Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford may be separated only by age and career accomplishments, but two of the NFL's best quarterbacks are primed to ignite an impressive fireworks show Sunday when it counts -- in the fourth quarter. Stafford's 7-4 Detroit Lions have won five of their past six games to move to the top of the NFC North, and Brees' 5-6 New Orleans Saints, coming off a 49-point, 555-yard shellacking of the Los Angeles Rams last week, need a victory at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (1 p.m. ET, FOX) to climb back to .500 for the second time this season and into the NFC playoff picture. Despite trailing at some point of the fourth quarter in all 11 games, the Lions came back to win seven times, a tribute to Stafford's gunslinger arm and efficiency under pressure.
Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian missed another practice Friday because of his left foot injury and was ruled out for Sunday's road game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. First-round rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch will start after Broncos coach Gary Kubiak made the switch official following Friday's practice. Lynch gets his second start of the season in place of the Siemian, who sustained the foot injury in the first possession of overtime in last Sunday night's 30-27 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys are on the verge of the team's longest winning streak in any form - better than the carry-over run in 1968-69 after already topping the playoff-included surge from the proud franchise's first Super Bowl-winning season in 1971. There's something else a 12th straight win would do when the Cowboys return from an extended break with a visit to the New York Giants on Dec. 11. It would give Dallas (11-1) a firm hold on the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Friends and ex-teammates of slain former New York Jets player Joe McKnight expressed outrage Friday after the gunman involved in the killing was released without charge by police in Louisiana less than 24 hours after the slaying. Ronald Gasser, 54, was freed by police early Friday after being questioned following the shooting death of McKnight. Newell Normand, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff, told a media briefing Gasser had admitted to shooting McKnight during what was described as a road-rage incident.
The Cowboys and Raiders have drawn many of the headlines this season, with good reason. ''The five weeks will tell,'' Giants running back Rashad Jennings says. The only team to beat Dallas thus far, the Giants are on a six-game tear.
Get your popcorn ready - and while you're at it your excessive celebration flags, meme-generators and unmarried kicking nets, too - for Antonio Brown versus Odell Beckham Jr. The two superstar wide receivers will be in the same stadium for the first time on Sunday when Beckham and the streaking New York Giants (8-3) visit Heinz Field to take on Brown and the resilient Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5). ''Ultimately I would like to do better than him,'' Beckham said.
Players wearing calico cleats during NFL games this weekend won't have to worry about the league's fashion police flagging them for fines over their choice of footwear. More than 500 players will lace up customized cleats reflecting their charitable causes during Week 13 as part of the league's "My Cleats, My Cause" campaign. ''One of the great NFL traditions is how our players passionately support important causes in their communities and around the globe every year,'' NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said.
Dec 2 (Gracenote) - Standings from the NFL on Thursday AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCEAFC EAST W L T OTL PF PA PCT 1. New England 9 2 0 0 293 197 .818 2. Miami 7 4 0 0 249 240 .636 3. Buffalo 6 5 0 0 281 236 .545 4. NY Jets 3 8 0 0 196 266 .273 AFC NORTH W L T OTL PF PA PCT 1. Baltimore 6 5 0 0 218 201 .545 2. Pittsburgh 6 5 0 0 266 222 .545 3. Cincinnati 3 7 1 0 213 245 .318 4. Cleveland 0 12 0 1 197 352 0 AFC SOUTH W L T OTL PF PA PCT 1. Houston 6 5 0 0 194 236 .545 2. Tennessee 6 6 0 0 308 296 .500 3. Indianapolis 5 6 0 1 270 301 .455 4. Jacksonville 2 9 0 0 214 293 . ...
There's nothing Joe Thomas hasn't experienced during a stormy decade with the Cleveland Browns. Amid the firings, the hirings, the draft busts, the regime changes, the mistakes, the quarterback conundrum, the losses and, oh yes, Johnny Football, Thomas, a once-in-a-generation left tackle, has personified class and cornerstone consistency while the franchise that selected him with the third overall pick in 2007 has wandered aimlessly as an NFL laughingstock.
Saints coach Sean Payton has experienced clutch envy while studying the Lions this season. It's got nothing to do with fashionable, hand-held bags, but everything to do with Detroit's repeated triumphs in close contests. ''Listen, I'm jealous,'' said Payton, whose team has lost five games by six or fewer points.

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