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Playoff race makes odd allies of Packers, Seahawks

Playoff race makes odd allies of Packers, Seahawks

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Pay up, Seahawks.

The Green Bay Packers have put the Inaccurate Reception behind them, and they've done their best not to begrudge Seattle the win that really wasn't. But karma has a way of coming back around, and the Seahawks have a chance to put things right this weekend.

``Without looking in the past, we have to root for a team we fell short to,'' Clay Matthews said Thursday. ``So that's how it goes. We'll control our own destiny by winning these out and hopefully we can get some help along the way.''

See, San Francisco (10-3-1) is a game ahead of Green Bay (10-4) for the NFC's No. 2 seed and Seattle plays the 49ers on Sunday night. Beat the Niners and the Seahawks can essentially get the Packers back to where they would have been had replacement referees not blown that call back in September.

Which means that, providing they beat Tennessee on Sunday afternoon, the Packers will find themselves rooting for the Seahawks.

``Yeah, but we'd love to have that bye, be sitting there at the 1 or 2 seed,'' Aaron Rodgers said. ``So at this point, we're trying to have a short memory, kind of rooting for the teams that you need to win.''

The Inaccurate Reception, alternately known as the Fail Mary, was arguably the worst call of the NFL season. Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings appeared to intercept a last-ditch pass to Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate in the end zone only to have replacement referees rule it a touchdown, giving Seattle a 14-12 win. While the NFL said the next day that the reception call was right, it conceded that Tate should have been called for interference on the play, which would have given Green Bay the win.

The outrage was immediate, and came from every corner of the country. Fans were already fed up after several other questionable calls, and they were incensed one had actually affected the outcome of a game. By the end of the week, the league and its union referees had a new deal.

But many feared the game would cost Green Bay, and wondered what the league would do if it did. Turns out, all that angst was for nothing. The Packers have won eight of nine - only Denver has been better during the span - and last week clinched their second straight NFC North title.

``That's one thing you worried about at the time, if we're sitting here the last week of the season and have to win to get in, or maybe win and get some help. That would have been probably talked about more,'' Rodgers said. ``It's going to probably affect (Seattle) more. They're in a position right now to, I believe, clinch a berth with a win this week. It's not on our minds anymore.''

Yes, but if the Packers had that extra win, they, not San Francisco, would be sitting in the No. 2 spot right now.

``There's a lot of what-ifs,'' Rodgers said. ``Nothing we can do about it.''

No, but Seattle can.

The Seahawks are 6-0 at CenturyLink Field this year, joining Atlanta as the NFL's only teams with perfect home records. After winning three straight and five of their last six, Seattle can secure at least a wild-card berth with a victory Sunday.

``I don't know if they owe us anything - not them, in particular,'' Matthews said.

But if the Seahawks would like to wipe the karmic slate clean, who are the Packers to argue?

``We want home field,'' James Jones said, ``so hopefully they get it done.''

NOTES: With the winter's first big storm dumping more than a half-foot of snow on Green Bay by midday, coach Mike McCarthy cut practice short early Thursday. ``I feel it's important to get our players home today before it gets dark,'' McCarthy said. ``The bulk of the storm is coming between noon and 6 p.m. is my understanding. We do have a couple guys who haven't driven in snow before, so this is a little bit of an exciting introduction to say the least.'' ... Despite the weather, McCarthy said all of the players made it to practice on time. ... McCarthy is optimistic OL T.J. Lang (concussion) will be cleared for Sunday's game. Lang wasn't able to go through the concussion evaluation Thursday because he's got the flu. ... C Jeff Saturday (neck/shoulder) and G Greg Van Roten (back) also missed practice Thursday, but McCarthy expects they'll play Sunday.

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Steelers will require fans to wear a mask at Heinz Field, should they be allowed

Steelers will require fans to wear a mask at Heinz Field, should they be allowed

If fans are permitted to attend Pittsburgh Steelers home games this fall, there's one item they can't forget: a mask.

Steelers' director of communication, Burt Lauten, explained the decision to require fans to wear a mask in a statement on Tuesday.

"Our goal is to still have fans at Heinz Field this year with the understanding that social distancing, as well as all fans being required to wear masks, will play a role in the capacity to ensure a safe atmosphere," Lauten said, via ESPN. "We will continue to work with the NFL and public health officials to finalize plans for fans to attend our home games."

Pittsburgh was one of the first franchises to alter its ticketing plans this season, as they decided in May to trim half of their individual game ticket sales due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The news comes just hours after their AFC North rival, the Baltimore Ravens, announced that M&T Bank Stadium will be capped at less than 14,000 fans this fall, should fans be allowed to attend games.

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In June, The Athletic reported that the NFL will not place a limit on capacity at games, allowing each individual team to make the decision themselves.

"Attendance will be a state-by-state, county-by-county thing," an anonymous NFL source told The Athletic. "It will not be a one size fits all."

Additionally, the NFL has said that the first 6-8 rows of lower bowl sections, including field-level suites, will be blocked off this fall to help slow the spread of the virus. Those sections will be covered with tarps, which teams can use to sell advertising, similarly to what the Premier League in England has done.

With training camp still a few weeks away, there are a lot of virus-related questions the NFL must answer beforehand.

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Howard is a finalist for 2021 five-star defensive end Korey Foreman

Howard is a finalist for 2021 five-star defensive end Korey Foreman

The Howard University football program has moved a step closer to landing perhaps its highest-ranked recruit in years, if not ever.

Five-star defensive end Korey Foreman trimmed his college choice to seven on Wednesday evening, and the Howard Bison were on the list. The other six schools were Southern California (USC), LSU, Alabama, Oregon, Clemson, and Georgia.

In Foreman's tweet, he explained why Howard, a historically Black college (HBCU), was included in his list.

"I am a young black man that is happy and proud of my race," he wrote. "The Black Lives Matter movement is and forever will be powerful and definitely never forgotten. These are the schools I will now be focusing on the most. Set the standard and .. be different."

The news comes just a week after the Howard basketball program landed five-star Makur Maker, who chose the Bison over Division I schools UCLA, Kentucky and Memphis. Maker was the highest-ranked recruit Howard basketball has landed in its history. Mikey Williams, a top-five basketball recruit in the 2023 class, has already hinted about potentially playing at an HBCU as well.

Foreman, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound defensive end, is projected to commit to USC, according to 247Sports. Foreman is ranked the No. 2 overall prospect on 247Sports recruiting rankings for the 2021 class.

However, if the last few weeks are any indication, Howard can't be ruled out.

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