The NFL today announced the 32 players who have been named their team's Man of the Year. From granting scholarships to forming foundations promoting literacy, to getting kids active, these players represent the best of the NFL's commitment to philanthropy and community impact and are now eligible to win the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, presented by Nationwide.
Three of these nominees will be selected as finalists for the award, named for the legendary Bears running back who died in 1999. Finalists will be announced in January 2015.
Chiefs vs. Raiders: Top Defensive Plays from The Mothership
Justin Houston's 17th sack of the season
This first play is one that everyone will remember. Linebacker Justin Houston beat the Raiders' right tackle and picked up his 17th sack of the season, which has Houston tied for the NFL lead with the Baltimore Ravens' Elvis Dumervil.
It often happens so fast but you're able to see Houston's hands quickly knock away the offensive lineman's attempt to slow him down upon initial contact. It's one of the things that makes Houston so good and something he practices every day.
Chiefs vs. Raiders: Top Offensive Plays from The Mothership
2. Momentum-changing third-down conversion
The Chiefs first offensive drive in the third quarter ended with a
Travis Kelcefumble, which the Raiders offense converted into three points and brought the score to 10-6.
Once the Chiefs got the ball back on the ensuing possession, the first third-down attempt was the catalyst for three consecutive drives that resulted in touchdowns for the Chiefs, ultimately blowing the game wide open in their favor.
This 20-yard reception from Bowe may have been the best pass of Smith's season.
It was perfectly-timed pass-and-catch that came at a crucial time in a game that just five game minutes later wouldn't be all that close.
This play is where it started.
Chiefs Rookies Brighten Children's Holiday from The Mothership
On Tuesday, the Chiefs Rookie Club, cheerleaders and KC Wolf visited the Children's Center Campus, which houses three agencies, including the YMCA, the Children's Therapeutic Learning Center (TLC) and the Children's Center for the Visually Impaired (CCVI).
The group interacted with the children, singing songs, reading books, decorating cookies and handed out special Chiefs toys. The students were delighted when they saw the Chiefs enter their classroom. Many of the children were decked out in their Red and Gold being sure to show off their team pride for their favorite role models.
KCChiefs.com Podcast: Chiefs Download 12/17
KCChiefs.com Video: Wired: Sean Smith is Mic'd Up vs. Raiders
KCChiefs.com Video: Arrowhead Update 12/16: Chiefs in the Community
KCChiefs.com Video: Chiefs vs. Raiders: Can't Miss Highlights
QB snapshot: Alex Smith from ESPN
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.
QB snapshot: Ben Roethlisberger from ESPN
The Chiefs are No. 2 in the NFL in passing defense, allowing 199 yards per game, but they are also one of the least opportunistic defenses in the league. Kansas City has intercepted just four passes, the fewest in the NFL, and Roethlisberger has not been picked off in the Steelers' past two games.
He has thrown 107 consecutive passes without an interception, but the Chiefs could employ a strategy that the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns used earlier this season when they generally eschewed blitzing Roethlisberger and dropped extra players into coverage.
It's a good sign for the Chiefs that they were able to take advantage against Oakland. Thomas has plenty of ability as a return specialist but this season mostly displayed errors in judgment instead. He fielded some punts when he should have let them go and let others go when he should have fielded them.
Maybe Thomas and his blockers are putting everything together.
Steelers notebook: Several injured starters close to returning from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers will enter their win-and-clinch game Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs as healthy as they have been this season.
Only one starter showed up on the injury report Tuesday, two days after the Steelers beat the Atlanta Falcons to improve to 9-5 and remain in control of their playoff fate. Safety Mike Mitchell has a strained groin and coach Mike Tomlin said he will be monitored this week. Also, reserve tight end Matt Spaeth's availability is in question after he hyperextended his elbow against the Falcons.
Mike Tomlin Not Looking For Apology From NFL For Worilds Hit from CBS Pittsburgh
Despite putting up 27 points on the Falcons, the Steelers found themselves settling for field goals as they have many times this year in the red zone.
Tomlin addressed that saying his team needs to be better, especially this week against a good red zone defense in the Kansas City Chiefs...
"...Kansas City's got the number one red zone defense in the National Football League. Couple that with our inability to capitalize in that area from time to time over the course of the season and the initial stages last week. We'll be working hard in that area this week.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is on pace for 131 catches and 1,712 yards.
To put that production into perspective consider that Brown also is on pace for more catches and receiving yards than the Kansas City Chiefs' wide receivers.
Yes, all of them.
On the Steelers: No mystery in game plan for Chiefs from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"We have to keep Ben Roethlisberger upright in this football game if we are going to have the chance to have the type of day that we need to have," the Steelers coach said early in his news conference.
He did not even need to use his favorite word to point out the obvious because Kansas City will burst into Heinz Field tied for the sixth-most sacks in the NFL with 38. They boast the league's co-leader - outside linebacker Justin Houston, who has 17 sacks.
Roethlisberger has been sacked 32 times, but that is on pace for the fewest sacks in his career in any season in which he has started at least 14 games. He was sacked 42 times in 16 games last season.
Houston and Co. could push that pace a lot higher.
3. QB Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers
$4,400 salary | 8.8% of cap
There aren't many times during a fantasy season to be excited about Smith. This is one of them. Pittsburgh has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Ike Taylor's injuries and poor play have helped decimate the secondary. We may even see a Chiefs wideout catch a touchdown for the first time in more than a year. For QB streamers, this is an ace play.
Gay turns corner as Steelers' big-play cover guy from The Associated Press via The Observer-Reporter
"Ya'll need to vote for Will Gay for the Pro Bowl," he yelled. "Gay for the Pro Bowl."
Mitchell has a point.
Gay returned an interception for a touchdown against the Falcons. It was his third return for a score this season, setting the Steelers' single-season team record. It was his fourth consecutive interception returned for a touchdown, spanning the past two seasons.
Only three players in NFL history - Ken Houston, Eric Allen and Jim Kearney - had four interception returns for a touchdown in one season.
Ebersol's 4th annual NFL Characters Unite, which counts the YMCA as a partner, profiles NFL stars as they share deeply personal stories of overcoming prejudice, bullying and discrimination, with the goal of helping young people facing similar challenges.
This year's documentary features Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (who struggled to cope without a father in his life), Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles (who battled to conquer a debilitating stutter), Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams (whose career was nearly sidelined after losing a loved one in the war in Iraq) and 2014 Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl champion cornerback Richard Sherman (who fought to escape gang violence).
Chargers' playoff chances fade with Keenan Allen's broken collarbone from The Los Angeles Times
While the Chargers haven't technically been eliminated from playoff contention, they face a hard road to get there. In fact, that's exactly where they'll have to win to have a shot at a wild-card berth.
If San Diego is able to win in San Francisco on Saturday before traveling to Kansas City, Mo., next week where they'd need to beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead, one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, they'd still need losses from the Ravens, Steelers or Bengals to reach the postseason.
AFC Playoff Picture: Can the Buffalo Bills sneak in? from NFL.com
San Diego, Kansas City and Buffalo are right in the mix at 8-6. The winner of Chargers-Chiefs inWeek 17 could sneak into the playoffs, but both teams need to win tricky road games this week. The Chiefs are in Pittsburgh, while San Diego faces the fighting Harbaughs in San Francisco. The Chargers, despite their pedigree as the team of Around The NFL, don't look capable of winning two straight tough road games. It's quite possible that Week 17 Chiefs-Chargers game will just be a battle to get to 9-7 and miss the playoffs.
Eisenberg: Playoff Contenders Have One Thing In Common -- A Franchise QB from BaltimoreRavens.com
Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans all have lost enough to lag behind; they would be on the sidelines if the playoffs began today. What do they have in common? None of their quarterbacks has won a Super Bowl, and other than the Chargers, who have Philip Rivers, they don't have a signal-caller worth six figures.
One way or another, the teams on the outside are just not quite good enough under center - either injury-plagued, unproven or unsettled. Other than Rivers and maybe Kansas City's Alex Smith, their quarterbacks don't compare with those of the teams holding spots in the playoff field as of now.
Is that a coincidence? I don't think so.
Parity? A.F.C. Is Made Up of Haves and Have-Nots from The New York Times
In 2012, the Patriots and the Broncos earned the top two seeds in the A.F.C. while the Colts, the Ravens and the Bengals all made the postseason. The only difference would be that Houston, then 12-4, was the final participant, a spot likely to go to Pittsburgh, Kansas City or San Diego this year.
In the A.F.C., these little changes even out over longer periods. In 2011, the Patriots, the Ravens, the Steelers, the Bengals and the Broncos all made the playoffs, and those five teams currently have five of the conference's six best records.
In 2010, the Patriots, the Steelers, the Ravens, the Colts and the Chiefs made the playoffs, a situation that could repeat this year.
In 2009, it was the Patriots, the Colts, the Bengals, the Ravens and the Chargers in the playoffs, which we might see again.
NFL power rankings Week 16: Broncos rise, Packers fall and Redskins drop to last from The Washington Post
16. Kansas City Chiefs (8-6), Last week's ranking: 13
The Chiefs put themselves back in the playoff hunt with Sunday's victory over Oakland but the big test comes next week against the Steelers. A win will make or break their playoff hopes.
Week 15 power rankings from ProFootballTalk
13. Kansas City Chiefs (No. 15; 8-6): Great turnaround against Oakland, but it could be too late.
In the Pittsburgh-Atlanta game last week for example, there were 15 less penalties called than in the Oakland-Kansas City game -- and the Raiders game took 32 more minutes to complete. Imagine the fans watching the Raiders-Chiefs game having 32 extra minutes of play stoppage.
No wonder fans call in frustrated.
Here's a look at the recent history of penalties called per season to support the fans' notion that we are watching an epidemic of penalties:
Local sports bars find fervent fans of far-flung NFL teams boost business from The Houston Chronicle
At Stats Sports Bar on 10850 Loretta in Spring, the bar has a strong relationship with the Texans, opening early on some game days for appearances by cheerleaders, alumni players and pep bands, but manager Brandon Kranz said the out-of-town fan groups are important to their business.
As a Kansas City fan himself, he's glad to host the Chiefs fans as well as large and growing groups of Denver and Pittsburgh fans. The only time he gets concerned about rivalries spilling from the screen to the tables is when the Texans and Cowboys play. "Sometimes it gets a little tense, " Kranz said. "But I haven't seen a fight yet."
Texans put Fitzpatrick on IR, sign Stanzi from The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Stanzi, 27, was a fifth-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011 out of Iowa. He spent two years on their roster and another on Jacksonville's last season but has never taken an NFL snap.