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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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Graphic De’Andre Johnson punch video likely means no NFL for him

Johnson Getty Images

As noted earlier today regarding the lingering lack of interest in running back Ray Rice, we all know what an assault looks like. But when we can see it, that changes everything.

For Florida State quarterback De’Andre Johnson, who in theory could have become the next NFL quarterback groomed for success by coach Jimbo Fisher (joining the likes of first-rounders JaMarcus Russell, Christian Ponder, EJ Manuel, and Jameis Winston), Johnson’s chances of ever making it to the NFL have decreased dramatically now that visual evidence has surfaced of the violent blow he delivered to the head of a woman at a bar in Tallahassee last month.

The Tallahassee Democrat has obtained surveillance video showing Johnson punching the female (fast forward to roughly 1:50 to see the full exchange), who apparently was trying to buy a drink and past whom Johnson was trying to push.

Local authorities had come under fire for releasing the victim’s name but redacting Johnson’s name from the police report that was made available to the public.

“[W]e had to release the victim’s name because she did not fall into an exemption, and we’re not allowed to just take their names out,” Tallahassee Police Department spokesman David Northway told the Democrat on Friday. “And we had to — we had — to redact the suspect’s name in the case because it’s an ongoing investigation.”

Regardless of what Florida State does with Johnson, whatever he accomplishes on a football field at FSU or elsewhere, or however the prosecution is resolved, the NFL likely will have to shun Johnson, simply because anyone can see what we already knew he did.

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Bengals DC Paul Guenther impressed by Steelers offense

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The AFC North has generally been a strong defensive division over the years, but 2015 saw things go the other way.

None of the four teams ranked higher than 18th in total defense and the Steelers won the division thanks to their potent offense putting up enough points to overcome a lagging defense. Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will be tasked with trying to make sure that doesn’t happen again this season and it’s a task that he believes will be difficult.

One of the lead reasons why is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who Guenther thinks became even more effective last season. Roethlisberger was sacked less frequently in 2014 than in any other year of his career, leaving him able to take full advantage of the weapons at his disposal.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for him,” Guenther said, via ESPN.com. “He’s taken a lot of shots and keeps getting up … He was getting hit a lot in the past while trying to throw some stuff downfield. The ball’s coming out a little faster, particularly on third downs. That’s probably part of it. He’s not running as much and he has enough pocket presence where he keeps a play alive. You’re talking about tight ends and wide receivers and running backs and an improved offensive line, that’s a pretty good combination. They’ve gotten better up front and run the ball effectively, which helps them. The ability for them to run the ball, mix it up and keep teams honest probably got him more looks.”

The Steelers beat the Bengals twice last season, including a Week 17 win that clinched the division for Pittsburgh and left the Bengals as a Wild Card visitor to Indianapolis. The Steelers gained 889 yards in those games, 667 of them through the air, and Guenther will need to come up with a better answer this time around to keep Cincinnati ahead of their rivals.

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Three Colts linemen pose naked to show they’re not fat slobs

Wild Card Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

Colts offensive lineman Todd Herremans is listed at 321 pounds. Anthony Castonzo is listed at 311. And Jack Mewhort is listed at 308. But unlike most 300-pounders, they have athletic bodies that they’re happy to show off.

The three linemen appear together, naked, in the ESPN Magazine Body Issue, saying they jumped at the chance because they want the world to see that offensive linemen are athletes, not just fat guys.

“I think the view of offensive linemen from the public is that we are all just fat slobs,” Herremans said. “Which is what it used to be, kind of. But now the game has evolved into more fit, athletic offensive linemen. So I would say that Anthony is probably the leanest out of all of us, and I’m probably the chubbiest. Jack is somewhere in the middle.”

Mewhort says his body moves much more fluidly than you’d expect for a guy his size.

“I’m pretty good at yoga, actually,” he said. “I’ve been getting into it recently. Anthony got me into it. I did a back bend the other day. I had some assistance from the instructor, but I still thought it was pretty cool.”

It’s pretty cool that these three big guys are willing to show off their physiques. They may not have washboard abs, but they have bodies to be proud of.

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Teddy Bridgewater: We have high expectations, but a long way to go

Teddy Bridgewater, Cordarrelle Patterson AP

Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner was among the people impressed by the way that quarterback Teddy Bridgewater wound down his rookie season in Minnesota.

Turner said Bridgewater was “much more decisive” in his final six starts last season and complimented the rookie for making gains while playing behind a shifting offensive line and without running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson’s return from suspension, guard Brandon Fusco’s return from injury, the presence of a healthy Kyle Rudolph at tight end and the arrival of rookie T.J. Clemmings join the acquisition of wide receiver Mike Wallace as reasons for optimism that Bridgewater will continue on an upward trajectory this season.

Bridgewater said in early June that he was excited about the team’s offseason, but cautioned that it was too soon to talk about them as a contender. The final practices of the offseason didn’t do anything to make him change his mind about avoiding overly rosy projections well before the season gets underway.

“I have high expectations for myself, and this team has high expectations also,” Bridgewater said, via USA Today. “Right now, we’re not as good as what we think. We know that the ceiling is very high and the expectation level is very high — not only for the players, but from a coaching staff also. We know what’s being asked of us, but we have a long way to go.”

It’s not the kind of pom-pom waving we often see when the regular season is still somewhere over the horizon, but that’s not a bad thing for a Vikings team that has posted losing records four of the last five years. The Vikings have to prove they’re good before they can talk about being good, even though the need to toot their own horns won’t be too great if their on-field work lives up to expectations.

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Albert Haynesworth: Washington cost him his “passion for football”

Albert Haynesworth AP

Albert Haynesworth was happy to take the money. But in hindsight, he wouldn’t have taken it from Dan Snyder.

The former defensive tackle, who was known as differently motivated during his playing career, wrote a first-person letter to his younger self for The Players Tribune in which he admits regrets over taking the $100 million contract Washington offered in 2009, saying: “You will lose your passion for football in Washington, and it will be impossible to get back.”

“If nothing else, listen to me on this, Albert: Do not leave the Tennessee Titans,” he wrote (such that players write for themselves there). “Your defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is a mastermind. No matter how much I tell you this, you’ll probably never realize it until your career is over, but it’s true. You’re like a system quarterback. You thrive in a very specific scheme.”

Haynesworth also said the Buccaneers offered him a $135 million deal, but called the contract a “huge burden,” saying: “Take less and stay in Tennessee where you belong.”

Haynesworth suggests that he was dismayed when then-coach Mike Shanahan asked him to clog up the middle of the field rather than rush the passer as he had done with the Titans.

“You’re going to look at this famous NFL head coach in total disbelief and say, “You want to pay me $100 million to grab the center?” the letter read. “And he’s going to say, with a straight face, “Albert, if you have more than one sack this season, I’m going to be pissed.”

“The last thing you’ll say before walking out of the office is, “Can’t you just pay someone $300,000 a year to do that?”

The piece also mentions the fact that much of that money was gone, blaming an unscrupulous financial advisor. But it also portrays a player who now realizes the grass isn’t always greener, years after he took all the green.

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Giants yank long-term offer Pierre-Paul wasn’t inclined to accept

JPP Getty Images

With Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul still hospitalized two days after a fireworks accident, the Giants have commenced the process of protecting the franchise from its current franchise player.

Via Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the Giants have removed the pending offer on a long-term deal for Pierre-Paul.

And so the $60 million deal is gone; whether a five-year or four-year package, Pierre-Paul wasn’t going to accept it, not with $14.8 million for 2015 and $17.76 million for 2016 as a starting point. That’s $32.56 million over two years on the franchise tag, and quarterback money or $25.5 million for 2017. Which equates to nearly $60 million in only three years.

The question now becomes whether the Giants will make another run at signing Pierre-Paul to a contract that takes the uncertainty regarding his health into account, or whether he’ll sign the franchise tender and play for $14.8 million this year and, if they tag him again, 20 percent more than that in 2016.

The possibility that the Giants could place Pierre-Paul on NFI and not pay him a single penny for the 2015 season could prompt Pierre-Paul to stay away until he gets a clean bill of health, missing regular-season games not as a leverage play against the Giants but to ensure that, when team doctors examine his fingers, they’ll give him a thumb’s up.

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Trump compares Patriots to China, in a good way

Donald Trump

Last month’s campaign announcement from presidential hopeful Donald Trump made plenty of waves for his remarks about Mexico. He also said something about China. And the New England Patriots.

Via Boston.com, Trump favorably compared the Patriots to China.

“People say, ‘Oh, you don’t like China.’ No, I love them,” Trump said, via Steve Silva of Boston.com. “But their leaders are much smarter than our leaders, and we can’t sustain ourself with that. There’s too much — it’s like — it’s like, take the New England Patriots and Tom Brady and have them play your high school football team. That’s the difference between China’s leaders and our leaders.”

It’s an odd comparison for Trump to make, and the fact that it went largely unnoticed for so long underscores the controversial nature of his remarks about Mexico.

It remains to be seen whether Trump is a truly serious candidate, and if so whether he has a chance to win. If he wins, no one should be surprised if he runs the U.S. like China. Or the Patriots. Or both.

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Pierre-Paul still in hospital

PierrePaul Getty Images

Whatever the extent of Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s injuries following a Saturday fireworks mishap, they’re bad enough to keep him in the hospital.

Via Jordan Ranaan of NJ.com, Pierre-Paul remains hospitalized in Miami, two days after burning his hands on the Fourth of July.

Mixed reports have emerged since news of the mishap first broke, which isn’t surprising. Apart from medical privacy, Pierre-Paul has $14.8 million riding on his ability to play this year.

Even if the Giants don’t withdraw the franchise tender (and they likely won’t), the Giants can deem Pierre-Paul unfit to play due to the burns, placing him on the non-football injury list and opting not to pay him a penny for the 2015 season.

While that would seem like a harsh outcome, the extent to which the Giants and anyone else will have sympathy for Pierre-Paul depends on the details of the accident. If he failed to follow the “light fuse and get away” mandate that applies to anything more potent than sparklers, the Giants may be more inclined to opt for NFI and no salary.

None of that will matter if Pierre-Paul is fully healed sooner than later. For now, though, the fact that he’s still in a hospital underscores the reality that this was a major incident.

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UConn tight end Sean McQuillan hoping to convince an NFL team

Connecticut v East Carolina Getty Images

Connecticut tight end Sean McQuillan has already earned his degree, and might have been a team captain if he had returned for his final year of eligibility.

But an arrest this spring following a fight with his roommate cost him his entrance into school, leaving him no choice but this week’s supplemental draft, which he’s confident he’ll be chosen in.

“Well, first of all, I’m going to make it, and second of all, there isn’t a backup plan,” McQuillan said, via Desmond Conner of the Hartford Courant. “I’m confident I’m going to be able to do this thing. I’m prepared for this. I’m going to show them I’m athletic, I’m versatile, I can do a bunch of different things. I’m confident and I’m ready for this next step, so I haven’t thought about anything else.”

Of course, he has other things on his plate, namely a July 17 appearance in court for his second degree assault and disorderly conduct. But he’s hoping that his workout Wednesday will convince some team to take a chance on him.

“I want people to know I’m strong and I’m going to get through this,” McQuillan said. “Perseverance is the word. Bad things are going to happen sometimes. When you get knocked down it’s about how you respond and I’m going to respond, recreate my brand, get that respect back from everybody which is very important to me because I love Connecticut and I love the people here.

“I want to be someone people for years and years are looking up to, not based on a couple things that happened in college. I want them to look at me and say he’s a great person. He persevered through some tough times to get where he wanted to be. At the end of all this, it’s how I want to be seen and I know I can get there. I’m not going to get outworked. If things don’t go my way I’m just going to keep chugging along until I get it right.”

McQuillan has some basketball background as well, though not much in the way of stats in football. He caught 16 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown last season, though he did score the only touchdown in UConn’s spring game this year.

That might not be enough to make a team draft him, but without a backup plan, it’s what he has to work with at the moment.

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PFT Live: Frank Wycheck, Broncos talk with Mike Klis

Marcus Mariota AP

We’re kicking off the week of PFT Live with a guest host, but you’ll still get your dose of Mike Florio.

Paul Burmeister will be sitting in for Florio as host, which frees PFT’s founder to join the show as a guest early in the program. They’ll talk about the latest news from around the league before moving on to more specific looks at several teams.

Former Titans tight end and current radio analyst Frank Wycheck will fill us in on the team’s attempt to finish up Marcus Mariota’s contract and Mike Klis of NBC 9 in Denver will bring updates on the Broncos as we close in on the deadline to sign wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to a long-term contract. Rich Tandler of CSN Washington and Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press Gazette will also be on hand during the show.

We also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app.

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Tug of war could be emerging for Vikings headquarters

Helmets Getty Images

Next year, the Vikings will have a new stadium next to the site of their old one. The next project could be a new team headquarters. For that, the Vikings could be moving to a new city.

For 34 years, the facility known as Winter Park (named for team co-founder Max Winter, not because it’s always Winter in Minnesota) has kept the Vikings in Eden Prairie. Via the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Vikings could move to a new building in Chanhassen. And that has folks in Eden Prairie concerned.

“The recognition of Winter Park, headquartered in Eden Prairie . . . it’s a good way for people to know where Eden Prairie is,” Pat MulQueeny, president of the Eden Prairie Chamber of Commerce, told the Star Tribune. “If the Vikings were to leave, it’s a loss. Definitely we’d like to keep them here.”

Chanhassen wants to grab the Vikings for the same reason — to increase awareness of a town few beyond the borders of Minnesota know exists.

That gives the Vikings leverage, allowing the team to play one town against the other in order to get the best deal. At a time when that approach no longer is working for other teams trying to get public stadium financing, the last team to finagle major taxpayer dollars for a new place to play could end up squeezing major concessions for their new place to practice.

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Geno Smith: Brandon Marshall is “a quarterback’s best friend”

Geno Smith, Brandon Marshall AP

Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall recently left Jay Cutler, who threw Marshall passes in Denver and Chicago, off a list of his favorite teammates from his various stops around the NFL over the years.

Geno Smith didn’t make that list either, which isn’t much of a surprise since the two men haven’t played a game together since the trade that brought Marshall to Jersey. Smith doesn’t feel the need to wait until September to talk about how much it means for him to play with Marshall, however.

“He’s a quarterback’s best friend … For one, he’s a veteran guy,” Smith said, via the team’s website. “He understands the game on and off the field. He’s a beast of a player. You can’t say enough good things about him.”

The arrivals of Marshall, Stevan Ridley and Devin Smith give the Jets the deepest cast of characters at skill positions they’ve had since taking Geno Smith in the second round of the 2013 draft. That’s part of the reason why Ron Jaworski and others think the needle is pointing up for Smith heading into the 2015 season, although that optimism is tempered by those who think the problems of his first two seasons have had more to do with Smith than with the players next to him on offense.

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Manti Te’o thinks he’s becoming a playmaker under Mike Nolan

Manti Te'o AP

After entering the NFL following a high-profile college career (and an even higher-profile story surrounding his personal life), Manti Te’o has been relatively quiet in his two years with the Chargers. A part-time starter, Te’o hasn’t been a bust of a second-round pick, but he hasn’t been an impact player, either.

This year, Te’o thinks that’s going to change. With new linebackers coach Mike Nolan in San Diego, Te’o says he feels like he can be a playmaker more like he was at Notre Dame, where he was widely regarded as the best linebacker in college football.

“Coach Nolan brings an old-school feel to not only our position, but to the defense as a whole,” Te’o said, via ESPN. “He’s all about making plays. He’s all about doing whatever it takes to put each piece in a position to make a play. It’s definitely a good thing to have him here.”

The Chargers’ defense struggled through a rough 2014 season, but Te’o believes they’re ready for a course correction this year.

“We all can do a better job, especially up front,” Te’o said. “Just being more stout, knowing where everybody’s going to be and just having that mindset that we’re going to make a play. Definitely each one of us can do better at that.”

Te’o looked better in college than he has looked so far in his NFL career. Nolan might be the coach who can get the most out of Te’o’s talent.

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Unnamed exec “still confused about” Eagles trading for Sam Bradford

Chip Kelly, Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow AP

When training camps open in a little under a month, one of the most-watched storylines will be the progress of Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford, coming off a pair of torn ACLs.

But some are wondering whether too much has been made of his arrival by trade already.

Via Mark Eckel of NJ.com, “one of the league’s top executives in personnel” was skeptical of the impact Bradford will actually have.

“I understand they gave up on Foles,” he said. “But I don’t know why they’re building up Bradford so much. I’m still confused about that whole deal. You can only talk about him being the first pick of the draft for so long. What has he done since then?

“If Bradford had gone anywhere else you wouldn’t even be talking about him. He’s been hurt the past two years and even when he was healthy, he was just average. But he’s with Chip Kelly, so there’s hope I guess. Chip Kelly is the one guy who can make Bradford a success.”

That might be because of Kelly’s magic milkshakes, which may have helped make his team the healthiest in the league over the last two years. But Bradford has played in just 49 of 80 possible games in his five seasons, so unless there’s something in the smoothies to keep him ACLs intact, it will be hard for Kelly to transform him.

Bradford has been a good quarterback at times, but he was stuck on some bad teams as well. If Kelly can polish him up, his reputation will only grow.

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Von Miller on contract: Do good things and it takes care of self

Josh Watson, Von Miller AP

The Broncos have nine more days left to hammer out a long-term deal with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas before the deadline to sign such contracts with players who received the franchise tag.

However things wind up playing out with Thomas, the process could serve as a practice run for next offseason. That’s when linebacker Von Miller will be eligible to become a free agent and the Broncos will have to make the same kinds of calculations that they’ve made with Thomas in order to hold onto the second overall pick of the 2011 draft.

If Thomas signs a multi-year deal, Miller can get the franchise tag but no new deal for Thomas would leave the Broncos with two key free agents and one tag after the 2015 season. For now, Miller’s not sweating those scenarios.

“But I just want to play the best I can,” Miller said, via ESPN.com. “Everything takes care of itself if we do good things and I play like I want to for this team … I think guys here worry about winning. The time for all that other stuff is after the season.”

Miller has plenty of company on defense when it comes to playing out the final year of a contract. Defensive linemen Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe, linebackers Danny Trevathan and Stephen Johnson and safety David Bruton are also headed toward free agency in what will likely be another busy offseason in Denver.

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