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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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Broncos begin process of rebuilding defensive line

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 27:  Bobby Richardson #78 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates an interception during the second quarter of a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 27, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Denver’s looking for defensive line help, and they’re dealing in bulk.

The Broncos announced they are signing former Saints defensive end Bobby Richardson.

He started 11 games for the Saints in 2015 after making the team as an undrafted rookie, but bounced from practice squads in Washington and Kansas City.

The Broncos also brought former Dolphins defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, and are still awaiting word on that possible acquisition, as they add depth to a group that was hit hard with injuries last year.

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Are Vikings fans ready to move on from Adrian Peterson?

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 20: Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball against the Detroit Lions during the game on August 20, 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Lions 26-16. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Vikings have yet to offer running back Adrian Peterson a contract that would pay him less than the $18 million he is due to earn in 2017. It’s unclear whether they will.

From a P.R. standpoint, there’s a good reason for the Vikings to make Peterson an offer, even if it’s an offer he wouldn’t accept. Cutting him loose is one thing; extending what appears to be a fair offer on a revised deal and having him reject it is another.

This approach presumes that the fan base wants to continue to relationship, and that the fans will place blame based on how and why it ends. What if the fans are ready to move on from Peterson?

Paul Allen of KFAN and the Vikings Radio Network appeared on Friday’s PFT Live to discuss the team’s offseason priorities. He senses that there wouldn’t be an outcry if the team decides to put an end to Peterson’s 10-year run with the team.

Besides, the team can do plenty with the $18 million that otherwise would go to Peterson in 2017. Most fans are smart enough to notice it.

Paul said plenty more about the Vikings’ priorities for the coming year. To hear everything he had to say, check out the video.

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Add Washington to the list of non-talkers at the Scouting Combine

Jay Gruden AP

Each year, most of the coaches and General Managers around the NFL will speak to the assembled media at the Scouting Combine.

This year, there’s a new abstainer on the list of the usual suspects.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Saints coach Sean Payton and Saints G.M. Mickey Loomis generally do not participate, but at the moment, no one from Washington is on the schedule provided by the league.

While coach Jay Gruden has taken to the podium in the past, he’s not scheduled to speak this year, and G.M. Scot McCloughan isn’t either. Then again, McCloughan isn’t being allowed to talk to anyone else either, so that probably shouldn’t come as a surprise.

There’s plenty to talk about there, considering the Kirk Cousins decisions being made, but those searching for answers are going to have to work the hallways and corridors of Indianapolis rather than having them provided.

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Tom Coughlin: QB improvement starts with improved protection

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 18:  Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars is sacked by Jadeveon Clowney #90 of the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jaguars have a new head of football operations in Tom Coughlin and Coughlin didn’t wait for the start of the league year to start making moves in hopes of improving the team’s fortunes in 2017.

Coughlin spoke to the Dolphins about a pair of trades this week that would send tight end Julius Thomas to Miami with left tackle Branden Albert making the move to Jacksonville. The acquisition of Albert is something that Coughlin believes will help address one of the biggest needs for the team.

That would be improvement from quarterback Blake Bortles. During a Friday press conference, Coughlin said that there’s plenty for Bortles (and everyone else on the team) to improve in their own games, but said that any big jump will require better work on the offensive line.

I think to improve the quarterback we have to improve the protection,” Coughlin said. 

Coughlin also said that he doesn’t think the team is helping Bortles “at all” if they can’t run the ball and noted that the team needs more than they got from the T.J. Yeldon/Chris Ivory backfield combo last year. He said there have been discussions about adding a fullback to the offensive mix, something that fit with his general theme of building a tougher Jaguars team in his first season back in Jacksonville.

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Will the Bills keep Tyrod Taylor despite upcoming payday?

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 27:  Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills looks on during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

When the Bills signed quarterback Tyrod Taylor to a contract extension, the goal was to give the player a short-term raise and possible long-term security while also protecting the team against a possible Kirk Cousins-style game of tag. If Taylor had played really well or really poorly last year, the decision would be easy.

But Taylor’s 2016 performance falls somewhere between not good enough to make giving him $27.5 million for 2017 and not bad enough to make cutting him a no-brainer. So what will the Bills do?

The decision to bench him late in the 2016 regular season operated as a fairly clear indication that they wouldn’t be bringing him back, because they didn’t want him to suffer an injury that would have tied their hands as to the $27.5 million. The more accurate interpretation of that decision could be that the Bills wanted to give the next coaching staff maximum flexibility as to the question of whether Taylor would or wouldn’t be kept around.

The hiring of former Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison made the situation more intriguing, given that the Broncos (where Dennison most recently worked) were interested in Taylor when he became a free agent two years ago. He opted for Buffalo and a starting job over joining a depth chart that featured Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler.

Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com recently said it’s his “sense” that Dennison would like to keep Taylor. The question becomes the financial commitment. With $27.5 million due this year and another $13 million owed to Taylor in 2018, that’s a $40.5 million proposition over the next two seasons.

Ideally, the Bills and Taylor would negotiate an arrangement that allows him to continue to be the starter at a more realistic salary. But Taylor reportedly won’t re-do the deal. Which makes it an all-or-nothing proposition for the Bills.

And the clock is ticking.

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Report: Giants agree to new deal with Zak DeOssie

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 28:   Zak DeOssie #51 of the New York Giants at Cowboys Stadium on October 28, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants have reached a deal to bring back veteran long snapper Zak DeOssie, the Houston Chronicle reported Friday.

DeOssie would have been a free agent had he not signed before the start of the new league year on March 9. A two-time Pro Bowler, DeOssie has spent his entire 10-year career with the Giants and has only missed four games during that time, all in 2015 due to a wrist injury.

Per the report, DeOssie will sign a two-year deal.

DeOssie, 32, and Eli Manning are the longest-tenured Giants players and the only remaining players from the Giants’ most recent Super Bowl teams. The Giants drafted DeOssie in the fourth round in 2007.

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Rob Gronkowski has “no doubt” about playing this year, wants to continue

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 16:  Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots celebrates his touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during the fourth quarter of the game at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 16, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Even though he’s had more surgeries than Super Bowls and Pro Bowls combined, Rob Gronkowski has no intention to stop playing football.

The Patriots tight end is coming off his eighth surgery, and the third on his problematic back, but told ESPN there was “no doubt” he’d be ready for the start of the 2017 season.

And if this one has made him contemplate his future in the game, it’s hard to tell.

“I’m not really sure,” he said when asked how long he wants to play. “I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I can possibly play. My mindset is to keep on going.”

Gronkowski only played eight games last year, and he’s only played 16 games twice in his seven NFL seasons. His back problems were a concern for many teams when he was coming out in the 2010 NFL Draft, and he had two previous surgeries to repair herniated disks (in 2009 and 2013).

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Josh Doctson doing football drills

FILE - In this May 14, 2016 file photo, Washington Redskins wide receiver Josh Doctson, 18, works out during NFL football rookie minicamp in Ashburn, Va. Doctson is inching his way back from an Achilles tendon injury, though the Washington Redskins still don’t know when the wide receiver will be ready to practice with the team, let alone play in a game. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File) AP

In a late January update on wide receiver Josh Doctson’s recovery from an Achilles injury, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said that the 2016 first-round pick had “not really” made significant progress and that February would be an important month for him on the rehab front.

It looks like there have been some positive steps on that front. Doctson posted a Snapchat video of himself, via Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post, going through football drills at the team’s headquarters on Friday.

It’s hard to gauge just where a player is while running drills in a helmet and shorts against air, but Doctson was only running in a pool when Gruden spoke last month. That suggests an upward trajectory that should create some optimism that Doctson will be able to contribute in his second season.

That would be a big plus for the Redskins as both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are free agents who are expected to hit the open market next month.

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Chiefs sign C.J. Spiller

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 16:  Running back C.J. Spiller #28 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes against the Atlanta Falcons at CenturyLink Field on October 16, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chiefs have added a veteran to their backfield.

The team announced on Friday that they have signed C.J. Spiller. Spiller is eligible to sign a contract as a free agent now because he was released by the Jets in December and never signed with another team.

Spiller’s Jets stint was a brief one as he saw action in four games. He also played two games for the Seahawks after being released by the Saints in September. Spiller signed a four-year, $16 million deal with the Saints in 2015, but flopped in 13 appearances with the team before getting dropped from the roster altogether.

Spiller is now well removed from his best days with the Bills in 2012 and 2013 so it is a stretch to bank on him being a contributor for Kansas City. A more immediate question may be whether his arrival spells the end of Jamaal Charles‘ time in Kansas City. Charles has a cap number of over $6.1 million and the Chiefs would get it all back if they move on from a player who has played just eight games over the last two seasons due to knee problems.

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Trent Cole wants to sign with a team that will let him off the leash

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 13:   Trent Cole #58 of the Indianapolis Colts hits the arm of  Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during the game at EverBank Field on December 13, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

Soon-to-be free agent pass rusher Trent Cole wants to make it clear that he’s not done playing.

Cole took to Twitter today and said he will keep playing, emphasizing that he wants to sign with a team that will let him loose to go after the quarterback.

“No retirement happening here to make things clear,” Cole said. “It’s just time for somebody let me off the leash.”

Cole may be implying that he thinks the Colts didn’t let him off the leash. Cole finished last season with a career-low 2.0 sacks.

Of course, that’s in large part because Cole missed most of last season with a back injury. Some teams may question whether the 34-year-old Cole will ever be able to make it through a season healthy and return to his prior form. But he’s confident that he still has some football left in him.

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Nine days in, no franchise tags yet

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 23:  Outside linebacker Chandler Jones #55 of the Arizona Cardinals in action during the NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals and Seahawks tied 6-6.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

When the franchise-tag window opened nine days ago, I pointed out that no one would be using the franchise tag any time soon. And, of course, I assumed that three or four tags would end up being applied that same day.

It hasn’t happened. And for good reason. The NFL is, and always will be, a deadline-driven business. It’s not about procrastination; it’s about not doing anything until the time comes for doing it.

That said, there’s a chance that the time will be coming as soon as today for a tag or two to be applied. With teams switching into Scouting Combine-mode next week, they may want to make a final decision and act on it before they begin to focus on taking a very close look at the next wave of incoming draft picks.

Even if no tags happen today, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see tags be applied on Monday or Tuesday, if for no reason other than to avoid an unfortunate snafu that would result in the tag not officially attaching before the window closes at 4:00 p.m. ET.

The players most likely to be tagged this year include Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, Chiefs safety Eric Berry, and Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short. Time permitting (and if I don’t forget), I may cobble together over the weekend a team-by-team look at who could get tagged.

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Rob Gronkowski: Patriots fans will keep Roger Goodell out of the stadium

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, and New England Patriots' Tom Brady with the Pete Rozelle MVP Trophy during the Super Bowl Winner and MVP press conference on February 6, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has some advice for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: Don’t come to New England.

Gronkowski told ESPN that Patriots fans are so angry about Goodell suspending Tom Brady that he believes it would be physically impossible for Goodell to get inside Gillette Stadium. Gronkowski was asked directly if Goodell can go to Foxboro, and Gronkowski said no.

“To tell you the truth, I really don’t think so,” Gronkowski said. “The fans are nuts, they’re wild, and they have the Patriots’ back no matter what. They have Tom’s back. I’m telling you, he won’t get through the highway if the fans saw him. I don’t even think he can even land in the airport in Boston because Patriot fans are the best fans, they’re the most loyal fans. I’m telling you, they might just carry out Roger themselves. They couldn’t even get to the stadium in Foxboro if he landed in Boston.”

Goodell has avoided New England since Deflategate broke two years ago. Although he has said he would return to New England if invited, the reality is the commissioner doesn’t need an invitation to attend an NFL game. The reason Goodell hasn’t attended a Patriots game is that he knows what kind of reception he’d receive.

Except Gronkowski thinks the reception would be even worse than Goodell realizes.

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Mike Pereira: Putting a chip in the football wouldn’t help with spotting

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 04:  A veterinary nurse holds a dog micro-chip at the PDSA hospital on April 4, 2016 in Wolverhampton, England. From 6th April 2016 it will  become law, in the UK, that all dogs should be microchipped and recorded in the National Canine Database. Many owners are unaware of the new legislation and it is estimated that more than 1 million dogs have still not been micro-chipped leaving owners facing fines.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images) Getty Images

Fans who get frustrated by bad spots from the officials, bad spots that can cost a team a first down or a touchdown, sometimes argue that the NFL should put a chip in every football that can show the precise spot where the ball is at all times. But former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira says that wouldn’t work.

Pereira said on Peter King’s podcast that when officials miss a spot, it’s less about not seeing the ball than about not seeing where the ball carrier’s knee hit the ground.

“You can put a chip in the ball, but then you better put a chip in the guy’s knee, too,” Pereira said. “The ball is one thing, but it’s not over until the knee hits the ball or the shoulder hits the ground. So how accurate is that going to be?”

NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino said last year on PFT Live: The NFL experimented with putting chips in footballs to measure how close field goals and extra points were to the uprights, to determine how big a difference narrower goal posts would make. But Blandino said that spotting the ball is far more complex than that, and the NFL is a long way from being able to use that kind of technology in that way.

Some in the NFL may have another objection: They’re old-fashioned traditionalists. Pereira acknowledged that’s part of his objection to using chips to spot the ball as well.

“You could set up lasers to replace the chain crews, but I love the tradition of some old guys running out there with a chain,” Pereira said.

That’s not a good reason not to use technology: If the technology can improve spotting the ball, the technology should be used. Tradition be damned.

But Blandino and Pereira are right that for now, anyway, a chip in the football simply wouldn’t solve the problem of missed spots.

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Josh McCown thinks Jay Cutler can play at a very high level

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 1: Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery #17 and quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears talk with quarterback Josh McCown #13 of the Cleveland Browns prior to a preseason game at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

There are no shortage of questions swirling around the league with free agency looming on the horizon and Jay Cutler’s place in the NFL for the 2017 season is among them.

No one thinks Cutler will be back with the Bears as they are reportedly trying to trade him and are expected to cut him when and if that effort fails. The possibility of retirement has also been floated recently, but one of Cutler’s former backups hopes that won’t be the case.

Josh McCown has remained friends with Cutler since they played together with the Bears and shared that hope during an interview with Ross Tucker and Greg McElroy of SiriusXM NFL Radio. He also shared an opinion that runs counter to most when he said he believes Cutler can “play at a very high level.”

“I know he’ll make the best decision he can for him and his family,” McCown said. “I root for him either way it goes. As a friend, and a football fan, and as a guy who appreciates quarterbacks, I hope he continues to play and finds a good spot where he can play good football because I believe that is still in his future.”

McCown thinks a team in a “quarterback-driven” NFL will give Cutler the opportunity to play that kind of football and it shouldn’t be too long before we have a clearer picture of where that opportunity is going to come.

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Vikings G.M. has taken a long look at how he’s acquired linemen

MINNESOTA VIKINGS PETERSON AP

The Vikings have skill position problems, sure. But last year was also enough of a mess that General Manager Rick Spielman is thinking about changing the way he evaluates other positions.

According to Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Vikings G.M. acknowledged their offensive line issues last season, and studied other rosters to see if they were drafting them incorrectly.

Spielman looked at the correlation between draft placement and NFL success — and surprisingly found that guys drafted higher were usually better. He admitted that a “much lower percentage” of linemen taken after the third round were productive blockers. In the last 10 drafts, he’s only taken two linemen before the fourth round.

“There’s different ways that I had to look back and see, ‘What are we doing right or wrong with this offensive line and how do we get it addressed?'” Spielman said. “That was a whole focal point on a lot of the studies and a lot of the analytics that I have been doing since the end of the season.”

Of course, one of those high picks he’s used on a lineman may be about to walk out the door. Left tackle Matt Kalil will be an unrestricted free agent. Last year, both he and right tackle Andre Smith (also a free agent) ended up on injured reserve (along with some of their replacements), creating a revolving door that prevented anything resembling stability on offense.

Of course, they have plenty of other issues there, beginning with the admitted short-term nature of quarterback Sam Bradford and the uncertainty over what to do with running back Adrian Peterson.

But if they can’t create time and space for them, it might not matter who is occupying the skill positions.

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