Sean Payton: No sign of Drew Brees slowing down

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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If Sean Payton’s Saints are to get back to the Super Bowl any time soon, it will likely include Drew Brees.

The window for success is wide open to Payton, who won’t put a time limit on that coach-quarterback union.

“At the stage he is in his career, it’s a question that gets asked a lot,” Payton said on NFL Network’s Total Access. “I have not seen — there’s not a rep, a play where I’ve noticed something different. Continue reading

Dez Bryant leads explosive Cowboys to blowout win

By Nick Shook | NFL.com
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Sunday of Week 17 offered us an appetizing slate of extremely important matchups for more than a few road squads. Some prospered, and some faltered.

Carolina’s defense played the game of its collective life, terrorizing Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons‘ offense and the tri-county area of Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett on Sunday. If I could give the award to the Panthers‘ defense I would, but I have to pick names, and it’s hard to decide between Roman Harper‘s 31-yard pick six, Tre Boston‘s 84-yard pick six and Thomas Davis‘ 33-yard fumble return.

San Diego, on the other hand, choked away the simplest of paths to a playoff berth, falling to the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium when all they needed to do was win, and they were in.

And then, of course, there’s the career performance put on by Geno Smith in Rex Ryan‘s final stand, a statistical masterpiece in Ryan’s swan song.

I can tell you can’t wait to scroll down. Let’s get to the stars of Sunday, the best away from home. Continue reading

Menelik Watson donates game check to 4-year-old girl

By Nick Shook | NFL.com
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Who says offensive linemen aren’t nice guys?

The Oakland Raiders — a franchise with a savage for a mascot and an aura of intimidation about it — feature one kind-hearted soul housed inside a gargantuan frame.

In a story first reported by Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, offensive tackle Menelik Watson donated his Week 16 game check to the family of a 4-year-old girl in need.

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Better version of Philip Rivers leads Chargers to road win

By Nick Shook | NFL.com
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Do you feel bloated?

Are you confused because you stopped eating Thanksgiving leftovers two days ago, you’ve traversed nearly five miles worth of department store aisles, spinning around and stiff-arming fellow shoppers like Earl Campbell, and yet the feeling won’t pass?

Well don’t fret, because that isn’t excess calories testing the limits of your waistband — it’s the fulfilling slate of redemption games upon which we just feasted.

That’s right, this week is all about that R word. Mark Sanchez carried the ball on Thanksgiving without fumbling or running into the rear end of his teammate. In fact, he scored! Two years after the butt fumble, Sanchez reversed his fortunes. We did it, America.

Our winner and one of two considered each filled the profile of a player who at the very least got his own 30-second debate segment centered around “What’s wrong with Player/Team X this season?” Some of these segments became so frequent, players addressed them in press conferences multiple times. But they won’t have to hear about it this week!

Here are Week 13’s Greatest on the Road — to redemption.

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Dez Bryant puts on Wembley-worthy show in Cowboys’ win

Nick Shook | NFL.com
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Road teams battled all Sunday. Some of them prevailed, some did not — and then there were the Bears.

But for a moment in time, the Oakland Raiders appeared to have a chance, holding a 10-6 lead in the second quarter thanks to two Peyton Manning interceptions. Then Denver completed a short pass to C.J. Anderson, who ripped off a 51-yard scamper to put the Broncos back in the lead.

Denver and Oakland suddenly remembered their roles within the hierarchy of the NFL — with Denver being among the most pompous of lords, and Oakland being the peasants who pay double rent on farmland that refuses to yield any real return — and two hours later, Denver had a 41-17 win.

But Manning won’t be in this column, for two reasons: he threw — gasp — two interceptions, and Denver is supposed to beat Oakland. The Raiders didn’t get to 0-8 (now 0-9) just on poor luck — they’re a bad football team.

Wait, what’s that? I can’t ignore 340 yards and five touchdowns on 31-of-44 passing, even if it was against the worst team in the NFL? Fine (throws playbook), but he’s not getting the top honor.

Here are your best away from the friendly confines of home. Continue reading

Mike Glennon leads Buccaneers to stunning win

By Nick Shook | NFL.com
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It was a tough go for road teams in Week 4. Squads away from home won just four of 11 games if we include Miami’s triumph across the pond over Oakland — a home game for the Raiders, according to the league schedule.

But those road victors included a resonating divisional win, and a very unlikely, thrilling conquest in a hostile environment, led by a quarterback with minimal experience. Here are Week 4’s heroes staying in hotels.

Greatest on the road…

Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Going into Week 4, it was a dead heat between the Oakland Raiders and the Buccaneers for worst team in the league. Tampa Bay was thrashed on national TV against Atlanta in Week 3, and an injury to starting quarterback Josh McCown forced the Buccaneers to go with the backup.

Enter Mike Glennon.

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Alex Smith engineers Chiefs’ first win of season

By Nick Shook | NFL.com

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Through three weeks, we’ve seen a trend start to develop. Road teams won six of 14 games for the second straight Sunday, but unlike last week, quarterbacks ruled the day.

Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles made their debuts, Andy Dalton caught — yes, caught — a touchdown pass, and one notable Cowboy was at the helm of a monumental comeback. But only one can earn honors of Greatest On The Road. Here are this weeks stars away from home.

Greatest on the Road …

Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

At 0-2, Kansas City reached Week 3 in a state of confusion. Are they the team that contended for the AFC West crown in 2013, or were we seeing more of the turnover in playoff teams from one season to the next? Continue reading

Brandon Marshall key to Bears’ comeback win

By Nick Shook | NFL.com

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The arrival of Week 2 can have a comforting effect on many teams. Those who failed to get the job done in Week 1 have a chance to get back to .500, and many squads get the opportunity to greet their home fans for the first time. It’s very early in the season — the allure of opportunity still reigns supreme.

Road teams went 6-8 in Sunday’s 14 games. Here are the week’s road heroes.

Greatest on the road …

Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears

It’s tough not to give this honor to Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, because, well, a ball must first be thrown in order to complete a touchdown pass. But Marshall’s impact on Chicago’s stunning comeback victory cannot be denied. At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Marshall is a big target. What makes Marshall such a huge threat for the Bears‘ passing attack is his incredible pair of hands.

Great hands make a catch like this, for example.

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Derek Anderson excellent in unlikely start for Panthers

By Nick Shook | NFL.com

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In a perfect world, every team would start its season at home, with the support of starved fanbases hungry for the start of another promising campaign. But of course, we need road teams to complete a matchup. Visitors won six of 13 games Sunday, and as it is with every game away from home, rarely is it ever easy. These three players made it look a little less difficult.

Greatest on the road …

Derek Anderson, Carolina Panthers

Anderson hadn’t sniffed the starting lineup since 2010, when he was the starter for the Arizona Cardinals. It was during that same season Anderson was caught laughing on the sidelines during a blowout loss to the 49ers on Monday Night Football, which spawned the memorable “that’s fine” postgame press conference. That pretty much explained how Anderson’s tenure with the Cardinals came to an end.

Since then, Anderson has disappeared to the sidelines with a headset and clipboard as a backup with Carolina, but when Panthers coach Ron Rivera made the tough decision to sit usual starter Cam Newtondue to a rib injury, Anderson was forced into duty — and he shined. Anderson completed 24 of 34 attempts for 230 yards and two touchdowns as the Panthers earned a somewhat unlikely road victory at Tampa Bay in Week 1. Continue reading