At least for a week, let the whispers about the old guy stop.

While Cam Newton was being examined for an injury following a hit, Blake Bortles was making turnover after turnover after turnover and Mike Glennon was drawing social-media pleas that he be replaced by rookie Mitch Trubisky, Tom Brady was old dependable again.

The New England Patriots’ 40-year-old QB, fresh off a season-opening stinker, looked like the five-time Super Bowl winner against the New Orleans Saints. Just how good was he? How about historically good?

Bortles had a dismal day for the Jaguars, with two interceptions and a lost fumble. Glennon’s two interceptions are likely to prompt calls for Trubisky, the second overall pick in the NFL draft.

Former Redskins running back Clinton Portis agrees that a playmaking wide receiver is a need — but only after the team finds an explosive running back with 4.3 speed who can make meaningful gains on first and second downs. That ought to be the Redskins’ top offseason priority, Portis believes, even if they continue developing Samaje Perine and get a healthy Chris Thompson back for third-down situations.

Pro Football Focus, whose grading system provides one outside gauge of NFL players’ productivity, attests to the Redskins’ injury-ravaged season at running back.

Of the six backs graded, only Perine, a rookie from Oklahoma, played enough snaps to earn a statistically meaningful grade (46.3 on a 100-point scale). Of the remaining five, late-season signee Kapri Bibbs earned the highest marks (62.8). In limited duty, Rob Kelley and Byron Marshall showed promise.

Yet all those priorities take a back seat to quarterback if Cousins doesn’t return.

Aaron Rodgers did it to the Cowboys again. Was there any doubt when he took the field Sunday for that final drive that he would guide the Packers to at least a tying FG attempt? He and the Packers got the winning TD, however, and they continue to pile up victories as some of their injured offensive contributors begin to return. Rookie RB Aaron Jones looks capable of helping out considerably.

The Chiefs have pulled things together with three straight wins.

The Falcons still can reach the playoffs with a victory over the Panthers or a Seahawks loss. But this simply is not the same offense that it was last season. And this season is bound to end in disappointing fashion for Atlanta, whether it’s this coming weekend or soon thereafter.

But it’s still impossible to forget that 1-6 stretch of miserable play, and nearly as impossible to envision them being a major factor in the AFC playoffs.

Thomas was a top recruit coming out of high school, but a mixture of depth chart obstacles and a season-ending injury in 2015 kept him out of the starting lineup until 2016. He has a lighter build but thrives as a weak-side defender in Florida State’s scheme. He has good speed chasing down ball carriers, speed that helps him thrive in coverage, as well.

This is getting really bad. A season of high hopes has come completely undone with five straight losses. WR Mike Evans was suspended for one game by the league for his ill-advised hit Sunday on the Saints’ Marshon Lattimore after Lattimore had his helmet poked by Jameis Winston from the Buccaneers’ sideline. Winston is being shut down for the time being because of his ailing shoulder. He looked like anything but a leader during his interaction with Lattimore. Ryan Fitzpatrick to the rescue? Don’t count on it.

Did the Giants quit during Sunday’s lopsided defeat to the Rams? It’s a valid question. But it’s very, very difficult for anyone not in that locker room to know. Either way, it was a very bad look and it provides further evidence that Coach Ben McAdoo is having some serious issues. At least McAdoo is staying with Eli Manning as the starter at QB.

But nothing is guaranteed after that, given that the NFL has left open the possibility of enforcing Elliott’s suspension in a given week even if the appeals court lifts the injunction late in that week.

That’s not breaking news, but it’s also not the reason for his historic shooting season, if he keeps up this pace.

The Cowboys have a record of 5-3. They are 2? games behind the first-place Eagles in the NFC East but in the thick of the chase for a wild-card spot. They plan to divide playing time and carries among backup running backs Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden and Rod Smith in Elliott’s absence. Elliott led the NFL in rushing last season as a rookie and ranks second this season, behind Chiefs rookie Kareem Hunt, entering this weekend’s play.

Elliott’s suspension is without pay and would cost him just over $559,192, or six-seventeenths of his 2017 salary of $1,584,379.

Entering Saturday, Curry’s true shooting percentage sits at 67.5. He’s once again leading the league in made 3s per game and hitting over 40 percent, just as he has done every year of his career. Add in the unmatched gravity from pretty much anywhere inside the hashmarks and it’s clear that the 3-ball remains the key to unlocking everything else.

Is it possible for the Eagles to regroup following the season-ending knee injury suffered by QB Carson Wentz and still reach the Super Bowl? Yes — fill-in QB Nick Foles is capable of playing well. The Eagles were the league’s best and most balanced team for most of the season and they have home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. But does it seem likely that the Eagles will reach the Super Bowl without Wentz?

It wasn’t always this way. Young Jalen was competitive, sure, and when his father brought him to the fire department where he worked, he liked to watch professional wrestling with the firefighters and mimic Ric Flair and the anti-authority superstars from D-Generation X.

“He liked a lot of the bad guys,” said Lamont Ramsey, the player’s father. “The guys who put on the show.”

But most times, at least then, the kid was easygoing and quiet. He won a math bee in middle school and preferred to play tag and shoot Nerf guns with his nephews. When he reached Brentwood Academy in 11th grade, coaches would’ve barely noticed the young man had he not been so talented.

Clippers: C DeAndre Jordan missed his fifth straight game with a sprained left ankle, but could return soon.

“I think most of us believe that attempting to force the players to do something that they don’t want to do is not going to be effective in the long run,” New York Giants co-owner John Mara told The Washington Post. “I think the better policy going forward is to try to have dialogue with them and try to show them that we’re willing to work with them on some of these issues that all of us are concerned about. That’s been my philosophy with my team, and I think almost every other owner feels the same.”

But on the first Sunday of NFL games since the NFL reached its agreement with the Players Coalition, a group that includes Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin, it appears likely that protests during the national anthem before games will continue by some players, given divisions in the players’ ranks that were evident last week.

“There’s nothing in here about a mandate for players to cease exercising their right to protest,” Eagles defensive end Chris Long wrote last week on Twitter. “I wouldn’t associate myself if there were.”

Timberwolves: Improved to 3-0 against the Clippers this season. … Crawford sat out with a sprained left big toe in his second game at Staples Center since leaving the Clippers as a free agent last summer. He played all 82 games last season. “It’s still sore, but it’s improving,” he said. “I’m hopeful every day.”

His next game will tie Randy Smith (715) for the most in franchise history. … G Austin Rivers (right ankle) sat out his 10th straight game and could be two weeks from returning. … F Danilo Gallinari (left glute) is close to coming back. … G Jawun Evans missed the game with a sore abdominal muscle.

Goodell said the league’s plan would include “an in-season platform to promote the work of players” on social issues, “and that will help to promote positive change in our country.” One source told The Post’s Mark Maske that “there is no fixed proposal. We will have a discussion around all of these issues.”

Matt Ryan went to Boston College, but he’s a Philadelphia native.

That’s where he started playing football, that’s where he became a highly sought-after quarterback prospect, and that’s where he’ll return on Saturday to face his hometown Philadelphia Eagles.

Since Foles has been relegated to backup status in recent seasons, it’s easy to forget he was briefly one of the league’s best quarterbacks. His 2013 sophomore season featured a then-record 27:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio and earned him a Pro Bowl nod; he’s been chasing that kind of production ever since.

“We had a very challenging draft in 2012, and we’ve spent a lot of time since 2012 looking at where we need to shore up our focus and how we need to adjust moving forward,” Dimitroff said. “And a lot of it has to do with lucid communication with the coaching staff, and discerning what’s needed, and where the stresses are within the roster from year to year. That’s important, everyone knows it, that’s not a mystery.

The Eagles QBs are guided by three former college or NFL quarterbacks: Pederson, offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo. On game day, Pederson and Reich on the sideline and DeFilippo up in the coaches’ box are keeping track of the hits Wentz is taking. After the Seahawks game, the ongoing conversation about him protecting himself would continue.

Of course, the Vikings’ defense is their biggest strength, allowing the fewest yards and points in the NFL. Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes both made the All-Pro team after leading a shutdown secondary, while Everson Griffen led the team with 13 sacks. This unit will have to be at its best when it faces Drew Brees this week.

But Ben Roethlisberger then led the Steelers on a comeback drive that ended with a heroic catch and extension for a touchdown by Antonio Brown as he fought off three Ravens defenders:

The win put the Steelers at 10-5 on the season and clinched the AFC North. They would later secure the No. 3 seed in the postseason after defeating — you guessed it — the Cleveland Browns!

I think we are more confident right now and that’s why it’s been working.At 26, Middlebrooks need a fresh start with another team.

Malcolm Mitchell, the rookie receiver who developed a solid connection with Brady (and had six catches for 70 yards in that fateful Super Bowl), hasn’t played a down this season due to a knee injury. Chris Hogan missed seven of the team’s final eight games with a shoulder injury and may not be 100 percent healthy in the playoffs.

Not you yeah you know you have to be.The Demon Deacons had already drawn commitments from two international big men, Makhtar N’Diaye from France and Ricky Peral from Spain, and Odom was certain both were better than .Chicago Blackhawks 3.The Quick Opinion: Stubbs’s power-speed combo puts him elite company but his playing time is less-than-elite.When running to the outside, he has the ability to plant outside leg and get vertical with right with that murderers row of teams that need receivers the early 20s at 22, Minnesota at 23 and Cincinnati at 24, said Mayock, lead draft analyst for the NFL Network.

Alford says he doesn’t want to overhaul his defense; he just wants to nudge the efficiency ranking inside the top 100.2006 Greg Maddux loses his 200th game for a career record of 325.

He brought energy, but he rubbed off on those guys.2 pick the 2014 draft out of Duke.On July 19, Feller made his debut as Indians reliever, throwing one inning with two walks and a strikeout.I am not sure they have any assets right now that they ‘t view as a part of their own future that would also entice another team to fork over a draft pick to get.

The Cowboys need those people in West Texas and on the Oklahoma border to watch. The NFL needs those people tune in too. And the proof came in the ratings not that you read about this week, but rather the ones that were privately presented to the owners over the league’s two-day meetings in lower Manhattan.

The focus Tuesday and Wednesday was on the players’ desire to have a stage to address social causes, and the associated protests during the anthem that resulted. But in the background loomed the reality that the discord of the past few weeks wasn’t good for anyone’s bottom line, and the ratings might just be the first proof.

“There’s no question this had an impact on the business,” said Giants owner John Mara. “But this is an important social issue. And sometimes you have to put the interests of the business behind the interest of issues that are more important than that.”

He did give us a doozy to remember him by in the very last game he called, the Titans’ 22-21 wild card win over the Chiefs.

After Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota threw himself a touchdown (yes, you read that correctly) in wild card action against the Chiefs, Gruden informed us that the only other player to do this in NFL history was Brad Johnson back in Week 7 of the 1997 season. Then he showed us the highlight … ON HIS PHONE.

The Raiders have been market trendsetters before.

They changed the game at the quarterback position by making Derek Carr the highest-paid signal caller in league history with the five-year, $125 million extension he signed during the 2017 offseason.

But records were made to be broken, and the Lions came right along and topped it. Matthew Stafford’s $27 million per year is now the NFL’s high mark, and that will likely be eclipsed when players like Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo get new deals this offseason.

He has been ready to re-sign for several days, but logistical and personal issues stalled the closing process.He would miss almost four years of his baseball prime while serving.He’s a friend before he’s a teammate.all-around athlete, he even caught seven passes and scored four touchdowns on tackle eligible plays.The master suite retreat sports a domed sitting area, a large walk- closet, a and a private balcony.That’s not a good place to be and especially when you have a rep as a problem child.

New England Patriots left tackle Nate Solder recently told that he was treated for cancer 2014, and that he hopes the revelation will encourage other men to get tested for the disease, Fox Sports reported.He is quite simply the 7th best pitcher ALL of baseball.And, while they say goodbye to previous fan favorites, plenty of younger players have started to step up.

In the next few weeks he rode in the championship parade, appeared on The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live, was voted MVP and signed autographs at a sporting goods store in Katy, Texas, an event that drew a line around the building that began with people camping out 36 hours in advance. Two weeks ago, just 26 days after he fielded the last out of the World Series, he was back in the gym near his Miami-area home. Out of uniform, in a gray short-sleeve hoodie and shorts, Altuve looks even smaller. You stand next to him and realize where most of his power must come from: within. This is even more apparent when, in serious tones, he talks about his first day back to full workouts.

“I’m happy and all that,” he says of earning the franchise’s first title, “but I feel like, ‘O.K., we have to move forward, and next year is another year.’ I mean, we are World Series champions forever. Everybody knows that. But I want to win multiple World Series.”

Never too short nor too satisfied, he constantly proves others wrong and Isaac Newton, another 5′?6″ success, right: A body in motion remains in motion. With Altuve, there is always another story.

They confronted the NFL’s No.-1 ranked scoring offense and squashed it.

The Falcons looked every bit the NFC defending champions they are and every inkling of a team with one foot stomping its past while the other is planted on a mission of redemption.

With Sunday Ticket last year, I would watch regularly every Sunday because there was always an entertaining game. But this year, if the only games that I have available to me with my father-in-law’s log-in aren’t any good, then I don’t even watch football.

If Kaepernick did get a job—which I don’t think he is going to—I wouldn’t come back to watch right away. I think it’s more about the league now. What is the league going to do to listen to its players and do something socially? Their ability to impact society and culture is a lot more than they are willing to admit. The $90 million deal to donate money to causes central to social injustices feels like they are throwing money at the problem, hoping that it goes away. I’m looking for a behavioral change from the NFL.

Smith is not that now. He’s still a ways from getting there, with no guarantee he ever will. But the fact that he can play as he did on Sunday night, making seven tackles and forcing a fumble in a 19-3 win over the Giants, at a fraction of his full capacity as athlete is a pretty good indication of how special a prospect he once was.

At the bottom of the rankings, the Cleveland Browns, who put the appropriate cherry on top of an 0-16 season by literally watching a last chance at a win slip through their fingers. At least you got some fresh air and exercise the last few months, Browns.

With the playoffs now just days away, the top 12 spots in the power rankings go to the only 12 teams that still have games left to play.

The Bills are far from a Super Bowl favorite, but they’re in the postseason for the first time in 18 years and that alone is a reason to be on cloud nine. Just look at the unbridled joy.

How many potential contenders count their offensive line as a major swing factor in their season? Let’s add them up: Giants, Seahawks, Saints, Broncos, Chargers, Bengals, Cardinals, Lions, Panthers, Vikings … That’s 10, and that’s without counting the rebuilding teams (Jets, Colts) that have their own problems up front. And it’s pretty easy to understand why this is happening.

We may see a similar outcome if things don’t work out for Gruden with the Raiders.

The team is set to move to Las Vegas before the 2020 season. California’s top-tier income tax rate is 13.3 percent, which is the highest in the nation. Nevada, on the other hand, has no state income tax whatsoever. ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen suggested that the Raiders might try to sweeten Gruden’s deal with a backloaded contract for that reason.

When you factor that in, Gruden’s contract is worth even more. Carfagna said that’s the key.

“So that, net of tax, you could say it’s even richer than it’s announced as being,” Carfagna told SB Nation.

It’s important to remember the kind of player Smith was before suffering nerve damage in his final game at Notre Dame: a linebacker who could rush off the edge and from the middle, cover, play the middle and weakside spots, and seemed borderline unblockable at the end of his career.

A quick story: Altuve needed three hits on the last day of the 2015 season to reach 200. He had two knocks in four at bats when he came to the plate in the ninth inning against Diamondbacks reliever Brad Ziegler. The count went to 2 and 2.

“Last pitch, last out, last inning, last strike,” Altuve says. “It was crazy. I closed my eyes, and I said, God, whatever you want to happen will happen. If it’s a hit, it’s a hit. If it’s not, it’s not. I opened my eyes, got ready, and got a hit—a ground ball in the hole between first base and second base.”

Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 there have been 20 instances in which a team that went 2-0 in the regular season against an opponent went on to face that opponent in the postseason. The team that won the two regular season matchups is 13-7 SU in those 20 instances. For Carolina to buck that trend, the Panthers will need to slow down a Saints offense that has averaged 32.8 points per game in the last five games of this series.

I used to spend $500-1,000 on NFL merchandise each year as gifts for my family. Christmas and birthdays used to be easy—get the new hat or the new jersey. This year has been a little tricky. I’ve purchased a lot of fiction books, a lot of study guides on how to do well in high school, a couple of books on Cesar Chavez and history of activism. It’s been a little bit more out of the box.

The Falcons’ disrespectful blocking got them into the NFL playoffs

The NFL regular season is over, but Disrespectful Blocks of the Week is nowhere near being finished. We will continue to roll throughout the playoffs, and might even reward the best finisher of the season. So thank you for sticking with us!

I’ve been teasing a year-end award, and if we end up doing it, Kelechi Osemele will be one of the finalists. Here he’s pulling on a power play. He hits the linebacker sort of awkward, but goes ahead to finish the block. He stays connected to the linebacker and then throws him four yards downfield.

Let’s finish this up in Denver with the Kansas City Chiefs. Pat Mahomes made his debut this weekend, and it went well. Here, Mahomes climbs the pocket and fires the ball to Albert Wilson. Wilson gets a great block from Jehu Chesson to spring him for more yards. I love Chesson’s effort to get this block. He runs across the field and doesn’t stop to run this guy open.

But to quote the late Charlie Murphy, “Wrong. WRONG.”

Cincinnati and Lewis agreed to a two-year extension on Tuesday. As soon as the announcement was made on the Bengals’ twitter account, fans rushed to express their opinion on their head coach that has been with the team since 2003. Most of it was not positive.

It was such a shock to some fans that they thought this news came from a parody account (which, depending on your take on the Bengals, could still be technically correct).

Some of these are mere blips that, through coincidental timing, amplify their impact on the perception of the sport as a whole. (Michigan State will be fine; Arizona is too good for a close road loss to truly derail their turnaround.) Some are corrections after scorching hot starts. (Maybe Arizona State isn’t quite top-five good after all.) Some great teams are chugging back toward recognition as such after early losses. (Wichita State and Purdue look better than their hype levels would suggest.) And some of this very paragraph will look laughable a week from now.