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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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Cowboys restructure Tony Romo’s deal yet again for cap room

Tony Romo AP

Tony Romo didn’t take a pay cut to help keep DeMarco Murray.

But coincidentally, his latest restructuring creates enough cap room to make room for the guy who could be his next running back.

A league source confirms to PFT that the Cowboys have restructured Romo’s deal yet again, creating $12.8 million in cap space this year.

Granted, that just pushes (yet again) prorations into the future, and whenever the time comes for Romo to be an ex-Cowboy, he’ll be their biggest cap hit for at least a year beyond.

They’ll tack on another $3.2 million worth of cap charge to each of the remaining years of his extension.

And while they might not turn the short-term savings into an Adrian Peterson deal, it is a happy coincidence that the wantaway Vikings running back has a $12.75 million salary coming his way this year.

I’m sure the two aren’t connected.

Right?

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Saints extend Jahri Evans through 2017 season

New Orleans Saints v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Saints entered the offseason with two guards carrying big cap hits for the 2014 season, but they got rid of one when they traded Ben Grubbs to the Chiefs.

On Wednesday, they announced a contract extension for Jahri Evans that should alleviate much of his cap hit as well. The team added a year to Evans’s deal so that it now runs through the 2017 season.

Exact details of the deal are unknown, but the result is sure to be a lower cap number than the $11 million that Evans stood to count against the cap this year. That makes it easier to hold onto him for this season, something that wasn’t guaranteed at the higher cap number, and it should leave less dead money for them to deal with if they decide to part ways with the 31-year-old down the line.

With the extension in place, Evans will almost certainly be back at right guard where he will play next to new center Max Unger in the reworked interior of the Saints offensive line.

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NFL reaches deal with D.A. to see photos from first Greg Hardy trial

Greg Hardy AP

The NFL has yet to hand down any disciplinary ruling to Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy as a result of their investigation into his domestic violence case from last year and they’ll have a bit more information to consider before making any decision about a violation of the personal conduct policy.

The league has reached a deal with the Mecklenburg County (N.C.) District Attorney’s office to look at seven photos from Hardy’s bench trial last summer. Hardy was found guilty in that trial, but appealed to have a jury trial and then had the charges dismissed when accuser Nicole Holder failed to appear in court.

Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports that the photos are of Holder’s injuries and were taken by “a medical advocate.” They will only be seen by the NFL, NFLPA and any experts involved in the investigation.

“We appreciate the District Attorney’s office agreeing to make the information available to us and we look forward to the opportunity to review the photographs,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement.

The ability to view these photos, along with ones previously obtained from Charlotte police, should move the league closer to making their call on Hardy’s availability for the coming season.

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Stevan Ridley visits the Jets

ridley AP

Free agent running back Stevan Ridley is continuing to make a tour of the AFC East.

Ridley is visiting the Jets today, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

After playing his entire career with the Patriots, Ridley hit free agency this offseason after suffering a torn ACL last year. He has already visited the Dolphins.

The 26-year-old Ridley had 94 carries for 340 yards and two touchdowns in the first six games before he was lost for the season in 2014.

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Saints sign Kyle Wilson

Denver Broncos v New York Jets Getty Images

In 2010, the Saints took cornerback Patrick Robinson with the 32nd pick in the first round of the draft.

Robinson landed in San Diego as a free agent this offseason and part of the team’s plan to replace him on the roster involves another first rounder from that class. The Saints announced Wednesday that they have signed cornerback Kyle Wilson, who went 29th to the Jets that year.

Wilson played in every game over five seasons in Jersey, but never made good on that lofty draft position with the Jets. Wilson played almost exclusively in the slot for the Jets and his performance was found lacking enough that his snaps diminished over the last two years even with the Jets desperate for help at cornerback.

With Brandon Browner and Keenan Lewis on the team in New Orleans, a sub package role will be Wilson’s path to playing time in New Orleans as well. How much of a role he winds up playing will likely be determined by any further additions New Orleans makes at the position as the offseason rolls along.

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Tribal official faces impeachment after taking gifts from Dan Snyder

Snyder Getty Images

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: An exchange of trinkets and a free cross-country trip for a promise of goodwill didn’t work out so hot for a Native American.

Well, at least it’s just one in particular this time.

Via longtime Washington writer Dave McKenna at Deadspin comes the very latest bit of red on the face of Dan Snyder’s football team, as a Utah tribe has moved to impeach its leader after she accepted gifts from the team, allegedly so she’d support their nickname efforts.

According to the filing, the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah Tribal Council has accused Gari Pikyavit Lafferty, their highest-ranking elected official, of accepting gifts from the team and the Original Americans Foundation (OAF), a non-profit formed by Snyder for his “outreach” efforts.

The Council accused Lafferty of accepting a Robert Griffin III-signed football, and allowing the team to pay for her trip to Washington to see the Sept. 25, 2014 game against the Giants without telling tribal leaders. Among the evidence presented was a photo with team president Bruce Allen.

The council wrote that the gifts “could be considered bribery,” and curiously enough, when she returned home, she supported a deal which allowed the OAF (they don’t even think their acronyms through particularly well) to buy the tribe “at least two vans.”

There are plenty of other damning nuggets in McKenna’s story, and it’s worth pointing out that he has been a thorn in Snyder’s side for years.

(Hey, interestingly enough, Snyder once tried to get McKenna fired. That’s weird, he’s never tried to get his critics promoted out of his hair or stifle a free and unencumbered discussion before.)

This time, however, a tribal official stands to lose her job too.

It’s going to be hard to blame this one on some gullible employees and a fake John Skipper, as the “winning off the field” continues unabated in the nation’s capital.

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Boom Herron signs tender, stays with Colts

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

Free agent running back Daniel “Boom” Herron will remain in Indianapolis.

The Colts have announced that Herron signed his restricted free agent tender, keeping him with the team another year.

Herron emerged as the Colts’ top running back late last season, replacing Trent Richardson as the starter and playing well down the stretch. Herron ran 45 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns and also added 128 receiving yards in the Colts’ three playoff games.

This year Herron will likely back up Frank Gore in the Colts’ backfield.

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PFT Live: Bucs talk with Rick Stroud, Cowboys talk with Clarence Hill

Jameis Winston AP

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston had his pro day workout on Tuesday and there’s no sign that it has led the Buccaneers to reconsider drafting Winston with the first overall pick.

General Manager Jason Licht gave Winston a rave review and Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times will join Mike Florio on Wednesday’s PFT Live to discuss how things went for Winston. They’ll touch on other Tampa matters as well during Stroud’s visit before attention shifts to Dallas.

Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram will also be on the show. Hill and Florio will discuss Greg Hardy’s role with the Cowboys, the return of linebacker Rolando McClain and wide receiver Dez Bryant’s hopes for a long-term contract among other topics.

We also want to hear from PFT Planet. 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. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour of the show by clicking right here.

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Malcolm Jenkins: LeSean McCoy trade wasn’t surprising

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Getty Images

There were plenty of people surprised when the Eagles traded running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, but Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins wasn’t one of them.

Jenkins said that “everybody who is in the locker room and really knows Chip [Kelly]” understood why Kelly decided to ship the team’s leading rusher to Buffalo. Jenkins said that people in that position thought the deal made sense from the standpoint of “looking to acquire more talent” as well as finding talent that fit what Kelly wants to do on offense.

“You look at the style of runner that Chip wants in his offense and even though Shady is one of the best backs in the league, he’s not necessarily what Chip is looking for all the time,” Jenkins said during an appearance on NFL Network. “Chip thinks he’s a great running back, he knows his talent is there, but our [system] is really predicated on downhill, somebody who is going to hit the hole every time. It’s about getting up in the defenders face as fast as you can and that’s not necessarily Shady’s running style.”

Jenkins did say that there was some surprise about the Eagles only getting Alonso in return for McCoy because he thought it would have been bigger than a player-for-player deal, but the fact that Kelly is shaping the team to his desires in his first year running the personnel shop isn’t raising any other eyebrows.

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Lions bring Breshad Perriman in for a pre-draft visit

Breshad Perriman AP

The Lions have perhaps the game’s best big target at wide receiver.

Now they’re taking a look at a guy who could knock the top out of any defense to make even more room for him.

According to Tim Twentyman of the team’s official website, the Lions have Central Florida wideout Breshad Perriman in for a pre-draft visit today.

Perriman would be intriguing to Lions fans anyway, since his father Brett played for them from 1991-96.

But the younger version caught everyone’s eye at his pro day, when he ran his 40-yard dashes in blazing times, with the slowest a 4.27.

“I kind of expected to run that fast,” Perriman said.

His speed is even more tantalizing considering he’s 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. And the Lions have bigger needs than another wideout with the 23rd pick in the draft.

But the idea of putting another big-time weapon alongside Calvin Johnson’s an intriguing notion, especially considering the raw ability Perriman has shown.

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Dez not saying how soon he expects to be with the Cowboys

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant is not saying if he will be with the Cowboys soon enough to participate in the team’s offseason program or not.

The NFL’s other franchised wide receiver, Denver’s Demaryius Thomas, has said he’s going to work out on his own until his contract situation is resolved. Bryant, however, is keeping a low profile. It’s possible that he’ll agree to sign the franchise tag in time to report to the team’s offseason program, possible that he’ll work out a long-term deal by then, or possible that he’ll remain unsigned into training camp and the preseason. (It’s even possible that Bryant will remain unsigned into the regular season, although it’s unlikely he’d pass up the weekly game checks of more than $750,000 each that he could get by signing the franchise tender.)

Cowboys owner and General Manager Jerry Jones has said he’s not worried about Bryant’s contract situation because he’s confident that Bryant, a consummate competitor, will want to be there with his teammates.

The only question is whether Bryant will be there with his teammates at Organized Team Activities, minicamp, training camp or the preseason.

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Colts unveil “all-white” uniforms for April Fool’s Day

Zoolander Getty Images

We have an early winner on April Fool’s Day.

Rather than teasing an announcement about nothing or joking that a key employee has been arrested for drunk driving, the Colts have come up with a creative concept for the annual April 1 non-holiday holiday.

They’ve produced a video introducing all-white uniforms.  As in everything is white.  Including the jerseys and the numbers and the trim.

The video features tight end Dwayne Allen in the fake uniform, explaining why the Colts have done it.

“From a strategic, football standpoint, how can they scout us?” Allen said.  “They can’t see our numbers.”

Bravo, Colts.  The bar is now set for every other team and player.

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Urban Meyer: Browns are “fantastic” at pre-draft due diligence

Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has dealt with a lot of NFL scouts over the course of his career with the Buckeyes and other teams and he knows that they aren’t all created equal.

Meyer said Tuesday that some of the teams “do a phenomenal job” when it comes to asking questions and finding out everything there is to know about a prospect. He’s also had teams pick his players without ever speaking to him and says that those teams that don’t do the legwork also fail to “win a bunch of games.”

Based on 2014 experiences, you might think Meyer would put the Browns in the latter category. First-round picks Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert both struggled in their first NFL seasons with Manziel winding up in rehab and Gilbert dealing with a “very personal” issue that the Browns first became aware of once he was already on the team. Meyer says that’s not the case, however.

“Not good, fantastic,” Meyer said, via Cleveland.com. “I really like their head coach. He’s knee deep in it.”

The Browns did hit on later picks with guard Joel Bitonio, linebacker Christian Kirksey and running back Terrance West contributing to the team and Isaiah Crowell joined West in the backfield after signing as an undrafted free agent. As anyone familiar with recent Browns history will tell you though, missing on big pieces like quarterbacks often sets you back more than those kinds of hits spring you forward and the Browns need one of those big hits to become a team that wins a bunch of their future games.

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Teryl Austin predicts a better Lions defense, post-Suh

Austin AP

The Lions have lost defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, replacing them with Haloti Ngata.  Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin sees that as an upgrade.  And it wasn’t an April Fool’s Day gag.

We plan to be better this year,” Austin told a gathering of season-ticket holders at Ford Field on Tuesday, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

“We tell our guys all the time, you go in, the No. 1 thing you want to do is stop the run, and Haloti’s a premier run-stuffer,” Austin said.  “I don’t know if there’s any better in the league.  He’s that good.  And from the people that aren’t familiar with him, I had an opportunity to be in there with him for three years and just know the difference he makes up front.”

Colts coach Chuck Pagano was with Ngata, too.  Which makes Indy’s failure to pounce on Ngata even more confusing, especially given their struggles against the run.  Then again, the Colts may have tried to get Ngata, but the Lions struck too quickly.

“We literally finalized the trade with Baltimore, and Martin Mayhew and I are on the phone in my office, we hadn’t even told Jim [Caldwell] yet, and we’re on the phone to Bill Ford letting him know that the trade had finalized and it pops up on Twitter as we’re telling the owner that we had just finalized it,” team CEO Tom Lewand said, via Birkett.  “So Twitter was finding out before our head coach, and we had to go down the hall and I had the privilege of interrupting a staff meeting and stuck my head in and said, ‘Hey we got Haloti Ngata,’ and the looks on the face of these guys was like it was Christmas morning and Santa Claus had just come down the chimney.”

It’s a neat story, but let’s be realistic about this.  The Lions wanted to keep Suh.  The Lions tried to keep Suh.  The Lions reportedly hoped Suh would “come to his senses” after reports emerged of a looming deal with the Dolphins.

Austin now sees Ngata as an upgrade over Suh.  Less than two months ago, Austin said he planned on Suh returning, and that a possible departure hadn’t even crossed Austin’s mind.

The truth is that the Lions are seeing the glass as half full because they have no other choice, especially when talking up the upcoming season to a room full of season-ticket holders.  The offseason requires teams to sell hope to the fans, plausible or otherwise.  Which likewise requires teams to create the impression that any losses via free agency ultimately weren’t losses at all.

Besides, if Austin’s assessment eventually is proven to be wrong, it’s unlikely that anyone will throw his words back at him.  Even if they do, Austin will come up with a new reason for thinking that the glass is half full, no matter how empty is actually may be.

That’s not a knock on Austin.  It’s a recognition of the reality that only one team wins the Super Bowl every year.  For all 32, the challenge is to make the fans think they have a chance to be that one team.

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Joe Lombardi: Matthew Stafford will take more chances this year

Pro Bowl Getty Images

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw 12 interceptions in 16 games during the 2014 regular season, the lowest full-season total during his NFL career.

Stafford also set a new career low in net yards per pass attempt during Joe Lombardi’s first year as the offensive coordinator in Detroit. The team’s offense also saw sharp drops in points and yards, which may be why Lombardi suggested Stafford was too risk-averse during their first season working together.

“Our biggest thing is in order to win football games, you got to first not lose them,” Lombardi said, via MLive.com “And I thought he played smart football — almost to a fault. We’ll look for him to take a few more chances this year with the football. He’s got the arm to do it, and the receivers to throw it to.”

Having a healthy Calvin Johnson would offer Stafford more opportunities to show off the arm that once threw for 5,000 yards in a season and more shots down the field could return some of those missing points. That said, avoiding risk on offense paid off for the team last season and it would be surprising to see them alter things too dramatically after winning 11 games for the first time since 1991 and the third time since the franchise has been in Detroit.

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