NFL power rankings: Eagles and 49ers slide for Week 15

The Philadelphia Eagles vacated the No. 2 spot in SB Nation’s power rankings with their 24-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at home. While Philly remains atop the NFC East, the Seahawks closed the gap between themselves and the top of the conference.

Against a stingy Eagles defense, Russell Wilson played a fine game, throwing for 263 yards and two touchdowns. He added 48 more yards and a score on the ground. But the star for Seattle was its defense, which held Mark Sanchez to just 96 yards. Tharold Simon’s fourth-quarter interception sealed the win for the Seahawks and signaled their return to prominence in the NFC. Now 9-4, the Seahawks trail the Arizona Cardinals by one game in the division. The NFC West rivals face off again in two weeks.

The event was a fundraiser for Rawhide, a foundation supported by former-Packers great Bart Starr to help at-risk youth in Wisconsin. Favre appeared with Steve Young, who was in town with ESPN for coverage of the Falcons-Packers game. Though Favre will not attend the game, the time is drawing near for the legendary quarterback to get his due. The team has previously discussed plans to retire his number at a game in 2015.

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tired of Mike Williams after a stabbing incident this offseason, the Buffalo Bills swooped in and acquired the embattled wide receiver for a sixth-round pick. Williams, a native of Buffalo, had an opportunity to revitalize his career. However, after being left inactive for four of the team’s last eight games, the Bills elected to waive Williams and open up a spot on their 53-man roster according to NFL.com.

Officially, Williams’ release comes with an injury designation related to a calf strain he suffered during practice last week. However, as the report notes, the injury is not likely the motivation behind the move. If Williams goes unclaimed, he reverts to the Bills’ injured reserve list. Teams have until 4 p.m. ET Tuesday to place a claim on the receiver.5

Mulroy’s approach with Wacha was more subtle.

Mulroy didn’t put 20 pounds on Wacha, which is why he doesn’t look dramatically different this spring. If anything, Wainwright is the pitcher in camp who looks to have packed on the most bulk muscle. With his legs fully healthy, he said he was able to lift more aggressively and he put on, well, about 20 pounds.

Because the only known fix for the chronic injury is to strengthen the muscles around it to stabilize the bone, Mulroy’s approach with Wacha was more subtle. The pair worked out together three days a week, concentrating on the muscles of his right shoulder but hitting every major group in his body. The rest of the days, he let Wacha’s body recover through less stressful workouts of Pilates or yoga. The idea wasn’t to win a bodybuilding contest on Venice Beach but rather to get the right muscles firing in the right sequence around Wacha’s shoulder, putting less stress on his scapula, allowing him to deliver the baseball with more zip.

McCarthy’s fastball velocity went from the low 90s to the mid-90s in the season after he first worked with Mulroy, and the trainer said he was eager to hear about Wacha’s early radar readings. It’s too early for that now; the radar guns will come out later. The Cardinals don’t want their pitchers overthrowing early in camp and getting injured. For now, it’s about feel.

Still, Harper appears to have moved on. At the very least, he seems to have compartmentalized. In November, he did the red-carpet thing at the American Music Awards before handing out the hardware for Best New Artist. The following month in Vegas, he rubbed elbows with the Duke hoops squad (adjusted for height, it was more like his elbows rubbing with their wrists). A week later, he tied the knot with longtime girlfriend Kayla Varner, then jetted off to Cabo for the honeymoon.

“The offseason’s a big deal for everyone,” says Turner, who was one of the guests at Harper’s wedding, “but especially for Bryce because he had such a long season filled with so much tension. He has lots of opportunities to do some really cool things, and he takes full advantage of it.”

The Bosnian Beast has coughed it up on 20 percent of the possessions he has finished with a shot

It’s not happening right now for the other half of the (mostly) dead Jurkic pairing. With Kenneth Faried rejuvenated, Nurkic is hurting for playing time. Perhaps the main reason: his hideous turnover rate.

The Bosnian Beast has coughed it up on 20 percent of the possessions he has finished with a shot, drawn foul, or turnover — a gargantuan number for a big man. Only 10 guys 6-foot-10 or taller have ever tossed away so many possessions while hoarding as large a share of offense as Nurkic.

A lot of these gaffes are just careless. Nurkic is huge, and bowls over defenders in the post — putting him at high risk for charging calls. He has slippery hands. He loves flicking fancy one-handed passes to cutters, but he often misfires or hits their legs.

He also loves hitting people. Sometimes he backs into a post-up with such force, the collision jars the ball loose.

Nurkic should be an efficient player. He’s shooting 51 percent, he’s a good passer, and he can bulldoze to the rim almost whenever he wants. But coaches won’t trust him until he buttons up.

With the Steelers, offensive line coach Mike Munchak was among those yelling “hit it, hit it” from the press box in 2014 when the second-year back wouldn’t accept the first available hole. But largely, Bell has felt the team accepts who he is. Tomlin, who was the only NFL head coach at Bell’s pro day at MSU, never tried to change his thinking. Bell is rewarding that faith with a mushrooming arsenal of cuts and wait-for-its.

“He kind of understood it’s just the way I run the ball, and they kind of just let me do my things and evolve as a, I guess, unique runner,” Bell says.

He is satisfied that he played 18 NFL seasons and remained a productive player

A player has to be notably gifted, superior beyond even NFL standards to do that.

Woodson was.

He knew it. And he never tried to play the game with more thought than instinct. He said he never wanted to know too much about an opponent or know too much even about his own scheme. He played football, he said, relying on his skill and instincts. He let them guide him, lead him. That took him to great places. Great heights. Low places, too, like the Tom Brady-sack-that-wasn’t-Tuck-Rule 2001 AFC championship game and play that helped define Woodson.

He is satisfied that he played 18 NFL seasons and remained a productive player. He was not just hanging on until the end but still producing. Early in his career his teammates included Hall of Fame players Rod Woodson and Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. He played with superior cornerbacks Eric Allen and Albert Lewis. They never had long conversations about the game. They just watched each other and learned from each other.

San Francisco 49ers: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
Lynch entered the draft following three very good years starting for a Memphis team that went from being poor to winning 19 games the last two seasons. Lynch is a tall and athletic passer who has considerably more potential than Goff. He’s not a perfectly refined passer at this point, but his tools and accuracy are too intriguing to pass up.

Miami Dolphins: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
Miami doesn’t have a lot of talent at cornerback other than Brent Grimes, who will be 33 at the start of next season. Some consider Hargreaves the draft’s best cornerback. For the Dolphins, he could slide into the starting lineup straight away and provide an immediate upgrade to the pass defense.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
It’s worth monitoring Alexander’s draft decision. He’s only a redshirt sophomore but could make a name for himself on a national stage in next week’s College Football Playoff Championship. Alexander’s instincts are impressive, and only overtaken by his athleticism.

D’Qwell Jackson suspended 4 games for violating PED policy

The Indianapolis Colts have announced that linebacker D’Qwell Jackson will be suspended without pay for four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

The Colts released a statement on Jackson’s suspension, saying it begins immediately.

The decision to release Gasser without charging him in McKnight’s death was met with widespread criticism. When details emerged of a previous road rage arrest on Gasser’s record, it raised more questions. According to Ramon Antonio Vargas of the New Orleans Advocate, Gasser was arrested in 2006 after a road rage altercation led him to assault a man in the very same intersection where he shot and killed McKnight.

Think about it. He slept in a room with Tom Brady posters during the summers of 2009 and 2010. After the first year of the “experiment,” Flacco went 1-1 against Brady’s Patriots, throwing for 264 yards and two touchdowns in a regular season loss while Brady passed for 258 yards and one touchdown. A few months later in the postseason, the Ravens came away with a 33-14 victory in New England with Brady recording just 154 yards on two touchdowns. Flacco threw for just 34 yards and no touchdowns, but maybe that was just to throw us off the trail. Maybe he had Space Jammed the power right out of Touchdown Tom and knew he had to hide it.

Beckham expressed his frustrations with the officiating during and after the game, at one point complaining his concerns about pass interference were brusquely dismissed.