Cam Newton’s Shoulder Is the Issue Carolina Will Keep Dealing With

Plus, why Todd Bowles might not make it to the end of the season, Eric Berry’s status for Sunday, the Vikings’ offensive plans for Monday and more of what to watch for in Week 14
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Setting you up for Week 14 …

1.Cam Newton’s throwing shoulder has been in better shape—the truth is, he’s been dealing with soreness for a while now. And Carolina has been managing it for a while. The situation has garnered attention this week, because backup Taylor Heinicke came in to throw a Hail Mary last week. But the Panthers did the same thing, for the same reason, on Oct. 28 against Baltimore.

2. I wrote on Monday that I believed Jets owner Chris Johnson would resist any temptation to fire coach Todd Bowles in-season, in favor of doing it after the season is over. Based on how the last week has gone internally, and what I’ve heard in the days since, I’d like to reel that one back in. I now think there’s a chance it happens. One issue would be identifying an interim coach on the staff, but at this point we’re talking about less than a month left on the schedule, and a situation that’s gone sideways.

3. The Chiefs wrapped the week with lingering uncertainty on Eric Berry’s status for today. The expectation has been they’d give him a few more days and get him going for Thursday’s showdown against the Chargers. But I’ve heard they may give him a workout pregame to make his case for playing.

4. Speaking of the Chiefs, since they’re hosting Baltimore they’re the latest team to look for a creative way to simulate Lamar Jackson in practice. Their scout-team quarterback this week: rookie corner Tremon Smith, a sixth-round pick out of Central Arkansas. Smith has 4.3 speed and was an all-state option quarterback at Saks (Ala.) High a few years back.

5. As of last night, the Cowboys were expecting to have Tyron Smith active for today’s game against the Eagles. The question is whether he’ll actually start, and Dallas feels like Cam Fleming’s recent performance in his stead brings some flexibility to be conservative if the situation calls for it. And to maintain that flexibility, they’ll likely have eight offensive linemen active.

6. Given the back and forth between Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo over the last week, all eyes on Monday night will be on Minnesota’s play-calling. And my expectation, based on everything I’ve heard, is that there will be an effort to make Dalvin Cook a focal point. That, of course, can be affected by the score and down-and-distance, but the intent will be to get 33 the ball.

7. It’s hard to forecast the future, but I’ll just say that the sense I get now is that Redskins QB Alex Smith has bigger things to worry about right now than his football future.

8. If you want something to watch on Sunday from an X’s and O’s standpoint, see how often the Steelers go empty. Pittsburgh did it a lot early on in the season. And James Conner’s inability to be a legitimate threat playing out of a conventional receiver spot has curtailed that of late.

9. I’m with the owners that are thinking it’s time for the NFL to get out of the investigation business.

10. ICYMI: Nice move by Mike McCarthy, in saying thanks and good bye to Green Bay.

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