Is a reunion at the Big House going to get in the way of the Oakland Raiders' big plans?

ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that Michigan is making a push for San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who played quarterback at the school. Harbaugh is not expected back with the 49ers and is expected to be the target of the Oakland Raiders after the season.

Schefter reported Harbaugh is “considering” the Michigan job. There are reports that the school is offering Harbaugh a six-year, $49 million deal.

Here are some thoughts on how it affects the Raiders:

It’s not over yet: This is high speculation season. Lots of rumors are floated. The key is leverage. Harbaugh has plenty of it and it's being played. Let’s see what happens.

Raiders can match that deal: If Mark Davis really wants Harbaugh, he knows he has to pay big. I believe he’s prepared. So, if Harbaugh is patient, more cash could be had in the Bay Area and in the NFL.

What if Harbaugh goes to Michigan? Well, the Raiders will be bummed. Gruden is staying at ESPN. Harbaugh was the big fish. If not, the Raiders will have to lower their expectations. There will still be plenty of good candidates. But no Harbaughs left.

Injury to Sio Moore gives Raiders' Ray-Ray Armstrong a chance to audtion

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Raiders don't have much to play for, having long ago been eliminated from playoff contention. For linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong, however, the final two games of the season qualify as a golden opportunity.

With Sio Moore on season-ending injured reserve with a hip injury, Armstrong is getting a mini-audition on defense after playing almost strictly on special teams since being claimed off waivers from St. Louis on Oct. 6.

A safety in college who went undrafted out of Miami, Armstrong started in place of Moore at weakside linebacker during last week's 31-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Armstrong made a few flash plays in the game and finished with four tackles.

The 23-year-old is expected to start again this week when the Raiders close out their home schedule Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

"It's always good to get game reps," Armstrong said. "I'm going out there just trying to take every game in and get better off of each mistake. You can't get the same speed of a game in practice. It's a lot different."

Moore, Oakland's colorful and outspoken linebacker, was among the team's leading tacklers before getting sidelined by a hip injury he's been nursing for nearly a month. He was placed on the injured reserve list on Tuesday.

That leaves first-round pick Khalil Mack as the Raiders' lone remaining starting linebacker still playing. Middle linebacker Nick Roach, who played every defensive snap in 2013, has been out since suffering a concussion in the preseason.

With Armstrong joining Mack and Miles Burris -- Roach's replacement -- on Oakland's first-team defense, the team has very little depth at linebacker. Undrafted rookie Bojay Filimoeatu is the only other linebacker on the 53-man roster.

Spencer Hadley, a practice squad player who was converted to fullback earlier in the season, was moved back to linebacker for Wednesday's practice to add some depth.

Interim Raiders coach Tony Sparano said he was encouraged by Armstrong's debut against the Chiefs.

"I thought Ray-Ray played well in the game the other day," Sparano said. "I felt him quite a bit, felt him in some pressures. I thought he did some really good things in the run game, got around the football quite a bit. He was active and played with a good edge to him.

"Ray-Ray's a young player, and I'm sure at some point you could get that young guy on a mistake that jumps up out of there, but that didn't happen this past weekend. This guy wasn't a linebacker prior to a few years ago, so all of a sudden he's playing linebacker and starting out there and doing those type of things. His skillset is more of a sub type of a player, but I liked what he did out there. He kind of had a little bit of slink to him and found the football."

Armstrong was a bit more subdued in his self-evaluation.

"I think it went OK but the end result is you want to win, so it doesn't matter how I played," Armstrong said. "Getting that win is what we're all going out to do. You're a backup so you have to expect those things, that at any point in time you can get out there. With limited reps in practice you still have to perform and do your job."

Raiders not talking about Sio Moore's injury

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Raiders are keeping mum about Sio Moore's injury and are not saying if the second-year linebacker will require surgery in the offseason.

Moore was placed on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday after battling a hip injury for several weeks. Oakland's second-leading tackler, Moore did not play in last week's loss to Kansas City. He also missed two games earlier this season with an ankle injury.

Interim Raiders coach Tony Sparano, however, declined to discuss details about Moore's situation and would not confirm or deny if the linebacker was headed for surgery.

"That's not something were going to talk about right now," Sparano said. "He's on IR."

Several other players might not be far behind.

The Raiders' injury report is filling up faster than a water bucket in the Bay Area, with seven players unable to practice and two others limited during Wednesday's workout.

Defensive lineman C.J. Wilson is the latest to go down. Wilson injured his knee after recovering a fumble in the third quarter of last Sunday's loss to the Chiefs. He was tackled by Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith following a 21-yard return that led to a Sebastian Janikowski field goal for Oakland.

Wilson was among the seven who did not practice on Wednesday. The rest of the injury report is below.

Did not practice: CB Tarell Brown (foot), WR Vincent Brown (groin), CB Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring), TE Brian Leonhardt (concussion), WR Denarius Moore (knee/ankle), RT Menelik Watson (foot/ankle).

Limited: QB Derek Carr (right thumb), CB TJ Carrie (ankle).
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs are basically in playoff mode with two games left in the regular season. The most realistic of scenarios for the Chiefs to make the postseason is to win both of their remaining games, beginning with Sunday's contest against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

The Chiefs certainly need to play with a sense of urgency against the Steelers. At 8-6, their room for error is gone. That's what losses to two of the worst teams in the NFL, the Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders, do to a team.

The Chiefs at this time last year were 11-3 and had clinched a playoff spot. They were playing for playoff seeding and, after losing in Week 16 to the Indianapolis Colts, they had a meaningless final game against the San Diego Chargers.

So this role is new to the Chiefs since last year's arrival of coach Andy Reid.

"You embrace it," quarterback Alex Smith said of the situation the Chiefs find themselves in. "You've been working hard to put yourself in this position. You wanted the stages to get bigger and bigger and be more meaningful and here we are. I think you embrace that and embrace the entire week of preparation and then go out there on Sunday and have fun and enjoy it."

Every Chiefs player is aware of the consequences of Sunday's game. But, as Reid points out, they have to be careful it doesn't rule the way they prepare this week.

"I don't think you focus on that," Reid said. "I think you focus on the thing we've talked about each week and that's studying the opponent. That part doesn't change. You're always going to bring intensity to every game. That's what you strive to do. You strive to do that consistently. That won't be any different this week in how we approach things.

"You're at that time of the year where if you're still in the hunt then every game is magnified. Both teams are in that frame of mind. Both teams know that you're down towards the end of the season so it should be a heck of an environment for a football game and a great atmosphere and the players, there's a little extra juice involved in these things.

"At the same time, you better go through the process. If you eliminate the process, then you've got problems."
SAN DIEGO – With two games left in the season and fighting for their playoff lives, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has not been an active participant in the early portion of practice available to reporters this week.

Rivers was in uniform, but did not do any individual drill work on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Rivers was not on the field during the early portion of practice available to reporters.

No reason was given for Rivers’ absence from practice by the team on Wednesday. However, Rivers was listed as having a chest and back injury on the team’s injury report last week. Rivers has started 142 straight games, the NFL’s second-longest active streak behind Eli Manning (166).

Along with Rivers, running back Ryan Mathews (ankle), receiver Keenan Allen (shoulder), defensive tackle Corey Liuget (ankle), tight end Ladarius Green (concussion, ankle) and punter Mike Scifres (shoulder) were not on the field for the early portion of practice on Wednesday.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- We know the Kansas City Chiefs control their destiny with regard to making the playoffs as a wild-card entrant. Wins in each of the final two games and the Chiefs are in regardless of what happens in other games.

The Chiefs can still get into the postseason even by losing Sunday against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. But at that point they'll need some help to get in.

The Chiefs, if they lose to the Steelers, could be eliminated from postseason contention this weekend. If the Chiefs lose and the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals win, the Chiefs are out. No playoffs for them.

The Ravens are at Houston in what looks like a sure thing for Baltimore. The Texans are down to their fourth-string quarterback on Sunday.

The Bengals are at home on Monday night against the Denver Broncos. The Broncos could still be the AFC's No. 1 overall seed so they should be motivated to win.

So if the Chiefs lose in Pittsburgh, their fans will be in the uncomfortable position of rooting for Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Uncomfortable, but in this case necessary.

Again assuming a loss by the Chiefs, a defeat for either Baltimore or Cincinnati would keep the Chiefs' playoff hopes alive for the season's final weekend.

One other thing: San Diego's game on Saturday night against the San Francisco 49ers is meaningless for the Chiefs with regard to their playoff fortunes. Whether the Chargers win or lose has no impact on the Chiefs and their chances to get into the playoffs. The Chiefs would need to beat the Chargers on the season's final weekend regardless.

So no need to root against the Chargers Saturday night unless of course you want to. I get that it's a reflex action by now.

Chargers need to get off to a fast start vs. 49ers

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams talks about the team getting off to a fast start offensively to dictate tempo against 49ers.

Broncos did right thing re-signing Chris Harris Jr.

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
ESPN Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold talks about the five-year extension signed by defensive back Chris Harris Jr. and why it makes sense for both sides.

Raiders pleased with progress of Khalil Mack

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17

ESPN Raiders reporter Bill Williamson talks about first-round pick Khalil Mack coming into his own entering the Bills game.

Chiefs will need pass rush against Steelers

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17

ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher says if Kansas City can get after Ben Roethlisberger it has a chance to beat Pittsburgh.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Once again the Denver Broncos have won the AFC West -- that’s four consecutive years now. Once again, some high-profile free agents have had leading roles in that, players like quarterback Peyton Manning, defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward.

But then again, stare a little more at the depth chart and the benefits of finding those who fit, those who, as John Elway puts it, “know and understand the culture we want with the Denver Broncos" become clear.

[+] EnlargeCJ Anderson
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelC.J. Anderson has sparked Denver's running game, averaging nearly 100 yards in the past six weeks.
The Broncos' leading rusher, C.J. Anderson, is a player who arrived as an undrafted rookie in 2013. The current starting middle linebacker, Steven Johnson, arrived as an undrafted rookie in 2012.

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who just signed a five-year, $42.5 million extension to stay with the team, is among the league’s elite at his position and he arrived as an undrafted rookie in 2011. All are examples of the ability to not only draft depth and impact in the salary-cap era, but to add to that when the draft has concluded each year, as well.

It was something Elway addressed when offering that Harris was one of their top targets among the list of impending free agents.

“It’s the same old adage that we say every year is that it doesn’t matter where you’re drafted or how you get here," Elway said. “The bottom line is -- hopefully we can coach them -- but the bottom line is it comes from the player. It comes from the player from inside out and what he can do as a player."

And Johnson, Anderson and Harris all flashed that inner fire when they arrived, not so much wide-eyed, but full of hope and confidence. Elway said he could see in the first two days of Harris' first training camp -- it was Elway’s first training camp as the team’s top football decision-maker -- the cornerback had designs on making the roster.

“I can still remember the first time we took the field, and the first two practices, he stood out," Elway said. “And I said, ‘We have something here.'"

“You see football awareness, football character -- just the awareness more than anything regardless of what position," Broncos head coach John Fox said. “You see that very quickly, I think, as a football coach and you can definitely identify that with [Harris] immediately. You can’t define whether a guy is going to be a two-year starter or a Hall of Famer but you know he belongs. They are wired right and you could see that early on with Chris."

For his part Johnson made an immediate impact on special teams and always seems to be hovering near defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio or Fox to repeatedly tell them he’s ready to go into a game if they need him. So much so Del Rio has joked that “I never have to go looking for Stevie, he’s always right there."

“I just want to let them know I’m ready," Johnson said. “That they can trust me, that I stayed in the playbook and I’m ready to go."

For Anderson, who was in danger of losing his roster spot in minicamp because he had gained some weight and looked a little sluggish in some of the workouts, it was a matter of earning Manning’s trust, to be assignment reliable.

And after injuries to Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, Anderson has provided the boost in the run game the Broncos were looking for down the stretch. He’s rushed for 597 yards in the past six games, or 87.9 percent of his season total (679), and is looking to hang on to the top spot on the depth chart moving forward.

In all, the Broncos have kept at least one undrafted rookie coming out of training camp, when the rosters go to 53 players, for 11 consecutive years.

“[The Broncos] have shown they will play undrafted guys if they end up being the best guys," Anderson said. “As a player you just want a chance, an opportunity. If you do the work, know your assignments and get results, they will play you."

“When I got here, in my first camp, Champ [Bailey] told me it didn’t matter if I was drafted or not. If I played, did it right, the Broncos would put me in," Harris said. “That’s how it should be."
SAN DIEGO – The Chargers might have finally reached the tipping point in terms of injuries this season in order to realistically have a chance of making the playoffs.

Inside linebacker Donald Butler (dislocated elbow) has been placed on the injured reserve with their respective injuries. Mike Scifres and Keenan Allen have broken collarbones, putting the rest of their seasons in jeopardy.

Ryan Mathews did not practice on Tuesday after missing last week’s game with a severely sprained ankle. And Philip Rivers did not throw during the early portion of practice available to reporters, obviously resting from chest and back issues he has been dealing with.

Tight end Ladarius Green (concussion, ankle) returned to practice after missing last week’s game against Denver. Dwight Freeney and D.J. Fluker also were on the field practicing on Tuesday.

QB Snapshot: Derek Carr

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
A quick observation of quarterback Derek Carr and how he played in the Raiders' 31-13 loss in Week 15:

Earlier in the season, there were a lot of questions about how Oakland Raiders rookie Derek Carr would endure a rough season.

With two games remaining in a miserable season for the 2-12 Raiders, there is little question how the second-round pick from Fresno State is doing.

Carr is one tough customer. While the Raiders have been thrashed on a regular basis, Carr has withstood the storm. Sunday's lopsided loss at Kansas City was a perfect example of Carr's tireless play.

He suffered what appeared to be a significant ankle injury in the second quarter and was hobbling badly. But Carr finished the drive, bounced back and didn't miss a snap for the rest of the game. He ended up throwing 56 passes in the loss.

Carr fights to the end. He will continue to do so through the rest of his rough rookie season, and he and the Raiders will end up being better for it in the future.

QB snapshot: Peyton Manning

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
A quick observation of quarterback Peyton Manning and how he played in the Broncos’ 22-10 victory in Week 15:

For the second game in a row Manning was 14-of-20 passing in a Broncos win, this time for 233 yards and a touchdown against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

In the last three Broncos wins Manning has completed 17, 14 and 14 passes as the team has tried to balance out the offense a little bit with the postseason approaching. Sunday, Manning was also ill, having had, he said, four IVs Saturday night and Sunday morning combined just to try to play against the Chargers.

So things were a bit of a struggle for him, as well as a thigh injury just before halftime he attributed to being dehydrated. In the end, the Broncos might have thrown a little more on a postcard kind of day if Manning had felt a little better.

But overall there is a reason his completion totals of late have raised some eyebrows around the league, as the Broncos have tried to adjust to defenses doing everything possible to take away the middle of the field.

Denver is trying to give Manning more options. But his 28 combined completions in Weeks 14 and 15 mark Manning's lowest total in consecutive games he has started and finished since Weeks 12 (15) and 13 (13) in 2005. His recent three-game total of 45 completions is the lowest of his career (in games he started and finished); Manning's previous low was 50 in 1998 -- his rookie season.

As Manning said, he’s "comfortable with winning," however the Broncos do it. This recent trend also indicates defenses are going to have to adjust by moving a player or two out of coverage. That’s when the Broncos believe they will be ready to crank things up in the passing game once again.

QB snapshot: Alex Smith

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
A quick observation of quarterback Alex Smith and how he played in the Kansas City Chiefs' 31-13 win in Week 15:

The Chiefs would happily accept another game from Smith on Sunday on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers like the one they got from their quarterback in last week's win against the Oakland Raiders. Smith threw for a season-high 297 yards, including the Chiefs' two longest pass plays of the season. Smith threw a 70-yard touchdown to Knile Davis and also completed passes of 48 and 37 yards.

Smith pushed the ball down the field like at no time since the season-opening game. He was 3-of-8 for 106 yards on passes that went at least 15 yards down the field. The attempts and yards were the highest since that season opener.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, his average throw against Oakland traveled 8.5 yards down the field, also highest since Week 1. That's far longer than his season average of 5.4 yards.



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