NFL Wild Card 2013: Bengals vs Texans

Las mejores fotos la victoria en duelo de Comodines que se llevó Houston por marcador de 19-13 sobre Cincinnati, rumbo al Super Bowl XLVII.
Tras el triunfo en Wild Card, los Texans se medirán ante los New England Patriots, en la Final de la Conferencia America, el 13 de enero.

Wild Card Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Houston Texans

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 05: Arian Foster #23 of the Houston Texans runs the ball against Nate Clements #22 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the AFC Wild Card Playoff Game at Reliant Stadium on January 5, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Fantasy Football Week 15 Streaming Options

Trey Burton was my star streamer in Week 14, catching five balls for 71 yards and two touchdowns, making him the highest-scoring tight end for the week. With most fantasy leagues in playoff mode, it’s win-or-go-home time, so the stream is alive and kicking for Week 15.

For streaming purposes, 4for4’s Schedule-Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed (aFPA) is a metric we rely on heavily to determine weekly matchup strength. As the season progresses and more data is available, aFPA becomes more and more reliable, using rolling 10-week data. Targets and efficiency metrics are also considered when coming up with weekly streamers.

To provide advice that you can actually use, candidates for streaming must be available in at least 50% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.

Quarterbacks

Blake Bortles, Jaguars vs. Texans (43% owned)

Bortles has averaged 288.5 yards in his last two games, throwing a pair of touchdowns in both contests without an interception. He seems to have turned some sort of corner this season, ranking 15th in fantasy points among quarterbacks, and he has a highly favorable schedule the next two weeks.

This week he gets the Texans at home, a team ranked 30th in quarterback aFPA, and 16th in running back aFPA. That sort of funnel could lead to him getting more work than usual on Sunday. The Jaguars in Week 16 play the 49ers, a defense ranked 27th in quarterback aFPA. If you stream Bortles this week and win, you may want to keep him around for your championship game.

Joe Flacco, Ravens at Browns (16% owned)

More efficient as the season has progressed, Flacco has thrown for 269 yards and two touchdowns in his last two outings, netting 18.66 and 16.76 fantasy points, respectively.

Flacco and the Ravens head to Cleveland this week to face a Browns’ defense ranked 23rd in quarterback aFPA. The Browns have surrendered 26 touchdowns through the air, tied for most in the league, and rank last in interceptions with six. Flacco may not wow you, but this should be a safe week to use him if you need help at quarterback.

Nick Foles, Eagles at Giants (13% owned)

With Carson Wentz done for the season after tearing his ACL, Foles gets the honor of jumping behind the wheel of one of the league’s most luxurious rides. He inherits a ton of surrounding talent with Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz and Jay Ajayi leading the way.

In Week 15, Foles also gets a Giants defense ranked 26th in quarterback aFPA that, like the Browns, has allowed 26 passing touchdowns this season. Foles may not be the most exciting quarterback, but he has the weapons and the matchup to turn in a good performance on Sunday.

Tight Ends

Charles Clay, Bills vs. Dolphins (33% owned)

Clay is averaging 4.7 targets and 8.5 fantasy points per game this season. With Tyrod Taylor most likely back under center, Clay should be a good bet to approach or surpass those averages. It also helps that he’s facing a Miami defense ranked 28th in aFPA. The Dolphins will also head to cold, snowy Buffalo on a short week after an emotional win over the Patriots. That all puts Clay in a great position. With Kelvin Benjamin banged up, the veteran tight end may be in for a heavier workload than usual.

Eric Ebron, Lions vs. Bears (31% owned)

Ebron has quietly turned it on of late, totaling the fourth-most targets and seventh-most PPR points among tight ends over the last three weeks. He posted season highs in both catches and yards in Week 14, reeling in 10 of 11 targets for 94 yards against the Buccaneers.

The Lions host the Bears this week, a team that has been thinned out by injury on the defensive side of the ball. They have an implied total of 25 points, too, giving them one of the freindliest fantasy projections of the week.. As a bonus, Ebron’s Week 16 game is against a Bengals defense ranked dead last in tight end aFPA, so he could stick around for your championship game, should you make it there.

Adam Shaheen, Bears at Lions (1% owned)

Shaheen’s snap rate increased dramatically last week, jumping to 42% from 24% the prior week. He caught four balls for 44 yards and a score against the Bengals in Week 14, and, as possibly a big part of the Bears future, should be in for more work over the final three games of the season.

Shaheen has a favorable matchup Saturday in Detroit with a Lions defense ranked 31st in tight end aFPA. They have allowed double-digit fantasy points to the position in their last five contests, including 22.3 from Kyle Rudolph in Week 12. Shaheen dropped 14.1 PPR points on the Lions in Week 11.

Defense

Buffalo Bills, vs. Dolphins (36% owned)

Miami’s offense showed up in Week 14 against the Patriots, but it was a primetime home game in cozy, tropical South Florida. With snow showers and cold predicted in Buffalo again this weekend, the Bills defense could wreak havoc on turnover-prone Jay Cutler, and put up a nice fantasy point total in the process.

Washington Redskins, vs. Cardinals (16% owned)

Arizona is down two starting offensive linemen, with tackle Jared Veldheer and guard Earl Watford out with ankle injuries. The Cardinals have allowed a whopping 15 sacks in their last two contests, and should continue to have problems this week in Washington. Also working in the Redskins favor is that they’re favored by 4.5 points and playing at home.

Miami Dolphins, at Bills (8% owned)

Buffalo’s offense has struggled this season, and the Dolphins showed us on Monday night against Tom Brady and the Patriots that they can still slow down an offense with pressure on the quraterback. The Dolphins have the posted the most defensive fantasy points over the past two weeks, with five sacks, five interceptions and 23 points allowed (the other six came on a defensive touchdown by the Broncos in Week 13). They’ve earned a seat at the streaming table for Week 15.

Fantasy Football Week 15 Start ’Em, Sit ’Em

Vikings quarterback Case Keenum is in the midst of a career season that will almost certainly result in an NFC North championship, and possibly much more. He may not know it, but the "more" could include a surprise fantasy football playoff MVP award. With his play thus far, the emergence of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs as one of the league’s best wide receiver duos, and the Vikings favorable schedule, Keenum should be able to keep the good times rolling all the way through Week 16, helping his owners to fantasy titles.

The Vikings lost to the Panthers last week, but that’s immaterial to Keenum’s fantasy owners. What matters is that he threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 40 more yards, equivalent to a third passing touchdown in standard-scoring leagues. Sure, he threw two interceptions, but those were just blips on an otherwise successful fantasy day. All told, Keenum scored 22.2 points, finishing as the No. 7 quarterback in Week 14. He should bolster his playoff MVP credentials on Sunday.

In Week 15 the Vikings host the Bengals, a team that is wrapping up a disappointing season. Just one week ago the Bengals, playing at home with their slim playoff hopes in the balance, gave up 33 points to Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears. Trubisky enjoyed the best game of his young career, throwing for 271 yards, 8.71 yards per attempt and one touchdown, adding a second score on the ground. After getting torched by an offense that hadn’t done much for the balance of the season, the Bengals fell to 25th against quarterbacks in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points against metric (aFPA).

Put simply, this is a defense Keenum should handle. The Bengals are without Adam Jones, which will make it harder to slow down Thielen and Diggs. They’ve been bad against tight ends all season, ranking 26th in aFPA against the position, and now have an assignment against Kyle Rudolph, one of the more effective second-tier tight ends in the league. The Vikings are favored by 10.5 points and playing at home, both of which are contextual factors that typically work to a quarterback’s advantage. Oddsmakers have installed an over/under of 42 points for the game, which gives the Vikings an implied total of 26.25 points. If the Vikings do indeed hit paydirt three or four times, you can bet Keenum will have a hand in getting them there.

Keenum’s playoff MVP candidacy first appeared on the horizon two weeks ago. His first entry in the game log got his campaign off on the right foot. The second one is almost certain to burnish his case. You want him in your lineup with a berth in your league’s championship on the line.

QUARTERBACKS

Start

Matthew Stafford, Lions (vs. Bears on Saturday)

Stafford played through a hand injury in the Lions win over the Buccaneers last week, throwing for 381 yards, 8.66 YPA, one touchdown and two interceptions. The turnovers hurt, but he looked no worse for wear despite being limited in practice all week. The Bears have been one of the league’s better pass defenses all season, ranking third in quarterback aFPA, but Stafford torched them in Chicago to the tune of 299 yards, 9.65 YPA and two scores in Week 11. Now playing against them at home as a 5.5-point favorite with an implied total of 24.75 points, Stafford should once again throw his way into the QB1 class.

Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers (vs. Titans)

Garoppolo has made two starts with the 49ers, throwing for 637 yards, 9.1 YPA, one touchdown and two interceptions. It has been frustrating to watch the 49ers stall in the red zone with regularity the last two weeks, but it’s encouraging that Garoppolo has helped produce nine trips to the red zone in his two starts. The Titans rate a surprisingly high eighth in quarterback aFPA, but Garoppolo has done nothing the last two weeks to suggest he should be on your bench.

Superflex Special

Blake Bortles, Jaguars (vs. Texans)

This is a pretty easy case to make. We first made it in the Week 15 waiver wire, and followed up on it with our Week 15 streaming options. Bortles has played his best football of the season the last two weeks, throwing for 577 yards, 9.31 YPA and four touchdowns in wins over the Colts and Seahawks. It wasn’t a huge shock to see him carve up the Colts, but the fact that the played so well against Seattle was impressive, even without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor on the field. Bortles draws a Texans team this week ranked 30th in quarterback aFPA. The Texans did shut him down the first time these teams met, but that was way back in Week 1 when both J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus were healthy. Bortles should find his return game with the Texans a whole lot easier.

Sit

Kirk Cousins, Redskins (vs. Cardinals)

Cousins predictably struggled against the Chargers last week, throwing for 151 yards, 5.59 YPA, one touchdown and one interception in the Redskins 30-13 loss. All the injuries and poor performance in Washington is finally getting to Cousins, and the offense has looked much different without Chris Thompson. On his own merit, Cousins is likely one of the 10 or 12 best quarterbacks in the league, but the offense around him isn’t making it possible for him to show off that fact. It’s impossible to trust him in fantasy leagues the rest of the season.

Alex Smith, Chiefs (vs. Chargers)

Smith gets a matchup with that same Chargers defense this week that shut down Cousins last week. Smith was so close to a huge day in Week 14, but he had two touchdowns, both to Travis Kelce, taken off the board—one because Kelce was tackled at the half-yard line, and another on an ineligible receiver downfield penalty that had nothing to do with the play—and a third that Kelce dropped. Smith has looked more like the quarterback he was early in the season since Andy Reid gave playcalling duties to offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, and that should have him on the QB1 radar. This Chargers defense, however, has turned into a quarterback’s nightmare. The Chargers are fourth in quarterback aFPA, they shut Cousins and Dak Prescott in recent weeks, and they held Tom Brady and Carson Wentz below their season averages. Smith has the look more of a mid-tier QB2 rather than a QB1 this week.

Jared Goff, Rams (at Seahawks)

Goff and the Rams deserve a ton of credit for how they’ve turned around the offense this season. If there’s one secret about them, however, it’s that they’ve struggled against the best pass defenses they’ve faced. In three games against the Jaguars, Seahawks and Vikings, Goff combined for 637 yards, 6.07 YPA, one touchdown and two picks. The Seahawks aren’t the same without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, but this will still be a tough test for Goff in Seattle. The Rams are two-point underdogs with an implied total of 22.75 points. I actually like him better than most this week, but he’s still just my QB15. I’d start Bortles and Smith over him, though I do like him better than Cousins, Jameis Winston and the next guy on this list.

Marcus Mariota, Titans (at 49ers)

I used this fact last week, but it’s so good, and it remains a fact, that I’m going to run it back. The last time Mariota threw multiple touchdowns in a game was the same weekend as the Astros World Series parade. In the six games he has played since then, he has thrown for 1,063 yards (212.6 per game), 6.81 YPA, four touchdowns and nine interceptions. The 49ers rank a friendly 27th in quarterback aFPA, but what gives Mariota’s fantasy owners any confidence that he can take advantage of the matchup? A great matchup is one thing, but the players needs to be able to follow through on it. Mariota has shown nothing recently to suggest he can, and word broke earlier this week that he’s dealing with nagging hamstring and ankle issues. Stay away.

RUNNING BACKS

Start

Tevin Coleman, Falcons (at Buccaneers)

I really like this matchup for the Falcons offense, and think we’ll see it produce one of its best games of the season. These teams met late last month, with the Falcons racking up 34 points, 516 total yards and 8.1 yards per play. It was one of the few games this season in which they looked like the 2016 Falcons. Coleman was great in that game, taking over for the injured Devonta Freeman to run for 97 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. He won’t get that same volume this week, but this is simply a bad defense that got worse with Gerald McCoy’s biceps injury last week. You’re going to want to start your Falcons in Week 15.

Jay Ajayi, Eagles (at Giants)

I laid out my case for Ajayi in full in the Week 15 Target in Snap Report. The abridged version is that, even if Nick Foles can deliver league-average quarterback play, the Eagles offense is going to have to change the way it wins games without Carson Wentz. That necessarily means an increased presence for the rushing attack, and that almost certainly leads to something like a workhorse role for Ajayi. Corey Clement will still handle much of the passing game duties, and LeGarrette Blount isn’t going to go away completely, but Ajayi is the one back in Philadelphia capable of being the featured part of an offense. They didn’t need him to be that with a healthy Wentz, but they will with Foles under center.

Samaje Perine, Redskins (vs. Cardinals)

It has been an ugly couple of weeks for Perine, who has 121 yards from scrimmage on 36 touches in his last two games. The production has been disappointingly scant, but the volume remains encouraging. Perine brings a 15-touch floor into a game with the Cardinals and their league-average defense against running backs for fantasy purposes. The Redskins are 4.5-point favorites at home in this one. If they are able to produce a script that plays to that spread, Perine is going to go north of 20 touches in a game his team wins. That’s a bet I want to make.

Latavius Murray, Vikings (vs. Bengals)

Murray delivered his first dud last week in nearly two months, running for 14 yards on nine carries in the Vikings 31-24 loss to the Panthers. As well as Murray had played leading up to that game, we knew he wasn’t a back immune to a bad game script, and he was finally saddled with one last week. That shouldn’t be the case this week with the Vikings laying 10.5 points against the Bengals at home. Not only should Murray get plenty of volume, but he’ll also enjoy a great matchup against a Cincinnati defense ranked 30th in running back aFPA. Jordan Howard ran all over the Bengals for 147 yards and two touchdowns last week, while Le’Veon Bell totaled 182 yards from scrimmage and a score against them in Week 13. Murray should add to their recent woes.

Sit

DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, Titans (at 49ers)

You’ll notice a theme in the sit section for running backs. Many of the purer timeshares in the league are in bad spots this week. It starts in Tennessee, where the Titans can’t seem to get out of their own way. Murray has rushed for more than four yards per carry once in his last eight games, while picking up fewer than three yards per carry three times in that same span. Henry, meanwhile, has been more effective on a per-carry basis, but has had 10 carries in only three of his last six games. In other words, the Titans have one inefficient back, and one back who doesn’t get enough volume to be a reliable fantasy play. The 49ers run defense has been better lately, holding Jordan Howard and Lamar Miller to a combined 91 yards on 30 carries the last two weeks.

Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, Bengals (at Vikings)

Mixon is expected to return this week after missing the Bengals Week 14 loss to the Bears because of a concussion. Bernard looked good in his stead, racking up 226 yards on 32 touches the last two weeks. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor hasn’t shown much inclination to give two backs significant work in the same game, though that could change given Mixon’s injury status. If it does, it’ll be hard to trust either with just half of the backfield touches. If it doesn’t, it still won’t make Mixon a worthy fantasy starter against a Minnesota defense ranked sixth in running back aFPA. Jonathan Stewart got going against the Vikings last week at least in part because the Panthers are good enough to hang with the Vikings. The Bengals are not, especially in Minnesota.

Peyton Barber and Doug Martin, Buccaneers (vs. Falcons)

If anything has been made clear over the last few weeks in the Buccaneers offense, it’s that Barber needs to get more touches. He has brought life to an otherwise moribund backfield, finding success where Martin has failed. At the same time, Dirk Koetter has made it painfully clear that he isn’t going to abandon Martin completely. That means fantasy owners are stuck with a split backfield in a mediocre offense. A player in such a backfield isn’t one you want to back, especially in a game where his team is a six-point underdog.

Kerwynn Williams, Cardinals (at Redskins)

Adrian Peterson has missed the last two games because of a neck injury, and it appears he’s headed for his third straight inactive week. Williams has started in his place, running for 170 yards on 36 carries. He’s dealing with a minor rib injury that isn’t supposed to compromise him on Sunday, but he remains a risky play, even at his low expectations. The Cardinals have to keep it close with the Redskins for Williams to post even low-end RB2 numbers, and this is a game that could get out of hand. On top of that, the Cardinals will be playing without tackle Jared Veldheer and guard Earl Watford, both of whom suffered ankle injuries last week.

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WIDE RECEIVERS

Start

Jordy Nelson, Packers (at Panthers)

In four games with Aaron Rodgers this season, Nelson has 19 catches for 230 yards and six touchdowns. In eight without him, including the game in which Rodgers broke his collarbone, Nelson has 18 catches for 213 yards and zero scores. Guess who’s back? Back again? With Rodgers back under center for the Packers this week, there’s no reason to expect Nelson’s struggles to continue. It’s true that he’s touchdown-dependent, but that was basically true last year and for the first month of this season, and he was still an unquestioned WR1. I’m not ready to call him that, but I am ready to say he should be an easy starter in Week 15.

Marquise Goodwin, 49ers (vs. Titans)

The 49ers have played five games since placing Pierre Garcon on IR. In those five games, Goodwin has averaged 86.8 yards, with his low mark at 68 yards. In two games with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm, Goodwin has 14 catches on 20 targets for 205 yards. His 16-game, Garcon-less pace is 67.2 catches for 1,388.8 yards. His 16-game Garcon-less, Garoppolo-starting pace is 112 catches for 1,640 yards. Starting Goodwin should be an easy call for the rest of the season.

Chris Hogan, Patriots (at Steelers)

Hogan returned to the Patriots last week after missing four games, and five total weeks, with a shoulder injury. He caught one of five targets for one yard, but if you’re still alive last week’s stat line doesn’t matter that much. What does matter is that he was able to play a standard snap rate and didn’t aggravate the injury. Hogan was one of the most productive receivers in the first half of the season, hauling in 33 passes for 438 yards and five scores in his first eight games. The over/under on Patriots-Steelers is 54 points, and the Patriots are favored by three despite being on the road. There won’t be a bad way to get invested in this game.

Dede Westbrook, Jaguars (vs. Texans)

Westbrook has slowly but surely built on his performance with each passing week since making his NFL debut in Week 11. The rookie out of Oklahoma caught five of eight targets for 81 yards and a touchdown in the Jaguars 30-24 win over the Seahawks last week. He has at least six targets in all four of his games, and at least eight in each of the last three. Houston has been one of this season’s worst pass defenses, ranking 29th in wide receiver aFPA. Westbrook has to contend with Marqise Lee, but it appears he has reached at least co-equal status with Jacksonville’s nominal No. 1 receiver in four short games.

Juju Smith-Schuster, Steelers (vs. Patriots)

Remember what I just said about this game when discussing Hogan? There’s no bad way to invest in Patriots-Steelers, so long as we’re being realistic. Yes, it would be bad to start Phillip Dorsett or Darrius Heyward-Bey. Smith-Schuster, however, is a fantasy-relevant player, and that makes him a worthy start in a game that could easily play into the 60s. Smith-Schuster was quite in consecutive games before serving a one-game suspension last week, but he scored in three straight before the downturn. If you genuinely considering starting someone in this game, the answer is yes.

Sit

Ted Ginn, Saints (vs. Jets)

I have trouble recommending you sit a player with a substantial role in an offense scoring 28.5 points per game, but Ginn just hasn’t been productive enough to trust this week. He has only five targets and 37 yards over his last two games, and even most of his damage in his 71-yard game the week before that came on the largely meaningless final drive of the Saints 26-20 loss to the Rams. It has been a month since he gave his fantasy owners a solid contribution, and he hasn’t scored a touchdown since the first week of November.

Nelson Agholor, Eagles (at Giants)

Earlier this week, I took a look at the fantasy prospects of all the relevant players in Philadelphia in the wake of Carson Wentz’s ACL tear. You can follow the link for my full breakdown, but Agholor was the one I considered the biggest loser. No player in Philadelphia benefited more from Wentz’s ability to extend plays, and his efficiency on deep balls. With his benefactor out for the year, Agholor will likely struggle to post useful fantasy numbers.

Rishard Matthews, Titans (at 49ers)

If you believe in patterns, you might like Matthews this week. His last four weekly stat lines have been four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown, 5-50-0, 5-113-1, and 3-19-0. That pattern would have him tracking for another solid game this week, but that’s a silly way to make your lineup decisions. I prefer numbers that actually mean something, like the fact that Marcus Mariota has four touchdowns and nine interceptions in his last four five games. Or that the 49ers rank 11th in wide receiver aFPA. In recent weeks, the Niners have held Doug Baldwin and Larry Fitzgerald in check. If Mariota struggles again, so, too, will Matthews.

Mike Wallace, Ravens (at Browns)

Wallace has developed into a nice floor receiver, scoring a touchdown or reaching the 70-yard mark in four of his last five games. So why am I fading him in what seems like a good matchup with the Browns? First, the Browns are actually slightly better than league average in wide receiver aFPA. They shut down Davante Adams until the fourth quarter last week and, in other recent weeks, contained A.J. Green, Marqise Lee, Marvin Jones and Stefon Diggs, with none of those receivers topping 66 yards. Second, no matter the matchup, I have a tough time investing in Baltimore’s passing game. For my money, the low ceiling combined with the modest floor makes Wallace no better than the WR40 this week. Most owners still alive at this stage of the game can do better.

TIGHT ENDS

Start

Jason Witten, Cowboys (at Raiders)

The good news is that Witten has scored in his last two games. The bad news is that those touchdown receptions were his only catch in both contests. Still, he’s a useful weapon in the red zone for Dak Prescott, and the Cowboys are still going to lean on their passing game more than usual with Ezekiel Elliott out for one more week. The Raiders have held tight ends to five touchdowns this season, but only three teams have allowed more yards to the position.

Jared Cook, Raiders (vs. Cowboys)

Both tight ends in Cowboys-Raiders are worth starting in most fantasy leagues. After two straight duds, Cook got back in the good graces of his fantasy owners last week, catching five passes for 75 yards and a touchdown in the Raiders 26-15 loss to the Chiefs. With Amari Cooper likely out again because of his ankle injury, Cook should be in for a heavy does of targets from Derek Carr.

Charles Clay, Bills (vs. Dolphins)

Forget about last week’s snowy mess of a Bills win over the Colts. It was almost impossible to pass in those conditions, making it easy to explain away Clay’s two-catch, 11-yard game. Assuming Tyrod Taylor returns to the starting lineup, Clay will once again project to his safe, low-end TE1 level he has lived at with Taylor under center. For what it’s worth, the Dolphins rank 29th in tight end aFPA, allowing eight touchdowns to the position this season.

Sit

Greg Olsen, Panthers (vs. Packers)

Olsen has limped off the field in both games he has played since returning from a broken bone in his foot. The Panthers are in strong playoff position, so they likely wouldn’t let him go if they weren’t confident in his health, but how can fantasy owners possibly trust him? It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him limited to high-leverage situations, such as third downs and red-zone plays. No matter what, though, it’s too risky to start a player who has a literal zero as his floor in the fantasy playoffs.

Vernon Davis, Redskins (vs. Cardinals)

Davis got back in the end zone last week, but it was merely lipstick on another pig of a day. He caught just two passes for 26 yards, and now has just 41 yards in his last three games. As we’ve said a few times the last few weeks, mostly with respect to Kirk Cousins, all the injuries in the Washington offense have finally caught up to the passing game. Davis is a fine dart throw if you’re desperate, but I’d rather start the players listed above, as well as Eric Ebron and O.J. Howard.

Cameron Brate, Buccaneers (vs. Falcons)

Speaking of Buccaneers tight ends, so much for Jameis Winston’s red-zone love for Brate, huh? Brate had just one target last week, though I guess it’s nice that he hauled in that pass, totaling 11 yards. Tampa Bay’s offense is hard to trust, and Brate’s volume is totally unreliable. Other than that, I can’t see a bad reason to start him.

Fantasy Football Week 15 Start ’Em, Sit ’Em

Vikings quarterback Case Keenum is in the midst of a career season that will almost certainly result in an NFC North championship, and possibly much more. He may not know it, but the "more" could include a surprise fantasy football playoff MVP award. With his play thus far, the emergence of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs as one of the league’s best wide receiver duos, and the Vikings favorable schedule, Keenum should be able to keep the good times rolling all the way through Week 16, helping his owners to fantasy titles.

The Vikings lost to the Panthers last week, but that’s immaterial to Keenum’s fantasy owners. What matters is that he threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 40 more yards, equivalent to a third passing touchdown in standard-scoring leagues. Sure, he threw two interceptions, but those were just blips on an otherwise successful fantasy day. All told, Keenum scored 22.2 points, finishing as the No. 7 quarterback in Week 14. He should bolster his playoff MVP credentials on Sunday.

In Week 15 the Vikings host the Bengals, a team that is wrapping up a disappointing season. Just one week ago the Bengals, playing at home with their slim playoff hopes in the balance, gave up 33 points to Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears. Trubisky enjoyed the best game of his young career, throwing for 271 yards, 8.71 yards per attempt and one touchdown, adding a second score on the ground. After getting torched by an offense that hadn’t done much for the balance of the season, the Bengals fell to 25th against quarterbacks in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points against metric (aFPA).

Put simply, this is a defense Keenum should handle. The Bengals are without Adam Jones, which will make it harder to slow down Thielen and Diggs. They’ve been bad against tight ends all season, ranking 26th in aFPA against the position, and now have an assignment against Kyle Rudolph, one of the more effective second-tier tight ends in the league. The Vikings are favored by 10.5 points and playing at home, both of which are contextual factors that typically work to a quarterback’s advantage. Oddsmakers have installed an over/under of 42 points for the game, which gives the Vikings an implied total of 26.25 points. If the Vikings do indeed hit paydirt three or four times, you can bet Keenum will have a hand in getting them there.

Keenum’s playoff MVP candidacy first appeared on the horizon two weeks ago. His first entry in the game log got his campaign off on the right foot. The second one is almost certain to burnish his case. You want him in your lineup with a berth in your league’s championship on the line.

QUARTERBACKS

Start

Matthew Stafford, Lions (vs. Bears on Saturday)

Stafford played through a hand injury in the Lions win over the Buccaneers last week, throwing for 381 yards, 8.66 YPA, one touchdown and two interceptions. The turnovers hurt, but he looked no worse for wear despite being limited in practice all week. The Bears have been one of the league’s better pass defenses all season, ranking third in quarterback aFPA, but Stafford torched them in Chicago to the tune of 299 yards, 9.65 YPA and two scores in Week 11. Now playing against them at home as a 5.5-point favorite with an implied total of 24.75 points, Stafford should once again throw his way into the QB1 class.

Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers (vs. Titans)

Garoppolo has made two starts with the 49ers, throwing for 637 yards, 9.1 YPA, one touchdown and two interceptions. It has been frustrating to watch the 49ers stall in the red zone with regularity the last two weeks, but it’s encouraging that Garoppolo has helped produce nine trips to the red zone in his two starts. The Titans rate a surprisingly high eighth in quarterback aFPA, but Garoppolo has done nothing the last two weeks to suggest he should be on your bench.

Superflex Special

Blake Bortles, Jaguars (vs. Texans)

This is a pretty easy case to make. We first made it in the Week 15 waiver wire, and followed up on it with our Week 15 streaming options. Bortles has played his best football of the season the last two weeks, throwing for 577 yards, 9.31 YPA and four touchdowns in wins over the Colts and Seahawks. It wasn’t a huge shock to see him carve up the Colts, but the fact that the played so well against Seattle was impressive, even without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor on the field. Bortles draws a Texans team this week ranked 30th in quarterback aFPA. The Texans did shut him down the first time these teams met, but that was way back in Week 1 when both J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus were healthy. Bortles should find his return game with the Texans a whole lot easier.

Sit

Kirk Cousins, Redskins (vs. Cardinals)

Cousins predictably struggled against the Chargers last week, throwing for 151 yards, 5.59 YPA, one touchdown and one interception in the Redskins 30-13 loss. All the injuries and poor performance in Washington is finally getting to Cousins, and the offense has looked much different without Chris Thompson. On his own merit, Cousins is likely one of the 10 or 12 best quarterbacks in the league, but the offense around him isn’t making it possible for him to show off that fact. It’s impossible to trust him in fantasy leagues the rest of the season.

Alex Smith, Chiefs (vs. Chargers)

Smith gets a matchup with that same Chargers defense this week that shut down Cousins last week. Smith was so close to a huge day in Week 14, but he had two touchdowns, both to Travis Kelce, taken off the board—one because Kelce was tackled at the half-yard line, and another on an ineligible receiver downfield penalty that had nothing to do with the play—and a third that Kelce dropped. Smith has looked more like the quarterback he was early in the season since Andy Reid gave playcalling duties to offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, and that should have him on the QB1 radar. This Chargers defense, however, has turned into a quarterback’s nightmare. The Chargers are fourth in quarterback aFPA, they shut Cousins and Dak Prescott in recent weeks, and they held Tom Brady and Carson Wentz below their season averages. Smith has the look more of a mid-tier QB2 rather than a QB1 this week.

Jared Goff, Rams (at Seahawks)

Goff and the Rams deserve a ton of credit for how they’ve turned around the offense this season. If there’s one secret about them, however, it’s that they’ve struggled against the best pass defenses they’ve faced. In three games against the Jaguars, Seahawks and Vikings, Goff combined for 637 yards, 6.07 YPA, one touchdown and two picks. The Seahawks aren’t the same without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, but this will still be a tough test for Goff in Seattle. The Rams are two-point underdogs with an implied total of 22.75 points. I actually like him better than most this week, but he’s still just my QB15. I’d start Bortles and Smith over him, though I do like him better than Cousins, Jameis Winston and the next guy on this list.

Marcus Mariota, Titans (at 49ers)

I used this fact last week, but it’s so good, and it remains a fact, that I’m going to run it back. The last time Mariota threw multiple touchdowns in a game was the same weekend as the Astros World Series parade. In the six games he has played since then, he has thrown for 1,063 yards (212.6 per game), 6.81 YPA, four touchdowns and nine interceptions. The 49ers rank a friendly 27th in quarterback aFPA, but what gives Mariota’s fantasy owners any confidence that he can take advantage of the matchup? A great matchup is one thing, but the players needs to be able to follow through on it. Mariota has shown nothing recently to suggest he can, and word broke earlier this week that he’s dealing with nagging hamstring and ankle issues. Stay away.

RUNNING BACKS

Start

Tevin Coleman, Falcons (at Buccaneers)

I really like this matchup for the Falcons offense, and think we’ll see it produce one of its best games of the season. These teams met late last month, with the Falcons racking up 34 points, 516 total yards and 8.1 yards per play. It was one of the few games this season in which they looked like the 2016 Falcons. Coleman was great in that game, taking over for the injured Devonta Freeman to run for 97 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. He won’t get that same volume this week, but this is simply a bad defense that got worse with Gerald McCoy’s biceps injury last week. You’re going to want to start your Falcons in Week 15.

Jay Ajayi, Eagles (at Giants)

I laid out my case for Ajayi in full in the Week 15 Target in Snap Report. The abridged version is that, even if Nick Foles can deliver league-average quarterback play, the Eagles offense is going to have to change the way it wins games without Carson Wentz. That necessarily means an increased presence for the rushing attack, and that almost certainly leads to something like a workhorse role for Ajayi. Corey Clement will still handle much of the passing game duties, and LeGarrette Blount isn’t going to go away completely, but Ajayi is the one back in Philadelphia capable of being the featured part of an offense. They didn’t need him to be that with a healthy Wentz, but they will with Foles under center.

Samaje Perine, Redskins (vs. Cardinals)

It has been an ugly couple of weeks for Perine, who has 121 yards from scrimmage on 36 touches in his last two games. The production has been disappointingly scant, but the volume remains encouraging. Perine brings a 15-touch floor into a game with the Cardinals and their league-average defense against running backs for fantasy purposes. The Redskins are 4.5-point favorites at home in this one. If they are able to produce a script that plays to that spread, Perine is going to go north of 20 touches in a game his team wins. That’s a bet I want to make.

Latavius Murray, Vikings (vs. Bengals)

Murray delivered his first dud last week in nearly two months, running for 14 yards on nine carries in the Vikings 31-24 loss to the Panthers. As well as Murray had played leading up to that game, we knew he wasn’t a back immune to a bad game script, and he was finally saddled with one last week. That shouldn’t be the case this week with the Vikings laying 10.5 points against the Bengals at home. Not only should Murray get plenty of volume, but he’ll also enjoy a great matchup against a Cincinnati defense ranked 30th in running back aFPA. Jordan Howard ran all over the Bengals for 147 yards and two touchdowns last week, while Le’Veon Bell totaled 182 yards from scrimmage and a score against them in Week 13. Murray should add to their recent woes.

Sit

DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, Titans (at 49ers)

You’ll notice a theme in the sit section for running backs. Many of the purer timeshares in the league are in bad spots this week. It starts in Tennessee, where the Titans can’t seem to get out of their own way. Murray has rushed for more than four yards per carry once in his last eight games, while picking up fewer than three yards per carry three times in that same span. Henry, meanwhile, has been more effective on a per-carry basis, but has had 10 carries in only three of his last six games. In other words, the Titans have one inefficient back, and one back who doesn’t get enough volume to be a reliable fantasy play. The 49ers run defense has been better lately, holding Jordan Howard and Lamar Miller to a combined 91 yards on 30 carries the last two weeks.

Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, Bengals (at Vikings)

Mixon is expected to return this week after missing the Bengals Week 14 loss to the Bears because of a concussion. Bernard looked good in his stead, racking up 226 yards on 32 touches the last two weeks. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor hasn’t shown much inclination to give two backs significant work in the same game, though that could change given Mixon’s injury status. If it does, it’ll be hard to trust either with just half of the backfield touches. If it doesn’t, it still won’t make Mixon a worthy fantasy starter against a Minnesota defense ranked sixth in running back aFPA. Jonathan Stewart got going against the Vikings last week at least in part because the Panthers are good enough to hang with the Vikings. The Bengals are not, especially in Minnesota.

Peyton Barber and Doug Martin, Buccaneers (vs. Falcons)

If anything has been made clear over the last few weeks in the Buccaneers offense, it’s that Barber needs to get more touches. He has brought life to an otherwise moribund backfield, finding success where Martin has failed. At the same time, Dirk Koetter has made it painfully clear that he isn’t going to abandon Martin completely. That means fantasy owners are stuck with a split backfield in a mediocre offense. A player in such a backfield isn’t one you want to back, especially in a game where his team is a six-point underdog.

Kerwynn Williams, Cardinals (at Redskins)

Adrian Peterson has missed the last two games because of a neck injury, and it appears he’s headed for his third straight inactive week. Williams has started in his place, running for 170 yards on 36 carries. He’s dealing with a minor rib injury that isn’t supposed to compromise him on Sunday, but he remains a risky play, even at his low expectations. The Cardinals have to keep it close with the Redskins for Williams to post even low-end RB2 numbers, and this is a game that could get out of hand. On top of that, the Cardinals will be playing without tackle Jared Veldheer and guard Earl Watford, both of whom suffered ankle injuries last week.

?

WIDE RECEIVERS

Start

Jordy Nelson, Packers (at Panthers)

In four games with Aaron Rodgers this season, Nelson has 19 catches for 230 yards and six touchdowns. In eight without him, including the game in which Rodgers broke his collarbone, Nelson has 18 catches for 213 yards and zero scores. Guess who’s back? Back again? With Rodgers back under center for the Packers this week, there’s no reason to expect Nelson’s struggles to continue. It’s true that he’s touchdown-dependent, but that was basically true last year and for the first month of this season, and he was still an unquestioned WR1. I’m not ready to call him that, but I am ready to say he should be an easy starter in Week 15.

Marquise Goodwin, 49ers (vs. Titans)

The 49ers have played five games since placing Pierre Garcon on IR. In those five games, Goodwin has averaged 86.8 yards, with his low mark at 68 yards. In two games with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm, Goodwin has 14 catches on 20 targets for 205 yards. His 16-game, Garcon-less pace is 67.2 catches for 1,388.8 yards. His 16-game Garcon-less, Garoppolo-starting pace is 112 catches for 1,640 yards. Starting Goodwin should be an easy call for the rest of the season.

Chris Hogan, Patriots (at Steelers)

Hogan returned to the Patriots last week after missing four games, and five total weeks, with a shoulder injury. He caught one of five targets for one yard, but if you’re still alive last week’s stat line doesn’t matter that much. What does matter is that he was able to play a standard snap rate and didn’t aggravate the injury. Hogan was one of the most productive receivers in the first half of the season, hauling in 33 passes for 438 yards and five scores in his first eight games. The over/under on Patriots-Steelers is 54 points, and the Patriots are favored by three despite being on the road. There won’t be a bad way to get invested in this game.

Dede Westbrook, Jaguars (vs. Texans)

Westbrook has slowly but surely built on his performance with each passing week since making his NFL debut in Week 11. The rookie out of Oklahoma caught five of eight targets for 81 yards and a touchdown in the Jaguars 30-24 win over the Seahawks last week. He has at least six targets in all four of his games, and at least eight in each of the last three. Houston has been one of this season’s worst pass defenses, ranking 29th in wide receiver aFPA. Westbrook has to contend with Marqise Lee, but it appears he has reached at least co-equal status with Jacksonville’s nominal No. 1 receiver in four short games.

Juju Smith-Schuster, Steelers (vs. Patriots)

Remember what I just said about this game when discussing Hogan? There’s no bad way to invest in Patriots-Steelers, so long as we’re being realistic. Yes, it would be bad to start Phillip Dorsett or Darrius Heyward-Bey. Smith-Schuster, however, is a fantasy-relevant player, and that makes him a worthy start in a game that could easily play into the 60s. Smith-Schuster was quite in consecutive games before serving a one-game suspension last week, but he scored in three straight before the downturn. If you genuinely considering starting someone in this game, the answer is yes.

Sit

Ted Ginn, Saints (vs. Jets)

I have trouble recommending you sit a player with a substantial role in an offense scoring 28.5 points per game, but Ginn just hasn’t been productive enough to trust this week. He has only five targets and 37 yards over his last two games, and even most of his damage in his 71-yard game the week before that came on the largely meaningless final drive of the Saints 26-20 loss to the Rams. It has been a month since he gave his fantasy owners a solid contribution, and he hasn’t scored a touchdown since the first week of November.

Nelson Agholor, Eagles (at Giants)

Earlier this week, I took a look at the fantasy prospects of all the relevant players in Philadelphia in the wake of Carson Wentz’s ACL tear. You can follow the link for my full breakdown, but Agholor was the one I considered the biggest loser. No player in Philadelphia benefited more from Wentz’s ability to extend plays, and his efficiency on deep balls. With his benefactor out for the year, Agholor will likely struggle to post useful fantasy numbers.

Rishard Matthews, Titans (at 49ers)

If you believe in patterns, you might like Matthews this week. His last four weekly stat lines have been four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown, 5-50-0, 5-113-1, and 3-19-0. That pattern would have him tracking for another solid game this week, but that’s a silly way to make your lineup decisions. I prefer numbers that actually mean something, like the fact that Marcus Mariota has four touchdowns and nine interceptions in his last four five games. Or that the 49ers rank 11th in wide receiver aFPA. In recent weeks, the Niners have held Doug Baldwin and Larry Fitzgerald in check. If Mariota struggles again, so, too, will Matthews.

Mike Wallace, Ravens (at Browns)

Wallace has developed into a nice floor receiver, scoring a touchdown or reaching the 70-yard mark in four of his last five games. So why am I fading him in what seems like a good matchup with the Browns? First, the Browns are actually slightly better than league average in wide receiver aFPA. They shut down Davante Adams until the fourth quarter last week and, in other recent weeks, contained A.J. Green, Marqise Lee, Marvin Jones and Stefon Diggs, with none of those receivers topping 66 yards. Second, no matter the matchup, I have a tough time investing in Baltimore’s passing game. For my money, the low ceiling combined with the modest floor makes Wallace no better than the WR40 this week. Most owners still alive at this stage of the game can do better.

TIGHT ENDS

Start

Jason Witten, Cowboys (at Raiders)

The good news is that Witten has scored in his last two games. The bad news is that those touchdown receptions were his only catch in both contests. Still, he’s a useful weapon in the red zone for Dak Prescott, and the Cowboys are still going to lean on their passing game more than usual with Ezekiel Elliott out for one more week. The Raiders have held tight ends to five touchdowns this season, but only three teams have allowed more yards to the position.

Jared Cook, Raiders (vs. Cowboys)

Both tight ends in Cowboys-Raiders are worth starting in most fantasy leagues. After two straight duds, Cook got back in the good graces of his fantasy owners last week, catching five passes for 75 yards and a touchdown in the Raiders 26-15 loss to the Chiefs. With Amari Cooper likely out again because of his ankle injury, Cook should be in for a heavy does of targets from Derek Carr.

Charles Clay, Bills (vs. Dolphins)

Forget about last week’s snowy mess of a Bills win over the Colts. It was almost impossible to pass in those conditions, making it easy to explain away Clay’s two-catch, 11-yard game. Assuming Tyrod Taylor returns to the starting lineup, Clay will once again project to his safe, low-end TE1 level he has lived at with Taylor under center. For what it’s worth, the Dolphins rank 29th in tight end aFPA, allowing eight touchdowns to the position this season.

Sit

Greg Olsen, Panthers (vs. Packers)

Olsen has limped off the field in both games he has played since returning from a broken bone in his foot. The Panthers are in strong playoff position, so they likely wouldn’t let him go if they weren’t confident in his health, but how can fantasy owners possibly trust him? It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him limited to high-leverage situations, such as third downs and red-zone plays. No matter what, though, it’s too risky to start a player who has a literal zero as his floor in the fantasy playoffs.

Vernon Davis, Redskins (vs. Cardinals)

Davis got back in the end zone last week, but it was merely lipstick on another pig of a day. He caught just two passes for 26 yards, and now has just 41 yards in his last three games. As we’ve said a few times the last few weeks, mostly with respect to Kirk Cousins, all the injuries in the Washington offense have finally caught up to the passing game. Davis is a fine dart throw if you’re desperate, but I’d rather start the players listed above, as well as Eric Ebron and O.J. Howard.

Cameron Brate, Buccaneers (vs. Falcons)

Speaking of Buccaneers tight ends, so much for Jameis Winston’s red-zone love for Brate, huh? Brate had just one target last week, though I guess it’s nice that he hauled in that pass, totaling 11 yards. Tampa Bay’s offense is hard to trust, and Brate’s volume is totally unreliable. Other than that, I can’t see a bad reason to start him.

NFL Week 15: Playoff Scenarios, Wild Card Picture

The NFL playoff picture is starting to fill itself out with the Pittsburgh Steelers winning the AFC North Division and the Philadelphia Eagles winning the NFC East Division. Other division champions will be determined next week.

The 49ers, Bears, Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers, Colts, Giants and Redskins have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Here's a quick look at playoff picture and scenarios going into Week 15. (These only cover scenarios for Week 15 games.)

Steelers Home Field Advantage

In order for Pittsburgh to lock up home field advantage for the AFC, they must beat the Patriots and the Jaguars must lose or tie against the Texans.

Steelers First Round Bye

The Steelers can clinch a first round bye with a win or with a tie combined with a Jaguars loss.

Eagles Home Field Advantage

In order for Philadelphia to lock up home field advantage for the NFC, they must beat the Giants and the Vikings must lose to the Bengals.

Patriots AFC East Title

In order for the Patriots to lock up the AFC East, they just need to beat the Steelers or the Bills must lose to the Dolphins.

Patriots Playoff Berth

The Patriots can clinch a playoff berth simply with a Ravens loss or tie.

Jaguars Playoff Berth

The Jaguars can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Texans. They can clinch with a tie if Buffalo loses or ties or Baltimore loses or ties. The Jaguars can also clinch a playoff berth if the Bills lose to the Dolphins and the Ravens lose to the Browns, or if the Ravens lose and the Chiefs and Chargers don't tie.

Vikings NFC North Title

Minnesota can clinch the NFC North title with a win over Cincinnati. They can also clinch the division title with a loss by Detroit to Chicago as well as Green Bay losing to Carolina.

Vikings Playoff Berth

Minnesota can clinch a playoff spot under five scenarios. If the Seahawks, Falcons and Saints lose, they're in. They also qualify if the Seahawks, Falcons and Panthers lose. Other ways to qualify: Losses by the Seahawks and Falcons combined with a Lions loss or tie; losses by the Seahawks and Saints combined with a Lions loss or tie and a Falcons tie; and losses by the Seahawks, Saints and Panthers combined with a Falcons tie.

Rams Playoff Berth

The Rams can clinch a playoff berth with a win combined with a Lions loss or tie, Packers loss or tie, Saints loss and Falcons loss.

Wild Card Race

The following teams remain in the running for the AFC Wild Card race: Titans (8–5), Bills (7–6), Ravens (7–6), Chargers (7–6), Raiders (6–7), Dolphins (6–7), Jets (5–8), Bengals (5–8) and Texans (4–9).

The following teams remain in the running for the NFC Wild Card race: Panthers (9–4), Falcons (8–5), Seahawks (8–5), Lions (7–6), Packers (7–6), Cowboys (7–6) and Cardinals (6–7).

How Tom Savage's Concussion Should Have Been Handled

How was Tom Savage allowed to return to the field so soon after suffering a concussion Sunday against the 49ers? The NFL announced Monday it had launched an investigation to answer that question, and to see if the established procedure for evaluating players during a game could be strengthened. Which raises an additional question: What exactly is that process again?

When a player receives impact to the head, he, a teammate, coach, NFL official, trainer, spotter, or independent neurological expert can remove him from play to conduct a sideline exam. From there, the player is either returned to play, sent to the locker room for further testing, or immediately placed in the concussion protocol, depending on the assessment by the head team trainer (who is assisted by an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant). It's up to them—not any coaches—to determine whether a player is fit to play. They can use just about any evidence in making their ruling, including a player's speech pattern, his gait, his eye movement, his response to a set series of questions and—notably in this case—video review of the hit in question.

Video of Savage squirming after hitting the ground (diagnosed as a seizure by uneducated armchair neurologists, but more likely an instance of fencing response, an instinctual reaction to head trauma) was the main fuel for outrage on Sunday. Why didn't it prevent medical personnel from allowing Savage to re-enter the game and play three more downs? Two trained spotters in the booth have access to the TV feed, as does the sideline medical staff (though replays can't be viewed by coaches, for competitive strategy purposes). However, Texans coach Bill O'Brien intimated that head Houston trainer Geoff Kaplan had not seen the hit and Savage's reaction before making his diagnosis; O'Brien said Monday, "With benefit of seeing video . . . I would have never let that player back in the game and I don't believe that Geoff Kaplan would have allowed that player back in the game." So maybe that's where the process broke down in this case. Hopefully the league investigation provides answers.

The way to avoid that type of mistake could be to flip the testing paradigm around. Rather than having players re-enter the game unless they show obvious signs of concussion, doctors could keep them out until they are sure the player is healthy (maybe for a minimum of a quarter), allowing time for further evaluation of the player as well as the play that forced the testing. But teams and players will have to decide whether they can live with key players potentially staying on the sideline before it is revealed that they were not, in fact, concussed.

Not getting this newsletter in your inbox yet? Join The MMQB’s Morning Huddle.

HOT READS

NOW ON THE MMQB: Conor Orr stacks up the NFC playoff race post-Wentz ... Andy Benoit studies the Steelers without Ryan Shazier ... Peter King hands out awards ... and more.

LATER TODAY ON THE MMQB: Our new Power Rankings poll ... Greg Bishop shows how painful an NFL Sunday is ... Jenny Vrentas recaps a week with the Eagles ... and more. Stay tuned.

PRESS COVERAGE

1. Dolphins 27, Patriots 20. With Rob Gronkowski suspended, the Dolphins held the visiting Patriots from converting a single third down (0-for-11). At 6-7, Miami is still in the wild-card hunt, while New England now heads to Pittsburgh, trailing the Steelers in the race for the conference's top seed.

2. Carson Wentz had a message for fans after having his season ended by a torn ACL. “I promise,” he said on Twitter. “This will not stop me and I will come back stronger than ever.” Stacey Burling explains what's in store for Wentz now.

3. During his first media availability since suffering a severe leg injury against the Saints, Bears tight end Zach Miller said he's undergone eight surgeries on that leg now. He bent it for the first time last Friday . . . painfully. He's not sure if he'll ever play football again; for now he's killing time playing Madden.

4. The Seahawks may have avoided suspensions for their actions at the end of Sunday's game, but that doesn't mean Pete Carroll is happy about them. “Everybody is remorseful,’’ Carroll said Monday. “We don’t want to play like that. We don’t want to look like that, ever.’’

5. With Wentz out of the picture, the Vikings suddenly have a clearer path to the Super Bowl. But will offensive line instability, which doomed them after a 5-0 start a year ago, cost them again?

6. The Lions are in a weird spot. At 7-6 with the Bears and Bengals next on the schedule, they're still alive in the playoff hunt. At the same time, Jim Caldwell seems to be coaching for his job. Despite that, he deflected credit for Detroit's resiliency of late.

7. In Esquire, Richard Sherman gave a wide-ranging interview. On the topic of head injuries, he said, "the league hasn’t done much outside of appeasing public opinion." And that was just the second question.

8. Ben McAdoo may be gone, but the chaos continues in East Rutherford. The latest scandal is Eli Apple tweeting (including retweeting a Cowboys highlight) during Sunday's loss. Want the Giants' 2017 in a sentence? "Spagnuolo said he was not aware of the content of the tweets."

9. Big news for non-Verizon customers: you could be able to watch local and national NFL games on your phone as soon as January.

10. Meet the Austin Yellow Jackets, Texas's Only Female Football Team Coached Solely by Women.

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let us know here.

THE KICKER

A week after Eli Manning was benched, another historic streak came to an end.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

How Tom Savage's Concussion Should Have Been Handled

How was Tom Savage allowed to return to the field so soon after suffering a concussion Sunday against the 49ers? The NFL announced Monday it had launched an investigation to answer that question, and to see if the established procedure for evaluating players during a game could be strengthened. Which raises an additional question: What exactly is that process again?

When a player receives impact to the head, he, a teammate, coach, NFL official, trainer, spotter, or independent neurological expert can remove him from play to conduct a sideline exam. From there, the player is either returned to play, sent to the locker room for further testing, or immediately placed in the concussion protocol, depending on the assessment by the head team trainer (who is assisted by an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant). It's up to them—not any coaches—to determine whether a player is fit to play. They can use just about any evidence in making their ruling, including a player's speech pattern, his gait, his eye movement, his response to a set series of questions and—notably in this case—video review of the hit in question.

Video of Savage squirming after hitting the ground (diagnosed as a seizure by uneducated armchair neurologists, but more likely an instance of fencing response, an instinctual reaction to head trauma) was the main fuel for outrage on Sunday. Why didn't it prevent medical personnel from allowing Savage to re-enter the game and play three more downs? Two trained spotters in the booth have access to the TV feed, as does the sideline medical staff (though replays can't be viewed by coaches, for competitive strategy purposes). However, Texans coach Bill O'Brien intimated that head Houston trainer Geoff Kaplan had not seen the hit and Savage's reaction before making his diagnosis; O'Brien said Monday, "With benefit of seeing video . . . I would have never let that player back in the game and I don't believe that Geoff Kaplan would have allowed that player back in the game." So maybe that's where the process broke down in this case. Hopefully the league investigation provides answers.

The way to avoid that type of mistake could be to flip the testing paradigm around. Rather than having players re-enter the game unless they show obvious signs of concussion, doctors could keep them out until they are sure the player is healthy (maybe for a minimum of a quarter), allowing time for further evaluation of the player as well as the play that forced the testing. But teams and players will have to decide whether they can live with key players potentially staying on the sideline before it is revealed that they were not, in fact, concussed.

Not getting this newsletter in your inbox yet? Join The MMQB’s Morning Huddle.

HOT READS

NOW ON THE MMQB: Conor Orr stacks up the NFC playoff race post-Wentz ... Andy Benoit studies the Steelers without Ryan Shazier ... Peter King hands out awards ... and more.

LATER TODAY ON THE MMQB: Our new Power Rankings poll ... Greg Bishop shows how painful an NFL Sunday is ... Jenny Vrentas recaps a week with the Eagles ... and more. Stay tuned.

PRESS COVERAGE

1. Dolphins 27, Patriots 20. With Rob Gronkowski suspended, the Dolphins held the visiting Patriots from converting a single third down (0-for-11). At 6-7, Miami is still in the wild-card hunt, while New England now heads to Pittsburgh, trailing the Steelers in the race for the conference's top seed.

2. Carson Wentz had a message for fans after having his season ended by a torn ACL. “I promise,” he said on Twitter. “This will not stop me and I will come back stronger than ever.” Stacey Burling explains what's in store for Wentz now.

3. During his first media availability since suffering a severe leg injury against the Saints, Bears tight end Zach Miller said he's undergone eight surgeries on that leg now. He bent it for the first time last Friday . . . painfully. He's not sure if he'll ever play football again; for now he's killing time playing Madden.

4. The Seahawks may have avoided suspensions for their actions at the end of Sunday's game, but that doesn't mean Pete Carroll is happy about them. “Everybody is remorseful,’’ Carroll said Monday. “We don’t want to play like that. We don’t want to look like that, ever.’’

5. With Wentz out of the picture, the Vikings suddenly have a clearer path to the Super Bowl. But will offensive line instability, which doomed them after a 5-0 start a year ago, cost them again?

6. The Lions are in a weird spot. At 7-6 with the Bears and Bengals next on the schedule, they're still alive in the playoff hunt. At the same time, Jim Caldwell seems to be coaching for his job. Despite that, he deflected credit for Detroit's resiliency of late.

7. In Esquire, Richard Sherman gave a wide-ranging interview. On the topic of head injuries, he said, "the league hasn’t done much outside of appeasing public opinion." And that was just the second question.

8. Ben McAdoo may be gone, but the chaos continues in East Rutherford. The latest scandal is Eli Apple tweeting (including retweeting a Cowboys highlight) during Sunday's loss. Want the Giants' 2017 in a sentence? "Spagnuolo said he was not aware of the content of the tweets."

9. Big news for non-Verizon customers: you could be able to watch local and national NFL games on your phone as soon as January.

10. Meet the Austin Yellow Jackets, Texas's Only Female Football Team Coached Solely by Women.

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let us know here.

THE KICKER

A week after Eli Manning was benched, another historic streak came to an end.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

How Tom Savage's Concussion Should Have Been Handled

How was Tom Savage allowed to return to the field so soon after suffering a concussion Sunday against the 49ers? The NFL announced Monday it had launched an investigation to answer that question, and to see if the established procedure for evaluating players during a game could be strengthened. Which raises an additional question: What exactly is that process again?

When a player receives impact to the head, he, a teammate, coach, NFL official, trainer, spotter, or independent neurological expert can remove him from play to conduct a sideline exam. From there, the player is either returned to play, sent to the locker room for further testing, or immediately placed in the concussion protocol, depending on the assessment by the head team trainer (who is assisted by an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant). It's up to them—not any coaches—to determine whether a player is fit to play. They can use just about any evidence in making their ruling, including a player's speech pattern, his gait, his eye movement, his response to a set series of questions and—notably in this case—video review of the hit in question.

Video of Savage squirming after hitting the ground (diagnosed as a seizure by uneducated armchair neurologists, but more likely an instance of fencing response, an instinctual reaction to head trauma) was the main fuel for outrage on Sunday. Why didn't it prevent medical personnel from allowing Savage to re-enter the game and play three more downs? Two trained spotters in the booth have access to the TV feed, as does the sideline medical staff (though replays can't be viewed by coaches, for competitive strategy purposes). However, Texans coach Bill O'Brien intimated that head Houston trainer Geoff Kaplan had not seen the hit and Savage's reaction before making his diagnosis; O'Brien said Monday, "With benefit of seeing video . . . I would have never let that player back in the game and I don't believe that Geoff Kaplan would have allowed that player back in the game." So maybe that's where the process broke down in this case. Hopefully the league investigation provides answers.

The way to avoid that type of mistake could be to flip the testing paradigm around. Rather than having players re-enter the game unless they show obvious signs of concussion, doctors could keep them out until they are sure the player is healthy (maybe for a minimum of a quarter), allowing time for further evaluation of the player as well as the play that forced the testing. But teams and players will have to decide whether they can live with key players potentially staying on the sideline before it is revealed that they were not, in fact, concussed.

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HOT READS

NOW ON THE MMQB: Conor Orr stacks up the NFC playoff race post-Wentz ... Andy Benoit studies the Steelers without Ryan Shazier ... Peter King hands out awards ... and more.

LATER TODAY ON THE MMQB: Our new Power Rankings poll ... Greg Bishop shows how painful an NFL Sunday is ... Jenny Vrentas recaps a week with the Eagles ... and more. Stay tuned.

PRESS COVERAGE

1. Dolphins 27, Patriots 20. With Rob Gronkowski suspended, the Dolphins held the visiting Patriots from converting a single third down (0-for-11). At 6-7, Miami is still in the wild-card hunt, while New England now heads to Pittsburgh, trailing the Steelers in the race for the conference's top seed.

2. Carson Wentz had a message for fans after having his season ended by a torn ACL. “I promise,” he said on Twitter. “This will not stop me and I will come back stronger than ever.” Stacey Burling explains what's in store for Wentz now.

3. During his first media availability since suffering a severe leg injury against the Saints, Bears tight end Zach Miller said he's undergone eight surgeries on that leg now. He bent it for the first time last Friday . . . painfully. He's not sure if he'll ever play football again; for now he's killing time playing Madden.

4. The Seahawks may have avoided suspensions for their actions at the end of Sunday's game, but that doesn't mean Pete Carroll is happy about them. “Everybody is remorseful,’’ Carroll said Monday. “We don’t want to play like that. We don’t want to look like that, ever.’’

5. With Wentz out of the picture, the Vikings suddenly have a clearer path to the Super Bowl. But will offensive line instability, which doomed them after a 5-0 start a year ago, cost them again?

6. The Lions are in a weird spot. At 7-6 with the Bears and Bengals next on the schedule, they're still alive in the playoff hunt. At the same time, Jim Caldwell seems to be coaching for his job. Despite that, he deflected credit for Detroit's resiliency of late.

7. In Esquire, Richard Sherman gave a wide-ranging interview. On the topic of head injuries, he said, "the league hasn’t done much outside of appeasing public opinion." And that was just the second question.

8. Ben McAdoo may be gone, but the chaos continues in East Rutherford. The latest scandal is Eli Apple tweeting (including retweeting a Cowboys highlight) during Sunday's loss. Want the Giants' 2017 in a sentence? "Spagnuolo said he was not aware of the content of the tweets."

9. Big news for non-Verizon customers: you could be able to watch local and national NFL games on your phone as soon as January.

10. Meet the Austin Yellow Jackets, Texas's Only Female Football Team Coached Solely by Women.

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let us know here.

THE KICKER

A week after Eli Manning was benched, another historic streak came to an end.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

Jags Prove It, Seahawks Lose It

Two Seahawks players were ejected and a suspension might be coming for defensive lineman Michael Bennett after he helped instigate a final-minute brawl in a 30-24 loss to the Jaguars. With Jacksonville in victory formation, Bennett rolled into the legs of center Brandon Linder before taking him to the ground. Sheldon Richardson was ejected for throwing a punch in the following tussle, and fellow lineman Quinton Jefferson was kicked out a play later after more aggressive posturing. On his way out of the stadium, he attempted to climb into the stands after twice nearly being hit with an item from the crowd. Security ultimately restrained him.

Asked about what transpired, Bennett said, "I don't have to explain myself," but in the other locker room, Jaguars QB Blake Bortles had a theory. “I think it’s a little bit of people aren’t used to getting beat like that by the Jaguars,” Bortles said. “We just beat the crap out of you for 60 minutes."

He's certainly right on that first point. Now 9-4, Jacksonville is guaranteed to finish with its first winning season since 2007 (when running back Leonard Fournette was in sixth grade).

Seattle, meanwhile, is suddenly in a perilous position. At 8-5 with a head-to-head loss to current six seed Atlanta, it has less than a 60 percent chance of making the playoffs according to FiveThirtyEight. And if Sunday's dirty play—which was reminiscent of the team's unsportsmanlike end to its Super Bowl XLIX loss—leads to suspensions (as I'd expect given the league's recent punishments), it would further damage the Seahawks' chances as they face the division rival Rams next.

If this turns out to have been the succession of the NFL's next dominant defense, it only makes sense it was ugly.

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HOT READS

NOW ON THE MMQB: Jenny Vrentas chronicled the Eagles' pyrrhic victory in L.A. ... Peter King looks at the AFC West playoff race ... Conor Orr tries to freak out ... and more.

LATER TODAY ON THE MMQB: Andy Benoit studies the Steelers without Ryan Shazier and previews Monday Night Football ... Orr looks at the week ahead ... and more. Stay tuned.

PRESS COVERAGE

1. Eagles 43, Rams 35. Philadelphia took another step towards claiming the NFC's top seed, but more importantly, they may have lost Carson Wentz. Wentz was hit by two defenders while diving into the end zone (the play was called back), and after finishing the drive with a TD pass, walked off the field. Initial reports indicated he may have suffered damage to his ACL. We should find out more Monday.

2. Steelers 39, Ravens 38. Pittsburgh came back from 11 down in the fourth quarter thanks to 506 yards from Ben Roethlisberger. Thirty-four of those yards came on a pass to Antonio Brown with 1:08 left to set up the game-deciding kick. Afterwards, the Steelers FaceTimed with Ryan Shazier, who remains hospitalized.

3. Panthers 31, Vikings 24. A rejuvenated Jonathan Stewart (103 yards, three touchdowns) helped Carolina snap Minnesota's eight-game winning streak. The Panthers are now tied with the Saints atop the NFC South, though New Orleans owns the tiebreaker after sweeping the home-and-home.

4. Chiefs 26, Raiders 15. Kansas City is back (maybe)! Kareem Hunt found the end zone for the first time since September, but more importantly the Chiefs defense looked like its early-season self, holding Oakland to 268 yards to keep pace with the Chargers in the AFC West. They face each other Saturday.

5. Packers 27, Browns 21 (OT). Cleveland led by 14 in the fourth. Then the Browns were up seven with three minutes to play. But Trevor Davis returned a punt 65 yards for Green Bay to set up a tying score with 17 seconds left. In overtime, DeShone Kizer was hit as he threw, leading to an interception after Cleveland started with the ball. Three minutes later, Davante Adams was in the end zone for the second time Sunday, and the Browns were 0-13 for the second consecutive year.

?

6. Bills 13, Colts 7 (OT). Lake-effect snow was the big winner in Buffalo, blanketing New Era Field and eliminating sightlines. That turned the game into a battle of running backs, with LeSean McCoy (156 yards, one touchdown) besting Frank Gore (130 yards) and scoring the game-winner from 21 yards out with 1:33 left in overtime.

7. Chargers 30, Washington 13. A dominant performance bolsters L.A.'s case as possibly the scariest AFC team come January. It outgained Washington, 488-201.

8. Lions 24, Buccaneers 21. Detroit and Tampa Bay combined for eight turnovers, but Matthew Stafford salvaged the day with a late drive, concluding in a Matt Prater 46-yarder with 20 seconds remaining.

9. Cowboys 30, Giants 10. In his return, Eli Manning threw the ball 46 times with less-than-lovable results (228 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions). Dak Prescott meanwhile had 332 yards and three scores.

10. Broncos 23, Jets 0. 35-9 defeat in Miami one week, 23-0 romp the next. With that, Denver's longest losing streak since joining the NFL in 1970 is over.

11. Cardinals 12, Titans 7. Four Phil Dawson field goals bested a feeble Tennessee offense playing without Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan. The Titans now fall a game behind Jacksonville, with games against the Rams and those Jaguars looming.

12. 49ers 26, Texans 16. Bitcoin investors are sad they didn't buy Jimmy Garoppolo stock at this point. The San Francisco QB led the team to a second straight road victory, this time tallying a career-high 334 yards. On the other side, Tom Savage was allowed to briefly re-enter the game before eventually being taken off the field for concussion symptoms.

13. Bears 33, Bengals 7. Mitchell Trubisky and Jordan Howard—Chicago's backfield of the future—showed promise late in a lost season. Howard had 147 yards and two touchdowns; Trubisky completed 78 percent of his passes.

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let us know here.

THE KICKER

Before the Adam Vinatieri's game-tying kick, the Colts' special teams unit did some kicking themselves.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

Jags Prove It, Seahawks Lose It

Two Seahawks players were ejected and a suspension might be coming for defensive lineman Michael Bennett after he helped instigate a final-minute brawl in a 30-24 loss to the Jaguars. With Jacksonville in victory formation, Bennett rolled into the legs of center Brandon Linder before taking him to the ground. Sheldon Richardson was ejected for throwing a punch in the following tussle, and fellow lineman Quinton Jefferson was kicked out a play later after more aggressive posturing. On his way out of the stadium, he attempted to climb into the stands after twice nearly being hit with an item from the crowd. Security ultimately restrained him.

Asked about what transpired, Bennett said, "I don't have to explain myself," but in the other locker room, Jaguars QB Blake Bortles had a theory. “I think it’s a little bit of people aren’t used to getting beat like that by the Jaguars,” Bortles said. “We just beat the crap out of you for 60 minutes."

He's certainly right on that first point. Now 9-4, Jacksonville is guaranteed to finish with its first winning season since 2007 (when running back Leonard Fournette was in sixth grade).

Seattle, meanwhile, is suddenly in a perilous position. At 8-5 with a head-to-head loss to current six seed Atlanta, it has less than a 60 percent chance of making the playoffs according to FiveThirtyEight. And if Sunday's dirty play—which was reminiscent of the team's unsportsmanlike end to its Super Bowl XLIX loss—leads to suspensions (as I'd expect given the league's recent punishments), it would further damage the Seahawks' chances as they face the division rival Rams next.

If this turns out to have been the succession of the NFL's next dominant defense, it only makes sense it was ugly.

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HOT READS

NOW ON THE MMQB: Jenny Vrentas chronicled the Eagles' pyrrhic victory in L.A. ... Peter King looks at the AFC West playoff race ... Conor Orr tries to freak out ... and more.

LATER TODAY ON THE MMQB: Andy Benoit studies the Steelers without Ryan Shazier and previews Monday Night Football ... Orr looks at the week ahead ... and more. Stay tuned.

PRESS COVERAGE

1. Eagles 43, Rams 35. Philadelphia took another step towards claiming the NFC's top seed, but more importantly, they may have lost Carson Wentz. Wentz was hit by two defenders while diving into the end zone (the play was called back), and after finishing the drive with a TD pass, walked off the field. Initial reports indicated he may have suffered damage to his ACL. We should find out more Monday.

2. Steelers 39, Ravens 38. Pittsburgh came back from 11 down in the fourth quarter thanks to 506 yards from Ben Roethlisberger. Thirty-four of those yards came on a pass to Antonio Brown with 1:08 left to set up the game-deciding kick. Afterwards, the Steelers FaceTimed with Ryan Shazier, who remains hospitalized.

3. Panthers 31, Vikings 24. A rejuvenated Jonathan Stewart (103 yards, three touchdowns) helped Carolina snap Minnesota's eight-game winning streak. The Panthers are now tied with the Saints atop the NFC South, though New Orleans owns the tiebreaker after sweeping the home-and-home.

4. Chiefs 26, Raiders 15. Kansas City is back (maybe)! Kareem Hunt found the end zone for the first time since September, but more importantly the Chiefs defense looked like its early-season self, holding Oakland to 268 yards to keep pace with the Chargers in the AFC West. They face each other Saturday.

5. Packers 27, Browns 21 (OT). Cleveland led by 14 in the fourth. Then the Browns were up seven with three minutes to play. But Trevor Davis returned a punt 65 yards for Green Bay to set up a tying score with 17 seconds left. In overtime, DeShone Kizer was hit as he threw, leading to an interception after Cleveland started with the ball. Three minutes later, Davante Adams was in the end zone for the second time Sunday, and the Browns were 0-13 for the second consecutive year.

?

6. Bills 13, Colts 7 (OT). Lake-effect snow was the big winner in Buffalo, blanketing New Era Field and eliminating sightlines. That turned the game into a battle of running backs, with LeSean McCoy (156 yards, one touchdown) besting Frank Gore (130 yards) and scoring the game-winner from 21 yards out with 1:33 left in overtime.

7. Chargers 30, Washington 13. A dominant performance bolsters L.A.'s case as possibly the scariest AFC team come January. It outgained Washington, 488-201.

8. Lions 24, Buccaneers 21. Detroit and Tampa Bay combined for eight turnovers, but Matthew Stafford salvaged the day with a late drive, concluding in a Matt Prater 46-yarder with 20 seconds remaining.

9. Cowboys 30, Giants 10. In his return, Eli Manning threw the ball 46 times with less-than-lovable results (228 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions). Dak Prescott meanwhile had 332 yards and three scores.

10. Broncos 23, Jets 0. 35-9 defeat in Miami one week, 23-0 romp the next. With that, Denver's longest losing streak since joining the NFL in 1970 is over.

11. Cardinals 12, Titans 7. Four Phil Dawson field goals bested a feeble Tennessee offense playing without Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan. The Titans now fall a game behind Jacksonville, with games against the Rams and those Jaguars looming.

12. 49ers 26, Texans 16. Bitcoin investors are sad they didn't buy Jimmy Garoppolo stock at this point. The San Francisco QB led the team to a second straight road victory, this time tallying a career-high 334 yards. On the other side, Tom Savage was allowed to briefly re-enter the game before eventually being taken off the field for concussion symptoms.

13. Bears 33, Bengals 7. Mitchell Trubisky and Jordan Howard—Chicago's backfield of the future—showed promise late in a lost season. Howard had 147 yards and two touchdowns; Trubisky completed 78 percent of his passes.

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let us know here.

THE KICKER

Before the Adam Vinatieri's game-tying kick, the Colts' special teams unit did some kicking themselves.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

Jags Prove It, Seahawks Lose It

Two Seahawks players were ejected and a suspension might be coming for defensive lineman Michael Bennett after he helped instigate a final-minute brawl in a 30-24 loss to the Jaguars. With Jacksonville in victory formation, Bennett rolled into the legs of center Brandon Linder before taking him to the ground. Sheldon Richardson was ejected for throwing a punch in the following tussle, and fellow lineman Quinton Jefferson was kicked out a play later after more aggressive posturing. On his way out of the stadium, he attempted to climb into the stands after twice nearly being hit with an item from the crowd. Security ultimately restrained him.

Asked about what transpired, Bennett said, "I don't have to explain myself," but in the other locker room, Jaguars QB Blake Bortles had a theory. “I think it’s a little bit of people aren’t used to getting beat like that by the Jaguars,” Bortles said. “We just beat the crap out of you for 60 minutes."

He's certainly right on that first point. Now 9-4, Jacksonville is guaranteed to finish with its first winning season since 2007 (when running back Leonard Fournette was in sixth grade).

Seattle, meanwhile, is suddenly in a perilous position. At 8-5 with a head-to-head loss to current six seed Atlanta, it has less than a 60 percent chance of making the playoffs according to FiveThirtyEight. And if Sunday's dirty play—which was reminiscent of the team's unsportsmanlike end to its Super Bowl XLIX loss—leads to suspensions (as I'd expect given the league's recent punishments), it would further damage the Seahawks' chances as they face the division rival Rams next.

If this turns out to have been the succession of the NFL's next dominant defense, it only makes sense it was ugly.

Not getting this newsletter in your inbox yet? Join The MMQB’s Morning Huddle.

HOT READS

NOW ON THE MMQB: Jenny Vrentas chronicled the Eagles' pyrrhic victory in L.A. ... Peter King looks at the AFC West playoff race ... Conor Orr tries to freak out ... and more.

LATER TODAY ON THE MMQB: Andy Benoit studies the Steelers without Ryan Shazier and previews Monday Night Football ... Orr looks at the week ahead ... and more. Stay tuned.

PRESS COVERAGE

1. Eagles 43, Rams 35. Philadelphia took another step towards claiming the NFC's top seed, but more importantly, they may have lost Carson Wentz. Wentz was hit by two defenders while diving into the end zone (the play was called back), and after finishing the drive with a TD pass, walked off the field. Initial reports indicated he may have suffered damage to his ACL. We should find out more Monday.

2. Steelers 39, Ravens 38. Pittsburgh came back from 11 down in the fourth quarter thanks to 506 yards from Ben Roethlisberger. Thirty-four of those yards came on a pass to Antonio Brown with 1:08 left to set up the game-deciding kick. Afterwards, the Steelers FaceTimed with Ryan Shazier, who remains hospitalized.

3. Panthers 31, Vikings 24. A rejuvenated Jonathan Stewart (103 yards, three touchdowns) helped Carolina snap Minnesota's eight-game winning streak. The Panthers are now tied with the Saints atop the NFC South, though New Orleans owns the tiebreaker after sweeping the home-and-home.

4. Chiefs 26, Raiders 15. Kansas City is back (maybe)! Kareem Hunt found the end zone for the first time since September, but more importantly the Chiefs defense looked like its early-season self, holding Oakland to 268 yards to keep pace with the Chargers in the AFC West. They face each other Saturday.

5. Packers 27, Browns 21 (OT). Cleveland led by 14 in the fourth. Then the Browns were up seven with three minutes to play. But Trevor Davis returned a punt 65 yards for Green Bay to set up a tying score with 17 seconds left. In overtime, DeShone Kizer was hit as he threw, leading to an interception after Cleveland started with the ball. Three minutes later, Davante Adams was in the end zone for the second time Sunday, and the Browns were 0-13 for the second consecutive year.

?

6. Bills 13, Colts 7 (OT). Lake-effect snow was the big winner in Buffalo, blanketing New Era Field and eliminating sightlines. That turned the game into a battle of running backs, with LeSean McCoy (156 yards, one touchdown) besting Frank Gore (130 yards) and scoring the game-winner from 21 yards out with 1:33 left in overtime.

7. Chargers 30, Washington 13. A dominant performance bolsters L.A.'s case as possibly the scariest AFC team come January. It outgained Washington, 488-201.

8. Lions 24, Buccaneers 21. Detroit and Tampa Bay combined for eight turnovers, but Matthew Stafford salvaged the day with a late drive, concluding in a Matt Prater 46-yarder with 20 seconds remaining.

9. Cowboys 30, Giants 10. In his return, Eli Manning threw the ball 46 times with less-than-lovable results (228 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions). Dak Prescott meanwhile had 332 yards and three scores.

10. Broncos 23, Jets 0. 35-9 defeat in Miami one week, 23-0 romp the next. With that, Denver's longest losing streak since joining the NFL in 1970 is over.

11. Cardinals 12, Titans 7. Four Phil Dawson field goals bested a feeble Tennessee offense playing without Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan. The Titans now fall a game behind Jacksonville, with games against the Rams and those Jaguars looming.

12. 49ers 26, Texans 16. Bitcoin investors are sad they didn't buy Jimmy Garoppolo stock at this point. The San Francisco QB led the team to a second straight road victory, this time tallying a career-high 334 yards. On the other side, Tom Savage was allowed to briefly re-enter the game before eventually being taken off the field for concussion symptoms.

13. Bears 33, Bengals 7. Mitchell Trubisky and Jordan Howard—Chicago's backfield of the future—showed promise late in a lost season. Howard had 147 yards and two touchdowns; Trubisky completed 78 percent of his passes.

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let us know here.

THE KICKER

Before the Adam Vinatieri's game-tying kick, the Colts' special teams unit did some kicking themselves.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

NFL Playoff Picture: Standings, Matchups, Tiebreakers After Week 14

It's the most wonderful time of the year—temperatures are falling, the holiday spirit is in the air and the NFL is entering the stretch run. While there's still plenty of time for the playoff picture to go haywire—which it almost certainly will—we're at a point in the year when postseason scenarios are beginning to take shape. By now, a few teams are virtual locks to make the playoffs while a growing number of teams need late-season magic.

Before we get to the current playoff picture, let's review the qualification rules, which are the same for both the AFC and the NFC.

• The winners of each division—the North, South, East and West—qualify for the playoffs and earn the top four seeds. The team with the best record earns the No. 1 seed, the second-best earns the No. 2 seed, etc. If a team wins its division with a 7-9 record while another team qualifies as a Wild Card with an 11-5 record, the division winner will be seeded higher.

• The two teams with the best record that do not win their division qualify in the Wild Card spots, seeded fifth and sixth.

• If two teams in the same division finish with the same record, the first tiebreaker is their head-to-head record. If the teams split the two games played against each other, the next tiebreaker is the teams' record against teams within the division. If the in-division records are the same, the next tiebreaker is the teams' records in games against common opponents. If that too is is the same, the fourth tiebreaker is the teams' record against teams within the conference.

• If two teams in different divisions finish with the same record, the first tiebreaker is the head-to-head matchup, if applicable. If the teams did not play each other, the next tiebreaker is the teams' record within the conference. If that too is the same, the third tiebreaker is the teams' record against common opponents.

• The top two teams in each conference receive first-round byes. Each conference's No. 3 seed hosts the No. 6 seed, while the No. 4 seed hosts the No. 5 seed in the Wild Card Round.

• In every playoff game, the higher seed hosts the lower seed.

• After the Wild Card round comes the Divisional Round, during which the top seed in each conference plays the lowest remaining seed, while the No. 2 seed plays the higher-seeded team. There is no bracket as there is the NBA playoffs; matchups in the Divisional Round depend on the winners in the Wild Card round.

Now that the clerical stuff is out of the way, let's get to the playoff picture.

Note: (x) = clinched playoff berth | (y) = clinched division title | (z) = clinched first-round bye | (*) = clinched number one seed

AFC

Current Wild Card matchups

6. Ravens at 3. Jaguars, 5. Titans at 4. Chiefs.

1. Steelers, 2. Patriots have byes, will host Divisional Round games.

Seeding breakdown:

1. xy-Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2 | DIV: 5-0 | AFC: 8-1 | first place in AFC North)

Remaining games: vs. Patriots, at Texans, vs. Browns.

For the third straight week, the Steelers came back from a fourth-quarter deficit in primetime to seal a victory with a Chris Boswell field goal. It's always nice to beat a rival on national television, but Pittsburgh's 39-38 victory came with an added prize—with the win, Pittsburgh clinched the AFC North and became the first AFC team to cement a playoff berth. Pittsburgh holds the edge over New England via a better record against common opponents, but the two teams will face off next weekend in Pittsburgh to settle things face-to-face. Because both teams have relatively straightforward matchups in Week 16 and 17, that game is looking more and more like it'll decide home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. All eyes will be on Heinz Field come Sunday.

2. New England Patriots (10-3 | DIV: 3-1 | AFC: 7-2 | first place in AFC East)

Remaining games: at Steelers, vs. Bills, vs. Jets

The Patriots had a chance to clinch their ninth consecutive AFC East title with a win against the Dolphins on Monday night but lost 27–20 behind a stagnant offense that didn’t convert a single third-down opportunity. They’re still in the driver’s seat, though, with three chances left to clinch the division with a win. Crazy as it may sound, the Jags are breathing down their necks gunning for that first-round bye. New England faces a massive test in Pittsburgh against the Steelers on Sunday.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4 | DIV: 3-1 | AFC: 8-2 | first place in AFC South)

Remaining games: vs. Texans, at 49ers, at Titans

How about 'dem Jags! Jacksonville got a huge win over the Seahawks on Sunday thanks to a defense that continues to give opponents fits and improved play from Blake Bortles. Jacksonville picked off Russell Wilson three times, Leonard Fournette surpassed 100 yards and Bortles played his second straight game of turnover-free football. Jacksonville's defense is the type of unit that can carry them deep into the playoffs, but Bortles will need to continue limiting mistakes if this Jags team is going to reach its full potential. Tennessee also did Jacksonville a favor by losing to the Cardinals on Sunday, which resulted in the Jags leap-frogging the Titans back into first place in the AFC South. The Titans still control their own destiny because they beat the Jaguars earlier in the season, but Jacksonville could have a chance to clinch the division on Tennessee's home field in Week 17.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-6 | DIV: 3-1 | AFC: 5-4 | first place AFC West)

Remaining games: vs. Chargers, vs. Dolphins, at Broncos

The Chiefs stopped the bleeding on Sunday and picked up a badly needed 26-15 win over the Raiders. After losing five in a row, Sunday's victory kept Kansas City atop the AFC West, at least for now, but it also got the Chiefs back in the Wild Card race should they fail to win the division. Next on the agenda is a Saturday night home game with the red-hot Chargers, who have won four straight and are the bettor's favorite to win the division. The winner of that game will have pole position as the divisional stretch reaches the final two weeks of the season. Perhaps the win over the Raiders was just what the Chiefs needed to start a new winning streak; remember, this team was 5-0 and beat the Patriots in New England on the season's opening night. They're capable of playing really good football.

5. Tennessee Titans (8-5 | DIV: 4-1 | AFC: 7-4 | second place in AFC South)

Remaining games: at 49ers, vs Rams, vs Titans

If the Titans do end up missing the playoffs, they'll look back on Sunday's loss to the Cardinals as one of the main reasons why. Tennessee entered the game having won six of seven to get back into first place in the AFC South, and the Titans had a real chance of getting to 10-4 by beating the Cardinals then the 49ers. On Sunday in Arizona, the Titans carried a tenuous 7-0 lead into halftime before Marcus Mariota played his worst half of football of the season. He completed just six of 16 attempts for 60 yards and two interceptions as the game slipped away. Four Phil Dawson field goals gave the Cardinals the victory, and that coupled with Jacksonville's win over the Seahawks gave Jacksonville the edge in the AFC South entering Week 15. Next up is a meeting with the 49ers in San Francisco, a game that no longer looks like a sure thing now that Jimmy Garoppolo has guided the Niners to two consecutive victories.

6. Baltimore Ravens (7-6 | DIV: 2-2 | AFC: 5-4 | second place in AFC North)

Remaining games: at Browns, vs. Colts, vs. Bengals

The Ravens missed a chance to put some pressure on the Steelers in the AFC North by blowing an 11-point second half lead on Sunday night, but the Ravens have to feel good about where they stand considering their remaining schedule. Baltimore's three remaining opponents have a combined record of 8-31, and the Ravens are also in good position when it comes to tiebreakers. The two 7-6 AFC West teams play each other next weekend, so either the Chiefs or Chargers will finish with at least seven losses, and the other 7-6 AFC team (Buffalo) still has to play at New England. If Baltimore takes care of business and wins these last three games, which they should, Joe Flacco & Co. will likely make the playoffs.

Outside looking in

7. Los Angeles Chargers (7-6 | DIV: 2-2 | AFC: 4-5)

Remaining games: at Chiefs, at Jets, vs. Raiders

If seeding were based on the eye test, the Chargers might be in the No. 3 spot. The Chargers are one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL, and Sunday's breezy 30-13 win over the spiraling Redskins was San Diego's fourth straight victory. But a frustrating start to the year that included a number of maddening losses in close games has the Chargers on the outside looking in. Making matters worse, a 4-5 record against conference opponents hurts Los Angeles considerably in the Wild Card race. Still, the Chargers will like their chances to beat the Chiefs and take control of the AFC West on Sunday. Both San Diego and Kansas City might need to win the division to make the playoffs, as the team that loses out on the AFC South could finish with a better record, and the Ravens (which hold the tiebreaker over the Chargers) have three very winnable games left.

8. Buffalo Bills (7-6 | DIV: 1-2 | AFC: 5-4)

Remaining games: vs. Dolphins, at Patriots, at Dolphins

Depending who you ask, Sunday's snow-covered 13-7 overtime victory over the Colts was everything that's right about December football or an advertisement for why we need domed stadiums in wintry climates. Everyone can agree, however, that the win kept Buffalo's playoff hopes alive. If Buffalo can beat the Dolphins twice—let's not pretend they'll go into New England and win—Buffalo could sneak into the playoffs, though they'll likely need the Ravens to lose at least once.

9. Oakland Raiders (6-7 | DIV: 2-3 | AFC: 5-6)

Remaining games: vs. Cowboys, at Eagles, at Chargers

Oakland's dismal performance in the first half of a must-win game against the Chiefs has many calling for widespread coaching changes. The Raiders have been one of the league's biggest disappointments this season, and Jack Del Rio's team must win its last three games—which does not seem likely—to have any chance of getting back to the playoffs for a second straight year. If they don't, don't be surprised if Jack Del Rio finds himself looking for employment come January.

Technically still alive, practically already dead

10. Miami Dolphins (6-7) | 11. New York Jets (5-7) | 12. Cincinnati Bengals (5-8) | 13. Houston Texans (4-9)

Mathematically eliminated

14. Denver Broncos (4-9) | 15. Indianapolis Colts (3-10) | 16. Cleveland Browns (0-13)

NFC

Current Wild Card Round matchups

6. Falcons at 3. Rams, 5. Panthers at 4. Saints.

1. Eagles, 2. Vikings have byes, will host Divisional Round games.

Seeding breakdown

1. xy-Philadelphia Eagles (11-2 | DIV: 4-0 | NFC: 9-1 | first place in NFC East)

Remaining schedule: at Giants, vs. Raiders, vs. Cowboys

Win the battle, (potentially) lose the war. The Eagles picked up an impressive road victory over the Rams on Sunday and, thanks to Minnesota's loss to the Panthers, moved back into the NFC's number one spot. But Philadelphia lost MVP candidate Carson Wentz for the season to a torn ACL he suffered in the second half, so Philly's playoff hopes now rest on the arm of Nick Foles. It's a brutal development for an Eagles team that looked poised to make a deep postseason run, but luckily for Foles, his first start comes against the lowly Giants. A good performance in New York is crucial for this team's psyche.

2. Minnesota Vikings (10-3 | DIV: 3-1 | NFC: 8-2 | first place in NFC North)

Remaining games: vs. Bengals, at Packers, vs. Bears

The Vikings' chance to pull off a remarkable fourth-quarter comeback in Carolina were crushed by the legs of Cam Newton, who scrambled for a 62-yard run that set up a game-winning touchdown with just over a minute reamining. Thankfully for Minnesota, both the Saints and Rams also lost this weekend, so Minnesota stays in position to get a first-round bye. The Vikings need just one more victory (or one more loss from the Lions and Packers) to clinch the NFC North, and it could very well come against the Bengals next weekend.

3. Los Angeles Rams (9-4 | DIV: 2-1 | NFC: 5-4 | first place in NFC West)

Remaining games: at Seahawks, at Titans, vs. 49ers

In the biggest game since football returned to Los Angeles, the Rams hung with the Eagles blow-for-blow before a fourth-quarter fumble by Jared Goff put the Eagles in position to grab a lead they would not surrender. This was only the first in an absolutely brutal three-game stretch for this young Rams team—next up is a trip to Seattle, a team that beat the Rams earlier in the season and will thus surpass Los Angeles for first place with a win, followed by another road game against the Titans. A win in Seattle will give the Rams a two-game lead with two games to play, while a loss will put them behind the 8 ball in terms of winning the division. It doesn't get any bigger.

4. New Orleans Saints (9-4 | DIV: 3-1 | NFC: 7-3 | first place in NFC South)

Remaining games: vs. Jets, vs. Falcons, at Buccaneers

Drew Brees' uncharacteristic bad decision led to a fourth-quarter interception that gave the Falcons a much-needed victory on Thursday night, and the Panthers also picked up a win to keep things tight as can be in the NFC South. The Saints get a bit of a reprieve this weekend with a home game against the Jets, but that's followed by another crucial matchup with the Falcons. New Orleans still has the inside track to the NFC South title—they'll win the division with three wins—but Thursday night's loss removed any margin for error that might have existed.

5. Carolina Panthers (9-4 | DIV: 2-2 | NFC: 5-4 | second place in NFC South)

Remaining schedule: vs. Packers, vs. Buccaneers, at Falcons

Ron Rivera's team seized control of Sunday's game against the Vikings early and held on for a victory that keeps Carolina afloat in the hyper competitive NFC South. The Panthers could well face a certain Aaron Rodgers this weekend, as Green Bay's quarterback is eligible to return from injured reserve this week and has been practicing with the Packers. That Week 17 matchup with the Falcons in Atlanta continues to loom large, and it only feels right that this division race will come down to the final game of the season.

6. Atlanta Falcons (8-5 | DIV: 3-1 | NFC: 7-2 | third place in NFC South)

Remaining schedule: at Buccaneers, at Saints, vs. Panthers

The Falcons have flown under the radar a bit this season, but Atlanta has won three of four and finds itself squarely back in the playoff picture. A win this week against the Buccaneers is a virtual must, as the Falcons finish the season with a trip to New Orleans and a matchup with the Panthers. The Falcons actually control their own destiny in the NFC South; if they win their final three games, they'll win the division as they'll own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Saints and will have a better divisional record than the Panthers. After starting the season 4-4 in the best division in football, you can't ask for much more than to control your own fate.

Outside looking in

7. Seattle Seahawks (8-5 | DIV: 4-0 | NFC: 6-3 | second place in NFC West)

Remaining schedule: vs Rams, at Cowboys, at Cardinals

Seattle won't be pleased with losing to the Jaguars, but the Seahawks still have a chance to seize the lead in the AFC West with a win over the Rams on Sunday. Seattle's early-season win over the Rams in Los Angeles continues to age well, and Century Link Field will be rocking come Sunday.

8. Detroit Lions (7-6 | DIV: 3-1 | NFC: 6-4 | second place in NFC North)

Remaining games: vs. Bears, at Bengals, vs. Packers

The Lions continue to hang around, and their schedule gives them a good opportunity to get to 9-6 before a season-ending matchup with Green Bay. Detroit's chances in that game—and, thus, to get to the playoffs—depend on whether that Green Bay team will be quarterbacked by Rodgers or Brett Hundley.

9. Green Bay Packers (7-6 | DIV: 2-2 | NFC: 5-4 | third place in NFC North )

Remaining games: at Panthers, vs. Vikings, at Lions

Had Cleveland been able to preserve a 21-7 fourth-quarter lead, the Packers would have dropped to 6-7 and, more importantly, any impetus for Aaron Rodgers to return would likely have gone down the drain. But Brett Hundley led a comeback that kept the Pack's playoff hopes alive by a thread, and Rodgers is eligible to return from IR this week, though he hasn't been cleared to play by doctors. Green Bay's schedule from here on out is difficult, and they'll likely need to win all three to get into the playoffs, but with Rodgers anything is possible.

10. Dallas Cowboys (7-6 | DIV: 4-1 | NFC: 6-4 | third place in NFC East)

Remaining games: at Raiders, vs Seahawks, at Eagles

Similarly to the Packers, the Cowboys have won two games in a row to stay alive in the playoff race. But the Cowboys will have to wait another week to get their stud, Ezekiel Elliot, back from suspension. If the running back tandem of Alfred Morris and Rod Smith, who have filled in for Elliott nicely in recent weeks, can lead the Cowboys to a win in Oakland this weekend, the Cowboys will be alive and well. And with Wentz's injury, that Week 17 matchup with Philly doesn't look so bleak.

Technically still alive, practically already dead

11. Arizona Carindals (6-7)

Mathematically eliminated

12. Washington Redskins (5-8) | 13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9) | 14. Chicago Bears (4-9) | 15. San Francisco 49ers (3-10) | 16. New York Giants (2-11)

Fantasy Football Week 15 Waiver Wire

Now that the fantasy playoffs are here, owners should be using the waiver wire differently than they did during the regular season. Over the first 13 weeks of the season, fantasy owners should look for both long- and short-term value on the waiver wire. In the playoffs, however, it’s all about what a waiver wire target can do for you the very next week. With that in mind, our look at the Week 15 Waiver Wire focuses on players who can help you get a win in the fantasy semifinals.

Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers

Goodwin delivered again in Week 14, catching six passes on 12 targets for 106 yards in the 49ers’ 26–16 win over the Texans. In five games since Pierre Garcon went on IR, Goodwin has turned into a legitimate WR1—he leads the San Francisco offense with 36 targets in that timeframe, hauling in 21 of those for 434 yards and one touchdown. Prorated over 16 games, Goodwin’s per-game averages over the last five weeks come out to a 67-catch, 1,388-yard, three-touchdown season, all rounded down to the nearest whole number. Put another way, Goodwin has played like the No. 13 receiver in standard-scoring leagues and No. 20 receiver in PPR formats since ascending to the top of the 49ers depth chart. With Jimmy Garoppolo already looking the part of, at worst, a league-average quarterback, Goodwin should continue to thrive. In Week 15, San Francisco hosts the Titans, a defense ranked in the middle of the league against the pass. You may not want to play Goodwin against the Jaguars in Week 16 if you make it to your league’s championship, but he should help you get there next week.

Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars

Bortles is in a great spot to lift quarterback streamers who are on the doorstep of their league’s championship game—the Jacksonville QB gets a matchup in Week 15 with the Texans, a defense ranked 30th against quarterbacks in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric (aFPA). Bortles didn’t have a great game against them the first time the teams met, throwing for 125 yards, 5.95 yards per attempt and one touchdown, but that was back in Week 1, when J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus were both still on the field for Houston. Jacksonville also took a 19–0 lead into halftime in that contest, which effectively ended the game and led to them packing in the passing attack in the second half. Bortles didn’t have Dede Westbrook’s services in that game either, and the rookie out of Oklahoma has been one of his favorite receivers since he made his debut last month. All of it adds up to Bortles bringing a legitimate weekly QB1 ceiling into the fantasy playoff semifinals.

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers

If Bortles isn’t your guy, how about Garoppolo? He, too, is a worthy streamer in a plus matchup with the Titans in Week 15. Garoppolo was great in his second start with the 49ers, throwing for 334 yards, 10.12 YPA, one touchdown and one interception in the 26-16 win over the Texans. He has 627 yards and 8.96 YPA in his two starts, bringing an efficiency to the San Francisco offense that had been lacking all season. Garoppolo will be on the QB1 radar in Week 15, making him an attractive stream candidate, and an excellent target for Carson Wentz owners.

Buffalo Bills Defense

The Bills will be one of the best streaming defenses in Week 15 when they host the Dolphins. Buffalo has struggled against the run since trading Marcell Dareus to the Jaguars, but, even as effective as Kenyan Drake has been, Miami isn’t equipped to take advantage of that deficiency as are some of their recent opponents. The Bills should be favorites and will be playing at home, both of which are factors that generally work in favor of a defense from a fantasy perspective. Jay Cutler remains one of the most turnover-prone quarterbacks in the league, helping make this one of the better matchups on the board for any widely available defense.

Dede Westbrook, WR, Jaguars

Westbrook turned in another strong game in Week 14, catching five passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. He has slowly but surely built on his performance every week, climbing from 35 yards in his NFL debut three weeks ago to the 81-yard, one-touchdown outing on Sunday. Even with Marqise Lee shining opposite him, Westbrook has turned himself into a vital part of the Jacksonville offense. He’s an easy add for any owner looking for wide receiver help heading into the fantasy semifinals. Just as the Texans are a great matchup for Blake Bortles, so, too, are they for his receivers. The Texans rank 28th in the NFL in wide receiver aFPA and were the defense on the opposing side of Marquise Goodwin’s 106-yard game in Week 14.

Peyton Barber, RB, Buccaneers

We don’t want to draw ironclad conclusions from just a couple of games, but it sure looks like Barber is the best back on the Buccaneers roster. Doug Martin returned from his concussion and got the start in Week 14, but he ran for just 26 yards on 10 carries. He hogged most of the work out of the backfield, until a fumble opened the door to Barber. The second-year player out of Auburn took advantage of his opportunity again, racking up 58 yards on 12 carries. Dirk Koetter may be painfully slow to change, but even he likely has to acknowledge that Barber deserves more playing time. It’s hard to imagine Koetter turning completely away from Martin, but Barber can be in the flex discussion if he’s able to secure 15 or more combined carries and targets next week.

Mike Davis, RB, Seahawks

Davis ran the ball well again on Sunday, picking up 66 yards on 15 carries against a strong Jacksonville defense. He left the game with a rib injury, but that shouldn’t change the motivation to grab him off the wire. The possibility of him missing the Seahawks Week 15 game with the Rams is something his new owners will deal with later in the week. For now, he’s a player worth targeting, given that he has looked like the answer to the Seahawks season-long backfield woes. If he can play on Sunday, he’ll have a matchup with a Rams defense that is ranked 22nd in running back aFPA.

Kerwynn Williams, RB, Cardinals

Williams was back in a feature role with Adrian Peterson out again in Week 14, and he ran for 73 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, and added a 15-yard reception. In two games without Peterson, Williams has totaled 185 yards from scrimmage, and has racked up 36 carries. Should Peterson miss a third straight game, there’s little reason to expect Williams’s volume to change. That would have him in the low-end RB2 and flex pictures for the fantasy semifinals. The Cardinals in Week 15 visit the Redskins, a defense ranked 25th in running back aFPA.

Theo Riddick, RB, Lions

Riddick made the most of Ameer Abdullah’s absence in Week 14, totaling 93 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns on 16 touches. He wasn’t very effective as a rusher, picking up 29 yards on 10 carries, but both of his touchdowns came on the ground. Just as importantly, rookie Tion Green got just five carries in the game one week after creating a boomlet of fantasy value. It’s safe to say that the backfield is largely in Riddick’s hands with Abdullah out. He’ll be a solid play in PPR formats, and at least part of the discussion in standard leagues, should Abdullah miss another game in Week 15. The Lions host the Bears, a defense that just surrendered 130 total yards to Giovani Bernard. Riddick would bring that same ceiling into that contest, especially with the injuries mounting for the Bears defense.

Wayne Gallman, RB, Giants

Orleans Darkwa was limited in Week 14 because of an illness, giving more opportunity to Gallman. He ran the ball 12 times for 59 yards and caught seven passes for 40 yards, easily the most productive game of his rookie year. Darkwa is likely to be back in the driver’s seat in Week 15, but the 2-11 Giants would be wise to see as much as they can of the talented rookie out of Clemson. Gallman would be a risky play with a fully healthy Darkwa alongside him in Week 15, but if the Giants do decide to give him more run down the stretch, he could be an intriguing play in Week 16 when they visit the Cardinals and their league-average defense against running backs for fantasy purposes.

James Conner, RB, Steelers; Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers; Chris Ivory, RB, Jaguars; Aaron Jones, RB, Packers; Rod Smith, RB, Cowboys

It’s handcuff season in fantasy leagues, and these are the only sure insurance policies on the market. No one can afford to lose a starting running back heading into the playoffs, but not every team has a clear handcuff who would take over most, if not all, of the starter’s workload should he get injured. These five, however, are clear handcuffs. Smith might seem like he’s worthy of an add outside of being a handcuff to Alfred Morris after his big game in Week 14, but I’m not so sure. Yes, he scored two touchdowns, one of which came on an 81-yard pass play, and he has now scored in three straight games. Still, he had 11 total touches, which matched his high mark of the season. Morris, meanwhile, had 19 carries and three receptions, and has dominated the carry share during Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension. It’s hard to trust any back whose touch ceiling is in the low double-digits.

Mike Wallace, WR, Ravens

Wallace turned in another decent game, catching three passes for 72 yards. He has been firmly on the low-end WR3 radar for the better part of a month, turning into the closest thing the Ravens have to a No. 1 receiver. Your needs for a starting receiver would have to be particularly acute to make a run at Wallace, but that may describe a fair share of fantasy owners headed to the semifinals. For what it’s worth, he does have a good matchup against a Cleveland defense ranked 22nd in quarterback aFPA. The Browns did do a good job against Packers receivers for most of Week 14, but Davante Adams finally got to them in the fourth quarter and overtime. Wallace can once again deliver WR3 value in this contest.

Corey Coleman, WR, Browns

Coleman receded from the spotlight in Josh Gordon’s return, but he was back in a big way in Week 14. He got six targets from DeShone Kizer, catching five of them for 62 yards. Take away the goose egg in Week 13, and Coleman is averaging 68.7 yards per game since returning from his broken hand. The Ravens will be a tough matchup for Coleman in Week 15, and his short run as the team’s WR1 is over, but there’s still value in a guy who was the 15th overall pick in last year’s draft and is a good bet for six-plus targets per game the rest of the way.

Tyrell Williams, WR, Chargers

Williams has been surprisingly quiet all season, but he finally showed up in Week 14. He rode a 75-yard touchdown to his best game of the season, totaling four grabs for 132 yards and the score. His opportunities are limited with Keenan Allen healthy and the team finally committing to Hunter Henry, but he showed how dangerous he can be on the long touchdown. That’s an element that the Chargers offense has lacked for most of the year, and something it may need to emerge as the AFC West champions this season. The division could be decided in Week 15 when the Chargers visit the Chiefs. The Chiefs took the first meeting between the two back in Week 3, but they were vastly different teams that early in the year. Williams can be a difference maker against a Chiefs defense ranked 31st in wide receiver aFPA.

Kendall Wright, WR, Bears

Strange what happens for the Bears offense when they open it up a little bit and let the second overall pick in this year’s draft show what he can do. It works. Wright was one of the main beneficiaries of the souped-up scheme in the Bears 33–7 win over the Bengals in week 14. The veteran receiver got 11 targets, catching 10 of them for 107 yards. It was easily his best game of the season, and the first 100-yard game for a Bears receiver all year. He’ll be on the low-end WR3 radar in Week 15 in a matchup with the Lions, a defense ranked 19th in wide receiver aFPA.

Josh Doctson, WR, Redskins

All the injuries in the Washington offense are finally proving too much to handle, as well, and everyone is worse off for it, as was on display in the 30-13 loss to the Chargers in Week 14. With all that said, Doctson has enough touchdown upside to be a potential starter for an owner who is particularly needy at wide receiver. He could, however, see a heavy dose of Patrick Peterson with the Cardinals in town in Week 15.

Week 14 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet

Two weeks from now, one fantasy owner in every league will be celebrating a championship season. While each of those teams will be different, many will likely share a common player or two. There’s always a handful of players most responsible for lifting their owners to titles, and those players pop up on more than their fair share of championship teams.

With that in mind, we asked our fantasy experts the following question to kick off the Week 14 Cheat Sheet.

The fantasy playoffs are here. The player who will end up on the most championship teams is

Michael Beller: Antonio Brown. Yeah, it’s a boring answer, but there aren’t any points for degree of difficulty here. Brown is going to put his fantasy teams on his back over the next three weeks. First of all, you can’t win a fantasy championship unless you’re in the playoffs, and I’m willing to bet the vast majority of Brown’s owners made the dance. That typically happens when your first-round pick does exactly what he’s supposed to, giving you 15.3 points per game in standard-scoring leagues, and 22.63 points per game in PPR formats. Brown, as expected, has also hit his ceiling with some of the greatest consistency of any player, topping 15 standard-league points and 24 PPR points in seven of his 12 games.

There’s no reason to expect Brown to fall short of his season-long per-game averages over the next three weeks, so we’re already starting at a baseline of 15 and 22 points per game in standard and PPR leagues, respectively. There is reason, however, to expect him to breeze past those averages. Yes, he has a tough matchup with the Ravens in Week 14. The on-paper difficulty might not matter for two reasons. First, many of his likely earned byes. Second, no matchup is too much for Brown, and it’s worth noting that the Ravens will be without top corner Jimmy Smith, who tore his Achilles last week. The Steelers also have the benefit of playing this game at home, where both Brown and Ben Roethlisberger have been more productive in their careers.

Now take a look ahead to Weeks 15 and 16. The Steelers host the Patriots next week, then hit the road to take on the Texans for the fantasy championship. Patriots-Steelers is sure to have an over/under north of 50 points, and the Patriots remain in the bottom third of the league against wide receivers in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric (aFPA). The Texans, meanwhile, haven’t stopped anyone through the air this season, ranking 28th in wide receiver aFPA. We’re talking about defenses like that going up against Antonio Brown, the best receiver in the league, and the author of four games this season with at least 144 yards, and five with at least 10 receptions. He heads into the fantasy playoffs on a hot streak, catching 28 passes for 414 yards and six touchdowns in his last three games. The sun his shined on Brown owners all season. It might be cold outside now, but they’ll still be basking in the warmth of his championship-driving glow.

John Paulsen: When I first read this question I immediately thought of Alvin Kamara, who was going in the double-digit rounds in fantasy drafts thanks to the presences of Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson. But Kamara’s concussion in Week 14 may knock more than a few playoff teams out of contention, so I started to look elsewhere.

How about Adam Thielen? He’s currently the WR10 in standard formats and the WR5 in PPR leagues, and he has a pretty good set of matchups—Carolina, a banged-up Cincinnati defense, and the Packers—to close out the season. He’s on pace for a 99-catch, 1,409-yard, four-touchdown season, all for the price of a 10th-round pick. Methinks he’ll be on his fair share of title-winning teams.

T.J. Hernandez: Mike Davis. Seemingly every season there's a running back who emerges late in the season, and the fantasy team that is lucky enough to land that player often makes a title run. It's not a coincidence that it's almost always a running back that leads the way, as that's the one position where a new starter is guaranteed volume, even if that player doesn't emerge until December. In Week 13, Davis was the first Seahawks running back since Week 2 to amass 100 total yards. Over the next two weeks, Davis will face two defenses in the Jaguars and Rams that funnel fantasy points to running backs. Jacksonvile ranks first in quarterback aFPA, but 24th against running backs. Los Angeles, meanwhile, ranks third against quarterbacks and 19th against running backs. Seattle wraps up the fantasy season against a Cowboys defense that ranks 21st against running backs when adjusted for strength of schedule. The Seahawks are arguably the hottest team in the league right now and will be playing not just for a playoff spot, but a possible division title. The end of the season sets up for Davis to carry his team to a division title and yours to a fantasy championship.

Jennifer Eakins: Philip Rivers. The Chargers quarterback is red hot right now, averaging 343 passing yards per game with six total touchdowns in his last three contests. In that same three-week timeframe, Rivers has put up the third-most points among signal callers, coming out to a robust 21.48 fantasy points per game. The Chargers schedule during the fantasy playoffs is extremely favorable for Rivers and his talented stable of weapons. He’ll face three defenses ranked 19th or worse in quarterback aFPA, including the dead-last Chiefs in Week 15. The defenses are also in the bottom half of the league in wide receiver aFPA, which bodes well for Keenan Allen, who’s on a hot streak of his own. Rivers has a mission beyond the championship hopes of his fantasy owners, with an AFC West title in sight. The attractive three-week schedule ahead of him will help him be the 2017 fantasy playoffs MVP.

Week 14 Start ’Em, Sit ’Em

Week 14 Rankings

4for4 Week 14 Stat Projections

Five Facts to Know for Week 14 DFS

The Best DFS Values for Week 14

DFS Lineup Optimizer

Week 14 Sneaky Starts

Target and Snap Report: Top Quarterbacks Will Have Hands Full This Weekend

Bad Beats, the Offsides Edition

Week 14 Injury Report

Replacements for Rob Gronkowski

Five Facts to Know for Week 14 DFS

In the popular board game Monopoly, the object is to get full control of as much property on the board as you can while driving your opponents into bankruptcy. DFS is kind of like Monopoly in that you want to have as much ownership of high-scoring players as possible in order to outscore your opponents and “cash” in a given contest.

One of the best ways to monopolize fantasy production in DFS is to roster players that monopolize a large share of their offense’s production. Monopoly is defined as “exclusive possession or control of the supply of a commodity,” and in DFS, that commodity is production, which is borne out of opportunity.

This week, we have a quarterback in a great matchup that has been monopolizing his team’s offensive production, a dirt-cheap running back set to monopolize his team’s backfield opportunities, two pass-catchers out west who would be hard-pressed to do anything but monopolize their team’s targets given the injuries around them, and one more who can’t help but monopolize his team’s targets due to being an absolute monster.

Here are five facts to help you avoid bankruptcy and rake in some cash that will go a lot farther than Monopoly money.

1. Since Week 4, Alex Smith has accounted for 82.2% of the Kansas City Chiefs total yards and all 17 of their touchdowns

Part of Russell Wilson’s MVP case is built upon passing or rushing for an astonishing 82.2% of Seattle’s offensive yardage and 29 of its 30 touchdowns. The inconsistency of the Chiefs offense has been well-documented—head coach Andy Reid even turned play-calling duties over to offensive coordinator Matt Nagy last week—but Smith has, statistically speaking, at least, turned into Wilson over the season’s past 10 weeks. Of Kansas City’s 3,335 offensive yards gained after Week 3, Smith passed for 2,465 and rushed for 277 more. Wilson averages 307.3 yards and 2.4 touchdowns per game. Smith averages 304.7 yards and 1.9 touchdowns per game.

Of course, you do not get points for MVP cases in DFS (though you do get points from me if you listen to the DFS MVP podcast). This is all relevant because this week Wilson takes his show on the road to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars, a team that has allowed just 8.2 schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, fewest in the NFL. Smith, on the other hand, welcomes to town the Oakland Raiders, who have had more defensive coordinators (two) than interceptions (one) this season and allow 19.0 schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, the eighth-highest mark in the league.

2. Giovani Bernard played every snap once Joe MIxon went down with a concussion on Monday Night Football

Touches are more strongly correlated to a running back’s fantasy production than any other statistic, which makes an inexpensive back slated to see a heavy workload one of the most valuable assets in DFS. Enter Bernard, who is set to step in for Mixon and carry the load against the Chicago Bears. From the time new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor took over through Week 12, Mixon averaged 17.2 touches per game. Under Lazor, Cincinnati running backs collectively average 24.3 touches per game. Given that the Bengals do not have another running back on the roster that has handled even one carry this season (Jeremy Hill is on IR, and Brian Hill was limited to special teams even after Mixon went down last week), Bernard’s usage floor and ceiling are likely to be higher than Mixon’s. At a salary close to the minimum price, Bernard is this week’s best dollar-for-dollar play, regardless of position. It doesn’t hurt that he also checks a couple of other boxes that are key for a running back in DFS, including playing for a team favored at home, and being an able receiver out of the backfield.

3. DeAndre Hopkins is averaging 12.6 targets per game in Tom Savage’s last five starts

It’s becoming clearer and clearer that in 2016, Hopkins had a Brock Osweiler problem, not a quarterback problem. We’ve seen Hopkins flourish with journeymen like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Hoyer under center, and Tom Savage is now the latest example. Since Savage took back over for Deshaun Watson in Week 9, Hopkins has averaged 6.5 catches, 95.6 yards, and 0.4 touchdowns per game, good enough to rank as the No. 5 wide receiver in terms of points per game on both DraftKings (22.9) and FanDuel (18.0) over that span. This week, Hopkins will face a 49ers defense that has allowed 9.1 yards per target to wide receivers over the past five weeks.

4. Josh Gordon drew 11 targets and accounted for 48% of the Cleveland Browns air yards last week

For context, 11 targets per game would rank third in the league, and a 48% air-yard share would rank first. Despite not playing since 2014, it was clear Gordon’s talent won out last week. The only player to post more receiving yards against the Los Angeles Chargers than Gordon’s 85 last week was Odell Beckham with 97 in Week 5. It seemingly also did not take long for Gordon to win over quarterback DeShone Kizer. After Kizer targeted Corey Coleman a combined 19 times in Weeks 11 and 12, Coleman was effectively reduced to an observer, failing to draw a target despite playing 81% of the snaps—and despite Gordon being locked up in coverage with Casey Heyward, one of the league’s premier cornerbacks. This week, Gordon will face the Green Bay Packers, who allow the most schedule-adjusted fantasy points in the league to opposing wide receivers and could be down their top two cornerbacks if Davon House (shoulder) joins Kevin King (IR, shoulder) on the sideline.

5. Stephen Anderson drew 12 targets last week, the most of any tight end

Anderson, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound pass-catcher who has 80th percentile or better marks in speed, agility, and catch radius, per Player Profiler, will be the Texans starting tight end this week against the San Francisco 49ers. Like Hopkins, Anderson figures to be busy. The team not only lost tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (concussion) to IR last week, but also starting slot receiver Bruce Ellington (hamstring). Another full-time player, wide receiver Braxton Miller (concussion), is also unlikely to play. Even if Will Fuller (ribs) returns, there will be targets to go around for a team that averages 39.6 pass attempts per game over Tom Savage’s last five starts. The 49ers were once formidable against the tight end thanks to the coverage of safety Jaquiski Tartt, but have allowed four touchdowns to the position in four games since Tartt was lost for the season in Week 9. That bodes well for Anderson, who drew not one, not two, not three, but four targets inside the 10-yard line last week, converting one for a touchdown.

The Best DFS Values for Week 14

For the second straight week, the Steelers aren’t on the main slate. Without Le’Veon Bell or Antonio Brown in the player pool, and other studs like Julio Jones and Mark Ingram already done for the week, there are few must-plays at the top of pricing. Add in a couple “free squares,” and roster construction is wide open.

This also figures to be one of the lowest-scoring weeks of the year, with no team on the main slate projected to score more than 26 points, or favored by more than six points. Outside of a couple players, ownership figures to be relatively flat across the board.

The following will highlight the most notable values from the 4for4 Lineup Generator for both FanDuel and DraftKings.

Editor’s note: “Value” doesn’t necessarily mean inexpensive, but rather the best bang for your DFS buck. These players, regardless of price tag, project to give you the most production per dollar this week.

FanDuel

Alex Smith ($8,200) vs Raiders

With Matt Nagy taking over play-calling duties for Kansas City last week, the Chiefs scored 30 points for the first time since Week 7, when they did it against these very Raiders. Before last week, that game against Oakland was also the last time that Smith threw for more than 300 yards. The Chiefs are favored by four at home and projected for 26 points, the highest implied point total of any team on the main slate. Oakland ranks 25th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, when adjusted for strength of schedule (aFPA), and only seven defenses have allowed a higher touchdown rate through the air over the last six weeks. The Chiefs have opted to throw often on the doorstep of the end zone, owning the second-highest passing rate inside the red zone this season.

Giovani Bernard ($5,100) vs Bears

With Joe Mixon unlikely to play because of a concussion, Bernard will take over as the featured back in a game where Cincinnati is favored by six at home. Mixon wasn’t injured until after pricing came out, so Bernard’s salary isn’t adjusted for his expanded role, and that’s almost always worth attacking. Mixon’s accounted for 41.6% of the Bengals touches over the last six weeks before his injury, a touch share that trailed just Le’Veon Bell during that span. Once Mixon left the game last week, Bernard played every snap, so his volume is almost sure to outpace his asking price, which is why he is 4for4’s top overall value on the main slate.

Click here for T.J.'s full breakdown of the Week 14 FanDuel slate.

DraftKings

Lamar Miller ($5,800) vs 49ers

The Texans are favored by 2.5 at home, and this has the potential to be a sneaky high-scoring game. Both of these offenses are among the fastest-paced in the league, and the over/under in this game has moved up 1.5 points since the line came out, the biggest increase of any game thus far. Only eight players have seen a higher percentage of team touches than Miller over the past six weeks, and San Francisco ranks 31st in running back aFPA. Miller ranks 11th among all running backs in receiving yards, and no defense has allowed more reception yards to running backs than San Francisco.

Click here for Chris Raybon's full breakdown of the Week 14 DraftKings slate.

Josh Gordon ($5,500) vs Packers

Gordon is only priced as the WR20 on the main slate after racking up 11 targets and accounting for 34.4% of the Browns targets in Week 13, the seventh-highest target share of any player in the week. He’ll face a Packers defense on Sunday ranked last in wide receiver aFPA. Green Bay has allowed four 100-yard receivers over its last six games, and only one team has given up more receptions of 15+ yards this season.

Browns Fire Head of Football Ops Sashi Brown After Less Than Two Years

The Browns have fired executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown, The MMQB’s Albert Breer confirmed. ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Dianna Russini were first to report the news.

The Browns have been examining potential replacements for Brown “over the past few weeks,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports. One guy they like is John Dorsey, who was GM of the Chiefs from 2013 to 2016.

Hue Jackson will return as coach next year, owner Jimmy Haslam confirmed.

Brown was promoted from executive vice president-general counsel in January 2016 after spending three years with Cleveland as a salary cap specialist. He then brought in Paul DePodesta, famous for his involvement with the “Moneyball” A’s, as the team’s chief strategy officer.

The Browns have won exactly one game since Brown was hired. They went 1–15 last season and are 0–12 thus far this year. The Browns have hardly been a powerhouse since they returned to Cleveland in 1999 but they had won at least two games in every season before last.

Cleveland’s first move under Brown was to hire Jackson, then the Bengals’ offensive coordinator, as head coach. The second major move was to trade down twice in the first round of the 2016 draft and stockpile picks. The Browns moved down from No. 2 to No. 8 in a trade with the Eagles and then flipped the eighth pick for the Titans’ choice at No. 15. They also acquired two third-round picks and a fourth that year, along with a 2017 first-round pick and second-rounders in 2017 and 2018. The 2017 pick (the Eagles’ at No. 12) was flipped to the Texans, who drafted an apparent franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson, the sort of player for whom the Browns have been searching for decades.

The hoarding of draft picks was clearly done with an toward the future, not unlike former 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie. Like Hinkie, though, Brown won’t get to oversee the end of his process.

Fantasy Football Week 14 Sneaky Starts

All but the luckiest fantasy owners at some point need to find the proverbial diamond in the rough—a waiver wire or bench player capable of putting up some points in a pinch. This weekly feature is dedicated to that part of fantasy football. It's not pretty, but it's part of the game.

A good way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA). Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. So if a defense has seen a murderer’s row of running backs, it will be reflected in the defense’s aFPA. As a ranker, I use this metric weekly when putting together our award-winning projections.

In many leagues, Week 14 marks the beginning of the fantasy playoffs. With the byes behind us, teams should be near full strength, relatively speaking. However, there are several key injuries—Matthew Stafford, Tyrod Taylor, Amari Cooper, Doug Martin, Joe Mixon, Greg Olsen and Zach Ertz, to name a few—along with a one-game suspension for Rob Gronkowksi for a dirty, boneheaded play that may have owners scrambling to fill holes in their lineups.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top Sneaky Starts for Week 14.

Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers (at Texans)

Garoppolo acquitted himself well against the Bears, completing 26-of-37 (70.3%) passes for 293 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown and was intercepted once, but that’s not a bad showing in a tough matchup on the road. Now he’ll face the Texans in Houston, and should find the going easier. The Texans’ pass defense hasn’t been bad the last two weeks, but in Weeks 10 and 11, Houston yielded 612 yards and six touchdowns to Blaine Gabbert and Jared Goff.

Giovani Bernard, Bengals (vs. Bears)

Joe Mixon looks unlikely to play in Week 14 due to a concussion and a possible shoulder injury, though his status should be monitored. If he’s out, Bernard should see the lion’s (Bengal’s?) share of the touches against the Bears. Last week, he turned 15 touches into 96 yards while playing 69% of the snaps due to Mixon’s injury. Since 2015, Bernard has averaged 0.95 fantasy points per touch in PPR formats, and I’d expect him to see 17 to 22 touches in this one.

Andre Ellington, Texans (vs. 49ers)

Ellington played 58% of the snaps last week while Lamar Miller played 80%, so clearly the Texans are using Ellington more as a receiver than just as Miller’s backup. He ran 35 routes in Week 13. To put this in perspective, Larry Fitzgerald leads the league with 39.8 pass routes per game, per Player Profiler. Given all the injuries they have in their receiving corps, Ellington could see plenty of work as a slot receiver which gives him sneaky value against the 49ers, especially in PPR formats.

Marquise Goodwin, 49ers (vs. Texans)

Last week, Goodwin caught all eight of his targets from Jimmy Garoppolo for 99 yards. In the three previous weeks, Goodwin averaged 76 yards per game and found the end zone once, against the Giants. He has a great matchup against cornerback Kevin Johnson and the Texans defense, which is 28th in wide receiver aFPA.

Martavis Bryant, Steelers (vs. Ravens)

JuJu Smith-Schuster has been suspended for this week’s game, so Bryant should play 75% of the snaps, if not more, just as he did against the Packers, the last game Smith-Schuster missed due to injury. Bryant caught four passes for 40 yards and a score in that game, filling the WR2 role in Pittsburgh. It’s not a great matchup against the Ravens, but Baltimore is still reeling from the loss of cornerback Jimmy Smith. Bryant’s matchup against Brandon Carr quite as foreboding.

Click here for all of John's Week 14 Sneaky Starts.

Stephen Anderson, Texans (vs. 49ers)

The Texans are seriously hurting at receiver. Will Fuller is still out with a rib injury (though he may return this week), Bruce Ellington and C.J. Fiedorowicz just went on injured reserve, and Braxton Miller is dealing with a concussion. Anderson is a great athlete for a tight end, and often looks more like a receiver. After all of the injuries, he saw 12 targets last week against the Titans, catching five of them for 79 yards and a score. He should see at least 6 to 8 targets this week against the 49ers, a defense that is mediocre against tight ends.

Fantasy Football Week 14 Start ’Em, Sit ’Em

Four running backs have averaged at least 15.5 points per game over the last three weeks. Alvin Kamara, the top-scoring back in standard and PPR formats in Weeks 12 and 13 is obviously part of that group. There aren’t many three-week samples over the last four seasons in which Le’Veon Bell hasn’t averaged 15.5 points, so he’s in this group, too.

Jamaal Williams is one, having totaled 258 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in the last two weeks. The other hasn’t reached quite those heights, but has scored at least 11.7 standard-league points in all of the least three games, and, unlike Williams, doesn’t have a returning teammate who could significantly eat into his playing time in Week 14.

Alex Collins needs to be in your starting lineup.

Collins has been a revelation for the Ravens this season, running for 705 yards and four touchdowns on 144 carries. He started asserting himself at the end of September, running for 82 yards on nine carries in consecutive games, forcing the coaching staff to acknowledge him as the best back on the team. Since then, he has averaged 14.9 totes per game, netting at least 15 carries five times. The Ravens lean on Collins as a featured part of their offense every time they take the field.

That tendency has increased in recent weeks. The Ravens have won three straight games, and four of their last five. In those five games, Collins has 340 yards and four touchdowns on 82 carries. He has also gotten involved in the passing game, catching 11 passes for 75 yards. Those aren’t huge numbers, to be sure, but he had zero targets in his first six games of the season. The fact that he’s now adding a little value through the air, even with Danny Woodhead back in the fold, shows just how crucial he is to the Ravens offense. He may never contribute much as a receiver, but that he stays on the field on obvious passing downs and for the occasional screen speaks volumes about how the offensive staff views him.

The one issue for Collins this week could be game script. His one bad game in the last five weeks came in the Ravens lone loss in that timeframe. He got just 13 carries in that game, running for 43 yards in a 23–20 loss to the Titans, that was more out of hand than the final score indicates. The Ravens scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter of that game to cut their deficit to three, but were unable to recover the ensuing onside kick. Collins was essentially game-scripted out of the action for the entire second half. There’s a risk of that happening again in Pittsburgh, with the Ravens installed by oddsmakers as five-point underdogs.

That possibility could lead some fantasy owners to think twice about starting Collins. The fear is understandable, but it’s also too unlikely to force owners to ignore just how good, and how active, Collins has been for the better part of two months. He may have no better than a high-end RB2 ceiling, but that should still be enough to make him an guaranteed part of your lineup this week.

QUARTERBACKS

Start

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (vs. Ravens)

In that same game, Roethlisberger’s fantasy owners may be concerned about what they perceive as a bad matchup. That, too, is overblown, for reasons I laid out in full in the Week 14 Target and Snap Report. First, the Ravens have great fantasy-points-against stats, but they’ve also played one of the weakest groups of quarterbacks in recent memory. Second, Roethlisberger will be playing at Heinz Field, where he’s simply a different, better quarterback than he is on the road. The Ravens will be playing their first game without Jimmy Smith, who tore his Achilles last week, making slowing down Antonio Brown even more of an impossible task than it typically is. You can trust Roethlisberger in this bad-on-paper matchup.

Josh McCown, Jets (at Broncos)

At the beginning of the season, this would’ve seemed ludicrous. Start McCown against the Broncos pass defense? In Denver? Now, it seems ludicrous to go the other way. McCown is the seventh-ranked quarterback in standard-scoring leagues, and the 3-8 Broncos are falling apart. Even their once-vaunted pass defense is no longer a prohibitive unit. In their last three games, they’ve allowed Andy Dalton, Derek Carr and Jay Cutler to average 17.29 points per game, with all of them scoring at least 15.5 points. Those aren’t huge numbers, but check out those names again. We’re not exactly talking Tom Brady and Russell Wilson. Given McCown’s success and bankability this season, he’s a good play against a defense that is just league average in quarterback aFPA, no matter what it used to be.

Derek Carr, Raiders (at Chiefs)

Considering the circumstances, Carr had an encouraging game last week. Playing without Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, Carr threw for 287 yards, 7.97 yards per attempt and one touchdown in a 24-17 win over the Giants. No matter the matchup, playing that well without your top-two receivers is impressive. This week, Carr gets a matchup with a Chiefs defense that is ranked 32nd in quarterback a FPA. Back in Week 7, Carr shredded the Chiefs for 417 yards, 8.02 YPA and three touchdowns.

Superflex Special

Jimmy Garoppolo, Patriots (at Texans)

Garoppolo didn’t throw any touchdowns in his first start with the 49ers, but he did nearly everything else right. He completed better than 70% of his passes for 293 yards and 7.92 YPA, producing four drives that got inside the 10-yard line. In other words, he was a couple of passes away from a huge game against a Bears defense that is ranked eighth in quarterback aFPA. This week, he’ll face a Houston defense that is 30th in quarterback aFPA. Garoppolo is an easy QB2 this week, and he carries low-end QB1 upside.

Sit

Marcus Mariota, Titans (at Cardinals)

Quick, guess the last time Mariota threw for more than one touchdown in a game. If you said, “Two days after the Astros World Series parade,” congratulations, you’re right. Mariota hasn’t thrown two touchdowns in a game since the Titans Week 9 win over the Ravens on November 5. In the four games since then, he has thrown for 904 yards (226 per game), 7.23 YPA, four touchdowns and seven interceptions. In what should have been a cushy matchup with the Texans at home last week, he got just 150 yards, 6.52 YPA and one score, though he did salvage his line with a rushing touchdown. Still, there’s little reason to believe in Mariota as more than a mid-tier QB2 this week.

Kirk Cousins, Redskins (at Chargers)

Cousins made the Week 14 Target and Snap Report, as well, though on the opposite side of Ben Roethlisberger. What Cousins has achieved this season is borderline incredible, given the struggles of his wide receivers, the injuries on the offensive line, and the loss of Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson. That is all finally starting to catch up with the Washington offense. It’s also a terrible formula to bring into a game against the Chargers and their top-flight pass rush, led by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. It may not be Cousins’s fault, but that doesn’t change the fact that he belongs on your bench this week.

Dak Prescott, Cowboys (at Giants)

Yes, Prescott threw two touchdowns last week, and the Cowboys got their first win without Ezekiel Elliott. He also completed just 50% of his passes for 102 yards and 4.64 YPA. That’s not exactly the confidence-boosting start the scoreboard suggests in a 38-14 win. The Giants may be 26th in quarterback aFPA, but the quarterback and his passing game need to prove themselves capable of taking advantage of the matchup. The Elliott-less Cowboys have yet to do that in four games without the star running back. I don’t want to bet on that changing in the fifth.

RUNNING BACKS

Start

Giovani Bernard, Bengals (vs. Bears)

This obviously assumes that Joe Mixon will miss Sunday’s game. Given the restrictions of the league’s concussion protocol, that seems like a safe bet. Bernard ran the ball well in Mixon’s absence last week, picking up 77 yards on 13 carries. The Bears have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season, but Bernard, as we know, is a significant threat as a receiver, too. He’d handle the vast majority of the touches out of Cincinnati’s backfield, and could be in line for a workhorse share. The Bengals are six-point favorites and playing at home, with an implied total of 22 points. All of that works in Bernard’s favor, as well. He’d be an easy start for all of his owners if Mixon is out.

Derrick Henry, Titans (at Cardinals)

DeMarco Murray got back on the positive side of the ledger last week, running for 66 yards on 11 carries, but it was Henry who dropped the hammer on the Texans with a 75-yard touchdown run to ice the game. He hadn’t done much before that point, but it put in stark relief, yet again, how much more explosive he is than his veteran teammate. In the two games before the win over the Texans, Murray and 19 yards on 20 carries. The Titans have not shown a willingness to lean on Henry over Murray, but he’s at least earning half of the work out of the backfield. That makes him a worthy flex play in all formats.

Jerick McKinnon, Vikings (at Panthers)

The Saints last week showed how effective an offense that commits to its pass-catching backs can be against the Panthers. Now, to be fair, the Saints are in a unique position to roll out such a strategy. They have the best one-two running back punch in NFL history that just so happens to be perfect for the moment in which it plays. Still, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram combined for 11 catches for 103 yards in the Saints 31-21 win over the Panthers in Week 13. McKinnon, meanwhile, is at his best when he’s getting plenty of opportunity to do damage as a receiver. If the Vikings can take anything from the Saints win last week and use it, it’s that.

Sit

Mike Davis, Seahawks (at Jaguars)

There’s a lot of excitement in the fantasy community about Davis being the answer to the Seahawks backfield woes, and that’s understandable. He ran for 64 yards on 16 carries and caught four passes for 37 yards last week, unequivocally one of the best games we’ve seen from a Seahawks back this season. This offense, however, will always run through Russell Wilson. Even as Davis ran for 64 yards, Wilson picked up 31 yards on the ground on six rushes. As great as the Jaguars are against the pass, the only way the Seahawks will go into Jacksonville and come out with a win is on the strength of Wilson’s right arm. Too much in this game can go wrong for Davis, from both offensive-design and game-script standpoints. For my money, he’s outside the top 30 at the position this week.

C.J. Anderson, Broncos (vs. Jets)

Anderson was back in control of the Broncos backfield last week, running 15 times for 67 yards and catching four passes for 43 yards. His best game in about two months has him back on the fantasy radar, but he still shouldn’t be showing up as anything more than a blip. The Jets are seventh in running back aFPA, impressively shutting down LeSean McCoy (12 carries, 25 yards), Leonard Fournette (24 carries, 86 yards) and pre-Eagles Jay Ajayi (23 carries, 51 yards). All three of those teams have something in common: their passing games don’t scare defenses. The Jets weren’t shy to load the box against any of them, and that will be the case in Denver this weekend, as well. Anderson is not a good bet going up against a stacked front, especially with the overall struggles Denver’s offense is enduring.

Peyton Barber, Buccaneers (vs. Lions)

It’s unlikely for players without a history of concussions to miss more than one week because of the injury, so, for now, fantasy owners should plan on Doug Martin returning this week. If that’s the case, it’s going to be awfully hard to trust Barber. Yes, Martin struggled mightily before the injury, running for 376 yards on 119 carries, which comes out to 3.16 yards per carry. Still, it’s hard to imagine the Buccaneers just handing the reins to Barber with a healthy Martin as an option. More likely, the two would split backfield duties, effectively killing both players fantasy value. If Martin is ruled out, however, Barber will be a worthy play.

All Eagles Backs (at Rams)

Here’s a backfield that knows all about losing fantasy value because of a diffused workload. If I could just start Eagles RBs as a player, and get all the stats generated by Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement, I’d do so in a heartbeat. Such a player would likely be an easy RB2. Unfortunately, we can’t do that in fantasy leagues, and pinning down which one will have the best game is too much of a moving target. What makes the situation even more precarious is that splitting the work among the three has worked so well for the Eagles in real life, and, big surprise, they don’t care about our fantasy teams. Ajayi could very well be a fantasy star next season if the Eagles say goodbye to Blount, but that’s a story for next summer. For now, all three Eagles backs need to be benched.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Start

Sammy Watkins, Rams (vs. Eagles)

The Rams have played two games without Robert Woods. In those two games, Watkins has seven catches on 13 targets for 120 yards, with a touchdown in both of them. The good times may be coming to an end with Woods’s return likely around the corner, but they should continue to roll this week. Eagles-Rams has an over/under of 48.5 points, the second-highest total on the board in Week 14. If those offenses can be close to as efficient on Sunday as they’ve been for most of the season, this game will play into the 50s. There’s almost no bad way to get invested in a game like that.

Marquise Goodwin, 49ers (at Texans)

Here’s another player taking full advantage of an opportunity created unfortunately by injury. In the 49ers four games since Pierre Garcon went on IR, Goodwin has had 68, 83, 78 and 99 yards. There’s not a bad game in the bunch, and the first three of those games with C.J. Beathard under center. In Jimmy Garoppolo’s first start, Goodwin caught all eight of his targets to get to within one yard of the century mark. Goodwin has had at least six targets in three of the games since becoming the top receiver in San Francisco, so there’s no reason to doubt his volume this week. He draws a Houston defense ranked 28th in wide receiver aFPA, and 30th in quarterback aFPA.

Nelson Agholor, Eagles (at Rams)

What’s good for the Rams receiver is good for the Eagles receiver, right? Agholor put up a huge game in Seattle last week, catching seven passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. The Rams defense has been filthy against the pass this season, ranking fifth in wide receiver aFPA, and third in quarterback aFPA. Agholor has been touchdown-dependent this season, but he has found the end zone in seven of the Eagles 12 games. If you believe this game will play up to or beyond its 48.5 over/under, than you should have confidence in the passing attacks on both sides.

T.Y. Hilton, Colts (at Bills)

Hilton had been a boom or bust player in every game this season through the Colts first 11 games, scoring more than 17 points in standard leagues three times, and fewer than six points nine times. It was oddly comforting to see him have his first solid game last week, a three-catch, 51-yard, one-touchdown effort in a 30-10 loss to the Jaguars. Hilton has too high of a ceiling to bench in anything but a terrible matchup, and the Bills defense does not qualify. We know that the potential for a dud is always live with Hilton, owing mostly to the Colts offense, but the possible payoff is too great to ignore.

Sit

Josh Doctson, Redskins (at Chargers)

There has been a lot of encouraging developments in Doctson’s second season in the league, but he’s not quite at the point where he should be locked into lineups. He has yet to show a significant yardage ceiling, and his target numbers are frustratingly low from week to week. He’ll likely see a lot of Casey Hayward, the top-rated cornerback by Pro Football Focus this season. This is a bad matchup for the Washington offense as a whole, and that trickles down to Doctson.

Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos (vs. Jets)

Sanders’s last three games? Two catches for 15 yards, three catches for 12 yards, two catches for 11 yards. It’s basically impossible to feel good about him at this point. The Broncos offense is a trainwreck no matter who is under center. They’ve scored more than 20 points exactly once in their last 10 games, and they lost that one 51-23. The Jets are ranked 27th in wide receiver aFPA, but all the magic of a good matchup can’t help Sanders. He needs to be on your bench.

Jermaine Kearse, Jets (at Broncos)

On the other side of this game, we find one of the hottest receivers in the league. Jermaine Kerase is coming off consecutive 100-yard games, during which his exact damage has been 16 catches on 21 targets for 262 yards and a touchdown. So why is Kearse a sit, even with Josh McCown a worthy starter. Denver’s corners are still a handful. The Broncos rank second in wide receiver aFPA. McCown can get by without significant contributions from Kearse, and that helps insulate him against the Denver secondary. Kearse is going to have to regularly beat one of Aqib Talib or Chris Harris to show up for his fantasy owners, and that’s a lot to ask of any receiver.

TIGHT ENDS

Start

Cameron Brate, Buccaneers (vs. Lions)

Jameis Winston made his first start in a month last week, and it doubled as Brate’s first useful fantasy performance since the end of October. That shouldn’t come as much surprise, given Winston’s reliance on Brate in the red zone. Both of Brate’s receptions went for scores, but he got four more targets, his first game with six targets since Week 7. With Winston back under center, Brate once again carries high touchdown upside, especially among the low-end TE1 types against which fantasy owners should be judging him. The Lions, meanwhile, rank 31st in tight end aFPA.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jets (at Broncos)

Seferian-Jenkins is mired in a cold spell. He hasn’t scored since Week 7, and he has had fewer than 30 yards in five of his last six games. He’s on the low-end TE1 radar thanks in large part to his matchup. Quarterbacks typically attack the middle of the field against the Broncos because of their strength on the outside. That has led them to struggle against tight ends, where they’re 28th in aFPA. The Broncos have allowed eight touchdowns to tight ends, with low-end TE1 types like Jason Witten, Charles Clay, Tyler Kroft and Julius Thomas all finding the end zone against them.

David Njoku, Browns (vs. Packers)

Josh Gordon rightfully got all the attention last week, and that helped obscure the best game of Njoku’s rookie career. He caught four passes for 74 yards and a touchdowns, taking advantage of a growing role in the Cleveland offense. At this point, the Browns would be wise to get Njoku as much run as possible to see what he can do and to get as much experience under his belt as possible before 2018. With Gordon and Corey Coleman on the field, there should be a lot room underneath and in the middle for Njoku to operate.

Sit

Tyler Kroft, Bengals (vs. Bears)

Here we find the first of three streaming types that doesn’t make the grade this week. If you can get your hands on Kroft, chances are someone like Njoku or Seferian-Jenkins is also available in your league. Kroft isn’t a terrible play, but there’s no reason to believe in him this week like there was against the Broncos and Browns, when he projected as one of the best streamers, and came through for those who started him. Without a great matchup juicing his touchdown upside, Kroft is a bad bet.

Vernon Davis, Redskins (at Chargers)

What has happened to Davis? Three weeks ago, he looked like one of the most reliable tight ends out of the elite class, going for at least 60 yards in six of seven games. In the two games since then, he has two catches for 15 yards. The Chargers rank eighth in tight end aFPA, had have shut down the likes of Evan Engram (zero catches) and Jared Cook (two catches, 14 yards) this season. With everything crumbling in the Washington offense, it’s hard to feel good about Davis.

Charles Clay, Bills (vs. Colts)

Clay’s knee remains an issue, keeping him out of, or limited in, practice this week. He should be able to play on Sunday, but at what strength remains to be seen. He’ll also be playing with either a less-than-100% Tyrod Taylor, or Nathan Peterman. Either way, it’s an ugly setup for a touchdown-dependent tight end.

First and 10: Patriots Could Be Involved in Giants’ GM Search in More Ways Than One

1. I would not overlook Bill Belichick’s potential influence on the Giants’ search for a GM. Belichick’s long had a close relationship with owner John Mara, who’d surely seek his advice. And ex-Giants GM Ernie Accorsi has been retained as a consultant for the search, and Accorsi’s searches have, in the past, turned up Belichick protégés Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta) and Bob Quinn (Detroit) as hires.

2. Accordingly, keep an eye on Patriots VP of player personnel Nick Caserio. In the past, there’s been perception that he had little interest in leaving New England, but the sense I’ve gotten is that he’s willing to listen, especially to a place like the Giants. Last year, when the Niners set their sights on Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, there was a second effort, after Caserio initially declined to interview in San Francisco, to poach the exec as part of a package deal.

3. If Caserio were to leave, I’d be interested to see if Belichick were inclined to try and woo Falcons assistant GM Scott Pioli back home. Pioli’s done a fantastic job in helping to build an impressive Atlanta roster.

4. I don’t think Jim Caldwell’s extension in Detroit makes him 100 percent safe at the end of the month. My guess is that if the Lions miss the playoffs, there’ll be some tough discussions. And there’s long been speculation in league circles that Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia could win up with the Lions.

5. The Ravens defense has been nasty all year, and the offense is finally showing some level of competence. Injury issues along the line, and Joe Flacco’s up-and-down play, have been problems all year, but behind the tough, chippy play of center Ryan Jensen, and the hard-running of Alex Collins, Baltimore’s begun to develop an identity on that side of the ball. If the Ravens win Sunday, getting to 10 wins would be easy to see, and that should be enough to make the AFC playoffs.

6. To me, the fundamental issue in games like the Bengals/Steelers Monday nighter is officials losing control. That’s something I believe is correctable through technology. We don’t need the targeting rule. Just make fighting and illegal hits reviewable, and let the players know they’re being watched constantly. Most believe they can get away with most of it, because there’s so much officials are responsible to watch. They won’t feel that way if they know the eye in the sky is on them.

7. Credit to the Packers coaching staff for getting read-option concepts into the offense to get quarterback Brett Hundley going the past couple weeks. The best news for Green Bay is that it’s helped them develop another dimension on the ground that should serve them well when they get Aaron Rodgers in Week 15. That’s all provided they can survive the Browns game this week, because another loss would probably spell the end for them.

8. Jimmy Garoppolo deserves a lot of credit for playing really well in third-and-long situations in his debut as Niners starter in Chicago. On third or fourth down against the Bears, he hit on 10-of-15 passes for 116 yards and a pick that really wasn’t his fault. (It was stolen from a receiver’s hands.)

9. We’ve spent plenty of time the past few weeks looking at potential coaching candidates for 2018: I even shot a video on the best 10 guys under 50 years old the other day. Want a name that wasn’t on there? Bill O’Brien. If the Texans coach becomes available after the season, he’ll be at the top of a lot of lists.

10. Almost seems like a shame that a late-season showdown like Falcons-Saints is on a Thursday, mostly because you have to wonder if we’ll be getting either teams’ best. Either way, I’m excited to see how it goes down.

First and 10: Patriots Could Be Involved in Giants’ GM Search in More Ways Than One

1. I would not overlook Bill Belichick’s potential influence on the Giants’ search for a GM. Belichick’s long had a close relationship with owner John Mara, who’d surely seek his advice. And ex-Giants GM Ernie Accorsi has been retained as a consultant for the search, and Accorsi’s searches have, in the past, turned up Belichick protégés Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta) and Bob Quinn (Detroit) as hires.

2. Accordingly, keep an eye on Patriots VP of player personnel Nick Caserio. In the past, there’s been perception that he had little interest in leaving New England, but the sense I’ve gotten is that he’s willing to listen, especially to a place like the Giants. Last year, when the Niners set their sights on Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, there was a second effort, after Caserio initially declined to interview in San Francisco, to poach the exec as part of a package deal.

3. If Caserio were to leave, I’d be interested to see if Belichick were inclined to try and woo Falcons assistant GM Scott Pioli back home. Pioli’s done a fantastic job in helping to build an impressive Atlanta roster.

4. I don’t think Jim Caldwell’s extension in Detroit makes him 100 percent safe at the end of the month. My guess is that if the Lions miss the playoffs, there’ll be some tough discussions. And there’s long been speculation in league circles that Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia could win up with the Lions.

5. The Ravens defense has been nasty all year, and the offense is finally showing some level of competence. Injury issues along the line, and Joe Flacco’s up-and-down play, have been problems all year, but behind the tough, chippy play of center Ryan Jensen, and the hard-running of Alex Collins, Baltimore’s begun to develop an identity on that side of the ball. If the Ravens win Sunday, getting to 10 wins would be easy to see, and that should be enough to make the AFC playoffs.

6. To me, the fundamental issue in games like the Bengals/Steelers Monday nighter is officials losing control. That’s something I believe is correctable through technology. We don’t need the targeting rule. Just make fighting and illegal hits reviewable, and let the players know they’re being watched constantly. Most believe they can get away with most of it, because there’s so much officials are responsible to watch. They won’t feel that way if they know the eye in the sky is on them.

7. Credit to the Packers coaching staff for getting read-option concepts into the offense to get quarterback Brett Hundley going the past couple weeks. The best news for Green Bay is that it’s helped them develop another dimension on the ground that should serve them well when they get Aaron Rodgers in Week 15. That’s all provided they can survive the Browns game this week, because another loss would probably spell the end for them.

8. Jimmy Garoppolo deserves a lot of credit for playing really well in third-and-long situations in his debut as Niners starter in Chicago. On third or fourth down against the Bears, he hit on 10-of-15 passes for 116 yards and a pick that really wasn’t his fault. (It was stolen from a receiver’s hands.)

9. We’ve spent plenty of time the past few weeks looking at potential coaching candidates for 2018: I even shot a video on the best 10 guys under 50 years old the other day. Want a name that wasn’t on there? Bill O’Brien. If the Texans coach becomes available after the season, he’ll be at the top of a lot of lists.

10. Almost seems like a shame that a late-season showdown like Falcons-Saints is on a Thursday, mostly because you have to wonder if we’ll be getting either teams’ best. Either way, I’m excited to see how it goes down.

2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Nominees Announced

Every season, each NFL team nominates one player for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which acknowledges a player for his community service activities off the field, as well as his play on the field. Headlining this year’s list, not surprisingly, is Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who raised $37 million over 19 days for Hurricane Harvey relief. But another headline of the 2017 class involves the many nominees who reflect this unique point in NFL history, where the intersection of sports, politics and minority rights have defined the season. There’s a new kind of Man of the Year candidate, one whose community work focuses on fighting social injustices.

Of the 32 nominees, seven players were nominated specifically by their teams for their work in raising awareness of social injustice, ranging participating in police ride-alongs to organizing meetings with state senators. A year after Colin Kaepernick’s original anthem protest, 12 of the 32 nominees have been involved in some form of anthem demonstration this season, either sitting, kneeling or raising a fist.

“It’s a new wave, definitely,” says Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who has raised his fist during the anthem, starting in 2016. “Normally you get guys that are afraid to stand up, they don’t want to be released or they don’t want to face contract issues, but when I see a man like [Eagles safety] Malcolm Jenkins or [Dolphins receiver] Kenny Stills, standing up for something they believe and not backing down, to me, that is a true American.”

Both Jenkins and Stills are Man of the Year nominees for their activism against racial inequality and social injustice. Jenkins’s efforts are focused on criminal justice reform, working to pass Clean Slate legislation that would seal old, non-violent misdemeanor offenses for Pennsylvanians who have not had any additional convictions for at least 10 years. Stills has spent time fostering the relationship between law enforcement and children in Miami. Last season he organized a town hall meeting with community leaders and law enforcement to discuss issues of racial inequality and how the parties could work to build understanding.

Stills left the town hall meeting with an idea to participate in police ride-alongs, where he would join police to stop by parks after school to hang out with local kids. “Just to help the law enforcement to build a relationship with the kids in those communities and build some type of trust and some familiarity with each other,” Stills says. “We can stop some negative things from happening by building these bonds.”

He’s also helped organize CommUNITY tailgates before every Dolphins home game, which bring local student-athletes, coaches, parents, community leaders, law enforcement and military personnel together to build relationships across races and economic backgrounds.

“I’m trying to make our country stand for what we say we stand for,” Still says. “We say we believe in justice for all, we say we believe in equality, and freedom of speech and then when people are currently protesting, people have an issue with that, or when a police officer kills a young man or a young woman, they don’t serve any time. So, it’s just my goal is to hold this country accountable to the standards that we say we believe in.”

In an arrangement with the Players Coalition, a group led in part by Jenkins, the NFL recently pledged to donate nearly $89 million over seven years to projects central to Stills and Jenkins’ focuses—criminal justice reform, law enforcement, community relations and education. The pledge represents the largest amount the NFL would spend on a social cause—more than the Salute to Service and Breast Cancer Awareness/Crucial Catch platforms.

Woodyard’s own community work reflects another current social cause, the women’s movement. Woodyard’s charity, 16Ways, is involved in a number of efforts, including a program called GYRLS, an acronym for “giving yourself respect and love,” that provides mentorship for girls as they transition to the teen years, developing self-esteem and providing positive direction through activities such as job shadowing, financial education and health and wellness talks. Woodyard’s daughters, two-year-old Noah and nine-month-old Luca, serve as the inspiration for the program. “I just want to try to make it a better world for everybody, but definitely for my daughters,” he says. “We’re just trying to get our girls to see that they hold all the power in their hands and they can do whatever they want to do in life. I think it is important that our females see Hillary Clinton running for president; that’s the first time anyone has seen that. We just want to show them keep dreaming and if you want to be an astronaut, you can be an astronaut. Doctor? You can be a doctor.”

Falcons guard Ben Garland never takes a week off from community service. He tries to participate in one or two events per week and at least 63 charity events per year. Garland graduated from the Air Force Academy and fulfilled his two-year service duty, so he spends much of his community service time with veterans recovering from wounds or dealing with PTSD. Garland’s motivation comes from the knowledge that his career and his NFL platform won’t last forever. “We have a small time frame where we can use this [NFL] shield to make a large difference,” he says. “I’ve had kids come back to me—when I talked to them they were 13 years old and now they’re 18 or 19, and they tell me that some small speech I gave to them in a classroom way back when has really changed their lives. That stuff is incredible to hear.”

While all the nominees are worthy, Woodyard can’t see Jenkins, Stills or Garland upsetting Watt for the award. He says he’d even vote for the Texans star if he could. “If I had to cast a vote, I would vote J.J.,” says Woodyard. “To see what Houston went through, the crisis they had there with the hurricane and the flood, just to see how quick he was able to get that momentum rolling.”

Here’s a look at the 32 nominees.

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills: Lorenzo Alexander, linebacker

• Alexander is president and Founder of the ACES Foundation, spokesman for the American Diabetes Association, PLAY 60 Advocate, Character Playbook Ambassador. He currently mentors a local inner-city high school football team about making good decisions on and off the field.

• He organized a day of community service, where 42 Bills players spent their day off at five different organizations throughout the Buffalo community, making a difference for youth athletes and students.

• Throughout the remainder of the season, he will organize town hall meetings with leaders from the Buffalo community and a team-voted community organization award will be presented at each home game.

Miami Dolphins: Kenny Stills, wide receiver

•? In 2016, Stills worked with the Miami Dolphins and Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) to host a town hall meeting that brought influential local leaders together with law enforcement to discuss actionable steps that could be taken to address issues of racial inequality and unite the community.

• Items that came from this meeting included a police ride-along program and CommUNITY tailgates, which bring local student-athletes, coaches, parents, community leaders, law enforcement and military personnel together at every Dolphins home game.

New England Patriots: Nate Solder, tackle

• Nate is on the board of directors for Fresh Truck, an organization dedicated to making Boston healthier by converting old school busses into mobile markets that drive to areas of the city that are categorized as food deserts, meaning that fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods are difficult to access.

• In April of 2014, Nate was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He discovered it early and is now cancer-free. That October, his one-year old son Hudson was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Nate and his wife Lexi found the tumors early and have been able to seek the proper treatment for their son. As his son continues to undergo chemotherapy, Nate has been committed to supporting local hospitals and organizations that aid children and families battling cancer. He visits Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to share his story. Nate also participated in the Jimmy Fund’s annual Telethon and has attended the One Mission Kid’s Cancer Buzz Off to raise funds for children battling cancer. He is also a supporter of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which helps to offset living expenses for families battling cancer.

New York Jets: Quincy Enunwa, wide receiver

•? Enunwa volunteers with middle school students through the Jets PLAY 60 Challenge—a program that encourages youth to live healthier lives and participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

•? Involved with the launch of the Jet’s Flag Football League in partnership with the NYC Police Athletic League, that will allow more than 1,200 NYC children to participate in the athletic program at no cost.

•? Enunwa speaks to high school football teams through the Jets relationship with the New York City Department of Education’s Public School Athletic League’s High School Football program.

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens: Ben Watson, tight end

• Watson’s charity, the One More Foundation, recently partnered with the International Justice Mission, the world’s largest international anti-slavery organization working to combat human trafficking, modern day slavery and other forms of violence against the poor. Watson took a three-day trip to Lebanon, where he witnessed firsthand the Middle East’s refugee crisis. He and his wife, Kirsten, traveled to the Dominican Republic in June to begin formulating plans that combat sex trafficking. .

• Named one of CNN’s Most Extraordinary People of the Year (2014), Benjamin regularly appears on FOX News and CNN to discuss issues such as race, persecution, ISIS, civil unrest and social responsibility.

• Watson has written two books: “The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life,” featuring advice and info on being a father, and “Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race – Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us,” a look at race, bias and justice, following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Cincinnati Bengals: Michael Johnson, defensive end

• ?Johnson’s MJ93-90 Foundation educates children on the importance of capitalizing on their talents and abilities with mentorship, educational programming and encouragement to have a vision for success.

• Two years ago, Michael started a program encouraging kids and the Cincinnati Police Department to strengthen their relationship in the community. This year’s program includes a community service component where kids and officers volunteer together. The kids engage in a question and answer session with officers to discuss any concerns they have about law enforcement and the current climate in America.

Cleveland Browns: Randall Telfer, tight end

• Randall frequently visits local police and fire stations to support those who protect our communities.

• ?This fall, he hosted a back-to-school event for kids from a local recreational center, which provided new backpacks to students for the year. He also supports the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, attending the Taste of the Browns event and volunteering at the warehouse before Thanksgiving. Through the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats platform, Telfer supports Boo 2 Bullying, a nonprofit organization founded in California dedicated to eliminating bullying in the school system and beyond.

• Telfer has participated in a police ride-along, and had conversations with local students during a town hall on police perception in neighborhoods and equality. He represents the team when speaking on those subjects with media.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Cam Heyward, defensive end

• Heyward established the Heyward House Foundation in 2015, and kicked it off with a birthday party for those served by KidsVoice, an agency that represents abused and neglected kids who are in foster or group homes. He provides school backpacks, shoes and supplies to nearly 50 children, and takes them shopping for winter coats and boots. The Heyward House also supports local youth football teams, allowing kids from financially challenged backgrounds to play.

• Heyward’s late father, Craig Heyward, went to his local Boys & Girls Club growing up, and today. Heyward works alongside the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania. His foundation supports their “Triple Play” program, which emphasizes academic performance and physical fitness, as well as provides leadership and mentorship to the children.

• ? Heyward is helping to lead an initiative with local police officers to make an impact in Pittsburgh. The first project was a Thanksgiving turkey distribution, where Steelers players and police officers worked together to distribute to local families.

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans: J.J. Watt, defensive end

• In 19 days, JJ Watt raised more than $37 million for Hurricane Harvey relief. Watt will soon unfold a plan with strategic organizations, ensuring that every dollar goes directly to the people of Houston and its surrounding areas that are in need.

• ? Watt started the Justin J. Watt Foundation in Wisconsin in 2010 out of a desire to help underserved kids. The foundation has provided over $3.4 million in funding to middle schools and organizations that have insufficient funding for after-school athletic programs or no after-school athletics whatsoever for middle school children.

• ? Watt makes frequent hospital visits and regularly works with organizations, such as Make-A-Wish, to create special experiences for children whose wish to spend the day with him.

Indianapolis Colts: Darius Butler, safety

• Butler started the Darius Butler Foundation, which aims to fight hunger in underserved communities, inspire at-risk youth to achieve their dreams and improve in the classroom. The Foundation runs an academic summer tutoring camp that provides academic support to help high school students learn studying and test-taking skills. The objective is to not only help students pass standardized tests, but also equip them with the tools necessary to succeed in college.

• For the past five seasons, Butler has donated tickets, hats and meal vouchers to the Indianapolis nonprofit, Boys II Men, Inc. Through this initiative, over 500 underprivileged boys have been able to experience a Colts game.

• ?Butler has hosted two annual youth football and cheerleading camps in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Darius also hosts a youth football and personal development program that provides mentorship, coaching and guidance to area youth.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Malik Jackson, defensive tackle

• Jackson’s foundation, Malik’s Gifts, provides support and builds programs for at-risk children, military children and families, animal rescue missions and family emergency assistance. Jackson annually hosts youth football and soccer camps for 500 children ages 7-14. He supports the local NFL FLAG leagues for Boys & Girls Clubs across Northeast Florida by contributing $5,000 to offset registration and uniform costs.

• This past Memorial Day, Malik provided a day of fun activities for 200 military children who lost a loved one. Jackson committed to donate $5,000 to 5 Star Veterans Center, a foundation that offers safe and secure housing to end veteran homelessness.

• Jackson also works with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. He participated in a ride-along with Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office patrol officer and former Jaguar Ernest Wilford. Jackson and Wilford discussed civilian and police relations and the importance of dialogue between both groups as they traveled to River City Science Academy Elementary School to engage students.

Tennessee Titans: Wesley Woodyard, linebacker

• ?Woodyard co-founded the 16Ways Foundation with his cousin, Derrick Kelley, in 2010. The foundation’s mission is to encourage and empower youth, especially at-risk youth, to follow their dreams and succeed.

• Through a strategic partnership with Scholastic and its Family and Community Engagement (FACE) program, 16Ways builds mini libraries – known as 16Chapters – in inner city areas. Every summer, the foundation hosts free youth football and cheer camps. Guest NFL and college players, as well as high school coaches, reinforce hard work and practice as a means of accomplishing goals. The camp also includes anti-bullying and academic achievement messages. Woodyard provides young girls with opportunities for positive experiences to develop self-esteem and awareness through 16Ways’ GYRLs program – an acronym for “giving yourself respect and love.” As a dad of two girls, this program is important to Woodyard.

• For the second year in a row, Wesley used the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats platform to raise awareness and funds for ALS. Wesley lost his aunt to ALS, and is close to former Titans linebacker Tim Shaw, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2014.

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos: Chris Harris Jr, cornerback

• ?Harris and his wife, Leah, founded the Chris Harris Jr. Foundation in 2012 to provide underprivileged youth with unique opportunities to help achieve their goals. Through his foundation, Chris has established partnerships with notable organizations, including the Denver Children’s Home (DCH), which helps kids who have survived trauma, neglect and abuse.

• Since 2013, Harris has supported various initiatives to speak out against domestic violence, including the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s “How I See DV” campaign and the NFL’s NO MORE movement. This season, Harris took part in Stand Up Colorado, a collaborative, multi-year relationship violence prevention campaign spearheaded by the Colorado Attorney General.

• This summer, Harris Jr. joined Denver mayor Michael B. Hancock in launching Mentor Colorado’s #MentoringFlipped campaign to improve the number of quality mentoring relationships for young people.

Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Smith, quarterback

• The Alex Smith Foundation’s mission is to provide foster teens with the tools and resources needed to transition to successful adulthood. The foundation’s Guardian Scholars program provides a scholarship and year-round housing along with extensive individual support. 23 former foster youth graduated from San Diego State University. The college replicated this program, and another 205 former foster youth have graduated from the school.

• Smith’s relationship with the foster agency, Cornerstones of Care, helped the organization to become the local leader for foster care. More than 40 youth have graduated high school and enrolled in college courses or trade training.

• Smith has personally donated over $600,000 to charitable causes since 2005, including all administrative costs incurred by his foundation.

Los Angeles Chargers: Casey Hayward, cornerback

• In 2014, Hayward and his mother, Tish Hayward, created the Hayward’s Hands Foundation in Georgia. Hayward’s Hands mission is to reach people of all ages with programs and services to meet their particular needs through love and compassion. Hayward’s Hands started with a Thanksgiving meal its first year, and now annually hosts a number of events, including the Thanksgiving meal, a Christmas Toy Drive, youth football camps and scholarship opportunities for students in his hometown of Perry.

• Tish Hayward died from breast cancer before the 2016 NFL season, and Hayward is now dedicated to honoring his mother with his foundation.

Oakland Raiders: Bruce Irvin, linebacker

• Irvin hosted his third annual Bruce Irvin Football Clinic in Charleston, W.Va. Bruce was a volunteer coach at Michael Crabtree’s annual youth football camp in Dallas as well as Justin Ellis’ youth football camp in Monroe, La.

• ?Irvin volunteered with the Alameda County Community Food Bank’s Mobile Pantry with his teammates, helping distribute food to 157 low-income families. He participated in the Crucial Catch community event at the Raiders’ facility in which players and 15 breast cancer survivors and guests were led through a group art lesson.

• In response to the devastating wildfires that have ravaged the region, Irvin encouraged his teammates to contribute and help those effected by the fires. Irvin donated over $15,000 that was used to purchase food, supplies and gift cards for those who were impacted by the fires.

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys: Travis Frederick, center

• ?Frederick established the Blocking Out Hunger Foundation in 2016 and began working with nutrition experts to create programing that would reshape a low-income family’s ability to address hunger. His Nourish2Flourish program provides meals to hundreds of low-income students who often go without regular meals during extended school breaks.

• Travis’ Pantry program provides schools with a food cart, or “Travis’ Pantry,” that offers non-perishable food items at night and on the weekends. The first Pantry opened at Trinity Basin Preparatory School in October and feeds over 70 students and their families.

• Since 2016, Travis has impacted 53,250 individuals through his efforts. Nourish2Flourish has provided 2,000 meals, with plans to provide 90,000 meals by the end of the year.

New York Giants: Mark Herzlich, linebacker

• After being named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year as a junior at Boston College, Mark was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Mark regularly visits hospitals and sends get-well messages to fans battling cancer.

• Herzlich is a member of the advisory board for the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, which helps families tackle childhood cancer. He anually attends the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Gala, and the Jay Fund’s Sundae Blitz ice cream social. He currently serves on the American Cancer Society’s Athlete Council. Herzlich and his mother host an annual “Steps to Cure Sarcoma 5K” fundraiser in his hometown of Wayne, Pa. to benefit the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Medicine, where Mark was treated.

• Mark joined many teammates to participate in a conversation with Senator Cory Booker and RISE regarding current social justice issues. He has been the Giants’ player representative at the NFL’s recent meetings between Commissioner Roger Goodell, players and owners regarding racial equality. He joined teammates Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Adam Bisnowaty in a ride-along with the Newark Police Department’s Bronze Shields and Mayor Ras Baraka to learn about the department’s community efforts and the challenges of policing.

Philadelphia Eagles: Malcolm Jenkins, safety

• In 2010, Jenkins founded the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, whose mission is to help youth in underserved communities. The organization has expanded to help youth in three areas: Jenkins’ home state of New Jersey; Ohio, where he attended Ohio State University; and Pennsylvania, where he plays. The Foundation establishes programs that emphasize mentorship, character development, leadership, education and health. Project R.E.W.A.R.D.S. offers a life skills curriculum program to high school students in under-resourced New Orleans communities and has helped provide more than $100,000 in scholarships to college bound seniors since 2012. ?

• Over the last two years, with the help of teammates and peers, Jenkins has worked to create change in the criminal justice system. Jenkins planned two days of key meetings that focused on issues that are prevalent in Pennsylvania. Jenkins, Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie and Roger Goodell met with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, grassroots organizations, policy leaders and public defenders in the city. He also attended meetings with politicians and lawmakers at the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped support Clean Slate legislation.

• Jenkins and former NFL receiver Anquan Boldin formed the Players Coalition, a group of around 40 players across the league who are committed to improving the country's criminal-justice system. As a leader of the Players Coalition, Jenkins worked with the NFL where the league and teams will donate around $90 million to social causes that are important to the players.

Washington: Nick Sundberg, long snapper

•? Last winter, Nick approached the Redskins Charitable Foundation with an idea for a new program to help increase school attendance rates in low-income areas and give equal opportunities to all children. His solution was washers and dryers. It started after Nick and his wife Flor heard about a laundry program that installed washers and dryers in schools after finding that thousands of children missed school each year because they did not have access to clean clothes.

• In partnership with the Redskins Charitable Foundation, Nick will launch the Loads of Love (LOL) laundry program in three Prince George’s County public schools and two youth shelters in Washington. The program will provide schools with a high percentage of homeless students with the supplies and equipment needed to create an in-school laundry center.

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears: Sam Acho, linebacker

• Acho is dedicated to making sure the people of Nigeria have access to basic health care. Through Living Hope Christian Ministries, Acho and his family fundraised money to build a medical clinic in Nigeria that opened last June. He continues to raise funds to sustain the facility with staff, medicine and equipment. Acho hosted his second annual Celebrity Waiter Night in Chicago this past September at Steak 48. Over twenty of his teammates served guests and helped raise over $100,000.

• Sam is a player ambassador for the Fuel Up to Play 60 initiative as well. As a player representative, he spoke to student ambassadors at the Rewards Summit at Halas Hall, took part in the Program Directors' Skills Clinic and represented the Bears by presenting a $10,000 grant to a Chicago Public School as part of the FUTP60 Hometown Grant program.

Detroit Lions: Haloti Ngata, defensive tackle

• Founded the Haloti Ngata Family Foundation. To honor his mother’s memory, Ngata and his wife, Christina, established a college preparation program in her name. In two years, the Ofa Ngata College Preparation Program has assisted over 600 students in six schools in two states. The program provides free college entrance exam preparation courses for students. By the end of the 2017-18 school year, the program will add three new schools and reach over 1,000 students in only three years.

• Each year the Ngatas invite deserving youth on an all-expenses paid trip to see Haloti play in person during the “It’s Ngata Dream” weekend.

• He co-hosted Sam Martin’s annual charity softball game in 2017 and helped Ziggy Ansah deliver 94,000 bottles of water to residents of Flint, Michigan during their water crisis in 2016.

Green Bay Packers: Clay Matthews, linebacker

•? Matthews has participated in a variety of charitable golf outings, bowl-a-thons, and softball games. He’s helped support philanthropic work with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Jimmy V Foundation, Hugs from Holly and met with the students who collected food at St. Mark’s Lutheran School.

• When Make-A-Wish kids come to Lambeau Field to fulfill their wishes, Matthews signs autographs for the kids, takes photos with them and spends time with each family. In 2016, he worked with wish kid Angel Cruz on the Catch A Star campaign, where Make-A-Wish sold greeting cards featuring artwork by Cruz and an autograph from Matthews to fundraise.

Minnesota Vikings: Kyle Rudolph, tight end

• As a kid, Rudolph spent long hours at the hospital while his brother was undergoing chemotherapy. He witnessed all that went into making a patient and his or her family feel comfortable during treatment. Years later, Rudolph is dedicated to changing the lives of families who are faced with the emotional and physical constraints of long-term hospital stays in his adoptive state, Minnesota.

• In 2016, Kyle and his wife Jordan opened a space for all children at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital called, Kyle Rudolph's End Zone.

• Over the 2016 Christmas season, Rudolph partnered with a private jet company to create "Rudy's Red Eye Express" which was funded in part by a personal donation of $10,000. The event welcomed more than 40 children and their families who were swept away from the hospital to board private jets to the “North Pole,” a cleverly disguised airport hanger.

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons: Ben Garland, guard

• Garland attended the United States Air Force Academy and fulfilled his two-year military commitment. He is very involved in the Atlanta Falcons military outreach and has dedicated time to honor service members.

• He has participated in Fishing with the Falcons, where players fish with soldiers who were recently injured in the Middle East and spoken to service members at Fort Benning, Fort Stewart and Dobbins Air Reserve Base. He’s also visited wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. this past summer. Garland also spends time with veterans suffering from PTSD.

• In his three seasons in Atlanta, Garland has participated in over sixty community events. He has addressed youth football teams, participated in PLAY 60 camps and Gatorade Junior Training Camps, visited hospital patients, and traveled to Canada twice to participate with NFL Canada in PLAY 60 events.

Carolina Panthers: Greg Olsen, tight end

• In 2009, after watching his mother beat breast cancer, Greg Olsen founded Receptions for Research: The Greg Olsen Foundation. The Foundation’s Receiving Hope program focuses on cancer research and education programming. The program has distributed over $524,000 to six hospitals and foundations nationwide, with funding generated by events executed entirely by Greg.

• In early 2013, Greg and his wife Kara founded the HEARTest Yard Fund after a routine examination of their unborn son, T.J., revealed the infant had hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The HEARTest Yard Fund is a family service program administered in conjunction with Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte and provides families of babies affected by congenital heart disease with services including in-home, private nursing care, physical therapy and speech therapy, at no cost to the families or hospital. The fund has distributed nearly $1.7 million in support.

• In February 2013, Greg traveled to Raleigh, N.C. to lobby the House of Representatives for legislation that would require mandatory heart disease screening for newborns. The bill went in to effect in July 2014.

New Orleans Saints: Cameron Jordan, defensive end

• Since his rookie year, Jordan has participated in a community event almost every week.

• For the past four years, Jordan has been the face of the Saints Kids Club and has also been designated as the Live United player in the region. He spends several hours during the summer working with kids who take part in the Saints Community Patrol Summer Camps. He gives speeches to youth and high school students throughout the year and supports any event hosted by a teammate.

• Jordan recently represented the Saints in the NFL's USO tour this past off-season to show his appreciation for the military members on the front lines, and also the support staff that get less attention.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Clinton McDonald, defensive tackle

• Following Hurricane Irma, McDonald covered all expenses to deploy food trucks into areas of Tampa that were left without power as result of the storm. Over the course of two weeks, over 15,000 meals were distributed.

• Each year, in his hometown of Jacksonville, Arkansas, McDonald co-hosts the annual “Iron Sharpens Iron” week that includes a free football and cheer camp, a golf tournament and bowling tournament that both benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Jacksonville.

• McDonald’s family has a history of military service, so for the past two years, he has served as an honorary guest speaker at the Buccaneers General H Norman Schwarzkopf Military Family of the Year Awards. The event honors the families of active duty military members from each branch of service and recognizes their integrity, courage, commitment, and service before self. On Veterans Day in 2016, McDonald helped organize a clothing donation drive and purchased meals for homeless veterans as part of Operation Reveille, which works to improve the lives of veterans who have struggled to find housing, jobs, health services, transportation and other basic needs.

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, cornerback

• Founded the Patrick Peterson Foundation for Success in 2013 to provide low-income and inner-city youth with opportunities and resources, specifically to improve poor reading proficiency.

• Patrick’s Corner, launched in 2015, builds and maintain libraries in Title I schools and inner-city community centers to provide at-risk students access to books and a fun environment to read. Peterson has opened 12 Corners in 12 Phoenix area schools and will open two more by the end of the year. These 14 Patrick’s Corners provide nearly 32,000 students with 24,100 books.

• In 2017 Patrick partnered with “Furnishing Dignity,” a non-profit agency that assists homeless families with housing, finance management and job placement. Patrick is providing “mini reading corners” to these families’ homes.

Los Angeles Rams: Rodger Saffold, guard

• Saffold is commited to supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters, Children’s Miracle Network and their Extra Life program, which is an online video gaming effort that unites children in the hospitals through the power of play.

• Saffold has been active in a variety of charitable efforts since the team’s relocation to Los Angeles, including work with Heart of Los Angeles, Cedars-Sinai hospital, Los Angeles Regional Foodbank, Inglewood Unified School District and Single Mom Planet Awards. He has also supported mentoring programs including Big Brothers Big Sisters and Operation Progress, a program that pairs LAPD officers with underserved youth from Watts.

San Francisco 49ers: Bradley Pinion, punter

•? Bradley partnered with local first responders and lead youth from the Santa Clara Police Activities League through youth football activities at the First Responders Skills, Drills and Grills event. Bradley also worked with athletes with Down syndrome at Football Camp for the Stars where he ran the athletes through a day of skills and drills clinics.

• To encourage the importance of literacy, Bradley collaborated with 3rd and 4th graders at Don Callejon Elementary School to complete and present Mad Lib stories.

• As a rookie, Bradley participated in the 49ers Mentorship Academy, where he helped lead a leadership development lesson. In partnership with Reading Partners, which provides one-on-one instruction to elementary school students reading below grade level to help them succeed, Bradley tutored a student at Lakewood Elementary School.

Seattle Seahawks: Michael Bennett, defensive end

• The Bennett Foundation educates underserved children and communities through free, accessible programming across the nation. The foundation’s goal is to provide children and families with valuable knowledge and tools that will enable them to make positive, healthy lifestyle choices. The Foundation’s O.C.E.A.N. (fighting Obesity through Community, Education, Activity and Nutrition) programs impact thousands of people each year by offering free health education, health screenings, fitness activities, cooking demonstrations, and other health related activities.

• Bennett’s foundation is partnering with the African-led global movement iamtheCODE to get 100 marginalized girls in Africa into STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) programs. He’s also partnering with multiple local organizations to start a gardening program for youth in juvenile detention.

• Bennett has been a regular visitor at the King County Juvenile Youth Services Center on Fridays before home games.

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2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Nominees Announced

Every season, each NFL team nominates one player for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which acknowledges a player for his community service activities off the field, as well as his play on the field. Headlining this year’s list, not surprisingly, is Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who raised $37 million over 19 days for Hurricane Harvey relief. But another headline of the 2017 class involves the many nominees who reflect this unique point in NFL history, where the intersection of sports, politics and minority rights have defined the season. There’s a new kind of Man of the Year candidate, one whose community work focuses on fighting social injustices.

Of the 32 nominees, seven players were nominated specifically by their teams for their work in raising awareness of social injustice, ranging participating in police ride-alongs to organizing meetings with state senators. A year after Colin Kaepernick’s original anthem protest, 12 of the 32 nominees have been involved in some form of anthem demonstration this season, either sitting, kneeling or raising a fist.

“It’s a new wave, definitely,” says Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who has raised his fist during the anthem, starting in 2016. “Normally you get guys that are afraid to stand up, they don’t want to be released or they don’t want to face contract issues, but when I see a man like [Eagles safety] Malcolm Jenkins or [Dolphins receiver] Kenny Stills, standing up for something they believe and not backing down, to me, that is a true American.”

Both Jenkins and Stills are Man of the Year nominees for their activism against racial inequality and social injustice. Jenkins’s efforts are focused on criminal justice reform, working to pass Clean Slate legislation that would seal old, non-violent misdemeanor offenses for Pennsylvanians who have not had any additional convictions for at least 10 years. Stills has spent time fostering the relationship between law enforcement and children in Miami. Last season he organized a town hall meeting with community leaders and law enforcement to discuss issues of racial inequality and how the parties could work to build understanding.

Stills left the town hall meeting with an idea to participate in police ride-alongs, where he would join police to stop by parks after school to hang out with local kids. “Just to help the law enforcement to build a relationship with the kids in those communities and build some type of trust and some familiarity with each other,” Stills says. “We can stop some negative things from happening by building these bonds.”

He’s also helped organize CommUNITY tailgates before every Dolphins home game, which bring local student-athletes, coaches, parents, community leaders, law enforcement and military personnel together to build relationships across races and economic backgrounds.

“I’m trying to make our country stand for what we say we stand for,” Still says. “We say we believe in justice for all, we say we believe in equality, and freedom of speech and then when people are currently protesting, people have an issue with that, or when a police officer kills a young man or a young woman, they don’t serve any time. So, it’s just my goal is to hold this country accountable to the standards that we say we believe in.”

In an arrangement with the Players Coalition, a group led in part by Jenkins, the NFL recently pledged to donate nearly $89 million over seven years to projects central to Stills and Jenkins’ focuses—criminal justice reform, law enforcement, community relations and education. The pledge represents the largest amount the NFL would spend on a social cause—more than the Salute to Service and Breast Cancer Awareness/Crucial Catch platforms.

Woodyard’s own community work reflects another current social cause, the women’s movement. Woodyard’s charity, 16Ways, is involved in a number of efforts, including a program called GYRLS, an acronym for “giving yourself respect and love,” that provides mentorship for girls as they transition to the teen years, developing self-esteem and providing positive direction through activities such as job shadowing, financial education and health and wellness talks. Woodyard’s daughters, two-year-old Noah and nine-month-old Luca, serve as the inspiration for the program. “I just want to try to make it a better world for everybody, but definitely for my daughters,” he says. “We’re just trying to get our girls to see that they hold all the power in their hands and they can do whatever they want to do in life. I think it is important that our females see Hillary Clinton running for president; that’s the first time anyone has seen that. We just want to show them keep dreaming and if you want to be an astronaut, you can be an astronaut. Doctor? You can be a doctor.”

Falcons guard Ben Garland never takes a week off from community service. He tries to participate in one or two events per week and at least 63 charity events per year. Garland graduated from the Air Force Academy and fulfilled his two-year service duty, so he spends much of his community service time with veterans recovering from wounds or dealing with PTSD. Garland’s motivation comes from the knowledge that his career and his NFL platform won’t last forever. “We have a small time frame where we can use this [NFL] shield to make a large difference,” he says. “I’ve had kids come back to me—when I talked to them they were 13 years old and now they’re 18 or 19, and they tell me that some small speech I gave to them in a classroom way back when has really changed their lives. That stuff is incredible to hear.”

While all the nominees are worthy, Woodyard can’t see Jenkins, Stills or Garland upsetting Watt for the award. He says he’d even vote for the Texans star if he could. “If I had to cast a vote, I would vote J.J.,” says Woodyard. “To see what Houston went through, the crisis they had there with the hurricane and the flood, just to see how quick he was able to get that momentum rolling.”

Here’s a look at the 32 nominees.

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills: Lorenzo Alexander, linebacker

• Alexander is president and Founder of the ACES Foundation, spokesman for the American Diabetes Association, PLAY 60 Advocate, Character Playbook Ambassador. He currently mentors a local inner-city high school football team about making good decisions on and off the field.

• He organized a day of community service, where 42 Bills players spent their day off at five different organizations throughout the Buffalo community, making a difference for youth athletes and students.

• Throughout the remainder of the season, he will organize town hall meetings with leaders from the Buffalo community and a team-voted community organization award will be presented at each home game.

Miami Dolphins: Kenny Stills, wide receiver

•? In 2016, Stills worked with the Miami Dolphins and Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) to host a town hall meeting that brought influential local leaders together with law enforcement to discuss actionable steps that could be taken to address issues of racial inequality and unite the community.

• Items that came from this meeting included a police ride-along program and CommUNITY tailgates, which bring local student-athletes, coaches, parents, community leaders, law enforcement and military personnel together at every Dolphins home game.

New England Patriots: Nate Solder, tackle

• Nate is on the board of directors for Fresh Truck, an organization dedicated to making Boston healthier by converting old school busses into mobile markets that drive to areas of the city that are categorized as food deserts, meaning that fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods are difficult to access.

• In April of 2014, Nate was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He discovered it early and is now cancer-free. That October, his one-year old son Hudson was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Nate and his wife Lexi found the tumors early and have been able to seek the proper treatment for their son. As his son continues to undergo chemotherapy, Nate has been committed to supporting local hospitals and organizations that aid children and families battling cancer. He visits Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to share his story. Nate also participated in the Jimmy Fund’s annual Telethon and has attended the One Mission Kid’s Cancer Buzz Off to raise funds for children battling cancer. He is also a supporter of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which helps to offset living expenses for families battling cancer.

New York Jets: Quincy Enunwa, wide receiver

•? Enunwa volunteers with middle school students through the Jets PLAY 60 Challenge—a program that encourages youth to live healthier lives and participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

•? Involved with the launch of the Jet’s Flag Football League in partnership with the NYC Police Athletic League, that will allow more than 1,200 NYC children to participate in the athletic program at no cost.

•? Enunwa speaks to high school football teams through the Jets relationship with the New York City Department of Education’s Public School Athletic League’s High School Football program.

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens: Ben Watson, tight end

• Watson’s charity, the One More Foundation, recently partnered with the International Justice Mission, the world’s largest international anti-slavery organization working to combat human trafficking, modern day slavery and other forms of violence against the poor. Watson took a three-day trip to Lebanon, where he witnessed firsthand the Middle East’s refugee crisis. He and his wife, Kirsten, traveled to the Dominican Republic in June to begin formulating plans that combat sex trafficking. .

• Named one of CNN’s Most Extraordinary People of the Year (2014), Benjamin regularly appears on FOX News and CNN to discuss issues such as race, persecution, ISIS, civil unrest and social responsibility.

• Watson has written two books: “The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life,” featuring advice and info on being a father, and “Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race – Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us,” a look at race, bias and justice, following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Cincinnati Bengals: Michael Johnson, defensive end

• ?Johnson’s MJ93-90 Foundation educates children on the importance of capitalizing on their talents and abilities with mentorship, educational programming and encouragement to have a vision for success.

• Two years ago, Michael started a program encouraging kids and the Cincinnati Police Department to strengthen their relationship in the community. This year’s program includes a community service component where kids and officers volunteer together. The kids engage in a question and answer session with officers to discuss any concerns they have about law enforcement and the current climate in America.

Cleveland Browns: Randall Telfer, tight end

• Randall frequently visits local police and fire stations to support those who protect our communities.

• ?This fall, he hosted a back-to-school event for kids from a local recreational center, which provided new backpacks to students for the year. He also supports the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, attending the Taste of the Browns event and volunteering at the warehouse before Thanksgiving. Through the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats platform, Telfer supports Boo 2 Bullying, a nonprofit organization founded in California dedicated to eliminating bullying in the school system and beyond.

• Telfer has participated in a police ride-along, and had conversations with local students during a town hall on police perception in neighborhoods and equality. He represents the team when speaking on those subjects with media.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Cam Heyward, defensive end

• Heyward established the Heyward House Foundation in 2015, and kicked it off with a birthday party for those served by KidsVoice, an agency that represents abused and neglected kids who are in foster or group homes. He provides school backpacks, shoes and supplies to nearly 50 children, and takes them shopping for winter coats and boots. The Heyward House also supports local youth football teams, allowing kids from financially challenged backgrounds to play.

• Heyward’s late father, Craig Heyward, went to his local Boys & Girls Club growing up, and today. Heyward works alongside the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania. His foundation supports their “Triple Play” program, which emphasizes academic performance and physical fitness, as well as provides leadership and mentorship to the children.

• ? Heyward is helping to lead an initiative with local police officers to make an impact in Pittsburgh. The first project was a Thanksgiving turkey distribution, where Steelers players and police officers worked together to distribute to local families.

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans: J.J. Watt, defensive end

• In 19 days, JJ Watt raised more than $37 million for Hurricane Harvey relief. Watt will soon unfold a plan with strategic organizations, ensuring that every dollar goes directly to the people of Houston and its surrounding areas that are in need.

• ? Watt started the Justin J. Watt Foundation in Wisconsin in 2010 out of a desire to help underserved kids. The foundation has provided over $3.4 million in funding to middle schools and organizations that have insufficient funding for after-school athletic programs or no after-school athletics whatsoever for middle school children.

• ? Watt makes frequent hospital visits and regularly works with organizations, such as Make-A-Wish, to create special experiences for children whose wish to spend the day with him.

Indianapolis Colts: Darius Butler, safety

• Butler started the Darius Butler Foundation, which aims to fight hunger in underserved communities, inspire at-risk youth to achieve their dreams and improve in the classroom. The Foundation runs an academic summer tutoring camp that provides academic support to help high school students learn studying and test-taking skills. The objective is to not only help students pass standardized tests, but also equip them with the tools necessary to succeed in college.

• For the past five seasons, Butler has donated tickets, hats and meal vouchers to the Indianapolis nonprofit, Boys II Men, Inc. Through this initiative, over 500 underprivileged boys have been able to experience a Colts game.

• ?Butler has hosted two annual youth football and cheerleading camps in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Darius also hosts a youth football and personal development program that provides mentorship, coaching and guidance to area youth.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Malik Jackson, defensive tackle

• Jackson’s foundation, Malik’s Gifts, provides support and builds programs for at-risk children, military children and families, animal rescue missions and family emergency assistance. Jackson annually hosts youth football and soccer camps for 500 children ages 7-14. He supports the local NFL FLAG leagues for Boys & Girls Clubs across Northeast Florida by contributing $5,000 to offset registration and uniform costs.

• This past Memorial Day, Malik provided a day of fun activities for 200 military children who lost a loved one. Jackson committed to donate $5,000 to 5 Star Veterans Center, a foundation that offers safe and secure housing to end veteran homelessness.

• Jackson also works with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. He participated in a ride-along with Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office patrol officer and former Jaguar Ernest Wilford. Jackson and Wilford discussed civilian and police relations and the importance of dialogue between both groups as they traveled to River City Science Academy Elementary School to engage students.

Tennessee Titans: Wesley Woodyard, linebacker

• ?Woodyard co-founded the 16Ways Foundation with his cousin, Derrick Kelley, in 2010. The foundation’s mission is to encourage and empower youth, especially at-risk youth, to follow their dreams and succeed.

• Through a strategic partnership with Scholastic and its Family and Community Engagement (FACE) program, 16Ways builds mini libraries – known as 16Chapters – in inner city areas. Every summer, the foundation hosts free youth football and cheer camps. Guest NFL and college players, as well as high school coaches, reinforce hard work and practice as a means of accomplishing goals. The camp also includes anti-bullying and academic achievement messages. Woodyard provides young girls with opportunities for positive experiences to develop self-esteem and awareness through 16Ways’ GYRLs program – an acronym for “giving yourself respect and love.” As a dad of two girls, this program is important to Woodyard.

• For the second year in a row, Wesley used the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats platform to raise awareness and funds for ALS. Wesley lost his aunt to ALS, and is close to former Titans linebacker Tim Shaw, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2014.

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos: Chris Harris Jr, cornerback

• ?Harris and his wife, Leah, founded the Chris Harris Jr. Foundation in 2012 to provide underprivileged youth with unique opportunities to help achieve their goals. Through his foundation, Chris has established partnerships with notable organizations, including the Denver Children’s Home (DCH), which helps kids who have survived trauma, neglect and abuse.

• Since 2013, Harris has supported various initiatives to speak out against domestic violence, including the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s “How I See DV” campaign and the NFL’s NO MORE movement. This season, Harris took part in Stand Up Colorado, a collaborative, multi-year relationship violence prevention campaign spearheaded by the Colorado Attorney General.

• This summer, Harris Jr. joined Denver mayor Michael B. Hancock in launching Mentor Colorado’s #MentoringFlipped campaign to improve the number of quality mentoring relationships for young people.

Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Smith, quarterback

• The Alex Smith Foundation’s mission is to provide foster teens with the tools and resources needed to transition to successful adulthood. The foundation’s Guardian Scholars program provides a scholarship and year-round housing along with extensive individual support. 23 former foster youth graduated from San Diego State University. The college replicated this program, and another 205 former foster youth have graduated from the school.

• Smith’s relationship with the foster agency, Cornerstones of Care, helped the organization to become the local leader for foster care. More than 40 youth have graduated high school and enrolled in college courses or trade training.

• Smith has personally donated over $600,000 to charitable causes since 2005, including all administrative costs incurred by his foundation.

Los Angeles Chargers: Casey Hayward, cornerback

• In 2014, Hayward and his mother, Tish Hayward, created the Hayward’s Hands Foundation in Georgia. Hayward’s Hands mission is to reach people of all ages with programs and services to meet their particular needs through love and compassion. Hayward’s Hands started with a Thanksgiving meal its first year, and now annually hosts a number of events, including the Thanksgiving meal, a Christmas Toy Drive, youth football camps and scholarship opportunities for students in his hometown of Perry.

• Tish Hayward died from breast cancer before the 2016 NFL season, and Hayward is now dedicated to honoring his mother with his foundation.

Oakland Raiders: Bruce Irvin, linebacker

• Irvin hosted his third annual Bruce Irvin Football Clinic in Charleston, W.Va. Bruce was a volunteer coach at Michael Crabtree’s annual youth football camp in Dallas as well as Justin Ellis’ youth football camp in Monroe, La.

• ?Irvin volunteered with the Alameda County Community Food Bank’s Mobile Pantry with his teammates, helping distribute food to 157 low-income families. He participated in the Crucial Catch community event at the Raiders’ facility in which players and 15 breast cancer survivors and guests were led through a group art lesson.

• In response to the devastating wildfires that have ravaged the region, Irvin encouraged his teammates to contribute and help those effected by the fires. Irvin donated over $15,000 that was used to purchase food, supplies and gift cards for those who were impacted by the fires.

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys: Travis Frederick, center

• ?Frederick established the Blocking Out Hunger Foundation in 2016 and began working with nutrition experts to create programing that would reshape a low-income family’s ability to address hunger. His Nourish2Flourish program provides meals to hundreds of low-income students who often go without regular meals during extended school breaks.

• Travis’ Pantry program provides schools with a food cart, or “Travis’ Pantry,” that offers non-perishable food items at night and on the weekends. The first Pantry opened at Trinity Basin Preparatory School in October and feeds over 70 students and their families.

• Since 2016, Travis has impacted 53,250 individuals through his efforts. Nourish2Flourish has provided 2,000 meals, with plans to provide 90,000 meals by the end of the year.

New York Giants: Mark Herzlich, linebacker

• After being named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year as a junior at Boston College, Mark was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Mark regularly visits hospitals and sends get-well messages to fans battling cancer.

• Herzlich is a member of the advisory board for the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, which helps families tackle childhood cancer. He anually attends the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Gala, and the Jay Fund’s Sundae Blitz ice cream social. He currently serves on the American Cancer Society’s Athlete Council. Herzlich and his mother host an annual “Steps to Cure Sarcoma 5K” fundraiser in his hometown of Wayne, Pa. to benefit the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Medicine, where Mark was treated.

• Mark joined many teammates to participate in a conversation with Senator Cory Booker and RISE regarding current social justice issues. He has been the Giants’ player representative at the NFL’s recent meetings between Commissioner Roger Goodell, players and owners regarding racial equality. He joined teammates Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Adam Bisnowaty in a ride-along with the Newark Police Department’s Bronze Shields and Mayor Ras Baraka to learn about the department’s community efforts and the challenges of policing.

Philadelphia Eagles: Malcolm Jenkins, safety

• In 2010, Jenkins founded the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, whose mission is to help youth in underserved communities. The organization has expanded to help youth in three areas: Jenkins’ home state of New Jersey; Ohio, where he attended Ohio State University; and Pennsylvania, where he plays. The Foundation establishes programs that emphasize mentorship, character development, leadership, education and health. Project R.E.W.A.R.D.S. offers a life skills curriculum program to high school students in under-resourced New Orleans communities and has helped provide more than $100,000 in scholarships to college bound seniors since 2012. ?

• Over the last two years, with the help of teammates and peers, Jenkins has worked to create change in the criminal justice system. Jenkins planned two days of key meetings that focused on issues that are prevalent in Pennsylvania. Jenkins, Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie and Roger Goodell met with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, grassroots organizations, policy leaders and public defenders in the city. He also attended meetings with politicians and lawmakers at the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped support Clean Slate legislation.

• Jenkins and former NFL receiver Anquan Boldin formed the Players Coalition, a group of around 40 players across the league who are committed to improving the country's criminal-justice system. As a leader of the Players Coalition, Jenkins worked with the NFL where the league and teams will donate around $90 million to social causes that are important to the players.

Washington: Nick Sundberg, long snapper

•? Last winter, Nick approached the Redskins Charitable Foundation with an idea for a new program to help increase school attendance rates in low-income areas and give equal opportunities to all children. His solution was washers and dryers. It started after Nick and his wife Flor heard about a laundry program that installed washers and dryers in schools after finding that thousands of children missed school each year because they did not have access to clean clothes.

• In partnership with the Redskins Charitable Foundation, Nick will launch the Loads of Love (LOL) laundry program in three Prince George’s County public schools and two youth shelters in Washington. The program will provide schools with a high percentage of homeless students with the supplies and equipment needed to create an in-school laundry center.

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears: Sam Acho, linebacker

• Acho is dedicated to making sure the people of Nigeria have access to basic health care. Through Living Hope Christian Ministries, Acho and his family fundraised money to build a medical clinic in Nigeria that opened last June. He continues to raise funds to sustain the facility with staff, medicine and equipment. Acho hosted his second annual Celebrity Waiter Night in Chicago this past September at Steak 48. Over twenty of his teammates served guests and helped raise over $100,000.

• Sam is a player ambassador for the Fuel Up to Play 60 initiative as well. As a player representative, he spoke to student ambassadors at the Rewards Summit at Halas Hall, took part in the Program Directors' Skills Clinic and represented the Bears by presenting a $10,000 grant to a Chicago Public School as part of the FUTP60 Hometown Grant program.

Detroit Lions: Haloti Ngata, defensive tackle

• Founded the Haloti Ngata Family Foundation. To honor his mother’s memory, Ngata and his wife, Christina, established a college preparation program in her name. In two years, the Ofa Ngata College Preparation Program has assisted over 600 students in six schools in two states. The program provides free college entrance exam preparation courses for students. By the end of the 2017-18 school year, the program will add three new schools and reach over 1,000 students in only three years.

• Each year the Ngatas invite deserving youth on an all-expenses paid trip to see Haloti play in person during the “It’s Ngata Dream” weekend.

• He co-hosted Sam Martin’s annual charity softball game in 2017 and helped Ziggy Ansah deliver 94,000 bottles of water to residents of Flint, Michigan during their water crisis in 2016.

Green Bay Packers: Clay Matthews, linebacker

•? Matthews has participated in a variety of charitable golf outings, bowl-a-thons, and softball games. He’s helped support philanthropic work with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Jimmy V Foundation, Hugs from Holly and met with the students who collected food at St. Mark’s Lutheran School.

• When Make-A-Wish kids come to Lambeau Field to fulfill their wishes, Matthews signs autographs for the kids, takes photos with them and spends time with each family. In 2016, he worked with wish kid Angel Cruz on the Catch A Star campaign, where Make-A-Wish sold greeting cards featuring artwork by Cruz and an autograph from Matthews to fundraise.

Minnesota Vikings: Kyle Rudolph, tight end

• As a kid, Rudolph spent long hours at the hospital while his brother was undergoing chemotherapy. He witnessed all that went into making a patient and his or her family feel comfortable during treatment. Years later, Rudolph is dedicated to changing the lives of families who are faced with the emotional and physical constraints of long-term hospital stays in his adoptive state, Minnesota.

• In 2016, Kyle and his wife Jordan opened a space for all children at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital called, Kyle Rudolph's End Zone.

• Over the 2016 Christmas season, Rudolph partnered with a private jet company to create "Rudy's Red Eye Express" which was funded in part by a personal donation of $10,000. The event welcomed more than 40 children and their families who were swept away from the hospital to board private jets to the “North Pole,” a cleverly disguised airport hanger.

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons: Ben Garland, guard

• Garland attended the United States Air Force Academy and fulfilled his two-year military commitment. He is very involved in the Atlanta Falcons military outreach and has dedicated time to honor service members.

• He has participated in Fishing with the Falcons, where players fish with soldiers who were recently injured in the Middle East and spoken to service members at Fort Benning, Fort Stewart and Dobbins Air Reserve Base. He’s also visited wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. this past summer. Garland also spends time with veterans suffering from PTSD.

• In his three seasons in Atlanta, Garland has participated in over sixty community events. He has addressed youth football teams, participated in PLAY 60 camps and Gatorade Junior Training Camps, visited hospital patients, and traveled to Canada twice to participate with NFL Canada in PLAY 60 events.

Carolina Panthers: Greg Olsen, tight end

• In 2009, after watching his mother beat breast cancer, Greg Olsen founded Receptions for Research: The Greg Olsen Foundation. The Foundation’s Receiving Hope program focuses on cancer research and education programming. The program has distributed over $524,000 to six hospitals and foundations nationwide, with funding generated by events executed entirely by Greg.

• In early 2013, Greg and his wife Kara founded the HEARTest Yard Fund after a routine examination of their unborn son, T.J., revealed the infant had hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The HEARTest Yard Fund is a family service program administered in conjunction with Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte and provides families of babies affected by congenital heart disease with services including in-home, private nursing care, physical therapy and speech therapy, at no cost to the families or hospital. The fund has distributed nearly $1.7 million in support.

• In February 2013, Greg traveled to Raleigh, N.C. to lobby the House of Representatives for legislation that would require mandatory heart disease screening for newborns. The bill went in to effect in July 2014.

New Orleans Saints: Cameron Jordan, defensive end

• Since his rookie year, Jordan has participated in a community event almost every week.

• For the past four years, Jordan has been the face of the Saints Kids Club and has also been designated as the Live United player in the region. He spends several hours during the summer working with kids who take part in the Saints Community Patrol Summer Camps. He gives speeches to youth and high school students throughout the year and supports any event hosted by a teammate.

• Jordan recently represented the Saints in the NFL's USO tour this past off-season to show his appreciation for the military members on the front lines, and also the support staff that get less attention.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Clinton McDonald, defensive tackle

• Following Hurricane Irma, McDonald covered all expenses to deploy food trucks into areas of Tampa that were left without power as result of the storm. Over the course of two weeks, over 15,000 meals were distributed.

• Each year, in his hometown of Jacksonville, Arkansas, McDonald co-hosts the annual “Iron Sharpens Iron” week that includes a free football and cheer camp, a golf tournament and bowling tournament that both benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Jacksonville.

• McDonald’s family has a history of military service, so for the past two years, he has served as an honorary guest speaker at the Buccaneers General H Norman Schwarzkopf Military Family of the Year Awards. The event honors the families of active duty military members from each branch of service and recognizes their integrity, courage, commitment, and service before self. On Veterans Day in 2016, McDonald helped organize a clothing donation drive and purchased meals for homeless veterans as part of Operation Reveille, which works to improve the lives of veterans who have struggled to find housing, jobs, health services, transportation and other basic needs.

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, cornerback

• Founded the Patrick Peterson Foundation for Success in 2013 to provide low-income and inner-city youth with opportunities and resources, specifically to improve poor reading proficiency.

• Patrick’s Corner, launched in 2015, builds and maintain libraries in Title I schools and inner-city community centers to provide at-risk students access to books and a fun environment to read. Peterson has opened 12 Corners in 12 Phoenix area schools and will open two more by the end of the year. These 14 Patrick’s Corners provide nearly 32,000 students with 24,100 books.

• In 2017 Patrick partnered with “Furnishing Dignity,” a non-profit agency that assists homeless families with housing, finance management and job placement. Patrick is providing “mini reading corners” to these families’ homes.

Los Angeles Rams: Rodger Saffold, guard

• Saffold is commited to supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters, Children’s Miracle Network and their Extra Life program, which is an online video gaming effort that unites children in the hospitals through the power of play.

• Saffold has been active in a variety of charitable efforts since the team’s relocation to Los Angeles, including work with Heart of Los Angeles, Cedars-Sinai hospital, Los Angeles Regional Foodbank, Inglewood Unified School District and Single Mom Planet Awards. He has also supported mentoring programs including Big Brothers Big Sisters and Operation Progress, a program that pairs LAPD officers with underserved youth from Watts.

San Francisco 49ers: Bradley Pinion, punter

•? Bradley partnered with local first responders and lead youth from the Santa Clara Police Activities League through youth football activities at the First Responders Skills, Drills and Grills event. Bradley also worked with athletes with Down syndrome at Football Camp for the Stars where he ran the athletes through a day of skills and drills clinics.

• To encourage the importance of literacy, Bradley collaborated with 3rd and 4th graders at Don Callejon Elementary School to complete and present Mad Lib stories.

• As a rookie, Bradley participated in the 49ers Mentorship Academy, where he helped lead a leadership development lesson. In partnership with Reading Partners, which provides one-on-one instruction to elementary school students reading below grade level to help them succeed, Bradley tutored a student at Lakewood Elementary School.

Seattle Seahawks: Michael Bennett, defensive end

• The Bennett Foundation educates underserved children and communities through free, accessible programming across the nation. The foundation’s goal is to provide children and families with valuable knowledge and tools that will enable them to make positive, healthy lifestyle choices. The Foundation’s O.C.E.A.N. (fighting Obesity through Community, Education, Activity and Nutrition) programs impact thousands of people each year by offering free health education, health screenings, fitness activities, cooking demonstrations, and other health related activities.

• Bennett’s foundation is partnering with the African-led global movement iamtheCODE to get 100 marginalized girls in Africa into STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) programs. He’s also partnering with multiple local organizations to start a gardening program for youth in juvenile detention.

• Bennett has been a regular visitor at the King County Juvenile Youth Services Center on Fridays before home games.

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2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Nominees Announced

Every season, each NFL team nominates one player for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which acknowledges a player for his community service activities off the field, as well as his play on the field. Headlining this year’s list, not surprisingly, is Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who raised $37 million over 19 days for Hurricane Harvey relief. But another headline of the 2017 class involves the many nominees who reflect this unique point in NFL history, where the intersection of sports, politics and minority rights have defined the season. There’s a new kind of Man of the Year candidate, one whose community work focuses on fighting social injustices.

Of the 32 nominees, seven players were nominated specifically by their teams for their work in raising awareness of social injustice, ranging participating in police ride-alongs to organizing meetings with state senators. A year after Colin Kaepernick’s original anthem protest, 12 of the 32 nominees have been involved in some form of anthem demonstration this season, either sitting, kneeling or raising a fist.

“It’s a new wave, definitely,” says Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who has raised his fist during the anthem, starting in 2016. “Normally you get guys that are afraid to stand up, they don’t want to be released or they don’t want to face contract issues, but when I see a man like [Eagles safety] Malcolm Jenkins or [Dolphins receiver] Kenny Stills, standing up for something they believe and not backing down, to me, that is a true American.”

Both Jenkins and Stills are Man of the Year nominees for their activism against racial inequality and social injustice. Jenkins’s efforts are focused on criminal justice reform, working to pass Clean Slate legislation that would seal old, non-violent misdemeanor offenses for Pennsylvanians who have not had any additional convictions for at least 10 years. Stills has spent time fostering the relationship between law enforcement and children in Miami. Last season he organized a town hall meeting with community leaders and law enforcement to discuss issues of racial inequality and how the parties could work to build understanding.

Stills left the town hall meeting with an idea to participate in police ride-alongs, where he would join police to stop by parks after school to hang out with local kids. “Just to help the law enforcement to build a relationship with the kids in those communities and build some type of trust and some familiarity with each other,” Stills says. “We can stop some negative things from happening by building these bonds.”

He’s also helped organize CommUNITY tailgates before every Dolphins home game, which bring local student-athletes, coaches, parents, community leaders, law enforcement and military personnel together to build relationships across races and economic backgrounds.

“I’m trying to make our country stand for what we say we stand for,” Still says. “We say we believe in justice for all, we say we believe in equality, and freedom of speech and then when people are currently protesting, people have an issue with that, or when a police officer kills a young man or a young woman, they don’t serve any time. So, it’s just my goal is to hold this country accountable to the standards that we say we believe in.”

In an arrangement with the Players Coalition, a group led in part by Jenkins, the NFL recently pledged to donate nearly $89 million over seven years to projects central to Stills and Jenkins’ focuses—criminal justice reform, law enforcement, community relations and education. The pledge represents the largest amount the NFL would spend on a social cause—more than the Salute to Service and Breast Cancer Awareness/Crucial Catch platforms.

Woodyard’s own community work reflects another current social cause, the women’s movement. Woodyard’s charity, 16Ways, is involved in a number of efforts, including a program called GYRLS, an acronym for “giving yourself respect and love,” that provides mentorship for girls as they transition to the teen years, developing self-esteem and providing positive direction through activities such as job shadowing, financial education and health and wellness talks. Woodyard’s daughters, two-year-old Noah and nine-month-old Luca, serve as the inspiration for the program. “I just want to try to make it a better world for everybody, but definitely for my daughters,” he says. “We’re just trying to get our girls to see that they hold all the power in their hands and they can do whatever they want to do in life. I think it is important that our females see Hillary Clinton running for president; that’s the first time anyone has seen that. We just want to show them keep dreaming and if you want to be an astronaut, you can be an astronaut. Doctor? You can be a doctor.”

Falcons guard Ben Garland never takes a week off from community service. He tries to participate in one or two events per week and at least 63 charity events per year. Garland graduated from the Air Force Academy and fulfilled his two-year service duty, so he spends much of his community service time with veterans recovering from wounds or dealing with PTSD. Garland’s motivation comes from the knowledge that his career and his NFL platform won’t last forever. “We have a small time frame where we can use this [NFL] shield to make a large difference,” he says. “I’ve had kids come back to me—when I talked to them they were 13 years old and now they’re 18 or 19, and they tell me that some small speech I gave to them in a classroom way back when has really changed their lives. That stuff is incredible to hear.”

While all the nominees are worthy, Woodyard can’t see Jenkins, Stills or Garland upsetting Watt for the award. He says he’d even vote for the Texans star if he could. “If I had to cast a vote, I would vote J.J.,” says Woodyard. “To see what Houston went through, the crisis they had there with the hurricane and the flood, just to see how quick he was able to get that momentum rolling.”

Here’s a look at the 32 nominees.

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills: Lorenzo Alexander, linebacker

• Alexander is president and Founder of the ACES Foundation, spokesman for the American Diabetes Association, PLAY 60 Advocate, Character Playbook Ambassador. He currently mentors a local inner-city high school football team about making good decisions on and off the field.

• He organized a day of community service, where 42 Bills players spent their day off at five different organizations throughout the Buffalo community, making a difference for youth athletes and students.

• Throughout the remainder of the season, he will organize town hall meetings with leaders from the Buffalo community and a team-voted community organization award will be presented at each home game.

Miami Dolphins: Kenny Stills, wide receiver

•? In 2016, Stills worked with the Miami Dolphins and Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) to host a town hall meeting that brought influential local leaders together with law enforcement to discuss actionable steps that could be taken to address issues of racial inequality and unite the community.

• Items that came from this meeting included a police ride-along program and CommUNITY tailgates, which bring local student-athletes, coaches, parents, community leaders, law enforcement and military personnel together at every Dolphins home game.

New England Patriots: Nate Solder, tackle

• Nate is on the board of directors for Fresh Truck, an organization dedicated to making Boston healthier by converting old school busses into mobile markets that drive to areas of the city that are categorized as food deserts, meaning that fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods are difficult to access.

• In April of 2014, Nate was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He discovered it early and is now cancer-free. That October, his one-year old son Hudson was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Nate and his wife Lexi found the tumors early and have been able to seek the proper treatment for their son. As his son continues to undergo chemotherapy, Nate has been committed to supporting local hospitals and organizations that aid children and families battling cancer. He visits Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to share his story. Nate also participated in the Jimmy Fund’s annual Telethon and has attended the One Mission Kid’s Cancer Buzz Off to raise funds for children battling cancer. He is also a supporter of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which helps to offset living expenses for families battling cancer.

New York Jets: Quincy Enunwa, wide receiver

•? Enunwa volunteers with middle school students through the Jets PLAY 60 Challenge—a program that encourages youth to live healthier lives and participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

•? Involved with the launch of the Jet’s Flag Football League in partnership with the NYC Police Athletic League, that will allow more than 1,200 NYC children to participate in the athletic program at no cost.

•? Enunwa speaks to high school football teams through the Jets relationship with the New York City Department of Education’s Public School Athletic League’s High School Football program.

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens: Ben Watson, tight end

• Watson’s charity, the One More Foundation, recently partnered with the International Justice Mission, the world’s largest international anti-slavery organization working to combat human trafficking, modern day slavery and other forms of violence against the poor. Watson took a three-day trip to Lebanon, where he witnessed firsthand the Middle East’s refugee crisis. He and his wife, Kirsten, traveled to the Dominican Republic in June to begin formulating plans that combat sex trafficking. .

• Named one of CNN’s Most Extraordinary People of the Year (2014), Benjamin regularly appears on FOX News and CNN to discuss issues such as race, persecution, ISIS, civil unrest and social responsibility.

• Watson has written two books: “The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life,” featuring advice and info on being a father, and “Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race – Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us,” a look at race, bias and justice, following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Cincinnati Bengals: Michael Johnson, defensive end

• ?Johnson’s MJ93-90 Foundation educates children on the importance of capitalizing on their talents and abilities with mentorship, educational programming and encouragement to have a vision for success.

• Two years ago, Michael started a program encouraging kids and the Cincinnati Police Department to strengthen their relationship in the community. This year’s program includes a community service component where kids and officers volunteer together. The kids engage in a question and answer session with officers to discuss any concerns they have about law enforcement and the current climate in America.

Cleveland Browns: Randall Telfer, tight end

• Randall frequently visits local police and fire stations to support those who protect our communities.

• ?This fall, he hosted a back-to-school event for kids from a local recreational center, which provided new backpacks to students for the year. He also supports the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, attending the Taste of the Browns event and volunteering at the warehouse before Thanksgiving. Through the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats platform, Telfer supports Boo 2 Bullying, a nonprofit organization founded in California dedicated to eliminating bullying in the school system and beyond.

• Telfer has participated in a police ride-along, and had conversations with local students during a town hall on police perception in neighborhoods and equality. He represents the team when speaking on those subjects with media.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Cam Heyward, defensive end

• Heyward established the Heyward House Foundation in 2015, and kicked it off with a birthday party for those served by KidsVoice, an agency that represents abused and neglected kids who are in foster or group homes. He provides school backpacks, shoes and supplies to nearly 50 children, and takes them shopping for winter coats and boots. The Heyward House also supports local youth football teams, allowing kids from financially challenged backgrounds to play.

• Heyward’s late father, Craig Heyward, went to his local Boys & Girls Club growing up, and today. Heyward works alongside the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania. His foundation supports their “Triple Play” program, which emphasizes academic performance and physical fitness, as well as provides leadership and mentorship to the children.

• ? Heyward is helping to lead an initiative with local police officers to make an impact in Pittsburgh. The first project was a Thanksgiving turkey distribution, where Steelers players and police officers worked together to distribute to local families.

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans: J.J. Watt, defensive end

• In 19 days, JJ Watt raised more than $37 million for Hurricane Harvey relief. Watt will soon unfold a plan with strategic organizations, ensuring that every dollar goes directly to the people of Houston and its surrounding areas that are in need.

• ? Watt started the Justin J. Watt Foundation in Wisconsin in 2010 out of a desire to help underserved kids. The foundation has provided over $3.4 million in funding to middle schools and organizations that have insufficient funding for after-school athletic programs or no after-school athletics whatsoever for middle school children.

• ? Watt makes frequent hospital visits and regularly works with organizations, such as Make-A-Wish, to create special experiences for children whose wish to spend the day with him.

Indianapolis Colts: Darius Butler, safety

• Butler started the Darius Butler Foundation, which aims to fight hunger in underserved communities, inspire at-risk youth to achieve their dreams and improve in the classroom. The Foundation runs an academic summer tutoring camp that provides academic support to help high school students learn studying and test-taking skills. The objective is to not only help students pass standardized tests, but also equip them with the tools necessary to succeed in college.

• For the past five seasons, Butler has donated tickets, hats and meal vouchers to the Indianapolis nonprofit, Boys II Men, Inc. Through this initiative, over 500 underprivileged boys have been able to experience a Colts game.

• ?Butler has hosted two annual youth football and cheerleading camps in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Darius also hosts a youth football and personal development program that provides mentorship, coaching and guidance to area youth.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Malik Jackson, defensive tackle

• Jackson’s foundation, Malik’s Gifts, provides support and builds programs for at-risk children, military children and families, animal rescue missions and family emergency assistance. Jackson annually hosts youth football and soccer camps for 500 children ages 7-14. He supports the local NFL FLAG leagues for Boys & Girls Clubs across Northeast Florida by contributing $5,000 to offset registration and uniform costs.

• This past Memorial Day, Malik provided a day of fun activities for 200 military children who lost a loved one. Jackson committed to donate $5,000 to 5 Star Veterans Center, a foundation that offers safe and secure housing to end veteran homelessness.

• Jackson also works with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. He participated in a ride-along with Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office patrol officer and former Jaguar Ernest Wilford. Jackson and Wilford discussed civilian and police relations and the importance of dialogue between both groups as they traveled to River City Science Academy Elementary School to engage students.

Tennessee Titans: Wesley Woodyard, linebacker

• ?Woodyard co-founded the 16Ways Foundation with his cousin, Derrick Kelley, in 2010. The foundation’s mission is to encourage and empower youth, especially at-risk youth, to follow their dreams and succeed.

• Through a strategic partnership with Scholastic and its Family and Community Engagement (FACE) program, 16Ways builds mini libraries – known as 16Chapters – in inner city areas. Every summer, the foundation hosts free youth football and cheer camps. Guest NFL and college players, as well as high school coaches, reinforce hard work and practice as a means of accomplishing goals. The camp also includes anti-bullying and academic achievement messages. Woodyard provides young girls with opportunities for positive experiences to develop self-esteem and awareness through 16Ways’ GYRLs program – an acronym for “giving yourself respect and love.” As a dad of two girls, this program is important to Woodyard.

• For the second year in a row, Wesley used the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats platform to raise awareness and funds for ALS. Wesley lost his aunt to ALS, and is close to former Titans linebacker Tim Shaw, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2014.

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos: Chris Harris Jr, cornerback

• ?Harris and his wife, Leah, founded the Chris Harris Jr. Foundation in 2012 to provide underprivileged youth with unique opportunities to help achieve their goals. Through his foundation, Chris has established partnerships with notable organizations, including the Denver Children’s Home (DCH), which helps kids who have survived trauma, neglect and abuse.

• Since 2013, Harris has supported various initiatives to speak out against domestic violence, including the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s “How I See DV” campaign and the NFL’s NO MORE movement. This season, Harris took part in Stand Up Colorado, a collaborative, multi-year relationship violence prevention campaign spearheaded by the Colorado Attorney General.

• This summer, Harris Jr. joined Denver mayor Michael B. Hancock in launching Mentor Colorado’s #MentoringFlipped campaign to improve the number of quality mentoring relationships for young people.

Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Smith, quarterback

• The Alex Smith Foundation’s mission is to provide foster teens with the tools and resources needed to transition to successful adulthood. The foundation’s Guardian Scholars program provides a scholarship and year-round housing along with extensive individual support. 23 former foster youth graduated from San Diego State University. The college replicated this program, and another 205 former foster youth have graduated from the school.

• Smith’s relationship with the foster agency, Cornerstones of Care, helped the organization to become the local leader for foster care. More than 40 youth have graduated high school and enrolled in college courses or trade training.

• Smith has personally donated over $600,000 to charitable causes since 2005, including all administrative costs incurred by his foundation.

Los Angeles Chargers: Casey Hayward, cornerback

• In 2014, Hayward and his mother, Tish Hayward, created the Hayward’s Hands Foundation in Georgia. Hayward’s Hands mission is to reach people of all ages with programs and services to meet their particular needs through love and compassion. Hayward’s Hands started with a Thanksgiving meal its first year, and now annually hosts a number of events, including the Thanksgiving meal, a Christmas Toy Drive, youth football camps and scholarship opportunities for students in his hometown of Perry.

• Tish Hayward died from breast cancer before the 2016 NFL season, and Hayward is now dedicated to honoring his mother with his foundation.

Oakland Raiders: Bruce Irvin, linebacker

• Irvin hosted his third annual Bruce Irvin Football Clinic in Charleston, W.Va. Bruce was a volunteer coach at Michael Crabtree’s annual youth football camp in Dallas as well as Justin Ellis’ youth football camp in Monroe, La.

• ?Irvin volunteered with the Alameda County Community Food Bank’s Mobile Pantry with his teammates, helping distribute food to 157 low-income families. He participated in the Crucial Catch community event at the Raiders’ facility in which players and 15 breast cancer survivors and guests were led through a group art lesson.

• In response to the devastating wildfires that have ravaged the region, Irvin encouraged his teammates to contribute and help those effected by the fires. Irvin donated over $15,000 that was used to purchase food, supplies and gift cards for those who were impacted by the fires.

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys: Travis Frederick, center

• ?Frederick established the Blocking Out Hunger Foundation in 2016 and began working with nutrition experts to create programing that would reshape a low-income family’s ability to address hunger. His Nourish2Flourish program provides meals to hundreds of low-income students who often go without regular meals during extended school breaks.

• Travis’ Pantry program provides schools with a food cart, or “Travis’ Pantry,” that offers non-perishable food items at night and on the weekends. The first Pantry opened at Trinity Basin Preparatory School in October and feeds over 70 students and their families.

• Since 2016, Travis has impacted 53,250 individuals through his efforts. Nourish2Flourish has provided 2,000 meals, with plans to provide 90,000 meals by the end of the year.

New York Giants: Mark Herzlich, linebacker

• After being named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year as a junior at Boston College, Mark was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Mark regularly visits hospitals and sends get-well messages to fans battling cancer.

• Herzlich is a member of the advisory board for the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, which helps families tackle childhood cancer. He anually attends the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Gala, and the Jay Fund’s Sundae Blitz ice cream social. He currently serves on the American Cancer Society’s Athlete Council. Herzlich and his mother host an annual “Steps to Cure Sarcoma 5K” fundraiser in his hometown of Wayne, Pa. to benefit the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Medicine, where Mark was treated.

• Mark joined many teammates to participate in a conversation with Senator Cory Booker and RISE regarding current social justice issues. He has been the Giants’ player representative at the NFL’s recent meetings between Commissioner Roger Goodell, players and owners regarding racial equality. He joined teammates Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Adam Bisnowaty in a ride-along with the Newark Police Department’s Bronze Shields and Mayor Ras Baraka to learn about the department’s community efforts and the challenges of policing.

Philadelphia Eagles: Malcolm Jenkins, safety

• In 2010, Jenkins founded the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, whose mission is to help youth in underserved communities. The organization has expanded to help youth in three areas: Jenkins’ home state of New Jersey; Ohio, where he attended Ohio State University; and Pennsylvania, where he plays. The Foundation establishes programs that emphasize mentorship, character development, leadership, education and health. Project R.E.W.A.R.D.S. offers a life skills curriculum program to high school students in under-resourced New Orleans communities and has helped provide more than $100,000 in scholarships to college bound seniors since 2012. ?

• Over the last two years, with the help of teammates and peers, Jenkins has worked to create change in the criminal justice system. Jenkins planned two days of key meetings that focused on issues that are prevalent in Pennsylvania. Jenkins, Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie and Roger Goodell met with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, grassroots organizations, policy leaders and public defenders in the city. He also attended meetings with politicians and lawmakers at the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped support Clean Slate legislation.

• Jenkins and former NFL receiver Anquan Boldin formed the Players Coalition, a group of around 40 players across the league who are committed to improving the country's criminal-justice system. As a leader of the Players Coalition, Jenkins worked with the NFL where the league and teams will donate around $90 million to social causes that are important to the players.

Washington: Nick Sundberg, long snapper

•? Last winter, Nick approached the Redskins Charitable Foundation with an idea for a new program to help increase school attendance rates in low-income areas and give equal opportunities to all children. His solution was washers and dryers. It started after Nick and his wife Flor heard about a laundry program that installed washers and dryers in schools after finding that thousands of children missed school each year because they did not have access to clean clothes.

• In partnership with the Redskins Charitable Foundation, Nick will launch the Loads of Love (LOL) laundry program in three Prince George’s County public schools and two youth shelters in Washington. The program will provide schools with a high percentage of homeless students with the supplies and equipment needed to create an in-school laundry center.

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears: Sam Acho, linebacker

• Acho is dedicated to making sure the people of Nigeria have access to basic health care. Through Living Hope Christian Ministries, Acho and his family fundraised money to build a medical clinic in Nigeria that opened last June. He continues to raise funds to sustain the facility with staff, medicine and equipment. Acho hosted his second annual Celebrity Waiter Night in Chicago this past September at Steak 48. Over twenty of his teammates served guests and helped raise over $100,000.

• Sam is a player ambassador for the Fuel Up to Play 60 initiative as well. As a player representative, he spoke to student ambassadors at the Rewards Summit at Halas Hall, took part in the Program Directors' Skills Clinic and represented the Bears by presenting a $10,000 grant to a Chicago Public School as part of the FUTP60 Hometown Grant program.

Detroit Lions: Haloti Ngata, defensive tackle

• Founded the Haloti Ngata Family Foundation. To honor his mother’s memory, Ngata and his wife, Christina, established a college preparation program in her name. In two years, the Ofa Ngata College Preparation Program has assisted over 600 students in six schools in two states. The program provides free college entrance exam preparation courses for students. By the end of the 2017-18 school year, the program will add three new schools and reach over 1,000 students in only three years.

• Each year the Ngatas invite deserving youth on an all-expenses paid trip to see Haloti play in person during the “It’s Ngata Dream” weekend.

• He co-hosted Sam Martin’s annual charity softball game in 2017 and helped Ziggy Ansah deliver 94,000 bottles of water to residents of Flint, Michigan during their water crisis in 2016.

Green Bay Packers: Clay Matthews, linebacker

•? Matthews has participated in a variety of charitable golf outings, bowl-a-thons, and softball games. He’s helped support philanthropic work with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Jimmy V Foundation, Hugs from Holly and met with the students who collected food at St. Mark’s Lutheran School.

• When Make-A-Wish kids come to Lambeau Field to fulfill their wishes, Matthews signs autographs for the kids, takes photos with them and spends time with each family. In 2016, he worked with wish kid Angel Cruz on the Catch A Star campaign, where Make-A-Wish sold greeting cards featuring artwork by Cruz and an autograph from Matthews to fundraise.

Minnesota Vikings: Kyle Rudolph, tight end

• As a kid, Rudolph spent long hours at the hospital while his brother was undergoing chemotherapy. He witnessed all that went into making a patient and his or her family feel comfortable during treatment. Years later, Rudolph is dedicated to changing the lives of families who are faced with the emotional and physical constraints of long-term hospital stays in his adoptive state, Minnesota.

• In 2016, Kyle and his wife Jordan opened a space for all children at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital called, Kyle Rudolph's End Zone.

• Over the 2016 Christmas season, Rudolph partnered with a private jet company to create "Rudy's Red Eye Express" which was funded in part by a personal donation of $10,000. The event welcomed more than 40 children and their families who were swept away from the hospital to board private jets to the “North Pole,” a cleverly disguised airport hanger.

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons: Ben Garland, guard

• Garland attended the United States Air Force Academy and fulfilled his two-year military commitment. He is very involved in the Atlanta Falcons military outreach and has dedicated time to honor service members.

• He has participated in Fishing with the Falcons, where players fish with soldiers who were recently injured in the Middle East and spoken to service members at Fort Benning, Fort Stewart and Dobbins Air Reserve Base. He’s also visited wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. this past summer. Garland also spends time with veterans suffering from PTSD.

• In his three seasons in Atlanta, Garland has participated in over sixty community events. He has addressed youth football teams, participated in PLAY 60 camps and Gatorade Junior Training Camps, visited hospital patients, and traveled to Canada twice to participate with NFL Canada in PLAY 60 events.

Carolina Panthers: Greg Olsen, tight end

• In 2009, after watching his mother beat breast cancer, Greg Olsen founded Receptions for Research: The Greg Olsen Foundation. The Foundation’s Receiving Hope program focuses on cancer research and education programming. The program has distributed over $524,000 to six hospitals and foundations nationwide, with funding generated by events executed entirely by Greg.

• In early 2013, Greg and his wife Kara founded the HEARTest Yard Fund after a routine examination of their unborn son, T.J., revealed the infant had hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The HEARTest Yard Fund is a family service program administered in conjunction with Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte and provides families of babies affected by congenital heart disease with services including in-home, private nursing care, physical therapy and speech therapy, at no cost to the families or hospital. The fund has distributed nearly $1.7 million in support.

• In February 2013, Greg traveled to Raleigh, N.C. to lobby the House of Representatives for legislation that would require mandatory heart disease screening for newborns. The bill went in to effect in July 2014.

New Orleans Saints: Cameron Jordan, defensive end

• Since his rookie year, Jordan has participated in a community event almost every week.

• For the past four years, Jordan has been the face of the Saints Kids Club and has also been designated as the Live United player in the region. He spends several hours during the summer working with kids who take part in the Saints Community Patrol Summer Camps. He gives speeches to youth and high school students throughout the year and supports any event hosted by a teammate.

• Jordan recently represented the Saints in the NFL's USO tour this past off-season to show his appreciation for the military members on the front lines, and also the support staff that get less attention.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Clinton McDonald, defensive tackle

• Following Hurricane Irma, McDonald covered all expenses to deploy food trucks into areas of Tampa that were left without power as result of the storm. Over the course of two weeks, over 15,000 meals were distributed.

• Each year, in his hometown of Jacksonville, Arkansas, McDonald co-hosts the annual “Iron Sharpens Iron” week that includes a free football and cheer camp, a golf tournament and bowling tournament that both benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Jacksonville.

• McDonald’s family has a history of military service, so for the past two years, he has served as an honorary guest speaker at the Buccaneers General H Norman Schwarzkopf Military Family of the Year Awards. The event honors the families of active duty military members from each branch of service and recognizes their integrity, courage, commitment, and service before self. On Veterans Day in 2016, McDonald helped organize a clothing donation drive and purchased meals for homeless veterans as part of Operation Reveille, which works to improve the lives of veterans who have struggled to find housing, jobs, health services, transportation and other basic needs.

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, cornerback

• Founded the Patrick Peterson Foundation for Success in 2013 to provide low-income and inner-city youth with opportunities and resources, specifically to improve poor reading proficiency.

• Patrick’s Corner, launched in 2015, builds and maintain libraries in Title I schools and inner-city community centers to provide at-risk students access to books and a fun environment to read. Peterson has opened 12 Corners in 12 Phoenix area schools and will open two more by the end of the year. These 14 Patrick’s Corners provide nearly 32,000 students with 24,100 books.

• In 2017 Patrick partnered with “Furnishing Dignity,” a non-profit agency that assists homeless families with housing, finance management and job placement. Patrick is providing “mini reading corners” to these families’ homes.

Los Angeles Rams: Rodger Saffold, guard

• Saffold is commited to supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters, Children’s Miracle Network and their Extra Life program, which is an online video gaming effort that unites children in the hospitals through the power of play.

• Saffold has been active in a variety of charitable efforts since the team’s relocation to Los Angeles, including work with Heart of Los Angeles, Cedars-Sinai hospital, Los Angeles Regional Foodbank, Inglewood Unified School District and Single Mom Planet Awards. He has also supported mentoring programs including Big Brothers Big Sisters and Operation Progress, a program that pairs LAPD officers with underserved youth from Watts.

San Francisco 49ers: Bradley Pinion, punter

•? Bradley partnered with local first responders and lead youth from the Santa Clara Police Activities League through youth football activities at the First Responders Skills, Drills and Grills event. Bradley also worked with athletes with Down syndrome at Football Camp for the Stars where he ran the athletes through a day of skills and drills clinics.

• To encourage the importance of literacy, Bradley collaborated with 3rd and 4th graders at Don Callejon Elementary School to complete and present Mad Lib stories.

• As a rookie, Bradley participated in the 49ers Mentorship Academy, where he helped lead a leadership development lesson. In partnership with Reading Partners, which provides one-on-one instruction to elementary school students reading below grade level to help them succeed, Bradley tutored a student at Lakewood Elementary School.

Seattle Seahawks: Michael Bennett, defensive end

• The Bennett Foundation educates underserved children and communities through free, accessible programming across the nation. The foundation’s goal is to provide children and families with valuable knowledge and tools that will enable them to make positive, healthy lifestyle choices. The Foundation’s O.C.E.A.N. (fighting Obesity through Community, Education, Activity and Nutrition) programs impact thousands of people each year by offering free health education, health screenings, fitness activities, cooking demonstrations, and other health related activities.

• Bennett’s foundation is partnering with the African-led global movement iamtheCODE to get 100 marginalized girls in Africa into STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) programs. He’s also partnering with multiple local organizations to start a gardening program for youth in juvenile detention.

• Bennett has been a regular visitor at the King County Juvenile Youth Services Center on Fridays before home games.

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2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Nominees Announced

Every season, each NFL team nominates one player for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which acknowledges a player for his community service activities off the field, as well as his play on the field. Headlining this year’s list, not surprisingly, is Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who raised $37 million over 19 days for Hurricane Harvey relief. But another headline of the 2017 class involves the many nominees who reflect this unique point in NFL history, where the intersection of sports, politics and minority rights have defined the season. There’s a new kind of Man of the Year candidate, one whose community work focuses on fighting social injustices.

Of the 32 nominees, seven players were nominated specifically by their teams for their work in raising awareness of social injustice, ranging participating in police ride-alongs to organizing meetings with state senators. A year after Colin Kaepernick’s original anthem protest, 12 of the 32 nominees have been involved in some form of anthem demonstration this season, either sitting, kneeling or raising a fist.

“It’s a new wave, definitely,” says Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who has raised his fist during the anthem, starting in 2016. “Normally you get guys that are afraid to stand up, they don’t want to be released or they don’t want to face contract issues, but when I see a man like [Eagles safety] Malcolm Jenkins or [Dolphins receiver] Kenny Stills, standing up for something they believe and not backing down, to me, that is a true American.”

Both Jenkins and Stills are Man of the Year nominees for their activism against racial inequality and social injustice. Jenkins’s efforts are focused on criminal justice reform, working to pass Clean Slate legislation that would seal old, non-violent misdemeanor offenses for Pennsylvanians who have not had any additional convictions for at least 10 years. Stills has spent time fostering the relationship between law enforcement and children in Miami. Last season he organized a town hall meeting with community leaders and law enforcement to discuss issues of racial inequality and how the parties could work to build understanding.

Stills left the town hall meeting with an idea to participate in police ride-alongs, where he would join police to stop by parks after school to hang out with local kids. “Just to help the law enforcement to build a relationship with the kids in those communities and build some type of trust and some familiarity with each other,” Stills says. “We can stop some negative things from happening by building these bonds.”

He’s also helped organize CommUNITY tailgates before every Dolphins home game, which bring local student-athletes, coaches, parents, community leaders, law enforcement and military personnel together to build relationships across races and economic backgrounds.

“I’m trying to make our country stand for what we say we stand for,” Still says. “We say we believe in justice for all, we say we believe in equality, and freedom of speech and then when people are currently protesting, people have an issue with that, or when a police officer kills a young man or a young woman, they don’t serve any time. So, it’s just my goal is to hold this country accountable to the standards that we say we believe in.”

In an arrangement with the Players Coalition, a group led in part by Jenkins, the NFL recently pledged to donate nearly $89 million over seven years to projects central to Stills and Jenkins’ focuses—criminal justice reform, law enforcement, community relations and education. The pledge represents the largest amount the NFL would spend on a social cause—more than the Salute to Service and Breast Cancer Awareness/Crucial Catch platforms.

Woodyard’s own community work reflects another current social cause, the women’s movement. Woodyard’s charity, 16Ways, is involved in a number of efforts, including a program called GYRLS, an acronym for “giving yourself respect and love,” that provides mentorship for girls as they transition to the teen years, developing self-esteem and providing positive direction through activities such as job shadowing, financial education and health and wellness talks. Woodyard’s daughters, two-year-old Noah and nine-month-old Luca, serve as the inspiration for the program. “I just want to try to make it a better world for everybody, but definitely for my daughters,” he says. “We’re just trying to get our girls to see that they hold all the power in their hands and they can do whatever they want to do in life. I think it is important that our females see Hillary Clinton running for president; that’s the first time anyone has seen that. We just want to show them keep dreaming and if you want to be an astronaut, you can be an astronaut. Doctor? You can be a doctor.”

Falcons guard Ben Garland never takes a week off from community service. He tries to participate in one or two events per week and at least 63 charity events per year. Garland graduated from the Air Force Academy and fulfilled his two-year service duty, so he spends much of his community service time with veterans recovering from wounds or dealing with PTSD. Garland’s motivation comes from the knowledge that his career and his NFL platform won’t last forever. “We have a small time frame where we can use this [NFL] shield to make a large difference,” he says. “I’ve had kids come back to me—when I talked to them they were 13 years old and now they’re 18 or 19, and they tell me that some small speech I gave to them in a classroom way back when has really changed their lives. That stuff is incredible to hear.”

While all the nominees are worthy, Woodyard can’t see Jenkins, Stills or Garland upsetting Watt for the award. He says he’d even vote for the Texans star if he could. “If I had to cast a vote, I would vote J.J.,” says Woodyard. “To see what Houston went through, the crisis they had there with the hurricane and the flood, just to see how quick he was able to get that momentum rolling.”

Here’s a look at the 32 nominees.

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills: Lorenzo Alexander, linebacker

• Alexander is president and Founder of the ACES Foundation, spokesman for the American Diabetes Association, PLAY 60 Advocate, Character Playbook Ambassador. He currently mentors a local inner-city high school football team about making good decisions on and off the field.

• He organized a day of community service, where 42 Bills players spent their day off at five different organizations throughout the Buffalo community, making a difference for youth athletes and students.

• Throughout the remainder of the season, he will organize town hall meetings with leaders from the Buffalo community and a team-voted community organization award will be presented at each home game.

Miami Dolphins: Kenny Stills, wide receiver

•? In 2016, Stills worked with the Miami Dolphins and Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) to host a town hall meeting that brought influential local leaders together with law enforcement to discuss actionable steps that could be taken to address issues of racial inequality and unite the community.

• Items that came from this meeting included a police ride-along program and CommUNITY tailgates, which bring local student-athletes, coaches, parents, community leaders, law enforcement and military personnel together at every Dolphins home game.

New England Patriots: Nate Solder, tackle

• Nate is on the board of directors for Fresh Truck, an organization dedicated to making Boston healthier by converting old school busses into mobile markets that drive to areas of the city that are categorized as food deserts, meaning that fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods are difficult to access.

• In April of 2014, Nate was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He discovered it early and is now cancer-free. That October, his one-year old son Hudson was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Nate and his wife Lexi found the tumors early and have been able to seek the proper treatment for their son. As his son continues to undergo chemotherapy, Nate has been committed to supporting local hospitals and organizations that aid children and families battling cancer. He visits Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to share his story. Nate also participated in the Jimmy Fund’s annual Telethon and has attended the One Mission Kid’s Cancer Buzz Off to raise funds for children battling cancer. He is also a supporter of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which helps to offset living expenses for families battling cancer.

New York Jets: Quincy Enunwa, wide receiver

•? Enunwa volunteers with middle school students through the Jets PLAY 60 Challenge—a program that encourages youth to live healthier lives and participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

•? Involved with the launch of the Jet’s Flag Football League in partnership with the NYC Police Athletic League, that will allow more than 1,200 NYC children to participate in the athletic program at no cost.

•? Enunwa speaks to high school football teams through the Jets relationship with the New York City Department of Education’s Public School Athletic League’s High School Football program.

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens: Ben Watson, tight end

• Watson’s charity, the One More Foundation, recently partnered with the International Justice Mission, the world’s largest international anti-slavery organization working to combat human trafficking, modern day slavery and other forms of violence against the poor. Watson took a three-day trip to Lebanon, where he witnessed firsthand the Middle East’s refugee crisis. He and his wife, Kirsten, traveled to the Dominican Republic in June to begin formulating plans that combat sex trafficking. .

• Named one of CNN’s Most Extraordinary People of the Year (2014), Benjamin regularly appears on FOX News and CNN to discuss issues such as race, persecution, ISIS, civil unrest and social responsibility.

• Watson has written two books: “The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life,” featuring advice and info on being a father, and “Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race – Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us,” a look at race, bias and justice, following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Cincinnati Bengals: Michael Johnson, defensive end

• ?Johnson’s MJ93-90 Foundation educates children on the importance of capitalizing on their talents and abilities with mentorship, educational programming and encouragement to have a vision for success.

• Two years ago, Michael started a program encouraging kids and the Cincinnati Police Department to strengthen their relationship in the community. This year’s program includes a community service component where kids and officers volunteer together. The kids engage in a question and answer session with officers to discuss any concerns they have about law enforcement and the current climate in America.

Cleveland Browns: Randall Telfer, tight end

• Randall frequently visits local police and fire stations to support those who protect our communities.

• ?This fall, he hosted a back-to-school event for kids from a local recreational center, which provided new backpacks to students for the year. He also supports the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, attending the Taste of the Browns event and volunteering at the warehouse before Thanksgiving. Through the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats platform, Telfer supports Boo 2 Bullying, a nonprofit organization founded in California dedicated to eliminating bullying in the school system and beyond.

• Telfer has participated in a police ride-along, and had conversations with local students during a town hall on police perception in neighborhoods and equality. He represents the team when speaking on those subjects with media.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Cam Heyward, defensive end

• Heyward established the Heyward House Foundation in 2015, and kicked it off with a birthday party for those served by KidsVoice, an agency that represents abused and neglected kids who are in foster or group homes. He provides school backpacks, shoes and supplies to nearly 50 children, and takes them shopping for winter coats and boots. The Heyward House also supports local youth football teams, allowing kids from financially challenged backgrounds to play.

• Heyward’s late father, Craig Heyward, went to his local Boys & Girls Club growing up, and today. Heyward works alongside the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania. His foundation supports their “Triple Play” program, which emphasizes academic performance and physical fitness, as well as provides leadership and mentorship to the children.

• ? Heyward is helping to lead an initiative with local police officers to make an impact in Pittsburgh. The first project was a Thanksgiving turkey distribution, where Steelers players and police officers worked together to distribute to local families.

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans: J.J. Watt, defensive end

• In 19 days, JJ Watt raised more than $37 million for Hurricane Harvey relief. Watt will soon unfold a plan with strategic organizations, ensuring that every dollar goes directly to the people of Houston and its surrounding areas that are in need.

• ? Watt started the Justin J. Watt Foundation in Wisconsin in 2010 out of a desire to help underserved kids. The foundation has provided over $3.4 million in funding to middle schools and organizations that have insufficient funding for after-school athletic programs or no after-school athletics whatsoever for middle school children.

• ? Watt makes frequent hospital visits and regularly works with organizations, such as Make-A-Wish, to create special experiences for children whose wish to spend the day with him.

Indianapolis Colts: Darius Butler, safety

• Butler started the Darius Butler Foundation, which aims to fight hunger in underserved communities, inspire at-risk youth to achieve their dreams and improve in the classroom. The Foundation runs an academic summer tutoring camp that provides academic support to help high school students learn studying and test-taking skills. The objective is to not only help students pass standardized tests, but also equip them with the tools necessary to succeed in college.

• For the past five seasons, Butler has donated tickets, hats and meal vouchers to the Indianapolis nonprofit, Boys II Men, Inc. Through this initiative, over 500 underprivileged boys have been able to experience a Colts game.

• ?Butler has hosted two annual youth football and cheerleading camps in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Darius also hosts a youth football and personal development program that provides mentorship, coaching and guidance to area youth.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Malik Jackson, defensive tackle

• Jackson’s foundation, Malik’s Gifts, provides support and builds programs for at-risk children, military children and families, animal rescue missions and family emergency assistance. Jackson annually hosts youth football and soccer camps for 500 children ages 7-14. He supports the local NFL FLAG leagues for Boys & Girls Clubs across Northeast Florida by contributing $5,000 to offset registration and uniform costs.

• This past Memorial Day, Malik provided a day of fun activities for 200 military children who lost a loved one. Jackson committed to donate $5,000 to 5 Star Veterans Center, a foundation that offers safe and secure housing to end veteran homelessness.

• Jackson also works with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. He participated in a ride-along with Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office patrol officer and former Jaguar Ernest Wilford. Jackson and Wilford discussed civilian and police relations and the importance of dialogue between both groups as they traveled to River City Science Academy Elementary School to engage students.

Tennessee Titans: Wesley Woodyard, linebacker

• ?Woodyard co-founded the 16Ways Foundation with his cousin, Derrick Kelley, in 2010. The foundation’s mission is to encourage and empower youth, especially at-risk youth, to follow their dreams and succeed.

• Through a strategic partnership with Scholastic and its Family and Community Engagement (FACE) program, 16Ways builds mini libraries – known as 16Chapters – in inner city areas. Every summer, the foundation hosts free youth football and cheer camps. Guest NFL and college players, as well as high school coaches, reinforce hard work and practice as a means of accomplishing goals. The camp also includes anti-bullying and academic achievement messages. Woodyard provides young girls with opportunities for positive experiences to develop self-esteem and awareness through 16Ways’ GYRLs program – an acronym for “giving yourself respect and love.” As a dad of two girls, this program is important to Woodyard.

• For the second year in a row, Wesley used the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats platform to raise awareness and funds for ALS. Wesley lost his aunt to ALS, and is close to former Titans linebacker Tim Shaw, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2014.

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos: Chris Harris Jr, cornerback

• ?Harris and his wife, Leah, founded the Chris Harris Jr. Foundation in 2012 to provide underprivileged youth with unique opportunities to help achieve their goals. Through his foundation, Chris has established partnerships with notable organizations, including the Denver Children’s Home (DCH), which helps kids who have survived trauma, neglect and abuse.

• Since 2013, Harris has supported various initiatives to speak out against domestic violence, including the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s “How I See DV” campaign and the NFL’s NO MORE movement. This season, Harris took part in Stand Up Colorado, a collaborative, multi-year relationship violence prevention campaign spearheaded by the Colorado Attorney General.

• This summer, Harris Jr. joined Denver mayor Michael B. Hancock in launching Mentor Colorado’s #MentoringFlipped campaign to improve the number of quality mentoring relationships for young people.

Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Smith, quarterback

• The Alex Smith Foundation’s mission is to provide foster teens with the tools and resources needed to transition to successful adulthood. The foundation’s Guardian Scholars program provides a scholarship and year-round housing along with extensive individual support. 23 former foster youth graduated from San Diego State University. The college replicated this program, and another 205 former foster youth have graduated from the school.

• Smith’s relationship with the foster agency, Cornerstones of Care, helped the organization to become the local leader for foster care. More than 40 youth have graduated high school and enrolled in college courses or trade training.

• Smith has personally donated over $600,000 to charitable causes since 2005, including all administrative costs incurred by his foundation.

Los Angeles Chargers: Casey Hayward, cornerback

• In 2014, Hayward and his mother, Tish Hayward, created the Hayward’s Hands Foundation in Georgia. Hayward’s Hands mission is to reach people of all ages with programs and services to meet their particular needs through love and compassion. Hayward’s Hands started with a Thanksgiving meal its first year, and now annually hosts a number of events, including the Thanksgiving meal, a Christmas Toy Drive, youth football camps and scholarship opportunities for students in his hometown of Perry.

• Tish Hayward died from breast cancer before the 2016 NFL season, and Hayward is now dedicated to honoring his mother with his foundation.

Oakland Raiders: Bruce Irvin, linebacker

• Irvin hosted his third annual Bruce Irvin Football Clinic in Charleston, W.Va. Bruce was a volunteer coach at Michael Crabtree’s annual youth football camp in Dallas as well as Justin Ellis’ youth football camp in Monroe, La.

• ?Irvin volunteered with the Alameda County Community Food Bank’s Mobile Pantry with his teammates, helping distribute food to 157 low-income families. He participated in the Crucial Catch community event at the Raiders’ facility in which players and 15 breast cancer survivors and guests were led through a group art lesson.

• In response to the devastating wildfires that have ravaged the region, Irvin encouraged his teammates to contribute and help those effected by the fires. Irvin donated over $15,000 that was used to purchase food, supplies and gift cards for those who were impacted by the fires.

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys: Travis Frederick, center

• ?Frederick established the Blocking Out Hunger Foundation in 2016 and began working with nutrition experts to create programing that would reshape a low-income family’s ability to address hunger. His Nourish2Flourish program provides meals to hundreds of low-income students who often go without regular meals during extended school breaks.

• Travis’ Pantry program provides schools with a food cart, or “Travis’ Pantry,” that offers non-perishable food items at night and on the weekends. The first Pantry opened at Trinity Basin Preparatory School in October and feeds over 70 students and their families.

• Since 2016, Travis has impacted 53,250 individuals through his efforts. Nourish2Flourish has provided 2,000 meals, with plans to provide 90,000 meals by the end of the year.

New York Giants: Mark Herzlich, linebacker

• After being named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year as a junior at Boston College, Mark was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Mark regularly visits hospitals and sends get-well messages to fans battling cancer.

• Herzlich is a member of the advisory board for the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, which helps families tackle childhood cancer. He anually attends the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Gala, and the Jay Fund’s Sundae Blitz ice cream social. He currently serves on the American Cancer Society’s Athlete Council. Herzlich and his mother host an annual “Steps to Cure Sarcoma 5K” fundraiser in his hometown of Wayne, Pa. to benefit the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Medicine, where Mark was treated.

• Mark joined many teammates to participate in a conversation with Senator Cory Booker and RISE regarding current social justice issues. He has been the Giants’ player representative at the NFL’s recent meetings between Commissioner Roger Goodell, players and owners regarding racial equality. He joined teammates Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Adam Bisnowaty in a ride-along with the Newark Police Department’s Bronze Shields and Mayor Ras Baraka to learn about the department’s community efforts and the challenges of policing.

Philadelphia Eagles: Malcolm Jenkins, safety

• In 2010, Jenkins founded the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, whose mission is to help youth in underserved communities. The organization has expanded to help youth in three areas: Jenkins’ home state of New Jersey; Ohio, where he attended Ohio State University; and Pennsylvania, where he plays. The Foundation establishes programs that emphasize mentorship, character development, leadership, education and health. Project R.E.W.A.R.D.S. offers a life skills curriculum program to high school students in under-resourced New Orleans communities and has helped provide more than $100,000 in scholarships to college bound seniors since 2012. ?

• Over the last two years, with the help of teammates and peers, Jenkins has worked to create change in the criminal justice system. Jenkins planned two days of key meetings that focused on issues that are prevalent in Pennsylvania. Jenkins, Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie and Roger Goodell met with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, grassroots organizations, policy leaders and public defenders in the city. He also attended meetings with politicians and lawmakers at the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped support Clean Slate legislation.

• Jenkins and former NFL receiver Anquan Boldin formed the Players Coalition, a group of around 40 players across the league who are committed to improving the country's criminal-justice system. As a leader of the Players Coalition, Jenkins worked with the NFL where the league and teams will donate around $90 million to social causes that are important to the players.

Washington: Nick Sundberg, long snapper

•? Last winter, Nick approached the Redskins Charitable Foundation with an idea for a new program to help increase school attendance rates in low-income areas and give equal opportunities to all children. His solution was washers and dryers. It started after Nick and his wife Flor heard about a laundry program that installed washers and dryers in schools after finding that thousands of children missed school each year because they did not have access to clean clothes.

• In partnership with the Redskins Charitable Foundation, Nick will launch the Loads of Love (LOL) laundry program in three Prince George’s County public schools and two youth shelters in Washington. The program will provide schools with a high percentage of homeless students with the supplies and equipment needed to create an in-school laundry center.

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears: Sam Acho, linebacker

• Acho is dedicated to making sure the people of Nigeria have access to basic health care. Through Living Hope Christian Ministries, Acho and his family fundraised money to build a medical clinic in Nigeria that opened last June. He continues to raise funds to sustain the facility with staff, medicine and equipment. Acho hosted his second annual Celebrity Waiter Night in Chicago this past September at Steak 48. Over twenty of his teammates served guests and helped raise over $100,000.

• Sam is a player ambassador for the Fuel Up to Play 60 initiative as well. As a player representative, he spoke to student ambassadors at the Rewards Summit at Halas Hall, took part in the Program Directors' Skills Clinic and represented the Bears by presenting a $10,000 grant to a Chicago Public School as part of the FUTP60 Hometown Grant program.

Detroit Lions: Haloti Ngata, defensive tackle

• Founded the Haloti Ngata Family Foundation. To honor his mother’s memory, Ngata and his wife, Christina, established a college preparation program in her name. In two years, the Ofa Ngata College Preparation Program has assisted over 600 students in six schools in two states. The program provides free college entrance exam preparation courses for students. By the end of the 2017-18 school year, the program will add three new schools and reach over 1,000 students in only three years.

• Each year the Ngatas invite deserving youth on an all-expenses paid trip to see Haloti play in person during the “It’s Ngata Dream” weekend.

• He co-hosted Sam Martin’s annual charity softball game in 2017 and helped Ziggy Ansah deliver 94,000 bottles of water to residents of Flint, Michigan during their water crisis in 2016.

Green Bay Packers: Clay Matthews, linebacker

•? Matthews has participated in a variety of charitable golf outings, bowl-a-thons, and softball games. He’s helped support philanthropic work with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Jimmy V Foundation, Hugs from Holly and met with the students who collected food at St. Mark’s Lutheran School.

• When Make-A-Wish kids come to Lambeau Field to fulfill their wishes, Matthews signs autographs for the kids, takes photos with them and spends time with each family. In 2016, he worked with wish kid Angel Cruz on the Catch A Star campaign, where Make-A-Wish sold greeting cards featuring artwork by Cruz and an autograph from Matthews to fundraise.

Minnesota Vikings: Kyle Rudolph, tight end

• As a kid, Rudolph spent long hours at the hospital while his brother was undergoing chemotherapy. He witnessed all that went into making a patient and his or her family feel comfortable during treatment. Years later, Rudolph is dedicated to changing the lives of families who are faced with the emotional and physical constraints of long-term hospital stays in his adoptive state, Minnesota.

• In 2016, Kyle and his wife Jordan opened a space for all children at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital called, Kyle Rudolph's End Zone.

• Over the 2016 Christmas season, Rudolph partnered with a private jet company to create "Rudy's Red Eye Express" which was funded in part by a personal donation of $10,000. The event welcomed more than 40 children and their families who were swept away from the hospital to board private jets to the “North Pole,” a cleverly disguised airport hanger.

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons: Ben Garland, guard

• Garland attended the United States Air Force Academy and fulfilled his two-year military commitment. He is very involved in the Atlanta Falcons military outreach and has dedicated time to honor service members.

• He has participated in Fishing with the Falcons, where players fish with soldiers who were recently injured in the Middle East and spoken to service members at Fort Benning, Fort Stewart and Dobbins Air Reserve Base. He’s also visited wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. this past summer. Garland also spends time with veterans suffering from PTSD.

• In his three seasons in Atlanta, Garland has participated in over sixty community events. He has addressed youth football teams, participated in PLAY 60 camps and Gatorade Junior Training Camps, visited hospital patients, and traveled to Canada twice to participate with NFL Canada in PLAY 60 events.

Carolina Panthers: Greg Olsen, tight end

• In 2009, after watching his mother beat breast cancer, Greg Olsen founded Receptions for Research: The Greg Olsen Foundation. The Foundation’s Receiving Hope program focuses on cancer research and education programming. The program has distributed over $524,000 to six hospitals and foundations nationwide, with funding generated by events executed entirely by Greg.

• In early 2013, Greg and his wife Kara founded the HEARTest Yard Fund after a routine examination of their unborn son, T.J., revealed the infant had hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The HEARTest Yard Fund is a family service program administered in conjunction with Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte and provides families of babies affected by congenital heart disease with services including in-home, private nursing care, physical therapy and speech therapy, at no cost to the families or hospital. The fund has distributed nearly $1.7 million in support.

• In February 2013, Greg traveled to Raleigh, N.C. to lobby the House of Representatives for legislation that would require mandatory heart disease screening for newborns. The bill went in to effect in July 2014.

New Orleans Saints: Cameron Jordan, defensive end

• Since his rookie year, Jordan has participated in a community event almost every week.

• For the past four years, Jordan has been the face of the Saints Kids Club and has also been designated as the Live United player in the region. He spends several hours during the summer working with kids who take part in the Saints Community Patrol Summer Camps. He gives speeches to youth and high school students throughout the year and supports any event hosted by a teammate.

• Jordan recently represented the Saints in the NFL's USO tour this past off-season to show his appreciation for the military members on the front lines, and also the support staff that get less attention.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Clinton McDonald, defensive tackle

• Following Hurricane Irma, McDonald covered all expenses to deploy food trucks into areas of Tampa that were left without power as result of the storm. Over the course of two weeks, over 15,000 meals were distributed.

• Each year, in his hometown of Jacksonville, Arkansas, McDonald co-hosts the annual “Iron Sharpens Iron” week that includes a free football and cheer camp, a golf tournament and bowling tournament that both benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Jacksonville.

• McDonald’s family has a history of military service, so for the past two years, he has served as an honorary guest speaker at the Buccaneers General H Norman Schwarzkopf Military Family of the Year Awards. The event honors the families of active duty military members from each branch of service and recognizes their integrity, courage, commitment, and service before self. On Veterans Day in 2016, McDonald helped organize a clothing donation drive and purchased meals for homeless veterans as part of Operation Reveille, which works to improve the lives of veterans who have struggled to find housing, jobs, health services, transportation and other basic needs.

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, cornerback

• Founded the Patrick Peterson Foundation for Success in 2013 to provide low-income and inner-city youth with opportunities and resources, specifically to improve poor reading proficiency.

• Patrick’s Corner, launched in 2015, builds and maintain libraries in Title I schools and inner-city community centers to provide at-risk students access to books and a fun environment to read. Peterson has opened 12 Corners in 12 Phoenix area schools and will open two more by the end of the year. These 14 Patrick’s Corners provide nearly 32,000 students with 24,100 books.

• In 2017 Patrick partnered with “Furnishing Dignity,” a non-profit agency that assists homeless families with housing, finance management and job placement. Patrick is providing “mini reading corners” to these families’ homes.

Los Angeles Rams: Rodger Saffold, guard

• Saffold is commited to supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters, Children’s Miracle Network and their Extra Life program, which is an online video gaming effort that unites children in the hospitals through the power of play.

• Saffold has been active in a variety of charitable efforts since the team’s relocation to Los Angeles, including work with Heart of Los Angeles, Cedars-Sinai hospital, Los Angeles Regional Foodbank, Inglewood Unified School District and Single Mom Planet Awards. He has also supported mentoring programs including Big Brothers Big Sisters and Operation Progress, a program that pairs LAPD officers with underserved youth from Watts.

San Francisco 49ers: Bradley Pinion, punter

•? Bradley partnered with local first responders and lead youth from the Santa Clara Police Activities League through youth football activities at the First Responders Skills, Drills and Grills event. Bradley also worked with athletes with Down syndrome at Football Camp for the Stars where he ran the athletes through a day of skills and drills clinics.

• To encourage the importance of literacy, Bradley collaborated with 3rd and 4th graders at Don Callejon Elementary School to complete and present Mad Lib stories.

• As a rookie, Bradley participated in the 49ers Mentorship Academy, where he helped lead a leadership development lesson. In partnership with Reading Partners, which provides one-on-one instruction to elementary school students reading below grade level to help them succeed, Bradley tutored a student at Lakewood Elementary School.

Seattle Seahawks: Michael Bennett, defensive end

• The Bennett Foundation educates underserved children and communities through free, accessible programming across the nation. The foundation’s goal is to provide children and families with valuable knowledge and tools that will enable them to make positive, healthy lifestyle choices. The Foundation’s O.C.E.A.N. (fighting Obesity through Community, Education, Activity and Nutrition) programs impact thousands of people each year by offering free health education, health screenings, fitness activities, cooking demonstrations, and other health related activities.

• Bennett’s foundation is partnering with the African-led global movement iamtheCODE to get 100 marginalized girls in Africa into STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) programs. He’s also partnering with multiple local organizations to start a gardening program for youth in juvenile detention.

• Bennett has been a regular visitor at the King County Juvenile Youth Services Center on Fridays before home games.

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2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Nominees Announced

Every season, each NFL team nominates one player for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which acknowledges a player for his community service activities off the field, as well as his play on the field. Headlining this year’s list, not surprisingly, is Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who raised $37 million over 19 days for Hurricane Harvey relief. But another headline of the 2017 class involves the many nominees who reflect this unique point in NFL history, where the intersection of sports, politics and minority rights have defined the season. There’s a new kind of Man of the Year candidate, one whose community work focuses on fighting social injustices.

Of the 32 nominees, seven players were nominated specifically by their teams for their work in raising awareness of social injustice, ranging participating in police ride-alongs to organizing meetings with state senators. A year after Colin Kaepernick’s original anthem protest, 12 of the 32 nominees have been involved in some form of anthem demonstration this season, either sitting, kneeling or raising a fist.

“It’s a new wave, definitely,” says Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who has raised his fist during the anthem, starting in 2016. “Normally you get guys that are afraid to stand up, they don’t want to be released or they don’t want to face contract issues, but when I see a man like [Eagles safety] Malcolm Jenkins or [Dolphins receiver] Kenny Stills, standing up for something they believe and not backing down, to me, that is a true American.”

Both Jenkins and Stills are Man of the Year nominees for their activism against racial inequality and social injustice. Jenkins’s efforts are focused on criminal justice reform, working to pass Clean Slate legislation that would seal old, non-violent misdemeanor offenses for Pennsylvanians who have not had any additional convictions for at least 10 years. Stills has spent time fostering the relationship between law enforcement and children in Miami. Last season he organized a town hall meeting with community leaders and law enforcement to discuss issues of racial inequality and how the parties could work to build understanding.

Stills left the town hall meeting with an idea to participate in police ride-alongs, where he would join police to stop by parks after school to hang out with local kids. “Just to help the law enforcement to build a relationship with the kids in those communities and build some type of trust and some familiarity with each other,” Stills says. “We can stop some negative things from happening by building these bonds.”

He’s also helped organize CommUNITY tailgates before every Dolphins home game, which bring local student-athletes, coaches, parents, community leaders, law enforcement and military personnel together to build relationships across races and economic backgrounds.

“I’m trying to make our country stand for what we say we stand for,” Still says. “We say we believe in justice for all, we say we believe in equality, and freedom of speech and then when people are currently protesting, people have an issue with that, or when a police officer kills a young man or a young woman, they don’t serve any time. So, it’s just my goal is to hold this country accountable to the standards that we say we believe in.”

In an arrangement with the Players Coalition, a group led in part by Jenkins, the NFL recently pledged to donate nearly $89 million over seven years to projects central to Stills and Jenkins’ focuses—criminal justice reform, law enforcement, community relations and education. The pledge represents the largest amount the NFL would spend on a social cause—more than the Salute to Service and Breast Cancer Awareness/Crucial Catch platforms.

Woodyard’s own community work reflects another current social cause, the women’s movement. Woodyard’s charity, 16Ways, is involved in a number of efforts, including a program called GYRLS, an acronym for “giving yourself respect and love,” that provides mentorship for girls as they transition to the teen years, developing self-esteem and providing positive direction through activities such as job shadowing, financial education and health and wellness talks. Woodyard’s daughters, two-year-old Noah and nine-month-old Luca, serve as the inspiration for the program. “I just want to try to make it a better world for everybody, but definitely for my daughters,” he says. “We’re just trying to get our girls to see that they hold all the power in their hands and they can do whatever they want to do in life. I think it is important that our females see Hillary Clinton running for president; that’s the first time anyone has seen that. We just want to show them keep dreaming and if you want to be an astronaut, you can be an astronaut. Doctor? You can be a doctor.”

Falcons guard Ben Garland never takes a week off from community service. He tries to participate in one or two events per week and at least 63 charity events per year. Garland graduated from the Air Force Academy and fulfilled his two-year service duty, so he spends much of his community service time with veterans recovering from wounds or dealing with PTSD. Garland’s motivation comes from the knowledge that his career and his NFL platform won’t last forever. “We have a small time frame where we can use this [NFL] shield to make a large difference,” he says. “I’ve had kids come back to me—when I talked to them they were 13 years old and now they’re 18 or 19, and they tell me that some small speech I gave to them in a classroom way back when has really changed their lives. That stuff is incredible to hear.”

While all the nominees are worthy, Woodyard can’t see Jenkins, Stills or Garland upsetting Watt for the award. He says he’d even vote for the Texans star if he could. “If I had to cast a vote, I would vote J.J.,” says Woodyard. “To see what Houston went through, the crisis they had there with the hurricane and the flood, just to see how quick he was able to get that momentum rolling.”

Here’s a look at the 32 nominees.

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills: Lorenzo Alexander, linebacker

• Alexander is president and Founder of the ACES Foundation, spokesman for the American Diabetes Association, PLAY 60 Advocate, Character Playbook Ambassador. He currently mentors a local inner-city high school football team about making good decisions on and off the field.

• He organized a day of community service, where 42 Bills players spent their day off at five different organizations throughout the Buffalo community, making a difference for youth athletes and students.

• Throughout the remainder of the season, he will organize town hall meetings with leaders from the Buffalo community and a team-voted community organization award will be presented at each home game.

Miami Dolphins: Kenny Stills, wide receiver

•? In 2016, Stills worked with the Miami Dolphins and Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) to host a town hall meeting that brought influential local leaders together with law enforcement to discuss actionable steps that could be taken to address issues of racial inequality and unite the community.

• Items that came from this meeting included a police ride-along program and CommUNITY tailgates, which bring local student-athletes, coaches, parents, community leaders, law enforcement and military personnel together at every Dolphins home game.

New England Patriots: Nate Solder, tackle

• Nate is on the board of directors for Fresh Truck, an organization dedicated to making Boston healthier by converting old school busses into mobile markets that drive to areas of the city that are categorized as food deserts, meaning that fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods are difficult to access.

• In April of 2014, Nate was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He discovered it early and is now cancer-free. That October, his one-year old son Hudson was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Nate and his wife Lexi found the tumors early and have been able to seek the proper treatment for their son. As his son continues to undergo chemotherapy, Nate has been committed to supporting local hospitals and organizations that aid children and families battling cancer. He visits Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to share his story. Nate also participated in the Jimmy Fund’s annual Telethon and has attended the One Mission Kid’s Cancer Buzz Off to raise funds for children battling cancer. He is also a supporter of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which helps to offset living expenses for families battling cancer.

New York Jets: Quincy Enunwa, wide receiver

•? Enunwa volunteers with middle school students through the Jets PLAY 60 Challenge—a program that encourages youth to live healthier lives and participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

•? Involved with the launch of the Jet’s Flag Football League in partnership with the NYC Police Athletic League, that will allow more than 1,200 NYC children to participate in the athletic program at no cost.

•? Enunwa speaks to high school football teams through the Jets relationship with the New York City Department of Education’s Public School Athletic League’s High School Football program.

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens: Ben Watson, tight end

• Watson’s charity, the One More Foundation, recently partnered with the International Justice Mission, the world’s largest international anti-slavery organization working to combat human trafficking, modern day slavery and other forms of violence against the poor. Watson took a three-day trip to Lebanon, where he witnessed firsthand the Middle East’s refugee crisis. He and his wife, Kirsten, traveled to the Dominican Republic in June to begin formulating plans that combat sex trafficking. .

• Named one of CNN’s Most Extraordinary People of the Year (2014), Benjamin regularly appears on FOX News and CNN to discuss issues such as race, persecution, ISIS, civil unrest and social responsibility.

• Watson has written two books: “The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life,” featuring advice and info on being a father, and “Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race – Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us,” a look at race, bias and justice, following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Cincinnati Bengals: Michael Johnson, defensive end

• ?Johnson’s MJ93-90 Foundation educates children on the importance of capitalizing on their talents and abilities with mentorship, educational programming and encouragement to have a vision for success.

• Two years ago, Michael started a program encouraging kids and the Cincinnati Police Department to strengthen their relationship in the community. This year’s program includes a community service component where kids and officers volunteer together. The kids engage in a question and answer session with officers to discuss any concerns they have about law enforcement and the current climate in America.

Cleveland Browns: Randall Telfer, tight end

• Randall frequently visits local police and fire stations to support those who protect our communities.

• ?This fall, he hosted a back-to-school event for kids from a local recreational center, which provided new backpacks to students for the year. He also supports the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, attending the Taste of the Browns event and volunteering at the warehouse before Thanksgiving. Through the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats platform, Telfer supports Boo 2 Bullying, a nonprofit organization founded in California dedicated to eliminating bullying in the school system and beyond.

• Telfer has participated in a police ride-along, and had conversations with local students during a town hall on police perception in neighborhoods and equality. He represents the team when speaking on those subjects with media.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Cam Heyward, defensive end

• Heyward established the Heyward House Foundation in 2015, and kicked it off with a birthday party for those served by KidsVoice, an agency that represents abused and neglected kids who are in foster or group homes. He provides school backpacks, shoes and supplies to nearly 50 children, and takes them shopping for winter coats and boots. The Heyward House also supports local youth football teams, allowing kids from financially challenged backgrounds to play.

• Heyward’s late father, Craig Heyward, went to his local Boys & Girls Club growing up, and today. Heyward works alongside the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania. His foundation supports their “Triple Play” program, which emphasizes academic performance and physical fitness, as well as provides leadership and mentorship to the children.

• ? Heyward is helping to lead an initiative with local police officers to make an impact in Pittsburgh. The first project was a Thanksgiving turkey distribution, where Steelers players and police officers worked together to distribute to local families.

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans: J.J. Watt, defensive end

• In 19 days, JJ Watt raised more than $37 million for Hurricane Harvey relief. Watt will soon unfold a plan with strategic organizations, ensuring that every dollar goes directly to the people of Houston and its surrounding areas that are in need.

• ? Watt started the Justin J. Watt Foundation in Wisconsin in 2010 out of a desire to help underserved kids. The foundation has provided over $3.4 million in funding to middle schools and organizations that have insufficient funding for after-school athletic programs or no after-school athletics whatsoever for middle school children.

• ? Watt makes frequent hospital visits and regularly works with organizations, such as Make-A-Wish, to create special experiences for children whose wish to spend the day with him.

Indianapolis Colts: Darius Butler, safety

• Butler started the Darius Butler Foundation, which aims to fight hunger in underserved communities, inspire at-risk youth to achieve their dreams and improve in the classroom. The Foundation runs an academic summer tutoring camp that provides academic support to help high school students learn studying and test-taking skills. The objective is to not only help students pass standardized tests, but also equip them with the tools necessary to succeed in college.

• For the past five seasons, Butler has donated tickets, hats and meal vouchers to the Indianapolis nonprofit, Boys II Men, Inc. Through this initiative, over 500 underprivileged boys have been able to experience a Colts game.

• ?Butler has hosted two annual youth football and cheerleading camps in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Darius also hosts a youth football and personal development program that provides mentorship, coaching and guidance to area youth.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Malik Jackson, defensive tackle

• Jackson’s foundation, Malik’s Gifts, provides support and builds programs for at-risk children, military children and families, animal rescue missions and family emergency assistance. Jackson annually hosts youth football and soccer camps for 500 children ages 7-14. He supports the local NFL FLAG leagues for Boys & Girls Clubs across Northeast Florida by contributing $5,000 to offset registration and uniform costs.

• This past Memorial Day, Malik provided a day of fun activities for 200 military children who lost a loved one. Jackson committed to donate $5,000 to 5 Star Veterans Center, a foundation that offers safe and secure housing to end veteran homelessness.

• Jackson also works with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. He participated in a ride-along with Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office patrol officer and former Jaguar Ernest Wilford. Jackson and Wilford discussed civilian and police relations and the importance of dialogue between both groups as they traveled to River City Science Academy Elementary School to engage students.

Tennessee Titans: Wesley Woodyard, linebacker

• ?Woodyard co-founded the 16Ways Foundation with his cousin, Derrick Kelley, in 2010. The foundation’s mission is to encourage and empower youth, especially at-risk youth, to follow their dreams and succeed.

• Through a strategic partnership with Scholastic and its Family and Community Engagement (FACE) program, 16Ways builds mini libraries – known as 16Chapters – in inner city areas. Every summer, the foundation hosts free youth football and cheer camps. Guest NFL and college players, as well as high school coaches, reinforce hard work and practice as a means of accomplishing goals. The camp also includes anti-bullying and academic achievement messages. Woodyard provides young girls with opportunities for positive experiences to develop self-esteem and awareness through 16Ways’ GYRLs program – an acronym for “giving yourself respect and love.” As a dad of two girls, this program is important to Woodyard.

• For the second year in a row, Wesley used the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats platform to raise awareness and funds for ALS. Wesley lost his aunt to ALS, and is close to former Titans linebacker Tim Shaw, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2014.

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos: Chris Harris Jr, cornerback

• ?Harris and his wife, Leah, founded the Chris Harris Jr. Foundation in 2012 to provide underprivileged youth with unique opportunities to help achieve their goals. Through his foundation, Chris has established partnerships with notable organizations, including the Denver Children’s Home (DCH), which helps kids who have survived trauma, neglect and abuse.

• Since 2013, Harris has supported various initiatives to speak out against domestic violence, including the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s “How I See DV” campaign and the NFL’s NO MORE movement. This season, Harris took part in Stand Up Colorado, a collaborative, multi-year relationship violence prevention campaign spearheaded by the Colorado Attorney General.

• This summer, Harris Jr. joined Denver mayor Michael B. Hancock in launching Mentor Colorado’s #MentoringFlipped campaign to improve the number of quality mentoring relationships for young people.

Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Smith, quarterback

• The Alex Smith Foundation’s mission is to provide foster teens with the tools and resources needed to transition to successful adulthood. The foundation’s Guardian Scholars program provides a scholarship and year-round housing along with extensive individual support. 23 former foster youth graduated from San Diego State University. The college replicated this program, and another 205 former foster youth have graduated from the school.

• Smith’s relationship with the foster agency, Cornerstones of Care, helped the organization to become the local leader for foster care. More than 40 youth have graduated high school and enrolled in college courses or trade training.

• Smith has personally donated over $600,000 to charitable causes since 2005, including all administrative costs incurred by his foundation.

Los Angeles Chargers: Casey Hayward, cornerback

• In 2014, Hayward and his mother, Tish Hayward, created the Hayward’s Hands Foundation in Georgia. Hayward’s Hands mission is to reach people of all ages with programs and services to meet their particular needs through love and compassion. Hayward’s Hands started with a Thanksgiving meal its first year, and now annually hosts a number of events, including the Thanksgiving meal, a Christmas Toy Drive, youth football camps and scholarship opportunities for students in his hometown of Perry.

• Tish Hayward died from breast cancer before the 2016 NFL season, and Hayward is now dedicated to honoring his mother with his foundation.

Oakland Raiders: Bruce Irvin, linebacker

• Irvin hosted his third annual Bruce Irvin Football Clinic in Charleston, W.Va. Bruce was a volunteer coach at Michael Crabtree’s annual youth football camp in Dallas as well as Justin Ellis’ youth football camp in Monroe, La.

• ?Irvin volunteered with the Alameda County Community Food Bank’s Mobile Pantry with his teammates, helping distribute food to 157 low-income families. He participated in the Crucial Catch community event at the Raiders’ facility in which players and 15 breast cancer survivors and guests were led through a group art lesson.

• In response to the devastating wildfires that have ravaged the region, Irvin encouraged his teammates to contribute and help those effected by the fires. Irvin donated over $15,000 that was used to purchase food, supplies and gift cards for those who were impacted by the fires.

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys: Travis Frederick, center

• ?Frederick established the Blocking Out Hunger Foundation in 2016 and began working with nutrition experts to create programing that would reshape a low-income family’s ability to address hunger. His Nourish2Flourish program provides meals to hundreds of low-income students who often go without regular meals during extended school breaks.

• Travis’ Pantry program provides schools with a food cart, or “Travis’ Pantry,” that offers non-perishable food items at night and on the weekends. The first Pantry opened at Trinity Basin Preparatory School in October and feeds over 70 students and their families.

• Since 2016, Travis has impacted 53,250 individuals through his efforts. Nourish2Flourish has provided 2,000 meals, with plans to provide 90,000 meals by the end of the year.

New York Giants: Mark Herzlich, linebacker

• After being named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year as a junior at Boston College, Mark was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Mark regularly visits hospitals and sends get-well messages to fans battling cancer.

• Herzlich is a member of the advisory board for the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, which helps families tackle childhood cancer. He anually attends the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Gala, and the Jay Fund’s Sundae Blitz ice cream social. He currently serves on the American Cancer Society’s Athlete Council. Herzlich and his mother host an annual “Steps to Cure Sarcoma 5K” fundraiser in his hometown of Wayne, Pa. to benefit the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Medicine, where Mark was treated.

• Mark joined many teammates to participate in a conversation with Senator Cory Booker and RISE regarding current social justice issues. He has been the Giants’ player representative at the NFL’s recent meetings between Commissioner Roger Goodell, players and owners regarding racial equality. He joined teammates Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Adam Bisnowaty in a ride-along with the Newark Police Department’s Bronze Shields and Mayor Ras Baraka to learn about the department’s community efforts and the challenges of policing.

Philadelphia Eagles: Malcolm Jenkins, safety

• In 2010, Jenkins founded the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, whose mission is to help youth in underserved communities. The organization has expanded to help youth in three areas: Jenkins’ home state of New Jersey; Ohio, where he attended Ohio State University; and Pennsylvania, where he plays. The Foundation establishes programs that emphasize mentorship, character development, leadership, education and health. Project R.E.W.A.R.D.S. offers a life skills curriculum program to high school students in under-resourced New Orleans communities and has helped provide more than $100,000 in scholarships to college bound seniors since 2012. ?

• Over the last two years, with the help of teammates and peers, Jenkins has worked to create change in the criminal justice system. Jenkins planned two days of key meetings that focused on issues that are prevalent in Pennsylvania. Jenkins, Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie and Roger Goodell met with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, grassroots organizations, policy leaders and public defenders in the city. He also attended meetings with politicians and lawmakers at the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped support Clean Slate legislation.

• Jenkins and former NFL receiver Anquan Boldin formed the Players Coalition, a group of around 40 players across the league who are committed to improving the country's criminal-justice system. As a leader of the Players Coalition, Jenkins worked with the NFL where the league and teams will donate around $90 million to social causes that are important to the players.

Washington: Nick Sundberg, long snapper

•? Last winter, Nick approached the Redskins Charitable Foundation with an idea for a new program to help increase school attendance rates in low-income areas and give equal opportunities to all children. His solution was washers and dryers. It started after Nick and his wife Flor heard about a laundry program that installed washers and dryers in schools after finding that thousands of children missed school each year because they did not have access to clean clothes.

• In partnership with the Redskins Charitable Foundation, Nick will launch the Loads of Love (LOL) laundry program in three Prince George’s County public schools and two youth shelters in Washington. The program will provide schools with a high percentage of homeless students with the supplies and equipment needed to create an in-school laundry center.

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears: Sam Acho, linebacker

• Acho is dedicated to making sure the people of Nigeria have access to basic health care. Through Living Hope Christian Ministries, Acho and his family fundraised money to build a medical clinic in Nigeria that opened last June. He continues to raise funds to sustain the facility with staff, medicine and equipment. Acho hosted his second annual Celebrity Waiter Night in Chicago this past September at Steak 48. Over twenty of his teammates served guests and helped raise over $100,000.

• Sam is a player ambassador for the Fuel Up to Play 60 initiative as well. As a player representative, he spoke to student ambassadors at the Rewards Summit at Halas Hall, took part in the Program Directors' Skills Clinic and represented the Bears by presenting a $10,000 grant to a Chicago Public School as part of the FUTP60 Hometown Grant program.

Detroit Lions: Haloti Ngata, defensive tackle

• Founded the Haloti Ngata Family Foundation. To honor his mother’s memory, Ngata and his wife, Christina, established a college preparation program in her name. In two years, the Ofa Ngata College Preparation Program has assisted over 600 students in six schools in two states. The program provides free college entrance exam preparation courses for students. By the end of the 2017-18 school year, the program will add three new schools and reach over 1,000 students in only three years.

• Each year the Ngatas invite deserving youth on an all-expenses paid trip to see Haloti play in person during the “It’s Ngata Dream” weekend.

• He co-hosted Sam Martin’s annual charity softball game in 2017 and helped Ziggy Ansah deliver 94,000 bottles of water to residents of Flint, Michigan during their water crisis in 2016.

Green Bay Packers: Clay Matthews, linebacker

•? Matthews has participated in a variety of charitable golf outings, bowl-a-thons, and softball games. He’s helped support philanthropic work with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Jimmy V Foundation, Hugs from Holly and met with the students who collected food at St. Mark’s Lutheran School.

• When Make-A-Wish kids come to Lambeau Field to fulfill their wishes, Matthews signs autographs for the kids, takes photos with them and spends time with each family. In 2016, he worked with wish kid Angel Cruz on the Catch A Star campaign, where Make-A-Wish sold greeting cards featuring artwork by Cruz and an autograph from Matthews to fundraise.

Minnesota Vikings: Kyle Rudolph, tight end

• As a kid, Rudolph spent long hours at the hospital while his brother was undergoing chemotherapy. He witnessed all that went into making a patient and his or her family feel comfortable during treatment. Years later, Rudolph is dedicated to changing the lives of families who are faced with the emotional and physical constraints of long-term hospital stays in his adoptive state, Minnesota.

• In 2016, Kyle and his wife Jordan opened a space for all children at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital called, Kyle Rudolph's End Zone.

• Over the 2016 Christmas season, Rudolph partnered with a private jet company to create "Rudy's Red Eye Express" which was funded in part by a personal donation of $10,000. The event welcomed more than 40 children and their families who were swept away from the hospital to board private jets to the “North Pole,” a cleverly disguised airport hanger.

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons: Ben Garland, guard

• Garland attended the United States Air Force Academy and fulfilled his two-year military commitment. He is very involved in the Atlanta Falcons military outreach and has dedicated time to honor service members.

• He has participated in Fishing with the Falcons, where players fish with soldiers who were recently injured in the Middle East and spoken to service members at Fort Benning, Fort Stewart and Dobbins Air Reserve Base. He’s also visited wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. this past summer. Garland also spends time with veterans suffering from PTSD.

• In his three seasons in Atlanta, Garland has participated in over sixty community events. He has addressed youth football teams, participated in PLAY 60 camps and Gatorade Junior Training Camps, visited hospital patients, and traveled to Canada twice to participate with NFL Canada in PLAY 60 events.

Carolina Panthers: Greg Olsen, tight end

• In 2009, after watching his mother beat breast cancer, Greg Olsen founded Receptions for Research: The Greg Olsen Foundation. The Foundation’s Receiving Hope program focuses on cancer research and education programming. The program has distributed over $524,000 to six hospitals and foundations nationwide, with funding generated by events executed entirely by Greg.

• In early 2013, Greg and his wife Kara founded the HEARTest Yard Fund after a routine examination of their unborn son, T.J., revealed the infant had hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The HEARTest Yard Fund is a family service program administered in conjunction with Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte and provides families of babies affected by congenital heart disease with services including in-home, private nursing care, physical therapy and speech therapy, at no cost to the families or hospital. The fund has distributed nearly $1.7 million in support.

• In February 2013, Greg traveled to Raleigh, N.C. to lobby the House of Representatives for legislation that would require mandatory heart disease screening for newborns. The bill went in to effect in July 2014.

New Orleans Saints: Cameron Jordan, defensive end

• Since his rookie year, Jordan has participated in a community event almost every week.

• For the past four years, Jordan has been the face of the Saints Kids Club and has also been designated as the Live United player in the region. He spends several hours during the summer working with kids who take part in the Saints Community Patrol Summer Camps. He gives speeches to youth and high school students throughout the year and supports any event hosted by a teammate.

• Jordan recently represented the Saints in the NFL's USO tour this past off-season to show his appreciation for the military members on the front lines, and also the support staff that get less attention.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Clinton McDonald, defensive tackle

• Following Hurricane Irma, McDonald covered all expenses to deploy food trucks into areas of Tampa that were left without power as result of the storm. Over the course of two weeks, over 15,000 meals were distributed.

• Each year, in his hometown of Jacksonville, Arkansas, McDonald co-hosts the annual “Iron Sharpens Iron” week that includes a free football and cheer camp, a golf tournament and bowling tournament that both benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Jacksonville.

• McDonald’s family has a history of military service, so for the past two years, he has served as an honorary guest speaker at the Buccaneers General H Norman Schwarzkopf Military Family of the Year Awards. The event honors the families of active duty military members from each branch of service and recognizes their integrity, courage, commitment, and service before self. On Veterans Day in 2016, McDonald helped organize a clothing donation drive and purchased meals for homeless veterans as part of Operation Reveille, which works to improve the lives of veterans who have struggled to find housing, jobs, health services, transportation and other basic needs.

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, cornerback

• Founded the Patrick Peterson Foundation for Success in 2013 to provide low-income and inner-city youth with opportunities and resources, specifically to improve poor reading proficiency.

• Patrick’s Corner, launched in 2015, builds and maintain libraries in Title I schools and inner-city community centers to provide at-risk students access to books and a fun environment to read. Peterson has opened 12 Corners in 12 Phoenix area schools and will open two more by the end of the year. These 14 Patrick’s Corners provide nearly 32,000 students with 24,100 books.

• In 2017 Patrick partnered with “Furnishing Dignity,” a non-profit agency that assists homeless families with housing, finance management and job placement. Patrick is providing “mini reading corners” to these families’ homes.

Los Angeles Rams: Rodger Saffold, guard

• Saffold is commited to supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters, Children’s Miracle Network and their Extra Life program, which is an online video gaming effort that unites children in the hospitals through the power of play.

• Saffold has been active in a variety of charitable efforts since the team’s relocation to Los Angeles, including work with Heart of Los Angeles, Cedars-Sinai hospital, Los Angeles Regional Foodbank, Inglewood Unified School District and Single Mom Planet Awards. He has also supported mentoring programs including Big Brothers Big Sisters and Operation Progress, a program that pairs LAPD officers with underserved youth from Watts.

San Francisco 49ers: Bradley Pinion, punter

•? Bradley partnered with local first responders and lead youth from the Santa Clara Police Activities League through youth football activities at the First Responders Skills, Drills and Grills event. Bradley also worked with athletes with Down syndrome at Football Camp for the Stars where he ran the athletes through a day of skills and drills clinics.

• To encourage the importance of literacy, Bradley collaborated with 3rd and 4th graders at Don Callejon Elementary School to complete and present Mad Lib stories.

• As a rookie, Bradley participated in the 49ers Mentorship Academy, where he helped lead a leadership development lesson. In partnership with Reading Partners, which provides one-on-one instruction to elementary school students reading below grade level to help them succeed, Bradley tutored a student at Lakewood Elementary School.

Seattle Seahawks: Michael Bennett, defensive end

• The Bennett Foundation educates underserved children and communities through free, accessible programming across the nation. The foundation’s goal is to provide children and families with valuable knowledge and tools that will enable them to make positive, healthy lifestyle choices. The Foundation’s O.C.E.A.N. (fighting Obesity through Community, Education, Activity and Nutrition) programs impact thousands of people each year by offering free health education, health screenings, fitness activities, cooking demonstrations, and other health related activities.

• Bennett’s foundation is partnering with the African-led global movement iamtheCODE to get 100 marginalized girls in Africa into STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) programs. He’s also partnering with multiple local organizations to start a gardening program for youth in juvenile detention.

• Bennett has been a regular visitor at the King County Juvenile Youth Services Center on Fridays before home games.

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