Jeff Fisher: ‘I want a chance to play the Rams’

“I want a chance to play the Rams.”

Those words came directly from Jeff Fisher in an exclusive interview with Charissa Thompson set to appear during FOX’s Sunday pregame show.

The Falcons All-Pro receiver has been ruled out for Atlanta’s game against the San Francisco 49ers because of the sprained toe that kept him out of practice all week, the team announced.

Kiffin, who also joined Saban’s staff after being fired as USC head coach (in 2013), will remain with Alabama through the College Football Playoff. The Tide will play Washington in a Peach Bowl playoff semifinal on Dec. 31.

“We are pleased to be able to hire an offensive coordinator with the pedigree and experience of Steve Sarkisian,” Saban stated in a release. “He has a tremendous offensive mind and is someone we believe will do a great job of teaching and developing our football team on the offensive side of the ball. He has been a great asset to our coaching staff this season and brings a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to his job. Steve will be a phenomenal addition to our coaching staff and someone who can seamlessly transition into the job with a full understanding of how our organization works.”

Sarkisian was fired by then-USC athletic director Pat Haden after reportedly arriving for team meetings while intoxicated. He checked into rehab shortly after being dismissed. Sarkisian later filed a lawsuit against USC, alleging he was discriminated against because of a disability.

Prior to taking the USC job, Sarkisian led Washington to a 34-29 record as head coach from 2009-13.

Steelers RB DeAngelo Williams suffers sprained ankle vs. Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams suffered a leg injury on Sunday that sent him to the locker room and the team quickly announced that he was questionable to return with a right ankle injury. He was later downgraded to out, despite jogging back out of the locker room to join the team on the sideline.

Williams, 32, has been the leading rusher for the Steelers during the 2015 season in Le’Veon Bell’s absence, racking up 899 yards and an NFL-leading 11 touchdowns in the first 15 games of the season. He had just eight yards on five carries against the Cleveland Browns before he suffered his injury, which immediately looked serious and drew Mike Tomlin out on to the field to check on the veteran running back.

Team doctors helped Williams off the field and he wasn’t able to put any weight on his right leg. He was taken to the locker room shortly thereafter.

Over the last four years, a whopping 22 teams have changed head coaches. Eleven franchises — the Jaguars, Chiefs, Dolphins, Raiders, Buccaneers, Bills, Bears, Browns, Eagles, 49ers and Titans — have done it at least twice, counting interim selections.

During this time span, these clubs have posted winning records on only 10 occasions. Their combined record is 199-257 and only five of them have made the playoffs one year after making the change.

No team has cycled through more head coaches recently than the Browns, who fired their third head coach in four years this offseason. Owner Jimmy Haslam paid Rob Chudzinski the remaining $10.5 million over the three years remaining on his contract after sacking him in 2013 and will still have to pay Mike Pettine for two more years as well. No coach has lasted more than four years in Cleveland since Bill Belichick in 1995.

Though the Browns are the most egregious example of this phenomenon, few teams allow coaches ample time to reshape the organizations they inherit. Look no further than Chip Kelly, who the Eagles fired last week less than one year after owner Jeffrey Lurie gave him total control over player personnel.

Theo Epstein couldn’t have expected Jake Arrieta to turn into a Cy Young contender

Last spring, we brought a member of one team’s analytics department to speak to ESPN baseball employees about his job. I asked him later what his bosses said he could and couldn’t talk about, even in an off-the-record gathering. “Nothing about the amateur draft,” he said. Years ago, Beane felt college players were a market inefficiency, that high school players were essentially getting overdrafted; his studies on the subject were pretty basic. Imagine the work teams put into the draft these days compared to 15 years ago — from analytics and research to scouting that now itself includes more analytics.

All this means front offices are smarter and on more of an equal footing of knowledge than in 2003. Back then Lewis wrote, “It is the nature of being the general manager of a baseball team that you have to remain on familiar terms with people you are continually trying to screw.”

Throughout his career, Sandoval has struggled to stay in shape, gaining and losing weight with dramatic fluctuations. But since leaving the Giants, his weight gain greatly diminished his mobility and range at third base and contributing to a career-worst .658 OPS in 2015.

Over the past few months, Sandoval has shed “significant” weight, according to Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. Neither the team nor Sandoval has divulged specifics, but after principal owner John Henry’s widely derided comment this past spring that Sandoval’s body fat was only 17 percent, the exact number is almost beside the point with two months left before spring training.

The proof, for now, is in a picture that circulated on Twitter this week. Sandoval, standing in front of the batting cages at the Red Sox’s spring training facility in Fort Myers, Florida, looks almost svelte.

By bringing in Chris Sale, the Red Sox now have seven big-league starting pitchers. They’ll almost surely trade one or more. Eventually.

After David Ortiz posted to Instagram that Chris Sale’s trade to the Red Sox got him “thinking,” Dave Dombrowski downplayed any speculation about a potential return for the beloved slugger.

Jackson’s stat line against the two toughest teams on his schedule: 511 yards passing

Those two games were against overmatched opponents, though. Then-No. 2 Florida State came next, and Jackson dismantled the Seminoles with ease. He recorded 362 yards and five total touchdowns in three quarters in a 63-20 victory that sent a clear message: Jackson had to be considered the Heisman favorite.

How could he not be after producing 18 touchdowns in three weeks? The yards and touchdowns kept piling up, including a whopping performance against then-No. 5 Clemson; Jackson compiled 457 yards and three touchdowns in a last-second, 42-36 loss.

Jackson’s stat line against the two toughest teams on his schedule: 511 yards passing, 308 yards rushing, eight touchdowns and two interceptions.

His season did not end as prolifically as it began, with consecutive losses to Houston and Kentucky that some thought might curtail his Heisman chances. Still, Jackson won ACC Player of the Year honors from the media and coaches, and he took home the Walter Camp Player of the Year and Maxwell Award.

“To be able to stand up here with all the former winners, I’m extremely proud to represent this class and Louisville as their first Heisman Trophy winner,” said Jackson, who wore a Louisville-red velvet blazer with shiny black lapels. “For my teammates, it’s an award for all of us. I can’t wait to cherish it with all of you.”

Jackson became the youngest player to win the Heisman at 19 years, 337 days — just five days younger than 2013 winner Jameis Winston — and just the fourth sophomore to take home the trophy. He joins Johnny Manziel (2012) as the only Heisman winners to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Quarterbacks have won the Heisman Trophy in 14 of the past 16 years.

When he heard his name called, Jackson said his heart started racing.

“Man, I almost cried,” he said. “To hear my name called with all those great players, I was overwhelmed.”

His coach, Bobby Petrino, said after that ceremony that he was “very nervous” for his quarterback.

“I had no idea how the vote was going to come out,” Petrino said. “I want you to know how proud I am of Lamar. He’s a young man that prepared extremely hard, went out on the field and played as hard as he possibly could and did a great job being a leader for this football team.”

Jackson credited his mother, Felicia Jones, and said the trophy will go anywhere she decides to put it. Jones raised Jackson as a single mom and would put on football pads to help her son work on his game when he was a kid.

“Everything I do is for my mother,” Jackson said Saturday.

NFL Coach of the Year race: Jason Garrett leads, Bill Belichick looms

In his six-plus seasons as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Garrett has been called a lot of things. Overmatched. Unqualified. A Jerry Jones “puppet.”

But the way this Cowboys season is going, Garrett should have a new label when it’s all said and done: NFL Coach of the Year.

The Cowboys have played 100 games of the Jason Garrett era. While it hasn’t always been easy, Dallas is currently as good as it has been in decades.

The pass rush in Dallas and New England. The run defense in Oakland and Washington. A new injury in Seattle. The NFL’s likely playoff field is full of holes.
If the season ended today, Garrett should win the award in a walk. He lost his starting quarterback and his backup quarterback (that’s right — remember Kellen Moore?) in training camp and opened the season with a fourth-round rookie under center. A Cowboys team that went 4-12 last season rebounded from that August body blow to go 11-1 so far and clinch a playoff spot on the first weekend in December.

“It’s going to be like the old days in this game. It’s great to see this coming back after so many years. It seems like everybody the last couple of weeks has been talking about the Raiders and Chiefs game. That’s the way it should be because those games were something special. It seems like Denver has been the Chiefs’ rival for a long time. But that’s not the way it always was.”

McCoy was with the Panthers from 2000 to 2008, the final two years spent as the passing coordinator and quarterbacks coach. In 2001, he was the wide receivers coach during Steve Smith’s rookie season.

In 2003, he helped Carolina reach the Super Bowl for the first time. He still vacations with former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme.

“A lot of the things I do today, I learned in Carolina,’’ McCoy said.

While this is a business trip for McCoy, his wife Kellie and two children (Olivia and Luke) are making the trip with the team so they can visit old friends.

MMBM: Robert Griffin III still can’t win in the playoffs

We’re required to remind you that these strong takes are SATIRE. Sorry, not sorry. All spelling errors are intentional, we think. — The editor.

Wellcome to the Monday Morning BM, just a word of warning your probably not prepared to handle the strong football takes and barrelfire NFL truths that you never knew your Mondays were missing. This column is written for and by a REAL fan of the NFL. Its designed to be read on your Monday Morning commode break after a long Sunday eating bad-for-you food and drinking beers. If you care more about SPELLING then you do about TELLING theres the door because this columns not for you.

In a league where the only constant is change, its nice to be able to rely on familar things like the mailman, the paperboy, and Elite QBs winning in the playoffs. This wild-card weekend went to all the familar names, as Aaron Rogers, Russell Wilson, Ben Rothlisberger, and the guy who wasnt Brian Hoyer all outlasted their inferior counterparts.

Another constant is that Robert Griffin III can not win when it counts. Griffin has two division titles, and zero playoff wins just like Andy Dalton, but for some reason we dont talk about him the same way because of PC. But in realty (where I live), its a safe space free from excuses. Theres such a thing as “intangibles”, and they have very real implicatons on the outcomes of games. Whether its Griffins will to win, or his abilty to detect a pass rush- RG3 has allways struggled when it comes to things he can neither see nor feel.

Some of you will think your being cute, and point to the fact that Jay Gruden benched him, and that its unfair to blame him for Washingtons second half collapse in a game that he didnt even play in. Well I would ask you to show me the part of the Neuremberg trials where they let every war criminal off because he was just following orders. And Frankly, Griffins terrible record in big games as a backup has him looking alot more like the second coming of Reich then the third.

By remaning on the bench quietly he is endorsing Jay Grudens decision-making. A real leader would be standing on the table screaming to get in the game, not hobknobbing with his teammates on the sideslines wearing street clothes. If he were innocent of being bad wouldnt he want the opportunty to testify instead of hiding in silence? What would he have to hide?

Benjamin is merely a low-end WR3 until we see some more consistency from him and the entire Panthers offense

Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers: See Newton, Cam. Benjamin needed a terrific catch to score last week but still caught only two passes and, prior to last week, had gone eight straight games with single-digit points. Again, with the Seahawks defense back at home and at full strength finally, I think this is a long day for the Panthers and their players. Benjamin is merely a low-end WR3 until we see some more consistency from him and the entire Panthers offense.

Allen Robinson, Jaguars: With just 11 targets total to Robinson in the past two games, it’s clear Blake Bortles is really bortling his relationship with A-Rob. Robinson has just five receptions in those two weeks (though one of them was a touchdown) and this is, shall we say, not a great matchup for a passing offense that is struggling.

Which wide receivers have the easiest and toughest matchups in Week 13? Check out the downloadable PDF cheat sheet listing every matchup to help with your fantasy football decisions.

Also, be sure to take advantage of our Roster Advisor tool to get an edge on your opponents. And for those taking part in the Eliminator Challenge, you can get an edge here, too, with the Survivor Guide.

Our weekly ESPN Insider cheat sheet provides a rundown of the greatest hits from all of our Insider fantasy football content. In this file, you’ll find answers to the top questions of the week, along with injury updates, matchup advantages and wild-card plays from Eric Karabell, Tristan H. Cockcroft, Matt Bowen, Scott Kacsmar and Mike Clay. It’s all the best tips, distilled into one handy file.

Some things you can’t predict — like the Dallas Cowboys losing by one in the opener and then rattling off 11 wins in a row with a rookie fourth-round quarterback leading the way.

The Cowboys did it again Thursday night, escaping with a 17-15 win on the road in Minnesota to keep the win streak alive. It was a game that didn’t feature huge stats by anyone, but Ezekiel Elliott (86 yards rushing and a touchdown) and Dez Bryant (four catches, 84 yards and a touchdown) both came out just fine.

For those things that are a little easier to predict than the magical Cowboys season, our team of Insiders has a whole bunch of tips and nuggets you don’t want to miss.

Chiefs proud of Tyreek Hill on and off field

Chiefs coach Andy Reid repeated on Wednesday what has become his standard line when discussing Tyreek Hill of late, as the rookie wide receiver has become a larger part of the Kansas City offense.

In talking about Hill winning this week’s AFC offensive player of the week award after his two offensive touchdowns in Sunday night’s win over the Denver Broncos, Reid said he’s “more proud of him for what he’s doing off the field than on the field.”

Hill is on probation in Oklahoma because of a December 2014 incident, after which he pleaded guilty to punching and choking his pregnant girlfriend. The Chiefs drafted him in the fifth round anyway, sparking considerable controversy in Kansas City. With the passage of time, the criticism has diminished to an extent.

In addition to Brady and Gronkowski not practicing, wide receiver Julian Edelman also wasn’t spotted at Wednesday’s practice. He’s been managing a foot injury since Oct. 6.

Even worse is when there’s no emotion at all, a clear sign that players have already checked out. Newton says the Panthers, despite their record, still have the best locker room he’s ever experienced. With that one ingredient, even the pipe dream of a worst-to-first run after Thanksgiving remains alive. “That’s why the locker room is so important,” Rivera says. “There’s a direct correlation between how you do on the field and the pulse you feel from inside that room.”

Rivera’s room didn’t truly begin to take shape until January 2013. The Panthers had finished 7-9 in the 2012 season, and the clock was ticking on the second-year coach. Rivera invited a handful of team leaders to dinner in Charlotte. After a few appetizers, he asked them to do an autopsy on the season, focusing on the bad vibe in the locker room. The players responded with prolonged silence. “So again, ‘Guys, come on, what’s going on in there?'”

Rivera grew up in a military family-his father, Eugenio, served 32 years in the Army, including two tours in Vietnam-and he once had a group of retired Air Force pilots speak to the team.

At dinner, Rivera reminded his players about the story of how the pilots would peel off their ranks after every mission, throw them on the table and talk openly about one another’s performances. “Then the floodgates just opened,” Rivera says. “At first I was like, ‘Golly, screw you guys, why didn’t you tell me any of this during the season?'”