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Bengals’ Dalton won’t need surgery on broken thumb

Andy Dalton won’t need surgery on his broken thumb and could play again this season.

Dalton broke the thumb on his passing hand during a 33-20 loss to the Steelers on Sunday that left the AFC North up for grabs. He had an appointment with a specialist on Monday who recommended that the fracture could heal without surgery.

It’s still unclear how many games he’ll miss. Dalton’s hand will remain in a cast for now.

“Basically we’ll go week to week with things,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “I think that’s about as good an outcome right now as we could expect. He won’t play this week. As we move forward, we’ll see how he is each week and it’ll be up to Andy and the doctors.”

AJ McCarron will make his first NFL start Sunday in San Francisco, trying to make an Alabama breakthrough. A quarterback from Alabama hasn’t won an NFL game as a starter since Jeff Rutledge in 1987, according to STATS.

McCarron won back-to-back national titles at Alabama. The fifth-round pick in 2014 missed his rookie season with a sore passing shoulder, but played well enough during the preseason to win the job as Dalton’s backup.

Since Rutledge’s win in 1987, Alabama quarterbacks have gone 0-13 in NFL starts.

“That’s history,” McCarron said. “I’m not really worried about history. I’m worried about what we have right now.”

The Bengals (10-3) haven’t clinched their fifth straight playoff spot yet, but they lead the AFC North by two games over Pittsburgh (8-5). New England (11-2) is in line for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, with the Bengals and Broncos tied for the second spot.

After the game at San Francisco (4-9), the Bengals play at Denver in a game that will go a long way in determining the playoff seeding. They close the season at home against the Ravens (4-9).

Broncos sticking with Osweiler but Manning may practice

Brock Osweiler remains the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback but Peyton Manning might practice this week for the first time since mid-November.

Then again, maybe he’s not ready.

Coach Gary Kubiak didn’t have a lot of answers regarding his QB situation when he met with the media Monday afternoon.

He said he’d been too busy watching film of Denver’s 15-12 loss to Oakland and meeting with the team to get together with Manning or the medical staff and determine this week’s plan for No. 18.

“I’ll visit with Peyton here this afternoon before he leaves,” Kubiak said.

Manning has been sidelined for a month with a left foot injury. He resumed throwing last week on his own under the watchful eyes of the strength and conditioning staff. But he has yet to practice with the team since having his hard cast removed and ditching his walking boot two weeks ago.

“We went through a good week last week, gave him the weekend off, so we’ll see where we’re at,” Kubiak said. “We’ll have a plan in place by the time we get to Wednesday, but we’ll see where we’re at today and kind of take it a day at a time.”

Asked if he expects Osweiler to start Sunday at Pittsburgh, Kubiak said: “Yeah, nothing has changed until I sit down and see exactly where Peyton is at, where we’re moving this week.”

Andrew Luck optimistic about return to Colts’ practice

Andrew Luck intensified his workout Monday and hopes to return to practice on Wednesday.

The Colts quarterback has missed four straight games with a lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle. If he does practice this week, Luck cannot yet predict whether he could play in this weekend’s game against AFC South co-leader Houston.

Luck said being cleared to practice is only the first step. He still must be cleared to play in games. He does not yet feel 100 percent.

Backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who is 4-2 as a starter this season, did not take questions after re-injuring his ribs in Sunday’s blowout loss at Jacksonville.

Houston’s Hoyer suffers second concussion in a month

Houston quarterback Brian Hoyer is doubtful for Sunday’s AFC South showdown against Indianapolis after suffering his second concussion in less than a month.

Coach Bill O’Brien said that Hoyer is following the league’s concussion protocol, and he is also dealing with a strained neck and a wrist problem after being sacked five times in a 27-6 loss to New England.

“He took a beating last night,” O’Brien said.

Hoyer missed a game earlier this season after getting a concussion on Nov. 16 against the Bengals. O’Brien was asked if he’s more worried about Hoyer’s health considering this is his second concussion in less than a month.

The upcoming game is an important one for the Texans, who are tied with the Colts for first place in the division.

If he can’t go against Indianapolis, the Texans will look to T.J. Yates, who started the last time Hoyer was out and led them to a win. Yates was signed on Oct. 28 following the release of Ryan Mallett, who was let go after missing the team charter to Miami.

Yates said he will be ready to play on Sunday if he’s needed and thinks the work he has put in the last few weeks will help him if he has to start.

“It definitely will be a lot easier,” he said. “More comfortable with the offense, more comfortable with the operation, the guys I will be throwing to and everything. Everything is just another month ahead.”

Ravens sign quarterback Ryan Mallett

Could the Ravens start a fourth quarterback before this season is over?

That became a distinct possibility when the Ravens signed former Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett to their active roster, according to NFL sources.

The signing was first reported by ESPN.

Mallett, 27, worked out for the Ravens on Dec. 2, but wasn’t immediately signed.

After Joe Flacco went down with a season-ending left knee injury, the Ravens have started Matt Schaub in two games and Jimmy Clausen on Sunday after Schaub suffered shoulder and chest injuries in the loss to the Miami Dolphins.

It’s unclear who will start Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, but it seems unlikely to be Mallett, as he’s been out of the NFL since he was cut by the Houston Texans in late October.

Mallet, who started four games for the Texans this season and two the previous year, was cut after he was late for the team’s charter flight to a game. He also was late for at least one practice during the season.

Detroit TE Pettigrew out for season with torn ACL

Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew will not return this season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in Sunday’s loss to the Rams in St. Louis.

Pettigrew will finish the season with a career-low seven catches.

Eric Ebron, a more recent first-round pick, has become Detroit’s top pass-catching tight end. He has 34 receptions for 384 yards and four touchdowns this season.

LB Morgan, RB McCluster out for rest of season for Titans

Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan and running back Dexter McCluster will miss the rest of the season.

Morgan had surgery to repair his left shoulder Monday, and interim coach Mike Mularkey says McCluster will need surgery to repair his broken left wrist.

Mularkey says Morgan had surgery after doing everything the Titans had asked of the linebacker in trying to recover. But Morgan missed the last three games and finishes the season with 4 1/2 sacks in 10 games.

McCluster returned Sunday after missing the last two games with a sprained right knee. He broke his wrist in Sunday’s 30-8 loss to the New York Jets, and Mularkey says McCluster will need surgery within the next couple of days. McCluster was the Titans’ third-leading rusher and punt returner.

Jets rookie receiver Devin Smith has torn knee ligament

New York Jets rookie wide receiver Devin Smith has a torn ligament in his right knee and will be sidelined the rest of the season.

Coach Todd Bowles said that the team’s second-round draft pick out of Ohio State tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. Bowles says Smith is probably headed to season-ending injured reserve. Surgery has not yet been scheduled.

He had nine catches for 115 yards and a touchdown this season.

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