Derby gets a little added inspiration to make amends given the Broncos face the Patriots

Derby called it “frustrating” and “unacceptable” before admitting it caused him “a sleepless night.” In his quest for a little retribution, Derby gets a little added inspiration to make amends given the Broncos face the Patriots, his former team, Sunday.

“I would say that it’s a little weird,” Derby said. “Knowing all of those guys and practicing against them, it will be good to go live against them. It will be fun.”

In Pereira’s scenario, however, there are officials working surreptitiously and outside of policy. In Monday night’s game, Ravens coach John Harbaugh could be seen asking why Hochuli had moved the ball. Shouldn’t these decisions be clear, obvious and transparent? And if the NFL is disregarding this particular set of rules, what other polices is it failing to follow?

“It’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Pereira said. “It’s just kind of undercover at the moment. But you can see it. This is the landscape of where officiating is going.”

Indeed, I’ve written often about the inescapable tug of technology on officiating. Ubiquitous HD broadcasts have given fans better and more consistent views of plays than officials, and sports leagues around the world are scrambling to catch up.

Having an official with access to those same views, a system the Canadian Football League established this season, makes all the sense in the world. Many of us figured the NFL would eventually catch up. But Pereira, who has more knowledge and insight into the league’s officials than anyone not currently in its employ, thinks it already has.

Our conversation covered a number of topics in the book, including the issue of full-time officials and the impact of new discipline the league introduced last season and appears already to have backed away from. You can find further details below.

Cam Newton would’ve had to adjust to a whole new system after just his second season in the league

Now he’s derided as the biggest reason for the Eagles’ failures. Glory can be fleeting in the NFL.

Jim Harbaugh knows that all too well, considering the 49ers ousted him last year despite enjoying three playoff appearances in four years –– including a Super Bowl birth. Harbaugh’s relationship with 49ers general manager Trent Baalke reportedly grew too contentious to continue, and the organization severed ties with him. Now one year later, the 49ers are looking for a new head coach again after dismissing Jim Tomsula Sunday. Lurie better choose Kelly’s replacement more wisely than the 49ers selected Harbaugh’s, that’s for sure.

The same can be said for Jim Irsay, the erratic owner of the Colts. His team’s head coach Chuck Pagano has spent the bulk of the year on the hot seat despite leading the Colts to the AFC Championship last January. In fact, Pagano’s job was seemingly on the line before the 2015 season even started.

Four new teams took their place — Kansas City, Minnesota, Houston, and Washington. The NFL is surely happy with this outcome, as the playoffs field this year keeps a 25-season streak alive in which at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs after missing the postseason the year before.

Elsewhere, the Saints beat the Falcons, the Lions beat the Bears, the Eagles beat the Giants, the Niners beat the Rams and Washington beat Dallas.

Win the water cooler:
Arm yourself with the most essential tidbits from Sunday’s action … impress your coworkers around the water cooler.

Mariota had a good rookie season and whoever is hired will likely have their immediate future tied to Webster’s selection. That new general manager will have the opportunity and task to pick from every single college player in the draft to build around Mariota too, as the Titans hold the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Webster has also been a scout for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the vice president of player personnel with the Seattle Seahawks, a team for which he also served as interim general manager before joining the Titans.

the Cubs needed more depth to compensate for their potential injury risks

David Schoenfield’s take: If it goes down, this looks as if it would be a great signing for the Cubs at that price. Uehara will be 42 years old, he usually finds himself on the DL at some point and he gives up a few too many home runs, but his other numbers are still excellent: Opponents hit .200 against him and he averaged 12.1 K’s per nine. His fastball sits at only 86-87 mph, but the deception between his fastball and splitter still leaves batters flailing.

The Nationals have far more certainty than the Mets, between Max Scherzer, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Adam Eaton, among others. Their biggest question mark is the health of Stephen Strasburg and the first full season of Trea Turner, who looks like he’s going to be a superstar. And remember that the Nationals still plan to add a big-time closer, which will probably widen the gap a little more.

Signing Jansen would cost the Marlins a first-round pick, which would be the 14th pick in the first round. But owner Jeffrey Loria is said to be contemplating whether to sign off on sacrificing that pick and making a potentially record-setting, five-year offer to Jansen, who pitched for manager Don Mattingly in Los Angeles. One friend said Mattingly was pushing hard for Jansen.

On Encarnacion: Sources who familiar with him says Rangers could be an interesting match. Market leverage for EE appears to be dropping.

Jim Bowden’s take: The Texas Rangers are the team to watch on Edwin Encarnacion, as team president Jon Daniels is always opportunistic during market changes, as he was last July, when the Indians’ deal with Jonathan Lucroy fell apart, and he swooped in to land him. The Indians are also a sleeper team if the market falls further. Encarnacion’s smartest option might be to do what Yoenis Cespedes did last year — take a three-year deal with an opt out after Year 1, so he can go back on the market next offseason.

NFL announces London will host 4 games in 2017

The NFL continues to expand the amount of games played overseas, and announced Friday morning that London will now play host to four games in 2017.

Games in the United Kingdom began happening once a year in 2007, but expanded to two games in 2013 and three games per year in the last three seasons. A fourth game in 2017 will be the most ever hosted by London in a season.

This expansion is on a pace set by the NFL in 2015 when a partnership with London’s Rugby Football Union guaranteed that there will be at least five games played in London in 2018.

“We continue to be incredibly excited by the passion and love for the NFL shown by our millions of U.K. fans,” Roger Goodell said. “London is an amazing city. We have had tremendous support from our fans, from Mayor Khan and other government leaders and business partners, and we are looking forward to taking the next step in the U.K. by playing four games in London next season.”

“I keep my flag in my back right pocket in my coaching pants, and I was a little underdressed in the first half. I started getting cold, so I put some wind pants on and then I put a jacket on, and then I had this really long jacket.”

During the game, Fisher was wired for NFL Films. When he wanted to challenge the play, he had to verbally tell the referees.

In eight seasons with the Bears, Cutler has a 51-51 record and is the franchise’s all-time leading passer with 23,443 yards, 154 touchdowns, and 109 interceptions.

Derrick Johnson was in elementary school the last time the Chiefs

Those games served as a candle in the window of sorts for those who, like Johnson, were hoping to see Chiefs-Raiders reclaim its former place among NFL rivalries. For those people, the time has arrived.

The 10-2 Raiders and 9-3 Chiefs meet Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium with the winner earning possession of first place in the NFL’s best division with three games remaining.

“The rivalry is back,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be an old-school type of game.”

Derrick Johnson was in elementary school the last time the Chiefs and Raiders played in December with a division title on the line.

Teammates have said they like to hear from Berry because his message is usually one that speaks to the moment. Berry’s comeback from cancer — he returned to the Chiefs last year only eight months after being diagnosed with lymphoma and worked out meticulously through his chemotherapy treatments so he could make such a speedy recovery — give his words even more weight.

“You definitely take all of that into consideration when he’s talking,’’ defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches said.

But Berry was this way before his cancer diagnosis.

“When you’re around him here, it’s all about football,’’ coach Andy Reid said. “That’s the part you appreciate, him coming to work and bringing that attitude. There’s never a day off. It’s, ‘Let’s stay focused. Let’s go through the process, let’s get ready to play the game and then play it hard.’ That can be contagious.

“He’s so mentally tough. I think that helped him in his recovery. He just says, ‘I’m doing it, no one is stopping me and here we go.’ That’s kind of how he goes about life.’’

That rivalry dates to 1960, the first season of the old American Football League. But it started to heat up in 1966, when an eight-year run began when the teams finished 1-2 in their division.

Panthers expect Jonathan Stewart back against Seahawks’ top-ranked rush defense

Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart will likely return in time to face the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional round of the NFL playoffs, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Stewart has been dealing with a foot injury that forced him out of the team’s Week 17 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Stewart became the primary running back for the Panthers when DeAngelo Williams departed in free agency this offseason, and he treated the 15-1 Panthers to 989 yards, six touchdowns and a per-carry average of 4.1 yards. Stewart missed three games in the regular season and has only played a complete 16-game season three times in his eight-year career.

The Panthers will be glad to have Stewart back against Seattle’s top-ranked rushing defense, as opponents average 3.6 yards per carry and 81.5 yards per game against the Seahawks. Seattle held Adrian Peterson to just 45 yards on 23 carries and kept the Vikings to just 58 total yards on the ground in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

While the NFL has been criticized for the quality of Thursday games by fans and players alike, the ratings for the league suggest things are going just fine for the league. According to Sports Illustrated, ratings again reached an all-time high in 2015, with Fox, CBS, NBC all reporting a year-over-year increase in average per-game NFL viewership.

The NFL has also been experimenting with digital broadcasts and will sell its full slate of Thursday games separately from the TV rights, per Ourand. Sites like Amazon, Apple, Google and Yahoo! could all become broadcast partners with the NFL during the 2016 season after the NFL contacted each for bids. In 2015, the NFL sold exclusive streaming rights of a London game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills to Yahoo!.

Decisions for broadcast partners are expected to be made by the NFL before Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7, according to TheStreet.

I can’t imagine trusting Rawls as anything more than a flex play this week against the Panthers

Jonathan Stewart, Panthers: As I mentioned in the Cam note, this is a Seattle defense that is at home, angry and getting a lot healthier for this game. The Seahawks have allowed a running back rushing touchdown in just three of 11 games so far this season, and if J-Stew isn’t getting into the end zone, that’s an issue. He’s failed to gain more than 42 yards in three of the past four; he ranks 31st (out of 40 qualified RBs) in yards before contact per carry this season; and the Seahawks are in the top six in the NFL in yards before and after contact per carry. Stewart is merely a touchdown-dependent flex play this week.

Thomas Rawls, Seahawks: Like the rest of the Seahawks, he didn’t look great last week, and it’s hard to get up much confidence this week, too. Ranking just 27th in time of possession this season (last season they were 11th), the Seahawks aren’t grinding out drives the way they used to.

Hilton is a player who has received a consistent target share even in weeks when he has been playing through injury. Naturally, there is always concern about an in-game setback, but given his practice sessions thus far, this doesn’t feel any riskier than prior weeks. Fantasy owners should always have a backup plan given the game is Monday night, but the odds are in favor of Hilton suiting up as usual.

Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles, ankle, (Q): Hmmm. Matthews’ injury was worrisome Monday night when it forced him out of the game (twice), eventually to the point where he could not return. But coach Doug Pederson sounded confident as early as Tuesday that Matthews would be able to play in Week 13. A day off Wednesday came as no surprise, and Matthews’ return to limited practice Thursday suggested things were going the right direction. On Friday, however, Matthews was absent, ultimately being listed on the game status injury report as questionable. It appears a final decision as to his status won’t come until pregame, but with that much uncertainty, fantasy owners are probably better off finding a healthier option.

Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions, thigh, (Q): Jones appeared on the injury report with a thigh injury, and as is typical of the Lions, there have been very few details with regard to his injury. He did not miss any practice sessions but was limited daily. Jones has had other injuries this season (hamstring, foot) but has not missed any games. However, his production has been inconsistent. It’s worth noting the Lions did sign wide receiver T.J. Jones from the practice squad, which could signal Marvin Jones being inactive. Fantasy owners who are considering using Jones should double check his status before kickoff.

Patriots’ approach with Rob Gronkowski has trickle-down effect

The New England Patriots have had experience playing without tight end Rob Gronkowski because of injuries in recent years, most recently coming two weeks ago in a win over the San Francisco 49ers.

The club knew in advance it would be without Gronkowski that day, just as it did the first two weeks of the 2016 regular season when the All-Pro was still rehabbing a hamstring injury. While Gronkowski was naturally missed, the advance notice of being able to plan around his absence helped the team overcome it with little turbulence as Martellus Bennett capably filled the void.

What unfolded Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the New York Jets was a different scenario, and a bit more of a bumpy ride for the offense.

But Hill’s behavior in the seven months since he has been with the Chiefs is also a factor.

“He’s handled himself in a good way,” Reid said Wednesday. “There haven’t been any issues, which is a positive. He has the things he has to do for the incident. He doesn’t miss anything. He does everything he’s supposed to do and that’s a plus.”

Hill is going to counseling, which the Chiefs cited as one of the reasons they felt comfortable drafting him. General manager John Dorsey and other club officials said when Hill was drafted, they spent a considerable amount of time investigating him and didn’t believe he was much of a risk for repeat behavior.

“They’re more like therapy and stuff, like getting stuff off of my chest,” Hill said of his counseling sessions. “Those things require a lot of things, like going to class and stuff. I do those things. I make sure I do those things in order for me to be a better person.

“I’m real dedicated. I’m going to stick to it so I can be a better man and a better citizen for this community and a better father to my son.”

This season, Hill is arguably the Chiefs’ best offensive player. He has seven touchdowns; no other Kansas City player has more than three.

Hill scored against the Broncos not only on a rushing play and a pass reception, but also on an 86-yard kickoff return. He is the first player to score a touchdown in those three ways in a game since Gale Sayers of the Chicago Bears in 1965.