Chargers coach Anthony Lynn believes Philip Rivers will play despite concussion

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn believes Philip Rivers will play despite concussion

Philip Rivers is in the concussion protocol, which places his streak of 185 consecutive starts in jeopardy. More importantly, it means the desperate but not dead yet Chargers (3-6) could be without their starting quarterback when they face the Bills on Sunday. 

On Thursday, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said that he believes Rivers will be able to play, but made it clear that the decision isn’t up to him or Rivers. It’s the doctors’ choice. 

“We think he’ll play, but that’s up to the doctors,” Lynn said, per ESPN. “That’s not my decision.”

Rivers suffered the concussion at some point during the Chargers’ overtime loss to the Jaguars on Sunday. He played the entire game and self-reported symptoms on Monday. According to the team’s injury report, he was limited at practice on Wednesday, but practiced fully on Thursday, which bodes well for his chances to play on Sunday.

Amazingly, Rivers hasn’t missed a game since he became the Chargers’ starter in 2006. Only Eli Manning boasts a longer active consecutive starts streak (208). The Chargers desperately need Rivers to extend his streak to 186 starts if they have any shot of overcoming their 3-6 start to the season. 

At 3-6, the Chargers can’t afford to lose a home game to an East Coast team, which is in the middle of a two-game losing streak and just benched their starting quarterback for a rookie. But they can only beat 5-4 Bills with their starting quarterback. So far this year, Rivers has completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 2,263 yards (7.0 YPA), 15 touchdowns, seven picks, and an 87.8 passer rating. He hasn’t played at the kind of level we’ve seen in years past, but he’s still capable and light years better than the Chargers’ backups, Kellen Clemens and Cardale Jones

The game takes on even more importance considering the Bills currently the hold sixth and last playoff spot in the AFC. Of course, there are a ton of teams between the Chargers and the Bills, but most of those teams don’t boast the kind of talent that the Chargers do. For the Chargers, it’s about putting all of it together and most importantly, winning some close games. 

For a closer look at the NFL playoff picture, click right here.


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Ageless Larry Fitzgerald reportedly closing in on contract extension with Cardinals

Ageless Larry Fitzgerald reportedly closing in on contract extension with Cardinals

It doesn’t look like Larry Fitzgerald plans on retiring anytime soon. 

According to Pro Football Talk, Fitzgerald and the Cardinals are closing in on a one-year contract extension that would keep the wide receiver in Arizona through the end of the 2018 season. Although Fitzgerald had been recently mulling over the possibility of retirement, his numbers suggest that he can still play at an elite level, which is why this deal would make sense for both sides. 

The former first-round pick, who was taken third overall in the 2004 NFL Draft, has spent his entire 14-year career with the Cardinals, and it’s starting to look like he doesn’t plan on ever playing for another NFL team.

Through nine games this season, the 34-year-old has caught 60 passes for 677 yards, both of which rank in the top 10 of the NFL this year. Overall, Fitzgerald has caught 1,185 passes for 15,066 yards and 107 touchdowns during his career, which are numbers that will almost definitely put him in the Hall of Fame. 

As long as he doesn’t get injured, Fitzgerald could finish the 2018 season ranked No. 2 all-time in catches and receiving yards. Though he’s sixth in receiving yards now, he’s less than 1,000 yards away from passing Terrell Owens for second all-time. Getting the No. 2 spot for receptions is more difficult, as he’s 140 receptions behind Tony Gonzalez in the second spot. Fitzgerald also has a good shot to end up at the No. 6 spot on the all-time list for touchdown catches. 

With Fitzgerald inching closer to an extension, that will tie him to Carson Palmer’s deal, which is exactly what he wanted. Back in April 2016, Fitzgerald had said that he might retire if Palmer didn’t return to Arizona. 

“A lot of it’s tied to Carson — Carson’s playing at a high level,” Fitzgerald said at the time. “I don’t want to go through any other quarterback situations.” 

Shortly after making those comments, the Cardinals decided to sign both Fitzgerald and Palmer to extensions, with Palmer’s going through the 2018 season. Now that Fitzgerald is locked up for another season, it looks like the Cardinals plan on riding their seasoned veterans for at least one more run at an NFC title. 


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LOOK: Patriots get a big ‘surprise’ after holding practice in Colorado

LOOK: Patriots get a big ‘surprise’ after holding practice in Colorado

Since the Patriots are headed for Mexico City this week, coach Bill Belichick decided to not to fly back to Massachusetts after the team’s win over the Broncos on Sunday. Instead, the Patriots decided to spend the week in Colorado Springs, where they’ve been practicing at the Air Force Academy. 

The decision to practice in Colorado basically has two major upsides for the Patriots. First, it allows them to start adjusting to the elevation that they’ll be facing in Mexico City. The Patriots will be practicing this week at an altitude of roughly 6,000 feet, which should help them when they get to Mexico City, where the altitude is roughly 7,400 feet. 

The other upside to practicing in Colorado is that the Patriots are getting fun surprises this week that they wouldn’t normally get in Foxborough. 

For instance, take Wednesday’s practice. As the Patriots’ session was winding down, they got a surprise from the Wings of Blue, the Air Force’s parachute team. 

The air show even impressed Rob Gronkowski, who said the team had no idea it was coming. 

“It was cool. I mean, we were in for a surprise,” Gronkowski said in a transcript provided by the team. “They said they had something for us and they pointed up in the air. We saw an airplane flying around and I was hoping to see someone jump out and they had like eight guys jump out, so it was super neat to see them and they landed right in front of us on the practice field.”

The Patriots will be hoping to put on an air show of their own when they play the Raiders in Mexico City on Sunday. That game, which kicks off at 4:25 p.m. ET, will be televised on CBS. 


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NFL odds, picks for Week 11: Advanced computer model loves Patriots, Jaguars

NFL odds, picks for Week 11: Advanced computer model loves Patriots, Jaguars

The NFL’s 11th weekend will attract bets from average Joes to professional bettors.

The Minnesota Vikings are 2.5-point favorites over the red-hot Los Angeles Rams, the New Orleans Saints are 7.5-point favorites over the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles are three-point favorites over the Dallas Cowboys in an NFC East showdown that has already seen plenty of line movement.

With so many eye-popping games and so many NFL odds on the move, you’ll want to know what SportsLine’s advanced computer model is picking.

SportsLine’s Projection Model went an amazing 174-80-2 on straight-up NFL picks last season — better than all 98 experts tracked by NFLPickWatch — every single one.

SportsLine computer picks also would have won over 96 percent of CBS Sports Office Pool Manager leagues that made straight-up NFL picks last season.

It’s fresh off a week in which it went 10-4 on straight-up picks. It nailed the Falcons‘ huge victory over the Cowboys. It also was all over the Vikings (-1.5) winning and covering against the Redskins with room spare, and it was exactly correct when it predicted the Titans‘ four-point margin of victory over the Bengals.

With Week 11 here, the computer simulated every matchup 10,000 times and came up with some surprising results.

One team SportsLine’s proven model is all-in on: the New England Patriots, who are seven-point favorites in a neutral-site game in Mexico City. The model likes the Pats to win their sixth straight game by a final of 30-19 that will easily cover the spread.

The Pats haven’t skipped a beat with receiver Chris Hogan out of the lineup. With tight end Rob Gronkowski healthy and a stable of running backs that has been further boosted by the emergence of the versatile Rex Burkhead, New England has rolled its way to five straight victories, including a convincing 41-16 blowout on the road against Denver last week.

New England’s defense has been night-and-day since the start of the season. After giving up an average of 32 points over the first four weeks, including a 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1, the Patriots have clamped down. During their five-game win streak, they’ve held opponents to an average of 13 points.

On offense, the Patriots are No. 4 in points per game (28.6) and No. 1 in passing yards (301.6). Back Tom Brady and company to cover easily and improve to 8-2 against the spread.

Another team it loves: the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are 7.5-point favorites against the Cleveland Browns. Now at 6-3 and battling for the top spot in the AFC South, Jacksonville has been one of the biggest surprises in the NFL. SportsLine is calling for the favored Jaguars to roll to a convincing 23-12 victory over winless Cleveland, which will almost double the 7.5-point spread for this game.

And in a surprise, the model is calling for the Detroit Lions (-3) to win by three times the spread on the road at Chicago in a 23-14 decision. It projects that Matthew Stafford will go for well over 250 yards and two touchdowns against the Bears‘ 23rd-ranked passing defense. The Lions are winning this game straight up 72 percent of the time and covering the spread in 63 percent of simulations.

It’s surprising because the Bears have played tough defense at home. They had a chance to upset the Falcons at Soldier Field, beat the Steelers in overtime, stayed within a field goal of the Vikings, beat the Panthers by two touchdowns, and lost by seven to the Packers.

The model also is calling for a breakout team with playoff aspirations to experience a crushing loss this Sunday. Find out who it is over at SportsLine.

What NFL picks can you make with confidence in Week 11? Check out the NFL odds below and then visit SportsLine to see which NFL teams are winning more than 50 percent of simulations, plus see which side of the big Eagles-Cowboys game is a virtual lock, all from the model that would have won 96 percent of football pools last season, and get NFL picks from 16 experts.

Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints (-7.5, 51)
Kansas City Chiefs at New York Giants (+10.5, 45.5)
Baltimore Ravens at Green Bay Packers (+2, 38)
L.A. Rams at Minnesota Vikings (-2.5, 46)
Arizona Cardinals at Houston Texans (-1, 38.5)
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears (+3, 41)
Tampa Bay Bucs at Miami Dolphins (PK, 41)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns (+7.5, 37)
Buffalo Bills at L.A. Chargers (-4, 43.5)
Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos (-2.5, 39)
New England Patriots vs. Oakland Raiders (+7, 54.5)
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (+4, 48.5)
Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks (-3, 44.5)


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Saints sensational again, and not taking it for granted

Saints sensational again, and not taking it for granted

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Saints coach Sean Payton downplays how dominant New Orleans has looked the past two months, preferring instead to tell his players to tune out the hype and focus on what they still need to fix.

”We talk about realities of today, each week, and the understanding of we’re just past the midway point of the season,” Payton said.

”The experts will be talking playoffs, Super Bowl. It’s the craziest stuff ever. … Tune it out and laugh at it, understand what it is, but there’s so much more we have to do and accomplish.”

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Sure, the Saints have made mistakes during their seven-game winning streak – from fumbles to sporadic special teams gaffes – but those have been far outweighed by sensational plays across the roster by young players and veterans alike, producing a whopping 18.4-point average margin of victory.

Games routinely come down to the last possession in the NFL. Yet even when the Saints have won by as few as eight points, they’ve closed out games simply kneeling on the ball and running out the clock – seven games in a row.

When the Saints routed Buffalo 47-10 last weekend, it marked the fifth victory this season by more than two touchdowns and fourth by at least 20 points.

The Saints haven’t looked this good – or win this many games in a row – since 2011, when they went 13-3.

Yet after enduring three straight 7-9 seasons, quarterback Drew Brees sounds hesitant to make comparisons between this season and 2011, or even 2009, when the Saints also went 13-3 and won numerous games by lopsided scores en route to New Orleans’ only Super Bowl title.

”We’ve obviously weathered some storms here the last few years to get to this point. We’re not taking it for granted. We’re trying to enjoy it, but also stay in the moment, understand the opportunity ahead of us and realize it doesn’t happen all the time,” Brees said.

”If we have caught lightning in a bottle, we want to ride this as long as we can. … Let’s see how good this team can be.”

The most dramatic change in New Orleans has occurred on defense. In each of the previous three seasons, the Saints ranked no better than second-to-last defensively in the NFL.

But an overhaul of personnel during the past two years, along with the installation of Dennis Allen as defensive coordinator during the latter half of the 2015 season, is now paying considerable dividends.

With a slew of first- and second-year pros in starting or regular roles, the Saints’ defense got off to a shaky start against a couple of the NFL’s better QBs – Minnesota’s Sam Bradford and New England’s Tom Brady – but has shut down just about everyone since.

Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, who passed for 281 yards in the Lions’ 52-38 loss in New Orleans, is the only quarterback since Week 2 to pass for more than 156 yards against the Saints. Detroit is also the only Saints opponent of the past seven to score more than 17 points.

New additions on defense included free-agent linebackers A.J. Klein and Manti Teo, free-agent defensive end Alex Okafor and rookie defensive backs Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams. Lattimore already has two interceptions and has been routinely shutting down opponents’ top receivers.

Other regulars, including defensive tackles Sheldon Rankins and David Onyemata, and cornerback Ken Crawley, are second-year pros who’ve developed quickly into productive players.

Defensive end Cameron Jordan, a 2011 first-round draft choice, and safety Kenny Vaccaro, a 2013 first-rounder, are longest-tenured defensive starters.

They also have been among the most productive; Jordan leads the club in sacks with seven and Vaccaro leads the club in interceptions with three.

”Any defense that becomes very good, extremely good and begins to feed off their past successes does so because they gain confidence and they know they can repeat it,” Payton said. ”That’s been a change and that’s been something we’re going to need to continue.”

Meanwhile, a dramatically improved running game that protects leads and controls the clock has eased the burden on the 38-year-old Brees.

Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara have combined for 1,089 yards and 11 TDs rushing this season. Both also are adept at turning screen passes into sizeable gains, and Kamara also can run routes like a receiver.

The Saints hoped Kamara could provide a combination of versatility and explosiveness New Orleans has missed since trading Darren Sproles in 2014, though not necessarily in his first nine NFL games.

”He has some unique talents,” Brees said. ”But I think more so than that, he has the intelligence to handle it all and a maturity beyond his years. It just gives him a certain level of poise in any situation just to be able to come through and make the play.”

Brees remains accurate as ever, completing 71.7 percent of his passes. Second-year receiver Michael Thomas is on pace for more than 100 catches.

Another key addition has been rookie offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk, who filled in at left tackle while Terron Armstead recovered from offseason shoulder surgery, then moved to right tackle when veteran Zach Strief went out with a knee injury.

The offensive line – which also features veteran Max Unger at center, 2015 first-round draft choice Andrus Peat at left guard and free-agent pick-up Larry Warford at right guard – look as adept at protecting Brees as blowing open holes for running backs.

”I like the track we are on. I think we’re an ascending team,” Brees said. ”We’ve found a bunch of different ways to win and have a lot of guys playing well and gaining a lot of confidence.

”The big message this week was: nothing is guaranteed,” Brees said. ”You have to come out and earn it each week.”

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Brock Osweiler looks ahead, not over his shoulder at Lynch

Brock Osweiler looks ahead, not over his shoulder at Lynch

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Unless the Denver Broncos can regain control of a season skidding out of control, Paxton Lynch could get the starting quarterback job he’s never been able to earn outright.

Ideally, the Broncos (3-6) would like to head into their offseason knowing if Lynch is a bust or a late-bloomer, although it’s unlikely they’d put the former first-round draft pick out of Memphis into the lineup unless they’re erased from the playoff picture.

Lynch lost out to former seventh-rounder Trevor Siemian for the second straight summer, then bruised his throwing shoulder in the third preseason game. That necessitated the return of Peyton Manning’s longtime backup, Brock Osweiler , who supplanted the turnover-prone Siemian two weeks ago.

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Osweiler will get his third straight when the Broncos try to snap a five-game skid Sunday against the Bengals (3-6), who are seeking their first win in Denver since 1975 , when franchise founder Paul Brown was their head coach.

Lynch has seen his workload gradually increase over the last month as he made his way back onto the field and on Wednesday he even took first-team snaps on passing plays while Osweiler was limited to hand-offs with a sore throwing shoulder himself.

Osweiler resumed taking all of the snaps with the starters Thursday.

”He went full today and he had zip on the football, so no issues there,” coach Vance Joseph said.

The Broncos aren’t down on Osweiler by any means. Even Tom Brady would find it difficult to outscore his defense if it surrendered 46 points a game like Denver’s has the last two weeks against the Eagles and Patriots.

On Thursday, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy spoke glowingly of Osweiler, as did his teammates.

”I love his leadership,” McCoy said, ”and the way he runs practice out here, the way he demands certain things, the way we prepare outside, in here, always interacting with the entire offense, not just a certain group, bringing up things in the film study. He’s a great communicator with the entire offense and I’m really pleased with the way he’s played.”

So are his receivers.

”My comfort level has been sky-high with Brock,” Demaryius Thomas said. ”He left for a year, but the years I had with him before he left, the connection just stayed.”

Emmanuel Sanders, who is coming off a six-catch, 137-yard performance, said Osweiler brings energy and experience to the equation.

”Brock, he’s been there before, he’s been groomed by Peyton, so he understands the ins and outs of how to play quarterback,” Sanders said.

What Lynch brings is potential, Sanders said, echoing a familiar refrain that’s hovered over Lynch throughout his 19 months in Denver.

”Paxton has a big-time arm, big-time talent. He has all the intangibles” Sanders said. ”It’s all about going out and getting more and more comfortable with the playbook, learning and growing as a player, becoming a pro.”

Although Lynch’s time could be coming if the Broncos fall out of contention, Osweiler said he’s not worried about his job security.

”Really, at the end of the day, you could boil it down to everybody is kind of looking over their shoulder. Every single year, regardless of how long you’ve been in this league or how successful you’ve been, teams are always try to find someone better and cheaper to replace you,” Osweiler said. ”That’s how this business works, and if you’re going to let those little things affect you, you probably won’t be around too long.”

Lynch and Osweiler both represent the prototype QB that general manager John Elway likes: tall, athletic. Both are 6-foot-7.

Osweiler, however, doesn’t see any apparent similarities in their style.

”I’ve been here a short time and the majority of the time I’ve been here Paxton’s been hurt, so I haven’t really been able to see him do a lot of things on the football field,” Osweiler said. ”I do know that he’s extremely talented and athletic. He has a lot of speed and he has a big arm. So I would expect that he’ll do some great things in the future.”

He’s just intent on not letting Lynch get that chance anytime soon.

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Seahawks’ vaunted secondary possibly down 2 vs. Falcons

Seahawks’ vaunted secondary possibly down 2 vs. Falcons

RENTON, Wash. (AP) Bobby Wagner knows he won’t have Richard Sherman chirping in his ear from the Seattle Seahawks secondary the rest of the season.

Wagner may not have Kam Chancellor to rely on as protection for at least this week either.

”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 have ever had to deal with,” Wagner said Thursday. ”I think it’s something that we’re prepared for if we can hold it down until at least one of them gets back. The other one might take a while.”

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Seattle’s standout secondary could possibly be without another of its founding members Monday night when the Seahawks host the Atlanta Falcons. Sherman is done for the season following an Achilles tendon injury for which he underwent surgery this week. Seattle is being coy about the status of Chancellor, who suffered a stinger late in the victory over Arizona on Nov. 9. While Chancellor has not been ruled out of the Atlanta game, he was still undergoing tests Thursday.

”He’s still getting some work done, tests done,” coach Pete Carroll said. ”Don’t have anything updated yet.”

The one bright spot for Seattle is optimism that safety Earl Thomas will return this week after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury. Thomas’ return would be key for the continuity of the secondary. Much of what Seattle does in its coverages is predicated on Thomas being at free safety and his ability to cover so much ground.

If Chancellor can’t go, the drop off may not be as severe as in the past. Bradley McDougald, who started the past two games at free safety with Thomas out, would slide over to strong safety if Chancellor is unavailable. The Seahawks have raved about McDougald’s versatility since he was signed in the offseason as a free agent.

”He has been a fantastic addition and … a little bit of an unsung hero at this time for this season, that he has been able to be so versatile and be so successful at what he is doing,” Carroll said.

McDougald has split time between both safety positions in his career, but said Thursday he likes strong safety in Seattle’s system because of the ability to play closer to the line of scrimmage.

”I like being down in the box a little bit more at the strong safety position,” McDougald said. ”I think there’s a lot more action than sitting in the middle of the field and being a blanket over the defense. You get to be in the run fits, play more man-to-man, just be a lot more in the mix.”

Seattle is also uncertain whether run-stuffing defensive tackle Jarran Reed will be able to play after he suffered a hamstring injury against the Cardinals.

The injuries aren’t limited to the defensive side. The Seahawks are unsure if left tackle Duane Brown will be able to play following an ankle injury against Arizona. Brown said Thursday that the ankle is getting better but offensive line coach Tom Cable said the team is preparing for Matt Tobin to start at left tackle should Brown be unable to go.

”It’s progressing every day so far. That’s the main thing,” Brown said.

NOTES: Carroll did not provide an update on discussions with the NFL regarding its review of whether Seattle followed concussion protocols with QB Russell Wilson in the win over Arizona. ”The medical staff and the training staff is working on that stuff and as we progress we will let you know when we can. We don’t have any other information for you,” he said. … RB Eddie Lacy (groin) returned to practice. … G Luke Joeckel is close to returning after minor knee surgery last month, but it’s unlikely he’ll be back this week.

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Giants could give Chiefs a challenge if they don’t mail it in

Giants could give Chiefs a challenge if they don’t mail it in

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Kansas City Chiefs probably don’t know what to expect from the New York Giants, and neither do the Giants.

On paper, Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium is a mismatch.

The Chiefs (6-3) are well rested coming off a bye week, while the Giants (1-8) seemingly have hit rock bottom after getting blown out by the Rams two weeks ago and then losing to the previously winless San Francisco 49ers last weekend.

Not only were the losses embarrassing, but the Giants showed a lack of effort several times in both games, like a team that was ready to play out the string.

Still, this game has some uncertainty.

The co-owners of the Giants on Monday voiced support for embattled second-year coach Ben McAdoo and said his job was safe, at least until the end of the season.

Two days later, the 40-year-old McAdoo and his team held a brutally honest review of the 31-21 loss to the 49ers. Nobody was called out, but the combined meeting had the offense and defense watching all the mistakes in front of one another: the miscommunications, the bad tackles, the lack of effort.

It’s something no player wants to see in front of his teammates, and that’s what makes this weekend’s game intriguing. The Giants have talent and are capable of giving the Chiefs a game if they show up.

“The Chiefs are a great team and they have weapons all over the place,” Giants safety Darian Thompson said. “They are coming in here to play us and it’s an opportunity for us to correct the things we messed up last week, and to show people we are a good team, and can be a good team.”

Chiefs coach Andy Reid has reminded his team to focus on what it has to do.

“We got a lot of room to improve,” he said. “We’re not good enough right now, so we got to keep working, so that’s where it always starts. That’s the one great thing about football — you always have something you can get better at.”

Things to watch on Sunday:

BIG-PLAY BLUES: The Giants have given up 82 points in the last two games. The defense has yielded 10 receptions of 20 yards or more in the games, including touchdown passes of 83, 67, 52 and 47 yards. The defense also has been shredded for seven runs of 16 yards or more, including a 33-yard TD by the Niners last week. Steve Spagnuolo’s defense gave up a season-high 474 yards to San Francisco, one more yard than the Rams picked up.

BYE, BYE, BYE: Chiefs coach Andy Reid is 16-2 coming off a bye, including a 7-0 mark against teams that have losing records. His teams are typically good the rest of the second half of the schedule, too, going 10-2 after a week off last season and 8-0 the year before. “I have no idea on this,” he replied, when asked for the secret to his success. “I didn’t even know what my record is.”

O-LINE QUESTONS: The Giants have some concern about the right side of their line. Justin Pugh, who has been solid since moving from left guard to right tackle, is out after aggravating a back problem. Expect Bobby Hart to fill in. Right guard D.J. Fluker had to leave last week’s game for a time after injuring a knee. If he has to come out again, there is not much depth. Jon Halapio got his first career action on offense last week. New York also signed 10-year veteran John Greco this week.

TIME TO STREAK AGAIN: Alex Smith’s franchise record of 18 touchdown passes without a pick to start the season ended in a loss to Dallas before the bye. The only QBs in NFL history to start better were Peyton Manning (20) and Nick Foles (19). Smith’s season-opening pick-less streak lasted 297 pass attempts.

KICKING: While both teams have rookie placekickers, there is no comparison. Since being signed off Carolina’s practice squad on Sept. 26 to replace the injured Cairo Santos (groin), Harrison Butker of the Chiefs has converted 19 of 20 field-goal attempts and all 13 extra points. He also has 30 touchbacks in six games.

Aldrick Rosas of the Giants has struggled, making 10 of 15 field goals. He has missed one in each of the last four games and had his opening kickoff last week go out of bounds.


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Peko traded 1 foundering franchise for another

Peko traded 1 foundering franchise for another

DENVER (AP) Domata Peko had no idea when he left Cincinnati for Denver in free agency that he was trading one sad situation for another.

He’ll face his old team Sunday when the Broncos (3-6) try to snap out of a five-week funk against the Bengals (3-6).

”It’s a big one for me,” Peko said. ”When you play your old team, you want to go out there and show them, `What the heck? Why didn’t you keep me?’ I know it’s a business and I was there for 11 seasons. I guess my time was up there, and that’s just how it goes. Even Peyton had to leave.”

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Like Manning, Peko has found rejuvenation in Denver, where he’s been everything the Broncos were looking for to plug a gaping hole on defense.

”He’s probably the most positive teammate that I’ve ever been around,” linebacker Von Miller said. ”You look at him like, `Man, are you 24 or 23 years old?’ He’s one of the oldest guys in the locker room (32) and he still has that energy on the practice field, off the practice field, hot, cold, raining, loss, win, he’s the same guy. He’s been great. He’s definitely been a shining star.”

In a dimming season in Denver .

Thanks to Peko, the Broncos are once again a top-five team against the run after slipping to bottom-five last season – it’s everything else that’s gone haywire in Denver during a five-game funk in which the Broncos have been outscored by nearly 100 points.

”I love it here,” Peko said. ”Hey, we’re going through a rough time but in this league you’ve got to do it week by week. So, now we’ve got the Bengals ahead of us. I’m going to be really pumped for this game against my old team.”

This wasn’t what Peko thought he had signed up for after he put his signature on a two-year, $7.5 million deal in Denver last March.

The Broncos had been to two of the previous four Super Bowls and the Bengals, who haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, lost all six playoff games during Peko’s 11 seasons in Cincinnati.

”In Cincy, we’re always talking about, `Oh, I want to win a playoff game. I want to win a playoff game.’ But over here, we’re talking about winning championships,” Peko said when he signed. ”That’s why I’m here. I want to win a championship.”

That again looks like a pipe dream, but as Miller said, any turnaround starts with a single win.

Other subplots when the Bengals try to snap a 10-game losing streak in Denver, where they last won in 1975:

QUICK HOOK : The Bengals need to keep their cool. Their best offensive and defensive players have been ejected before halftime of the past two games.

Receiver A.J. Green was kicked out in Jacksonville for clobbering cornerback Jalen Ramsey and in Tennessee, linebacker Vontaze Burfict was ejected for brushing aside an official’s arm as a sideline scuffle wound down two plays after he bumped DeMarco Murray out of bounds.

”He does us no good when he’s sitting in the locker room for half a ballgame,” Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said.

Burfict has at least one fan in Denver.

Peko said neither flag should have been thrown on his old buddy, but Burfict should realize he’s ”under the microscope because of his history of all those penalties” and suspensions.

”I love Burf. I love how he plays. He plays hard. He plays with a lot of emotion,” Peko said. ”He’s a great player, man. You know he’s going to give his best. If you’re in a dark alley, you want him on your side. He’s a good dude.”

MIRROR IMAGES: Both teams appear headed for early offseason vacations after five-year playoff runs. Their problems are similar, too: horrid offensive line play that puts their quarterback under constant pressure, limits what they can call and ends up exhausting their overworked defenses.

”They’re kind of like us,” Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. ”They’re a good team, just ain’t been able to put it together for 60 minutes.”

Two teams going bad makes for a good matchup, suggested Miller.

”We’ve just been through a tough patch. We’ve got another team that’s been going through the same tough time that we’ve been going through. So, it should be a good game this weekend.”

SLOW STARTS: The Broncos have been outscored 55-9 in the first quarter during their losing streak, so the path out of this mess starts with, well, a fast start.

”That’s everything,” receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. ”I can’t wait until we can get up on a team to where we can sit back and play comfortable and call shots.”

The Bengals know just how the Broncos feel.

”We’ve been making it third-and-long and all that dudes are doing is dropping eight guys in coverage and that’s not good for any offense,” Bengals receiver Brandon LaFell said.

LIKE LEWIS: Broncos rookie coach Vance Joseph learned a lot from Bengals coach Marvin Lewis during the two seasons he was his secondary coach, especially patience.

”It took Marvin a long time for his football team to be competitive. He stayed with the process. He didn’t change the process,” Joseph said.

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AP Sports Writer Joe Kay contributed.

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Steelers S Mike Mitchell, TE Vance McDonald out vs. Titans

Steelers S Mike Mitchell, TE Vance McDonald out vs. Titans

PITTSBURGH (AP) The Pittsburgh Steelers will have new faces in the secondary against Tennessee.

Cornerback Joe Haden is out indefinitely with a fractured left leg. The team made safety Mike Mitchell inactive when his ankle didn’t heal in time to face the Titans. Coty Sensabaugh will start in place of Haden. Rob Golden will fill in for Mitchell. The Steelers have the second-ranked pass defense in the NFL.

Tight end Vance McDonald, who scored his first touchdown of the season last week against Indianapolis, is also inactive. James Harrison is inactive for a second straight week due to a back injury.

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Quarterback Josh Dobbs and offensive linemen Jerald Hawkins and Matt Feiler are also inactive for the Steelers.

Quarterback Brandon Weeden, wide receiver Darius Jennings, cornerback Kalan Reed, cornerback Curtis Riley, offensive lineman Corey Levin, linebacker Kevin Dodd and defensive end David King are inactive for Tennessee.

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