Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns look to slow Chiefs' playoff chase from The Kansas City Star
With Manziel come the distractions involving his behavior and lack of accountability. The latest was a video of him partying in Texas during an off week last month after assuring the Browns he wouldn't party after being named the starter.
But the Chiefs don't care about that. That's Cleveland's problem. Kansas City's problem is scheming to defend a talented and mobile quarterback whose improved performances this season are mindful of his "Johnny Football" days in college.
Manziel showed poise in last week's loss at Seattle. He threw for 372 yards earlier in the season against the Steelers. He clearly has the Chiefs' attention, and not for the off-field headlines.
"He's a heck of an athlete," Chiefs linebacker Frank Zombo said. "The way he can throw on the run is really spectacular, and it's up to us to keep him out of his element."
Keys to the game: Browns @ Chiefs from Chiefs Digest
For Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense, the last few weeks have been inconsistent performances, with enough points to win the game and only one turnover. But shaky pass protection, too many penalties and other mistakes made for tough times against the Chargers and Ravens, with the offense producing just three offensive touchdowns.
They face a Cleveland defense that has been less than mediocre through the 2015 season. The Browns rank No. 26 in the league in yards allowed (388 per game) and No. 31 in points allowed (387) and tied for No. 21 in takeaways (17.) Defensive end Desmond Bryant is the Cleveland sack leader with six; he'll go head-to-head with right tackle Jah Reid. Linebacker Karlos Dansby leads the Browns in interceptions with three, including two that he returned for touchdowns. Tight end Travis Kelce will likely see quite a bit of him. Dansby is also the leading tackler with 99, followed by safety Donte Whitner with 74 stops.
Those are the bodies that will attempt to stop quarterback Alex Smith, running backs Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware and the rest of the offense.
Chiefs receiver Jeremy Maclin on verge of a grand accomplishment from The Kansas City Star
Maclin, the former Missouri star who spent his first five NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, would become the first Chiefs player to amass 1,000 receiving yards in a season since Dwayne Bowe in 2011.
Dwayne Bowe's return to Kansas City arrives without hype from Chiefs Digest
The ninth-year pro has appeared in six games, playing just 50 total offensive snaps (5.2 percent) on the season, entering Sunday's game against the Chiefs. Bowe did not play in Week 1 while dealing with a hamstring injury, and outside of the season opener has been an apparent healthy inactive in seven games.
"Coach's decision," a Browns spokesman said in an email of the inactives.
This can't be the way Bowe envisioned his return to Kansas City, where he totaled 532 catches for 7,155 yards, including three 1,000-yard seasons, and 44 touchdowns in eight seasons.
Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali questionable for Sunday's game from The Kansas City Star
Hali suffered a broken finger in last week's game at Baltimore and had surgery on Tuesday.
Week 16: Friday injury report from Chiefs Digest
The Chiefs also ruled safety Husain Abdullah (concussion) as out, marking the fourth straight game he will miss.
Second-year wide receiver De'Anthony Thomas put in full practice for a third straight day Friday, and is officially listed as probable. Thomas is well on track to resume his role on offense and special teams.
Guard Jeff Allen (ankle) also put in a full practice the entire week and is set to return to action after missing the past two games.
The Chiefs remaining players listed as probable are running back Spencer Ware (rib), tight end Travis Kelce (groin) and outside linebacker Dee Ford (knee).
Chiefs' Jarrod Pughlsey enjoyed first regular-season action of career from Chiefs Digest
He was elevated from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Dec. 8, marking the first time on an active roster since he entered the league in 2014 as an undrafted free agent out of Akron with the Dallas Cowboys.
Less than two weeks later against the Baltimore Ravens, Pughsley experienced his first live regular-season action when he logged five snaps at left guard on the Chiefs' final possession in the 34-14 win.
The 6-4, 310-pound offensive lineman savored the moment.
Chiefs' Dustin Colquitt OK with flying under radar during Pro Bowl voting from Chiefs Digest
Colquitt wouldn't mind participating in the NFL's all-star game, but he sees himself being preoccupied during the Pro Bowl.
And individual recognition ultimately takes a back seat to what the Chiefs hope to accomplish the rest of the season.
"Right now we're in a playoff hunt, a Super Bowl thing, it's not even on my radar," Colquitt said of the Pro Bowl voting. "I mean, if I was chosen, great. But when (coach) Andy (Reid) called me yesterday (Tuesday), I said I can't go anyway. I'm going to be busy because our focus is a team thing."
Nevertheless, that the annual Pro Bowl voting process consistently overlooks Colquitt's punting skills can prove perplexing.
Chiefs rookie Marcus Peters on mission to put past behind from The Associated Press via The Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
Marcus Peters has been on a mission ever since the Kansas City Chiefs took the talented cornerback with the checkered background in the first round of the draft.
To prove the volatile temper that got him kicked off his college team had been tempered by time.
To prove the Chiefs were not foolish to spend such a high pick on him.
To prove he can be one of the best defensive backs in the league.
So far, he's been able to prove each of them.
11 Wins May Not Be Enough for a Playoff Spot, but 7 May Be from The New York Times
The Chiefs are very likely to make the playoffs and still have a decent chance to win their division, despite having started the season 1-5. Kansas City fans should root hard for the Bengals during their Monday night game in Denver this week.
The Chiefs, on an eight-game winning streak, are a game behind the 10-4 Broncos in the A.F.C. West. A win in either of their next two games essentially assures them a spot in the postseason. Perhaps best of all, the Chiefs are facing two relatively weak teams, the 3-11 Browns and the 7-8 Raiders.
The best outcome for the Chiefs would be the A.F.C. West title and a home playoff game. (There is even a highly unlikely sequence of events in which the Chiefs vault to the No. 2 seed and earn a first-round bye.) To win the division, Kansas City needs to win one more game than Denver over the final two weeks. The most plausible outcome is that the Chiefs sweep their final two games while Denver loses on Monday night to the 11-3 Bengals.
3. Marcus Peters has more picks than the entire Chiefs defense did last year
In the 2015 NFL Draft, the Chiefs chose to upgrade their defense by taking Marcus Peters with the 18th overall pick. Man, has that decision paid off.
Last year, Kansas City's defense recorded six total interceptions. This year, Peters alone has picked off seven passes. As a whole, the Chiefs defense has 20 picks with two games to play.
The Chiefs can qualify for the playoffs if they beat the Browns on Sunday and either the Jets or Steelers lose. Remember, at one point, the Chiefs were 1-5.
Mike Pettine believes the maligned 2014 first-round draft pick, who's missed the past three games recovering from a concussion, is making progress in his second season despite playing just 50 snaps on defense.
The cornerback started just one game - against the Ravens on Nov. 30 in place of an injured Joe Haden - and largely has been an afterthought except in the kickoff-return game.
"He did, and there was progress there, but he'd be the first to tell you it wasn't enough," Pettine said. "At least he's still trending in the right direction. The injury stuff (hip flexor in training camp and the concussion late in the season) was a setback, but we're all hopeful that he can use what momentum he has from this season."
Cleveland Browns uniform tracker: White and brown vs. Chiefs from Cleveland.com
Our usual uniform tracker, Joey Morona, is off this week. I'm not nearly as into uniforms as Joey, so instead of trying to fake it, here's the email Joey sent me asking to cover for him (with my comments in parentheses):
Johnson Bademosi consistently special for Cleveland Browns from The News-Herald
One constant for the Browns over the last four years - a hint this story isn't about losing because that has been going on for eight straight years - is the relentless way Johnson Bademosi plays on special teams.
"Baddy," as he is known by his teammates and his coaches, is an alternate as a special teams player in the Pro Bowl this season. That means Bademosi will be playing in Hawaii on Jan. 31 if Matthew Slater of the New England Patriots or Justin Bethel of the Arizona Cardinals bows out, and because one or both could be playing in the Super Bowl, there is a good chance Bademosi will be playing four weeks after the Browns' season ends on Jan. 3.
"I'd be honored," Bademosi said in the Browns locker room on Dec. 24. "I'm grateful to everybody who voted for me from the coaches to the players in the league and to the fans. My teammates have been an instrumental part in all this."
The NFL playoff picture may look quite different by late Monday night, and the margin for error is virtually nonexistent with two weeks left to play. It comes as no surprise, then, that this week's most expensive games
Among those teams clinging to a pipe dream are the , who at 9-5 must rely on the current AFC Wild Card holders in the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers to falter over the final two weeks while playing perfect football. The Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins will also meet in a seminal NFC East battle for the top spot in the division.
View the complete list of this week's most expensive games below, according to SeatSmart.com:
NFL season marked by mediocrity, not parity in 2015 from The Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette
If what the NFL wants is nearly every team in contention to win a division or grab a wild card when the calendar turns to December, it came close to that goal in 2015.
If what it wants is high-quality football from many of those teams, sorry.
It's worthwhile to praise the work of the Panthers and Patriots, Cardinals, Broncos and Bengals, who pretty much for the entire season have risen above the morass. Second-half surges by the Chiefs, Steelers and Seahawks have been impressive.
But also recall that Kansas City lost five in a row, going into a funk after blowing a game against Denver. Seattle wasted the best home-field advantage in the sport, falling twice at CenturyLink Field and basically being handed a win over Detroit by incorrect officiating. Pittsburgh was 4-4 and somehow lost to Baltimore at home.
Most disturbing, even laughable, has been the level of play and coaching throughout the NFC East and AFC South.
How the Giants can splash $50M in free agency fix-up from The NY Post
If the Chiefs for some reason do not re-sign Eric Berry, the Giants should run, not walk or jog, to get him.
At cornerback, there's a big decision forthcoming on Prince Amukamara, a former first-round pick who for the fourth time in five years failed to make it through 16 games. He is a solid player, but is not finishing the season strong. Imagine the buzz if the Panthers do not keep Josh Norman (they will at the very least put the franchise tag on him) and the Giants make a run at Odell Beckham Jr.'s least-favorite NFL player. Another viable option if the Giants are moving on from Amukamara is Sean Smith, a big, rangy corner who might price himself out of Kansas City.
1966 Morgan State bowl team that broke barriers to be honored from The Baltimore Sun
According to Phillips, more than half of the players on the 54-man roster that Morgan State fielded in 1966 would go on to get drafted or invited to NFL or AFL camps.
Lanier, who played 11 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs and gained induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986, was the most storied member of the team and was named MVP of the Tangerine Bowl, but Wade and Earl Mayo also were taken in 1967 pro drafts and 11 more Morgan players would be drafted over the next three years.
Wade can rattle off the names of dozens of pro players who would come out of the underrated conference, which was a tremendous source of African-American talent at a time when a large chunk of the major college landscape was still all white.
James Conner makes his presence felt from Pitt's sideline from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
He has received countless well wishes from local and national celebrities, including an autographed football from New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich, who overcame Ewing's sarcoma — a form of bone cancer — when he was at Boston College.
"The support, I didn't know it was going to be like this," Conner said. "It all means a lot."
Conner also said he texts regularly with Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma Dec. 8, 2014, and returned to play in the NFL this season.
One of the most recent messages Berry sent Conner included a link to a story from the website Pro Football Focus, which rated Berry as the top safety in the NFL this season.