Watt could be 1st defensive MVP since Taylor _lowres

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt during the first half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

HOUSTON — Should J.J. Watt be the NFL’s Most Valuable Player?

Many who are paid to find ways to slow down the overpowering defensive end for the Houston Texans say yes.

“I’d vote for him,” Cincinnati offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said. “I’ve never had a game in my coaching career when I basically had to plan to run one way all day, and he forced me to do that. Even running away from him, he made plays.”

No defensive player has won the MVP since Lawrence Taylor in 1986, joining Alan Page in 1971 as the only defenders to pick up the honor. Only quarterbacks and running backs have won since Taylor had 20½ sacks for the Giants in 1986 to win it.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano has had to plan for Watt twice this season, and perhaps Watt’s best game this year came against Indianapolis in Week 6. Watt had two sacks, swatted down three passes and returned a fumble by Andrew Luck 45 yards for a touchdown.

“He’s a nightmare,” Pagano said. “It’s like a scary movie ... he’s near unblockable. And his motor never stops. He’s got great instincts, a great skill set, what can you say? He’d get my vote for MVP right now.”

Watt leads the NFL with 25 tackles for losses and 47 quarterbacks hits. His 17½ sacks are second most in the NFL and he needs 2½ to become the first player in NFL history with at least 20 sacks in two seasons. He leads the NFL with five fumble recoveries and is the first player since Bill Golding in 1948 to have three offensive touchdowns and two touchdowns on takeaways in a season.


QB Smith out with lacerated spleen: Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith will miss Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers because of a lacerated spleen, he said Friday.

Former Saints backup QB Chase Daniel will start in his place with both teams seeking a playoff spot.

Smith was likely hurt on a hit early in the third quarter of last weekend’s 20-12 road loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he didn’t feel any pain at the time. He wasn’t diagnosed until undergoing a scan Thursday after several days of what felt more like a stomachache than a serious injury.

The quarterback will not need surgery and is expected to fully recover, but Smith would miss a potential playoff game.

If the Chargers beat Kansas City, they clinch a postseason berth. The Chiefs would need to win and have Baltimore and Houston lose to make the playoffs.


Team agrees to extension with Garza: The Chicago Bears have agreed to a one-year contract extension with veteran center Roberto Garza.

Despite the uncertainty as the Bears are wrapping up one of their most disappointing seasons in recent memory, Garza says he still wants to “be a part of this team and this organization.”

He learned of the extension through a call from his agent on Christmas.

Garza is finishing his 14th season in the NFL and 10th with Chicago.


Players rack up fines from League: Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has been fined $11,050 by the NFL for an inappropriate gesture while scoring a touchdown against Arizona last Sunday night.

Lynch appeared to grab at his groin as he leaped into the end zone to cap a 79-yard TD run while scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter of Seattle’s 35-6 victory.

Oakland’s Justin Tuck and San Francisco’s Joe Staley were each fined $22,050 by the NFL for using “abusive” language toward officials in games last weekend.