National Football League
NFL News Wire
  • NFL notebook: Winston accused of groping Uber driver
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, November 17, 2017

    The NFL is investigating an allegation that Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston groped a female Uber driver during a ride in Arizona in March 2016.

    • The league's investigation was first reported Friday by BuzzFeed News, which viewed a letter it said was sent from NFL special counsel for investigations Lisa Friel to the Uber driver.

      The Uber driver told BuzzFeed News that she picked up Winston in Scottsdale, Ariz., around 2 a.m. local time on March 13, 2016. The driver alleged Winston "behaved poorly" as soon as he got in the car, and then asked her to stop at a drive-thru restaurant during the ride.

      While in line, the driver said Winston, who was the only passenger in the car, reached over and "grabbed" her crotch for three to five seconds.

      Winston denied the accusation in a statement posted to social media on Friday afternoon.

      --Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said quarterback Blaine Gabbert will start over injured Drew Stanton for Sunday's game against the Houston Texans.

      Arians told reporters that Stanton, who has a sprained knee, will be Gabbert's backup if he can physically play.

      Stanton has been the starter since Carson Palmer went down with a broken arm in Week 7. If Stanton can't go, Matt Barkley, who signed with the Cardinals earlier this week, will back up Gabbert.

      This will be Gabbert's first start since Week 5 last season for the San Francisco 49ers.

      --The Roger Goodell contract extension negotiations will be discussed Dec. 13 during an owners-only session at the league's meetings in Irving, Texas.

      The decision to conduct a discussion at the meetings comes on the heels of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' recent request for a special meeting on Nov. 28. That request was denied but Jones and the other owners will get to chat about the demands of Goodell as reports suggest the NFL commissioner is looking for an annual package of nearly $50 million in his next contract.

      Jones recently threatened to sue the NFL if the extension is approved by the six-owner compensation committee, headed by Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

      --The Cardinals signed wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to a one-year contract extension that keeps the 10-time Pro Bowl wide receiver under contract through the 2018 season.

      In his 14th season, the 34-year old Fitzgerald has 60 catches for 677 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Cardinals in all three categories.

  • Questions raised about QB Mariota's play
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, November 17, 2017

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Marcus Mariota does not look like the same quarterback that vaulted to stardom last season for the Tennessee Titans.

    • Mariota, who threw 26 touchdown passes to just nine interceptions a year ago, already has 10 picks in nine games (he missed the Miami game with a hamstring injury) this season, thanks to a four-interception performance in Thursday night's 40-17 loss in Pittsburgh.

      Not all the interceptions were completely on Mariota, but the quarterback does seem to be off his game enough that the consistency that was there in 2016 has been lacking at times this season.

      Titans head coach Mike Mularkey admitted there are things Mariota could have done better Thursday night.

      "Probably, when you turn the ball over four times, whether it's you throwing it or not throwing it, things he could've done a lot better. Yeah, there's some things he could've done better," Mularkey said.

      The coach also said that the interception increase isn't solely on Mariota, citing that his receivers - most notably rookie Corey Davis - have to be in better position on their routes in the Titans' timing offense.

      "A variety of reasons, and not solely all his responsibility. I think whether it's been pressure, had more pressure, more blitzes, more making him move, more guys needing to make plays, more guys being where that ball, like last night," he said. "That's the thing about zone coverage, that's how Kevin Byard makes these interceptions, they just happen to be in the right place in the right time and that's kind of what happened with some of his interceptions."

      Mariota is also way off in terms of the number of touchdown passes he threw in 2016, as he has only eight this season. Again, there have been extenuating circumstances, as Delanie Walker dropped a pass in the end zone vs. the Steelers, and the week before that, Rishard Matthews dropped a potential touchdown against the Bengals.

      "Other than the ones we're dropping? No, we're in the red zone more this year than we were last year, the high red," he said. "Earlier in the year, we had failed to get down in the tighter red where more of his throws were coming that he threw last year. We just weren't down there as much as we were a year ago and I think that has a lot to do with why his production's off from a year ago."

      Despite the struggles, Mularkey remains supremely confident in his quarterback.

      "We're asking him to do a lot, a lot more than I've been around. We trust him to do that. I know he's thrown more. I'm glad he's our quarterback," Mularkey said. "I know this, we still have a chance to win every game with him no matter what the score is, where it is in the game. Nobody every talks about how accurate he is in some of the throws he does make, all you guys keep asking me are about the throws he doesn't. There's a lot of good throws that he makes every Sunday, very tight window throws."

      --It was a rough night for rookie receiver Corey Davis, who was the target on two of Marcus Mariota's four interceptions Thursday.

      Davis had a hand in at least one of the interceptions as the ball bounced off him and into a Steelers defender's hands. The rookie, who missed five games with a hamstring injury, is getting on-the-job training as the season goes, which leads to growing pains, head coach Mike Mularkey said.

      "This is really his, legitimately, his third game. I don't know if he's got a month of practices in him in the NFL, maybe a little more than that," Mularkey said. "The number of reps he's getting is nothing but good for him. I don't think we're overloading him by any means. I think he has shown signs of doing some good things based on making some mistakes earlier, he's not making them again. There's nothing better than doing it and he's getting a lot of reps to do that."

      REPORT CARD VS. STEELERS

      --PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Four interceptions pretty much ruined anything good here. There were a few good things, mainly a 75-yard TD throw to Rishard Matthews by Marcus Mariota to start the second half. There were other issues as well, as Delanie Walker dropped a sure TD pass.

      --RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- The Titans had 52 yards on the ground against the Steelers, including just 10 from DeMarco Murray. The run game has to get going and must do better than that for the Titans offense to be effective.

      --PASS DEFENSE: F -- The Steelers scored on six straight possessions as one point, and Ben Roethlisberger had four TD passes, three of them to Antonio Brown. The Titans held up well early in the game, but by the end had no answers for the Pittsburgh pass attack.

      --RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Titans held Le'Veon Bell to 46 yards on the ground, but the Steelers seemed to have little interest in running the football, instead choosing to gash the Titans through the air.

      --SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- Ryan Succop had a 48-yard field-goal try blocked. He later made a 44-yarder. Special teams didn't have the field-position changing effect Thursday that it has had most of the year.

      --COACHING: F -- Hard to give the coaching staff a passing grade in this one when there were so many breakdowns in all three phases of the game. The lone passing mark they get is that they did keep the Titans in the game for two-and-a-half quarters, despite several blown opportunities and mistakes.

  • NFL Injury Report
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, November 17, 2017

    ARIZONA CARDINALS at HOUSTON TEXANS

    • ARIZONA CARDINALS

      --Out: DT Corey Peters (ankle)

      --Questionable: WR John Brown (back), C A.Q. Shipley (shoulder), QB Drew Stanton (knee), T John Wetzel (back)

      HOUSTON TEXANS

      --Out: LB Dylan Cole (hamstring), T Julien Davenport (shoulder), WR Will Fuller V (ribs)

      --Questionable: RB Alfred Blue (hamstring), DE Joel Heath (knee), C Greg Mancz (knee, chest), WR Chris Thompson (knee)

      BALTIMORE RAVENS at GREEN BAY PACKERS

      BALTIMORE RAVENS

      --Doubtful: T Ronnie Stanley (concussion)

      --Questionable: TE Nick Boyle (toe), WR Michael Campanaro (shoulder), S Chuck Clark (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles), RB Terrance West (calf), LB Tim Williams (thigh)

      GREEN BAY PACKERS

      --Out: T Bryan Bulaga (knee), S Morgan Burnett (groin), RB Aaron Jones (knee), RB Ty Montgomery (ribs)

      --Questionable: LB Ahmad Brooks (back), DT Quinton Dial (chest), CB Kevin King (shoulder), G Lucas Patrick (back)

      BUFFALO BILLS at LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

      BUFFALO BILLS

      --Out: T Cordy Glenn (foot, ankle), G John Miller (ankle), RB Mike Tolbert (hamstring)

      --Questionable: TE Charles Clay (knee), DE Jerry Hughes (shin, calf), WR Jordan Matthews (knee)

      LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

      --Out: T Joe Barksdale (foot)

      --Doubtful: LB James Onwualu (quadriceps), LB Hayes Pullard (neck)

      --Questionable: DE Chris McCain (quadriceps), QB Philip Rivers (concussion)

      CINCINNATI BENGALS at DENVER BRONCOS

      CINCINNATI BENGALS

      --Out: CB Adam Jones (concussion), LB Kevin Minter (elbow), DT Pat Sims (calf)

      --Questionable: CB William Jackson (toe), WR Brandon LaFell (knee)

      DENVER BRONCOS

      --Out: TE A.J. Derby (shoulder), TE Jeff Heuerman (knee)

      --Questionable: WR Cody Latimer (knee, Achilles), T Donald Stephenson (calf)

      DETROIT LIONS at CHICAGO BEARS

      DETROIT LIONS

      --Out: DE Ezekiel Ansah (back), RB Dwayne Washington (hip)

      --Questionable: S Don Carey (knee), LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (ankle)

      CHICAGO BEARS

      --Questionable: CB Bryce Callahan (knee), T Tom Compton (ankle), S DeAndre Houston-Carson (illness), TE Dion Sims (illness), LB Danny Trevathan (calf)

      JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS at CLEVELAND BROWNS

      JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

      --Out: WR Arrelious Benn (knee), WR Allen Hurns (ankle)

      --Questionable: LB Blair Brown (hamstring), RB Leonard Fournette (ankle), G Patrick Omameh (quadriceps), T Jermey Parnell (knee)

      CLEVELAND BROWNS

      --Questionable: T Shon Coleman (concussion), CB Jamar Taylor (ankle), C JC Tretter (shoulder, knee)

      KANSAS CITY CHIEFS at NEW YORK GIANTS

      KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

      --Out: DE Allen Bailey (knee), LB Dee Ford (back), LB Tamba Hali (knee), WR Albert Wilson (hamstring)

      NEW YORK GIANTS

      --Out: LB B.J. Goodson (ankle), G Justin Pugh (back)

      --Doubtful: LB Kelvin Sheppard (groin)

      --Questionable: DT Damon Harrison (ankle), LB Devon Kennard (quadriceps)

      LOS ANGELES RAMS at MINNESOTA VIKINGS

      LOS ANGELES RAMS

      --Out: RB Malcolm Brown (knee)

      --Questionable: TE Derek Carrier (hamstring), CB Troy Hill (hamstring)

      MINNESOTA VIKINGS

      --Out: T Mike Remmers (concussion), S Andrew Sendejo (groin, hamstring)

      --Questionable: DE Everson Griffen (foot), DE Brian Robison (back)

      NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS at OAKLAND RAIDERS

      NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

      --Out: C David Andrews (illness), T Marcus Cannon (ankle), WR Chris Hogan (shoulder), WR Matt Slater (hamstring)

      --Questionable: WR Danny Amendola (knee), TE Martellus Bennett (shoulder, hamstring), DT Malcom Brown (ankle), DE Cassius Marsh (shoulder), CB Eric Rowe (groin)

      OAKLAND RAIDERS

      --Doubtful: CB David Amerson (foot)

      --Questionable: G Gabe Jackson (ankle), LB Cory James (knee), T Marshall Newhouse (hip, quadriceps), RB Jamize Olawale (hamstring)

      TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS at MIAMI DOLPHINS

      TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

      --Out: DE William Gholston (neck), CB Vernon Hargreaves (hamstring), QB Jameis Winston (right shoulder)

      MIAMI DOLPHINS

      --Questionable: DE William Hayes (knee), RB Senorise Perry (knee), WR Kenny Stills (back), S Michael Thomas (knee)

      WASHINGTON REDSKINS at NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

      WASHINGTON REDSKINS

      --Out: C Spencer Long (knees), WR Terrelle Pryor (ankle), TE Jordan Reed (hamstring)

      --Questionable: LB Zach Brown (Achilles), CB Quinton Dunbar (illness), WR Ryan Grant (concussion), S DeAngelo Hall (knee), DE Matt Ioannidis (hand), DE Anthony Lanier (knee), G Shawn Lauvao (stinger), S Montae Nicholson (shoulder), T Ty Nsekhe (core muscle), TE Niles Paul (concussion), WR Brian Quick (concussion), G Brandon Scherff (knee), T Trent Williams (knee)

      NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

      --Questionable: LB A.J. Klein (ankle), S Kenny Vaccaro (groin)

      PHILADELPHIA EAGLES at DALLAS COWBOYS (Sunday night)

      PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

      --Questionable: WR Alshon Jeffery (ankle)

      DALLAS COWBOYS

      --Out: K Dan Bailey (right groin), LB Sean Lee (hamstring)

      --Questionable: DT Maliek Collins (foot), S Jeff Heath (concussion), T Tyron Smith (back, groin), TE Geoff Swaim (knee)

  • Pass offense finally explodes for Steelers
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, November 17, 2017

    PITTSBURGH -- It took 10 games, but it finally happened for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They scored 30 points in a game for the first time this season. In fact, they hung 40 on the Tennessee Titans.

    • That might not seem like a big deal, but for the Steelers it ended a string of frustrating offensive performances. They entered the game 20th in the NFL in scoring, and the hope is the Thursday night outburst will be a harbinger of things to come.

      "Hopefully, this is kind of the start," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.

      The 40-17 victory vaulted the Steelers to 8-2, the best record in the AFC. The Patriots will try to keep pace Sunday when they play Oakland in Mexico City.

      The Titans had a hard time keeping pace with a fast-paced Steelers offense that utilized the no-huddle early and maintained an attacking mentality against their secondary throughout the contest. Roethlisberger was 30-for-45 for 299 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

      "Hopefully," head coach Mike Tomlin said, "it's a catalyst for us moving forward."

      As for the pass-heavy game plan, the Steelers were well-versed in how it looked. In fact, they watched for many years when opposing teams with elite quarterbacks used pass-heavy schemes against their old defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

      LeBeau now coordinates the Titans defense, and the Steelers took notes all those years.

      "We are just trying to do what it takes to be successful," Tomlin said. "We talk all the time about big picture. We need to be a team that is well-balanced, a team that is capable of running it on anyone, a team that is capable of passing on anyone. At different points here in recent weeks, I've seen us run it and run it extremely successful. (Thursday night), you saw us throw it. We were very thoughtful about our approach in terms of being able to attack people in different ways because we realized the challenges that lie ahead we have to be able to do a lot of things. So the potential for that balance is big for us."

      The question now is whether the Steelers can keep it up over the final six games of the regular season and the playoffs. Many of them are of the opinion that Thursday night was the beginning of something.

      "It shows how good our team can actually be," running back Le'Veon Bell said. "We made a statement tonight."

      Added wide receiver Antonio Brown, "It did feel great to show what we're capable of and put up 40 points."

      --The Steelers were without two starters in their secondary Thursday night. Cornerback Joe Haden and free safety Mike Mitchell missed the game with injuries. Veteran backups Coty Sensabaugh and Robert Golden took their place and each had an interception.

      "Every day you have to prepare as if you're going to get in the game," Golden said. "When guys go down we have to pop up and get in the game. When Joe went down, Coty had to step in. When Mike went down I had to step in. You never know when your name is going to be called, but when it's called you have to be prepared."

      The Steelers had four interceptions in the game, all from defensive backs. Slot corner Mike Hilton and strong safety Sean Davis had the others.

      "We have great coaches that prepare us very well," Sensabaugh said. "They get us right. We depend on each other. We fight hard and we just go out there and have fun together no matter who is out there. We have a lot of capable guys in that room.

      "This is by far the deepest secondary that I've been a part of. We have a lot of guys who started elsewhere who aren't starting here just because of the numbers. We have a guy like Deshaun Phillips, who started for Washington last year as their nickel, and he's on the practice squad."

      The Steelers need Sensabaugh to fill in for Haden for at least a few more weeks. Haden has a fractured fibula. Mitchell could return to the lineup when the Steelers play host to the Packers Nov. 26 at Heinz Field.

      "For them to come out here in a prime-time game, it was crucial," Davis said. "We need that. We need them to deliver for us. We can ride that wave and elevate our game along with them. When we're on like that, I feel like we're unstoppable."

      REPORT CARD VS. TITANS

      --PASSING OFFENSE: A - For the first time this season, the Steelers were treated to a classic Ben Roethlisberger performance. He was 30 of 45 for 299 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Three of those touchdown passes were to Antonio Brown, who finished with 10 receptions for 144 yards. But it was far from a one-man show. Running back Le'Veon Bell had nine catches and rookie receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had four.

      --RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus - The Steelers didn't really try to run the ball. Bell had just 12 carries for 46 yards. There wasn't a lot of running room, but that was to be expected against a Dick LeBeau-coached defense. He takes away the run and tries to force the quarterback to beat him. The good news for the Steelers on Thursday night was Roethlisberger and the passing game made him pay.

      --PASS DEFENSE: B - Without starters Joe Haden and Mike Mitchell, the reserves stepped in to provide some quality play. The Steelers intercepted Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota four times, including one each from Coty Sensabaugh and Robert Golden, who were making their first starts of the season for Haden and Mitchell. Strong safety Sean Davis and slot corner Mike Hilton had the other interceptions. The only negatives were a couple of long pass plays. Rishard Matthews caught a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second half, and Delanie Walker had a 42-yard reception later in the third quarter. Mariota finished with 306 yards passing, but recorded a 66.8 passer rating because of the four interceptions.

      --RUSH DEFENSE: A-minus - The Steelers stopped Tennessee's running game cold. The Titans ran for just 52 yards on 21 carries. Their leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, finished with 10 yards on eight carries. The longest run of the day came from Derrick Henry, who gained 16 of his 32 yards on one run in which Sean Davis could have had Henry in the backfield for a loss. Missed tackles continue to be a problem for the Steelers, which is the reason they don't get the A-plus performance.

      --SPECIAL TEAMS: A - Linebacker T.J. Watt blocked a field goal in the first quarter, giving the Steelers a blocked field goal and a blocked punt this season. Chris Boswell kicked four field goals and continues to be reliable for the Steelers. His longest boot Thursday night was 50 yards. Punter Jordan Berry had three punts for 152 yards, including a 59-yarder that pinned the Titans at their 4-yard line. All in all, for a unit that is oft-criticized, the special teams might have played their best game of the season.

      --COACHING: A - Give head coach Mike Tomlin credit for getting his players ready to play on a short work week. The players were ready and executed the game plan extremely well. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley gave the reins to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his veteran quarterback came through with a clutch performance. It proved to be a smart move as the Steelers reached 30 points for the first time this season. Keith Butler's defense had another strong performance, too. It was the eighth time in the first 10 games the Steelers gave up 18 points or fewer.

  • NFL owners set December meeting over Goodell deal
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, November 17, 2017

    The Roger Goodell contract extension negotiations will be discussed Dec. 13 during an owners-only session at the league's meetings in Irving, Texas.

    • The decision to conduct a discussion at the meetings comes on the heels of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' recent request for a special meeting on Nov. 28. That request was denied but Jones and the other owners will get to chat about the demands of Goodell as reports suggest the NFL commissioner is looking for an annual package of nearly $50 million in his next contract.

      Jones recently threatened to sue the NFL if the extension is approved by the six-owner compensation committee, headed by Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

      As the war of words intensified, Jones denied that his ire for Goodell is fueled by the six-game suspension running back Ezekiel Elliott is currently serving for an alleged domestic violence incident. Elliott ended his legal fight on Wednesday with five games remaining.

      Jones defended his position on Friday in a radio interview with 105.3 The Fan in Dallas.

      "It would be madness to think that everything I'm doing isn't in the best short- and long-term interest of the NFL," Jones said. "I love this league, and I love this game. And the men that are involved, the committee and the owners, are really good men and they've been in it almost as long as I have.

      "But I've been knowing some of these people well on 30 years. And they know I have the NFL's best interest in mind."

      Earlier this week, Jones was informed by other NFL owners via letter that he is engaging in "conduct detrimental to the league's best interests."

      The letter accused Jones of sabotaging the negotiations in the latest round of the escalating feud between Jones and Goodell. Jones is suspected of sharing outdated documents about negotiations with Goodell to other owners.

      It was revealed last weekend that Goodell requested a salary of approximately $49.5 million, a private jet and lifetime health insurance of his family last August. Goodell's contract expires in 2018.

      The initial offer from the compensation committee was $39.5 million and some owners reportedly had an issue with that amount -- let alone the higher figure proposed by Goodell's lawyers.

      Goodell also has reportedly requested a severance package of $62.5 million upon resigning as commissioner. The compensation committee has offered $40 million.

      Goodell also would receive a lump-sum payment of $19 million to serve as a consultant for five years after leaving the NFL.

      Goodell is also seeking a $25 million performance bonus for upcoming negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and with NFL business partners.

  • Cardinals QB Gabbert to start versus Texans
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, November 17, 2017

    Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Friday that quarterback Blaine Gabbert will start over injured Drew Stanton for Sunday's game against the Houston Texans.

    • Arians told reporters that Stanton, who has a sprained knee, will be Gabbert's backup if he can physically play.

      Stanton has been the starter since Carson Palmer went down with a broken arm in Week 7. If Stanton can't go, Matt Barkley, who signed with the Cardinals earlier this week, will back up Gabbert.

      This will be Gabbert's first start since Week 5 last season for the San Francisco 49ers -- a 33-21 loss against the Cardinals on Oct. 6, 2016. The 28-year-old Gabbert completed 56.9 percent of his passes for 925 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions in six games last season.

      "He can spin it as good as anybody I've ever had," Arians said earlier this week of Gabbert. "Don't overload him with things he has to think about for this week because they're such a good pressure team. Let him know his protections are sound. Keep him in his comfort zone because he can spin the ball. As long as we're getting open, we've got to catch it."

  • Winston accused of groping Uber driver
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, November 17, 2017

    The NFL is investigating an allegation that Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston groped a female Uber driver during a ride in Arizona in March 2016.

    • The league's investigation was first reported Friday by BuzzFeed News, which viewed a letter it said was sent from NFL special counsel for investigations Lisa Friel to the Uber driver.

      NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed to ESPN that the "allegation was shared with the NFL and we have reached out to Uber to request any information they may have."

      In the letter to the unnamed woman, Friel wrote: "The League has been informed that you may have been the victim of such a violation perpetrated by Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Jameis Winston The league takes allegations of this nature very seriously and has opened an investigation into this matter."

      The Buccaneers released a statement that they are aware of an allegation.

      "We are in the process of obtaining further information regarding today's media report. We take these matters seriously and are fully supportive of the investigation that is being conducted by the NFL," the team statement said.

      Bucs coach Dirk Koetter told reporters Friday he was "just finding out" about the allegation.

      Winston was not on the field with the Buccaneers on Friday ahead of Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins. He has not practiced all week because of a shoulder injury.

      The Uber driver told BuzzFeed News that she picked up Winston in Scottsdale, Ariz., around 2 a.m. local time on March 13, 2016. The driver alleged Winston "behaved poorly" as soon as he got in the car, and then asked her to stop at a drive-thru restaurant during the ride.

      While in line, the driver said Winston, who was the only passenger in the car, reached over and "grabbed" her crotch for three to five seconds.

      The driver told BuzzFeed News that she reported the incident to Uber at the time. An Uber spokesman told ESPN that the "behavior the driver reported is disturbing and wrong. The rider was permanently removed from the app shortly after we learned of the incident."

      Winston was in Arizona for Kurt Warner's annual "Ultimate Football Experience" event during the weekend that the incident allegedly occurred.

      Winston denied that accusation in a statement posted to social media on Friday afternoon.

      "A news organization has published a story about me regarding an alleged incident involving a female Uber driver from approximately two years ago," Winston said in the statement. "The story falsely accuses me of making inappropriate contact with this driver. I believe the driver was confused as to the number of passengers in the car and who was sitting next to her. The accusation is false, and given the nature of the allegation and increased awareness and consideration of these types of matters, I am addressing this false report immediately. At the time of the alleged incident, I denied the allegations to Uber, yet they still decided to suspend my account.

      "I am supportive of the national movement to raise awareness and develop better responses to the concerns of parties who find themselves in these types of situations, but this accusation is false. While I am certain that I did not make any inappropriate contact, I don't want to engage in a battle with the driver and I regret if my demeanor or presence made her uncomfortable in any way."

      Uber confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times on Friday that on March 13, 2016, a driver in Arizona reported the incident allegedly involving Winston shortly after the trip in question. Uber's community guidelines prohibit any kind of sexual conduct.

      The newspaper listened to a voicemail from Uber to Winston informing him that his account had been placed on hold pending an investigation into "inappropriate behavior."

      "Hi Jameis, this is Chris calling from the Uber office,'' according to a call that a Times reporter listened to Friday. "I'm following up on a report we had from one of your recent trips where you or someone in the vehicle with you had some inappropriate behavior. I just want to follow up and get some more information on that."

  • Cardinals WR Fitzgerald signs one-year extension
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, November 17, 2017

    The Arizona Cardinals signed Larry Fitzgerald to a one-year contract extension on Friday that keeps the 10-time Pro Bowl wide receiver under contract through the 2018 season.

    • The deal will pay Fitzgerald $11 million in base salary.

      Fitzgerald didn't make himself available for comment, but his Cardinals' teammates were overjoyed to hear the veteran wide receiver agreed to the extension.

      "I like that. I like that," running back Adrian Peterson said Friday, "because it was discouraging when someone said to me, 'Do you think Fitz is going to retire this year?' And I was like, 'I hope not. With all the football he has left? I'd hate to see my friend go.' So that's a positive."

      It isn't known for certain that Fitzgerald will actually return and play for a 15th season. Friday's contract announcement only ensures that if Fitzgerald does decide to return and play next season, it will be for the Cardinals.

      "Everybody's happy for him," coach Bruce Arians said. "Hope he comes back and catches 100 more."

      The 34-year old Fitzgerald has 60 catches for 677 yards and three touchdowns this season to lead the Cardinals in all three categories. He is on pace for 107 receptions and 1,204 yards in 2017 -- no player in NFL history has ever had 100-plus receptions and 1,000-plus receiving yards in a season he began at age 34 or older.

      The 6-foot-3, 218-pound Fitzgerald led the NFL with 107 receptions last year, becoming the only player to lead the league in receptions 11 years apart (103 receptions in 2005).

      With 10 receptions for 113 yards last Thursday night in a loss against the Seattle Seahawks, Fitzgerald became just the sixth player in NFL history to reach 15,000 career receiving yards. He currently ranks third in NFL history in career receptions (1,185), sixth in career receiving yards (15,066) and eighth in career touchdown receptions (107). He needs 62 receiving yards to pass Tony Gonzalez (15,127) for fifth place on the NFL's all-time receiving yardage list.

      Fitzgerald also has at least one catch in 204 consecutive games, the third-longest streak in NFL history. If he has a reception in each of the final seven games this season, Fitzgerald will tie Gonzalez (211) for second place on that list.

      Fitzgerald's 10 career Pro Bowl selections are the most in team history and he joins Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (13) as the only wide receivers in NFL history to be selected at least 10 times.

      He has played in 211 regular-season games (second-most in team history) and is the franchise's all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, total touchdowns and 100-yard games (45). His eight 1,000-yard receiving seasons are also the most in team history.

      The assumption is that with Fitzgerald signed for at least another year, Arians will be back as head coach in 2018 as well. Not so fast, Arians said. He's indicated he plans to keep coaching, but said Fitzgerald's new deal doesn't impact his situation at all.

      "That's totally different," he said. "They're separate entities."

      It doesn't hurt, though, right?

      "No," Arians said, smiling.

      Fitzgerald was originally taken by the Cardinals in the first round (third overall) of the 2004 draft out of Pittsburgh.

  • Patchwork secondary gets job done for Steelers
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, November 17, 2017

    PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers entered Thursday's game with the No. 2 pass defense in the NFL.

    • But half of its secondary was also out with injuries.

      However, the backups responded and the Steelers intercepted Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota four times, the most by the Steelers in one game in 20 years and one week.

      On Nov. 9, 1997, the Steelers intercepted Baltimore Ravens quarterbacks Vinny Testaverde and Eric Zeier four times.

      Carnell Lake had one of those four interceptions, and two decades later he was coaching a patchwork group that intercepted its way to a 40-17 win over the Titans.

      "As the game wore on, you just felt the momentum," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "Oftentimes those splash plays are created by game circumstances, or an accumulation of blows, if you will, so it was good for us."

      The first interception came on the Titans' first series when the Steelers moved nickel slot corner Mike Hilton back to free safety and he intercepted an overthrown Mariota pass and returned it 26 yards to set up a field goal that gave the Steelers a 10-0 lead.

      "He doesn't drop back there very often," Steelers strong safety Sean Davis said. "It was just one of our defenses though. We mix it up a little bit and it worked out well for us."

      "Mike really set the tone," Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier said. "It was early in the game, first series, and that's the way you envision a game to go. Mike came out with his first pick and he set the game up. Coty came in and got a pick, so that was pretty nice to see both of them make those plays. After a while, we just took care of business."

      It was Hilton's second interception in his first NFL season, while Coty Sensabaugh, starting for the injured Joe Haden, made his first interception as a Steeler. It occurred late in the second quarter with the Steelers holding a 10-7 lead.

      A former starter in Tennessee, Sensabaugh stepped in front of Titans receiver Corey Davis at midfield and returned the interception to the Tennessee 20. The play also set up a field goal, this one gave the Steelers a 13-7 lead.

      "Coty's first interception in the first half kind of set up our offense," Steelers free safety Rob Golden said. "It gave us a cushion to play the type of football that we like to play. I feel like that one was significant, but all of them are significant when you're out there setting up field position for your offense."

      Golden, filling in for the injured Mike Mitchell, grabbed the third interception off a pass break-up by cornerback Artie Burns early in the fourth quarter. By then the Steelers were ahead by 37-17, so Golden's interception may have been a result of Tomlin's aforementioned "accumulation of blows."

      The high-bouncing ball was grabbed by Golden to give the offense the ball at the Pittsburgh 48. The Steelers drove slowly for another field goal, this one the final points of the blowout win.

      Davis intercepted Mariota's final pass, a fourth-down play that Davis returned 41 yards to the Tennessee 41 with only 2:22 remaining.

      The Steelers did allow 264 passing yards -- 82 above their average coming into the game -- with the help of a 75-yard touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews. But the four interceptions jumped the team's season total from eight to 12.

      "The rush did a great job, made the quarterback throw some crazy throws," Davis said. "The defense did a good job on a short week. We did a good job recognizing what they were trying to do to us. We did a good job of disguising and breaking on routes."

      "We believe in all those guys," Shazier said. "We know that they can make plays no matter who's in."

  • Injuries hit Seattle secondary
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, November 17, 2017

    RENTON, Wash. -- For the time in 100 games, the Seattle Seahawks will have to play a game without Richard Sherman as their starting left cornerback.

    • And with strong safety Kam Chancellor also potentially sidelined and free safety Earl Thomas nursing a hamstring strain, Seattle's "Legion of Boom" secondary comes into Monday night's game against the Atlanta Falcons as banged up as they've ever been as a unit.

      Sherman is on injured reserve and had surgery to repair his Achilles on Wednesday. Chancellor's status is uncertain as he's still undergoing tests to determine the severity of a stinger sustained last Thursday against Arizona.

      "It's definitely going to be weird," linebacker Bobby Wagner said of potentially missing Sherman and Chancellor. "I've never played a game without Richard. He's definitely going to be missed. But to have both of those guys missing in action is not something that we've ever had to deal with, but I think it's something that we're prepared for. I think we can hold it down until at least one of them gets back. The other one (Sherman) might take a while."

      Bradley McDougald would start at strong safety in place of Chancellor after playing the last two weeks in Thomas' free safety spot. Jeremy Lane will assume Sherman's starting job at cornerback.

      Thomas is expected to return to the lineup after missing the last two games with a hamstring strain, but it will be alongside a depleted group.

      "We're very fortunate to have Bradley. He's played great," head coach Pete Carroll said of McDougald. "It's no big deal for him to play strong safety versus free safety so he'll jump right in there."

      Additionally, Seattle brought back cornerback Byron Maxwell this week, who played four seasons for Seattle before spending the last two years in Philadelphia and Miami, respectively. Maxwell feels he has something to prove in his return with Seattle after two relatively disappointing seasons elsewhere.

      "Definitely. Always, man," Maxwell said. "It's another opportunity to get out here and show what I can do so I'm looking forward to it. You've always got to prove yourself in this league no matter what. No matter if you're Dwight Freeney, he's out here trying to prove himself that he can still do it so no matter who you are, you're still trying to prove that you can do it."

      Super Bowl XLIX is the closest Seattle's come to being as banged up in their back end. Sherman placed the game with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, Chancellor sprained a medical collateral ligament in his knee the Friday before the game and nearly missed the game. Meanwhile, Thomas played with a labrum tear in his shoulder that required offseason surgery.

      But they all played. That won't be the case on Monday night.

      --Running back C.J. Prosise was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with Mike Davis being promoted to the active roster to take his place.

      Prosise played in parts of just five games this season due to a pair of high-ankle sprains that limited his availability and ultimately moved him to the injured list. It continued a string of serious injuries for Prosise dating back to his rookie year. A broken wrist bone and fractured scapula limited him to just six games as a rookie.

      "C.J. is a marvelous player, but he has just not been able to stay healthy," head coach Pete Carroll said. "So we are going to give him the time to get well and heal it up."

      Davis has spent the entire season on Seattle's practice squad after a solid preseason. He carried 24 times for 106 yards in four preseason games for the Seahawks. He also caught five passes for 41 yards with a touchdown.

      "Mike has been, really, one of our favorites going all the way back to camp," Carroll said. "He had a really good offseason and a really good camp with us and a good preseason. ... We see a little bit of a well-roundedness in him. He's real competitive and he's really hungry to go. He's been with us all year, so the transition is seamless and looking forward to seeing what he brings."

      Davis appeared in 14 career games with the San Francisco 49ers after being a fourth-round pick in 2015. He managed just 108 yards and a touchdown on 54 total carries, good for just a 2.0 yards-per-carry average. He also caught 10 passes for 63 yards.

      "More confident, more angry since I got cut anyway," Davis said. "I play with an edge, a chip on my shoulder. That's something that really killed me is when I got cut (by the 49ers). It changed everything I do.

      "It was a major shock to me because I feel like I didn't get a chance there, especially with the new coaching staff, but it's something I can't be angry about. It happens. It's a business."

      While Seattle ranks 22nd in the league in rushing, quarterback Russell Wilson is their leading rusher. Their second leading rusher is Chris Carson, who has been out since Week 4 due to a severe high-ankle sprain and fractured leg. Eddie Lacy is the team's leading rusher currently on the roster with 128 yards on 48 carries. He ranks 77th in the league in rushing.

      "It is frustrating somewhat," Carroll said of Seattle's rushing game struggles. "We've got to keep moving and we've got to do what we can with our guys and it hasn't been quite the same, but we're still moving the football and we're making a lot of first downs and we can do a lot of damage. We just have to do it the way we can do it. And I never give up on the fact of trying to balance out your attack. I think it's the best way to play football, so we'll find a way to do that, but it is a little bit different. It hasn't been obvious as it has been in the past."

      --Cornerback Jeremy Lane finds himself back in a starting role with Seattle just weeks after he was traded to the Houston Texans.

      If not for a failed physical, Lane would still be in Houston. Instead, he's now starting in the spot vacated by the loss of Richard Sherman to a torn Achilles.

      "It's crazy how things worked out with me being traded, coming back and I've got an opportunity to start now so I'm excited," Lane said.

      Lane sustained a thigh bruise in Seattle's game against Houston in October. The very next day, he was dealt to the Texans as part of a package that enabled the Seahawks to acquire left tackle Duane Brown. When the thigh bruise scuttled his physical with the Texans, Lane jumped back on a flight to Seattle uncertain of the reception he would receive coming back to the team that had just traded him away.

      "It wasn't even 24 hours," said Lane, who called the experience an emotional roller coaster. "When I came in the locker room and walked in, I thought it would be awkward at first. But as soon as I came in it was kind of like 'fool!' and everybody started clapping their hands and giving me hugs. It was crazy."

      The trade was amended with additional draft compensation being exchanged to complete the deal. With Sherman going down last Thursday night, the circumstances turned into an unexpected benefit for the Seahawks.

      "We are very fortunate to have Jeremy Lane with us and ready to play," head coach Pete Carroll said. "And now, Shaq (Griffin) has become a starter, Jeremy has legitimately been a starter, so we couldn't be much more fortunate than that to have a guy step up and a guy that has been around the program and all that."

      Lane said he finally feels like he's back to full health. He's played just three full games this season due to a groin strain, thigh bruise and first-quarter ejection in Seattle's season opener against Green Bay.

      "I'm ready now," he said. "Finally, I'm ready to rock and roll."

  • NFL notebook: Owners rebuke Jones for detrimental conduct
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, November 16, 2017

    Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been informed by other NFL owners via letter that he is engaging in "conduct detrimental to the league's best interests," the New York Times reported Thursday.

    • The letter was sent to Jones through his attorney, David Boies, on Wednesday, one day after Jones expressed publicly that he had no intention of halting his efforts to prevent NFL commissioner Roger Goodell from receiving a contract extension.

      Jones has threatened to sue the NFL if the extension is approved by the six-owner compensation committee, headed by Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

      The letter accuses Jones of sabotaging the negotiations in the latest round of the escalating feud between Jones and Goodell. Jones is suspected of sharing outdated documents about negotiations with Goodell to other owners.

      It was revealed last weekend that Goodell requested a salary of approximately $49.5 million, a private jet and lifetime health insurance for his family last August. Goodell's contract expires in 2018.

      --Cleveland Browns wide receiver Corey Coleman will return from injured reserve for Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, coach Hue Jackson said.

      Coleman has been sidelined since breaking a bone in his hand in a 24-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 17. The former first-round pick was placed on injured reserve but later was designated to return by the Browns (0-9).

      Coleman has encountered obstacles since being selected with the 15th overall pick in the 2016 draft. He suffered a different broken bone in his hand during his rookie season and finished with 33 receptions and three touchdowns.

      --Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith sat out Thursday's practice with groin and back issues.

      After missing practice on consecutive days, Smith's availability is in question for the Cowboys (5-4) in Sunday's home game against the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles (8-1).

      Smith's absence was felt during last Sunday's 27-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, as Dak Prescott was sacked eight times -- including on six occasions by defensive end Adrian Clayborn.

      --Jacksonville Jaguars rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook has great expectations heading into his potential NFL debut on Sunday against the winless Cleveland Browns.

      Westbrook, who could be activated off injured reserve this week following core muscle surgery, offered the following to "Teal & Black Blitz" on SportsRadio 930 Wednesday:

      "My expectations are high," Westbrook said. "I always set the standard high for myself. For me, and this has nothing to do with the Cleveland Browns at all, but my expectation is a 200-yard receiving game. Of course that's going to come with me and Blake (Bortles) being on the same page most of the game, but at the end of the day, that's the expectations that I have for myself this weekend."

      --The New Orleans Saints have secured the services of Mike Westhoff to oversee the club's special teams units, coach Sean Payton said.

      Coaches Bradford Banta and Kevin O'Dea will remain on staff to work with Westhoff, who retired from the NFL after the 2012 season with the New York Jets. The 69-year-old is expected to remain with the Saints until the end of this season.

      The Saints (7-2) are riding high on a seven-game winning streak, but the club has endured stumbles from its special teams. New Orleans resides 30th in the league in punt return average and 28th in kickoff return average.

      --The Arizona Cardinals promoted tackle/guard Vinston Painter from the practice squad to the active roster, the team announced.

      Painter, who was on the active roster and played in Week 4, re-signed with the team's practice squad on Oct. 3. The 6-foot-4, 322-pound Painter has appeared in nine NFL regular-season games -- five with the Washington Redskins last season and three with the Cleveland Browns in 2014.

  • Falcons and Seahawks know each other well
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, November 16, 2017

    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks have been playing so often they seem like division foes.

    • They played twice last season in the regular season and the playoffs.

      They have played six times since 2010 and have met in the playoffs twice.

      One key thing will be different when they play on Monday Night Football: Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman will not be on the field and that has a certain Falcons wide receiver upset.

      Julio Jones is going to miss going up against Sherman, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury and has been placed on injured reserve.

      "We always have a good time," Jones said. "He'll try to stay on me the whole game a lot of times. Guys start playing me, and then get off, have help and Sherman's not one of those guys. He's comes out and competes every play, just man up."

      Last season, Jones had seven catches for 139 yards and one touchdown in a 26-24 loss in Seattle on Oct. 16.

      In the playoff meeting, Jones had six catches for 67 yards and a touchdown in the 36-20 victory in the NFC divisional playoff victory.

      Jones admits that Seattle has a unique home-field advantage.

      "It's very different," Jones said. "The 12th man they have out there, the fans are very loud, but for me it doesn't impact me. It's my job to help others around me to help them make sure it doesn't affect their game because it can be effective because it is that loud there.

      "It's one of those things about keeping all 11 guys on the same page at the same time due to the crowd noise. Offensively, if you get off the ball later than normal, obviously ... then you're in trouble already.

      "The defensive ends and whatever they've got going on being able to penetrate and get pressure upfield they can create turnovers and put a lot of pressure and stress on the quarterback to make him get the ball out of his hands quickly."

      With Sherman out, the Falcons don't know how the Seahawks will try to defend Jones.

      "Not knowing how they are health-wise, I would expect Jeremy (Lane) certainly to get some action outside," Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said. "He has the ability to play nickel, and play outside so that kind of versatility is good. Very good competitor, very good speed, good ball skills and he's a good tackler."

      The Seattle safeties Earl Thomas (hamstring) and Kam Chancellor (stinger) are also injured.

      "As you go through the preparation, the scheme doesn't change," Quinn said. "We'll plan on those players playing."

      The Falcons must contain Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.

      "The hardest part to prepare for is some of the unknowns," Quinn said. "With some players, you might say when a quarterback is scrambling to the right he may run it and when he's running to the left he may remain a passer. With him, kind of anything goes in terms of where he may end up."

      Jones believe the Falcons must build on their win over Dallas.

      "For us, most definitely," Jones said. "Every win is a good win for us and things like that. Yeah, we can build off it because we did a lot of great things in the game, but we've got to continue to keep building.

  • Owners rebuke Jones for detrimental conduct
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, November 16, 2017

    Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been informed by other NFL owners via letter that he is engaging in "conduct detrimental to the league's best interests," the New York Times reported on Thursday.

    • The letter was sent to Jones through his attorney, David Boies, on Wednesday, one day after Jones expressed publicly that he had no intention of halting his efforts to prevent NFL commissioner Roger Goodell from receiving a contract extension.

      Jones has threatened to sue the NFL if the extension is approved by the six-owner compensation committee, headed by Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

      The letter accuses Jones of sabotaging the negotiations in the latest round of the escalating feud between Jones and Goodell. Jones is suspected of sharing outdated documents about negotiations with Goodell to other owners.

      It was revealed last weekend that Goodell requested a salary of approximately $49.5 million, a private jet and lifetime health insurance of his family last August. Goodell's contract expires in 2018.

      Also boiling at the surface is Jones' disappointment over the six-game suspension running back Ezekiel Elliott is currently serving for an alleged domestic violence incident. Elliott ended his legal fight on Wednesday with five games remaining.

      Jones is insisting the percolating feud about Elliott isn't part of his threat to sue the NFL.

      Regardless, the letter makes it clear other owners are disturbed with Jones' recent actions.

      "Your client's antics, whatever their motivation, are damaging the league and reflect conduct detrimental to the league's best interests," the letter said, according to the Times.

      In May, Jones voted in favor of extending Goodell's contract.

      On his Tuesday radio show, Jones said "well over half" of the owners agreed with his stance of conducting a final vote after the compensation committee finishes the negotiating with Goodell.

      "With due respect, we urge Mr. Jones to drop his misguided litigation threats and media campaign to undermine the committee's mandate," the letter said. "And we urge Mr. Jones to support the committee's deliberations, not attempt to sabotage them."

      There has been discussion that the NFL could evoke a clause in which it could remove Jones as Cowboys owner or force a sale.

      Jones was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August. He has owned the Cowboys since 1989.

  • Browns WR Coleman returning from broken hand
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, November 16, 2017

    Cleveland Browns wide receiver Corey Coleman will return from injured reserve for Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, coach Hue Jackson said.

    • Coleman has been sidelined since breaking a bone in his hand in a 24-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 17. The former first-round pick was placed on injured reserve but later was designated to return by the Browns (0-9).

      "I do not want anyone to think that Corey is back so here comes the savior of the team, but here comes back one of our better players that we have not had in a while," Jackson said on Thursday. "We have to get the chemistry back, get to playing and see where he is, but I expect good things from Corey this weekend."

      Coleman has encountered obstacles since being selected with the 15th overall pick in the 2016 draft. He suffered a different broken bone in his hand during his rookie season and finished with 33 receptions and three touchdowns.

      "It is tough (being injured), but you can't do anything about it," the 23-year-old Coleman said. "Moving past it, and I'm just excited to get back on the field where I can help us try to get a win.

      "One of my jobs -- I look at myself as a leader -- is keeping the guys going and keeping them confident. I felt like I had done a good job and I'm proud of the guys who stepped in and are giving it their all and trying to make a big impact to help us win."

      Coleman reeled in six receptions for 62 yards and one touchdown this season.

  • Cardinals promote OL Painter
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, November 16, 2017

    The Arizona Cardinals promoted tackle/guard Vinston Painter from the practice squad to the active roster, the team announced Thursday.

    • Painter, who was on the active roster and played in Week 4, re-signed with the team's practice squad on Oct. 3.

      The 6-foot-4, 322-pound Painter has appeared in nine regular-season games in the NFL, with five coming with the Washington Redskins last season and three with the Cleveland Browns in 2014.

      Painter is a sixth-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos out of Virginia Tech in 2013.

  • Cowboys OT Smith battling ailments
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, November 16, 2017

    Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith sat out Thursday with groin and back issues.

    • After missing practice on consecutive days, Smith's availability is in question for the Cowboys (5-4) in Sunday's home game versus the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles (8-1).

      Smith's absence was felt during last Sunday's 27-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, as Dak Prescott was sacked eight times -- including on six occasions by defensive end Adrian Clayborn.

      Offensive linemen Chaz Green and Byron Bell were tasked with attempting to keep Clayborn at bay last week.

      Green lost his starting spot at left guard after three games this season.

      Should Bell get the start, it will be his first at left tackle since suiting up for the Tennessee Titans in their 2015 season finale.

  • Miller: Rams on similar path to 49ers, circa 1981
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, November 16, 2017

    There is no more significant development in the NFL this year — on the field, at least — than the revival of the Los Angeles Rams, who landed back on the West Coast with a thud last year but now are a legitimate championship contender.

    • Who would ever have thought it?

      Probably no one, not this soon, but for anyone familiar with the history of pro football on the left coast, it is a story with a familiar ring, and there are few people in the league who have immersed themselves in that history more than Sean McVay, the team’s 31-year-old coach.

      In 1981, the year of the birth of the San Francisco 49ers’ dynasty, Sean McVay’s grandfather, John McVay, became the 49ers’ director of football operations under Hall of Fame head coach Bill Walsh. McVay had spent the previous two seasons as Walsh’s player personnel director and later would become the team’s steadying front-office influence as its general manager.

      When Sean McVay was a kid, he used to read pages from Walsh’s how-to book, “Finding the winning edge,” every night before going to sleep.

      Walsh, of course, made the 49ers’ decisions. John McVay provided the input for Walsh. They took over a floundering team, just as Sean McVay did this year. But that is hardly where the similarities end.

      --The 49ers needed a quarterback, and they went against the grain by finding a fellow named Joe Montana at the end of the third round of the draft in 1979. Thought too skinny and with an arm not strong enough by the NFL’s conventional wisdom, you may recall that Montana turned out OK. In 1981, he led the NFC in passing efficiency and won the first of his three Super Bowl MVP awards.

      The Rams drafted their quarterback last year, a year ahead of Sean McVay’s arrival. And it didn’t take a full rookie year of disappointment for NFL know-it-alls to proclaim Jared Goff a bust. Well, something changed this year, and it’s hard not to give the kid coach some credit; Goff leads the league in average yards per pass attempt and has thrown four times as many touchdown passes as interceptions, a ratio that puts him in Drew Brees/Aaron Rodgers territory. Montana, by the way, never had a 4-1 touchdown-interception ratio in any season.

      --During the 49ers’ great years, while the team was known for its offense, one of the trademarks was the ability to rotate defensive linemen throughout the game. At their height, the 49ers used nine defensive linemen almost interchangeably. Except for Hall of Famer Fred Dean, who was with the team only for the first part of the dynasty, the rest were pretty good players but few with household names.

      The Rams lead the league in scoring, but also rely heavily on their defensive line yet in a different manner than those old 49ers did, because it’s more a matter of top-shelf talent than depth. Two of L.A.’s starting four — Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers — were drafted in the first half of the first round. Another first-rounder, Robert Quinn, is now an outside linebacker in new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ scheme.

      -—More similarities. The 49ers in 1981 and the current Rams both emerged from the pack in the NFL with little or no advance warning.

      In 1981, the 49ers were coming off a three-year stretch during which they won a total of 10 games and lost 38. They hadn’t been a playoff team for nine years. They never had won a league championship.

      In 2017, the Rams are coming off a three-year stretch in which they won 17 games and lost 31. They haven’t had so much as a .500 season in 11 years and have not been a playoff team in 13 years.

      But with Montana emerging and a great defensive mix featuring two veterans (Dean and Hacksaw Reynolds) and three rookie defensive backs (Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright and Carlton Williamson), the 49ers shocked the league.

      The Rams are emerging with one ingredient those 49ers did not have, a stud running back named Todd Gurley, another of the team’s cache of good, first-round draft choices. Gurley is the league’s No. 4 rusher and shares the league lead with seven rushing touchdowns.

      -—You can’t develop a young quarterback without someone for him to throw to. When Montana became the starter, the 49ers had three security blankets for him, three-time Pro Bowl tight ends Charle Young and Russ Francis, and Dwight Clark, an unheralded receiver drafted the same year as Montana who also became a Pro-Bowl player.

      To support Goff, the Rams this year acquired a pair of veteran receivers, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, both of whom are averaging more than 15 yards a catch, and drafted another, Cooper Kupp, who’s averaging 13.

      The Rams also made two key acquisitions on the offensive line this past offseason, adding experienced left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan. Whitworth replaced Greg Robinson, the second overall choice in 2014, who was traded to Detroit for a mere sixth-round draft pick and was recently waived/injured by the Lions.

      The Rams already have scored more points than they did all last season. They also are No. 4 in scoring defense. They are the league’s second-best team at intercepting passes and fourth best at sacking the opposing quarterback while ranking in the top eight at avoiding both sacks and interceptions on offense. Their offense also leads the league in third-down efficiency, a sometimes unappreciated statistic, but one that helps on both offense and defense.

      In the next few weeks, we will learn just how far the Rams have come — or how far they have to go. Four of their next five games are against Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Seattle, teams that currently have a combined record of 28-8. Of course, the jury was out on those 49ers in 1981, too, until, after one surprise victory, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a headline that read, “This is serious.”

      So are the Rams.

      Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than five decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.

  • Saints bring in Westhoff to oversee special teams
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, November 16, 2017

    The New Orleans Saints have secured the services of Mike Westhoff to oversee the club's special teams units, coach Sean Payton said Thursday.

    • Coaches Bradford Banta and Kevin O'Dea will remain on staff to work with Westhoff, who retired from the NFL following the 2012 season with the New York Jets. The 69-year-old is expected to remain with the Saints until the end of this season.

      "If I can solve a couple of problems, I'll try to do it. It's a good challenge. I don't want to be the guy that regrets not having tried something. It made sense to me, so why not?" Westhoff said.

      The Saints (7-2) are riding high on a season-best seven-game winning streak, but the club has endured stumbles from its special teams. New Orleans resides 30th in the league in punt return average and 28th in kickoff return average.

      Westhoff was with the Miami Dolphins from 1986-2000 and the Jets from 2001-12. He will get a chance to see his former team on Dec. 17 when the Jets pay a visit to the Superdome.

  • Jaguars' Westbrook expects 200-yard game in debut
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, November 16, 2017

    Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook has great expectations heading into his potential NFL debut on Sunday against the winless Cleveland Browns.

    • Westbrook, who could be activated off injured reserve this week following core muscle surgery, offered the following to "Teal & Black Blitz" on SportsRadio 930 Wednesday:

      "My expectations are high," Westbrook said. "I always set the standard high for myself. For me, and this has nothing to do with the Cleveland Browns at all, but my expectation is a 200-yard receiving game.

      "Of course that's going to come with me and Blake (Bortles) being on the same page most of the game, but at the end of the day, that's the expectations that I have for myself this weekend."

      Westbrook, who was a fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft, could slide into the lineup with fellow wide receiver Allen Hurns ruled out with an ankle injury. The Jaguars placed Westbrook on injured reserve on Sept. 8 and had surgery four days later.

      The 23-year-old fared well in the preseason, reeling in 13 receptions for 288 yards and two touchdowns.

      Anquan Boldin set the record for most receiving yards in an NFL debut when he collected 217 to go with two touchdowns for the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 7, 2003.

  • Week 11 Game Scout: Falcons at Seahawks
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, November 16, 2017

    ATLANTA FALCONS (5-4) AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (6-3)

    • KICKOFF: Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, Century Link Field. TV: ESPN, Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters (field reporter).

      SERIES HISTORY: 16th regular-season meeting. Seahawks lead series, 10-5. They won 26-24 in Seattle last season. The Falcons have won the only two meetings in the playoffs, including a 36-20 victory in the divisional round last season.

      KEYS TO THE GAME: After a 3-0 start, the Falcons have lost four of their past six games. But they are coming off an uplifting 27-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys that featured their third-best score of the season.

      Matt Ryan and the offense have struggled under new coordinator Steve Sarkisian. After leading the league in scoring at 33.8 points per game in 2016, they are averaging a middling 21.9 this season.

      But they catch the Seahawks at the right time: Seattle just lost cornerback Richard Sherman for the season and has a host of other injured defenders. Safety Earl Thomas is expected to return after missing two games, but strong safety Kam Chancellor is not expected to play, and several other top defenders (Frank Cark, Jarran Reed, et al.) are questionable.

      The pressure is on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks' offense to find success against the Falcons' sixth-ranked pass defense. Grabbing an early lead would be a nice boost in order to manage the clock, slow down Atlanta's pass rush (featuring six-sack man of the hour Adrian Clayborn) and keep the defense off the field.

      The Falcons' run defense was solid against the Cowboys and Seattle has had trouble running the ball all season, so it might be up to Wilson to make it happen.

      MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

      --Seahawks LT Duane Brown or Matt Tobin vs. Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn. The Seahawks are hoping Brown, their prize trade acquisition, rallies from a sprained ankle suffered at Arizona. If not, fourth-string tackle Tobin will be tasked with stopping Clayborn, who recorded a franchise-record six sacks last week vs. Dallas. That tied for the second-most sacks in a game since the stat started being recorded in 1982. Derrick Thomas set the record of seven in 1990, against Seattle.

      --Falcons WR Julio Jones vs. Seahawks CB Jeremy Lane. Jones is still the most difficult matchup for Seattle and made more problematic with the absence of Richard Sherman. Jones will draw Lane and rookie Shaquill Griffin in coverage, with Byron Maxwell potentially in on that action as well. Jones will be a major challenge for Seattle's defense.

      PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Falcons RB Tevin Coleman. With Devonta Freeman expected to miss the game as he recovers from a concussion, Coleman will assume the lion's share of carries against Seattle's ninth-ranked run defense. Coleman ran for 82 yards and a TD last week against Dallas and has been good on the road, scoring nine times in the past 11 games. Coleman caught a TD pass in the playoff game vs. Seattle last season, but he ran for just 10 yards on five carries in the regular-season game in Seattle.

      FAST FACTS: Falcons QB Matt Ryan reached 40,000 passing yards in his 151st game, making him the fastest player in NFL history to attain the milestone. In his past 13 road games, Ryan has 3,778 passing yards (290.6 per game), 27 TDs and seven interceptions. He threw for 338 yards, three TDs and no INTs in the playoff meeting last season. ... WR Julio Jones has 18 receptions for 266 yards (133 per game) and a touchdown in two career meetings. He has 25 receptions for 382 yards (95.5 per game) in his past four road games. ... WR Mohamed Sanu has a TD catch in two of the past three games and also scored against Seattle in both games last season. ... LB De'Vondre Campbell had a career-high 13 tackles last week. In his past four games, he has 33 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. ... Seattle QB Russell Wilson leads the NFC with 2,543 passing yards. In his past four games, he has 1,321 yards (330.3 per game), 11 TDs and three INTs. In four career meetings, he has 1,167 yards (291.8 per game), six TDs and three INTs. Wilson is the NFL's top-ranked passer in the fourth quarter (135.2), with 12 touchdowns and one interception. ... WR Doug Baldwin has 27 catches for 349 yards (87.3 per game) and two TDs in in his past four games. Since 2015, he ranks third in the NFL with 24 TD catches. ... TE Jimmy Graham caught two TD passes last week, his 15th career multi-TD game, tied for third among active players. He has nine TD catches in 12 career meetings with Atlanta. ... DE Michael Bennett has five sacks in his past five home games. ... LB Bobby Wagner led the team with 11 tackles last week and is targeting a fourth straight game with at least 10.

      PREDICTION: Wilson and the Seahawks are 8-2 at home with at least nine days to prepare, and Pete Carroll knows it's time for his team to turn it on.

      OUR PICK: Seahawks, 23-20.

      --Chris Cluff

  • Week 11 Game Scout: Rams at Vikings
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, November 16, 2017

    LOS ANGELES RAMS (7-2) AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS (7-2)

    • GAME SNAPSHOT

      KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, U.S Bank Stadium. TV: FOX, Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver (field reporter).

      SERIES HISTORY: 38th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 21-14-2. The Vikings are 11-3-2 at home, but this is the first meeting at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings have won the last four meetings, including a 21-18 overtime game at TCF Bank Stadium in 2015. The teams have met seven times in the playoffs, but not since 1999, when the Rams won a 49-37 divisional meeting at St. Louis. The Vikings are 4-0 in home playoff games against the Rams. They advanced to Super Bowls IX and XI by beating the Rams at old Met Stadium.

      KEYS TO THE GAME: It's unlikely many people had Rams-Vikings circled as The Game of Week 11. The Rams bring the NFL's top-scoring offense to Minnesota to face the NFC's toughest defense.

      Los Angeles' first-year coach, Sean McVay, has done wonders for young quarterback Jared Goff by putting him in situations where he can thrive. But the Vikings have speed at the corners to contend with Rams wideouts Robert Woods and Sammie Watkins, and Minnesota safeties Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo excel at disguising coverage.

      The Rams can use running back Todd Gurley and speedy wide receiver Tavon Austin in the ground game to keep the Minnesota safeties honest.

      Vikings coach Mike Zimmer made the decision this week to stick with Case Keenum at quarterback, despite Teddy Bridgewater being back on the active roster.

      Keenum, who has completed 67 percent of his passes for six touchdowns the past two games, has been sacked just once in the past five games.

      The Rams, No. 5 in the league with 28 sacks this season, will need to get pressure on Keenum and contain the Vikings' one-two punch on the ground, Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon.

      MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

      --Rams RB Todd Gurley vs. Vikings MLB Eric Kendricks. Another game, another big assignment for Kendricks. Last week, he had Washington's Chris Thompson and did a solid job after surrendering an early 27-yard reception. Next up is a much greater, even more versatile challenge. Gurley is fourth in the league in rushing and leads the NFL with seven rushing touchdowns. But he also is second on his team with 35 receptions and has three receiving TDs, including a 53-yarder. Kendricks leads the Vikings with 90 tackles. Second place is 63.

      --Vikings LG Nick Easton vs. Rams DE Aaron Donald. Donald is one of the best players in the league. He is warming up to Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense as the right defensive end. He has five sacks, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He can wreck a game plan if he's able to blow up the left side of an offensive line. Easton returned last week after missing three games because of a calf injury. Like the rest of the line this year, Easton has played very well. Left tackle Riley Reiff has been superb. He'll no doubt have a role in handling Donald as well.

      FRIDAY INJURY REPORT

      LOS ANGELES RAMS

      --Out: RB Malcolm Brown (knee)

      --Questionable: TE Derek Carrier (hamstring), CB Troy Hill (hamstring)

      MINNESOTA VIKINGS

      --Out: T Mike Remmers (concussion), S Andrew Sendejo (groin, hamstring)

      --Questionable: DE Everson Griffen (foot), DE Brian Robison (back)

      PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Vikings WR Adam Thielen. At some point, we all have to move past the fact that he was a Division II player from Minnesota State-Mankato. Right now, he's one of the best receivers in the NFL. He is tied for the most games with at least 90 yards receiving (five) and has had at least five catches in all nine games. Last week, he caught eight balls for 166 yards and a touchdown. He is beating corners deep, shaking linebackers short in zone coverages and showing fantastic hands and body control. You'd think the Rams would give him extra attention, but they also must worry about Stefon Diggs having a big game on the other side.

      FAST FACTS: Rams QB Jared Goff passed for a career-high 355 yards, with three TDs and no interceptions, last week. He is the first player in

      franchise history with 300 passing yards, three TDs and no INTs in consecutive games. In his past four road games, he is 4-0 with 10 TD passes and no INTs. ... RB Todd Gurley leads the NFL with 1,160 scrimmage

      yards and 10 TDs. He had 109 scrimmage yards (89 rushing) and a rushing TD in the last meeting. In his past four road games, he has 588 scrimmage yards (147 per game) and six TDs. ... WR Robert Woods caught eight passes for a career-high 171 yards and scored two TDs in Week 10. He has 140 yards and two TDs in his past two road games. ... WR Sammy Watkins aims for his third in a row with a TD catch. He has three in his past four road games. ... DT Michael Brockers had a sack in Week 10 and has two sacks in his past three road games. ... Vikings QB Case Keenum passed for 304 yards with a career-high four TDs last week. He spent two seasons with the Rams (2015-16). ... RB Jerick McKinnon has 156 scrimmage yards and two TDs in his past two home games. ... RB Latavius Murray has 220 rushing yards and two TDs in his past three games. ... WR Stefon Diggs has 20 receptions for 364 yards and four TDs in his past three home games. ... DE Everson Griffen has six sacks and a forced fumble in his past five road games. He is tied for third in the NFL with 10 sacks and has a sack in eight straight games. ... DE Danielle Hunter had a sack last week and has three sacks in his past three at home. ... S Harrison Smith has two interceptions and 1.5 sacks in his past four home games. Since 2014, he is the only NFL safety with 10 interceptions and eight sacks. He had a sack and 81-yard interception for a TD in the 2014 meeting.

      PREDICTION: With Latavius Murray becoming a workhorse in the backfield after a slow start to the season, the Vikings are extremely balanced on offense. And if the Minnesota defense can fluster Jared Goff and slow down Todd Gurley, the Vikings can win a high-scoring affair.

      OUR PICK: Vikings, 34-26.

      --Ched Whitney

  • Week 11 Game Scout: Redskins at Saints
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, November 16, 2017

    WASHINGTON REDSKINS (4-5) AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (7-2)

    • GAME SNAPSHOT

      KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Mercedes-Benz Stadium. TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews (field reporter).

      SERIES HISTORY: 26th regular-season meeting. Redskins lead series, 17-8, and have won four of the past five meetings, including a 47-14 win on Nov. 15, 2015. Washington's last visit to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was Week 1 of the 2012 season, when rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns in a 40-32 win.

      KEYS TO THE GAME: The Redskins began the year showing great improvement stopping the run. But the loss of defensive ends Matt Ioannidis (broken hand) and, especially, rookie first-round draft pick Jonathan Allen (Lisfranc sprain, foot) has caused problems. Ioannidis could return against New Orleans, but would play with a wrapped cast on his hand that serves more as a club than a useful digit. Allen is on injured reserve.

      The Redskins' best bet is to control the clock with a running game that has struggled all season -- rookie Samaje Perine will start -- and use quick, short passes to wide receiver Jamison Crowder and running back Chris Thompson. Look out for tight end Vernon Davis, too, who is still a matchup issue for most linebackers and safeties even at age 33.

      The Saints will try to continue the formula that has produced a seven-game winning streak: Be balanced on offense, contain the run and turn loose the pass rush. With a healthier offensive line and the RB combination of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, the running game has been setting the stage for Drew Brees and the passing game.

      Though the Saints are 16th in rushing yards allowed, they're tied for 30th in yards per rush (4.7) as a lot of the rushing limitations have come from playing with big leads rather than just stuffing the run.

      MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

      --Redskins RB Chris Thompson vs. Saints linebackers. Thompson leads the Redskins in rushing yards (277) and receiving yards (494). The Saints cornerbacks and pass rush have been the strengths of the team, which could tempt the Redskins to use Thompson even more in the passing game than usual. LB A.J. Klein's status is uncertain because of an ankle injury, but Manti Te'o and Craig Robertson are both playing well and either could replace him, depending on the formation.

      --Saints RT Ryan Ramczyk vs. Redskins LB Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan has six sacks but has been held off the stat sheet the past two weeks since he had two on Oct. 29 against Dallas. Ramczyk is part of an offensive line that has allowed sacks on just 2.67 percent of its passes, which leads the NFL.

      FRIDAY INJURY REPORT

      WASHINGTON REDSKINS

      --Out: C Spencer Long (knee, knee), WR Terrelle Pryor (ankle), TE Jordan Reed (hamstring)

      --Questionable: LB Zach Brown (achilles), CB Quinton Dunbar (illness), WR Ryan Grant (concussion), S DeAngelo Hall (knee), DE Matt Ioannidis (hand), DE Anthony Lanier (knee), G Shawn Lauvao (stinger), S Montae Nicholson (shoulder), T Ty Nsekhe (core muscle), TE Niles Paul (concussion), WR Brian Quick (concussion), G Brandon Scherff (knee), T Trent Williams (knee)

      NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

      --Questionable: LB A.J. Klein (ankle), S Kenny Vaccaro (groin)

      PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Redskins S D.J. Swearinger. He has become the heart and soul of Washington's defense. He leads a team huddle before every Wednesday practice to set the tone for the week and was publicly furious after a 38-30 loss to Minnesota on Sunday; he felt the Redskins had a couple of bad practices late last week. Swearinger backed up his words with his own play on the field. He had two interceptions and two passes defended against the Vikings.

      FAST FACTS: Redskins QB Kirk Cousins ranks third in the NFL with 2,474 passing yards. He completed 20 of 25 passes (80 percent) for 324 yards and four TDs for a perfect 158.3 passer rating in his only career meeting. He has six TDs and one interception in his past four games on the road. He aims for his seventh game in a row on the road with a 90-plus passer rating. ... RB Chris Thompson leads the team in rushing yards (277), catches (38) and receiving yards (494). His 494 receiving yards are the most among NFL running backs. He has six TDs in his past six games on the road. ... LB Zach Brown leads the NFL with 96 tackles. He aims for his fifth game in a row with 10-plus tackles. He has 75 tackles (10.7 per game) and 2.5 sacks in the past seven games on the road. ... Saints QB Drew Brees is 7-0 with 1,751 passing yards (250.1 per game), 10 TDs and four interceptions in the past seven games. He has 2,039 passing yards (291.3 per game), 11 TDs and five interceptions in his past seven home games. ... RB Mark Ingram rushed for 131 yards and a career-high three TDs last week. In his past five games at home, he has 497 scrimmage yards (99.4 per game) and five rushing TDs. He had 98 scrimmage yards (77 rushing) in the last meeting. ... DE Cameron Jordan has seven sacks and an interception in the past eight games at home. He has 15 tackles in two career games against Washington.

      PREDICTION: Since an 0-2 start, the Saints have rolled to seven straight wins, each one seemingly more overpowering than the last. This is not the venue the injury-riddled Redskins need to be walking into this week.

      OUR PICK: Saints, 31-21.

      --Bucky Dent

  • Week 11 Game Scout: Chiefs at Giants
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, November 16, 2017

    KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (6-3) AT NEW YORK GIANTS (1-8)

    • GAME SNAPSHOT

      KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, MetLife Stadium. TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn (field reporter).

      SERIES HISTORY: 14th regular-season meeting. Giants lead series, 10-3. The Giants have owned the Chiefs at home, winning all six games -- five by double-digit margins. The Chiefs won the last meeting at Arrowhead Stadium, 31-7, during coach Andy Reid's first season in Kansas City. Reid is 16-13 as a head coach against the Giants, including wins in eight of his last 10 matchups.

      KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chiefs must avoid a letdown, and coach Andy Reid was doing his best prevent that this week. "They play hard," Reid said. "I have a lot of respect for their defensive coordinator (Steve Spagnuolo). I think he does a great job and they've got good players."

      The Giants will have to do more than play hard. And that starts with tackling. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins seemed disinterested on multiple plays last week in the Giants' 31-21 loss to previously winless San Francisco.

      Quarterback Eli Manning, who was 28-for-37 in the loss, will once again need to find emerging wide receiver Sterling Shepard. The second-year wideout has 16 catches for 212 yards in his past two games.

      The Chiefs, who are coming off their bye, need to recommit to the run. In a 28-17 loss to the Cowboys in Week 8, Kansas City rookie carried the ball just nine times.

      After a 5-0 start, the Chiefs have lost three of four, and Hunt has not hit the 100-yard mark in any of those games. He rushed for more than 100 yards in four of his first five.

      MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

      --Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill vs. Giants CB Eli Apple. Hill averages 15.4 yards per reception, and Apple leads the Giants with eight passes defended. The Giants tend to play a lot of off-man coverage, and that can create space for Hill to make plays. Hill's last five touchdown receptions all went for more than 30 yards, and he has averaged 56.3 yards on his four touchdown catches this season.

      --Giants QB Eli Manning vs. Chiefs secondary. This game looks like a mismatch on paper, with the Chiefs among the AFC leaders at 6-3 and the Giants experiencing a disastrous 1-8 start. But Manning still can carry a team and, if the Giants pull off the win as a home underdog, it will likely be due to Manning attacking the Chiefs' 28th-ranked secondary downfield.

      FRIDAY INJURY REPORT

      KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

      --Out: DE Allen Bailey (knee), LB Dee Ford (back), LB Tamba Hali (knee), WR Albert Wilson (hamstring)

      NEW YORK GIANTS

      --Out: LB B.J. Goodson (ankle), G Justin Pugh (back)

      --Doubtful: LB Kelvin Sheppard (groin)

      --Questionable: DT Damon Harrison (ankle), LB Devon Kennard (quadricep)

      PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Chiefs DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches. The Chiefs may need the versatile third-year lineman to play a larger role in the coming weeks with the departure of backup DT Roy Miller. Nunez-Roches, who can play all three positions along the defensive line, has 12 tackles and a half-sack. The 6-foot-2, 307-pound native of Belize brings intensity and enthusiasm to the defensive line, providing a much-needed spark at times. The team re-signed veteran Cam Thomas this week, but he hasn't been on the field since the Chiefs cut him after the preseason. Until Thomas gets back in form, Nunez-Roches is the team's most reliable backup at nose tackle for starter Bennie Logan.

      FAST FACTS: Chiefs QB Alex Smith passed for two TDs in Week 9. He completed an NFL-record 287 consecutive passes without an interception to start the season. He leads the NFL with a 113.9 passer rating. He threw for 288 yards and three TDs in the last meeting. ... RB Kareem Hunt leads the AFC with 1,131 scrimmage yards. He is one of five rookies in NFL history with 800 rushing yards and 300 receiving yards (331) in the first nine games. ... WR/PR Tyreek Hill has a TD catch in the past two road games. His 17 TDs (10 receiving, three rushing, three punt returns, one kick return) are the most among AFC receivers since 2016. ... TE Travis Kelce aims for fourth game in a row with a TD catch. He leads NFL tight ends with 629 yards and ranks second with 51 catches. He has recorded 50 catches in four consecutive seasons. ... Giants QB Eli Manning will make his 209th consecutive start. He ranks seventh in NFL history with 50,307 passing yards and 334 TD passes. ... RB Orleans Darkwa has 345 scrimmage yards (86.3 per game) in his past four games. ... WR Sterling Shepard set career-highs in receptions (11) and yards (142) in Week 10. He has 408 yards (81.6 per game) in his past five games. ... TE Evan Engram has four straight games with a TD catch and is tied for the NFL lead among rookies with five TD catches. He is second in yards (443) and third in receptions (40). ... DE Olivier Vernon recorded his first career interception in Week 10. He had a sack in his only career game vs. KC (2014 with Miami).

      PREDICTION: The Giants are bad. And on Sunday, rumors of coach Bob McAdoo's demise will be swirling around the Meadowlands. The Chiefs should dominate all three facets of the game.

      OUR PICK: Chiefs, 34-13.

      --Ched Whitney

  • Week 11 Game Scout: Bills at Chargers
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, November 16, 2017

    BUFFALO BILLS (5-4) AT LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (3-6)

    • GAME SNAPSHOT

      KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, StubHub Center. TV: FOX, Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin (field reporter).

      SERIES HISTORY: 35th regular-season meeting. Chargers lead series, 22-10-2. The teams have also met three times in the playoffs and the Bills won the first two in 1964 and 1965, winning the AFL championship, the franchise's only two titles. The Chargers won the last meeting, 22-10 in 2014. Buffalo has not beaten the Chargers on the road since 1981, a 28-27 victory in San Diego.

      KEYS TO THE GAME: In a surprise move, the Bills on Wednesday benched quarterback Tyrod Taylor and named rookie Nathan Peterman the starter. Several veterans seemed a bit tepid when told of the move, though they believe coach Sean McDermott is doing what he thinks is best and they quickly have bought into his process.

      It seems likely the Bills will be a run-first team, as they normally try to be, but Peterman has shown an ability to make quick decisions and deliver the ball on time, so he could catch the Chargers off guard. They have very little meaningful tape to watch of him.

      The offensive line is key to the Bills' chances, and it might again be without left tackle Cordy Glenn. Glenn sat out the Week 10 loss to the Saints with his never-ending foot and ankle problems. Chargers defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram could have a field day.

      The Chargers have their own questions at quarterback. Philip Rivers' status wasn't certain on Wednesday. He has started 294 straight games, but suffered a concussion last week in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The 36-year-old was able to do some light work Wednesday; but, if he can't go, veteran Kellen Clemens will get the call.

      To complicate Clemens' job, if he should start, is that the Chargers will face the Bills with an offensive line that is being patched together. Right tackle Joe Barksdale will miss another game with turf toe. Michael Schofield will start.

      Rookie Danny Feeney will start at right guard, with Matt Slauson lost for the year before the bye. Spencer Pulley, who is nursing a sore knee, is holding up as a first-year starter at center. But it's not nearly the unit the Chargers thought they would have.

      MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

      --Bills' offensive line vs. Chargers' pass rush. Veteran defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will have something cooked up for QB Nathan Peterman as he makes his NFL debut. You can bet somewhere in that scheme are Joey Bosa (9.5 sacks) and Melvin Ingram (8.5 sacks). Bradley has been moving them around, sometimes having them play on the same side or switch which direction they are coming from. The Bills have allowed 28 sacks, and those were with the more mobile Tyrod Taylor at QB.

      --Chargers RB Melvin Gordon vs. Bills' defensive line. The Bills have been dominated up front the last two games as the Jets and Saints have combined to rush for 492 yards and nine touchdowns. Their front line, particularly the defensive tackle position, has been pushed out of the way far too easily, and Gordon could find some running lanes if that happens again. Buffalo replaced defensive tackle Jerel Worthy with DeAndre Coleman, whom it cut earlier in the season, in a move that gives them a little more bulk inside.

      FRIDAY INJURY REPORT

      BUFFALO BILLS

      --Out: T Cordy Glenn (foot, ankle), G John Miller (ankle), RB Mike Tolbert (hamstring)

      --Questionable: TE Charles Clay (knee), DE Jerry Hughes (shin, calf), WR Jordan Matthews (knee)

      LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

      --Out: T Joe Barksdale (foot)

      --Doubtful: LB James Onwualu (quadricep), LB Hayes Pullard (neck)

      --Questionable: DE Chris McCain (quadricep), QB Philip Rivers (concussion)

      PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Bills WR Jordan Matthews. Matthews has not provided what Buffalo thought he would when it traded cornerback Ronald Darby to acquire him and a second-round draft pick in August. Matthews had established himself as a solid No. 2 possession-type receiver in Philadelphia. But, with the Bills, he has battled injuries and a remedial passing offense. He was targeted just twice last week and had one catch for 14 yards. For the season, he has just 22 catches for 253 yards and a touchdown. That could change with a change at quarterback.

      FAST FACTS: Bills RB LeSean McCoy had a career-high 114 yards receiving in his last game against the Chargers (2013 with the Eagles). He is one of four AFC running backs with 500 rushing yards and 250 receiving yards. ... New Bills WR Kelvin Benjamin has a touchdown catch in two of the past three games on the road. ... TE Nick O'Leary, golfing great Jack Nicklaus' grandson, had his first career touchdown catch last week. ... LB Preston Brown had 11 tackles in the last meeting with the Chargers and he is aiming for his fourth straight road game with at least eight tackles. ... S Jordan Poyer is the only NFL player with 50 tackles, two interceptions and two sacks. ... S Micah Hyde ranks second in the NFL with five interceptions. ... Chargers QB Philip Rivers threw two touchdown passes in Week 10 and has 4,005 career completions. He is the eighth quarterback with more than 4,000. ... RB Melvin Gordon has more than 130 total yards from scrimmage in three of the past five games. He has seven rushing touchdowns in the past 10 home games. ... RB Austin Ekeler is the only undrafted rookie running back in the common draft era with at least two TD catches in a game. ... WR Keenan Allen has at least 85 yards receiving in three of the past five home games. ... TE Hunter Henry has 10 receiving touchdowns since entering the league in 2016, most among AFC tight ends. ... DE Joey Bosa had a sack last week. He reached 20 career sacks in the fewest games (21) since the stat became official in 1982, and he is looking for a sack in his sixth straight game.

      PREDICTION: Winning on the road is hard enough in the NFL, and even more challenging with a quarterback making his first career start. The Chargers might not have Philip Rivers, but Kellen Clemens has been around long enough that nothing should surprise him.

      OUR PICK: Chargers, 28-17.

      --Dennis Rudner

  • Week 11 Game Scout: Bengals at Broncos
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, November 16, 2017

    CINCINNATI BENGALS (3-6) AT DENVER BRONCOS (3-6)

    • GAME SNAPSHOT

      KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Sports Authority Field. TV: CBS, Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl (field reporter).

      SERIES HISTORY: 31st regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series, 21-9, including a 13-2 mark as the home team. Denver has won the past two meetings, 20-17 in overtime in Denver in 2015 and 29-17 at Paul Brown Stadium last season. The teams have never met in the postseason.

      KEYS TO THE GAME: The Broncos have the fifth-best run defense in the NFL. That's not good news for the Bengals, who have struggled to run the ball this season.

      In order to keep Von Miller's hands off Andy Dalton, Cincinnati will need to get creative, unless the Bengals somehow figure out a way to gain chunks of yardage with rookie Joe Mixon or newly signed Brian Hill.

      Wide receiver A.J. Green needs to be involved in the offense early and often, but Broncos corner Aqib Talib will have a say in that.

      The Broncos have to figure out a way to get off to better starts. Early turnovers and other miscues have defined them during a five-game losing streak that has seen them fail to score as much as a single first-half touchdown while falling into halftime deficits of 14 points (three times), 18 points and 22 points.

      MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

      --Bengals RBs Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard vs. Broncos LBs Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis. Denver's linebackers have had trouble covering running backs and tight ends. While Cincinnati TE Tyler Kroft doesn't pose the same problems as some other tight ends the Broncos have seen in recent weeks, Mixon and Bernard have the capability to make plays in space and cause some issues. They have combined for 403 yards and two touchdowns on 38 receptions this season, and their work in the passing game could allow them to get involved if the Bengals opt to stay away from the Broncos' still-stout run defense.

      --Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas vs. Bengals' cornerbacks. The 6-foot-3 Thomas creates matchup issues with the Bengals' cornerbacks, who last week struggled to cover the Titans' receivers without holding. Thomas has 569 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

      FRIDAY INJURY REPORT

      CINCINNATI BENGALS

      --Out: CB Adam Jones (concussion), LB Kevin Minter (elbow), DT Pat Sims (calf)

      --Questionable: CB William Jackson (toe), WR Brandon LaFell (knee)

      DENVER BRONCOS

      --Out: TE A.J. Derby (shoulder), TE Jeff Heuerman (knee)

      --Questionable: WR Cody Latimer (knee, achilles), T Donald Stephenson (calf)

      PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Broncos QB Paxton Lynch. He isn't all the way back to the lineup, but the second-year quarterback was throwing deep passes Wednesday, which marked his first time going long since he sprained his right shoulder in the third preseason game on Aug. 26. Perhaps the most significant part of Lynch's work was that he was seeing first-team repetitions on passing plays while Brock Osweiler rested his sore shoulder, meaning that Lynch was working ahead of season-opening starter Trevor Siemian.

      FAST FACTS: Bengals QB Andy Dalton passed for two TDs and zero INTs for a 100.3 rating in Week 10. He has a 100-plus rating in two of the past three games. He has 155 career TD passes and passed Carson Palmer (154) for third most in franchise history. ... Bengals RB Joe Mixon aims for his third game in a row with a rushing TD. ... WR A.J. Green had 115 receiving yards, including a 70-yard TD, last week. He has 31 100-yard games, tied with Chad Johnson for most in franchise history. He has five TD catches in his past seven games. ... Bengals TE Tyler Kroft has three receiving TDs in the past four road games. ... Bengals DT Geno Atkins had a sack last week and has a sack in two of the past three games. ... Bengals LB Carl Lawson had a sack last week and leads all NFL rookies with 5.5 sacks. ... Broncos QB Brock Osweiler passed for 299 yards and a TD in his only career meeting (2015) with the Bengals. ... Broncos RB C.J. Anderson has 85 scrimmage yards in four of the past six games at home. ... Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders had 137 receiving yards last week. He has 15 100-yard games since 2014, tied for seventh in the NFL. Sanders (288 catches, 4,004 yards, 22 TDs) and WR Demaryius Thomas (354, 4,575, 24) are the only pair of teammates with 280 catches, 4,000 yards and 20 TDs each since 2014. Thomas had a TD catch last week. ... Broncos LB Von Miller has four sacks in his past four home games. He is tied for second in the AFC with 11 tackles for loss.

      PREDICTION: It won't be pretty, but this is a game the Broncos can win and finally end their five-game skid.

      OUR PICK: Broncos, 24-20.

      --Ellen Port