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Week 13 Friday 10-pack

Ben Roethlisberger, Willie Colon

Developers of buildings with more than 13 floors develop triskaidekaphobia when it’s time to apply numbers.  The NFL has no such qualms when it comes to the football season.

So welcome, Week 13.  Unleash your bad-luck powers on as many teams as possible.

I’ll be back in a bit.  I’m trying to fit an open umbrella under the stepladder in my office.

1.  Is Big Ben the drama queen back?

Something strange happened on Thursday.  Not long after a report emerged that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a broken bone in his foot, the Steelers issued a statement explaining that he doesn’t.

The disclosure from the team made no sense, especially since it wasn’t required by league rules.  The Steelers must say only whether Roethlisberger practiced on Thursday, and if so whether he fully participated or participated on a limited basis in the session.

So why would the Steelers feel compelled to contradict the published report?

Rewind to January 2005.  After an AFC title-game loss to the Patriots, Roethlisberger claimed that he played with broken toes.  Coach Bill Cowher contradicted him publicly.

And thus was born the legend of Big Ben, drama queen.

Roethlisberger has at times since then embellished an injury or two, and regardless of whether Roethlisberger was the source of the report, the Steelers felt compelled to contradict it.

Of course, there’s also a chance that the Steelers are simply trying to reduce the size of the bull’s-eye on Ben’s foot — regardless of whether he’s exaggerating his condition or not.

2.  It’s finger-pointin’ time again.

When the Chiefs host the Broncos on Sunday, all eyes will be focused on the two head coaches, who punctuated their Week 10 meeting with Kansas City coach Todd Haley sticking a finger in the face of Denver coach Josh McDaniels after a 20-point win by the Broncos.

Haley has tried to downplay the matter, but it’s obvious that he’s not a big McDaniels fan.  (Then again, who is?)  Though some have speculated in the wake of Spygate II that Haley was miffed with conduct that possibly falls within the realm of cheating, it’s generally accepted in league circles that Haley didn’t appreciate the perception that the Broncos were running up the score.

With Denver reeling and the Chiefs peaking, it’ll be interesting to see whether Haley calls off the dogs — and if not whether McDaniels will show an index finger, or possibly a different finger altogether, to Haley.

3.  Beware the Bills.

Vikings fans likely are thinking that their underachieving team will win their second straight game for the first time since November 2009.  Given that the Bills bring a 2-9 record to town makes it tempting to come to that conclusion.

But let’s look at this more closely.  The Bills have pushed three likely playoff teams (the Ravens, Chiefs, and Steelers) to overtime, and Buffalo lost to the Bears by only three points.  The Vikings, after back-to-back bombs against two NFC North rivals, barely beat the Redskins.

With running back Adrian Peterson hobbled and the Minnesota defense not quite as potent as it has been in past seasons, the Bills could give the Vikings fits, just like Buffalo did the last time they came to the Metrodome in 2002, winning 45-39 in overtime.

4.  Could Packers pull off the Trifecta?

After the Packers beat the Cowboys by 38, Dallas fired coach Wade Phillips.  Seven days later, the Packers beat the Vikings by 28, and Minnesota fired coach Brad Childress.

This week, the Packers host the 49ers.  With Green Bay coming off a disappointing loss to the Falcons, the Pack could be ready to smack around the 4-7 49ers.

If the Packers pummel San Fran, could Niners coach Mike Singletary be the next one to go?  It’s unlikely that it’ll happen on Monday, but Singletary likely won’t sleep very well if he’s on the wrong end of a blowout at Lambeau.

5.  Pats have perfect offense for the Jets.

When the Patriots sent Randy Moss packing in October, plenty of people wondered whether coach Bill Belichick had lost his mind.

Six wins in seven games later, we should all be so crazy.

And so instead of seeing Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis match up with and thus shut down singlehandedly the most potent threat in the Pats’ passing game, New England has diluted its receiving corps, scattering a smattering of players on any given snap who are capable of getting open and catching the ball.

What better way to neutralize a defender who is capable of handling on his own a wideout who commands double coverage than to have him cover a guy who doesn’t?

So with the Jets capable of sending pressure from anywhere and everywhere, while Revis shuts down the No. 1 wideout, the Pats have crafted a system that distributes the ball anywhere and everywhere while happily marooning one guy on each play on Revis Island.

6.  What a difference a year makes.

Last year, when the Cardinals hosted the Rams in December, Kurt Warner’s then-current team had nine wins — and his first-former team had one.

This year, the Rams have five and the Cards have three.  More importantly, the Rams finally have found the long-term heir to Warner, while the Cardinals bumble from first-round bust to unwanted veteran to undrafted rookie who has a long way to go to become worthy of washing Warner’s dancing shoes.

And it’s all happened in only one year.

On one hand, it shows that, no matter how dark things get in a given year for a given team, fortunes quickly can change.  On the other hand, it demonstrates how quickly a “good” team can disintegrate.

7.  Prime-time games have big-time implications.

On the surface, the Monday night game between the Jets and the Patriots looks to be the biggest game of the year.  But the Sunday night contest between the Steelers and Ravens has identical implications.

The winner of each game will be on track to earn a bye.  The losers will slide into the wild-card mix, potentially forcing them to go on the road in order to work their way to the Super Bowl.

The gap will be greater if the Jets and Ravens win, since the one-game leads over the Pats and Steelers, respectively, would essentially be two games, due to the head-to-head tiebreaker.  But even if the Patriots and Steelers win, they’ll each hold a one-game lead with four to play.

Though these playoff-atmosphere games won’t have the same win-or-else stakes, the outcomes will have a lot to do with the degree of difficulty that the teams will experience come January.

8.  Bucs can bunch up the NFC field.

Bucs apologists argue that Tampa’s football franchise hasn’t beaten a playoff-caliber team because they’ll played only four of them.  They get another chance this week, when the 9-2 Falcons come to town.

And the Bucs need to win the game not just to show that they can beat a playoff team.  With four losses and five games to play, the Bucs may not get to the playoffs without beating the Falcons now or the Saints in Week 17.

In past years, 9-7 often would be enough enough to earn a wild-card berth in the NFC.  This year, with a glut of good teams at the top of the conferences, six losses could be one too many.

And if the Buccaneers can deliver to the Falcons their first 2010 loss outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the door would swing open for the Saints to pull even with Atlanta at the top of the NFC South, setting the stage for a high-stakes chase in the final four weeks.

9.  Still time for losers?

Since 1990, 14 teams with a losing record after 11 games have made it to the playoffs.  Most recently, the 2009 Jets started 5-6, finished 9-7, and made it to the AFC title game.

Of the teams that pulled it off, all but two were 5-6; the others were 4-7.  This year, nine teams entered Week 13 at 5-6 or 4-7.  (The Texans already have fallen to 5-7.)  At least one of the nine definitely will make the playoffs, because 5-6 currently represents the best record in the NFC West.

But here’s the thing.  The top-heavy nature of each conference, with wild-card spots currently held by teams in the AFC with records of 9-2 and 8-3 and in the NFC with records of 8-3 and 7-4, will make it even harder for the 5-6 and 4-7 teams to climb out of their current holes.  They’ll need someone like the 8-3 Steelers or 7-4 Giants to collapse down the stretch to have a shot.  (Actually, in the NFC, the losing teams need two of the three 7-4 teams to fall apart in order to open up the No. 6 seed.)

Bottom line?  Though the NFL has mastered the art of manufacturing hope from January through December, there currently may not be much hope to go around for teams that have been unable to win at least six of their first 11 games.

10.  AFC West could send a pair to the postseason.

For most of the season, most have assumed that the AFC West will send only one team to the playoffs.

And while it’s still likely that only the champion of the division will get a seat at the playoff table, there’s a growing chance that both the Chiefs and the Chargers will qualify.

The 6-5 Chargers have three straight games at home, including a Week 14 showdown against the Chiefs.  They next hit the road for Cincinnati and Denver.

The 7-4 Chiefs host the Broncos, Titans, and Raiders, wrapped around trips to San Diego and St. Louis.  Though K.C.’s path isn’t as easy as it once appeared, both could end up 10-6 or 11-5.  And if the losers of this weekend’s prime-time games commence a free-fall (like the Jets did two years ago when 8-3 became 9-7), both of the top two teams in the West could win berths in the playoffs.

We recommend wagering nothing of value on the proposition, unless you are getting really, really good odds.

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Prop Challenge, Day IX — Will we finally have overtime in a Super Bowl?

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Welcome to PFT’s Prop Challenge, our daily look at a Super Bowl proposition bet.

Here’s the idea: we present a prop, do some light analysis, then let you decide which side to take — hypothetically, of course. (Previous examples are at the bottom of this post.)

When the Super Bowl wraps up, we’ll tally the votes and see how well PFT Planet did.

Now, let’s get to today’s prop, which is courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook:

Will there be overtime in the Super Bowl?

Yes: +550. No: -800.

The next Super Bowl to go to overtime will be the first. And undoubtedly, there will be bettors happily taking 11-2 odds with the idea that we’re due for a fifth quarter in pro football’s biggest game.

Also, there’s no denying the “Yes” side of props like this are more fun. What a nice story to have, cashing a ticket on the first-ever Super Bowl overtime. Win a bet like that and you dance to the seafood buffet.

However, history suggests “No” has a lot going for it — and not just because the first 48 Super Bowls have ended in regulation.

According to Pro Football Reference data, only 28-of-413 non-Super Bowl postseason games have gone to overtime since 1967. That’s about one in in every 16 games.

Viewed that way, 5.5-to-1 on the Super Bowl going to OT might seem a touch . . . short.

That said, Super Bowl XLIX is widely regarded as a closely matched competition. The point spread is pick ‘em at the majority of Nevada sports books.

Again, we turn to you. What’s the better bet — no overtime or the first-ever Super Bowl OT?

Aside: could you imagine Super Bowl overtime? The pressure would leave a nation pacing and push every Super Bowl party deeper into the night.

And it would be glorious.

Anyways, cast thy votes and leave thy comments.

Previous props studied:

Day I: Over-Under on Brandon LaFell’s receiving yards.

Day II: Over-Under on Doug Baldwin’s catches.

Day III: Will Rob Gronkowski score a touchdown?

Day IV: Will there be a one-yard TD in the Super Bowl?

Day V: Over-Under on Tim Wright’s receiving yards.

Day VI: Over-Under on LeGarrette Blount’s carries.

Day VII: Will there be a safety in the Super Bowl?

Day VIII: Over-Under on Russell Wilson’s rushing yards.

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Aaron Rodgers wins NFL Most Valuable Player

Aaron Rodgers AP

For the second time, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the Most Valuable Player of the National Football League.

Rodgers was announced as 2014 league MVP as the culmination of tonight’s NFL Honors event in Phoenix. Rodgers had previously won the award for the 2011 season.

It’s no surprise that the award went to Rodgers, who had a phenomenal statistical season: Rodgers completed 341 of 520 passes for 4,381 yards, with an incredible touchdown-interception ratio: He finished the year with 38 touchdown passes and just five interceptions.

Rodgers got 31 MVP votes. J.J. Watt was second with 13 MVP votes. DeMarco Murray and Tony Romo each had two votes, while Tom Brady and (in a major surprise) Bobby Wagner each had one.

The postseason ended in disappointment for Rodgers, who saw his Packers blow a big lead in the NFC Championship Game and lose to the Seahawks. But in the regular season, Rodgers was the best player in football. He was recognized for that tonight.

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Gronk wins comeback player of the year award

Gronk Getty Images

After shaking off a major knee injury to establish himself as the best tight end in the NFL, New England’s Rob Gronkowski has been named the comeback player of the year.

Gronk, who was a unanimous All-Pro, was given the award at tonight’s NFL Honors event in Phoenix. Members of the Gronkowski family picked up the award for Rob, the most successful of the many athletes in the family, as Rob is at the Patriots’ team hotel getting ready for the Super Bowl.

Of the 50 voters for the NFL awards, 27 picked Gronkowski. In second place were Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin and Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain with seven votes each, followed by Broncos cornerback Chris Harris with three votes, Ravens running back Justin Forsett and Texans running back Arian Foster with two votes, and Cardinals linebacker Larry Foote and Bills quarterback Kyle Orton with one vote each.

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Thomas Davis named NFL Man of the Year

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, whose foundation helps underprivileged children, has been named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year — the only award that recognizes players for their community service as well as their playing ability.

Davis received the award at tonight’s NFL Honors event in Phoenix.

“I am honored to be selected as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year,” Davis said. “This award means a great deal to me, as it symbolizes the valued work that the NFL, its players, and its 32 teams do in the community. I am blessed to have such a strong support system in my family, the Carolina Panthers and the NFL, which allows me to make an impact in the communities we serve.”

Davis, who had 129 tackles for the Panthers last season, will get a $50,000 donation made to the charity of his choice.

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Larry Fitzgerald wins NFL’s inaugural sportsmanship award

Larry Fitzgerald AP

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has garnered the NFL’s inaugural Art Rooney Award for sportsmanship, the club announced Saturday night.

The award was voted upon by Fitzgerald’s fellow players. It is named for the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

One example of Fitzgerald’s respect for those he competes against came last season, when he delivered a textbook block on unsuspecting Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. While Fitzgerald knocked down Sherman, he did not hit him as hard as he could have. As the players ran back to their huddles, Sherman patted Fitzgerald on the helmet.

Afterwards, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll publicly praised Fitzgerald for the physical-but-clean way he plays the game.

The 31-year-old Fitzgerald is entering his 12th NFL season.

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Aaron Donald wins defensive rookie of the year

New Orleans Saints v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year.

Donald got the award at tonight’s NFL Honors, capping a season in which he recorded nine sacks, including one sack in eight of the Rams’ last 11 games.

Of the 50 media members who vote on the NFL’s awards, 25 chose Donald as the defensive rookie of the year. Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley was next with 18 votes, followed by Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack with six votes and 49ers linebacker Chris Borland with one vote.

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J.J. Watt named defensive player of the year

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

In the least surprising news to come out of tonight’s NFL Honors event, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has been named the defensive player of the year.

It was obvious that Watt would win the award because it’s obvious that Watt is the NFL’s best defensive player. There’s plenty of debate about who the second-best defensive player in the NFL is, but there’s no debate about who’s first.

Watt was selected unanimously by the 50 media members who vote on the NFL’s awards.

The biggest question about Watt now is whether he can continue to play at the dominant level he has shown off for the last three seasons. If he does, he’ll be not just the best defensive player in the NFL at the moment, but perhaps the greatest defensive player ever to play the game.

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Junior Seau leads a strong eight-man class into the Hall of Fame

Junior Seau AP

The Pro Football Hall of Fame cleared the decks of a number of finalists who had been debated for years, as they ushered in an eight-man class to Canton Saturday night.

First-year eligible linebacker Junior Seau was elected to the Hall of Fame, along with running back Jerome Bettis, defensive end Charles Haley, guard Will Shields and wide receiver Tim Brown.

They’ll be joined this summer by seniors nominee Mick Tingelhoff and contributor candidates Bill Polian and Ron Wolf, who were chosen in separate up-down votes which required at least 80 percent to be elected.

Brown, the longtime Raiders receiver/return man, was in his sixth year as a finalist, as he was stuck in previous years behind Hall of Famers Cris Carter and Andre Reed.

Likewise, Haley was in his sixth trip as a finalist, as he was finally recognized his contributions to five Super Bowl Champions in San Francisco and Dallas.

Bettis was in his fifth year in the final 15, and Shields was making his fourth trip that far.

Seau, however, didn’t need that much time, as the late Chargers, Dolphins and Patriots linebacker needed the shortest discussion of any of the 18 candidates discussed.

Those five modern era finalists emerged from a strong group of finalists, which were debated in a nearly nine-hour meeting Saturday.

The players who filled slots six through 10, and stand a solid shot at the Hall next year include linebacker Kevin Greene, quarterback Kurt Warner, tackle Orlando Pace, wide receiver Marvin Harrison and coach Tony Dungy.

The first five players eliminated from the original list of 15 modern era finalists were coaches Don Coryell and Jimmy Johnson, kicker Morten Andersen, running back Terrell Davis and safety John Lynch.

Those remaining players will be eligible again next year, along with a crop of first-year eligible players which includes quarterback Brett Favre, wide receiver Terrell Owens, guard Alan Faneca and safety Darren Sharper.

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Bruce Arians is the NFL’s coach of the year

Bruce Arians AP

After leading the injury-plagued Cardinals to the playoffs, Bruce Arians has been named the NFL’s coach of the year.

Arians, who kept the Cardinals together after they lost both starting quarterback Carson Palmer and backup quarterback Drew Stanton, was named the recipient of the coach of the year award at NFL Honors. A panel of 50 members of the media voted on the award.

This is the second time Arians has been named the NFL’s coach of the year; he also won the award after the 2012 season, when he took over the Colts after Chuck Pagano was stricken with leukemia and led the Colts to the playoffs.

To earn two coach of the year awards in his first three seasons as a head coach is an extraordinary accomplishment, for an extraordinary coach.

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DeMarco Murray named offensive player of the year

DeMarco Murray AP

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray was named the NFL’s offensive player of the year for the 2014 season.

Murray finished the regular season with 392 carries for 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns, plus another 57 catches for 416 yards. His production was a big part of the Cowboys snapping their string of 8-8 seasons and making the playoffs.

Going forward, it remains to be seen whether Murray will keep helping the Cowboys win. Murray becomes a free agent in March, and the Cowboys may not have the cap space to afford to keep him.

But for now, Murray’s award is a tribute not just to his own season but to that of a great Cowboys offensive line, and to a year when Dallas finally turned the corner and returned to the postseason.

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Report: Ron Wolf a member of Hall’s Class of 2015

Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The man who built one of the NFL’s top teams of the 1990s is reportedly headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Former Packers G.M. Ron Wolf is a member of the Hall’s Class of 2015, Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Saturday evening. Wolf gained induction as a contributor.

The 76-year-old Wolf is perhaps best known for trading a first-round pick to the Falcons for quarterback Brett Favre in 1992. The move was a masterstroke, as Favre became one of the top passers of his generation, leading Green Bay to two Super Bowls, including victory in Super Bowl XXXI.

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Odell Beckham Jr. named offensive rookie of the year

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Getty Images

The choice for offensive rookie of the year in the NFL in 2014 was an easy one.

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who shook off an injury-plagued start of the season to become one of the league’s most exciting playmakers, has been named the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. The award was announced on Saturday night at the NFL Honors event in Phoenix.

The NFL’s awards are voted on by a panel of 50 members of the media, and in the case of this award, there was widespread agreement: Beckham got 42 votes, with Cowboys guard Zack Martin getting seven and Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans getting one.

Beckham missed the first four games of the season and spent three more as only a small player in the Giants’ offense. But over the second half of the season, Beckham was the best wide receiver in the NFL. After the Giants’ Week Eight bye, Beckham never had fewer than 90 yards in any game, and despite that slow start he finished the year with 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The NFL had a talented class of rookie wide receivers this season, but there was no question who was the best: Beckham, by far.

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Jerome Bettis indicates he’s made the Hall of Fame

Bettis AP

Via his verified Twitter account, former Rams and Steelers tailback Jerome Bettis indicated Saturday evening that he has been selected to the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015.

Wrote Bettis: “So happy to be amongst the games greatest players!! My Family and I are truly honored and blessed!”

Ed Bouchette, the Steelers’ beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a member of the Hall’s selection committee, confirmed in a story for the newspaper that Bettis had made the Hall.

On Twitter, the Steelers congratulated Bettis for his induction writing: “The Bus is headed to the ! Congratulations to on a well-deserved honor!”

Bettis rushed for 13,662 yards in 12 NFL seasons, sixth-most in league history.

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Best week yet for PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio

pftlive

Super Bowl week was only the fourth week for PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, and it was by far the best yet. In fact, it could be the best we’ll ever have, until next year at this time.  At the earliest.

Producers Rob “Stats” Guerrera and Kristen Coleman put together — and held together — a guest list that was second to none in sports radio this week.

From Friday working backward to Monday, with links to the video of the interviews, were segments with Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks, Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas, Bears defensive end Jared Allen, Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater, Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr., Ravens running back Justin Forsett, Dolphins executive V.P. of football operations (as of Monday) Mike Tannenbaum, Vikings receiver Greg Jennings, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, Bengals receiver A.J. Green, Bills coach Rex Ryan, Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant, Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, former Eagles, Rams, and Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, former Raiders receiver Tim Brown, Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, former Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Ward, Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, Bills running back Fred Jackson, Packers legend Jerry Kramer, Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, former Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson, former NFL defensive player of the year Jason Taylor, Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis, Browns cornerback Joe Haden, and Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel.

Media guests included Peter King of TheMMQB.com, Tom Curran of CSN New England (twice), Paul Burmeister of NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk, Darin Gantt of PFT, MDS of PFT (twice), Greg Cosell of NFL Films, Ross Tucker of NBCSN and others, and Bob Glauber of Newsday.

That’s 42 total guests. In five days.

You can listen to the audio from all five shows by clicking the show logo in the upper right corner of the page.

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Patriots center Bryan Stork probable for Super Bowl XLIX

Super Bowl XLIX Media Day Fueled by Gatorade Getty Images

The Patriots’ starting center looks on track to play in Super Bowl XLIX.

Rookie Bryan Stork (knee) is now officially probable for Sunday’s game vs. Seattle, the Patriots announced Saturday.

Stork had been listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report.

According to the NFL, a “probable” designation means a player has a 75 percent chance of playing, whereas “questionable” infers a player is 50-50 to take part in the game.

Stork (6-4, 311) did not play in the AFC Championship vs. Indianapolis because of his injury. A fourth-round pick from Florida State, Stork has started 12-of-14 games in which he’s played this season, including the Patriots’ divisional-round win vs. Baltimore.

Stork was the lone player on either club designated as questionable on Friday’s injury report. Both teams now list seven players apiece as probable, with none designated as doubtful or out.

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