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Mayfield comes off bench, ends Browns’ winless streak

Mayfield comes off bench, ends Browns' winless streak

Rookie No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield relieved a concussed Tyrod Taylor and rallied the Cleveland Browns from a 14-point deficit past the visiting New York Jets for a 21-17 win to break a 19-game winless streak Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Mayfield comes off bench, ends Browns’ winless streak

Rookie No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield relieved a concussed Tyrod Taylor and rallied the Cleveland Browns from a 14-point deficit past the visiting New York Jets for a 21-17 win to break a 19-game winless streak Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Mayfield, in his NFL debut, finished 17 of 23 for 201 yards in a little over one half of work for the Browns (1-1-1), who tallied their first victory since Dec. 24, 2016. It was just Cleveland’s second win in 38 games.

Running back Carlos Hyde’s second 1-yard touchdown, with 2:07 remaining in the fourth quarter, put the Browns ahead for good at 21-17. Linebacker Joe Schobert and cornerback Terrance Mitchell intercepted Jets quarterback Sam Darnold on the next two possessions, sealing the game.

Hyde totaled 23 carries for 98 yards, and Jarvis Landry had eight catches for 103 yards.

Darnold, whom many thought the Browns would take No. 1 overall in the April draft, finished 15 of 31 for 169 yards and the two picks. He has thrown five interceptions through three games.

The Jets (1-2) grabbed a 14-0 lead on a pair of touchdowns by former Browns running back Isaiah Crowell. A blocked punt set up Crowell’s 7-yard waltz on the first play of the second quarter, and he capped the next possession with a 2-yard score.

Mayfield entered the game with the Browns down 14-0 and 1:42 remaining in the first half after Taylor was hurt. The rookie completed his first three passes for 47 yards and led the Browns to a field goal for a 14-3 halftime deficit.

After another field goal by new Browns kicker Greg Joseph cut the deficit to eight, Hyde scored from a yard out to make it 14-12 with 47 seconds left in the third quarter. Mayfield caught a pass from Landry on a variant of the Eagles’ famous “Philly Special” for a two-point conversion to tie it at 14.

The Jets went 65 yards in 12 plays for a 28-yard Jason Myers field goal to lead 17-14 with 8:58 remaining, setting the stage for the Browns’ winning drive.

Taylor was concussed when his head hit the turf on a sack by Jets linebacker Avery Williamson, but he might have been replaced even if healthy.

He went 4 of 14 for 19 yards, taking three sacks and an intentional-grounding penalty as the Browns punted on their first six possessions. Taylor underthrew wide-open rookie wideout Antonio Callaway for a potential 75-yard touchdown four minutes into the game.

Per ESPN Stats & Info, Taylor was the first QB to throw for fewer than 20 yards on 14-plus attempts in the first half of a game since 2011.

Cleveland still has not won on a Sunday under Hue Jackson, as its lone 2016 victory came in a Saturday Christmas Eve game.

–Field Level Media

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NFL Player Props for Week 3

Last week, Ryan Fitzpatrick and ex-Eagle DeSean Jackson connected for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. After being down 20 points late in the 3rd quarter, Philly almost managed a comeback but fell short. This week, Carson Wentz returns as the starting quarterback to take on the Indianapolis Colts- and you can

Last week, Ryan Fitzpatrick and ex-Eagle DeSean Jackson connected for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. After being down 20 points late in the 3rd quarter, Philly almost managed a comeback but fell short. This week, Carson Wentz returns as the starting quarterback to take on the Indianapolis Colts- and you can bet the Eagles are hungry. Last Time Wentz was on the field, he tossed for 291 yards and 4 touchdowns en route to a 43-35 win over the Rams.

Ryan Fitzpatrick on the other hand, has started this season with with 8 touchdowns, 819 yards, only 1 interception and a QBR of 151.5. He will look to continue his success this Monday night when the winless Steelers roll into Tampa Bay.

Patrick Mahomes is the only player with more (10) touchdowns than Fitzpatrick through week 2. The red-hot Chiefs will host the 49ers, who just bounced back with a win over Detroit.

Here are the player props for week 3:



Data provided by Bovada.

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FanDuel to Pay Out on Erroneous Tickets

According to an Associated Press report, FanDuel will pay out more than $82,000 on an erroneous sports betting ticket. New Jersey’s Anthony Prince on Tuesday shared his story with local media, saying he placed an in-game wager on the Denver Broncos to beat the Oakland Raiders when the Broncos were down with 1

According to an Associated Press report, FanDuel will pay out more than $82,000 on an erroneous sports betting ticket. New Jersey’s Anthony Prince on Tuesday shared his story with local media, saying he placed an in-game wager on the Denver Broncos to beat the Oakland Raiders when the Broncos were down with 1 minute, 10 seconds to play. He placed his bet at the FanDuel Sportsbook at the Meadowlands, and the printed ticket showed +75000, when it should have showed -600. The cashier did not catch the error and after the Broncos won by a point on a last-second field goal, Prince tried to collect.

Initially, FanDuel declined to pay Prince, but after investigating, on Thursday announced that it would make good on not only Prince’s bet, but on several others made during the same time span.

The company reportedly decided to pay because it said “sports betting is supposed to be fun.”

According to FanDuel, the ticket that should have been generated would have shown that Prince had to bet $600 to win $100. Instead, his $110 bet is now good for a total payout of $82,610. On Sunday, when FanDuel declined to pay on the ticket, it reportedly offered Prince $500 and tickets to several NFL New York Giants games, but he declined. The company then opened an investigation, though its rules clearly state that erroneous tickets will be paid out at the “correct odds.”

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Baker Mayfield Era begins as rookie leads Browns past Jets

CLEVELAND (AP) — At some point, Baker Mayfield was going to assume Cleveland's starting job and become the franchise quarterback, the future.

That moment arrived Thursday night.

His days as a backup are over.

Throwing a 14-yard dart to complete his first pass, Mayfield replaced an injured Tyrod Taylor and rallied the Browns

CLEVELAND (AP) — At some point, Baker Mayfield was going to assume Cleveland’s starting job and become the franchise quarterback, the future.

That moment arrived Thursday night.

His days as a backup are over.

Throwing a 14-yard dart to complete his first pass, Mayfield replaced an injured Tyrod Taylor and rallied the Browns from a two-touchdown deficit for a 21-17 win over the New York Jets to end Cleveland’s 19-game winless streak — the NFL’s second-longest in 48 years.

Mayfield erased any doubts about why the Browns selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft with a performance that included him catching a 2-point conversion. The undersized and overlooked kid from Texas who walked on at two colleges, won a Heisman Trophy and became one of college football biggest stars, had some NFL debut.

“He’s really special,” Browns receiver Jarvis Landry said. “He took advantage of the moment and the opportunity. We always have seen him make these plays. As far back as when the Baker Mayfield story started, he has always made these types of plays. It is awesome to be a part of it.”

Mayfield came in after Taylor sustained a concussion late in the first half and led the Browns (1-1-1) on four scoring drives — the last a 15-play, 75-yarder capped by Carlos Hyde’s 1-yard TD run — and Cleveland’s defense intercepted two passes by Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold in the fourth quarter to seal the team’s first win since Dec. 24, 2016.

Following the game, jubilant Browns fans walking down the ramps of FirstEnergy Stadium chanted “Ba-ker, May-field” at the top of their lungs.

Their new hero took it all in stride.

“I have just been waiting for my moment,” said Mayfield, who completed 17 of 23 passes for 201 yards. “I have been patient. I have been in a good opportunity, put in a good situation with the guys around me — veteran QBs and great coaches that I can learn from. I was never whining or complaining about playing time. I just want the team to win, no matter what the cost is.”

The Browns wanted to bring Mayfield along slowly by having him watch and learn behind Taylor.

That plan is about to be scrapped.

Although Cleveland coach Hue Jackson wouldn’t commit to Mayfield as his starter going forward, the choice is obvious. Mayfield isn’t your average rookie quarterback and it’s clear he’s as ready as he can possibly be.

“I am not surprised by any throws that this young man makes,” Jackson said. “He does things in practice that I just go, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ Timing. Timing is everything. The right time. The right situation. You can’t deny the talent. You can’t deny what he is able to do. He showed that tonight.

“That is why we drafted him. He has that magnetism. He has it. He is still a young player. He has a lot of work to do. He has got to keep working. Tonight is his night. It was his coming out party.”

CRUDE CROWELL: Jets running back Isaiah Crowell scored two touchdowns, but his unsuitable celebration of the second one drew him a 15-yard penalty and the wrath of his coach.

Following his 2-yard TD run in the second quarter, Crowell squatted in the end zone and pretended to wipe his rear end with the ball before throwing it into the stands.

Crowell played four seasons with Cleveland and his gesture appeared to be directed at the Browns.

“Inexcusable,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “We addressed it. It will never happen again.”

Crowell said he got carried away.

“It was just passion and it wasn’t a message toward anybody,” he said. “You have to play the game with passion and that is the way I play. I did it so I have to accept whatever punishment comes with the celebration. I can’t put my teammates in that position.”

KICK STAND: Mayfield wasn’t Cleveland’s only rookie star.

Kicker Greg Joseph made a pair of field goals and an extra point in his debut for the Browns, who signed him Monday after releasing Zane Gonzalez, whose four misses cost Cleveland a win last weekend at New Orleans.

Joseph was even cheered as he went through his pregame routine during warmups.

“It felt surreal,” he said. “Amazing.”

GO FOR 2: Down 14-12 in the third quarter, the Browns scored and then converted a 2-point play that seemed stolen from Philadelphia’s playbook.

Running back Duke Johnson took the snap, gave the ball to Landy on a reverse and the receiver lofted a pass to Mayfield in the end zone. The play was reminiscent of the one the Eagles pulled off in last year’s Super Bowl win when QB Nick Foles caught a TD pass.

“We call it the ‘Philly Special’,” guard Joel Bitonio said. “We saw Philadelphia run it in the Super Bowl and they said, ‘Hey, we can do that.’ The funny thing is that Tyrod has taken every rep on it so Baker has not ran it at all. First rep was a perfect rep, though. He did good.”

ODDS AND ENDS: Hyde had 98 yards rushing. … Browns DE Myles Garrett had two sacks. … Darnold went 15 of 31 for 169 yards and the two picks. “It’s not acceptable the way I played,” he said.

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Take 5: Key Week 3 matchups

Take 5: Key Week 3 matchups

Coming off a two-game suspension, Reuben Foster won't be ramping up slowly in his return to the 49ers on Sunday. Instead, he'll be at the center of San Francisco's attempt to halt the hottest player in football, Patrick Mahomes, in the Kansas City Chiefs' home opener.

Take 5: Key Week 3 matchups

Coming off a two-game suspension, Reuben Foster won’t be ramping up slowly in his return to the 49ers on Sunday. Instead, he’ll be at the center of San Francisco’s attempt to halt the hottest player in football, Patrick Mahomes, in the Kansas City Chiefs’ home opener.

Mahomes and coach Andy Reid have set opposing defenses on fire so far.

Reid has used misdirection and Tyreek Hill’s incomparable speed to create chasms in zones, and Mahomes has capitalized with his eyes, accuracy and touch to maximize yards after the catch for his targets. He found a rhythm with Travis Kelce in Week 2, picking on Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jon Bostic for several chunk plays, including an indefensible, dropped-in-a-bucket throw up the middle of Tampa-2 coverage for 31 yards.

Foster is no Bostic, however. Despite his issues off the field, the 2017 31st overall pick has a combination of size, movement skills, physicality and instincts that only a handful of other NFL linebackers possess. The instincts (to diagnose plays amid a series of fakes and jet sweeps) and speed (to make up for when he diagnoses incorrectly) will be particularly crucial on Sunday.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s Cover-3-heavy scheme comes from the same tree as Gus Bradley’s, which the Chiefs torched in Week 1 in a 38-28 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Reid is a master at getting a wide receiver — usually coming from the inside slot of a trips formation — on a vertical route against a linebacker in Cover-3, which is just one way Foster will be tested. It would certainly aid Foster’s fortunes if DeForest Buckner (3.5 sacks, second in NFL) continues his red-hot start as a pass-rusher.

–Joe Haden must help clean up Steelers’ secondary

As great as the Chiefs’ offense was last week, the Steelers’ defense — and particularly the secondary — aided its own undoing. With Haden out nursing a hamstring injury, replacement Cameron Sutton was exploited in a variety of zone assignments, both deep and underneath. Free safety Sean Davis was a beat late reading and reacting throughout the game, and defensive coordinator Keith Butler appeared to scale back his disguises and blitzes somewhat, as if he didn’t trust the group in Haden’s absence.

Like Foster against Kansas City, Haden will be given a major challenge in his return, as the Steelers visit the red-hot Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night. New Bucs play-caller Todd Monken and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick have adeptly dismantled the New Orleans Saints’ and Philadelphia Eagles’ defenses, which finished last season ranked 10th and fourth, respectively, in points allowed. Last week, Tampa Bay took advantage of Philadelphia’s zone-heavy approach, including on a 75-yard TD to DeSean Jackson — who already has five gains of 25-plus yards this year — on the game’s first play.

Haden’s hamstring must be ready to run on Jackson’s deep routes when Butler calls Cover-3 and Cover-4, and he’ll be tasked with taking away deep corners and outs to Mike Evans (17 grabs, 230 yards and two scores this year) when playing Cover-2. We should also see more wrinkles and blitzes from Butler, which could force Fitzpatrick into a turnover or two.

Haden’s return won’t fix all of Pittsburgh’s woes on defense, but he should help eliminate some of the busts and big plays that cost the Steelers in last week’s shootout loss.

–Mind games abound in Philadelphia

Carson Wentz’s return highlights the Sunday meeting between the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles, but just as intriguing will be the matchup of head coaches, as former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich meets old friend Doug Pederson.

The familiarity theoretically should benefit the Colts more, as Reich was fully versed in Eagles’ offense — the foundation of which likely hasn’t changed much over the past seven months — while Pederson hasn’t seen Reich’s full playbook with the Colts. Reich also should have an excellent feel for what defensive schemes Wentz doesn’t like to see, which should be incorporated heavily into defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ game plan.

But perhaps Pederson can turn the tables on Reich, showing looks he expects the Colts to recognize — such as a condensed formation suggesting a mesh concept, which features crossing routes from both sides — before running misdirection off of it — like turning those crossers into whip routes (a shallow route that breaks inside before pivoting back out). It’s also possible Pederson has kept new ideas for Wentz on the backburner, in the same way he tailored special plays for Nick Foles during his time as the starter.

With sizable advantages in the trenches on both sides of the ball, the Eagles are rightfully heavy favorites. We’ll see if Reich’s intel can level the playing field or if Pederson will get the better of his former pupil.

–Can Melvin Ingram harass Jared Goff?

With Joey Bosa (foot) apparently not close to a return, the burden of the Chargers’ pass rush continues to fall on Ingram, who is tied for second in the NFL with six QB hits. With opponents keying on Ingram, those hits have turned into just 1.5 sacks, but any type of pressure is helpful for a team whose sack leader is currently a defensive back: rookie safety Derwin James (two).

The Los Angeles Rams’ Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein are two of the league’s most reliable tackles, and Sean McVay’s heavy use of play-action and screens inherently slows down opposing pass rushes, but Ingram could pose a few problems.

The springy edge rusher moves so explosively in every direction that the Chargers line him up all over the place (even at safety on occasion, believe it or not). Often in a two-point stance, Ingram is regularly deployed on twists and stunts, allowing him to use his lateral agility to pick on overmatched guards or centers. He also has the stop-and-start quickness to get pressure against play-action, even when initially stymied while preparing to play the run.

McVay’s offense hasn’t cooled off thus far in Year 2, while the Bolts have allowed 58 points in two games (tied for 25th) without Bosa after allowing just 17.0 points per game in 2017 (third). Ingram’s ability to get to Goff is the Chargers’ best chance to even the playing field on Sunday.

–Trench warfare in Baltimore

The Denver Broncos’ offensive line, nearly as complicit as the quarterbacks in a disastrous 5-11 campaign last season, has quietly been excellent during the team’s 2-0 start.

Despite adding just one new full-time starter (right tackle Jared Veldheer), the group has taken major strides, especially in the run game, where Denver ranks second in yards per game (157.0) and fourth in yards per carry (5.2). Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s expansive approach — mixing in inside zone, outside zone, power, counter, trap and jet-sweep variations — has been a key factor, and the execution has been excellent.

Back at his preferred left guard spot, Ron Leary is destructive on double teams, especially working in tandem with left tackle Garett Bolles, who looks much stronger after a full year in an NFL weight room.

Matt Paradis remains steady at the pivot, while 2016 fifth-round pick Connor McGovern looks much sharper on second-level blocks, as he showed last week in springing rookie Phillip Lindsay for 53 yards. Veldheer had stopped the revolving door at right tackle before sustaining a concussion last week, but veteran Billy Turner held up just fine in his stead.

Sunday’s trip to Baltimore brings a whole new challenge. Ravens defensive tackles Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce are among the nastiest and hardest-to-move pluggers in football, and Chris Wormley plays with excellent discipline and leverage. Even approaching age 36, Terrell Suggs remains a ferocious edge setter.

However, though ranked No. 1 in yards per play (4.0), the Ravens’ defense is just 14th in yards per carry (3.8) through two games, and Pierce (foot) and linebacker C.J. Mosley (knee) could join backup defensive tackle Willie Henry (abdomen) on the sideline. Given Case Keenum’s shakiness (tied for the league high with four INTs) even with a good running game, the Ravens would hold a major edge if they can shut down Lindsay and Royce Freeman on the ground.

–David DeChant, Field Level Media

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Jets’ Darnold loses unexpected rookie duel with Mayfield

CLEVELAND (AP) — Just as in the NFL draft, Sam Darnold finished behind Baker Mayfield.

Darnold lost an unexpected duel with Mayfield on Thursday night as Cleveland's rookie quarterback came off the bench and rallied the Cleveland Browns to a 21-17 win over the New York Jets for their first win in 20

CLEVELAND (AP) — Just as in the NFL draft, Sam Darnold finished behind Baker Mayfield.

Darnold lost an unexpected duel with Mayfield on Thursday night as Cleveland’s rookie quarterback came off the bench and rallied the Cleveland Browns to a 21-17 win over the New York Jets for their first win in 20 games.

The top story line heading into the game was Darnold getting a chance to showcase his skills for the Browns (1-1-1) in person and maybe make them regret not selecting him with the No. 1 overall pick in April.

However, when it ended, all eyes were on Mayfield as the Heisman Trophy winner led the Browns from a 14-point deficit and ended the league’s second-longest winless streak since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

Darnold and Mayfield spoke on the field inside FirstEnergy Stadium before the game, and the young QBs met for a moment afterward.

Following a conservative game plan laid out by New York’s coaching staff, Darnold completed 15 of 31 passes for 169 yards but threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter as he tried to bring the Jets (1-2) back.

“I felt really comfortable throughout the whole game,” Darnold said. “I just made stupid mistakes in the fourth quarter and some missed opportunities throughout the whole game. I just have to play better and that’s one me.”

Isaiah Crowell had two rushing touchdowns for New York, but the former Browns running back angered some of his former teammates with an inappropriate celebration following his second score.

Crowell squatted and wiped the ball on his backside before firing it into the stands, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“That was inexcusable,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “We addressed it and it will never happen again.”

Crowell regretted his actions.

“It was just spur of the moment, but I need to control myself,” said Crowell, who spent four seasons with Cleveland before signing a three-year, $12 million free agent contract with the Jets in March. “I don’t think it had to do with the stadium I was at. I just felt like it was spur of the moment.”

Darnold’s career has already had some highs and lows. He threw two touchdown passes in a 31-point win over Detroit in his debut, and then became the youngest player to throw for at least 300 yards in a loss last week at Miami.

He was inconsistent against the Browns, showing some poise but also rushing some passes.

“I thought he battled,” Bowles said. “Obviously, the two interceptions at the end of the ballgame when they knew we were going to pass and the game was on the line — I don’t really look at that. I thought he battled. I thought he took care of the football for the most part. He gave us a chance and we have to help him out more.”

Darnold was much tougher on himself.

“There were a couple plays, but for me I just have to play better. It’s as simple as that. It’s not acceptable the way I played. I know that, and I have to take it like a man. I feel like I’m responsible for the stagnant offense we had. I just have to play better, that’s it. Find completions and continue to do what I’m doing.”

Darnold may get another chance to play Mayfield and hopes they can develop a rivalry as pros.

“Hopefully,” he said. “Baker is a great competitor. I loved playing against him. Obviously, you wish you could win those games, but he’s a great competitor and is going to play in this league for a while. I’m looking forward to every single week.”

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Are Raiders that bad? Are Dolphins that good? They meet next

There have been some classic games between the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins. While Sunday's meeting doesn't carry the weight of a playoff contest between two powers, it certainly brings plenty of intrigue.

Such as: Are the Dolphins (2-0) real good, and are the Raiders (0-2) pretty bad?

The answers will come over

There have been some classic games between the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins. While Sunday’s meeting doesn’t carry the weight of a playoff contest between two powers, it certainly brings plenty of intrigue.

Such as: Are the Dolphins (2-0) real good, and are the Raiders (0-2) pretty bad?

The answers will come over the next few weeks, but this could be a strong indicator of where each team is headed in 2018.

Miami has been winning the field position battle, is tied for the NFL lead with five interceptions — the Dolphins had nine all last year — and has allowed only seven points in four red-zone possessions by opponents. Healthy QB Ryan Tannehill is 9-1 in his past 10 starts; he missed the 2017 season with a knee injury.

Meanwhile, the Raiders are allowing 5.7 yards per rush, worst in the league. They are tied for last with only one takeaway and have all of two sacks. Did someone say they miss Khalil Mack?

Yet the key could be when Oakland has the ball and whether it can generate anything against a defense that plays most everybody who suits up.

“The addition of (DE Robert) Quinn is huge,” says Raiders coach Jon Gruden, whose return to the sideline had Raiders fans all giddy before the Mack trade and the two defeats.

“He has given them supreme effort opposite Cameron Wake. And they have a very good unit inside that can generate pressure as well. It’s a combination of new players, new energy and the scheme. It’s fun to watch them.”

Maybe not for Derek Carr, the quarterback who has to face them.

The weekend began Thursday night with Cleveland’s first win in 635 days, a 21-17 home victory over the New York Jets.

The No. 1 overall pick Bake Mayfield replaced injured starter Tyrod Taylor and sparked the Browns (1-1-1) , who got two 1-yard touchdown runs from Carlos Hyde in their their first win since Dec. 24, 2016. And so ends Cleveland’s 19-game winless streak, the NFL’s second-longest since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. The Jets are 1-2.

Indianapolis (1-1) at Philadelphia (1-1)

One of several games with tasty matchups.

The Super Bowl champions get back Carson Wentz, whose major knee injury last December led to Nick Foles taking over at quarterback — and winning the title. Wentz is healthy, which means he’ll play.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Wentz says. “It’s been quite the grind of an offseason. There’s a lot of excitement, a lot of built-up almost anxiety over when it was going to be.”

It will be against the offensive coordinator, Frank Reich, who had a big role in Wentz’s quick development. Reich now coaches the Colts, who have their own star QB back from injury, Andrew Luck.

Luck has thrown a TD pass in 25 consecutive games, the league’s longest active streak.

The Colts are one win from 300 since moving to Indianapolis in 1984.

New England (1-1) at Detroit (0-2)

Matt Patricia spent 14 seasons working for Bill Belichick in New England. Rarely did he deal with what has gone on the past two weeks with the Lions. They have looked inept at times, Matthew Stafford has little protection and has thrown a league-high five picks. Detroit is 30th in rushing defense, which must make defensive guru Patricia cringe.

Belichick is 14-8 against former assistants. New England is 45-6 after losing a game since 2003 and didn’t lose two straight in 2016 or 2017. It fell at Jacksonville last Sunday.

Denver (2-0) at Baltimore (1-1)

One more spicy matchup, on the defensive side.

Led by Von Miller , the Broncos seem to have rekindled the Orange Crush. He leads the NFL with four sacks, a rate that would give him a record 32. Don’t bet against him.

Denver has allowed only five third-down conversions in 22 tries, the best rate (22.7 percent) in the NFL.

The Ravens rank second on D, no surprise there. But they’ll likely be missing three-time Pro Bowl LB C.J. Mosley (knee).

New Orleans (1-1) at Atlanta (1-1)

In perhaps the toughest division, both of these 2017 playoff teams have been way too inconsistent so far.

The Saints opened with two home games, losing to Tampa Bay and getting lucky to beat Cleveland. The defense was awful in the opener, the offense struggled last week.

Still, they have Drew Brees, looking for his fourth straight road game with a passer rating over 100. WR Michael Thomas has 28 catches, an NFL record for the first two games of a season.

Atlanta’s up-and-down nature has been partly caused by injuries, particularly on defense. That’s never a good way to approach a matchup with Brees.

New York Giants (0-2) at Houston (0-2)

The most watchable thing here — if you like defenses creaming quarterbacks — is whether Eli Manning or Deshaun Watson can escape the rush. Watson, who has terrific agility, already has gone down seven times, and he’s not come close to the sensational showings he made as a rookie before tearing up his knee.

Even worse, Manning has been sacked eight times and there haven’t been a handful of pass plays on which he didn’t feel pressure. Now, he gets to see J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney close up, with a new center, John Greco, to boot.

Dallas (1-1) at Seattle (0-2)

More sack time coming.

In years past, Seattle’s defense would be knocking down quarterbacks. This version of the Seahawks has three sacks as the unit is rebuilt.

Meanwhile, Russell Wilson has gone down 12 times, and considering his escapability, that’s scary in Seattle. Dallas barely let Manning breathe last week, has nine sacks from eight players, and faces possibly a bigger sieve of a blocking unit this week.

Los Angeles Chargers (1-1) at Los Angeles Rams (2-0)

Remember when L.A. had no teams? Now, both figure to be contenders in their divisions. Indeed, the Rams have the most talent of any roster and are off to a powerful start.

This could be a shootout. Since Week 11 of last season, the Chargers are tops in offense, averaging 436.9 yards per game. Philip Rivers has thrown three or more TD passes and has a passer rating over 100 in three straight regular-season games, and has plenty of weapons.

So does Rams QB Jared Goff, particularly 2017 Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley. The fourth-year RB is off to another brilliant start.

It’s the first meeting between two Los Angeles NFL teams since Nov. 13, 1994, when the Raiders defeated the Rams 20-17.

Cincinnati (2-0) at Carolina (1-1)

Wait, the Bengals are unbeaten? Here’s a real chance to prove they are legit.

Cincinnati can get after the passer and will force Cam Newton to be creative. The Bengals are well rested — they beat Baltimore on a Thursday night in Week 2 — and DT Geno Atkins has looked super, getting three sacks and plenty of pressures.

But second-year running back Joe Mixon is sidelined, and Carolina has its own dangerous RB from the 2017 draft in Christian McCaffrey. He tied WR Steve Smith’s franchise record with 14 receptions vs. the Falcons.

Carolina has won six straight at home.

Tennessee (1-1) at Jacksonville (2-0)

Jacksonville being 2-0 is no shock and the Jaguars could seize early control of the AFC South here. They showed plenty of moxie in beating New England last Sunday and hope to have top RB Leonard Fournette healthy. They haven’t been 3-0 in 14 years.

Even though the Jags won the division in 2017, they were swept by Tennessee, helping the Titans earn a wild card. Tennessee has been very protective of its passer, whether Marcus Mariota or former Jaguar Blaine Gabbert; opponents have one sack. Getting Mariota back from an elbow injury is critical.

San Francisco (1-1) at Kansas City (2-0)

It’s not that the Chiefs have won two straight, it’s how they did it.

First-time starter Patrick Mahomes came out firing and hasn’t let up. He has an NFL-record 10 TD passes through the first two games and has not thrown an interception. Mahomes had six TD passes at Pittsburgh, making him the youngest player in NFL history to accomplish that. Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins all have 100-yard receiving games this season.

San Francisco ranks 25th in pass defense and might not have the talent to get in a scoring free-for-all.

Buffalo (0-2) at Minnesota (1-0-1)

The betting line was so high, above 16 points all week, that it sent fans and bettors scrambling for precedent.

Buffalo once was an even bigger underdog at 17½ points against Miami in 1985. The Dolphins won 28-0.

And 80 teams have been 16-point or more underdogs. Five of those actually won.

For the Bills to even come close, they need to give raw rookie QB Josh Allen time to throw, and find a run defense.

Minnesota comes off a depressing 29-29 tie at Green Bay in which the Vikings made a solid comeback, but then couldn’t kick the ball straight enough to win. Daniel Carson is gone, replaced by veteran Dan Bailey, who was sensational with Dallas before getting hurt.

Green Bay (1-0-1) at Washington (1-1)

A gimpy Aaron Rodgers remains a prime threat, and he has loads of talent to catch the ball in Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison and tight end Jimmy Graham. The pass defense is far too charitable, but rookie CB Josh Jackson recovered a blocked punt for a TD vs. Minnesota.

Alex Smith, the top overall draft pick in 2005 when Rodgers went 24th, now is in Washington. He has a defense ranked No. 1 against the pass, so an aerial contest with A-Rod might not develop.

Pittsburgh (0-1-1) at Tampa Bay (2-0), Monday night

With the Bucs on a roll and Ryan Fitzpatrick demolishing defenses, Pittsburgh could be in trouble. The Steelers have displayed little tackling skill and give up lots of big plays. They rank 30th against the run, a very un-Curtain number.

Their offense hasn’t been troubled much by star RB Le’Veon Bell’s holdout thanks to James Conner. This also has the makings of a high-scoring showcase, especially if Ben Roethlisberger can limit his team’s turnovers.

Chicago (1-1) at Arizona (0-2)

The Cardinals and Bears are the only founding members of the NFL still in existence. While Chicago seems to have found its way with Mack and a defense that leads the league with 10 sacks, Arizona is foundering. The Cardinals didn’t cross midfield vs. the Rams until the next-to-last play. Sam Bradford has not thrown a TD pass, has been intercepted twice and has a 55.6 passer rating.

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Won, won and won! Browns beat Jets for first win since 2016

CLEVELAND (AP) — For the first time in 635 days, the Cleveland Browns found a way to win.

Baker Mayfield showed them how.

The No. 1 overall pick replaced injured starter Tyrod Taylor and sparked the Browns, who got two 1-yard touchdown runs from Carlos Hyde and beat the New York Jets 21-17

CLEVELAND (AP) — For the first time in 635 days, the Cleveland Browns found a way to win.

Baker Mayfield showed them how.

The No. 1 overall pick replaced injured starter Tyrod Taylor and sparked the Browns, who got two 1-yard touchdown runs from Carlos Hyde and beat the New York Jets 21-17 on Thursday night for their first win since Dec. 24, 2016.

And so ends Cleveland’s 19-game winless streak, the NFL’s second-longest since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

The Browns (1-1-1) trailed 14-0 in the first half before Mayfield came in for Taylor and led four scoring drives while winning an unexpected matchup against Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. Cleveland passed on taking Darnold in the draft and instead chose Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma.

Mayfield finished 17 of 23 for 201 yards in a little more than a half after coming in after Taylor suffered a concussion.

Darnold had one last chance, but was intercepted by Terrence Mitchell with 11 seconds left.

When the final seconds ticked off the clock, Cleveland fans, who had endured a 0-16 season and waited nearly two years to see their Browns win, erupted in celebration.

Refrigerators around the city stocked with Bud Lights were finally unlocked, and there figured to be more than a few beverages consumed in the hours ahead.

This was just one win, and while it was an ending, it also felt like a beginning — because of Mayfield.

Isaiah Crowell had two touchdown runs for the Jets (1-2), who seemed in control when they took a 14-0 lead and knocked Taylor from the game.

Newly signed Browns kicker Greg Joseph made field goals of 45 and 27 yards after being signed just three days ago.

Browns coach Hue Jackson got just his second win in 35 games since being hired by owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, and this win will ease some of the pressure he’s been feeling to get Cleveland turned around. Jackson could also be faced with a difficult choice — either stick with Mayfield or go back to Taylor when he’s healthy.

The decision might not be as tough now.

Mayfield made his NFL debut with 1:42 left in the second quarter, replacing an injured Taylor after Cleveland’s starter was sacked for the third time. Taylor struggled getting to his feet after being dragged down by linebacker Avery Williamson, but he had absorbed several hard blows before that — and had been ineffective.

With Cleveland’s crowd roaring, Mayfield completed a 14-yard pass to Jarvis Landry on his first pass as a pro and then found tight end David Njoku for 17 yards. Mayfield drove Cleveland into field-goal position and Joseph, who signed with the team on Monday following a tryout, drilled a low line drive to pull the Browns within 14-3.

Cleveland’s plan was to have Mayfield watch and learn this season.

Taylor’s injury may change everything.

For Darnold, a promising start ended with his second loss in three games. He completed 15 of 31 passes for 169 yards, but threw two picks late in the fourth as he tried to rally the Jets.

Hyde’s 1-yard TD run pulled the Browns within 14-12 and Cleveland tied it with a trick 2-point play.

Mayfield shifted to the left and the ball was snapped directly to running back Duke Johnson, who ran right and gave the ball to Landry on a reverse. Landry then lofted a pass into the end zone to Mayfield, whose conversion tied it and sent Cleveland fans into a frenzy.

Crowell scored his second TD with 7:54 left in the second quarter, and was flagged for excessive celebrating when he squatted and wiped the ball on his backside before flinging it into the crowd.

Crowell’s untouched 7-yard run TD run came five plays after Jets linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis got a hand on Britton Colquitt’s attempted punt and New York took over at Cleveland’s 28.

On the first play of the second quarter, Crowell took an inside handoff and raced into the end zone before firing the ball into the stands in celebration. Crowell spent four seasons with the Browns before signing a three-year, $12 million free agent contract with New York as a free agent in March.

LONG AUDITION

Joseph stayed on the field and kicked by himself during the opening coin toss, and each of his makes drew a rousing ovation from Cleveland fans. Just a few days ago, Joseph was relaxing in South Florida with friends while Gonzalez missed four kicks in New Orleans and then got booted by the Browns.

RADIO SILENCE

The Browns suspended radio reporter Nathan Zegura eight games for his conduct on the sideline during last Sunday’s loss at New Orleans. Zegura, who also co-hosts the team’s in-house radio broadcast, can’t work a game until Nov. 25. He has also been removed from the team’s afternoon show for two weeks.

INJURIES

Jets: CB Trumaine Johnson left in the first quarter with a suspected head injury, but returned. …. WR Charone Peake sustained a hamstring injury. … CB Buster Skrine injured his knee in the first and did not return. … WR Robby Anderson injured his nose in the third quarter, but came back.

Browns: S Jabrill Peppers hurt a shoulder in the first half, and Landry replaced him on punt returns.

UP NEXT

Jets: Play at Jacksonville on Sept. 30.

Browns: Visit the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 30.

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Jets-Browns Stats

New York 0 14 0 3—17
Cleveland 0 3 11 7—21
Second Quarter

NYJ_Crowell 7 run (Myers kick), 14:56.

NYJ_Crowell 2 run (Myers kick), 7:54.

Cle_FG Joseph 45, :23.

Third Quarter

Cle_FG Joseph 27, 5:21.

Cle_Hyde 1 run (Mayfield pass from

New York 0 14 0 3—17
Cleveland 0 3 11 7—21
Second Quarter

NYJ_Crowell 7 run (Myers kick), 14:56.

NYJ_Crowell 2 run (Myers kick), 7:54.

Cle_FG Joseph 45, :23.

Third Quarter

Cle_FG Joseph 27, 5:21.

Cle_Hyde 1 run (Mayfield pass from Landry), :42.

Fourth Quarter

NYJ_FG Myers 28, 8:56.

Cle_Hyde 1 run (Joseph kick), 2:04.

A_67,431.

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NYJ Cle
First downs 14 20
Total Net Yards 268 323
Rushes-yards 30-107 33-133
Passing 161 190
Punt Returns 1-12 5-20
Kickoff Returns 1-22 1-19
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 2-0
Comp-Att-Int 15-31-2 21-37-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 2-8 4-30
Punts 7-49.1 8-33.4
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-0
Penalties-Yards 6-55 5-41
Time of Possession 29:08 30:52

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INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING_New York, Powell 14-73, Crowell 16-34. Cleveland, Hyde 23-98, Taylor 4-22, D.Johnson 2-9, Chubb 2-6, Mayfield 2-(minus 2).

PASSING_New York, Darnold 15-31-2-169. Cleveland, Taylor 4-14-0-19, Mayfield 17-23-0-201.

RECEIVING_New York, Enunwa 4-57, Kearse 3-35, R.Anderson 2-22, Crowell 2-17, Herndon 2-(minus 1), Pryor 1-25, Tomlinson 1-14. Cleveland, Landry 8-103, Callaway 4-20, Higgins 3-32, Njoku 2-36, D.Johnson 2-24, Hyde 2-5.

MISSED FIELD GOALS_None.

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Browns QB Mayfield replaces injured Taylor

Browns QB Mayfield replaces injured Taylor

Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield led the Cleveland Browns to a field goal on the first drive of his NFL career Thursday against the visiting New York Jets after taking over for injured teammate Tyrod Taylor.

Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's

Browns QB Mayfield replaces injured Taylor

Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield led the Cleveland Browns to a field goal on the first drive of his NFL career Thursday against the visiting New York Jets after taking over for injured teammate Tyrod Taylor.

Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, completed 3 of 4 passes for 47 yards when he entered with under two minutes remaning in the first half, setting up a 45-yard Greg Joseph field goal. The march cut the Browns’ halftime deficit to 14-3.

He also was sacked once on the drive and fumbled, but Cleveland offensive lineman Joel Bitonio recovered the ball.

Tyrod was 4 of 14 for 19 yards, taking three sacks and an intentional-grounding penalty, as the Browns punted each of their first six drives.

On the third sack, Taylor was slammed to the turf by Jets linebacker Avery Williamson and hit his head. After the drive, Taylor was taken to the medical tent for evaluation and then led to the locker room.

Mayfield, 23, won the 2017 Heisman Trophy as a senior at Oklahoma.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: 49ers CB Sherman misses practice with heel issue

Reports: 49ers CB Sherman misses practice with heel issue

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman sat out Thursday's practice with a reported heel injury, according to multiple reports.

The 30-year-old Sherman was not listed on the team's Wednesday injury report and he did not discuss his status with reporters following

Reports: 49ers CB Sherman misses practice with heel issue

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman sat out Thursday’s practice with a reported heel injury, according to multiple reports.

The 30-year-old Sherman was not listed on the team’s Wednesday injury report and he did not discuss his status with reporters following the team’s practice. Per the San Francisco Chronicle, Sherman was not visibly walking with a limp.

Over the past 10 months, Sherman has undergone surgeries to both of his Achilles tendons, in addition to battling hamstring issues during the summer. He has played in all 148 of the Niners’ defensive snaps this season, allowing just one reception in the team’s first two games.

Sherman, 30, signed with the Niners in March on a three-year contract after their archrival Seattle Seahawks released him. He ruptured his Achilles tendon last season and was limited to two interceptions in nine games after not missing a game in his first six NFL seasons.

The California native has 32 interceptions in 107 career games along with four Pro Bowl appearances while with Seattle from 2011-17.

–Field Level Media

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Browns rookie Baker Mayfield replaces Taylor in first half

CLEVELAND (AP) — Baker Mayfield is off the bench and making his NFL debut.

The No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft replaced injured starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor late in the first half of Thursday night's game against the New York Jets. Taylor was slow getting up after being sacked for the

CLEVELAND (AP) — Baker Mayfield is off the bench and making his NFL debut.

The No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft replaced injured starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor late in the first half of Thursday night’s game against the New York Jets. Taylor was slow getting up after being sacked for the third time and after being evaluated in the medical tent, was taken to the locker room for treatment.

The Browns say Taylor is being evaluated for a concussion.

Mayfield completed a 14-yard pass on his first throw and then fired 17-yarder on his second as Browns fans roared.

The Heisman Trophy winner’s first drive — he went 3 of 4 for 47 yards — ended with rookie Greg Joseph kicking a 45-yard field goal to pull with the Browns within 14-3.

Cleveland’s plan was to have Mayfield sit and learn this season behind Taylor, but the injury could change things dramatically.

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Bill Belichick has chance to beat another former assistant

DETROIT (AP) — Bill Belichick has a chance to knock off another branch from his coaching tree.

The five-time Super Bowl-winning coach has had his staff trimmed by NFL teams many times.

They all hired coaches who know how Belichick and the New England Patriots operate behind closed doors, banking on them being

DETROIT (AP) — Bill Belichick has a chance to knock off another branch from his coaching tree.

The five-time Super Bowl-winning coach has had his staff trimmed by NFL teams many times.

They all hired coaches who know how Belichick and the New England Patriots operate behind closed doors, banking on them being able to duplicate the formula for success.

It hasn’t worked out that well.

Eight former Belichick assistants have been hired by NFL teams and Al Groh is the only one in the group with a winning record. Groh was 9-7 in his one and only season with the New York Jets in 2000.

Belichick either does not know, or will not say, why he thinks his former assistants have struggled leading teams in the league.

“I’m not in the analytics business,” he bristled.

The track record of Belichick assistants did not deter Detroit because general manager Bob Quinn, a former member of Belichick’s front office, hired Matt Patricia soon after New England lost the Super Bowl.

If the Belichick-Patricia reunion goes as expected, it will follow a trend and teacher will school the student Sunday night in Detroit.

Belichick beat the Bill O’Brien-led Houston Texans in Week 1, making him 14-8 against assistants who worked for him in New England or Cleveland.

Even though the Patriots (1-1) are scuffling a bit on both sides of the ball by their standards, the Lions (0-2) have looked simply lost at times under Patricia and they’re expected to lose by about a touchdown.

Before and after the game, there’s a chance Patricia will be embraced more by his former players than his current ones.

“Matty P, he’s a coach who always had high expectations,” New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower said.

“But at the same time, he was definitely a player’s coach. He was definitely somebody who, once you get outside those doors, he was a guy who you could text or call and had a question — not even necessarily about football — but just life in general.”

And in general, Patricia deflects questions just as his mentor does in public. Patricia has no interest in sharing what parts of his scheme with the Lions mirrors what was done in New England.

“We’re trying to build Detroit here,” he said.

And, Belichick refused to say how much he has kept in touch with Patricia over the past several months.

“I’ll keep that on a personal level,” he said.

Here are some other things to know about the Patriots-Lions primetime matchup:

NEW ADDITION

Josh Gordon was limited because of a hamstring injury in his first two practices in New England on Wednesday after being acquired in a trade with the Browns.

Since Gordon was an All-Pro wide receiver in 2013, he has played in just 11 games, including one this season. Gordon was suspended for the 2015 season after violating the league’s substance abuse policy and he missed all of 2016.

“If he makes plays on us, everybody is going to say Josh Gordon looks real fresh out there,” Detroit safety Glover Quin said. “If we make a lot of plays everyone is going to say Josh Gordon looks real rusty.”

New England needs help at receiver because Julian Edelman was suspended for the first four games, Danny Amendola left to sign in Miami and Brandin Cooks was traded to the Los Angeles Rams.

GOING DEEP

Matthew Stafford has made a career of connecting on deep passes. In last week’s 30-27 loss at San Francisco, though, he missed a handful of opportunities to make big plays by overthrowing receivers.

The Patriots are preparing for Stafford to be sharp.

“He’s a good quarterback. He can get it going,” New England linebacker Elandon Roberts said. “He can throw. He’s very athletic. He can get out of the pocket and he’s still gonna be looking downfield to make a play.”

BOUNCING BACK

The Patriots, who lost 31-20 at Jacksonville last week, are 45-6 in the regular season after a setback since the 2003 season. They have not lost consecutive games since 2015 when it happened twice.

WHO’S COUNTING

Detroit drafted Michael Roberts in the fourth round last year in part because the former Toledo star led the nation in touchdowns by a tight end with 16. He finally scored for his first NFL touchdown against the 49ers in the 17th game of his career.

Roberts said it had been exactly, “638 days,” since he was in the end zone with the ball.

“It’s nice to be able to show the world the talents I have,” he said.

CONCUSSIONS

Three key players may miss the game because of concussions: Detroit cornerback Darius Slay, New England defensive end Trey Flowers and safety Patrick Chung. All three players did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.

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Phillips, Rams look to extend scoreless streak vs. Rivers

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips found a box of doughnuts at his desk on Monday morning as a reward for shutting out Arizona 34-0.

The treats have become a tradition for Phillips when his defense keeps the opposition scoreless, one that has even extended to West

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips found a box of doughnuts at his desk on Monday morning as a reward for shutting out Arizona 34-0.

The treats have become a tradition for Phillips when his defense keeps the opposition scoreless, one that has even extended to West Sioux High School in Hawarden, Iowa, as the Falcons let Phillips know on Twitter this week after their varsity and junior varsity teams each recorded shutouts.

Earning another box of doughnuts this week will be a much more difficult task when the Rams host quarterback Philip Rivers and the Chargers on Sunday.

Phillips was the defensive coordinator in San Diego when the Chargers drafted Rivers in 2004. Now in his 14th season starting for the Chargers, Rivers is the same savvy player Phillips remembers working with in the Senior Bowl at the start of the evaluation process.

“You can’t fool him,” Phillips said Thursday. “He’s going to know what you are in, and that’s where he excels over most quarterbacks and makes him an elite quarterback.

“Any kind of blitz you run, he’ll audible to the right protection, all those things. He basically throws to the weakness of the defense on every play. He’s been doing that for a long time and he continues to do that.”

Rivers’ understanding of defenses negates some of the advantage Phillips’ tactical acumen provides and puts more pressure on Rams players to win their one-on-one matchups.

Phillips hopes his defensive front can take advantage of a Chargers offensive line that will be without right tackle Joe Barksdale because of a knee injury, allowing the secondary to keep Rivers, who has completed 73.1 percent of his passes for 680 yards and six touchdowns with one interception, in check.

While the defensive line of Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers have combined for one sack through two games, Phillips is largely pleased with how they are performing.

Phillips said the trio is creating pressure, but Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford and Oakland’s Derek Carr were effective in throwing the ball quickly to prevent sacks.

Phillips is also getting contributions from outside linebackers Samson Ebukam, Dominique Easley and Matt Longacre. Ebukam brought down Bradford for the Rams’ second sack of the season, and Easley drew a holding penalty.

Knowing that Rivers will be more willing to test the Rams with a vertical passing game than their first two opponents, Phillips hopes his pass rush will be able to impose themselves more forcefully.

“He’s like every quarterback that gets a lot of pressure, it’s going to be tougher for him,” Phillips said. “Sometimes those windows are down the field and take some time. If we get in the right defenses where he has to throw down the field and we get some pressure, then it’s an advantage for us.”

The Rams had the edge against Arizona, limiting them to 137 yards and five first downs. The defense has not allowed a point in six consecutive quarters, but Brockers said the streak has not been a factor in their performance.

“We haven’t really focused on the ‘oh man, let’s keep them scoreless,'” Brockers said. “We just going out there to execute. If we execute the calls, coaches feel like they should get anything, and that’s what’s been happening.”

Instead, Phillips believes the quality of Rivers and the Chargers offense has been the best motivation for the Rams this week.

“I think them having such a prolific offense, it’s not as hard to say ‘these guys can really play’ because you can see it on the film,” Phillips said. “That challenge for good players and guys that want to be good players, they want to play against somebody that is a challenge. And this is going to be a huge challenge.”

If it leads to more doughnuts, Phillips will take it.

“They’re hard to come by, those zeros in this league are hard to come by,” Phillips said. “I haven’t had very many in my career, and I’ve had a long career. It’s an accomplishment, no matter who you are playing, to hold somebody to zero in this league.”

NOTES: C John Sullivan (ankle) did not practice, and Brockers (shoulder) was limited. However, coach Sean McVay expects both Sullivan and Brockers to play this week. “It’s more just maintenance with these guys,” McVay said.

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Vikings’ Zimmer: Ref said NFL wants more flags

Vikings' Zimmer: Ref said NFL wants more flags

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer maintains that a referee told one of the Minnesota players last week that a penalty was called merely because of the NFL's desire "for us to throw the flag."

Speaking Thursday on KFAN's "X's and O's," according to

Vikings’ Zimmer: Ref said NFL wants more flags

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer maintains that a referee told one of the Minnesota players last week that a penalty was called merely because of the NFL’s desire “for us to throw the flag.”

Speaking Thursday on KFAN’s “X’s and O’s,” according to ESPN.com, Zimmer said the league’s new emphasis on flagging dangerous hits caused a questionable call Sunday against Andrew Sendejo. The Vikings safety was penalized for hitting a defenseless receiver after a third-quarter tackle on Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams.

Adams caught a pass and was hit by cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Sendejo came in to assist as Adams lowered his head, and Sendejo’s helmet struck the side of Adams’ helmet.

“It’s very difficult for a defender — really playing defense, nowadays,” Zimmer told KFAN. “(Sendejo) said (to the ref), ‘What could I have done different?’ (The ref) said, ‘You did everything right. You couldn’t have done anything different. They just want us to throw the flag.’ ”

Zimmer added that he only learned of the exchange a day after the Vikings and Packers played to a 29-29 tie.

The coach asked the NFL for its interpretation of the play but said he had yet to receive a response as of Thursday. NFL spokesman Michael Signora told ESPN that the league would have no comment on the situation.

–Field Level Media

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Bucs ready to showcase potent offense against Steelers

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — So much for struggling without Jameis Winston.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not only thriving in the suspended quarterback's absence, they're evolving into an offensive juggernaut that's set to perform on a national stage when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit Monday night.

Thanks to Ryan Fitzpatrick and a talented collection

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — So much for struggling without Jameis Winston.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not only thriving in the suspended quarterback’s absence, they’re evolving into an offensive juggernaut that’s set to perform on a national stage when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit Monday night.

Thanks to Ryan Fitzpatrick and a talented collection of playmakers that include DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans, O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin, the Bucs (2-0) are off to their best start in eight years and have the NFL’s top-ranked offense.

The Steelers (0-1-1) are not far behind at No. 2, however inconsistency on defense has Ben Roethlisberger and Co. winless through two weeks.

“I respect what they’ve done. I’m not so sure I’m surprised,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of Tampa Bay’s emergence with wins against the New Orleans Saints and the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

They’ve done it with Fitzpatrick, a 35-year-old journeyman who has thrown TD passes for seven NFL franchises, delivering the best two games of his career.

“Man, he’s got some explosive weapons. He’s stepping in for Winston, but Fitz is not a step-in guy. This guy has started in multiple cities,” Tomlin said.

“We’ve seen him extensively in Cincinnati and Buffalo. He’s a smart guy, Ivy League-educated, always made good decisions. That’s why he’s been able to sustain himself and play for the length of time that he’s played.”

What once looked as if it might be a potentially disastrous stretch to open the season with Winston suspended three games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy suddenly is an opportunity for the team’s first 3-0 start since 2005.

Very encouraging for a franchise that has missed the playoffs 10 consecutive seasons, the second-longest drought in the league behind the Cleveland Browns (15).

Fitzpatrick believes he’s playing the best football of his career.

“But, I mean, it’s early. Consistency is the biggest thing,” the 14th-year pro said. “Trying to stay consistent with a high level of performance and just continue to try to win games.”

As well as things are coming together for the Bucs, though, it’s been rocky times for the struggling Steelers, off to their worst start in five years.

Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell has not reported to the team and signed his one-year franchise tender

And star receiver Antonio Brown made headlines after shouting at offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner on the sideline last week and then responding to criticism on social media from a former team employee by suggesting the team trade him if it wants to find out how productive he can be without Roethlisberger.

Tomlin, however, isn’t flinching.

“We are two weeks in. We do not have a large body of work. We are focused on winning this next opportunity,” the coach said.

“I am not ready to paint with a broad brush … in terms of where our football team is or what is going to define this group.”

Some things to know about the Steelers and Buccaneers:

JUJU ON THAT BEAT

All the self-created melodrama surrounding Brown has overshadowed another significant development for Pittsburgh’s offense: the continued rise of second-year wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

The 21-year-old came on strong over the second half of his rookie season in 2017 and has picked up right where he left off. Smith-Schuster is tied for Brown for the team lead in receptions (18) and his 240 yards receiving ranks fifth in the league.

“He just has a great knack and feel for the game, knowing when to sit down in zone, knowing when to move in man,” Roethlisberger said.

“He uses his body and size at times, so I think he’s really studied the game, and studied his game and has really gotten better.”

RING OF HONOR

Hall of Famer Tony Dungy, who won a Super Bowl as a player with the Steelers and later transformed Tampa Bay from a laughingstock into a championship contender as a coach, will be inducted into the Bucs’ Ring of Honor during a halftime ceremony.

He joins Hall of Famers Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, as well as Doug Williams, Jimmie Giles, Mike Alstott, John Lynch, Paul Gruber, coaches John McKay and Jon Gruden and late owner Malcolm Glazer as members of the ring.

NOT HERE TO TALK ABOUT THE PAST

The Steelers have made it a habit of stubbing their toe early in the season only to find their groove at midseason and reach the playoffs each of the past four years. Not that their resiliency has provided them any sort of comfort facing the club’s worst start since 2013.

“It doesn’t matter what we’ve done in the past,” defensive end Cam Heyward said. “I’m not worried about what we’ve done two years ago, a year ago. Worry about what we’ve got to do now, the present. Be in this moment. Understand we made some mistakes. Now we’ve got to correct it.”

FLAG DAY

Defensive breakdowns and Brown’s behavior aren’t Pittsburgh’s only problems. The Steelers have hurt themselves under an avalanche of penalty yards.

Pittsburgh has been flagged 24 times for an NFL-high 206 yards in penalties through two weeks.

Tomlin described the issues as “popcorn,” meaning they’re coming from all over the place. If there’s a bright side for the Steelers, it’s that they’ve found a way to clean things up as the season progresses.

A year ago they were called for 23 penalties through two games and finished with the ninth-fewest penalty yards in the league.

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AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.

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Saints working to diversify Brees’ passing options

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Saints coach Sean Payton preaches the importance of self-scouting to avoid predictable patterns.

That could be one reason why he doesn't expect quarterback Drew Brees to keep throwing to receiver Michael Thomas quite as often as he has through the season's first two weeks, when Thomas has racked up

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Saints coach Sean Payton preaches the importance of self-scouting to avoid predictable patterns.

That could be one reason why he doesn’t expect quarterback Drew Brees to keep throwing to receiver Michael Thomas quite as often as he has through the season’s first two weeks, when Thomas has racked up more receptions than the rest of New Orleans’ receivers and tight ends combined.

“Part of it is just, here we are, two weeks in,” began Payton, whose team visits Atlanta on Sunday.

“I think that you’re going to see those numbers change some. And I think historically, offensively with Drew, a lot of different guys have been involved in the passing game — and I think that will be the same case this year.”

Thomas has 28 catches, the most of any NFL receiver in the first two weeks of a season, surpassing Andre Rison’s 26 in 1994 with the Falcons.

Running back Alvin Kamara is second in catches with 15, but many of his receptions are short ones out of the backfield that essentially substitute for running plays.

Among more conventional receiving targets, receiver Ted Ginn Jr. has nine catches, tight end Ben Watson has seven, and no one else has more than two.

When asked about his heavy reliance on Thomas in the passing game, Brees downplayed it as more of a short-term phenomenon than a developing trend.

“For one reason or another, I know he’s caught a lot of balls the last two weeks. He’s gotten open. He’s done a great job with that. His number’s been called,” Brees said.

“It’s probably the combination of a lot of things, but I feel like we’ve got other guys that can do it, too. It’s just a matter of what the defense is going to give us.

“I’m going to throw it to the open guy — move the chains, score points.”

Falcons coach Dan Quinn also struggled to envision the rate of Thomas’ targets remaining as high as it has been through two games.

“Let’s face it. They’re equipped to attack in a lot of different ways,” Quinn asserted this week. “Michael right now is on his game, but by no stretch have we said ‘OK, it’s just these players.’ … We know they’ve got a big stable of guys that can make plays in a lot of ways, but we have been very impressed by Michael and his start.”

New Orleans made a pair of offseason moves aimed at providing Brees more options, signing Bears 2016 receiving leader Cameron Meredith as a restricted free agent and drafting former Central Florida receiver Tre’Quan Smith in the third round last spring.

But judging those moves could take time.

Smith has been in the game plan, but rookies sometimes take time to develop chemistry with veteran QBs. He had one catch for 18 yards in a victory over Cleveland and no catches in a Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay.

“He has not received a ton of opportunities, but I think as the season progresses his opportunities will come,” Brees said. “He can be a big part of what we do down the road.”

Smith said his daily goal is to win Brees’ trust and he does not sound disillusioned by the relatively slow start to his career.

“You’ve got to be a team player,” Smith said. “If they’re not going to cover (Thomas), keep going to him.

“If Mike has all the yards and all the touchdowns, but we’re winning, that’s totally fine,” Smith said. “I’m sure teams are going to be zeroing in on Mike, but that’s when other receivers have got to step up. We’ve got to be ready.”

Meredith, meanwhile, is trying to come back from torn knee ligaments that wiped out his 2017 season. He said trainers and doctors urged caution during training camp, thereby limiting his opportunities to practice with the first-team offense.

He was scratched from the lineup in Weeks 1 and 2, but with Ginn limited in practice with knee soreness this week, Meredith has been getting work with the first-team offense and appears primed to make his Saints debut in Atlanta.

“It’s hard. It’s an everyday battle. This process is new to me, so whatever the trainers and the doctors say is best, we had to go with that,” Meredith said.

“But at the same time, I’ve been getting better day by day, getting my rhythm back. And those are all important things — not just the health part, but getting in rhythm with the offense.

“I feel good and I’m excited to go out there and make some plays this weekend.”

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Browns missing starting LB Kirksey for matchup with Jets

CLEVELAND (AP) — Browns starting linebacker Christian Kirksey will sit out Thursday night's game against the New York Jets with an ankle injury.

One of Cleveland's captains, Kirksey also missed last week's game at New Orleans, the first time he sat out a game in his NFL career after playing in 65 straight.

CLEVELAND (AP) — Browns starting linebacker Christian Kirksey will sit out Thursday night’s game against the New York Jets with an ankle injury.

One of Cleveland’s captains, Kirksey also missed last week’s game at New Orleans, the first time he sat out a game in his NFL career after playing in 65 straight. James Burgess will start for Kirksey as the Browns try to snap a 19-game winless streak.

New York starting safety Marcus Maye is sitting out with a foot injury. He’ll be replaced by Doug Middleton, who has 11 tackles after two games.

Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry will play. He had been listed as questionable with a knee injury. Landry leads the team with 12 catches for 175 yards.

The Jets are also without outside linebacker Josh Martin and tight end Neal Sterling due to concussions. Martin has not played since getting hurt in the Jets’ third preseason game. Sterling was injured last Sunday against Miami.

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Falcons’ Julio Jones misses practice, says he’s good to play

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones says he's "good" to play against New Orleans on Sunday despite missing his second day of practice with tightness in his calf.

Jones says his absence from practice on Thursday was "just precaution." He says he "felt some tightness" in last week's

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones says he’s “good” to play against New Orleans on Sunday despite missing his second day of practice with tightness in his calf.

Jones says his absence from practice on Thursday was “just precaution.” He says he “felt some tightness” in last week’s 31-24 win over Carolina.

The Falcons also held out running back Devonta Freeman (sore right knee), linebacker Corey Nelson (calf) and defensive ends Takk McKinley and Derrick Shelby, who have groin injuries. Nelson was hurt in Wednesday’s practice.

Freeman did not play in the win over Carolina.

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Rivers, Goff take center stage for Battle of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Football fans haven't seen two Los Angeles NFL teams go head to head since 1994.

The quarterback matchup awaiting them this Sunday could make it worth the long wait.

The Chargers' Philip Rivers and the Rams' Jared Goff will be front and center at the LA Memorial Coliseum.

Rivers

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Football fans haven’t seen two Los Angeles NFL teams go head to head since 1994.

The quarterback matchup awaiting them this Sunday could make it worth the long wait.

The Chargers’ Philip Rivers and the Rams’ Jared Goff will be front and center at the LA Memorial Coliseum.

Rivers has seen this plotline before — an experienced veteran facing an emerging star — which is why he hasn’t dwelled much on the matchup.

“Shoot, I’ve got enough to worry about just trying to score points. I imagine it will be a heck of a game,” said Rivers, who will make his 196th consecutive start Sunday.

Rivers and Goff are at the helm of two of the league’s more prolific offenses. The Chargers (1-1) are second in the league in completions over 20 yards since the start of last season with 72, while the unbeaten Rams (2-0) are sixth with 67.

Goff is second in average yards per attempt among QBs with 10 or more starts (8.10) while Rivers is third (7.96).

They also have nearly identical passer ratings, with Goff’s 100.7 just edging Rivers’ 98.8.

“To me, what seems to stick out is what a comfort level he has in that offense, and being in a good flow,” Rivers said of Goff. “They’re doing a lot of things to move him around in games. You’ve seen that keeps him on the move. He’s one of the young guys that you imagine is going to be around a long time.”

Goff is unbeaten in five starts against AFC teams and has won six of his last seven regular-season starts with a 103.3 passer rating, 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions. There are still some who wonder, though, if his success should be attributed to him or coach Sean McVay’s system.

Some quarterbacks might take offense at being called a system quarterback, but Goff has embraced it.

“Yeah, I’ll be a product of the system if we win games, as much as I want. We just continue to go out there and keep playing, keep putting up 30 points and call me whatever you want,” he said. “I feel like I’m just continuing to develop and continuing to get better.”

Rivers has also been playing at a high level. He is one of three quarterbacks to have over 600 passing yards (680) and six or more touchdowns (six) this season. He also has thrown three or more touchdown passes in his last three starts.

Goff and Rivers may be sharing the same city, but Goff made it sound like they have rarely talked. Goff did say that the majority of his childhood was spent watching Rivers’ career.

“He’s a guy I’ve tried to steal things from, for sure. The way he plays the game and the way he works. I’ve heard nothing but great things from people who’ve played with him,” Goff said.

Both quarterbacks face challenges this week from the opposing defenses. The Rams have allowed only one touchdown in the first two games and haven’t surrendered a point over the past six quarters. They also possess one of the top pass rushes in the league featuring defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald.

Rivers is one of the quicker passers in the NFL. According to the league’s next gen stats, he is averaging 2.6 seconds to throw since last season, which is below the average of 2.7 seconds. Goff is averaging 2.93 seconds, which is the third-longest in the league.

Rivers said the challenge this week will be making sure his receivers have time to separate in coverage because the Rams are mainly playing man coverage.

“It’s not going to be those quick, gimme throws that you find in some defenses where you just catch it and throw little spot routes,” he said. “It’s going to be winning one-on-one matchups — outside, inside — and me making good decisions.”

The Chargers’ pass rush remains inconsistent with defensive tackle Joey Bosa out with a foot injury, but they do have a formidable secondary in safety Derwin James and cornerback Casey Hayward.

Rams pass game coordinator Shane Waldron said one of Goff’s strengths is his field vision.

“It’s great to have a quarterback that’s able to improvise or if someone does come free out of the normal rhythm of the play, he’s able to find them,” he said.

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Cowboys showing rare signs of being defined by defense first

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Sean Lee wants more time to decide if this is the best chance the Dallas Cowboys have to be defined by their defense in the linebacker's eight years with the club.

There's no question about the answer through two weeks.

The Cowboys (1-1) are fourth in the NFL in

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Sean Lee wants more time to decide if this is the best chance the Dallas Cowboys have to be defined by their defense in the linebacker’s eight years with the club.

There’s no question about the answer through two weeks.

The Cowboys (1-1) are fourth in the NFL in total defense, with a loss to Carolina that could have been a blowout and a win over the New York Giants that wasn’t nearly as close as the seven-point margin.

In both cases, it was thanks to a defense that is delivering on preseason hopes of being a difference-making unit.

“I think we’re starting to show the type of defense we can be,” Lee said Thursday. “It’s still early in the season. Still room to improve. Still a case we can cause and make more turnovers. But we’re around the football. We’re making plays. We’re keeping points down, yards down.”

Dallas is tied for second behind Chicago with nine sacks after bringing down Eli Manning six times.

The Cowboys visit Seattle on Sunday, and the Seahawks have allowed six sacks of Russell Wilson each of the first two games.

DeMarcus Lawrence, who finished tied for second in the NFL with 14½ sacks last season and ended up with the $17.1 million franchise tag, has a sack in each of the first two games. Three fellow defensive linemen had a sack apiece against the Giants.

For that and other reasons, Rod Marinelli is comfortable saying the Dallas defense has the most upside in his five seasons as defensive coordinator.

“I just think we’ve gotten better every year,” Marinelli said.

“We’ve improved and our talent level has gotten a little bit better. I know we’re fast. We’re really fast. Now we’ve just got to direct our speed.”

For years, talk of the Cowboys surrounded the offensive stars: quarterback Tony Romo, tight end Jason Witten and receiver Dez Bryant.

With all three gone within the past two years, the buzz drifted to the sensational 2016 rookie pairing of quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott.

But the offense is in transition, with Prescott getting used to a revamped group of receivers following the retirement of Witten and release of Bryant in the offseason.

The Cowboys cruised against the Giants anyway, despite Elliott falling short of 100 yards rushing for the second straight week (78) and Prescott throwing for fewer than 200 yards for the eighth time in 10 games going back to last season.

“It’s great when you see the defense going out there and doing what they’re doing,” Prescott said. “That gives the team a lot of confidence and the way they’re playing allows us to want to go out there and do the same.”

Lee is nursing a sore hamstring that sidelined him late against the Giants. The Cowboys are calling his limited approach in practice this week precautionary. But Dallas is also in a different place with its linebackers.

Jaylon Smith is starting to show the promise of his days at Notre Dame before a devastating knee injury in his final game with the Irish.

He leads the Cowboys with 16 tackles. Smith’s emergence is allowing Dallas to bring rookie first-rounder Leighton Vander Esch along slowly.

The Cowboys like free agent pickup Joe Thomas, and fourth-year pro Damien Wilson forced a fumble on a sack of Manning.

“Feel good about that group right now,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Obviously Sean’s the leader. He’s the leader of our defense. He’s a great, great football player. But depth is important on your team.”

As Lee mentioned, turnovers are lacking so far. The Cowboys have recovered two fumbles, but don’t have an interception.

Still, they’ve been pleased with 2015 first-rounder Byron Jones making the switch back to cornerback. Chidobe Awuzie has been solid on the other side.

“We’re very confident, not only in our ability but in our system and our coaching,” safety Jeff Heath said.

“I just think we have the combination of guys to work really well together. We play for each other. I think you’ve been able to see some of the fruits of that.”

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Dalton, Bengals look to stay unbeaten against Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Bengals have their offense revving in high gear.

Cincinnati has put up 34 points in back-to-back games to open the season, although quarterback Andy Dalton said they haven't played a perfect game.

"We left some stuff out there," Dalton said. "We can definitely improve and get better. (But)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Bengals have their offense revving in high gear.

Cincinnati has put up 34 points in back-to-back games to open the season, although quarterback Andy Dalton said they haven’t played a perfect game.

“We left some stuff out there,” Dalton said. “We can definitely improve and get better. (But) if we’re saying that and scoring 34 points, that’s a good thing.”

Dalton and the Bengals will look to fix those “little things” and start 3-0 for the fifth time in coach Marvin Lewis’ 16 seasons when they visit the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

The Panthers are coming off an uncharacteristically poor defensive performance in a 31-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, prompting coach Ron Rivera to say he wouldn’t tolerate laziness on defense .

The big change from last year’s 0-3 start for the Bengals has been up front.

The offensive line was a mess last season, the main reason they finished last in the league in offense.

Coordinator Bill Lazor was given freedom to redesign the offense. He overhauled the line, and the Bengals have new starters at four positions. So far that line has meshed well together, allowing just two sacks — none in a 34-23 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 13.

“Anytime you have time back there you can step into your throws, and you can put the ball where you want it,” Dalton said of the protection in the team’s 2-0 start .

Another adjustment has been lining up wide receiver A.J. Green in different spots on offense. Green caught three first-half touchdown passes from the slot against the Ravens. Cornerback James Bradberry will cover Green most of the time, but there will be occasions Green could face nickel back Captain Munnerlyn in the slot, where he’ll have a significant height advantage.

“The reason they are moving him around is to try to create opportunities for him. You just got to have a package that can counter it,” Rivera said of Green.

Things to watch in the Bengals-Panthers game:

HISTORY OF 3-0

The Bengals also started 3-0 in 2005, 2006, 2014 and 2015, making the playoffs in three of those years before losing in the first round each time.

McCAFFREY’S CATCHES

Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey only carried the ball seven times against the Falcons, but he had twice that many receptions. His 14 catches (for 102 yards) tied a franchise record and showed Cam Newton is willing to be patient and use check-downs to move the chains. Newton is completing a career-best 69 percent of his passes in his first year playing in coordinator Norv Turner’s offense.

Rivera said he anticipates more things will open up down the field once teams begin to honor McCaffrey coming out of the backfield.

“They (wide receivers) understand too that now all of a sudden those linebackers might not be dropping 12 to 15 yards deep anymore,” Rivera said.

“They may be right at about 8 (yards). Those digs are going to start opening up, those post routes, those bang-eights across the middle — they are going to start flashing a little more.”

GIO’S TIME

The Bengals will lean heavily on Giovani Bernard , their only healthy running back with experience in the system. Starter Joe Mixon tore cartilage in his right knee during the win over Baltimore and is out for a few weeks. Running back Tra Carson pulled a hamstring in practice on Monday, so the Bengals signed free agent Thomas Rawls. Bernard has three 100-yard rushing games in his career.

“It doesn’t change for me,” Bernard said. “I feel like people are freaking out, but my goodness, it’s football.”

MORE MOORE

Panthers rookie wide receiver D.J. Moore is expected to see more playing time this week after a 51-yard touchdown catch against the Falcons.

The team’s first-round draft pick played 17 snaps on offense, but Rivera said earlier this week that “it’s time to put more on his plate.” He also said he’s noticed a swagger about Moore this week in practice.

CLUTCH TURNOVERS

The Bengals’ young defense has given up a lot of yards, but forced game-clinching turnovers in each of their wins. Third-year safety Clayton Fejedelem forced a fumble and returned it for a touchdown with 24 seconds left as Andrew Luck was driving the Colts for what could have been a winning touchdown in the season opener. Last week safety Shawn Williams hit Joe Flacco and forced a fumble as the Ravens were trying to drive for a tying TD late. Luck threw for 319 yards and the Colts piled up 380 overall. Flacco threw for 376 and the Ravens had 425 in all.

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AP Sports Writer Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this report.

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Browns Missing Starting LB Kirksey for Matchup with Jets

CLEVELAND (AP) — Browns starting linebacker Christian Kirksey will sit out Thursday night's game against the New York Jets with an ankle injury.

One of Cleveland's captains, Kirksey also missed last week's game at New Orleans, the first time he sat out a game in his NFL career after playing in 65 straight. James Burgess

CLEVELAND (AP) — Browns starting linebacker Christian Kirksey will sit out Thursday night’s game against the New York Jets with an ankle injury.

One of Cleveland’s captains, Kirksey also missed last week’s game at New Orleans, the first time he sat out a game in his NFL career after playing in 65 straight. James Burgess will start for Kirksey as the Browns try to snap a 19-game winless streak.

New York starting safety Marcus Maye is sitting out with a foot injury. He’ll be replaced by Doug Middleton, who has 11 tackles after two games.

Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry will play. He had been listed as questionable with a knee injury. Landry leads the team with 12 catches for 175 yards.

The Jets are also without outside linebacker Josh Martin and tight end Neal Sterling due to concussions. Martin has not played since getting hurt in the Jets’ third preseason game. Sterling was injured last Sunday against Miami.

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Seahawks’ Wagner says he’s learned from previous injuries

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Stuck at home while out with a groin injury, Bobby Wagner met up with former Seattle teammates Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril to watch the Seahawks' game in Chicago.

Sitting there as his team lost wasn't very enjoyable for Wagner.

"I'm definitely a guy who yells at the TV. I'm calling

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Stuck at home while out with a groin injury, Bobby Wagner met up with former Seattle teammates Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril to watch the Seahawks’ game in Chicago.

Sitting there as his team lost wasn’t very enjoyable for Wagner.

“I’m definitely a guy who yells at the TV. I’m calling out plays and think they’re going to hear you,” Wagner said Thursday.

Seattle’s All-Pro middle linebacker is expected back in the lineup Sunday when the Seahawks host Dallas looking to avoid falling to 0-3 for the first time under Pete Carroll. For the most part, the defense wasn’t the problem on Monday night against the Bears. The Seahawks held them to 271 total yards and only 10 offensive points after Chicago scored on its opening drive.

But having Wagner back will certainly be a boost in what’s essentially become a must-win game just three weeks into the regular season.

Wagner said he was initially injured in the second quarter of the season-opening loss at Denver. He didn’t believe it was going to be an issue until after the game.

Sitting out Week 2 showed Wagner had gained a new perspective after the issues he had with a lingering hamstring injury last season.

Wagner wouldn’t sit a year ago to let his hamstring have at least a week off to get better. The result was a muscle injury that got worse until Wagner was on the field unsuccessfully trying to play on one leg.

“Last year I was kind of in the same situation with my hamstring and I can say I didn’t necessarily trust the trainers in that situation and it kind of lingered for the last eight games,” he said. “It wasn’t something I wanted to do again so I made the grown up decision and did the right thing this time.”

Asked why he was so stubborn a year ago, Wagner said he believed he could play through the injury and still contribute at a high level. It wasn’t until Seattle’s Week 14 loss at Jacksonville that it became a significant issue and it was completely evident a week later in a blowout loss to the Rams.

“I felt like I fared pretty well up until the Jacksonville game. I think that’s when it really got worse and it kind of lingered into the Rams game, which if you watch the film you see it,” Wagner said. “Kind of dealing with that I didn’t want to do that again and was smarter this time.”

An unintended benefit of Wagner’s injury this season was the opportunity for Austin Calitro to make his first start. Seattle has struggled to find a clear backup for Wagner since his rookie season, at times shifting K.J. Wright into the middle for games Wagner has missed. Calitro received positive reviews from his first start, and has now played significant snaps at two linebacker positions in the first two weeks.

“He played a really good football game and it’s more than just the plays and getting lined up and all,” coach Pete Carroll said. “It was making the calls, handling situations, handling the adjustments that we made during the game, communicating to guys around him. He played like a veteran player and I was really pleased with that.”

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Broncos changed travel schedule after 1-7 road record

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos have adjusted their travel itinerary in hopes of changing their fortunes on the road.

They're no longer flying out on Friday for trips to the East like this weekend's game at Baltimore .

"We're not going to worry about how far we're traveling, what time the

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos have adjusted their travel itinerary in hopes of changing their fortunes on the road.

They’re no longer flying out on Friday for trips to the East like this weekend’s game at Baltimore .

“We’re not going to worry about how far we’re traveling, what time the game starts — we don’t care,” coach Vance Joseph said. “It’s going to probably rain on Sunday. We don’t care. I think pushing it back and just going on Saturday is all about our mindset and not worrying about going east, who we’re playing or where we’re playing.

“It’s worrying about the Broncos playing the best we can play,” Joseph added. “Our motto this year is, ‘We don’t care about where we go or who we play or when we travel or where we travel.’ We’re just going to go play.”

The Broncos (2-0) went 1-7 away from home last year and have only won one of their last 10 road games.

That’s a reversal of their road success during Peyton Manning’s four seasons in Denver, when the Broncos were 22-10 away from home.

Von Miller, for one, doesn’t mind the change in plans: “It’s all good,” he said. “We’re able to get a great night’s sleep before, so that’s all that really matters.”

The formula for ending their road woes, Miller suggested, was, “starting fast, getting off on third downs, being able to (force turnovers) and scoring touchdowns.”

Come to think of it, he said, “that’ll work for you anywhere.”

It’ll be imperative against the Ravens (1-1), who have scored touchdowns on all nine of their trips inside the 20-yard line so far.

“It’s the first team in 20 years to be that way in the first two games, that’s amazing,” Joseph said. “They’re running the football, they’re passing the football. So, it’s going to be a challenge.”

The Ravens have four TD runs and five TD passes inside the 20-yard line, and Denver defensive coordinator Joe Woods credits their veteran quarterback, Joe Flacco.

“I mean, they obviously have a good scheme. But he’s a smart quarterback. He understands what he’s looking at. He gets rid of the ball on time,” Woods said. “But I think the big thing is just him. Execution.”

Miller spread the accolades a little bit more than Woods, attributing Baltimore’s 9-for-9 mark to “a great corps of receivers” in addition to “a great quarterback.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh would add running back and offensive linemen to that list, although somewhat reluctantly because it’s only Week 3 and he doesn’t want to get carried away.

“What I’m seeing is good players,” Harbaugh said. “I think we have guys making plays and we ran the ball in a few times, and that’s big to our running backs and offensive line. But, man, you don’t want to start patting yourself on the back. This league is too tough.”

The advantage of playing their second game on a Thursday night, Harbaugh said, was that the Ravens got to kick back last weekend and watch the rest of the league, including the Broncos, who rallied past the Raiders 20-19 behind Case Keenum’s second straight fourth-quarter comeback .

“It gives you good perspective. You see it’s a crazy league. You see how tough it is. You see how tough it is to score in the red zone, how tough it is to stop somebody in the red zone,” Harbaugh said.

Denver’s defense leads the league in third-down efficiency. The Broncos have allowed only five third-down conversions in 22 tries for a 22.7 percentage.

“I just think it’s great execution,” Miller said, noting “the Ravens are pretty good on third down.”

Baltimore is sixth in the league with a 43 percent conversion rate.

“So, third down will be pretty tough for both sides,” Miller said.

Notes: Keenum returned to practice after missing one day with a sore knee . … RT Jared Veldheer (concussion) was cleared for activity but not any action. The Broncos were pleased with how well his backup, Billy Turner, played last week. … CB-PR Adam Jones (thigh) missed a second straight day of practice as did ILB Brandon Marshall (knee).

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Patriots DB Cyrus Jones happy for 2nd chance with Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Cyrus Jones was sure his tenure with the Patriots was over when he was cut at the end of training camp earlier this month.

New England chose to sever ties with the cornerback and return man, a second-round pick in 2016, after an underwhelming two-year tenure.

It included fumble

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Cyrus Jones was sure his tenure with the Patriots was over when he was cut at the end of training camp earlier this month.

New England chose to sever ties with the cornerback and return man, a second-round pick in 2016, after an underwhelming two-year tenure.

It included fumble issues and a right knee injury that caused him to miss the 2017 season.

It is why Jones said he was “blown away” when he got a call from his agent Monday night saying that the Patriots wanted to re-sign him.

A deal was completed, and Jones was added to the 53-man roster on Wednesday. He practiced for the first time with his old team Thursday.

“Everybody was excited to see me, as I was excited to see them,” said Jones, who had been on the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad since being released by New England.

Jones has been working with the safeties since his return, a position that took a hit when starter Patrick Chung suffered a concussion during New England’s loss at Jacksonville.

Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and Nate Ebner — a primary special teamer — are the only other safeties on the depth chart. So, if Chung isn’t cleared to play this weekend against Detroit, the chances are high that Jones will see at least some action.

McCourty said he started beaming when he saw Jones back in the team cafeteria.

“Even when he left and went to Baltimore, I was texting him to see how he was doing,” McCourty said. “It was a good feeling seeing him come back in here.”

Jones appeared in 10 games for the Patriots in 2016, making one start. But he had more fumbles (five on 19 punt and kick returns) than tackles (three) on defense.

He was making progress this spring after his knee surgery, but it wasn’t enough to secure him a roster spot when New England made its initial 53-man cut.

He said he’s not looking at this second opportunity as a chance at redemption.

“I’m just here to do a job, just like everybody else,” Jones said. “I don’t look at it like that. I look at it as another opportunity, just like it was when I was in Baltimore. Just like I did when I left here. Trying to be the best guy on Sundays.”

But Jones acknowledged “it hurt” not being on a roster to open the season.

“I get that opportunity being back here, so I’m going to make the most of it,” he said.

Jones said he’s put the past and the circumstances surrounding his initial departure behind him. He said he respects the Patriots reasons for letting him go.

“Whether I was working my way back from injury or whatever — who wants to get cut?” Jones said. “It really didn’t matter the circumstances of why I got cut. It didn’t matter. That wasn’t important to me. It happened, and I dealt with it like a man and moved on.

“Fortunately enough, coach thought enough of me to bring me back and to help this team win. That’s what I’m gonna focus on doing.”

Notes: TE Rob Gronkowski was limited in practice Thursday with an ankle issue. Chung and DE Trey Flowers both sat out the second straight day as they continue to go through the league’s concussion protocol.

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After statement game by Cousins, Vikings host Allen, Bills

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kirk Cousins delivered for the Minnesota Vikings the type of performance expected from, and demanded by, his big contract.

Passing for 219 yards and three touchdowns over the fourth quarter and overtime at Green Bay, Cousins guided the Vikings back from a 13-point deficit to forge a tie with the

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kirk Cousins delivered for the Minnesota Vikings the type of performance expected from, and demanded by, his big contract.

Passing for 219 yards and three touchdowns over the fourth quarter and overtime at Green Bay, Cousins guided the Vikings back from a 13-point deficit to forge a tie with the Packers despite an interception and many other mistakes by the rest of the team.

Given this was his first NFC North game and first on the road against Minnesota’s primary rival, there was a statement made that afternoon at Lambeau Field.

“I’ve seen Kirk do those things before, so it just solidified what type of leader he is,” offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said. “You’re never out of the game.”

The Vikings (1-0-1) are fifth in the NFL in total yards, entering Sunday against winless Buffalo. Cousins, however, was quick to point out the Vikings had only seven points through three quarters at Green Bay.

“We’d love to be more explosive throughout the game as opposed to more concentrated to late in the game,” Cousins said. “We want to be an offense that can strike at any time, but also be a threat from the first quarter all the way through the last.”

The Bills have a long way to go to get there, having handed their quarterback job to rookie Josh Allen during their blowout loss at Baltimore in the opener. The seventh overall pick in the draft showed some progress last week, but with an unsettled offensive line and a lack of game-breaking receivers, this season figures to be a steep learning curve for Allen.

“All these trials and tribulations that I’m going to go through my rookie year,” he said, “are only going to help in the long run.”

Here are some other key angles to follow for the Bills-Vikings game:

MAKING THE CALL

The Bills were outscored 75-9 over their first six quarters until making modest improvement in the second half last week. What changed? Well, coach Sean McDermott took over the play-calling duty from defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, his long-time friend and mentor. They will collaborate now.

“We’re going to do what we feel we need to do in games, and improve,” McDermott said, “and we look in every corner to improve.”

The Chargers had 284 yards, 17 first downs and 28 points in the first half, then just 65 yards, four first downs and three points in the second half.

“That’s something that we can build on this week going in, just having the confidence of knowing we can stop teams from scoring,” said Tre’Davious White, one of only three healthy cornerbacks on the roster following the retirement of Vontae Davis and injuries to Phillip Gaines and Taron Johnson.

FAMILIAR FACE

Frazier took the adjustment in stride. He first began coaching with McDermott in 1999 with the Philadelphia Eagles.

“We owe it to our players to give us the best chance to win, whatever it may be,” Frazier said, “and so that’s how I looked at it.”

Frazier, of course, was the head coach for the Vikings for three-plus seasons after serving as defensive coordinator prior to that. This will be his first return to Minnesota for a regular-season game since his firing after the 2013 season.

“Just a lot of good relationships back in Minnesota, a lot of fond memories,” Frazier said.

BAILEY’S DEBUT

If and when Dan Bailey makes his first field goal on Sunday, the crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium will undoubtedly roar with an undertone of sarcasm after those three wide rights by now-discarded rookie Daniel Carlson against the Packers.

Kicking trouble has hounded the Vikings throughout Mike Zimmer’s reign as head coach since 2014, so they were relieved that a player with Bailey’s accomplishment and experience was available this week .

The Bills have had more stability lately with Stephen Hauschka, who ranks fourth on the NFL’s all-time field goal accuracy list . Bailey is second. Hauschka, who was in training camp with the Vikings as a rookie in 2008, is 33 for 38 on field goal tries in 19 games with the Bills and has converted all 31 extra point attempts.

“We are fortunate. Hauschka is very steady and a veteran who has kicked in big games,” McDermott said. “That was part of the reason why we picked him up.”

MCCOY HURTING

The Bills ranked sixth in the league last year in rushing yards, on the strength of a second straight 1,000-yard season by LeSean McCoy, but Bills running backs have only 108 yards on 31 attempts through two games. This has been a rough season so far for McCoy. He’s been working through a rib cartilage injury this week, when he was also named in a second case of alleged abuse brought forth by a former girlfriend .

Minnesota’s defense is not an ideal opponent against which to get on track.

“They’re a good team. It’s a challenge. If I’m good enough, I’ll go out there and compete,” McCoy said.

NOT SO SPECIAL

Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer has been under pressure for more than just the place-kicking problems. The Packers blocked Matt Wile’s punt and turned it into a touchdown last week, the most glaring mistake that wasn’t a missed field goal.

“We’re going to have to clean it up,” Zimmer said.

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Returns of Oren Burks, Aaron Jones replenish Packers’ depth

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers might get injured inside linebacker Oren Burks back for their game Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

The rookie appeared to be in line to open the season as the starter inside alongside Blake Martinez when he hurt his shoulder during warmups before a preseason

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers might get injured inside linebacker Oren Burks back for their game Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

The rookie appeared to be in line to open the season as the starter inside alongside Blake Martinez when he hurt his shoulder during warmups before a preseason game last month in Oakland.

He was cleared on Wednesday to return to practice as a full participant.

Depth has also been replenished at running back, where Aaron Jones figures to return on Sunday after missing the season’s first two games after being suspended by the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

At the least, the returns of Burks and Jones will help the Packers on special teams. They have each shown the talent to contribute in other ways too.

Jones, who was also bothered by a hamstring injury in the preseason, ran for 448 yards and four touchdowns on 81 carries last year. He had two 100-yard games, including 125 and a score on 19 carries in a win at Dallas on Oct. 8.

Coach Mike McCarthy has said that Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery will remain atop the depth chart. Jones gives the Packers another option in the backfield with his slashing ability.

“Give the defense a little bit more to worry about,” Williams said Thursday. “Aaron’s just a sparkplug, really. He’s always trying to open holes, especially if one’s closed, he’ll find another one really and bounce it outside.”

A third-round pick out of Vanderbilt, Burks moved up the depth chart after Jake Ryan was lost for the year in training camp with a torn ACL. The Packers traded for Antonio Morrison from the Colts to help with depth at inside linebacker after Burks went down. They also picked up Korey Toomer and James Crawford before the season started.

Burks remains atop the depth chart inside next to Martinez, having raised his profile during the preseason.

“We’ll see what the week brings us, McCarthy said before practice on Thursday. “You could see him progressing through training camp, so it will be great to get him back out there.”

Burks played inside linebacker and safety in college. His experience in coverage could help against the Redskins and running back Chris Thompson, who leads Washington with 19 receptions.

RODGERS UPDATE

McCarthy expected quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is playing with a left knee injury, to follow a practice plan similar to last week before the Vikings game. Saturday was the only day that Rodgers practiced last week. He played well, especially considering the injury, completing 30 of 42 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown in the 29-29 tie with Minnesota.

This week, McCarthy gave the whole team off from practice on Wednesday and elected to do a walkthrough instead, feeling that his players could use a break after a season-opening night game followed by the overtime game against Minnesota. Rodgers was due to focus on rehab on Thursday.

INJURY REPORT

Besides Rodgers, CB Kevin King (groin) also missed practice. … CB Davon House (biceps) and S Josh Jones (ankle) were limited.

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Seahawks trying to avoid troubling 0-3 start hosting Cowboys

SEATTLE (AP) — Whether it was his first two stops in the NFL, his time in college at Southern California or his first eight seasons in charge in Seattle, Pete Carroll has never started a season with three consecutive losses.

That's 12 seasons in the pros and nine in college during which Carroll

SEATTLE (AP) — Whether it was his first two stops in the NFL, his time in college at Southern California or his first eight seasons in charge in Seattle, Pete Carroll has never started a season with three consecutive losses.

That’s 12 seasons in the pros and nine in college during which Carroll has been able to avoid a disastrous start to a new campaign. And it’s what the Seahawks will be trying to avoid Sunday when they host the Dallas Cowboys.

“There’s only a couple of undefeated teams in the NFC right now and let’s hang with that. Let’s hang with them,” Carroll said. “I don’t want to get behind that number right now, so we’ve got to get a win.”

What’s been called a roster reset multiple times by Carroll and other Seahawks has struggled to get started. Seattle’s offense has looked inept at times, its quarterback confused and its defense vulnerable. The Seahawks understand the rarity of dropping to 0-3 and still being able to turn around the trajectory of the season.

“I’m not going to give you a cliche. You don’t want to be 0-3,” Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said.

Dallas is still trying to solve all of its issues, but at least has a victory after knocking off the New York Giants at home last week. The Cowboys’ defense was exceptional against the Giants, holding rookie Saquon Barkley and New York’s run game to 35 yards on the ground, and sacked quarterback Eli Manning six times. The Cowboys are second in the NFL with nine sacks through two weeks, and now face the offense that’s surrendered a league-high 12 sacks so far, six in each game.

“We’ve continued to try to build the talent level on our front seven and try to create competitive situations where guys are fighting for roster spots and fighting for playing time and hopefully when they get out there that competition brings out the best in them,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. “Obviously, those can be very impactful plays.”

The Cowboys are 5-2 in September road games since 2014, one of those losses coming in the opener against Carolina. Seattle hasn’t lost a home game in September under Carroll, going 13-0 since 2010.

RUN AROUND: For two weeks, the Seahawks have failed to follow through on one of their major offseason priorities of returning to being a run-first offense. The Seahawks had just 16 carries for 64 yards in the opener. After committing to running more in Week 2, they ended up managing only 74 yards on 22 carries against the Bears. There was also Carroll’s confusion about the conditioning of starter Chris Carson, who didn’t have a carry in the second half against the Bears.

SILENT ON SEATTLE: New Dallas secondary coach and passing game coordinator Kris Richard turned down interview requests before his reunion with the Seahawks. Richard spent the first eight years of his pro coaching career in Seattle, the past two as defensive coordinator. He was fired in a retooling of Carroll’s defensive staff.

The Cowboys have blitzed more the first two weeks than in the past under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. From the start, Richard has said the Cowboys embraced the idea of him bringing new concepts.

“I do think the DNA of both guys in terms of what they believe in coaching is real similar,” Garrett said. “I think that reflects on how they teach technique and the schemes that we use.”

WIN SOME, LOSE SOME: Seattle is expected to get Wagner (groin), rookie starting cornerback Tre Flowers (hamstring) and guard D.J. Fluker (hamstring) back after missing time with injuries. Wagner and Flowers missed the loss to Chicago, while Fluker has been out since the third week of the preseason with the hamstring problem.

While those players appear set to return, the Seahawks could be without starting center Justin Britt (shoulder), while linebacker K.J. Wright (knee surgery) and wide receiver Doug Baldwin (knee) are still at least a week away from getting back on the field.

WEAKNESS IN NUMBERS? The Cowboys are using 11 roster spots — roughly 20 percent of the 53 total — on receivers and tight ends. They added a receiver without releasing one this week by bringing back Brice Butler. He spent the past three seasons with Dallas before signing with Arizona in free agency. The Cardinals cut him at the end of the preseason.

The Cowboys are 30th in the NFL in passing in their first season without tight end Jason Witten and 2014 All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant. Dak Prescott has thrown for at least 200 yards just twice in the past 10 games going back to last season.

LOCKER ROOM VISIT: Garrett said it was a little strange when Seattle safety Earl Thomas approached him in the Dallas locker room following the Seahawks’ victory last December . During his offseason holdout, Thomas made it clear he wouldn’t mind the opportunity to play elsewhere, with Dallas possibly at the top of his wish list.

“I’ve never had that happen before, an opposing player comes into your locker room. But we have great respect for him,” Garrett said.

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Derrick Johnson not concerned about Raiders pass rush

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Middle linebacker Derrick Johnson isn't as troubled as most people seem to be by the Oakland Raiders' lack of a pass rush.

The way Johnson sees it, there are other ways for the defense to impact games.

Yet with only two sacks in two games, Johnson also realizes something

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Middle linebacker Derrick Johnson isn’t as troubled as most people seem to be by the Oakland Raiders’ lack of a pass rush.

The way Johnson sees it, there are other ways for the defense to impact games.

Yet with only two sacks in two games, Johnson also realizes something has to change.

“It’s a lot of ways to contribute to being a really good defense besides getting sacks,” Johnson said Thursday. “Don’t get me wrong, sacks help big time but red zone defense is a big part of being a really good defense. Turnovers for sure. It’s still early.”

Oakland’s pass rush, or lack thereof, has been heavily scrutinized since the team traded 2016 defensive player of the year Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears a week before the season opener.

Mack has had a sack and a forced fumble in each of his first two games while helping the Bears to an NFL-leading 10 sacks. Mack also scored a touchdown in his Chicago debut against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

Conversely, the Raiders pass rush has been sparse at best. Defensive end Bruce Irvin got to Rams quarterback Jared Goff for a coverage sack in Week 1 while rookie defensive lineman Maurice Hurst dropped Case Keenum in Week 2.

Like Johnson, Oakland defensive coordinator Paul Guenther believes there are other ways for the Raiders to be effective. During Guenther’s stint as Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator, the Bengals had more than 33 sacks only twice in four seasons but finished in the top 20 overall three times.

“Obviously you’d like to have sacks but if you really look at it, when you look at the statistics year in and year out, the teams that are up there in sacks aren’t necessarily playoff teams. A lot of times they’re not,” Guenther said. “You’d always like to get a number of sacks. It kind of feeds off each other and the kind of personnel you have. That’s not the most important thing but obviously you want to get after the opposing quarterback.”

Oakland has forced only one turnover in two games. The Raiders are also 26th in defensive third-down efficiency, allowing opponents to convert 12 of 27 opportunites.

Johnson said there is a sense of urgency in Oakland’s locker room, although the 35-year-old sounds more concerned with the Raiders’ inability to stop the Broncos on their game-winning drive in the final seconds last week than he is about the pass rush.

“Really the last two games the first half was pretty good team effort but we have to finish the close ones, win the close ones,” Johnson said. “As a defense we have to be hoping for that situation, saying, ‘Hey, if we stop them it’s over.’ It’s not the whole defense. It’s a play here, a play there. Not being tight enough here or communication. Just a little something on each play of that last drive hurt us.”

With nine new starters and a 10th — Irvin — playing a different position than he did a year ago, the argument could be made the Raiders are still going through growing pains.

Johnson isn’t buying it.

“That’s too easy of an excuse,” Johnson said. “We’ve been together for a little bit. We know the plays. We just have to execute better. Our defensive coordinator knows we can do that. We need to help him out by making some plays. We have to make plays.”

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Bears face punchless Cardinals, look to improve to 2-1

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Now the 2018 Chicago Bears will find out how they handle success.

After a close loss to Green Bay, the Bears got a nice win over Seattle. Now they face an Arizona team that's been outscored 58-6 in the Cardinals' first 0-2 start since 2005.

It's a game Chicago

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Now the 2018 Chicago Bears will find out how they handle success.

After a close loss to Green Bay, the Bears got a nice win over Seattle. Now they face an Arizona team that’s been outscored 58-6 in the Cardinals’ first 0-2 start since 2005.

It’s a game Chicago is supposed to win, maybe even dominate.

“Just like last week when it was coming off a difficult loss, now the team is feeling good in the fact that we got a win,” s first-year coach Matt Nagy said. “Sometimes when you have that, with bad teams, complacency sinks in. That’s not what we want. We want our guys to continue to stay hungry, to realize how important it is to stack wins on top of each other.”

Arizona, under first-year coach Steve Wilks, is at the bottom of the league offensively and near the bottom defensively.

To try to boost an offense that got past midfield once — on the next-to-last play of the game — in last week’s 34-0 drubbing by the Rams in Los Angeles, Wilks and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy say they’ve scaled down the game plan, simplified things. They also say they want to get the ball to David Johnson more often.

While Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has been inconsistent, Arizona’s Sam Bradford has been mostly bad, struggling with his accuracy, usually a strength in his game.

“Sam is known to be able to put the ball where it needs to be,” Wilks said. “Regardless of why, we need to try to make sure we correct that moving forward. Is it the line? Is it just him? Is it the receivers? Again, everybody has a hand in it. Everybody’s working on their craft, trying to correct it.”

Here are some things to consider when the Bears visit Arizona.

MACK’S IMPACT

Now Bradford, Johnson and the rest of the beleaguered offense must deal with Khalil Mack, who has two strip sacks and returned an interception for a touchdown in his two games since joining the Bears.

“You just turn the film on, you can see it,” Wilks said. “He’s doing some great things: a sack/fumble, interceptions for touchdowns, you name it. So, you’ve got to make sure you try to slow him down, neutralize him a little bit. I don’t know if you can stop him, but we’re going to do a great job of trying to create some things and hopefully we can try to slow him down a little bit.”

UP-AND-DOWN TRUBISKY

Trubisky has had some great moments and some that weren’t so great. He completed 25 of 34 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns against the Seahawks, but had two intercepted.

Trubisky said it’s a matter of making progress.

“I’m just trying to enjoy every single day you have to come out, practice and play with your teammates, develop great relationships and just continue to get better and better,” he said, “and when things go wrong, you just go back that it’s part of the process. There is going be ups and downs. You’ve got to celebrate the small victories. There is going to progress along the way, but there is also going to be setbacks. It’s all about just staying positive and keeping your head down and staying on track.”

CARDINALS QB

While Wilks is sticking with Bradford at quarterback, Arizona’s supposed franchise quarterback of the future is waiting in the wings.

Arizona moved up in the draft to pick Josh Rosen at No. 10 overall with the idea he’d learn by watching Bradford this season. But the Cardinals’ offensive woes could wipe out that timeline.

“Sam, right now, is the quarterback, as I’ve stated before,” Wilks said. “I don’t think it’s just the quarterback position. I think we have some issues across the board in all three phases, and we’re working on those issues. I think we’ve done a great job of trying to correct those issues, starting with trying to simplify things with the game plan, allowing guys to play fast.”

BOOED AT HOME

To try to motivate his team, Wilks played audio of the home crowd booing the Cardinals in their opener. Cornerback Patrick Peterson called the booing “an embarrassment.” Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald seemed to think they were understandable.

“We can’t play any worse than we did the last two weeks,” he said. “All you can go is up.”

HELP ARRIVES

Arizona should have the services of tight end Jermaine Gresham and defensive end Markus Golden for the first time this season. Both were recovering from significant surgeries, Gresham’s to repair a torn Achilles tendon, Golden a torn ACL.

Both would be significant contributors if healthy.

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‘Cover City’: NFL Week 3 Picks And Insight From CG Technology’s Jason Simbal

The post ‘Cover City’: NFL Week 3 Picks And Insight From CG Technology’s Jason Simbal appeared first on SportsHandle.

Sports Handle is pleased to present Cover City: A Pro and College Football Betting Podcast, hosted by Eric Rosenthal (@ericsports). Rosenthal is a professional sports bettor who focuses on NFL

The post ‘Cover City’: NFL Week 3 Picks And Insight From CG Technology’s Jason Simbal appeared first on SportsHandle.

Sports Handle is pleased to present Cover City: A Pro and College Football Betting Podcast, hosted by Eric Rosenthal (@ericsports). Rosenthal is a professional sports bettor who focuses on NFL and college football. He has wagered more than $25 million in the last nine years, getting banned from many sportsbooks along the way.

The Cleveland Browns -3 and New York Jets kick off NFL Week 3 on Thursday night with the Browns playing the unfamiliar role of favorite. This episode we have a great guest in Jason Simbal (@jsimbal), Vice President of Risk Management for CG Technology, to offer behind-the-counter thinking and strategy as he and Eric talk through the entire NFL slate.

Time codes for the episode follow below. Listen on Spotify here. Tell a friend.


2:10: Setting the line: Perspective from the bookmaker.

5:18: Simbal identifies the most consistently public teams in the NFL. And how quickly people exit the wagon. 

9:46: Conversation amongst the bookmakers. What do they do with the Chiefs scoring ability?!

11:45: Cleveland Browns come into Week 3 as favorites! When was the last time this happened? Why Jason is surprised about the public when it comes to the Browns.

14:10: When do people tend to bet the moneyline? Jason explains how to take advantage of it.

15:41: New Orleans Saints +3 at Atlanta Falcons: The most popular public bet in Week 3? Seven times more action on the Saints this weekend (so far). Eric talks about why he might be leaning against the field.

18:41: Does the kicker mean anything to the spread? Jason addresses.

21:10: Simbal breaks down the intricacies of in-game betting and live action.

22:45: New York Giants +6 at Houston Texans: A sore spot for Jason as he breaks down his favorite team.

25:05: Eric talks about why it’s just as important to understand when to bet as who to bet on.

28:00: How trades and injuries affect the line movement in the NFL and even a look into what the LeBron James Saga meant for NBA futures.

30:30: The situational element in line movement. Jason breaks down the impact of Khalil Mack’s trade on the line.

32:49: Green Bay Packers -3 at Washington Redskins: Home dog alert. Jason talks about why the public has bet the Packers 12 times as much as Washington this weekend and why he’ll be rooting for the Redskins.

37:00: San Francisco 49ers +6.5 at Kansas City Chiefs: Eric identifies his favorite side. Jason explains how Patrick Mahomes’ recent play has shifted this weekend’s line from the lookahead.

41:55: Los Angeles Chargers +7 at Los Angeles Rams: Battle of L.A.! Big ‘Pros vs. Joes’ game shaping up. Who’s that lone Chargers in-person bettor?

44:50: New England Patriots -7 at Detroit Lions:  Sunday Night Football. Belichick’s former assistant Matt Patricia is not inspiring much confidence.

48:10: Pittsburgh Steelers -1.5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Monday Night Football. The legend of FitzMagic grows. What’s the difference between Winston and FitzMagic besides a gorgeous beard?

50:10: Jason gives one final insider look into the book: What percentage of the money comes in on the spread, props, teasers and futures?

53:55: Eric’s 5 SuperContest Picks of the Week.


Come back on Monday for the NFL Week 3 recap and a look ahead to Week 4. Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericsports and Sports Handle @sports_handle.

Bonus! Check out this week’s episode of  ‘The Pro Football Handle’ featuring Robert Walker And Matt Perrault:.

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49ers get Foster back from suspension in time for Chiefs

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Reuben Foster spent the first two weeks of the football season being a fan, cheering on his San Francisco 49ers teammates from his couch while serving a two-game suspension.

When he got the chance to rejoin his teammates this past Monday, he was ready to celebrate.

"It was like a

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Reuben Foster spent the first two weeks of the football season being a fan, cheering on his San Francisco 49ers teammates from his couch while serving a two-game suspension.

When he got the chance to rejoin his teammates this past Monday, he was ready to celebrate.

“It was like a holiday,” Foster said Thursday. “It was just like a holiday just knowing I could come back and play the game I love for real. I’m happy that I’m playing the cards right off the field and on the field.”

The end of the suspension for violating the NFL’s policies on substance abuse and personal conduct closes a difficult stretch for Foster that had him spending much of the offseason dealing with legal issues rather than preparing for his second season in the NFL.

He was charged in January in Alabama with second-degree marijuana possession. That charge was eventually dismissed after he completed a first-time offender diversion course.

Foster then faced more serious charges for an incident in California in February. He was initially charged in April with felonies for domestic violence, making criminal threats and weapons possession after being accused of beating up his ex-girlfriend.

A judge ruled there was no probable cause on the first two charges after the ex-girlfriend recanted the allegations and the judge found no other evidence to support the charges. The weapons charge was reduced to a misdemeanor and Foster pleaded no contest to that in June.

He was sentenced to two years’ probation, 232 hours of community service, and $235 in fines.

After dealing with all that and then a suspension, Foster is wary of being too amped when he finally gets a chance to be back on the field.

“I got to be real cautious about being too excited this week on my first day back,” he said. “Getting overwhelmed is very easy. I do that every time. Even if you all don’t see it, I do it a lot.”

Having Foster back Sunday will be key when the 49ers (1-1) face the potent Kansas City Chiefs (2-0). With Andy Reid’s offense featuring a promising young quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, speedy playmakers like Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt and a threat at tight end in Travis Kelce, the Niners will have their hands full.

Kansas City leads the NFL with 80 points through two games, thanks to 10 touchdown passes by Mahomes, and is second in the NFL averaging 7.44 yards per play.

“They do a lot of stuff,” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “They mess with your eyes. They’ve got a lot of different jet sweeps and movement. They’ve got a very good vertical pass game. They’ve got a good run game. So, you never know what they’re going to do when they break the huddle and you’ve got to be ready, basically ready for everything.”

With Foster returning this week and Malcolm Smith recovered from a hamstring injury that sidelined him the first two weeks, the 49ers have decisions to make at linebacker for Sunday’s game.

Rookie Fred Warner has played middle linebacker the first two weeks and fared well in the difficult role of calling the defense. Warner has 19 solo tackles, three assists and a forced fumble through two games.

“I’ve seen a dog in Fred. I’ve seen a real dog, a mature man who goes about his business,” Foster said. “I really salute him for that and pride him for stepping up and taking control of the defense. I’ve worn the green sticker and it’s really hard to wear the green sticker. I’m really proud of him.”

The 49ers haven’t said whether Warner will remain in the middle with the green dot on his helmet signaling he’s getting the defensive calls or which linebackers will start.

But with Foster showing promise last year as a rookie with 72 tackles in 10 games, and Warner delivering early this season, the 49ers appear to have the makings of a capable duo at the two inside linebacker positions.

“They’re both instinctual and they trust what they see,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “That’s a big part of this game, just being able to play fast and seeing something and being able to react to what they see. There are a lot of guys who can be smart on paper or see it on film. Going out and translating it is difficult for a lot of guys and those two do it as well as anybody.”

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Bullock perfect on kicks, gets 2-year extension from Bengals

CINCINNATI (AP) — While Minnesota and Cleveland changed kickers after only two games, the Bengals gave Randy Bullock a two-year contract extension for his perfect start.

He's made every field goal and extra-point attempt, helping the Bengals remain unbeaten.

The seventh-year kicker has settled into the job after beating out fifth-round draft pick Jake Elliott

CINCINNATI (AP) — While Minnesota and Cleveland changed kickers after only two games, the Bengals gave Randy Bullock a two-year contract extension for his perfect start.

He’s made every field goal and extra-point attempt, helping the Bengals remain unbeaten.

The seventh-year kicker has settled into the job after beating out fifth-round draft pick Jake Elliott last year, prompting the Bengals (2-0) to offer the contract extension through 2020. He signed it on Tuesday.

Bullock is one of 11 kickers in the NFL who have yet to miss.

“Randy has come in here, grown in his role and has developed a trust through the building,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “He’s morphed his body and feels confident about things. He’s been consistent, and he’s just got to keep working at it. Now is not the time to relax.”

Bullock arrived in Cincinnati in 2016 after Mike Nugent was released . He filled in while Chris Boswell was hurt in Pittsburgh, and the Bengals claimed him off waivers for the final three games. They drafted Elliott and staged a competition for the job in training camp last year. Bullock won, and Elliott wound up with the Super Bowl champion Eagles.

Bullock went 18 of 20 in field-goal attempts and made 31 of 33 extra-point tries last season, earning the Bengals’ trust. He spent the offseason lowering his body fat and strengthening his core muscles.

“I feel like a new person,” he said Thursday after practice. “I feel a lot stronger.”

Heading into a game on Sunday at Carolina (1-1) , Bullock is 4 for 4 on field goals and 8 for 8 on extra points.

Kickers are part of a closely knit group. They compete for jobs, stay in touch during the season, work out together in the offseason on occasion, and offer congratulations or support, depending upon how the last game has gone. Bullock got congratulatory messages from other kickers when he signed his extension.

“A lot of guys have reached out to me in the last couple of days,” Bullock said. “Even Jake Elliott reached out to me, so that was cool. I’ve stayed in touch with him a little bit.”

He’s been on the other side as well. He started his career with Houston from 2012-15, and also has kicked with the Jets, Giants, Steelers and Bengals.

Bullock keeps up with how other kickers fare each week. He saw clips of Minnesota’s Daniel Carlson missing three field goals in a 29-29 tie with Green Bay on Sunday, and Cleveland’s Zane Gonzalez missing a pair of field goals and extra points during a 21-18 loss at New Orleans . Both kickers lost their jobs.

“It’s tough to watch anybody struggle, whether they’re a rookie or a second-year guy or somebody older,” Bullock said. “Unfortunately that’s the growing pains. You’re not going to make every kick, even though you go out with the mentality that you will.

“You can see the look on their face when they miss. Every day your job’s on the line to perform at a high level. Everybody knows that. Nobody knows that better than the person who’s just missed.”

TRA CARSON RETURNS: Running back Tra Carson cleared waivers and reverted to the Bengals’ injured reserve list on Thursday, a day after the team waived him with an injured hamstring. Carson was hurt in practice on Monday.

GIO BETTER: Running back Giovani Bernard had a full practice on Thursday, a day after he was limited by a sore knee. Bernard is the Bengals’ only veteran running back with experience in their system heading into Sunday’s game. Starter Joe Mixon is out for a few weeks following knee surgery, and Carson — No. 3 on the depth chart — got hurt as well.

Linebacker Preston Brown and defensive end Michael Johnson went through limited practices. Brown sat out last Thursday’s 34-23 win over Baltimore with a sprained ankle. Johnson went out early with a strained knee. Center Billy Price (sprained foot) also got hurt in the game and is sidelined several weeks.

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Texans-Giants game features top WRs in Hopkins, Beckham

HOUSTON (AP) — It will be a showcase of two of the NFL's best receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and Odell Beckham Jr. when the Houston Texans and New York Giants meet on Sunday with both teams looking for their first win.

Hopkins likes Beckham's determination and grit, and sees similarities between himself and the New

HOUSTON (AP) — It will be a showcase of two of the NFL’s best receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and Odell Beckham Jr. when the Houston Texans and New York Giants meet on Sunday with both teams looking for their first win.

Hopkins likes Beckham’s determination and grit, and sees similarities between himself and the New York star.

“Of course. He makes plays no matter where the ball is,” Hopkins said. “He’s not the tallest, I’m not the tallest, but he (goes) up and gets it. He just makes plays.”

Beckham is a fan of Hopkins and said he has been admiring him since he was in college.

“I love his game,” Beckham said. “I remember when we were playing them here and he had that catch against Prince (Amukamara) down the field and they called it back. Trust me, I have been watching him, watching him a long time.”

Houston defensive end J.J. Watt raved about the knack both players have for making difficult catches look easy.

“I know they both can catch anything you throw their way,” he said. “I know they both find a way to get open and find a way to make catches that 99 percent of people wouldn’t be able to make, so they’re obviously special playmakers, both of them.”

Hopkins has 188 yards receiving with a touchdown this season and Beckham has 162 yards receiving. Giants coach Pat Shurmur noted that 6-foot-1 Hopkins is a bit bigger than the 5-11 Beckham, but also sees many of the same qualities in the two receivers.

“Their production can be similar in a lot of ways (and) I think they’ve got a lot of similar traits in terms of their competitive nature, their spirit, their ability to win their one-on-one matchups. There’s really a lot of similarities. I think Hopkins is a little bit bigger, if I’m not mistaken, but for the most part, they’re very similar guys.”

Both teams will be looking for a big game from their star receivers to avoid falling into an 0-3 hole. The Texans lost to Tennessee 20-17 last week and the Giants fell to the Cowboys 20-13.

Some things to know about New York’s game against Houston:

BARKLEY’S RECEIVING

New York running back Saquon Barkley set a franchise record with 14 receptions last week against the Cowboys and tied the NFL mark for most catches by a rookie. The second overall pick in this year’s draft was asked if getting that many catches was a surprise.

“If any running back told you that he expected to have 14 catches in a game, he’ll be lying to you,” he said. “So obviously I did not expect that, but … (the) Dallas Cowboys did a great job defensively taking away the deep threats and as a quarterback you got to go through your progressions and sometimes you go through your progressions and there’s a check down to your running back. It just happened to be more times this game.”

Houston defensive end Jadeveon Clowney raved about the young running back.

“He catches all the balls for them,” he said. “He does everything for them. He’s a very versatile back. He can catch it, run it. There’s nothing the guy can’t do. It’s going to take a whole team effort to get him down on the ground.”

SEARCHING FOR A SACK

Watt had a solid performance last week in his second game since sitting out the final 11 games last year after breaking his leg, recording two tackles for losses and forcing a fumble. But the player who has twice led the NFL in sacks in his career still hasn’t taken down the quarterback this season. It’s been more than two years since Watt last recorded a sack after he also missed 13 games in 2016 because of a back problem. His last sack came Sept. 18, 2016, when he had 1 1/2 against the Chiefs.

He joked about needing to up his game since nose tackle D.J. Reader already has two this season.

“He leads the team in sacks from the nose guard position, so I need to start doing my job a little better,” Watt said.

INJURY WATCH

There are definite areas of concern for the Giants. Veteran John Greco is now the starting center. He replaces Jon Halapio, who broke his lower right leg and ankle last week. LB Olivier Vernon (ankle) has not played this season and is not full speed. Without their best pass rusher, New York has one sack this season. The biggest weakness might be at cornerback with starter Eli Apple nursing a hamstring. B.W. Webb replaced him in the third quarter and the Cowboys went after him. Expect the Texans to do the same with Will Fuller and Hopkins.

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AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, New Jersey, contributed to this report.

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Carson Wentz makes long-awaited return for Eagles vs Colts

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Carson Wentz has been waiting for this moment since he tore up his knee last December.

No. 11 will be back under center for the Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) against the Indianapolis Colts (1-1) on Sunday after watching his teammates win the Super Bowl without him in February, and missing the first two

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Carson Wentz has been waiting for this moment since he tore up his knee last December.

No. 11 will be back under center for the Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) against the Indianapolis Colts (1-1) on Sunday after watching his teammates win the Super Bowl without him in February, and missing the first two games this season.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Wentz said. “It’s been quite the grind of an offseason. There’s a lot of excitement, a lot of built-up almost anxiety over when it was going to be that time, and almost relief finally being cleared to get back out there.”

Nick Foles, the Super Bowl MVP in Philadelphia’s 41-33 win over New England, returns to the sideline to make way for Wentz, who finished third in NFL MVP voting after setting a single-season franchise record with 33 touchdown passes and helping the Eagles go from 7-9 to 13-3.

Wentz will wear a brace on his left knee — he tore his ACL and LCL in Week 14 diving into the end zone on a scramble. He doesn’t plan to change the way he plays, but understands the importance of avoiding hits.

“I feel extremely confident moving around, on the run,” he said. “Even last year, I never said I’m a running quarterback. I never want to be. But I’ll find ways to extend time in the pocket and make plays down the field. I don’t think that’s ever going anywhere.”

Eagles coach Doug Pederson isn’t going to alter his game plan or his philosophy to accommodate a quarterback returning from injury, even if it’s the face of the franchise.

“I’m not going to coach scared. I’m not going to coach paranoid,” Pederson said. “I’m not going to go in thinking, ‘Oh no, we can’t do ‘this,’ we can’t do ‘that.’ We just have to continue to go play and I (have) to coach that way. That’s where the confidence with the team comes, by doing that.”

Here are some things to know about the Colts-Eagles matchup:

REICH’S RETURN:

Colts coach Frank Reich was Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator the previous two seasons and is one of the most liked guys to come through the team’s building. He has a close relationship with Pederson and texted back and forth with him this week.

“I am as close with Doug as I am with anybody in this profession,” Reich said. “I just think the world of him. I think he’s a superior coach. He’s an incredible coach and an incredible person.”

The familiarity could give the Colts an advantage.

“We feel like they know us and we know them, even though we don’t see each other every year,” Pederson said. “I’m excited to see Frank again. But at the same time we’re up on the things that he could make them aware of.”

FAVORITE TARGET

Wentz will have Jordan Matthews back in the huddle with him. Matthews was traded to Buffalo last August but signed with the Eagles this week to bolster a depleted receivers corps. He was Wentz’s top target in 2016 and the two were close friends off the field.

“Obviously, with Jordan, I feel good with him,” Wentz said. “He was gone only one season. He’s picking up things pretty quickly.”

CAPTAIN ANDREW

The Colts got Andrew Luck back in Week 1 after playing without him for an entire season. Luck is benefiting from Reich’s new offense that’s designed for quick passes. His completion rate is 71.4 percent, but he does have three picks.

“I feel I have a lot to improve on and that’s exciting,” Luck said. “It makes practice fun.

BURNED DEEP

Ryan Fitzpatrick torched Philadelphia’s secondary last week in Tampa’s 27-21 win, throwing for 402 yards and four TDs, including a pair of 75-yard scores. The Eagles know they have to eliminate the big plays.

“We were a sloppy defense in that game,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “Our tackling wasn’t as good as it normally is, our technique wasn’t as good as it normally is. Our pursuit and things like that got a little bit sloppy at times. We need to do a better job.”

MISSING MAN

The Eagles traded up in the second round to select tight end Dallas Goedert and expectations were high after an impressive preseason. But Goedert has only played 34 snaps and has one catch through two games. Considering the Eagles were missing two of their top three receivers last week, it’s surprising Goedert wasn’t part of the offense.

“We have a talented player in Dallas, and we need to find more ways to get him involved,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said.

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Ravens’ Mosley and Collins return to practice

Ravens' Mosley and Collins return to practice

The Baltimore Ravens got a pair of key pieces back at practice Thursday with the return of linebacker C.J. Mosley and running back Alex Collins.

Mosley was limited in his first session since he was carted off the field last Thursday against the

Ravens’ Mosley and Collins return to practice

The Baltimore Ravens got a pair of key pieces back at practice Thursday with the return of linebacker C.J. Mosley and running back Alex Collins.

Mosley was limited in his first session since he was carted off the field last Thursday against the Cincinnati Bengals with a left knee injury. He avoided ligament damage and was diagnosed with a bone bruise.

Collins sat out Wednesday’s session with an illness but was a full participant on Thursday, leaving little doubt about his availability to face the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

Head coach John Harbaugh has been vocal about plans to crank up the ground game, which has produced just 183 yards on 56 carries (3.3 per carry) this season. Collins has 16 carries for 48 yards (3.0) and a score so far.

“We’re not in any way pleased with the numbers, and we are very determined to run the ball well, because we think it helps our offense,” Harbaugh said Monday. “We’ve got to get that going.”

Whether Mosely can play against the Broncos remains unclear, but defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale noted the middle linebacker’s absence changes the way his unit runs.

“Losing C.J. after the first three-and-out [against the Bengals], that set us off balance a little bit, just like it would be if, I guess, your computers crashed or something right in the middle of a story that you’re writing,” Martindale told reporters Thursday. “It took us time to get our thoughts together on how we were going to attack it, and I thought we did a much better job in the second half of the Cincinnati game.”

The Ravens have a few other injuries on defense, with defensive tackles Michael Pierce (foot) and Willie Henry (abdomen) again missing practice on Thursday and outside linebacker Matt Judon (hamstring) limited for the second straight day. Pierce and Judon have played in both games this year, while Henry has yet to make his season debut.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley remained limited with an elbow injury on Thursday, after leaving the game against the Bengals early. James Hurst moved to left tackle and rookie Orlando Brown Jr. played on the right side in Cincinnati after Stanley left.

The Broncos are tied for fifth in the NFL with seven sacks this season, and Von Miller leads the NFL with four.

–Field Level Media

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Vikings RB Cook still sidelined by hamstring injury

 

 

Running back Dalvin Cook did not practice with the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday.

 

Cook is fighting a hamstring injury and also sat out Wednesday's practice, opening reps for Latavius Murray, who would start against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday if Cook can't play.

 

Cook said after last week's overtime tie at

 

 

Running back Dalvin Cook did not practice with the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday.

 

Cook is fighting a hamstring injury and also sat out Wednesday’s practice, opening reps for Latavius Murray, who would start against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday if Cook can’t play.

 

Cook said after last week’s overtime tie at Green Bay that he was cramping, but not injured.

 

Because Cook is coming back from a season-ending knee injury sustained in 2017 as a rookie, the Vikings are likely to be overly cautious with any injury.

 

Cook has 26 carries for 78 yards (3.0-yard average) this season, and Murray has 16 carries for 61 yards (4.1).

 

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Giants WR Beckham frustrated with lack of scoring

Giants WR Beckham frustrated with lack of scoring

The New York Giants have scored a total of 28 points in their first two games and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. isn't quite sure why.

"I feel like there's no way you can't score a touchdown in every quarter, and one

Giants WR Beckham frustrated with lack of scoring

The New York Giants have scored a total of 28 points in their first two games and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t quite sure why.

“I feel like there’s no way you can’t score a touchdown in every quarter, and one somewhere else. It just doesn’t seem unrealistic to me,” Beckham told reporters Thursday. “I feel personally, I could score two touchdowns every game. I feel like Saquon [Barkley] could score two every game. There are other people on this team who could score every single game. That’s over 35 points. It’s just a matter of executing it and making it happen, really. But it doesn’t seem out of reach for me in my mind, I don’t want to win 24-21. I’m trying to win 52-18, whatever they score – zero. Nobody said it had to be close.”

The truth is, though, that the Giants’ offense is struggling — and has been for some time. The Giants haven’t scored 30 points since the final game of the Tom Coughlin era, a 35-30 loss to Philadephia to end the 2015 season.

Now, the Giants are 0-2 on the season and will face the winless Houston Texans on the road Sunday.

“I just know, and I guess it’s for anybody, if you can make one or two big plays early, your confidence is up. You know that I’m ready for whenever it comes to me again, but if you don’t get it, you kind of can’t find a rhythm, it’s hard. It’ll be like a three-point shooter getting in a game and doesn’t get to get his shot up. It’s hard to find a rhythm, so it’s just about finding a rhythm, collectively.”

After the game against Jacksonville in Week 1, which the Giants lost 20-15, Beckham said he thought the offense was starting to click. The 20-13 loss to Dallas last Sunday left him with a different feeling.

“It wasn’t as close as the first week. They just came out and outplayed us,” Beckham said. “Some days, a team comes out and they just play a really good game and Dallas did that. Not to say we weren’t prepared, they just played a better game. Same thing as last week – 0-2 now, we’ve got to win. But it’s not like the whole season is over if you don’t. It’s just, you want to win games. We game plan it, we got some good stuff in and we’ve got to come up with a victory.”

On the season so far, Beckham has 15 catches for 162 yards and no touchdowns. During training camp, he signed a five-year contract extension worth $95 million, with $65 million guaranteed.

–Field Level Media

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Titans QB Mariota, LT Lewan making progress at practice

Titans QB Mariota, LT Lewan making progress at practice

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota and left tackle Taylor Lewan each took encouraging steps at Thursday's practice as they attempt to return from injury.

Still practicing wearing a glove with two fingers cut out on his right hand, Mariota increased his

Titans QB Mariota, LT Lewan making progress at practice

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota and left tackle Taylor Lewan each took encouraging steps at Thursday’s practice as they attempt to return from injury.

Still practicing wearing a glove with two fingers cut out on his right hand, Mariota increased his workload and threw with more velocity to deeper parts of the field, though he again was listed as a limited participant.

“I would say that Marcus is actually better,” head coach Mike Vrabel said told reporters. “I felt like he threw the ball better today, so that’s positive. It’s moving in the right direction. And then we’ll just see where he’s at tomorrow.”

Mariota dressed but did not play against the Houston Texans on Sunday as he works his way back from an elbow injury that caused nerve issues in his fingers. He said Wednesday that he still has some numbness and tingling in a few fingers, as well as weakness in the whole hand.

Blaine Gabbert played all of Sunday’s game, throwing for just 117 yards but leading a drive for a game-winning field goal in the final minutes.

Meanwhile, Lewan returned to a full practice Thursday after missing Sunday’s game with a concussion, putting him on track to play against the Jacksonville Jaguars this weekend, barring a setback. Lewan was limited on Wednesday.

The Titans were without their top three tackles last week, as right tackle Jack Conklin continues his recovery from January knee surgery and Dennis Kelly was hospitalized with a virus. Vrabel said Conklin, who has been limited in practice, took an increased role on Thursday, while Kelly should be back at the facility on Friday.

Kevin Pamphile and Tyler Marz — the latter promoted from the practice squad before Week 2 — started for the Titans at left and right tackle, respectively vs. Houston. The Titans gave up just one sack and two QB hits, along with four tackles for loss.

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Falcons wary of defending Saints’ ‘maestro’ Drew Brees

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons may be a step ahead of the New Orleans Saints in the search for balance on offense.

That's not enough to make Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel rest easy. The Saints have Drew Brees, and the veteran quarterback's guile is enough to make any defensive coach lose

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons may be a step ahead of the New Orleans Saints in the search for balance on offense.

That’s not enough to make Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel rest easy. The Saints have Drew Brees, and the veteran quarterback’s guile is enough to make any defensive coach lose sleep.

Brees and the Saints (1-1) will try to establish more offensive balance when they visit the Falcons (1-2) on Sunday in an early test of NFC South rivals attempting to build off Week 2 wins.

The Saints have relied heavily on the one-two punch of wide receiver Michael Thomas, whose 28 catches set an NFL record for the first two games of a season, and running back Alvin Kamara, who has 15 catches. New Orleans is last in the league with only 52.5 yards rushing per game.

“That’s definitely something that we recognize and we always talk about balance,” Brees said Wednesday. “We want balance.”

Coach Sean Payton said he saw signs of an improved running attack in the second half of last week’s 21-18 win over Cleveland .

“Certainly Alvin and Mike are guys we want to get the ball to, and yet we recognize the importance of having that balance,” Payton said.

Brees, 39, has completed 81.3 percent of his passes (65 of 80) for 682 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.

“He’s a maestro now,” said Manuel, who defended against Brees as a defensive back with six teams before coaching against the quarterback. “He was a magician before when he was dinking and dunking and hitting guys. Now he’s a maestro.”

Matt Ryan and the Falcons found more balance in last week’s 31-24 win over Carolina . Despite playing without running back Devonta Freeman, who could also miss Sunday’s game with a sore right knee, the Falcons ran for 170 yards. Fill-in starter Tevin Coleman ran for 107 yards.

Here are some things to know from the Saints-Falcons game:

PASS PATTERN: Payton is confident Brees will spread the ball around more and said he wants to see third-round draft choice Tre’Quan Smith more involved. “We have to find ways to get him more touches,” Payton said. “He is handling our installation. He knows what we are doing game-plan wise and I think he is ready to prove that.”

APOLOGY: Falcons safety Damontae Kazee apologized this week after his ejection for last week’s hit to the helmet of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Kazee was making only his second career start.

“I’ve got to learn to try to keep my head up when I tackle,” Kazee said. “It’s a new rule now and I’ve got to adjust to that.”

Kazee said he must learn “when to take my shot and when not to take my shot. He was sliding and I tried to lean over to the left and hit him with my facemask. I apologize for the hit.”

RECEPTIONS FOR ALL: Ryan completed passes to eight receivers last week instead of relying heavily on Julio Jones. In one possession late in the first half, he completed six straight passes to five receivers, none to Jones. “I feel like as a quarterback you’re just trying to make the right decision, go to the right spot with the football and trust whoever is in that spot to make those plays,” Ryan said Wednesday. “That’s just how it shook out in that game.”

NO RUNNING: The Saints’ running game ranked fifth during their run to the NFC South title last season. They rank 31st this year with only 2.9 yards per rush. The absence of Mark Ingram, who has served half of his four-game suspension for use of a banned substance, gets some of the blame.

Payton has said there is no evidence of a “crisis.” New Orleans has played from behind for much of its first two games, causing Payton to call more passing plays. Payton said a couple Kamara runs during fourth-quarter scoring drives last week showed potential for success on the ground.

INJURY WOES: The Falcons already have been hit hard by injuries , especially on defense where safety Keanu Neal and linebacker Deion Jones are on injured reserve. Coach Dan Quinn hopes Jones, who must miss at least eight games, can return this season. Defensive ends Takk McKinley and Derrick Shelby missed practice this week with groin injuries. Jones also missed time with a calf injury.

Also, left guard Andy Levitre was placed on IR with a triceps injury. Wes Schweitzer, who filled in for Levitre last week, is expected to start.

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AP Sports Writer Brett Martel contributed to this report.

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No longer strong suit? Titans defense struggling vs the run

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans aren't close to panicking over sloppy run defense, and the Jacksonville Jaguars gives them a chance to show just how much better they can be.

Leonard Fournette left the Jaguars' season opener with a tight hamstring and sat out Jacksonville's win over New England last weekend.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans aren’t close to panicking over sloppy run defense, and the Jacksonville Jaguars gives them a chance to show just how much better they can be.

Leonard Fournette left the Jaguars’ season opener with a tight hamstring and sat out Jacksonville’s win over New England last weekend. Fournette has been limited in practice this week.

Titans’ three-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said Tennessee will come out with the same mindset no matter who the Jaguars (2-0) hand the ball to on Sunday.

“It’s going to be our job to stop the run,” Casey said. “We haven’t really done that in the last two weeks. We have to make sure we improve a little better. But we’re definitely prepared for it. We’ve been playing against the guy the last couple years, and we understand their scheme. So it’s going to be key for us to make sure we stay gap sound. We do that, we’ll definitely stop their run game.”

With Dick LeBeau as defensive coordinator, nobody in the NFL was better than the Titans at stopping the run over the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Tennessee gave up an average of 88.5 yards per game over the past two seasons and a league-low 2,833 yards rushing overall. They ranked fourth overall, first in the AFC, against the run last season.

Vrabel brought in Dean Pees as his coordinator this offseason, and the veteran coordinator brought in a few scheme changes.

Through two games, the Titans gave up 120 yards rushing in the season opening loss in Miami and 148 in a 20-17 victory over Houston last week. That has the Titans 25th in the NFL through two weeks against the run giving up an average of 134 yards a game.

While the Titans are still familiarizing themselves with the defensive changes, it’s also a bit early in the season. Linebacker Brian Orakpo said the Titans can help themselves by not trying to do too much.

“Whatever call is being made out there, we have to execute it,” Orakpo said. “We can’t have guys doing their own thing. That’s playing for your teammate, making sure you play your assignment within that call. I think that’s what’s kind of been hurting us against the call. Guys just trying to do a little too much. Do what you’re supposed to do within the defense, and everything else will take care of itself.”

The Titans swept the Jaguars last season and held Fournette to 40 yards on 14 carries with one touchdown run in Week 2 as Tennessee won 37-16 in Jacksonville. Fournette ran 19 times in the regular season finale, a 15-10 Tennessee win, and finished with 69 yards. He also caught four passes for 67 yards more.

If Fournette plays Sunday, Tennessee can’t focus solely on him. Quarterback Blake Bortles already has run for 77 yards this season, fourth among quarterbacks in the league, and he’s averaging 7.7 yards per carry.

All-Pro safety Kevin Byard said the Jaguars are more balanced spreading the ball out when Fournette is out of the lineup, so the safety is hoping to face the punishing running back personally.

“One of the hardest rushers in the league, this guy runs behind his pads, a strong runner,” Byard said. “I hope he plays. I think you want to go up against some of the best guys in the league.”

Notes: Titans coach Mike Vrabel said QB Marcus Mariota was limited but did more Thursday. LT Taylor Lewan practiced fully and was meeting a doctor later Thursday hoping to be cleared from the concussion protocol. RT Jack Conklin was limited. LB Kamalei Correa did not practice because of a back injury.

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Unbeaten Broncos face first road test against Ravens

BALTIMORE (AP) — Unbeaten after two games for the sixth consecutive year, Denver showed its tenacity in a pair of fourth-quarter comebacks at home.

Now it's time to see if the Broncos can win on the road.

Quarterback Case Keenum, record-setting rookie running back Phillip Lindsay, standout receiver Emmanuel Sanders and the NFL's

BALTIMORE (AP) — Unbeaten after two games for the sixth consecutive year, Denver showed its tenacity in a pair of fourth-quarter comebacks at home.

Now it’s time to see if the Broncos can win on the road.

Quarterback Case Keenum, record-setting rookie running back Phillip Lindsay, standout receiver Emmanuel Sanders and the NFL’s second-ranked offense will be tested Sunday by the Baltimore Ravens, who are 60-21 on their own turf since coach John Harbaugh arrived in 2008.

“They have great crowd noise. It’s like playing at a college stadium,” Denver coach Vance Joseph said. “It’s going to be a tough out for our guys as far as traveling and playing our best game.”

Keenum orchestrated a late drive for the game-winning field goal last week against Oakland after throwing for 329 yards and three touchdowns in his Denver debut versus Seattle. Lindsay is the first undrafted rookie in NFL history to top 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first two games, and Sanders has 14 catches for 231 yards and a score.

“They play really well together,” Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “They have a quarterback at the helm that they believe in. In this game, confidence is 95 percent of it.”

All that aside, the Ravens (1-1) know the outcome could depend on how well they handle Denver linebacker Von Miller, who’s already got four sacks as the focal point of an aggressive defense.

“He’s the straw that stirs the drink, no doubt, one of the very best in the league at what he does,” Harbaugh said. “We will have to have him accounted for at all times, on every play. If we don’t do that, he’ll wreck the game.”

The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Miller is vastly quicker than he looks.

“He’s a physical freak. That’s his major trait,” Joseph said. “He’s built like an outside linebacker, but he’s got defensive back movement.”

Some things to know about the Denver-Baltimore matchup:

FLACCO FACTOR

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco struggled in the first half of a 34-23 loss to Cincinnati last week, but he finished with 376 yards passing and has a 15-5 touchdown-to-interception differential in his past nine games.

His success on Sunday could very well depend on how Baltimore handles Miller, who has three sacks in two career regular-season games against the Ravens — both of them victories. In a 2013 playoff game, Miller had a half-sack and seven tackles in a 38-35 double-overtime defeat.

“He’s very disruptive, but that’s going to be taken care of by the guys up front, our backs, everybody,” Flacco said. “It’s all hands on deck, and we’ll have a plan for it.”

ROOKIE SENSATION

Lindsay had his first 100-yard game rushing last week to go with a 71-yard effort on the ground against Seattle.

The 5-8 rookie out of Colorado and 2018 third-round draft pick Royce Freeman (99 yards rushing) have developed into an effective 1-2 punch.

Baltimore looked at Lindsay before the draft, and now they’ve got to stop him.

“The offensive line has done a good job,” Harbaugh said, “but this kid is running and he’s making plays with his speed and his fearlessness.”

BROWN DELIVERS

Free agent receiver John Brown has scored a touchdown in each of his first two games with Baltimore.

“It feels great,” Brown said. “Most people had doubts about what I could do because of injuries, but I just want to keep rolling.”

Brown rang up 1,003 yards and seven TDs with Arizona in 2015 before being slowed by injuries the following two years.

“He’s a humble guy, but he’s very confident,” Flacco said. “He’s a lot of fun to be around.”

COURAGEOUS KEENUM

Keenum starred with Minnesota last year, and his sizzling start with Denver lifted his record as a starter to 13-3.

Keenum missed practice Wednesday with a sore knee, the result of a few hits he took while scrambling out of the pocket against Oakland.

“Yeah, I guess I need to slide a few more times instead trying to go run and bounce around off of defenders,” he said with a grin. “But I want to get a first down, I want to score. I’m competitive in that way.”

Keenum has played against Baltimore three times with three different teams.

LEWIS HONORED

Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, a 2018 Hall of Fame inductee, will be honored by the team over the weekend.

There will be a parade in Baltimore on Saturday. On Sunday, Lewis will make an on-field appearance just before the kickoff and will be presented his Hall of Fame ring at halftime.

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LA LA Land: Chargers, Rams meet for 1st time since moving

LOS ANGELES (AP) — During the NFL's 21-year absence from Los Angeles, the area's professional football fans survived just fine. They watched the best game of each week on television, and they rooted for their favorite teams from afar.

Or more likely, they just went to the beach.

Now that the Rams have

LOS ANGELES (AP) — During the NFL’s 21-year absence from Los Angeles, the area’s professional football fans survived just fine. They watched the best game of each week on television, and they rooted for their favorite teams from afar.

Or more likely, they just went to the beach.

Now that the Rams have returned and the Chargers have arrived to saturate the nation’s second-largest market with a home game nearly every weekend, Los Angeles fans have a wealth of football at their doors.

What LA doesn’t have is a true local rivalry — not yet, and maybe not ever.

The Chargers (1-1) and the Rams (2-0) will meet on the Coliseum field Sunday for the first time since their relocations. The players and coaches on both sides agree that any attempt to portray this Week 3 schedule quirk as a fight for the city’s heart would be a cheesy ploy of marketing or motivation.

“I’m glad LA has got two teams, but it doesn’t matter,” Rams cornerback Marcus Peters said. “Come on. They’re in the AFC. We’re in the NFC.”

Although they’ll be roommates in a multi-billion-dollar Inglewood stadium complex in 2020, Los Angeles’ two franchises are divided by conference alignment, a lack of history — even the 94 miles of freeway traffic between their training bases in Thousand Oaks and Costa Mesa.

They’re unlikely to meet much more often than once every four seasons under NFL scheduling policies. As the 49ers and Raiders can attest, that’s not a recipe for a rivalry, even if the teams also schedule an annual preseason meeting.

“It’s hard to have a true rivalry (with) a team once every four years,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “I think as players in the locker room, we see it as a fight for game No. 3. You know, find a way to get to 2-1. So it’s something I guess both teams are obviously getting used to, with both being in the same area. But I don’t sense that they’re becoming a huge rival, because you’re not going to see them twice a year. You’re not going to see them every year.”

So don’t expect a crackling derby atmosphere at the Coliseum. Instead, expect a high-level game between two potential Super Bowl contenders.

LA might not have a rivalry, but it has two solid teams coming off winning seasons in 2017. Both clubs’ offenses and defenses are ranked in the league’s top 10, and both rosters are fairly stacked with stars and compelling matchups.

Rivers isn’t afraid to throw at former Chiefs cornerback Peters, who has intercepted passes from the veteran quarterback four times in their six matchups. On the other side, Chargers’ pass-rushing phenom Melvin Ingram will be in pursuit of Jared Goff, who will attempt to get his throws past cornerback Casey Hayward.

Add up the two-team collection of Pro Bowl talent from Aaron Donald to Keenan Allen, and this inaugural crosstown showdown has the potential for high excitement — even if the raw emotions of a true rivalry just aren’t there.

“It’s definitely a rivalry, but just because it’s kind of a battle for home turf, so to speak,” Rams right guard Jamon Brown said. “We’ve got to approach it just the same as we do any other game. The next one is the most important, and it happens to be the Chargers.”

Here are more things to watch in these teams’ first meeting since 2014, when San Diego beat St. Louis 27-24:

STRENGTH ON STRENGTH

The Rams’ defense hasn’t allowed a point in six quarters after shutting out Arizona last week, while the Chargers have racked up 890 yards of offense in just two games. Coordinators Wade Phillips and Ken Whisenhunt should have a high-level duel as the Rams attempt to slow down a Bolts offense that has put up extraordinary numbers since the middle of last season.

BIG NUMBERS

The Rams have scored 67 points in two games, propelled by an offense that keeps adding new wrinkles in its first season since its total transformation under coach Sean McVay in 2017. The Chargers’ defense remains solid, and it has received a boost from playmaking rookie safety Derwin James, who already has two sacks.

PHILIP TALKS

Several Rams defensive players talked about their competitive respect for Rivers, whose impressive arm and genial trash-talking skills are widely admired. He will test the Rams’ revamped defensive secondary while avoiding the rushes of Donald and Ndamukong Suh, who has a warm friendship with Rivers. “I love playing against Philip,” Suh said. “He’s a character on the field. Off the field, I’ve spent some time with him, Pro Bowls and whatnot. I can see a great competitor. … I talk with my pads. I’m not much of a talker, but every now and then, Philip has gotten me out of character and we’ve exchanged words now and then.”

INJURED BOLTS

The Rams got good news when Chargers pass-rushing monster Joey Bosa was ruled out for the third consecutive week. Bosa’s absence with a foot injury has allowed offenses to focus on stopping Ingram, although the Chiefs were a whole lot more successful than the Bills. The Chargers also will be without right tackle Joe Barksdale, putting Sam Tevi in the starting lineup again.

WADE’S GUYS

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn was a rookie running back with the Denver Broncos in 1993, and Phillips was his head coach. Both are looking forward to the reunion. “I just know that I liked him as a head coach and as a man,” Lynn said. “He’s been good over the years, so he hasn’t slowed down at all in that department. I know his defense will be ready to go. I think the world of him.”

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Gruden says he can pronounce Tannehill, but can he stop him?

MIAMI (AP) — With this week's game preparations completed for the Oakland Raiders, coach Jon Gruden is confident he knows the Miami Dolphins' playbook, personnel and pronunciations.

It's TAN-uh-hill.

That's not the way Gruden said the name when he was a network TV analyst talking about Ryan Tannehill.

"He always pronounced my name funny: 'Tanney-hill,'"

MIAMI (AP) — With this week’s game preparations completed for the Oakland Raiders, coach Jon Gruden is confident he knows the Miami Dolphins’ playbook, personnel and pronunciations.

It’s TAN-uh-hill.

That’s not the way Gruden said the name when he was a network TV analyst talking about Ryan Tannehill.

“He always pronounced my name funny: ‘Tanney-hill,'” the Dolphins quarterback recalls with a laugh.

Gruden stands corrected.

“I called him that on Monday Night Football a time or two,” the Raiders’ first-year coach says. “I knew a guy named Steve Taneyhill who played quarterback at South Carolina. You can’t fault me; I’m human like everybody else. But I know his name now for sure.”

With that issue settled, here are other things to know about Sunday’s matchup between Miami (2-0) and Oakland (0-2):

KEEPING IT GROUNDED: Tannehill’s name may be foremost for the Raiders’ defense, but he has handed off more than he has thrown in the first two weeks. That’s a big change from last year, when the Dolphins threw 64 percent of the time, the NFL’s highest rate.

With Miami 2-0 for the first time since 2013, Tannehill’s happy to pass less.

“I’m good with whatever is winning,” he says. “Whatever scores points.”

Oakland’s soft run defense makes it likely Miami running backs Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore will get plenty of touches. Broncos rookie Phillip Lindsay ran for 107 yards last week against the Raiders, and they’re allowing an average of 5.7 yards per rush, worst in the league.

ON TARGET: The Raiders’ Derek Carr bounced back from a three-interception performance in the opener to complete 29 of 32 passes in a one-point loss at Denver. His 90.6 completion percentage was the best ever for a QB with at least 30 attempts, and would have been better if not for a key drop on fourth-and-1 by Keith Smith.

Carr says he’s already able to anticipate what play Gruden will call next.

“We’re building that, and it’s going to take time to continue to build that,” he says. “But it’s kind of cool to already be thinking what he’s thinking before it even comes out.”

NELSON’S TURN: Oakland’s biggest offseason addition at the skill positions hasn’t paid off yet: Jordy Nelson has just five receptions for 53 yards.

Tight end Jared Cook was the focal point of the passing game in the opener with nine catches for 180 yards, and receiver Amari Cooper got into the act last week with 10 catches for 116 yards.

“It’s just matchups and opportunities,” Nelson says. “Obviously, Jared had a great game Week 1, Coop had one last week, so maybe I’m in the rotation this week.”

VERSATILE: Dolphins newcomer Albert Wilson has become a multiple threat, lining up as a boundary receiver and occasionally in the backfield. He has six catches for 68 yards and a score, and four rushes for 15 yards.

“I’ve been around a few guys over my time who were similar, but I don’t think as dynamic as what he is,” coach Adam Gase says. “He’s legitimately a guy that is almost built like a running back but plays like a wide receiver.”

The speedy Wilson says the way he’s being used takes him back to his days as a high school quarterback.

“It’s just coach Gase bringing it out, just challenging me to be a better player,” Wilson says. “He’s definitely bringing it out of me.”

PRESSURE POINT: The Raiders did a better job generating heat on the quarterback last week when they had nine pressures, compared with four in the opener, according to SportRadar. But Oakland has just two sacks, tied for second-fewest in the league.

The Raiders traded Khalil Mack before the season, and he has two sacks and 10 pressures for Chicago. Oakland is looking for a replacement elite rusher.

“It’s hard to find a great one. It’s hard to find a good one. It’s hard to find one,” Gruden says.

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AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow in Oakland, California, contributed to this report.

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‘Sacksonville’ looks for better results against rival Titans

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — One of the NFL's most formidable fronts is off to a slow start.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, who ranked second in the NFL with 55 sacks in 2017, have four in two games — on pace for 32 this season. Players insist the issue is all about the schedule and not any

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — One of the NFL’s most formidable fronts is off to a slow start.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, who ranked second in the NFL with 55 sacks in 2017, have four in two games — on pace for 32 this season. Players insist the issue is all about the schedule and not any “Sacksonville” shortcomings.

The Jaguars (2-0) have faced veteran quarterbacks Eli Manning and Tom Brady, both savvy enough to get rid of the football quickly and avoid the pressure that defines Jacksonville’s defense. The result: A relatively pedestrian nine quarterback hurries in eight quarters.

Jacksonville hopes to end the trend against AFC South rival Tennessee on Sunday. It’s hardly a given considering the Titans (1-1) have allowed a league-leading one sack. But they also could be without starting offensive tackles Taylor Lewan (concussion) and Jake Conklin (knee). Conklin missed the first two games while recovering from a knee injury sustained in the postseason.

Making matters worse for Tennessee, backup Dennis Kelly (illness) was hospitalized last weekend and could miss a second straight game.

“They do have a good O-line, but we’ll see this week,” Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson said with a sly grin.

Jacksonville is clearly frustrated by its sack totals, but quick to point out that opponents are sliding protections, chipping defensive ends with backs and tight ends, and even sending out as few as two receivers.

“It’s kind of like, ‘OK, if you want to max protect, you’ve got five guys covering two guys,'” linebacker Myles Jack said. “Eventually, Sacksonville will return. I don’t think it’s at a standstill. I just think they’re getting so much respect right now. They’ll get their numbers.”

Jacksonville has become one of the favorites in the AFC following wins against the New York Giants and New England. A victory against the Titans would give them their first 3-0 start since 2004.

Tennessee has won four of the last five meetings, including a series sweep last season, and has more victories (27) against Jacksonville than any team in the franchise’s 24-year existence.

“It’s intense, both teams on the rise that started at the bottom of the league and now both teams have been fighting for something (in) recent years,” Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “It’s exciting. It’s exciting for football. The AFC South is becoming very competitive again, and we’re both glad to be on the winning side of the things.”

Here are some other things to know about the Titans and Jaguars:

QB QUESTIONS

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is still experiencing arm weakness along with numbness and tingling in two fingers after injuring his right elbow in the season opener. The symptoms affect the velocity and spin he gets on the football.

“The way that they explained it to me is like when you strum like a guitar string,” Mariota said. “My nerve’s kind of been strummed, and it’s going to take its time to settle down.”

GABBERT RETURNS

If Mariota doesn’t improve, backup Blaine Gabbert would make his second straight start. Either way, it will be Gabbert’s first game back in Jacksonville since the Jaguars traded the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft to San Francisco in May 2014.

“I’ve heard mixed reviews on his time here. I think the fans will kind of give him his warm welcome he deserves,” Jack said sarcastically.

Gabbert went 5-22 as Jacksonville’s starter. But he’s 1-0 against his first NFL team , notching a win last year in Arizona.

“I went out that game last year against Arizona, and Gabbert lit up the field,” Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith said. “I ain’t forgot.”

PAYBACK TOUR

The Jaguars are playing the second of three consecutive home games against teams that beat them in 2017 . New England ended Jacksonville’s season in the AFC championship game. Tennessee swept both meetings. And next week’s opponent, the New York Jets, knocked off the Jags in overtime.

“We’re 1-0 on the Payback Tour,” Jack said.

Added cornerback A.J. Bouye: “We owe a lot of teams some whuppings.”

STREAKING

The only game Tennessee has lost to Jacksonville in the past 34 months came on Christmas Eve 2016, when Mariota was knocked out of the game with a broken right leg. The Titans have won five straight overall in the AFC South, including a 20-17 victory last week against Houston that was buoyed by a touchdown on a fake punt.

“They don’t respect us at all,” Jackson said. “We’re going to have to go out there and earn our respect.”

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Patriots’ Gronkowski limited in practice with ankle issue

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tight end Rob Gronkowski is dealing with an ankle issue as the Patriots prepare for their Week 3 matchup with the Lions.

Gronkowski was a limited participant in practice Thursday after participating in Wednesday's workout. He has started both games for New England this season. He has nine catches for 138

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tight end Rob Gronkowski is dealing with an ankle issue as the Patriots prepare for their Week 3 matchup with the Lions.

Gronkowski was a limited participant in practice Thursday after participating in Wednesday’s workout. He has started both games for New England this season. He has nine catches for 138 yards and touchdown.

Defensive end Trey Flowers and safety Patrick Chung both missed practice for the second straight day as they continue to go through the league’s concussion protocol.

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Wilks seeking first win vs. Nagy, Bears

Wilks seeking first win vs. Nagy, Bears

New Chicago coach Matt Nagy recorded his first victory last week, helped by the kind of aggressive defensive the Bears anticipated with the addition of Khalil Mack.

First-year Arizona coach Steve Wilks is still waiting for his first victory... and for returns on

Wilks seeking first win vs. Nagy, Bears

New Chicago coach Matt Nagy recorded his first victory last week, helped by the kind of aggressive defensive the Bears anticipated with the addition of Khalil Mack.

First-year Arizona coach Steve Wilks is still waiting for his first victory… and for returns on either side of the ball.

The Cardinals (0-2) will look to recover from one of their worst showings since relocating to the desert 30 years ago when they play host to the Bears at newly renamed State Farm Stadium on Sunday.

The Bears (1-1) will hope to turn a short week into another long day for the Cardinals, similar to what the Los Angeles Rams did last week in posting a 34-0 shutout after playing the previous Monday. The Cardinals did not cross midfield until the final minute of the fourth quarter against the Rams.

Nagy got his first victory last Monday, a 24-17 decision over Seattle in which the Bears had six sacks and two turnovers, including a late pick-six by cornerback Prince Amukamara that clinched the game.

“We took it over the top,” Mack said.

The Cardinals have yet to mesh offensively under new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and new quarterback Sam Bradford. They are last in the league with 350 total yards and have scored only six points on a rushing touchdown. They had five first downs and 137 total yards against the Rams. Their stated plan this week is to simplify the playbook and give halfback David Johnson more looks.

“David is very effective when he is out in space,” Wilks said. “We’ve got to utilize David from the standpoint of getting him out of the backfield, putting him in the slot, putting him out there to try and create that matchup that we need.”

Johnson, a Pro Bowler in a breakout 2016 before missing all but one game with a wrist injury last year, has 22 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown and six receptions for 33 yards. Bradford has completed 37 of 61 passes for 243 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions.

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald suffered a hamstring injury late in the Rams’ game and did not practice Wednesday but returned for a limited session Thursday and will play, per Wilks. Arizona could also welcome back tight end Jermaine Gresham and defensive end Markus Golden, who both returned to a full practice Wednesday for the first time since suffering serious injuries in 2017.

Halfback Jordan Howard has 117 yards rushing and 58 yards receiving for the Bears, and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has completed 48 of 69 passes for 371 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has run for 56 yards and a touchdown.

The Bears celebrated their Monday victory with a post-game locker-room dance party complete with disco ball.

“These wins are so hard to get,” Nagy said before almost immediately jumping into preparation for the Cardinals. “I want everybody to understand on that team it’s OK to enjoy them. You’re allowed to have fun and enjoy them.”

The Cardinals took quarterback Josh Rosen with the 10th pick in the 2018 draft, but Wilks said now is not the time to change starters.

“If I thought it was just that one position, I would be more than willing to say, ‘We need to make a change. We need a spark. We need something to happen.’ But it is not just Sam,” Wilks said.

–Field Level Media

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Steelers seek first win, FitzMagic spell

Steelers seek first win, FitzMagic spell

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been energized by a couple doses of "FitzMagic."

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is off a blazing start and looks to continue his scintillating performance when the Buccaneers host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night at Raymond James Stadium.

Steelers seek first win, FitzMagic spell

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been energized by a couple doses of “FitzMagic.”

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is off a blazing start and looks to continue his scintillating performance when the Buccaneers host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night at Raymond James Stadium.

Fitzpatrick joined Dan Marino (1984) and Billy Volek (2004) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to pass for at least 400 yards and four touchdowns in consecutive games. Not bad for a guy who was supposed to be a three-game fill-in starter while Jameis Winston serves a suspension for inappropriately touching a female Uber driver.

Now the chatter is that Fitzpatrick may be in line to keep the job. Receiver DeSean Jackson (275 yards, three touchdowns) publicly said “you can’t take the hot man out” after the Buccaneers (2-0) averaged 37.5 points and 482.5 yards in their first two games.

“I won’t be the one getting into that because we’ll worry about that when the time comes,” Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter said during a press conference. “Right now, right after I get out of here we’re going to (be) working on Pittsburgh, and that’s all that matters right now. Everything else is in the future because it could all change like that.”

The 35-year-old Fitzpatrick is well aware of the ups and downs of NFL life, having played for seven teams over 14 seasons while receiving the journeyman label.

So even the lava-like start of 819 yards, eight touchdowns and a 78.7 completion percentage — he has missed on just 13 throws — doesn’t make him feel guaranteed to be the Week 4 starter.

“I’m just trying to enjoy the ride,” Fitzpatrick told reporters. “I’ve had so many ups and downs in my career. When it’s going good, you learn to enjoy the ride.”

The Steelers (0-1-1) aren’t feeling much enjoyment during a distraction-filled start that includes a tie against the Cleveland Browns and a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Running back Le’Veon Bell has refused to sign his $14.54 million tender and remains away from the club. And highly productive receiver Antonio Brown (18 receptions, 160 yards) has supplied more drama than touchdowns receptions (one) through the two games.

Brown engaged in a sideline argument with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner during last Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs, and responded with a “trade me let’s find out” tweet to social media criticism from a former club employee that suggested Brown wouldn’t be all that good if he didn’t have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing him the ball.

Then Brown missed a team meeting on Monday and was disciplined by Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin.

A highly frustrated Brown made it clear on Thursday that the sideline confrontation had nothing to do with the number of passes coming his way.

“We were losing the game,” Brown said. “We were getting beat. We haven’t won a game yet. For me as a Steeler, that is unacceptable. I am not on the sideline begging for the ball or making statements as you guys make. I am pissed off. We’re losing. We suck.”

Roethlisberger said he understands Brown’s frustrations as the team still has a zero in the victory column.

“He isn’t the only guy that gets frustrated in games. We all get frustrated,” said Roethlisberger, who has passed for 787 yards and four touchdowns against three interceptions. “When you are the best in the world you might get a little more frustrated than others. A.B. is a very passionate football player. We all know that.

The fans know that. That is what makes him special, his passion for this game and the passion to be great. We’re not going to want to take that away from him.”

The Steelers hold an 8-2 edge in the series but Tampa Bay won the last meeting, 27-24 in 2014.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Brown calls Steelers losses ‘unacceptable’

NFL notebook: Brown calls Steelers losses 'unacceptable'

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown said Thursday that his frustration on the sideline during Sunday's game and his tweet toward a critic on Monday came from his desire to win.

Meeting with reporters for the first time since the team's 42-37 loss

NFL notebook: Brown calls Steelers losses ‘unacceptable’

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown said Thursday that his frustration on the sideline during Sunday’s game and his tweet toward a critic on Monday came from his desire to win.

Meeting with reporters for the first time since the team’s 42-37 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Brown made it clear he does not want a trade, but rather for his team to start performing at the level it has previously.

“We were losing the game… we haven’t won a game yet,” Brown said. “For me, as a Steeler, that’s unacceptable. I’m not on the sideline begging for the ball or making statements like you guys (the media) make. I’m pissed off. We’re losing, we suck. …We ain’t winning. You’re damn right I’m pissed off.”

Brown was seen on the sideline during the second half of the Chiefs game in an apparent argument with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. On Monday, Brown replied to a critical tweet from former Steelers PR staffer Ryan Scarpino — suggesting Brown wouldn’t be as productive without Ben Roethlisberger — with the words “Trade me let’s find out.” However, Brown was clear Thursday the he doesn’t want a trade.

–Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette said he plans to be back in the lineup Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.

Fournette did not play because of a hamstring injury last week, as the Jaguars beat the Patriots 31-20 to move to 4-0 in games without Fournette. He left the Week 1 win over the New York Giants with a strain and said he felt a pop.

“That team is talented,” Fournette said of the Titans. “We respect their D-line. It’s going to be a fistfight once again, like it always is.”

–Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley returned to practice, just a week after getting carted off the field against the Cincinnati Bengals with a left knee injury.

Mosley avoided ligament damage and was diagnosed with a bone bruise, which appears unlikely to keep him out much more than a week, if that. He appeared to practice only on a limited basis Thursday, keeping his status for Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos unclear.

Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said Mosley’s injury, which happened on the first series in Cincinnati, was difficult to bounce back from within the game. “That set us off balance a little bit, just like it would be if, I guess, your computers crashed or something right in the middle of a story that you’re writing,” he told reporters.

–Four key offensive pieces missed Indianapolis Colts practice for the second day in a row, raising questions about their availability for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (quad), left tackle Anthony Castonzo (hamstring), tight end Jack Doyle (hip) and running back Marlon Mack (foot, hamstring) all sat out Wednesday and Thursday. Hilton, who has missed just eight of the team’s 143 snaps through two games, said Wednesday his injury is “nothing to worry about,” but questions will remain if he does not get in at least a limited practice Friday.

Castonzo has yet to play after sustaining a pair of setbacks — the most recent coming last week — since he initially hurt his hamstring during training camp. Mack made his season debut last season after a preseason hamstring injury, but he picked up a foot issue in the game. Doyle has missed just seven snaps through two weeks.

–Atlanta Falcons wideout Julio Jones remained sidelined at practice with a calf injury, though he deemed the absence precautionary after the muscle tightened in Sunday’s win over the Panthers.

Running back Devonta Freeman (knee), defensive ends Takk McKinley (groin) and Derrick Shelby (groin), and linebacker Corey Nelson (calf) also missed practice for the second consecutive day.

–Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry remained out of practice with a heel injury, suggesting he will miss his third straight game.

Despite optimism he could practice this week, Berry has yet to practice this year and missed the first two games with a “doubtful” designation on the injury report. The Chiefs’ defense currently ranks last in yards allowed, 31st in yards per play allowed and 29th in points allowed.

–New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon and cornerback Eli Apple remained sidelined from practice, putting their availability for Sunday’s game against the Texans in doubt.

Vernon has been out since late August with a high-ankle sprain and has yet to return to practice. Apple picked up a groin injury Sunday night against the Cowboys before missing the team’s first two sessions of this week.

Tight end Evan Engram (ankle) practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day.

–Philadelphia Eagles running backs Darren Sproles and Jay Ajayi remained sidelined from practice.

Sproles hasn’t practiced in more than a week with a hamstring issue that kept him out of Sunday’s loss in Tampa Bay. Ajayi missed most of the first half of Sunday’s game with a back issue before returning. He has logged just 51 snaps (33.8 percent) through two games this season.

–Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay sat out for the second day in a row with a concussion.

With the second missed session, Slay appears unlikely to progress through the league’s concussion protocol in time to play Sunday night against the New England Patriots.

–Tampa Bay Buccaneers first-round defensive tackle Vita Vea returned to practice for the first time since July.

Vea was carted off the field after going down in a training-camp practice with a calf issue. It is uncertain if he will be able to make his NFL debut Monday night against the Steelers, but the Bucs could use help at defensive tackle after injuries to Mitch Unrein (injured reserve, concussion) and Beau Allen (foot).

Meanwhile, cornerback Brent Grimes (groin) expects to play against the Steelers after missing the first two games of the season.

–Former NFL cornerback Vontae Davis knew walking away from the game he played since his childhood in Washington, D.C., was the right thing to do, and he told Domonique Foxworth of The Undefeated he looks back with no regrets.

“I feel great. I haven’t felt like this in … ” Davis paused, “well, in my whole life.”

At halftime of the Buffalo Bills’ 31-20 loss on Sunday, Davis announced his retirement from the NFL. A two-time Pro Bowl selection and 10-year veteran, he signed a one-year contract with the Bills in the offseason.

–The ex-girlfriend of Bills running back LeSean McCoy is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who broke into McCoy’s house and assaulted her in July, her attorneys announced.

Cordon is scheduled to hold a news conference Friday in Georgia, where the incident occurred, to discuss why she is convinced McCoy was involved in the July 10 home invasion.

“While Mr. McCoy maintains that he has been very forthcoming with his teammates and with his coaches, he has not provided any information whatsoever to the City of Milton Police, or assisted in the criminal investigation in any way, which will be discussed at [Friday’s] press conference as well,” her attorneys said, per ESPN.

–The Dallas Cowboys are the most valuable NFL franchise on Forbes’ annual list for the 12th year in a row.

The team is now valued at an estimated $5 billion, up 4 percent from last year, according to the magazine. The Cowboys are the first pro sports team to reach the $5 billion mark, even though they haven’t reached the Super Bowl since 1996.

The New England Patriots, winners of five Super Bowls since 2002, come in second on the list with a value of $3.8 billion. The Los Angeles Rams made the biggest jump in value — 7 percent to an estimated $3.2 billion — to reach No. 4. Rounding out the top five were the New York Giants (No. 3, $3.3 billion) and the Washington Redskins ($3.1 billiion).

–Aaron Rodgers returned from a knee injury, and now he’s back on the stump for State Farm in an agent vs. agent spot that will include multiple iterations this season.

While the Packers quarterback battled a serious knee injury Week 1, the opening spot of his new commercial series sets up Rodgers’ big-screen sports agent against his State Farm insurance agent.

Rodgers’ NFL representative is actually David Dunn, who helped the Pro Bowl passer score a contract extension worth more than $134 million, is not in the TV spot. Actor David Haydn-Jones, recently of CW series “Supernatural,” plays Rodgers’ agent, Gabe Gabriel.

–As expected, Denver Broncos quarterback Case Keenum returned to practice after missing Wednesday’s session with a sore left knee.

Head coach Vance Joseph told reporters Wednesday the team held Keenum out despite the signal-caller wanting to practice, and that he fully expects Keenum to play Sunday at Baltimore.

–Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald returned to a limited practice after missing Wednesday’s session.

Head coach Steve Wilks already said he expects Fitzgerald, who sustained a hamstring injury late in Sunday’s loss to the Rams, to play against the Bears this week.

–Field Level Media

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