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What's trending in the NFL: Broncos going with Peyton Manning; behind Johnny Manziel's failed audition

Here are the top stories from Thursday:

From Elizabeth Merrill's story on how Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel failed his last great audition: "The great audition starts on the second weekend of December, on an unseasonably warm day in Cleveland. The Browns are on a seven-game losing streak and haven't won in more than two months. The good news is that San Francisco and its porous defense is in town; the bad news is the Browns looked atrocious the week before against Cincinnati. Brady Quinn, another failed first-round quarterback pick back in 2007, is on the pregame broadcast. He predicts that the insertion of Manziel will boost the worn-down team. Quinn, by the way, was picked No. 22 overall in the draft, just like Manziel."

Broncos to start Peyton Manning at quarterback in playoffs (by Jeff Legwold)

Brett Favre, Terrell Owens, Alan Faneca among finalists for NFL Hall of Fame

Adrian Peterson says Marshawn Lynch is NFL's second-best running back (by Ben Goessling)

From Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen's story on Lovie Smith being fired by Tampa Bay: "Smith's firing may not make sense to many people. (Not here, either.) Two years and that's it. Welcome to today's NFL. The fact that he was fired in a phone call isn't quite that simple. He was called Wednesday night by general manager Jason Licht to inform him the Glazers wanted to fly in for a meeting Thursday. Smith sensed the apprehension in Licht's message. He told Licht to inform the Glazers not to fly in, to announce what they had to announce, and he headed to team headquarters to clean out his office."

Beyonce returning to Super Bowl halftime spectacle, will perform with Coldplay

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton reveals son's name 'Chosen' on practice shirt (by David Newton)

From Mike Sando's story on which players are headed for big paydaysInsider: "[Olivier] Vernon, 25, should be in line for a massive contract this offseason. He brings a rough-and-tumble style to rushing the passer and figures to hit the market after Miami invested so much in Ndamukong Suh. Only Khalil Mack and Justin Houston ranked higher among edge defenders in PFF grading this season. Vernon is clearly preferable to other options such as Greg Hardy."

Why Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley wears shorts for every frigid practice (by Jeremy Fowler)


Best stat

From ESPN Stats & Information research: Since the start of Week 10, the Seahawks are one of three teams to average at least 30 points per game. Through Week 9, the Seahawks were 24th in points per game at 20.9.


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