‘Thursday Night Football’ rights in 2016 could be split among as many as 3 TV networks

The NFL is shopping the rights to Thursday Night Football and could split them up between two, or even three, television networks in 2016, according to John Ourand of SportsBusinessDaily.

What is known for sure is that at least eight of the Thursday games have to be televised exclusively on NFL Network. As long as eight regular season games are televised exclusively on NFL Network, it is able to keep its affiliate rate for distributors above $1 and avoid a significant drop-off.

But with the possibility of 17 Thursday Night Football games in 2016, that leaves nine games to be purchased by television networks and a looming bidding war between CBS, NBC and Fox.

According to Ourand, the NFL is considering splitting its remaining nine television broadcasts up into three-game deals each for CBS, NBC and Fox. Ourand said cable networks like ESPN and Turner Sports have bowed out due to the smaller packages and one-year deals that the NFL is pursuing, but according to Ronald Grover of TheStreet, that hasn’t stopped Fox from aggressively pursuing the rights and attempting to outbid CBS for the rights.

When the Panthers beat the Seahawks in the regular season, Stewart rushed for 78 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 20 carries. The team rushed for 135 yards as a whole.

In Carolina’s last game, Mike Tolbert led the way with 59 yards rushing, while Cameron Artis-Payne was the top rusher with 49 yards the week before. Quarterback Cam Newton is second on the team in rushing yardage with 636 yards.

Fozzy Whittaker is dealing with an ankle injury and his status for the game is unclear.

Carolina’s rushing attack has been one of the best in the league, though that does have a lot to do with Newton’s ability to get around the outside and surprise defenses. The Panthers rank second in the league in rushing yards this season, with 142.6 yards per game on the ground.

Washington has struggled with the slot quite a bit recently

Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals: I know, I know. He’s been struggling recently with back-to-back games of fewer than 65 yards and single-digit fantasy points in five of the past six, but I like his chances at a bounce-back this week. Washington has struggled with the slot quite a bit recently, allowing 109 yards or a touchdown to the position in five of the past six games, allowing an average of more than nine catches for 113 yards per game to the slot.

You know Fitz will get targets in this one, and given the matchup at home against Washington’s 25th-ranked pass defense the past four weeks (as well as CB Josh Norman not defending the slot), expect a lot of love to come Fitz’s way.

Doug Baldwin, Seahawks: Much like the rest of the Seahawks, he was on the “love” list last week and flopped mightily. Yeesh. I really misread that game last week. And yet, here I am back on Seattle and especially Baldwin. Only two players have more fantasy points from the slot than Baldwin this season, and this is a good matchup for him.

Eddie Royal, Chicago Bears, toe, (Q): Royal remains listed as questionable because of his toe. He played last week … for 12 offensive snaps. He is not yet healthy, and there is no more Jay Cutler. This is not a good option for fantasy owners.

Players off game status injury report:

Brandon Marshall, foot /knee, New York Jets: Marshall was listed as a nonparticipant both Thursday and Friday of this week as he managed some leg soreness. After a full participation in Saturday’s practice, Marshall is ready to face the Colts on Monday night.

Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers, shoulder: Benjamin injured his shoulder in Week 11 but has played since. Still, his absence from Wednesday’s practice made some fantasy owners nervous. He returned to limited work Thursday and a full practice Friday. He is off the game status injury report and is expected to play Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks.

DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins, shoulder: Jackson has been on the injury report for several weeks because of his rotator cuff but appears to be making progress. A full participant in practice throughout the week, Jackson is off the game status injury report heading into Sunday’s contest against the Arizona Cardinals.

Patriots QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski miss practice

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (knee) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (back) were not present for the team’s practice Wednesday, as both are still recovering from injuries.

This marks the second straight week that Brady was not present for the opening practice of the week. He missed practices both Wednesday and Thursday last week before returning with limited participation Friday. He played all 73 snaps Sunday in a 22-17 win over the New York Jets.

“It’s better than last Monday, so I’m very happy about that,” Brady said of his health during his weekly interview Monday on sports radio WEEI. “… Hopefully I’ll be feeling a lot better come Sunday.”

Said Brady later Monday to Westwood One Radio: “I expect it to heal. I’m a pretty fast healer. I hope I don’t have to deal with it much longer.”

Meanwhile, Gronkowski left the game late in the first quarter after injuring his back. He had returned to action after missing the team’s game the week before because of a chest injury.

As quarterback Tom Brady said Monday on sports radio WEEI, the Patriots had a good feeling that they would have Gronkowski, and built a significant part of their red-zone game-plan around him.

Gronkowski’s late first-quarter departure forced plans to be scrapped and somewhat re-drawn on the fly, leading to some uncharacteristic clock management late in the second quarter.

“With Gronk injured, you have all these plays you like and then all of a sudden he goes out and a lot of things change,” Brady said on the “Kirk and Callahan” program.

“You’re trying to figure out situationally what you’re going to do when you lose him. I think that’s always a little bit of a challenge when you lose someone like that early in the game, just trying to adjust, especially when it comes to situational football. You’re trying to still know the plays you have confidence in based on the coverages you’re getting. They game-planned us, we game-planned them, and then all of a sudden your whole game-plan changes when one player goes out.”

Hill punctuated the kick return by high-fiving with teammate De’Anthony Thomas as the two approached the end zone with no Broncos within reach.

“We’ve been working on that in practice,” Hill said.