NFL Today, Week 15

NFL Today, Week 15

SCOREBOARD

Monday, Dec. 17

N.Y. Jets at Tennessee (8:30 p.m.) Coach Rex Ryan and the Jets (6-7) continue their late-season playoff push against the Titans (4-9). New York needs to win to stay alive in the playoff race.

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STARS

Passing

-Tony Romo, Cowboys, was 30 for 42 for 341 yards and two TD passes in a 27-24 overtime win over Pittsburgh. Romo surpassed 25,000 yards passing in the win and is the 64th NFL player to go over the 25,000-yard mark.

-Kirk Cousins, Redskins, was 26 for 37 for 329 yards with two TD passes and an interception in his first career start in Washington's 38-21 win over Cleveland.

-Colin Kaepernick, 49ers, threw for four touchdowns in San Francisco's 41-34 win over the New England Patriots.

-Drew Brees, Saints, finished 26 for 39 for 307 yards with four TD passes in New Orleans' 41-0 win over Tampa Bay. Brees has at least 300 yards passing and four touchdowns in a game 17 times and passed Hall of Famer Dan Marino (16) for the most in NFL history.

-Aaron Rodgers, Packers, was 23 for 36 for 291 yards with three TD passes in Green Bay's 21-13 win over Chicago. The Packers clinched the NFC North title for the second consecutive season with the victory. Rodgers, who has 32 touchdown passes this season, joined Dan Marino and Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with three seasons with at least 30 touchdown passes before age 30.

-Matt Ryan, Falcons, finished 23 for 28 for 270 yards with three TD passes in Atlanta's 34-0 win over the New York Giants.

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Rushing

-Adrian Peterson, Vikings, had 24 carries for a season-best 212 yards, including an 82-yard TD in Minnesota's 36-22 win over St. Louis. Peterson has a career-best 1,812 yards rushing, leaving him 294 shy of breaking the NFL mark of 2,105 set by Eric Dickerson of the Los Angeles Rams in 1984.

-Arian Foster, Texans, finished with 27 carries for 165 yards in Houston's 29-17 victory over Indianapolis. He has 1,313 yards rushing, giving him his third straight year with at least 1,200.

-Knowshon Moreno, Broncos, had 22 carries for 118 yards and a touchdown in Denver's 34-17 win over Baltimore.

-Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson, Seahawks. Lynch had 10 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown and Wilson had nine carries for 92 yards and three touchdowns rushing in Seattle's 50-17 win over Buffalo. Wilson is the first player in NFL history to have three touchdowns rushing and a passing touchdown in the first half of a game.

-Darren McFadden, Raiders, had 30 carries for 110 yards in Oakland's 15-0 win over Kansas City.

-Reggie Bush, Dolphins, had 21 carries for 104 yards in Miami's 24-3 win over Jacksonville.

-Beanie Wells, Cardinals, had 17 carries for 67 yards and three touchdowns in Arizona's 38-10 win over Detroit.

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Receiving

-Andre Johnson, Texans, had 11 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown in Houston's 29-17 win over Indianapolis.

-Eric Decker, Broncos, finished with eight catches for 133 yards and a touchdown in Denver's 34-17 win over Baltimore.

-Randall Cobb and James Jones, Packers. Cobb had six catches for 115 yards and Jones had five catches for 60 yards and three touchdowns in Green Bay's 21-13 win over Chicago.

-Calvin Johnson, Lions, had 10 catches for 121 yards in Detroit's 38-10 loss to Arizona. Johnson became the first player in NFL history with consecutive 1,600-yard receiving seasons and tied an NFL record with his seventh straight 100-yard receiving game. Johnson has recorded at least 100 yards receiving in seven consecutive games, tied with Charley Hennigan (1961) and Hall of Famer Michael Irvin (1995) for the longest streak in NFL history.

-Dennis Pitta, Ravens, had seven catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns in Baltimore's 34-17 loss to Denver.

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Special Teams

-Blair Walsh, Vikings, was 5 for 5 on field goals in Minnesota's 36-22 win over St. Louis.

-Shayne Graham and Bryan Braman, Texans. Graham was 5 for 6 on field goals and Braman returned a blocked punt 8 yards for touchdown in Houston's 29-17 victory over Indianapolis.

-Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders, was 5 for 6 on field goals in Oakland's 15-0 win over Kansas City.

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Defense

-Greg Toler and Rashad Johnson, Cardinals. Toler returned an interception 102 yards for a touchdown and Johnson returned an interception 53 yards for a touchdown in Arizona's 38-10 victory over Detroit.

-J.J. Watt, Texans, had three sacks in Houston's 29-17 victory over Indianapolis. He finished with 10 tackles. He also forced a fumble for the third straight game.

-Chris Harris, Broncos, returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown in Denver's 34-17 win over Baltimore. It was the longest regular-season interception return in Broncos history.

-Earl Thomas, Seahawks, returned an interception 57 yards for a touchdown in Seattle's 50-17 win over Buffalo.

-Everson Griffen, Vikings, returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown in Minnesota's 36-22 win over St. Louis.

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PLAYOFF BOUND

Two teams clinched division titles Sunday. The Green Bay Packers, who defeated Chicago 21-13, won the NFC North. The Houston Texans, who defeated Indianapolis 29-17, clinched the AFC South. ... The Baltimore Ravens also secured a playoff berth when the Steelers lost in overtime to Dallas.

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STATS

The Seahawks became the NFL's third team to score 50 points in consecutive weeks, joining the Los Angeles Rams and New York Giants, who both did it in 1950, according to STATS. ... The Rams' Steven Jackson became the 15th player to rush for 10,000 yards. Teammate Sam Bradford has been sacked in 30 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL. ... Randall Cobb had 150 all-purpose yards, leaving him 10 shy of Ahman Green's single-season Packers record (2,250 in 2003). ... The Giants' Eli Manning finished 13 of 25 for 161 yards, leaving him with a dismal 38.9 rating - his worst since a Dec. 23, 2007, win at Buffalo. ... The Giants, Bucs and Chiefs were each shut out on Sunday. The previous time there were three shutouts on the same day in the NFL was Dec. 28, 2008, according to STATS. The last time the Raiders recorded a shutout came in the 2002 regular season finale when they beat Kansas City 24-0. That was also the only other time they shut out the Chiefs in the long rivalry. The Saints had their first shutout since a 12-0 win in the 1995 season finale against the Jets in New York. ... Denver quarterback Peyton Manning had 204 yards passing and a touchdown in the Broncos' 34-17 win at Baltimore. Manning, who has 4,016 yards passing this season, extended his NFL record by getting his 12th career 4,000-yard season. Manning, in his first season with Denver, is the fifth player in NFL history to pass for 4,000 yards with two different teams. He joins Drew Bledsoe, Brett Favre, Hall of Famer Warren Moon and Kurt Warner. The Chargers clinched their first losing season since 2003.

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STREAKS

New England, which had won seven in a row, trailed 31-3 at one point and lost for the first time at home in December in 21 games, falling 41-34 on Sunday night. The Patriots also had won 21 in a row in the second half of the schedule before San Francisco somehow regrouped late in a game it seemingly had clinched long before. ... The Broncos have won nine in a row. ... The Redskins have won five in a row. ... The Cowboys have won five of six. ... The Lions have lost six in a row. ... The Bears have lost five of six, putting their playoff hopes in jeopardy. ... San Diego lost for the eighth time in 10 games, and dropped its third straight home game. Carolina won consecutive games for the first time since last December. ... The Bills were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention for a 13th season - the NFL's longest active drought. ... The Chiefs have lost 10 of 11 games and are tied for the second most losses in franchise history behind a 2-14 mark in 2008.

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SIDELINED

San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews broke his left collarbone in the second quarter of San Diego's 31-7 loss to Carolina. The injury-prone Mathews broke his right collarbone in the exhibition opener and missed the first two weeks of the regular season. ... Redskins right tackle Tyler Polumbus suffered a concussion, but coach Mike Shanahan had no updates on linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (shoulder) or offensive lineman Will Montgomery (knee). ... Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith left the Ravens' 34-17 loss to Denver with a concussion after hitting his head while attempting to make a leaping catch near the sideline in the third quarter. Ravens backup running back Bernard Pierce also left with a concussion. ... Minnesota defensive end Brian Robison sprained the AC joint in a shoulder during the first quarter of the Vikings' 36-22 win at St. Louis.

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SPEAKING

``We're a 9-5 football team and we feel like we're 0-14 right now.'' - Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco after Baltimore dropped its third straight in a 34-17 loss to Denver.

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``As a player, I am embarrassed for our city.'' - Ravens safety Ed Reed after Sunday's loss.

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Who will emerge from Ravens' crowded stable of running backs?

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Who will emerge from Ravens' crowded stable of running backs?

In the past month, the Ravens added two more pieces to an already crowded backfield, signing veteran Trent Richardson and then drafting Kenneth Dixon out of Louisiana Tech in the fourth round. That gives the Ravens six running backs at a position in which the team usually carries only three, or rarely four. Something's got to give here.

Richardson and Dixon join Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Terrance West in a backfield competition that should be intense through OTAs and training camp. (This doesn't include fullback Kyle Juszczyk.)

And the Ravens just cut Terrence McGee, who was a long shot to make the roster after spending time on the practice squad last season. 

On the surface, Forsett, Allen and Dixon would appear to be the safest bets to make the team. Forsett is coming off a broken arm, and his cap figure of $3.7 million is higher than that of Allen, Taliaferro, Dixon and Richardson combined. Would the Ravens consider cutting Forsett, which would mean about $2.3 million in cap savings? Don't bet on it. Ozzie Newsome has praised Forsett as a mentor to younger backs, and although Forsett turns 31 in October, he hasn't had the wear and tear of other backs his age.

Allen showed enough last year after Forsett's injury to enter camp as the No. 2 back. He ranked second on the team with 137 carries for 514 yards and scored one touchdown rushing, and also had 45 catches for 353 yards and two touchdowns receiving.

Dixon, as a fourth-round pick, is safe as well. The Ravens rarely cut draft picks, and it would be a shock if they cut a fourth-rounder. They certainly want to see what they have in Dixon (5-10, 215), who totaled 87 touchdowns in his collegiate career. That, incidentally, is one shy of the NCAA FBS record held by Dixon's new teammate, former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds.

So with Forsett, Allen and Dixon seemingly safe -- although don't expect coach John Harbaugh to declare that --  where does that leave everyone else?

No one in this group has a better pedigree than Richardson, a former No. 3 overall pick out of Alabama. But Richardson has had a disappointing four-year pro career and was out of football last season. He has reportedly dropped weight and is motivated to play. The Ravens essentially get a low-risk, low-cost look at a player with huge upside but huge questions.

Taliaferro might have the most to prove. Like Dixon, Taliaferro was a fourth-round pick but has never been able to stay healthy. He has missed half of the Ravens 32 games over his two-year career, and very well could find himself on the outside looking in this fall, healthy or not. The odds would appear even longer for West, the Baltimore product.

Granted, a lot can happen between now and when that roster is set. Watching this backfield competition unfold should be one of the top storylines of the summer.

Ravens sign fourth-round pick RB Kenneth Dixon

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Ravens sign fourth-round pick RB Kenneth Dixon

The Ravens have signed running back Kenneth Dixon, one of their five fourth-round draft picks, CSN has confirmed.

Dixon became the second of the Ravens’ 11 draft picks to sign, joining defensive end -- linebacker Matt Judon, their fifth-round pick who signed Thursday night. Terms of Dixon’s four-year contract were not immediately known.

Dixon is part of a crowded Ravens backfield picture that also includes Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Terrance West, Trent Richardson, and Terrence Magee.  

However, Dixon could earn playing time immediately if his production per carry translates from college to the NFL.

The Ravens struggled to run the ball in short-yardage situations and in the red zone last year, two areas were Dixon might help.

Dixon had 4,480 rushing yards and 72 rushing touchdowns during his college career at Louisiana Tech. He also caught 88 passes for 972 yards and 15 touchdowns, and some scouts rated Dixon as the best pass-catching back in the draft.

Dixon will begin trying to earn the coaching staff’s immediate confidence during the Ravens’ two-day rookie minicamp which begins Friday.

Three question to ask heading into Ravens rookie minicamp Friday

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Three question to ask heading into Ravens rookie minicamp Friday

The Ravens are holding a rookie minicamp Friday and Saturday at their practice facility in Owings Mills. Saturday’s practice is the only one open to the media, so it’s still too early to ask who looks impressive. However, here are three things Ravens fans should be asking:

1. Can the team find an undrafted rookie who ultimately makes the team?

Maybe the Ravens can get lucky and add some offensive line depth with three players expected to be at minicamp – Anthony Fabiano of Harvard, Stephane Nembot of Colorado, and Matt Skura of Duke. Pass rusher Victor Ochi of Stony Brook is another player to watch.

With 11 draft picks coming in, the odds are stacked against an undrafted rookie making the team. But you never know, especially once injuries begin. Undrafted free agents who have made past Ravens rosters include wide receiver Marlon Brown, linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Bart Scott, and kicker Justin Tucker.

2. Can the Ravens get through the weekend injury free?

Injuries crushed the Ravens last season. They are hoping for much better luck in 2016, starting this weekend.

3. Who’s in great shape, and who’s not?

Being in top condition can help avoid injuries. All of these rookies have been training, but there is s a difference between a personal workout and a Ravens’ practice. Coaches will take note on who can keep pace, and who needs to get in better shape for minicamps and training camp, when the intensity will only increase.