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Gene Steratore of index-card fame will referee the Super Bowl

Gene Steratore, whose use of an index card to measure a first down during a Cowboys-Raiders game in December caused something akin to a stir, has been chosen by the NFL to referee Super Bowl LII. It will be the first Super Bowl assignment for Steratore, who has been an NFL referee since 2006 and has led an officiating crew in 11 playoff games and two conference championship games.

To be chosen for the Super Bowl, NFL officials must be rated in the top tier of their positions and have at least five years of NFL experience (they also must have worked playoff games in the past). Steratore will not be working with his usual officiating crew for the Super Bowl. Instead, Roy Ellison (umpire), Jerry Bergman (down judge), Byron Boston (line judge), Tom Hill (field judge), Scott Edwards (side judge) and Perry Paganelli (back judge) will fill out his crew. Ellison and Paganelli were part of Steratore’s crew this season, however.

Because a certain segment of the football-watching population will be seeking out this information, point-spread favorites went 8-6-2 against the number while the over went 9-7 in the games refereed by Steratore this season. His crew called 13.94 penalties per game this season, slightly above the NFL average of 13.27, but its 113.63 penalty yards assessed per game was slightly below the league average of 115.08.

There’s ways to win games in this league without a franchise quarterback, Vrabel said. We got one, we’re going to develop him. So I don’t think that that’s a critical factor. I think what it is is that it has to be the right fit.

He added: We never want to put him in harm’s way. We don’t want to sit there and run him for the sake of running him. But we want to make sure people know he’s back there.

The above quote should be music to the ears of Titans fans. Far too often the previous coaching staff attempted to shove a round peg into a square hole. Mariota was at his best in an up-tempo offense utilizing his legs when his reads broke down. Sadly, it took trailing in most games for Mularkey to deploy such a game-plan.

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Adam Thielen to play against Eagles despite back injury

Minnesota Vikings receiver Adam Thielen will play Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles with a chance to reach the Super Bowl in his home state. But he’ll be doing so in plenty of pain.

The standout receiver suffered a couple slight fractures in his back last week against the New Orleans Saints, sources said. He is active for the NFC Championship Game.

The former undrafted free agent-turned-Pro Bowler has emerged as one of the feel-good stories in the NFL, setting new career highs with 91 receptions and 1,276 yards for his hometown team. And with a chance to help take the Vikings to a hometown Super Bowl, he won’t miss it no matter how much pain he’s in.

All you’re doing is advertising all these younger guys for fans to figure out and pick up on and choose as their favorite driver, Busch said during the NASCAR preseason media days at the Charlotte Convention Center. I think it’s stupid. I don’t know, I’m not the marketing genius that’s behind this deal.

So I just do what I can do, and my part of it is what my part is.

NASCAR has a slew of Cup drivers younger than 25: Ryan Blaney (24), Darrell Wallace Jr. (24), Alex Bowman (24) Chase Elliott (22), Erik Jones (21) and William Byron (20). Blaney does a podcast for NASCAR, and NASCAR often uses the young drivers on its social media channels.

The day’s other significant quarterback news was Tyrod Taylor’s restructured deal to remain with the Buffalo Bills. There had been speculation that the Bills, after hiring Sean McDermott as their new head coach, might move on from Taylor. That would have put the Bills in the market for a new starter, and it would have given other quarterback-needy teams a capable candidate.

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From Jeff Triplette’s calls to Al Michaels’s frustration, NFL replay has another bad day

On the first day of the NFL playoffs, the last thing anyone wants to talk about is replay and officiating and yet here we are, back in the same place we’ve been so many times this season.

All of that was enough to pull the conversation away from the game itself after a season in which officials struggled to parse and apply the catch rule. Replay review by suits in New York has brought the game to a halt as its purpose is subverted from simply trying to make calls correctly and fairly. This is no longer officiating, it’s litigating and no one wants that, especially in the NFL’s biggest games of the season.

After a call went against his team two weeks ago, Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula admitted that owners have to fix this problem, which won’t help with the few remaining games. At that time, Pereira went on to note how irritating it is to have people in Park Avenue breaking down calls and undermining officials on location around the country.

Regarding the Buffalo no touchdown, nothing [is]more irritating to an official than to make a great call and then someone in a suit in an office in New York incorrectly reverses it, he tweeted. It is more and more obvious that there isn’t a standard for staying with the call on the field.

The Texans have the better offensive line and running game, at least at this point. But they’d have to admit their mistake last offseason in signing quarterback Brock Osweiler in free agency and work around Osweiler’s $18 million-per-season contract. The Broncos would have to put the development of young quarterbacks Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch on hold, although they perhaps could trade Siemian if Romo comes aboard.

Romo’s release changes nothing about the league-wide quarterback dynamic, unless he ends up in Denver and the Broncos trade Siemian. That could be solution to another team’s quarterback woes.

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Dick LeBeau reportedly out as Tennessee Titans DC

The 80-year-old LeBeau was informed Monday that he would not be invited to join the staff of newly minted head coach Mike Vrabel, hired over the weekend to replace the departed Mike Mularkey.

According to Wolf, a second source told the newspaper last week that LeBeau would be comfortable retiring if it [didn’t] work out in Tennessee.

Steve Erban, marketing director with Minnesota-based Creative Charters, offered this to Vikings fans: I would advise you not to be over inebriated because (Eagles fans) will be.

The Eagles’ old home, Veterans Stadium, even had a jail and courtroom that often did a brisk business on game days. Although the team did away with the jail after moving to Lincoln Financial Field in 2003, Philly fans remain among the most feared in football; a 2015 Sports Illustrated poll labeled those fans the Most Hated Fan Base in the NFL.

2. Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham left with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter of the team’s 19-10 win over the Raiders.

3. Houston Texans running back Jordan Todman suffered a shoulder injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday and didn’t return. Cornerback Kevin Johnson left early with a knee injury and backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke suffered a concussion.

4. Atlanta Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo suffered a sprained MCL, according to Rapoport. His status for Atlanta’s regular-season finale against the Carolina Panthers is in doubt.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (calf), offensive guard Ramon Foster (concussion) and cornerback Cody Sensabaugh (shoulder) did not play against the Houston Texans. Rapoport reported Sunday that Brown is expected to be 100 percent by the time the Steelers take the field in the postseason, whether it’s in the wild card or divisional round.

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