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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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Antrel Rolle: Losing virginity helping Prince Amukamara on the field

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Over the years, some have espoused the belief that athletes shouldn’t have sex in the days before competition because it will sap them of strength that they will need on the field.

Giants safety Antrel Rolle doesn’t seem to be a believer in that notion. Rolle was asked about cornerback Prince Amukamara’s strong start (two interceptions and 25 tackles thus far) to the season and said that he thinks Amukamara’s offseason marriage is the reason for his improved play. Amukamara is a devout Christian who said he abstained from sex before marriage — perhaps his teammates were just doing a variation on the cold shower when they dumped Amukamara in an ice-filled tub a couple of years ago — and Rolle believes the change in the bedroom has carried over to the field.

“There are a lot of things different about Prince. For one, he’s married, so he’s [enjoying some things that he wasn't experiencing before he's married]. For a man, that could definitely help him out. For a man … I’m just being honest … it’s helping him out. He walks around with a little more swagger, which is something that we need, which is something that we love,” Rolle said, via NJ.com.

If Tim Tebow still harbors any hope of an NFL career, it might be time to dust off his former touchdown celebration and put a ring on it.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin has also pointed out the improvement in Amukamara’s play, although he unsurprisingly failed to join Rolle in attributing it to Amukamara’s embrace of carnal knowledge. There’s a pretty good chance that Amukamara’s play has improved because he’s more experienced on the field and because the Giants have improved the cornerback group as a whole, but that’s not nearly as interesting a rationale for the upturn in play from the fourth-year cornerback.

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Former Bears G.M. regrets trading Greg Olsen

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The Bears don’t lack for weapons in the passing game now, but they could have had even more.

The Panthers are thankful they don’t.

Former Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo admitted that trading Greg Olsen to the Panthers in 2011 was a mistake, during a conversation with the Kap and Haugh Show on 87.7 FM The Game.

Olsen wasn’t a fit for what then-coach Mike Martz wanted to do, but has developed into one of the most reliable pass-catchers in the league.

It was a mistake to trade him,” Angelo said, via CSNChicago.co, “I understand he wasn’t the ideal fit in the scheme, but we let our best receiver go. Obviously, it was [Jay] Cutler’s favorite receiver at the time, and we let him out the door.

“That’s on me. I understand what the coaches were saying, but you don’t let your best player — one of your better players — out the door. Everything he’s doing hasn’t surprised me. He’s an excellent player, particularly in the passing game. He’s Newton’s favorite target. I’m happy for Greg; he’s not only a great player, but a great kid. Like Matt Forte, [he has] an insatiable work ethic.”

Olsen’s tied for the team lead in catches for the Panthers this season, giving them a proven option alongside rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin and a bunch of question marks.

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Kaepernick, Smith get together again

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A storyline that should be getting far more hype as Week Five approaches (and I’ll do my best to hype it up right now) will unfold in San Frantaclara, where the 49ers will host the Chiefs.  It marks the first reunion between the 49ers and the first overall pick in the 2005 draft, quarterback Alex Smith.

Smith made it through eight seasons with the 49ers, despite a revolving door of coaches and offensive coordinators.  His best year came in 2011, when coach Jim Harbaugh and quarterback Colin Kaepernick were in their first seasons with the franchise.  In the midst of another great performance in 2012, Smith suffered a concussion.  It opened the door for Kaepernick, who took the job and never looked back.

Sunday’s game gives all parties concerned an opportunity to look back, especially since Kaepernick has at times looked average in the two years since he claimed the job.  Smith has looked better than average during his time in Kansas City, with arguably a career performance in the postseason overshadowed by the defense’s squandering of a 38-10 third-quarter lead.

Harbaugh, who never seems to be in the mood to talk about much of anything, wasn’t in the mood to reflect on the Smith-versus-Kaepernick choice on Wednesday.

“I think we thoroughly discussed that as it was happening and now it’s the ballgame this week, the competitiveness of this week,” Harbaugh told reporters.  “And I’m sure it does add to it, adds to the competitiveness, the fact that Alex played here.”

Harbaugh was even in less of a mood to talk about how the two quarterbacks compare.

“Never been a big fan of comparisons,” Harbaugh said.  “Colin’s play has spoken for itself.”

Kaepernick, who likewise never seems to be in the mood to talk about much of anything, didn’t want to talk about whether the 49ers made the right choice.

“I’m not going to say that publicly because you are all going to try to make it sound like something else,” Kaepernick told reporters.  “But I do feel like I’m a good player, yes.”

So, yes, Kaepernick surely thinks the 49ers made the right choice.  And, yes, Smith surely thinks the 49ers made the wrong choice.

Both players will find a way to draw motivation from that.  As much as Harbaugh isn’t a big fan of comparisons, Kaepernick and Smith will be compared directly for three hours on Sunday.

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Billick bashes Falcons defensive talent

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On the surface, recent remarks from coach-turned-commentator Brian Billick about the quality of the Falcons’ defensive talent will raise no eyebrows.  Billick was doing what commentators do, commentating with commentary about topics worthy of comment.

But Billick and Falcons coach Mike Smith are family, in the Walter White/Uncle Hank sense.  Married to sisters, that relationship has in the past ruffled feathers at other franchises when Billick was working Falcons games for FOX.  Now, the feathers could be ruffled within Falconland.

“I can’t think of another team in the league that has less quantifiable talent on it defensively,” Billick told 92.9 The Game in Atlanta, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Billick added that Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has been working with “smoke and mirrors” for awhile, and that he’s now merely dealing with “smoke.”

Given the relationship between Billick and Smith and, separately, the relationship between Billick and Nolan (who spent four years with Billick in Baltimore), Billick’s words easily could be viewed not as his own thoughts but as a recitation of complaints he has heard from either or both men.  Which could be interpreted as evidence of a growing disconnect between the coaching staff and the front office.

Which perhaps cries out for some sort of joint effort by the coaching staff and the front office to demonstrate that they’re on the same page, and that they’re not not pointing fingers at each other in the event that the season unfolds more like Week Two and Week Four and less like Week One and Week Three.

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Derek Carr thinks he’ll be ready to play after bye week

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The Raiders fired coach Dennis Allen this week and named Tony Sparano as their interim coach, a decision that has overshadowed everything else going on with the Raiders this season.

Sparano will coach his first game when Oakland returns from their bye for a Week Six game against the Chargers and one of the things he’ll have to figure out is who will be starting at quarterback. Derek Carr suffered a high ankle sprain and an MCL sprain in last Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins, injuries that would suggest at least a little bit of time out of the lineup.

That’s not what Carr is thinking. The quarterback said Wednesday that he is “doing a lot better” and that he doesn’t think he’ll be forced to miss the game against San Diego.

“We’re taking it [a] day at a time,” Carr said, via CSNBayArea.com. “But knowing myself, I’ll be ready — that’s my answer, that’s my goal. I’ve just got to continue to work hard to get ready.”

Matt Schaub returned to practice on Wednesday after missing the last two games and the trip to London while dealing with a family matter. He and Matt McGloin would be Sparano’s options if Carr can’t go, but they won’t be needed if the rookie is correct about how quickly he’s healing.

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Cecil Shorts said he was “selfish” to play through hamstring

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It might be weeks before Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts gets back on the field.

But he said he was “selfish” for trying to play a week ago.

Shorts aggravated a previous hamstring problem during the loss to the Chargers, and pulled up on a play which turned into an interception.

‘“I probably shouldn’t have done that – that was selfish on my part to try and play through it,” Shorts said, via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. “I felt [the injury] the play before the interception and was thinking, ‘OK, TV timeout, let’s see how it feels.’ So I’m jumping around and doing a little bit.

“But I went in motion and I pulled up and couldn’t come back to the ball. I hung my team out to dry. That hurt me because I let the team down and gave [San Diego] three points. That was definitely one me.”

This hamstring injury is his third since the start of camp, and will at least cost him this week’s game against the Steelers. His previous two each cost him two weeks of game time (in the preseason and regular season), and he said this one could be the same.

He has just seven catches on the season, and his lack of availability is one of the things that has bogged down their offense this season, beyond the quarterback decision.

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Pagano says talk of piped-in crowd noise is an “insult” to fans

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As the Ravens prepare to face the Colts in Indy, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh made a tongue-in-cheek reference to notion that the Colts artificially augment the crowd noise at home games.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano wants the crowd to show Harbaugh he can stick it somewhere other than in his cheek.

“I think it’s more of an insult to our 12th man, if you will,” Pagano told reporters on Wednesday.  “I think he’s calling out our fans, which I think are the best fans in the National Football League.  So let’s see how our 12th man reacts to that insult.”

Nearly seven years ago, the Colts were cleared of using artificial noise during a game against the Patriots.  The Pats had complained about the situation, and coach Bill Belichick likewise groused that his coach-to-quarterback communication system wasn’t working.

Two years earlier, the Steelers complained about piped-in crowd noise in Indy, prompting then-Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to issue a memo threatening the stripping of draft picks for franchises that artificially made it louder in their home stadiums.

While there’s no evidence that the Colts have ever artificially increased the volume of the fans at Lucas Oil Stadium or its predecessor, the RCA Dome, Pagano’s comments surely were aimed at creating an artificial controversy that will prompt an increase in the natural noise from the stands.

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Sammy Watkins: Ball comes out faster with Kyle Orton

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The Bills handed the keys to the offense to quarterback Kyle Orton this week and it hasn’t taken long for Orton’s teammates to notice the differences from the way things ran with EJ Manuel.

Wide receivers Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins have both picked up on the new things that Orton brings to the table. Woods noted Orton’s “directness” and the way he tells the other members of the offense what to look for when they break the huddle and line up for the play. Watkins has noticed that as well and also pointed out some other ways that Orton’s experience has revealed itself during recent practices.

“We just had a different approach to practice. [Orton] demands what he wants out of us,” Watkins said, via ESPN.com. “He’s more of a veteran guy. The way he talked, the way he handles business, the way he looks at plays and breaks down defenses, it’s kind of different than EJ. He reads it quicker, the ball is coming out faster. That’s just some things that we have to adjust to.”

Orton wasn’t taking the bait when it came to questions about what he will do better than Manuel, but the comments from the wide receivers suggest that Orton’s going to be more advanced when it comes to reading defenses and more able to direct his younger teammates in the offense. Both should benefit the Bills as long as Orton’s physical abilities are up to snuff.

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Ndamukong Suh won’t talk about 2015

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Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh can become a free agent after the season and a report last weekend indicated that Suh was unlikely to remain with the Lions once the offseason does arrive.

That report had New York, Chicago and Dallas listed as preferred destinations, but Suh didn’t stick around to answer any questions about it or anything else after Detroit’s victory over the Jets. Suh reportedly was in such a hurry that he wore the same undershirt he wore during the game onto the team bus, but Suh said that wasn’t true when he met the media on Wednesday.

Suh said he that he “always” takes a shower after games and that it would be “bad hygiene” to do anything else. Attempts to turn the discussion toward his 2015 plans were less successful, however. Suh said he was happy to answer questions about this week’s matchup with the Bills, but only about the matchup with the Bills.

“I cannot address that [report] just from the simple fact that I have not spoken to any reporter about it or any reporters about supposedly what has come out,” Suh said, via the Detroit Free Press.

Suh and the Lions have tabled talks on a new deal until after the season, which doesn’t leave Suh much to talk about on the 2015 front at the moment. That won’t stop speculation or questions from bubbling to the surface, but it does seem they’ll go unanswered for a few more months.

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2015 NFL Draft set for April 30-May 2

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The NFL still hasn’t decided where the 2015 draft will take place, but the date is set.

The first round of the draft will take place on Thursday, April 30, with the second and third rounds set for May 1 and the fourth through seventh rounds for May 2, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Last year the NFL moved the draft back two weeks from its usual late April start, prompting some complaints that it was too late in the year. This year the draft has been bumped up a week earlier in the offseason than last.

We still don’t know where next year’s draft will be. The NFL has been weighing the options of moving the draft to Chicago or Los Angeles for months.

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Thursday morning one-liners

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Bills QB Kyle Orton brings a sense of calm.

The Dolphins are getting a good return out of their rookie class.

The return of Patriots CB Brandon Browner should be a big boost.

Jets FB John Conner thinks he might have a bigger role this time around.

Ravens rookie LB C.J. Mosley has made them better against the run.

The Bengals have a good matchup this week with their defensive line against the Patriots.

Browns WR Travis Benjamin’s ready to “showcase my skills” this week.

Steelers S Mike Mitchell knows the team has to reduce penalties.

The Texans added some CB depth to the practice squad.

Colts S Sergio Brown will get the first chance to replace LaRon Landry.

Upon return from his suspension, Jaguars WR Ace Sanders said he’s ready to step up.

Titans backup QB Charlie Whitehurst, aka Clipboard Jesus, was named one of the 25 most beautiful people in Nashville.

Broncos QB Peyton Manning is approaching another passing milestone.

Chiefs T Donald Stephenson returned from suspension.

Stanford’s David Shaw shot down any interest in the Raiders job.

The Chargers are still at risk, even without blackout rule.

The Cowboys have no regrets drafting LT Tyron Smith over J.J. Watt.

Giants WR Odell Beckham is apparently wowing people in in practice.

Eagles C Jason Kelce is hoping for a quick recovery from sports hernia surgery.

Washington is trying to keep the focus inward.

Bears DE Jared Allen is on track to play this week.

The Lions are 0-4 all-time against Kyle Orton.

The Packers going shotgun so often has slowed down RB Eddie Lacy.

The Vikings made a significant investment in nickel CB Captain Munnerlyn.

Falcons DE Osi Umenyiora tries not to look back on his time in New York with regrets.

It’s been kind of a busy week for the Panthers, at least off the field and in the trainers room.

The Saints changed their practice schedule to make it more competitive.

Bucs QB Josh McCown still isn’t about to throw, which is a problem.

Cardinals assistant Tom Moore knows Peyton Manning well, but deflects credit.

Rams WR Tavon Austin was back to work on a limited basis.

CB Tramaine Brock is beginning rehab on a sore toe, and not expected to play this week.

The Seahawks thrive in prime time environments.

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Nick Foles has problems, but they’re not physical

Nick Foles AP

Nick Foles doesn’t look like Nick Foles any more.

But Eagles coach Chip Kelly insisted there was nothing physically wrong with his quarterback.

According to Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com, Kelly said his quarterback hasn’t missed any time, and hasn’t had any MRIs.

He hasn’t had any of that,” Kelly said. “He just got banged in the shoulder. He hasn’t missed a day of practice [and] hasn’t missed a rep throwing.”

That’s not for a lack of trying by his opponents. The hit he took from Washington’s Chris Baker two weeks ago probably still has some teeth loose, and Foles followed with an uncharacteristic performance against the 49ers last week.

Completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes and throwing two picks, it wasn’t the kind of clean performance we’re accustomed to, and there were more hard shots.

But he wasn’t on the injury report Wednesday, and Kelly said he had no examinations scheduled. So it must be something else.

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Cam Newton’s ankle surgery more complicated than he thought

Terrell Suggs, Cam Newton AP

Cam Newton’s still not himself, still not able to run pain-free because of his offseason ankle surgery.

That was an expected part of the process, but Newton said Wednesday he might have been unclear about the expectations going in.

“We kind of teased about it a couple weeks ago, how the doctor kind of downplayed how the surgery was going to go,” Newton said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “I just thought this was a surgery just to clean up the ligaments and what not. But after reading a lot of reports from you guys, hearing about so much of ligament repair and this major ankle surgery that may hold Cam Newton off for a couple months, that’s when I started scratching my head like, man, this may be bigger than I thought. And something I thought may have a cast on for a couple weeks end up to be a couple months. I’m still in that mode where I’m trying to realize that I’m still trying to recover from a major ankle surgery that was displayed to me originally as just a regular little cleanup.”

It’s entirely possible that Newton heard what he wanted to hear rather than he was misled, since he’s never had to rehab a major injury. So when doctors told him it would be a year before he was fully pain-free, he might have shrugged it off.

Either way, it’s kept him from being himself, and the shot to the ribs in the preseason which kept him out of the opener didn’t help. He has just eight rushing attempts on the season, and his inability to run has caused the Panthers as a whole to lag behind in the run game.

“My body is mending up, slowly but surely,” Newton said. “That’s giving me a lot of confidence when I am thinking about running the football and throwing the football as well.”

He’s actually throwing it better than ever, with career highs in completion percentage (63.8) and passer rating (98.2), and hasn’t thrown a pick yet.

Yet he hasn’t been himself, and until he’s able or willing to run the way he can, he won’t be.

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Rich Gannon blasts Raiders organization and culture of losing

GANNON AP

To say Rich Gannon isn’t happy with the Oakland Raiders would be a massive understatement.

Gannon – who won the NFL MVP award in 2002 while leading the Raiders to a Super Bowl appearance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – took his radio show Wednesday on Sirius XM NFL Radio to blast the Raiders organization and their “commitment to mediocrity” after the firing of Dennis Allen as head coach Monday night.

“You’re not winning because you have players and coaches and people in the building that have become comfortable with the process of losing,” Gannon said, via CSNBayArea.com. “It’s okay to lose out there, it’s okay. It’s not a big deal. In other places, it’s simply not tolerated. And when it gets to the point where they don’t tolerate it anymore, it’s unacceptable, and we run people out of the building who haven’t figured that out…and then bring in players who care, and players who work and players who aren’t going to tolerate that, then you’ll get the results you so long desire.

“But they don’t know how to do it and it drives me crazy.”

The Raiders fired Allen and replaced him with Tony Sparano as their interim head coach. Sparano is the eighth head coach to lead the team since 2002. Oakland doesn’t have a single winning season and just two 8-8 seasons in the 11 years since their last Super Bowl appearance.

The continued struggles of the franchise that Gannon led to three playoff appearances in four seasons pushed Gannon to blast the team and the people employed by the organization.

“There’s people out in Oakland, in that building, players, coaches, front office, people in business, accounting: stealing!” Gannon said. “They ought to give the check back. The product on the field is terrible. And when you lose like that, how can you go to the bank and cash the check? You should be embarrassed.”

The results speak for themselves. No playoff appearances in 11 seasons (and firmly on their way to making that 12 straight) and an average of fewer than five victories per season over that span. There doesn’t appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel either at this point for the Raiders.

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Week Five skill position injury report — Wednesday

Joique Bell AP

For fantasy football players, here’s a rundown of the skill position players listed on Wednesday’s injury report as furnished by the NFL. Key fantasy starters are bolded. The final injury report for Sunday games is released Friday, with the final Monday-night injury report released on Saturday

(Week Five byes: Raiders, Dolphins).

FULL

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (shoulder).

Bengals RB Rex Burkhead (knee).

Eagles TE Trey Burton (Achilles).

Browns TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder).

Eagles TE James Casey (knee).

49ers RB Michael Crabtree (foot).

Vikings RB Jerome Felton (knee). — PROBABLE

Bills WR Marquise Goodwin (concussion).

49ers RB Frank Gore (back).

Broncos TE Virgil Green (concussion).

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (knee).

Cardinals TE Rob Housler (hip).

Eagles WR Josh Huff (shoulder).

Jets RB Chris Johnson (ankle).

Titans QB Jake Locker (right wrist).

Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin (hamstring).

Bears WR Brandon Marshall (ankle).

Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon (ankle). — PROBABLE

Broncos PK Brandon McManus (right groin).

Ravens RB Bernard Pierce (thigh).

Eagles WR Brad Smith (groin).

Vikings WR Rodney Smith (hamstring). — PROBABLE

Chiefs RB De’Anthony Thomas (hamstring).

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (ribs).

Saints TE Benjamin Watson (groin).

LIMITED

Rams WR Tavon Austin (knee).

Giants WR Odell Beckham (hamstring).

Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater (ankle) — QUESTIONABLE.

Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (ankle).

Jets WR Eric Decker (hamstring).

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (foot).

Chargers TE Ladarius Green (hamstring).

Falcons WR Devin Hester (ankle).

Texans WR Damaris Johnson (foot).

Chargers WR TE David Johnson (shoulder).

Falcons WR Julio Jones (ankle).

49ers TE Vance McDonald (knee).

Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart (thigh).

Browns RB Ben Tate (knee).

Titans TE Delanie Walker (shoulder).

Steelers WR Markus Wheaton (groin).

DID NOT PRACTICE

Chiefs WR Donnie Avery (groin).

Lions RB Joique Bell (concussion).

Packers WR Jarrett Boykin (groin). — OUT

Colts RB Ahmad Bradshaw (not injury related).

Panthers TE Richie Brockel (ankle).

Steelers WR Martavis Bryant (illness).

49ers TE Vernon Davis (back).

Bills WR Marcus Easley (knee).

Buccaneers WR Mike Evans (groin).

Falcons WR Harry Douglas (foot).

Lions TE Joseph Fauria (ankle).

Chargers WR Malcom Floyd (illness).

Texans RB Arian Foster (hamstring).

Rams QB Shaun Hill (thigh).

Saints RB Mark Ingram (hand).

Texans WR Andre Johnson (ankle).

Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle).

Bengals WR Marvin Jones (ankle).

Saints RB Erik Lorig (ankle).

Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee).

Buccaneers QB Josh McCown (thumb).

Steelers TE Heath Miller (not injury related).

Browns WR Marlon Moore (illness).

Jets WR David Nelson (ankle).

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer (right shoulder).

Lions RB Theo Riddick (hamstring).

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back).

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen, groin) — OUT.

Buccaneers TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle).

Titans TE Taylor Thompson (knee).

Colts WR Reggie Wayne (not injury related).

Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh).

Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle).

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