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Texans beat Bengals, Packers rout Vikings

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Texans beat Bengals, Packers rout Vikings

More rematches ahead.

After Green Bay routed Minnesota 24-10 Saturday night, it set up a trip to San Francisco. The 49ers beat the Packers at Lambeau Field to open the season.

The Packers didn't let 2,000-yard rusher Adrian Peterson run over them again. Indeed, Packers fullback John Kuhn had a bigger impact with two touchdowns.

And the Houston Texans are heading back to New England, where their season began to unravel. A 19-13 win over Cincinnati on Saturday in the wild-card round means the Texans have a date next Sunday in Foxborough. Arian Foster, the catalyst in the victory against the Bengals, isn't fazed by facing the AFC East champions, who routed Houston 42-14 last month.

Houston (13-4) lost three of its last four games to blow home-field advantage in the conference, slipping to third overall.

New England (12-4) is a 9 1/2-point favorite.

``I'm not a big believer in momentum,'' Foster said. ``Every Sunday you have to come out and bring your best or you can get beat on any day.''

Adrian Peterson and the Vikings didn't bring their best to Green Bay. One week after Peterson rushed for 199 yards to lift Minnesota into the playoffs, the 2,000-yard runner was held to 99. And Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was sidelined by an elbow injury; backup Joe Webb couldn't manufacture much offense.

On Sunday, the Beltway will be buzzing. First, AFC North champion Baltimore hosts Indianapolis. Then NFC East winner Washington plays Seattle.

While Houston heads to Foxborough next weekend, AFC West winner Denver (13-3) will host either Baltimore or Indianapolis next Saturday. NFC South champ Atlanta (13-3) gets either the Redskins or Seahawks next Sunday.

Packers 24, Vikings 10

Ten receivers caught passes from Aaron Rodgers, tying a playoff record, with Kuhn scoring on a 9-yarder. DeJuan Harris also had a 9-yard TD run, and Green Bay kept Peterson in check. It was a turnaround from what the star running back did in his last trip to Lambeau, when he rushed for 210 yards.

It was Rodgers' first home playoff victory.

Minnesota's late touchdown was a 50-yard pass to Michael Jenkins.

Next, the Packers get the Niners (11-4-1), who won 30-22 at Lambeau to start the season. San Francisco is a 3-point favorite.

``They're different as well,'' Rodgers said. ``They're a great defense. Very talented offense as well. It's going to be a very tough challenge for us.''

Texans 19, Bengals 13

Foster gained 140 yards, becoming the first player with at least 100 yards rushing in his first three postseason games. He scored on a 1-yard run and also had eight receptions.

``It only takes one week to turn things around in the NFL and we did that,'' said Foster, whose team lost to Minnesota and Indianapolis to slip to the AFC's third seed.

Cincinnati (10-7) gained only 198 yards and had 12 first downs. Its touchdown came on Leon Hall's interception return.

``It's hard to put it into words,'' Hall said. ``It's disappointing. I mean, we had a good year, but it didn't end how we wanted it to and how we planned it to. At the end of the day, they made the plays that won the game for them.''

With a second straight wild-card loss in Houston, the Bengals extended one of the NFL's longest playoff droughts. They haven't won a postseason game since the 1990 season.

They got two field goals from Josh Brown, and Andy Dalton overthrew an open A.J. Green in the end zone late in the fourth quarter.

Along with Foster's touchdown, the Texans got four field goals from Shayne Graham.

Colts (11-5) at Ravens (10-6)

From Ray Lewis' pending retirement to Chuck Pagano's return to Baltimore to the history of these two franchises, this game has all kinds of intriguing story lines.

Lewis announced this week he will end his 17-year career as one of the NFL's premier players, let alone linebackers, after the playoffs. He's hoping for a long run duplicating the 2000 season, when he was Defensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP.

``That moment I walk out of that tunnel Sunday, every person that was a Ravens fan - 1996 to this day - we will all enjoy that moment,'' he said. ``It will probably be one of the glorious moments in my life.''

Pagano spent four seasons coaching defense in Baltimore, then landed the head coaching job in Indy. He missed 12 games while undergoing treatments for leukemia and came back last week in a win over Houston.

Now he's back in Baltimore.

And he knows all about the history of the Colts leaving for Indianapolis in Mayflower moving vans in the middle of the night in 1984.

``Yeah, because when this opportunity presented itself, I remember seeing the paper when I left town,'' Pagano joked. ``I was driving a Mayflower out of town, so I fully understand. They had me in the cab, if I remember right.''

Seahawks (11-5) at Redskins (10-6)

Two streaking teams with sensational rookie quarterbacks, making it three such starters in action Sunday; Andrew Luck leads the Colts.

Washington took its final seven games to grab its division title. QB Robert Griffin III (102.4) had the best single-season rookie passer rating in NFL history; Seattle's Russell Wilson was next at 100.0. Griffin also set a league mark for yards rushing by a rookie QB (815).

Wilson threw 26 TD passes, tying Peyton Manning's NFL rookie record set in 1998.

``He's a playmaker. He's a football player. He makes plays running around, like a video game, buying time for the receivers, taking off with the football himself,'' Redskins veteran linebacker London Fletcher said.

He was talking about Wilson; could have been about Griffin, as well.

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Ravens not changing much for three days against the Eagles

Ravens not changing much for three days against the Eagles

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens headed up to Philadelphia to face the Eagles in two joint practices before a game on Thursday, there isn’t much expected to change in terms of game reps. 

Coach John Harbaugh said Lamar Jackson will play about the same amount that he played in the first two games. He was on the field for 16 snaps against the Jaguars and 22 against the Packers. 

What could change, however, is some of the offensive game planning that goes into preparation for a different style of defense. 

“Not specifically, no, but I definitely think (with) this style of defense, we’ll definitely have a little bit of a different game plan going in,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “It necessitates that, which is good for us. I don’t think we’re saying, ‘We’re going to run what we’re going to run in the first couple weeks of the season.’ We might, but we might not. I don’t want to give away anything. I definitely think we’ll do some different stuff.”

While Roman remained secretive about the exact plan for Thursday, a week in Philadelphia against a team expected to contend in the NFC this season will be illuminating for the Ravens. 

The Eagles run a 4-3 defense, different from the Ravens' 3-4, so they’ll get a new look on defense, too. 

Offensively, Philadelphia boasts Carson Wentz, one of the league’s top quarterbacks. With a skill group of Zach Ertz, Nelson Agholor and DeSean Jackson, too, the Ravens secondary will be under the lights in both this week’s practices and game.

“This is going to be a big test for us, going to Philly, because they’ve got a lot of skill at wide receiver and tight end and running back,” defensive coordinator Don Martindale said. “It’s going to be a measuring stick definitely, for sure.”

As the days tick away toward final cut down day on Aug. 31, the margin for error is shrinking daily.

“This third preseason game, it’s getting down to crunch time now, where guys are going to make the 53 or they’re not. The biggest message was, ‘If you think you’re on the bubble, you are,” Martindale continued.

The Ravens will take a slightly more banged up team into Philadelphia than they had last week, as there were some notable absences from practice on Sunday.

The 14 players missing from practice included: Seth Roberts, Miles Boykin, Kenneth Dixon, Gus Edwards, Randin Crecelius, Greg Senat, Marshal Yanda, Tavon Young, Iman Marshall, Marlon Humphrey, Chris Board, Nicholas Grigsby, Pernell McPhee and Shane Ray. 

Young (neck injury) is expected to be out long term, but no other injuries are thought to be as serious.

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Cyrus Jones looking to seize new opportunity at slot corner

Cyrus Jones looking to seize new opportunity at slot corner

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Cyrus Jones’ old role with the Ravens was as a depth cornerback and return man on special teams. His new role could have much more significance. 

Despite a comfortable win over the Packers last Thursday, the good feelings were quickly dampened by an announcement from coach John Harbaugh that nickel cornerback Tavon Young would likely miss the rest of the season with a neck injury.

Young is still waiting to make a final decision, but with him out of the fold for a significant chunk of time, the race is on to try to replace him in an important role on the Ravens defense.

As of Saturday, one of the favorites to assume that role was Jones. He played 34 defensive snaps against the Packers (57 percent), the highest total on the defense, and is a top option for the Ravens in replacing Young.

“Tavon is a great player, I hate seeing what’s going on with him right now,” Jones said. “I’m praying for him, as all of us are, but it’s up to the next man to step up, whoever that is, and I’m just keeping on trying to come out here and practice hard and get better.”

Young signed a three-year, $25.8 million dollar contract in the offseason. The signing made him the highest-paid nickel cornerback in the league. 

Now, the Ravens will use a host of cornerbacks to assume Young’s role on defense. He had 37 tackles, two sacks and one interception last season. He also recovered three fumbles, two of which went for touchdowns. 

“We’ve got a lot of guys, it will be a little different plan if Tavon’s not there, in terms of playing more guys in the slot than we normally would’ve,” Harbaugh said.

Jones, originally a second-round draft pick of the Patriots in 2016, played 10 games in 2016 before a torn ACL and meniscus ended his 2017 campaign. 

He bounced between New England and Baltimore last season, twice, before settling into his role with the Ravens last year. He played in 13 total games, 11 of which were with Baltimore. 

As for this preseason, he’s registered six total tackles and an interception that went for a touchdown. He saw the majority of his work this preseason, though, against the Packers.

“I think I played hard, I think I played smart,” Jones said. “I got a little fatigued at the end, but overall, I think I’m holding my own out there, flying around and just trying to execute.”

Now, he’ll assuredly be in the mix at cornerback. Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr figure to be the team’s top cornerbacks, but Anthony Averett, Maurice Canady and the return of Iman Marshall could also play a part in how the Ravens fill the role.

Aside from the Young injury news, Harbaugh announced guard Marshal Yanda won’t play in the preseason, but will be ready for the season opener September 8 against the Dolphins. 

First-round pick Marquise Brown is on a much shorter trajectory, however, and could see playing time at the Ravens and Eagles joint practices Monday and Tuesday before the third preseason game of the season. 

That game won’t be a typical third preseason game, though, as Harbaugh told reporters quarterback Lamar Jackson won’t have much different of a workload than he did in the first two preseason games. He played 16 snaps against the Jaguars and 22 against the Packers. 

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