Pro Player Insiders Executive Editor Melissa Mahler Behind the scenes look at lives and lifestyles of NFL players and their families plus sports news, interviews & events Sat, 10 Dec 2016 22:38:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Vikings Final Push for Playoff Berth Begins Sunday Against the Jaguars Sat, 10 Dec 2016 22:38:21 +0000 The final push for the Vikings in the hopes of earning a playoff spot begins this Sunday when the team goes on the road to take on the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars.  With only four games remaining on the schedule, any room left for error is gone as the Vikings find themselves on the outside looking in on a tight NFC Playoff picture.  A loss on Sunday would be the final nail in the coffin to a season that once held Super Bowl aspirations.

Vikings defense should be in for a big day

It would be unfair to call any game on an NFL schedule a “cakewalk,” but in the case of the Jacksonville Jaguars, it seems fitting.  Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles enters this week as the league leader in interceptions thrown with 15 and counting.  Expect that number to be very close to 20 by the time the Vikings head back to Minnesota.

In order to create turnovers, the Vikings defensive line will need to pick up where they left off last week in their impressive performance against the league’s best offensive line in the Dallas Cowboys.  The offensive line in front of them this week is anything but elite, which presents a golden opportunity for guys like Brian Robison and Everson Griffen to bully Bortles and force him into making mistakes with the football.

Large shoes to fill at the Free Safety position

The Vikings defense will be without safety Harrison Smith this week and possibly beyond due to a severe left-ankle sprain.  Filling in for the veteran will likely be Anthony Harris, who has performed well in these kinds of situations in the past.

If Harris is yanked due to lackluster play or injury, it may be up to veteran cornerback Terence Newman to fill in at the free safety position as he did last season against the Arizona Cardinals. Rookie Jayron Kearse might be in the mix as well depending on where Zimmer’s level of trust lies in him after his poor performance against the Chicago Bears earlier this season.

Zimmer is back 

After being forced to sit out last Thursday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys due to an emergency eye surgery, Head Coach Mike Zimmer will be back calling the defensive plays this week when the Vikings travel to Jacksonville.

Zimmer’s elite defensive play-calling is an under-appreciated aspect to the success of this defense during his reign as head coach.  His return will be a major asset in the Vikings’ final push for a playoff spot.

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Bills Aim to Keep Hope Alive Against Steelers Sat, 10 Dec 2016 22:36:35 +0000 The Bills sit at (6-6) good enough to put them at third in the AFC East with a quarter left to go in the season. The Pittsburgh Steelers have faired only slightly better than Bills up to this point in the season with a record of (7-5), good enough for second in the AFC North as well slotting them as the 8th seed in the AFC while the Bills are the 10th. This Sunday’s matchup of Pittsburgh and Buffalo will put these two teams who are fighting week in and week out for a playoff spot against one another. In an extremely tight AFC playoff picture a loss here can ultimately remove the Bills from any postseason contention as the road ahead of them would simply be too steep.”We know what this game is all about and you know, what this game represents. You know, the fact we have to win this game to have any hopes of being in the playoffs, we know it starts with this one,” explained Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan.

This matchup, however, sports two teams who look to stack up pretty well together on paper and can ultimately be a tight one throughout. In what has been common knowledge the Bills have been dominant on the ground this season, running their way to the league lead in rushing yards per game. The three-headed rushing monster of LeSean McCoy, Mike Gillislee, and Tyrod Taylor has given the Bills 161.9 yards per game. On the opposite side of the ball for the Steelers, they sport a defense that has quietly undergone vast improvements bringing them to be top ten in the league in run defense and in opponent points scored per game. With 26 sacks on the season led by the veteran James Harrison to go along with 9 sacks on the season, this defense has its fair share of playmakers to give the Bills trouble. Specifically, the play of linebacker Ryan Shazier will be something to look for in this game as he will aim to keep Taylor from scrambling and running at will as he has done to oh so many other defenses this season.

The Bills offense, however, has been under scrutiny throughout the season, specifically that of quarterback Tyrod Taylor who will be a free-agent following the season.”I think Tyrod’s had a lot of really good games for us and like our football team, maybe he’s had some games that aren’t quite to that level, but that’s how I feel about him,” said Rex Ryan. “I believe that Tyrod Taylor’s an outstanding quarterback has a chance to be an outstanding quarterback.” On the season Taylor has thrown eleven touchdowns to only five interceptions, though he is only averaging under six yards per throw. Even with the unspectacular numbers, Taylor will not point fingers at his lack of help offensively and the injuries that have plagued the Bills weapons.”It’s been a battle but like I’ve said, guys have worked through it. We haven’t complained once, we’ve just tried to find ways to win each and every week. Injuries happen in this league and it’s unfortunate and we’ve dealt with it and have to continue to keep pressing forward.”

The Bills and Steelers offenses have been polar opposites this season as the Steelers have perhaps one of the best offensive trios in the sport with Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown. The tandem of Roethlisberger and Brown has been nearly unstoppable this season as over a third of the Steelers passing game has gone through Brown this season as he has already put together another 1,000-yard receiving season with eleven touchdowns thus far.

“Offensively, when you have Le’Veon Bell back, you know, what a tremendous back. You know a guy with size, speed, power, and patience. Like that’s a thing when you look at it. You don’t necessarily say that this is, you know the way he looks and sometimes the way he runs with power but the patience is, you don’t necessarily see that in the NFL. So really, you can’t assume this guy is down,” explained Ryan. “We’ve got to do a great job of getting that picket fence out there and corralling this guy. And then, oh, by the way, Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Antonio Brown and company as receivers so another big challenge for the defense and we know we’ve got to be at our very best and play our best game you know, to have a shot against these guys.”

In a must win situation for the Bills Sunday can prove what this team is truly made of, especially follow a letdown of a loss a week ago against the Oakland Raiders. A win here would go a long way in narrowing the gap in the AFC and with their upcoming schedule give them a very real chance at a 10-win season.

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Miami Dolphins will have their hands full with Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson Thu, 08 Dec 2016 21:49:41 +0000 The last two weeks, the Miami Dolphins defense have given up a total of 971 yards. That is the highest total any Dolphins defense has given up since 1984.

The task doesn’t expect to get any easier for the Dolphins defense this week as they will face one of the most versatile and dynamic running back in the NFL, David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals.

Currently, Johnson leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,709) and total touchdowns (15). He also ranks third in rushing yards with 1,005 and third in rushing touchdowns with 11.

Johnson isn’t just a threat on the ground, but he has also beaten defenses with his receiving skills as well. He leads all NFL running backs in receptions with 64 and receiving yards with 704. Johnson has the chance to be the third running back in history to reach 1,000 rushing and receiving yards and the first since Marshall Faulk in 1999.

“Big guy,” Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said. “Fast. Good vision. He can do multiple things. He’s got all three phases of that position. When you have a guy that’s a threat both running the ball and catching the ball, it makes it very tough.”

Attempting to slow down Johnson could be an even harder job without the Dolphins best linebacker Kiko Alonso. He has not practiced with the team all week as Alonso was working with an individual trainer during practice on Thursday.

If Alonso cannot play against the Cardinals, backup Mike Hull will the likely get the start at middle linebacker.

Alonso said no decision has been made about his playing status on Sunday.

““Right now, we are going day-by-by, so we will see,” Alonso said on Thursday.

Gase thought Hull played well in the Dolphins 38-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

“He showed up, for sure,” Gase said. “That was something that was very obvious, probably to anybody that was watching the game. His instincts are off the charts. You see how quickly he reacts compared to everybody else. For whatever reason, he has that ability to … Everybody is going one way, he’s going the other way, and he’s usually right. You just watch him play, it’s very impressive.”

In 12 games this season, Johnson has gone over 100 yards of all-purpose yardage in each one. Last week against the Washington Redskins, Johnson rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He also caught nine passes for 91 yards and a receiving touchdown.

Miami ranks 30th in rushing defense as they have given up an average of 130.3 yards on the ground. One positive for the Dolphins defense is their track record against elite running backs.

Earlier this season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami’s defense held running back Le’Veon Bell to 53 yards rushing. While Bell was a factor in the Steelers passing game with six catches for 55 yards, the Dolphins won the game 30-15.

In their 28-25 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Week 7, Miami limited LeSean McCoy to eight carries for 11 yards. They were also able to hold San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon to 70 yards on 24 carries in their narrow 31-24 win on the road in Week 10.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph believes he has a way to slow down Johnson, but it won’t be easy.

“You put big ‘backers on him with leverage, so you can take him away, Joseph said. “Obviously, that’s a challenge. He’s a receiver in their empty package, even from the backfield. Obviously, in the run game, he’s a downhill, big runner who can make you miss. He has got speed for the big runs. It’s going to be a challenge.”

In a home game, the Dolphins must contain Johnson if they’re going to come away with the victory.

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Arizona Cardinals cornerback and Pompano Beach native Patrick Peterson will return home to face the Miami Dolphins on Sunday Wed, 07 Dec 2016 22:41:48 +0000 In six seasons in the NFL, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson has never had an opportunity to play in his home area of South Florida. On Sunday, that will change as he will play in front of his hometown family members and friends for the first time at Hard Rock Stadium.

Peterson grew up in Pompano Beach, Florida as he attended Blanche Ely High School where he played as both a defensive back and a running back. In 2007, Peterson was named USA Today high school Defensive Player of the Year.

From there, Peterson attended LSU where he played three seasons in Baton Rouge. In 2011, Paterson was selected No. 5 in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Cardinals.

Peterson never played at Hard Rock Stadium in high school, at LSU or while in the NFL, but Peterson told the South Florida media on a conference call on Wednesday that he is looking forward to it.

“I’m very excited, said Peterson. Growing up, coming back home, being a huge Dolphin fan, being a die-hard, this is my first time actually going back home playing Miami in Miami. So, it is going to be special. I played in Jacksonville before, I played in Tampa before, but that is about four hours away. But having the opportunity to play about 20 or 30 minutes from where I grew up from is definitely an honor.”

Peterson was a Dolphin fan growing up as he attended many games at the building that is now called Hard Rock Stadium. He said he had a ton of memories of being a Dolphin fan growing up in the Pompano Beach area. Peterson didn’t have just one favorite Dolphin player as a kid, he had three of them, all defensive players.

“My favorite Dolphin players growing up, actually I have three of them, Sam Madison, (Pat)rick Surtain and Jason Taylor,” Peterson said. “Obviously being a defensive guy, I loved the way those guys played. As a Dolphin fan, we always had a great defense, but we didn’t have the offenses to compliment them.  There were a lot of great memories that we had.”

Since entering the NFL, Peterson has consistently been one of the best cornerbacks in football. He has made the Pro Bowl every season since entering the league. He along with Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders and Jim Brown are the only players in NFL history that have been selected to the Pro Bowl five times before their 26th birthday.

Despite most opposing quarterback avoiding his side of the field, Peterson’s 20 interceptions since 2011 are the third most since 2011. Only Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (30) and Oakland Raiders safety Reggie Nelson (24) have more during that span.

Last week against the Washington Redskins, Peterson’s interception gave the Cardinals the 31-23 victory. Miami head coach Adam Gase gave a high appreciation of Peterson’s game during his press conference on Wednesday.

If he’s not the best one, there’s probably two guys that (when you’re) going against (them), you have to be careful, Gase said. “And he’s one of them.”

“That’s what you play the game for, to get the respect from your peers,” said Peterson. “I had an opportunity to go up against coach (Gase) last year when he was the OC (offensive coordinator) at Chicago. It is great to hear that from opposing team’s head coach because that means you’re doing something right.”

Sunday’s game against the Dolphins will be a key game regarding NFL standings for both teams. The Cardinals are currently 10th in the NFC with a 5-6-1 record as they are 2 ½ games back of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the last spot. Miami is in seventh place in the AFC at 7-5, a game behind the Denver Broncos for the last wild-card spot.

Peterson said in order for the Cardinals to get back into the playoff race in the NFC, the team just doesn’t have to beat themselves.

“Honestly, I don’t we need to do anything differently, for us it is just the Cardinals, beating the Cardinals,” Patterson said. “It is too many mental errors that are hindering drives. For us, we just have to get back to basic football, situational football. We have a lot of new pieces on this team; we just need to find a way to stop shooting ourselves, beating ourselves.”

Peterson said has bought 55 tickets for this Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. So, he will have several friends and family members that hope the Cardinals will come away with their sixth victory of the season.

“It will be a huge family gathering,” Peterson said.

You can follow Antwan on Twitter @antwanstaley

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Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey nominated as 2016 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Wed, 07 Dec 2016 19:31:08 +0000 Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey has been named one of the NFL’s 32 finalists for this year’s Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. The annual award, which is named after the for the late Hall of Fame running back, recognizes players for their excellence on the field and in the community.

Pouncey was selected because of his leadership on the field as well as he was voted by his Dolphins teammates as a captain for the 2016 season. He was also selected for his work in the Florida community.

Pouncey along with his twin brother, Maurkice Pouncey, who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers founded the Team Pouncey Foundation, which does community work in their hometown of Lakeland, Fla. In addition to that, Pouncey also active with other South Florida charities and partners with other Dolphins players and alumni.

Three of the 32 nominees will be selected as finalists, and the winner will be announced in Houston, Texas at NFL Honors, which is a two-hour primetime award special to air the night before Super Bowl LI on February 4 from 8-10 p.m. on FOX.

Former Dolphins center Dwight Stephenson (1985), quarterback Dan Marino (1998) and defensive end Jason Taylor (2007) are the three players that have won the award while playing for the team. Miami is one of seven teams that have three or more players that have won the Walter Payton Award since it was introduced in 1970. The Kansas City Chiefs have had five players win the award, the Chicago Bears, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Diego Chargers have each had four players recognized as the NFL Man of the Year, while the Dolphins, the Dallas Cowboys and the Cincinnati Bengals each have had three players win the award.

A total of $1 million will be donated in the name of the 2016 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, with $500,000 going to a charity of the winner’s choice and $500,000 supporting the expansion of Character Playbook across all NFL markets. The two finalists each will receive a $125,000 donation to the charity of their choice and a $125,000 donation in their names to expand Character Playbook and the additional 29 team winners will receive a $50,000 donation to their charity of choice and an additional $50,000 donation in their name to implement Character Playbook in their club market.

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Broncos Defense Comes Up Big in Win Mon, 05 Dec 2016 13:58:29 +0000 The Denver Broncos were able to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 20-10 despite a poor performance from the offense, giving them an 8-4 record.

With starting quarterback Trevor Siemian out with a foot injury, rookie Paxton Lynch started his second career game. Lynch was not impressive, only throwing for 104 yards and zero touchdowns. The Broncos punted 11 times out of 14 possessions and was one for 13 on converting third downs. The defense came threw once again in a much-needed win.

Denver Bronocs vs Jacksonville Jaguars

“A gut check. We needed to win the way we won. Defensively, it was a beautiful thing,” said Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak to KOA News Radio.

The Broncos forced two interceptions and a fumble recovery against Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. The most crucial interception came in the third quarter courtesy of cornerback Bradley Roby.

Trailing 10-3 in the third quarter, the Jaguars were driving until Roby intercepted a Bortles pass and took it 51 yards the other way for a touchdown. It was Roby’s second defensive touchdown this year, tying him for the league lead. It was also the Broncos fourth defensive touchdown so far this season.

Denver Bronocs vs Jacksonville Jaguars

“Call me Mr. Pick Six. Every time I’m trying to score. It’s a habit Aqib (Talib) started,” said Roby. “We all want to be Mr. Pick Six every week. I want some more. Two for two. I gotta get another one.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Roby and the rest of the Broncos cornerbacks were targeted 20 times versus the Jaguars. They only allowed six catches for 57 yards and two interceptions. The other interception came from all-pro cornerback Chris Harris Jr. Bortles had a 0.0 quarterback rating when throwing at Broncos cornerbacks.

The win currently has the Broncos back in the playoffs and was needed after the last weeks heartbreaking lost to AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs.

With four games left in the regular season, every game is a must win. The Broncos are in the thick of things in the AFC playoff race and cannot afford a slip up.

They will travel to Tennessee to face young stud quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Titans in hopes to continuing their winning ways.

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Bills Let Lead in Oakland Slip, Fall to Raiders Mon, 05 Dec 2016 01:03:11 +0000 In a game featuring two of the longest playoff droughts in the NFL, the (6-5) Buffalo Bills traveled west to take on the AFC leading Oakland Raiders (9-2). The Raiders came into this one riding a season-high five game win streak with the hopes of pushing that to six and picking up home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Bills playoffs hopes still alive coming into Sunday sitting at the number nine seed in the AFC looking to win out as the there best chance of making the playoffs.

Penalties and dropped passes, two key elements that have haunted the Bills offensive attack all season worked in their favor as it was the Raiders who were prone to such mistakes early. On their very first offensive drive of the game MVP candidate Derek Carr connected with Amari Cooper for a 51-yard gain to the Buffalo 14 only to be called back for lining up in an illegal formation. Following the penalty the Bills offense was able to strike first in war would become a defensive standstill for the early part of this one. The Bills would march down the field on a 10-play 72-yard drive to only settle for a Dan Carpenter field goal to start the scoring for either side. A Bills offense that came in leading the league in rushing flipped the script to start in this one, passing the ball for 9 of their first 10 plays.

An offensive unit that ranks within the top ten in all major statical categories saw the Raiders answer right back with a score of their own. Traveling 46-yards on 8 plays Sebastian Janikowski who is having another stellar year kicking the ball tied it up for the Raiders with a 47-yard field goal of his own. In an offensive struggle of a first half the Bills would not give up the lead for long putting together the only touchdown drive of the first half following the Raiders score. It was Mile Gillislee, not LeSean McCoy who was the difference maker on this drive for the Bills as he picked up a 29-yard on the drive that would eventual help set himself up for a 1-yard score of his own, his 5th rushing score of the season and his 3rd in the last four games. McCoy, though would get his in the first half picking up 71 total yards of offense. On the other side Derek Carr struggled mightily in the first half going 9/17 for 112 yards accompanied by some big drops. Amari Cooper accounted for two big drops as well as a Michael Crabtree drop in the end zone only hurt his numbers. Following the drops and miscues the Raiders would go into the half down 10-9 following two more Janikoswki field goals.

The second half the offense showed up early and often, however. On the first drive of the 3rd quarter, the Bills would only need two plays to put points up on the board. A 54-yard run by McCoy set up a Tyrod Taylor 12-yard quarterback keeps extending the Bills lead to 17-9. The big day on the ground continued for the Bills as they picked up over 200-yards rushing midway through only the 3rd quarter. Gillislee picked up his second score of the day on a 2-yard run to further put the Raiders in the whole 24-9.

Making up for his earlier drop, Michael Crabtree brought the Raiders within a one score game with his 7th touchdown reception of the season. The Raiders offense finally coming to life on a 9-play 76-yard drive late in the third quarter. Carr was 5/6 for 58 yard throwing on the drive which ultimately would set up a Raiders come back. An added Latavius Murray touchdown run would make it a one point game at 24-23 Bills heading into the fourth quarter. The Bills lead would be short-lived as the comeback by Carr and the Raiders would be completed on a great 37-yard throw and catch to Amari Cooper as the Raiders went for 21 unanswered points putting them up 30-24. Thing would only go from bad to worse for the Bills as the bleeding would continue as the Raiders offensive onslaught in the second half would continue. Murray second touchdown run of the day with a 2-point conversion would give the Raiders all the points they would need giving them the 38-24 victory.

Following the game the Bills fell to 6-6 on the season and will head back to Buffalo to take on the Steelers.. The Raiders improve to 10-2 and push their win streak to six games and will take on the Chiefs on Thursday Night football.


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Baltimore Ravens blast the Miami Dolphins 38-6 Mon, 05 Dec 2016 00:48:11 +0000 The Miami Dolphins came into their game against the Baltimore Ravens on a sixth game winning streak. They would leave M&T Bank Stadium stretching their heads as the Dolphins suffered their worst loss of the 2016 season.

Baltimore trounced Miami 38-6 as the Ravens improved to 7-5 on the season, as they will maintain at least a share of first place with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North. Miami fell to 7-5 and are on the outside looking in as it comes to the AFC playoff race because the Denver Broncos defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 20-10 earlier on Sunday. The Dolphins are now currently the seventh seed in the AFC at the moment.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco recorded one of his best performances of his career as he finished the day 36 of 47 for 381 yards and four touchdowns.

After only throwing one interception during the Dolphins sixth game winning streak, quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a rough afternoon as he was 29 of 40 for 226 yards, one touchdown against three interceptions.

Miami also couldn’t get their running game going as the Dolphins had just 62 yards on the ground.

“This was not one of our best performances,” Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said after the game. ” You can’t waste opportunities early in the game, especially on offense. We had nothing that really jump-started us. We just couldn’t make any plays.”

Baltimore dominated the game from start to finish as they took a 24-0 lead into the half. Flacco was able to connect on two touchdown passes to tight end Dennis Pitta, who before Sunday’s game, didn’t have a touchdown catch all season long. Pitta ended the day with nine catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns as he leads the Ravens in receptions with 61.

Flacco completed 27-of-34 attempts in the first half as he finished with 258 yards and three touchdowns before halftime. His only mistake was an interception on the sideline to Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell. However, the Ravens defense was to force the Dolphins to punt on their offensive possession.

Miami, who was shutout for three quarters finally got on the board in the fourth quarter as Tannehill completed an eighth-yard touchdown pass to receiver DeVante Parker. After the Dolphins failed two-point conversation, that made the score 24-6.

Flacco and the Ravens immediately answered on the next drive as he completed a 53-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman. That then made the score 31-6.

Baltimore would later add on a Terrance West nine-yard touchdown that extended the lead to 32 points (38-6).

Ravens kicker Justin Tucker did extend his kicking streak to 35 straight attempts without a miss. He is now 28-of-28 on the season in field goals.

Miami will be heading back home as they will host the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday. Baltimore will travel to New England to take on the Patriots next Sunday night.


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Vikings Need to Win Out in Order to Make the Playoffs Sat, 03 Dec 2016 20:15:13 +0000 Thursday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys was another painful reminder of what it means to be a Viking’s fan.  A season that started perfectly through the first five weeks, only to be followed by a series of face-palm losses like the one on Thursday that brings us back to reality.  It seems like when the hope and optimism begins to fill the hearts of Vikings faithful, the rug gets pulled out from under us time and time again.

Are the Vikings still in the playoff mix? Absolutely.  But let’s be honest here, the same problems that have plagued this team over their abysmal latter half of the season would only be magnified against the quality teams that they would inevitably face.

Where do the Vikings go from here?

The only way that the Vikings have a shot at making the playoffs would be for them to win out the remainder of their schedule, and hope for the Detroit Lions to choke in their unfamiliar spot as top-dogs of the NFC North.  Both seem unlikely at this point in time, but anything can happen in the NFL.

The Vikings schedule to close out the season isn’t exactly a “murderers row”of opponents with the volatile Green Bay Packers being their toughest remaining contest.  Still, the way the Vikings are playing and with the injuries continuing to pile up, even their “softest” upcoming opponent in the Jacksonville Jaguars is not a gimme.

Build off successes from Thursday

While there were more than a few problems for the Vikings on all three phases, it’s important to note that there were some positives to glean from Thursday’s heartbreaker that can be utilized in the weeks to come.  The most obvious being the pressure put on Dak Prescott by the defensive line.

The anchor of the Vikings defense is its wall-like defensive line through which nearly all turnovers have been generated.  When the Vikings defense is able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, sacks and mistakes accumulate and typically ends up being the difference in the Vikings formula for success.  Unfortunately the defensive line was not rewarded in that way on Thursday only due to the absolute futility of the offense.

The loss on Thursday was a statistical outlier given the way the defensive line performed, and it would be hard to imagine a similar result in the weeks to come if the line continues to dominate as it did against the Cowboys stout offensive line.

Skill-positions have to start making plays

An ugly trend for the Vikings offense has been the failure of skill-position players like wide receiver Charles Johnson and tight-end Kyle Rudolph not making the big plays when the team desperately needs them to continue or establish momentum.  Other players on the Vikings offense have had their fair share of mistakes in weeks past, but Rudolph and Johnson were the main culprits on Thursday as they both dropped crucial passes that could have put points on the board and sustained a crucial drive.

Unlike other offenses around the NFL where opportunities to make plays like the ones presented to Johnson and Rudolph are a dime a dozen, they are the difference between winning and losing for the Vikings due to how infrequently plays like that are available.  If the Vikings are to win out, skill-players need to step up and make big time plays in big time situations.

Follow us on Twitter @PlayerInsiders and @Jake_Przytarski

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Bills Head West to Take on Division Leading Raiders Sat, 03 Dec 2016 19:38:38 +0000 The Buffalo Bills (6-5) are traveling to the west coast to take on the AFC West-leading Oakland Raiders (9-2). The Bills have been in quite a winless drought in Oakland, to say the least, not having won a game there since 1966, 50 years ago, something they hope to change on Sunday. The Bills are coming off of a big victory at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars, a win that put them back over .500 on the season and kept their playoff hopes alive. As for the Raiders they are coming in fresh off a victory over the Carolina Panthers, a game they narrowly escaped thanks to the play of quarterback Derek Carr. The victory pushed their season-long win streak to five, a streak they will look to extend against the Bills and ultimately pad their AFC West lead in hopes of locking up the top seed in the AFC for the playoffs. For the Bills here on out they recognize every game is a must-win if they hope to keep their playoff hopes alive.

“They are going to get our best shot one way or another, but I don’t know if it is extra motivation that this team has this record or whatever. They got that record because they earned it. We are just going out there because we need to win, whatever that takes, we are going to give them everything. We will see if it is good enough,” explained Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan.

The Bills are going to give the Raiders all they can handle, and that means forcing the Raiders to try and slow down the league’s top running attack coming in with over 157 yards per game. A strong run game has been the Bills recipe for success all season and going up against the 26th ranked run defense this should be an area of the game they look to exploit. Despite the record, the Raiders defense statistically has been one of the worst in the league, yet they can not be overlooked as playmakers. Specifically, Khalil Mack who has been a force in the league and is in the conversation for the best defensive player year in and year out. Mack currently leads the Raiders with 9 sacks on the season and is coming off one of his most productive games of the season where he recorded a sack, a fumble recovery, and an interception returned for a touchdown off of Cam Newton. The Bills, however, have seen the return of their star defensive tackle Marcel Dareus paying dividends for them. Since his return from the IR Dareus has played in three games and picked up nearly four sacks already. This solid play in addition to joining Lorenzo Alexander in his breakout season with 10 sacks has given the Bills a formidable pass rush, something they will need against a Raiders team who has allowed the least amount of sacks in the league.

This Raiders offense has been one of the best units in the league all season ranking in the top ten in most major statistical categories including putting up 28 points per game good enough for 4th in the league. In large part, the Raiders success has all started with the play of quarterback Derek Carr who has been playing at an MVP level all season long. For a Bills team that capitalizes on mistakes to win this a matchup that those mistakes on the part of Carr will be tough to come by, as Carr has thrown 22 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions on the season. To be noted in this one Carr is nursing a hand injury that will not sideline him in this one but can be an area of concern on whether or not he will be at full health on Sunday.

In terms of health, the Bills regained their biggest receiving threat a week ago and Sammy Watkins wasted no time making his presence known bringing in 3 receptions for 80 yards in his return. Questions about Watkins foot in this linger whether or not he will also be at one hundred percent, though, “he’s going to play,” stated Rex Ryan. “Sammy contributed in a big way last week and we expect a big game this week.” Not suiting up this Sunday for the Bills, however, will be three key players in receivers Robert Woods, Percy Harvin, and cornerback Ronald Darby.

Looking to keep their season alive the Bills will face arguably their best opponent in the Raiders and will be looking to succeed in the underdog role. In a very tight AFC playoff picture a loss can all but end their hopes as they currently sit at the 9th seed in the conference. As for the Raiders a win here would not only extend their win streak but pad their lead in their division which can very well send three teams to the playoffs. A must win for both teams here and one that the Bills and their fans desperately want in hopes to end their long playoff drought.

The Bills will take on the Raiders at 4:25 on Sunday.

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Hayward, Chargers Secondary Torment Osweiler Thu, 01 Dec 2016 22:29:28 +0000 The San Diego Chargers beat the Houston Texans 21-13. The game was one that presented two stout defenses that love to take away the run. It showed as both feature backs, Melvin Gordon and Lamar Miller, struggled to gain any traction on the ground. The biggest difference was the play of the quarterbacks. The magic number was three for both guys as Philip Rivers threw three touchdowns and Brock Osweiler threw three interceptions.

Rivers mainly targeted Dontrelle Inman and Tyrell Williams against a very lackluster Texans secondary. Inman is a route tactician and it showed Sunday as he looked like a smooth operator roaming through the secondary. He and Williams combined for 14 catches 189 yards and two touchdowns. Rivers also hit Hunter Henry for a late touchdown to seal the deal. Henry leads all rookie tight ends with five touchdowns. The development of the Chargers young pass catchers bodes well for them heading into the final stretch of the season. Remember, San Diego is without Danny Woodhead, Keenan Allen, and Stevie Johnson.

This Chargers defense deserves some love as one of the better young units across the league. This defense continues to create turnovers as they caused four against Houston. Casey Hayward made a tremendous interception while having the awareness to keep his feet in bounds. Rivers said, “Casey has such a knack for the football and he’s a smart player.” Hayward is leading the league with six picks. Dexter McCoil and Dwight Lowery joined the party as they made interceptions too. Lowery also created a fumble that was picked up by Trevor Williams.

The secondary had a great day as they generated all of the turnovers. Lowery highlighted the fact that this group is really close and plays for one another. Even with injuries this bunch continues to show up in big ways.

Joey Bosa had another tremendous game as he and Damion Square teamed up for a sack on Osweiler. Also, he had a few tackles for losses as well as two quarterback hits. When he is getting to the quarterback, he changes the game for the Chargers.

The bye week certainly helped the Bolts regain focus with a key stretch of games on the horizon. They probably need to go undefeated to even have a shot at a postseason berth. The good news is this team is getting players back. Jahleel Addae and Denzel Perryman provided a spark for the defense. Rivers thinks the team is poised for a run and with his success in December and January this team has a shot.

The Chargers return home next week to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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Broncos Special Teams Deciding Factor in Overtime Loss to Chiefs Thu, 01 Dec 2016 22:26:19 +0000 The last time the Denver Broncos played, special teams was a big reason they won. Against the Kansas City Chiefs, it turned out to be cost them the game.

With 1:01 left in overtime and the game tied at 27, Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak sent out kicker Brandon McManus to attempt a 62-yard field goal to end the game. The risky decision did not go in the Broncos favor.

Denver Bronocs vs Kansas City Chiefs

McManus missed wide left, giving the Chiefs the ball with a short field. The Chiefs drove and set up kicker Cairo Santos to end the game on a 34-yard field goal that hit off the left upright and bounced through, giving them the 30-27 win.

“It’s on me,” Kubiak said, after explaining the confidence he had in McManus. “We didn’t have any doubt that he could get the ball there. The thought process was on the other end: if we do punt, do we get the ball back?”

The Broncos offense had a season high 464 total yards and defense dominated with six sacks, but special teams did not do their part. Besides the missed kick in overtime by McManus, the special teams unit gave up a big play and had mental lapses.

After suffering a safety in the second quarter, the Broncos were set to kickoff to Chiefs rookie Tyreek Hill. The rookie went untouched as he took the kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown.

In the third quarter, Santos made a 35-yard field goal, but was nullified after the Broncos were flagged for illegal formation for having seven players lined up on one side. A team can only have up to six players on one side when defending a field goal, as the league rule states. The penalty turned a field goal into a touchdown as Hill ran it in from 3 yards out later in the drive.


Hill also added a touchdown reception late in the fourth quarter that forced overtime. He is the first player to score on a reception, rush and return since Gale Sayers did it in 1965.

The lost to the Chiefs puts the Broncos at 7-4 and taints quarterback Trevor Siemian awesome performance.

Siemian had his best game as a pro throwing for 368 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was a product of Siemian’s big game. Sanders had 162 yards on seven catches and one touchdown. Although Siemian was sacked five times, he showed the heart to win.

Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs, NFL Week 12

“He made big plays across the board, made some tremendous throws” said Kubiak. “I wish he could get out of here with the win tonight but that’s part of being a pro. He’s got to battle through it, but I’m proud of him. He played really well.”

The Broncos have suffered a 3-4 record after starting the season 4-0. They now sit outside the playoff picture with five weeks left to go in the season. The team will travel to Jacksonville next week to take on the 2-9 Jaguars. A win is much needed if the Broncos want to keep pace with the top teams in the conference.

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Chargers Defense: The Best Unknown Unit Thu, 01 Dec 2016 22:03:37 +0000 The Chargers give up 361.9 yards per game, 24.9 points, and opposing quarterbacks have a field day as they yield 284.1 yards through the air. Why am I writing a piece about a “struggling” defense? Because when you turn on the film and look deeper into the numbers, San Diego is clearly one of the better defensive units in the league. They show glimpses of dominance now, but the pieces are there for a bright future. Let’s take a look at how this unit came about and has performed this season.

Eric Weddle left in the offseason and it may have surprised some while others deemed it as imminent. This left a huge void in the secondary and many figured Tom Telesco and company had their eyes set on Jalen Ramsey. In somewhat of a shocking move, the Chargers selected Joey Bosa with the third overall pick. They viewed the former Buckeye as the best player in the draft bar none. They also drafted Jatavis Brown in the fifth round and signed Trevor Williams after the draft. In free agency, they signed a slew of defenders that have panned out. Casey Hayward, Brandon Mebane, Caraun Reid, and Dwight Lowery headline a group of underrated signings. They even signed Korey Toomer during the middle of the season. Hayward and Lowery have always been solid defensive backs and somehow did not generate much free agency buzz. Mebane and Reid are strong interior linemen with good speed and were simply salary cap casualty hits.

On paper, this defense had mediocrity written all over them. They have actually overachieved as a core. Unfortunately, injuries and contract negotiations have hindered the potential of this young core. Bosa missed a handful of games due to contract negotiations. Jason Verrett, one of the best corners in the NFL, ended his season with a knee injury. Manti Te’o tore his Achilles. Finally, Reid tore his ACL and Mebane tore his biceps. Denzel Perryman, Jahleel Addae, and Brown have been in and out of the lineup with injuries as well. Injuries have robbed us of seeing a healthy defense, but the Chargers “next man up” approach has paid dividends.

ChargersThe front seven has certainly been in flux. However, no matter whom John Pagano has inserted into the lineup, they continue to stuff the run as they have allowed only 89.8 yards rushing per game. In fact, San Diego has not allowed an opposing running back to rush for 100 yards. That list includes Spencer Ware, DeMarco Murray, Jay Ajayi, Lamar Miller, and Devonta Freeman. These guys pride themselves on stopping the run, which keeps the score close. Corey Liuget, Damion Square, and Mebane have done a good job of taking on offensive line and sacrificing their bodies. Their sacrifices have allowed Perryman, Brown, and Toomer to drop the hammer on runners. The three linebackers also play well in coverage. Melvin Ingram and Bosa play with good technique on the edge as they keep the tackles at bay as they force runners to turn upfield into the mob waiting for them in the middle. Adrian Phillips, Dexter McCoil, and Addae do a good job at safety attacking the line of scrimmage. It is very rare to see the Chargers give up big runs.

The front seven also does a good job getting after the quarterback as they have racked up 26 sacks thus far. They are ranked 12th in that category. The addition of Bosa has helped Ingram get more one-on-one opportunities on the other side of the defense. San Diego’s pass rush helps speed up quarterbacks in the pocket and change the way offensive coordinators call plays. The reinvigorated pass rush also benefits an ailing secondary.


The Chargers are without Verrett and, at times, are missing Brandon Flowers. They do not have household names at safety. In fact, if you ask someone to name a Chargers safety, they would probably be hard pressed to name one. This secondary struggles against the pass as they rank at 26th when it comes to stopping aerial assaults. On the contrary, this is an opportunistic unit. Hayward is the league leader in interceptions with six. The Vanderbilt product is a gambler at corner and he takes advantage of his excellent hands. He positions himself well and attacks 50/50 balls. Aside from Hayward, Craig Mager, Williams, Lowery, Flowers, McCoil, Phillips, and Addae play solid football during the course of a game. They play assignment football, but the problem is not all of these guys are long-term answers for either cornerback or safety. Nevertheless, this unit has performed better than the stats show. They lead the league in interceptions with 14.In every game this season, the defense has held its own and then some. They are probably the main reason the Chargers have been within striking distance in a lot of those close losses. The Bolts defense leads the league in takeaways with 26 and defensive touchdowns with 4. Pagano and company pride themselves on stopping the run, which allows the Chargers to control the game. Now think about that for a moment. The Chargers defense lead the league in takeaways, have not given up 100 yards to a rusher, and score touchdowns. I understand that it has not translated into wins, but this defense deserves some recognition.

The biggest improvements in this unit have been their ability to generate sacks, force turnovers, and get off the field on third downs. Their propensity to relinquish a lot of yards stems from the fact that the offense turns the ball over a lot at times. The defense accepts the challenge and has played better than most would have anticipated. The injuries on defense have been a curse, but they have allowed players to take on bigger roles and excel. McCoil, Williams, Phillips, Toomer, Square and others have gained experience that will help speed up their growth.

The Chargers have one of the best young defensive cores around the league in Perryman, Brown, Bosa, Ingram, Verrett, and Jerry Attaochu. On paper, they look like a mediocre bunch, but they play with enthusiasm and fire. They have taken on their defensive coordinator’s personality. If the Chargers are going to make an unlikely playoff run, it will be because of this Machiavellian defense.

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Do or Die Game for Vikings in TNF Matchup with the Cowboys Thu, 01 Dec 2016 21:49:54 +0000 The Vikings Thanksgiving day loss to the Detroit Lions was another heartbreaker in a six-week stretch that has been defined by similar endings.  Just when you thought the Vikings might be able to regain momentum following their victory over the Cardinals in week 10, they falter once more.  There is no room left for error for the Vikings at this point in time.

The first opponent for the Vikings in the remaining five-game stretch to save the season will be their toughest.  The Dallas Cowboys are the talk of the NFC and the NFL as a whole, and rightfully so.  Led by rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot, the Cowboys have strung together 10-straight wins, and are the current favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl come February.

The Vikings look to slow down the high-powered offense of the Cowboys and create some momentum of their own as we enter the critical final five weeks of the regular season.

Keep the Cowboys offense off the field

The biggest challenge for the Vikings will be to keep the Cowboys from controlling the football and the game-clock as they have done it better than any team in the league this season.  Having the best offensive line in football blocking for an up and coming superstar in Elliot makes it all possible, and will create an enormous challenge for the Vikings to find a way to stop.

Stopping the Cowboys on offense is only the first step in preventing them from controlling the game.  Perhaps the biggest obstacle for the purple will be sustaining drives on offense in order to chew up game-clock and hopefully put points on the board.  If neither of these tasks are met, the Vikings will get blown out plain and simple.

Take shots down the field

Under Pat Shurmur, the Vikings offense has failed to create any explosive plays on a regular basis, making the short bubble screens and check-down passes the bread and butter that we have come to rely on to move the football.  I understand the reasoning, a statue-like quarterback is being protected by an injury decimated offensive line, but at the end of the day you simply cannot win football games in this way.  The threat of the deep ball has to be present in order for the dink and dunk offensive game-plan to be successful.

If the Vikings are to get any sort of rhythm going on offense, they will need to attempt a deep shot to start the game.  Successful or not, it will plant a seed that the Vikings are not going to be attempting the same monotonous play-calls all game long that have defined the offense under Shurmur.

Score first

If the Vikings want to stay in this game and come out on top they will need to put points on the board first.  I’m not talking about settling for a field goal when I say score first, I’m talking about a hard-fought drive that ends in a Matt Asiata one-yard plunge type of drive that sets the tone for all three phases of Vikings football.

The Cowboys enter Thursday’s game with all of the confidence in the world, while the Vikings confidence has undoubtedly dwindled over the course of their five losses in a six-game stretch.  Scoring first will be a huge confidence booster, and could provide the spark that this team needs to come away with a crucial victory on Thursday Night Football.

Follow us on Twitter @PlayerInsiders and @Jake_Przytarski

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Rams lose by double digits to vendetta stricken Saints Mon, 28 Nov 2016 03:20:29 +0000 A match up unlike any other took to the field inside the Superdome. The top ranked New Orleans Saints offense and the top ranked Los Angeles Rams defense were set to meet on the field multiple times.

Whenever coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams meet there is tension on the field. Since Williams parted ways with the Saints after the Bountygate incident, there has been bad blood.

This was an important game for both teams because they are matched in their record, 4-6, and desperately need a win.

Drew Brees began his NFL career when Jared Goff was in the first grade. This is a literal meeting of the veteran and the rookie.

The Rams had the opening drive and Goff delivered his first NFL touchdown of his career in less than three minutes into the game to Tavon Austin.

The crowd and announcers were both astounded by the quick drive and the consistent movement of the team up the field.

It took another Rams drive and two Saints drives for Brees to make a touchdown to tie the game up before the end of the first quarter. He connected with Brandon Coleman for a endzone shotgun pass.

Aaron Donald snuck through the pocket and forced a fumble on Brees for a Rams recovery in the red zone.

Goff, moments later, through for a touchdown to one of his favored receivers Kenny Britt giving the Rams the lead yet again.

Even though Brees took at least three hard tackles, he didn’t let them phase him, he marched his team down the field for another Saints touchdown to tie the game up once again in the second quarter. Mark Ingram ran the ball in for his first touchdown of the game.

Ingram was questionable to play this game because of concussion protocol from a hit last game against the Carolina Panthers.

Quarterback pressure and a collapsed pocket once again forced a fumble, but this time Goff was the target. Paul Kruger recovered the ball for the Saints in the red zone.

Brees didn’t want to mess up this touchdown for his team, so he jumped over the line and got that rushing touchdown and a hit from Alec Ogletree.

For the first time this game the Saints led 21-14 with 7:46 left in the half.

Late in the second quarter, Brees connects with Josh Hill for one of the longest runs of the game thus far. On the play, Ethan Westbrooks on the Rams was injured and was questionable to return.

Two plays later Brees connected with Michael Thomas for another passing touchdown to extend the Saints lead over the Rams to 28-14.

With the Saints getting the ball at the start of the third quarter, Goff knew he had to reduce the lead the Saints currently had.

He rushed the ball down the field and connected with Lance Kendricks for a touchdown to bring the score to a one possession difference.

Brees attempted to increase the lead with :55 left in the half, but it didn’t pan out and the Rams did their job to prevent another score.

At the start of the third Ingram made a 61-yard run after breaking through a hole in the line with no Rams defensive player in sight.

Brees gets sacked for a loss of six, but makes another pass to Ingram with yet again no Rams’ in sight for a 21-yard touchdown.

Goff made a bad decision to throw to Kendricks instead of Austin and the result was an interception by Kenny Vaccaro.

After the ball exchanged possession between the teams because of the failure to convert on a third down, Brees led his team down the field again and gained another touchdown with Thomas.

Both a personal and business influenced game left Goff and Brees and the defense of both teams needing to play strong and hard.

Rookie Tommylee Lewis loses the ball on a punt return and it was almost recovered by Rams Michael Thomas, but he also lost the ball and it is ultimately recovered by the Saints.

Brees threw to Willie Snead who then passed long to Tim Hightower who was wide open for a touchdown giving the Saints a 21-point lead.

Benny Cunningham had an amazing punt return of 61 yards from a kick by Wil Lutz of 68-yards.

This game was a play of the defense of the Rams and the offense of the Saints because of years old problems between coaches and coordinators. Rookie Goff, who is still in the process of proving himself, is being judged harshly on something he has no control over.

The Saints offense is embarrassing the Rams for what happened with Williams, they turned it into a personal vendetta.

In the Saints were victoriousin a 49-21 win over the Rams.

Will this effect Jeff Fisher’s decision to continue to let Goff start?

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Bills Remain Alive in Wildcard Chase with Win Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000  

In a crucial game for the Buffalo Bills to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Bills took down the Jacksonville Jaguars in Buffalo. Coming into this one the Bills sat at 5-5, two games out from the last wildcard playoff spot while the Jaguars were 2-8 and simply playing to keep their jobs at this point. This game saw career milestones on each side as well Bills receiver Sammy Watkins in his return from the injured reserve after being out since week two.

In a game that would turn into an offensive struggle for each side, specifically in the first half saw the Jaguars drive down and score first. On an eleven play 75-yard drive that lasted just under seven minutes the Jaguars went up first thanks to one of Rex Ryans former Jets, Chris Ivory who picked up the score on a 2-yard run. The score was Ivory’s second of the season and he would go on to lead all Jaguars running backs in yards in this one.

The Bills offense however in the first half couldn’t find any success as they were forced to punt it away on their first four drives of the game. The first real sign of offense for the Bills would not revel itself until late in the second quarter. A big return by Brandon Tate, who has been dominant at times as a returner this season, going for 43-yards set the Bills up with prime field position for their first score of the game. An eventual LeSean McCoy 7-yard run in the dwindling seconds before the end of the half would cap off the drive for the Bills. Dan Carpenter, the reigning AFC special teams player of the week, however, would go on to follow a recent trend in the NFL of missing the point after leaving the Bills to go into the half down 7-6 to the Jaguars.

Right out of the gates in the second half the Bills came out storming. On their first play from scrimmage in the second half LeSean McCoy broke away for a 75-yard touchdown run, the longest of his career. This would only be the start of a big day for McCoy as he put up 103 yards and two scores in this one to help provide the offense for this unit. As dismal as the first half was offensively the second half started off with the two teams trading blows as the Jaguars were able to answer right back. Another long drive last over five minutes for the Jaguars resulting in a 20-yard Marquise Lee touchdown catch from Blake Bortles put the Jaguars back on top 14-13.

Perhaps one of the biggest offensive plays of the day for the Bills and their fans was seeing the return of number one wideout Sammy Watkins. Late in the third Watkins would haul in a 65-yard reception not only setting up the Bills for the go-ahead score but bringing a return to the deep ball for the Bills. Watkins would go on to hold on to every pass thrown his way, bringing in three passes for a total of 80-yards in his return from injury. Another off-injured Bill, Marcel Dareus also made his presence known in this one picking up two sacks in the win and showing truly how big of a disruptive force he can be when healthy and dedicated to his craft. However, as good as Dareus and the Bills were at getting to the quarterback, stopping the run what a whole different question in this one.

A Bills team that had given up 108-yards on the ground coming into this one ended up allowing a Jaguars team that has struggled all season long to run the ball to pick up 183-yards running the ball. In a career night for running the ball, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles led the way with his feet picking up 81-yards on the ground while showing off his athletic ability to move with his legs. Tyrod Taylor, a quarterback known for his mobility picked up his fifth rushing touchdown of the season late in the third, putting the Bills back on top. A score by Bortles once again in the third to Allen Hurns, however, would not be enough as the Bills would as they did throughout the game answer right back and make short work of the Jaguars. Marching down the field receiver Justin Hunter who was acquired midseason sealed in a tough catch for the Bills giving them all the points they would need in this one to hang on, 28-12.

Although not coming away with the victory, it was clear this Jaguars team came to play and was no easy test for the Bills. The return and improved play of Sammy Watkins and Marcel Dareus are positive signs moving forward for the Bills.

Following the victory, the Buffalo Bills moved to 6-5 and will travel to Oakland to take on the Raiders, a matchup that pits the Bills against one of the teams who can potentially be standing in their way of the playoffs. The Jaguars will fall to 2-9 and their losing streak will continue being pushed to six straight losses.



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Cowboys’ rookies reigned on Redskins parade Mon, 28 Nov 2016 03:17:13 +0000 On Thanksgiving afternoon, the sun was a fierce problem for both teams, shining directly in the faces of both quarterbacks and kickers.

The Dallas Cowboys were lucky in the first quarter, with the sun not in their face allowing for Ezekiel Elliott to make a touchdown within the first four minutes of the game.

The second quarter was just as difficult, Kirk Cousins was unable to convert a touchdown so the Redskins were forced to kick a field goal to put the team on the board. Dustin Hopkins kicked a successful field goal for 24 yards, but his second attempt later in the quarter failed due to the sun being in his eyes.

The Cowboys’ Dan Bailey kicked his 46-yard field goal successfully because the sun was to his back, that brought the score to 10-3 in the second.

Just before the half ended, Dak Prescott was in the pocket and stuck, but found an escape and darted the ball to Terrance Williams who kept his tip toes in bounds for an amazing catch bringing the score to 17-3 with just under 2 minutes left.

The Washington Redskins seemed to continue to struggle. They were only able to complete to two field goals in the first half, ending 17-6.

The third quarter was the battle of the defenses and it was tough with no scores throughout the entire quarter. Connections from Prescott nor Cousins to their receivers resulted in a score, but the fourth quarter was a lot more exciting.

At the beginning of the final quarter Cousins connected with Jordan Reed twice for unbelievable catches both times. The second Reed reception made for the first Redskins touchdown of the game.

Cousins tries for a 2-point conversion but is picked off leaving it a 5-point difference.

Prescott isn’t ready to give up another W quite yet. The rookie quarterback answered Reed’s touchdown with one of his own by rushing the ball in for 6-yards.

Cousins and his Redskins make the effort to turn the game into a one possession difference on the following drive. He’s successful with a 67-yard passing touchdown to DeSean Jackson.

Redskins try an onside kick, but it’s not in their favor. The Cowboys scoop it up and their drive began.

Cowboys and Redskins penalties popped up left and right on the drive. Holding, unnecessary roughness and pass interference calls had Dallas back and forth in field position, but in the end Elliott scored his second touchdown of the game bringing the score to 31-19 with under 7 left in the game.

Although, Dez Bryant didn’t make any touchdowns, he was an integral part of helping Dallas get scoring drives in the game.

Cousins was determined not to lose this holiday away game, but penalties, bad decisions and unfortunate events were creating a struggle for his Redskins.

Reed and Cousins had a mental conversation when he passed him the ball for an 8-yard touchdown just after the two-minute warning.

Washington had to try for another onside kick in hopes of getting the ball back, but for the second time are unsuccessful. Dallas gets the ball on the Washington 47 with 1:53 left.

The Redskins were not able to come back and the game ended 31-26 Cowboys, giving Washington their third loss of the season.

Their next game is at the Cardinals on December 4 at 1:25 pst. The Cardinals have a 4-5-1 record.

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Miami Dolphins defeat the San Francisco 49ers for their sixth straight victory Sun, 27 Nov 2016 21:23:56 +0000 After going on a two-game California road trip, the Miami Dolphins played their first home game since November 6 as they hosted the San Francisco 49ers. Miami came into the game as one of the hottest team as they had won five consecutive games. The would also leave Hard Rock Stadium as one of the hottest teams in the NFL.

Miami defeated San Francisco 31-24 for their sixth straight victory and seventh of the season. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a tremendous game as he finished 20 of 30 as he threw for 285 yards and three touchdown passes. He also rushed for 34 yards on six carries.

Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills led the team in receiving yards as finished with three receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown catch. Tight end Dion Sims also had a productive day as he caught four passes for 53 yards and a touchdown pass.

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick finished 29 for 46 as he threw for 296 yards with three touchdowns passes and an interception. He also rushed for 113 yards on 10 carries. 49ers running back Carlos Hyde rushed for 65 rushing yards on 13 carries and he also caught a receiving touchdown.

Miami began the day with a three and out on their first drive. San Francisco would then take over on their own 38-yard-line after the punt.

Then the 49ers took over and drove down the field for the game’s first score of the game. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to running back Carlos Hyde to make it 7-0 in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Dolphins finally tied the game up at 7-7 with a 2-yard Jay Ayaji touchdown run.

Later on in the second quarter, Miami went on an 11 play, 84-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown pass from Tannehill to tight end Dion Sims. Tannehill’s touchdown pass would be the 100th in his five-year career.

At halftime, Miami led San Francisco 14-7.

On the first play coming back from halftime, Kaepernick threw an interception to linebacker Kiko Alonzo. Miami then took over on the San Francisco 26-yard-line. The Dolphins would settle for a 24-yard field that gave them a 17-7 lead.

After San Francisco had got the ball back, they went on a nine play, 91-yard drive that resulted in a Kaepernick to Garrett Celek 4-yard touchdown pass. That trimmed the Dolphins lead to 17-14.

Then on the very next kickoff, Dolphins returner Kenyon Drake ran for a 67-yard kickoff return to the San Francisco 24-yard-line. After a Ronald Blair sack and a delay of game penalty, the Dolphins punted the ball back to the 49ers.

After a three and out by the 49ers, the Dolphins got the ball back on their 40-yard-line. Five players later, Tannehill connected with receiver Kenny Stills for a 43-yard touchdown that made the score 24-14.

In the fourth quarter, the Dolphins scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass to rookie Leonte Carroo to extend their lead to 31-14. That was Carroo’s first ever touchdown reception.

On the 49ers next drive scored a one-yard touchdown on a one-handed reception by Torrie Smith in the end zone. The drive went eight plays for 75 yards. That score cut the Dolphins lead to 31-21.

Later on the in the fourth quarter, the 49ers went on a 14 play, 62-yard drive that made it 31-24 Dolphins with less than three minutes left in regulation.

After a Dolphins punt with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter, the 49ers would get one last opportunity to force overtime. San Francisco was able to drive down the length of the field but with five seconds left in the fourth quarter, they unable to score a touchdown on their last play of the game at the sixth-yard line.

Next for the Dolphins will be a trip to Baltimore to take on the Ravens next Sunday. San Francisco will also be on the road next week as they will travel to Soldier Field to play the Chicago Bears.

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Miami Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan isn’t sure he will play in 2016 Thu, 24 Nov 2016 18:48:31 +0000 For the first time in nearly two seasons, Dion Jordan practiced for the Miami Dolphins.

Jordan missed the entire 2015 season because of multiple violations of the NFL substance abuse policy. The last game Jordan played in was December 28, 2014, in the Dolphins 37-24 loss to the New York Jets.

Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said he doesn’t have a lot of expectations for Jordan.

 “Right now, just to see him practice,” said Joseph. “He hadn’t played in almost two years, so for Dion, it’s to get back to the field and practice first. That’s the plan right now. But nothing above board, just to see him practice first and see where he’s at physically.”

Through 26 games, Jordan has 46 tackles and three career sacks. Jordan has been on the non-football injury list, which means he isn’t on the Dolphins 53-man active roster. Miami has three weeks to place Jordan or the active roster or the team must keep him on the non-football list the rest of the season.

Jordan said he isn’t sure if he will play in 2016.

“It’s my health.” It’s my body, Jordan said. “If my body tells me I’m not ready to perform against the best athletes I’m not going to put myself out there,” Jordan said. “But the way things have been going, they’ve been going well and I’ve got high hopes for myself to get out there and compete before the season ends.”

With Jason Jones suspended for the next two weeks because he violated the substance abuse policy and Mario Williams ankle injury, the Dolphins could use some more depth at defensive end.

While Jordan has played at the linebacker position in the past, Joseph said if Jordan does play this season, it will be at defensive end.

“He’s a natural end for us,” Joseph said. “Our ends are more and more like outside linebackers, so it fits him perfect. He’s going to rush, he’s going to prop, he’s going to be in the run game as an outside edge player. For us, he’s an outside backer/defensive end. That’s what we play with. It’s the same spot for us here.”

Everyone was on the field but Pouncey

All the Dolphins attended Thursday’s Thanksgiving practice but center Mike Pouncey. He has been dealing with a hip injury that has kept him out since last week.

Pouncey went to see a specialist on his hip, but it is no word on when he will play again.

Tackle Branden Albert was on the practice field on Thursday, but he was not practicing during the media portion of availability. Albert has a wrist injury that kept him out of last week’s game against the Los Angeles Rams. He is expected to miss another week or two.

Guard/Tackle Laremy Tunsil was practicing with the rest of the team. Tunsil injured his should last week against the Rams and he did not return to the game.

If Tunsil can play against the 49ers on Sunday, expect him to be back at tackle with the unlikelihood that Albert plays. If that is the case, Kraig Urbik will likely be back at guard while Anthony Steen will be at center.

Twitter: @antwanstaley

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Miami Dolphins distribute 500 Thanksgiving meals to families Wed, 23 Nov 2016 22:48:18 +0000 The holiday season has arrived, but that can be a tough time for some families around the United States. On Wednesday, to help ease the burden, the Miami Dolphins along with Publix, Feeding South Florida and Hyundai distributed 500 Thanksgiving meals to select families in South Florida.

The event was held at the Dolphins facility, which is located at the Doctor’s Hospital Training Facility in Davie. Miami Dolphins players, coaches, cheerleaders and the mascot T.D. were in attendance to help give out meals. Families lined up to receive a meal, which consisted of includes a turkey, mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, stuffing, marshmallow delight and cranberry-orange relish.

The families were determined by a pre-selected by Feeding South Florida from 50 nonprofit partner agencies.  The Thanksgiving meals were purchased by the players, the coaching staff and Hyundai.

Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan was one of the players giving his helping hand on Wednesday and he said he enjoyed this event.

“It is great to come around this time of the year,” Jordan said. “Two years ago we did and had a great turnout. It was good today too and we are all having a good time.”

Dolphins tight end Dion Sims said he also enjoys giving back to the community.

“It is great to give back, especially around this time of the year,” Sims said. “It is tough not being with our family but it is great being around our fans.”

After receiving the meals, Dolphins players helped each family carry the products to their cars. In all, more than 10,000 people benefited from this year’s Thanksgiving meals distribution from Homestead through Miami Gardens and in Davie.

“This is a great event that we’ve been doing for a number of years here in South Florida. It starts with the leadership of our owner Stephen Ross, who gives us every resource to be successful on the field and encourages us to give back to the community,” Miami Dolphins Senior Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum said.

In the lead up to the holiday, Dolphins alumni, cheerleaders and staff made visits throughout Miami-Dade County to schools and community centers in Miami Gardens, Hialeah, West Miami, Little Havana and Liberty City. 


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