position.

 

The Eagles could promote two of the three receivers by making another roster move to open up a spot. Michel and Davis would seemingly be the most ideal duo to promote at this point.

 

Jeffery’s absence is a major loss for the Eagles, but the team has to move on without him. Adding some young receivers with upside could help raise the energy level and performance at the position.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

DT SHELDON RANKINS has an ailing ankle.

 

The hits keep coming up front for New Orleans.

 

Less than 24 hours after the outlook on Marcus Davenport’s took a turn for the worst, the Saints are also confronting a reality that doesn’t include defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday Rankins suffered a significant ankle injury in Sunday’s loss to San Francisco and it doesn’t sound as if Rankins will be able to return this season, per sources informed of the situation.

 

With assistance on the defensive front needed, the Saints are signing defensive end Noah Spence, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported per a source. Spence was a 2016 second-round pick by the Buccaneers who was most recently with the Redskins before he was cut in November.

 

Rankins has appeared in 10 games this season, recording 10 tackles and two sacks. He’s played his best against the run, earning a 66.9 grade in that department (64th among all interior defensive linemen), per Pro Football Focus.

 

After losing Davenport, the Saints will have to turn to another reserve along the defensive line. They likely won’t experience much of a dropoff when relying on a player in David Onyemata who ranked nearly 20 places higher against the run in PFF grades, but doesn’t pack as much of a punch in the pass-rushing game. Still, turning to Onyemata is much better than being forced to rely on a practice squad promotion or late-season free-agent signing. If they continue to lose players at this rate, though, that could be in New Orleans’ future.

– – –

Sean Payton says he berated someone in the Whole Foods meat department.  Katherine Terrell of The Athletic:

 

Saints defensive end Cam Jordan walked through the locker room in the team facility around 2 p.m. on Monday afternoon and eyed the reporters talking to rookie Shy Tuttle with surprise.

 

Tuttle and Terron Armstead, who had a walking boot on his left foot, were among the few in the mostly empty locker room. Jordan, who had talked at length after the Saints’ 48-46 loss to the Niners on Sunday night, grabbed something from his locker and walked out.

 

Jordan’s voice sounded hoarse as he acknowledged some reporters while walking through the room. When asked if he was tired, he said he was exhausted, having gotten up at 4 a.m. to watch film of the game four or five times.

 

“No days off,” he said, then quietly pointed out they had a lot of mistakes to fix as he walked out the door.

 

It’s no surprise that Sunday’s game required several viewings to take it all in. This would’ve been considered one for the ages if the Saints had won. Instead, fans have been left wondering what went wrong, and not even Saints coach Sean Payton is safe.

 

“I’ve got the guy at Rouses, or at freaking Whole Foods, asking me about the freaking two-point play. I looked at him, the guy from the meat section. I said. ‘Hey, your steaks don’t look too good right now, worry about your freaking meat.’ Driving me crazy.”

 

It’s no wonder there are questions. Not only was it the first time the Saints ever put up 46 points in a loss, it was the most points they’ve scored since beating the Eagles last November. Drew Brees’ five touchdowns were the most he’s thrown in a single game since he had a career-best seven against the Giants in 2015.

 

How many teams have scored 46+ and lost?  It turns out there have been 7 times that a team scored more than 46 points and lost –

 

51    Chiefs at Rams, 11/19/2018            L 51-54

49    Giants at Saints, 11/1/2015             L 49-52

49    Oilers at Raiders, 12/22/1963          L 49-52

48    Browns at Cincinnati, 11/28/2014   L 48-58

48    Cowboys vs Broncos, 10/6/2013     L 48-51

48    Chiefs at Seahawks, 11/27/1983     L 48-51

47    Redskins at Packers, 10/17/1983    L 47-48

 

 

TAMPA BAY

He may have a broken bone in his throwing thumb, but QB JAMEIS WINSTON is still expected to play Sunday in Detroit.  Jenna Laine of ESPN.com:

 

Barring any setbacks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston intends to play Sunday against the Detroit Lions with a hairline fracture in the thumb of his throwing hand.

 

“He’s day to day right now,” coach Bruce Arians said Wednesday. “He’s got a little bit of a brace on it right now, and we’ll see how it goes during the week.”

 

Said Winston, who has led the Bucs to three straight wins to improve to 6-7: “It’s getting better every day. I’m just taking it day by day. I’m gonna be ready to go as soon as I can.”

 

Winston said he suffered the injury after his hand hit the helmet of Colts defender Al-Quadin Muhammad just before halftime of Sunday’s game. The quarterback said he didn’t realize something was wrong until he came out for the third quarter and struggled to grip the football.

 

“I really didn’t feel it in the locker room [during halftime] because it was just coming off the 2-minute drive. I ran in there,” Winston said. “But when I came out [for the second half] — I’m not playing catch in the locker room — when I came out to grab the ball, I was like, ‘Oh!'”

 

Despite struggling to grip the ball, Winston missed just a series before finishing the game. He threw four touchdown passes against the Colts and added a fifth on the ground, but also had three interceptions. He saw a hand specialist Monday, who gave him the green light to continue playing, although there is still swelling and soreness.

 

Winston’s workload is expected to be very limited this week, with a large portion of the reps going to backup Ryan Griffin. In Oct. 2017 while playing through a shoulder injury, Winston saw minimal reps over a two-week period, not throwing during the week until Friday practices.

 

Winston did practice Wednesday wearing a soft cast. He participated in drills, but unlike Griffin and Chad Kanoff, Winston did not hold a football, nor did he throw during the 30-minute portion of practice that was open to the media.

 

As far as how he’s handling the wide array of opinions and speculation about whether or not the Bucs should bring him back next year, Winston said he’s only focused on the present.

 

“It’s quite easy, really, when you’ve got a game every week. I’ve got an opponent to focus on,” Winston said. “It’s bigger than me. It’s about this team. We’ve gotta focus on how we’re gonna try to beat the Detroit Lions and whoever our opponent is the next week. But right now, it’s the Lions, and we’ve gotta focus on that.”

 

On the other hand, he is not expected to have WR MIKE EVANS to throw to:

 

Barring any unforeseen improvement to his injured hamstring, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans’ season is over after 13 games, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

 

Evans suffered a pulled hamstring during the Bucs’ 38-35 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

 

The injury occurred at the end of the first quarter on a 61-yard catch as Evans was racing past Pierre Desir for a touchdown. Evans attempted to walk off the injury before collapsing in pain in the end zone.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

WR MARQUISE GOODWIN heads to IR.  Matt Maiocco of NBCSports.com:

 

The 49ers placed wide receiver Marquise Goodwin on injured reserve Tuesday, ending his season and, possibly, his time with the organization.

 

Goodwin did not play in Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints after being listed as questionable with knee and foot issues.

 

“He’s dealing with some chronic stuff,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday. “We’re evaluating treatment options right now.”

 

Goodwin, 29, appeared in nine games this season with six starts. He had just 12 catches for 186 yards and one touchdown.

 

The 49ers signed Goodwin on the first day of free agency in 2017. After four seasons with the Buffalo Bills, Goodwin had a breakout season in his first season with the club. Goodwin posted career-best numbers with 56 catches for 962 yards and two touchdowns.

 

Goodwin appeared in 36 games with the 49ers over the past three seasons, catching 91 passes for 1,543 yards and seven touchdowns.

 

Goodwin is signed through the 2021 season, but it appears unlikely the club will bring him back next season due to his contract, which has exceeded his production. He is scheduled to make $4.5 million in salary and bonuses. Goodwin has also stated his intention of trying to qualify for the Olympics next year in the long jump.

 

After winning the U.S. Olympic trials in 2012, Goodwin competed in the 2012 London Olympics. He placed 10th after heading into the final as the No. 1 qualifier. Injuries derailed his bid for a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team that competed in Brazil.

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

The reeling Raiders will go into action on Sunday with RB JOSH JACOBS.  Ian Rapoport of NFL.com:

 

@RapSheet

#Raiders RB Josh Jacobs underwent an MRI on his ailing shoulder after not playing on Sunday. But the scans checked out very positively, sources say, and Jacobs is expected to return to the field this week. Barring a setback, should be just a one-week absence.

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Darrelle Lincoln of Total Sports says Pro Football Network insider is hearing that QB CAM NEWTON is the guy the Chargers want to lead them into SoFi Stadium.

 

The Los Angeles Chargers could be in the market for a new QB after the 2019 season, and that might include one who has been to a Super Bowl.

 

According to Pro Football Network Insider Ben Allbright, the Chargers are keeping an eye on the Cam Newton sweepstakes should Philip Rivers retire or they move on from him. After an injury hampered Newton’s 2019 campaign, his time with the Carolina Panthers appears like it’s coming to an end as the team starts to shift their focus towards the emergence of Kyle Allen.

 

Pro Football Network

The #Panthers may trade Cam Newton in the offseason. If they do, PFN Insider @AllbrightNFL says to keep a close eye on the #Chargers.

 

This ties in with the report from PFN Draft Analyst/Insider @TonyPauline that LA is eyeing a replacement for Rivers.http://bit.ly/2REdrs3

 

Chargers could be targeting Cam Newton to replace Philip Rivers | PFN

According to Pro Football Network Insider Ben Allbright, the Los Angeles Chargers could be one of the teams in play for Cam Newton this offseason.

 

The Panthers would benefit immensely if they elect to move on from Newton, as it would save them $18.6 million.

 

Rivers, who is turning 38 in December, has said that he wants to play in the new stadium in Inglewood, but that was before the season and the team was coming off a promising 2018 campaign where they scored a victory in the postseason against the Ravens.

 

Newton could most certainly bring a new level excitement around the franchise and just possibly fix the attendance problem the team has been dealing with since moving away from San Diego.

 

The DB will go on the record that Newton, by himself, will not “fix” the Chargers attendance problem.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

QB LAMAR JACKSON is questionable for Thursday against the Jets with a quad injury.  He’s also the odds-on MVP favorite.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Thirteen rounds into a 16-round fight, it looks to be over.

 

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has become the overwhelming favorite to win the NFL MVP award. At Caesar’s, Jackson’s odds currently stand at -900, which means that a $900 bet would win only $100.

 

FanDuel has Jackson’s odds at -800; DraftKings pegs Jackson’s odds at -715.

 

The other two plausible finalists at this point are Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Barring a disaster, however, it looks like Jackson will be the second consecutive second-year quarterback to win the MVP award.

 

The Ravens host the Jets on Thursday night, giving everyone an opportunity to see Jackson play in prime time.

 

 

CINCINNATI

Is it really possible that WR A.J. GREEN will miss 14 games but never go on IR?  Nick Shook of NFL.com:

 

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, who hasn’t played a game this season due to an ankle injury, will not practice on Wednesday, coach Zac Taylor said. However, Taylor indicated Green still wants to play this year and that’s why he has not been placed on injured reserve.

 

 

CLEVELAND

QB BAKER MAYFIELD bolted from Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech.  Now, they are on the same field for the first time in the NFL.

 

Even though Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said his relationship with Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield is “in a good place,” Kingsbury wishes he had handled Mayfield’s situation differently when he coached the quarterback at Texas Tech in 2013.

 

“Obviously, I’d like to have that gone differently and handled things differently,” Kingsbury said Wednesday. “You live and you learn, and I’m just glad we’re in a good place now.

 

“Any of those guys I’ve ever worked with, I want [them] to be successful and I appreciate the work that I was able to do with them.”

 

Kingsbury’s Cardinals will face Mayfield’s Browns at State Farm Stadium on Sunday.

 

At the Browns’ facility in Berea, Ohio, Mayfield agreed with Kingsbury’s assessment of their relationship.

 

“It was a long time ago. We’ve talked since. Played against him a few times since. It’s exactly that: We’re in a good place,” he said.

 

Asked why, Mayfield said: “Passage of time, conversation, I think all of the above. It’s in the past. What happened happened and we’ve moved forward.”

 

Mayfield, who walked on to the Red Raiders as a freshman, transferred to Oklahoma after the 2013 season because he felt Kingsbury did not communicate well with him after he suffered a knee injury following a 5-0 start.

 

Mayfield told ESPN in 2014 that he was “clueless as to why I wasn’t playing” when Texas Tech began losing once he was healthy, and that there was a lot of uncertainty on a week-to-week basis about where he stood with Kingsbury. What sealed his decision to transfer, he said then, was when Texas Tech couldn’t commit to offering him a scholarship for his sophomore season.

 

The two have since worked out their differences, Kingsbury said.

 

“Yeah, we’ve talked,” Kingsbury said. “We’re in a good place, and [I’m] always excited to see how he’s playing and his career and what he’s done. Being at ground zero of that deal and where it started to where it is now is phenomenal. You got to give him all the credit in the world. Every level he goes to, he continues to excel and prove people wrong.”

 

Kingsbury said he spoke to Mayfield at this year’s Kentucky Derby.

 

“He knows how I feel about him as a player, as a person … [and] has for a number of years,” Kingsbury said.

 

When Kingsbury recruited Mayfield to Texas Tech amid offers from New Mexico, Florida Atlantic, Rice and Washington State, “you could see [Mayfield was] very talented,” Kingsbury said. “We already had a quarterback committed, but [we] really liked what we saw and continued to recruit him and stay on him. We felt like he could play at a high level, and it worked out.”

 

The game will feature another reunion, as Mayfield will be going against Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, his teammate at Oklahoma.

 

Murray was Mayfield’s backup in 2017, when Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy. Murray became the starter in 2018 — after Mayfield became the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft — and also won the Heisman Trophy en route to becoming the No. 1 selection in the draft.

 

“They’ll be fired up for this one,” Kingsbury said. “There’s no doubt. Yeah, they’ll both be ready to rock.”

 

Mayfield and Murray are close friends off the field; Murray attended Mayfield’s wedding and often refers to him as “Bakes.”

 

Kingsbury said the two are very similar.

 

“Very competitive, obviously it starts there,” Kingsbury said. “Both are winners, have been winners their entire life. Hate to lose at anything. Kyler is more of an introvert than Baker, but both effective leaders in their own right.”

 

Jake Trotter with more:

 

Who started it: In 2013, Mayfield became the first quarterback to start for a Power 5 program as a walk-on true freshman, and he led Texas Tech to a 5-0 start before suffering a knee injury. Yet when Mayfield returned from the injury later that year, Kingsbury didn’t automatically hand Mayfield back the starting job.

 

Mayfield did start the regular-season finale against Texas before Kingsbury reopened the competition again prior to the Holiday Bowl against Arizona State. Aggravated, Mayfield also claimed that Texas Tech told him it wasn’t going to award him a scholarship the following semester, a claim Kingsbury and Texas Tech officials have disputed. Either way, before the bowl game, Mayfield told Kingsbury he was leaving.

 

What happened: Mayfield left for Oklahoma, won the job again as a walk-on, then led the Sooners to two playoff appearances, including three wins over the Red Raiders. In his lone appearance on the field in Lubbock, Texas, Mayfield propelled OU to a 66-59 win over Patrick Mahomes in a shootout classic. During the game, Texas Tech fans wore T-shirts with the word “traitor” on them. The following year before playing the Red Raiders, Mayfield showed up to Oklahoma’s stadium wearing the same “traitor” shirt. While Mayfield will remain a villain at Texas Tech, his feud with Kingsbury seems to be water under the bridge, with Kingsbury mentoring Murray, Mayfield’s former backup at Oklahoma. Mayfield and Kingsbury hung out at the Kentucky Derby this past year and even posed for a group photo together along with Tom Brady. There, Mayfield said he told Kingsbury to take care of Murray for him.

 

What you probably don’t know: Traveling on his own to the Oklahoma-Texas Tech game in 2014 while sitting out his transfer year with the Sooners, Mayfield was actually kicked out of a Lubbock restaurant. “[They] told me I just needed to leave,” Mayfield recounted in 2015. “I said, ‘Listen, I obviously don’t need any more problems in this city. I already have enough. I’m not very well-liked here.'” Mayfield noted he was booed as he left. “I kind of just took my loss and walked out. … I didn’t need any extra problems.”

 

The other QB who competed with Mafield in 2013 was DAVIS WEBB. 

 

After Mayfield transferred, Webb began 2014 as the starter, hurt his shoulder and yielded the position for good to PATRICK MAHOMES.  Webb moved on to Cal as a graduate transfer in 2016.  Drafted by the Giants, he is now on Buffalo’s practice squad.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Ten days ago, the Texans were 8-4 with Denver coming to town.  Now, Frank Schwab points out they could miss the playoffs.

 

The Houston Texans’ loss to the Denver Broncos was shocking because of the way they got dominated. They were down 38-3 at home to a 5-8 Broncos team with rookie quarterback Drew Lock.

 

No matter the margin, any loss to the Broncos was costly. There was no bigger loss by an NFL team in Week 14 as it pertains to the playoff picture. Not even close.

 

The Texans are in danger of losing the AFC South, and even a wild-card spot in a weak conference isn’t assured anymore. The Titans take over the Texans’ spot atop the division in this week’s playoff projection.

 

Putting the Titans over the Texans (they’re both 8-5) comes down to Tennessee looking like the more bankable team at the moment. The Texans have extreme highs and lows, like beating the New England Patriots one week and getting blasted by the Broncos seven days later. The Titans have really come together, and they’re 6-1 in Ryan Tannehill’s seven starts. The Titans host the Texans this week, then the two play again at Houston in Week 17. Given the trajectory of the two teams, it’s fair to project the Titans to sweep those games and win the division.

 

And if that happens, the Texans could fall out of the playoffs altogether.

 

Their Week 16 game is a tricky one at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are 6-7 and score enough points to hang with anyone. While it seems unlikely Houston would fall from 8-4 and coming off an impressive win over the Patriots all the way to 8-8, it’s possible. Deshaun Watson is a fantastic quarterback, but it’s not like the Texans are great in any other way.

 

Even at 9-7, a wild-card spot wouldn’t be assured for Houston. The Pittsburgh Steelers are 8-5 and playing inspired football. Their remaining games are vs. Buffalo, at the Jets and at a Ravens team that might decide to rest starters in Week 17 with the No. 1 seed locked up.

 

For now we’ll keep the Texans in the No. 6 seed. But that loss to the Broncos made their playoff situation look a lot more tenuous.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Initially, we heard that the NFL hoped to provide a fast response to the latest video incident involving the Patriots.  But, it has proven to be a bit more complicated, since the surrendered video doesn’t look like anything a fluff production company would do.

 

A report on Tuesday indicated the NFL’s investigation into the latest Patriots videotaping incident could be wrapped up by the end of the week, but NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent declined to give a timeline on Wednesday.

 

Vincent told reporters at the league meetings that the league is “still gathering information” about what happened in Cleveland last week. A videographer working for the team on a video feature about a pro scout took several minutes of footage of the Bengals sideline, which violated a league policy and which the Patriots said was not intended for use by the football operations side of the organization.

 

Vincent said that the league’s work would continue once they are back in New York after the meetings in Texas wrap up on Wednesday.

 

The same report about the possible timing of a decision also said that severe sanctions are unlikely.

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The DB sees the Bills as a very live underdog in New England next week.  And as Frank Schwab points out, that could be enough to cost them a bye:

 

The Patriots likely lost their chance to get the No. 1 seed with a home loss to the Chiefs, and they might end up falling out of the No. 2 seed as well.

 

The 9-4 Chiefs still need one Patriots loss, but just one. The Patriots are 10-3, and Kansas City holds the tiebreaker now due to that win. If the Chiefs win out (vs. Denver, at Chicago, vs. Chargers) and New England loses once, Kansas City is the No. 2 seed and will have a bye. Getting that Patriots loss is probably the problem — New England finishes at Cincinnati, vs. Buffalo and vs. Miami — but at least the door is open.

 

Amazingly, the last time the Patriots played in the Willd Card round was in 2009.  And they were crushed, 33-14, in Foxborough by Baltimore.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

The Jets may once again be without S JAMAL ADAMS on Thursday night in Baltimore.  Nick Shook of NFL.com:

 

New York Jets safety Jamal Adams (ankle), who missed the first game of his career, is likely to miss his second as he is doubtful for Thursday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens. Running back Bilal Powell (ankle/illness) and tight end Ryan Griffin (ankle) are out.

 

Along with Adams, first-round defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (neck) and receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring/knee) are doubtful.

 

Running back Le’Veon Bell, who missed last week’s game with an illness, is not on the injury report.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

In the wake of the success another former FOX analyst John Lynch has enjoyed as a GM, Troy Aikman admits to an interest in making a similar jump.  But not for the Jones family.  Nick Shook of NFL.com:

 

Troy Aikman has had plenty to say about his former team’s struggles this season.

 

The three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback has been rightfully critical of what he called “a really strange team to try to figure out,” which he’s attempted to do in a game on multiple occasions as part of his job as FOX’s lead game color commentator. If he were ever to leave such a role for something more challenging, he could see his next destination existing somewhere within the NFL.

 

Just not in Dallas.

 

Aikman was asked by 1310 The Ticket hosts if he could envision himself taking a player personnel role in the Cowboys’ front office and quickly shot down the idea, saying it’s unlikely Cowboys owner Jerry Jones brings anyone in in such a capacity, citing Jones’ being “real stubborn and steadfast in that he’s the one in charge.”

 

“I think in a lot of ways, until that changes, this team’s going to have some problems,” Aikman said.

 

Aikman isn’t off base in mentioning Jones’ steadfast nature about his role as owner of the Cowboys. On Tuesday, Jones took 105.3 The Fan hosts on a winding road of an explanation of how he’s the one running the show (and responsible for the results that follow) in Dallas.

 

It’s not surprising that Aikman would be wary of going to work for Jones again after spending his entire playing career in Dallas, which included three Lombardis, but also plenty of frustration at the end of his career, so much that it self-admittedly drove him to early retirement.

 

But what is interesting is Aikman’s aspirations to do something more than watch from the broadcast booth.

 

“It’s something that I guess I’ve always somewhat entertained,” Aikman said. “I’ve had a chance to talk with [Broncos general manager] John Elway in previous years. I’ve visited with [49ers general manager] John Lynch, and the decision that he made to take on that job in San Francisco, and I’ve said many, many times, I still believe there’s another frontier for me — maybe there’s not — but I believe that there is, and I think that might very well be it. It’s something that I think would be very challenging. I’d be giving up a lot to leave the job that I have to take on a role like that. It’s an all-consuming job and I certainly recognize that, but I think the challenge would make it worthwhile.

 

“Now whether or not I’m ever afforded that opportunity, we’ll see, but with each year that passes, the likelihood of it happening becomes less and less. I understand that more and more teams want to go young and kind of groom somebody that’s gonna be there for the long haul, but relatively speaking, I’ve got a lot of great years left and I feel that having been in a championship locker room and knowing what that looks like, what that feels like, and then I guess my job now as a broadcaster, I’ve been in those organizations.”

 

That sounds a lot like a sales pitch to a team in need of a general manager. Lynch and Elway have produced mixed results, with Elway riding Peyton Manning to a Super Bowl title but struggling mightily in player evaluation and selection, and Lynch utilizing a longer road to build a team that appears to be a legitimate contender for the first time since Jim Harbaugh was patrolling its sideline. There’s no guarantee Aikman would make a good GM.

 

It’s intriguing that he’d want to move beyond his excellent gig working alongside Joe Buck in a tandem that has improved over the years as FOX’s go-to crew. There’s always a lingering bit of an athlete’s ego that both drives them to on-field success and directs them to off-field challenges, to mixed results.

 

It’s all speculative, of course, but before we go, there was one more interesting bit from Aikman’s interview related to the Cowboys that might speak volumes to some. When asked if he’d still do a weekly radio show as hypothetical Cowboys GM, Aikman firmly said no, explaining he believes only one person should have such a platform: the head coach.

 

“Ultimately, we all understand that the owner, whether it’s here in Dallas or any other franchise, the owner ultimately makes the decisions,” Aikman explained. “Ultimately, he’s the one who signs off. You can always say ‘well, as the owner I can do this, I can do that,’ there’s no question that that’s true, but I think there has to be one voice and one person that the players answer to.”

 

Though the decision won’t involve Aikman, we’ll see if that person is still in Dallas come January.