KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs didn’t sign veteran wide receiver Jason Avant at this point in the season so he could stand around on the sideline during Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium. Particularly with it looking like Junior Hemingway will miss the game because of a concussion, the Chiefs intend to get some work out of Avant.

But offensive coordinator Doug Pederson sounded a note of caution this week with regard to just how much the Chiefs have a right to expect from Avant. Avant did play for Andy Reid for several seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, so his knowledge of what Reid wants is better than that of an average guy who just walked in off the street.

Avant
“The biggest thing for Jason is that he’s two years removed from this system," Pederson said. “We can’t overload him mentally. We’ve got to be able to give him a handful of plays that he can go execute. We’re always talking about playing fast. That’s what we’re talking about. So we’ve got to be careful how many plays we give him.

“You can’t throw the whole thing at him, obviously, but give him those five, six, seven, 10 routes, whatever they are, by the end of the week."

Another issue is that until Avant signed with the Chiefs last week, he and quarterback Alex Smith were strangers. They had never played together, so they worked this week to resolve some of the inevitable timing problems that arise in these situations.

“Is there going to be a little bit of timing (problems)? Probably," Pederson said. “You can’t do it in four days. You probably can’t do it in eight days. It’s going to take a little time.

“(It takes) longer than seven days or three or four practices. That’s why (the Chiefs can only give Avant) a certain number of routes than we can focus on in practice and carry over to the game."

Otherwise, the Chiefs are eager to see if Avant can fortify what has been the least productive group of wide receivers in the NFL.

“He was a guy good at getting in and out of breaks," said Pederson, an assistant coach for the Eagles for part of Avant’s time there. “He’s good at the top of routes and creating separation for himself. He may not be the fastest guy like a Donnie Avery, where he’ll run past some people. But we didn’t ask him to do that in Philly.

“Jason is a smart guy. He’s a veteran in this league. He knows how to play. He’ll be fine."
SAN DIEGO -- They’re both feisty, ultra-competitive and play with a junkyard mentality.

And they are about the same size.

Smith
Flowers
So when San Diego Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers lines up across from Baltimore Ravens receiver Steve Smith on Sunday, he’ll be looking in the mirror.

"To me, I feel like I’m facing the same person," Flowers said. "I don’t shy away from contact. So it’s going to be a bulldog I’m playing against, but I’ve just got to stay on my toes. I expect a tough game. He can stretch the field. He’s tough to tackle. He’s a legit receiver, that’s why he’s been to so many Pro Bowls and on All-Pro teams. I’m going to have my hands full."

Flowers and Smith could have been teammates. When Smith was released by the Carolina Panthers this offseason, the Chargers were one of a handful of teams that expressed interest. Chargers head coach Mike McCoy worked with Smith as part of Carolina’s coaching staff. But Smith chose Baltimore in part because of the proximity to his family in North Carolina.

At 35 years old, Smith has shown the Panthers and the rest of the league that he has a lot still left in the tank. Smith leads the Ravens in targets (88), receptions (57) and receiving yards (817), and is second in receiving touchdowns (five).

"He’s one of the fiercest competitors in the game," McCoy said. "He truly loves to play the game. He only knows one way to play it, regardless of what the score is."

Because of that competitiveness, Chargers outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said you have to be aware of where Smith is on the field at all times.

"If he wasn’t an opponent of mine, I’d be a big fan of his," Johnson said. "He plays the game the way the game was designed to be played. You better account for him. He’s got a little bit of Hines Ward in him, in that you better know where he’s at, at all times. Whether it’s a pass play or a run play, it doesn’t matter. He’s going to come block you."

Raiders vs. Rams preview

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
8:00
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video When: 1 p.m. ET Where: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis TV: CBS

The Oakland Raiders got their first win of the season last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, a team the St. Louis Rams lost to 34-7 earlier this season. Of course, the Rams also own wins this season against the likes of the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.

Perhaps no victories in the league combine to show the fickle nature of the NFL from week to week than the four mentioned there. This week, though, neither team has a chance to pull off a win that will make the league sit up and take notice. That's because the Rams and Raiders meet Sunday afternoon with the Raiders looking to build on their initial victory and the Rams looking to rebound from a disappointing loss to the San Diego Chargers.

ESPN Rams reporter Nick Wagoner and Raiders reporter Michael Wagaman take a closer look at the matchup.

Wagoner: Michael, the Raiders finally got a win, which actually has some in St. Louis happy because they think the team won't be as desperate. Do you think that they'll be able to build on that victory and were there things in that win against Kansas City that specifically could be building blocks moving forward?

Wagaman: There were definitely things in the win that the Raiders can build upon, specifically the running game, which showed up for the first time this season. After watching Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew get 2-3 yards a carry almost every time they touched the ball, Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Olson finally gave the ball to Latavius Murray and was rewarded with the single-best day by a Raiders running back this season. Fullback Marcel Reece also provided some pop on the winning drive against Kansas City. As for the Raiders not being as desperate, the one thing they've done consistently is play with effort. I've been around teams that finished 4-12 and 7-9 and showed more quit than this Oakland team.

Nick, the Rams have been one of the most confusing teams to figure out since Jeff Fisher arrived. They seem to be far more competitive than their record indicates and they've posted some big wins and played others closer than expected. What's keeping St. Louis from getting over the hump?

Wagoner: Well, I could give a real generic answer and point to something like how they are the youngest team in the league for a third straight season and still "learning how to win." But let's be real, we should be past the point that people use youth as an excuse. The same can mostly be said of injuries, though I think the biggest thing that keeps them from taking the next step right now is quarterback play. It's not a big revelation to say you need to have a reliable quarterback to win consistently and the Rams simply don't have that. Some would argue Sam Bradford could have been that guy but the Rams put a lot of faith in him coming off an injury without investing a pick in a possible alternative. There's no way of knowing whether Bradford would have the team in a better place right now, considering he has never led the team to a winning record, either. But one thing he has done well in his career is protect the ball and not make costly mistakes. That has killed the Rams repeatedly this season, especially in losses to Dallas, Arizona and San Diego.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Derek Carr seems like a guy with a bright future, but we don't get to see much of him here. What have been your impressions of him and what are some areas he needs to really work on over the final month-plus?

Wagaman: Carr has been everything the Raiders could hope for and more. The kid is mature beyond his years in terms of football and life, and that level-headed approach helped him keep an even keel during the first 10 weeks of the season when the losses were piling up. His footwork in the pocket is what impresses me most. That and the tremendous poise he's displayed under adverse circumstances. Still, he's far from a polished product. He needs to improve his decision-making -- Carr has a tendency to force throws into tight coverages, which has gotten him in trouble at times. He also needs to get better going through his progressions rather than locking onto one target. Basically normal rookie stuff.

Nick, since we're talking quarterbacks, is it time that St. Louis move on from the Bradford experiment and look for another potential franchise quarterback? With Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston coming out of college next year, might the Rams try to get one of them?

Wagoner: In short, the answer to your question is yes. The Rams need to find their franchise quarterback and they know that. The problem is, they're almost certainly going to win enough games to be out of range to draft someone like Mariota or Winston, which means they'd have to sell the farm to get one of them. So that means they are going to have to find a way to make it work in case they have to wait until Round 2 or 3 to draft a signal-caller. That means Bradford could very well return in 2015. In fact, I suspect the Rams would prefer to bring Bradford back at a greatly reduced salary. Whether he and his agent would be amenable to that remains to be seen, but bringing Bradford back and drafting a quarterback would seem like a logical plan. Of course, it sounded like one last year and they decided to wait until Round 6 to take a guy who is no longer even on the practice squad in Garrett Gilbert. The Rams have some young talent and they are competitive now. But to move from competitive to contender, they need an answer at quarterback.

Clearly, the Rams and Raiders are both former Los Angeles tenants and there are rumors they will be again. What's the buzz out there on the Raiders' front and do you see any circumstance under which the Davis family would sell the team?

Wagaman: The city that seems to be the most prominently associated with the Raiders right now is San Antonio, though I doubt there is anything to that side of the equation. But the Los Angeles market is an entirely different story. Owner Mark Davis has openly acknowledged he has had discussions with people in Southern California, but up until now nothing's come to fruition. Staying in Oakland can't be ruled out either, although with each passing day it seems less and less likely. The bottom line is the Raiders need a new stadium, whether it's in L.A., Oakland, San Antonio or wherever they end up. As for Davis selling, although there are some who believe that's his end destination, I see it otherwise. He seems intent on trying to restore the franchise to the competitive level it once achieved. His determination to find a new stadium -- for which he has said he'll pay for -- seems to indicate a long-term interest.

Nick, the Rams and Raiders probably share the NFL lead for blown opportunities this season and yet both have stayed more competitive than some might think. It doesn't seem like either team is content playing out the string, but do you think there's a concern in St. Louis something like that might start to happen over the final five games?

Wagoner: Honestly, I don't. I have my doubts about whether Fisher can take this team beyond the mediocrity they've achieved in nearly three years under him, but one thing they haven't done is show any signs of just packing it in and calling it a day. In fact, since Fisher arrived in St. Louis, the Rams have had a knack for finishing the season strong after 3-5 starts. I expect them to continue that this season, especially now that the schedule lightens up a bit. The Rams just played eight consecutive games against teams that either went to the playoffs or had a winning record (Arizona) in 2013. They went 3-5 in those games after their 1-2 start. Now, they get Oakland, Washington and the New York Giants in a four-week span. And there's a good chance defensive end Chris Long returns this week. That gives them a chance to get to seven wins for the third consecutive season, and if they can steal another win from Arizona or Seattle; they can get to eight for the first time under Fisher. Fisher has done well to take the Rams from the doldrums to competitive, but another losing season shouldn't and wouldn't be viewed as progress.
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Chiefs vs. Broncos preview

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
8:00
AM ET
video When: 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City TV: NBC

The matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) and Denver Broncos (8-3) lost some of its shine last Thursday, when the Chiefs lost against the previously winless Oakland Raiders. Still, there's much riding on Sunday night's game for both teams.

With a victory, the Chiefs would pull back into a tie for first place in the AFC West with the Broncos and perhaps the San Diego Chargers, depending on the outcome of their game against the Baltimore Ravens. A loss would end the Chiefs' realistic hopes of winning the division title and relegate them to chasing a wild-card berth.

Denver, with a win, would banish a rival from the division race and remain at least a game ahead of the Chargers.

ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold preview Sunday night's game.

Teicher: C.J. Anderson had a big game against the Dolphins last week, rushing for 167 yards. Is he a better alternative as the featured back for the Broncos than Montee Ball or Ronnie Hillman? How has he energized Denver’s running game?

Legwold: The Broncos have learned a painful lesson in their three losses this season, especially the one in St. Louis two weeks ago when they ran the ball 10 times. The simple fact is Peyton Manning can make can’t-run, can’t-block games work because of his ability to deliver the ball quickly after the snap. But he is at his best when the Broncos have some kind of run game and the Broncos can also keep the area in front of him in the pocket clean because defenses can’t simply just overload the A-gaps and come after him. Anderson was a huge part of that against the Dolphins, who came in among the league’s most blitz-happy teams but couldn’t turn it loose because of the run game. Anderson is the guy right now as neither Ball nor Hillman will play against the Chiefs because of injuries. And Anderson has done well enough in pass protection -- Job 1 for Broncos running backs -- to go with what he’s done on the ground, to have earned top billing when the other guys come back. The Broncos will use a rotation when everybody’s healthy. They believe Hillman’s speed is an enormous threat in the passing game -- but Anderson has seized the opportunity, and unless his play drops off, they’ll keep handing him the ball.

Jamaal Charles had just two carries in the Week 2 meeting with the Broncos, and the Chiefs still found a way to grind out 133 yards rushing in the 24-17 Broncos win. How has Charles fit in the offense since? And do you think Andy Reid sees him as a 20-carry-a-game runner?

Teicher: The Chiefs have tried to wean themselves away from so much reliance on Charles, but are back to facing the fact he’s their best offensive player. You’ll remember he left that earlier Broncos game with a foot injury and also didn’t play in the next week’s game at Miami. But since then, he’s been as effective as he’s ever been in running the ball. His production as a receiver is way down. The Chiefs have been unable to get their screen game going with any consistency. Even last year, the Chiefs seemed to operate with a pitch count on Charles. They’ll blow through that if they believe that’s what they have to do to win a game. But his backup, Knile Davis, isn’t Charles' equal as a runner, pass-blocker or receiver.

Manning also had a big game against Miami and ended a streak of three straight games in which he had thrown two interceptions. Was this just a case of Manning being human or had opponents maybe started to figure out Denver’s passing game?

Legwold: New England, Oakland and St. Louis were all able to create pressure in the middle of the field -- the Raiders, for a half anyway -- and keep Manning from striding into throws. That meant Manning couldn’t really drive the ball wide, out past the numbers, and that limited his options. Manning did throw for 438, 340 and 389 yards in those games, so "handling" Manning is always relative. The Patriots and Rams were also particularly physical with the Broncos' receivers, jostling them at every opportunity before the catch and tackling well after the catch, limiting the Broncos’ catch-and-run plays. Overall, the biggest difference between what the Broncos do with Manning and what Manning did with the Colts for so many years is the Broncos move receivers all over the formation, whereas the Colts usually lined up players in the same spots. It makes it difficult to get a bead on the matchups for the defense -- the Dolphins had trouble when the Broncos put a tight end out wide and put Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders or both in the slot. Miami then usually had a defensive back on a tight end out wide and linebackers trying to cover receivers in the middle of the field, which is exactly what the Broncos wanted. So, in the end, it comes down to not just pressure off the edge, because Manning identifies that quickly, but pressure in the middle of the field.

The Broncos, because of injuries at linebacker, have used more specialty packages on defense of late, especially against the Dolphins. How would you expect the Chiefs to attack the defense? And despite few teams having anything consistent in the run game against the Broncos, do you think the Chiefs will pound away a bit?

Teicher: I would think that plays into the Chiefs’ favor if the Broncos use extra defensive backs against regular Chiefs personnel. It’s unusual to see Andy Reid’s teams pound away with the running game, but the Chiefs did it a couple of weeks ago against Seattle. They rushed 30 times for 190 yards that day and quarterback Alex Smith attempted just 16 passes. I wouldn’t expect numbers like that from Smith and the Chiefs on Sunday night, but Charles is their best player and the Chiefs need to establish the run, if only to keep Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware honest.

The Patriots are a popular pick to represent the AFC in this season's Super Bowl, but I’m sticking with the Broncos, my preseason pick. Success in the playoffs usually depends on the matchups, but do you like the Broncos’ ability to get back to the Super Bowl again this season, keeping in mind they may have to play the conference championship game in New England?

Legwold: Top to bottom, despite the team’s warts at times this season, it is still a better overall group than last year’s team that advanced to the Super Bowl. That said, this year’s version hasn’t always played with the close-the-deal efficiency last year’s team did. And two spots where the Broncos largely stood pat in the offseason -- offensive line and the return game -- have been significant issues, especially the offensive front. The offensive line has been a riddle for much of the season -- the Dolphins win is the exception at this point. It's a group that is largely the same as last season with Ryan Clady back at left tackle after he missed all but two games in 2013, and the line has not played nearly as well as it did last season. The Broncos have already made four changes up front, including two at right tackle, as they look for a way to kick-start a group that has played on its heels for much of the season. It’s a foundation position, and unless the Broncos' play looks more like it did this past Sunday, those troubles would be big enough to keep them out of the title game.

Was the Raiders loss indicative of some issues as far as the Chiefs’ postseason profile, or are they closer to the team that won five in a row? Do you think they have the chops to win on the road in New England or Denver in the postseason?

Teicher: The Chiefs have some flaws that will make things difficult against high-scoring teams such as the Patriots or Broncos, no matter where the games are played. They get very few big plays on offense, so their margin for error is very slim. Believe it or not, the Chiefs’ longest pass play of the season is just 34 yards. It seems like Manning and the Broncos get one of those a quarter. The Chiefs have also forced just nine turnovers and they’re not getting as many long kick returns as they did last season, so they’re not providing short fields for the offense. As a result, the Chiefs have to be remarkably efficient. They have to be good on third down, which they were until they got to Oakland, where they were just 2-for-14 on third down. That helps explain why they lost.
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Left guard Gabe Jackson practices

November, 27, 2014
Nov 27
4:30
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders rookie left guard Gabe Jackson practiced for a second straight day Thursday, but the team still isn’t sure whether he will start or play Sunday in St. Louis.

Jackson
Jackson, Oakland’s third-round draft pick, has missed the previous three games with a knee injury suffered late in the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 2. Jackson practiced one day last week, but was held out against the Chiefs and was excused from practice on Monday for personal reasons.

Although interim coach Tony Sparano is encouraged by Jackson’s progress, he might wait until Sunday to make a determination on Jackson’s availability.

"I saw some things yesterday during practice yesterday that were really good, I saw some things yesterday that weren’t quite where I think they needed to be," Sparano said. "We’ll watch the film today and see where he is. Whether or not he starts, plays or is not active, those are all still possibilities."

The rest of the Raiders injury report from Thursday:

Full: TE Brian Leonhardt (concussion)

Limited: RB Latavius Murray (concussion), S Larry Asante (shoulder), S Jonathan Dowling (back), CB TJ Carrie (ankle)

DNP: CB Carlos Rogers (knee), CB Neiko Thorpe (hand)

Julius Thomas returns to practice

November, 27, 2014
Nov 27
4:30
PM ET
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, who suffered a left ankle sprain in the Broncos' Nov 16 loss in St. Louis, took part in the team’s Thanksgiving Day practice on a limited basis.

Thomas
Thomas, who played just 13 snaps against the Rams and was then held out of the Broncos' win against the Dolphins this past weekend, was receiving treatment following the practice, but it was the most activity he has had on the practice field since the injury. Linebacker Brandon Marshall, who suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter of this past Sunday’s victory against the Miami Dolphins, did not take part in practice, but was cleared in the concussion protocol to begin some light exercise.

So, Marshall stretched with the team and took part in some individual dills during warm-ups. Marshall is the team’s leading tackler and has played 95.5 percent of the team’s defensive snaps this season.

Asked if Marshall and Thomas had made enough progress to be on track to play Sunday night in Kansas City, Broncos head coach John Fox said; "I don’t like trying to predict the future, we’ll see where they are (Friday)."

Cornerback Aqib Talib (hamstring) and cornerback Kayvon Webster (right shoulder) did not participate in practice. Talib did work with the team’s strength and conditioning coaches during practice.

Running backs Montee Ball (right groin) and Ronnie Hillman (left foot) continue to be held out of practice. Hillman, who was wearing a walking boot on his injured foot last week, was not using one Thursday. The Broncos continue to hope Ball can return to the practice field within the next two weeks.

Defensive end Quanterus Smith (ankle) and safety Quinton Carter (knee) were limited in both Wednesday’s and Thursday’s practice. Both are expected to be available to play Sunday.

Thursday also marked a year to the day when Fox visited the team’s complex for the first time following his heart valve replacement surgery last season. Fox missed four games, and last Thanksgiving was the first time he spoke to the team in person following his return to Denver from Charlotte, North Carolina, where the surgery had been performed.

"It is amazing what a year brings and how thankful you need to be," Fox said. " ... It brings you back to earth for sure."
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When: 1 p.m. ET Sunday Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore TV: CBS

A cloudy AFC playoff picture will start to get clearer Sunday, when the Baltimore Ravens play host to the San Diego Chargers.

With both teams sitting at 7-4, the winner not only gets a one-game edge on the other but it gains what could be a valuable head-to-head tiebreaker by season's end.

Each team has appeared to right their season recently. The Chargers have won two straight games after losing three consecutive games, and the Ravens have won back-to-back games after dropping a couple of road division games.

ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams and Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley take a closer look at this key AFC matchup:

Hensley: The Ravens have been getting a tremendous pass rush with Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs. Do you think Philip Rivers will get enough time to exploit a shaky Ravens' secondary downfield?

Williams: Interesting question. The Chargers have faced some of the top edge rushers in the league, including Denver's Von Miller, Miami's Cameron Wake and Kansas City's Justin Houston, with mixed results. When Rivers is at his best, he's using the no-huddle, a hard count and the short passing game to keep opposing defensive fronts off balance. The Chargers certainly have the weapons to create explosive plays, with guys such as Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates. However, tackles King Dunlap and D.J. Fluker will have to hold up on the edge for Rivers to push the ball down the field. San Diego should execute good enough at the line of scrimmage to create those opportunities.

The challenge for the Chargers' defense is slowing down Justin Forsett, who had been used mostly as a rotational back in his NFL career. But this season as an every-down back, he’s third in the NFL in rushing with 903 yards, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. What are the reasons for his breakthrough season?

Hensley: It's partly the system, and partly Forsett's drive to succeed. Forsett needs 97 yards to become the eighth 1,000-yard rusher during Gary Kubiak's tenure (offensive coordinator in Denver and Baltimore and head coach in Houston). So, Kubiak's running scheme has been a major factor in Forsett's career year. It should be pointed out that Forsett averaged a career-high 5.9 yards per carry in 2012, when he last worked in Kubiak's offense. Still, you can't discount Forsett's relentlessness. All he's wanted in his seven-year career is an opportunity, and he's taken full advantage of it. Backup Bernard Pierce is only averaging 3.6 yards per carry, so it's obviously a little more than Kubiak's system. Forsett has good vision to find the lanes and has surprising power to break tackles to get through the line of scrimmage. He's the Ravens' most valuable player at this point.

The Chargers have given up 120.6 yards rushing per game since Week 7. What's been the biggest problem with the Chargers' run defense recently?

Williams: Poor tackling and being stout at the point of attack have been the main culprits for San Diego in consistently stopping the run. However, the Chargers have been much better in the past two games, holding the Oakland Raiders and the St. Louis Rams to an average of 89 rushing yards a contest. The Chargers benefitted from the return of linebackers Melvin Ingram, Jeremiah Attaochu and Manti Te'o from injuries after the bye week, creating a deeper rotation that keeps the defensive front seven fresh.

Staying with the Ravens' offense, the Chargers showed some interest in wide receiver Steve Smith during the offseason, but he ultimately chose Baltimore. What has Smith added to Baltimore's offense?

Hensley: Smith has brought a good pair of hands and a nasty attitude to the offense. From the first practices in the spring, you could tell that Joe Flacco immediately trusted Smith because of his ability to catch the ball. He may not run perfect routes, but he comes down with the ball, which was a problem last year for the Ravens' receivers. Smith's hands and concentration were the reason why he came down with that 15-yard touchdown Monday when getting held and falling backward. Smith also has given the Ravens an edge on an offense that is composed of mostly laid-back players. Flacco made the point it's important to get Smith involved early because he's such an emotional spark to the team. Smith pushes the limit, though. He could've easily drawn a penalty with his scuffle on Monday.

As the Ravens are working on a short week because of that Monday night game, the Chargers are making the long trip cross country to play a 1 p.m. game. How much an impact will this make on Sunday's game?

Williams: It depends. The Chargers were crushed by the Miami Dolphins in Week 9, 37-0 at Miami. But they also defeated the Buffalo Bills 22-10 in a Week 3 contest in Buffalo. Both games were 1 p.m. starts. The Chargers usually travel on Friday when playing on the East Coast to better adjust to the time change. San Diego has a veteran team that's been in this situation before, so I would not expect the game time to have an effect on the team's preparation or performance on Sunday.

At 7-4, Baltimore is in one of the most competitive divisions in the AFC North. What do the Ravens have to do in order to reach the postseason?

Hensley: Not to sound like a cliche, but the Ravens have to take care of their business. The Ravens have one division game remaining, and that's the regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns. With the other AFC North teams playing each other (the Bengals and Steelers play twice in the final four weeks), they'll begin to knock each other off. All the Ravens can do is keep stacking wins and see which AFC North team emerges from the head-to-head games. The other playoff issue for the Ravens is their 3-4 conference record, which can be an important tiebreaker. The Ravens need to beat the likes of the Chargers and the Dolphins (the Ravens' Week 14 opponent) to improve their AFC mark as well as beat two of the teams competing for an AFC wild-card spot.

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At 38, Charles Woodson still looking to play next season

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
7:42
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Provided he makes it through the remainder of the season fairly healthy, Oakland Raiders safety Charles Woodson fully expects to be playing in the NFL in 2015.

"No question," Woodson said Wednesday. "I feel great. Why that is, I have no clue. I'll play this season out and we'll see what happens after that."

The 38-year-old Woodson didn't find much interest as a free agent this past offseason but will undoubtedly be a valued commodity on the open market now.

Woodson is tied for the team lead with 82 tackles and was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after reaching a milestone career achievement during last Thursday's 24-20 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, a victory that ended the Raiders' 16-game losing streak.

Woodson -- the oldest active safety in the league, according to ESPN Stats and Information -- made a rare appearance in the team's locker room to discuss the award and he also talked about the possibility of still playing even though he's set to turn 39 in October.

"The funny thing is I never thought about getting to 17 [seasons]," Woodson said. "I'm not thinking about going into the 40s but I don't know. I'm playing well. If we're just comparing to other safeties or DBs in the league, I think I would fare pretty well in that respect. And I'm having fun playing."

Woodson won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2009 while with the Green Bay Packers but he returned to Oakland last year because of what he said was unfinished business. The Raiders drafted Woodson with the fourth overall pick in 1998 and went to the playoffs three times in his eight seasons in Oakland but failed to win a Super Bowl.

He won a championship with the Packers in 2010 and would love nothing better than to do the same for the Raiders.

"It would mean a great deal to play here and get back into the playoffs and have a chance of going to the Super Bowl," Woodson said. "Coming into this season I had all the confidence in the world that we would be a much better team than what we are.

"I don't know what happens after this year but if I do decide to play again and it's here, I'm going to have the same feeling. It can turn fast. It takes a couple people here and there and it takes guys to buy into what's going on."

Interim coach Tony Sparano wouldn't be shocked if Woodson continues to play next season and beyond.

"Nothing he does surprises me," Woodson said. "He's a really competitive person. It would not surprise me if he played into his 40s."
SAN DIEGO – Chargers linebacker Andrew Gachkar was a surprise addition to San Diego’s injury report on Wednesday.

One of San Diego’s core special-teams players, Gachkar earned more playing time in sub packages on defense with his improved play. Gachkar scored his first touchdown since high school against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, scooping up a Shaun Hill fumble created on a sack by Corey Liuget and rumbling 13 yards for a score.

Along with Gachkar, defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers (elbow) and outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (rest) did not practice. Running back Ryan Mathews (shoulder), receiver Eddie Royal (toe) and safety Jahleel Addae (concussion) were full participants in practice.

The Chargers also announced the team added center Jeff Baca to the practice squad. Baca will wear No. 62.

Latavius Murray returns to Raiders practice

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
4:25
PM ET
ALAMEDA, Calif. – Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray practiced Wednesday for the first time since suffering a concussion during last Thursday's victory over Kansas City.

Murray
Murray took part in the individual running back drills and ran well during the 30-minute media window. Interim coach Tony Sparano will update Murray’s situation later this afternoon as well as his availability for Sunday’s game in St. Louis.

Murray came off the bench to spark Oakland’s running game with a career-high 112 yards and two touchdowns on only four carries. The second-year running back had spent the previous 10 games playing mostly on special teams while buried on the depth chart behind Darren McFadden and Maurice-Jones Drew.

Sparano has previously indicated he intends to give Murray more work in the final five games, though he has repeatedly tempered his enthusiasm about Murray’s production.

Left guard Gabe Jackson also practiced after being excused Monday for personal reasons.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – With Jamaal Charles and the Kansas City Chiefs’ No. 4 ranked rushing attack waiting in Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, the Denver Broncos’ injury issues on defense will require some attention.

Linebacker Brandon Marshall, who is the team’s leading tackler and has played 95.5 percent of the team’s defensive snaps this season, did not practice Wednesday as he goes through the NFL’s concussion protocol. Marshall plays in every defensive personnel grouping, so his absence would require the Broncos to use multiple players to replace him.

Rookies Lamin Barrow and Corey Nelson would be in that mix as will Steven Johnson, who is already filling in at middle linebacker in the base defense for Nate Irving, who is on injured reserve. Todd Davis, a linebacker the Broncos claimed off waivers just before they played in St. Louis, even worked some on defense in Wednesday's practice.

Fox
Fox
“We’ve got a long list,’’ Broncos coach John Fox said. “We’ve got some young guys … We’ll lean on Corey Nelson, Lamin Barrow, Steven Johnson. We got Todd Davis out there [Wednesday] a guy we acquired last week … He got a pretty good look. It will be from that crew.’’

Cornerback Aqib Talib (left hamstring) also did not practice Wednesday, and cornerback Kayvon Webster, who plays in some of the team’s specialty packages, did not practice because of a right shoulder injury. Talib was on the field during practice, dressed in sweats, but Marshall and Webster were not.

Also Wednesday, tight end Julius Thomas (left ankle) was once again dressed for practice, as he did last week, but did not participate. Thomas did do some work with the team’s strength and conditioning coaches off to the side.

Thomas dressed for practice each day last week, but did not practice and was a gameday inactive for the Broncos’ 39-36 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
Running backs Montee Ball (groin) and Ronnie Hillman (foot) did not practice last week and were not on the field Wednesday. Hillman, who has been wearing a walking boot on his left foot, is expected to miss several weeks. The Broncos continue to hope Ball can return to the practice field within the next two weeks.

Defensive end Quanterus Smith (ankle) and safety Quinton Carter (knee) were limited in Wednesday’s practice. Both are expected to play Sunday.

Safety David Bruton, who had X-rays for a finger injury following Sunday’s game against the Dolphins, took part fully in practice.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. --The news about safety Eric Berry's lymphoma hit hard everyone connected with the Kansas City Chiefs, but perhaps no one more than running back Jamaal Charles.

Charles
Berry
The two players became close in 2011. Berry and Charles suffered a torn ACL a week apart from one another, Berry in the season opener and Charles in Week 2. They pushed each other through the recovery from surgery and rehab, along with tight end Tony Moeaki, who tore his ACL the final week of the preseason that year.

"Eric is a great teammate," Charles said. "I've been with Eric through a lot of things. We've both been through knee surgery and he was right there by my side. I know Eric is a good person, a great person. If he can do it, anybody can do it. Good thing he found it early. He was happy about this journey he's about to go through because he's one of the toughest persons I've ever been around. What a great person to go fight this.

"Having his presence gone is sad. I just want him to have the best health in the world. I want him to get himself get better. I don't care about the game right now. I just want him to be OK so I can see my friend forever."

Charles was also close with a teenager who recently drowned in rural northern Missouri. Andre Lance, 17, had befriended Charles a year or two ago at training camp and Charles posted a photo of the two together to his Instagram account.

"I want to dedicate the game to him," Charles said. "He was just a young kid. That was a sad story to find out about."

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs got back to work Wednesday in preparation for Sunday night's game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium without safety Eric Berry. Berry was at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta to continue testing for what the Chiefs believe is lymphoma.

Berry
Berry indicated in a statement released by the Chiefs on Monday that he was focused on beating the disease. But coach Andy Reid said Wednesday that it took Berry some time before he arrived at that opinion. Reid said Berry indicated first to team medical officials and later to him that he wanted to play against the Broncos.

"He did ask that,'' Reid said. "That wasn't an option. That's the way he's wired.''

The Chiefs returned to the practice field on Wednesday without Berry. Cornerback Ron Parker will shift into Berry's starting spot, as he did during Berry's five-game absence for a high-ankle sprain.

"I would like to go back to what Eric said to the team: It's about the Broncos now. Let's move on,' '' Reid said. "I think the guys have taken that to heart. That's where they're at. They're focused in and ready to go.''

Quarterback Alex Smith indicted it wasn't quite as easy as that.

"You never expect something like this,'' Smith said. "It is tough and it's new to a lot of us. Difficult. You have to find way to refocus and focus that much more.''

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