2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Patriots at Dolphins opens 3 weeks of showdowns

By JOE KAY - AP Sports Writer
    2013-12-10 14:15

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam ''Pacman'' Jones knows how it goes this time of the season, with so much at stake for so many teams.

Division titles. Wild card berths. Home field advantage. All those wacky games decided in downpours, blizzards and domes have set the stage for deciding the NFL playoff field in the next three weeks. And right now, that field is about as clear as a wintery afternoon in Philadelphia.

Denver, Indianapolis and Seattle are the only teams that have clinched playoff berths with three weeks left.

And the conferences' playoff seeds are still wide open.

''If we just win out, we'll be OK,'' said Jones, whose Bengals are closing in on the AFC North title. ''That's all we've got to do. Win out and let everything else take care of itself.''

Every other contender is saying the same thing. Easy to say, tough to do. Given the league's unpredictable nature, there are going to be a lot of upsets and unforeseen plot twists in the next three weeks.

Six games with extra significance in the closing weeks:

PATRIOTS AT DOLPHINS, Sunday, Dec. 15: New England (10-3) leads the AFC East and currently has the No. 2 seed, a game ahead of Cincinnati (9-3). But the Bengals beat them during the season, so Cincinnati would be No. 2 if they end tied. It'll be New England's first game since losing tight end Rob Gronkowski again, this time to a knee injury. The Patriots went 5-1 without him at the start of the season, but their offense picked up measurably when he returned. Gronkowski had 37 catches for 560 yards in six games, the most by an NFL tight end. They're back to trying to reach the playoffs without him, facing a Miami (7-6) team tied with Baltimore (7-6) for the final wild card slot. The Ravens beat the Dolphins 26-23 on Oct. 6 for the head-to-head tiebreaker.

BEARS AT EAGLES, Sunday, Dec. 22: The game has been flexed to Sunday night because of its significance. Philadelphia (8-5) has won five in a row, including that snowy 34-20 victory over Detroit last Sunday, to take sole possession of first place in the NFC East, a game ahead of Dallas. Chicago's 45-28 win over Dallas on Monday night left the Bears and Lions tied at 7-6 atop the NFC North. Many playoff implications all around in this one.

SAINTS AT PANTHERS, Sunday, Dec.22: The NFC South title could be decided. The Saints (10-3) took a one-game lead with a 31-13 win over the Panthers in New Orleans on Sunday, with Drew Brees throwing for four touchdowns against the NFL's stingiest defense. The Panthers (9-4) are currently in line with San Francisco (9-4) for the two wild card spots.

PATRIOTS AT RAVENS, Sunday, Dec.22: The defending Super Bowl champions have struggled on offense all season, but have managed to hang in there in the playoff chase. The Ravens are 6-1 at home but have a tough closing stretch: at Detroit on Monday night, New England, at Cincinnati. The Patriots also have a tough go, playing at Miami and Baltimore before hosting Buffalo.

49ERS AT CARDINALS, Sunday, Dec. 29: San Francisco (9-4) trails Seattle (11-2) by two games for the NFC West lead, so a wild card seems the more likely route for a team that came up just short in last season's Super Bowl. Arizona (8-5) is a game behind the 49ers and Panthers for the two wild cards. The 49ers play at Tampa Bay and host Atlanta on Monday night before finishing at Arizona. Seattle plays at the Giants before hosting the Cardinals and Rams.

TEXANS AT TITANS, Sunday, Dec. 29: A showdown of sorts - for the top pick in next year's draft. Also, it's open season for coaching changes. Houston started it by firing Gary Kubiak last Friday, a day after the Texans suffered their 11th straight loss. The Texans are at the bottom of the league and the top of the draft list with a 2-11 mark. Washington and Atlanta are a game behind at 3-10, followed by Minnesota at 3-9-1. Houston will have a tough time climbing out of the bottom spot. The Texas finish at Indianapolis, which has clinched the AFC South, and at home against Denver, which leads the AFC, before playing at Tennessee (5-8).

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Tony HillsNov 27 03:22p

The Dallas Cowboys have declared LB Dekoda Watson, OG Donald Hawkins, QB Dustin Vaughan, FS Jeff Heath, DL Joshua Brent, OT Tony Hills, CB Tyler Patmon inactive for Week 13.

Taylor HartNov 27 03:12p

The Philadelphia Eagles have declared OT Dennis Kelly, DB Jaylen Watkins, WR Jeff Maehl, OG Julian Vandervelde, QB Nick Foles, CB Rashad Carmichael, DE Taylor Hart inactive for Week 13.

Kyle FullerNov 27 11:32a

Chicago Bears CB Kyle Fuller (knee) will play in the team's Week 13 game against the Detroit Lions. Fuller had been questionable during the week.

Lance BriggsNov 27 11:22a

The Chicago Bears have declared WR Chris X. Williams, LB Darryl Sharpton, OT Eben Britton, DL Jeremiah Ratliff, LB Lance Briggs, CB Terrance Mitchell, DL Trevor Scott inactive for Week Week 13.

Reggie BushNov 27 11:12a

The Detroit Lions have declared QB Kellen Moore, OG Larry Warford, DE Larry Webster, DL Nick Fairley, RB Reggie Bush, OT Riley Reiff, WR Ryan Broyles inactive for Week 13.

Reggie BushNov 27 11:12a

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) is inactive Thursday, Nov. 27, for Week 13.

Reggie BushNov 27 10:12a

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) is out for Week 13 Thursday, Nov. 27. His ankle isn't responding well enough, but the hope is to return for Week 14.

R. Griffin IIINov 27 09:53a

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III is highly unlikely to return to the team next season, sources within the organization said. Head coach Jay Gruden convinced owner Daniel Snyder [ More ]

Jimmy StatenNov 26 09:43p

The Seattle Seahawks signed free-agent DT Jimmy Staten (Seahawks) to their practice squad Wednesday, Nov. 26. The team also released OT Andrew McDonald from their practice squad.

Marcus ThigpenNov 26 09:03p

The Buffalo Bills claimed WR Marcus Thigpen off waivers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wednesday, Nov. 26. The team also waived DE Bryan Johnson.

Richard GordonNov 26 09:03p

The Tennessee Titans waived TE Richard Gordon Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Larry FitzgeraldNov 26 08:33p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Dwayne AllenNov 26 07:33p

Indianapolis Colts TE Dwayne Allen (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

C. PattersonNov 26 06:23p

Minnesota Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson (knee) did not practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Jerick McKinnonNov 26 06:13p

Minnesota Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon (back) did not practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Brandon LaFellNov 26 06:03p

New England Patriots WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder) was limited during practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Jace AmaroNov 26 05:13p

New York Jets TE Jace Amaro (head) is not expected to play in Week 13, because he is going through the concussion protocol.

Reggie BushNov 26 04:53p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle, back) was limited in practice for the third straight day Wednesday, Nov. 26, and is questionable for Week 13 against the Chicago Bears.

Jordan CameronNov 26 04:43p

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) remains day-to-day, but the team is looking for him to practice symptom-free this week, according to head coach Mike Pettine.

Jordan ReedNov 26 04:13p

Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed (hamstring) was limited in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26, according to head coach Jay Gruden.

R. Griffin IIINov 26 02:53p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III needs more seasoning, and he'll likely do it from the bench for the rest of this season, according to head coach Jay Gruden. [ More ]

Arian FosterNov 26 02:33p

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (groin) has an excellent chance to return in Week 13 against the Tennessee Titans after missing the last two games.

Mark SanchezNov 26 02:23p

Philadelphia Eagles QB Mark Sanchez has thrown six interceptions this year, but all of them haven't been game-changing turnovers. In Week 12 against the Tennessee Titans, Sanchez thrived on [ More ]

Larry FitzgeraldNov 26 01:53p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) felt some progress in his sprained left medial collateral ligament Tuesday, Nov. 25, according to head coach Bruce Arians. Fitzgerald was pretty upset [ More ]

Julius ThomasNov 26 01:23p

Denver Broncos TE Julius Thomas (ankle) was limited at practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Phil LoadholtNov 26 12:33p

Minnesota Vikings OT Phil Loadholt (pectoral) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Geno SmithNov 26 12:23p

New York Jets QB Geno Smith will return to the starting quarterback role in Week 13 against the Miami Dolphins, after QB Michael Vick saw only three starts. The [ More ]

Timothy WrightNov 26 10:43a

New England Patriots TE Tim Wright has 23 catches on 26 targets this season. 'Every time we throw to him it's a touchdown - we'll try to find him [ More ]

R. Griffin IIINov 26 09:43a

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III has officially been benched in favor of QB Colt McCoy in Week 13. Head coach Jay Gruden informed the team Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Colt McCoyNov 26 09:43a

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III has officially been benched in favor of QB Colt McCoy in Week 13. Head coach Jay Gruden informed the team Wednesday, Nov. 26.

R. Griffin IIINov 25 11:43p

The Washington Redskins are planning on benching QB Robert Griffin III for the Week 13 game against the Indianapolis Colts in favor of QB Colt McCoy. However, Griffin still [ More ]

Jace AmaroNov 25 05:13p

New York Jets TE Jace Amaro (concussion) is in concussion protocol, according to head coach Rex Ryan, after suffering the concussion in Week 12 against the Buffalo Bills.

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