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1/31/2015
NFL WEEK 21 SCHEDULE
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Colts Keep Chudzinski In The Fold With Associate HC Title (1/27 1:12 PT)

The Facts: Rob Chudzinski isn't leaving Indianapolis. The Colts announced Tuesday morning they agreed to a new contract with Chudzinski and named him associate head coach. "We're excited to keep Chud in our family," HC Chuck Pagano said. "He's been a critical part of our operation and we're looking forward to sharing even more success in the future." Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that both the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams wanted to talk to Chudzinski for their offensive coordinator openings. Chudzinski joined the Colts in 2014 as special assistant to the head coach. Most notably during his 11-year NFL coaching career, Chudzinski was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns in 2013 after serving two previous stints with the team in 2004 and from 2007-08. Keeping both offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and Chudzinski around quarterback Andrew Luck should help the continuity of an offense that is looking to add playmakers beyond T.Y. Hilton.

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Investigation Into Patriots Won't Be Resolved For Several Weeks (1/27 12:05 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... Any notion that the NFL's investigation into the usage of underinflated footballs during the AFC Championship Game might be done prior to the kickoff of Super Bowl XLIX can pretty much be put to rest. Ted Wells, who was appointed by the league to assist with the ongoing probe, released a statement Monday - prior to the Patriots' arrival in Arizona, site of Sunday's Super Bowl - saying he doesn't expect the matter to be resolved for "several more weeks." Reported by USA Today

Diehards Line: Furthermore, Wells essentially gave the Patriots an organizational pass from talking about the matter this week even though it is clearly the front burner issue as the buildup to the big game begins in earnest. "We are in the process of conducting a thorough investigation on the issue of the footballs used in the AFC Championship," said Wells, a prominent lawyer who also investigated the Dolphins' locker room bullying scandal during the 2013 season. "In the interim, it would be best if everyone involved or potentially involved in this matter avoids public comment concerning the matter until the investigation is concluded. The results will be shared publicly." But not for a while. Likely a long while. And if the Patriots are exonerated? Robert Kraft is going to want an apology.

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Report: Jags Optimistic About Justin Blackmon Returning In 2015 (1/27 12:01 PT)

The Facts: "Lots of folks" are "optimistic" that Blackmon, the suspended wide receiver, will return to the team in 2015, according to Alex Marvez of FOXSports. Reported by the Redzone.org

Diehards Line: The Jaguars hope to have an update on Blackmon's progress before May's draft, at which point they can begin planning for the 2015 season. Blackmon remains on indefinite suspension from the NFL at this time and has no concrete date for reinstatement by the league. But if he's going to return, the Jaguars need Blackmon to apply for reinstatement sometime within the next five weeks. According to the NFL's substance abuse policy, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has to make a decision within 60 days of a completed application for reinstatement. As the Redzone.org notes, the 25-year old Blackmon's return would be a huge boost for beleaguered quarterback Blake Bortles and his addition to a WR corps already brimming with young talents like Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, and Allen Hurns could turn that unit into one of the most dangerous in the AFC.

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It's Official: Broncos Name Dennison Their New OC (1/27 12:00 PT)

The Facts: The Broncos agreed to terms on Monday with former linebacker and coach Rick Dennison to be the team's offensive coordinator. Reported by DenverBroncos.com

Diehards Line: Dennison is a 20-year NFL coaching veteran with 15 years of experience with the Broncos, including three seasons (2006-08) as Denver's offensive coordinator. Dennison spent four years (2010-13) as head coach Gary Kubiak's offensive coordinator in Houston before being hired in Baltimore last season to coach the team's quarterbacks. During his four seasons as offensive coordinator in Houston, Dennison oversaw one of the league's most balanced offenses. The Texans ranked eighth in the NFL in total offense (369.5 ypg) from 2010-13, including sixth in rushing (130.6 ypg) and 13th in passing (239.0 ypg). The announcement has been expected since Kubiak's hiring in the wake of John Fox's surprising departure. Assuming Peyton Manning returns for another season, Kubiak and Dennison have the talent to field a productive unit.

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Report: NFL Zeroed In On Patriots Locker Room Attendant (1/26 2:42 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... Sources tell FOXSports insider Jay Glazer the NFL has zeroed in on a locker room attendant with the Patriots who allegedly took balls from the officials' locker room to another area on way to field.  Reported by FootballDiehards.com

Diehards Line: Sources tell Glazer the league has interviewed him and additionally have video. They're still gauging if any wrong doing occurred with him but he is strong person of interest. While we still don't expect final resolution before Sunday's Super Bowl game against Seattle, but this will certainly advance the story sufficiently for HC Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady to face further questioning upon arrival in Phoenix this afternoon. ... We'll continue to follow up as needed.

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Jimmy Graham Excited About Shoulder After Strong Pro Bowl Showing (1/26 1:50 PT)

The Facts: Graham used Sunday night's Pro Bowl to show off a healthy shoulder. ... And he brought back his touchdown dunk, too. The TE provided relief for worried Saints fans while grabbing two TD passes, including the winning 1-yard catch on fourth down with 3:10 left in the game. Graham, who was slowed for much of the 2014 season with a strained right shoulder, could have eased fears that the problem would linger and potentially require offseason surgery. When asked whether his performance would rule out surgery, Graham said, “It should, which is really exciting.”  Reported by the Baton Rouge Advocate

Diehards Line: Graham suffered the shoulder injury in the fifth game of the season and struggled with it for the rest of the season, which caused his numbers to fall off after he received a big contract last offseason. Still, he didn't miss a game because of the injury and led the team with 85 receptions and 10 TDs and had 885 yards even though his long gain went for just 29 yards. ... We'll be watching his progress in coming weeks.

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Odell Beckham Looking Forward To Playing At 100 Percent... Because He Hasn't Yet (1/26 1:49 PT)

The Facts: If we needed another reason to marvel at Beckham's rookie season in 2014, consider the news he dropped on Sunday night after a five-catch performance in the Pro Bowl: He played the whole year with a pair of muscle tears in his leg. "I was never really fully healthy for the season anyways," Beckham said. "So, I was just trying to manage and maintain it the best I could all year." Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Beckham said the tears were sustained to his semitendinosus and bicep belly. The initial tear was suffered early in camp and the second happened a few weeks later when he tried to come back, the latter of which prolonged his comeback. He said he'll need to shut himself down this offseason in order to enter next season in good shape, a process which begins immediately. He'll remain in Arizona to work on his recovery. "It's still not right, I'm still working on it," Beckham said. "I'm trying to get it 100 percent for next year." As NFL.com's Conor Orr summed up: "Imagine an adjusted 16-game total for a healthy player who already caught 91 balls for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns. ..." Fantasy owners already have.

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Andrew Luck Knows Colts Won't Rush To Renegotiate His Rookie Contract (1/26 1:48 PT)

The Facts: As much as Luck is a priceless commodity for the Colts, the team has no reason to be in a rush to renegotiate his rookie contract. That's why it was surprising to see a report last week that stated the Colts and Luck's representatives were working on a deal that would result in him becoming the NFL's highest-paid player. That might well happen one day – just not today. Luck reacted to the news, reported by ESPN, with surprise when we spoke over the weekend at the Pro Bowl. "There's nothing there right now," Luck said.  Reported by the Indianapolis Star News

Diehards Line: Put simply, the Colts have no incentive to re-do Luck's contract right now. As the Star notes, Luck has two years remaining on the $22 million deal he signed as a rookie in 2012, including a team option for 2016 that must be exercised later this year. Luck will get his money. And he likely will become the league's highest-paid player, in time. But for now, Luck will earn $3.4 million in 2015, a great deal for a player of his caliber, but a reality under today's rookie salary rules. Beyond that? Luck's next contract will undoubtedly be among the richest ever.

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Nick Foles Won't Have To Search For Suitors If Eagles Move On; Rams First In Line? (1/26 1:43 PT)

The Facts: The Eagles apparent indecision on what to do with Foles has intrigued teams around the league, and possible suitors are beginning to emerge. According to a person familiar with the situation, but who requested anonymity, the St. Louis Rams have interest in Foles should the Eagles decide to trade him this offseason. Reported by the Newark Star-Ledger

Diehards Line: According to Star-Ledger staffer Eliot Shorr-Parks, Foles' possible availability was a topic of conversation among coaches and scouts last week at the Senior Bowl, with the Titans and Texans also mentioned as teams that would have interest if Foles hit the market. It is unclear if the Eagles are willing to move Foles. Their plans to explore options surrounding Oregon QB Marcus Mariota -- as previously noted -- in the NFL draft certainly indicate a weakened commitment to Foles. Coming off 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions in 2013, Foles finished with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in eight games last season before fracturing his collarbone, an injury that would cost him the remainder of the season. ... Stay tuned.

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Vontaze Burfict Had Microfracture Surgery (1/26 1:42 PT)


Tom Brady Doesn't Expect To Talk To NFL Until After Super Bowl (1/26 12:07 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... Brady does not anticipate speaking to NFL investigators until after Super Bowl XLIX. The Patriots quarterback said as much on Sunday night during ESPN's Pro Bowl halftime show, less than 24 hours before his team touches down in Arizona.  Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: When asked about the ongoing probe into the Patriots' handling, and possible deflating of footballs against league regulation, he said the inquisition would happen soon, just not before the big game. "I believe they're going to do it after the season," Brady said. "So we'll deal with it after this game. I think everybody is locked in, ready to go for the Super Bowl. ..." The Patriots have already produced the findings of their internal investigation and are acting like a team that is not ready to admit any wrongdoing. Meanwhile, anybody expecting resolution in advance of the Super Bowl should reset those expectations.

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Browns Have Reached Out To Talk Contract With Brian Hoyer (1/25 4:14 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... With their options limited under center, the Browns have reached out to Hoyer about a contract extension. "We never got to the numbers part," Joe Linta, Hoyer's agent, told the Akron Beacon Journal on Saturday. "They called and said they were interested in bringing him back." Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Set to become a free agent in March, Hoyer is scheduled to meet with coach Mike Pettine, general manager Ray Farmer and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo in the coming weeks. What they tell him is likely to determine whether Hoyer is willing to stick with a Browns team that turned to Johnny Manziel down the stretch. An open competition seems likely after DeFilippo wondered out loud last week if his "starting quarterback's in the building right now or not," before team owner Jimmy Haslam went a step further by declaring: "We've got to get a quarterback and got to get it fixed." Safe to assume we haven't heard the last of this one.

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Justin Forsett Continues To Lobby For Return To Baltimore (1/25 3:07 PT)

The Facts: Following up on a previous item. ... After spending the past four seasons with four different franchises, the 29-year-old Forsett wants to return to Baltimore for another season. "That is the plan, they gave me my shot, they trusted me and believed in me enough to give me that shot so I'd like to stay," Forsett said after Friday's Pro Bowl practice. Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: He hasn't had contract discussions with the team, but Forsett is optimistic a deal could surface this offseason. "They expressed that they want me back. I want to be back, so we'll see what happens," he said. Part of the concern for the Ravens could be that Forsett's success came in a Gary Kubiak-led offense, which has similarly boosted the stock of other backs. New OC Marc Trestman stressed this week that he plans on retaining that zone-blocking scheme. Forsett believes that either way he could find success in Baltimore. "I believe I can do all styles, but the last couple years I've been in a zone scheme, so I'm ready for whatever," he said. Assuming the Ravens bring him back, it will be interesting to see whether his 2014 success is viewed as a fluke or a product of Kubiak's scheme more than it is Forsett's talent.

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Report: Josh Gordon To Miss Another Year Thanks To Another Failed Drug Test (1/25 2:50 PT)

The Facts: According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gordon flunked another drug test and now will be subject to a one-year banishment, per league sources. Reported by FootballDiehards.com

Diehards Line: And is anybody surprised by this news? Whatever the case, assuming he did flunk as reported he will be banned as reported. We'll follow up as needed, but at this point, fantasy owners who invested in Gordon in Dynasty and keeper formats appear to be out of luck. ... You'll find a more detailed version of the story HERE.

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GM Loves Marshawn Lynch’s Act (1/25 12:05 PT)

The Facts: Some might be tired of Lynch's disdain for talking to the media or proclivity to make gestures that result in fines, but not the Seahawks brass. "No, I kind of love his act," Seattle general manager John Schneider told reporters on Friday, per The News Tribune. Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported last Sunday that the Seahawks were open to bringing back Lynch next season, despite entering 2014 with plans to part ways with their offensive stalwart. "I mean, he's under contract next year," Schneider said Friday. "He's a warrior. Goes out there every weekend and lays it on the line. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better running back in the National Football League." Lynch is set to earn $5 million next season with incentives that could push it to $7 million. While that price tag might be steeper than what the Seahawks planned to budget for the position, it appears that Schneider understands Beast Mode's importance, regardless of what "act" comes with it.

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Belichick Takes To Podium In Effort To Put Deflated Footballs Behind Pats (1/24 2:51 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... HC Bill Belichick called a surprise press conference Saturday to further explain his team's activities that led to the league's investigation if the Patriots intentionally deflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game against the Colts. "At no time was there any intent -- whatsoever -- to try and compromise the integrity of the game," Belichick said. Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Belichick went on to explain in great detail the process the team goes through to prepare footballs for a game and went on explain why a football's PSI could change due to atmospheric conditions. "It's similar to the concept of when you get into your car and the light comes on and it says low tire pressure, because the car has been sitting in the driveway outside overnight, and you start it up and start driving it, and the light goes off -- it's a similar concept to that. So the atmospheric conditions, as well as the true equilibrium of the ball, is critical to the measurement. In no, at no time were any of our footballs prepared anywhere other than in the locker room or in an area very close to that. Never in a heated room or heated condition that has absolutely never taken place to anyone's knowledge or to anyone's recollection -- that just didn't happen. ..." Bottom line? It's clear this was Belichick's effort to move into Super Bowl week with nothing but the Seahawks on the agenda. It's safe to assume the media will not cooperate with that effort. And the league's investigation will be a factor in that. So stay tuned.

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Tony Romo Will Help Cowboys Create Cap Space (1/24 1:01 PT)

The Facts: In an effort to create more salary cap space, the Cowboys are expected to restructure Romo’s contract at some point this offseason. That’s how the Cowboys designed their six-year, $108 million contract for Romo two years ago, a deal that has $55 million guaranteed. Essentially, the Cowboys will convert his base salary into a signing bonus to create cap room.  Reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Diehards Line: Romo is scheduled to make $17 million in 2015 with his cap number coming in at $27.7 million, something that will be significantly reduced assuming the Cowboys restructure his deal for the second consecutive offseason. Last year, the Cowboys created about $10 million in cap space by doing so. That decision gives them more flexibility to re-sign their own free agents (Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray), as well as pursue others on the market. Romo set career highs in completion percentage and yards per attempt while leading the Cowboys to a 12-4 record and an NFC East title during a season that ended with a close loss to the Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs. He said this week that he needs to be even better next season if the Cowboys are going to get where they want to go.“I think you just figure out how you have to be better," he said. "I have to be better. Our team has to be better. And you have to go attack this thing with everything we got.” Keeping Bryant and Murray in the fold (something Romo is said to be lobbying for) would be a good start (even if keeping both isn't all that realistic).

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Joe Flacco Was Included In Process Of Picking New OC (1/24 1:24 PT)

The Facts: Following up on a previous item. ... Flacco will have his fourth offensive coordinator in as many years, in addition to yet another quarterbacks coach. But HC John Harbaugh is confident that Flacco will once again adapt. Harbaugh said one of the big factors in hiring Marc Trestman as OC was because he believes he'll jibe with the leader of the offense in Flacco. Harbaugh even included Flacco in the hiring process, especially in the latter stages, before deciding on Trestman. “Joe’s on board with it. He’s excited about it. He knows Marc’s reputation,” Harbaugh said. Reported by BaltimoreRavens.com

Diehards Line: According to BaltimoreRavens.com's Ryan Mink, Trestman and Flacco seem to be a fit for three main reasons: their way of thinking, their communication and their overall demeanor. Trestman is laid-back and cerebral. Flacco is well-known for his easy-going, calm demeanor, and has connected best with coordinators that share that personality such as Jim Caldwell and Gary Kubiak. It goes beyond personality, extending to how their thought process works. Flacco will also be moving onto his fifth quarterbacks coach as newly-hired Marty Mornhinweg follows Hue Jackson, Jim Zorn, Caldwell and Rick Dennison, respectively. “I know Joe can handle it,” Harbaugh said. “He’s not been afraid of that in the past and I know he can handle it going forward.”

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Bidwill Isn't Worried Cardinals Will Lose Larry Fitzgerald (1/23 3:25 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... Fitzgerald’s contract -- and his salary cap number of $23.6 million -- remains unwieldy. But Cardinals president Michael Bidwill isn’t worried that his team could lose its face of the franchise and star wide receiver. "I think there is definitely mutual interest in getting something worked out,” Bidwill said Thursday. “Larry and I have had conversations. I know he’s had conversations with (HC) Bruce (Arians) and (GM) Steve Keim. (Larry) is traveling right now, but I think at the appropriate time we’ll get this worked out." Reported by ArizonaCardinals.com

Diehards Line: As the Sports Xchange suggested this week, Fitzgerald might have lost a step but he's still dangerous. The offense played its best when he and Carson Palmer were hooking up. But for that to continue, that cap figure has to change. Fitzgerald, who recently spoke of his time in Arizona in the past tense, has indicated he's not all that interested in restructuring, but that could just be posturing. Other reports have suggested he's not all that happy with his role in Arians' scheme. Nonetheless, it sounds like the Cardinals will make an effort to keep him around.

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Haslam The Latest To Put Johnny Manziel On Notice (1/23 3:24 PT)

The Facts: Following up on a previous item. ... New OC John DeFilippo expressed skepticism Thursday that Johnny Manziel is the answer to the Cleveland Browns' decades-long quarterback problem. The questions about Manziel's future go much higher than the coaching staff. Owner Jimmy Haslam, who was reported to have the gridiron-version of a "love affair" with Manziel last May, no longer carries a torch for his 2014 first-round draft pick. "We've got to get a quarterback and got to get it fixed," Haslam said Thursday night. "What I would say to our fans is, we're going to continue to work really hard to find that quarterback who can make us a championship team."  Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Haslam isn't ruling out Manziel as the 2015 starter, but emphasized that "every option is on the table" including undrafted Week 17 starter Connor Shaw and impending free agent Brian Hoyer. The Browns owe it to themselves to leave no stone unturned after Manziel's rocky rookie season -- on and off the field. But they know that. "Johnny has to show on and off the field he can be a professional," Haslam continued. "He knows that. Everybody in the organization has told him that. It'll be up to Flip and (HC Mike Pettine) to decide whether he can be the kind of quarterback we need him to be. He knows what we expect of him on and off the field, and it's up to him to prove he can do that." As NFL.com's Chris Wesseling suggested, the Browns might be willing to overlook Manziel's extracurricular activities had his limited game film provided any indication that he could emerge as the face of the franchise. That wasn't the case.

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