Catching you up on the latest must-read news and analysis from around the web ….
• In hopes of avoiding TV blackouts, the Oakland Raiders are reducing capacity at O.co Coliseum to about 53,000, the lowest number in the league by a large margin. The new stadium that the franchise is seeking might be even smaller.
The Oakland Tribune reports that a study commissioned by the Raiders found that a 50,000-seat stadium (with 6,000 club seats) on the current field site, built at the cost of $800 million, would be viable. The finances of such a venture could be problematic -- according to the Tribune, the Raiders might need to contribute as much as $300 million toward the project.
A 50,000-capacity stadium would hold 11,500 less people than Soldier Field in Chicago, the smallest NFL venue prior to the Raiders' 2013 seating change. The Raiders lost just one home game to blackout last season, though they needed help from a new rule implemented by the league in 2012 that allowed teams to declare sellouts once 85 percent of tickets were sold; an expanded portion of revenue then generated beyond that 85-percent barrier was split with the visiting team.
In order to prevent that loss of revenue and keep games on local TV, the Raiders appear ready to explore other options.
MetLife Stadium, which was built in 2010 and will host this year's Super Bowl, can hold upwards of 82,000, while the new Cowboys Stadium has a total capacity of greater than 105,000. Those venues, however, were built with major events in mind; Oakland has no intentions of bidding on a Super Bowl, for example, anytime soon.
Several of the other NFL stadiums built since 2000 -- Indianapolis, Arizona, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Seattle and Philadelphia -- have base capacities of less than 70,000. That's all done in the name of driving up demand and protecting television broadcasts.
Oakland might push those aims to the extreme, if its latest stadium proposal takes root.
• Is this the season that RB Ryan Mathews finally stays healthy and performs to his full potential? New San Diego coach Mike McCoy believes so. McCoy told NFL.com that he expects Mathews to "have a great year and be the guy" for the Chargers in 2013.
Coming off a disappointing 7-9 year that led to the ouster of coach Norv Turner, the Chargers certainly could use a Pro Bowl-level showing from Mathews. After a shaky 2010 rookie season, Mathews appeared to be on the verge of that breakthrough when he totaled more than 1,500 yards in 2011. But he's been unable to stay healthy, and last season missed four-plus games while barely topping 700 yards on the ground.
Newton, an Atlanta native, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "I’ve always been a Falcons fan, and I’m still a Falcons fan except for those two times a year [when Carolina plays Atlanta]."
A harmless comment, perhaps, but Carolina fans still won't like hearing their franchise QB voice his support for a division rival. Newton's pro-Falcons statement probably falls somewhere above Colin Kaepernick's wearing of a Miami Dolphins hat on the "Things You'd Prefer Your Quarterback Not Do" scale.
If it helps, Newton did chalk up a win over the Falcons last December and has tallied more than 1,000 yards passing in four outings against them during his career.
• The Green Bay Packers reportedly signed safety Morgan Burnett to a four-year extension worth $24.75 million. Burnett's rookie contract was set to expire after the 2013 season, so the Packers' work prevents the former third-round pick from getting to free agency next offseason.
ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert writes that Green Bay made a sound investment here, too. "Burnett has yet to develop into the kind of play-making safety that teams covet in this passing era," Seifert writes, " ... But after recovering from a torn ACL that ended his rookie season in 2010, Burnett has rarely missed a snap."
Burnett did have 123 tackles last season and has averaged 2.5 interceptions and eight pass break-ups since taking over as a full-time starter in 2011. The Packers feel there's even more potential there so, like the Bengals did Monday with DE Carlos Dunlap, they handed out a contract based on a player's promising future.
• Johnny Manziel left the prestigious Manning Passing Academy early with what his father said was dehydration. Before he headed home, though, Manziel left an impression -- if an uncertain one -- on analyst Bucky Brooks.
In a recap of three days spent watching the Academy action, Brooks claimed that Manziel "will make for the most fascinating quarterback evaluation in recent history." Brooks cited Manziel's talent as a "sandlot" QB as a factor that could challenge NFL scouts' evaluation processes.