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Alex Smith, Vernon Davis make their own 49ers legacy

Divisional Playoffs - New Orleans Saints v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

For six seasons, Alex Smith was the No. 1 overall pick that looked like a fourth-rounder.

For his first two seasons, Vernon Davis looked like the most physically gifted tight end in the league. But he also looked like a guy who may never “get it” and become a star.

On a magical Saturday evening in San Francisco, Smith and Davis created their own 49ers history.

There is so much to talk about after this instant classic. But it’s hard not to come back to Smith and Davis combining for two touchdowns in the final two minutes to win.

Smith has a reputation as a “game manager” but he was absolutely sensational with the pressure on in the final minutes. Smith dropped a gorgeous 37-yard pass in the bucket to Davis up the sideline with 3:14 left.

That set up The Run, an Alex Smith 28-yard touchdown around the left end to give the 49ers the lead.

MDS started writing what was going to be a beautiful post about The Run as a memorable game-winner.  Until the Saints quickly scored a touchdown and Smith had to win the game again.

After the Saints score, we thought the 49ers were finally done. They had pulled off one amazing late drive; they thought they won and now had to do it again. Nothing about their offensive performance all day indicated they could do it so quickly.

Smith did it again, of course. He found Davis for a 47-yard gain to set up the 14-yard game-winner with nine seconds left that reminded us so much of the T.O.’s playoff moment in San Francisco.  Davis finished 180 yards and two scores.

“I want to see all good things happen to [Smith] because he’s a warrior,” Davis said after the game.

These weren’t “game manager” throws. They were perfectly thrown gutsy tosses into small windows. The 49ers had a chance to play for the tie at the end of the game. Instead, they played aggressively like they did all afternoon.

The 49ers drafted Alex Smith first overall in 2005. Since then, Smith has seen two contracts, three head coaches, three personnel chiefs, and six offensive coordinators. The team drafted Davis eighth overall the following year.

It took a great head coach, a lot of patience, and a lot of perseverance from Smith to finally get to this moment.

Smith-to-Davis may not quite be Montana-to-Clark, but this generation of 49ers accomplished something special on Saturday.

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Report: Doug Martin, Gerald McCoy unlikely to play Thursday night

Doug Martin AP

The Buccaneers listed defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and running back Doug Martin as questionable for Thursday night’s game against the Falcons, but it doesn’t look like either one of them will be on the field.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that McCoy and Martin are both unlikely to be active for the NFC South matchup.

McCoy broke his hand in last Sunday’s loss to the Rams and he had a cast put on earlier this week. McCoy will likely suit up while his hand is in a cast, but he hinted that the quick turnaround to Thursday might make him a spectator against Atlanta.

That absence would likely hurt the Bucs more than Martin’s. Martin was out against St. Louis because of a knee injury, but Bobby Rainey had 174 total yards of offense in his place. If the offensive line can handle things up front, the running game should be just fine.

Replacing McCoy’s production is more difficult. Da’Quan Bowers and Akeem Spence will see more playing time if Tampa has to fill a McCoy-sized hole on their defensive line.

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Shad Khan fires another Fulham manager

Shad Khan AP

The Jaguars are willing to play it slow with the development of rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, for many reasons.

But Jaguars owner Shad Khan is proving far less patient with his other team.

According to The Guardian, Khan has fired Fulham manager Felix Magath, setting the stage for his fourth manager in the 14 months he’s been in control of the English soccer team. Khan had previously sacked Martin Jol and Rene Meulensteen since buying the team last July.

It’s been a turbulent time for Fulham, which was relegated from the Premier League after finishing 19th of 20 teams last year. (The bottom three teams in the league get sent down to the minors every year, and the top three in the minors get promoted to the show).

But things have gotten worse, as Fulham are 24th in the 24-team Championship (think AAA) this season, having just blown a lead to lose 5-3 to Nottingham Forest. Magath won just four games in his 20 in charge, which kind of makes him the Mike Mularkey of England.

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Jerome Simpson in more legal trouble

Jerome Simpson AP

Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson will serve the final game of his three-game suspension this week, but his return to eligibility may be a short one.

Ben Goessling of ESPN.com reports that Simpson, suspended after being arrested for DUI last year, has a court date on November 3 in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Simpson was cited, but not arrested, on misdemeanor charges of violating a limited license, marijuana possession and open bottle after being pulled over in a traffic stop on July 7.

Simpson’s current suspension is his second handed down by the league. He was previously suspended for three games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy in 2012 after being arrested on drug charges while he was a member of the Bengals in 2011.

A third suspension would likely be longer than three games given Simpson’s history and it could bring an end to his time in Minnesota, unless the Vikings don’t decide to just move on once Simpson’s suspension ends when Week Three comes to a close.

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Jaguars will be without Marqise Lee this week

Marqise Lee, Chad Henne AP

The Jaguars didn’t have a wealth of talent at wide receiver to begin with.

Now they have even less.

According to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, rookie wideout Marqise Lee said he won’t play Sunday against the Colts because of a hamstring issue.

My main focus is on getting it right,” Lee said. “The hamstring can linger and if you continue to come back, come back, come back and you’re feeling 85-90 percent, you’re still going to have issues.”

The Jaguars have been without Cecil Shorts (hamstring) the first two games, and he was limited in practice Wednesday. First half of the opener sensation Allen Hurns (ankle) was also held out.

That could push fellow second-rounder Allen Robinson into the starting lineup, and might force them to play Tavarres King, who was just signed off the receiver-rich (not really) Panthers practice squad.

So while their insistence on sticking with Chad Henne might be preventing them from some things, their inability to surround their quarterback with helpful parts might be much of the reason they’re sitting rookie Blake Bortles.

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Broadcasters are using Wasington team name a lot less

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Plenty of fans, media, and league officials are longing for the good old days, when the NFL’s biggest controversy centered on the inevitability that the Washington franchise will, at some point, have a new name.

Until the name changes, plenty of broadcasters have tapped the brakes on using the name.  Via Brad Gagnon of Awful Announcing, Deadspin has crunched the numbers.

Based on scripts of NFL broadcasts through the first two weeks of the each of the last two seasons, the team name was said 186 times and “Washington” was used 156 times in 2013. In 2014, the team name has been mentioned only 67 times.  “Washington” has been used 169 times.

Last year, the team name was used 30 times more than “Washington.”  This year, “Washington” has been used 102 times more than the team name.

It’s a trend that will continue, and it’s an issue that eventually will resurface, lingering until the name changes, and beyond.

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Jerry Rice calls on the 49ers to deactivate Ray McDonald

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Jerry Rice, the former 49er considered by many to be the greatest player in NFL history, says his old team is wrong to let a player accused of domestic violence to continue to play.

Rice says that Ray McDonald, who was arrested last month and accused of assaulting his pregnant fiancee, should not be playing for the 49ers unless and until he is cleared. Rice echoed the comments of his former quarterback Steve Young, who has said that the 49ers should not hide behind “due process” and should instead take the same step that has already been taken with accused abusers Greg Hardy in Carolina, Adrian Peterson in Minnesota and Jonathan Dwyer in Arizona.

“I think I’m just like Steve Young — I would have totally just taken him off the field until it’s resolved,” Rice told SI.com. “But they have decided to let him play, and it’s just unfortunate. I feel that when you have something that’s weighing you down like that, because it’s a very important topic, and it’s very sensitive, I just feel he should have been taken off the field.”

At a time when the rest of the NFL seems to think that an abuse allegation is enough to take a player off the field, the 49ers are taking a very different stand. It’s a stand that finds them taking harsh criticism, even from some of the greatest players in the history of their franchise.

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PFT Live: Jordy Nelson, Mohamed Sanu, Week Three picks

Jordy Nelson, Darrin Walls AP

We’ve got a big PFT Live today featuring two NFL wide receivers and one man who out-picked Florio last week.

First up is Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, who’s currently leading the league in both catches and receiving yards after his huge game against the Jets on Sunday.

Then we’ve got Bengals receiver Mohamed Sanu, who stepped up with 84 receiving yards when A.J. Green went down on Sunday.

And last but certainly not least we’ve got PFT’s managing editor Michael David Smith, who beat the pants off Florio in last week’s picks competition.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Players didn’t want Olympic marijuana standard

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The new PED policy was unveiled on Wednesday.  The sheet has yet to be pulled on the new substance-abuse policy.

When it happens, the threshold for marijuana metabolites will increase from 15 ng/ml to 35 ng/ml.  But that’s still 115 ng/ml less than the current Olympic standard of 150 ng/ml.

Most would assume the NFL refused to adopt the higher standard.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the players involved in the management of the union wanted to keep the limit low, so that players wouldn’t believe that “smoke if you got ‘em” time has come to the NFL.

The current increase dispenses with the second-hand smoke excuse, giving players a buffer zone that will easily be surpassed if they are regularly inhaling first-hand smoke.

Then there’s the reality that the testing protocol exposes players to one unannounced urine donation per year, with a window that ironically opens on 4/20.  After providing that clean sample, the players face no scrutiny unless they are arrested for marijuana possession, or if a bag of weed falls out of their pocket in the presence of a league office.

So, basically, it’s still “smoke if you got ‘em,” as long as you wait to smoke ‘em until after the last drop has fallen into the cup.

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Jim Harbaugh thinks home field advantage “could be improved”

Chicago Bears v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The support of a big crowd has been a big factor for the 49ers this season.

Unfortunately, they might have had more vocal support at their road opener in Dallas than in the first game at new Levi’s Stadium.

Coach Jim Harbaugh clearly wasn’t thrilled by the noise generated by his home fans during Sunday night’s loss to the Bears.

“I noticed at times it was good and loud, yeah,” the 49ers coach said, via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. “And other times it could be improved.”

Of course, the same could be said of his team, which coughed up a 17-0 lead to lose in the debut game at the Field of Jeans.

Now they have to try to fix things on the road at Arizona Sunday, where the 49ers have also drawn a good following.

“We had a great crowd for our Monday night game in the opener [against the Chargers],” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “Historically, visiting teams have had access to tickets here. And hopefully our guys are keeping theirs.”

Of course, Levi’s Stadium is also expensive enough that hitting the road might be a cheaper alternative for some 49ers fans.

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Chip Kelly claims he had “zero” off-field issues with DeSean Jackson

Jacksonville Jaguars v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Eagles coach Chip Kelly is preparing to face DeSean Jackson for the first time since cutting him in the offseason, and Kelly claims that the only reason he cut Jackson is that Jackson didn’t fit the profile of his offense.

Asked how much concern Kelly had about Jackson off the field, Kelly answered, “Zero.”

So why was Jackson cut?

“Yeah, just trying to build the overall team in terms of what we’re looking for offensively and how we wanted to get bigger at the wideout spot and that’s what we did,” Kelly said.

That answer is hard to buy. Kelly may prefer bigger wide receivers, but he was able to make things work with a small receiver last year, when Jackson was by far the team’s leading receiver, with 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. Jackson was targeted on a whopping 126 passes last season, 42 more than any other Eagle. If Kelly had a problem with Jackson’s size, it sure wasn’t reflected in Kelly’s game planning or play calling. It’s also worth noting that one of the ways the Eagles replaced Jackson’s playmaking ability in the passing game this offseason was to trade for Darren Sproles, who is leading the Eagles in both catches and receiving yards this season and is even smaller than Jackson. Kelly even said after Sproles’s big game on Monday night against the Colts that Sproles’s size can be an advantage because it’s hard for opposing defenses to spot him in traffic.

On Sundays, Jackson looked like a great fit in Kelly’s offense. The real problems appeared to be that Jackson and Kelly were reportedly not seeing eye to eye outside game day, and that the Eagles had some concerns about Jackson away from the game. There had been talk out of Philadelphia for weeks prior to his release that Jackson could be on the way out, but the Eagles didn’t actually release him until about an hour after a story alleging that Jackson had gang ties was published.

Whatever the real reasons, Kelly seems comfortable with his decision to cut Jackson. We’ll see on Sunday whether Jackson can make him regret it.

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Bucs QB coach on Josh McCown: He can’t turn ball over like that

St. Louis Rams v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Before Josh McCown took over the Bears quarterback job in the wake of an injury to Jay Cutler last season, his reputation was not that of an efficient decision maker who gave his teams steady, turnover-free play.

McCown had thrown 37 touchdowns and 44 interceptions in his career to that point, which explains why he went from starting games in Arizona to a journeyman backup. McCown threw 13 touchdowns and one interception while posting a 109 passer rating for Chicago last season, though, and the Buccaneers splurged on him as a free agent because they believed that was the quarterback they’d be getting.

They haven’t seen him yet. While McCown has completed a high percentage of his passes, he’s also thrown three interceptions that have left quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo wondering what’s going through McCown’s mind.

“Yeah, some of the decision making, I don’t know if he’s pressing or if he starts off on fire and thinks he can complete every pass or what,” Arroyo said, via the Tampa Tribune. “But you just can’t turn the ball over the way he has, especially when you’re that tight in the red zone.”

The good news for the Bucs is that McCown’s current rate of interceptions on 5.4 percent of his throws is well above his career average so things should even out as more time passes. The bad news is that his 3.7 percent career average is a lot closer to this year’s output than it is to last year’s minuscule number and that McCown’s high level of success may have had more to do with his surroundings than the Bucs wanted to believe when they signed him.

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Adrian Peterson is most likely done in Minnesota

Peterson Getty Images

In the immediate aftermath of the child-abuse charges filed against Adrian Peterson, it seemed probable that he wouldn’t be playing for the Vikings after the 2014 season.  It’s now likely that Peterson will never wear a Vikings uniform again.

Essentially suspended with pay until his legal case is resolved and with no sign that it’ll be resolved before the end the year, Peterson’s stat line come Week 17 will be one game, 75 yards rushing.

Then, after the season ends, the Vikings will move on.  For a variety of reasons, including the $12.75 million he’s due to earn in 2015.

A week ago, the Vikings were tied to Peterson because Peterson was the face of the franchise at a time when the franchise was embarking on a two-year stay at an undersized college stadium.  Now, the Vikings will have no choice but to move on from a man who has quickly become equal parts distraction and pariah.

The contract can’t be traded without a major restructuring, and Peterson may have no desire to finish his career with the Cowboys after getting a heaping helping of the not-so-hospitable Texas criminal justice system.  In the end, Peterson will land with a team that can withstand the reaction from its fans and from the media — or with a team run by a G.M. and/or a head coach who need to win in order to save their jobs.  Or maybe the Raiders.

Regardless, the great Paul Allen likely has shouted “He’s loose!” about Peterson for the last time.  By next year, Peterson will be loose in a very different way.

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Ron Rivera: “We don’t need to blame people, we need to find answers”

Ron Rivera AP

At a certain point during yesterday’s press conference announcing Greg Hardy’s banishment with pay following his domestic violence case, Panthers P.R. director Charlie Dayton tried to step in to offer coach Ron Rivera a lifeline.

But Rivera said he wasn’t finished talking, and showed the kind of leadership and accountability as impressive as the coach of the year honors he won last year.

As he closed a round of questions about sending his highest-paid player away with pay, Rivera said he felt a responsibility to make sure the decision was made properly.

“I made a decision [deactivating Hardy last week] that I felt was best for everybody,” Rivera said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “There are a lot of distractions out there, and a lot of people being blamed for a lot of things they have nothing to do with. You know, there’s two ladies that work in this building and they answer the phone. And people call, and they get after them about decisions I make. They don’t deserve to have that. They’re people. They’re women. They’re mothers. They’re sisters. They’re grandmothers. And people call and want to complain.

“So I struggle with it. That makes it very hard on me. So when I have to make decisions, I make decisions that are in the best interests of this organization and don’t ever forget that.”

Rivera was clearly emotional during the press conference, and he should be, given the gravity of the charges.

He acknowledged several times that “the climate is changing,” and their initial willingness to play him against Tampa Bay in the opener was something they simply couldn’t continue after the video of Ray Rice punching his wife in the face emerged and the national conversation changed.

“This is not a normal set of circumstances or situations,” Rivera said. “When you get into these types of situations, you try to handle it them the best you can. As I said on Sunday after the game, the biggest thing we have to understand is we’ve got to get this right. We really do.

“In all honesty, we’re worried about the wrong types of things. We’re trying to figure out who we need to blame. We don’t need to blame people, we need to find answers and corrections and make things right for people, and this is what this really should be about. I’ve been up and talked about this on and on and on, and I really just hope people understand we’re doing the best we can under the circumstances that we have and we’re trying to get this right. And at the end of the day, we have to come up with solutions to make that this does not happen again.”

There is a round of finger-pointing that needs to happen, in order to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But if the league is going to take its domestic violence problem seriously, there needs to be more than words, there needs to be action.

And that action shouldn’t be left to the coaches to enact.

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Adam Jones eager to face Titans, isn’t angry about departure from team

Cincinnati Bengals v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

It has been almost a decade since Adam Jones last suited up for the Titans, a period that has seen Jones play 56 games as a member of the Cowboys and Bengals without ever playing against the team that drafted him in 2005.

The Bengals did play the Titans in 2011, but Jones missed the game because of an injury. That means he’ll play his first game against a Titans team that bears little resemblance to the one he played for. Tackle Michael Roos is the only player left who shared a locker room with Jones, which may be why Jones’s eagerness to face his old team doesn’t come with any old animosity weighing him down.

“With time and growth, things seem to be not as important, or should I say [I don't have] a chip on my shoulder,” Jones said, via the Tennessean. “Of course, I can’t wait to play. But as far as angry about anything [having to do with the Titans], no, I’m not.”

It seemed like a bad bet that Jones would still be playing in the NFL in 2014 after he sat out the entire 2007 and 2009 seasons and played nine forgettable games for Dallas in 2008. He’s found a second life in Cincinnati, however, and that will give him a chance to bring things full circle this weekend.

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PFT’s Week Three picks

Kaepernick Getty Images

Plenty of people connected to the NFL would prefer that the last week didn’t happen.  I’m part of that group, for entirely different reasons.

When it came to predicting the outcomes of games in Week Two, I had the worst showing I’ve ever had, in the time I’ve been picking games at PFT.  As it all disintegrated, I used language even more offensive than whatever Colin Kaepernick supposedly said on Sunday night.

Ultimately, I got five right and 11 wrong.  Eleven wrong.

MDS didn’t do much better, but his 8-8 showing puts him in the lead by three games, with a 17-15 mark.  I’m at 14-18 through two weeks.  Which is quite lame.

This week, we disagree on four games.  Which means I’ll likely be seven games behind MDS by next week.

Buccaneers at Falcons

MDS’s take: If the Bucs couldn’t beat teams quarterbacked by Derek Anderson and Austin Davis at home, they’re not going to beat a team quarterbacked by Matt Ryan on the road.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 31, Buccaneers 17.

Florio’s take:  The Falcons are better than I thought they’d be.  The Bucs aren’t.  While it’s unclear what Atlanta will do on the road in the division, holding serve at home against the Saints means they’ll hold serve against the Buccaneers.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 27, Buccaneers 17.

Chargers at Bills

MDS’s take: Are the Bills for real? That may be the toughest question to answer after the first two weeks of the season. They sure look like a much better team than any of us expected heading into 2014. I think they’re going to keep it going against a Chargers team that will have a tough time overcoming a tough game and a long road trip.

MDS’s pick: Bills 21, Chargers 20.

Florio’s take:  The Bills are off to a great start.  And we’ve seen how this movie ends.  While I’m not ready to assume a Western New York renaissance isn’t happening, the Chargers are even better than they were when they made the playoffs a year ago.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 30, Bills 21.

Washington at Eagles

MDS’s take: We’ll all have our eyes on Kirk Cousins getting the start and potentially playing well enough over the next few weeks to keep the job even after Robert Griffin III is ready to go. But I’m more interested in watching Nick Foles, who has made a lot of mental mistakes this year, the kind of mistakes he wasn’t making last year. Fortunately for the Eagles, they’ve managed to go 2-0 without Foles even playing very well. I think they should improve to 3-0 and Foles should have a better game than he’s played so far.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 24, Washington 12.

Florio’s takeDeSean Jackson returns home to see that the Eagles really are even better without him.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 30, Washington 17.

Texans at Giants

MDS’s take: The Giants are just not a good football team right now, and although Tom Coughlin has turned his team around after bad starts before, I don’t see it happening any time soon. Bill O’Brien has the Texans playing efficient and mistake-free offensive football and they’ll put plenty of points on the board against the Giants.

MDS’s pick: Texans 31, Giants 14.

Florio’s take:  And here’s where we find out the Giants aren’t quite as bad as perceived, and that the Texans aren’t quite as good.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 24, Texans 17.

Vikings at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints are 0-2, but they’ll roll on Sunday over a Vikings team that could be ready to go into a deep dive.

MDS’s pick: Saints 34, Vikings 23.

Florio’s take:  Even without Adrian Peterson playing, the Saints will have a hard time slowing down the Vikings’ offense.  Not because the Vikings’ offense is great, but because the Saints’ defense isn’t.  Still, advantage home team.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 31, Vikings 21.

Cowboys at Rams

MDS’s take: The 1-1 Cowboys are one-eighth of the way to their fourth straight 8-8 finish, and I think what we’re going to see from them this year is more or less what we’ve seen through two games: They’ll beat bad teams like the Titans and lose to good teams like the 49ers. This week it’s the Rams, a bad team, so they’ll win.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 28, Rams 13.

Florio’s take:  The next time anyone talks about expanding the NFL, point out that this game could feature a quarterback showdown of Brandon Weeden and Austin Davis.  Advantage:  No one.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 14, Rams 13.

Titans at Bengals

MDS’s take: I’m really liking what I’m seeing of the Bengals, on both sides of the ball: Their defense is one of the most talented in football and the offensive line is giving Andy Dalton plenty of time to pass, which means he’s not being pressured into the mistakes that have plagued him in the past. Cincinnati might be the best team in the AFC.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 30, Titans 10.

Florio’s take:  Even without a full stadium to cheer them on, the Bengals should be able to roll over the Titans.  Maybe eventually the stadium will be full.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 31, Titans 20.

Ravens at Browns

MDS’s take: I went back and forth on this one. I like the direction the Browns are heading in, but I also think the Ravens, who looked so good last Thursday and have a long work week with extra time to prepare, are a better team from top to bottom. Go with the Ravens in a close, low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 16, Browns 13.

Florio’s take:  Yes, the Browns pulled off a thrilling win over the Saints.  But the New Orleans defense currently is flawed, deeply.  The Baltimore defense isn’t.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 17, Browns 13.

Packers at Lions

MDS’s take: The Lions are so thin at cornerback that Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson should have a field day. On the other hand, the Lions’ passing game has so many weapons that I’m not sure how long the Packers’ defense can slow them down. Go with the Lions in a close, high-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Lions 31, Packers 30.

Florio’s take:  A shootout could be looming in the Lions’ den, with both teams having high-powered offense and neither having a defense that can impose its will.  Maybe they should play on a 50-yard field.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 45, Lions 41.

Colts at Jaguars

MDS’s take: With both teams at 0-2, the loser of this game will be in such a deep hole (or, as Roddy White would say, a deep whole) that any hope of winning the AFC South would be just about over. Before the season some saw the Jaguars as potential playoff teams, but I think the Jaguars have a longer rebuilding job than that.

MDS’s pick: Colts 24, Jaguars 17.

Florio’s take:  It’s a must-win game for the Colts, who are playing a team that, based on its current talent level, must lose.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 30, Jaguars 23.

Raiders at Patriots

MDS’s take: Charles Woodson said it best: The Raiders suck. This is the easiest game of the week to pick.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 34, Raiders 20.

Florio’s take:  Remember that time when the Raiders were really good and the Patriots stunk?  Neither do I.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 48, Raiders 17.

49ers at Cardinals

MDS’s take: I went back and forth on this one. The Cardinals have looked better than most people thought, and the 49ers are coming off a major meltdown against the Bears. Does that mean there’s a new pecking order in the NFC West? I don’t think so. Uncertainty at the quarterback position in Arizona is a major problem, and Colin Kaepernick won’t throw three interceptions again.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 24, Cardinals 13.

Florio’s take:  The jury remains out on whether Colin Kaepernick is a franchise quarterback.  The verdict is in on whether the Cardinals can find a way to win, no matter who is injured or suspended or otherwise not available.

Florio’s pick:  Cardinals 20, 49ers 17.

Broncos at Seahawks

MDS’s take: Super Bowl XLVIII I/II (that’s Super Bowl forty-eight and one-half for those of you who don’t speak Latin) will be a closer game than the ugly blowout we saw in February, but the ultimate result will be the same: The great defense will beat the great offense.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 20, Broncos 17.

Florio’s take:  At a neutral site in early February, the Seahawks won by 35.  At CenturyLink Field with a sudden sense of urgency following last week’s loss in San Diego, this one could be uglier.  But if I pick a margin larger than 35, I could get the Phil Simms treatment in Denver.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 34, Broncos 24.

Chiefs at Dolphins

MDS’s take: This is shaping up to be a long, tough season for the Chiefs. After the breakout year of 2013, the Chiefs are off to a bad start, they’re plagued by injuries, and they’re about to lose their third in a row.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 27, Chiefs 20.

Florio’s take:  They once played the longest game in NFL history.  This one can’t end soon enough for the road team.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 27, Chiefs 14.

Steelers at Panthers

MDS’s take: Kudos to the Panthers’ defense for the way it played on Sunday: Despite losing its best pass rusher, Greg Hardy, for off-field reasons on gameday morning, Carolina did a good job of slowing down a good Detroit passing attack. This Carolina team is better than most people realized.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 24, Steelers 13.

Florio’s take:  The Panthers have longer aspired to be like the Steelers.  Maybe the Panthers have gotten there.  The Steelers are trying to find their way back to that.  Maybe on Sunday night they should take a long look at the team on the other side of the field.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 20, Steelers 12.

Bears at Jets

MDS’s take: The Jets’ offense is a lot better than I expected it to be, and the Bears’ defense has some holes. But the Bears have perhaps the best pair of receivers in the NFL in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and I just don’t think the Jets have the cornerbacks to keep up.

MDS’s pick: Bears 28, Jets 27.

Florio’s take:  The Jets barely beat a bad Raiders team and blew what would have been a big upset at Lambeau Field.  Assuming that the Week Two Bears and not the Week One Bears make the trek to MetLife Stadium, the Jets won’t have to worry about losing the game by an ill-timed timeout.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 23, Jets 14.

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