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NFL rumors roundup

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Here's a look at some of the top rumors for Wednesday, Dec. 30:

  • The Carolina Panthers now need Jonathan Stewart back sooner than expected following their loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Jonathan Joseph of the Charlotte Observer reported that Stewart tested his sprained foot on a treadmill Tuesday and was not in a protective walking boot during media availability. Despite the progress, Jones tweeted that Stewart was held out of practice on Wednesday as a precautionary measure due to wet field conditions. The Panthers are already without backup Fozzy Whittaker due to a high-ankle sprain, so Carolina might have to place a much larger burden on rookie Cameron Artis-Payne if Stewart is unable to play. Carolina won't have the luxury of resting its starters in Week 17 because home-field advantage in the postseason is still on the line, but Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk doesn't believe the Panthers will rush Stewart back just for this game because he is too important to their playoff plans.

  • Brian Hoyer should start Sunday for the Houston Texans, barring any unforeseen circumstances, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Hoyer gained final clearance under the NFL's concussion protocol and practiced Wednesday. Wilson wrote that the concussion Hoyer suffered against the New England Patriots was not as severe as the one he suffered earlier in the season against the Cincinnati Bengals. Hoyer's symptoms subsided "shortly after [the New England] game where he was sacked five times," as opposed to the concussion from the Bengals game where "he experienced memory loss." The Texans will clinch the AFC South with a win in Week 17, so Hoyer's return, following some solid relief work by Brandon Weeden, couldn't come at a better time.

  • While the Texans are getting their quarterback back, the Indianapolis Colts are down to their fourth and fifth options this week in a must-win game. ESPN's Mike Wells reported that Andrew Luck has still not been cleared to play, and that his season is likely over unless the Colts somehow make the playoffs. Chuck Pagano told reporters, including Mike Chappell of CBS4, that Ryan Lindley and Josh Freeman took the "lion's share of reps" in practice, but a decision on who starts might not happen until Sunday morning. The Colts need nine different games to break their way in order to make the playoffs, including a win in Indy's own tilt with the Tennessee Titans. So, it seems very likely that we have seen the last of Luck for 2015 and possibly the last of Pagano and/or GM Ryan Grigson following a disastrous season.