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Week Three Monday 10-pack

The third week of the 2010 season provided plenty of memorable highlights and outcomes. 

From an overtime thriller in New Orleans to a couple of 0-2 underachievers getting things pointed in the right direction to what nearly became an overtime thrilled in Miami, we hope the next 14 weeks are just like this one.

Then again, some teams would prefer to forget all about Week Three.  For 10 story lines focusing on the good and the bad from Week Three, read on.


1.  Coughlin out, Cowher in?

Two years ago, the Giants started the season 0-2, giving up 80 points in
two games.  This year, after a sloppy Week One win against a grossly
overmatched Panthers team, the Giants have surrendered 67 in two even
sloppier losses.

Publicly, coach Tom Coughlin has taken the blame.  Privately, he has
begun the process of holding his players accountable.

Whether it works remains to be seen.  The Giants are becoming every bit
as dysfunctional as they were when Coughlin somehow pulled a Super
Bowl-sized rabbit out of his hat.  The championship season has become
largely forgotten, however, especially as the Giants become upstaged in their new
stadium by the look-at-me Jets, at whom New York and the rest of the
country are looking, both for what they do on the field, and what they
do off it.

After the Giants collapsed down the stretch and missed the playoffs,
co-owner John Mara blew a gasket.  This year, if the Giants fail to
qualify for the postseason, he’ll do more than talk tough.

Coughlin has one year left on his contract, and the Giants will have to
decide after 2010 whether to re-up Coughlin’s deal — or whether to move
on.  If they choose to thank the 64-year-old coach for his
contributions and pay him not to work for the franchise in 2011, the
most obvious candidate to replace him becomes Bill Cowher.

The 15-year coach of the Steelers, who resigned after the 2006 season,
recently said that he’s looking for the “right situation.”  And former
Steelers tailback Jerome Bettis, who called Cowher’s coming resignation
at the outset of the 2006 season, sad earlier this year that Cowher
covets” the Giants job.

Unless and until Coughlin can get his Giants to play disciplined,
winning football, a guy who led the Steelers with square-jawed intensity
could become the ultimate answer to the cross-town team led by a
player-coach who doesn’t actually play.

2.  Tebow takes a big step backward.

Entering the regular season, Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow occupied the
No. 2 spot on the depth chart, behind starter Kyle Orton and ahead of
Brady Quinn.  Per a league source, Tebow was under the impression that
he’d be the top backup all year.

After only two games, Tebow fell to No. 3.  Inactive for Sunday’s game
against the Colts, the elevation of Quinn prevented Tebow from entering
the game before the fourth quarter, essentially eliminating the team’s “Wild Horse”
single-wing package.  As it turns out, neither Quinn nor Tebow entered
the game at all.

Following the 27-13 loss to Indy, Bronco coach Josh McDaniels downplayed
the situation.

“Just made a decision after the week of practice,” McDaniels said. 
“Brady had a good week and it wasn’t anything about Tim — we just felt
like Brady was probably better equipped at this point to handle this
style of game plan, the style of defense that they played.  Again, they
get very few reps anyways, but the reps that they get — we felt more
comfortable doing that.”

Whether it’s a one-time thing remains to be seen.  The fact that Tebow
believed he’d be the No. 2 guy all year makes the move surprising.  The
possibility that he’ll stay at No. 3 shows just how far he has to go
before he becomes the full-time starter.


3.  Pink slips coming soon?

The desperation that has prompted so many quarterback changes could soon
result in a flurry of firings.  Coordinators could be the initial
scapegoats in some cities.  But with bye weeks beginning,
underperforming head coaches could soon find themselves staying home for
the rest of the year, with pay.

The Panthers have looked putrid, and if they hit their break at 0-5,
coach John Fox could be out the door.

The Browns, who are 0-3 but just as easily could be 3-0, face the
Bengals, Falcons, Steelers, and Saints before their bye.  And if the
Browns are 0-7, Eric Mangini may not get a chance to host the Patriots
and the Jets in consecutive weeks — which likely would drop Cleveland
to 0-9, anyway.

Another potential candidate for a bye week “buh-bye” is Jaguars coach
Jack Del Rio.  As one league source explained it, multiple factions
currently are clashing in Jacksonville.  “If [Del Rio] survives the
season,” the source said, “he likely won’t survive the offseason.”

Whether Del Rio survives the season depends on whether the Jaguars can
turn things around, quickly.  Outscored by a total of 50 points in two
weeks, things get no easier next week, when the Colts come calling.  (It also doesn’t help that the Jags are stuck in a division with Indy, Tennessee, and Houston.)

In San Francisco, Mike Singletary could be on the hot seat, too — if
anyone there had the nerve to actually communicate the decision to fire him. 
(Would you?)

Then there’s Raiders coach Tom Cable, who faces some risk of being fired
every minute of every day, of every season.

4.  Time to change inherently unfair fumble rule.

While watching the Chargers-Seahawks game, which Seattle surprisingly
won, a play late in the first half reminded us of one of the most
inequitable rules in all of sport.

When an offensive player fumbles the ball out of bounds, his team keeps
possession.  But when an offensive player fumbles the ball out of the
end zone that his team is trying to invade, the ball is regarded as
having been recovered by the other team, and it’s placed at the 20.

NFL spokesman Michael Signora described it as a “long-standing rule, in
place for decades.”

That’s fine, but that doesn’t make it fair.

It simply makes no sense to punish the offensive team for getting so
close to the end zone, losing the grasp on the ball near paydirt, and
then losing possession even if the other team never actually recovers
it.  

Instead of giving the ball to the defense at the 20, the rule should
give the ball to the offense, at the opponents’ 20.  Some would argue
that possession should be awarded at the line used for the try after a
touchdown.  Either way, possession shouldn’t be handed over the defense
when the defense has done squat to secure possession.


5. Jets, Falcons seize control of their divisions.

With 13 games to go, a lot can — and will — happen.  But two teams
confidently can claim that, for now, they rule the four-team roosts in
which they reside.

Both the Jets and the Falcons went on the road and knocked off rivals
who had been 2-0.  So now the Dolphins will have to win in New York and
the Saints will have to win in Atlanta in order to avoid what amounts to
a three-game swing in the standings — 2-0 versus 0-2, plus ownership
of the tiebreaker.

Coupled with the Jets’ win over the Patriots, New York has come a
long way in only 13 days

Ditto for the Falcons, who lost a heartbreaker in Week One and suddenly
have broken the Saints’ hammerlock on the NFC South.  It likely was the biggest win of quarterback Matt Ryan’s three-year career.

Again, there’s a long way to go.  For now, though, the Jets and Falcons
have to be feeling pretty good about where they are.


6. Chiefs are for real.

When a team exceeds expectations, expectations eventually will be
adjusted.  For that reason alone, look for the Chiefs to continue to
downplay their success, in the hopes that no one will believe that
they’re a legitimate contender to win the AFC West.

But they are.  Already, the 3-0 Chiefs possess a two-game lead over the rest
of the division, and they’ve toppled the perennial top dogs from San
Diego.

Moving forward, the Chiefs benefit from a fourth-place schedule.  While
the Chargers play the Ravens and the Patriots, the Chiefs get the Browns
and the Bills. (All four AFC West teams play all four AFC South teams
in 2010.)  Those two games could end up making a huge difference, if the
race gets tight in late December.

The biggest question mark comes at quarterback, but that question mark
became an exclamation point, at least for a day, when Matt Cassel
completed 16 of 27 for 250 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception
— good for a passer rating of 111.7.

It’s the kind of triple-digit performance that became commonplace for
Cassel in 2008, when he replaced Tom Brady in New England.  Now that
Cassel could be clicking with Charlie Weis, the guy who helped make Tom
Brady into Tom Brady, there could be even more strong performances from the
player whom many regard as the weak link on a slowly-improving
franchise.

Until then, the Chiefs would prefer that we all regard them as
slowly-improving, with no reason to think that they may be headed in the
direction that their 3-0 record suggests they’re heading.

7.  Dallas Desperadoes deliver for Wade.

Backed against the wall, the Dallas Cowboys proved the value of a single
NFL weekend by avoiding an 0-3 start, pulling into a three-way tie for
second place in the NFC East, and getting themselves back on track for a
season that still could end with a Super Bowl.

Desperation suited the Cowboys well on Sunday in Houston, and now
they’ve got time during their bye week to continue to tweak the offense
and refine the defense and prepare to continue the push toward and
beyond .500.

At a time when the NFL is considering a move from 18 games, it’s
important to remember the impact of a single NFL game when a total of
only 16 are played.  The significance of each and every contest makes
each and every one dramatic and memorable; for the Cowboys, who
faced full-blown implosion after only two weeks, a single game changed
everything.

If the season is “enhanced,” that quality could quickly be diminished.

8.  Steelers could run the table.

We know it’s way too early to say this, but we’re going to say it
anyway.

The Pittsburgh Steelers could go undefeated.

It’s unlikely.  Eventually, they’ll surely lose.  But if they can get past the
Ravens on Sunday in the last game without Ben Roethlisberger and if he
pumps up an offense that is complemented by the best defense in the
league, the Steelers will be unstoppable.

If they get to 16-0, it won’t have happened against a slew of patsies. 
They play at Miami and at New Orleans, and they host the Patriots and
the Jets.

Still, there’s already something special about this team, and it could
become even more special if Roethlisberger helps light up a scoreboard
that rarely will reflect many points from the opposition.

9.  Vick’s historic redemption tour continues.

As the football-watching world waits for Mike Vick’s triple-digit
passer-rating performances to drop dramatically, as they always have done in the past, Vick has instead put his
foot harder on the gas, authoring his best performance to date with the
Eagles.

In a 28-3 win at Jacksonville, Vick completed 17 of 31 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 119.2.

In 10 quarters, Vick has thrown six touchdown passes and not a single
interception.

He’ll face his toughest test yet next week, when Donovan McNabb returns
to Philly for a game that Eagles fans will want to win more than any
non-playoff game in franchise history.  And regardless of how well
McNabb does or doesn’t play, another strong showing from Vick could make
McNabb’s performance moot.

Meanwhile, at some point we need to acknowledge that we’re witnessing
one of the most compelling stories in league history.  Rather than
merely returning to the level he occupied before missing two years while
in prison, Vick could be on the verge of reaching new heights — and of
becoming the franchise quarterback he never quite became in Atlanta.

10.  Saints need to lose their blind spot for Garrett Hartley.

Kicker Garrett Hartley forever will occupy a position in the pantheon of
Saints stars, thanks to his delivery of the franchise’s first NFL title
via a 40-yard overtime kick in the NFC Championship and a trio of
40-plus-yard field goals in the Super Bowl.

But kicker remains one of the most fungible positions in football, and
if a guy can’t do his job there are plenty of others who can, and who will.

The challenge for coach Sean Payton and G.M. Mickey Loomis will be to
forget about the things Hartley did in the past, and to focus on what
he’s doing now.

Or, more importantly, on what he’s not doing.

Two missed field goals in Week One allowed the Vikings to hang around
much longer than they should have, and a redirection from 49ers
defensive tackle Ray McDonald may have prevented Hartley from being the
goat in Week Two.

The goat he was on Sunday, when he missed an overtime chip shot after
knuckling the game-tying kick that forced the extra session.

Peter King reported on Sunday night that the Saints will bring in
kickers this week
.  It shouldn’t simply be a shot across Hartley’s bow. 
Kickers need to be much more reliable than Hartley has been.  And if
Hartley continues to receive extra consideration for what he did in last
year’s Super Bowl, the Saints won’t win another one this year.

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Lions’ LaAdrian Waddle returned to game after concussion

waddle AP

Lions right tackle LaAdrian Waddle returned to the field for Detroit’s final kneeldown on Sunday against the Saints despite suffering a concussion on his previous play, an extra point that gave the Lions their game-winning point in a 24-23 win.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports that Lions coach Jim Caldwell and G.M. Martin Mayhew both claimed the Lions follow the NFL concussion protocol “to the letter” even as they acknowledged that Waddle returned to the field with a concussion.

“We knew exactly when it occurred and what happened within the context of it,” Caldwell said. “It was the last play of the game for him. It was actually on a field goal, the PAT at the end. It’s the last play of the game for him.”

But if Waddle got a concussion on the PAT, why did he return to the game for the kneeldown on the Lions’ final possession?

“Well, in terms of they knew exactly what happened to him in terms of he banged his head on the ground after where he gets up,” Caldwell said. “It wasn’t to the point where they thought he was concussed at that time. The final snap of the game, we knew it was only one snap, then the doctors reviewed him, took a look at him, it wasn’t one of those situations where he felt he had to go in the locker room right away. But they did know he banged it when he came off, and that he was good.”

You could argue that it was just a kneeldown and so Waddle wasn’t at much risk, but there’s no “just a kneeldown” exception to the NFL’s concussion rules. And you could also argue that when it’s just a kneeldown, that’s all the more reason that the team should show an excess of caution and not put a player on the field when he had just suffered a hard hit to the head on his previous play. The Lions may say they follow the concussion rules to the letter, but they got this one wrong.

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Reggie Bush held out of practice, Calvin Johnson returns for Lions

Reggie Bush. Keenan Lewis AP

The Lions suddenly have another injury situation to monitor with one of their offensive stars.

Via Tim Twentyman of the team’s official website, running back Reggie Bush did not practice today.

Bush did limited work on Wednesday, making his absence today more of a concern.

The ankle problem he’s dealing with caused him to miss the second half of last week’s comeback against the Saints, as well as the entire week before.

Of course, if they get Calvin Johnson back, he won’t be as missed. Johnson reportedly did more at practice today, and could be close to a return.

But the fact the Lions came back to beat the Saints last week without Bush or Johnson speaks to the maturation of the team as a whole, as well as quarterback Matthew Stafford.

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Arbitrator also requires Newsome, Cass to testify

Newsome AP

Wednesday’s preliminary victory by the NFLPA and Ray Rice didn’t consist only of a requirement that Commissioner Roger Goodell testify in the appeal hearing regarding the indefinite suspension imposed on Rice.  The union and Rice also secured the ability to question two key members of the Ravens organization.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones has required Ravens G.M. Ozzie Newsome and Ravens president Dick Cass to testify at the appeal hearing, which currently is set for November 5-6.

Judge Jones declined to require testimony from Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, coach John Harbaugh, and director of security Darren Sanders.

The roster of witnesses expected to testify at the hearing also includes Ray Rice, NFL senior V.P. of labor policy and government affairs Adolpho Birch, and NFL V.P. of security Jeff Miller.  It’s also possible that Janay Palmer Rice will testify, given that she, Ray, and Goodell reportedly had a private discussion regarding the incident that resulted initially in a two-game suspension, and then in an indefinite suspension.

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Broncos table contract talks with Demaryius and Julius Thomas

Denver Broncos vs New York Jets, NFL Getty Images

Broncos boss John Elway earned his reputation as a closer, primarily for landing quarterback Peyton Manning in free agency.

But he’s going to have plenty of work to do this offseason to maintain that image.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Broncos have tabled contract talks with both wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas, as both play out their contracts this season.

They’ve negotiated with both players, but with no resolution imminent, have decided to wait until the offseason.

That’s a bold play, considering they’d have to get at least one of them done to be able use the franchise tag on the other, and both sides know that.

There’s also the small matter of wide receiver Wes Welker’s expiring deal, but he won’t be nearly as expensive or difficult to reach or replace.

It’s a risky hand of cards, but Elway plays at the high stakes table, and is used to winning.

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PFT’s Week Eight picks

Brees Getty Images

Last week, as the Saints built a supposedly insurmountable lead over the Lions, I taunted MDS with a link of Homer Simpson singing When the Saints Go Over There.  And I scoffed when he suggested I was celebrating prematurely.  Which of course cemented the looming jinx.

Back came the Lions and down went the Saints and MDS prevailed in the one game of 15 on which we disagreed.

For the week, MDS was 11-4 and I was 10-5.  For the season, he’s now at 70-36 (66 percent) and I’m at 65-41 (61.3 percent).

We disagree on two games this week.  And there will be no premature celebrating from me this week.  Or ever again.

Chargers at Broncos

MDS’s take: The battle for first place in the AFC West will feature two MVP candidates at quarterback, but the difference in my view is that the Broncos’ defense is playing almost as well as their offense. This will be a lower-scoring game than most people think, and that favors Denver.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 21, Chargers 10.

Florio’s take:  Last year, the Chargers caught the Broncos napping on a Thursday night in December.  This year, the Broncos are bracing for their rivals, and the midseason stakes are considerably higher.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 38, Chargers 20.

Lions at Falcons

MDS’s take: What does an offense with good skill-position players and a terrible line look like? Like the 2014 Falcons, whose injuries up front have been devastating. The Lions’ defensive front will take advantage of the injury-riddled Atlanta line and improve to 6-2 with a win in London.

MDS’s pick: Lions 24, Falcons 13.

Florio’s take:  At least the Falcons won’t have to use a silent snap count for this home game, since it won’t be played in the Georgia Dome.  It won’t matter; Detroit’s defense is too good and Atlanta’s offensive line is too banged up.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 27, Falcons 17.

Seahawks at Panthers

MDS’s take: The Seahawks haven’t been playing their best football lately, but they’ve been playing better than the Panthers, whose defense has fallen apart. Seattle will get things turned around.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 28, Panthers 20.

Florio’s take:  Last year, the Panthers took the Seahawks to the limit in Week One, an outcome that became more impressive for Carolina as the season unfolded.  This year, Carolina’s defense is coming apart at the seams, and the Seahawks’ performance have been spotty enough to trigger the kind of external criticism that could put a much-needed chip back on their shoulders.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 30, Panthers 20.

Ravens at Bengals

MDS’s take: Cincinnati dominated when these two teams met in Week One, but Baltimore has looked like the much better team recently. The Ravens are playing so well in all three phases of the game that I just can’t pick against them right now.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 21, Bengals 20.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals won in Baltimore to start the season.  But the Bengals are struggling without a deep threat to stretch the field (assuming A.J. Green remains out), and the Ravens have found their groove.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 24, Bengals 17.

Dolphins at Jaguars

MDS’s take: The Jaguars got their first win on Sunday. Can they make it two in a row? Not against the Dolphins, who are a much better team than most people realize. Miami will win this one easily.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 30, Jaguars 14.

Florio’s take:  This is exactly the kind of game the Dolphins could lose, a week after a thrilling road win in Chicago.  The upset is tempting, but the Dolphins presumably won’t take the Jags lightly a week after the Browns did.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 24, Jaguars 13.

Rams at Chiefs

MDS’s take: The two Missouri teams pulled off two surprising upsets last week, but I see the Rams’ win as more of a fluke, while the Chiefs’ win was a sign that they’ve got a good chance to go on a run in the AFC. I like Kansas City to win this one easily.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 31, Rams 10.

Florio’s take:  More than bragging rights will be on the line in the latest edition of the Battle for Missouri.  Both teams have a chance to make a run at the postseason after being blown out at home in Week One.  The Chiefs have too much talent for the Rams, especially when the Kansas City offense faces the St. Louis defense.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 24, Rams 17.

Bears at Patriots

MDS’s take: The Bears are coming apart at the seams, just as the Patriots are coming together and playing their best football. This should be a big win for New England.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 27, Bears 17.

Florio’s take:  The Patriots have found the gas pedal, and the Bears are clumsily mashing their feet against the floorboard in search of it.  Yes, the Patriots are banged up defensively, but the extra time to prepare and the apparent inability of coach Marc Trestman to adjust to defenses that have a full season of offensive film gives the edge to one of the great tactical masterminds in NFL history.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 30, Bears 21.

Bills at Jets

MDS’s take: I’ve felt all year that the Jets are a better team than they’re showing on the field, and I think we’re finally going to see them turn in a complete game on Sunday. The Bills’ offense will struggle with the Jets’ defense and the Jets will win a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Jets 17, Bills 13.

Florio’s take:  The Jets surely won’t finish 1-15.  What better way to get a win than against a Bills team that is rattled at the tailback position and generally not a good as its 4-3 record suggests?  While Percy Harvin isn’t good enough to turn around a lost season in New York, he’s good enough to make a difference in this one.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 24, Bills 20.

Vikings at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: In a battle of two of the worst teams in the NFL, I’ll take the home team. That’s about all I’ve got to say about this one.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 9, Vikings 6.

Florio’s take:  Somehow, the Bucs are still alive in the NFC South.  While a run at the division is unlikely, they’ve extra week to prepare gives them the edge in the latest reunion of a longtime NFC Central rivalry.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 27, Vikings 24.

Texans at Titans

MDS’s take: The Texans have lost three straight, but all against good teams. Against a bad team with a rookie making his first start at quarterback, I like Houston to take care of business.

MDS’s pick: Texans 17, Titans 14.

Florio’s take:  The fading Texans get just what they needed — a crack at a Titans team that somehow has two wins.  It’ll stay at two wins on Sunday, with Ryan Fitzpatrick (who’s averaging a career-high 8.0 yards per attempt) getting a chance to beat his most recent former team.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 27, Titans 13.

Eagles at Cardinals

MDS’s take: Coming off a bye week that followed their most impressive win of the season, I think the Eagles should be playing their best football right now. Arizona is playing excellent football, but the Eagles will upset the Cardinals in the desert.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 21, Cardinals 17.

Florio’s take:  So much for the Cardinals wanting to rejoin the NFC East.  They face the 5-1 Eagles and 6-1 Cowboys in consecutive weeks, and it could be time for the Super Bowl jinx to begin to kick in.  Especially with Chip Kelly having two weeks to get ready for this one.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 27, Cardinals 20.

Raiders at Browns

MDS’s take: Could the Browns make it two straight losses to previously winless opponents? I don’t see it. Cleveland’s offense should have no trouble moving the ball against Oakland.

MDS’s pick: Browns 28, Raiders 14.

Florio’s take:  Trap Game No. 2 for the Browns.  And its against a team that delivered one of the most bitter defeats in franchise postseason history.  If the Browns lose to a winless team for the second straight week, they won’t have to worry about a bitter playoff defeat this year.

Florio’s pick:  Browns 27, Raiders 17.

Colts at Steelers

MDS’s take: Andrew Luck should have a big game against a suspect Steelers secondary, and the Colts should put up plenty of points in Pittsburgh.

MDS’s pick: Colts 35, Steelers 27.

Florio’s take:  Yea, the Colts shut out the Bengals last week.  But that happened at home, not in Pittsburgh.  In Pittsburgh, the Steelers average 28 points per game.  And just when folks write off the Steelers, they find a way to win games they’re supposed to lose.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 28, Colts 23.

Packers at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints’ defense is a complete mess, and Aaron Rodgers is playing at a very high level. Even if the Saints get a great game from their offense, they simply won’t be able to keep up in a high-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Packers 30, Saints 20.

Florio’s take:  The Saints are still undefeated at home, and they play even better in the Superdome when America is watching.  By the way, the NFC South remains ripe for the plucking.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 34, Packers 31.

Washington at Cowboys

MDS’s take: Is Colt McCoy the answer? Of course not. Stop asking stupid questions. The Cowboys will roll.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 31, Washington 13.

Florio’s takeKirk Cousins, Colt McCoy, it doesn’t matter.  The Cowboys may cool off by the time it really counts, but they’re the hottest team in football for now.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 31, Washington 16.

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Jared Allen doesn’t see leadership void with Bears

Chicago Bears v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Bears’ 3-4 start and angry locker room after last weekend’s loss to the Dolphins have left people discussing whether the Bears have a leadership void on the team that will lead them to a disappointing finish to this season.

Defensive end Jared Allen has weighed in on the question and the veteran doesn’t see an issue with the leadership on hand in Chicago. Allen said that there’s no problem with the kind of “raw” emotions that the team aired following the loss, but that good leadership, which he thinks the Bears have, isn’t synonymous with making fiery speeches all the time.

“I don’t want this to sound bad. But when you’re talking about a leader, what does that look like to people? I think we have great leaders here. I mean leaders don’t necessarily have to stand up at the podium and make some big speech. As a matter of fact, if someone gets up every week and has to have a ‘Coach is out. Let’s have [a big meeting].’ That’s lame. Honestly. What’s that going to do? That’s rah-rah,” Allen said, via the Chicago Tribune. “Leadership comes from the guys who show up every week, go out and work during practice. They’re in their playbook, they know what they’re doing and they go out on Sunday and give it everything they got.”

The issue of whether or not the leadership on the Bears is sufficient is going to be settled by the way the rest of the season plays out. If they beat the Patriots this week and then take out the Packers after the bye, wide receiver Brandon Marshall’s postgame comments will be deemed just what the team needed while more losing will make it easy for people to draw the opposite conclusion. Neither one will be entirely true, but, as always, the on-field results will drive the narrative the rest of the way.

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Michael Vick: Percy Harvin “won’t be a monster” with Jets

Percy Harvin AP

Negative stories have accompanied wide receiver Percy Harvin out of both Minnesota and Seattle, leading some to wonder if the Jets are going to get a player who helps them on the field more than he becomes a divisive figure off of it.

The top two quarterbacks on the depth chart would surely prefer that Harvin’s impact come on the field and both of them say that they are confident that Harvin’s troublemaking won’t be an issue on his new team. Geno Smith said that he guarantees Harvin “cleans his act up while he’s here” and Michael Vick said the one-time participant in Vick’s football camps sent a similar message.

“He won’t be a monster here,” Vick said, via the New York Post. “He won’t be a monster here. I can assure all the fans of that…That won’t take place here.”

Vick didn’t offer many specifics as to why Harvin won’t be a monster, but his own experience with facing a moment when his future football career hinged on being a good teammate and doing the right thing could account for the optimistic view. Vick was able to do that and the Jets figure to give Harvin every chance to show he can make the same commitment because their offense could use someone who creates trouble for defenses without causing any for the Jets.

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Bears need a leader to emerge

Trestman Getty Images

As the Bears try to break free from a 3-4 start that we all now know receiver Brandon Marshall regards as unacceptable, it seems they’re desperately in need of one thing they don’t have — a leader who can bring the locker room together.

Marshall seems to be trying; the question is whether his teammates will respond to his locker-room tirade and public comments aimed at getting the team to fulfill its potential. Quarterback Jay Cutler either isn’t wired or inclined to even make an effort to lead the team.

Then there’s coach Marc Trestman, whose position that folks should be “non-judgmental” and “accepting” of post-game popping off from players could result in more of the same. Trestman faces the biggest test of his still-young tenure as head coach. Can Trestman command the locker room and impose his will on the players?

John Mullin of CSN Chicago joined Wednesday’s PFT Live to discuss these issues. And Mullin pointed out a key apples-to-apples fact that currently isn’t lost on Bears fans — G.M. Phil Emery picked Trestman over Bruce Arians in early 2013, and Arians has done a much better job to date, arguably with less overall talent.

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Left side of Ravens offensive line closing in on return

Eugene Monroe AP

The Ravens can score a big divisional win when they face the Bengals this Sunday and their chances of having the starting left side of their offensive line in the lineup are looking pretty good.

Left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele were both full participants in practice on Wednesday, which should have them on track to get on the field Sunday barring any setbacks in the next couple of days. Monroe has missed four games after having arthroscopic knee surgery and said he’s feeling healthy after his full return to work.

“Yeah, it gets frustrating after a while being in a training room every day,” Monroe said, via the Baltimore Sun. “Missing out on games, man, that was really the first stretch of my career where I was out for consecutive weeks. It was different, but it was needed. I needed to get healthy, and now that’s happened. I’m just glad to be back out there. I feel real good about it.”

Neither player was missed all that much the last two weeks as the Ravens outscored the Bucs and Falcons 77-24 in a pair of easy victories, but their return will be welcomed with a trip to Pittsburgh coming up a week after the Ravens visit Cincinnati.

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Andre Johnson rides to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s defense

Houston Texans v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

When Texans receiver Andre Johnson was staying away this offseason, amid reports he was disturbed about the team’s rebuilding phase, it was natural to assume he wasn’t happy with the quarterback, or lack thereof.

But even as coach Bill O’Brien said Ryan Fitzpatrick made some bad reads and missed Johnson for some big gains recently, the veteran receiver came to the defense of the journeyman quarterback.

“When you don’t win, everybody needs to look at themselves and see what they can do better,” Johnson said, via Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle. “We all need to pick our play up, fix the mistakes we’re making and do what we need to do to win. You can’t dwell on one person or one guy. Head coaches and quarterbacks are going to get the bulk of the criticism because of the positions they’re in.”

Johnson said if anything, “better communication” would fix the problems between himself and his quarterback.

“He has a tough job, a lot to think about on every play,” Johnson said. “You just have to communicate with him, let him know what you’re seeing, stuff like that. Everybody makes mistakes. I make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect.”

Of course, if Johnson really wanted more open lines of communication with Fitzpatrick, he had an offseason full of chances to build them, but he declined.

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After being sent home, Revis returned to facility to apologize to Belichick

Revis AP

In New England, the best way to get a day off is to show up late.

But it’s still not regarded as a good thing when Patriots coach Bill Belichick sends a player home for being tardy. After that happened on Tuesday to cornerback Darrelle Revis, Revis was sufficiently contrite that he later returned to the facility to personally apologize to Belichick, via Tom Curran of CSN New England.

Revis reportedly overslept. And Belichick has a history of telling guys who fail to arrive on time to take the day off.

Curran also reports that John Geiger, who serves as the cornerback’s business manager, deleted at the request of Revis tweets that criticized the initial report from Ben Volin of the Boston Globe.

There’s no reason to believe that Revis will face any further discipline, especially as the Patriots prepare to face a Bears team that has several talented pass catchers.

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Anthony Dixon gets first crack, but expects timeshare with Bryce Brown

Anthony Dixon AP

The Bills lost their top two running backs to injury last Sunday, leaving Anthony Dixon to carry the load on the ground against the Vikings.

Dixon was the first back up at Wednesday’s practice and all indications are that he will be in the same position when the Bills meet the Jets this Sunday. Dixon doesn’t think that means he’s going to be a workhorse, however. Bryce Brown is expected to be active for the first time since Buffalo traded a fourth-round pick for him and the team is expected to see what he can do as well.

“Me and Bryce are going to do it together as a combination,” Dixon said, via the Buffalo News. “That’s pretty much how we’re going to get it done. We’re going to compete this week and see who’s got a feel for the plays that [offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett] wants to run, and then on Sunday, we’re going to go with it.”

Dixon said that he wants to “be a hammer” when he gets the ball, which should cast Brown into the home run hitter role that C.J. Spiller was trying to fill before he broke his clavicle. The Jets aren’t the most forgiving defense for their first foray into a shared backfield, but, on paper, the complementary relationship looks like one that shouldn’t lead to too big a change in Buffalo’s offensive approach.

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Kessler and Ginsberg plan to interrogate Goodell

Goodell Getty Images

Roger Goodell’s bad Wednesday has extended into Thursday.

Last night, the appeal officer jointly selected by the NFL and the NFL Players Association to handle the Ray Rice appeal hearing determined that the Commissioner will be required to testify. PFT later learned that there are no pre-set limits on the questioning, and that the interrogator will be longtime NFL nemesis Jeffrey Kessler.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, more recent NFL nemesis Peter Ginsberg also intends to question Goodell.

Ginsberg, who was retained directly by Rice, has handled several cases in recent years against the NFL, including the StarCaps litigation that delayed for many months the suspensions of former Vikings defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams. Ginsberg also represented former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma in the bounty case, which ultimately resulted in former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturning all player suspensions — including Vilma’s one-year banishment from the sport.

Ginsberg’s intent to interrogate Goodell doesn’t mean it will be open season on the Commissioner, with Kessler and Ginsberg flailing away at the witness like a WWE tag-team wrestling combo. The NFL’s lawyers will be protecting Goodell with the right to object to any and all questions, and former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones surely won’t allow the witness to be asked the same questions repeatedly or to be badgered by either or both lawyers.

Regardless, the challenge gets a little more challenging if Goodell has to answer questions from both Kessler and Ginsberg.

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Jeremy Kerley goes Oprah: You get a Bentley, and you get a Bentley, …

Chicago Bears v New York Jets Getty Images

Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley just came into a windfall, and he was ready to share the wealth yesterday.

“Yeah, man, I’m going to buy Bentleys for everybody,” Kerley said, via Darryl Slater of NJ.com.

He was kidding, we think. But just in case, I prefer black.

Kerley should be feeling good, however, after signing a four-year deal worth up to $16 million, with $5.4 million guaranteed. Considering his stats in recent years, that’s a pretty good deal comparable to other slot receivers in recent free agency periods.

He said he was happy to get a deal done before needing to hit free agency, as his rookie contract expired this year.

“It feels good,” he said. “It was just good for me and my family, so we got that out of the way. Now it’s just time to go play. It’s been back and forth (on contract negotiations with the Jets) for a little while, but I’m glad that it got done at the time that it got done. It feels good to be here for hopefully another four years. . . .

“I thought that this is a place I call home. I’ve been feeling good since I’ve been here. I didn’t really think about free agency. That’s just how I felt.”

And when all his teammates find their new rides in the parking lot, they’ll feel pretty good about him staying too.

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Ike Taylor returns to practice

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

It’s been a little more than a month since Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor broke his forearm in a collision with teammate Lawrence Timmons and it appears things have been healing well since then.

Taylor was back on the practice field Wednesday for the first time since getting injured. Taylor was only doing individual drills and said he was a “mutant” when asked if he was recovering ahead of the 6-8 week timeline originally laid down. Even if he’s eligible for membership in the X-Men, Taylor won’t be playing in a game until doctors say his surgically repaired arm is up for the task.

“There’s no timetable. It’s all on the bone, and as soon as the doctors feel it’s strong enough, they’ll give me the OK,” Taylor said, via USA Today. “When the doctor says the bone is good enough for me to go back out there and play, then, we’re going to roll with it.”

Linebacker Ryan Shazier, who was injured in the same game as Taylor, may return to the lineup this weekend and linebacker Jarvis Jones is eligible to play on November 30 against the Saints. They should have a defense pretty close to full strength for the stretch run, although being shorthanded against the Colts and Ravens the next two weeks may leave them with a diminished position when that stretch run gets underway.

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