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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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Jay Gruden: We totally anticipate Kirk Cousins coming back

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 29: Head coach Jay Gruden of the Washington Redskins talks with quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins in the fourth quarter of a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on August 29, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Matt Hazlett/ Getty Images) Getty Images

With Sean McVay heading to the Rams as their new head coach, the Redskins have promoted Matt Cavanaugh to offensive coordinator for the 2017 season.

It doesn’t look like Cavanaugh will be taking over the play calling duties, however. Speaking from the Senior Bowl on Tuesday, head coach Jay Gruden said that he was “excited” to take on that responsibility this season. He also shared his feelings about who will be relaying those plays to the rest of the offense.

Kirk Cousins played out the 2016 season on the franchise tag, leaving the Redskins with a decision to make about franchising him again, working out a long-term deal in the next few weeks or letting him the open market. Gruden didn’t say which of the first two options was likelier, but did say he expects Cousins to be running the plays.

“I totally anticipate him coming back to the Washington Redskins,” Gruden said, via CSNMidAtlantic.com.

Some have wondered if Kyle Shanahan might take a run at bringing Cousins to the 49ers, which could happen via trade or by signing him away at the cost of two first-round picks if Washington franchises Cousins again this offseason. Of course, Shanahan hasn’t been hired by the 49ers at this point and that’s just one of many things still to play out before we’ll know for certain what uniform Cousins is wearing next season.

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Mike Tomlin: Le’Veon Bell injury “wasn’t significant” prior to Sunday flare-up

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 24:  Le'Von Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball during the 28-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 24, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told reporters Tuesday that the groin injury that knocked star running back Le’Veon Bell out of the AFC Championship went from something minor to something that left one of the NFL’s best players unable to continue.

“[Bell] was doing a great job of managing it,” Tomlin said. “It didn’t cause him to miss any practice time, let alone game time. It was something to manage. When you look at the journey that is the season, I think just about every guy down there is dealing with and managing something in an effort to stay on the grass.”

Bell said when he had a flare-up Sunday he had “no burst” and though he wanted to stay in the game, he felt he would be holding the team back if he did. He finished with 20 yards on five carries after setting franchise playoff rushing records in the team’s first two postseason games.

The NFL might have some questions for the Steelers because Bell said he’d been playing through an issue but was not showing up on the team’s official injury reports. Tomlin insisted that it had not been something the Steelers worried about until Sunday.

I was aware of it,” Tomlin said. “It wasn’t significant to the point where it affected planning or the anticipation of planning in any way. It’s unfortunate that it became an issue in game.”

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Jerry Jones: Cowboys need to “cool it” on Tony Romo talk

gettyimages-135521475 Getty Images

Nine days in to the offseason, the biggest question for the Dallas Cowboys continues to be the future of quarterback Tony Romo. On Tuesday, the team’s ordinarily loquacious owner made it clear that he and the rest of the franchise are done talking about the issue in public.

I’m not going to get into that at all — whether we’ve talked or not,” Jerry Jones said at the Senior Bowl, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We’re at a juncture now that, we need to just cool it in our public conversations about what we’re going to be doing or not doing there with Tony.”

Jones is wise to not talk about it, because the more he does the more sensible it will become to simply release Romo’s rights without trying to trade him. That’s what Romo surely will want, and that could be what Jones ultimately does — reluctantly.

Cowboys executive Stephen Jones made it clear last week that Jerry and Tony will work out the situation between them, and it remains distinctly possible that Jones and Romo will agree: (1) that the player will be released; and (2) that Romo will give his word to avoid certain teams, like Washington or other Dallas rivals. It would be unenforceable and, technically, impermissible.

Still, it would be something that Romo could either honor and preserve a relationship that will likely generate plenty of revenue for him after he retires or disregard and lose his standing with Jones.

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Matt Patricia praises Julio Jones

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22:  Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons makes a catch in the third quarter against Jake Ryan #47 and LaDarius Gunter #36 of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots surely have gone to work on a defensive game plan aimed at neutralizing the Atlanta passing attack and, specifically, receiver Julio Jones. There’s a chance that, no matter how New England configures the X’s, the O named Julio will still find a way to catch passes, gain yards, and potentially score touchdowns.

On Tuesday, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia didn’t say that specifically when praising Jones, but the point came through Patricia’s remarks, loud and clear.

“[W]e saw him a couple of years ago and studied him,” Patricia told reporters. “He’s probably just one of the most dynamic players in the league. I usually don’t wind up comparing him to other people; I wind up comparing other people to him just because of his skill set and his ability.”

Specifically, the Patriots saw the Falcons in September 2013, for a game in Atlanta. Jones caught six passes for 108 yards; the Patriots, however, won the game, 30-23. Of course, that was before the Falcons underwent an offensive explosion with Kyle Shanahan drawing up the attack.

“The things that he does for them and what he can do is he does a great job of moving around into different positions,” Patricia said. “Coach Shanahan puts him in different spots. He’ll try to get him working different positions to get a matchup that he likes, or a particular formation that gives the defense problems, and then they’ll really use him in a variety of ways. He can run underneath routes, he has great speed, he has great hands, he has great body control, and he’s very, very strong. A bigger corner, smaller corner, whatever it is, he can push on the [defensive backs], lean and be able to play physical at the line of scrimmage, plus physical downfield with them, and still come up with the ball. He does a great job of tracking the ball in the air, can go up and high point it and get it.”

In other words, Julio Jones can be “covered,” and he can still make the catch.

“He’s got great hands and like I said, does a great job after the catch,” Patricia said. “Just his ability to get the ball, get vertical into the defense towards the end zone, stiff-arm a defender, break a tackle, run away from guys, it’s just he’s such a dynamic player in that aspect that he can give you a lot of problems. He’ll go vertical, he’ll run the intermediate routes, he’s very good at the top of the route, he does an unbelievable job of stemming and using his skill set to get separation at the top of the route in both man-to-man, and he does a great job of seeing zone coverage and sitting down. He and Matt Ryan have great chemistry where the route might be changed [because of] something that was called but because of the coverage, they’ve adjusted it and he’s been able to work himself into open space and then Ryan will get him the ball. He’s a great player.”

Yes he is, and it’s going to be a challenge unlike any the Patriots have encountered in a Super Bowl since they somehow outscored the Greatest Show on Turf in early 2002.

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Eagles “want to make sure” Carson Wentz on board with offseason moves

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 01: Quarterback Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks to pass against the Dallas Cowboys during the third quarter of a game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 1, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defatted the Cowboys 27-13. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Eagles made a big move ahead of the draft last year when they swung a deal with the Browns for the second overall pick in order to select quarterback Carson Wentz.

That move didn’t sit well with then-quarterback Sam Bradford, whose agent Tom Condon said after the deal that “it would have been nice” if the Eagles let Bradford know what was going on. Bradford demanded a trade and rescinded it before ultimately being dealt to the Vikings.

The circumstances are quite different this offseason, but the Eagles plan to consult with their current quarterback about this offseason’s moves. Vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said on WIP that he wants to hear Wentz’s voice as they move toward his second season, particularly when it comes to players who might be catching his passes.

“The way the league rules are, you’d love to be able to bring him down and throw to these guys,” Roseman said. “That would be unbelievable. It just doesn’t work that way. But from our perspective, we want to make sure that he’s on board with some of these things, and he’s looking at some … probably more in free agency than in the draft, because it’s hard for him to get caught up on the draft prospects.”

Roseman has already made it clear that the Eagles are building around Wentz, so it makes some sense to make sure the players being acquired are a good fit on his end. Given how little help he got from his receivers in 2016, Wentz may even upgrade the evaluation process.

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Dabo Swinney: If Browns pass on Deshaun Watson, they’re passing on Michael Jordan

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 hugs head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 35-31 to win the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says there’s no doubt that his star quarterback should be the first overall pick in the draft.

In fact, Swinney says that if the Browns don’t use the No. 1 pick on Deshaun Watson, they’re making a historic mistake that will haunt the franchise for years.

“He’s humble, the same guy every day, and always ready,” Swinney said of Watson. “He comes to every meeting prepared. That’s how you change things, you change the culture, through — for me it’s through discipline and recruiting, staffing and all that stuff. For them, it’s decision-making, it’s who you pick. And I’m just telling you: They pass on Deshaun Watson, they’re passing on Michael Jordan. I mean, I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, I’m just an old funky college coach, but Deshaun Watson is the best, by a long shot.”

Two teams did pass on Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA draft: The Houston Rockets took Akeem Olajuwon first overall, and he became a Hall of Famer who led the Rockets to NBA titles in the two years when Jordan left the Chicago Bulls. But the Portland Trail Blazers selected Sam Bowie second overall before the Bulls took Jordan third, and the Bowie selection is often remembered as one of the worst picks in draft history.

If the Browns choose Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett, the odds-on favorite to be the first overall pick, they’ll be hoping he’s more an Olajuwon than a Bowie. But Swinney says they should just take Watson, and get football’s Michael Jordan.

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Colts want to interview Ravens’ Eric DeCosta for G.M. job

John Harbaugh News Conference Getty Images

Eric DeCosta has been the right-hand man to Ravens G.M. Ozzie Newsome for two decades, and for most of that time other teams have viewed DeCosta as a strong candidate to become a G.M. himself. Unfortunately for those other teams, DeCosta has consistently declined opportunities to leave Baltimore.

The Colts hope to change that: Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com reports that the Colts have requested permission to interview DeCosta for their G.M. opening.

Would DeCosta have any interest in working for the Colts when he has shown little interest in leaving Baltimore for other teams? He might, for a couple reasons.

For one, he has a good relationship with Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, who was a Ravens assistant for four years before he went to Indianapolis. For another, the Colts have Andrew Luck, which would mean the hardest part of a G.M.’s job — finding a franchise quarterback — is already done in Indianapolis.

Still, getting DeCosta to Indianapolis seems like a long shot. DeCosta has indicated many times that he’s happy where he is, and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has indicated that DeCosta will get the top job in the Baltimore front office when Ozzie Newsome retires. Getting DeCosta to change course and move on to the Colts would be a big coup for Jim Irsay.

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Todd Gurley: 2016 a “nightmare” I don’t want to experience again

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley, right, runs the ball while under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Eric Murray during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang) AP

Shortly before the Rams fired Jeff Fisher as their head coach, running back Todd Gurley shared his feeling that the team was running a middle school offense and that some players on the team were just going through the motions as a losing season ran its course.

While Gurley’s comments about the offense would seem to be directed at the people in charge of installing it and calling the plays, he said on The Rich Eisen Show Tuesday that his frustration was with the players. There were “too many mental errors from everybody, including myself.”

It’s not anything that Gurley wants to experience again.

“Like a nightmare. I still can’t believe the season,” Gurley said. “It was definitely a tough year, a learning experience for me. To be 4-12 this year? I don’t want to feel that feeling again.”

The Rams have a new coach in Sean McVay and one of the first things he can do to help chart a winning course is find a way to get Gurley back to the kind of effectiveness he had as a rookie. Gurley ran for 1,106 yards while averaging 4.8 yards per carry in 2015, but dropped to 3.2 yards per attempt in 2016 while never hitting 100 yards in a game, leaving plenty of room for improvement for a player expected to be a building block of better Rams offenses.

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Mike Tomlin didn’t see Antonio Brown pouting, will “continue to challenge him”

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers congratulates wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 following the Steelers win against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) Getty Images

After a week filled with plenty of discussion about his decision to post video from the team’s locker room on social media, wide receiver Antonio Brown had a quiet game in the Steelers’ season-ending loss to the Patriots.

The aftermath of that game hasn’t been without some drama where Brown is concerned, however. Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Media reported that the Steelers are concerned that Brown puts too much focus on his personal statistics and not enough on what’s best for the team. The report went on to say Brown was pouting after a DeAngelo Williams touchdown against the Patriots and that coach Mike Tomlin spoke to Brown about the issue in 2015.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Tomlin said that he didn’t see Brown pouting during the game and was asked more generally about where things stood with Brown heading into the offseason.

“We all need to get better in all areas,” Tomlin said. “I am going to continue to challenge him in the way I have challenged him over the course of his career to continue to find new ways to be an impact player for us. To continue to grow within the role that is his role on this team. He is a dynamic player. There are responsibilities that come with being a dynamic player, I am going to ask him to continue to grow in those areas.”

Tomlin said those things were important for all players, but they seem particularly big for Brown as he enters the final year of his current contract. When discussing the locker room video, Tomlin said incidents like that are “often why you see great players move from team to team.”

With Ben Roethlisberger talking about the possibility of not playing next season and issues involving Brown front and center, there will be plenty of attention on how things play out in Pittsburgh over the coming months.

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Brandon Spikes disputes lawsuit from The Fish Guy

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 28:  Brandon Spikes #51 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 28, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) Getty Images

There are two sides to every story, and soon-to-be-free agent linebacker Brandon Spikes disputes the claims of The Fish Guy who is carping about not getting paid.

Instead, Spikes is portraying Joshua Wolfson as a bit of a fish-killer.

Spikes’ agent David Canter said that Spikes hired Wolfson to service his tank in 2011, and that he moved his tank three times. The first resulted in a failure of the tank and the death of about half his fish, but fish die sometimes, so Spikes continued to employ him.

When it was time to move to Buffalo, Wolfson advised Spikes to buy a new tank and installed it, at which point more fish died. A local fish tank service in Buffalo said the filters were improperly set up and the tank was all wrong for the type of fish Spikes had, leading Spikes to buy another tank in an effort to save the remaining fish.

Since he lost a bunch of fish and had two buy two tanks, Spikes decided to not pay The Fish Guy, which led to a threat of countersuit. When Spikes rejoined the Bills and had paychecks again, The Fish Guy filed a motion to garnish his wages, and Spikes’ lawyers have filed a motion to vacate that judgement.

As you can tell, this is different from Wolfson’s story of the veteran linebacker being a piker, and not just something they’re doing for the halibut.

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Should any team trust Johnny Manziel?

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 27:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Cleveland Browns watches from the sidelines during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 27, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Johnny Football is all about football.

That was the mantra three years ago, with Manziel focused solely and exclusively on football in the months preceding the draft. He was so obsessed with football and only football that a day trip to Nike headquarters in Oregon prompted a “Hey, I thought you were only focusing on football?” reaction.

Manziel was so obsessed with football that he wouldn’t even do radio interviews aimed at talking about (wait for it) football. He carefully crafted an image regarding a player who “gets it” and who has left childish ways behind and who was ready to be a productive NFL player and who, once he was drafted, immediately reverted to the immature, party-loving, not-hard-working player he had been.

After an offseason featuring money phones and inflatable swans and rolled-up dollar bills and a regular season that included stories of a non-franchise-quarterback’s work ethic, Manziel spent more than 10 weeks in rehab. The Browns stood by him as he made the changes necessary to get his life on track.

During the 2015 season, the wheels came off, with Manziel again embraced to his hardy partying ways, a trend that continued through the end of the campaign, prompting his father to muse that the end literally could be coming and sparking a firing by not one but two agents.

The problems continued, from a domestic violence incident to a wrecked car to a trashed rental home to a spindly build that looked like anything but a quarterback’s physique. He finally disappeared from view when he returned to Texas A&M, and now he’s back, openly campaigning for an NFL job a week before he’ll be selling autographs and selfies in conjunction with the Super Bowl in Houston.

If he’s not merely looking to stir up interest in next week’s money grab, Manziel will need to do a lot more than delete his Twitter account in order to get back to the NFL. He’ll need to win the trust of a team, and at this point who would trust him?

A fanboy trip to the AFC Championship hardly suggests the kind of transformation he’ll need in order to secure a spot on the most important aspect of any team’s depth chart. Every quarterback has a key role on an NFL team. Beyond the starter, the No. 2 and No. 3 players are there to support the No. 1 guy and help prepare the rest of the team, offensively and defensively.

It’s not a position for a charity case or redemption story. With multiple past instances of Manziel mimicking Eddie Haskell, there’s no reason to believe that he truly has changed or that he’ll remain changed.

If from a talent standpoint Manziel were potentially the next Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees or Russell Wilson, things would be different. Manziel isn’t.

Even if fully and completely engaged, he’s a limited NFL player with a limited NFL game who has squandered his opportunities and who simply doesn’t deserve another one at the expense of some other quarterback who has checked all the right boxes and done all the right things and who, above all else, can be trusted not to create a host of distractions in new and innovative ways.

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Report: Colts want to interview Chris Ballard for G.M. job

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 29: An Indianapolis Colts helmet sits on the sidelines during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on September 29, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts kicked off their search for a new General Manager by firing Ryan Grigson last weekend and the list of candidates they’re putting together will look familiar to anyone who has been keeping an eye on the 49ers’ search.

Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports that the team has requested permission to interview Chiefs director of football operations Chris Ballard. He joins Packers exec Eliot Wolf, Vikings exec George Paton, interim G.M. Jimmy Raye and Seahawks co-player personnel directors Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer on their list.

The Chiefs blocked Ballard from interviewing for the opening with the 49ers, but their ability to do that ended once their season ended with a loss to the Steelers in the divisional round of the playoffs. There was also a report that Ballard was not interested in interviewing with other teams, so we’ll have to see if the new opening in Indianapolis leads to a different outcome.

All of the candidates identified in Indianapolis were in the mix for the 49ers opening, although Paton is the only one still in the running. He’s expected to interview with the 49ers a second time on Saturday.

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Terry McDonough to get second interview with 49ers

McDonough2MAIN

While many have pulled out, the 49ers do still have candidates for their General Manager opening.

According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, Cardinals executive Terry McDonough is expected to have his second interview with the 49ers Saturday.

And since Saturday is the day Falcons offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting Kyle Shanahan can talk to the 49ers, that meeting will presumably take place in Atlanta.

McDonough, the Cardinals vice president of player personnel, has gotten an endorsement from former 49ers coach Mike Nolan, and is one of few known remaining candidates.

Minnesota’s George Paton is also still apparently in the mix, though the Colts want to talk to him as well.

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Johnny Manziel is done with Twitter “distraction”

johnny-manziel.vresize.1200.675.high.90 Getty Images

Not long after former Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel sent the President of the United States some advice about social media via social media, he deleted his social media account.

Now, he says he got out of the Twitter business because it was a “distraction” for him as he tries to get back to the NFL.

“Twitter has been nothing but a distraction for me. I’ve said all I can say,” Manziel told TMZ Sports. “Now I need to shut the hell up and work on bettering myself and my situation.”

This came after tweeting at President Donald Trump with the suggestion to forego the notifications, saying it “will drive you crazy.”

Manziel has said he’s sober and wants another chance to get back into the league. And while getting rid of Twitter doesn’t necessarily move him closer to that goal, it could at least reduce one factor which could might slow that progress.

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Bill Belichick: Falcons look faster than almost every team they play

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 01: Vic Beasley Jr. #44 celebrates a sack with Grady Jarrett #97 of the Atlanta Falcons during the first half against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome on January 1, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots haven’t faced the Falcons since the 2013 season and Atlanta’s team has changed considerably since they lost to the Patriots 30-23 on their way to a 4-12 season.

Belichick outlined one of the biggest differences he sees in this year’s Falcons team when he fielded a question about the stamp Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff has put on the team. After noting that he worked with Dimitroff’s father when both men were with the Browns and with Dimitroff when he was in charge of college scouting in New England, Belichick noted Atlanta is “explosive offensively” and pointed to how fast the Falcons are playing on defense.

“I’d say the stamp on the team, the thing that I would notice the most is just the speed, the team speed that the Falcons have,” Belichick said during a conference call. “They have a lot of fast guys. Defensively they close up space very quickly. Their linebackers run well. Their defensive line, although they have a couple of big, strong, physical guys in there, overall they have usually nine or 10 players on the field that I would say are fast. They’re either as fast or faster than probably what the average speed of their position is in the league. I’d say that’s a big stamp that he has put on the team.”

Later in the call, Belichick said that he saw similarities between the Falcons defense and the one Dan Quinn ran when he was the defensive coordinator with the Seahawks. That unit hasn’t posted the same kind of results as the Seattle one did on their way to a 28-24 loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl two years ago, but they’ll get a chance at gaining a better result in Houston.

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