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Bell was to running backs what Aaron Rodgers was to quarterbacks in 2016

The only realistic candidate for the Bills’ franchise tag is cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The tag is expected to cost about $15 million, which could be too rich for a defense that already has devoted big money to defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and defensive end Jerry Hughes. If the Bills decide to keep quarterback Tyrod Taylor this offseason at a $15.9 million cap number in 2017, they might not have the salary-cap space to assign the franchise tag to Gilmore.

Could it work? It’s hard to see it, given how rarely the Packers dip into the free-agent market and how many questions they have to answer on their offensive line, where T.J. Lang is a free agent. They’re also not a team that would offer Peterson a boatload of carries.

Le’Veon Bell is the easy call here. Bell was to running backs what Aaron Rodgers was to quarterbacks in 2016, a wizard with the ball who shifted and cut with ease. The Steelers would be willing to let Bell play on the $12.7 million running back tag if necessary, but the tag is a placeholder for a long-term deal if it makes sense. The team won’t pay Adrian Peterson money ($14 million per year). The $9 million to $10 million range might be more feasible for both parties.

Running back situation: Jacquizz Rodgers led the team in rushing with 560 yards, but he’s a free agent. Doug Martin and his $7 million cap hit could also be on the way out after a violation for performance-enhancing drugs last season. Charles Sims, who played only seven games in 2016, is in the final year of his contract.

Could it work? It might have been no accident that Peterson mentioned the Bucs (remember in 2015 when his agent, Ben Dogra, posed in a Tampa Bay hat next to Peterson’s jersey during his standoff with the Vikings?). They’ve got the cap space to pay him plenty of money, though an up-and-coming young team might look to stick with a back like Rodgers as it builds around quarterback Jameis Winston. Should the Buccaneers have interest, though, they’ve got the wherewithal to get Peterson.

Long described the pendulum of emotions for him.

For background: Luck’s deal averages $24.594 million; he also received $87 million in guaranteed money. I don’t know that Cousins will receive that much in guaranteed money — it was $47 million fully guaranteed at the time of signing — but the average per year? If he signs a long-term deal, that number has to be in play for a couple of reasons.

Here’s the thing, as Joel Corry (former agent who now works for CBS Sports) told me this past week: Even if Cousins tops Luck, that doesn’t mean he’ll enter next season as the highest-paid quarterback. Actually, by then he could be fourth. There’s a chance Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr all get new deals. Each one would top Luck, too. Again, this isn’t about who’s better but rather about the position they play, a rising salary cap, timing and leverage.

Long described the pendulum of emotions for him.

“It went from the worst nightmare in the world to the best dream all within an hour. You go from the lowest point of your career to the highest point of your career, just like that. It was the most insane thing I’ve ever been a part of,” he said on the Russillo and Kanell program.

Long added that one “could make the claim this is the toughest team in Super Bowl history. It’s unprecedented, that type of comeback.”

He noted that when the Patriots won the overtime coin toss and took the ball, some defensive players looked at each other on the sideline and said, “We’re not going back out there.”

Long, who is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, plans to keep playing in 2017.

“I’m excited for the next step,” he said. “I didn’t know coming into this year that I could still play football at a high level. I feel like I can play just as well as I did before I started getting hurt [in 2014-2015]. I’m happy to be back.”

Cubs Tie Team Record With Win Thursday vs. Diamondbacks

The last time that the Cubs won a dozen games in a row away from home was in the 1945 season, which also just happens to be the last time that the team made it to the World Series.

During their current 12-game road winning streak, the Cubs have outscored their opponents 72-25, with 29 of those runs coming over their last three games. According to Christopher Kamka of Comcast SportsNet, that 29 run total is the Cubs’ best start to a season on the scoreboard since the 1954 campaign, when they racked up a staggering 41 runs in their first trio of games.

Friday’s game against the Diamondbacks will not only provide the Cubs with an opportunity to break the franchise record for longest road winning streak, but will also give the team a chance to join some incredibly exclusive company.

According to Baseball Reference, the Cubs are one of only 10 teams to win their first three games by five or more runs. If they do that again on Friday, they will join the 1976 Cincinnati Reds as the only teams to accomplish that feat in the first four games of a regular season.

Moments after NFL fans learned which teams would be playing in the Super Bowl, counterfeiters took notice of the winners and began sending knock-off NFL merchandise to Chicago.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a large number of fake NFL jerseys and other gear has been seized by trained officers since Sunday.

Zobrist and the Cubs couldn’t solve Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, losing 2-1 on Sunday in front of 40,814 fans at Wrigley Field.

It was the Cubs’ first loss to the Pirates in the last eight games dating back to last September.

Cole was absolutely brilliant, allowing three hits (one of which was a sun-aided double by Dexter Fowler in the first when Pirates infielders lost track of the ball) and didn’t walk a batter, striking out seven.

Lester admitted it was hard not to notice he had something special brewing, but “it doesn’t matter now,” he said.

Lawrie also skipped a throw in the first inning that Jose Abreu couldn’t scoop, which allowed the first batter of the game (Jacoby Ellsbury) to reach against Miguel Gonzalez. Ellsbury later scored on a Beltran sac fly that made it a 1-0 game.