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PFT's Week Five picks

For the second straight week, I held a one-game lead over Rosenthal entering the Monday night game.

And, for the second straight week, Rosenthal got the Monday night game right and I got it wrong, forcing a tie.

We both finished 9-5 in the first 14-game weekend.  Rosenthal won Week One and Week Two; in Week Three and Week Four, we tied.

Overall, Rosenthal is 43-19.  I’m two games back, at 41-21.

For this week’s picks and explanations, read on.


Jaguars at Bills

Florio’s take:  The Bills are bad, but in this season of parity they’re not bad enough to lose all 16.  Even with former Bills quarterback Trent Edwards feeding the Jags with the Buffalo state secrets, Jacksonville is prime for a letdown after unexpectedly toppling the Colts.  

Florio’s pick:  Bills 20, Jags 19.

Rosenthal’s take: The Bills have no chance to move the ball against superior defenses.  The Jaguars do not have a superior defense.  In fact, the Jaguars’ secondary is one of the few groups in the league struggling as much as Buffalo during their transition to the 3-4 defense.  The Bills aren’t going 0-16, and this looks like one of their most winnable games of the year.  Bad David Garrard shows up this week.

Rosenthal’s pick:  Bills 23, Jaguars 21.

Broncos at Ravens

Florio’s take:  The Broncos pulled off an unlikely road win against a one-loss team on Sunday, but the Ravens has a few more horses than the Titans.  Despite Baltimore’s so-so secondary, Denver quarterback Kyle Orton won’t have time to find an open receiver if he’s being chased and/or pummeled by the Ravens’ front seven.  Meanwhile, the Baltimore offense finally is emerging from its vegetative state, with Joe Flacco looking more like Joe Flacco and less like Stoney Case.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 24, Broncos 10.

Rosenthal’s take: The Ravens and Broncos both have the records you’d expect, but they’ve arrived there in surprising ways.  Kyle Orton and his band of hodgepodge receivers are racking up passing yards like the ’99 Rams.  Baltimore’s secondary has played great, but their run defense has been soft.  Luckily, the Broncos don’t try to run.  When they do, it doesn’t work.  Denver is a tough out, but asking for back-to-back wins in Tennessee and Baltimore is asking too much.  

Rosenthal’s pick: Ravens 28, Broncos 24.

Chiefs at Colts

Florio’s take:  Scratch a little at the word “Chiefs” and a faint “Patriots” emerges, with the presence of Scott Pioli, Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, Mike Vrabel, and Matt Cassel making this one a kinda-sorta renewal of one of the most compelling inter-division rivalries of the past decade.  The Chiefs have nothing to lose, and the Colts have no easy answers for their lackluster start.  It adds up to an upset.  In a PFTV video previewing what we regard to be the game of the week, I picked the Colts, but I left a little wiggle room.  I’m tempted to pick the Chiefs here, primarily because a win over the defending AFC champs would make this Chiefs team even more compelling.  (Besides, what’s the point of having wiggle room if you don’t, you know, wiggle?)  I’ll stick the home team, but I’ll gladly accept the “L” if I’m wrong.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 24, Chiefs 20.

Rosenthal’s take:  Chiefs fans are making too much out of this game.  It’s not a litmus test for the rest of the season.  It’s Week Five. There aren’t many teams that could go into Lucas Oil Stadium and win against an angry Peyton Manning.  I’m most interested to see how Kansas City’s young secondary holds up.  They have potential to carry this team, because Matt Cassel isn’t going to.  A mismatch in special teams should keep the Chiefs close, but they will only get a moral victory here.

Rosenthal’s pick:  Colts 27, Chiefs 21.

Packers at Redskins

Florio’s take:  But for a fast start against the Eagles from quarterback Donovan McNabb, in no doubt fueled by the enthusiastic response that Philly fans gave to a guy about whom they had been ambivalent at best, the Redskins would be 1-3.  Though the Packers have yet to develop a killer instinct, they suddenly feel the hot, stinky breath of the Vikings on their necks — and so the Packers can’t afford to lose games that they easily should win.  

Florio’s pick:  Packers 31, Redskins 21.

Rosenthal’s take: No one knows how good the Packers are because they’ve faced one of the easiest schedules in the league.  No one knows how good the Redskins are because a wildly different team shows up every week.  I know this much:  The Redskins aren’t worse off with Ryan Torain starting at running back, but the Packers are much worse off without Nick Barnett at linebacker.  Washington doesn’t have the passing attack to take advantage, though.

Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 27, Redskins 20.

Rams at Lions

Florio’s take:  Last year, the Rams’ only win of the season came against the Lions, who eventually won only two.  This year, both teams are better, even though the Lions are 0-4.  In fact, the Lions are good enough to win, even though the Rams are good enough to win the NFC West.

Florio’s prediction:  Lions 20, Rams 16.

Rosenthal’s take:  Due to a forgiving schedule and a surprising pass rush from James Hall and Chris Long, the Rams defense has been impressive this year.  They haven’t allowed more than 17 points yet.  The Lions offense has played well with Shaun Hill, which makes you wonder what they’ll do with Matthew Stafford.  Detroit has lost three games by one score and played three games on the road. Like Cleveland last week, they are overdue for a victory.

Rosenthal’s pick:  Lions 21, Rams 14.

Bears at Panthers

Florio’s take:  A loss would send the Panthers to 0-5 at their bye, putting coach John Fox at risk of possible termination.  Last week, Carolina showed progress against the Saints, and the Panthers have a blueprint for turning the Jay Cutler (or, as it turns out, Todd Collins) black and blue, courtesy of Big Blue.  The correction for Chicago continues, and Carolina gets in the win column by sticking it former Panther and Tar Heel Julius Peppers.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 14, Bears 12.

Rosenthal’s take:  A lot of fun questions can be answered here.  What does the worst passing attack in football look like after Carolina loses Steve Smith?  How many forward passes will John Fox call with a rookie quarterback and three rookie wide receivers?   Would you rather have a wobbly Jay Cutler (or, as it turns out, Todd Collins) or a healthy Jimmy Clausen?  I’ll take Cutler (or, as it turns out, Todd Collins), especially since the Bears rush defense can stop Carolina’s one strength.

Rosenthal’s pick:  Bears 17, Panthers 10.

Buccaneers at Bengals

Florio’s take:  The Bucs beat the Browns and the Browns beat the Bengals so the Bucs should beat the Bengals, right?  Even though Tampa has had the benefit of the bye week, the Bengals are a better team at home than on the road and the Bucs are still learning how to become a good team anywhere.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 21, Buccaneers 13.

Rosenthal’s take:  When the Bengals win, they don’t seem happy.  When they lose, Carson Palmer keeps his fantasy owners happy.  It’s a wobbly team [editor’s note:  Rosenthal uses “wobbly” almost as much as Steve Young uses “leaking oil”], which makes this a huge game for Cincinnati.  Despite all the offensive concerns, they can enter their bye week at 3-2, and then re-group.  In the end, the veteran Bengals defense should be the best unit in this game.

Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 17, Bucs 14.

Falcons at Browns

Florio’s take:  The Browns have been competitive in every game, and they’re riding the momentum of a big win over the Bengals.  The Falcons struggle

d with the 49ers last week, one game after stealing a win from the Saints.  These two teams are more evenly matched than their records suggest; as a result, I’m giving the edge to the home team.

Florio’s pick:  Browns 17, Falcons 16.

Rosenthal’s take:  Falcons coach Mike Smith raised a good point this week.  His team could be 1-3 just as easily as 3-1 after Garrett Hartley’s gaffe and Nate Clements’ fumble.  The Browns are similarly incapable of playing in a blowout.  These two teams have played eight games this year, with seven decided by an average of three points.  Jake Delhomme’s likely return breaks the tie.

Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 23, Browns 21.

Giants at Texans

Florio’s take:  The Giants played well with their backs against the wall, and now that their backs are a little bit off the wall, the Giants can dial up another lackluster effort.  The Texans, though not dominant, have been solid, and they can sense that a playoff appearance could be coming.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 24, Giants 20.

Rosenthal’s take:  Outside of the embarrassment in Indianapolis, the Giants defense has shown steady improvement this year.  Of course, that game against the Colts was their only road test yet.  Houston’s wideouts are banged-up, but the offensive line is coming off its best performance of the year.  They won’t let Matt Schaub get assaulted like Jay Cutler was last week.

Rosenthal’s pick:  Texans 28, Giants 17.

Saints at Cardinals

Florio’s take:  The current Drew Brees meets up with the guy who eventually could be the next Drew Brees, Cardinals rookie Max Hall.  But Hall gets a tough draw in his first start, and it will likely be a long day for the 2008 NFC champs when the 2009 NFC champs come to town.  The only question is whether the Saints can display some of the same dominance from 2009, or whether they’ll continue to eke out narrow wins.  For one week at least, I envision dominance.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 34, Cardinals 13.

Rosenthal’s take: The Cardinals are the most depressed 2-2 team in the land because they’ve played worse than some 0-4 squads.  Derek Anderson has taken all the heat, but the offensive line is in shambles, there’s no running game, Larry Fitzgerald is hurt, Joey Porter looks his age, Darnell Dockett has been inconsistent, and they don’t have a second cornerback.  Other than that, they look great.

Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 28, Cardinals 14.

Titans at Cowboys

Florio’s take:  Two weeks after beating the team that currently plays in Houston, the Cowboys host the team that used to play in Houston.  With a bye week to prepare and the Titans simply not as good as initially believed, the Cowboys will welcome the Titans back to the Lone Star State with a Texas-sized butt whipping.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 35, Titans 17.

Rosenthal’s take:  I picked both these teams to win their division in the PFT Season Preview.  One of them will fall into a major hole after this game.  Tennessee may be getting called dirty, but where’s the toughness on offense?  Their run-blocking has been abysmal.  Chris Johnson is often breaking two tackles to get back to the line of scrimmage.  The Titans need to air it out more, especially to Kenny Britt.  The Cowboys are a tough defense to play when you are searching for answers.

Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 23, Titans 17. 

Chargers at Raiders

Florio’s take:  The Chargers are continuing to dig out of their funk, just as the Raiders are settling in to theirs.  The only question about this one is whether it will be the last one of Tom Cable’s career.  

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 35, Raiders 19.

Rosenthal’s take: Where did all that offseason optimism about the Raiders go?  This looks like the same old team.  The defense was supposed to carry the day, but they’ve been among the league’s worst.  Bruce Gradkowski has improved the passing attack, but the offensive line still struggles.  This is a game Oakland desperately needs to stay relevant, and they usually play the Chargers tough at home.  They also usually find a way to lose.  Mike Tolbert Fever: Catch it!

Rosenthal’s pick:  Chargers 24, Raiders 20.

Eagles at 49ers

Florio’s take:  Though 0-4, the 49ers remain in contention to win the NFC West, especially since the three teams in front of them are 2-2 each.  The 2-2 Eagles enter the game without the NFC’s offensive player of the month for September, and there are real concerns that quarterback Kevin Kolb won’t be able to perform as well as he can, given the problems with the team’s offensive line.  With a national audience, an increasingly restless home crowd, and the ability to put together a string of four wins before their bye (the next opponents are the Raiders, Panthers, and Broncos), the 49ers have every incentive to put together a powerful performance.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 28, Eagles 22.

Rosenthal’s take: How little respect is there for Kevin Kolb nationwide?  The winless 49ers are favored in this game by 3.5.  With Oakland and Carolina on the schedule next, San Francisco has a real opportunity to turn their season around. There’s just very little reason to believe they’ll do so.  I’m taking the Eagles, if only for organizational superiority.  They are a team that finds ways to win over the years, while Mike Singletary’s squad searches for new and painful ways to lose each week.

Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 24, 49ers 21.

Vikings at Jets

Florio’s take:  Suddenly, the Monday night game at the New Meadowlands Stadium becomes as compelling as the Thursday night season opener.  The Jets have won three in a row since losing on their home field to open the season, and the Vikings are desperately trying to keep pace with the Packers and the Bears.  The Jets are 7-1 against the Vikings; even with Randy Moss, win No. 2 isn’t likely to come on Monday night.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 23, Vikings 21.

Rosenthal’s take:  Randy Moss can’t pass protect.  He can’t make Brett Favre turn back the clock a year, and Moss definitely can’t re-arrange a challenging schedule that even the ’09 Vikings would struggle to win 11 games against.  The Jets have lived up to the hype so far. The offense is playing better than the defense.  Don’t expect that to continue with Calvin Pace and Darrelle Revis likely returning Monday night.

Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 20, Vikings 13.

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NFL tempts fate with inability to handle scandals properly

NFL AP

Over the years, the NFL’s Commissioner has navigated plenty of difficult situations that could have tested the tenuous balance between the Commissioner’s role as the overseer of the sport and his job as employee of the owners of the teams he oversees. Through it all, an inherent conflict of interest has existed, hiding in plain sight and generating scant scrutiny or concern: How can the Commissioner be expected to police the very people for whom he works?

It’s an obscure, nuanced question, causing few to notice the dilemma faced by the master who is also a servant. And while in most past cases the Commissioner has found a way to solve problems without making conspicuous the delicate ground on which he often treads, the recent bungling of cases like the Ray Rice fiasco and #DeflateGate eventually will cause someone with real political power to notice the fundamental flaw in the structure of the league — and to suggest a solution that would entail a greater degree of independence for the Commissioner.

For the NFL (and other pro sports), a truly independent governing body would be the only way to reliably ensure that all problems would be handled consistently and all franchises treated fairly, without regard to friendship or influence or other factors that could cause a Commissioner to exercise discretion in a way that protects and/or advances the Commissioner’s relationship with a given owner. As it now stands, the NFL (and other pro sports) have a Commissioner who at times pretends to be the representative of all interested constituencies when, in reality, he’s the guy working for the folks who own the teams.

While an election process for Commissioner, with owners, players, coaches, and maybe others voting on the person who would rule the sport, would create plenty of challenges, a broadening of the pool of people who pick the Commissioner would help to alleviate the obvious problem faced by someone who is expected to impose discipline against someone who has a direct, 1/32nd voice in the compensation and/or ongoing employment of the Commissioner. The far bigger wildcard for the NFL (and other pro sports) would arise from a decision by Congress to create an office or a board responsible for supervising the sport, enforcing the rules, and punishing those who cheat.

Before the “doesn’t Congress have anything better to do?” crowd gets too cranked up, the ongoing growth of the NFL — coupled with the benefits it receives from federal legislation that makes the league office a non-profit operation and that exempts the NFL from antitrust laws when it comes to the marketing of TV rights — could eventually compel action, if the NFL can’t properly govern itself. In recent months, the league has undermined considerably public confidence in its ability to clean up its own messes. At some point, a politician will suggest that someone else should police the sport.

While still an incredibly unlikely outcome, the league’s mishandling of recent crises at least puts the potential debate in a corner of the radar. More mistakes could move the subject closer to the center of the screen.

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Goodell says NFL is still looking at changing extra points

probowlgoalposts AP

After another season in which more than 99 percent of extra points were successful, the NFL is looking at ways to make it harder.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said today that he wants to continue exploring ways to make extra points more exciting.

“Fans want every play to have suspense,” Goodell said. “But the extra point has become virtually automatic. We have experimented with alternatives to make it a more competitive play, and we expect to advance these ideas through the Competition Committee this offseason.”

Extra points were made harder at the Pro Bowl by moving them farther back from the goal posts, and by making the goal posts four feet narrower. The game’s kickers didn’t like that change, but it did make extra points more interesting.

But is the league ready to take such a step in the regular season? And has the league fully considered the effect that narrower goal posts would have on field goals? It’s clear that Goodell would like to see extra points become more interesting, but it’s unclear whether the NFL has found the right change to make.

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Las Vegas sports book takes “seven-figure wager” on Patriots

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You may very well like the Patriots to win Super Bowl XLIX.

But you probably aren’t quite as confident as the bettor who placed an absolutely gigantic wager on New England at an MGM Resorts International sports book in Nevada.

According to Micah Roberts of “The Linemakers” of Sporting News, MGM took a “seven-figure wager” on the Patriots over the Seahawks in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Jay Rood, the vice president of race and sports at MGM, told PFT the bet was a wager on New England at pick ‘em.

MGM did not receive a single million-dollar bet on last year’s Super Bowl, Rood said.

The Patriots are one-point favorites over Seattle at numerous Nevada sports books, including MGM’s properties, which include The Mirage and Bellagio.

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Eric Winston apologizes for his shot at Roger Goodell

Seattle Seahawks v Denver Broncos Getty Images

NFL Players Association President Eric Winston took a shot at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell today, but it didn’t take Winston long to back down.

Shortly after Winston told Tom Curran of CSNNE.com that a 2-year-old could do Goodell’s job, Winston issued an apology.

“In a casual conversation with a reporter about the success of the NFL and how nothing seems to get in its way, I inappropriately and flippantly made a remark about the job of Commissioner Goodell,” Winston said in a statement passed along to PFT. “We often disagree on the issues but I want to apologize to Roger for being unprofessional. I am disappointed that my comment was taken out of context and inserted into a column without any knowledge that the conversation was ‘on-the-record.’ I am disappointed that this reporter chose to burn me, but this is an important lesson that I will learn going forward. This is my fault and again, I apologize.”

If Winston didn’t realize that his conversation with Curran was on the record, that’s Winston’s problem, not Curran’s. When a journalist talks to a source, the conversation is presumed on the record unless both parties explicitly agree that it’s off the record. If Winston didn’t want his comments published, he shouldn’t have said anything unless and until he and Curran agreed to keep their conversation off the record. For Winston to complain that Curran “chose to burn me” doesn’t hold much water. Curran asked a question to a source and then published the source’s answer. That’s what reporters do.

The NFLPA walks a fine line when dealing with Goodell: The league is often heavy-handed in its dealings with the players, and when that happens the players need to push back against Goodell. But antagonizing Goodell can be counterproductive for the union. Winston seems to realize that he burned himself with his comments.

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Kam Chancellor added to last injury report of the year

NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks Team Media Availability Getty Images

The final injury report of the season is out, and it’s not a dramatic one.

Which, of course, is part of the reason these two teams are here.

The only real change on the report Friday is that Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor was listed as a limited participant in practice today with a knee injury, after not previously appearing on the report.

But he’s listed as probable for Sunday’s game, as are five other teammates: Tackle Justin Britt (knee), running back Marshawn Lynch (back), cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow), guard J.R. Sweezy (ankle) and safety Earl Thomas (shoulder).

The Patriots list is slightly longer, but doesn’t contain anything major.

Center Bryan Stork, who has been limited in practice this week with a knee injury, is listed as questionable.

Six other Patriots are listed as probable for the game: Linebacker Akeem Ayers (knee), quarterback Tom Brady (ankle), linebacker Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), defensive tackle Chris Jones (elbow), cornerback Darrelle Revis (not injury related) and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga (foot).

Brady’s on the report as he often is, but has been listed as a full participant in practice all week.

The lack of news on the injury report is good news, as the two best teams in the league get to see each other near their best.

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Carroll, Belichick disagree on whether the Super Bowl is “fun”

carrollbelichick AP

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Patriots coach Bill Belichick showed mutual respect at their joint press conference this morning, but they also showed what different men they are. That was true from the very beginning, when Carroll enthused at the start of the press conference about how much fun he was having, and then Belichick offered that he wouldn’t describe this week as “fun.”

“It’s been nothing but fun,” Carroll said. “The opportunity that presents itself playing in this game is so special and so unique. Everybody is tuned in and we’re grateful for being here. Thrilled to have the matchup that we have with a great organization in Bill and New England.”

Belichick replied: “I don’t think fun is the word that I’d use. It’s been a huge challenge. It’s a tough team to prepare for, but I certainly have all the respect in the world for them. I could see why they were champions last year and why they are here again this year. They do so many things well on so many levels and we’re going to have to try to match that performance on Sunday. With that being said, our team’s excited. They’ve worked very hard to get to this point.”

Carroll and Belichick are fundamentally different coaches who have shown that there’s more than one way to win. Belichick’s mantra is “Do your job,” and he regularly reminds his players that it is, in fact, a job. Carroll wins by reminding his players that they get to play a game for a living, and embracing the fact that football is fun.

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Titans part ways with Lake Dawson

Tennessee Titans v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

The Titans have made a significant shakeup in their front office.

Tennessee has “parted ways” with vice president of player personnel Lake Dawson, the team said Friday afternoon.

The departure of Dawson is something of a surprise. A former NFL wide receiver, Dawson had spent the last eight seasons with Tennessee. He interviewed for the Bears’ G.M. role in January and also talked with the Dolphins and Buccaneers about their G.M. positions last year.

The club also announced it was changing its front office setup. Director of college scouting Blake Beddingfield and pro scouting coordinator Brian Gardner will now work directly under General Manager Ruston Webster. Previously, Dawson oversaw the pro and college scouting operations.

“This was not an easy decision and I want to thank Lake for his time with the team,” Webster said in a team-issued statement Friday. “This new structure will help us streamline things from both the college and pro perspectives. We will move forward without a VP of Player Personnel and the college and pro sides will report directly to me.”

The Titans finished 2-14 in 2014, the franchise’s worst record since 1983. Tennessee has not made the postseason since 2008, and it has not won a playoff game since 2003.

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Prop Challenge, Day VIII — Over-Under on Russell Wilson’s rushing yards: 41.5

Russell Wilson AP

Welcome to PFT’s Prop Challenge, our daily look at a Super Bowl proposition bet.

Here’s the idea: we present a prop, do some light analysis, then let you decide which side to take — hypothetically, of course. (Previous examples are at the bottom of this post.)

When the Super Bowl wraps up, we’ll tally the votes and see how well PFT Planet did.

Now, let’s get to today’s prop, which is courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook:

Over-Under on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s rushing yards: 41.5.

Over: -110. Under: -110.

Including the playoffs, Wilson has averaged 49.8 rushing yards in his 18 starts.

So the OVER looks good, right?

Well, maybe not.

Take Wilson’s three 100-yard rushing games out of the equation, and the third-year quarterback has averaged just 37.4 yards in his other appearances. Also, in the postseason, Wilson has gained just 47 total rushing yards on 14 attempts.

Overall, Wilson has exceeded 41.5 rushing yards in just 7-of-18 games.

In short, OVER and UNDER players have some data in their favor.

So pick a side — OVER or UNDER 41.5 rushing yards for Russell Wilson. Vote in the poll, and share your thoughts in the comments. We’ll be back tomorrow with our penultimate prop.

Previous props studied:

Day I: Over-Under on Brandon LaFell’s receiving yards.

Day II: Over-Under on Doug Baldwin’s catches.

Day III: Will Rob Gronkowski score a touchdown?

Day IV: Will there be a one-yard TD in the Super Bowl?

Day V: Over-Under on Tim Wright’s receiving yards.

Day VI: Over-Under on LeGarrette Blount’s carries.

Day VII: Will there be a safety in the Super Bowl?

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NFLPA president Eric Winston takes a shot at Roger Goodell

Super Bowl Football AP

Apparently, not everyone was moved by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s press conference.

And the president of the NFL Players Association was quick to take a shot at management.

Hey, even the worst bartender at Spring Break does pretty well,” Winston said, via Tom Curran of CSNNE. “Think about it, a 2-year-old could [be NFL Commissioner] and still make money.”

So, tell us how you really feel, Eric.

Goodell admitted that the last year had been a difficult one for him, and was asked Friday during the press conference if he ever considered resigning or whether he deserved a pay cut.

Not surprisingly, he didn’t volunteer for either. Apparently that new bottle opener isn’t going to pay for itself.

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Packers fire special teams coach Shawn Slocum

Green Bay Packers 2011 Headshots Getty Images

The Packers gave up a touchdown on a fake field goal and saw the Seahawks recover a key onside kick during their NFC Championship game loss nearly two weeks ago and special teams coach Shawn Slocum gave up his job on Friday.

There was some talk that a change could be made following the loss and the team released an announcement on Friday afternoon that Slocum has been released. He’d been on the staff since Mike McCarthy became the head coach in 2006.

“I would like to thank Shawn for all of his contributions over the past nine years,” McCarthy said in a statement. “He was a positive contributor to our success, including helping us win Super Bowl XLV. We wish Shawn, Michelle and their family the best moving forward.”

The Packers hired former Florida and Illinois coach Ron Zook as an assistant special teams coach before the 2014 season, but there’s been no announcement about whether he’ll be elevated to replace Slocum.

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Chris Harris optimistic on Manning’s return, has faith in Osweiler

Denver Broncos practice at Dove Valley in Englewood, CO. Getty Images

During his appearance on Friday’s PFT Live, Broncos cornerback Chris Harris expressed optimism Peyton Manning would return in 2015, noting the lousy taste the divisional-round loss to former team Indianapolis had to leave with the future Hall of Fame quarterback.

“I believe he’s coming back,” Harris said. “I think nobody wants to go out losing to their former team and the new quarterback that replaced you. I don’t think Peyton wants to go like that at all, so I think he’ll definitely come back.”

Teammate Demaryius Thomas, an earlier guest on Friday’s PFT Live, was more hopeful than certain on Manning’s return.

“I think he will,” Thomas said of Manning playing in 2015.

But Thomas added this: “I say that because I want him back, but I really don’t know.”

If Manning does step aside, it could open the door for backup Brock Osweiler to take the job. A three-season understudy to Manning, Osweiler has thrown just 30 NFL regular season passes.

Both Thomas and Harris believe Osweiler is capable of stepping in if needed.

Said Thomas: “I got all the faith in Brock Osweiler. He’s been around Peyton for three years now. He’s grown every year he’s been there.”

Thomas, for his part, told PFT’s Mike Florio that he would have no qualms returning to Denver if Osweiler, not Manning, were the starter. Thomas is slated to be an unrestricted free agent in March and figures to draw significant interest.

Harris, meanwhile, said he had “a lot of confidence” in Osweiler, a 6-8, 240-pound Arizona State product.

“He’s kind of like a young Joe Flacco,” Harris said of Osweiler. “He has that arm. I think him and (Broncos head coach Gary) Kubiak, I think they’re going to fit perfect together. With the way he ran the offense with the Ravens with Joe Flacco, I see Brock as a similar quarterback.”

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Roger Goodell sounded less optimistic about playoff expansion Friday

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At his pre-Super Bowl press conference last year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that he thought there were a lot of benefits to expanding the postseason.

Among the benefits he cited were a “more competitive” league with better matchups as the regular season nears its conclusion and “more excitement” for the league’s fans. Talks about adding two teams to the postseason never came to a vote with the owners last spring and there was debate about the need to involve the NFLPA, but Goodell continued to sound optimistic about it when it came up in 2014.

He didn’t sound so optimistic about it during Friday’s pre-Super Bowl press conference.

“The possibility of expanding the playoffs has been a topic over the last couple of years,” Goodell said. “There are positives to it, but there are concerns as well, among them being the risk of diluting our regular season and conflicting with college football in January.”

The latter concern wasn’t aired last year and the better matchups that Goodell mentioned would seem to run counter to the risk of diluting the regular season, so it seems significant that they were specified while the positives were left undiscussed. Owners like John Mara of the Giants and Art Rooney II have come down against the idea since it was broached last year and Goodell’s tone may suggest he’s heard likewise from other owners heading into this offseason.

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Rainy day in Arizona forces Seahawks indoors for practice

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The host committee has clearly gone overboard making the Seahawks feel at home, dialing up a cloudy, rainy day in Phoenix.

As a result, the team that ought be to used to it is going inside.

Via Peter King of Sports Illustrated, who is serving as the pool reporter this week, the Seahawks will be using the practice bubble at Arizona State for today’s practice.

There’s a chance of more rain tomorrow, but the forecast looks clear for Sunday. With a retractable roof on University of Phoenix Stadium, the conditions can be controlled for the game, and the Seahawks elected not to soak themselves today.

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Greg Jennings: Not having Adrian Peterson had a great impact

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Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings doesn’t have any more information than anyone else about whether running back Adrian Peterson will be back with the team for the 2015 season, but he doesn’t have much doubt that the team wants him back.

During an appearance with Mike Florio on PFT Live Friday, Jennings said that he thinks everybody from the front office down would be eager to welcome Peterson back to the team. That’s not too surprising, since he also thinks that not having Peterson in 2014 was a blow to the offense.

“It had a great deal of impact. Obviously when you’re talking about a guy like Adrian who any one of the other 31 teams would love to have as their running back, he changes the course of every game. … Not having him definitely impacted what we were able to do offensively,” Jennings said.

If Peterson does return, Jennings thinks he’ll find a coach in Mike Zimmer that has instilled the right culture for the organization and a quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater who impressed Jennings with his poise and maturity as the season progressed.

To find out what else Jennings shared during his visit to the show, check out the video of his entire visit.

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San Diego mayor creates stadium task force, including Jim Steeg

Kansas City Chiefs v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

While Roger Goodell was talking about the potential for the Rams to move to Los Angeles, another possible suitor was talking about plans to stay put.

Via David Garrick of U-T San Diego, mayor  Kevin Faulconer announced a nine-member task force to create a proposal for a new Chargers stadium.

The group includes longtime NFL executive Jim Steeg, who worked for the Chargers for five years, but left in 2010. Steeg spent 26 years working for the league prior to that stint.

The group also includes local business leaders, but having Steeg on board will provide the kind of insight into league business they need, if they’re going to find a viable way to keep the Chargers for looking elsewhere.

But NFL commissioner Roger Goodell urged Faulconer to get moving during his press conference Friday.

“I’m glad to hear he’s got a task force going,” Goodell said. “But they’ve been working at this for 12 years, and it’s something we need to see tangible results sooner rather than later.”

That’s a fairly broad swipe at the city, which hasn’t been able to come up with a deal to upgrade one of the worst stadiums in the league.

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