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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette will be a game-day decision for the third straight week.

Fournette, who strained his right hamstring in the season opener, was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets despite practice in full Friday.
Fournette says he’s getting better but isn’t ready to commit to returning.

He says he’s “just getting back in my routine, practicing, cutting and stuff like that. It’s tricky with hamstrings. You can feel good one day but then something might happen.”

Right guard A.J. Cann (triceps) also practiced in full Friday and was listed as questionable.

Coach Doug Marrone says he doesn’t “like to put anyone out there unless they feel they’re 100 per cent.”

The Jaguars will be without cornerback D.J. Hayden (toe) for the second straight week.


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PITTSBURGH — Members of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defence are eager to play again. They’re going to have to wait an extra day.

They want to put a forgettable performance against Kansas City in the past and prove themselves this week against an upstart Tampa Bay offence. The Steelers will see where they stand during their first prime-time appearance of the season Monday night against veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the undefeated Buccaneers.

“We want to get that rotten taste out of our mouths and just get back to playing football,” defensive end Cam Heyward said on Friday. “It’s a great opportunity against a good offence.”

The two-time defending AFC North champions are winless through two weeks. The Steelers (0-1-1) are off to their worst start since 2013, which was also the last time they missed the playoffs.

Last week, Chiefs first-year starter Patrick Mahomes became the second player to throw for six touchdowns against Pittsburgh, and the first since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly did it for Buffalo in 1991. Mahomes threw his six scores to five players and finished with more touchdowns than incomplete passes.

“We’ve got a lot of stuff to prove,” linebacker Bud Dupree said. “There’s a lot of speculation of us not being a good defence, but we know in our heart and soul that we have one of the best defences.”

The Steelers statistically boasted a top-10 defence last season. They ranked No. 5 in yards and two spots back at No. 7 in points, while also establishing a franchise record for sacks in a season.

This season has been much different. The defence has allowed an average of 31.5 points and close to 400 yards per contest through two games.

“We just want to be established and known as one of the best defences,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “We haven’t really put that on tape for the first two games. The quicker we can get back out there, the quicker we can show everybody what we can do.”

Haden expects to play Monday after missing last week’s game against Kansas City with a hamstring injury. The ninth-year veteran was a full practice participant for the second straight day Friday. Haden will be a welcome addition to a defence that had communication issues, lacked a consistent pass rush and couldn’t get off the field.

Defensive co-ordinator Keith Butler said this week that he simplified the game plan to allow players to play fast, improve communication and eliminate big plays through the secondary. Butler felt his players tried to overcompensate and do too much at times against the Chiefs.

“I jumped offsides when we were down because I was trying to time the snap and get to the quarterback,” Dupree said. “Somebody has to make a play and I was trying to put it on my shoulders and make a play, and sometimes that’s trying to do too much.”

Tampa Bay (2-0) is off to its best start in eight years and features the NFL’s top-ranked offence. The Bucs are unbeaten thanks in large part to Fitzpatrick, the 35-year-old journeyman who has thrived with suspended quarterback Jameis Winston sidelined. Fitzpatrick is playing the best football of his 14-year career, throwing for 819 yards and eight touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s first two games.

The Steelers insist their defence is prepared for the challenge.

“We’re just ready to go,” Heyward said. “I’m ready to move forward. I think we cleaned up a lot of problems. We had a lot to address, but it won’t be addressed until Monday. Hopefully, we can put on a good performance.”

NOTES: S Morgan Burnett (groin), G David DeCastro (hand), T Marcus Gilbert (hamstring) and DE Stephon Tuitt (illness) did not practice on Friday. G Ramon Foster (knee) and DE Tyson Alualu (shoulder) were full practice participants for the second straight day.

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Case Keenum’s new beginning in Denver was blotted by an uncharacteristic three interceptions, almost half the number he threw in Minnesota last year, when only seven of his 481 passes were picked off.

Keenum said he awoke the morning after Denver’s 27-24 win over Seattle and “I would say it didn’t feel quite like I wanted it to feel after my first win as a Bronco. So, there’s a lot of hunger. We’re all very, very hungry to get out there and keep getting better this week.”

The Broncos (1-0) host Oakland (0-1) on Sunday.

Despite the trio of interceptions, Broncos coaches didn’t flinch in their faith of Keenum. The QB who teamed with Stefon Diggs to produce the Vikings’ virtuoso shocker in the playoffs threw three touchdown passes, punctuating the Broncos’ best offensive output since the 2015 finale with a frozen rope to a tiptoeing, tumbling Demaryius Thomas for the winning score.

Keenum also hit Emmanuel Sanders (10 catches for 135 yards) for his first touchdown since Week 2 last season, and rookie running back Phillip Lindsay for his first career TD, a 29-yard catch-and-run play.

Only one other time in Keenum’s 43 NFL games has he thrown as many as three interceptions; in 2016 he was picked off four times by the Giants while with the Los Angeles Rams.

Keenum said he needs to relax and realize he doesn’t have to press with such talent around him.

“I trust all those guys,” Keenum said. “We’ve got some incredible playmakers that make plays downfield, and if anything, I just need to make sure when a shot’s called, it’s not necessarily a shot taken. Check the ball down and rely on those guys because I’ve got some really big-time playmakers, and let them do what they do.

“I don’t have to do everything myself.”

His interceptions led to two Seahawks touchdowns and thwarted a Denver drive.

“That’s 17 points I’m responsible for,” Keenum said.

Coach Vance Joseph liked the way Keenum bounced back from his errant throws.

“After the interceptions he had his best drives,” Joseph said. “So, that speaks to his confidence. It speaks to him not folding.”

Raiders coach Jon Gruden is also a fan of Keenum’s and has been ever since interviewing him for his “QB Camp” show on ESPN in 2012, when Keenum came out of the University of Houston as the NCAA’s career leader in completions, passing yards and touchdowns.

“I’ve been accused of liking everybody, but I really like Keenum,” Gruden said. “What he did in college is unseen, the type of production that he had. I told our people a long time ago when I first got here I think THE free agent acquisition in pro football this year is going to be Case Keenum.”

Not Kirk Cousins, whom the Vikings turned to after Keenum led them to the NFC championship.

“What he did in Minnesota, the toughness that he put on tape,” Gruden said, his voice trailing off in admiration. “He made a throw last week against Seattle, there were two or three Seahawks beating down on him — it’s a 14-yard gain.

“His pocket presence, I think his personality, his fight, his grit, he gets the most out of himself. He’s given them consistent, quality play at a position that they haven’t had since (Peyton) Manning left.”

Denver’s 470 yards of offence was the most by the Broncos since the 2015 finale when Manning returned from a foot injury to rally Denver past the Chargers and vault them toward their Super Bowl 50 triumph.

Keenum is just as big a fan of Gruden’s.

“I’m pretty sure he watched every rep that I’d ever played in college, he found some obscure tape from I don’t know where,” Keenum said. “It was a lot of fun. I got a lot good feedback.”

One of Gruden’s most scrutinized moves since returning to the sideline was sending pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears in a move that sent shockwaves throughout the league and also makes life easier on the Raiders’ AFC West rivals.

“He’s talented,” Keenum said, “but I’m pretty sure they’re going to play 11 guys. They’re not just going to put 10 out there without him.”

In a conference call with reporters in Denver on Wednesday, Gruden said he’s been asked about the blockbuster trade ad nauseam “and rightfully so.”

“He’s a great guy. He’s a great player. It’s unfortunate we don’t have him,” Gruden said. “But we feel we did the right thing for this football team, for the future of the Raiders and for this building process.

“I know we’ve got to prove it. But so does he.”

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New England Patriots OVER 11.5 (+100) – There isn’t a lot of upside to taking the Patriots to win at least 12 games, but they have won at least 12 games in eight straight seasons. Their division still includes the Dolphins, Jets and Bills, which should get them halfway there.

Detroit Lions OVER 7.5 (-115) – New coach Matt Patricia has a lot of talent to work with and the Lions have won at least nine games in three of the past four seasons.

Arizona Cardinals OVER 5.5 (-180) – Given the price, the expectations have obviously shifted, but a healthy David Johnson and the quarterback tandem of Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen should put the Cardinals in range of a .500 season.

Washington OVER 6.5 (-175) – There is admittedly some risk with a team that has Alex Smith and Adrian Peterson featured in prominent roles, but they are good enough to get to eight wins, as the price here suggests.

Pittsburgh Steelers OVER 10.5 (+120) – Despite the Le’Veon Bell contract drama, the Steelers are still the powerhouse team in the AFC North and their receiving corps is getting better. Like the Patriots, there still isn’t a lot of upside to taking the Steelers to win at least 11 games, but they have done it in three of the past four seasons.

Denver Broncos UNDER 7.5 (-105) – This is kind of a tough one, because I have some cautious optimism about the Broncos, but not enough to think that they will improve by three wins over last season. It could happen, if Case Keenum is the answer at quarterback and rookie Royce Freeman runs the rock effectively, but that’s still asking for substantial improvement.

Baltimore Ravens UNDER 8.5 (-130) – The Ravens do have a favourable schedule, at least early in the season, but unless rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson gives them a jolt by taking the starting job from Joe Flacco, it’s easy enough to see the Ravens not finishing with a winning record.

Miami Dolphins UNDER 6.5 (+110) – Although the Dolphins won 10 games in 2016, Ryan Tannehill’s last healthy season, they don’t look like a team headed for a winning record this year. Given relatively mediocre talent, it could get ugly, so a five or six-win season isn’t that hard to envision.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers UNDER 6.5 (-140) – In five of the past six seasons, the Bucs have won six games or fewer, and they open the year with starting quarterback Jameis Winston suspended for the first three games.

New York Giants UNDER 6.5 (+165) – It’s certainly possible that highly-touted rookie running back Saquon Barkley lifts the Giants into respectability after a three-win season in 2017, especially if the G-Men also have a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. at their disposal, but a four-win improvement is a big ask too, especially when the price favours taking the under.

Oakland Raiders UNDER 7.5 (-140) – The Raiders have had one winning season in the past six, and while there are already questions about whether head coach Jon Gruden is suited to win in the modern NFL, it’s also a team that just traded away their best defensive player, defensive end Khalil Mack, to Chicago.

Indianapolis Colts UNDER 6.5 (+165) – Getting quarterback Andrew Luck back in the lineup is obviously huge – they had five straight seasons with at least eight wins before Luck missed the 2017 season – there are still significant holes in the supporting cast so a losing record seems possible and if Luck gets hurt again, well things could go south in a hurry.

Buffalo Bills UNDER 6.5 (-280) – This one is included only for the reference of the dramatic and prohibitive price in order to take the Bills on the under. A 9-7 playoff team a year ago, they are going to open the season with Nathan Peterman at quarterback, and there isn’t enough talent on the roster to think that they will find their way close to a winning record. The wildcard, perhaps, could be if strong-armed rookie quarterback Josh Allen is somehow ready to not only play, but have some measure of success in his first season.

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This year’s rookie quarterback class entered the NFL with a bang on draft night.

Four QBs were taken with the first 10 selections in the 2018 draft – the first time that has happened since the inception of the common draft era in 1967, according to the New York Daily News. Five signal-callers were selected in the first round overall, which is just the third time that at least five quarterbacks have been scooped up inside the opening round.

Despite this year’s class making history, don’t expect much from the group as a whole during their respective first-year campaigns. As things stand right now, only two members of the QB draft class actually have realistic shots at starting in Week 1. And even then, the two quarterbacks are very much battling in open competitions for jobs that are likely to last right up until the start of the regular season.

With that said, here is’s look at what to expect from the five pivots taken in the first round of this year’s draft.

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns, 1st overall pick

Mayfield, who took home virtually every top collegiate award last season, has looked impressive through three games this preseason. Despite his performance, barring an injury to Tyrod Taylor, Mayfield will begin the season as the Browns’ No. 2 quarterback after head coach Hue Jackson named Taylor the team’s starter at the onset of the off-season. Taylor may not have all that long of a leash, though, as Mayfield has shown enough during the exhibition period to warrant the Browns’ faithful clamouring for him to start sooner rather than later. Also strengthening Mayfield’s case is the constant criticism that Taylor has faced throughout his career: being too conservative of a passer and not taking enough risks – two things that have never been associated with Mayfield. But if Taylor, who is a competent starter, can keep the Browns afloat and lead them to a much improved record – they are 1-31 during the past two seasons – it’s likely he’ll be able to keep Mayfield on the bench for most of the, if not the entire, season.

Sam Darnold, New York Jets, 3rd overall pick

Darnold is the likeliest of all the rookie quarterbacks to become a starter out of the gate, despite by and large being outplayed by Teddy Bridgewater this preseason. With much more invested in Darnold financially, a bevy of reports suggest that the Jets may wind up trading Bridgewater to the highest bidder. Most draft experts have long maintained that Darnold, who was a two-year starter at Southern California, is the most prepared rookie quarterback to step in and start from Day 1. With the New England Patriots yet again expected to control the AFC East, and the Jets roster lacking many well-known names at offensive skill positions, expect Darnold to have his work cut out for him should he win the Jets’ starting job.

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills, 7th overall pick

Allen is the other rookie pivot with a shot at being named a Week 1 starter. Unlike Darnold, however, the consensus on Allen ahead of the draft among draft experts was that the strapping, big-armed quarterback was as a prototypical boom-or-bust player. The Wyoming product has had an up-and-down preseason to this point, but with a lack of appealing options behind him in AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman, it appears that the Bills may thrust Allen into starting perhaps earlier than he should. With a roster also largely devoid of dynamic offensive playmakers, expect Allen and the Bills to be in tough in the AFC East as well.

Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals, 10th overall pick

One of the more polarizing players in this year’s rookie class because of his tendency to speak frankly on many societal issues, Rosen has had a relatively quiet preseason. He played well in the Cardinals’ second outing, but did not play at all in the team’s third game, which is generally regarded as a dress rehearsal for the regular season. Veteran quarterback Sam Bradford, who Arizona acquired in free agency, has seemingly been entrenched as the team’s starter since signing his deal. Bradford, who has been among the NFL’s most accurate passers, completion percentage-wise, the last two seasons, will likely keep Rosen on the bench this season barring injury.

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens, 32nd overall pick

Just like Allen, Jackson was considered to be a project type player by many ahead of the draft. It’s no secret that the Louisville product is a dynamic runner, but he completed less than 50 per cent of his passes in his first two preseason outings, which didn’t do him any favours in attempting to change how he’s perceived. The addition of Jackson to the squad has seemingly lit a fire under starter Joe Flacco, who has looked good in the few moments he’s played in the preseason. Not to mention former No. 2 overall pick Robert Griffin III, who has also looked good in the Ravens’ exhibition games. Though he’s unlikely to see consistent time under centre this season, the Ravens have talked about possibly getting Jackson into the game alongside Flacco in certain offensive schemes and packages.

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy stood in a corner of the locker room sizing up the challenge the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face opening the season against Cam Newton and the defending NFC South champion Carolina Panthers.

The Bucs haven’t made the playoffs since 2007, a drought that’s prompted three coaching changes in five years, including the hiring of Lovie Smith last winter.

The Panthers, meanwhile, won 12 games to match a franchise record, with an improved Newton re-establishing himself as one of the NFL’s up-and-coming stars.

Carolina dominated Tampa Bay twice along the way, and McCoy hasn’t forgotten.

“Right now our identity is we’re a 4-12 team. Until we change that, that’s who we are,” McCoy said. “Until somebody changes who Carolina is, they’re the division champs.”

The task begins Sunday.

The notion of going from worst to first in the NFC South isn’t farfetched. It’s happened six times since the division was formed in 2002, and the Bucs, Panthers, Falcons and Saints have all finished first three times.

Interestingly, no team has won titles in consecutive years.

“I think everybody has been talking about that, and we obviously know about it,” Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, the 2013 NFL defensive player of the year, said.

Not that the Panthers fancy themselves as history buffs.

“Our goal is the same as it is every year, and that’s to go out and win the division. I don’t think it really matters if we’re supposed to win or if we’re not supposed to win. … The mindset is to go out there and win the division,” Kuechly added. “I think that’s all 32 teams’ goal. … All of the talk outside of the team, and all of the other stuff is just talk.”

With Newton leading the way, the Panthers swept the season series a year ago by a combined 58-19. The young quarterback threw for two touchdowns and ran for one in each game.

“He got comfortable. He’s not a guy you want to get comfortable,” McCoy said. “He’s one of the best escape artists we have in this league. If you give him too much time, he’ll kill you with his feet or his arm. We’ve got to be all over him.”

Newton had ankle surgery during the offseason and has been slowed the past two weeks by a rib injury he’s said will not stop him from playing.

“I’m being optimistic about this whole thing, and I have no other choice but to feel that way,” Newton said. “I don’t want to ever put this team or myself in jeopardy that I’m just stressing to hurry up and get out there and I’m not able to be what makes me me.”

In their debut under Smith, the Bucs have been challenged on defense to outplay Carolina’s highly regarded unit. The Panthers led the league with 60 sacks and ranked second in total defense in 2013.

Under Smith, who coached the Bears from 2004-12, the Bucs have switched to a version of the Tampa-2 scheme they popularized during a decade of success under Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden.

With McCoy anchoring the defensive line, and linebacker Lavonte David making play after play, Smith feels he has the makings of another dominant unit.

“Potential is nothing, you can say anybody has potential. Everybody has got potential to do something,” McCoy said. “It’s about getting it done.”

Things to watch when the Panthers and Buccaneers open the season:

THE BIG UNKNOWN: Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said the toughest part of preparing for the Bucs’ offense is not knowing what to expect. Tampa Bay has a new offensive coordinator in Jeff Tedford, a former coach at Cal who has never called plays at the NFL level.

BUT WHO’S CALLING PLAYS SUNDAY?: Tedford underwent an unspecified medical procedure last month, and the Bucs have not confirmed he will work Sunday’s game. In his absence, the rest of the offensive staff collaborated on the game plan. Quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo will relay play calls if Tedford is out.

NEW QB: Career backup Josh McCown will start a season opener for the first time since 2007. He’s coming off his best year as a pro, throwing for 13 touchdowns versus one interception while filling in for an injured Jay Cutler in Chicago. The Bucs are counting on him to help turn around an offense that ranked 30th in scoring and last in passing and total yardage in 2013.

STARTING SLOW: The Panthers have not won a season opener since 2008. Carolina opened at Tampa Bay two years ago, losing 16-10.

Carolina has opened the last three seasons 1-5, 1-6 and 1-3 under coach Ron Rivera.

DEFENSIVE SHOWDOWN: Don’t be surprised to see a defensive showdown. The Panthers ranked only behind Seattle on defense last season, and Smith boasted “we feel like we will be one of the best defenses in the league this year.” Smith and Rivera have strong defensive backgrounds, and the Panthers coach served as Bears defensive coordinator under Smith.

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Never before have three NFL teams started 8-0 in the same season, so as long as the New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers remain unbeaten, their pursuits of perfection will draw plenty of attention.

Those teams’ quarterbacks — Tom Brady, Andy Dalton and Cam Newton — also will be worth keeping an eye on in the MVP race.

Unfortunately, from the perspective of football fans and TV executives, none of those teams will face each other the rest of the way in the regular season for what would have been a much-hyped showdown.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Detroit Lions, at 1-7 owners of the league’s worst record, are in pole position for the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft. The Lions’ remaining schedule does not include any of the teams currently with two victories.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that there aren’t must-see matchups in Weeks 10 through 17.

Here’s a look at some of the most intriguing games to watch in the NFL’s second half:

BILLS AT JETS in Week 10, JETS AT BILLS in Week 17: Any time Buffalo coach Rex Ryan faces his former club, there is sure to be some off-the-field story line that grabs interest, starting Thursday night, when he promised to send out linebacker Ikemefuna Enemkpali as a game-day captain. Enemkpali was cut by the Jets after breaking quarterback Geno Smith’s jaw at training camp — Ryan’s Bills signed him the next day.

PATRIOTS AT GIANTS in Week 10: The last time Brady and Co. were 8-0 was in 2007, and the Patriots wound up getting all the way to 18-0 before losing to Eli Manning’s Giants in the Super Bowl. New York and coach Tom Coughlin defeated New England and coach Bill Belichick in another Super Bowl four seasons later.

COWBOYS AT DOLPHINS in Week 11: Dallas hasn’t won since QB Tony Romo went out in Week 2 with a broken collarbone; he is eligible to come off injured reserve for this game, which might be too late to save the Cowboys’ season.

BILLS AT PATRIOTS in Week 11: Ryan vs. Belichick. Enough said.

PACKERS AT VIKINGS in Week 11, VIKINGS AT PACKERS in Week 17: Who thought Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay would be tied for the NFC North lead with Minnesota at the midway point?

PATRIOTS AT BRONCOS in Week 12: Brady and Denver’s Peyton Manning renew their rivalry in a prime-time game, and the Broncos finally have a topflight defense to throw at the Patriots.

FALCONS AT PANTHERS in Week 14, PANTHERS AT FALCONS in Week 16: Only three of Carolina’s eight games still on the schedule come against teams that have winning records right now — and two are against NFC South rival Atlanta.

PACKERS AT CARDINALS in Week 16: Assuming Rodgers and Green Bay emerge from their current funk, this could be a key late-season measuring stick for two of the NFC’s better teams.

BENGALS AT BRONCOS in Week 16: The AFC’s two best teams not based in the Northeast.

49ERS AT LIONS in Week 16: The No. 1 draft pick and the futures of QBs Colin Kaepernick and Matthew Stafford could all be at stake.


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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Chuck Pagano could blame New England for one of his most bitter football memories.

On the other hand, that loss also opened a new chapter in Pagano’s life.

Now, three years after that stinging 23-20 championship game loss against the Patriots, the former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator is getting a second chance to earn a Super Bowl ticket at New England — this time as the Indianapolis Colts’ head coach.

“We wouldn’t be having this discussion right now had things transpired in a different way,” Pagano said as Indianapolis prepares for Sunday’s AFC championship game.

He has often contended that if the Ravens won that day — on Lee Evans’ near-touchdown catch with 27 seconds left or in overtime, if Billy Cundiff had made a 32-yard field goal with 15 seconds to go — that he never would have landed in Indy (13-5).

General manager Ryan Grigson didn’t go that far this week, though he did recall watching the game and going through some old notes about Pagano almost immediately after Cundiff’s kick sailed wide left. Within 24 hours, Grigson had contacted Ravens coach John Harbaugh for permission to interview Pagano, who was still angry.

“The bitterness was still emanating from him, even when we brought him in,” Grigson said. “So that game was his loss, but our gain because when he finally came in, it was evident to all of us in that room that this was the right guy.”

Three days after the game, Pagano accepted his first head coaching job.

At first, the outlook looked bleak.

The Colts were in the midst of a salary-cap purge and about embarked on one of the most ambitious rebuilding projects. They started by releasing a bevy of fan favorites including the seemingly untouchable Peyton Manning. Pagano now jokes that at one point he looked around his office and asked his wife, Tina, “what the heck did we just do?”

Grigson never asked the same question about a man he viewed as a leader that could pull the best out of his players.

Pagano proved to be everything Grigson envisioned and more, on and off the field.

He helped convince Reggie Wayne, one of his old college players, to stick around for a hometown discount. He helped recruit defensive tackle Arthur Jones and defensive end Cory Redding, both starters who were in the Ravens’ locker room that awful day in New England, as free agents. It didn’t take much of a push.

“I know what kind of guy he is, stand-up guy, shoots it straight to you, fun, energetic at practice, expects a lot out of you in the meeting rooms to know your stuff,” Redding said, explaining why he left a championship contender to join a team that went 2-14 the year before he came. “Knowing the system, knowing him, it was just easy for me to make the decision.”

It turned out the Colts’ incredible turnaround was about a lot more than just wins and losses.

Three games into Pagano’s tenure, he was diagnosed with leukemia.

Pagano spent 25 days at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis as longtime friends Wayne, Redding and Bruce Arians and new friends such as Robert Mathis, Andrew Luck, Grigson and team owner Jim Irsay rallied the team. After returning home, the treatments continued for two more months.

The team responded to Pagano’s absence by winning nine times, none more electrifying than the second-half comeback against Green Bay when Wayne caught 13 passes for a career high 212 yards and the winning score with 35 seconds left. Irsay and Grigson hand-delivered the game ball to Pagano at the hospital.

“I can’t imagine being anywhere else and having a city and a community embrace somebody they hardly know,” Pagano said when he returned to the team complex on Christmas Eve. “I just think that’s how we roll in this great state, this great city and this great community.”

And Pagano just kept winning.

Indy completed one its nine-game improvement over the 2011 season by winning in Pagano’s first game back on the sideline. The Colts have won 11 more regular-season games each of the past two seasons, the last two AFC South titles and here playoff games.

But those who were with Pagano in Baltimore know that’s not good enough yet.

“That loss lingered the whole offseason,” said Jones, who was part of Baltimore’s 2013 world championship team. “It was a tough way to end your year after making it that far. It bothers you.”

So this week with a second shot, Pagano is taking none at the Patriots.

He’s just focused on trying to get the biggest win — and best memory — of his coaching career.

“It’s about the game, it’s about the team, it’s about us doing our job,” Pagano said Monday. “We know how great a team we’re going to play. You’ve got a Hall of Fame coach, a Hall of Fame quarterback and a bunch of great players on both sides of the ball. It’s going to be a tall order.”

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — When Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs asked coach Marc Trestman for a personal day this week, he left out a detail — it was to attend the grand opening of his barbecue restaurant.

He didn’t mention it afterward, either.

Briggs raised a few more eyebrows with that revelation while being grilled by reporters Wednesday.

With the season opening this week he found himself at the center of attention for missing practice to be at the opening of his barbecue restaurant near his hometown of Sacramento, California.

His comments Wednesday added some more heat.

He said “no” after someone asked if he told Trestman the day off was for the opening of the restaurant he part-owns.

He also said he didn’t tell his coach later and they haven’t discussed it since.

Trestman would not say if he would have granted Briggs the day off had he known the reason.

“There’s been a lot of different reasons of why players have asked for personal time,” Trestman said. “I just don’t feel I should have to comment on that because now you’ve set a baseline for each and every situation. It’s not just all about the player; it’s about the best interest of the team.”

Asked if too much is being made of this, Briggs said, “That’s my opinion. Everybody is entitled to their own.”

Had the opening occurred on an off day, this probably would be a non-issue. But Briggs said his partner chose Monday because it was Labor Day, when many people are not working. And the seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker was there posing for pictures with fans and signing autographs on a day when his team was practicing, albeit on a limited basis.

Even so, that raised questions about his commitment to the Bears.

“I poured my heart out on the field every game and every play,” Briggs said. “I think if you’re questioning whether I care more to be there than to be here, my history has always spoken for me. You can take that how you want to.”

Briggs’ accomplishments are hard to argue, and they’re counting on him after he missed a big chunk of last season with a broken left shoulder.

The Bears are counting on an improved defense to get them back to the playoffs for just the second time since the 2006 team’s Super Bowl run. They rebuilt a unit that ranked among the worst in franchise history last season, adding five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen along with defensive end Lamarr Houston.

They’re healthier after being hit hard by injuries last season, with defensive tackle D.J. Williams and cornerback Charles Tillman healed after missing big portions of last season along with Briggs.

But the optimism that surrounded the Bears at the start of training camp is somewhat tempered.

The defense underwhelmed in the preseason and is still trying to come together.

“The cohesiveness … we can all gel this week and be sharp and play shutdown defense,” Briggs said. “But this is the NFL and they get paid too. In this game there are going to be some mistakes, but you have to make up for those mistakes with getting to the ball, getting a lot of guys around the ball and creating turnovers and stuff like that.”

Briggs’ restaurant-related absence with the opener approaching only added to the angst.

He pointed out that Monday was a light practice and that the Bears don’t start installing their game plan until Wednesday. He also mentioned that the Bears have often gotten Mondays off following victories.

“I asked (Trestman) for a personal day, he said OK,” Briggs said. “I guess my announcing the opening of my restaurant made bigger news than we kind of expected. It is what it is. Right now we’re on Wednesday preparing for the Buffalo Bills.”

Authentic Cheap NFL Nike Oakland Raiders Womens Jerseys China 2018

Jon Gruden’s return to the NFL as a coach — he was the Oakland Raiders’ headman from 1998 through 2001 and with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002 through 2008 — is a big deal. Big enough that the Raiders are on prime-time television four times in 2018. A rough start, which includes a “home” game in London, and a chilly finish will tell the tale for Gruden 2.0, even as the Raiders are tied for the fourth-easiest strength of schedule in the NFL. They had the fourth toughest in 2017.

Week 1: Monday, Sept. 10, vs. Los Angeles Rams, 10:20 p.m. ET

Welcome back to the NFL, Jon Gruden, and on ESPN’s Monday Night Football no less. Gruden’s first game on the Raiders sideline since the 2001 season is a monster test, against the likes of the Rams defense with Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Record: 0-1

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m. ET

The last time Oakland played here, Derek Carr broke three bones in his back. Hopefully for the Raiders’ sake, the Broncos’ defense does not break Oakland’s will. Record: 0-2

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET

Gruden & Co. finally break through, in the South Florida heat and humidity, for Gruden’s first regular-season win as Raiders coach since Dec. 15, 2001. Record: 1-2

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, vs. Cleveland Browns, 4:05 p.m. ET

Remember when Hue Jackson said he was going to take an even stronger hand with the entire Raiders organization? Neither do the Raiders. Record: 2-2

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m. ET

Things got ugly in a hurry the last time these two met on the Bolts’ temporary soccer pitch for a field. And the Chargers should be the division favorites. Record: 2-3

Full regular-season NFL schedule
The Eagles kick off the NFL season against the Falcons on Thursday, Sept. 6. View the complete week-by-week schedule here.

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Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, vs. Seattle Seahawks in London, 1 p.m. ET

The Raiders are starting to coalesce with Gruden 2.0, while the Seahawks are in rebuild mode. Bruce Irvin and Marshawn Lynch have the last laugh over Uncle Pete (Carroll). Record: 3-3

Week 7: Bye

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, vs. Indianapolis Colts, 4:05 p.m. ET

Will Andrew Luck be playing by this time? If not, be sure to peep the faux Twitter account of him as a Civil War captain. Trust me. Record: 4-3

Week 9: Thursday, Nov. 1, at San Francisco 49ers, 8:20 p.m. ET

Technically, Oakland is closer to San Francisco than Santa Clara. Also technically, there is more grizzled veteran talent on the Raiders roster … in mid-April. Record: 5-3

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m. ET

Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are the NFL’s best pass-rushing duo. And Philip Rivers has a thing about driving daggers into the heart of Oakland. Record: 5-4

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m. ET

Gruden’s gang has been grinding and needs a laugher. The Cardinals provide the jokes. Record: 6-4

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25, at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. ET

How many times will Michael Crabtree be flagged for his Kenny Powers finger-sniff post-TD celebration against the Raiders? Depends on how many times the Raiders put Shareece Wright on him. I kid. Kinda. Record: 6-5

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 4:05 p.m. ET

Alex Smith is gone, much to the relief of the Raider Nation. Patrick Mahomes II, welcome to the Black Hole. Record: 7-5

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:20 p.m. ET

These ancient AFC rivals will conjur up images of Stabler-Bradshaw, Atkinson-Swann, the Immaculate, ahem, DE-ception. Carr outlasts Ben Roethlisberger under the lights. Record: 8-5


Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m. ET

New Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther should have the blueprint on how to attack the Bengals. Yet it has all the makings of a trap game, given the emotional home games surrounding Cincinnati. Paging Admiral Ackbar. Record: 8-6

Week 16: Monday, Dec. 24, vs. Denver Broncos, 8:15 p.m. ET

Khalil, Case. Case, Khalil. Yes, the Raiders’ all-everything edge rusher, Khalil Mack, should be in new Broncos QB Case Keenum’s grill all night in the Raiders’ fourth prime-time game of the year. Record: 9-6

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m. ET

Arrowhead Stadium has been Carr’s personal house of horrors. Can Gruden perform an exorcism? Record: 9-7