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PFT’s conference championship picks

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After the home teams went 4-0 in the wild-card round, I decided to ride that wave of bad hospitality, and I picked the home teams to win in the division round.

But for the Giants’ 17-point win over the Packers, I would have had a perfect weekend.  Rosenthal, who picked both the Packers and Saints to advance, was 2-2.

So, yes, I won.  For a change.

This week, I agonized over both games.  Tempted to flip a coin, I probably would have been better off if I did.

Not just this weekend, but all year.

Ravens at Patriots

Florio’s take:  Yes, the Baltimore offense looked sluggish against the Texans.  During the regular season, however, the Texans had one of the best defenses in the league.  The Patriots, in sharp contrast, had one of the worst.  Still, can the Ravens muster at least one more point than the New England offense will score?  The internal offense-vs.-defense strife in Baltimore seems to be real, and it could lead to an ugly confrontation on the sidelines if the Pats jump out to an early lead and the Ravens can’t respond.  Also, the Pats’ defense quietly is improving.  Throw in the fact that the Patriots would love to give owner Robert Kraft something about which to feel good as he continues to mourn his wife’s passing (Myra Kraft’s initials remain on their jerseys), Tom Brady’s memory of a home thrashing two years ago from the Ravens, and a burning desire by Brady and Bill Belichick to finally get that fourth championship, and it’s hard to envision the Patriots losing.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 27, Ravens 20.

Rosenthal’s take: This game comes down to two questions. Is the Ravens defense more dominant than the Patriots offense? After watching Houston’s running game push Baltimore around last week, I’m rolling with the Patriots there. Terrell Suggs disappears too often. New England’s tight ends are too hard to defend.  Second question: Does the good Joe Flacco show up this week? All season, I’ve thought a great quarterback would take the Patriots out in the playoffs. New England doesn’t have to face a great quarterback in the AFC. The health of Patrick Chung, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher, and the rest of the Patriots no-names all help make the New England defense competent enough.

Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 31, Ravens 27.

Giants at 49ers

Florio’s take:  The Giants are the best team remaining, with a high-powered offense to go with a staunch defense.  And I’m inclined to pick them to win, in part because I’ve picked them to lose twice in the playoffs and in part because a clash between the Giants and Patriots in the Super Bowl would generate enormous interest and ratings and page views.  But there’s something intangible, and special, about the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh.  All week long, I believed I’d pick the Giants, and that then the 49ers would win.  With rain likely to make it harder for the Giants’ passing game to fire on all cylinders, look for that hard-hitting San Fran defense and a potent-when-it-needs-to-be offense to find a way.  Yes, the Giants are the better team.  But the 49ers, I believe, will have more points on the scoreboard when the game is finally over.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 24, Giants 21.

Rosenthal’s take: Eli Manning has the fourth quarter reputation, but Alex Smith has the seven fourth quarter comebacks. New York’s offensive line is a weakness that hasn’t been exposed the last two weeks, but it will show up on Sunday.  San Francisco can get more consistent pressure on Eli Manning with their front seven and they’ll have the more consistent running game. Counting on Eli to keep converting beautiful low percentage third-and-long throws is a difficult way to win week after week. The 49ers magic will continue.

Rosenthal’s pick: 49ers 24, Giants 20.

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Fifth-year options have no offset obligation

Phil Taylor AP

With the Browns deciding to cut defensive tackle Phil Taylor, who has a fully-guaranteed fifth-year option salary of $5.477 million, I initially assumed that the Browns would get a dollar-for-dollar credit for any money Taylor earns elsewhere.

As I often do, I assumed wrong.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says nothing about offset language in the fifth-year option, and the NFL Players Association believes there’s no offset obligation. Indeed, the offset duty applies only when affirmative offset language is added to a contract. Without that express language, there’s no offset.

Which means that Taylor could indeed get $5.477 million to not play for the Browns, along with whatever he makes elsewhere.

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Report: Julius Thomas to have surgery on injured finger Wednesday

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On Monday, Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said that tight end Julius Thomas was headed for a second opinion on the finger he broke in the team’s preseason opener and that surgery was a possibility depending on the evaluation.

It looks like Thomas is headed for the operating room. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Thomas will have the surgery on Wednesday and that he could miss the next month while recovering. That’s the same general timeline Caldwell gave while discussing the possibility of surgery on Monday.

It’s a blow to the Jaguars, who spent big to get Thomas as a free agent so that he could provide Blake Bortles with a reliable target in Bortles’s second season with the club. Bortles is 39-of-60 for 461 yards and a touchdown in the preseason.

Assuming the timeline holds up, Thomas should return to the lineup sometime around the team’s Week Four game against the Colts. Clay Harbor and Marcedes Lewis are the next tight ends up for the Jaguars, who will also likely look to second-year wideouts Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee more often with Thomas out of the lineup.

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Packers set their 75-man roster

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The Packers have made the necessary roster moves to get their roster down to 75 players.

It’s a list short on recognizable names other than wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who was placed on injured reserve after tearing his ACL in the team’s second preseason game of the summer.

Nelson’s injury didn’t help wide receivers Javess Blue, Jimmie Hunt or James Butler avoid the waiver wire. Their departures leave the Pack with eight wideouts still on the roster with Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis and Myles White looking like sure or strong bets to survive final cuts as well.

The Packers also waived linebacker Tavarus Dantzler, tackle Fabbians Ebbele, linebacker Josh Francis, defensive tackle Lavon Hooks, tackle Vince Kowalski, quarterback Matt Blanchard, linebacker Adrian Hubbard, defensive back Kyle Sebetic and tight end Harold Spears.

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Trindon Holliday among the cuts as Raiders get down to 75

Trindon Holliday, Seth Roberts AP

The NFL’s shortest player is among the cuts as the Raiders trimmed their roster to 75.

Kick returner Trindon Holliday, the 5-foot-5 former track star who has made some big plays but also had some costly fumbles in his NFL career, was among the veterans the Raiders cut today. Oakland also cut veteran cornerbacks James Dockery and Ras-I Dowling.

The Raiders waived punter Steven Clark, cornerback Rob Daniel, quarterback Cody Fajardo, receiver Josh Jarper, guard Lamar Mady, running back Trent Richardson, receiver Kenbrell Thompkins and receiver Milton Williams.

Offensive tackle Menelik Watson was placed on injured reserve with a ruptured Achilles, and safety Jimmy Hall was waived/injured.

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Bears claim Zac Dysert off waivers

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Bears backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen has a concussion and the team made a move Tuesday to give themselves some more help at the position.

Agent Mike McCartney announced on Twitter that his client Zac Dysert has been claimed off waivers by Chicago. Dysert was cut by the Broncos as they made their way to 75 players this week.

The move may not just be a temporary one. Dysert was a seventh-round pick by Denver in 2013, which means he spent the first two years of his career in an offense coordinated by Adam Gase on a team coached by John Fox. That’s the same situation in Chicago and Gase might prefer to have Dysert on hand even after Clausen is healthy enough to resume his role as the No. 2 behind Jay Cutler.

Reports out of Chicago are that undrafted rookie quarterback Shane Carden will be waived to make room for Dysert on the roster. The Bears also have David Fales on the depth chart at the position.

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Which Final Four team is most likely to not win its division?

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History tells us that roughly half the teams that made the playoffs last year won’t be back in 2015. Of the four teams that made it to the conference title games, which one is most likely to not win its division?

That’s the poll question for Tuesday’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN. Answer it now, then tune in at 6:00 p.m. ET for the show.

The show will consist of a lot more than answering that question. To find out what it will make the 30-minute cut, tune in to NBCSN at the top of the hour for Rodney Harrison, Paul Burmeister, and yours truly.

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Judge Berman “anticipates” Brady ruling by end of the week

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On Monday, Judge Richard Berman said that he fully expected to issue a ruling in the Tom Brady case on Tuesday or Wednesday.

It’s after 5 p.m. on Tuesday in New York and there’s been no ruling issued yet, so it seems unlikely to be delivered on September 1. September 2 may not be the day either based on an order issued by Berman on Tuesday afternoon.

“The Court anticipates issuing its Decision and Order by the end of the week,” Berman wrote, via Bob McGovern of the Boston Herald.

That leaves more time to go over the potential rulings that Berman could make and the responses that the NFL and/or Brady could have to those rulings, although it’s probably safe to say that just about everything that could be said about the case, the suspension, the meaning of the nickname “Deflator,” courtroom sketch artists and the Ideal Gas Law has already been said at this point.

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Texans owner says J.J. Watt wouldn’t destroy his phone like Brady

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Texans owner Bob McNair puts the blame for Deflategate squarely on Tom Brady, saying that if Brady would have cooperated with the NFL’s investigation, the matter could have been resolved much more easily.

McNair said on 610-AM in Houston that a player should be willing to cooperate with the league, and that he’d expect his own best player to cooperate in a league investigation.

“What escalated the whole thing is that Brady and the Patriots were going to cooperate fully, and then when it came down to it, they didn’t,” McNair said, via ESPN. “If it was J.J. Watt, I think he would have been cooperative, and it wouldn’t be a question. . . . I don’t think J.J. would destroy his cell phone.”

McNair is convinced that the Patriots deflated footballs to gain an edge, and that the NFL did the right thing in cracking down.

“In the minds of somebody in that organization, they thought it was important. They thought it would give them a competitive advantage, and that’s why they did it,” McNair said.

As Roger Goodell continues to face criticism over Deflategate, McNairs comments indicate that at least one of Goodell’s 32 bosses think he has done his job well.

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Falcons say goodbye to Peter Konz

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The Falcons have spent a lot of time in recent years looking for offensive linemen that would solidify their protection and run blocking, something that might not have been necessary if their decision to draft Peter Konz in the second round of the 2012 draft had been a hit.

It was a miss, however. Konz struggled during his first two years in the league, tore his ACL last year and won’t get another chance to turn things around in Atlanta.

The Falcons announced Tuesday that they have waived the interior lineman with an injury settlement, which leaves them at the mandated 75 players. Konz started 28 games over his three seasons with the Falcons, but his performance was lacking as both a pass and run blocker.

Atlanta heads toward the cut to 53 players with Mike Person, Joe Hawley, James Stone, Chris Chester and Jon Asamoah as options to play in the interior and could be looking for players to push or bolster that group once other teams trim the fat from their rosters.

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Will Beatty to PUP as Giants go down to 74 players

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The Giants only needed to cut their roster to 75 players on Tuesday, but they went a little further and left themselves with an open roster spot to use between now and Saturday’s cut to the 53-man roster.

Among the moves that the Giants made was placing left tackle Will Beatty on the regular season PUP list. Beatty tore his pectoral in the spring and placing him on that list keeps open the option of bringing him back late in the season if he’s sufficiently healed. It also leaves the injured reserve/return slot, which can’t be used until after the cut to 53 players, given to each team open in the event of another severe injury that doesn’t end a season.

The Giants placed defensive backs Josh Gordy and Bennett Jackson on injured reserve. Jackson tore his ACL as part of the run of injuries the Giants have suffered at safety this summer while Gordy has a hip injury.

Wide receiver Juron Criner, offensive lineman Michael Bamiro, defensive back Justin Halley, offensive lineman Eric Herman, offensive lineman Derrick Johnson, punter Robert Malone, defensive end Jordan Stanton, defensive tackle Jimmy Staten, tight end Will Tye, offensive lineman Brandon Mosley and running back Akeem Hunt were all let go.

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Pete Carroll: We haven’t made decision on Fred Jackson yet

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It didn’t take long for the Seahawks to set up a visit with running back Fred Jackson after he was released by the Bills, but an announcement about a signing may take a little longer.

Coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday that running back Robert Turbin has a high ankle sprain that will keep him off the field for a while and led to the Seahawks reaching out to Jackson, although Carroll said they may have been interested anyway. As of now, though, it’s just a visit and not a signing.

“We have not made that decision at all at this point,” Carroll said, via Sheil Kapadia of

The interest in Jackson as a potential fill-in for Turbin is easy to understand given Jackson’s long record of both NFL success and sharing backfields with other backs, including a spell with Marshawn Lynch in Buffalo. It doesn’t say much for Christine Michael’s chances of getting a long look in the backfield this season, although his number could still come up if things don’t work out with Jackson.

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Browns cut former first-rounder Phil Taylor

Phil Taylor, Donte Whitner AP

Another year, another former first-round pick flushed by the Cleveland Browns.

The team has announced that the contract of defensive lineman Phil Taylor has been terminated as part of the effort to get to 75 players.

A first-round pick in 2011, the Browns exercised the fifth-year option on Taylor in 2014. By not cutting him before March 10, his salary of $5.477 million is fully-guaranteed.

With 2015 first-rounder Danny Shelton winning a starting job, the Browns opted to let Taylor walk, hopeful he’ll make at or about that much money elsewhere.

Per a league source, Taylor asked to be released, and teams already are lining up for a shot at the player who made his first game appearance over the weekend after aggravating a knee injury in early November.

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Manziel says elbow issue just tendinitis, nothing to worry about

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It’s always something with Johnny Manziel, and the latest is an arm/elbow soreness issue that Browns coach Mike Pettine said last week was minor — and the next day Pettine announced the Browns were shutting Manziel down for the preseason.

Manziel hasn’t thrown in more than a week, but Tuesday he told reporters he is only battling tendinitis in his throwing elbow and said, “I’m not worried about it all.”

The issue will end up keeping Manziel from two valuable preseason games, and Pettine said last week that Manziel would have played with the No. 1 offense for the first time this summer in last Saturday’s preseason game had he been healthy. Pettine has been firm that Josh McCown is the team’s starting quarterback.

Manziel said the elbow soreness is something he’s dealt with every year since he got to Texas A&M in 2011 and that it generally gets better past training camp because quarterbacks are asked to make fewer throws once the regular season begins. He said he’s sought multiple opinions on his tendinitis, including having the team’s medical staff reach out to Dr. James Andrews, and that surgery was never recommended.

The Browns have to be as certain as Manziel is that he will be available for next week and the Sept. 13 season opener. Thad Lewis will start Thursday’s preseason finale and try to make a strong enough impression to win a roster spot in the process; if there’s concern about Manziel being able to serve as McCown’s backup, the Browns almost have to keep Lewis when the team trims the roster to the regular-season size of 53 this weekend.

Unless McCown can lead the Browns to a bunch of wins, Manziel will eventually get a shot to play this season and try to give the team a better showing than he did in basically seven quarters last season. But he has to be healthy first, and then he’ll have to prove he can be worth the wait.

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Jaguars owner wants to keep going to London until 2030

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Jaguars owner Shad Khan wants to keep going to London, but only once a year.

Khan said at today’s kickoff luncheon that he’d like to sign a long-term extension to play a game a year in England, perhaps as long as a 14-year deal which would carry them through 2030. Their original deal to play a game a year there expires in 2016.

“Nothing definitive, but I’m optimistic that we’ll have a renewal on that and it’ll go for a long time,” Khan said, via Michael DiRocco of “I think we would like it to be long term, like 2030, so it’s been probably the No. 1 element in stabilizing the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“Hard to believe it’s over, the four-year deal now, but I think it’s a critical part of our franchise to be able to play games there, get the recognition, build the fan base and get sponsors.”

The Jaguars have benefitted from the ticket sales boost from playing in 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium, in addition to the visibility boost that comes from being a regular tenant there. Team president Mark Lamping has said London accounts for 15 percent of the team’s local revenue.

“For us, London and Jacksonville is almost a great marriage made in heaven,” Khan said. “I would expect the NFL may be looking at other areas, other markets to develop, but we want to have a focus and Jacksonville supplemented with London is our focus.”

The league has also struck a deal to play games in the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium, but that one’s not going to be nearly as big as Wembley, thus might not be as attractive to Khan to visit.

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Lions down to 75 players

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The Lions shuffled up their roster over the last two days with moves including a trade for tight end Tim Wright and the release of wide receiver Ryan Broyles.

The other moves don’t involve such familiar names, but the Lions have made enough of them to reach Tuesday’s 75-man roster limit.

Cornerback Chris Owens has been placed on injured reserve. Owens played a lot for the Chiefs as a slot corner last season, but wasn’t set for quite as big a role in Detroit before the Lions ended his season. The injury is undisclosed so a settlement that allows him to find work elsewhere could be a possibility if it isn’t major.

The Lions also released tight end Deon Butler, quarterback Garret Gilbert, receiver Vernon Johnson, running back Desmond Martin, defensive tackle Roy Philon, cornerback Jocquel Skinner, cornerback R.J. Stanford, wide receiver Andrew Peacock, linebacker Justin Cherocci, tight end Jacob Maxwell and defensive end Erik Williams.

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