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Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin Returning to Team in 2015

Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin Returning to Team in 2015

National Football League(MIAMI GARDEN, Fla.) -- Despite another season that will have them sitting out of the playoffs, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross says head coach Joe Philbin will return to the team next season.

At 8-7, the Dolphins flirted with the playoffs but ultimately came up short in Philbin's third season as the team's head coach.

"It's frustrating that we didn't make the playoffs. I feel as bad as everybody," Ross said. "But I think we're building something here, and I believe in the coach."

Despite a mediocre season, Philbin has support from his players.

"Coach Philbin is a big part of this franchise," Linebacker Cameron Wake said. "He's obviously part of the success of this team. That's great news and I'm looking forward to it."

Since taking over the team, Philbin has a 23-24 record, not quite what they were hoping for when they hired him.

The Dolphins haven't made it to the postseason since 2008 when Tony Sparano was the head coach.

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Packers Pace Buccaneers

Packers Pace Buccaneers

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images(TAMPA BAY) -- The Green Bay Packers took care of business Sunday with a 20-3 win over the Buccaneers.

Aaron Rodgers continued his magnificent season, picking apart the Bucs secondary, completing 31 of 40 passes for 318 yards and a touchdown.

Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson proved to be the reliable targets that Rodgers has trusted all seasons. Cobb caught 11 passes for 131 yards and Nelson 9 passes for 113 yards and the one Packers aerial touchdown.

Eddie Lacy provided balance for the Packers offense, rushing for 99 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries. 

The Packers' defense clamped down on Tampa Bay, as they held Bucs running back Doug Martin to 17 yards on the ground and kept Josh McCown in check. McCown threw for just 147 yards and tossed an interception.

The Packers host the Detroit Lions next week, with the winner earning the NFC North title.

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Cowboys Crush Colts, Capture NFC East Crown

Cowboys Crush Colts, Capture NFC East Crown

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

(DALLAS, Tx) -- The Dallas Cowboys beat down the Indianapolis Colts Sunday with a 42-7 victory to capture their first NFC East title since 2009.

Tony Romo was magnificent as he completed 18 of 20 passes for 218 yards and 4 touchdowns. Romo also surpassed Troy Aikman to become the franchise leader in passing yards.

Tony has obviously been a great quarterback for this franchise for a long time," head coach Jason Garrett said. "I think we've done a good job, organizationally making the team better around him. 

I think the way he has played this year is the way great quarterbacks in this league have played for a long time.  I know that's the way Troy played."

Romo's supporting cast was equally impressive.  Jason Witten, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, and Dez Bryant all caught a touchdown pass from Romo. Williams would add another after the rout was on and Brandon Weeden came on in relief.

The Colts (10-5) did not have much to play for as they had already sewn up the AFC South, but the effort was far from what they would likely desire heading into the playoffs.  

Andrew Luck was lackluster, completing 15 of 22 passes for 109 yards and tossing two interceptions before being replaced by Matt Hasselbeck.

Dallas (11-4) now has an opportunity to earn a first round bye as they travel to Washington for the regular season finale against the Redskins. 

 

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Falcons Sweep Saints; Set Up NFC South Title Bout with Panthers

Falcons Sweep Saints; Set Up NFC South Title Bout with Panthers

Leon Halip/Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS, La) -- With the season sweep of the New Orleans Saints, the Atlanta Falcons guaranteed that the winner of the NFC South will have a losing record.

The Falcons defeated the Saints 30-14 Sunday, giving both teams a 6-9 record on the season.

Matt Ryan led the Atlanta charge, completing 30 of 40 passes for 322 yards and one touchdown pass to Eric Weems. 

Julio Jones returned from injury and looked in fine form, as he caught seven passes for 107 yards.

Drew Brees and the Saints offense continued their season-long inconsistencies. Jimmy Graham fumbled on the Falcons' 1-yard line in the fourth quarter, and Drew Brees threw two interceptions, including one to Robert McClain that set up an Atlanta field goal.

The Falcons will host the Carolina Panthers (6-8-1) next week in Atlanta, with the winner earning the NFC South crown. 

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Lions Prepare for Bears QB Jimmy Clausen

Lions Prepare for Bears QB Jimmy Clausen

Leon Halip/Getty Images(DETROIT) -- The Lions (10-4) enter Sunday's game against the Bears tied with the Green Bay Packers for first place in the NFC North.

Chicago announced this week that they benched quarterback Jay Cutler and are going with backup Jimmy Clausen, who hasn't made a start since 2010.

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said on Friday that with the news coming on Thursday, the team still had a chance to prepare for it.

"We heard fairly early, so we had a chance to take a look at him," Caldwell said. "There's always still a question of whether they'll do the same things that they've been doing with him."

"So, they'll certainly be a bit of an unknown there but we certainly have a chance," Caldwell continued. "There's enough tape on him in preseason and things of that nature to get a good look at him."

Caldwell said that despite Clausen's little experience as a starter, their defense will be ready for him.

"This year we've had a couple backup quarterbacks that have stepped in and played pretty well against us," Caldwell said. "Obvious (Drew) Stanton played pretty well and (Kyle) Orton stepped in and played extremely well. We're guarded about all that stuff, we're trying to make sure that we're functioning as well as we possibly can.

"It doesn't matter, if he's got on a uniform in the National Football League, that guy can play, they can make some things happen."

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Ron Rivera on Newton Starting: ‘Pointing in the Right Direction’

Ron Rivera on Newton Starting: ‘Pointing in the Right Direction’

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images(CHARLOTTE) -- Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is probable for Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns, head coach Ron Rivera said on Friday.

Newton sat out last week's game after he had minor injuries due to a car crash, but is doing his best to be ready come game time.

"Everything is pointing in the right direction," Rivera said. "He did a lot of turning and twisting today. We put a lot of pressure on him, did some things on purpose so we could see, and he seems to be right on track.""He did really well today in terms of the amount of stress we put on him," Rivera continued.  "He's done a nice job and has a good handle on what we want to do. I like the way he practiced. Everything is positive."

The Panthers want Newton to be close to 100 percent before they choose him over Derek Anderson, who led them to a 19-17 win over the Buccaneers.

"They both bring a lot to the table," Rivera said of his two quarterbacks, "but Cam brings that extra dimension with his ability to run. That was big for us against New Orleans. He had a really good rhythm, and we're hoping he can recapture some of that."

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Seahawks Reward Linebacker K.J. Wright with Four-Year Extension

Seahawks Reward Linebacker K.J. Wright with Four-Year Extension

Scott Boehm/Getty Images(RENTON, Wash.) -- The Seattle Seahawks have locked up another key member of their dominant defense. ESPN reports they've rewarded linebacker K.J. Wright with a four-year extension, worth $27 million.

Since the team drafted him in the fourth round back in 2011, Wright has emerged as a fantastic defensive player who's a key member of the team's top-ranked defense.

"In the offseason, we identified K.J. as one of our core players moving forward and aimed to keep him as a part of the Seahawks family for a long time," general manager John Schneider said in a statement. "The timing of this signing gives us the ability to keep as many of our core players together as we possibly can. Since Day 1, K.J. has been a true professional in his daily approach and we are excited for K.J., his family and the 12s to keep him in the organization."

In 14 games this season, Wright has 96 tackles, two away from tying a career-high. He has started all three linebacker spots for the team as well.

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Jay Cutler Benched

Jay Cutler Benched Nick Laham/Getty Images(LAKE FOREST, Ill.) -- Jay Cutler will be the backup quarterback when the Chicago Bears host the Detroit Lions Sunday. Bears head coach Marc Trestman announced Thursday that Jimmy Clausen would start over the NFL's highest-paid offensive player on Sunday.

Cutler just signed a seven-year, $126.7 million contract with the Bears this past off-season.

"Certainly it was not an easy decision," Trestman said. "In my mind those types of decisions never are. As I told our team today, this doesn't void us of our offensive struggles that we have or the team struggles that we have by making this change. And I think our guys are well aware of that. But for the present moment, I think this is in the best interest of our football team." It may be true. The 31-year-old Cutler currently leads the NFL with 24 turnovers. The Bears are also one of only four teams that hasn't scored at least 30 points in a game this season -- the Jaguars, Raiders, and Titans are the others.

Now Clausen, who is 1-9 as a starter in the NFL, takes over. "I think we need a lift at quarterback. I think we need a spark," Trestman said. "The weight of the world should not be on Jimmy Clausen. He's going to get an opportunity to play and I'm hoping that against a very, very good defense there will be some response from our football team."

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Ravens Preparing for ‘Physical’ Game Against Texans

Ravens Preparing for ‘Physical’ Game Against Texans

Rob Carr/Getty Images(BALTIMORE) -- The Ravens enter Sunday's game against the Texans holding onto the final spot in the AFC playoffs.

With the Chiefs and Chargers right behind them, Baltimore understands the importance of getting a win against Houston.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said he expects it to be a tough game on the body. "Every time we play Houston, it's always extremely physical," he said Wednesday.  "They're always committed to running the football; they have one of the best backs in football [Arian Foster]."

Baltimore is 4-3 on the road this season and Houston is 3-3 at home.

"We've played down there a good amount," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said.  "It's not going to be a new scene, we've played against most of those guys, how much that really matters, I don't know."

Houston Pro-Bowl defensive end J.J. Watt has recorded seven sacks in the last three games for a season total of 16 1/2, which is third in the league.

When asked what will happen if Watt gets to him on Sunday, Flacco said, "I'm going to pick myself up off the ground. I don't know who hits me; I hope it's not him. I hope it's not any of them."

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Philip Rivers Expects the 49ers Best

Philip Rivers Expects the 49ers Best

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- The San Diego Chargers find themselves still in the thick of things in the AFC as they head into their game on Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers.

San Diego sits in the eighth spot with the Chiefs, Ravens, and Steelers ahead of them.  

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is expecting the 49ers to be in spoiler mode, having been eliminated last weekend.

"Not only can they embrace that role if they so choose. I also know that there's a lot of prideful, Pro-Bowl players on that team," Rivers said. "When they suit up they play."

San Francisco is allowing 20.4 points a game this year.

49ers safety Antoine Bethea said of Rivers is a "veteran quarterback one of the top ten, quarterbacks in the league. He's been doing it for a while and he's got a lot of weapons to get the ball to."

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Report: Bears to Start Clausen Against Lions

Report: Bears to Start Clausen Against Lions

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images(CHICAGO, Ill) -- The Bears will bench Jay Cutler in favor of Jimmy Clausen as Chicago prepares to face Detroit Sunday.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Chicago is making the switch after Cutler leads the NFL with 24 turnovers and has shown a clear regression in head coach Marc Trestmann's offense.

"Our whole football team isn't where it needs to be," Trestmann said, during Wednesday's press conference when talking about the offense.

"Quarterback's always going to be the guy to get looked at, no doubt about it. We all can do better."

Clausen, 27, a second round pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2010. He was 1-9 in his rookie season before the Panthers drafted Cam Newton first overall the next season.

Cutler signed a seven-year, $126 million contract extension this offseason, that also saw the team allow back-up quarterback Josh McCown leave for Tampa Bay.

McCown signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Buccaneers after completing 66.5 percent of his passes for 1,829 yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception in eight games with the Bears last season.

Turmoil has taken over the Bears organization as player outbursts and anonymous criticisms have been the focus of the 2014 season. After a loss to the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 19, wide receiver Brandon Marshall could be heard from the team locker room calling out teammates for a lack of effort.  Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer was discovered to have been an anonymous source in a story that criticized Cutler and his poor performance.

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49ers Cut Ray McDonald

49ers Cut Ray McDonald

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The San Francisco 49ers cut defensive lineman Ray McDonald on Wednesday after new allegations of sexual assault against him were announced.

In October prosecutors said they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him with domestic violence against his pregnant fiancee. 

Now police are investigating the new sexual assault charge.

McDonald had played all season long despite calls for him to be benched due to the investigation.

San Francisco was eliminated from playoff contention after their loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

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NFL Injury Update: Foles Ruled Out, Murray Has Surgery

NFL Injury Update: Foles Ruled Out, Murray Has Surgery

Scott Boehm/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In the hotly-contested NFC East, both the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles got injury updates on star players Monday. The immediate future of both DeMarco Murray and Nick Foles are up in the air as the two teams head into the final two weeks of the year.

Murray, who fractured his left hand in Sunday's win over Philadelphia, had surgery Monday to repair the break. The Cowboys have not yet ruled the running back out for this weekend's matchup with Indianapolis.

"The biggest question we have to ask ourselves is, is he functional to do his job?" said head coach Jason Garrett. "Can he hold the football? Can he carry it under duress? Can he block? Can he do the things necessary to play the position?"

The NFL's leading rusher, Murray has carried the ball 351 times for 1,687 yards. He is 87 yards shy of eclipsing Emmitt Smith's franchise record of 1,773 yards set in 1995.

The Eagles announced Monday that quarterback Nick Foles is not yet ready to return to the field.

Head coach Chip Kelly says the broken collarbone is healing, but not enough to handle football contact.

"The bone is not healed," Kelly added. "He'll start throwing a little bit more, but he's out for right now. He's not cleared and will not play this week. Until he gets fully healed, he's not going to be able to play with it. We think he'll be able to throw a little more this week, but we can't have anyone near him with contact."

Foles has missed the last six games in which Philadelphia has gone 3-3 with Mark Sanchez at the helm. In the previous eight games he started, Foles threw 13 touchdowns and racked up 1,752 yards. Philadelphia is set to visit Washington on Saturday.

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Saints Roll to Road Win at Chicago

Saints Roll to Road Win at Chicago

Chris Graythen/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Drew Brees threw for three touchdowns while the New Orleans defense picked off Jay Cutler three times as the Saints (6-8) rolled to a 31-15 win Monday night in Chicago. It was the third straight loss for the Bears (5-9) while New Orleans moved into first place in the NFC South.

"The tendency after success is to relax, and it's not time to relax," Brees said.

After a scoreless first quarter, Brees opened the second frame with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Josh Hill. Chicago's Patrick O'Donnell then pinned the Saints inside their own five with a 56-yard punt but New Orleans responded with a 10-play, 95-yard scoring drive. It ended when Brees hit Marques Colston from nine yards out to make it 14-0 with less than a minute in the half. Cutler was then picked off to end the half. 

The second half was much of the same as the Saints continued to control the game on both sides. Brees led New Orleans down the field for another score, finding Hill in the end zone again, to make it 21-0 before a Shayne Graham field goal made it 24-0 heading to the fourth. 

Cutler found Marqees Wilson for a 1-yard touchdown, and then converted on a 2-point conversion, to get Chicago within two scores early in the final frame. However, the Saints defense held strong and did not allow another score until the final two minutes, when Cutler hit Alshon Jeffrey for the final touchdown of the game.

Brees finished the day with 375 passing yards, eclipsing the 4,000 yard mark for the ninth straight season. Meanwhile, Cutler only threw for 194 yards and was sacked seven times.

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Patriots Explode in 2nd Half, Clinch AFC East

Patriots Explode in 2nd Half, Clinch AFC East

Jim Rogash/Getty Images(FOXBOROUGH, Mass.) -- The New England Patriots outscored the Miami Dolphins 27-0 in the second half to stampede to their sixth consecutive AFC East title by winning 41-13 Sunday.The Patriots (11-3) scored on all four of their third-quarter offensive series, the first coming after quarterback Tom Brady scrambled for a clutch 17-yard first-down run on third and 11 to set up a LeGarrette Blount 3-yard touchdown run."I think it was a play that we needed to make so it was good to make it at that time," Brady said of his first-down run. "I was going to slide but I was pretty [upset] that time so I figured I wouldn't slide."The Dolphins (7-7) hung tough in the first half after the Patriots ran the ball three times without gaining a first down. Jarvis Landry returned a punt 32 yards to put Miami on the Patriots' 32-yard line with 11 seconds to play. The following play, Ryan Tannehill went deep to Mike Wallace, who made an acrobatic catch in the left corner of the end zone. The play was initially called incomplete, but the call was reversed after review.Despite their strong first half, the Dolphins couldn't get anything going in the second half as the Patriots avenged their early-season loss that was suffered in Miami."Going down there and losing Week 1; we've been waiting all season to get back and play this game,' Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. "So I thought we did a great job in the second half of playing good football and executing."

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Odell Beckham Jr. Obliterates Redskins

Odell Beckham Jr. Obliterates Redskins

Win McNamee/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The New York Giants found a gem with their first round pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

Odell Beckham Jr. racked up 143 yards on 12 catches, including three touchdowns, Sunday on way to a Giants 24-13 victory. Beckham had a fourth that was negated because of a holding penalty.

After missing the first four games of the season, Beckham has quickly racked up 71 catches for 972 yards and nine touchdowns.  

"I don't want to get his head too big right now, but he has a lot of skill," Eli Manning said. "You hope he keeps working and grinding and doing the little things to correct. There is still room for improvement."

Colt McCoy got the start for the Redskins but quickly exited after re-injuring his neck on the opening series. 

Robert Griffin III entered and found a groove early. He found Christian Thompson for a nine yard touchdown early in the second quarter. Griffin nearly found the end zone again when he called his own number but after an official replay was ruled to have fumbled the ball before crossing the pylon. The Redskins seemed to go into a funk after that play.

Griffin finished 18 of 27 for 236 yards.

"It's not been a fun year," Griffin said. "We've had a lot of turmoil, a lot of things going on. At the end of the day, you suit up and when your number's called, be ready to play."

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Johnny Manziel’s Dud Debut

Johnny Manziel’s Dud Debut

Elsa/Getty Images(CLEVELAND) -- With all the hype surrounding Sunday's debut of Johnny Manziel, not much can be said after a 30-0 beat down at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Cleveland Browns first round quarterback was downright dreadful; completing 10-18 passes for 80 yards and two interceptions. He was also sacked three times.

Manziel seemed lost and confused. While under pressure, "Johnny Football" panicked, his mechanics became sloppy and he began to stare down receivers.  The same magic that captured highlights in college were lowlights on the NFL stage.

The Bengals (9-4-1) ran the ball all over the Browns, as rookie Jeremy Hill pounded the rock for 148 yards on 25 carries including two touchdowns. 

This latest loss will likely cripple the Browns playoff chances as they have now dropped four of their last five and their record falls to 7-7.

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Former NFL Player Sharper Indicted for Rape

Former NFL Player Sharper Indicted for Rape

Scott Boehm/Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -- Former New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings safety Darren Sharper was indicted Friday on multiple counts of rape in New Orleans.

Sharper, 39, is accused of two counts of aggravated rape for assaulting and impairing two women in September 2013 according to District attorney spokesman Christopher Bowman.

If convicted in Louisiana for aggravated rape, he could face life without parole. 

Since Feb. 27, Sharper has been jailed in a California prison awaiting a hearing for charges that he drugged and raped two women in Los Angeles.  

In all, Sharper faces charges and allegations in Arizona, Florida, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New Orleans for raping, drugging and/or sexually assaulting at least seven women. 

Sharper had been an analyst at the NFL Network since 2010 after he retired, but was soon fired after the allegations surfaced.

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Broncos Reward Cornerback Chris Harris with Contract Extension

Broncos Reward Cornerback Chris Harris with Contract Extension

Rob Carr/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Denver Broncos have playmakers all over their defense, and they're doing their best to keep the group together as they agreed on a new contract with cornerback Chris Harris.

The team announced they agreed on a five-year extension with Harris that will keep him in Denver through the 2019 season.

“Chris is a young, ascending player who has consistently performed at a high level during his first four years in the NFL,” Broncos general manager John Elway said. “He joined the Broncos as a college free agent and has worked tirelessly to become one of the league’s best at his position.

“It’s a priority for us to develop and reward our own players as we continue assembling the best possible team. Whether it’s on the field or in the community, we are proud to have Chris representing the Broncos for many years to come.”

Harris has been a productive player since day one for the team. He has 44 tackles this season and has nine interceptions dating back to 2012.

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Stanton Diagnosed with Sprain, Will Not Require Surgery

Stanton Diagnosed with Sprain, Will Not Require Surgery

Scott Boehm/Getty Images(TEMPE, Ariz.) -- The Arizona Cardinals got some good news on Friday when it was announced that quarterback Drew Stanton suffered only a sprain of his knee in Thursday night's win over St. Louis. Stanton was injured in the third quarter of Arizona's 12-6 win and was eventually carted off the field.

"It's just going to be rest and rehab," said Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians. "It's very good news that he's not going to need surgery."

There is no official timetable for Stanton's return, though Arians did not rule out a possible return this season. Stanton is the second quarterback being used this year after Carson Palmer tore his ACL earlier in the year.

Arizona (11-3) will host NFC West rival Seattle in Week 16 with a possible division crown at stake. If Stanton is unable to play, the Cardinals will most likely turn to third-year quarterback Ryan Lindley. The former San Diego State quarterback was 4-for-10 on Thursday with 30 passing yards in absence of Stanton.

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