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Week Eight picks

The inability of referee Scott Green to properly apply the supposedly clear rule regarding going to the ground when making a catch not only cost the Vikings a win.  It also prevented me from extending to two my streak of victories over Rosenthal.

Yes, he beat me by one game in Week Seven, and the difference was the outcome of the Vikings-Packers game.

For the week, Rosenthal got 10 right and four wrong.  I was 9-5.

For the year, Rosenthal is 69-35.  I’m 65-39.

And though it pains me to type this (in part because I’ll never hear the end of it from him), Rosenthal currently has a better showing than all of the ESPN “experts,” including the Accuscore projections and the fan-based picks. 

Maybe he should apply for a job there.  They probably need someone with a sturdy shine box.

Broncos vs. 49ers in London

Florio’s take:  When the league picked this game to be the 2010 English export, it didn’t look like a bad choice.  The 49ers were viewed as the favorite to win the NFC West, and the Broncos were regarded as a middle-of-the-road team with the potential to improve.  Seven weeks into the season, the 49ers have only one win and the Broncos have two.  The decision to thrust quarterback Troy Smith into the starting lineup smacks of the desperation coach Mike Singletary surely is feeling, and even though Denver lost to one Bay Area team by 45 in Week Seven, Week Eight likely will bring a seventh loss for the Niners.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 30, 49ers 21.

Rosenthal’s take: The NFL should send teams to London earlier in the season, before they show how bad they really are.  The depleted Broncos defense gets worse every week, and the 49ers defense just made Matt Moore look like, well, Matt Moore from 2009.  This is a crossroads/gut check/insert cliché game for both coaches.  I trust Josh McDaniels and Kyle Orton far more than Mike Singletary and Troy Smith.

Rosenthal’s pick: Broncos 31, 49ers 21.

Jaguars at Cowboys

Florio’s take:  Four prior games between these two teams have been decided by seven points or less.  Continuation of that trend would help Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio, even if the Jags lose.  One more 20-plus-point blowout (the Jaguars already have suffered four) could get Del Rio fired.  The return of David Garrard and the departure of Tony Romo could help, but probably not enough.  But at least the Jags will possibly lose by less than 20.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 27, Jaguars 17.

Rosenthal’s take:  Jon Kitna versus the Jaguars secondary.  The immobile quarterback versus the force that provides no resistance.  If I was a betting man, I’d stay far away from this one because both teams are about as trustworthy as Florio’s hairpiece.  At least the Jaguars seem like they care. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Jaguars 20, Cowboys 16.

Dolphins at Bengals

Florio’s take:  From 1978 through 2000, the Dolphins won nine straight games over the Bengals.  Cincinnati has won the last two, but they haven’t played since Bill Parcells put his thumbprint on the Dolphins.  More importantly, the game won’t be played in Miami, where the Fins are 0-3.  Though the Bengals found some punch on offense against the Falcons, the Dolphins are more talented, more desperate, and (after believing they got screwed against the Steelers) more feisty.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 24, Bengals 16.

Rosenthal’s take: Chad Henne has quietly improved all season, and he should do well against a Bengals secondary without Adam Jones and possibly Johnathan Joseph.  Carson Palmer is also playing better, but it seems to take a 21-point deficit to warm him up.  The Bengals defense is providing too many chances for failed comeback attempts.

Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 24, Bengals 21.

Bills at Chiefs

Florio’s take:  Some (I’m looking at you, Rosenthal) think that Bills coach Chan Gailey has something up his sleeve for his most recent former team.  Pointing to an unlikely strong showing by Buffalo’s offense against a complacent Ravens defense, Rosey thinks the Bills can give the Chiefs a run for their money.  Let’s see if Rosey puts his money where his mouth is.  Arrowhead Stadium has been a-rockin’; Gailey and his team would be wise to not go a-knockin’.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 31, Bills 14.

Rosenthal’s take:  I’m not sure people have really wrapped their mind around the fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Bills racked up 514 yards on the Ravens.  514! The Harvard product is a joy to watch, with decisive, difficult throws often into tight windows.  He’s a great runner and seems to like contact.  And he has a red beard.  The Bills will keep losing most weeks because their defense is an embarrassment, but at least they’ll be fun to watch.

Rosenthal’s pick: Chiefs 34, Bills 31.

Redskins at Lions

Florio’s take:  For the third straight year, these two franchises meet in Detroit.  In 2008, the Redskins kept the Lions winless by only eight points.  In 2009, the Lions ended a 19-game losing streak with a win over the ‘Skins.  Assuming Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford, back after suffering a shoulder injury in Week One, won’t throw four passes to DeAngelo Hall, the rested, ready, and confident (perhaps delusional) Lions should be able to get it done.  Last week’s meltdown by the Chicago offense concealed the fact that the Washington offense isn’t dramatically better, and the Lions look to be in line for their second win of the year.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 20, Redskins 13.

Rosenthal’s take: Signs the Lions have come a long way:  (1) they are still talking playoffs after a 1-5 start and it doesn’t seem completely insane; (2) they’ve outscored their opponents this year (thanks Rams!); (3) they are favored against a 4-3 Redskins team and I’d still give the points.

Rosenthal’s pick: Lions 24, Redskins 17.

Panthers at Rams

Florio’s take:  Like the other team that will contend for the NFC West crown, the Rams are tough at home and soft on the road.  This week, a win at home would pull the Rams to 4-4, and it would end a four-game losing streak against Carolina, a slide that began in St. Louis nearly seven years ago with a double-overtime loss to the eventual NFC Super Bowl representatives.  This time around, the Rams simply have the better team — which given the state of the Panthers isn’t really saying much.

Florio’s pick:  Rams 24, Panthers 13.

Rosenthal’s take: The Rams are winless on the road, so it’s good the league loaded them up with home games before a three-game road trip after Thanksgiving.  The Panthers finally found a passing game, which could make them a dangerous spoiler the rest of the way.  Every game for the Rams is dangerous because they aren’t that talented, but they’ve responded very well to losses this year.

Rosenthal’s pick: Rams 22, Panthers 20.

Packers at Jets

Florio’s take:  The Jets remain the hottest team in the NFL, with a swarming defense and a sufficiently competent offense.  Receiver Santonio Holmes had two extra weeks to hone his timing with quarterback Mark Sanchez, which should result in an even more souped-up passing attack.  The Packers aren’t remotely close to being Super Bowl ready, and without again getting a couple of gift calls on touchdown plays they can’t expect to win this one.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 27, Packers 20.

Rosenthal’s take: The Packers lost another linebacker for the season, while the Jets are fully healthy after their bye.  Revis Island is ready to re-open with tougher immigration laws and there’s a sense New York hasn’t played their best despite being 5-1.  All logic points to the Jets. (I’m sure Florio is taking his beloved Jets.)  All the more reason to take the Packers, who are ready to go on a run.

Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 26, Jets 21.

Titans at Chargers

Florio’s take:  Vince Young likely will return for a Tennessee offense that did fairly well without him.  But the two Tennessee losses have come against teams that run a 3-4 defense, the preferred attack of the Chargers.  And the Charger

s have much more talent than their 2-5 record suggests.  Assuming that the late surge in Week Seven against the Patriots woke up the four-time defending AFC West champions, the Chargers will stay alive for at least another week.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 23, Titans 20.

Rosenthal’s take: The Titans have a knack for frustrating opponents and forcing them into mistakes.  The Chargers have a knack for frustrating their fans and making unforced errors.  The Titans lead the league in takeaways and have scored the most points off turnovers.  The Chargers have the most giveaways in the AFC.  Add it up, and Norv Turner’s head should explode sometime in the third quarter.

Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 26, Chargers 21.

Vikings at Patriots

Florio’s take:  Vikings coach Brad Childress has been talking lately.  A lot.  His words regarding the officiating in Sunday night’s loss to the Packers got him a $35,000 fine.  His barbs directed at the Patriots and Bill Belichick could get Chilly a butt-whipping on par with the 31-7 defeat his team absorbed from Belichick and company four years ago.  Brett Favre, who won’t play only if he can’t move, will be jumping on his “broke foot” when things go well, and he’ll be walking like John Wayne with hemorrhoids when things go poorly.  Count on plenty of Rooster Cogburn on Preparation H sightings.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 35, Vikings 13. 

Rosenthal’s take:  After the Patriots released Lawyer Milloy then lost to the Bills 31-0 to open the 2003 season, ESPN’s Tom Jackson said the “Patriots hate their coach.”   Three weeks after New England traded Randy Moss to Minnesota, it’s the Vikings that seem to hate their coach.  The rest of the country hates Brett Favre, who seems to know it and wear it on his face during every depressing press conference.  This is the week Moss begins to realize how good he had it in Foxborough.  

Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 24, Vikings 14.

Buccaneers at Cardinals

Florio’s take:  Bucs coach Raheem Morris thinks he has is the best team in the NFC.  Less than two years ago, the Cardinals actually were the best team in the NFC.  Though the Cardinals have looked horrible at times, the managed to take down at home a Saints team that thumped the Bucs in their own stadium.  And that’s good enough for me.

Florio’s pick:  Cardinals 24, Buccaneers 20.

Rosenthal’s take: The “best team in the NFC” isn’t favored in Arizona, where the Cardinals are 2-0 this season.  If the Bucs are to live up to Raheem Morris’ hype, this is a game they win going away.  Arizona’s passing game is a mess, while the running game isn’t much better.  It’s a miracle they are 3-3. Still, these teams are more similar than different.  And they’ll have the same record after this one.

Rosenthal’s pick: Cardinals 19, Bucs 14.

Seahawks at Raiders

Florio’s take:  Here’s the toughest call of the week.  Tony Dungy thinks the Seahawks are the best team in the NFC.  Raiders cornerback Chris Johnson thinks his team is the most talented in the entire NFL.  The Seahawks had been unable to win on the road before taking down the Bears two weeks ago.  Before a far=less-than-full stadium against a Raiders team buoyed by a 59-point uprising against the Broncos on Sunday, the Raiders likely will finish an unlikely ascension to .500 at the halfway point of the season.

Florio’s pick:  Raiders 27, Seahawks 17.

Rosenthal’s take: Every time the Raiders win a game, they say they turned the corner.  Even though they haven’t won back-to-back games since 2008, I’m just crazy enough to believe them this time.  The Seahawks whole offensive gameplan seems to be “don’t throw interceptions” but they need a little more than that on the road.

Rosenthal’s pick: Raiders 23, Seahawks 16.

Steelers at Saints

Florio’s take:  At one point in September, it looked like this game would feature a clash of the best two teams in the league.  It remains half right, with the Steelers among the best of the bunch and the Saints sliding toward irrelevance.  Though the defending champs’ backs are being pushed against the wall, that 13-point loss to the Browns means the days of dominance have ended, at least for now.  A one-dimensional offense is no match for a multi-faceted Steelers defense, and this one could turn into a rout, which would mean the ratings will only double those from Game Four of the World Series.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 34, Saints 21.

Rosenthal’s take:  A lot of tough games to pick this week. I’ve debated this one for days, but the tiebreaker goes to the Steelers.  Even though Pittsburgh’s pass defense has looked shakier the last two weeks, New Orleans has struggled against far worse groups.  At some point, it’s worth recognizing the 2009 Saints passing attack just may not come back.

Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 27, Saints 24.

Texans at Colts

Florio’s take:  The Texans obsessed over their Week One visit from the Colts, and it paid off.  Since then, the Texans have been roughly average.  They get another crack at the Colts on Monday night, at a time when plenty of Indy players are missing.  But as long as Peyton Manning remains healthy, the Colts will be tough to beat, especially at home.  Manning realizes the importance of not being swept by the Texans — and not falling to 0-3 in the division.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 33, Texans 27. 

Rosenthal’s take: Dallas Clark and Austin Collie will be missed, but I’m not really that worried about the Colts offense in this game. They have great depth and the Jeff George Colts could score 30 points on this awful Texans defense.  The bigger question is whether the Colts defense can snap out of their funk.  At home, in a huge division game, I’ll take my chances they make enough plays.

Rosenthal’s pick: Colts 38, Texans 31.

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DeAndre Levy to make 2015 debut Sunday against Cardinals

Chicago Bears v Detroit Lions Getty Images

As the Lions try to get their first win Sunday, it won’t hurt that they’ll get their best defensive player back on the field.

Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Lions coach Jim Caldwell named linebacker DeAndre Levy a game captain, and confirmed he was ready to play after missing seven weeks with a strained hip muscle.

“I would assume you could probably make that assumption [that he plays],” Caldwell said.

Levy was injured in practice on Aug. 24, and only began practicing last week, and they’re hoping for an immediate impact.

“Obviously, any time you have a guy that has that kind of experience that he’s had and the fine play that he’s had through the years, that certainly makes a huge difference,” Caldwell said. “Every year’s different, but he adds a boost to us. He’s a guy that, in the run and pass, can be a factor in the game.”

Levy led the team in tackles last year, and they rewarded him with a four-year extension in August, shortly before the injury.

Levy led the Lions with 151 tackles last year and tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions in 2013.

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Chip Kelly to USC speculation has already begun

Chip Kelly AP

Eagles coach Chip Kelly is having a rough season. USC coach Steve Sarkisian is having a rough season. It’s not a stretch to connect those dots.

And so it’s no surprise that people are already talking about the possibility of Sarkisian getting fired at the end of this season, and Kelly leaving the Eagles to take his place. An report today says that talk within USC of finding a new coach will certainly include Kelly, and that USC had strong interest in Kelly when it hired Sarkisian.

USC lost its second game of the season last night to unranked Washington, and for a team that some saw as a national championship contender, that’s not acceptable. If Sarkisian doesn’t turn things around in a hurry, he may be done. (It doesn’t help that Sarkisian has also had off-field issues, including appearing to be drunk when he addressed boosters at an event in August.) USC would look for a big-name coach to replace him.

Although Kelly is struggling this year in Philadelphia, he’s still a very big-name coach in college football. At Oregon, Kelly was widely regarded as one of the best coaches in college football, and if he decides he wants to go back to college football, he’ll have plenty of suitors.

For now, Kelly is focused on turning the Eagles around. He is, after all, only four games into his third season. But if things turn south this year and the Eagles finish in last place in the NFC East, don’t be surprised if Kelly and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie mutually decide that it’s best for everyone to move along. If that happens, USC could be Kelly’s landing spot.

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PFT Live: Lions talk with Dave Birkett, Patriots talk with Tom Curran

Matthew Stafford AP

There is only one winless team left in the NFL as we head toward Sunday of Week Five and we’ll be talking about how the Lions have arrived at that point during Friday’s PFT Live.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press will join Mike Florio to discuss all that’s gone wrong for the Lions through the first four weeks of the season. They’ll talk about quarterback Matthew Stafford’s struggles and Sunday’s game against the Cardinals among other things during Birkett’s visit.

The Patriots are on the opposite side of the spectrum as they return from their bye week. Tom Curran of CSN New England will drop by to preview this weekend’s matchup with the Cowboys.

As always, we also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour through the links at PFT.

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Will the Colts apply the “100 percent” rule to Andrew Luck?

Matt Hasselbeck, Andrew Luck AP

The Colts will never bench Andrew Luck for Matthew Hasselbeck. It’s ludicrous to even suggest it, notwithstanding Monday’s curious comments from tight end Dwayne Allen.

But coach Chuck Pagano doesn’t have to bench Luck to continue to play Hasselbeck. Pagano merely needs to declare that Luck won’t play until he’s “100 percent.”

“Got the best backup in the league right now,” Pagano said after Thursday night’s game regarding Luck. “He’s getting better every single day. He’s really, really close. We’ve got to make decisions based on what’s best for the player, first and foremost, and then what’s best for the team.”

So what’s best for the team, with the Patriots looming? Let’s consider Luck’s performances against the Patriots, when healthy.

As a rookie, Luck lost to the Patriots, 59-20. He completed 27 of 50 passes for 334 yards, with two touchdowns, three interceptions, and a lost fumble. In 2013, Luck lost to the Patriots in the postseason, 43-22. It was another four-turnover night for Luck.

Last year, Luck started a 42-20 loss during the regular season and a 45-7 blowout in the playoffs. In the AFC title game, Luck completed 12 of 33 passes for 126 yards, two interceptions, and no touchdowns. His passer rating? 23.0.

That’s an average of 17.25 points in four career games against the Patriots, with 11 total turnovers. When healthy. If Luck will be anything less than 100 percent, will Luck be any better against Bill Belichick and company?

Hasselbeck last started a game against the Patriots in 2004, a 30-20 loss in New England. More recently, Hasselbeck has become Jimmy Connors at the 1991 U.S. Open blended with Willis Reed in the 1970 NBA Finals. Ageless, heroic, and (most importantly) effective. Far more effective in two 2015 games as the starter than Luck’s three 2015 games as the starter.

Again, there’s no way Luck ever would be benched for Hasselbeck. But Luck can be kept off the field, technically for his own good, until he’s 100 percent. And it’s up to the doctors to determine when he’s 100 percent.

So the doctors, reading the tea leaves and/or following the wink-nod (or more direct) instructions from the coaching staff, simply would have to continue to say that Luck isn’t 100 percent until the hot dice in Matthew Hasselbeck’s right hand cool off.

“It’s awesome,” kicker Adam Vinatieri told reporters after Thursday night’s game. “It’s fun to see him. I know how he was around this last week sick and under the weather, to watch him go out there and put that behind him. I remember [Michael] Jordan in the playoffs doing that same kind of stuff. That was some pretty special stuff.”

Said receiver Andre Johnson: “That’s big of him to put the pads on and go out there and play through it. I know what kind of guy Matt is, he comes to work every day, works very hard and it shows when he goes out there and plays.”

Added running back Frank Gore: “We aren’t surprised, we are comfortable with Matt. He’s been with us for a long time. He’s been successful in the league. We know what he can do in this league. As long as you love the game and still want to play this game, you can do whatever you want. He’s been showing it.”

(Coincidentally, Vinatieri, Johnson, and Luck were the only guys to score points last night for the Colts.)

With that kind of positive vibe in the locker room and in light of Luck’s dismal track record (when healthy) against the Patriots, how can the Colts not at least seriously consider giving Luck another week to completely heal — and giving Hasselbeck nine days to prepare for what would be, if the Colts can pull it off, one of the best stories the NFL has seen in recent years?

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Hue Jackson: Getting booed at All-Star Game “turning point” for Dalton

Andy Dalton AP

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton’s hot start to the 2015 season has been a big reason why Cincinnati is 4-0 and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson thinks some of the team’s fans deserve some credit for Dalton’s play.

When Dalton made an appearance at this summer’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Cincinnati for a celebrity softball game, there were boos heard from the local fans in attendance. Dalton shrugged them off, but offensive coordinator Hue Jackson told Peter King of that he thinks the night was a “turning point” for Dalton.

“I’m not going to tell you it didn’t bother him,” Jackson said. “It did. When you have the success he has had — four seasons in the league, four times in the playoffs — getting booed in your own city, that has to hurt a bit. But he was able to hit one over the fence for a home run. And he flipped the bat. His message was sort of, ‘You might not like me now, but you’re going to love me later.'”

Jackson has been an unwavering supporter of Dalton’s and says he “couldn’t be happier how he has responded” after losing to the Colts in the playoffs last season. Whatever motivation came from the booing, it’s certainly helped that the Bengals have a full complement of healthy receivers for Dalton to throw the ball to and an offensive line that has helped keep him from being pressured regularly. The Seahawks will provide a stiff test for just how far the Bengals offense has come this weekend.

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Frustrated J.J. Watt on Andre Johnson’s night: “I don’t cover him”

Andre Johnson AP

Last year, the Texans finished 9-7, creating expectations that they would take the next step in 2015. So far, they’ve wandered into quicksand.

Now at 1-4, high-priced and highly-talented defensive end J.J. Watt is getting frustrated. We know this because he said so after the loss to the Colts.

“Yeah, I’d say there’s frustration,” Watt told reporters.

Asked whether he was surprised by the performance of receiver Andre Johnson, the long-time face of the franchise who got the boot after last year ended, Watt’s frustration snuck through in a very tangible, fingerpointingish way.

“He’s a good football player,” Watt said. “He made some plays. I’m not sure, I don’t cover him. So I couldn’t tell you what happened.”

Here’s what apparently happened: The Texans didn’t anticipate that the Colts would feed the ball to Andre Johnson. Sure, there were problems in execution, like when cornerback Johnathan Joseph failed to tackle Johnson and a seven-yard out route became a 23-yard catch and run. But Johnson’s first touchdown showed how the Texans overlooked him.

With the Colts facing second and goal from the four and Johnson split to the left, two defenders locked onto T.Y. Hilton on the other side of the formation. The safety on Johnson’s side bit on play-action to Frank Gore, and Johnson ran past cornerback Kareem Jackson (who also seemed to be caught flat-footed by the fake handoff to Frank Gore) and had the easy touchdown catch.

On Indy’s opening drive of the second half, quarterback Matthew Hasselbeck dropped a 24-yard rainbow into Johnson’s hands, despite decent coverage from Jackson. So that wasn’t really anyone’s fault; it was a great throw and a very good catch.

Johnson’s second touchdown came on a perfectly-designed and implemented pick play, with Johnson behind Hilton and Hilton taking out both defenders, allowing Johnson to sneak behind him and make a sliding catch that took him across the goal line. The failure of either defender to get through the screen/pick/whatever suggests a failure in scouting, coaching, and/or execution — as evidenced by the way the Patriots dealt with a similar formation and strategy in the Super Bowl.

The bottom line is that the Texans underestimated Johnson’s remaining skills and the Colts’ willingness to get him the ball during his first game back in Houston. It was brilliant by the Colts to feature Johnson, and it was foolish by the Texans to not account for him. Regardless of his struggles over the first month of the season with a new team, Johnson’s best was going to shine through last night.

The Texans mistakenly believed his best wasn’t enough for them to worry about.

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Rick Spielman: Cordarrelle Patterson continues to make strides

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 29:  Cordarrelle Patterson #84 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball 50 yards for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions on December 29, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last week, there was some talk that the Vikings would turn to Cordarrelle Patterson on offense more often with Charles Johnson out of the lineup.

As has happened often since his rookie season, that talk didn’t amount to anything on the field. Patterson caught one pass and saw the fourth-most snaps of any receiver. Rookie Stefon Diggs also showed chemistry with Teddy Bridgewater that made it hard to think that Patterson will be getting too many looks once the Vikings are whole at receiver.

Despite Patterson’s minuscule playing time and production on offense, General Manager Rick Spielman insists the team hasn’t given up on him and is coming up with more ways to get Patterson involved.

“He’s made so many strides since a year ago and he continues to make strides,” Spielman said, via “As these coaches evaluated our personnel, the one thing Zim always preaches is team comes first before any stats. As our guys are learning these players, they have a pretty good feel but they’re still, you know, ‘What are we?’ Because now you have an Adrian Peterson in your backfield. With Cordarrelle, you can’t ask for a kid that’s working as hard as he can. And there are specific packages that he may be involved with. These guys are trying to put personnel together with specific packages.”

It’s not surprising that the guy who traded up to get Patterson in the first round would resist saying that the team has lost hope that the wideout will make an impact for them. He doesn’t really need to because every week that passes without Patterson in a prominent role makes it plain enough to see.

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Matt Jones is willing to risk a sore neck for his haircut

Shawn Lauvao, Matt Jones, James Laurinaitis AP

Washington running back Matt Jones woke up with a sore neck, but at least he’s not patchy.

The rookie has quickly learned a lesson about the NFL, that if you’re going with long hair, your opponents are going to use it against you.

Jones was dragged down from behind last week when Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox grabbed him by his braids.

He just grabbed a handful of my hair,” Jones said, via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post. “I just felt the whole momentum of it, of him pulling my hair, but it didn’t hurt or nothing. It happened to me one time in college; I didn’t feel that one either. I don’t know, I don’t guess [Cox] pulled it hard enough or something. I just didn’t feel it. My neck was a little sore after the game, though. Probably because of that, I think.”

You think?

Defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois also has long hair, though not nearly as long as Jones. And he said he cautioned the youngster to do something with them to keep from giving opponents a bigger target.

“When the hairstyle becomes a part of the uniform, man, you’ve got to start tucking it, braiding it, do something,” Jean-Francois said. “Hopefully this week he ties ’em up. If he don’t, hey, I hope he don’t have no patches in his hair.”

Jones said he’s not ready to get a haircut for the sake of the game just yet, and his teammates said he’s welcome to take that risk.

“I mean, if it didn’t hurt enough for him to change it, I ain’t gonna tell him to change it,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “He’s a man, he can do his hair how he want to do it.”

And if would-be tacklers want to latch onto it, they have that right as well.

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Colts getting better results from Hasselbeck than Luck

Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck AP

Heading into the season, most people would have said the Colts were one of the teams that could least afford to lose its starting quarterback. Andrew Luck was viewed as the NFL’s next superstar quarterback, sure to sign the biggest contract in NFL history soon, while backup Matt Hasselbeck was an old man who some thought was done.

It hasn’t turned out that way.

In fact, through five games this season, the Colts are getting better results since Hasselbeck replaced the injured Luck.

Luck started three games, and the Colts went 1-2. Luck completed 56.0 percent of his passes, threw five touchdowns and seven interceptions, lost a fumble and has a passer rating of 65.1.

Hasselbeck has started two games, and the Colts went 2-0. Hasselbeck completed 63.2 percent of his passes, threw three touchdowns and no interceptions, hasn’t lost a fumble and has a passer rating of 95.0.

A big part of the difference, of course, is that Luck has played against better teams: Luck’s starts were against the Bills, Jets and Titans, while Hasselbeck’s starts were against the Jaguars and Texans. If Luck still can’t go next week, when the Colts play the Patriots, it’s a pretty good bet that Hasselbeck’s numbers will decline.

But there’s no escaping the fact that Luck got off to a very disappointing start this season, and Hasselbeck has been a surprisingly effective backup. There’s no quarterback controversy in Indianapolis, but there’s at least a quarterback oddity: The budding star has been out-played by the washed-up backup.

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Pagano is “supremely confident” about playing New England

borat Getty Images

Last week, Colts coach Chuck Pagano was “supremely confident” that quarterback Andrew Luck would be able to play against the Jaguars. And Luck didn’t play.

Last night, Pagano was asked after a win over the Texans about his confidence when it comes to facing the team’s next opponent, the Patriots. And, yes, Pagano went there again.

“Supremely confident,” Pagano told reporters.

Perhaps that phrase doesn’t mean what Pagano thinks it means. Or maybe it’s just the coach-speak way of dealing with the challenge of getting a football team ready to play an excellent team that has extra motivation, thanks to #DeflateGate, to drop another 45 points and 200-plus rushing yards against the Colts on the field situated beneath that brand-new “AFC Finalist” banner.

Regardless, Pagano’s supreme confidence recently has translated into anything but. And if the Patriots roll the Colts again in nine days on NBC, it probably makes sense to treat that phrase like one of George Carlin’s seven words not to say on TV. Or, for Pagano, anywhere else.

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Steelers “more confident and comfortable” with Vick this week

Michael Vick, Daryl Smith AP

The final offensive play for the Steelers last Thursday night saw quarterback Michael Vick sail a pass over the head of wide receiver Antonio Brown on fourth down in overtime.

It was a short pass made more difficult by the fact that Vick was throwing to the right side of the field and the absence of the comfort level that Brown and Ben Roethlisberger have built up over the years. Given how little time the Steelers had to prepare for that game after Roethlisberger hurt his knee in Week Three, it’s not surprising that things were choppy.

The Steelers and Vick are expecting smoother sailing this week. Guard Ramon Foster says that Vick is more fluid when it comes to calling plays and Vick says he feels “so much better” after having more time to practice as the starter. Brown, who couldn’t hold onto a touchdown pass last week, said that the comfort level is higher this time around.

“Last week, it just wasn’t [Vick’s] fault,” Brown said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “There is a lot of blame on me. I left a lot of plays out there. All of us are getting more comfortable, not just him. I am more confident and comfortable this week with him.”

At 2-2, the Steelers can’t afford too much of an adjustment period if they want to have a winning record when Roethlisberger returns to the lineup. That makes the next couple of days of practice important before they hit the field in San Diego on Monday night.

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Jason Garrett had a chat with Greg Hardy about dumb comments

Jason Garrett, Greg Hardy AP

As it turns out, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett doesn’t think Greg Hardy’s “jokes” are funny either.

Garrett said he had a quick conversation with his defensive end, after his first press conference as a member of the Cowboys included unfortunate gun references, and tasteless cracks about the attractiveness of the wives and girlfriends of quarterbacks.

That’s not how we want to operate as an organization, players and coaches in our organization understand that,” Garrett said, via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We want to distinguish ourselves with our play, not with what we say. We define ourselves by what we do, not by what we say. Greg understands that now and that’s how we’re going forward.”

And to be honest, Garrett’s words are probably worth mentioning to his boss, who had some equally unrefined commentary when asked about Hardy’s comments about Tom Brady’s wife Gisele Bundchen.

“When I saw him marry [Bundchen], Tom went up in my eyes 100 percent,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “She’s very very attractive and it shows what an outstanding individual Tom is.”

Yes, because acquiring the company of attractive women is clearly a sign of character, at least among those who view women as objects.

But as it pertains to Hardy, Garrett said he thought his message was received.

“Yeah, he’s very receptive, very respectful, appreciated my comments,” Garrett said. “Hopefully he’ll handle it the right way going forward.”

Based on past actions, Hardy probably understands that as well as teammate Joseph Randle understood directions to not leap across goal lines with the ball exposed, and Garrett’s likely to have to repeat this conversation as well.

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Lombardi says Stafford still isn’t broken

Matthew Stafford AP

When Joe Lombardi became the Lions’ offensive coordinator prior to the 2014 season, he declared that franchise quarterback (at least in compensation) Matthew Stafford isn’t broken. A full 20 games into their time together, Lombardi renewed his vows with Stafford, sort of.

I still don’t think he’s broken,” Lombardi said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “I think he’s a good player.”

The numbers suggest otherwise, this year at least. Five touchdowns, five interceptions. No touchdowns for the last six quarters.

“I think Matt Stafford is a very good quarterback that we’re happy to have,” Lombardi said. “I don’t think – of all my concerns, Matt’s not the biggest one. So we’ve got to protect him, we’ve got to run the ball better. He’s going to take care of his side of it.”

It’s not exactly condemnation, but it’s a far cry from praise. And the reality for the Lions (and most teams) is that the quarterback is the guy who makes the offense go. Or not go.

Late in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s game between the Lions and Seahawks, ESPN’s Mike Tirico shared some comments from receiver Golden Tate that perhaps reveal one of the problems with Stafford’s overall performance.

“I wish that the Matthew Stafford that we see in the fourth quarter I could see for all four quarters,” Tate told Tirico, “because he loves to close the deal and [has that] great look in his eye. Makes those tight throws in a big spot.”

It’s not exactly condemnation, but it’s a far cry from praise. And at this point in Matthew Stafford’s career, with a second contract that pays him close to market value for high-end quarterbacks, Stafford needs to perform like a high-end quarterback.

The faded dominance of receiver Calvin Johnson makes it harder to do that. But high-end quarterbacks find a way to overcome not having a receiver who commands double coverage everywhere he goes. High-end quarterbacks also find a way to deal with an offensive line that isn’t protecting the quarterback the way it should.

If, as Tate told Tirico, Stafford can find his groove when the game is on the line, Stafford needs to find a way to play that way the rest of the game. Then, maybe he won’t be facing many drives with the game on the line. And maybe his offensive coordinator won’t be declaring publicly that the quarterback isn’t broken.

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Friday morning one-liners

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 24:  Sebastian Janikowski #11 of the Oakland Raiders kicks a fifty-two yard field goal against the Tennessee Titans during the first quarter at Coliseum on November 24, 2013 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

S Aaron Williams is expected back in the Bills starting lineup this week.

After they named a new one, a look back at Dolphins defensive coordinators through the years.

Patriots S Duron Harmon looks up to teammate Devin McCourty.

A review of Jets WR Brandon Marshall’s first four games.

The Ravens are planning to use Lardarius Webb as a returner.

The Bengals will face Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham for the second straight season.

Browns LB Nate Orchard wants to play with less hesitation.

The Steelers want to establish their run game early against the Chargers.

DE J.J. Watt didn’t do much to help the Texans in Thursday’s loss.

Colts RB Frank Gore was more effective than Watt.

DE Andre Branch feels healthy and ready to boost the Jaguars defense.

Titans S Da’Norris Searcy will see former Bills teammates on Sunday.

CB Chris Harris says he’s focused more on stopping Raiders receivers than meeting up with former defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.

Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub has a lot of history with the Bears.

K Sebastian Janikowski will move into first place on the Raiders list of games played on Sunday.

Injuries make it hard for the Chargers to build continuity on the offensive line.

An appreciation of Cowboys QB Brandon Weeden’s play in the last two games.

The Giants continue a favorable stretch of schedule this weekend.

A vote for Ryan Mathews as the lead back for the Eagles.

Redskins RB Matt Jones discusses how it feels to be tackled by the hair.

Injuries mean that the Bears will have to “make do” on offense this week.

DT Andre Fluellen’s wife expected the Lions to call when she saw Tyrunn Walker get hurt on Monday night.

Said Packers coach Mike McCarthy of DT B.J. Raji, “He’s unique in his physical abilities and measurables. His yoga has really helped. I always get a kick out of him stretching during timeouts out there. It just doesn’t look right or fair, but he’s in great shape. I think the biggest thing is he’s healthy. B.J. is a hell of a football player, always has been.”

A bye week breakdown of Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater.

Terron Ward adds to the options out of the backfield for the Falcons.

Will Panthers QB Cam Newton be an MVP candidate this season?

T Andrus Peat could get a start for the Saints this weekend.

The young Buccaneers offensive linemen feel they benefit from padded practices.

Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson is enjoying his return to punt returns.

The Rams enjoy having music as part of their practices.

49ers offensive coordinator Geep Chryst says the unit’s made some adjustments in practice this week.

CB Cary Williams is feeling at home with the Seahawks.

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Andre Ellington back for Cardinals

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 23:  Andre Ellington #38 of the Arizona Cardinals warms up prior to their game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on November 23, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) Getty Images

When Andre Ellington went down with a sprained knee in the season opener, it opened the door to more playing time for Chris Johnson and David Johnson in the Arizona backfield.

Both Johnsons put the opportunity to good use and the Cardinals went 2-1 in the games without Ellington, which might lead some coaches to struggle with how to reintegrate Ellington into the lineup now that he’s healthy enough to return to action. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin says the backs “better practice and you better practice hard” to get playing time, but coach Bruce Arians is taking a slightly different approach.

“No, it’s not hard, because the young guy [David Johnson] sits down,” Arians said, via the Arizona Republic.

The rookie has shown too much ability to help the offense to sit down entirely, but Ellington’s return and a couple of miscues last week are going to slow things down a bit for him. It shouldn’t slow things down for the Cardinals offense, which has run for at least 110 yards in every game this season and has plenty of options available as they try to keep that streak going.

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Alshon Jeffery on verge of missing fourth straight game

Alshon Jeffery AP

Even though the man who goes by the initial J.C. has been healed in Chicago, his top target remains among the infirm.

According to Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune, Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery could miss his fourth straight game this week with a lingering hamstring strain.

Jeffery didn’t practice fully Thursday, and has only participated in two practices since the start of the regular season, following a calf injury that kept him out of the preseason.

I’m just taking it one day at a time,” he said. “It’s a process. As a player, I want to be out there, too. But it’s a process. It’s a long season.

“I miss being out there a lot, but at the same time, it’s a process. But I’ll be back out there soon, hopefully.”

Soon can’t be soon enough, as fellow wideout Eddie Royal missed his second straight day of practice with an ankle injury.

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Thursday night “up there” in Andre Johnson’s career highlights

Andre Johnson, Matt Hasselbeck AP

For the first four games of the season, Colts wide receiver Andre Johnson didn’t have the same kind of impact on the offense that he had when he was a member of the Texans.

Johnson was back in Houston on Thursday night and his productivity returned. Johnson had six catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns to help lead his new team past his old team in a game that he said is “up there” on his list of career highlights. While getting the win in his old stomping grounds was “pretty big,” so was playing well after two weeks of not catching any passes at all.

“A lot of people probably thought this was a ‘get back‘ game for me or something like that. It was never like that,” Johnson said, via the Indianapolis Star. “I just wanted to use my role. I was involved a lot more today and I was able to go out and make the best of my opportunities. That’s the way I looked at it. I just wanted to do what I needed to do to help the team win.”

The win leaves the Colts at 3-2 on the season, which doesn’t fix everything that led to two losses to start the year but goes a long way toward setting them back on course for another AFC South title. More performances like Thursday’s from Johnson would be a big boost to that effort.

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Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett? Bill O’Brien can’t decide

Brian Hoyer AP

Texans coach Bill O’Brien has been indecisive about his starting quarterback all year, so it’s no surprise that he remained indecisive after Thursday night’s loss to the Colts.

O’Brien kept Ryan Mallett on the bench and left Brian Hoyer in the game after Mallett had to leave for just a few plays with a minor injury. After the game, he refused to commit to either as the long-term starter.

“Brian I thought did a good job tonight, but we’ll talk about it. I haven’t even talked to the staff yet about it. We’ll sit down and review the film. I thought Brian did a good job though. He went in there, it wasn’t the easiest of circumstances – other than the last play there where he kind of launched it up there. He probably wants to have that one back, but I thought he did a good job. We’ll review it tomorrow and see where we are at that position,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien announced during the preseason that Hoyer would be the starter, but he changed his mind about that during the Texans’ Week One loss, benching Hoyer and putting Mallett in. Mallett has started every game since then, but he’s been benched for Hoyer two games in a row, and in both games Hoyer put up better numbers than Mallett.

Both quarterbacks were cautious with their comments after the game. Hoyer said, “Not my decision to make,” when asked if he thinks he’ll be the starter, and Mallett would say only, “I’ll be ready.”

O’Brien is not ready to make a decision. And if he does make a decision, he may soon change his mind.

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Ryan Mallett said he didn’t realize he was leaving sideline early

Ryan Mallett AP

Ryan Mallett just can’t win with clocks. He gets criticized when he’s late, he gets criticized when he’s early.

The once-again Texans backup quarterback entered another time-related mishap last night, leaving for the locker room after replacement Brian Hoyer’s Hail Mary near the end of the first half, though there was still time on the clock.

I thought the half was over,” Mallett said of the early exit, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “That’s all it was.”

Even coach Bill O’Brien was a little confused by the fact there was one second left.

“So, I know that I thought the half was over, to be honest with you,” O’Brien said. “Then, they grabbed me back and we decided to go to the end zone there. No, I don’t know anything about that.”

While he was celebrating the touchdown, not just pouting, the way some of his sideline body language suggested, Mallett can’t be thrilled about this latest turn. He started last night’s loss to the Colts, and left because of an ankle injury. But after Hoyer moved the team, O’Brien stuck with the veteran, though he said later Mallett could have gone back in.

“It’s not my call,” Mallett said. “I just do what I’m told. I’m not frustrated. I’m frustrated in the loss. Obviously, we wanted to win.”

Of course, the last time Mallett lost the starting job, he responded by oversleeping and missing practice the next day. So when he gets up, somebody read this one to him, OK?

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Matt Hasselbeck left it all on the field, or someplace else

Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck AP

While teammates were quick to praise the 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck’s guts after last night’s win over the Texans, the reality is he didn’t have many left.

Wracked by a bacterial infection, Hasselbeck spent most of his week either in a hospital or on a toilet, making the fact he could relieve an injured Andrew Luck last night amazing.

“Lots of stuff coming out of the attic, then a lot of stuff coming out the basement,” Hasselbeck described it, via Zac Keefer of the Indianapolis Star.

More impressive than his passing stats were his IV numbers, five straight days of them with two bags of fluid yesterday before the game. He was so sick he couldn’t even talk to at the team meeting the night before the game.

“He didn’t look good, man,” offensive lineman Joe Reitz said. “He was sitting there like a zombie.”

“Looked like warmed-over death,” added Adam Vinatieri.

But he spent the day saving every bit of energy he could, and then used it all to beat the Texans, going 18-of-29 for 231 yards and two touchdowns.

“I really had nothing this morning,” Hasselbeck said. “I honestly feel like this isn’t even real now.”

The good news is, the Colts now have a 10-day break, and Hasselbeck apparently is going to need each of them.

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