Bears actually lose by winning against inept 49ers

Matt Barkley’s tenure in Arizona looks like a throwaway line in the quarterback’s official NFL biography.

After appearing in four games for Philadelphia, Barkley – the Eagles’ fourth-round pick in 2013 – was traded to the Cardinals on Sept. 4, 2015, but never played in a game for Arizona.

Still, Barkley, who will make his third consecutive start for the Chicago Bears in Detroit, said on Wednesday that he made the most of his one-year spent in the desert observing Arizona’s Carson Palmer — a fellow former USC quarterback.

Matt Barkley will make his third consecutive start for the Bears on Sunday.

“When you go through tough times, so many have it far worse, so how can I make a difference in someone’s life?” Kelly said, about what he’s learned through his challenges. “When you go out, you’re not only representing yourself but your whole family. [Roethlisberger] gets that.”

Through many conversations, Roethlisberger became touched by Kelly’s story, from his cancer battle to the loss of his 8-year-old son, Hunter, to Krabbe disease in 2005.

An offseason story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called ‘Ben’s Quiet Quest’ reported that Roethlisberger gave his third son, Bodie, the middle name Hunter.

To hear Roethlisberger tell it now, he and his wife, Ashley, wanted to honor Kelly’s family and also liked the name. Roethlisberger called Kelly for his blessing, and he was “honored” by the gesture, Roethlisberger said. Kelly used the word “touched.”

Shared experiences blazed by years of campfire talk gave Roethlisberger someone to trust, a sounding board for his thoughts on life, football, toughness, whatever.

“We talk a lot,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s not like any specific things, but I’ll get texts after games like, ‘Great job, keep it up,’ things like that. Those mean a lot coming from a guy like that.”

Peyton Manning at quarterback means it’s all or nothing for the Broncos

Peyton Manning will start at quarterback for the first time in nine weeks when his Denver Broncos host the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC playoffs on Sunday. He will also try to be on the upside of what has been his bizarre boom-or-bust playoff history over the last nine seasons.

In Manning’s last nine trips to the AFC playoffs with the Colts and Broncos, it’s been all or nothing for his teams. There have been six one-and-done appearances and three Super Bowl appearances going back to the 2005 season. He’s perfect in AFC title games in that span, but has also lost four times in the Divisional round when his team had either the No. 1 or 2 seed.

Campbell, a former NFL tight end, was drafted by the New York Giants in the third round of the 1999 draft. Saints head coach Sean Payton coached Campbell during his time in New York, and Payton was also on staff when Campbell was with the Dallas Cowboys. Campbell signed with the Saints prior to the 2009 season and was placed on injured reserve before the season began. He retired following the Saints’ Super Bowl victory.

His coaching career began the following season, when Campbell was hired by the Dolphins as a coaching intern. The Dolphins promoted Campbell to the tight ends coach position in 2011, and he remained in that role until being named interim head coach early in the 2015 season.

Payton had glowing praise for Campbell when he was named the interim head coach in Miami, per Triplett. “He’s a fantastic guy, a great worker, a great teammate,” Payton said. “He’s someone that is tough, strong. I can’t say enough good things.”

Campbell will be working with a position group in New Orleans that includes tight end Benjamin Watson, who is coming off of a career season. In his 12th season in the NFL, Watson had 825 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Watson was one of Drew Brees’ favorite targets, and his 74 receptions were second only to the team’s leading receiver, Brandin Cooks.

Week 13 fantasy football inactives watch: Who’s in, and who’s out?

New England Patriots (8:40 a.m.): We all know that the Patriots are going to Patriot when it comes to their injury report. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that all four “questionable” offense starters — Tom Brady, Martellus Bennett, Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan – will play today against the Rams.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7:45 a.m.): K Chris Boswell is dealing with an abdominal injury, forcing the team to sign Randy Bullock on Saturday, just in case. No team loves to “go for two” more than the Steelers, so from a fantasy perspective, it’s probably best to simply look elsewhere for your kicking needs.

Philadelphia Eagles (7:40 a.m.): With Jordan Matthews dealing with a sprained ankle, a source tells ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the wide receiver will not play against the Bengals, marking the first time Matthews has missed a game in his career. Nelson Agholor is expected to take his place on the field.

Players off game status injury report:

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts, right shoulder/concussion: Luck sat out the Thanksgiving Day game because of a concussion, but his return to practice on a limited basis early in the week suggested he was making strides. The team’s first official practice report was issued Thursday (since the Colts play Monday night), and he was a limited participant. On Friday, the team merely conducted a walk-through. By Saturday, Luck was fully participating and his removal from the game status injury report indicates he received final clearance to play. He is expected to start against the New York Jets on Monday.

Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars, right shoulder: Bortles has been on the injury report for two weeks now because of his shoulder, but full practice sessions and his removal from the game status injury report indicate he will play.

Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders, finger/right hand: Everyone saw the deformity in the pinkie finger of Carr’s throwing hand last Sunday; everyone then saw him after the finger dislocation was reduced return to the game and lead his team to a victory. He didn’t miss a beat in practice, although he wore a glove at the outset of the week. By Friday, he was down to just having the finger taped. A full participant all week, Carr is off the game status injury report heading into the matchup against the Buffalo Bills.

Senior Bowl 2016: Time, TV schedule and news

Although the NFL Draft is still three months away, preparations have already begun in earnest around the league. The unofficial kickoff to the evaluation period is the Senior Bowl, a showcase for the nation’s top senior prospects with all 32 clubs in attendance. The game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., and televised live by the NFL Network.

The Senior Bowl has a rich history as the premier event for seniors looking to impress NFL scouts, coaches and front office members both on and off the gridiron. The first game was held in 1950 and since then roughly 5,000 prospects have participated in the event, including nearly 40 Hall of Famers. According to the game’s website, at least 30 percent of the league in any given season is comprised of players who participated in the Senior Bowl.

It is considered the crown jewel of the college all-star game season and one of the most important weeks in the pre-draft process. There is plenty at stake for the 100-plus prospects, some of whom are trying to cement their status among the best available talents and others who are hopeful of boosting their draft stock with a strong performance against top competition.

While the actual game is important, the real work often gets done in the practices leading up to Saturday, where players are put through full-speed, fully padded sessions with NFL coaching staffs. This year the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars were selected to lead the North and South teams, respectively. In addition, scouts spend time after practices interviewing players to gather further information about how they might fit into the culture of the organization and address any potential character concerns.

There is obviously a boatload of talent on hand in Mobile and it is no surprise that the newly crowned national champions (Alabama) and Ohio State lead the way with five players apiece. Baylor and Georgia are the second-most represented schools, boasting four players each.

Among the position groups, the quarterbacks are the big draw here this week. The North team is headlined by potential top-10 pick Carson Wentz (North Dakota State), who has tremendous upside with the NFL-style skill set that teams covet but lacks experience against top competition. For the South, Dak Prescott (Mississippi State) is the top prospect under center. He has a high football IQ and intriguing tools as a dual-threat quarterback, though he is not seen as first-round talent.

Ohio State wide receiver Braxton Miller is another impressive offensive prospect to watch. Miller made the switch from quarterback to wide receiver this season and was a star all week during Senior Bowl practice. He is obviously still raw as a route runner, but he could help his draft stock with a big game on Saturday.

On the defensive side of the ball, there are several guys to keep your eye on, including defensive end Noah Spence (Eastern Kentucky), defensive tackle Jarran Reed (Alabama) and defensive tackle Adolphus Washington (Ohio State).

Josh McCown will likely battle Johnny Manziel for a starting job in Cleveland

The Cleveland Browns have signed free agent quarterback Josh McCown, the team announced Friday evening. McCown was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Feb. 11 and promptly embarked on visits with the Browns, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Chicago Bears. The Bills were considered a favorite to land the veteran.

This year’s free agent quarterback class isn’t strong, with guys like Mark Sanchez and Brian Hoyer headlining the group. In the 2015 NFL Draft, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are both considered potential starters and are the clear top two, but beyond them it’s not a deep class. The Browns spent a first-round pick on QB Johnny Manziel in 2014.

McCown played well for the Bears in 2013, completing 66.5 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and one interception in relief of Jay Cutler. That caught the Buccaneers’ interest, but he struggled with them in 2014. The 12-year veteran was just 1-10 as the starter in Tampa and connected on just 56.3 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Dockett has been with the Cardinals since 2004, when he was drafted the same year as Fitzgerald. He’s been a leader and a force on that defense for a long time, and will certainly be able to find a new team for 2015. That said, the Cardinals team website says that “the veteran defensive lineman could still come back, however.” In other words, the Cardinals want Dockett back — and have been adamant that they want him to retire in Arizona — but only after he finds the market isn’t as strong for him as he might think.

Peterson was not immediately reinstated after his plea, and was instead told to attend a Nov. 15 disciplinary hearing. Rather than face the possibility of punishment, Peterson skipped the meeting, and released a statement calling it “unfair.”

“I will not allow the NFL to impose a new process of discipline on me, ignore the CBA, ignore the deal they agreed to with me, and behave without fairness or accountability,” Peterson said in a statement that can be read in full on the NFL Players Association website. “The process they are pushing is arbitrary, inconsistent, and contrary to what they agreed to do, and for those reasons, I never agreed to the hearing.

Rookie Sterling Shepard has a touchdown catch in three straight games

Eifert, by the way, should become Cincinnati’s top target — for better and for worse. Green teased him about being the one seeing the double-teams now.

And in deeper fantasy leagues, running back Rex Burkhead becomes an option worth considering. He should replace Bernard as the No. 2 running back behind Jeremy Hill and has experience catching passes — which was Bernard’s specialty.

‘Legacy’ finish for Steve Smith Sr.? Among the most notable replacement options for Green outside of his own locker room is veteran Steve Smith Sr. from the rival Baltimore Ravens — who will be facing the Bengals on Sunday.

His average pass traveled just 3.4 yards in the air on Thursday, which is the second-lowest average distance for a starting quarterback in a single game all season. Coincidentally, the guy in first was Bradford’s opposite number on Thanksgiving, Matthew Stafford, who averaged a scarcely believable 2.8 air yards per pass in Week 5 against the Eagles. There’s a difference between the two: Stafford was being pressured on nearly 40 percent of his dropbacks in that game and posted a 65.7 QBR. Bradford was pressured on only 5.4 percent of his dropbacks Thursday, the second-lowest pressure rate for any passer in a single game all season. He managed only a 30.7 QBR.

But it’s more complicated than that.

Bradford gets a ton of help from his defense and precious little assistance from certain parts of his offense. He was missing Stefon Diggs, and the Vikings just changed offensive coordinators a few weeks ago, but that also was in part because Bradford had more of a rapport with his former Eagles offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur, than departed OC Norv Turner. There is, well, there’s a lot to unpack.

Let’s try to get to the bottom of one fundamental question, though: Should the Vikings look back and regret their move to trade first- and fourth-round picks to the Eagles for Bradford just before the season? The best way to answer that question is to break it down into a few smaller questions, starting with the most obvious one.

The Jets haven’t been tested by an elite quarterback; that changes Sunday. At the same time, their run defense has developed leaks — two straight games with at least 100 yards. They haven’t allowed 100 in three straight since 2013.

Sean Weatherspoon agrees to 1-year deal with Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals have agreed to terms with linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, the team announced on Wednesday. Weatherspoon will reportedly play on a one-year contract worth close to $4 million, per Mike Garfolo of Fox Sports.

It was something of a surprise to even see Weatherspoon hit the open market, as he was considered one of the top priorities for the Atlanta Falcons at the beginning of the offseason. Weatherspoon has had an up and down career to this point, but when he’s healthy, he’s played at a high level.

Weatherspoon was a first-round pick by the Falcons in 2010, but has only played a full 16 games once in his five-year career. You could accurately refer to it as a four-year career at this point, as Weatherspoon didn’t see the field in the regular season in 2014. He only played in 11 games in 2010 and 13 games in 2012.

There’s a lot going on here. Rumors about flipping Sam Bradford for a trade up are fun to talk about, more fun than imagining Bradford and his 6.7 yards per attempt in Chip Kelly’s offense at least. The Eagles at least can take a one-year flier on him, hope that he can get a little closer to his ceiling than he did with the chronically mismanaged Rams. If not, there’s one year left on his contract.

Regardless, he was a reliable rock on San Francisco’s offensive line. The 49ers are known for being a power running team, and Frank Gore liked nothing better than to run behind Iupati, who developed a reputation for being a mauler. Iupati has been consistently great at run blocking for much of his career, though there have been struggles in pass blocking.

2014 was a particularly rough season for Iupati. Not only did he regress somewhat in run blocking, he also regressed big-time in protecting Colin Kaepernick. He was routinely beaten en route to the passer and seemed to miss some assignments. But Iupati has put together four good-to-great seasons and was always destined for a big payday this offseason. He can play either guard spot, but fits best on the left side. It’s worth noting he’s played his entire career next to Joe Staley, one of the league’s best left tackles.

His best year was, predictably, when he played all 16 games in 2011. He had 115 combined tackles with 4.0 sacks and a fumble recovery. He has 290 tackles, 8.0 sacks, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions in 47 career games played. Weatherspoon is coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon sustained in June 2014. He should be ready for all offseason activities.

Jerrell Freeman receives 4-game PED suspension in latest bad news for Bears

Chicago Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman was suspended for four games due to violating the NFL’s policy of performance-enhancing drugs. He will not get paid during the suspension.

Freeman is tied for fifth in the NFL in tackles with 91. The Bears have not had too much luck this year. Just last week, Alshon Jeffery, the Bears’ star receiver, received a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Chicago, which is 2-8 right now, just lost its best playmaker on offense in Jeffery. Now, the Bears just lost arguably their best defender in Freeman. Chicago offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr. said Freeman’s suspension is a “tough one to have.” He also called the veteran linebacker a great team leader.

“Both bodies will review so we know if we can move forward,” the mayor’s office said.

The Raiders have not yet commented on the framework agreement or the future of the franchise in Oakland.

He’ll have plenty to prove if he returns to the field in 2016. Peterson didn’t look like his old self in the first two games of the season. He ran for just 50 yards on 31 carries before tearing his meniscus — a paltry 1.6 yards per carry rate more than three yards fewer than his career average.

The Vikings were able to shoot out to a 5-0 start without much semblance of a running game. That flaw has come back to haunt them in the 1-4 stretch since. In Minnesota’s four losses, the team has rushed for just 275 total yards on 91 carries.

A healthy Peterson can fix Minnesota’s most glaring problem, but not if he’s stuck in neutral like he was to start 2016. If the Vikings want to make a deep run through the postseason, they’ll need their superstar running back to look like the player who ran for nearly 1,500 yards last fall.

Dodgers swinging big in hopes of ending lousiness against lefties

Historic issues necessitate impactful maneuvers, which would explain the aggressive actions the Los Angeles Dodgers seem to be exploring early this offseason.

Multiple reports have the Dodgers linked to a pair of impact second basemen in the Detroit Tigers’ Ian Kinsler and the Minnesota Twins’ Brian Dozier. Neither would come cheap via trade, and Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports Kinsler might require a contract extension beyond his option year in 2018 to come to the Dodgers.

The Dodgers reportedly have an interest in trading for Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, whose .309 average against lefties this past season was 10th best in the American League.

After pitching a depressing shutout in 2013, the writers have eased up over the past three elections, voting in nine members — Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza — in an unprecedented run, helping to clear some of the backlog of strong candidates from recent ballots. This year’s ballot doesn’t include any slam dunk choices but does offer many intriguing possibilities.

Ivan Rodriguez: One of the greatest catchers of all time — Pudge trails only Johnny Bench and Gary Carter in career WAR — Rodriguez normally would be viewed as an easy first-ballot selection with his 13 Gold Gloves, over 2,800 career hits, MVP Award in 1999 and World Series title with the Marlins in 2003. But he’ll face some of the same PED rumors and allegations that Piazza did. It took Piazza four times on the ballot to get elected, and I suspect Rodriguez will have to wait at least a year.

Vladimir Guerrero: One of my favorite players of all time, Guerrero smells like a Hall of Famer, with his 12 consecutive .300 seasons (and 13 altogether), MVP Award and exciting style of play. But he didn’t reach any of the automatic milestones that voters love, as he finished with 449 home runs instead of 500, and 2,590 hits instead of 3,000. Also, his career WAR of 59.3 is borderline for a Hall of Fame outfielder. For those who consider such things, Guerrero also was a poor postseason performer, hitting .263/.324/.339 with just two home runs in 44 games, and never won a World Series. That said, he was a unique and wonderful player, and I think he has a better chance of getting in than Rodriguez.

Jeff Bagwell (71.6 percent): Bagwell fell 15 votes short in 2016; he should get in this year. He’s overwhelmingly qualified as an amazing all-around player with a high peak value. Among post-World War II first basemen, only Albert Pujols has a higher career WAR. Once a player gets to this vote percentage, he almost always gets in the next year.