Bills owner credits Kathryn Smith for earning her promotion

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills co-owner Kim Pegula congratulated Kathryn Smith for becoming the NFL’s first full-time female assistant coach by saying she earned the promotion.

“Kathryn has been a part of Rex (Ryan’s) staff for the past seven years and has proven that she does excellent work,” Pegula said in a statement released to The Associated Press on Thursday. “While we understand the significance of this announcement, it’s important to understand that Kathryn earned this position because she has shown she is qualified, dedicated and puts in the work needed for this role.”

Pegula issued the statement a day after the Bills broke the league’s gender barrier by promoting Smith to be their special teams quality control coach.

“The Bills organization is proud of Kathryn and her promotion,” Pegula added. “We look forward to the contributions she will make to our organization in her new role.”

The move has generated a tremendous amount of buzz and attention.

Chelsea Clinton took notice by posting a note on her Twitter account. The daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton wrote “(hash)NoCeilings” in posting a link to a story about Smith’s promotion.

Smith’s appointment comes after Jen Welter served a six-week training camp internship last summer coaching inside linebackers for the Arizona Cardinals.

Smith is well-known within the Bills staff after spending this season as an administrative assistant for the team’s assistant coaches. She spent the past seven years working alongside Ryan.

She was the New York Jets player personnel assistant when Ryan took over as coach in 2009. Smith then served as Ryan’s assistant in 2014, his final year in New York before he was fired and then hired by the Bills.

“She certainly deserves this promotion based on her knowledge and strong commitment, just to name a couple of her outstanding qualities,” Ryan said in a statement released by the team. “She has proven that she’s ready for the next step.”

The 30-year-old Smith grew up outside of Syracuse, New York, and was a three-sport athlete at Christian Brothers Academy, where she was on the swimming, bowling and field hockey teams. She also spent time assisting her father Robert in serving as the school football team’s statistician.

Smith then attended St. John’s University, where she studied sports management and also worked as a men’s basketball team manager.

While at St. John’s, she landed internships with the New York Jets, first in a game-day/special events position and then a role in college scouting.

Online: AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Watch Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis Colts live on TNF

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The Indianapolis Colts host the Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football in a battle of two former contenders whose seasons have gone wrong.

Following a strong start, the Broncos went 1-8, as their typically astute defense has struggled to keep opponents out of the end zone. Denver’s offense has not helped the team’s cause either. The Broncos have failed to find clarity at quarterback with Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, and Paxton Lynch all seeing time.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

The Colts have had their own deficiencies this season without star quarterback Andrew Luck. Jacoby Brissett has provided admirable coverage under center with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions, but he has not been able to keep up with a Colts defense that has let up the second-most points in the NFL this season.

Football Night in America

Start time: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app

Broncos vs. Colts

Start time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app

Watch Dallas Cowboys vs. Oakland Raiders live on SNF

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The Oakland Raiders host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football as both teams look to keep their playoff hopes alive.

With a win, Dallas will maintain its chances of sneaking into the playoffs as a wild card. After struggling initially, Dak Prescott has been able to adjust to life without Ezekiel Elliott. Prescott threw for three touchdowns and a season-high 332 yards in the Cowboys win last week over the New York Giants.

If the Cowboys can hang around, Elliott can give them a boost when he returns from suspension next week heading into the final stretch of the season.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

The Raiders also find themselves in need of a win as they are in the middle of a contested AFC West battle with the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs. Derek Carr and the Raiders’ offense will need to improve after dropping from the league’s sixth-best offense in 2016 to 19th this season.

Football Night in America

Start time: 7:00 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app

Cowboys vs. Raiders

Start time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app