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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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David Irving becomes third Cowboys DE suspended in past year

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What do David Irving, Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory have in common? They are Cowboys defensive ends who have faced NFL suspensions the past year.

A team in need of pass rushers can’t keep its pass rushers on the field.

The three defensive ends will miss a minimum of 38 combined games because of suspension, with Gregory serving 30 games of that.

The NFL first suspended Gregory for a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy during the 2015 season. Before Gregory even could serve the four-game suspension to start the 2016 season, he earned another 10 games for missing a test. Gregory played the final two games of last season while appealing at least a year-long suspension, but his appeal was denied, and he isn’t eligible to return until at least January.

On June 30, 2016, the league suspended Lawrence for the first four games of the 2016 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Now, it’s Irving, who will miss four games for an over-the-counter performance enhancing drug banned by the NFL.

The Cowboys, who had 36 sacks last season, could use all three. They haven’t ranked in the top 10 in sacks since 2011. They haven’t had a double-digit sack leader since defensive tackle Jason Hatcher made 11 in 2013.

The Cowboys took chances on Lawrence and Gregory with second-round picks in back-to-back drafts despite both having red flags. Lawrence showed promise in 2015 with eight sacks but took a step back last season with only one in nine games. Between Gregory’s injuries and suspensions, the Cowboys still don’t know what they have in him and may never know.

The Cowboys signed Irving, who also had red flags after being dismissed from Iowa State, off Kansas City’s practice squad in 2015. He was their best pass-rusher last season, with four sacks, a team-best 26 quarterback pressures and four forced fumbles. Now, he will have his progress interrupted.

With a revolving door at the position, and a lack of a war daddy pass-rusher since DeMarcus Ware left, it’s no wonder the Cowboys haven’t had a consistent pass rush. Giving Aaron Rodgers too much time cost them in their last two playoff losses over the past three seasons, so the Cowboys’ chances of getting where they want to go hinge on getting to the quarterback.

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The Wednesday PFT Live podcast is up

At the risk of being more immodest than usual (if that’s even possible), there’s only one place where your NFL news and information is periodically augmented with a dash of legal education. And as it relates to the Supreme Court’s decision to explore whether federal law banning the expansion of sports wagering by the various states violates the U.S. Constitution, there’s one specific area of that one place where you can get a length explanation of what it all means, and where it’s all going.

It’s in the Wednesday PFT Live non-vacation vacation edition podcast, which devotes more than 10 minutes to explaining and exploring every angle of the situation.

But there’s also plenty more, along with a review of the news of the day relating to among other things three fairly recent No. 1 overall picks in the draft.

The podcast is available at Apple Podcasts, audioBoom, and/or wherever else you can get the PFT Live podcast. Subscribe at  Apple Podcasts, audioBoom, and/or wherever else you can get the PFT Live podcast.

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Chip Kelly: Colin Kaepernick worked hard, never a distraction

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Former 49ers coach Chip Kelly says Colin Kaepernick was everything he wanted in a franchise quarterback last season.

Kelly said on Adam Schefter’s podcast that Kaepernick was as hard a worker as he could have asked for in their one season together.

“He came to work every day, extremely diligent in terms of his preparation, in terms of his work ethic,” Kelly said, via All22.com. “I really enjoyed Kap. I’ve talked to Kap three or four times since. I think he’s a really good player and a really good person, and I really enjoyed coaching him.

As for talk that Kaepernick’s decision to kneel for the national anthem serving as a distraction in San Francisco, Kelly said that was never the case.

“He explained to all the players his thought process and mindset of what he was doing,” Kelly said. “And there were some players that agreed with him and some players that didn’t agree with him. But after that point, we heard from the outside about what a distraction it is, except those people weren’t in our locker room and it never was a distraction. [Kaepernick] never turned it into a circus or whatever people think.”

Kelly and former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh have both spoken out vocally in favor of some team giving Kaepernick a chance. So far, no team has.

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Report: Karlos Williams suspended at least a year

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The NFL has suspended free agent running back Karlos Williams for at least one year, according to Field Yates of ESPN.

Williams played for the Bills in 2015, rushing for 517 yards and seven touchdowns. The league suspended Williams for the first four games of the 2016 season for a substance-abuse policy violation, and the Bills released him Aug. 21.

Williams joined the Steelers’ practice squad Oct. 12, but in November, the NFL suspended Williams for 10 games.

He had served all but two games of his 10-game suspension, and remains a free agent after the Steelers waived him in March.

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Dak Prescott stops by for special edition of PFT Live

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The regular radio version and NBCSN simulcast of PFT Live are on hiatus for the next few weeks, but we’re still doing regular podcasts to fill the time before everything gets back to normal next month.

Wednesday’s edition of the podcast is a good one thanks to a visit from Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott joined Mike Florio to discuss what was missing from his rookie season, his relationship with Ezekiel Elliott, his expectations for the coming year and his work with the “Ready. Raise. Rise.” campaign to raise awareness of Immuno-Oncology research and support those battling cancer.

The full video of Prescott’s visit appears here. The interview also will be included in Thursday’s PFT Live podcast, which will be available for free at Apple Podcasts, audioBoom, and wherever else you can get the PFT Live podcast.

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NFL makes David Irving’s suspension official

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In May, there was a report that the Cowboys will be without defensive end David Irving for the first four games of the regular season because of a suspension but there was no official word from the team about the ban.

That word came on Wednesday. The league has announced that Irving has been suspended for a violation of the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

Irving will be eligible to return to the team after they play the Rams on October 1. He can participate in practices and preseason games before his suspension starts during the week leading up to their season opener.

Irving had four sacks and four forced fumbles while coming off the bench in 13 of his 15 appearances for the team last season. The Cowboys will roll with Demarcus Lawrence, Charles Tapper, Tyrone Crawford and first-round pick Taco Charlton at end until Irving is eligible to return to the team.

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Darius Slay looking for more interceptions

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Darius Slay was an alternate for the Pro Bowl last season. The four players selected ahead of the Lions cornerback — Janoris Jenkins, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman and Xavier Rhodes — all had more interceptions.

Slay had only two interceptions, just as he had the year before and the year before that. His rookie season, when he had no picks, was the only season Slay didn’t have two interceptions.

“When the opportunity presents itself, if it presents itself only five times a year, make those five,” Lions cornerbacks coach Tony Oden said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “He’s doing a good job out here catching extra balls, so he’s doing his part. So those things will come. Those things will come.”

Slay’s forced turnovers did come at opportune times last season: He forced a Ryan Mathews fourth-quarter fumble that led to Matt Prater’s go-ahead field goal against the Eagles, and then intercepted Carson Wentz to ice it on the next series; he intercepted Sam Bradford with 30 seconds left on Thanksgiving to set up Prater’s game-winner against the Vikings.

Oden expects Slay to earn recognition among the best in the league at his position this season, but Slay likely needs more than two interceptions to get Pro Bowl honors.

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Tom Brady’s selling more jerseys in Florida than Florida teams

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Tom Brady already owned the Dolphins.

So throwing the Buccaneers and Jaguars in the mix only seems reasonable.

According to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, the Patriots quarterback has the highest-selling jersey in the state of Florida, which has three NFL teams not the Patriots.

The numbers from NFLShop.com say that Brady’s the top-seller in 16 other states as well, so it isn’t just the fans nearest the Dolphins ordering them.

Brady is 20-9 all-time against the Dolphins, so at least they’ve beaten him occasionally. He’s 7-0 against the Jaguars (including playoffs), and 3-0 against the Buccaneers.

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Justin Pugh: Giants are “ready to win tomorrow”

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The Giants returned to the playoffs last season after making major changes to their defense during the offseason and reaping the benefits of those moves during the regular season.

They didn’t go on the same kind of spending spree this offseason, but they did make a couple of tweaks to an offense that fell short of reaching the desired results last year. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall and tight end Rhett Ellison are both new to the unit and guard Justin Pugh cited them when asked if the Giants are set to win tomorrow or if it will take longer than that.

“We’re ready to win tomorrow,” Pugh said on NFL Network, via the Giants’ website. “I think that you look at the NFC, we’ve brought some guys in, bringing in Brandon Marshall, a guy who’s my size, we brought in Rhett Ellison, a tight end. His numbers aren’t going to jump off the board, but he comes in and blocks. If you look at our personnel last year, we were, 95 percent of the time, three wide receiver sets [with] one tight end, one running back. Now we can switch up personnel. We can get in multiple formations. I think our offense is going to be better, and our defense returned everybody besides Johnathan Hankins. So I think we’re going to be a pretty good team to play.”

A more versatile scheme should be a good thing for the Giants, but questions remain about how well Pugh and his fellow offensive linemen will fare after the Giants left the group alone this offseason. Pugh said left tackle Ereck Flowers is “light years” ahead of where he was last season and similar growth for the entire unit would provide even more reason to believe in the Giants’ chances in 2017.

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Rob Gronkowski gets in his workout at “random high school” in Texas

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It is not often that Rob Gronkowski goes unnoticed, but he managed to sneak into a Dallas-Fort Worth high school for his workout Tuesday. He documented his workout with two friends.

“We snuck onto some random high school, baby . . . Because we gotta get that work in … No days off, baby . . . Let’s go,” the Patriots tight end said in a video.

He thanked the school, Southlake Carroll, “for a great workout” as he exited the field through a gate.

Southlake, an affluent Fort Worth suburb, might take issue with “random high school.” It has created a football powerhouse at its only high school, annually competing for a state championship. Quarterbacks Chase Daniel, Greg McElroy and Kenny Hill played there.

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Chip Kelly: Titans wanted Marcus Mariota, not interested in trade

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Chip Kelly disputes reports from 2015 that the Eagles offered the Titans a package of picks and players to trade up and select Marcus Mariota. Kelly, who coached Mariota at Oregon, said the Titans made it clear all along that they were holding on to the No. 2 choice.

That question didn’t come up very often,” Kelly told the Know Them From Adam podcast, via Matt Lombardo of NJ Advance Media. “With Tennessee, they weren’t moving off the pick. Rightly so. They were looking for the same thing we were, to get themselves a really top-quality quarterback. It really wasn’t like…. We didn’t really get into a conversation of what we can offer or what we can’t offer, because they made it known that they really weren’t looking to trade the pick.

“That’s all speculation that’s out there, you hear stories that ‘we offered this; we offered that.’ We didn’t offer anything because they weren’t taking any offers for it.”

The Titans ended up selecting Mariota, who has shown promise as a potential franchise quarterback. The Eagles traded Nick Foles to the Rams for Sam Bradford in March 2015, which didn’t work out for either Bradford or Kelly.

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Report: Clinton Portis was ready to kill a man who lost his money

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Former NFL running back Clinton Portis wouldn’t have been the first player to have lost most of his career earnings.

But he came perilously close to making things much worse.

According to a story by Brian Burnsed of Sports Illustrated, Portis was considering killing one of his former managers who was responsible for losing millions of dollars.

Portis was sitting outside a building with a gun, and had to be talked out of shooting the man by a friend.

“It wasn’t no beat up,” Portis told the magazine. “It was kill.”

He added that if he hadn’t been calmed down before seeing the man: “We’d probably be doing this interview from prison.”

Portis made $43.1 million during his career with Denver and Washington, but most of it was either spent or lost through bad investments and alleged withdrawals from his accounts without his consent.

He’s filed multiple lawsuits against former financial advisers, and was caught up in a Ponzi scheme. He filed for bankruptcy in 2015, and acknoweldged that he spent too lavishly during his heyday.

“Portis was on a different level,” former teammate Santana Moss said. “He didn’t think about tomorrow.”

At least someone intervened before he made matters worse, or his tomorrows might have been spent behind bars. Portis is now living in an apartment in Virginia, where he does some television work for his old team.

“Most people would have offed themselves if they had to deal with what I had to deal with,” Portis said. “Life is so much clearer after coming out of that storm.”

The story features a number of disturbing details, and should serve as a cautionary tale to other players.

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Bruce Smith wants to mentor Myles Garrett

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After watching film with Myles Garrett on draft day, Bruce Smith’s observation, according to Garrett, was that the former Texas A&M star is “slow off the ball.”

Smith said it was intended as constructive criticism. He wants to help Garrett live up to expectations.

“There were occasions in which he was just a little slow off the ball, and that fraction of a second of being slow off the ball is the difference of whether that offensive lineman is set in a certain position to be able to take you on,” Smith told Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “If you get off the ball simultaneously to that ball being snapped, sometimes you’re going to beat that offensive lineman out of his stance, and then on other occasions, it’s going to be the difference of whether you get a sack, forced fumble or just a hit on the quarterback or just a hurry.

“Then there are some other areas where the play went away from him, and those are situations that he potentially could have had an impact on the play. But I think sometimes we as players take for granted that someone else is going to make the play, and we can’t do that.”

The Hall of Fame defensive end wants to mentor the No. 1 overall pick. Smith likes what he has seen from Garrett both on and off the field, believing that Garrett can become something special.

“He’s got all of the physical talents, the God-given talents,” Smith said. “He just needs to learn how to be a pro now. There’s a difference between being a college player and being a pro in the NFL. That’s the process that he has to undergo. We all had to go through it.

“He’s going to be successful. It’s just the level of success that he reaches could be contingent upon the decisions that are made for him at an early stage of his career. The advice, the coaching, the tutelage that he gets right now could determine whether he’s an impact player in his first or second year or his fourth or fifth year.”

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Michael Vick throws eight touchdowns in inaugural flag football game

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Michael Vick is still capable of putting up big numbers.

The former Falcons quarterback led his team of retirees to a 64-41 win over the team led by wide receiver Terrell Owens in last night’s debut of the American Flag Football League in San Jose.

Via JuliaKate Culpepper of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Vick threw for 547 yards and eight touchdowns. And that may or may not really mean anything within the context of flag football (one game, small sample size, and we haven’t seen opposing quarterback Jimmy Clausen’s stat line), but it’s a big number so it’s the kind of thing that catches your eye.

Amazingly, numbers like that weren’t enough to win him MVP honors for the game. That would be former Bears, Bills and Buccaneers tight end Evan Rodriguez, who had nine catches for 210 yards and four touchdowns.

“Tonight’s game was a massive success and displayed how exhilarating and competitive flag football can be when played by the best athletes in the world,” AFFL founder Jeff Lewis said. “Every player was very dedicated to this brand of football out on the Avaya Stadium field. They had that competitive spirit it takes to be a pro athlete – Michael and Evan’s performances were outstanding.”

Last night’s game was a test-drive for the launch of the league next year, and in the middle of the summer when nothing else is happening, if they can put an entertaining product on the field, people will probably watch it.

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Will Zachary Orr pass a physical?

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So why did recently-retired linebacker Zachary Orr unretire? As one league source put it on Wednesday morning, “He found a doctor who told him what he wanted to hear.”

The real question is whether Orr will find a doctor with one of the NFL’s various teams that will do the same thing. If the Ravens’ doctors thought Orr could have played without an unacceptable degree of risk due to a rare neck condition that could result in a serious, life-changing injury, he wouldn’t have been “forced” to retire in January.

Whether Orr will be able to continue his career will hinge on whether a doctor is willing to sign off on Orr’s ability to perform in a safe and adequate manner, without risk of a serious neck injury. Although some doctors will say whatever the person paying them wants the doctor to say, most won’t be inclined to put their name on a document that could become the gateway to a debilitating injury.

Surely, the Ravens would have liked to keep Orr around. He went from undrafted free agent to the team’s leading tackler in 2016. In Baltimore, doctors were able to set that aside and opt for a recommendation aimed at ensuring the player’s long-term health and safety. If any other doctor with any other team comes to a different conclusion, it will be interesting to hear the reasoning for it, because that doctor will essentially be saying the Ravens doctors got it wrong.

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