Will Boogie be traded this year? Is Harden going to make history?

The widest of wide-open Most Valuable Player races will inject some much needed drama into the next six months.

San Antonio throttling Golden State by 29 points in the first real game for the Warriors’ Fab Four should have been the first hint that the 2016-17 regular season might not be the straightforward snoozefest so many folks fear.

Another reason to tune into the 82-game prelude to the playoffs: How else are we going to figure out who in the heck should win the Maurice Podoloff Trophy?

DeflateGate ceased being about deflated footballs long ago, and the probability of the NFLPA continuing its legal fight affirms that. Even though Tom Brady announced he will no longer fight his suspension, the Players’ Association still has a strong incentive to try to get this case in front of the Supreme Court.

When a federal judge overturned Brady’s suspension last fall, it seemed as if the NFLPA was on the verge of wrestling away disciplinary power from Goodell. The commissioner was on a losing streak, suffering a series of high-profile legal losses, as neutral arbitrators and judges vacated the BountyGate player suspensions in addition to the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson bans (the NFL is currently appealing the Peterson ruling). An arbitrator whittled down Greg Hardy’s suspension from 10 games to four contests last year as well.

The union has 90 days to petition the Supreme Court, and would likely argue that the ruling in this case could have far-reaching effects for the future of the NFL.

Though the chances of the Supreme Court accepting the NFLPA’s appeal are slim, there’s no downside to the union exhausting all of its legal options. If the Eighth Circuit rules against the NFL in the Peterson case, the Supreme Court may feel compelled to hold hearings, as there would be a split decision in the circuit courts regarding the scope of Goodell’s authority to hand down discipline.

With the rule of law now on his side, Goodell almost certainly wouldn’t cede any of his punitive power without a major concession from the players. Since the disciplinary process only affects a small percentage of players, it’s unlikely that the NFLPA would be willing to give up something that benefits all of its members –– such as decreasing the total percentage of revenue that players receive –– in exchange for placating a select few. The union doesn’t have many bargaining chips at this point.

Something else that figures to be in play for the Warriors: 90 points in a half.

We haven’t seen that since 1990, when the Suns — with a rookie out of Cal State Fullerton named Cedric Ceballos rumbling for 32 points in 23 minutes — erupted for 107 points in the first two quarters in an unforgettable 173-143 trouncing of the Denver Nuggets.

But the Warriors will settle for a win total in the low 60s.

Chiefs give Eric Fisher a 4-year, $48 million extension

The Kansas City Chiefs made a surprising move on Saturday by giving former No. 1 pick Eric Fisher a lucrative deal that makes him one of the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL.

Four years were tacked on to the remaining two years left on Fisher’s deal, securing him a to six-year, $63 million deal with the Chiefs that includes $40 million in guarantees. He is now under contract with the Chiefs through the 2021 season.

Later in the day, Davis reported to 49ers’ training camp.

But going from retired to reinstatement wasn’t exactly a smooth process. Davis, known for being quite unfiltered on his Twitter account, suggested in early April that dealing with 49ers general manager Trent Baalke gives him a “headache” after he confirmed his intentions to return to the NFL. A little over a week later, there were rumors that the 49ers wanted to trade Davis.

As training camp approached, Davis finally made good on his word that he would be returning this season:

My Official Reinstatement Letter to the @NFL & @49ers has been sent!

Smith was thrown into the fire and struggled mightily. While the Jets finished with an 8-8 record, Smith held the team back with 21 interceptions to just 12 touchdowns. His 66.5 passer rating in 2013 is the worst for any 16-game starter since Joey Harrington’s 2003 season with the Detroit Lions.

A year later, though, Smith made significant improvements in every statistical category. He had a higher completion percentage, threw fewer interceptions and finished with a 77.5 rating. Smith improved as the season went on and finished the last four games with 1,001 passing yards, six touchdowns, two interceptions and a 105.3 passer rating.

When Fitzpatrick was added to the fold a year ago, it was as a backup for the team’s young, ascending quarterback who had matured right before everyone’s eyes. Brandon Marshall, who has a close friendship with Fitzpatrick now, said he handpicked the Jets as a landing spot in a trade after a conversation with Smith.

Then all that momentum was derailed by a punch from IK Enemkpali that broke Smith’s jaw and gift-wrapped the starting job to Fitzpatrick, who never gave it back. The only playing time for Smith in 2015 came in a loss to the Oakland Raiders after Fitzpatrick injured his thumb. Smith completed 27 of 42 passes for 265 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Smith was a player who required time to develop and the Jets have put in that time. The team can even save $3 million by letting Smith play and keeping Fitzpatrick from reaching his contract incentives. By giving Fitzpatrick the job again in 2016, the team is robbing itself of the chance to see what that developed product actually looks like.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco: ‘Obviously not playing good enough

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Quarterback Joe Flacco accepted blame for a struggling offense that has held back the Baltimore Ravens for the first half of the season.

“I’m obviously not playing good enough,” Flacco said Wednesday after the team’s final practice of the bye week. “We’re not a good offense, and it starts with the quarterback. I got to be better.”

The Ravens (3-4) rank 25th in the NFL in scoring with 19 points per game, and Flacco is the 29th-rated passer in the NFL (75.4). In Baltimore’s current four-game losing streak, Flacco has had the ball in his hands in the final two minutes and has failed to deliver the winning drive each time.

Coach John Harbaugh vehemently defended Flacco’s play.

“Joe Flacco is the key to our success. So, we need to all do everything in our power that all the things are falling in place for him,” Harbaugh said. “He can play. He can throw it. He can make decisions. He can score touchdowns for us. He can do all the things we need to do. We need to make sure that we give him a chance to do that.”

The Ravens have scored 10 offensive touchdowns this season. Only the Houston Texans have fewer.

Part of the inconsistencies on offense is due to injuries. Flacco and the Ravens have been without their top receiver in Steve Smith Sr. (ankle) and their best two linemen in guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) for a chunk of the season. The Ravens expect all of them to be ready to play after the bye.

As a result, the Ravens have struggled with poor blocking, penalties, dropped passes and interceptions.

“When you’re an offense in this league and things aren’t going great, a lot of times you can be so close, and I think we are on that verge of being really close,” Flacco said. “But it’s a bunch of little things, and it’s not just one thing. It’s things that add up. That’s why this game is an awesome thing: 11 guys have to be fully locked in for 60 minutes in order for it to work. Nobody notices that. We don’t even notice it when we’re out there playing, but it is the reality of it.”

Harbaugh reasserted that he’s “a Joe Flacco fan” and believes in him.

“Joe will take care of what he needs to do,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not worried about Joe taking care of what he needs to do. Joe works on it harder than anybody. He cares about it more than anybody. We need to protect him. We need to run routes. We need to create confidence in our passing game. We need to run the ball well. We need to do the things we need to do to make the offense work. And Joe will make the offense work.”

Quin declined to divulge all of his investments, partly because of privacy and contractual agreements, but most fit this mold. A notable exception are daily fantasy sports providers FanDuel and DraftKings, an idea he liked because of his interest in football.

“I want to be seen as, yeah, I’m in the NFL, but I’m not a typical guy, you know,” Quin said. “I’m different. I’m smart. I know business. I didn’t go to [junior college out of high school] because I didn’t have grades. I do like for them to look at me as I’m an investor.

“I’m in your world right now. I didn’t come in here in shoulder pads and a helmet. I came here with a suit on, just like you. Right now, I’m in your world. So let’s talk business, but I am a football player.”

NFL defends 1-game suspension for Giants K Josh Brown

The NFL is defending the minimal punishment handed down to New York Giants kicker Josh Brown after receiving backlash for a seemingly lax stance on domestic violence.

Brown’s ex-wife told police that the kicker was physically violent with her in more than 20 incidents, including when she was pregnant. With such serious allegations, the NFL was lambasted for handing down just a one-game suspension when the new personal conduct policy mandates that players face a mandatory six-game ban for a domestic violence offense.

On Saturday, the NFL released a statement explaining that a lack of cooperation from Brown’s ex-wife didn’t allow for a full investigation of the allegiations. The statement in full, via ESPN’s Adam Schefter:

“In May 2015, the NFL was informed by the New York Giants of Josh Brown’s arrest for an incident in his home involving his then wife. We began an investigation into the incident and circumstances surrounding it.

The Niners took over, and Jeff Driskel completed a pass to running back Mike Davis for no gain. Broncos linebacker Zaire Anderson forced a fumble, and defensive tackle Billy Winn recovered. The Niners’ possession lasted two seconds.

Two straight incompletions from Mark Sanchez later, he was sacked by San Francisco’s Marcus Rush, who stripped the ball. Rush recovered, and when Driskel came back out onto the field for the 49ers, it was clear that Chip Kelly wasn’t interested in a fourth fumble in a 45-second span. Driskel took a knee with 14 seconds remaining in the half.

To recap, the final minute of the first half looked like this:

But it didn’t end there, because on the very first series of the second half, Davis fumbled yet again.

The Broncos got the ball and back and Sanchez, miraculously, managed to get through an entire possession without turning the ball over. Now it’s Paxton Lynch’s turn under center, which definitively ends the vicious cycle of Sanchez and Davis trading fumbles.

After reviewing the evidence in this one incident, we imposed a one-game suspension for violation of the personal conduct policy.

Referee sends Tyrod Taylor into concussion protocol after illegal hit despite his objections

Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor was removed from Thursday’s game against the New York Jets by the officials to be evaluated for a concussion under the NFL’s protocol. Taylor was cleared, and after two offensive plays on the sideline, he returned to the game.

The Cowboys still can’t win without Tony Romo and other reasons for NFL fans to panic. Pump the brakes on eulogizing Darrelle Revis’ career, though.

Keyshawn Johnson said that “Jeff Fisher was forced to draft Jared Goff.” Rams ownership wanted to make a splash. Jeff Fisher just wanted his draft picks. Neither Fisher or the team has said a peep about Keyshawn’s allegation, and they won’t. But it does make for some intriguing backdrop with reports of a potential contract extension coming.

The 49ers knew what the Rams offense was going to do as soon as the Rams did. The particulars of Monday night’s shutout loss continue to haunt the Rams, leaving even more questions for the new team in Los Angeles.

Perhaps the most egregious tackle of the night came from Stewart, who crashed into Newton while the Panthers were driving for a game-winning score. It was the only headshot that was flagged, but the penalty was offset due to an intentional grounding call.

Marshall said the Broncos are not a dirty team. “We just play hard, man,” Marshall said via Andrew Mason of the team’s official website.

“And I feel for [Darian] Stewart and them safeties. Those guys are 200 pounds, 210 pounds, so when they get a 250-pound guy running at them, they’re going to either hit them high or low,” Marshall said. “They’re going to get them down any way they can.

“[Cam] is bigger than all of our linebackers.”

On Sunday, the NFL Players Association announced it’s launching an inquiry into the handling of Newton, who never missed a snap despite taking several vicious shots to the head. Though the Carolina Panthers say Newton passed four concussion tests after the game, he was never examined during the contest.

A league spokesman told NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport last week that Newton wasn’t checked out because an independent neurotrauma consultant and Panthers physician concluded there was no indication that he had suffered a concussion. NFL.com’s Judy Battista also says medical officials did go to Newton on the sidelines during a stoppage of play.

Despite those reports, the NFLPA is going forward with its investigation. The NFL is also looking into the matter. For the first time this year, the NFL and NFLPA have the ability to designate a representative to investigate whether the mandated concussion protocol was properly followed. If the two sides disagree, then the decision will go to an unaffiliated arbiter. Teams that are found to violate the procedure could face severe fines and even the loss of draft picks.

Colin Kaepernick kneeling protest featured on cover of ‘Time’ magazine

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is featured on the cover of Time magazine’s Oct. 3, 2016 issue, showing just how far reaching the conversation started by his kneeling protest during the national anthem has grown.

Kaepernick’s protest was first captured at the end of August, when he sat during the national anthem of the third preseason game of the year for the 49ers. On Aug. 26, he protested the treatment of minorities in the United States, and police brutality. While he sat during the first two preseason games, he wasn’t in uniform and the protest went unnoticed. But in the month since his protest has captured attention, the message has been heard loud and clear.

The Patriots turned to Martellus Bennett in the absence of their usual TE1. Bennett started the season slowly with an anonymous performance against the Cardinals, but was an invaluable safety net for the team’s young quarterbacks — Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett — in a Week 2 win against the Miami Dolphins.

Having Gronkowski back on the field should benefit Brissett, who will be starting against the Texans as Garoppolo is sidelined with a sprained AC joint he suffered against the Dolphins.

Bennett should have a reduced role with Gronkowski back in the lineup, but Bill Belichick will find a way to utilize his dynamic tight ends. The Patriots helped revolutionize the two-TE lineup at the beginning of the decade with Gronkowski and the since-disgraced Aaron Hernandez; the pair combined for 2,237 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns in 2011.

So far, injuries have been the only effective way of slowing the big tight end down. He missed five games in the 2012 season after breaking his arm in special teams duty, then nine more games in 2013 due to offseason back surgery as well as a torn ACL in December.

If history is any indication, the Patriots tight end will come back as strong as he ever was. Gronkowski shook off those 2012 and 2013 injuries to regain his All-Pro status and was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2014 after catching 82 passes in 15 games.

The Washington State Attorney General’s office tweeted that they had watched Baldwin’s presser “with interest,” and said they will be reaching out to him soon to initiate a discussion.

Broncos’ Gary Kubiak returns after health scare, week at home

Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak was back at work Monday and said he’s ready for whatever comes in the remainder of the Broncos’ season and over the long term.

“I feel good, I feel really good,” Kubiak said. “I got too much rest. Unfortunately, I didn’t want it, but I got it. I feel very good. All my tests came back great; it’s great to be back to work. … The doctors that are here, the doctors in Houston got together and talked through some things. … The biggest thing for me is really helping me sleep a little better.”

Kubiak spent the past week at home after he was taken to the hospital by ambulance following the Broncos’ 23-16 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 9. Kubiak spent the night in the hospital with what was diagnosed as a “complex migraine condition.”

Kubiak underwent additional evaluation in the days that followed as doctors attempted to find what triggered the headaches. He did not make the trip to San Diego last week and was not on the sideline for the Broncos’ 21-13 loss to the Chargers on Thursday night.

Joe DeCamillis, the Broncos’ special-teams coordinator, served as the team’s interim coach last week.

“When you’re a football coach, taking two days away from what you do is like, ‘What the hell is going on here.’ It’s like having a summer off or something,” Kubiak said. “It just makes you appreciate the players, the coaches.”

After failing to impress early on this season, the Packers and their middling passing offense were the subject of a scathing review from well-respected Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer Bob McGinn, who picked apart Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff. You can take issue with some of McGinn’s points (Rodgers is a surefire Hall of Famer, for one), but his message is on point and raises many fair questions about whether the Packers have peaked with Rodgers under McCarthy’s stewardship.

“Well, you definitely want to,” McCarthy said when asked if he’d like another running back this week. “It just depends on how you want to play the game. How they line up and what they have on the other side of the ball factors into that, too. It’s a long year. If you start making roster moves, it’s just really never one factor that factors other positions. Because, frankly, you have players that you may have to jeopardize putting out there.”

Their experience last week when they cut quarterback Joe Callahan was the perfect example of that. The Packers wanted to bring back the rookie on the practice squad but lost that chance when the New Orleans Saints claimed him off waivers. The Packers made two major roster moves last week, releasing Callahan and defensive tackle Brian Price to add defensive end Mike Pennel and cornerback Demetri Goodson off the suspended list.

“The plan with Joe was to be here,” McCarthy said. “And you take that chance, you accept that risk, and that’s what happens. So those are things that you have to weigh in. We had an ongoing three- or four-day conversation last week, and it’ll be the same here. We’ve just got less time to do it.”

McCarthy also said right tackle Bryan Bulaga (back) and receiver Davante Adams (blow to the head) are still being evaluated. He said he expected Bulaga to play because “it’s going to take a big, big injury to keep him out of a football game.” McCarthy did not confirm what Adams told ESPN.com after the game, that he did not have a concussion, but said, “I was told he’s feeling pretty good. That’s the only thing that they told me.”