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Week 12 Thanksgiving 10-pack

Packers Lions Football

We’ve moved the Friday 10-pack to Thursday, since posting it on Thursday puts the Thanksgiving games in play for our 10 takes regarding the coming weekend of games.

I also needed to get it done early because I’ll be spending Thursday night preparing to host The Dan Patrick Show on Friday, a process which may look a lot like achieving and maintaining a turkey-induced stupor.  Primarily because that’s precisely what it will be.

1.  At least the NFL tried to give us good games on Thanksgiving.

Every year, complaints arise regarding the quality of the games played on the fourth Thursday in November.  This year, the NFL did something about it.

Though the Lions continue to have a hammerlock on the early game, the NFL picked the Patriots to be the visiting team.  (Because CBS will televise the game, the road team had to be from the AFC; this year, the choices were the Jets and the Patriots.  Either way, a quality opponent would have been pegged for the game.)

For the afternoon contest, the NFL earmarked a game that, as of April, looked to be one of the 10 best of the year — Saints at Cowboys.  Though the Cowboys’ struggles have made the game less intriguing, the NFL opted not to take advantage of its captive audience by offering up the weakest home game on the Dallas schedule.  (Then again, the Lions already were booked.)

The night game — Bengals at Jets — also looked as of April to be a potentially great game, given that the Bengals and Jets both made the playoffs in 2009.  Who knew that the Bengals would be after 10 games The 2-Ocho Show?

Short of moving Thanksgiving to September, the risk that games that looked great in April will be relevant in November applies to every NFL season.  All we can ask is that the NFL attempt to provide quality games.

Even if the Lions and Cowboys would lose their automatic home games, there’s no way of knowing that the games picked prior to the season will involve quality teams by the time the games are played.  What if the Vikings had “earned” a home game on Thanksgiving as a result of their 2009 performance?  Or the 49ers, based on the widespread belief that they’d be much improved in 2010?

In April, every season is a crapshoot.  At least the NFL has finally decided to shoot for something other than crap on Thanksgiving.

2.  Favre could thrive under Frazier.

The decision of Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier to keep brett Favre at quarterback makes sense.  Frazier will earn the job for 2011 only by winning games, and Farve at quarterback gives Frazier the best chance to do that.

The Vikings don’t need to know what Tarvaris Jackson can do; he had relevance only when a change of quarterbacks may have belped salvage a playoff berth.  And Frazier has no interest in developing Joe Webb to become the possible starter for the next regime.

So what of the notion that Favre will continue to produce more turnovers than a baker on an IV full of Red Bull?  Without former coach Brad Childress peering over Favre’s shoulder and constantly telling him what to do and what not to do, it’s entirely possible that Favre will perform better.

Even though reeling off six in a row likely won’t be enough to edge out one of the three-loss teams currently in position to take both of the wild-card spots, a strong finish to the season would partially rehab Favre’s fading legacy — and it would give Frazier a fighter’s chance at keeping the job.  Having Childress out of the picture will make if easier for Favre to just relax and play.

3.  Delhomme’s revenge.

Earlier this year, the Carolina Panthers discarded quarterback Jake Delhomme like an empty bottle of screw-top wine.  And for good reason.  Ever since the completion of the 2008 regular season, Delhomme had been playing like a guy whose Gatorade had been spiked with a full bottle of screw-top wine.

On Sunday, Delhomme will get his first start since Week One, due to Colt McCoy’s ankle sprain.  Coincidentally, that start will come against the Carolina Panthers.

So the game will provide Delhomme with a shot at redemption, a chance to prove the Panthers wrong.

Then again, given that Delhomme received a contract worth $20 million guaranteed before the 2009 season, it’s the Panthers that should be thinking about revenge.

Either way, the link gives a sliver of meaning to an otherwise meaningless game.

4.  It’s getting no easier for Mike Vick.

If the Eagles and quarterback Mike Vick struggle at Soldier Field on Sunday, it’ll be easy to blame the Sports Illustrated jinx, given that he graces the magazine’s cover this week.  But we’re not much for jinxes, unless the person to be jinxed allows himself to think that the jinx exists.

For Vick, the bigger concern should be opposing defenses studying ever bit of tape from his performances to date, building on game plans that slowed him down and trying to devise the one tactic that will shut him down and/or knock him out.

Though the Bears present the latest challenge, a pair of games against the Cowboys, a rematch with the Giants, and a date with the Vikings remain.  With each passing week, defenses will be trying even harder to be the team that solves the Vick riddle, preferably by putting him back on the injury report.

Look for the Bears, mired in a seven-quality-teams-but-only-five-spots chase for the postseason, to pull out all the stops.

5.   Monday night loser could still be alive.

Thanksgiving weekend wraps up with a Monday night game between the 49ers and Cardinals.  It presents a rare stinker on ESPN’s 2010 slate.  But it’s not as bad as it appears, if we ignore the fact that each team has a record of 3-7.

If the 5-5 Seahawks lose on Sunday against the Chiefs, the loser of Monday night’s game will remain only two games out of first place with five games to play.

Sure, the loser will be a woeful 3-8.  But if we can get past that won-loss record, the reality is that the loser can still get hot in December and steal the division and reset its record to 0-0 in the single-elimination tournament that will commence with the NFC West champion hosting a playoff game.

6.  In Atlanta, home-field advantage possibly hangs in the balance.

The game of the week undoubtedly occurs in the Georgia Dome, where the red-hot Packers take on the red-hot Falcons.

Under quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons have won 18 games and lost only one at home.  Under quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have scored a total of 76 points in consecutive games against the Cowboys and Vikings.

The Packers are more than a good offense; their defense has allowed only 10 points in three games, including the pitching of a shutout of the Jets at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

With these two teams destined to play beyond January 2, this game will go a long way toward determining where the second game may occur.  And regardless of what happens this time around, the location of a January rematch will have a lot to do with its potential outcome.

7.  Keep an eye on Tom Brady’s foot.

Vikings quarterback Brett Favre has no qualms when it comes to talking about his injuries.  Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is more apt to talk about his hair.

And so it’s impossible to know the exact diagnosis of and prognosis for Brady’s current foot injury, which caused him to miss practice on Tuesday and Wednesday and to be listed as questionable for Thursday’s game, a rare departure from his usual designation as probable.

Sporting a defensive line that could give the Patriots flashbacks to Super Bowl XLII and a Detroit team that is otherwise irrelevant in NFL circles, it’ll be interesting to see whether these Lions use their rare national spotlight as an occasion to roar, by pouncing on Brady’s bum foot.

8.  Colts are suddenly in trouble.

If the season ended today, the Colts’ season would be over.  And while they’ll play four of their final six games at home, the Colts face the prospect of missing the playoffs — and of winning fewer than 10 games — for the first time since Jim Mora refused to use the “P” word.

The slide very well could continue on Sunday night, when the surging Chargers come to town.  The Chargers have played the Colts well in recent years, providing Indy with a consistent thorn in their side.

And while both of the quarterbacks have had to overcome injuries to their supporting cast on offense, the Chargers are getting healthy a lot faster than the Colts.  And the Chargers will have receiver Vincent Jackson back, for the first time all year.

It could spell trouble once again for the Colts.  At 6-5, the Colts would have to make like the Chargers and finish strong in order to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.

9.  Bucs get their chance to impress.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have handled every team they’ve faced, with the exception of the three elite franchises they’ve played — the Steelers, Saints, and Falcons.

This weekend, the Bucs draw the Ravens.  On the road.

On paper, this is another game that Tampa should lose.  If the Bucs find a way to win, it’ll be time to take this team seriously.

Actually, it’s already time to take this team seriously.  With upcoming games against the Redskins, Lions, and Seahawks, 10 wins could be in the offing.  With the Ravens, Falcons, and Saints also on the docket, victory in any one of those games will help the Bucs do the unthinkable — nailing down coach of the year honors for Raheem Morris, and possibly executive of the year recognition for Mark Dominik.  With a roster devoid of pricey veterans, the Bucs are one of the few teams that is playing like a true team.

10.  Chargers are following form, and will likely continue to do so.

After the Chargers lost five of their first seven games, we said (one or twice, or more often) that the team eventually would try to follow a slow start with a fast finish — and fail.

But the Chargers have shown that they can do it again, reeling off three wins and moving to within a game of first place in the AFC West.  And they’ll likely continue their climb to the playoffs.

Where they’ll likely lose in one of the first two rounds.

While, as mentioned above, they match up well with the Colts, the Chargers eventually would face the Patriots, Jets, Ravens, or Steelers.  And with five losses already in the standings, the Chargers will have to take their pass-first offense to an open-air stadium in the Northeast.  In the middle of January.

Moving forward, and as our friend Scott Caplan of XX 1090 in San Diego pointed out during our weekly Wednesday morning radio visit, the Chargers should redouble their efforts to figure out why they can’t win more games in September and October.  If they could emerge into November and December with a better record, they’d be able to force some of the other elite teams to San Diego in January.

Hey, at least the Chargers wouldn’t have to face a long flight home after losing.

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Pro Bowl still attracts thousands at the stadium, millions on TV

emmanuelsanders

Plenty of people think the Pro Bowl is such a lousy exhibition game that the NFL ought to scrap it. Here’s why the NFL will do no such thing: Plenty of fans still enjoy it.

Here at University of Phoenix Stadium, there are very few empty seats and tens of thousands of fans who seem to be having a good time. Cardinals fans dominate (the three most common jerseys I’ve seen are Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson and Pat Tillman), but a quick look at the crowd reveals jerseys representing just about every team in the NFL. And they seem to be enjoying themselves. A great Odell Beckham catch drew a loud ovation, and even during the commercial breaks fans are laughing and cheering as mascots from a dozen or so teams engage in their usual mascot buffoonery. (There were loud cheers while mascots played musical chairs during a commercial break, then even louder cheers when some mascot-on-mascot violence broke out and the Patriots’ mascot took the brunt of it.)

The fans also enjoyed the opportunity to do some booing: When the Seahawks’ Pro Bowlers (who aren’t playing in the game because they’re preparing for the Super Bowl) were shown on the big screen, the crowd booed loudly. Putting Richard Sherman’s face on the screen seemed to draw particular ire from the fans.

And, of course, the TV ratings will be strong, as they always are. In fact, the Pro Bowl frequently draws bigger television audiences than the baseball, basketball and hockey All-Star games.

So while the NFL may continue to tinker with the format, make no mistake: The Pro Bowl is here to stay.

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Richard Sherman thinks Goodell-Kraft relationship will protect Patriots

Sherman AP

The Seahawks had done a good job last week of dancing around #DeflateGate, with perhaps the strongest comment from cornerback Richard Sherman when he compared the potential handling of underinflated footballs to the league’s reported threat to prevent Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch from playing with gold cleats.

Sherman went all in on Sunday after arriving in Arizona, suggesting that the friendship between Commissioner Roger Goodell and Patriots owner Robert Kraft ultimately will lead to the exoneration of the Patriots.

Will they be punished?  Probably not,” Sherman told reporters, via Don Banks of SI.com.  “Not as long as Robert Kraft and Goodell are still taking pictures [together] at their respective homes.  I think he was just at Kraft’s house last week for the AFC Championship.  Talk about conflict of interest.  You know, as long as that happens, it won’t affect them at all.  Nothing will.”

Sherman’s point is undermined by the fact that Goodell hammered the Patriots for Spygate in 2007, despite the fact that the team will still owned at the time by Kraft.  Still, if the Patriots aren’t punished for the latest controversy, some will point to the strong support Kraft provided Goodell during the Ray Rice situation as proof of preferential treatment, even if the truth is that the league tried to catch the Pats in the act of underinflating footballs and ultimately failed to do so.

From the sideline of the Pro Bowl, Sherman had a chance to elaborate during an interview with ESPN’s Lisa Salters, who asked about his belief that the Pats won’t face consequences.

“I don’t because how that’s gonna be,” Sherman said.  “It’s the world we live in.  It’s the league we play in.”

Sherman also addressed the substance of the NFL’s suspicion of deliberate underinflation, stopping short of poking a bear that already will be poised to prove to the world that the Patriots deserve to be in the Super Bowl.

“I think the perception is the reality,” Sherman said.  “It is what it is.  Their resume speaks for itself.  You talk about getting close to the line. . . .  I don’t really have a comment about that, but their past is what their past is, their present is what their present is.”

Still, we don’t know what their past or present is regarding ball inflation, because the NFL has never dealt with this type of situation before — and because the NFL apparently was woefully unprepared to link proof of underinflated balls to proof of foul play.  Absent a clear plan to make that connection, the NFL never should have pulled the pin on this specific grenade.

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Jim Irsay compliments Patriots, says he’s “confident” in NFL’s investigation

Jim Irsay AP

While complimenting the Patriots on their rout of his club in last week’s AFC title game, Colts owner Jim Irsay expressed support Sunday night for the league’s investigation of the Pats’ alleged under-inflation of footballs.

Via his verified Twitter account, Irsay said his franchise is “confident the NFL and Commissioner [Roger Goodell] will address the concerns that arouse from our [championship game].”

Wrote Irsay: “The integrity of the game is critical.”

The footballs used by New England in the first half of its 45-7 victory vs. Indianapolis were tested by the NFL, which said Friday that “the evidence thus far supports” the Pats used under-inflated game balls in the first 30 minutes of regulation. The NFL’s investigation remains ongoing.

On Saturday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick defended his club, saying the team didn’t break any rules and offering evidence to support his contention.

Before directly addressing the inflation controversy, Irsay published three Patriots-related tweets, at one point calling New England “a team with championship lineage.”

Here were Irsay’s remarks:

“We congratulate The Patriots as AFC Champions. We knew the difficulties of going to New England and did not overcome the obstacles we faced.

“Our rivalry with The Pats is something we treasure in the depths of our competitive soul,where the fire burns hot. We look forward to 2015.

“Seahawks/Pats will be a great Super Bowl. It’s a great matchup between defending Champions and a team with championship lineage.”

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Browns blew it with Josh Gordon

Gordon Getty Images

With Browns receiver Josh Gordon facing a one-year suspension that he’s not expected to be able to defeat via the appeal process, his time with the team probably is over.  After not having him for 10 games to start 2014 due to a marijuana violation and suspending him for the regular-season finale after missing a walk-through practice, the Browns now won’t have Gordon for all of 2015.

Her arrived in 2012 via the second-round of the supplemental draft.  Despite plenty of warning signs regarding marijuana use in college, the Browns under former CEO Mike Holmgren, G.M. Tom Heckert, and coach Pat Shurmur rolled the dice, likely knowing that with Jimmy Haslam poised to purchase the team from Randy Lerner, a strong season would be a key to remaining employed.  So why not use the 2013 second-round pick in July 2012, if there’s a chance they won’t be there to use the pick in April 2013?

A negotiated two-game suspension to start the 2013 season showed that concerns about Gordon were well founded.  But the Browns could have traded Gordon before the October deadline, and ultimately Haslam prevented president Joe Banner, G.M. Mike Lombardi, and coach Rob Chudzinski from doing so.  After the season, Gordon had outlasted a pair of team presidents, a pair of General Managers, and a pair of head coaches.

Then came the news at draft time that Gordon was facing a one-year suspension.  The Browns didn’t draft a single receiver to replace him, even though they could have had Sammy Watkins with the fourth pick or Odell Beckham after trading down with Buffalo to No. 9.

Now, Gordon has once again let the Browns down, and it becomes very hard for the Browns to trust him again.  If he’s reinstated in a year, the Browns would be wise to trade him.  This time around, they surely won’t get anything close to what they could have gotten in 2013.

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Narrow goal posts at the Pro Bowl look a little goofy

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With the Pro Bowl about to kick off, PFT is coming to you live from University of Phoenix Stadium, and our first reaction to surveying the scene is this: The narrower goal posts look a little goofy.

One of the NFL’s many experiments with different rules at this year’s Pro Bowl is the narrowing of the goal posts from 18 feet across to 14 feet across, which the league hopes will make field goals and extra points more difficult, and therefore more interesting for the fans. On first glance, those posts look strange.

Two people who don’t like it are the two Pro Bowl kickers, Adam Vinatieri of the Colts and Cody Parkey of the Eagles.

Other people might enjoy that,” Vinatieri said. ”For me, I’m a traditionalist. Don’t change it unless it needs to be changed. The league has never been more successful. The fan base has never been greater. But the deciding powers are way above me.”

Added Parkey, “I don’t prefer it but it is what it is,. It’s going to be way harder. It’s the kind of situation where there are so many good kickers in the league that I guess made it look easy. They’ve got to find other ways to make it harder. No matter what it is, we’ll accept the challenge.”

There has been talk in the NFL of moving extra points farther back to make them more difficult, and there was an experiment with that last preseason. This year, perhaps the Pro Bowl experiment will be the first step toward making field goals and extra points harder by making the goal posts narrower. Even if the sight of those narrower posts takes some getting used to.

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Rob Gronkowski favored to score a touchdown in Super Bowl 49

New England Patriots Practice Getty Images

We’ve entered the third day of PFT’s Prop Challenge, our daily look at a Super Bowl proposition bet.

The first two props studied were Over-Unders — bets that require choosing whether a given statistic will finish above or below a given number.

On Day One, we pondered Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell’s chances at exceeding 50.5 receiving yards in the Super Bowl.

On Day Two, we looked at the Over-Under on catches by Seahawks wideout Doug Baldwin (four).

In both cases, PFT Planet preferred the OVER by a roughly 55-to-45 margin.

Now, on Day Three, we look at a “Yes” or “No” prop made by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Here’s the prop: Will Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski score a touchdown in Super Bowl 49?

“Yes” is favored at -130, meaning a bettor have to lay $13 to win $10.

“No” is +110, with a successful $10 resulting in $11 of profit.

Gronkowski has 14 touchdown catches in 17 games this season, with one TD catch in five consecutive games.

On the other hand, the Seahawks have surrendered 11 TDs to tight ends in 18 games, per ESPN statistics.

So here we go. Does Rob Gronkowski score a touchdown next Sunday, or does Seattle hold him out of the endzone? Let us know via the poll and in the comments. Remember: after the Super Bowl, we’ll tally the votes and see just how well PFT Planet handicaps in this hypothetical, just-for-fun exercise.

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Raiders continue filling out coaching staff

Buffalo Bills v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Raiders have continued putting together head coach Jack Del Rio’s first Oakland staff by adding a pair of former NFL players.

Jerry McDonald of Bay Area News Group reports that the team has added Rob Moore as their new wide receivers coach and Bernie Parmalee as the new running backs coach.

Moore spent his first year as an NFL coach working with the wide receivers in Buffalo after spending several years on the staff at his alma mater Syracuse, where he worked for former Bills coach Doug Marrone as well. Moore played 10 seasons for the Jets and Cardinals, making the Pro Bowl twice and the All-Pro team once.

Parmalee played nine years for the Dolphins and Jets and moved into coaching after his playing career came to an end following the 2000 season. He worked for the Dolphins and then spent time working under Charlie Weis when he was a head coach at Notre Dame and Kansas as well as during his time with the Chiefs.

The Raiders have filled out the majority of their offensive staff and hired a few defensive assistants, but they’re still looking for a defensive coordinator.

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Browns not yet notified of positive test for Josh Gordon

Josh Gordon AP

While noting they were “very disappointed” to learn of news of Josh Gordon’s positive test for alcohol, the Browns say they have not yet been notified of the wide receiver running afoul of league policy.

“At this point, due to the confidential nature of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, we have not been made aware by the league of a failed test,” the club said in a team-issued statement Sunday. “We are in the process of gathering more information and will provide further comment at the appropriate time.”

Gordon was subject to alcohol testing because of his 2014 DWI arrest, PFT’s Mike Florio reported Sunday. Gordon now faces a one-year ban.

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Report: Chris Polian interviews with Eagles for second time

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Getty Images

The Eagles have opened the offseason by making a change to the structure of their organization with Howie Roseman’s title changing from General Manager to executive vice president of football operations and coach Chip Kelly taking on a bigger role in player personnel matters.

The team has been looking for another personnel executive to take on some of the General Manager duties while working under Kelly and that search reportedly took a step forward recently. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Jaguars director of pro personnel Chris Polian interviewed with the Eagles for a second time.

Polian appears to be the first candidate to get a second opportunity to talk to the Eagles, who have seen other candidates blocked by their current teams or other ambitions as they try to find the right person to slot into their reworked front office.

Polian has spent the last two years working with the Jaguars and was the Colts’ General Manager from 2009-2011, although the presence of his father Bill at the top of the organization made that job look similar to the one he’d fill with the Eagles if he winds up in Philly.

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Dick LeBeau won’t be joining Cardinals staff after all

Dick LeBeau AP

The Cardinals still don’t have a defensive coordinator, and they apparently won’t be adding one of the best at that job of all time.

According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, longtime Steelers coordinator Dick LeBeau won’t be taking a job on Bruce Arians’ staff.

Arians was expected to fill the coordinator job vacated by Todd Bowles from within his current staff, but he was hoping to add LeBeau as a senior assistant to lend some gravity to the group.

They’ve also shown some interest in Falcons coordinator Mike Nolan, and he’d fit the general criteria established by their pursuit of LeBeau, if not to the same degree.

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Josh Gordon tests positive for alcohol, faces one-year ban

Cleveland Browns v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon faces yet another NFL suspension.

PFT’s Mike Florio has confirmed Gordon is in line for a one-year ban for a violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

A source tells Florio that Gordon tested positive for alcohol. Moreover, a source tells Florio that Gordon’s suspension looks to be a “done deal,” with a reversal of the ban not expected. As Florio notes, Gordon is subject to alcohol testing because of his July 2014 DWI arrest.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported Gordon was set to draw a one-year ban from the league.

If Gordon’s suspension sticks, it’s a major setback for a wonderfully talented player who has already lost 13 games to league- and team-levied suspensions in his NFL career.

Furthermore, the news of Gordon’s potential ban throws his future with the Browns into doubt. At season’s end, coach Mike Pettine said the receiver was “squarely at a crossroads with us.”

The 23-year-old Gordon was suspended for the first 10 games of the 2014 regular season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. After returning to the lineup, he did not recapture his best form, catching just 24 passes for 303 yards in five games. Making matters worse, Gordon was suspended for the Browns’ season finale at Baltimore for a violation of team rules.

Fifty-two Sundays ago, Gordon was playing the Pro Bowl, the coda to a spectacular second NFL season, one that saw him catch 87 passes for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in just 14 games.

One year later, it’s fair to wonder whether Gordon’s Cleveland career will soon be over. What’s more, his NFL future is in some question, as he will have to gain reinstatement if banished by the league.

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NFL bears plenty of blame for #DeflateGate

2011 NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears Getty Images

At this point, it’s unclear whether the NFL will find any evidence to support the suspicion that someone from the Patriots deliberately caused footballs to lose air pressure.  If the NFL fails to find a proverbial smoking gun, that alone could become a different kind of smoking gun.

Even if (and at this point it could be a big if) the league finds proof of foul play, was it really worth it?  The NFL has tarnished its own shield by painting a Super Bowl participant as a cheater without clear evidence of cheating.  As noted on Friday, some believe that former Commissioners (such as Paul Tagliabue) would have addressed complaints coming from teams like the Colts regarding underinflated footballs not by trying to lay a trap for the Patriots, but by letting the Patriots know that the league office is paying attention to the situation, and that if there’s any funny business happening it needs to stop, now.  Instead, the league office opted to try to catch the Patriots red handed.

But what has the NFL really found?  As one league source has explained it to PFT, the football intercepted by Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was roughly two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum.  The other 10 balls that reportedly were two pounds under may have been, as the source explained it, closer to one pound below 12.5 PSI.

The NFL has yet to share specific information regarding the PSI measurements of the balls that were confiscated and measured at halftime.  Which has allowed the perception of cheating to linger, fueled by the confirmation from Friday that the NFL found underinflated balls, but that the NFL still doesn’t know how they came to be that way.

“The goals of the investigation will be to determine the explanation for why footballs used in the game were not in compliance with the playing rules and specifically whether any noncompliance was the result of deliberate action,” the league said. “We have not made any judgments on these points and will not do so until we have concluded our investigation and considered all of the relevant evidence.”

Regardless of how hard or easy it could be or should be to get to the truth, the NFL owes it to the Patriots and the league to get there, quickly.  Instead, the premier American sporting event apparently will be played under a dark cloud, and anything other than an eventual finding of cheating will seem anticlimactic and contrived.  Even if the conclusion is regarded as legitimate, it won’t undo the damage that the Patriots and the NFL will have suffered during this bizarre period of pending allegations that have not yet been proven.

So at a time when the league office is still reeling from an insufficient investigation in the Ray Rice case, the league office now faces even more criticism for a clumsy sting operation that possibly will end up being a swing and a miss.  Surely, much of that criticism will be directed privately at the league office from the Patriots.

Complicating matters for the NFL is that the bat initially was swung by Mike Kensil, a former employee of the Jets with a reputation among the Patriots for being an agitator. (Kensil’s father, Jim, served as president of the Jets for 10 years from the late 1970s to the late 1980s.)  And so on the same day that the tampering charges filed by the Patriots against the Jets over Darrelle Revis became the latest chapter in a longstanding feud between the franchises, the tentacles of acrimony between the two franchises found a way to erupt into a brouhaha unlike many the NFL ever has seen.

The NFL never should have let this specific situation get to that point.  Even if the league deemed it proper to lay a trap, they should have realized the challenges of actually making a trap work.  In this case, it appears that they didn’t.

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Akeem Ayers: Titans did me a favor trading me to Patriots

Rob Ninkovich, Akeem Ayers AP

Akeem Ayers is in the Super Bowl because he was traded from the Titans to the Patriots during the 2014 season. He’s thankful for that.

Ayers said he appreciates the Titans for getting rid of him and getting him to a place where he could succeed.

“They made a decision that they felt like they needed to make,” Ayers said, via the Providence Journal. “I don’t have any hard feelings. I just took it as motivation and especially being here on this team, I feel like they did me a favor, honestly. I really don’t have any hard feelings for them. I have a lot of close friends on the team and I still talk to them. It’s nothing personal. I came here and I did a good job here and we’re going to the Super Bowl.”

Ayers barely got on the field for the Titans during the first half of the season, but he was a key contributor to the Patriots’ defense during the second half of the season. The Titans didn’t just do Ayers a favor. They did the Patriots a favor as well.

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Report: Raheem Morris expected to be Falcons defensive coordinator

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Falcons are believed to be waiting for the Seahawks to finish the Super Bowl so that they can go ahead and hire Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as their next head coach, but that hasn’t stopped them from moving forward with other coaching moves.

They’ve decided on Kyle Shanahan as their next offensive coordinator and they may be moving forward with his defensive counterpart as well. Mike Jones of the Washington Post reports that the Falcons have set up an interview with Redskins defensive backs coach Raheem Morris and that the expectation is that Morris will take the position.

Morris interviewed for the coordinator job in Washington as well as the one with the Giants, but both teams went in other directions with their ultimate hire. Morris has never been a coordinator at the pro level, although working under Quinn wouldn’t be quite a full coordinator role because Quinn is expected to still call the defensive plays.

Morris played for Hofstra when Quinn was an assistant and then joined him on the coaching staff at the Long Island school before both men moved on for other jobs. Morris and Shanahan were both on the same Washington staff in 2012 and 2013.

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Bears hire another former Broncos assistant

John Fox AP

John Fox brought offensive coordinator Adam Gase with him from Denver to Chicago and now the team has added another member of the 2014 Broncos offensive coaching staff to the ranks.

The Bears announced that they have hired Bo Hardegree as an offensive assistant. Hardegree was an offensive quality control coach in Denver in 2014, his first year as an NFL assistant.

Before making the move to Denver, Hardegree spent three years as a coaching intern on both sides of the ball at LSU. He was a graduate assistant at Duke for three years before that and played quarterback as well as tennis at the University of Tennessee during his collegiate career.

Hardegree joins Gase, special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers, offensive line coach Dave Magazu and two others as assistants following Fox to Chicago for the 2015 season.

 

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