NFL Week 16 News and Notes

NFL Week 16 News and Notes

NFL recap for Week 15
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Texans 31, Broncos 13

Mario Williams had a career-high 3 1/2 sacks to lead the Houston Texans to a 31-13 victory over the Denver Broncos on Thursday night in Houston's first prime-time game in two years.

49ers 20, Bengals 13

Shaun Hill passed for 197 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score in his first NFL start, and the 49ers beat the Bengals 20-13 on Saturday night for just their second victory in 12 games.

Panthers 13, Seahawks 10

Rookie Matt Moore, becoming the fourth starting QB for the Panthers this season, engineered three scoring drives in the fourth quarter and the Panthers stunned the Seattle Seahawks 13-10 on Sunday.

Buccaneers 37, Falcons 3

The Bucs ran back a kickoff for a touchdown for the first time in the franchise's 32 seasons and routed the reeling Atlanta Falcons 37-3 Sunday to win the NFC South for the second time in three seasons.

Browns 8, Bills 0

Jamal Lewis plowed for 163 yards and Phil Dawson somehow kicked two field goals through harsh, wintry winds as the surprising Browns improved their postseason chances with an 8-0 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Patriots 20, Jets 10

Bad weather couldn't stop the Patriots' march toward an undefeated season. Facing rain, wind and chilly gusts above 20 mph, New England and Tom Brady found a new way to win - running and eating up the clock - and beat the New York Jets 20-10 Sunday in the Spygate rematch.

Titans 26, Chiefs 17

Tennessee's Vince Young passed for 191 yards and two touchdowns and Rob Bironas kicked four field goals for a much-needed 26-17 victory over Kansas City that keeps the Titans (8-6) alive in the AFC wild-card chase.

Saints 31, Cardinals 24

Drew Brees connected on 87 percent of his throws for 315 yards and two touchdowns, capping his day with a clutch, 22-yard third-down completion to Billy Miller. That allowed the Saints to safely run out the clock in a 31-24 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Packers 33, Rams 14

Brett Favre threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns, eclipsing Dan Marino to become the NFL career leader in yards passing in a 33-14 victory over the St. Louis Rams. Green Bay clinched a first-round playoff bye and kept pace with the Cowboys for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Jaguars 29, Steelers 22

Fred Taylor scored a decisive touchdown on a 12-yard run in the final two minutes while gaining 147 yards and the Jaguars withstood the bad weather and Pittsburgh's fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Steelers at their own game, winning 29-22 Sunday to assure themselves of making the AFC playoffs.

Dolphins 22, Ravens 16

The Miami Dolphins finally won one, thanks to a break and a big play in overtime. After Baltimore's Matt Stover missed a 44-yard field goal in the extra period, Miami's Greg Camarillo turned a short completion into a 64-yard touchdown, and the Dolphins beat the Baltimore Ravens 22-16 Sunday.

Colts 21, Raiders 14

Peyton Manning threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Gonzalez with 4:49 remaining for the Colts' first offensive touchdown of the game, and Indianapolis rallied to beat the Oakland Raiders 21-14 Sunday and clinch a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.

Chargers 51, Lions 14

The Chargers repeated as AFC West champions by beating the punchless Detroit Lions 51-14 on Sunday, their fourth straight win and eighth in 10 games. Tomlinson had 116 yards and two scores on 15 carries to continue his climb up the career rushing and touchdown charts.

Eagles 10, Cowboys 6

Donovan McNabb wasn't his old self, but he was good enough - and certainly better than the out-of-whack and possibly injured Romo, leading the Eagles past the Cowboys 10-6 Sunday. Romo started 0-for-6 and wasn't doing much better when he injured his throwing hand in the third quarter.

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Giants TE Jeremy Shockey breaks left leg
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.  -- New York Giants Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey broke his left leg in the third quarter of Sunday night's game against the Washington Redskins.

Shockey was hurt on the Giants' first possession of the second half when teammate Amani Toomer rolled into the back of his leg from behind at the end of a running play.

Shockey was bent backward and immediately lay on the ground in obvious pain. He was helped to the sideline by Giants trainers and then taken in a cart for further examination. His leg was immobilized.

The injury was diagnosed as a broken left fibula, the smaller of two bones in the lower portion of the leg.

Shockey had two catches for 18 yards in the game.

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Dolphins' Crowder to have surgery
December 17th, 2007

Davie, FL (Sports Network) - Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder is scheduled to have an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee Tuesday.

Crowder was hurt during Miami's 22-16 overtime victory over Baltimore this past Sunday. It marked the first win of the season for the Dolphins.

Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron did not rule Crowder out for Sunday's game against undefeated New England.

"We haven't made that decision yet," Cameron said Monday when asked if Crowder would miss Sunday's game.

Crowder leads the Dolphins with 78 tackles, including 61 solo this season.

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Rookie running back returns from 4-game suspension
December 17, 2007

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Tennessee rookie running back Chris Henry returned to the Titans on Monday after serving his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances.

Coach Jeff Fisher said Henry was back in the team's building Monday and stayed in good shape.

``He missed being around. He's looking forward to contributing again,'' Fisher said.

Henry originally fought his suspension before dropping his appeal for a positive test involving a substance added to the league's banned list within the past year. He still ranks fourth on the roster with 104 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns in limited playing time.

Fisher said the Titans have requested a roster exemption through the weekend, which they can lift at any time once they determine Henry's physical condition.

``It makes sense to evaluate him on the practice field and take advantage of the exemption as long as you can,'' Fisher said.

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GOLDBERG ON FOOTBALL: Losses by Giants and Steelers tighten playoff picture
December 17, 2007

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost at home for the first time this season, leaving their hopes for an AFC North title still hanging. The New York Giants, who have six consecutive road wins, lost for the third straight time at home, squandering a chance to clinch a playoff spot.
   
And Dallas, a prohibitive front-runner for home-field advantage in the NFC, put that status in jeopardy by losing to Philadelphia in a game in which Tony Romo injured the thumb on his throwing hand.

So maybe Cleveland, the longest of long shots to start the season, will win the AFC North. Maybe the Giants will miss the playoffs altogether, a thought foremost in the minds of those who booed them, then left the Meadowlands early during their 22-10 loss to Washington on Sunday night. And maybe the NFC road to the Super Bowl will go through Green Bay rather than Texas Stadium.

Unlikely, but possible.

``If we go on and win the Super Bowl, the loss is a good thing. If we lose in the first round of the playoffs, the loss is not a good thing,'' Romo said after the Cowboys were beaten 10-6 at home by the Eagles and fell into a tie with Green Bay at 12-2, although they still hold the tiebreaker because they beat the Packers.

The Eagles-Cowboys game featured a heady but highly unusual play by Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook, who eschewed a sure touchdown and stopped at the 1-yard line with just over two minutes left, allowing his team to run out the clock and keep the ball away from Dallas.

``It was brilliant,'' Philadelphia coach Andy Reid said.

Despite that, the Eagles won't be in the playoffs and the Giants and Steelers probably will be. But neither is playing well and New York lost tight end Jeremy Shockey with a broken leg in its loss to the Redskins, the third key player to go down with that injury this season.

Jacksonville and Cleveland, meanwhile, are coming on, the Jaguars playing more like the Steelers than the Steelers in their 29-22 win in wintry conditions.

``The Jaguars are the Pittsburgh of the South,'' said the Steelers' Willie Parker after the southerners rushed for 224 yards, which is what the Jags must do in northern climes to win. ``The weather was kind of bad, and they came in like they've been playing in it for a while. We've got to use our weather to our advantage.''

Here's a look at the playoff picture with two weeks to go.

The Patriots (14-0) and Colts (12-2) have clinched first-round byes and San Diego (10-5) has clinched the West. That leaves the North and two wild cards.

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady used their usual ``the next game is the only one'' routine when asked about an unbeaten season for the umpteenth time after Sunday's win over the Jets in rain and wind, a good rehearsal for playoff weather. But they weren't talking about not going unbeaten either, which means that starters are likely to play in the final two games, at home against finally victorious Miami, then at the Giants.

``It's good. It's good to have that, but right now that's not really anything we're going to dwell on,'' Belichick said in his characteristic Monday clichefest. ``We're just going to get ready for Miami and get ready to play the Dolphins. That's what we're going to do this week.''

Indy does it differently.

The Colts are locked into the second seed, which means there are likely to be Jim Sorgi sightings in home games against Houston and Tennessee. That's been Tony Dungy's late season M.O. the last few years, and there's no reason it won't happen again, although Peyton Manning will certainly start to keep intact his streak of 158 straight from the start of his career.

Cleveland (9-5) is tied with Pittsburgh for the AFC North lead, although the Steelers beat the Browns twice and have the tiebreaker.

Both will be favored to win their final two, even though Pittsburgh, 2-4 away from Heinz Field, has two road games: at St. Louis and Baltimore. If the Steelers can't beat the Rams (3-11) and the Ravens (4-10), who have lost eight straight and were beaten by winless Miami, they don't deserve to win the division.

Cleveland has it equally easy: at Cincinnati (5-9) and San Francisco (4-11) at home. The defensively challenged Browns got a shutout Sunday, albeit in a snowstorm, beating the Bills in the first 8-0 NFL game since Nov. 10, 1929, when the Chicago Cardinals beat the Minneapolis Red Jackets.

Figure Jacksonville (10-4) for the first wild-card spot and perhaps a return to Pittsburgh; the Jaguars clinch a spot by beating Oakland at home next week. If the Browns and Steelers win out, Pittsburgh wins the division and Cleveland, ahead of Tennessee (8-6), is a wild-card and likely to head to San Diego.

Neither the Browns nor Steelers are likely to beat the Colts or Patriots.

But watch the Jaguars if they go to New England. They seem as well-prepared for the cold as the Patriots.

The division winners are set, although it could come down to a Dallas-Washington finale to decide home-field advantage. The Redskins, who play at contending Minnesota next week in another important game, are 7-7 and could get a spot if they win out, so they might have even more incentive on Dec. 30 in an always-intense rivalry game.

The Packers, on the other hand, have two division games they should win: at Chicago, which is playing for next season, and at home for Detroit, loser of six straight.

The Giants (9-5) had better win in Buffalo next week. They close with New England, which (see above) doesn't seem about to let down. The other realistic contenders are the Vikings and New Orleans (7-7).

There are some 6-8 teams alive too, but does anyone think Detroit, which started 6-2 before reverting to type, is about to win anything? Or Arizona? Or Carolina?

Best guess:

The Giants at Tampa Bay the first weekend of the playoffs, and Minnesota at Seattle. None of those four teams beats Green Bay or Dallas, except, perhaps, the Seahawks if they revert to the form they showed in a five-game winning streak that ended Sunday in Carolina.

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Cowboys' Williams suspended for illegal tackle
December 17, 2007

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Dallas Cowboys safety Roy Williams was suspended without pay for one game Monday by the NFL after his third illegal "horse collar" tackle of the season.

Williams, whose use of the tactic led to the league passing a rule making it a 15-yard penalty, did it against Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb in Sunday's 10-6 loss. He will miss Saturday night's game at Carolina.

Grabbing the inside collar of the back of the shoulder pads or jersey, or the inside collar of the side of the shoulder pads or jersey, and immediately pulling down a runner brings a 15-yard personal foul.

This was the fourth violation of the rule by Williams in the past two seasons. Williams was fined $12,500 for such a tackle against Chicago on Sept. 23, and $15,000 for the same violation against Buffalo on Oct. 8. He received a $10,000 fine for a "horse collar" tackle against the New York Giants on Oct. 23, 2006.

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Clemens' rib injury clouds Jets' QB situation
December 17, 2007

Associated Press

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -- Kellen Clemens or Chad Pennington? Well, Eric Mangini isn't quite sure just yet.

The New York Jets coach was noncommittal Monday about who his starting quarterback will be Sunday at Tennessee, saying he'll have to see how Clemens' injured rib feels.

"What I'm going to do is just look at that throughout the course of the week," Mangini said. "With any injury, you're probably not going to know until game time."

Mangini added fuel to the speculation that perhaps Clemens isn't the Jets' long-term answer at quarterback when he declined to say the former second-round pick would start if he's healthy.

"What I'm saying is I'm just going to have to evaluate it throughout the course of the week in terms of his health," he said. "I'll look at it, reps, things like that."

Clemens was injured on his first pass against New England on Sunday, when he was hit hard by Richard Seymour and landed directly on his left shoulder. The pass was intercepted by Eugene Wilson and returned for a touchdown.

The team announced during the game that Clemens suffered a rib injury and his return was probable. Clemens never came back in as Mangini opted to go with Pennington the rest of the way -- except for a handful of option plays with Brad Smith under center -- in the 20-10 loss.

"At that point, I just made the decision that Chad, who isn't dealing with an injury situation, was better for us," Mangini said. "I thought he did a really nice job."

Pennington finished 25-of-38 for 186 yards, but couldn't get the Jets into the end zone.

"I thought Chad did a really nice job in the role that he has," Mangini said. "To have limited reps and come in and execute all the different things we asked him to execute, there were quite a few packages that we had, in order to try to get some things going offensively. That, to me, is classic Chad."

Mangini said Clemens was having tests done Monday on the rib, and said the quarterback's non-throwing shoulder wasn't injured as far as he knew. When asked if Clemens has a broken rib, Mangini was typically evasive.

"He has a rib," Mangini said.

When asked if he has more than that, Mangini smiled and offered only: "I think he has multiple. I'm not sure how many. Didn't take that class in college."

Since taking over as the starter six weeks ago, Clemens has struggled mightily. He has completed only 52 percent of his throws and has four touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. Even more alarming, Clemens' 59.0 quarterback rating is the second-worst in the league. Only San Francisco's Trent Dilfer is worse at 55.1.

"I think Kellen has done a lot of good things and there's a lot of things that he's still growing into and learning about with experience," Mangini said. "That's common with any young player. Didn't really get to see very much of him yesterday. Just a couple of plays."

With two games left in the season, the Jets don't have much time to see if Clemens can handle the role of being a starting quarterback. If Clemens is healthy enough to play, the Jets would have eight more quarters to evaluate him.

"It's always important for us to play the best players, look at the situation for the best players that week, and that doesn't change," Mangini said. "When you're dealing with a situation like this, every injury is different, so you have to see how that plays out. That's what we're doing, gathering information and let the week unfold."

Whoever starts at Tennessee might have to be without wide receiver Laveranues Coles, who has been struggling with a high left ankle sprain and reinjured it in a freak accident Saturday at the team hotel.

"I don't know all the specifics," Mangini said.

Coles told reporters after the game that as he sat on the trainer's table, it fell directly on the ankle. He was on the field for one play against the Patriots before shutting it down for the day.

"We'll see where he is and evaluate it," Mangini said. "L.C. wants to play and I appreciate that."

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Opening Line Report - Week 16
VegasInsider.com

Making NFL opening numbers for Week 16 can be a challenge, especially this year. There are bad weather sites, teams locked into specific playoff spots and other clubs that appear without motivation.

Oddsmakers opened the New England Patriots too high last week against the New York Jets and bookmakers got bit on the side and total when the Patriots only won, 20-10, because of terrible weather elements.

Buffalo and Cleveland could only manage a combined eight points in blizzard conditions in Cleveland.

There are potential weather elements this week in the Cleveland-Cincinnati, Green Bay-Chicago, Miami-New England and New York Giants-Buffalo matchups.

That’s why the undefeated Patriots were just 21½-point home favorites on Monday against the one-win Miami Dolphins.

“It won’t be easy for the Dolphins, but if the weather is like it was Sunday in New England then I could see the Patriots playing conservative again,” said Mike Seba, a senior linesmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants.

This also might be the matchup where if the Patriots get way ahead, Bill Belichick won’t look to run up a score with the playoffs so close and Miami’s offense so weak.

Dead teams such as Atlanta pose a problem for oddsmakers. The recommendation from the LVSC crew on the Atlanta-Arizona matchup was Cardinals minus 10 ½. The line on Monday was 10 at many books.

The Falcons mailed in a weak performance at Tampa Bay last Sunday under interim coach Emmitt Smith. The Cardinals still have faint playoff hopes.

“Nobody is going to bet Atlanta,” Seba said. “But I don’t think it will close more than 11.”

The Bengals can’t be trusted either despite being home to division and in-state rival Cleveland. That’s why the Browns are minus three as they try to hunt down a playoff spot. Seba’s number was Browns minus 3½.

“I sent it out high because I think Cincinnati is done,” he said. “Clearly Cleveland is the side. But you have to consider what the weather might be.”

The New York Jets are another dead team and could be missing their best wide receiver, Laveranues Coles. That partly explains why they opened 9 ½-point road underdogs to Tennessee, which had dropped four of its last five until dispatching Kansas City this past week. The line on Monday had dropped to Tennessee minus 8½.

“Normally the line would be Tennessee minus 6½,” Seba said. “But the Titans need the game and the Jets are ready for the season to close.”

Until Tony Dungy reveals how much he’s going to play Peyton Manning and his starters, the Houston-Indianapolis matchup is going to be tough to predict. Anticipating that Manning would not play the entire game since the Colts are locked into the No. 2 playoff seed in the AFC, most books had Indianapolis minus seven.

“If the Colts needed the game we would have made the line 14,” Seba said.

Tampa Bay opened seven-point road favorites traveling cross-country to San Francisco. The Buccaneers are in a flat spot having clinched the NFC South Division, while the 49ers have had extra time to prepare after beating Cincinnati last Thursday in probably their best offensive showing of the season.

It only took Mike Nolan 14 weeks, but he finally uncovered a quarterback in Shaun Hill.

“I think seven is as high as you can go,” Seba said. “I can only see it (the number) going lower.”

The Giants were minus three across the board Monday for their road matchup against Buffalo. The Giants need a victory to earn a playoff spot. They have the Patriots on deck. So it’s probably win at Buffalo or miss out on the post-season.

Buffalo has lost a franchise-high 14 players for the season. The Bills won’t be in the playoffs. Still, they are 6-1 against the spread at home with their lone non-cover occurring against the Patriots.

Considering this, LVSC sent out an opening line of pick.

“If Buffalo shows up to play, I think pick is the right number,” Seba said. “After the way the Giants played on Sunday night against the Redskins and losing (Jeremy) Shockey, I can’t make them a favorite.”

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Cowboys' Williams appeals; QB Romo recovering, likely to play
ASSOCIATED PRESS

IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys safety Roy Williams appealed on Tuesday the one-game suspension levied because of his third ''horse-collar'' tackle of the season.

Because his case won't be heard until Wednesday, he was able to take part in a walkthrough practice in preparation for Saturday's game against Carolina.

Quarterback Tony Romo was out there, too, but he didn't do more than lob the ball because of continued soreness with the thumb on his passing hand. Afterward, his hand was wrapped with ice and a stimulation machine.

''He said he felt better,'' coach Wade Phillips said, adding that the bruising and swelling had gone down.

Williams' status is a more pressing concern because Phillips has to try setting his defense. Dallas (12-2) has clinched a first-round bye, but is still vying for the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

''We're kind of in limbo,'' Phillips said.

Proving that, Williams and backup Keith Davis took turns at strong safety during practice.

''We just need to get it settled,'' Phillips said.

Williams was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for pulling down Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb from behind during a loss to Philadelphia on Sunday. On Monday, the league said he must sit out a game and forfeit a week's salary - $35,000 - because he's a repeat offender.

This was his fourth punishment in two seasons since the rule was implemented, the impetus being a similar tackle he made on Terrell Owens when Owens played for the Eagles.

''I don't think it was fair,'' Cowboys linebacker Akin Ayodele said. ''It's a dumb rule.''

Center Andre Gurode (knee) and backup safety Pat Watkins (ankle) are not likely to play Saturday, but might be back for the finale in Washington. Defensive end Chris Canty (knee) and tight end Anthony Fasano (concussion) practiced and are expected to play.

Receiver Terry Glenn went through the walkthrough Tuesday and is to be pushed harder Wednesday. There's a chance he could make his season debut Saturday.

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Jets release Hicks, Jones
December 18th, 2007

Hempstead, NY (Sports Network) - The New York Jets released veteran defensive end Eric Hicks and offensive tackle Adrian Jones on Tuesday.

General manager Mike Tannenbaum announced the roster moves, ending the 10-year veteran Hicks' brief stay with the club. Hicks was signed as an unrestricted free agent from Kansas City on May 22. He played in 11 games this season, registering 23 tackles with eight solo stops.

Jones, a fourth-round pick in the 2004 NFL draft, played in seven games this season and 44 throughout his Jets career, starting 16 times -- three at right tackle and 13 on the left side.

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Broncos release Sauerbrun
December 18th, 2007

Englewood, CO (Sports Network) - The Denver Broncos released punter Todd Sauerbrun on Tuesday.

In 14 games this season, Sauerbrun ranked fifth in the league, averaging 46.8 yards on 47 punts.

Sauerbrun's release comes less than two weeks after he was cited for simple assault after an incident involving a cab driver.

Denver made a number of moves on Tuesday, signing free agent Paul Ernster to replace Sauerbrun on the roster. The team also promoted safety Roderick Rogers from its practice squad.

Safety Marviel Underwood also was waived while safety Nick Ferguson was placed on the injured reserve list with a right knee injury.

Last season, the Broncos cut Sauerbrun after he served a four-game suspension for using a banned dietary supplement.

Sauerbrun was also among three Carolina players named in an investigation of a South Carolina physician accused of writing illegal prescriptions for steroids during the 2003 season.

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With Kellen Clemens hurt, looks like Chad Pennington will start

The Jets face a quarterback decision this week, but it's nothing compared to The Quarterback Decision.

With Kellen Clemens' status uncertain because of rib and shoulder injuries, the Jets (3-11) may return to Chad Pennington for Sunday's road game against the Titans (8-6). That could upset their grand plan, which might have far-reaching implications for the Eric Mangini-Mike Tannenbaum regime.

When Clemens replaced an ineffective Chad Pennington last month, the organization's hope was to give the second-year quarterback an eight-game audition to evaluate him as the possible long-term answer. Clemens' uneven play, combined with his modest body of work, will make it tougher for the team to make a judgment in the offseason.

Clemens' injuries aren't thought to be significant, but they will certainly hamper him over the final two games - if he plays. That will make it harder to get an accurate read on Clemens, who lasted only two plays in Sunday's 20-10 loss to the Patriots.

Clemens is suffering from what is believed to be a broken rib, the result of being driven into the ground by defensive end Richard Seymour. Mangini didn't deny the fracture.

"He has a rib," said the ever-secretive coach, providing no details.

Clemens had an MRI yesterday, which revealed an injury to his left (non-throwing shoulder), according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Mangini hadn't received the MRI results when he met the media.

Playing his usual game of cryptic comments, Mangini stopped short of saying Clemens would start if healthy, but that appears to be the situation. He said the injury will "definitely play a big part" in this week's decision. Clemens could've returned against the Patriots, according to Mangini, but he was kept out based on a "coach's decision."

Clemens is 2-4 since replacing Pennington, with wins over the Steelers and Dolphins. His numbers in that span - three touchdown passes, six interceptions and 19 sacks - aren't going to help his cause. He hasn't received much help, but he also hasn't shown the ability to make those around him better.

"I think Kellen has done a lot of good things, and there are a lot of things he's still growing into and learning about with experience," Mangini said.

Pennington is signed through 2011, but he may try to force a trade or release in the offseason. His salary-cap number is $7.8 million in 2008, and the Jets could try to deal him. But they'd then have to replace him with a veteran to compete with Clemens or, at the very least, provide solid insurance.

Good luck finding that kind of quarterback. The free-agent market will likely include Rex Grossman, Daunte Culpepper and Josh McCown. Veterans Chris Simms and Brian Griese could become available. The Jets probably will have a top-five draft pick, meaning Boston College's Matt Ryan could be a consideration.

Maybe they will keep Pennington, but that wouldn't make him happy. He believes he's still a starting-caliber quarterback, and it's hard to imagine the Jets going back to Pennington after giving Clemens such a prolonged audition.

Mangini praised Pennington (25-for-38, 186 yards) for playing well off the bench, but he still spoke of him in terms of being a backup.

"I thought he did a really nice job (Sunday) in the role that he has," Mangini said. "To have limited reps, and to come in and execute all the different things we asked him to execute ... to me, that's classic Chad."

Mangini may have more Pennington than he expected.

nydailynews.com

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Boller to Start at QB for the Ravens

Billick Chooses Veteran Over Smith

OWINGS MILLS, Md., Dec. 17 -- Rookie quarterback Troy Smith led the Baltimore Ravens to a game-tying field goal in regulation and helped put them in a position to beat the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, but his performance didn't earn him a start against the Seattle Seahawks this week.

The Ravens plan to start Kyle Boller against the NFC West champions, in the hopes that the veteran can help them end an eight-game losing streak, the longest in franchise history.

"We're going to continue to take the tack that we're going to go out and try to win every week," Coach Brian Billick said on Monday during his weekly news conference. "Kyle played very well and deserves the opportunity to continue to grow and get out of it what he might these last two weeks. Kyle, clearly, in my opinion, gives us the best chance to win the game, although we're prepared to go with Troy if that presents itself."

Boller is recovering from a mild concussion, which he incurred early in the fourth quarter on a hit by defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday. He did not return to the game because his vision was blurred. As of Monday, Boller was still feeling the effects -- "He's still got a bit of a headache," Billick said -- but he is expected to participate when practice resumes on Wednesday.

Smith's final numbers in the 22-16 overtime loss weren't particularly impressive -- he completed 5 of 11 passes for 49 yards -- but he was poised when the game was on the line. During the final two minutes of regulation, he drove the Ravens 59 yards without a timeout to set up a game-tying 18-yard field goal from Matt Stover. Then, in overtime, he directed a 54-yard drive that set up a potential game-winning 44-yard field goal. But Stover's kick went wide left, and the Dolphins (1-13) won the game on a long pass play.

"He did a couple of things like you'd expect from a rookie. Then obviously you saw [that] this kid is a pretty good football player," Billick said of Smith, who scored a late touchdown in Baltimore's blowout loss to Indianapolis a week earlier. "You saw some of the things: the athleticism, the strong arm, he's not one to panic, which is very good. He did some excellent things."

Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, was one of the players who lobbied Billick for the opportunity to go for the win in the final seconds of regulation; instead of settling for the 18-yard field goal, Smith wanted the chance to score on a fourth and goal from about a half yard. Billick said that he liked the fact that the players wanted to go for it, but decided that it was better to kick the field goal, particularly considering what the Ravens had done to get into that position.

"Part of the calculation was, had we gone for it, if [the Dolphins] could've snuck a 12th man on the field, all 12 would've been up in the gaps, and they would've sold out totally for the run," Billick said. "So had we gone for it, we probably would have needed to throw the ball. Because if we had run it, we'd probably -- no commentary on us offensively or the line or the ability to run the ball -- but they were going to shove everybody in there.

"So a play-action pass would've been good because their calculation would've been, maybe it's a bad pass, maybe we get a tip, maybe it's blocked or dropped. Had we done that, after what we had done to get down there, and any of those things had happened, I imagine what the critique would've been today about the play-calling."

The Ravens (4-10) close their season with two games against division leaders, at Seattle (9-5) and home against Pittsburgh (9-5). Throughout the season, the Ravens have had to recover from disappointing losses -- the season opener at Cincinnati, the near miss against undefeated New England, the blowouts to Pittsburgh and Indianapolis -- and this week will be no different, despite the special circumstances surrounding the game. The Ravens spent the week leading up to the game saying that they did not want to be the team that gave Miami its first victory of the season.

"Other than the noise that goes on around us -- which is very typical -- and the commentary that may be going on today because it was an 0-13 team and the like, yeah it's bothersome and your pride is hurt, but tomorrow is the next story," Billick said.

"The players are pretty good at moving on to the next one. That doesn't mean they don't care. I guess I would put the question to you: Would there be any value in this team carrying the emotional baggage around and getting down on itself because of that? Listening to it? They played hard yesterday. . . . So to carry that around going forward, I don't know what the upside would be."

Ravens Note: Linebacker Ray Lewis, who dislocated a finger on his left hand, should be able to play against the Seahawks, according to Billick. The finger is "very uncomfortable," but the team's trainers "think they can do enough things to splint it up and take care of it."

washingtonpost.com

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Re: NFL Week 16 News and Notes

Bush hoping to play against Eagles

Injured Saints RB to practice this week

Reggie Bush will return to practice this week in hopes of playing Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Saints' tailback is still considered questionable for Sunday's game. And the team will no doubt try and keep the Eagles and the media guessing about Bush's health status throughout the week.

But Saints Coach Sean Payton said Monday he is "optimistic" about Bush's possible return.

"He's a little bit ahead of schedule. That's been encouraging," Payton said of Bush, who missed the previous two games with a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. "I think he's feeling a lot stronger on it. He's obviously moving around a lot better on it.

"We'll see where he's at Wednesday, but I know he's planning on practicing, and that will be a plus."

Players had the day off Monday, so Bush was unavailable for comment. But he said last week he is eager to try and return to the field before the season is over, contradicting reports he would shut it down until next season rather than risk further injury.

If Bush is able to play Sunday, Payton said the team would be "judicious" about the number of snaps he would get.

Presumably, tailback Aaron Stecker will continue to play a significant role in the Saints' offense after carrying the ball 42 times for 195 yards during the past two weeks, both victories. But Bush would be an asset, either as a change-of-pace option, a receiver out of the backfield, or simply as a distraction to the Eagles' defense.

The Saints' offense was at its best last year when Bush and Deuce McAllister were on the field together, keeping defenses off balance with their contrasting styles.

In the Saints' playoff victory against Philadelphia in January, McAllister ran 21 times for 143 yards and a touchdown, and caught four passes for 20 yards and another touchdown. Bush ran 12 times for 52 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes for 22 yards.

YOUNG HOSPITALIZED WITH PNEUMONIA: Saints defensive tackle Brian Young probably won't play against the Eagles on Sunday after contracting a rare form of pneumonia last week.

Young, 30, is in the hospital after having fluid drained from between his chest cavity and his lungs during the weekend, Payton said. Doctors were able to diagnose the condition, and Young is getting better, but the ailment set him back, according to Payton.

He did not have a projected timetable for Young's recovery.

"It's been frustrating for him because he's laid up in a hospital bed, and it was more serious than any of us thought," Payton said of a condition that worsened last week after Young played in the Saints' Monday night victory at Atlanta. "Fortunately, he's recovering well. But it's something that's going to take a while. It's something that was pretty significant."

Young was replaced in the starting lineup by veteran Renaldo Wynn in Sunday's 31-24 victory against Arizona. The Saints have good depth at defensive tackle, where backups Wynn, Antwan Lake and Kendrick Clancy have each started games this season.

OTHER INJURIES: Defensive end Will Smith should be fine after leaving Sunday's game with cramps and dehydration. The Saints did not report any further injuries coming out of Sunday's game.

nola.com

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Re: NFL Week 16 News and Notes

Eagles' Spikes done for season
December 19th, 2007

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid announced that linebacker Takeo Spikes is scheduled to have season-ending surgery on his rotator cuff and will be placed on injured reserve.

Spikes suffered the injury in last Sunday's 10-6 win at Dallas.

Surgery is tentatively set for Friday and will be performed by Dr. James Andrews.

Rookie Akeem Jordan will get the start at weak side linebacker in place of Spikes while fellow rookie Stewart Bradley will play in nickel situations.

To replace Spikes on the roster, the Eagles plan to promote wide receiver Michael Gasperson from the practice squad.

Spikes finished the year with 86 tackles and one sack.

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Re: NFL Week 16 News and Notes

Titans place MLB Fowler on IR
December 19th, 2007

Nashville, TN (Sports Network) - The Titans placed starting middle linebacker Ryan Fowler on injured reserve, according to a report in The Tennessean.

Fowler suffered a shoulder injury in the team's win over the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday.

Fowler started the first 14 games of the season for the Titans and had 73 tackles. Stephen Tulloch is expected to start the rest of the season in Fowler's absence.

To replace Fowler on the roster, the Titans signed linebacker Jorge Cordova, a former third-round draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Tennessee also signed linebacker Kurt Campbell to its practice squad.

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Parcells turns down Falcons front office job
Associated Press

Bill Parcells will not be joining the Atlanta Falcons as head of football operations.
Parcells turned down the position, Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Wednesday in a statement. Blank said the team had an agreement in principle with Parcells, but after he told the Falcons he was considering an offer from the Miami Dolphins, negotiations fell through.

Parcells was considering an offer to join the team's front office as vice president of football operations, a role that would put him in charge of finding the next coach for a team rocked by the suspension and imprisonment of Michael Vick and the sudden resignation of Bobby Petrino.

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NFL Upholds Williams' 1-Game Suspension

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Cowboys safety Roy Williams indeed will be suspended from Saturday night's game at Carolina as punishment for his repeated use of the horse-collar tackle, a maneuver banned a few years ago mainly because of him.

Williams appealed the ruling, but the league stuck to its stance even after hearing his side of the story. He'll also be out one week's pay, $35,000.

Williams took down Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb from the back of the neck of his jersey Sunday. It was his third such tackle this season and the fourth in two years. He'd been warned after the previous one, in October, that another could result in a suspension. He racked up $37,500 for his previous three punishments.

"Commissioner (Roger) Goodell has denied the appeal of the one-game suspension of Roy Williams," the NFL said in a statement. "The horse-collar tackling technique is prohibited because the Competition Committee and the clubs have determined that it presents an unacceptable risk to player safety. Rules that protect and advance player safety must be enforced in a way that will deter violations and prevent injuries from occurring."

Williams leads the team with 65 solo tackles and is second in total tackles with 83, so his absence will be a stiff blow to the Cowboys, especially because of the timing.

Dallas and Green Bay are 12-2 and fighting for home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. The Cowboys own the tiebreaker, but must win their last two games to be guaranteed the top seed. Otherwise, they risk having to play the NFC championship game at Lambeau Field.

Special teams ace Keith Davis will start at strong safety. Rookie Courtney Brown also will be used in some packages. The secondary also is weakened by backup free safety Patrick Watkins likely being out with an ankle injury.

The NFL implemented the horse-collar ban - aka "The Roy Williams Rule" - beginning in 2005, the season after he ruined Terrell Owens' leg and ankle with one of his jerk 'em down from behind moves.

Now a teammate, Owens said Wednesday he had flashbacks to his own gruesome injury when Williams collared McNabb.

"It took my breath away," T.O. said.

Owens said Williams should know better by now, especially because the rule was put in place due to his actions. He hopes this convinces Williams to find a new way to stop ballcarriers.

"The way he tackles is very, very dangerous," Owens said. "I think he needs to do something to kind of correct that. Other than that, Roy is a great guy. But the thing is, you have to be safe. I know this is a violent game, but you have to tackle safely. ... You don't want to end a guy's career. And to tackle someone in that manner, it's just not right."

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Colts expect five starters to miss game against Texans
December 19, 2007

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Tony Dungy expects at least five Colts starters to miss Sunday's game against Houston because of injuries.

On Wednesday, two days after team president Bill Polian ruled out receiver Marvin Harrison (knee) and right tackle Ryan Diem (knee), Dungy added three more names to the list. Defensive tackle Raheem Brock (ribs), safety Antoine Bethea (knee) and defensive end Robert Mathis (knee) are all expected to sit out for the second straight week.

"I don't think they'll play either because anyone who is hurt isn't going to play," Dungy said.

None of the five practiced Wednesday.

Linebacker Clint Session (ankle) and tight end Ben Utecht (shoulder) also sat out Wednesday. Receiver Craphonso Thorpe missed practice with an illness. Dungy was more optimistic that Utecht would play Sunday, and Polian said on his weekly radio show Monday night that Session might be available.

Harrison is expected to miss his ninth straight game since bruising his left knee, even though Polian said Monday that the knee is healed.

"It's a matter of conditioning now, and until we can put him out there for 60 plays a game, he won't play," Polian said.

Diem has missed four straight games and has been replaced in the lineup by Charlie Johnson.

If Brock and Mathis don't play, it would mark the second straight week Indianapolis (12-2) used a completely different defensive line than the one they opened training camp with. Defensive tackle Anthony McFarland (knee) and defensive end Dwight Freeney (foot) have already been lost for the season because of injuries.

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Re: NFL Week 16 News and Notes

Bills place DE Denney on IR; claim OT Estes off waivers
December 19, 2007

Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- Fifteen Buffalo Bills players are on injured reserve after backup defensive end Ryan Denney was placed on the season-ending list Wednesday.

Denney is out after hurting his foot in an 8-0 loss at Cleveland last weekend. The Bills did not specify whether the injury was to Denney's left foot, which he broke during a preseason game in August and led to him missing the first seven games this season.

A six-year NFL veteran, Denney had 37 tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and forced fumble in seven games, including two starts, this season.

Denney becomes Buffalo's eighth defensive player placed on IR.

The Bills (7-7), eliminated from playoff contention, have been relegated to the role of spoiler Sunday, when they host the New York Giants (9-5) in Buffalo's home finale.

To fill Denney's place on the roster, the Bills claimed offensive tackle Patrick Estes off waivers, a day after he was released by San Francisco. The 49ers' seventh-round pick in the 2005 draft out of Virginia, Estes had appeared in nine career games, including one this season.

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