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Special Monday 10-pack: Winners and losers in free agency

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Only six days ago, the free-agent market opened.  One of the biggest classes of veteran players, with some of the biggest names, landed on the market.

Apart from the Peyton chase, much of the dust has settled.

And so now we’re required by the laws of football analysis to tell you who won and who lost, even though we won’t really know the answer until they start playing games.

Which, you know, will feature winners and losers.

1. Winner:  Eagles.

Last year, with a compressed offseason and a new defensive coordinator who had been an offensive line coach for 14 prior seasons, the Eagles foolishly embarked on a spending spree, bringing in a bunch of big-name players and setting the stage for a Wonderlic pick-sixer blurting out the dreaded “Dream Team” label.

Apart from the challenge of getting a bunch of new employees on the same page quickly, the move surely caused some of the men already under contract to wonder why they weren’t getting a share of the free-agency windfall.

This year, the Eagles have focused on taking care of their own, which is a much better way to ensure that a true spirit of team will take over the locker room.

Perhaps most importantly, the Eagles have set the stage for receiver DeSean Jackson to turn back the clock to 2009, when he wasn’t concerned about staying healthy and/or getting paid.  The Eagles have addressed those concerns via a long-term deal that, in comparison to some of the too-heavy contracts given to lesser receivers and in light of Jackson’s rocky recent history, looks like a win-win.

Maybe that means “win” will be a more common term in the term’s vocabulary this season.

2.  Winner:  Packers.

G.M. Ted Thompson rarely makes a big splash in free agency.  The biggest exception came in 2006, when at the very public urging of quarterback Brett Favre the team signed cornerback Charles Woodson.

Other than that, the Packers under Thompson take a very conservative approach, building through the draft and using free agency on a limited basis, with low-cost talent addressing specific needs.

It’s not sexy this time of year.  But this isn’t the time of year when championships are won.  Unlike downtrodden organizations (such as the Packers themselves in 1993, when Reggie White chose Green Bay from a long list of suitors), the Packers don’t need to do anything to fire up the fan base or breathe life into the franchise.

It’s the right approach for this specific team.  The Packers have won, once again, by doing nothing.

3.  Winner:  Bills.

Speaking of downtrodden organizations, no team needed a big-ticket free agent like Mario Williams more than the Bills.  And they went all in, pulling out all the stops and persuading Williams to spend two nights in town and eventually getting the job done.

It gives Buffalo and the Bills a major boost, igniting intense local interest and legitimate national attention.  It also makes good football sense; defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt now has a player around whom the team’s new 4-3 defense can be built.

It wasn’t cheap, and it may prove to be a mistake.  But it was a risk the Bills needed to make if they ever hope to become relevant again.

4.  Winner:  Patriots.

At first, it looked like the Pats would follow the Pack’s “closed for business” approach to the early days of free agency.  But with needs at receiver, they’ve added a player in Brandon Lloyd who’ll have a far bigger impact than Chad Ochocinco (then again, the bar is low), and they’ve given Wes Welker a little cause for concern by landing a candidate to play slot receiver in Anthony Gonzalez.

They’ve also addressed an area of need on defense, adding the once-promising Trevor Scott to the rotation of recently underachieving pass rushers.

The Pats could still use a true deep threat to clear out all the underneath traffic.  But even if Lloyd is the biggest addition, the team that nearly won the Super Bowl in 2011 will be contending again in 2012.

5.  Winner:  Chiefs.

Yes, they were denied admission to the Peyton chase.  But let’s not forget that, despite all the dysfunction and key injuries of 2011, the Chiefs weren’t far away from winning the weakest division in the NFL.

Unlike most teams, the Chiefs found bargains even before the market softened, adding running back Peyton Hillis to a one-year, fire-under-butt-lighting $2.6 million contract, tight end Kevin Boss for three years and $9 million, right tackle Eric Winston, and backup quarterback Brady Quinn.

Hillis and Quinn played for offensive coordinator Brian Daboll in Cleveland, adding some familiarity to the new Romeo Crennel regime.  Winston addresses a key area of need, and Boss gives the Chiefs a second pass-catching tight end, which apparently is now a mandatory requirement for any team that hopes to be highly successful in the passing game.

Next up, don’t be surprised if Crennel lures another former Brown to Kansas City, with linebacker Kamerion Wimbley on the market.

6.  Loser:  Dolphins.

Peter King of chronicles a decade of bizarre personnel moves by the Dolphins, but the organization is now developing another troubling reputation:  anyone with options won’t opt for Miami.

It began last year with owner Stephen Ross clumsily pursuing coach Jim Harbaugh, which painted a vivid picture of disloyalty to coach Tony Sparano.  It continued in 2012 when Ross tried, and failed, to lure coach Jeff Fisher to town.  And it spread to the ranks of players in 2012, with Peyton Manning showing tepid interest at best in joining the team (even though some believed it was a done deal that he’d be a Dolphin).  Then, Matt Flynn’s decision to play for the Seahawks instead of former Packers coordinator/Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin did more than raise eyebrows — especially when followed by Steelers safety Ryan Clark proclaiming that “no one” wants to play for the Dolphins.

It’s possible that Philbin simply wasn’t all that interested in Flynn, and that Philbin knows  Flynn’s pair of high-end performances (one in 2010 and one in 2011) won’t translate to being an effective week-in, week-out starter, once opposing defenses have a chance to study enough of his film and figure him out.  If that’s the case, the Dolphins shouldn’t have even brought him to town for a visit.  By doing so, it creates the impression that they wanted him — and that yet again they failed to get their man.

Correct or not, there’s now a perception that no one of significant consequence wants to work for the Dolphins.  And the harder Ross tries to turn the page by making a “big splash,” the more likely it is that he’ll continue to swing the bat and hit himself in the face with it.

7.  Loser:  Saints.

With Bountygate lingering, the Saints had even more reason to work out a new, long-term deal with Drew Brees.  And yet the Saints continue to fail to find a middle ground with their franchise quarterback.

There’s a chance Brees simply wants too much.  But here’s the problem:  He deserves it.  The best NFL quarterback of the last six years, if he wants to max out his contract, then he should.

And as to the idea that he needs to leave some money behind so that the Saints can field a competitive team given the salary cap, here’s one important point:  It never stopped the Colts from being competitive when Peyton got every last dollar he could.

And while it’s good that the Saints kept receiver Marques Colston, they lost Robert Meachem.  And while it’s good that they lured Ben Grubbs away from Baltimore, the lost Carl Nicks.

More importantly, they’ve yet to do anything to address needs on defense, which could become even more significant once the suspensions come down.

8.  Loser:  Vikings.

Good teams can afford to sit on the sidelines in the early days of free agency.  The Vikings are not a good team.

With plenty of cap room and a tenuous stadium situation and a fan base that may choose to do things other than attend or watch Vikings games this season, the franchise needed to make a splash.  Not a Mario Williams cannonball; but something more significant than a John Carlson dog paddle.

It’s doesn’t mean the Vikings should go hog wild.  But they should have made it a priority to land one big-name player, even if it meant overpaying a little.

The offseason is about selling hope.  Teams like the Packers, Patriots, Giants, and Steelers can afford to do nothing in March; the hope is implied.  For teams that have fallen, March is an opportunity to prove that they’re at least trying to get up.

9.  Loser:  Ravens.

The Ravens had four players in the PFT Hot 100 free-agency list.  Three already have bolted for greener pastures:  defensive end Cory Redding, linebacker Jarret Johnson, and guard Ben Grubbs.

To make matters worse, guard Evan Mathis opted to stay with the Dream Team in lieu of joining a team that, on paper, seems to have a better chance of making its dreams come true.

Then there’s the lingering possibility that someone will make restricted free agent cornerback Lardarius Webb an offer the Ravens can’t afford to match.

Though there’s a long way to go before September, it’s hard not to think that, at least for now, the Ravens have faded a bit closer to the pack in the AFC.

10.  Loser:  Bengals.

By capping 2011 with an unlikely playoff berth, it can’t be said that Paul Brown Stadium routinely was less than full due to the fact that the team was bad.  Instead, the fan base is fed up with owner Mike Brown.

Even though the team is laying a solid foundation of youthful players, Bengals fans think it’s not because of Brown but in spite of him.  And with a huge cap surplus for 2012, the Bengals haven’t done much to persuade anyone that they’re willing to spend.

The good news is that, after several days of inaction, the Bengals have gone bargain shopping, adding offensive lineman Travelle Wharton and defensive back Jason Allen.  They also managed to keep free-agent safety Reggie Nelson, who had attracted an offer from the Jets.

But this is the one playoff team that needed to at least chase a marquee free agent.  They didn’t have to land the guy.  Mike Brown simply needed to show that he’s willing to move from the nickel slot machines over to the no-limit poker table.

The Bengals may once again be competitive in 2012.  The fans won’t embrace the franchise they way they should, however, until they see large chunks of their money being reinvested in players who can help the team compete for a championship.

11.  Loser/Winner:  Redskins.

I know.  I said there would be only 10 winners and losers.  But I didn’t say anything about the team that lands in both categories.

The $36 million in unexpected cap charges for treated the uncapped year too literally makes the Redskins losers.  Their refusal to shrug their shoulders when they did nothing wrong makes them winners.

Their ability to still find a way to spend money makes them winners.  Their decision to give so much money to the likes of Pierre Garçon and Josh Morgan makes them losers.

Their willingness to move up to No. 2 and get the franchise’s first true franchise quarterback since Sammy Baugh possibly will make them winners.  Mortgaging the future by giving up three first-round draft picks and a second-round pick possibly will make them losers.

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Bills give Sammy Watkins Wednesday off, but get Robert Woods on field

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 20:  Robert Woods #10 of the Buffalo Bills carries the ball during the first quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Injuries have led the Bills to employ a variety of different wide receiver groups over the course of the season and few of them have included both Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins, but there may be a chance to get another look at that tandem that before the year is out.

Coach Rex Ryan announced that Woods is practicing in a limited capacity for the Bills on Wednesday. It’s his first time on the field since injuring his knee in Week 11, which could leave him in play for a spot in the lineup against the Steelers this weekend.

Watkins is expected to be in the lineup, although he isn’t joining Woods in Wednesday’s practice. Watkins returned to action in Week 12 after a stint on injured reserve and also sat out practice last Wednesday to rest his foot. Ryan said that Watkins feels better this week than he did after his initial return to action.

The Bills need to win out to have any chance at making the playoffs, which is a long shot but they can still try to play spoiler by beating the Steelers this Sunday. Having Woods and Watkins in the lineup at the same time would help on that front.

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New PA and Florio podcast is ready for you to not listen to

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For eight straight weeks, Paul Allen (not the really rich one, the other one) and yours truly have recorded a podcast for your consideration and/or consternation.

The latest episode is available now.

In it, we address a variety of vitally important topics, including whether the “Negan Lean” should be a touchdown dance or a sack celebration. Along the way, I threaten to take a barb-encrusted baseball bat to Paul’s unibrow.

So, basically, we get along as well as always. To hear it for yourself, you can download the podcast at iTunes or audioBoom.

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Report: Coroner to perform another autopsy on Joe McKnight

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 27:  Joe McKnight #25 of the New York Jets in action against the Buffalo Bills during their game on November 27, 2011 at  MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Nearly a week after former NFL running back Joe McKnight was shot and killed, a third autopsy will be performed on his body.

According to David Hammer of WWL-TV, the Jefferson Parish coroner will retrieve McKnight’s body from a funeral home for further testing.

Per the report, the family had a second autopsy performed due to concerns about the initial conclusions of the coroner.

McKnight’s family also is concerned, according to the report, about Sheriff Newell Normand’s stated support for them but also his suggestion that Ronald Gasser, who shot and killed McKnight, may be able to make the “stand your ground” defense stick.

The placement and positioning of McKnight will be critical to determining whether and to what extent Gasser had a legitimate fear for his well-being in connection with the encounter that ended with Gasser firing three shots at McKnight.

For more on the “stand your ground” defense, check out the first hour of the podcast of Wednesday’s PFT Live, which can be downloaded at iTunes or audioBoom.

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Christian McCaffrey declares for 2017 NFL Draft

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 19:  Christian McCaffrey #5 of the Stanford Cardinal runs with the ball against the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Brace yourselves for a spring full of Danny Woodhead comparisons, even if they’re only accurate at a skin-deep level.

Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey just announced on Twitter that he’s leaving the Cardinal after three seasons and entering the 2017 NFL Draft.

He joins a deep group of early entry running backs including LSU’s Leonard Fournette, but has a unique combination of talents which will intrigue some coaches and should enable him to contribute immediately.

He set the FBS single-season record for all-purpose yardage last year, rushing for 2,019 yards, adding 645 receiving yards and 1,200 yards worth of kick and punt returns. That earned him a runner-up finish for the Heisman Trophy (losing to Derrick Henry).

While his numbers weren’t bad this year (1,603 rushing, 310 receiving, 414 returns), his team didn’t have the same kind of success and he was less of an object of fascination.

He’s the son of former Broncos, 49ers and Giants wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, who played 13 seasons in the league.

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Colts promote linebacker after D’Qwell Jackson suspension

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 04:  Indianapolis Colts helmets rest on the sidelines during the pregame warmup before the AFC Wild Card game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 4, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts won’t have linebacker D’Qwell Jackson in the lineup for the final four games of the regular season, leaving them with a hole on their defense and on their roster as they try to outlast Houston and Tennessee in the AFC South.

They filled the hole on the roster on Wednesday by promoting linebacker Luke Rhodes from the practice squad. Rhodes has been on the practice squad since October and spent the summer with the Buccaneers before being waived in early September. The undrafted rookie started 45 games at William & Mary during his time in college.

While he will be filling the roster spot, Rhodes’ lack of experience in the NFL would seem to make him an unlikely choice to step into Jackson’s spot in the lineup. Antonio Morrison and Josh McNary appear to be likelier choices to take over alongside Edwin Jackson.

The Colts will have to hope that whoever steps in is able to help the defense keep the Texans under wraps this weekend so the team can get a leg up in the final push for a playoff spot.

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Stephon Gilmore wishes for chance to match up against Antonio Brown

TAMPA, FL -  DECEMBER 8:  Cornerback Stephon Gilmore #24 of the Buffalo Bills sets for play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers December 8, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  The Bucs won 27 - 6. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. I wish I’d never heard that saying.

Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore may be wishing he’d never heard it either, because he has a wish as the Bills prepare to face the Steelers.

I wish I could follow the best receiver, but whatever the coach want me to do, I’ll do,” Gilmore said, via Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News. “It’s another good receiver this year I’m playing against. I went against a lot of great receivers and did my thing.”

The great receiver Gilmore would be or could be facing on Sunday is Antonio Brown. With cornerback Ronald Darby expected to return to the lineup after missing the loss at Oakland with a concussion, the Bills may assign each guy to one side.

“When you do have two really good corners you feel great about, then most of the time . . . they’re really comfortable playing left and right,” coach Rex Ryan said, via Skurski. “But, I will say this: Stephon is playing about as good as any corner in the league right now, probably. I mean, he’s right there. The last three weeks in particular, he’s been absolutely outstanding.”

That’s high praise from Ryan, which could be parlayed into higher dollar for Gilmore. His contract expires after this season, and the Bills may need to use the franchise tag in order to keep him around.


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Julio Jones not practicing Wednesday

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) heads to the turf after a reception against Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Steven Nelson (20) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) AP

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Monday that wide receiver Julio Jones suffered a turf toe injury during last Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs, but that the team doesn’t believe it will be a long-term injury.

It appears that part of their approach to ensuring the outlook remains that way is to limit his time on the practice field heading into their game against the Rams this weekend. During an appearance on 92.9 The Game on Wednesday morning, Quinn said that Jones will not participate in the team’s first practice of the week.

Quinn added that Jones may do something on Thursday, so the wideout may not wind up with much practice time to speak of this week. Given his significance to the team, his experience in the offense and the importance of the game, that’s not going to keep him from playing against the Rams.

Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and left tackle Jake Matthews will also be out of practice on Wednesday and Quinn said that Jones is closer to returning to action than Sanu, so the Falcons may be shorthanded at receiver even with Jones in the lineup on Sunday.

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Eagles get Ryan Mathews back after two games out

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 20:  Running back Ryan Mathews #24 of the Philadelphia Eagles rushes against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on November 20, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Eagles’ leading rusher is back on the field.

Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson said today that Ryan Mathews, who missed the last two games with a knee injury, is good to go and will practice today.

Mathews leads the Eagles with 102 carries for 427 yards and seven touchdowns this season, and with Mathews out the last two games Philadelphia’s offense has struggled in losses to the Packers and Bengals. The Eagles will hope that the return of Mathews gets the offense back on track on Sunday against Washington.

Unfortunately, the Eagles’ offense is down two other starters: wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (rib) and right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) are both out of practice today.

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Joe Thomas wants to be in Cleveland for the turnaround

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 10: Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens works against tackle Joe Thomas #73 of the Cleveland Browns in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 10, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

From time to time (or, basically, every year), Browns tackle Joe Thomas finds his name mentioned in trade talks. Ten years in to his NFL career, he seems to have no interest in leaving Cleveland.

I’m a Clevelander,” the Wisconsin native told Elizabeth Merrill of ESPN The Magazine in a new profile. “I’ve spent the majority of my adult life here. Every day when I come to work, it’s ‘Let’s turn this team into a consistent winner.’ Because it would be such a special story. It would be like when the Cubs won the World Series. Everybody in the country has probably been cheering for them for so long because they’ve been suffering for so long. And you want to cheer for teams like the Browns.”

Well, Steelers, Bengals, and Ravens fans don’t want to cheer for the Browns — but it’s not unusual to believe that fans of other teams whose favorite teams are out of the running will latch onto a feel-good story, if/when good feelings ever happen for the Browns. And if/when they ever happen for the Browns, Thomas wants to be there.

“It’s so important for me to be here for the turnaround,” Thomas said. “I don’t want to just get a Super Bowl ring [by] being traded to a dream team. It would feel unsatisfying. Unfulfilling.”

As Merrill notes, Thomas was almost traded to the Broncos in 2015; agent Peter Schaffer told Merrill that, he and the Broncos simply “ran out of time.” In 2016, there was no serious run made at Thomas, and the Browns insisted that he wasn’t available.

Signed through 2018, it’s unclear how long the 32-year-old Thomas will continue to play. It’s even less clear whether the Browns turnaround will happen before he calls it quits and/or the team decides to go in a different direction.

Last month, it seemed as if Thomas was inclined to go in a different direction after saying that, when it come to a lack of talented players, the Browns have to “lie in the bed that you’ve made.” Thomas dismissed the reaction to his words.

“I think [the media] made a big deal out of it because they could, not because it actually was a big deal,” Thomas said. “If you say in life that you have consequences for your actions, that’s the most no-duh statement of all time.”

Thomas has endured the consequences of the actions of others for 10 years, because he has done everything he can to help the Browns win. If they can turn some of those many draft picks into more players like Thomas, the turnaround will happen. Finally.

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Stephen Gostkowski is the AFC special teamer of the week

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 04:  Stephen Gostkowski #3 of the New England Patriots reacts after making a field goal during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

The 2016 season has not seen the best of Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

Gostkowski went into last Sunday’s game against the Rams with four missed field goals in 20 tries and three missed extra points after making every regular season conversion attempt he’d tried since missing one during his rookie season. Gostkowski missed an extra point in last year’s AFC title game loss to the Broncos as well, which had some wondering if he’d lost some of his touch.

All was well last Sunday, however. Gostkowski bailed out a Patriots offense that struggled on third downs by making all four of his field goal attempts and hit both his extra point tries in a 26-10 victory. That made him the choice as the AFC special teams player of the week.

“Every week is a different challenge,” Gostkowski said, via “You just gotta battle. Keep your head down, stay humble, show up and control your attitude and your effort, make sure both of those are good, and have faith in the process that what you’ve been doing is going to continue to work.”

It’s the fifth time Gostkowski has earned the weekly honor, leaving him three back of his immediate predecessor Adam Vinatieri for the most in franchise history.

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Lions’ Matt Prater wins another player of the week award

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 11: Matt Prater #5 of the Detroit Lions celebrates with teammates after kicking the game winning field goal in the fourth quarter of the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Ho, hum, another NFL award for Lions kicker Matt Prater.

Prater was named NFC special teams player of the week for his 5-for-5 effort on field goals in Sunday’s win over the Saints. Prater has now been special teams player of the week after three of the Lions’ last four games.

Prater and Barry Sanders are the only Lions ever to win a player of the week award three times in one season.

Add in Prater’s special teams player of the month award for November, and he’s picked up as many NFL awards as he has played in games over the last month. He’s a big part of the reason the Lions are in first place in the NFC North.

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Akiem Hicks named NFC defensive player of the week

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 04:   Akiem Hicks #96 of the Chicago Bears warms up prior to the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field on December 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Not too many things have gone right for the Bears this season, but the emergence of defensive end Akiem Hicks is one of them.

Hicks was named NFC defensive player of the week after his two-sack performance against the 49ers last week.

It was his second multi-sack game of the season, after getting a pair against the Vikings earlier this year.

The free-agent pickup has played solidly, and if he were surrounded by more or healthy players, might be making a bigger difference.

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Big Monday lands Andrew Luck AFC offensive player of the week

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 05:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 5, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck missed the team’s Week 12 loss to the Steelers because of a concussion and he made the Jets wish he remained out of commission when the two teams met on Monday night of Week 13.

Luck threw three touchdown passes to tight end Dwayne Allen in the first half of the game and added another to Donte Moncrief in the third quarter as the Colts rolled over the Jets 41-10 at MetLife Stadium. Luck was 22-of-28 for 278 yards overall and the Colts increased the logjam at the top of the AFC South by joining the Texans and Titans with a 6-6 record through 12 games.

On Tuesday, the NFL announced that Luck has been named the AFC offensive player of the week in recognition of those efforts. It’s the fourth time Luck has been so honored, leaving him behind Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James for the most weekly offensive awards in franchise history.

The game continued a bounce-back season for Luck, who threw 12 interceptions in seven games during an injury-ravaged 2015 season. This year’s results have been more in line with his previous efforts, all of which ended with a trip to the postseason. That outcome remains in play for the Colts and it will look likelier if they can topple the Texans in Week 14.

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David Johnson named NFC offensive player of the week

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 04:  David Johnson #31 of the Arizona Cardinals shakes hands with Pierre Garcon #88 of the Washington Redskins following a game at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defeated the Redskins 31-23.  (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals are barely on the fringes of the playoff chase, but they have a guy who ought to be on the fringes of the MVP race.

Running back David Johnson was named NFC offensive player of the week after totaling 175 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns as the Cardinals beat Washington last week.

Johnson leads the league in yards from scrimmage (1,709), with 228 rushes for 1,005 yards and another 704 receiving yards on 64 catches.

He’s already emerged as one of the top backs in the league, and one of the reasons the 5-6-1 Cardinals are clinging to any hope at all. And with a pair of player of the week awards already, he’s the first Cardinals player to repeat in a season since Kurt Warner in 2009.

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Mets manager wants Tebow to play in spring training games

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Jerseys for sale as Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Mets works out at an instructional league day at Tradition Field on September 20, 2016 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) Getty Images

Don Draper will soon be drinking even more.

Manager Terry Collins said during the baseball winter meetings that he wants converted quarterback Tim Tebow to play some spring training games with the Mets.

“I certainly hope we’ll see Tim Tebow in some of our games,” Collins said Tuesday, via USA Today. “If he’s not in our camp, I’ll get him over.”

While Collins didn’t go full Thom Brennaman about Tebow, Collins is a believer.

“He’s not into himself,” Collins said. “He’s into being a teammate. A tremendous teammate. He’s won wherever he’s been.”

So winning as a football player is apparently transferable to baseball, a sport in which Tebow batted .194 in 19 games with the Arizona Fall League. Well, it’s transferable if by “winning” Collins means “selling more tickets and jerseys and other things to people who want to see Tebow play baseball.”

If by “winning” Collins means winning baseball games, he’ll surely have better options than Tim Tebow.

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