Brett Brown: I treat film study with Markelle Fultz like a ‘college classroom’

“That’s a slippery slope at times,” Brown said. “He’s had a great motor in trying to grow his conditioning in that regard, doing the same thing in the weight room. Picking the areas that you can continue to develop really an amazing basketball body.”

Troy has a productive offense as well, led by senior quarterback Brandon Silvers. The four-year starter enters the New Orleans Bowl having thrown for more than 10,000 yards in his career. Silvers has passed for 2,985 yards and 13 touchdowns with just six interceptions this season.

North Texas running back Jeffery Wilson, who has produced 1,215 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns this season, is doubtful for the bowl game because of a foot injury, according to Littrell. If he doesn’t play, he would finish his career ranked third in Mean Green history in rushing touchdowns (32) and fourth in rushing yards (3,205).

Steelers LB Ryan Shazier was transported to the hospital after a scary back injury on an attempted tackle in the first quarter. Late in the game, Vontaze Burfict was taken off the field with a head injury after an illegal crackback block by Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

While the injury to Shazier was unintentional, Smith-Schuster was called for two penalties for his hit on Burfict — one for unnecessary roughness and one for taunting as he stood over the injured Burfict.

“I don’t have any intentions to hurt anyone when I play football,” Smith-Schuster said. “I didn’t mean to hurt Vontez Burfict, I just wanted to throw a block for my teammate. I apologize for standing over him and that isn’t me. Praying he gets better.”panthers_015

The Vikings would love nothing more to stay at home for the entire postseason.

They took one step closer to clinching a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs with a convincing 24-7 win over the Rams.

The Chargers’ defense has an advantage on paper as it attacks a Cowboys’ offensive front that is struggling in Smith’s absence. Los Angeles is third in the NFL in sacks with 30, led by defensive end Joey Bosa (10.5) and Ingram (8.5), both of whom rank in the top 10 in the NFL so far this season. Meanwhile, Dallas has given up 11 sacks in the last two contests.

That gives Los Angeles a chance to continue Dallas’ frustration on offense. The Cowboys didn’t score a touchdown on Sunday night versus the Eagles and have reached the end zone just once in the last two games.

Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon tipped C.J. Beathard’s pass to himself and intercepted it at his own 25-yard line. The 49ers had driven 54 yards into Giants territory before the pick.

Giants tackle Justin Pugh was ruled questionable to return with a back injury.

49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard found tight end Garrett Celek for a 47-yard touchdown, yet another big play from the Sean Francisco offense. Robbie Gould made the PAT. 17-13, 49ers

Eli Manning found tight end Evan Engram for a 9-yard touchdown pass to cap a 10-play, 75-yard drive and take the lead back for the Giants. Aldrick Rosas made the PAT. 13-10, Giants

Washington’s best possible finish is 10-6. The Redskins haven’t reached 11 wins since 1991.

“I thought we were over that,” he said, adding, “Here we are on this losing streak. And, you know, I don’t want to believe it’s culture; I really don’t. And I’m around these guys every day. But at the same time we have lost four in a row; you can’t hide from that.”

Since starting out 8-5 last season, the Bucs are 3-8. The Saints loss was their fifth straight, and the only teams in the NFL with worse records in 2017 are the winless Browns and 49ers, plus the one-win Giants. Koetter and the Giants’ Ben McAdoo ought to relate well to each other — second-year coaches given credit for quick turnarounds after questionable firings of their predecessors, with steep plunges the next year.

“We are all terribly saddened by this news of his passing,” Jones said. Too young and too soon. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his loved ones and all of the people who were touched by his life.”

They also were both touted as offensive gurus who aren’t living up to the hype. The ceiling for Winston was considered extremely high, in their defense, but the notion that he’s on a treadmill in Year 3 is powerful.

The fact that the defense has downright regressed this season despite the Bucs loading up on that side of the ball over the last two years in the draft and free agency doesn’t help. Neither do the well-documented kicking woes. And neither does the fact that the general manager, Jason Licht, spanned Smith’s and Koetter’s tenures.

Packers RB Aaron Jones facing charges after Oct. 1 arrest

Green Bay Packers rookie running back Aaron Jones is facing charges and possible NFL discipline after an arrest last month during a traffic stop.

Jones could be subject to a suspension from the NFL, but the league isn’t likely to act until the legal case is resolved. Jones’ next scheduled court appearance is Feb. 1 for a pretrial hearing.

Cleveland vice president of football operations Sashi Brown disputes rumors he and the Browns front office intentionally botched an opportunity to acquire Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron.

The Browns and Bengals were set on the trade, but the Browns didn’t have the paperwork ready for the the 4 p.m. ET deadline Tuesday, making many wonder if the Browns tried to back out of the agreement.

According to Brown, Cleveland emailed Cincinnati a contract at 3:54 p.m. ET. The Bengals admitted they missed the Browns’ email and submitted their own paperwork at 3:59 p.m. By the time both teams realized what happened, it was too late and the deadline had passed.

Brees raised his grade from a B-plus just in time for this report card by proving that yes, he still can be Superman when needed. He went 11-for-11 for 164 yards and two touchdowns in the final two drives of the fourth quarter as the Saints rallied from a 15-point deficit to beat Washington in overtime. Brees has played more of a supporting role over New Orleans’ eight-game win streak because the run game and defense have been so good — and since the Saints haven’t been hitting on the deep ball as consistently as usual. He was on pace for his lowest yardage and TD totals in 12 years with the Saints before Sunday’s win over the Redskins. But he is also on pace for a career-best completion percentage and now ranks third in the NFL with a passer rating of 104.3. — Mike Triplett

Three takeaways from Seahawks’ win over Cardinals

The Seahawks defeated the Cardinals 22-16 Thursday in Arizona thanks to some big plays from Russell Wilson.

Most of the game was choppy with penalties and injuries ruining flow, but Wilson entertained with his legs and arm to help the Seahawks (6-3) gain ground on the Rams (6-2) in the NFC West.

The Seahawks potentially lost All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman for the year after he left the game with a heel injury, and he indicated that it could be a serious injury. Still, the Seahawks continued to apply pressure on hapless Drew Stanton, forcing poor throws and stifling Peterson on the ground.

Seattle has now won five of its last six games, and defensive pressure is a big reason why they’ve enjoyed recent success.

The Broncos have lost five straight games and they have not been competitive in those matchups, losing them all by double-digits and a combined total of 97 points. Even worse, they lost by 28 and 25 points in back-to-back blowout losses to the Eagles and the Patriots. The Broncos are also the only team to lose to the Giants this season.

“You’re going to lose football games in this league, but the way it’s gone about it, not being competitive is probably the thing that concerns me the most,’’ Elway said. “I think we have it on our football team. We’ve got to learn to be able to battle through those. Obviously, they’ve come in clumps and we haven’t been able to overcome it. But until we do overcome that, you know, it’s going to tough to win football games.’’nike_patriots_2110

Case Keenum gets solid reviews from Vikings coach Mike Zimmer

Case Keenum has been called excitable. His accuracy has been critiqued.

One thing he’s never been knocked for is being overly conservative. That’s a big plus in the eyes of Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.

“I don’t know if he would have put it in the same spot four weeks ago,” Thielen said. “He’s just starting to realize how we like the ball and what we do best as receivers and tight ends and running backs. I think he’s always had a ton of confidence about what he can do individually, but now it’s kind of gaining that confidence in other guys.”

Philadelphia, with the NFL’s top record, now owns a four-game lead over the 5-5 Cowboys in the NFC East with a perfect 4-0 division record heading into Week 12. While the Eagles have a playoff berth all but locked up, the Cowboys are going to need to start winning without Ezekiel Elliott and get some help if they are to reach the postseason.

Carson Wentz got off to a hot start but a quiet second quarter left the Eagles trailing 9-7 at halftime. The Dallas defense was solid in the first half, at one point holding the Eagles to four consecutive 3-and-outs but in the second half, things quickly changed. The first three Eagles’ possessions resulted in TD drives of 75, 90, and 85 yards, all but breaking the Cowboys spirit in the third quarter.

After Philadelphia went up 29-9, a sack-fumble returned for a touchdown followed by Dak Prescott’s third pick prematurely ended his night.

Steelers’ Marcus Gilbert suspended 4 games for drug violation

The NFL has suspended Pittsburgh Steelers starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert four games for violating the league policy against performance-enhancing substances.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said in a statement that the organization was “disappointed” and that Gilbert will not appeal his suspension.

“Marcus Gilbert missed a significant amount of time. Chris Hubbard’s play made it a nondiscussion,” Tomlin said. “We didn’t talk about it a bunch because his play was above the line. … You guys know our mentality. The standard is the standard.”

For insurance, the Steelers have second-year tackle Jerald Hawkins and have added tackle Jake Rodgers to their practice squad.

Gilbert is the third Steeler in as many years to miss multiple games because of suspension, joining Martavis Bryant (four games in 2015, all of 2016) and Le’Veon Bell (two games in 2015, three in 2016).

Tyler Ennis also scored and Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter each had two assists as the Wild snapped a two-game losing streak. Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves.

Niederreiter has scored in five straight games, the second-longest streak in franchise history.

Jordan Nolan scored twice for the Sabres. Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart also had goals. Robin Lehner made 17 saves after replacing Chad Johnson following the first period. Johnson stopped 10 shots.

The Wild scored three goals in a 5:29 span in the first period and led the rest of the way.

Foligno fed his former Sabres teammate Ennis for the first goal nine minutes into the game. Granlund scored unassisted to put the Wild ahead with 7:32 remaining in the period.

Picking the four playoff teams right now

The College Football Playoff committee will announce its first rankings of the season on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). How do Mel Kiper and Todd McShay see their top four after Week 9?

The Crimson Tide are the clear best team in college football. Their 33.3-point margin of victory per game is tops in FBS, they rank No. 2 in yards allowed per play (3.9), and they rank No. 3 in offensive points per game (42.1). This is a balanced juggernaut of a team with NFL talent all over the field. LSU at home next weekend will be fun to watch, but I don’t think the Tigers have the offense to keep up. Then there’s the final regular-season game at Auburn.

Bellinger lined a fastball to the opposite field over Marwin Gonzalez into the quirky corner next to the left-field scoreboard, chasing starter Charlie Morton. He came home on Forsythe’s two-out single off Will Harris.

Pay attention to where the committee ranks Oklahoma and Washington. It will tell us a lot about who’s really on the outside and how far they have to climb to get back in.

Todd Bowles, head coach, New York Jets. Coaching in the NFL cauldron is a difficult thing anyway. Doing it with a bad team in New York is exponentially more distracting. I’ve got tremendous respect for Bowles, for getting his team to 3-2 with a quarterback put on the street by the Cleveland Browns, a tattered offensive line, and a defense that gave up 45 points in Week 2 in Oakland. Bowles has proven against the odds that coaching, and a smart plan, matter.

Nick Folk, kicker, Tampa Bay. The difference in New England’s 19-14 win over Tampa on Thursday night? Simple: Stephen Gostkowski, 4-for-4 on field goals. Nick Folk, 0-for-3 on field goals.

Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback, Pittsburgh. For his five interceptions, and for a 21-point loss to the Jaguars at home. Both stunners.canadiens_400_4cc90d3813a8efd3-180x180

I’m going with the rare Building Block and Fade from the same team.

Listen, Wiggins is an elite athlete and I love what that should mean for his fantasy upside. The key word there being “should.” In his four games playing alongside Butler, 38.2 percent of Wiggins’ field goal attempts have been from distance — a rate that is way up from his career 15.1 percent entering this season.

Romo telestrates in yellow how wide the safeties are. Then he draws a circle around the middle of the field, with the center right around the 31-yard line—where the Raiders must reach for the first down. The area is empty. Totally devoid of Chiefs.

“The area to throw to is right here in the middle!” Romo says, voice rising to the importance of the game, the season, for Oakland.

The offensive balance has been staggering. Sixteen players have scored goals, including all but one forward (Brendan Leipsic), while five Knights have scored winning goals.

“Everyone is eager,” said forward Cody Eakin. “Everyone wants to prove to themselves or prove to someone else that they’re here for a reason. You look around the room and you see 25 good players. ‘Eager’ is the word to use.”

Hopes are dwindling as the Pac-12’s overall stock sinks, and the Cardinal toyed with certain elimination on Thursday at Oregon State. But the fact remains that Stanford has not lost since Week 3, and an opportunity remains to win the Pac-12 and to make a statement against Notre Dame.

There’s an exception to every rule, right? NC State, like Stanford, has lost twice — and once by a three-score margin. But the Wolfpack are unbeaten in the ACC, with an opportunity against Clemson, then perhaps to defeat an unbeaten Miami for the league title. Would it be enough? Only if total chaos erupted elsewhere.canadiens_001_aeb1bf0fe25cbb3b-180x180

Chiefs vs. Texans 2017 odds: Pick’em betting matchup in Houston on Sunday night

The Kansas City Chiefs are the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL with a record of 4-0 straight up and against the spread. The Chiefs will try to remain undefeated with a road win this Sunday night against the Houston Texans.

Fitzpatrick is basically the NFL’s Final Destination, and on Sunday the Buccaneers quarterback claimed a new victim in Jameis Winston when he injured his shoulder against the Cardinals. The run of misfortune that befalls starting QBs is astronomical when Fitzpatrick is on the team, and The Washington Post took notice.

Like Pantene, Fitzpatrick’s curse might not happen overnight — but it will happen. When Fitzgerald is the backup or benched, the quarterback in front of him will go down, normally in an unforeseen way. His list of victims is impressive:

Fitzpatrick is a Harvard-educated, bearded, specter of misery. His list of exploits is impressive, his tally of victims vast. Fitzpatrick might come to a town near you, and watch out if he does — because misfortune is about to befall your quarterback.

Dave Toub: “I thought about (not kicking to Peterson) for a second. I decided I knew how good our coverage team is.”

Lovie Smith: “We haven’t gone into many games where we don’t kick the ball to the player.”

Robbie Gould: “Did we think about not kicking to him? No. We kicked to him. We have the best special teams in the National Football League.”

Peterson fielded the kick at the 8 and wasn’t touched until midfield. Ricky Manning Jr. dragged him down to save the touchdown and basically end the game. The Vikings ground the clock down to four seconds remaining and called their first timeout at the 37. It would be a 55-yard field goal.

“It was on line,” Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell said later. “I couldn’t tell how far it cleared, but I knew it wouldn’t be much.”