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Pats rookie defensive end won't rest on success

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Pats rookie defensive end won't rest on success

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Chandler Jones never seems satisfied.

The New England Patriots rookie defensive end made an immediate impact in his first professional game four weeks ago, recording five tackles and a strip-sack that was recovered for a touchdown. Not enough.

The 21st overall pick out of Syracuse jarred another ball loose the following week and has a sack in three of his first four NFL games. Not content.

Jones on Thursday was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for September.

And guess what? There's still room for improvement.

``I feel personally that it's not good enough,'' he said as the Patriots (2-2) continued preparations for the Denver Broncos (2-2). ``Even though they say I'm the rookie of the month for September, we still have a .500 record. That's just not good enough.''

Jones has provided a much-needed menacing presence along the New England defensive line - something that has been lacking. Along with his trio of sacks, which leads all rookies, the 22-year-old has collected 17 tackles in helping stabilize New England's run defense. The Patriots are tied for the seventh at 85.2 yards per game after ranking 17th last season, allowing more than 117 yards a contest.

Perhaps even more impressive, though, is the rate at which he has been on the field, lining up for more than 90 percent of the defensive snaps.

``I have a lot of work to do,'' Jones said. ``For me personally, I feel like I have a long way to go. I'm still a rookie, it's a long season ahead of me and we got a lot more games to play. Each week I'm trying to get better. You take it one day at a time and you let those days stack.''

Sunday's test likely will be more challenging than anything he's faced thus far, too.

After chasing down the likes of Jake Locker, Kevin Kolb, Joe Flacco and Ryan Fitzpatrick - not exactly a star-studded cast - Jones now is tasked with wreaking havoc on Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, a certain Hall of Famer who first entered the league when Jones was just 10 years old.

``Definitely been watching him since I was a little kid, but you take this game with the same approach that you would take it from Week 1 to Week 2 to Week 13,'' he said. ``I don't try to play the name game, who I'm going against. It's a quarterback out there and it's my job to get after him.''

Veteran linebacker Rob Ninkovich isn't the least bit surprised at Jones' swift learning curve, or the way he handles himself.

``I think really he came in ahead of many rookies that come into this league,'' Ninkovich said. ``A lot has to do with what you learn in college and the techniques and stuff that are coached to you in college. Whoever was coaching him obviously gave him some good stuff to where he's able to come in and make an impact right away.''

Ninkovich pointed toward Jones' innate ability to diagnose plays as a primary reason for his early success.

``It takes time to just get comfortable on the field and know when to go, and when to play the run, when to pass rush,'' he said. ``I say just him just having the awareness of the situations and able to really get after the quarterback and also play the run as well.''

Despite obvious support from his teammates, who speak highly of him on a regular basis, Jones still believes he has something to prove, especially to the veterans like four-time Pro Bowl standout Vince Wilfork.

``I want those guys to not have to worry about what I'm doing and make sure I have my playbook down,'' Jones said. ``That's the biggest thing that I want to do is just show these guys next to me that I can do it and I can step my game up for them.''

And has he done that yet?

``There's a quote that goes, `You never are doing as good as you think you are and you're never doing as bad as you think you are,''' he said. ``So, if you just stay humble and level-headed throughout the whole process, you should be pretty good.''

While Jones has been rather tight-lipped about his early accolades, he did reveal one key component to his game.

``I'm having a lot of fun,'' he said. ``That's the one thing about football that you can't take away from. This being my job, but you got to have fun.

``Got to.''

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Despite 4-5 record, Ravens just one game out of final AFC playoff spot

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USA TODAY Sports

Despite 4-5 record, Ravens just one game out of final AFC playoff spot

Their record and performance over the last month may not show it, but the Baltimore Ravens are just one game out of the No. 6 playoff spot in the AFC.

The Kansas City Chiefs (9-1), Los Angeles Chargers (7-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2), New England Patriots (7-3), Houston Texans (6-3), Cincinnati Bengals (5-4), Tennessee Titans (5-4) and the Miami Dolphins (5-5) all rank above the Ravens. But a win Sunday against the Bengals would push the Ravens to the No. 6 spot as they own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Titans.

Beside remaining in playoff contention, a win Sunday is crucial considering head coach John Harbaugh's job is in question with his team sitting at 4-5, quarterback Joe Flacco is reportedly dealing with a hip injury and the possibility of rookie Lamar Jackson getting his first NFL start. 

After getting blown out 51-14 by the Saints, the Bengals fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on Monday. Cincinnati's defense ranks last in the league in passing yards allowed (313.3) and total yards allowed (454.6). A rested Ravens team will have to take advantage of the first team in the Super Bowl era to surrender 500 yards in three straight games as they are among five teams within one game of the final wildcard spot. 

Getting shutout by the Bengals this season would give Andy Dalton and co. a two-game lead over the Ravens as well as possessing the tiebreaker. 

According to the New York Times' NFL Playoff Simulator, the Ravens have a 27% chance of making the playoffs heading into Week 11 with their remaining strength of schedule ranking at No. 27. 

After hosting the Bengals on Sunday, the Ravens host the Oakland Raiders (1-7), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) and Cleveland Browns (3-6), but have tough road games against the Atlanta Falcons (4-5), Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) and Los Angeles Chargers (7-2). 

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Robert Griffin III nominated for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA

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Robert Griffin III nominated for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III is the team's nominee for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA. 

Presented annually by USAA and the NFL, the award honors a league member who demonstrates an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community. 

The Robert Griffin III Foundation supports Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), that helps aid those grieving the death of a loved one who served in the military; Luke's Wings, which united wounded warriors, veterans and heroes with their loved ones; and the Bob Woodruff Foundation, that helps ensure injured veterans and their families are thriving when they return home. 

Griffin III was born in Okinawa, Japan where his parents were stationed as U.S. Army sergeants. The quarterback spent time living in Fort Carson, Colorado, Seoul, Korea and Fort Hood, Texas as a military kid. His family then settled in Cooperas Cove, Texas, an hour drive from Baylor University where Griffin III attended college. 

Finalist for the award will be announced in January. The recipient will be recognized at the NFL Honors award show Saturday, Feb. 2, on the eve of Super Bowl LIII.

RGIII's head coach, John Harbaugh, received the honor in 2013. 

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